A new organisation has appeared on the scene across America, and it’s getting a lot of attention. They’re calling it “the 99% spring“, an organizational effort of major American “leftist” groups to train a hundred thousand people in “nonviolent direct action” in order to “tell their stories”. Rather than a welcome, though, “the 99%” don’t exactly seem happy to see them. From the reception it’s getting, you’d think it were the new Tea Party.

Since I wrote that sentence, a response has come from Adbusters and OccupyWallStreet.org, “officially” likening the two. #DEFENDOCCUPY, an effort to disavow them, has been launched. Since Counterpunch began ringing alarm bells earlier this month, word has been spreading quickly and people are not impressed.

Counter-Insurgency as Insurgency – Mike King, Counterpunch
Yes, The 99% Spring is a Fraud Charles M. Young, Counterpunch

Who is behind this well-funded campaign of co-optation? Bolshiveks? Worse… As people began to show up for the “nonviolence” trainings, they were greeted with tables of Obama campaign materials and local Democrat party politicos posting as (fairly bossy) facilitators. The main push behind this organising drive seems to be the Democrat party and Moveon.org. How do they define “nonviolent direct action”? Organizing people across the nation to record their stories of personal hardship during the recession for use in a a big compilation video!

Sorry dudes, but that ain’t direct action. By definition, that would require action. That same definition would exclude electoral efforts and marketing campaigns. “Symbolic actions” like those are the antithesis of direct action. They’re completely symbolic appeals to power, attempts to take and maintain power, and most importantly, they don’t accomplish anything tangible. Direct action doesn’t have to be violent or destructive, as the long history of nonviolent action proves. It does, however, require actually doing something, or at least strategically not doing something (like moving out of the path of a bulldozer). These guys should leave the anarchy to the anarchists.

Through the wonders of PR, marketing and spin, the Democrats are trying to turn the largest protest movement in a decade into a re-election campaign for one of the single most powerful men on earth. While Obama continues to threaten war in the Middle East, his supporters are invoking “nonviolence” and the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. to drive public support. Somebody was bound to call bullshit.

This is an important reminder of why not to over-rely on simplistic buzzwords which can be easily re-defined by those with more money and influence. “The 99%” always left a little too much up to the imagination. Without actual analysis and critique beyond these vague phrases and symbols, they’re bound to be co-opted and “re-appropriated” faster than than skinny jeans. Politics is a war of words, but it’s also a war over their meanings, especially in this utterly Orwellian age. Without a coherent analysis, there will always be somebody willing to write one for us.

Of course, not everybody is opposed to it, some are demanding they “let Occupy grow“. I hope they’ll be feeling that generous the next time the black bloc shows up at one of their marches. The movement has been increasingly divided in recent months, toward actual direct action on one hand and toward something more like a NGO or political party on the other. Along with this has come everything from national public denounciations (Chris Hedges) to physical assaults (in the name of nonviolence!), in hopes of sanitizing the Occupy movment of any participants who might actually be half as radical as they want to sound. Like usual, those who would be our leaders want us to rage against every authority but them.

As one of those infuriating anarchists many have been working so hard to exclude from ‘their movement”, I’d like to thank these guys. It’s not always easy explaining exactly what’s “violent” about electoral action. These campaign rallies in disguise have done that far better than I ever could. It’s still too early to tell whether this will lead to a renewed passion for all things “occupy” or simply encourage even more of the most radical, passionate and hard-working members to “move on”. Given the exodus back to more traditional radicalism in many cities, “cheapening the brand” in this way is a serious gamble with irrelevance. Whatever will become of the “Occupy” memes, though, struggles in the streets will continue. Mayday is fast approaching, and people are talking about Paris in ’68 again, not just another stinkin’ election. Obama, Mr “hope” himself, has already destroyed our faith in those, in himself and his party. That’s where this struggle started, not where it’ll end.