An open letter from the Bail Out the People Movement
Anybody with half a progressive impulse looks at this year’s gigantic and inspiring street occupations – from Egypt to Spain to Wisconsin, now Chile – and thinks: Why can’t that happen here?
With capitalism in full-blown crisis, it seems obvious that the time has come for the people to rise up. If the rebellions are spreading from country to country like wildfire, and can be organized on Facebook, then let’s do it here, today.
But like so many other aspects of true change, this process may not always proceed in a straight line.
History shows that when capitalism is in crisis, the working class is spurred to greater levels of fightback. History also shows that other sectors of society – more reactionary, right-wing sectors – start to move as well, seizing on the economic crisis to draw more people into its camp.
The most visible example of this in the U.S. is the Tea Party. While agitating against the big banks, this grouping’s right-wing politics and billionaire support is obvious, and progressives see it clearly as the enemy.
But other manifestations of this phenomenon – right-wing groups that demagogically attack Wall Street – are starting to take other forms.
This is one of the problems facing the September 17 Occupation of Wall Street, a call that has been embraced by many on the left as an extension of the inspiring street occupations of Europe, Egypt and Tunisia.
Adbusters, a leftist online anarchist group, is credited with putting out the original call for S17. Anonymous, the hacktivists who supported WikiLeaks, has joined it. And activists from other progressive groups in New York and around the world have become involved with it or are supporting it.
However, the insistence by the people who run the General Assemblies for September 17 that their movement should have no demands, political positions or organizations is making S17 susceptible to manipulation by right-wing groups, some of whom are playing roles in building it.
One group, US Day of Rage, is one of the central websites for organizing and political agitation for September 17. Its website include calls for similar occupations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities.
A review of the language on the website of US Day of Rage makes it right-wing politics evident. The site’s slogan, “One Citizen, One Dollar, One Vote” is the first clue. Aside from the absurd “One Dollar,” the “One Citizen” part is incompatible with the essential fight for immigrants’ rights.
Whether it’s raids and deportations, or show-me-your papers legislation and racist violence, this fight is obviously one of the most important – as well as one of the most dynamic. Just look at the immigrant workers’ nationwide May 1 work stoppage in 2006, or the successful factory occupation at Republic Doors and Windows in 2008. It’s obvious the workers’ struggle would be seriously wounded, not to mention racist, to be restricted to “citizens.”
The rest of the site includes all of the coded and not-so-coded language of right-wing populist rhetoric, including appeals to fight “tyranny;” America’s “security and liberty;” this “once great nation;” and the idea that the right-wing, billionaire-funded Tea Party should be collaborated with.
In addition to the US Day of Rage, representatives of Lyndon LaRouche’s group have been openly participating in the general assemblies for September 17. Often portrayed in the media as a tax-dodging, crackpot conspiracy theorist who perennially runs for president, LaRouche is actually a staunch fascist whose views are virulently racist, sexist and anti-LGBTQ.
In the 1970s, members of his progressive-sounding group, the National Caucus for Labor Committees, organized violent physical street attacks on leftists. His personal rhetoric includes vile racist, sexist and homophobic slurs.
It might seem unfathomable for such groups to playing a role in what is seen as a progressive movement. However, the leadership of S17 – whether from an anarchist position or otherwise – is facilitating the inclusion of right-wing forces by a rigorous insistence on no demands and no formal positions.
Ostensibly this is being done as some sort of ecumenical, non-ideological approach that welcomes all views. But the absence of any positions – denigrated as “limiting” by the people who lead the general assemblies – is virtually an open invitation for manipulation by the right.
And the way it actually plays out in the General Assemblies is a tolerance for right-wing groups and suppression of proposals by the left.
This is a dangerous dynamic. It’s one thing for a progressive coalition or movement to hammer out a minimum program that everyone involved can agree on – when the participants are all on the same side of the class barricades.
Tolerating right-wing groups is another thing altogether. Then you’re dealing with people who have no problem collaborating with the state, the police, or any of our other class enemies.
Their attacks on Wall Street are ultimately only demagogical, or designed to appeal to petty bourgeois forces who have their own gripes against the big banks. But they can never be relied on to fight racism or any other form of oppression.
And they’re the enemy. They’re shock troops for Wall Street, even as they falsely agitate against it. Any group advocating working with the Tea Party should be fought against, not blocked with.
Allowing any and all to take part in a coalition that is supposed to fight for the people is not being “inclusive” or “democratic.” It’s collaborating with forces who resort to the MOST divisive, anti-people strategies like racism, repression and violence.
Tolerance for right-wing groups will also most certainly alienate activists and groups that are fighting around survival issues like poverty, hunger, homelessness, healthcare, unemployment and racism – the very forces that our efforts need more representation from.
It’s frustrating to say the least that, with exceptions like Wisconsin, the U.S. working class is not in motion while the rich are getting away with murder right in front of our eyes.
Mass street movements like the ones in Tunisia, Egypt, Spain and Chile will ultimately come to the U.S. In the meantime, we can’t let our impatience, or even the fact that we were inspired by these movements, allow us to block with forces that are right-wing or who accommodate the right wing.
And when push comes to shove, our movement will be the strongest when it’s on a firm working-class basis. As Frederick Douglass said, “There is no progress without struggle.” And no substitute for it.