Open letter regarding the attacks on Freedom Socialist Party originating in the Occupy Seattle May Day Working Group

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To all interested parties:

At the Tuesday, March 20, meeting of Occupy Seattle May Day Working Group, Mark Drummond, who called Occupy Seattle’s first General Assembly and is one of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) members active in the movement, announced the party’s presidential write-in campaign. Dismissed as off topic, he was called out of order. Comments to the effect that Occupy does not deal with elections, politicians, or candidates were made while he was speaking.

The next morning Mark protested, on the group’s Facebook page, the way in which he was treated at the meeting and said he did not think it was democratic. A long thread of accusatory responses developed. What started out as a supposedly organizational issue—whether Mark had raised his announcement at an appropriate time or place—soon devolved into a tirade of charges that FSP is a “parasite” that feeds off the movement to push its own agenda.

Usually our announcements do not precipitate such vitriol; clearly, something else is behind this expression of animosity.

Within Occupy Seattle, there is a fundamental disagreement over what, if any, role the 2012 presidential election should play in Occupy organizing. Various groups and individuals take various positions. Rather than discuss this issue, the Facebook thread launched into a long assault on the FSP’s record as constructive participants in Occupy. We were maligned as opportunists who do not build the movement. Anyone following the 90-plus posts related to this subject would think that FSP was worse than the 1% and worthy of the same treatment.

In this letter, we aim to set the record straight by dealing with both issues—the elections and our role within Occupy.

FSP’s presidential campaign and its relationship to the Occupy movement
The whole country is currently gearing up for the 2012 presidential election and many political discussions revolve around this topic. In order to take part in this national debate, the FSP is running Stephen Durham for president and Christina López for vice president. They are running on a socialist feminist platform to protest the rigged electoral system and give voters a radical alternative to lesser-evil politics. We think the 1% and their twin parties—the Democrats and Republicans—need to be directly challenged on every front: from the streets to the courts and the ballot box. We urge working people to use their right to vote as a massive organized protest.

We believe that every traditional site of capitalist power—including the workplace—must be occupied, but that this will never happen unless people believe there is a way forward. What that way might be is being debated and the Occupy movement’s attitude toward the 2012 elections is part of this important discussion.

Occupy Wall Street already has established a Politics and Electoral Reform Working Group and is calling on the Occupy movement nationally to continue discussing the elections. Recently, Occupy Baltimore held a public forum on the subject and Dr. Steven Strauss, a member of the FSP National Committee, was invited to speak. His talk can be found at

To our way of thinking, Mark’s announcement of our campaign was perfectly appropriate given these realities.

FSP’s record as part of the Occupy movement
The main charge leveled against the FSP is that we do not do any work in Occupy. Our answer to that accusation is the following list of some of our activities.

  1. As mentioned earlier, Mark Drummond called the first General Assembly in Seattle held at the Federal Building in September 2011.
  2. FSP representatives worked in the People of Color Caucus to write and motivate the proposal to make Occupy Seattle a “cop-free zone.”
  3. FSP initiated a petition to Mayor McGinn with over 1,500 signatures demanding the right to free speech and assembly in Westlake when the city threatened to forcibly remove the tents. We were there for the Night of 500 Tents and had our tent removed by the cops along with everyone else.
  4. We held several teach-ins including on the weaknesses of Obama’s jobs bill, on feminism and on the basics of socialism.
  5. Our representatives played a major role in the Port Action Solidarity Committee that carried out the December 12 shutdown of the Seattle port.
  6. We played a major role defending Occupy and the concept of labor/community alliances during the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) fight against corporate giant EGT in Longview, Washington. We spoke in defense of ILWU Local 21 in the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and the Washington State Labor Council and helped to organize the January 6th Seattle solidarity meeting with Local 21.
  7. We supported the work of Radical Women, who are very involved in the Gender Equality Caucus responsible for the International Women’s Day event held in Westlake.
  8. We joined with Sisters Organize for Survival and the Occupy the Capitol Working Group to protest state budget cuts. This action resulted in an arrest and citations for some of our members who worked to get others out of jail.
  9. The party’s branches in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland have contributed in many ways to the movement. They are too numerous to list. However, one is worthy of note: the kitchen in our Harlem headquarters was used to prepare food for the original Occupy Wall Street encampment.

From a mole hill, a mountain was made
We recognize that Occupy Seattle is an amalgam of many different groups and individuals with different objectives, concerns, ideologies and styles of work. These differences will not be resolved into one big happy commune any time soon. However, figuring out how to work together while maintaining our differences is critical if we want to have an impact on the ruling 1% and present an alternative to the populist right wing. What stands in the way of productive cooperation is the attempt by one tendency or another to silence those they oppose through smears, stereotypes and derailing things into internecine wars on the Internet.

It makes one wonder how—from a mere announcement—we ended up with this destructive diatribe and whom it serves. It is just the kind of turmoil fostered by COINTELPRO, the secret FBI program of infiltration and dirty tricks used against the civil rights and other movements of the 1960s era. It seems to us that the movement benefits from attempts to talk about political differences rather than throw mud at each other in order to avoid the topic at hand—in this case radicals’ role in the 2012 presidential election.

In closing, we reassert our right to raise our ideas and to explain why we think they are valid for Occupy to consider. We will continue to do this in a comradely way knowing that the future of the movement hinges on all of our abilities to remember what side of the class line we are on.

In struggle,

Chris Smith
Seattle Branch Organizer
Freedom Socialist Party

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