By Kevin Joseph Ryan
This past week, MoveOn.Org became the most visible face of a coalition of Left Wing and Democrat organizations, who held over 800 events nationwide, to train “activists and radicals” in assisting their cause.
Over a dozen events were held here in Vermont, with at least three held in Chittenden County alone.
The partnership, which included 40 organizations, held their “99% Spring Training”, hoping to bring together over 100,000 people to join he fight against business, individual liberty and the Republican Party. This coalition included such groups as United Auto Workers, SEIU, the AFI-CIO, Progressive Democrats of America and MoveOn, reading like a Who’s Who of powerful liberal groups. However, using the rhetoric of the Occupy Movement, they claimed however to be engaged in nothing more than “empowering the people.” They got roughly 60,000 by best estimates.
Financially, the events were coordinated by Movement Strategy Center, run by Liz Butler, the Campaign Director for 350.org, a leftist climate change group run by Middlebury College Professor Bill McKibben. The training materials, were provided to event organizers by the coalition, and were developed by MoveOn.Org.
These events did not sit well with many in Occupy. David Berger, of the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee, pointed out, “(The events) present a unique and definite challenge and danger to the Occupy Movement, a challenge and danger that is, moreover, extremely sophisticated.” Essentially, The Occupy Movement, which no doubt has a strong left-leaning perspective in general, has said repeatedly they are not interested in the same old results from the same old power structure, and that they are not interested in being used by more organized groups, which was clearly the intent here. Some nationally observed that the trainings did not address Occupy’s efforts to gather for worker actions on May 1st, and many wondered why they were there at all. David Berger noted the answer is obvious. “ 99% Spring is an attempt to circumvent the Occupy Movement.”, he said on the OWS website.
The 99% Spring Training coalition worked for the past two months to have these events occur between April 9th and 15th and either be run as a three or seven hour seminar. The stated goals for the training were threefold. First, get participants to identify themselves as part of a unified group against a common enemy, the “1 %”, second, get them focused on how American society has broken down and why they should be angry and third, how to organize for the purpose of intimidation and disruption of those they are told to be against….anyone not in league with the Left.
These goals were explicit in the Training for Trainers Manual put out by the group. It lists: “Objective- Begin to put personal stories in a broader context. It’s not just us as individuals or us in this room; it’s not a matter of bad luck; it’s about a system that’s been rigged to benefit a few at the expense of many.” The materials do explain how to explain the enemy. They define the 1% as, “It’s most important to measure it politically. When we use the phrase, “the 1%,” we don’t mean all rich people. We mean the small number of extremely wealthy people who set out to rebuild an economy and a government that would function in their interests..” Senator Bernie Sanders put it well in the Heist film, “This is class warfare.”, he said.
While fairness and equity are laudable goal, the organizers had a far more specific target in mind. A film was shown during the seven hour version of the training called “Heist: Who stole the American Dream?”. This film places the blame for our current economic ills at the feet of a conspiratorial cabal run by now deceased Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, specifically citing a report written by Powell in 1971 in which Powell notes that the political Left were mounting an organized attack on American business and Liberty, in order to implement socialism. “Heist” makes the claim, “It was a brilliantly executed coup… everyday human lives didn‘t matter…all that mattered was profit.”
It seems that not only was Justice Powell correct, but actually rather prescient. While the claims of the Spring Training film may seem almost ludicrous, that should come as no surprise. The film Heist was written by Hollis Rich, a Hollywood screenwriter best known for his work on the television comedy “Doogie Houser, M.D.”
Locally, TNR attended the Spring Training held at The Vermont Workers Center in Burlington. The dozen participants went through the three hour version, hosted by St Michael’s Professor Greg Delanty and the Workers’ Center staffer Matt McGrath. One of the ground rules set up before the training was “Oppression Exists”. “We’re not here to argue that.” Said McGrath. The group was first asked to participate in an exercise in which they examined their own identities, to internalize the struggle that would be shown to us. The group was next asked to identify challenges they faced, which turned out to be a litany of everyday life, such as health or financial issues, combined with a liberal spin. Social injustice…racism…corporatism were among the challenges cited. Anger and envy were strong themes here as the group got worked up as to how they’d been cheated out of a good life.
Lastly, were told what could be done about these injustices, “to create a new world.” We could hold rallies, disrupt government meetings, trespass, unionize and even break the law, we we’re told. “I’ve only been to jail three times.” Said Delanty. “I feel like it should be more, I must not be doing enough.”