Workers Vanguard No. 999
30 March 2012
As Cops Launch New Attacks at Zuccotti Park
DSA Ropes In Occupy Youth for the Democrats
MARCH 24—On the night of March 17, protesters from Occupy Wall Street gathered in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan to mark the six-month anniversary of the start of the tent protest. Then the NYPD moved in. Not content with their brutalization of protesters in November, when the park was cleared in a nighttime raid, cops again viciously attacked protesters and arrested more than 70. One woman who went into seizures after arrest was prevented from receiving medical attention for over ten minutes, and she is now facing a felony charge of assaulting an officer. As protesters left the Wall Street area and marched up Broadway, cops slammed the head of a medic into a glass door, breaking the panel.
At least three of the protesters face felony charges. Billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg was bullish on the cop assault, saying, “You want to get arrested? We’ll accommodate you.” There have been more arrests since then, including today at an Occupy protest against police brutality. We demand: Drop all the charges now!
Looking for some answers to the grinding capitalist economic crisis and the constant cop attacks on protesters, some Occupy activists were drawn to the annual Left Forum last weekend only a few blocks from Zuccotti Park. Run by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the event adopted the theme “Occupy the System: Confronting Global Capitalism.”
From the time of its origins under Michael Harrington, the DSA has “occupied” a position inside the Democratic Party of U.S. imperialism. What it seeks to do today is to channel protest against the austerity demanded by Wall Street to make working people pay for the global capitalist economic crisis into support for the same Democratic Party that is overseeing these attacks from the White House. The Occupy movement’s refrain of the “99 percent” versus the “1 percent” has touched a chord among broad sections of society. But that vague populist notion obscures the fundamental class divide in society between the working class and the capitalist class, whose obscene wealth is gained through exploiting workers’ labor. Occupy spokesmen’s embrace of this country’s supposed “democratic values”—certainly music to the DSA’s ears—also serves to disguise the class nature of the capitalist state and its political parties.
Leading DSAers Frances Fox Piven and Cornel West were featured at a showcase session on Occupy and “the Future of the Democratic Left” that trumpeted the 50th anniversary of Harrington’s book The Other America. The book was one way that Harrington helped braintrust the bogus “war on poverty” declared by Democratic president Lyndon Johnson in 1964. (Harrington, it should be noted, was the titular head of the Socialist Party for years while that party supported U.S. imperialism’s counterrevolutionary war in Vietnam.) The “war on poverty” was one part of the capitalist rulers’ attempt to undercut and co-opt the tumultuous struggles for black equality that had shaken up the country. But for Piven, this policy turned the Democrats into the “party of the poor.” Piven also proclaimed that Harrington’s notion of a “culture of poverty” among the country’s dispossessed would later be “misunderstood” by mainstream and right-wing bourgeois ideologues to blame impoverished blacks and whites for their own condition.
In the discussion period, a Spartacist League speaker pointed out that, three years ago, his comrade was shouted down at a very similar panel when she declared that it was criminal for socialists, working-class and black militants to support the Democrat Barack Obama’s election as president. Our speaker continued:
“I don’t know about Michael Harrington’s ‘culture’ being misunderstood, but there’s no misunderstanding that he said the place for socialists was in the Democratic Party, perpetuating the lie that that’s the party for poor people, for workers, for immigrants and black people. Three years since, auto workers are working themselves to death, if they are new workers, for $15 an hour in wages because of Obama’s bailout of the auto companies. We’ve had an expansion of the ‘war on terror’; attacks on democratic rights at home and the codification of assassination of U.S. citizens overseas; an expansion of the war in Afghanistan.
“This is the Democratic Party of U.S. imperialism. If you want a question, here’s one: What does the Democratic Party becoming the ‘party of the poor’ in the ’60s mean for the Vietnamese workers and peasants, who scored the biggest victory for poor people around the world when they defeated U.S. imperialism, under the Democratic Party and the Republican Party?”
Calling for a revolutionary workers party, our speaker concluded by saying that the way to get rid of the capitalist exploiters was to take the road of the Bolsheviks.
It is not lost on the DSA that some radical-minded Occupy protesters are less than enthusiastic about becoming voting cattle for Obama’s re-election. In response to our speaker, Cornel West played up his image as a “radical” black spokesman in offering that “the Democratic Party has never been a party fundamentally concerned with poor people.” But this statement was in the service of promoting pro-Democratic Party pressure politics, a strategy embraced by not only the DSA but the entire reformist left. West declared that the Democratic Party “has made concessions when poor and working people created movements and put pressure, and brought pressure to bear on the system.” Piven said straight out that she would be very glad to see Obama and the Congressional Democrats win big in November.
The false notion that the interests of the working class and minorities run through the Democratic Party has long served to chain the exploited and the oppressed to the brutal, crisis-ridden capitalist system. In peddling this lie to generations of activists, the DSA faithfully follows Michael Harrington’s dictum to be the “left wing of the possible,” acting as a roadblock to the development of class consciousness and its political expression: the independence of the working class from all the parties of the capitalist class enemy.