The radical and revolutionary left have learned to live with a mainstream news blackout as part of life. Yet the complete silence from the US and UK news media about the Occupy Wall Street movement has been nothing short of deafening. Especially, given the way the tiniest fart from the wretched Tea Party is amplified far and wide...
On 17 September 5,000 people – largely young campaigners, artists and students - marched on Wall St, New York, in protest at the activities of the bankers and super-rich. Finding their way blocked by large numbers of police, undeterred, they held a ‘people’s assembly’ and then set up a semi-permanent protest encampment in a park on Liberty St, near both Wall St and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In the words of American anti-capitalist activist Virginia Rodino, interviewed in Socialist Worker: “The protest has a spirit reminiscent of the 1999 demonstrations in Seattle. It aims to represent the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent at the top of society...protestors compare their action to that of the Arab Spring...”
The police have several times attacked the peaceful protest. Videos have shown people knocked to the ground and arrested for no reason, and a group of young women corralled into a holding area and sprayed in the face with pepper spray. The police violence has made Occupy Wall St worldwide news.
Protests modelling themselves on Occupy Wall Street have taken place in other American cities, notably Boston, where Paul Harris in the Guardian believes the move raises the first serious prospect of the Wall Street protests spreading beyond New York. Other events are planned in Los Angeles and Washington.
Some commentators mocked the movement for its youth and ‘hippie vibe.’ Actually, in this global crisis, it is young people who stand to lose most. In Spain the young are the backbone of the Los Indignados. In Britain it was the militant student protests in November 2010 which acted as a game-changer for levels of UK resistance. Even the 2011 English riots came from the young. (The 1917 Russian Revolution was certainly carried through by the young. Revolutions tend to be...)
And as for the ‘hippy’ slur...Although they would have rejected that label, I remember some of the most militant protest I saw as I hitched around the USA in 1968 came from ‘freaks’, ‘heads’ – young people who, on a cultural and sometimes political level, opposed ‘the system.’ I remember the high level of militancy in 1968 in the US, the real combativeness as young people resisted the war in Vietnam. It was a society in total revolt, with armoured cars on the streets of Berkeley, and made the UK look tame and de-politicised in comparison. If the people out on Wall Street are ‘hippies,’ they will be hippies steeled in the catastrophe of the 21st century: hippies with attitude.
Comrades need to remind themselves that without a revolution in America, led by American workers, students and the poor, world socialism (the only sort) is impossible, so the fact that resistance is emerging in the US, the belly of the beast, is hugely important. How the movement will develop is uncertain, but it carries within it not only the spirit of Seattle and the Arab spring, but also of the labour struggles in Wisconsin earlier this year.
This is happening at a time when one in six Americans is living in poverty. When the Medicaid and Medicare health welfare systems are being targeted for cuts. And when high unemployment is expected throughout the coming year. ..