NEW YORK CITY, October 17 — Occupy Wall Street (OWS), spreading across the U.S. and worldwide, holds both promise and danger for the working class. It’s now clear that large numbers are seeking an end to the profit system’s misery and injustice. At the same time, Obama and union misleaders are embracing this protest for their own reasons. For the capitalists, OWS represents yet another ruling class effort to funnel workers’ anger down the dead-end road of reforming capitalism, especially through electoral politics.
The good news is that many in the movement’s growing ranks reject the patriotic goals of the “one-percenters.” On a subway headed to Wall Street, a rider asked, “Are you going to the protest? I’m with you. Your banner says ‘Fight for communism’? I’m not so sure about that, but it sure is true the current system is failing. Stronger regulation of capitalism won’t work. We need to learn from the mistakes of past communist movements because a revolution is what’s needed. Okay, I’ll read this paper.”
When this kind of political discussion breaks out between strangers on a train, it’s a sign that things are changing. The growth of OWS is driven by a profound frustration with capitalism’s inability to provide a decent future for the broad masses of workers. In the face of repeated police repression, brave demonstrators have taken to the streets of New York. More important, many are open to communist ideas and to having the Progressive Labor Party participate in their movement.
On the October 15-16 weekend, as PL members chanted some slogans — “It’s not just Wall Street, it’s capitalism”; “The 99% needs revolution, not reform”; “The 99% need communism” — they were met with near-universal agreement. More than 500 PL leaflets were distributed among protesters and others who came to Zucotti Park to check things out. Friends of PL have been critical in helping spread the communist message, an important step forward toward real change.
U.S. Flag A Banner for Imperialist War
Previously, a larger group of PL’ers, including several youth, had met with a similarly positive response, but they also encountered the dangerous patriotic ideology — the bosses’ ideology — that has infiltrated the movement. A protester holding high a large U.S. flag took issue with a Party banner that read, “Fight for Communism, Join PLP.” A lively exchange ensued in which we attacked his flag and defended our banner as being more in tune with the future that protesters were demanding and deserved. Others gravitated to the debate, and several political discussions spun off.
Attacking the U.S. flag as the flag of imperialist war, the most hated banner in the world, brought out pointed disagreement. Attacking the U.S. Constitution as a slave-owners’ document provoked other sharp exchanges. But through it all, a friendly tone of struggle won most people, some of them initially hostile, to weigh our message against their assumptions. We will continue participating in even larger numbers.
Opportunistic Democratic politicians and their union boss allies are striving to subvert OWS into re-electing war-maker Obama. “[A] consensus is emerging among Democrats that the ‘Occupy’ movement is worth tapping into, even helping along and joining with in some instances” (ABC News, 10/10/11). “I support the message to the establishment,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on ABC’s “This Week” (10/9/11). “Change has to happen.” Labor hacks from the AFL-CIO to AFSCME to the SEIU are lending huge financial support. SEIU boss Mary Kay Healy found “incredible inspiration” in OWS (“The Hill,” 10/15/11).
But meanwhile, these union sellouts do absolutely nothing to fight the layoffs of 660 NYC school aides and other low-paid workers, the 99 per-center victims of the one per-centers’ crisis. Goldman Sachs’ brokers stole $15 billion in bonuses while billionaire NYC Mayor Bloomberg can’t find the money to keep these $14-an-hour school staffers on the job. As leaders from the United Federation of Teachers spout their lip-service support for OWS, they make not a peep as workers are thrown out of their classrooms and their jobs. Why this seeming contradiction? These union leaders are in the hip pockets of the one percent.
Rulers’ Shill Jesse Jackson Tells OWS’ers, ‘Don’t Fight’
The liberal phonies are making a special push to corral black workers in OWS — the ones hit hardest by the racist New Depression — away from meaningful, militant action and into futile voting. One-time Democratic White House candidate Jesse Jackson urged them to “maintain your disciplined focus, your peaceful nonviolent approach to protest and demand change. In the end, we will win” (Rainbow/Push website, 10/11/11). The “we” Jackson refers to is the U.S. ruling class, which has called his tune from the start of his public life. Back in 1978, the Rockefeller brothers anointed Jackson as their dutiful servant with their “Public Service” award.
