Go Left, The Season Has Changed: Time for an OWS Spring Offensive

For years, in the last century, when I was in School and learning about the early days of journalism, we were taught that author Horace Greeley who founded the New York Herald Tribune, was famous for saying, “Go West Young Man And Grow Up With The Country.”

One problem, as we learned recently, he didn’t coin the phrase but only popularized it. (Another media mistake involving a top dog in the media!) Indiana newspaper writer John Soule actually gave the advice in 1851 and, it would serve as the mantra for 19th century “action” in the form of Westward migration.

These days, those good and the great men and women who won their struggle stripes in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements have a new mantra for action.

Some, who recently appeared at New York’s annual Left Forum, were sharing it with younger people,  “Go Left.”

They would probably agree with Mitt Romney who said recently he can’t think of any reason for any young person to support a Democrat — but for different reasons.

Those who are going left have left the Democrats behind.

Even Bruce Springsteen who campaigned for President Obama, played at his inauguration is singing a different tune these days

He recently told a Music festival in Texas, ‘ about the first songs he loved. “They were a revelation…the first records of full-blown class consciousness I ever heard,” he explained, playing a bit of “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” After reaching the line “there’s a better life for me and you” he added, “That’s every song I’ve ever written. That’s all of them. I’m not kidding, either. ‘Born to Run.’ “Born in the USA,’ Everything I’ve done for the past 40 years, including all the new ones …That was the first time I felt I heard something cross the radio that mirrored my home life, my childhood.”

Many of today’s more conscious young people seem to be gravitating not into traditional radical class consciousness but into the ranks of the Occupy Movement, even as the movement’s main tactic seems stuck on liberating public space, not organizing youth or other communities.

Their philosophy of “horizontalism” has been effective in inspiring young activists because of its small d –democratic and participatory ethic.

Yet, this process to many seems more important than the product or result. Propelling an “action faction” or camping as a community is not the same thing as challenging power or remaking it.

Clashes with the police play right into their hands when the story becomes one of confrontation, not pursuing a clear political agenda. The media’s love of  ‘when it bleeds, it leads” is well known.

The Occupy Wall Street website reports:

After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.

According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨The New Occupation.

In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.

Our ability to occupy the commons in order to voice dissent is a vital political right. We do not need a permit to exist in public space. We call on all those who would stand for equality, justice, and liberation – and against the banks, corporations, wealthy elites, and corrupt politicians who have stolen our democracy and ruined our economy — to join us now.”

Yes, but why the continuing focus on a return to the parks?  The problem seems obvious. When a movement becomes focused on itself, when it seems to have only one tactic, it loses contact with the people it is fighting with and for.

Building community is critical but so is building alliances and encouraging organization as a means for fighting back.

Saying “We Are The 99%,” doesn’t make it so unless there is a way for new people to get engaged. Not everyone has the time or the disposition to stand through hours of General Assembly meetings that can be unproductive.

Some of the movement’s sympathizers are working or have family responsibilities. The OWS work groups are important but there needs to be more coordination with other direct action and community groups, not just more inward facilitation.

Not everyone believes in leaderlessness. Cultural styles and generational choices can be divisive as well as unifying.

Not everyone is on Facebook or tweets. We can’t be fetishistic about one way being the only way!

• How about a broader campaign to place stories in community papers, even “shoppers,” write letters to the editors and challenge media outlets that distort the movement’s outlook?

• How about speaker’s committees to book an OWS presence at churches, union meetings and conventions?

• Can’t we find ways to broaden/diversify the tent and also make it bigger so others are more comfortable being involved.

• Can’t we more effectively occupy the mainstream so that 99% we say we speak for can speak for themselves?

• And why can’t Occupy also borrow a page from digital activists like the people behind the Kony 2012 campaign.

Whatever you think of its politics, it reached tens of millions of people. We can do the same and come up with our own media for better outreach.

• The Occupy Newspaper and related journals offer one direction. The new OWS radio show is another way to make media, not just respond to questions from mainstream press. Why aren’t we holding screenings of the many documentaries made about OWS and the issues it is raising.

Spring is here but we don’t have to fall back to what was done in the Fall. It’s a time to move forward, experiment with more configurations of action and make the OWS presence felt in more arenas of public life.

News Dissector Danny Schechter was a civil rights and community organizer. His new book is Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street (Cosimo) while his recent film Plunder and companion book investigates financial crime. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org.

25 Comments on "Go Left, The Season Has Changed: Time for an OWS Spring Offensive"

  1. The dems are not left! The only reason to call dems left is to lie about the situation of USA’s democracy in with there’s none of it! There is only right and radical right!

    • Ceausescu | Mar 22, 2012 at 2:31 am |

      Do you see Obama as right and Bush as radical right ? You’re so cute and funny 😀

      • Mr Willow | Mar 22, 2012 at 3:36 am |

        Ummm. . . yeah. Pretty much. 

      • Jin The Ninja | Mar 22, 2012 at 9:33 am |

        you must get a kick out of playing dumb.

        • Ceausescu | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm |


          It’s naive to think that Obama and Bush follow any theoretical political ideology.

