December 25, 2011

WWJD about Income Disparity?

Does the 1% versus the 99% mean it's time to throw the moneychangers out of the temple of finance?
"What would Jesus say about corporate greed?" Larry Hamm, NJ state chairman of the People's Organization for Progress, challenged motorists passing the Essex County Court House on Christmas afternoon.

For nearly six months, the People's Daily Campaign for Jobs & Justice has met challenges and grown, as more than 130 community-based, union-affiliated and religious organizations have join the campaign that People's Organization for Progress initiated last July. We haven't missed a single day of protest in the past 182 days. Through hurricane, flood, torrential downpour, and a pre-winter ice storm, the picket line/demonstration has rallied POP members, supporters and community residents every day.

Today however, POP and the Campaign for Jobs & Justice may have weathered our greatest test in the past six months. Christmas is traditionally a day folks feel compelled to spend at home with the family. To continue the campaign through this holiday constituted a serious challenge to the coalition. But, to some activists' surprise, today's rally drew more participants than many others days. Starting with about twelve pickets, the rally quickly grew to nearly fifty activists. As one veteran coalition member observed, "today may have been cold and windy, it might have been a day I'd have prefered to spend with my children, but it we had a great time!"
As much as the massive march and rally this past December 6th represented a turning point for the coalition and the campaign (see the People's Daily Campaign Honors Rosa Parks), the Christmas Day picket line proved the staying power of the People's Coalition for Jobs & Justice!
(to view a handful of additional photos from the Christmas Day demonstration click here)

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December 8, 2011

People's Daily Campaign for Jobs & Justice Honors Rosa Parks

When physicists refer to "critical mass" (the transformative moment when "the smallest amount of  fissile material needed for a nuclear chain reaction" occurs), it is a potentially violent and nearly invariably ugly moment. But when the people's movement reaches this level of activity it is beautiful!

It can be truly glorious, like when Christian Egyptians formed a protective line of defense so their Muslim brothers and sisters could observe Azzan (the call to prayer) during the Arab Spring uprising at Tahrir Square. It can be awe-inspiring, like when the NYC municipal unions joined Occupy Wall Street and that youth-led movement became truly mass in scope, or when folks replicated OWS in city-after-city (and small towns as well) across the US! It is fantastic, like the day People's Organization for Progress chair Larry Hamm recalls from the divestiture movement at Princeton when the daily demonstration against apartheid South Africa grew from tens of participants to hundreds!
Young Occupy Newark activists marched from their Military Park occupation site to rally with the People's Daily Campaign at the Essex County Courthouse.
And Newark's People's Daily Campaign may have hit this "transformative moment" on Tuesday, December 6 (a day so rainy that many activists feared the planned demonstration might flop) when more than 200 marchers, representing approximately 130 churches, labor union locals, students from Essex County Community College, school kids from Science High, activists from the recently begun Occupy Newark encampment, and many, many more joined the regular daily picket line near the Essex County Courthouse (see the Star Ledger article, here).
Youth participation is key to the future of popular movements.
The People's Daily Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Equality & Justice chose December 6 for this march and rally to honor Mrs. Rosa Parks who was arrested on December 1, 1955 when she refused to vacate her seat on a public bus for a white passenger and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956. The People's Organization for Progress and the Daily Demonstration Coalition took our inspiration from that boycott which began on December 5th when the Women's Political Council of Montgomery and labor activist E.D. Nixon (a Pullman Porter who worked with A. Philip Randolph) began the Montgomery Bus Boycott. That boycott continued for more than 380 days, and it is POP's intent to continue the daily pickets for at least the identical length of time.
Unionized hospital workers represented by 1199SEIU join the People's Daily Campaign.
The role of both movement elders and young activists was critical to the success of this transformative rally and demonstration. Stalwarts of local community and national activism Amiri and Amina Baraka joined us on this difficult rain-drenched evening as they marched along-side their son Ras Baraka (South Ward Councilman and principal of Newark's Central High School).
Poets and activists Amina and Amiri Baraka march with their son, City Councilman Ras Baraka, as well as Newark Public School Advisory Board member Richard Cammerieri.
The importance of new and younger organizers was highlighted by the presence of Occupy Newark, high school students from Science High, young teachers from Teachers as Leaders in Newark, and an impressive number of other young people.

For additional photos from this important demonstration see pictures by my friend Jon Levine here.

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December 6, 2011

A Kind Of Elegy For Zucotti Park

A few days back, I arrived at Zucotti Park at about ten in the morning. It was not a happy moment. Occupy Wall Street! is like a prison camp, the old partial line of interlocking police barricades on the outer edge of the block now filled in and supplemented by an inner circle of shiny new barricades courtesy of park owners Brookfield Property. Inside the Park are a bunch of "security" people hired by Brookfield in yellow reflector vests and a Crispness tree behind its own additional, third, ring of shiny barriers.

Given that there were fewer than two dozen occupiers present, and that any time someone so much as put down a newspaper or soda can on a bench, a rent-a-cop would dart over and throw it away, I was pretty bleaked out. When I told one long-time occupier I know that there were more pigeons than people in the park, he pointed out that the pigeons had made no specific demands, refused to appoint a leader and had been accused of shitting inside the park. We agreed that they had to be numbered among the OWS! supporters present.

