[Marxism] The 99% Spring Training for Trainers and the Plot to Coopt #Occupy
audradavid at aol.com
audradavid at aol.com
Thu Mar 29 05:49:30 MDT 2012
This is a reply to the document linked to below. I want toanalyze this document point by point as it present a unique and definitechallenge and danger to the Occupy Movement, a challenge and danger that is,moreover, extremely sophisticated. I want to add that I am an active member ofthe Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee. – David Berger
Reportback:The 99%Spring Training for Trainers and the Plot to Coopt #Occupy
Charles Lenchner: This past weekend I attended the Training forTrainers (T4T) of the 99% Spring. This is being organized by a verylarge and powerful coalition in which MoveOn is oneof the larger partners, as is the AFL-CIO.The 99% Spring action plan is fairly straightforward: train 100,000 people in non-violent direct action (NVDA).
David Berger: Actually, the action plan is notstraightforward at all. The question still remains: Why has such a “very largeand powerful coalition” emerged in the first place, and what is its relationshipto the Occupy Movement? Neither of those questions are ever addressed. In myopinion, this constitutes a serious omission.
Charles: On the one hand, this is obviously a progressive agenda thatmost occupiers would agree with. On the other, occupiers have struggled with the fear of cooptation to an exhausting degree.
David: I suggest that people read both these links above. None of thearguments against 99%Spring that they present are answered. The evidence isoverwhelming that this is a MoveOn front for the Democratic Party.
Charles: I’ve participated in online and in person conversations aboutthe 99%Spring, and the critiques fall into three main arguments:
1. MoveOnand the DC based labor movement bureaucracy can’t be trusted as they arecommitted to working within the system and for Democratic candidates.
2. The99%Spring uses occupy inspired themes and memes (“the 99%”) but without doingthe hard work of actually working with Occupy Wall Street.
3. Theoverall effort seems utterly disconnected from the nationwide May First plansthat many (most?) occupiers are actively working towards, which are alsoreferenced with “spring” language.
4. Thisisn’t it’s own thing, but rather me making fun of how the nervous nelliesrespond to larger forces in the political world: “Halp! We’re being coopted! The Democratic Party is both capable andinterested in implementing a well thought out plan to make us serve theirinterests!“
David: Notice that none of these four points against 99%Spring, whichare accurate, are answered here or below.
Charles: Speaking as an occupier most active in the Tech Ops WorkingGroup of the NYC General Assembly, my first response to the 99%Spring was envy.
David: That’s an interesting response. An active member of a nation-wideradical social movement is envious of another movement, one, moreover, with aclear liberal, as opposed to a radical, let alone revolutionary, program.
Charles: Why aren’t we initiating, leading or participating in this kindof serious coalition work?
David: On our own basis, which is very different from the basis of99%Spring, we are building such a coalition.
Charles: But that’s unfair.
David: Fucking A right it’s unfair.
Charles: We are working on May First actions, which in New York include a march carried out together withlabor and the immigrants’ rights movements.
David: True, to which you can add elements of the Left, which areabsent from the 99%Spring coalition.
Charles: What we aren’t doing is training 100,000 activists andorganizers in nonviolent direct action.
David: Neither are they doing it. This is their goal, not theirreality. And let me add a point, which I’ll reinforce later. As a member of theCivil Rights Movement in the 1960s, I participated in training in nonviolentdirect action. I, along with thousands of others, was “trained” by people suchas Bayard Rustin, who brought nonviolence to the USA after studying withdisciples of Gandhi in India. The training described in the link below haslittle relationship to this training.
Charles: So why not welcome an effort that is doing that?
David: Because their movement ain’t our movement in terms of its goalsor methods
The T4T Training
Charles: I’m just back from two days of training for trainers, and thisis my verdict: the Training for Trainers was fantastic. Hundreds of people inattended the same training as me in New York, and thousands more took partacross the country.
