October 2011, Week 3


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Mon, 17 Oct 2011 22:08:16 -0400
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From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy
America: A mass movement emerges; Reports from around
the USA

Links - Internatioanl Journal of Socialist Renewal

(Updated Oct. 18)


By Dan La Botz

October 12, 2011 -- SolidariteS (Switzerland) via
International Viewpoint -- A handful of young people
started Occupy Wall Street in mid-September, as a
protest against the banks and corporations that have
grown rich while most have grown poorer. Within weeks
they had attracted hundreds and then thousands to
marches and demonstrations in New York City -- one of
them leading to the arrest of hundreds on the Brooklyn
Bridge. The movement's chant "We are the 99%" rang out
not only in the Wall Street canyon but also across the
country. Now there are scores of Occupy groups across
the United States [and soon across the world] camping
out in public places, marching and rallying in cities
and towns against corporate greed.

Occupy Wall Street and its offspring, nearly all of
which began with white youth, have grown not only
larger, but more diverse, attracting people from all
walks of life and every segment of the society. They
are making real their chant, "This is what democracy
looks like". While some of the young people have been
inspired by the occupation of Egypt's Tahrir Square and
by the indignados of Spain, this is an essentially US
movement about US issues. The Occupy folks are furious
at the corporations and many are angry at government as
well, they are generally hostile to Republican Party
and disappointed with the Democrats. Frustrated with
the economic and political situation, they want to tax
the rich, they want to stop the mortgage foreclosures,
they want jobs for themselves and all the other
unemployed. Many demand an end to the wars in Iraq and

An impressive organisation

While most of those down at Zuccotti Park where the
occupation is taking place are from New York, others
have come in ones and two from around the country to
take a stand against corporate greed. Visitors are
impressed with the organisation: the kitchen, the
medical centre, the media centre, the daily lectures.
Intellectual luminaries such as Joseph Stiglitz, former
chief economist of the World Bank; Jeffrey Sachs,
Harvard professor and special advisor to the United
Nations' secretary general; and Barbara Ehrenreich,
feminist and author. There is now also a newspaper, The
Occupied Wall Street Journal, which plans to go
national soon. Tens of thousands of dollars have been
raised through small contributions by both Occupy Wall
Street and the newspaper.

The peaceful movement has had clashes with the police
both in New York City and in other cities and towns,
but it has forged ahead. There have been dozens of
arrests, not only in New York City but also in Boston,
Seattle, Des Moines, and yet this has not deterred the
growing movement. The weekend of October 8-9 saw a huge
demonstration of 10,000 in Portland and good size
protest of 750 in Cincinnati. While, as usual, things
may be larger, faster moving and more radical on the
coasts, the movement has also touched the "fly-over"
country of the Midwest. In Chicago, previously planned
protests by the Service Employees International Union
(SEIU), other unions and community groups brought out
thousands in demonstrations against financial
institutions that ended up merging with Occupy Chicago,
a development that could either strengthen or swamp the
Occupy movement there.

Utopian and inspiring

Occupy is in part a coming together of activists.
Watching any of the demonstrations in any city on any
day one sees pass by on the T-shirts and jackets all
the logos of every movement that has touched the
country in the last decade: anti-war, LGBTQ,
anti-foreclosure and civil rights activists. Walking
among them are others new to the movement, blue-collar
and white-collar workers, so far without their logos,
slogans and banners, carrying their hand-painted signs
with slogans like "Create jobs, reform Wall Street, tax
the wealthy more" and "The people are too big to fail"
(a reference to the argument that the US government had
to save the banks because they were "too big to fail").
The sense of hope that the movement is creating was
expressed by one sign down at Wall Street that read
"This is the first time I've felt hopeful in a very
long time".

The movement has a utopian character. Many of those
involved in it want not only to overcome the immediate
effects of the economic crisis -- they want a better
life, a better country, a better world. The movement as
such has no ideology. This is populism of a left-wing
sort: the people versus big business and bad
government. Though there are anarchists in it, and they
have given it some of their style, it is not an
anarchist movement. Though there are some socialists in
it, the movement is by no means socialist. What is
perhaps best and most exciting about the movement is
the confluence of the many social movements with
middle-class and working-class people who have come
down to Wall Street or in some other town or city down
to Main Street to say, "We've had it". The utopianism
of the movement has inspired ordinary people to say,
"We can live differently, we must, and we will."

A month or so into the Occupy movement, the trade
unions began to take an interest. In New York the
unions turned out thousands of their members for a
major march in October. At about the same time, Richard
Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, spoke out in favour of the
movement, as did leaders of various national and local
unions. Yet the AFL-CIO and the Occupy movement remain
wary of each other. The AFL's principal goal in the
next year is to help US President Barack Obama and the
Democrats win the November 2012 elections, and both the
AFL and the Democrats would love to figure out how to
harness Occupy for their political goals. Many in the
Occupy movement would love to have more workers
involved, the unions involved, but they fear the labour
bureaucracy's heavy hand. And, more important for some,
they fear losing their political independence to union
officials and Democrats.

Occupy Wall Street and politics

The Republican Party, of course, loathes the politics
of Occupy. US House of Representatives majority leader
Eric Cantor referred to the occupiers as "mobs".
Alluding to Obama he said, "Some in this town condone
'pitting Americans against Americans'". Mitt Romney,
the leading contender for the Republican presidential
nomination, said, "I think it's dangerous, this class
warfare." Whatever they may say to the media, the
Republicans' real fear is that Occupy Wall Street could
buoy up the Democrats, while their hope that the
movement's radicalism will blow their opponents to the
left, costing them votes in the centre.

The Democratic Party Congressional Campaign Committee
and the think-tank Center for American Program would
like to bind the Democratic ties to Occupy Wall Street,
believing that the movement could put wind in the
party's sails for the 2012. Other party leaders fear
that the identification with the movement would move
the party toward the left and away from the centre
where they believe the voters are. Even more important,
some Democratic Party leaders argue, supporting a group
that is attacking Wall Street could result in fewer
donations from the banks and corporations that fund the
Democrats. Bernie Sanders, the only independent in the
US Senate who calls himself a socialist (though he
caucuses with the Democrats), spoke to the Occupy
movement with an op-ed piece calling upon the
government to break up the banks, support small
business and stop speculation in the oil industry. That
was the Progressive Party program of 1912, the
traditional program of US populism, but it misses
completely the radical spirit of this movement.

Some Democrats would like to see Occupy Wall Street
become their Tea Party, the rightwing group that
brought new vitality to the Republicans. But Occupy
Wall Street activists have kept their distance from the
Democrats refusing to provide them a platform for their
candidates. For example, when Representative John
Lewis, a legend of the civil right movement and liberal
African-American congress member from Georgia appeared
at Occupy Atlanta, he was not permitted to speak.
Apparently, so far, the movement is committed to
defending its independence.

Many of us are working to nurture this movement, to
build it, and to help its potentially radical
implications emerge.

[This article will be published in the bimonthly Swiss
socialist newspaper SolidariteS (n*196). Dan La Botz is
a teacher, writer and activist currently involved in
Occupy Cincinnati. In 2010, Dan La Botz stood as the
Socialist Party (USA) candidate for the US Senate in

===See More articles http://links.org.au/node/2541


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