Still, even as the movement continues to debate what path forward now that most of the large urban encampments have been broken up by state intervention and police attacks, I think it important to remind ourselves just how much we have lost with these attacks. I was in Zucotti Park for the afternoon on November 14, the last day before Bloomberg's middle-of-the-night assault on the camp. Here are some comments I made for an article explaining OWS! to folks in Norway:

Returning after 10 days away, I saw the self-organization of Liberty Plaza, as it was also known, had advanced notably from the previously high levels, let alone the more primitive structure of the early weeks. My friend Mike Zweig gave a tight noon-hour talk on how class works in the US to dozens in the northeast corner of the park via the Mic Check method, then delivered advance copies of his book, The Working Class Majority, to the professional and amateur librarians operating the library, 5237 volumes and counting, now in its own tent. The information, food serving and medical operations were all better housed and organized and a Zucotti Park Fire Department had popped up.

An unofficial stencil and spray can operation put slogans on shirts on one side of the park and on the other, a full scale silkscreen operation was turning out free t-shirts, raising from donations the money the GA had voted to buy shirts and supplies. On line to get one, I chatted with a retired Black clerical worker, 75 years old, on her third visit to the park from New Jersey. She agreed with me that right after actual tents had gone up in the park some weeks before, some of the openness and welcome of the encampment had been lost, and that it was now back.

Before I left, I chatted with a hard-hatted IBEW member and a dude from the Labor Outreach Committee. The three of us talking in union jackets attracted others who wanted to discuss potential labor participation on the upcoming November 17 action. At last, on my way out again, I paused to join in on "16 Tons" and "For What It's Worth" with four or five folks around a guy with a guitar. Occupy Wall Street! was in full flower.

That night, the hammer came down.
Two last points. First, watch Michael Zweig's video! At 15 minutes, it serves as a microcosm and a particularly stellar example of the kind of education that was taking place in the Zucotti Park. Despite the challenging conditions, Michael helped unpack the whole question of class in the US for an avid audience. Individual discussions continued for more than half an hour after his talk concluded.

Finally, I write this not to bum myself out, or you, dear reader, but to remind us what we were capable of building and what was such a threat as to demand scores of brutal raids, over 5000 arrests have taken place around the country and untold millions in police overtime to disrupt. And the struggle continues.

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November 26, 2011

People's Daily Campaign for Jobs & Justice Honors Rosa Parks Dec. 6 in Newark

The People's Daily Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Equality & Justice, initiated by the Newark-based People's Organization for Progress this past July, has built a coalition of over 110 organizations holding daily demonstrations at the Essex County Courthouse. On Tuesday, December 6 (the 163rd consecutive day of the campaign), commemorating the 56th anniversary of the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, will hold a major demonstration and teach-in. Because the People's Daily Campaign takes its inspiration from Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the date is significant. POP and the daily demonstration coalition plans to make this a catalyst to keep the campaign active through the winter months. 

The community groups, labor unions, churches, street organizations and others that have signed on as endorsing co-sponsors include:

The A. Philip Randolph Institute, Essex County Chapter; the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Union County Chapter; Abyssinian Baptist Church; Africa-Newark International, Inc.; African Arts Festival; Afrikan Poetry Theatre; American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey; American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees-Local 979; American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees-Local 2211; American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees-Local 2216; Bail Out the People Movement; Baptist Ministers Conference of Newark and Vicinity; Bethany Baptist Church; Black Administrators, Faculty, and Staff Association-SHU; Black Agenda Report; Black Cops Against Police Brutality; Black is Back Coalition; Black Telephone Workers for Justice; Board of Education for People of African Ancestry; Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War; Christian Love Baptist Church; Coalition for Peace Action; Coalition to Save Our Homes; Communications Workers of America-Local 1037; Communications Workers of America-Local-1040; Community Awareness Alliance, Community Unity Leadership Council; Concerned Citizens to Revitalize Communities; December 12th Movement; Enough Is Enough Coalition; Essex Times; Essex-West Hudson Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Faith Christian Center; Friends of Marquis Aquil Lewis; Greater New Point Baptist Church; Greater Newark Alliance of Black School Educators, Inc.; Green Party of Essex and Passaic Counties; Independent Workers Movement; International Action Center; International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal; International Longshoremen's Association-Local 1233; International Longshoremen's Association-Local 2049; International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement-African People's Socialist Party; International Youth Organization; Kwanzaa Collective; Martin Luther King Birthday Committee of Bergen County; Metropolitan Baptist Church; Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters; Muhammad Mosque #25; My Father Knows Best; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-Irvington Branch; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-New Brunswick Area Branch; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-Newark Branch; National Association of Kawaida Organizations; National Black United Front; National Council of Negro Women-Newark Section; National Organization for Women-New Jersey Branch; National Religious Leaders of African Ancestry; National United Youth Council; New Black Panther Party; New Hope Baptist Church; New Jersey African American Political Alliance; New Jersey Black Issues Convention; New Jersey Chapter-National Action Network; New Jersey Citizen Action; New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance; New Jersey Immigrant and Worker Rights Coalition; New Jersey Jericho Movement; New Jersey Labor Against the War; New Jersey Millions More Movement Coalition; New Jersey One Plan One Nation Coalition; New Jersey Peace Action; New Jersey State Industrial Union Council/Solidarity Singers; New Reform Caucus of the Newark Teachers Union; N.J. Monitors; New York State Freedom Party; Newark Anti Violence Coalition; Newark North Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen; Newark Teachers Association, NJEA-ECEA; North Jersey Local Residents Work Force; Occupy Newark; October 2011 Movement; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity-Upsilon Phi Chapter; Parents and Families of Murdered Children; Pat Perkins-Auguste Civic Association; Philadelphia Innocence Project; Pro-African Purpose, Refal, Inc.; Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (UFCW), Local 108; Ronald C. Rice Civic Association; Roots Revisited; Saint Peter Sounds of Praise Church; Senator Ronald L. Rice, Chairman-New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus; Service Employees International Union-32BJ, Service Employees International Union-Local 617; Service Employees International Union 1199 NJ-UHE; StreetDoctor; The Art of Survival Corporation; The Black Forum of Passaic; The Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools; The Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People; The Kasim Washington Group; Utility Workers Union of America-New Jersey State Union Council; United Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League; United Parents Network; Universal Hip-Hop Parade for Social Justice; Voices of Change and Liberation; West Ward Collective; World African Diaspora Union; Women in Support of the Million Man March; and many others…