David: We’ll see how “fantastic” it was. And as to your claim of“thousands,” some documentation would be nice.
Charles: The folks attending the training represented a cross section ofour country’s progressive, 99% movement. I met community organizers, peaceactivists, union members, occupiers, and many more. The group wasinter-generational, racially diverse, gender balanced, and included folks fromall NYC boroughs, Long Island, CT, NJ, and upstate. My impression is that mostare experienced organizers, but from many different traditions andorganizational homes.
David: I think we need a little more than enthusiastic impressions.Also, I would like to know what percentage of these people were affiliated withMoveOn or the Democratic Party. Also, you are saying there were hundreds there.Considering that this training was drawing from the New York area, with maybe20 million people, with the resources these people have, that’s hardlyoverwhelming. I’ve been at three-hour GAs in the rain in Zuccotti Park with 300people.
Charles: The curriculum had three parts:
1. Thefirst is your basic MarshallGanz story of self/us. This is training delivered foryears now at countless political and organizational homes, including my oldsynagogue. For those who don’t know, Ganz startedhis career at the United Farm Workers, working with Cesar Chavez.
David: I urge people look at the link to this training. It representsan almost idiotically simplistic form of liberal training. It isperson-centered rather than movement-centered. It is virtually devoid ofmeaningful politics. It’s kind of like a Tony Robbins seminar without theself-help.
The point of the Occupy Movement is that we havepresented a new methodology that has challenged not only the 1% but also themovements that have grown up during the long conservative period of the past 30years. Our methodology of risky physical occupation where possible, combinedwith a decentralized action and command structure, has mobilized millions asopposed to what is presented by 99%Spring, which strikes me as warmed-over SaulAlinsky.
Charles: 2. The second is your basic nonviolent direct action training,with roots in Gene Sharp, Training forChange, and the Direct Action Group that emerged post-Seattle in theanti-globalization movement. It wasn’t out of step with anything that say,Starhawk or Lisa Fithian or the Ruckus society would have done.
Charles: As I said above, the concept of nonviolent training describedseems to have little to do with such training and action as I experienced it. Ithink that the sum total of this kind of notion is expressed in the link below.This is politics, and I will say that on the basis of my own set of politics,revolutionary socialism, this is bullshit. Read it for yourself.
Charles: 3. The third part was the story of the 1% vs. the 99%. It’s basictraining in understanding the economic crisis and our collective crisis as acountry. This is more or less the kind of training being used by unions andcommunity organizing groups around the country for the last 2-3 years.
David: I can’t comment without any specific references. But I find thefact that there is no mention of the role of the Occupy Movement isdisconcerting.
Charles: There was zero, none, nada discussion of the Obama campaign,electoral politics, the Democratic Party, or MoveOn.
David: How about any discussion of the Occupy Movement? I mean, not toget into conspiracy theories, but if I were working for a front for theDemocratic Party, I wouldn’t mention it either.
Charles: To sum up then, the critiques against the 99%Spring are false.
David: Bullshit. Here are the four objections that Charles himselfraised. Let’s see if he answered them.
Charles: 1. MoveOn and the DC based labor movement bureaucracy can’t betrusted as they are committed to working within the system and for Democraticcandidates.
David: This remains true. It hasn’t been answered, nor has the presenceof MoveOn and the labor bureaucracy been discussed. This presence has beenevaded.
Charles: 2. The 99%Spring uses occupy inspired themes and memes (“the 99%”)but without doing the hard work of actually working with Occupy Wall Street.
David: This remains true. The question still arises: Why didn’t thismovement avail itself of the Occupy Movement, which is truly national andeither work within it or form an alliance? The answer seems obvious: 99%Springis an attempt to circumvent the Occupy Movement.
Charles: 3. The overall effort seems utterly disconnected from thenationwide May First plans that many (most?) occupiers are actively workingtowards, which are also referenced with “spring” language.
David: This is wholly true, and Charles has made no effort to refuteit. The timing of this movement, in the crucial weeks leading up to May Day, isboth unfortunate and deliberate.
