Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, two of the principle organizers of the October2011 protest in Washington DC, discussed their plans for the upcoming occupation of Freedom Plaza with FDL members at our recent webinar. The demonstration will start on Thursday October 6, and continue until they believe the government responds in a meaningful way — “symbolic gestures” are not enough.
They began the presentation by saying that if the American news media was really reporting on what was happening in the country, we would see that Americans are already in revolt. They indicate that the record poverty and widespread homelessness we are seeing is new, and that the wealth disparity between the top 1% and the rest of the country has grown dramatically since WWII and is now more extreme than it was during the Middle Ages:
The October2011 organizers are very clear about their demands: they want to end corporatism and militarism. They indicate that polling consistently shows a large majority of Americans support the following principles:
- Tax the rich and corporations
- End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending
- Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security and improvedMedicare for All
- End corporate welfare for the oil companies and other big business interests
- Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation
- Protect worker rights including collective bargaining, create jobs and raise wages
- Get money out of politics
They see three “independents” that are needed in order to change the direction that the country is going in:
- Independent movement
- Independent media
- Independent electoral politics
They both gave big props to FDL for creating a true independent media site, and we’re proud to be listed on their media page. But they also noted that their media strategy involves everyone who can do so becoming the media, and they encourage people to write about what’s happening from wherever they are.
Kevin Gotzsola’s peerless coverage of OccupyWallStreet from the first day goes to show what someone can do even from Chicago. I encourage anyone who wants to blog about what they are doing or seeing in the weeks to come to do so on MyFDL, where anyone can register and start blogging immediately.
With regard to the third pillar, independent electoral politics, Margaret noted that the time is probably not right to focus on it because no matter who you put into the system, the system is so broken that they will not be able to be effective. I have come to believe she is right about this.
Possibly the biggest problem with the so-called “progressive” movement that sprang up in response to the invasion of Iraq was that it was unified by scorn for George Bush, and never really coalesced as a true movement based on shared principles. Those of us who thought we shared principles, like ending the wars or torture or corporate ownership of the country, quickly saw that energy perverted toward a neoliberal corporatist agenda by Obama and the Democrats. Individuals and organizations who identified themselves as “progressive” were suddenly silent (if not actually complicit) with an agenda that would have horrified them if George Bush had embraced it. Their shifting standards and nebulous morality rendered the word “progressive” hollow and meaningless.
The willingness of the OccupyWallStreet demonstrators, the October2011 organizers, the Tar Sands protesters and others to put themselves on the line and force the government to be responsible to the will of the public is an indication that a true movement is building. But I’ll echo Kevin Gotzsola’s sentiments (7:55 PM) — this cannot be allowed to be co-opted by organizations who will try to turn it into a “Tea Party for the Democrats.” None of this would be happening had not the Democratic Party become so slavish from top to bottom to serving the demands of elites and corporations.
Independent electoral politics means independent. It does not mean conforming your values and objectives to align with the needs of the Democratic Party, as happened in the 2008 election. “Hey, but we’re better than the GOP” is not a battle cry for change in anyone’s book.
Both Kevin and Margaret are experienced organizers, and they began organizing the October2011 protest in May of this year. Most recently they organized the Bradley Manning protests at the White House and at Quantico, and both of those events were executed just about flawlessly despite the many obstacles thrown at them for months by both the Marines and the Park Police.
We’re looking forward to continuing our extensive coverage of both OccupyWallStreet and October2011, as well as taking part ourselves. We’ll be having a Firedoglake meet-up at the October2011 occupation, details to be announced soon. If you’d like to help cover bringing Kevin Gotsztola to DC to cover the event, you can do it here. And if you’d like to support FDL by joining our membership program and taking part in webinars like this one, you can do it here.
You can find out more about October2011 at their website.
Update: ProfMarcus also has a post on the webinar up at MyFDL.