The coalitions aims and demands include:
  1. A national jobs program!
  2. The end to wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya!
  3. Preserve workers' rights and collective bargaining!
  4. A moratorium on foreclosures!
  5. The end to privatization schemes and other attacks on public education!
  6. A national healthcare program!
  7. Affordable college education!
The People's Organization for Progress and the People's Daily Coalition invites everyone who shares our aims to join us at Market Street and Springfield Avenue on December 6, 2011 at 4:30 PM and to join the coalition. Please call (973) 801-0001 for more information.

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November 17, 2011

A Thought On The Aesthetics Of OWS!

At first, one of the things I found least appealing about OWS! was the new convention for signage, torn pieces of cardboard box inscribed in magic marker or sharpie. By early October, as the encampment took root and drew more and more folks, some moving in, others coming when they could, these signs were everywhere.

Literally. People would hold theirs up in front of them to try and get conversations started about the contents, or just to put their views before the world. The section of Zucotti Park bordering on Broadway had dozens neatly laid out on the sidewalk where passersby could read them. Further back, they were haphazardly displayed or piled up where those who might show up without sleeping gear, like me, could pick up some for some insulation against the night cold of the pavement.

The content varied wildly. Some were politically acute, some so naïve they made you wince, some intensely personal, some cosmic, some incoherent, some longwinded, some funny, some sharp. My favorites were funny and sharp, like “I won’t believe that corporations are people until the State of Texas executes one.”

In a movement chock full of creative people, in an era of inexpensive printers and color transfers, I thought they looked pretty shabby, and a little studied, like ateen who spends hours making sure the rips in her jeans are just right--or the gel in his hair makes it look just the right kind of mussed up.

Obviously this was a conscious aesthetic choice. Though I’ve never heard that it was debated at an early General Assembly, there has been an obvious consensus that cardboard and marker serve as a signifier of authenticity. And that aesthetic does reflect the strengths of our movement, grassroots, diverse, and above all open.

I’ve changed. I am now genuinely fond of them. There are, of course, all styles of signs at Occupy Wall Street, but marker on cardboard remains iconic. Partly I’m sure, it's that familiarity has bred fondness, but also, as the movement has swelled, I’ve recognized two additional strengths this approach brings with it.

First, it has been an easy entry for newbies to the DIY ethic of OWS! This is very important in a movement whose central tactic, physically occupying space in public, 24/7, tends willy-nilly to divide people into two camps, the serious occupiers and everybody else. Like the 99% vs. 1% framing, it can bridge that divide, help folks think "we" instead of "I support them." Anyone coming to the encampment can pick up a hunk of cardboard, and write something on it and carry it with them (or could before Bloomberg’s assault). Presto, You’re part of Occupy Wall Street. And kids love doing it.

Second, it vaccinates the movement against cooptation or bogarting by forces not at the center of it. How many demonstrations have you been at where preprinted signs with a boring slogan are pushed on everyone by a union or a group like or perhaps something with a name like the Proletarian League for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (Bolshevik Faction) and people took the damn things? If anybody tried something that blatant now, it would be painfully obvious to everyone how bogus it was.

That’s why, on Tuesday morning, approaching a rallying point for forces just dispersed from the park hours before, I was distressed to see looming a cluster of very tall bright yellow signs. “Aw, shit,” I thought, “who the hell got those printed?” Getting closer, I was relieved to find that they were homemade, the slogans on them stenciled in black. And I was even more impressed to see that they were not on poles, but longer than I had thought. And they were pretty solidly constructed and appeared to be carried by handles fastened to the back.

And thinking about the need to defend against or blunt the kind of baton attacks the po-po have launched against Occupy! encampments in recent weeks, I decided I could adjust to this new school of poster art pretty damn quick if it catches on.

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November 11, 2011

A Poem For Brecht

A word of introduction. I found this poem today on the wall of a new "friend" on the Facebook social networking site. I know almost nothing about the author except that she (I suspect) or he appears radical and, at least for the moment, fascinated by the works of the German communist playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht. I reprint this, with permission, under the nom du blog suggested by the author.

(for Bertolt Brecht)

by Soci O'Logy

Who wrote the Threepenny Opera?
On the books you will find the name Bertolt Brecht.
... Has not Elisabeth Hauptmann composed the first manuscript?
And Mr. Puntila, many times revised –
Did not Hella Wuolijoki tell his story?
On which ship did Margarete Steffin go to America?
Why, after the evening that Brecht staged her play,
Did Marie Luise Fleißer cut her wrists?
The Caucasian Chalk Circle is full
of soft chants. Did not Ruth Berlau help
with their creation? Even the legendary Mahagonny
has to be conceived of as a co-production.
The young Brecht conquered Berlin.
Was he alone?
Did not Marie Hold light the oven for him in the morning
And emptied the ashtray in the evening?
Brecht wept when one of his mistresses
Wanted to leave him. Was he the only one to weep?
Brecht fathered many children.
Who raised them?
So many questions.
So few reports.

