[Marxism] Protesting Wall St.'s riches

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Sep 28 07:31:30 MDT 2011


Featherstone: Protesting Wall St.'s riches

September 27, 2011 by LIZA FEATHERSTONE

Liza Featherstone, a writer who lives in Brooklyn, joined an 
Occupy Wall Street march last week with her family [husband Doug 
Henwood and their son Ivan], and plans to participate in a rally 
protesting police treatment of the occupiers on Friday evening.

Wall Street is under "occupation." A menacing word, perhaps, but 
in this case it means that hundreds of peaceful protesters -- from 
adolescents to self-identified "grannies" -- from all over the 
nation have been living in Zuccotti Park since Sept. 17. When not 
marching down Wall Street, they talk with one other and with the 
countless people walking through one of the busiest neighborhoods 
in the world, about why they are there.

Why indeed?

There's been much confusion on this point in the media. As the 
occupation began, New York Magazine complained that "what the 
protesters are asking for [was] far from clear." Gothamist laid on 
the snark: "Protestors Want to 'Occupy' Wall Street, Not Quite 
Sure Why." A Fox News pundit was indignant that the protesters 
said they were inspired by the Arab Spring protest: "Let's 
remember," he fumed, "people were killed in Egypt, Yemen and Syria 
for something." These editorialists seemed anxious to deny that 
this protest could possibly be about "something."

But is it really any mystery why people would be protesting 
against Wall Street? Bystanders at one march last week -- 
sympathizers, tourists, office workers taking a break -- looked 
pleased to see fellow citizens finally objecting to the 
kleptocracy that's been ruining so many lives.

Everyone knows why the occupiers are there. The financial markets 
helped drive the housing bubble, the collapse of which led to the 
Great Recession. Income inequality is at or near record levels. If 
the occupiers have a slogan, it's "We are the 99 percent" -- 
referring to the fact that the richest 1 percent of Americans has 
been gorging itself at the expense of nearly everyone else.

Most Americans endure staggering unemployment, foreclosed-on 
homes, worsening work conditions and languishing public services 
-- while our politicians coddle the biggest winners of our 
recklessly unregulated casino of a financial sector.

Like those who gathered in Tahrir Square, those occupying Wall 
Street are disgusted with the elite and its ownership of the 
political and economic system -- and they want a better future.

To be sure, the protesters themselves haven't always helped to 
clarify matters. While some have expressed their demands 
eloquently, others have made a mishmash of their public 
communications, with rantings about the Federal Reserve and 
writings that reflect often-conflicting belief systems, ranging 
from the populist to the socialist to the libertarian. At Zuccotti 
Park, a manifesto-in-progress is taped to the wall, and anyone may 
take a pen and add comments. Next to a list of woolly ideals, 
someone has scribbled an apt if misspelled critique: "Vauge."

But the long lists -- whether of fuzzy abstractions or eclectic 
specifics -- are beside the point. With so many out of work, and 
tax policies that treat rich people as if they were rare birds in 
need of environmental protection, the only surprise is that it's 
taken so long for the citizenry to take to these particular streets.

One young woman said last week that she had traveled from St. 
Louis. After spending four days watching a live feed of the event 
on the Internet, she said, "I just had to be here." Those who 
can't travel to New York are not merely tweeting (though they do a 
lot of that): Protesters in Chicago and Denver have set up their 
own occupations, while others are planned in many other cities.

Well-wishers from around the globe have ordered so much pizza for 
the Wall Street occupiers that they've had plenty of extra food to 
donate to the city's growing homeless population. Despite some 
rough police tactics -- one video shows an officer using pepper 
spray on peaceful female demonstrators -- the protesters plan to 
stay, and expect their movement to grow.

And grow it may. As one young man exhorted bystanders last week, 
"Are you a billionaire? No? Then you should join us."

"Vauge"? Perhaps, but it's a good start.

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