Electoral Politics and OWS
Listening to an Occupy Wall Street general assembly meeting takes me back to the beginnings of the Green Party in the mid-Hudson region of
One would think that the Green Party would be similar enough to OWS to get a significant boost from the occupation movement. Certainly, the Greens should receive more of an infusion of energy than Move-On or the Working Families Party, appendages of the Democratic Party that try to channel discontent into votes for the party that controls them.
But the Green Party has a number of problems that makes linking to OWS difficult. Sadly, there are actually two Green Parties in this country, the Greens/Green Party USA (www.green party.org) and the Green Party of the
One Green movement became two with a shift in emphasis to national elections. The Green Party of the
The corporate-orchestrated response to Nader’s challenge remains with us to this day. He was kept out of the debates and then blamed for Bush’s stolen election. All the scorn of the political establishment, with its media echo chamber, was heaped on Nader and the Green Party of the
None of this dispiriting history has gotten in the way of Greens joining the OWS movement. In fact, many occupiers are themselves Greens, and Green Party locals across the country have given OWS overwhelming support. The Los Angeles City Council, in its historic vote against corporate personhood and call for a Constitutional Amendment, was heavily influenced by OWS and local Green Party organizations. Ralph Nader recently urged protesters to go to the heart of the problem and “encircle the office of each senator and representative back home…”
The history of the Green Party, however, is important to the OWS movement as it transitions from spontaneous encampments to longer range objectives. Should one of these objectives be an involvement in a political system so completely controlled by corporate power? Do third party movements have a chance when the government, both major parties, and the national media are organized against them? Our winner take all system is unlike that of many other developed democracies in that third parties are not given proportional representation. And both major parties use their huge financial advantage to keep third parties off the ballot through endless lawsuits and other legal challenges. Electoral politics may be a game that is hopelessly stacked in favor of the house.
The OWS movement has been successful so far because it hasn’t played by rules set up by the power elites. Its rallies don’t get back on the bus and go home at the end of the day. Its targets are those long considered off limits by more traditional peace groups. OWS also demands so much more than the incremental change favored by older generations of activists. Only a revolution can alter how decisions are made in our entrenched cleptocracy with its endless wars, financial exploitation and environmental destruction.
To be fair, activist groups on the left have been coming to this position for some time. Banner drops in DC organized by the Veterans for Peace have included brief periods of occupation. The massive civil disobedience at the White House in December 2010 and March 2011 involved a large spectrum of progressive organizations including Code Pink, the War Resisters League, the Answer Coalition, and many more. Individuals belonging to these groups and others had also been planning the October 2011 occupation of
There is no doubt that this transformation of the established left has influenced the OWS movement. More significant, however, have been the times we are living in. The corporations with their immense power have become predatory in a way we haven’t seen in generations. There is no quarter to be given working people or the environment; all will be ravaged for the malignant greed of the very few.
Fred Nagel is a veteran, a filmmaker, and a political activist. He also hosts a show on Vassar College Radio (classwars.org).