Now, a word of explanation. Those who've read Brecht may well note that this is written in parallel to his great poem about history and class "Questions From A Worker Who Reads" (posted directly below). A probably smaller group will recognize that it reflects the scholarship of John Fuegi, an American historian. His 1994 book Brecht & Co., makes the claim that the acknowledged collective nature of the cultural works turned out under the signboard of "Bertolt Brecht" hides a pattern of exploitative relations with women who collaborated with him and indeed did the bulk of the work on many of his best known plays and other writings. This claim, controversial when it was made, is now either accepted as true, although perhaps exaggerated, and/or ignored. Soci O'Logy's poem insists that we must think about this when we think about Brecht, his work and his importance.

And here's the model, a poem I dearly love (in the translation favored by Soci O'Logy):


by Bertolt Brecht

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
... Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times?
In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?
Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them?
Over whom did the Caesars triumph?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants?
Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill?
So many reports.
So many questions.

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October 29, 2011

Occupy! and the Cops

When I started drafting this a few days ago, my lead sentence was “It’s probably too early to say that the issue of police violence in the US has been transformed by Occupy Wall Street! and the associated actions around the country.”

Maybe it’s not too early. The savage cop attack Tuesday night on Occupy Oakland! has intensified this change in climate, and changed the way the issue is being looked at and debated within the movement itself.

Videos of the tear gas and flashbang grenade attack on the encampment plus the skull fracture that put Iraq vet Scott Olsen on the critical list have also changed the calculus of repression for the enemy, but that’s not really what I am talking about here.

Direct targeting by the police is only one of three ways the gravitational field generated by the amazing and unexpected Occupy! movement is reshaping the issue of police violence in this country.

1. Most directly, the Occupy movement has posed the most powerful political and symbolic challenge in generations to private property and the day-to-day workings of the capitalist system. Inevitably, this has meant that the paid guardians of that system, the pigs, would be brought to bear to crush that challenge. So far, that has helped build the movement.

During one rainy graveyard shift stint at the information table at Liberty Plaza last week I talked to two fulltime occupiers, young white guys. Both said that what got them to the encampment (Brian from semi-rural North Carolina and James from Queens) was the Internet. More specifically, neither had been more than peripherally aware of OWS! before the notorious video clip of NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna pepper spraying already penned-up young female protesters went viral.

(It’s okay, even important, to note that this echoes on a small scale the widely-noted Missing White Woman Syndrome (MWWS) in the mainstream media. Shock and horror at cops imposing pain and humiliation on conventionally attractive young white women at a level experienced on a daily basis in communities of color around the country reveals something about the working of white privilege. But it also provides what some call a “teachable moment” if we choose to make that happen rather than sneer at those less directly affected or less enlightened than ourselves.)

That “Tony Baloney” pepper spray incident was the first big, well-publicized attack on the protests. Scores more have occurred around the country, and the arrests now number in the thousands. Every day’s news brings new reports of police evicting occupiers from parks. The threat of attack hangs over even peaceful, permitted occupations, where those following closely know that mayoral pledges to let us stay have been violated in New York, Oakland, Nashville and other cities.

2. Meanwhile the diverse and largely locally-based movement against police violence and terror has been looking hard at the new opportunities before it. For anti-cop activists, just as for folks from other social movements, like union strike supporters or environmental protesters, the Occupy! movement has become a kind of funnel into which particular struggles are poured. For instance, several of the earliest Occupy! encampments saw participants taking part in protests of the police-union-demanded execution of Troy Davis in Georgia. Occupy Oakland! named their base area Oscar Grant Park after the young Black man murdered by Bay Area Rapid Transit cops on New Year’s Day, 2009.

Here in NYC back-to-back demonstrations a day apart last week were each associated with Occupy Wall Street. Only blocks from my apartment, a group of mainly Black activists and religious figures headed by Professor Cornel West, who firmly declared himself part of Occupy Wall Street!, sat in at Harlem’s 28th precinct to protest NYC’s “stop & frisk” laws, racial profiling at its most naked. (City figures show that 85% of those rousted under this policy are Black or Latino)

The next day was October 22, the annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. This year’s march was over 800 strong, larger than it has been in recent years, and as militant as always. Folks who came up from Liberty Plaza made up a sizeable minority of the crowd.

There before me was the transformation made possible by this teachable moment. Scores among the young occupiers who had come out for the demo rolled through the Lower East Side, hollering “NYPD KKK” and other chants about “pigs”–formulations I suspect might never have crossed their lips, or maybe even their minds a month ago.

3. Forces within the Occupy! movement are consciously using it to deepen the movement’s ties in the 99%, to do outreach in and build ties with communities of color and to educate the more clueless of the white newbies in the movement. Police violence remains, for obvious reasons, a major issue in communities of color, an open wound that can trigger an eruption of local struggle at any time.