Capitalist Press Clouds Billionaire Soros’s OWS Role
Although U.S. imperialists don’t yet control OWS as they would like, they most certainly helped spark it. The first call to “occupy Wall Street” came this past summer from an online magazine called Adbusters, a beneficiary of the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation, whose biggest sugar daddy is none other than billionaire U.S. imperialist George Soros.
The ruling-class media’s bizarre treatment of this link suggests just how much they want to conceal it. At 11:09 AM on October 13, mainstream Reuters’ coverage led with, “Anti-Wall Street protesters say the rich are getting richer while average Americans suffer, but the group that started it all may have benefited indirectly from the largesse of one of the world’s richest men.” By 5:25 PM, Reuters had changed the same article to begin, “George Soros isn’t a financial backer of the Wall Street protests, despite speculation by critics….” At 6:45 PM, Reuters had the original opener followed by a disclaimer from Soros & Co. In the face of the money-trail facts, liberal rulers spin the lie that only right-wing lunatics see an OWS-Soros tie.
Bankers Provide ‘People’s Park’ as Protest Site
Zuccotti Park, the demonstrators’ New York base, did not fall from the sky. “People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it,” NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg told a September 16 press conference. He obliged with a private park owned by Brookfield Properties, property agents for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, among others. The mayor’s lady-friend, Diana Taylor, serves on Brookfield’s board. Brookfield head honcho John Zuccotti, the Park’s owner, once ran the big-bank-loving Downtown Lower Manhattan Association founded by David Rockefeller.
The grip on OWS of reforming capitalism is growing stronger. On the Sunday morning TV talk shows, an OWS representative blasted “shared sacrifice,” saying the “working class” had already given enough. When the news anchor pressed for a “political strategy,” his reply was, “We won’t say for whom but we want all the allies of our movement to vote.”
Clearly the liberal rulers have a plan: they want to make OWS the beginning of Obama’s 2012 election campaign. “We are the 99%” is within the scope of Obama’s “tax-the-rich” strategy to more fully fund and popularize imperialist war. Black volunteers from the Democratic Party were canvassing for Obama’s phony jobs bill.
But this movement is also a direct result of frustration with the failures of voting. OWS resonates because elections have flopped. This disdain for ruling-class politics is good. But there’s a long way to go. There was little sense of mass anger at the police. The mix of counter-cultural, religious, absurdist and reformist politics lends the scene something of a carnival atmosphere. Passers-by are looking for answers. The absence of anti-racist politics is evident, but the crowds are not all white, at least not in Manhattan.
Real Grievances Could Drive OWS Beyond Bosses’ Grip
The sheer mass of protesters, and their increasingly working-class background, may nevertheless upset the rulers’ scenario. At first the media focused on frustrated, mostly white, college grads with suffocating tuition loans. But then multi-racial representatives of the more than 30 million unemployed and under-employed workers starting showing up. That’s when Jesse Jackson felt the need to chime in. The calming post-World War II U.S. social contract — a steady job, a house, college for the kids, and a pension — lies in ruins. Black workers gained it only briefly after fierce fights in the 1960s and 1970s and were the first to lose it.
OWS’s originators claim inspiration from Egypt’s Tahrir Square activists. But what did they win, without communist politics or leadership? The new cabal of military rulers Tahrir Square eased into power recently slaughtered dozens of unarmed Christian opponents. And OWS leaders’ supposed savior Obama had his Africa Military Command send troops into Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Power of the Working Class Is Crucial
OWS must spread to support strikers on picket lines and into schools and workplaces through anti-racist sit-ins and job actions in solidarity with OWS. The scope of OWS must be enlarged to oppose U.S. rulers’ oil wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan which will further improve the conditions for the spread of communist revolutionary ideas. It would make the movement overall more difficult for the ruling-class liberals to hijack and turn into yet another tool of imperialism.
What we do now to organize workers — the class that produces all the value that the 1% steals as profit and who more and more recognize capitalism’s failures —will significantly advance revolution for workers’ power. In participating in OWS, Progressive Labor Party can expose the capitalists trying to steer it, and win rank-and-file protestors to the long, hard struggle for communist revolution.J