These are some important points from a fellow I know, Thomas Linzey of CELDF. These people do very good work, and have long since focused their efforts on *the* hole in the Death Star of corporate “rights,” and how these entities weild power by usurping people’s rights. I would definitely recommend that organizers (particularly those working with the Occupy Wall Street movement) attend their Democracy Schools for a good primer on how to more effectively focus the work at hand. It’s pretty essential stuff if the movement is to have real, lasting effect.
Most revolts are snuffed out well before their efforts impact the political scene – not because their ideas and issues aren’t relevant, but because the major institutional players within the system-that-is rapidly attempt to snag the power and energy for their own. In the eyes of the Democratic Party or the national environmental groups, this revolt is merely seen as an opportunity to assimilate newly emerging troops back into those groups’ own flaccid and ineffective organizing. After all, if those institutional groups have actually been effective all of these years, why the need for a revolt at all?
It’s when these revolts become mainstreamed by their “friends” within existing institutions that they lose their steam, and become just one more footnote in an endless stream of footnotes of revolts that have burned out early.
Instead of diluting themselves to meet the needs of already-institutionalized groups who aren’t going anywhere; the Occupy folks must move in the opposite direction – deepening and strengthening their effort by demanding structural change in how the current system operates. That means moving away from the institutional advocacy promoted by mainstream progressive organizations (which has proven to be utterly ineffective against the type of consolidated wealth that makes decisions about every aspect of our lives today) and towards a new form of advocacy and activism. Rather than negotiating the terms of our de-occupation, we must rewrite the very rules under which our system operates.
Mainstream progressive groups have failed by constraining their activities within legal and regulatory systems purposefully structured to subordinate communities to corporate power. Real movements don’t operate that way. Abolitionists never sought to regulate the slave trade – they sought freedom and rights for slaves. Suffragists didn’t seek concessions but demanded the right for all women to vote. The Occupy movement must begin to use lawmaking activities in cities and towns to build a new legal structure of rights that empowers community majorities over corporate minorities, rather than the other way around.
It’s taken a centuries’ worth of manufactured and concocted legal doctrines, so that corporations and their decision makers wield not only our legislatures against us, but also the courts – to protect their property, wealth, and decision-making from popular control. Our country’s wealth inequality did not arise overnight but slowly as the corporate minority eviscerated almost every memory of any democratic system.