In raising it, these movement activists are coming up against various ingrained white supremacist assumptions, or more exactly, blindspots among some participants. In Philly, an October 22 action came spontaneously out of Occupy Philadelphia! An excellent journal entry describes how it evolved and wound up with 17 protesters arrested for civil disobedience at Police HQ. Another fascinating piece on the Occupy Philadelphia media website points out some of the contradictions the Philly action stirred up in the encampment:

Many support the sit-in, but some are criticizing it. After all, the police have been very accommodating of Occupy Philly--why provoke them with this action? Don't police officers, who are often overworked and underpaid, belong to the 99%? Most of all, shouldn't we stay focused on corporate greed instead of getting distracted by secondary issues?
Among those working to break through this unclarity and resistance are those of us who are revolutionary socialists helping to build OWS! We’ve got a twofold task before us.

First is to be a part of the effort to undermine white privilege within the movement. Promoting understanding of how the police operate as an occupying army in oppressed nationality communities is a good tool to do that. Several Occupy! nodes have had useful workshops/meetings in which folks have testified about their own personal experience with cops. With a decent pool of people participating and egos kept in check, it soon becomes clear that a. yep, white folks get vamped on, too, and b. nope, nowhere near as comprehensively as people of color.

The other part of the job for reds is to spread a little class analysis. I suggested, in a previous piece about OWS!, that using 99% and 1% as our only categories for determining friends and enemies was not adequate. The question of the police, the bottom line defense of capitalist rule, is probably the biggest single reason why. True enough, cops come from working class and middle class communities. Nor are they paid enough to qualify them for that top 1%. That does not mean they are our friends.

A leaflet distributed at October 22 by Ignite!, a revolutionary collective of students and youth in New York, is an example of what I’m calling for here, as this excerpt shows:
The police are not a democratic organization; they are not directed or controlled by the community in any way. The police answer to the city officials, who answer to the politicians, who answer to the wealthy campaign donors who put them in power. A perfect example of this occurred just a few weeks ago (October 1st) when JP Morgan Chase bank gave the NYPD a massive and unprecedented $4.6 million "donation," just days after the mass arrests of protesters at Occupy Wall Street. This is the bankers reminding their NYPD guard dogs who they are truly hired to protect and serve: the interests of the capitalist class.
(That last bit is a true fact, incidentally. Morgan put out a press release bragging about it.)

In short, we appear to find ourselves in one of those amazing historical moments when a social tornado shakes the old order. Cracks and fissures suddenly appear in accepted wisdom, revealing glimpses of how things really work. Those who plunge into the whirlwind, especially, are learning more about how the world in weeks than they might in years of ordinary times.

Tens of thousands are already learning the kind of lessons that that previous upheavals like the ‘60s have taught. That cannot help but retool and refuel the struggle against police violence in this country.

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October 24, 2011

One Key Weakness of Occupy Wall Street!

When you don’t have a strategy, your tactics are your strategy. And the tactic of occupying Zucotti Park in the heart of the downtown financial district of Manhattan has been a stunningly successful one.

The collapse of the Bloomberg administration’s bid to oust the Occupy Wall Street! encampment on Friday, October 14, was a major milestone in the development of the movement. It insured that the flagship occupation would remain intact for weeks to come, as the movement continued to spread and sink roots in cities around the country.

About 600 or so of us spent the night there, amid intermittent rainstorms, a larger than usual overnight crowd. I had planned to be there anyhow, but when the eviction deadline was announced the day before, it set that plan in stone. My computer's inbox before I headed downtown Thursday was filled with unusually short and unusually urgent emails from a variety of lists I am on—-labor, anti-war, community and so on. The messages all boiled down to this:

Get your ass down to Wall Street by 6 ayem tomorrow to stop the eviction of Occupy Wall Street! This is important!

Starting at about 5:00 in the morning, the incredible happened. From every direction, people came walking into the plaza we had spent the night scrubbing and started listening to the discussion of resistance taking place in the General Assembly.

By 6:30 or so, we had quadrupled in size. The word came that the city and Brookfield Office Properties, the corporate owner of the park, had folded like a cheap suit. Folks still pouring in joined our celebration.

We were Too Big To Jail!

The victory was temporary, of course (and also reflected additional factors beyond just our numbers). Bloomberg keeps proclaiming his determination to drive us out, and you know the NYPD has been studying the sometimes brutal police attacks on Occupy! encampments in Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Orlando, Oakland and too many other places.

The victory highlighted the greatest strength of the movement, the responsive chord it has struck deep in millions who have found a voice for their anger, fear and sense of powerlessness as the ultra-rich use bought-and-paid-for politicians to offload the economic crisis onto us.

It has also revealed a very serious weak point--the distance or even disconnect between the occupying core and the hundreds of thousands who are actively supportive.

You could see this in the very emails that mobilized those hundreds and hundreds of people to rise at some revolting hour of the morning to come down to the park. Their tone was: it’s time for US (union members, liberals, environmentalists, whoever) to rally in support of THEM (the protesters), those splendid young people down there.

It’s pretty simple. If you aren’t actually in Liberty Plaza (or some other occupation site), you tend not to think of yourself as an active part of a movement whose very name declares the centrality of that tactic, Occupy Wall Street!

Even some old friends who’ve gone down several times to bring food, or take part in other ways (let alone those who’ve haven’t but have donated money or called Bloomberg or publicized it to neighbors and family) speak of the core group of ongoing occupiers as if it were the movement.

It’s built into the structure of the occupation. The core is mainly young people who have the freedom to spend extended periods of time and a smaller number older folks who can hack sleeping on concrete for days. They help shape them the grooves of daily life which define the occupation so naturally they fit into them most easily. More formally, they are able to take part in the committees and even the general assemblies with a greater sense of how things have been going and how they work. Often, the other stuff people point to as barriers, like cultural differences and the loosey-goosey horizontal structure, are in part manifestations of this structural factor.

