Media spokesmen for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations claimed that their operation is totally transparent, with everything subject to democratic discussion in a general assembly of all comers. But eyewitness reports from experienced observers on the ground in lower Manhattan indicate a much different reality behind these bland assurances. Forces appeared to be at work behind the scenes to manipulate the protest movement into a posture of supporting the presidential candidacy of Wall Street puppet Obama.
Eyewitness observers suggest that the deliberations of the general assembly are largely a diversion, and that real power is being increasingly concentrated in the hands of about 20 mysterious and anonymous individuals who appear to make up a kind of covert steering committee that pulls the strings on the general assembly, or else goes around it completely. The members of this cadre of mysterious operatives are not as young as the average demonstrator. The secret leadership is made up of people ranging in age from 25 to over 40, with the older ones occupying the key posts. Many of them appear to be active duty or recently retired military.
A Covert Steering Committee Behind the Scenes?
Attempts to ascertain the names of the behind-the-scenes leaders are met with stonewalling. When pressed to reveal her identity, one female leader gave her name as “Mary MIA.” Another gave his name as “Tony POW.”
If the leaders of OWS want to be transparent, let them make public at least the full names of the people who are actually running the show. No one wants to join a movement with anonymous leaders.
Observers have noticed that almost all of the likely members of the secret steering committee disappear from view between 4 and 6 p.m. each afternoon, right before the opening of the general assembly, for which they then re-appear. It is assumed that they are attending a closed-door meeting, but the general assembly is not officially informed of this fact.
Two individuals who appear to belong to the higher levels of the pecking order in Zuccotti Park are pictured above. The one on the left calls himself “Brendan.” When newspaper correspondents and other media representatives arrive, he is often the one who handles relations with them. “Brendan” looks old enough to be the father of many of the demonstrators.
The person pictured above on the right is a frequent speaker in the general assembly. He also has a role in relations with the press. According to one protester, he may have connections to the US military, but this has not been confirmed. Is his do-rag or bandana a fashion statement, or something else?
Who are these people? Who appointed them? To whom are they accountable?
Who Invited Michael Moore?
The general assembly is supposed to approve all major decisions. In reality, it appears to be occupied with endless deliberations about trivia while the really big decisions are being made someplace else. A case in point are the invitations which have obviously been extended to a whole series of discredited left liberal figures, many of them deeply implicated in inflicting the Obama presidency and continued Wall Street rule on our nation. Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Mike Myers, and left-IMF ideologue Joseph Stiglitz have all appeared, and a visit by Noam Chomsky, a devoted supporter of the Bush theory of terrorism, is reportedly in the works. Eyewitnesses have reported that most demonstrators were not happy with the presence of the millionaire Michael Moore, who was using the demonstrations as props for his usual routine of self-promotion. But these objections carried no weight. Regular participants in the general assembly report that they were never consulted about whether to invite these left liberals. It is therefore a good guess that the invitations were actually issued by the secret steering committee. The general idea is once again to reduce the protest movement to a mere auxiliary in the effort to get Obama reelected.
The Consensus Straitjacket
The members of the secret steering committee have taken a leading role in imposing the unwieldy and time-consuming formalism of always reaching a consensus in the general assembly, meaning that any significant opposition can block the implementation of urgent actions. A simple up or down majority vote is not enough. (The last governing assembly of any major nation to give each member a veto over the actions of the whole body was the aristocratic Polish Diet of the 18th century, which was so dysfunctional that it led to Poland being obliterated from the map of Europe – not an example to be imitated.)
The consensus method provides immense comfort to the predatory speculators of Wall Street, since it virtually guarantees that no potent and controversial strategy to break the power of finance capital can emerge. Indeed, it guarantees that absolutely nothing will be able to emerge in an emergency after a rapid turn in the overall situation. The US Congress is paralyzed by a minority, but the consensus rules of the general assembly mean that it can be paralyzed by a tiny clique bent on sabotage. In the background, the covert steering committee is busy creating a series of faits accomplis.
The deliberations of the general assembly are one big filibuster. On October 4, much of the session was taken up with an agonized discussion of whether to buy or knit and sew sleeping bags as the nights became colder. Right-wing commentators hostile to the protests had a field day using this grotesque scene to mock the entire movement.
Those who run the General assembly sessions are known as facilitators. The relation of these facilitators to the secret steering committee is being investigated.
The OWS Declaration: Not One Concrete Demand for Americans
While the General assembly is occupied with questions like what to order for lunch as part of the shipments of free food that mysteriously appear at the demonstration site, the vital issue of program is left to a subcommittee. On October 5, the Olbermann evening news featured a reading of the Occupy Wall Street Declaration, written by protesters Ryan Hoffman and Lex Rendon. This document does not offer an analysis of the current economic crisis. Rather, it represents a laundry list of complaints, many valid and some spurious. Most important, this document contains not one concrete demand, measure, or program point on which the protesters are willing to pledge that they will be fighting for the interests of the American people. In that sense, it is a document of moral and intellectual impotence. It whines and complains, but it will do nothing to combat the widespread suspicion of the OWS movement felt in many quarters because of the Soros endorsement.