Charles: 4. This isn’t it’s own thing, but rather me making fun of how thenervous nellies respond to larger forces in the political world: “Halp! We’re being coopted! The DemocraticParty is both capable and interested in implementing a well thought out plan tomake us serve their interests!“
David: It sure as shit is “capable and interested” in coopting theOccupy Movement and, wittingly or unwittingly, you’re a part of that effort.
Charles: Those who lobbed uninformed critiques are now in a position ofhaving to apologize and take back their words or lose a certain amount ofcredibility.
David: Actually, it’s of those who are fronting for 99%Spring who arelosing credibility. You have completely failed to make your case that this is abenevolent development that the Occupy Movement should participate in. It is,in fact, a genuine effort to coopt.
Charles: The[y] ‘proved’ that MoveOn provided real support for anamazing, collaborative effort resting on principles and teachings widely usedinside and outside the Occupy movement.
David: The principles, teachings and methods of the Occupy Movementare, in fact, antithetical to this movement. The Occupy Movement represents aphysical presence and an ongoing struggle against the power of the 99% and thesystem that they run for their own purpose. This new movement presents a set oftoothless methods that will prove of little help to our work.
The Larger Context
Charles: Questions might still be asked about the ultimate purpose ofMoveOn, unions, and the long list of community organizing groups that make upthe 99%Spring effort.
David: They sure can be asked. Let’s see what your answers are.
Charles: One of the most important is: Where is this coming from? Whatmight it be going?
David: Yeah. Indeed.
Charles: The information I have is based in part on conversations withfolks who know better than me. Sorry about no sources, but here goes:
David: That’s ridiculous. If you are going to make assertions aboutpeople’s and group’s motivations, sources are crucial. This negates your entireeffort. You are asking us to trust both you and your informants with no proof.
Charles: Liz Butler of the Movement Strategy Center isone of the prime movers and shakers of this effort.
Charles: Are you sure, Charles, that Liz Butler is anally you want? In a recent article posted on the National Journal website, thefollowing two sentences appear:
“Now, Butler, director of the Network Organizing Project at theMovement Strategy Center, and Cushman, organizing director for the NewOrganizing Institute, are harnessing themomentum from Occupy and bringing organizations together to train 100,000activists to participate in the “99 Percent Spring” planned to start nextmonth. … Progressive groups like Cushman’s and Butler’s have capitalized on Occupy and are continuing to play a strong coordinatingrole in the 99 Percent Spring movement.” (emph added)
Note these highlighted terms:“harnessing the momentum” and “have capitalized on.” There’s a political synonymfor these: “cooptation.”
Charles: The overall strategy seems to be similar or based on what Stephen Lerner(formerly of SEIU) was articulating in a series of talks about “creating acrisis for the rich.” In a nutshell, it proposes massdirect action aimed broadly at the 1% in order to force them to make concessions.
David: Well, I would be kind of careful before I use Stephen Lerner assome kind of guide to action. One the one hand, Lerner has said in the mostrecent issue of The Nation:
“Emerging movements are complicated,exciting, messy, confusing and wonderful things to be a part of. When thepassion, fearlessness and vision of Occupy intersects with the resources andmembership of community groups and unions, we’ll find the sweet spot that makesit possible to force the richest to negotiate with the rest of us. It is wherethese two worlds meet—horizontal and vertical—united around common issues andenemies, that we create the potential to start winning together.”
Someof this is cool. But are we really interested in “forc[ing] the richest tonegotiate with the rest of us?
Andin the very same article, while Lerner talks about things like debt strikes andresisting evictions, there is no mention whatsoever of the Occupy Movement’splans for May Day mobilization, nor is there any mention of industrial action:strikes, boycotts, etc. It is striking that Lerner, as a union man, completelyignores the most conspicuous victory of progressive forces in the past few months:the alliance between the West Coast longshore union and the Occupy Movement,which helped to win a major victory for labor.