I think it is instructive to look for a moment at the Tea Party. Now, cool your jets. I am not, repeat, not, equating OWS! with the teahadists. There are, however, things to be learned by looking at the two side by side. The point I want to make here is that when the Tea Party thing was starting to rip, people who responded found no structural barrier to considering themselves teabaggers. If you went to a rally, or heckled a Congressperson’s town meeting or just liked what you saw of them on Fox News, you were by God in the Tea Party. Buying a cardboard tricorn hat and stapling a bunch of Lipton teabags to it was optional. (Of course, that stage lasted about 45 minutes before rival groups with dues and pricey paraphernalia and minders from the Koch brothers and the Republican National Committee took things in hand.)

We can’t wish our obstacles out of existence and it would be unwise to pretend that they aren’t there. Better to recognize them and deal with them. The more people who think of themselves as part of OWS! and its offspring, as US, the stronger the movement will be, and the harder to attack.

One major step has already been taken--framing of the issue as a conflict between the 99% and the 1%. This is becoming one of the main memes of the movement. From a Marxist standpoint, this is of pretty limited utility as a class analysis, to be sure (though it is in the spirit of Unite All Who Can Be United To Defeat The Real Enemy). In terms of the movement, however, a lot of people are going to find it easier to declare "I’m the 99%" than to assert "I’m a part of Occupy Wall Street!" if they’ve never been to an occupation site.

There are smaller, but very significant things that can be done as well. A single example: There are two stenciling/silkscreening sites in Liberty Plaza. Vistors, whether supportive or merely curious (a lot of tourists come through the encampment), bring a shirt or a jacket or just take their own off, to get it adorned with a slogan—-Occupy Wall Street! seems to be the favorite though several choices are available.

Folks have told me--and I have found myself--that when you are out and about wearing one, on your own turf or just in public, people will definitely come up and ask you about it. I’ve had some heartening and fascinating conversations with neighbors and people on the subway alike which tend to confirm the recent spate of surprising pro-OWS! poll results. "Been there; done that; got the tee shirt…" is, in this case a battle cry, a declaration of involvement in the struggle!

In an upcoming post, I plan to return to this topic, focusing more on what policies and practical steps we can undertake to reduce these structural obstacles. Your thoughts are more than welcome.

Read more!

October 23, 2011

"Jobs Now… Jobs at a Living Wage! "
says Local 108's Charlie Hall, Jr.

November 1 Storm Update (scroll to end of post for update)

Black NJ: RWDSU Local 108 Joins POP Daily Pickets!

On Wednesday, October 19, the 116th day of the Daily People's Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Equality & Justice, Local 108 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, AFL-CIO (RWDSU) joined the People's Organization for Progress and other community-based organizations, individuals and Newark residents at the Lincoln monument in front of the Essex County Hall of Records between Springfield Avenue and Market Street.

Local 108's participation was an important development in the proposed 381-day campaign. While many individual union members have participated over the past months, while labor organizations have sent out members, this was the first time an endorsing union local has come out in force with their leadership.

"We must grasp Newark's unique situation," Charles Hall, Jr., President of RWDSU Local 108 said. "While national unemployment figures hover around 10%, Newark's numbers are 22%, double-depression levels!"

"In this situation, politicians' promises fail to spark hope among the city's unemployed," Larry Hamm, NJ Chairman of the People's Organization for Progress added. "When unemployment among minority youth approaches 75%, Mayor Booker's claimed 'concern' about jobs looks more like a campaign slogan than an actuality."

The Daily People's Campaign's goal of at least 381-days of continuing picketing was conceived by the People's Organization for Progress to recall the length of the Montgomery Bus Boycott 0f 1955-56, but as this momentous movement enters its fourth month, local residents …and supporters far beyond Newark's boundaries… are linking it to the many Occupy! actions (Occupy Wall Street!, Occupy Chicago!, Occupy Boston!, Occupy London!, etc., etc.) that are drawing national and international attention.

Perhaps, as the Black Agenda Report's Glen Ford has noted (see People's Organization for Progress protest), POP's Newark "demonstration marathon" shares a community of interest with Occupy Wall Street. To me it appears that by uniting labor and the community against the failed banking and government policies that reduce the vast majority of Newark's citizens to poverty, the People's Daily Campaign is Occupy Newark!

This past weekend, during the late-Fall blizzard (which plunged most of the Newark-area into almost a pre-electronic age situation as it brought down trees and power-lines all over Northern NJ) the People's Organization for Progress kept our daily picket active, sent a delegation to Wall Street and issued the following statement in support of Occupy Wall Street:

Statement of Solidarity from POP 
and the Daily People’s Campaign Coalition 
To the Occupy Wall St. Movement:  October 2011

The Peoples’ Organization for Progress (POP), the statewide social justice organization, based in New Jersey and rooted in the Black Freedom Movement, extends greetings of Solidarity to the Occupy Wall St. Movement (OWS).  We too are part of the 99%...who are victims of the current vastly disparate distribution of economic and political resources and power in the U.S. social system.  With you, we are the “have nots,” who are resolved to fight back against the effects and the roots of the economic downturn and the accompanying political repression that is necessary to maintain the status quo.