Economic demands are absolutely vital. The movement needs to offer specific solutions for the grave abuses and economic tragedies which are plaguing working people. These demands acquire a material power as they gain mass support. To get support from the inner-city ghetto, from the farm belt, from women, from labor, from the elderly, their vital concerns must be directly addressed. These groups absolutely do not need more analysis telling them how bad things are. They already know that. They need to see a social force which is ready to take leadership in accomplishing radical reforms -or else the revolution, as the case may be.
Student Loan Amnesty Now Paid for by 1% Wall Street Sales Tax
One obvious demand which needs to be included is an immediate amnesty or cancellation of all outstanding student loans. The zombie banks which have been bailed out by the United States government can and should eat their part of the $1 trillion which will have to be written off. The loans guaranteed by the government can be offset by new tax income from a 1% Wall Street sales tax on all financial turnover, including stocks, bonds, and derivatives. Estimates of the additional revenue from a Wall Street sales tax of this type start in the hundreds of billions of dollars and go into the trillions. The proceeds could be split between the federal government and the states, for the purposes of maintaining the social safety net and vital public services. Ordinary people pay sales tax, while bankers pay nothing. One bright spot in the demonstrations has been the presence of the nurses’ union, which has been militantly advocating just such a Tobin tax or financial transactions tax. Student loan amnesty now paid for by a 1% Wall St sales tax is a demand which could blow the lid off US politics once and for all.
Economic program is a science. It requires the mastery of many fields. Serious, intelligent people need to put their gifts to work mastering the science of economic program as part of their social responsibility to the American people.
The Indignados of Madrid: Europe’s Biggest Failures
According to reliable reports, the consensus method was imposed via the steering committee preparing for the demonstrations during the summer months. Individuals claiming to be students from Spain and Greece arrived and joined the steering committee, where they advocated the crippling consensus method. They pointed to the general assemblies held by the indignados of Madrid, a movement of youthful protesters concerned about austerity measures, youth unemployment, the excessive power of bankers, and economic injustice. But, even compared with Tunis, Cairo, Athens, and Reykjavík, the Madrid indignados must be judged as the biggest failure of them all, because of their total inability to oust the “socialist” IMF agent Zapatero, the enforcer of genocidal austerity demanded by the banks, or to block any of the austerity cuts. The indignados had no positive impact whatsoever on Spanish politics. Why imitate failure? This is the side of the current protests which Wall Street predator George Soros was happy to endorse this week.
A New International Otpor?
Observers are reminded of Otpor, the organization created by the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy for the purpose of overthrowing the Serbian strongman Milosevic in 2000. After that color revolution had occurred, the leaders of Otpor turned their experience into an immensely lucrative consultancy under which they were assigned by the CIA and the NED to Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon, and Egypt to train the operatives that would overthrow national leaders which the US wanted to get rid of. Have indignados veterans opened a new counterinsurgency franchise of this kind?
The “Theoretician”: Anarchist Peter Gelderloos, Fetishist of Consensus
Last night Occupy Wall Street spokesman Matthew Swaye appeared on the Ed Show of MSNBC, and announced that the main theoretician of the consensus straitjacket is anarchist Peter Gelderloos, author of the book Consensus. Swaye praised the “intricate process” of the general assemblies, where votes are expressed by thumbs up or thumbs down. Gelderloos, who is almost unknown in the United States, was arrested in Spain in 2007, and during his trial became a sort of minor celebrity in certain circles there. This may explain why the indignados leaders were indoctrinated with his belief structure. Gelderloos’s system is a Procrustean bed on which not many in their right mind will be willing to lie down.
Television appearances by protesters Kelly Heresy, Tyler Combelic, Ryan Hoffman, Lex Rendon and Swaye in recent days all have one common characteristic – their absolute inability to formulate a single demand or program which would speak to the urgent needs of the broader American public. Instead, many of them used the few precious minutes they had extolling the virtues of the imbecilic consensus model as the basis for some future Utopia. Hard-pressed working people do not have time for these pipe dreams. American working people urgently need help in finding a job, in blocking a foreclosure, in obtaining health care, and in getting out from under the crushing burden of student loans. Who chose these spokespersons?
So far, the current Wall Street protests have offered these embattled Americans virtually nothing but an unfulfilled promissory note.
Sam Seder, a former broadcaster for the failed Air America network and Obama backer, has argued that the movement should never come up with a program of concrete demands. This is the choice that would suit Obama. Unless and until the protest movement tells the American people what it is willing to fight for on their behalf, it risks becoming a mere collection of roustabouts for the Obama reelection campaign.
The stakes are much too high to let this happen. If this movement fails, fascism may be much closer than many people think. It must succeed, and to succeed it immediately requires a series of intelligible goals.