          Politics, in practice, is a clusterfuck of interests.

          What’s the difference between playing dumb and ninja trolling ? ( I’m referring to the “read a book” comment )

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

            you’re not “playing” dumb if you genuinely believe that bush/obama’s neo liberal corporatist ideology is NOT right-wing, or you’re simply very naive, and don’t understand the nuance of the spectrum as it exists in text and in practice.

            and i’m not “ninja-trolling’ i’m just a ninja.

          • Ceausescu | Mar 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

             Yeah, you’re right about their corporatist ideologies, but does that make them necessarily radical right ?

            “Corporatist types of community and social interaction are common to many ideologies, including: absolutism, capitalism, conservatism, fascism, liberalism, progressivism, reactionism, social democracy (social corporatism), and syndicalism.” – from wikipedia.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm |

            since they’re not purely corporatists, as they are ‘elected officials’ – they are actually neo-fascist, which is the collusion of gov’t and corporations. and corporatism (see below), relies heavily a neo-libertarian ideology.

            As for your ‘quoted’ definition of corporatism, that is merely the denotation of Corporatism, which is a social system of organisation. it doesn’t refer to the specific practice, or modality of corporatism. As you ca infer from what you quoted, there are many types of modalities. What i was referring to, ‘fascist corporatism’ which is deeply rightist in it’s political modality which translates into a radical right vision in the organisation of society. So in fact perhaps you’re not naive, you just really don’t understand political science.

          • Ceausescu | Mar 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm |

             I’m not gonna argue with you anymore.

            If you don’t agree with my opinion that political science alone is not enough to describe our current situation as a whole ( and not just politically ), it’s fine. Really.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 22, 2012 at 11:34 pm |

            that’s not really what we were discussing, rather your inability to define terms, even after a cursory glance at wikipedia. the facts are the spectrum right to left- is not well represented in the US, in fact only the right terminates in fascism, and that is what you have. fascism. so right is right, and left is nowhere to be found.

          • Ceausescu | Mar 23, 2012 at 12:41 am |

             Oh, I actually thought our discussion was also englobing the argument from more above when I said that the issue we’re facing is much more complex than capitalism vs anarchism/socialism. That is where you commented that I should read a book, to which I didn’t reply.

            I should’ve made myself more clear on what I’m defending. Soz

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 23, 2012 at 12:51 am |

             it is about capitalism, and it’s alternatives. the alternatives which encompass a sustainable, just, egalitarian world. that world is not a capitalist one.

          • Ceausescu | Mar 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm |

            On another note, this contradictory discussion with you reminds me of a similar discussion between you and someone else here on disinfo, a few days ago.

            It was about junk food and how it affects our health, and the guy was saying that junk food does have negative impacts on one’s health, but there are many other factors that contribute to the degradation of one’s health, and they should be taken into consideration, and that correlation should not be mistaken with causation.

            I don’t remember what you were saying exactly, but I do remember that you were not agreeing with his empirical argument. That’s just stubbornness.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm |

            lol. not quite the same tone, and that dude was a grade A moron, but if you feel like you’re akin to him, who am i to argue?

      •  They’re both radical right.

  2. Monkey See Monkey Do | Mar 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

    The left/right paradigm is correct on some level but ultimately just confuses the whole issue. Its capitalism vs. socialism/anarchism/resource based economy.

    • Ceausescu | Mar 22, 2012 at 2:14 am |

      Theoretically, capitalism is supposed to be a free market. Practically, it is tied up so well, it can’t even breathe.

      Theoretically, in socialism, people would have the power. The majority, I mean. Practically, socialism has enslaved people in many cases. Capitalism has done that too.

      There’s many factors to be considered when thinking about our current situation.

      For example, an important aspect is, in my opinion, the gap between how manipulative and how manipulated we can be. The gap then applies to many other negative/positive traits, if that makes sense..

      Another example would be the fact that we, the human species, have been divided by religion, nations, race etc.

      The problems we’re facing is so complex, I think there’s many words we haven’t invented yet to explain it fully.

      • Ceausescu | Mar 22, 2012 at 2:28 am |

        Oh yeah, and I forgot about the fact that capitalism is an economic ideology, while socialism is a political ideology.

  3. Ceausescu | Mar 22, 2012 at 1:44 am |

    Very inspirational article !

    I thought many times that there are so many other ways to unify and protest. For example, I think it would be a great idea to form in an international picketing organization, and picket different products, services etc. This way, we could accelerate the collapse of the this decaying system.

  4. This might explain things: 

    question is no longer if Mr. Smith can go to Washington but if Mr.
    Smith can even get into the halls of his city’s government. American
    political spending has priced millennials out of the market across the
    country. Local
    school board races now have so much money pumped into them that only
    candidates willing to accept the influence that comes with big donors
    are running” (fair usage quote)

  5. Eric_D_Read | Mar 22, 2012 at 9:46 am |

    If OWS wants to accomplish anything, they need to stop protesting in a park and actually do what their name says.
    Also, when you’re using Twitter for your tactical inspiration, and your enemy is using The Prince and The Art of War, you’re fucked before you even begin.

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