Monday, November 21, 2011
History shows us it is easy for 'grassroots' campaigns to become co-opted by the very interests they are fighting against
A 21st-century grassroots movement faces many pitfalls. This was as true back in 1968 as it is today. It could be infiltrated by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, or co-opted by a major party. As the state continues to creep further into our lives, activists can expect that it will use all its resources – not just the violent reaction seen in New York overnight, but also its agents, informants and surveillance packages – in its effort to monitor both sides of any serious social debate. Even bleaker, however, is the possibility that the movement was actually planned and launched by the very establishment activists thought they were waging a battle against in the first place. The larger the movement, the more interested a major party becomes in absorbing it into either the left or the right side of the current two-party paradigm.
The sudden emergence of America's Tea Party movement in 2007 is a good example. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, its inventor, used it as a springboard to highlight libertarian and constitutional issues during his 2008 campaign. Soon after, it was co-opted by key political and media influencers from the US right wing, associating itself less with a libertarian manifesto, and more with emerging figures within the Republican establishment. Now it is has morphed into nothing more than a block of voters whom the Republican party can rely to strike a deal with during an election cycle.
Arguably, the Occupy Wall Street movement has already drifted into the shadow of the Democratic party – with a number of Democratic establishment figures from the top down endorsing it. The Democrats' own media fundraising and media machine, Move On, has visibly adopted the cause. Like the Tea Party before it, the Occupy block would swing a close election during a national two-party race, functioning as a pressure-release valve for any issue too radical for the traditional platform.
Alongside this is the threat of being infiltrated. Scores of declassified documents, along with accounts from veteran activists, will reveal many stories of members who were actually undercover police, FBI or M15. In the worst cases of infiltration, undercover agents have acted as provocateurs. Such incidents normally serve to radicalise a movement, thus demonising it in the eyes of society and effectively lessening its wider political appeal...[Full Article]
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