The “Great Recession” in the rest of Americas is full blown Depression in Black America and the communities of other oppressed nationalities: Latinos and Native Peoples.  We suffer double national levels of unemployment.  The sub-prime predatory mortgage attacks by robber financiers have been exposed as intentionally targeting Black and Brown borrowers.  Foreclosure and eviction are epidemic in our already impoverished communities; accelerating social decay and generational setback in already minimal wealth accumulation.  The devastating effect of Government withdrawal from social service and safety support is exponentially magnified in these neediest of communities.  The diversion of national treasury to wars of plunder and occupation and the historically unprecedented concentration of trillions of dollars of private wealth in the hands of the 1% deprive the U.S. Working Class, the Oppressed Nationalities and the small capitalists and support strata, who constitute, the Middle Class, of necessary resources for national reconstruction, necessary in the wake of the crisis.  The 1% is at war against the 99% at home abroad.

Like you, POP is resolved to Fight Back!  In response to the ruling class, the 1% efforts to burden the 99% with the ill effects and costs of the meltdown of their monopoly capitalism, while preserving their domination of society’s economic and political resources, we have put forth “The Daily Peoples’ Campaign for JOBS, PEACE, EQUALITY and JUSTICE.”  Inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the campaign projects 381 days of daily protests against fundamental aspects of their war on us, demanding:

•A government sponsored national jobs program like the WPA of the 1930’s Depression,
•End the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever U.SD. military is projected abroad; and, repatriation of the wasted treasury  for national reconstruction,
•Preserving and strengthening workers’ rights and collective bargaining,
•A moratorium on foreclosures and evictions,
•Opposition to privatization of public education and guaranteed availability of university education without indentured servitude to finance capital,
•A national single-payer health program for all residents,
•End to police brutality and state repression of our fightback

The campaign is endorsed by in excess of 50 community, labor, faith-based and student organizations, who mobilize their constituents to join the picket line for at least one day of the 381, which was the duration of the 1957 Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott, which jumpstarted the modern Civil Rights Movement.  Like the MBB, POP and our Coalition strive to organize allies in the Fight Back; to generate a political climate of resistance among the inactive masses of victims and; to advance the movement against Imperialism and for transformation of the U.S. social system to one that serves the 99%, rather than the1%.

Wall St. Occupiers and Occupiers across the country and around the world, POP and the Daily People’s Campaign Coalition unite with your resistance to the dictatorship of the Imperialism, led by U.S. Imperialism over our world.  To novices to the Struggle, we extend welcome!  Every fight for freedom and liberation requires the exuberance, idealism and energy of youth that young soldiers of OWS bring to the struggle.  Your courage in standing up and fighting back is inspirational.  Your fight against Wall St. greed and for the interests of the 99% are the right thing to do, placing you on the right side of history, for in spite of sacrifice and setbacks inevitably we shall win.  As you are part of the historic continuum of resistance, we say:  “Occupy Wall St. Live Like Them; Dare to Struggle and Dare to Win!”

POP and the Peoples’ Daily Campaign Coalition look forward to opportunities for joint work in building the Peoples’ resistance to oppression and exploitation.  
(to view this statement as a reprintable leaflet, click HERE, on leaflet)

[Thanks to sister Ingrid Hill, POP's Corresponding Secretary, and Angenetta Robinson, POP's Treasurer for the excellent photographs in this FotM blog]

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October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street!? I Say It's Like Slime Mold!

[I didn't write this. My 'rade Meizhu Lui did, for some folks in the organization we both belong to, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization / Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad. Whether or not you currently consider yourself a red, you will, I think, enjoy and benefit from reading this. Meizhu is co-author of the indispensable The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide.]

By Meizhu Lui

The Occupy! moment brings me back to one of my favorite topics: slime mold.

The individual slimes just wander around doing their own thing - until there is a catalyst, like a really great food source, and then they slime together and move as one. It's another form of social organization, different from, say, the traditional communist mode, which historically has seen organization as hierarchical, or with action generated from "centers."

Some of the biggest moments in recent US history have been more in the slime mold category, taking us all by surprise: Seattle, the immigrant rights marches of 2006, now Occupy!. People are doing their individual thing, and then bam! something catalyzes them into action. Of course, once the catalyst dissipates, as it will, the slimes all wander off again. Clearly that's what's going to happen here. I do not mean anything derogatory about slime. It is a legitimate and natural form of self-organization.

So what does this amorphous mass moving as one look like closer up? There are a few free floaters on the periphery swept up in the tide, but there are also many nodes within the mass, connected to the rest by the desire to follow that great smell!

I don't think we should worry much about the Democrats or whomever, who will try to do what they do, and frankly do what we also want to do: capture the movement and become its center and get more people following their line. It's not going to work for them, it's not going to work for us. And it is a victory of sorts that this is a movement the Democrats want to co-opt! If those in the streets have woken up the Dems to the massive anger at their coziness with the major players of the capitalist class in the financial sector who have now put their own short-term interests above their long-term ability to defend the system, that's a good thing.

So what do we, as revolutionary socialists, do? We concentrate on strengthening our "node." Since there is no wheel with a hub, nor will there be, our actions must be within the context of network organization. We should not get derailed by showing how wrong the other people in the Occupy movement are. We must recognize that for the foreseeable future, any mass movement will likely be like this. Over time, we will need to continue to stay in touch with those other sections, even those that are not fully anti-capitalist, and work and play well with them.

Part of becoming stronger is achieving a position of being respected and influential within a broad array of forces. It also means putting forward some clear demands that speak to the anger of the people. Ones that bail out those who got sunk by the latest crisis of capitalism.

