Thursday, April 26, 2012

Occupy The Progressive Movement: Why Occupy Should Embrace "Co-Optation"

An Occupy organizer asks: When established groups show up wanting to help, then who's really co-opting whom?
Almost immediately after a small band of activists first occupied Zuccotti Park in September of last year, many in the movement started expressing concern about potential co-option by more established and moderate forces. 
These concerns have become more central in 2012, an election year. Wariness is certainly warranted. But angst about an over-generalized sense of co-option may be an even bigger problem. We cannot build a large-scale social movement capable of achieving big changes without the involvement of long-standing broad-based institutions. OWS should actively and strategically forge relationships with many of these institutions, while preserving the role of OWS as an "outsider" force.
Read it at AlterNet
Occupy The Progressive Movement: Why Occupy Should Embrace "Co-Optation"
by Jonathan Matthew Smucker | Beyond the Choir

This is a important debate that this now going on in Occupy and opposed by many, especially the "black bloc." Many remember how the countercultural revolution of the Sixties and Seventies was eventually co-opted and, while successful as a cultural force, virtually evaporated as a political force for change. Yet, without engaging the mainstream and using some of its resources, it is difficult to achieve political objectives.

5 comments:

Dan Kervick said...

Part of the problem here is the general unwillingness of the Occupy movement to define itself and its ends in anything other than very amorphous terms. Obviously, if a group declines to define itself, then others are going to do it for them. How can anyone say what is "authentic" Occupy and what imitation, knock-off, co-opted Occupy, when authentic Occupy has no definition.

Tom Hickey said...

This is the problem only because Occupy so far has insisted on being "leaderless." This is for two reasons. the first is its anarchistic structure. The second is that government operates by going after leaders. Recall the Chicago Eight, before Bobby Seale was separated for special treatment being black, and then the Chicago Seven that were indicted on a charge of conspiracy.

Occupy is different from the 99% movement, which is more organized.

Dan Kervick said...

I'm very interested to see what is going to happen on May 1st, Tom. That's definitely going to be a defining moment and put a charge into the debate. You can't celebrate May Day and then still pretend to be a something for everybody, right-left smorgasbord of ideas with a tent that is even big enough for Murray Rothbard.

Leverage said...

Something similar has happened in Spain with the different movements to what Tom describes. This "weakness" (according to the status quo) was attacked by the media attributing it as a meaningless and leaderless movement.

But vertical hierarchies never will get how horizontal movements work. But I expect in the future if situation still deteriorates it will happen again and more frequently and they will still be questioning it and asking the same wrong questions.

The some subgroups emerged, core-groups 'co-opted' it and it lost a lot of the protest spirit and looked more like a list of political demands. With some stuff I could agree, other was nonsense to me, but my point is that that's what political parties and platforms are for.

So there was a mixture of demands for deep reform of dysfunctional democracy, with other more political demands which had little to do with the core protests. It lost steam and the major parties, well... could ignore the question of accountability and demands again (and conservatives mobilized their base so now have total control of government, not that it changes anything anyway).

But overall I think the trends are good: there was a bigger segregation of votes, a lot of small parties popping in municipal governments, and more questioning of main parties and corruption, more demands for accountability, etc.

Obviously the main questions still are unsolved, but if things keep getting worse, we will get there one way or an other. just see what is happening in the rest of Europe, people is getting tired of all this shit.

But, still, there are serious dangers to democracy and things could go either way. Nothing is decided.

Tom Hickey said...

Dan K: "I'm very interested to see what is going to happen on May 1st, Tom. That's definitely going to be a defining moment and put a charge into the debate. You can't celebrate May Day and then still pretend to be a something for everybody, right-left smorgasbord of ideas with a tent that is even big enough for Murray Rothbard."

Occupy was inspired by Adbusters and the group it collected. A lot of these people are black bloc.