Occupy Should Stay Unattached to Political Parties

occupy laWhy Occupy Movements Unattached to Any Political Party Are the Only Hope for Real Change in a Frozen Social Order

Now that Occupy Movements are being evicted from public parks in cities throughout the country, almost invariably by Democratic mayors, many Democratic Party organizes and some labor activists are hoping the movement will fade away and concentrate its energies on electing progressive candidates for office and putting forth a progressive political agenda.

In my opinion, that would be a grave mistake. There are a bevy of important issues that given current political alignments, and the power of money in American politics, cannot be translated into a viable legislative agenda. It will take years of disruptive protest — strikes, boycotts, walkouts, sit ins and occupations — to place them on the national agenda and the only force in American society capable of employing those tactics for a sustained period is the Occupy movement.

Here are some key issues that neither party is willing to take on that the Occupy movement can influence if it keeps growing and becoming more diverse in the next five years.

  • The student loan crisis and the escalating cost of a college education. There is no way, without major disruptions of university life, and pressure on the banks, that student loan debt can be erased, or significantly reduced, and tuition at public colleges frozen or lowered. Until universities cannot carry on their normal business without making dramatic changes in looan collections and tuition charges, you can be sure elected officials won’t touch these issues with a ten foot pole.
  • The legalization of drugs and the release of non-violent drug offenders from the nation’s prisons. Given the powerful interests fighting any dismantling of the prison industrial complex-ranging from prison guards unions, to elected officials in communities where prisons are located, to corporations who benefit from cheap prison labor, it will require massive social movements, to force states, localities, and eventually the federal government, to end the irrational arrest and imprisonment of people who sell drugs no more dangerous than alcohol or prescription medications.
  • occupy laThe dismantling of a domestic police state apparatus which uses advanced weaponry and intrusive surveillance technology to suppress dissent and control and intimidate minority and working class youth. The weapons that were used against Occupy demonstrators in Oakland, at Zuccotti Park and at UC Davis have been used for many years against minority youth to prevent them from inhibiting the gentrification and re-segregation of American societies and to assure order in schools and communities stripped of resources. Libertarians, civil rights organizations, and a growing Occupy movement can create an alliance to undermine the domestic police state. The two major parties will never do it without immense outside pressure.
  • A moratorium on foreclosures and the passage of legislation to allow arts groups, youth groups, affordable housing organizations and advocates for the homeless to occupy abandoned commercial and residential space in America’s towns and cities. Such actions will only be taken if Occupy groups and their allies make foreclosures difficult, and begin occupying abovementioned properties in such numbers that it will be counterproductive for authorities to evict them. There is no way elected officials will take such steps without being presented with a “fait accompli” by protesters.
  • A radical reformation of the tax system that places the burden of taxation on the 1 Percent and reduces taxes on individuals and small businesses. There is no way, given current political alignments, and the vast power of corporate and Wall Street lobbies, that that such a revolution in the tax code could be legislated. But five more years of disruptive protest could change that Occupy movements have to create a scenario where the only path to restoring social order would be a revision of the tax burden to benefit ordinary citizens

mark naisonThese five policy areas are hardly the only ones which would require years of protest to attain — I am sure people reading this could identify issues in education, environmental protection, job creation and US military policy that would require movements of equal force to implement

But I have identified these five areas to show have far away we are from any real political change in this country through the two major parties. We need grassroots social movements of such force that it will reinvent what is possible in mainstream American politics. The Occupy movements have started such a process. It would be a shame if they prematurely embraced the electoral process rather than pushing protests activity to much higher levels

Mark Naison
With a Brooklyn Accent 

Photos: Richie Thomassen


  1. says

    The author is more than correct, indeed he understates. That’s not only because the present ‘political process’ – especially when viewed as an ‘electoral process’ – will in practice not deliver on specific big issues. The issue is bigger: it is one of principle. Namely, even in ‘advanced’ USA and other western lands, the vaunted political system is now obsolete, morally bankrupt and illegitimate.

    The 224-year-old federal constitution and its many copycat state constitutions and local charters opted not for Athenian democracy – and a broadly distributed network of empowered citizen decision teams – but rather for a Roman-republican-style political <1% oligarchy comprising a few all-powerful long-term-serving special officials. To throw the masses a few populist-looking bones, the system now and then rotates oligarchs via mass non-deliberative winner-take-all-power popularity-contest elections. These elections do nothing to address the fact that concentrated power will corrupt even the most popular and goodest of elected good guys. Rather, what they do in fact is establish unreasoned and adversarial partisanship rather than reasoned cooperative problem-solving as the preferred and incentivized mode of decision.

    It's 224 years too late for this. Our population is 100 times bigger, our scope of citizenship is way bigger yet, we are by and large a very well educated citizenry compared with norms of 224 years ago, and an entire scientific age has grown up, including scientific insights into how to enable far more reasoned decision-making. And some crucial common-sense insights also totally discredit political oligarchy. Already 124 years ago Acton observed that 'power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. If you WANT corrupted public decisions, then by all means concentrate public decision power in a <1% political oligarchy: then they are free to sell out the public trust to the economic <1% oligarchy. IT IS A <1% POLITICAL OLIGARCHY THAT ENABLES A <1% ECONOMIC OLIGARCHY.

  2. Wanda says

    Eventually the ideas and energy must transfer to political action and votes. I agree with George Lakoff that those who are inclined to make that transfer should occupy the Democratic Party by joining Democratic clubs and DCCs and push Democrats to stand up to their own party platform.
    Not only that, by getting involved OWS activists will push to identify, promote and support new leadership. Republicans, teas and conservadems have to be replaced with progressives. I’m sure OWS will inspire some to take on the Democratic party with new leadership and ideas out of the seemingly disorganized movement and it’s time the Democrats welcome that new blood.

  3. says

    You begin your premise with the Democratic Party in particular being enemy of the Occupy movement. Certainly those responsible for our biggest troubles are big banks, Koch Bros and big Republicans – with a few asinine blue dogs chipping in. Based on OWS demands, there is going to be much more affinity for Democrats than Republicans in the most immediate practicality of things. We must go on two tracks here, one is to transform the process. That may take a while. Meanwhile, we cannot let perfection be the enemy of the good. More assuredly while Democrats and Occupiers dither vis a vis the political process, the reality is the Republicans, right wingers, tea partyers whoever WILL NOT. And once Gingrich or Romney are elected, then we have Bush Part 2. My suggestion is the Occupiers work with the best chance they have to change thing – primary blue Dogs and support progressives, and above all, re-elected Obama (Supreme Court is at stake) We must occupy REALITY as well as idealism.

    • says

      When it comes to many aspects of environmental sellout and degradation, wars, drug-based or terror-based excuses for a police state, and yet other respects, Obama is already Bush Part 2. And, by the way, altho maybe the Supreme Court itself remains a bit in play, Obama has already long surrendered the rest of the federal courts. Not only has he simply stared away as many of his nominations remain stalled, but he has NOT EVEN SENT UP NOMINATIONS for what is now an unprecedented number of long-term-vacant judgeships.

      It’s not a case of a quest for perfection being enemy of the good. Rather, it’s become a case of endlessly excusing and submitting to an ever-worsening evil just because it is supposedly still the lesser evil.

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