Charles: When we talk about ‘demands’ or ‘goals’ there are laundry listsgalore. Winning strikes, raising taxes, winning elections, targeting specificcorporations, etc. But behind all those disparate goals lies a framework:increasing the share of wealth that flows to the 99% and reducing the portioncontrolled by the 1%. That’s the prize. And large parts of the power structure(i.e., Democrats and even some corporations) think it’s a good thing too.
David: And here we have it: the essence of the liberal agenda: “increasingthe share of wealth that flows to the 99% and reducing the portion controlledby the 1%.” No Charles, that’s not the primary agenda of the Occupy Movement.The agenda of the movement is the elimination of the 1%. Now you and StephenLerner and Liz Butler may want to adjust the tax rates and all that, to whichno rational person can object. However, that is not our goal.
Charles: Getting MoveOn to be part of this coalition isn’t as simple as itlooks.
David: Note the sneaky shift of ground here. We began by questioningthe propriety of having MoveOn, which is a Democratic Party front, in anycoalition that the Occupy Movement is involved in. And now, instead of aquestion and a problem, we have a victory! Well, lemme ask ya: easy or simplewhy should the Occupy Movement be in a de facto coalition with the Democrats?
Charles: MoveOn is large enough to do whatever it wants without localpartners, and for a long time that’s what it did.
David: Is that supposed to be a virtue? Remember that we are dealingwith a Democratic Party front.
Charles: But the last few years have seen greater efforts to partner, withVan Jones’ Rebuild the Dream as the shining example
David: If you consider an organization that is, basically, a front forMoveOn and boasts that it provided a document, the Contract for the AmericanDream, which “became the basis of legislationthat the Progressive Congressional Caucus introduced into Congress,” then youhave a strange notion of that constitutes a “shining example.”
Charles: But the 99%Spring is an example of a large powerful organizationplacing resources in the service of a pretty radical agenda and allowing othersto take the lead.
David: That “large powerful organization” is, I presume, MoveOn. Again,we have slipped, subtly, into admiring a Democratic Party front. Interestingthat at the beginning of your post, you referred to a “very large and powerfulcoalition.” Now, instead, we have a “large powerful organization.”
Charles: Others that include Domestic Workers United, a labor rightsorganization representing working class women of color. One of their staffmembers, Harmony Goldberg, was a lead trainer this weekend. If you thinkGoldberg is a MoveOn/DemParty dupe, pleaseshoot yourself right now. Whew! You’re still here! Thank god.
David: As to Harmony Goldberg’s relationship to MoveOn and theDemocrats, I can’t comment. As to MoveOn, all the sarcasm in the world won’tmake it anything other than a DP front.
Where Does That Leave Us?
Charles: Based on my experiences this weekend, all I can say is – sign up for the trainings to take place on April 9-16. Help organize more trainings. Invite as many occupiers to attend as possible. Consider theadvantage of influencing all thosemoderate, not radical enough people likely to attend and how our superiorpolitical praxis will surely attract them to let go of their electoralillusions.
David: Fabulous that in the weeks prior to Occupy Wall Street’s most importanteffort in months, May Day, an effort which 99%Spring is studiously avoiding,you are advocating people taking a week off to hobnob with … . I’ll let peoplemake their own decisions about what this is.
Charles: And then, after considering such a vision, let it go, becauseit’s bullshit. The training is quite good. Go because it’s great to be on thesame page for a moment with eager, enthusiastic 99 percenters who want to makethis great land of ours a better one. Drop your defenses (if you have any) andrest assured no one is talking about elections. Let’s focus on the original OWSvision: mass, creative, effective directaction against the banks, Wall Streeters and political forces that drove oureconomy off a cliff and want to charge us for getting back on the precipiceagain.
David: We are focused on the “original OWS vision.” It’s our May Daywork. See you then at Union Square. 99$Spring, I think, won’t be there.
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