Occupy This

     By “class warfare,” the people who throw around that term today mean “any loser who dares to fight back.”
     It’s too early to predict what, if anything, will come from Occupy Wall Street, but one element in protesters’ favor is that the movement has grown quickly each time police whomp up on them.
     Formless the protests may be, unsophisticated perhaps, with no plan of action, but the protesters have been nonviolent.
     Mass arrests, videos of police Mace-ing and pepper-spraying young women, and other acts of official brutality will only set the movement, and perhaps even our still apathetic majority, aflame.
     The lazy, bought-and-paid-for U.S. media have reported Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in more than 100 U.S. cities. But this movement is not confined to the United States. Protesters have staged similar, far larger demonstrations in Spain, Greece, and elsewhere in Europe.
     In the London Review of Books, Slavoj }i~ek, a lefty theorist who’s a darling of highbrow weeklies, called the August riots in England “zero-degree protest, a violent action demanding nothing.”
     }i~ek wrote: “The fact that the rioters have no program is therefore itself a fact to be interpreted: it tells us a great deal about our ideological-political predicament and about the kind of society we live in, a society which celebrates choice but in which the only available alternative to enforced democratic consensus is a blind acting out. Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself in the form of a realistic alternative, but can only take the shape of a meaningless outburst.”
     That’s not the case with Occupy Wall Street, whose protests have not been violent. They are not zero-degree protests either: they are 360-degree protests.
     They are protesting the way U.S. society has been rigged.
     They are protesting everything.
     “Tax the rich” has been the protesters’ most clearly articulated demand, along with “End the wars.” The formlessness of the protests has made it difficult for the forces of reaction – the real class warriors – to know how to react, other than by their usual lowbrow gimmick of name-calling: “class warfare,” “anti-American,” and so on.
     The Occupy Wall Street protests are a legitimate, legal method of applying public pressure to a political problem. They haven’t accomplished anything yet, and may not accomplish anything at all, but they might, in two ways.
     One, which is likely, is that violent repression of the protests will continue, and increase. If it does, the movement will grow, and the more official violence is inflicted, the worse Wall Street and its hirelings in Congress and the White House will look.
     The second, less likely way, is through traditional organizing. For this to happen, the protests would have to continue, lest the movement die, while volunteers also disperse to counter the 360-degree manipulation of society the real class warriors have waged.
     For instance, freedom riders could help get government-sponsored ID for poor and minority voters in all the Republican-controlled states that already have begun fixing the 2012 elections by enacting repressive voting laws.
     If Republicans truly believe, as they say they do, that the quickest way to suppress something is to tax or regulate it, why have they chosen to suppress voting?
     Let’s be clear about one thing: government, and society, always feature competition between public and private interests. Republicans may be correct that private interests have created much of the wealth that U.S. citizens have enjoyed.
     But the job of government is not to cater to private interests: it’s to protect the public interest. To the extent that government caters to private interest, it’s corrupt.
     The federal government has abdicated its job to protect the public interest. State governments are conniving against it as well.
     For a generation the Republican Party has waged class war upon the public interest. And the Democratic Party has not fought back; all it’s done is beg for crumbs.
     It’s not just the class war waged by the Republican Party, but the cowardly collapse of the Democrats, from President Obama on down, that set the stage for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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