Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Footnotes From a Movement:

Frank Llewellyn

My assignment for this issue was to summarize DSA’s involvement in the Occupy movement without filling the entire issue with a listing of the hundreds of actions by DSA locals, YDS chapters, and individual DSA members. While not an easy task, it is entirely gratifying because there is so much material to work with. Like the Occupy movement itself, our support activity has activated members across the generations. It has invigorated veteran activists who thought that nobody would ever again stand up to the status quo, while providing new members and young activists with some sense of the energy a real social movement can provide.
As of this writing, Occupy is celebrating 60 days of existence. From the first days, DSA and YDS members and our local organizations, despite the fact that they were already busy preparing for the organization’s biannual convention in November, sprang into action. Our members immediately recognized that this is a movement that captured the public’s imagination and refocused on the root causes of the economic crisis instead of the convenient scapegoats held up by the Right. Already, the section of DSA’s website devoted to DSA’s Occupy activities (http://dsausa.org/occupy/index.html) has over 30 pages of photographs and reports from Maui to Maine that include extensive details on the initial Occupy actions and first-hand accounts of marches and demonstrations. The reports cover activity from mid-September to the present. If you have photos or would like to report on your own Occupy-related activities, please email your material to ows@dsausa.org so that it can be posted to the Wall of Honor.
Nichole Shippen and Michael Hirsch report on the Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge, when 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested by the police while attempting to march from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Charles Nadler reports on organizing attorneys to defend arrested protesters in Denver. Barbara Joye chronicles Occupy and DSA activity in Atlanta, while David Knuttunen and Nancy Goldner report on actions in Boston. Jack Rothman details activity on Los Angeles while Lance Gold reports on Minnesota. There are presently 33 subsections of the DSA Occupy website that document our activity.
These reports put to rest the misguided notion that the movement lacks an orientation or an agenda. Housing and foreclosure have been the focus of many demonstrations, as have inequality, jobs, poverty, and war. Local Occupy movements have not been limited to street protest. DSA members have contributed to meetings and panel discussions in Memphis, New York, and Philadelphia as well as many other cities and college campuses around the country.
That being said, DSA has not limited itself to academic discussions or intellectual support. Members in Oak Park (outside of Chicago) and San Diego brought food and other supplies to local Occupy encampments. Members in New York, Philadelphia (specifically Temple University Atlanta
YDS), Sacramento, and other cities have been detained or arrested for standing with the Occupy movement and with the 99% in its struggle against the 1%.
In addition to local reports, the website also documents the activity of some well-known public figures associated with DSA. There is a report on DSA Honorary Chair Cornel West’s testimony at the “trial of Goldman Sachs” held in New York. There is also the work of fellow Honorary Chair Frances Fox Piven, whose interview with New York DSAer Chris Maisano has been turned into a pamphlet and distributed at many Occupy events around the country.
Our activity in the Occupy movement has generated a fair amount of media coverage, including an NBC interview with Nichole Shippen and extensive quotes from Chris Maisano on Salon.com. As is their wont, the right-wing blogosphere and extremist publications have decided that this movement is our brainchild.
Of course, the truth is that we are building this movement not because it is our project, but precisely because it is not. Every first-hand and independent journalistic account concludes that this movement is the spontaneous expression of public rage at the condition of the economy and the stagnant living standards that DSA has been talking about for more than a decade. If we can provide some support or direction to Occupy, that would certainly be good for the organization. But more importantly, the growth of this movement along with the political impact of its emergence will be good for the country and the 99%. Already we are witnessing Republican strategists warning candidates and office holders from confronting this movement head-on. Frank Luntz, perhaps the leading Republican strategist and message-meister, has actually warned his pupils against explicitly defending capitalism!
Whether they listen to Luntz or not, Republicans and far too many Democrats would be better off listening to the Occupy movement and the 99% rather than following their present dead-end course. v
Frank Llewellyn, formerly DSA’s National Director, was elected to DSA’s National Political Committee at the November 2011 DSA National Convention.

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