by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
It is great that the Occupation “movement” exists, but unclear where it is going. Its leaderless nature may help to avoid cooptation and media manipulation, but there are equally serious drawbacks. “The movement may be doomed to become a permanent gripe session against an obvious villain, but with no means of planning how to end the system that increases income inequality, debt peonage and unemployment.” Most importantly: can the 99%ers bring themselves to abandon the Democrats?
Freedom Rider: Occupying Wall Street
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Do they know and are they ready to state that they must dump the Democrats if they are to have any opportunity to save themselves and what is left of democracy?”
The Occupy Wall Street/99% movement has succeeded in demonstrating one important fact. There is a great deal of anger and frustration directed at the financial services mobsters and the political system that gives them such great power. Any mass effort directed against the prerogatives they now enjoy is a positive indication that there is still something left of what we call democracy.
The spread of the Occupy Wall Street movement around the country should be the beginning of a much needed political movement, but at the moment it isn’t clear that will take place. While the righteous and justifiable indignation is evident, organizing and the analysis which it should be based upon are not.
It isn’t really difficult to be angry with the bankster class which has ruined not just the American economy, but which has also devastated the lives of people around the world. It is much more difficult to think outside of the paradigm of the two parties which are both in fact servants of the plutocracy. Collapsing markets and rising unemployment are but symptoms of a larger and more worrisome disease.
In all likelihood the Democratic Party has benefited most from the votes cast of demonstrators at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. Do they know and are they ready to state that they must dump the Democrats if they are to have any opportunity to save themselves and what is left of democracy?
“Collapsing markets and rising unemployment are but symptoms of a larger and more worrisome disease.”
If the “spectrum of thinkable thought” is not done away with, some of these same protesters who are now so valiantly acting in opposition, will one year from now return Barack Obama and his policies of bailing out Wall Street, back to the White House.
The cry for change must include a cry in opposition to the Democratic Party. When Congressman Charles Rangel visited Zuccotti park, he was shouted down by one protester, but then received words of apology from others.
Certainly Charles Rangel is not himself the cause of all that ails American politics, but Democratic members of Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus have time and again been subservient to the dictates of their leadership and to the career trajectory of Democratic presidents. This subservience almost always takes precedence over the needs of the people. If protesters apologize for the righteous anger of one of their members, it is an indication that this movement is not quite ready to look outside of the thought spectrum which allows the economic elite to control both Democrats and Republicans.
The leaderless, mass-led nature of this action presents both benefits and problems. It is good that the corporate media cannot personalize these activities and designate any one person or group of people as leaders. Inevitably, those people are scrutinized in ways that render them useless or in the worst case scenarios are co-opted and bought off.
“They must not succumb to fears about the latest Republican bogeyman or woman.”
The down side to this non-organization is that there may not be anyone able to direct the mass action in any effective way. The movement may be doomed to become a permanent gripe session against an obvious villain, but with no means of planning how to end the system that increases income inequality, debt peonage and unemployment.
Make no mistake, Occupy Wall Street should be the beginning of fundamental changes in the political landscape. Whether it will be or not, will depend upon the willingness of activists to stand up for those changes. They must not succumb to fears about the latest Republican bogeyman or woman. Rick Perry or Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney will be mocked as a fascist, charlatan, idiot who doesn’t believe in gay marriage/evolution/global warming and who is therefore unfit to serve as president.
But it is Barack Obama, a man no doubt supported by many of the occupiers, who backs offshore oil drilling and the wholesale resurrection of the nuclear power industry. It is Barack Obama who has forestalled efforts to require cleaner air standards. It is the constitutional law professor who decides that Anwar al-Awlaki or any other American citizen can be marked for death.
Some commentators have likened Occupy Wall Street to the actions at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt which brought down president Mubarak. The Egyptian protesters had a clear demand, that Mubarak had to go. What is the clear demand in Zuccotti Park, that Obama and the Democrats go? That is to say, are they committed to end their support for them?
Right now this site has become a magnet for celebrities and gawking tourists. It ought to become the place where Democratic Party control of the left dies once and for all.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.com.