Class warrior Ann Bell Ann Bell, an economist by trade, draws those conclusions from her experience with fighting back against the attacks on collective bargaining in Wisconsin. She spoke with the Columbus Free Press last weekend at Freedom Plaza, one of the sites of the ongoing occupations in DC. Like her counterparts in Occupy Columbus, Bell is part of a national movement to make government and corporations more accountable to the majority of ordinary people.

“As we were illegally kicked out of the capital and moved more to focusing on the recall elections, we really kind of saw the weakness of the progressive movement (in terms of ) not building long term organizations and umbrella groups that we can use independent of who wins elections and independent of what exactly the issue is that we’re being confronted with.”

Bell said the fundamental issue to base a mass movement on is income inequality.

“It has basically put us back to the era of the robber barons. We’ve regressed to the gilded age.”

She said building a mass movement requires courage and solidarity. As we spoke, someone on stage announced that police had pepper-sprayed one of the marchers protesting the drone exhibit at the Air and Space Museum.

Bell said facing the risk of being pepper sprayed involves one type of courage. But she also talked about moral courage.

“When our media is dominated by right-wing ideas, when people are demoralized, when they’re told their voice doesn’t matter and their contribution to society doesn’t matter , just stepping up and standing up for yourself is an act of courage.”

Bell said focusing our energy on the right thing---instead of being divided and conquered--- is part of building a movement.

“There is a tendency to attack someone who is on the same level or just a little bit lower than you, of working class people who are really suffering and then turning around to attack immigrants or African Americans or …‘welfare queens.’”

Bell said divide-and-conquer is always a tactic of the ruling class.

“If you look at the Tea Party, a lot of those people have genuine complaints and they’re really suffering. How do we reach out to them ? Well, some people are incorrigible and we’re never going to make any progress. But it’s important to keep an open mind and to try to find common ground with people…I’m always hopeful that we can reach out to people, but the danger of right-wing populism---taking people’s legitimate suffering and turning it in a very negative, scapegoating direction is always a possibility.”