Party Like It's 99%
by Nick Cooper, firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no recipe book for creating phenomena. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and its message happened to catch on and become familiar to Americans because of a confluence of socio-political factors, but activists are rarely so lucky. Now, OWS is at the end of a initial run, during which even the corporate media gave us substantial coverage. Despite our success, it would be foolish to assume that
whatever we happen to do next will make an equally large splash.
The system constantly develops counter-tactics to protect itself. Whether we write letters, march, hold teach-ins, or initiate civil disobedience, we find ourselves ignored, and sometimes arrested. As
OWS took off, many Americans saw for the first the tactic of occupation, and heard for the first time the message of the 99% against the corporate corruption of democracy. Before the system could generate a counter-tactic, OWS had gone viral. Whatever next step we take, we want it to cut through and have effect. Some are suggesting we create a new political party, or brand existing candidates as representing the 99%. However, the system already has counter-tactics in place for third parties, such as impossible petition requirements, two-party lock down on debates, and astronomical campaign budgets. Like the Zapatistas so wisely have done, we should avoid the pitfalls of transforming our movement into a party.
Van Jones is attempting to co-opt OWS energy, channeling it towards the Democrats, and the 2012 Obama campaign. This would amount to joining the very corruption we oppose. Others are talking about a "99% Party" or an "Occupy Party." Creating a new party and fighting for ballot access is no easy matter. The Green Party has been promoting a message against corporate corruption of democracy for
decades, and has developed the infrastructure for navigating the system. The suggestion that OWS ignore the Greens, and start its own party, seems based on the unrealistic assumption that whatever we do, it will necessarily become a phenomenon.
I think that the forces that happened to come together to make OWS catch on would not come into play around any new political party or candidate. Building on our strengths, we should look for innovative, surprising, and inspiring public actions. The only new political parties I think OWS should create would consist of making music and dancing in public and in the corridors of power.