The concerns about co-option are being heard. But another concern still remains to be addressed: the fact that many of those hearing those concerns are the co-opters.
About two dozen people showed up at the Tuesday night meeting of the Occupy DC action committee, twice as many as were at the first one I attended a couple weeks ago, a sign that people are grasping how powerful the committee is — it can still approve or reject actions without seeking any form of consensus at a general assembly — and how important actions are in terms of defining the movement.
Overall, the meeting was positive: the same facilitator who announced at a general assembly earlier in the week that the committee had endorsed a series of actions sponsored and planned by the SEIU, MoveOn.org and Van Jones’ Rebuild the Dream — adjuncts of the Democratic Party all — at the meeting sought consensus on instead doing an Occupy DC action that would explicitly be separate from those groups.
Conscious of appearances, the de facto leadership of the committee clarified that they hadn’t intended to endorse the week of actions those groups are busing people into town for, but rather a single day of action on December 7. Consensus was quickly reached on the idea of doing a separate set of actions that day, with many people talking about specifically targeting Democrats and their allies on K Street as a way of making clear Occupy DC does not endorse the partisan, anti-GOP-only agenda for the week of protests asserted by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.
Score one for the rabble rousers.
There was, however, some passive-aggressive hostility. One woman angrily spoke of how she didn’t like “outsiders” coming in and spreading discord by raising fears about co-option. “Occupy DC can’t be co-opted,” she said, launching into a diatribe against the folks at the rival camp in Freedom Plaza, which isn’t really part of the Occupy movement. We’re the real People’s Front of Judea. Yawn.
The same woman also spoke out against the need to do an event separate from the SEIU and MoveOn.org targeting the Democrats in particular. And when it came time to discuss an action targeting a $1,000-a-plate Democratic fundraiser this Thursday, she argued that it was unfair to hold the blue faction of the ruling establishment equally to blame as the red faction for the war and welfare for Wall Street status quo, going so far as to say “people will die“ if the Democrats lose power.
*cough* Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia . . . *clears throat*
This being DC and all, you’re bound to find people here who still believe in the comforting fairy tale of lesser evilism, who think that the problem isn’t the institutions of power — the authority a couple hundred folks in Washington have to start wars and imprison more than 2.3 million Americans — but those who control them. However, this being DC and all, a higher percentage of these lesser evilers, as well as those who think the Democrats are actually doing
Obama’s god’s work, have certain unique incentives to believe the things they do.
The woman who voiced concerns about protesting the Democratic fundraiser and criticized those damn dirty outsiders raising concerns about co-option? On Friday — the day after that fundraiser — she will be a featured “networking professional” at the Democratic GAIN Career Fair, “the place where progressive organizations, Democratic campaigns and consultants will be to collect resumes and talk about what they’ll be doing to help Democrats in 2012.” That she would object to Occupy DC doing a day of action separate from the SEIU & Friends also makes a little more sense when you realize she works for the SEIU, a job she took after being a paid organizer for the Obama campaign.
This is a problem. Careerists with an incentive to pursue a Democratic agenda — in addition to the aforementioned woman I saw the co-founder of the Democratic Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) — are weighing in on how, or even whether, to target the Democrats. They are weighing in on questions of whether Occupy DC should participate in events being put on by the organizations that employ them. And they’re not disclosing their conflicts of interest.
There’s a simple solution: require that disclosure. That’s not too much ask. Indeed, Occupy Wall Street already has such a requirement:
We acknowledge the existence of professional activists who work to make our world a better place. If you are representing, or being compensated by an independent source while participating in our process, please disclose your affiliation at the outset.
One man who worked for the SEIU did just that. When commenting on the series of SEIU-planned actions, he gave us all a heads up: “Hey guys, just so you know I work for the SEIU.” Cool, man. People who work for less-than-perfect organizations have a right to participate in the Occupy movement — lord knows it’s tough trying to find a good anarcho-vegan feminist collective to work for — but the rest of us have a right to know if they work for the very organizations they are trying to get us to protest with. Or the groups we’re actually protesting.
What do they have to hide?