Of course, we will concentrate on demands for those those sunk the lowest: people of color and those in the bottom rungs. We must make the case that a victory for 50% is not a victory. There's a difference in being in the first percentile and being in the 99th percentile, even if 99% are not in the same league as the top 1%. Many of those new to Occupy! are middle class, surprised and angry to find that they will not cash in on the American dream. Perhaps this is why people of color were not as excited; they've known that all along. If there is a victory for 50%, it would just be the same old.

Our demands must be ones that not only close the gap between the 1% and the 99%, but that close the vast racial gap. Given Freedom Road's position on oppressed nationalities, this can be a way we distinguish ourselves yet again. But this time, it's not that far off before our nation is majority of color, only a few short decades (2042 is the magic number). Can we be part of a node that can, as MoveOn does for liberal white folks, have the cred to put out a call that can be a catalyst for mass action among people of color? Let's take a long view, and let's not get disappointed when Occupy! stops occupying the public imagination.

Read more!

October 6, 2011

Damn, Was I Wrong About Occupy Wall Street!

I was wrong.

And just how wrong I was still remains to be seen.

When the Occupy Wall Street! action was announced and even after it started, I thought it had FAIL written all over it. The core was a few score young, mainly white, activists from the radical youth milieu with plenty of demonstration experience but limited ties in the people's movements and communities of NYC. The messaging was vague, the tactical implications of the call to Occupy! even vaguer. This, I thought, was bound to be a nothingburger.

Now just three weeks later, it is clear that Occupy Wall Street! has slapped the defibrillator paddles to a constellation of social movements which have been on the critical list since at least the run-up to the 2008 election and is drawing thousands new to activism into motion. The spirit, determination and self-organization which characterized the Wisconsin uprising of last winter have gone nation-wide. And this time the struggle is not a desperate battle to turn back an ambush.

Because it has roared into existence so quickly, has spread so spontaneously and is still evolving so rapidly--new slogans and memes supersede the old almost daily--almost everybody I’ve talked to who identifies with OWS! feels that all of us 99%ers are playing catch-up ball, trying to relate to our own upsurge.

Here are three brief points roughed out during hours at Liberty Square (or Zucotti Park or whatever we are calling it today) and then refined at yesterday’s mass march. I offer them for orientation purposes as we attempt to figure out what’s going on--and where to go next.

1. This is fucking broad. Everybody has seen the reports, Over 200 Occupy! actions are underway or planned around the country. School walkouts are spreading. Endorsements are piling up. The media whiteout of the first couple of weeks is gone, and we have entered the "then they laugh at you" phase.

One of my first clues that this had real legs was the attention it was getting from the start on the influential left liberal Daily Kos website. An aggregated site with hundreds of bloggers, thousands of commenters and tens of thousands of readers every day, Daily Kos’s declared mission is to elect Democrats and, where possible, better Democrats. Yet overall it is a fairly left site with many self-identified socialists and a visibly high level of dissatisfaction with the Obama administration. By the end of September, it was not uncommon for a third or more of the top posts (“diaries” as they are known) recommended by member vote to be about the Occupy movement. This is as spontaneous a development as the movement itself, and demonstrates clearly how disgruntled many of the Kossacks, who think of themselves as very political people, are with a purely electoral, “politics of the possible” approach to society and government at this juncture.

An analogy: Probably high schools no longer can afford sodium acetate for their science teachers to demonstrate supersaturated solutions, but older readers may remember this one. The idea is simple. Dissolve in heated water more of a chemical than it can absorb at room temperature. When it cools down, drop in a single crystal and watch the liquid rapidly crystallize into a solid.

Occupy Wall Street! has acted like a seed crystal. It has not caused the mass anger at the way things are going in this country, but it has provided a focus around which that anger can crystallize, mobilizing both folks who have historically been active around issues like the war or the environment and regular folks who have been hard hit by the economic crunch and are both mightily pissed off about it and extremely cynical about about a "democracy" which is so permeated with corporate cash.

Because of this, the occupations also serving as a funnel through which various social movements can take action and respond to attacks. When the State of Georgia carried out its legal lynching of Troy Davis, the protest rally marched from Union Square to the encampment and then headed down Wall Street itself. There the first in a series of escalating police attacks on Occupy Wall Street! took place when the cops busted some young activists near Federal Hall. Last Sunday, several dozen teachers and college faculty showed up for an inspired action. They held a Grade-In, sitting quietly and marking tests and homework, and graphically refuting the anti-union, anti-public education lies of the right wing about how overpaid teachers are and how easy they have it.

Then came yesterday when a wide array of unions and community and student groups mobilized upwards of 20,000 people to march from the seat of city and federal government at Foley Square down to the OWS! Encampment and Wall Street itself.

2. This is a return to the Seattle moment. Pretty much everybody over 25 will remember the heady days of the upsurge against globalization and neo-liberalism as the new century began. It was famously captured in the slogan handwritten on a sign by one demonstrator, "Teamsters And Turtles, Together At Last"! Organized labor and youthful environmentalists and solidarity activists began to unite under the slogan “Another World Is Possible.”

That upsurge was derailed by 9/11, the changed focus of political discourse in the US to discussion of terrorism and what's "American" and the need for a massive anti-war movement. The economic meltdown which began in 2007 started shifting the tectonic plates of US society again, making possible this new thing we are seeing.

The working class majority in this country, and communities of color in particular, are sharply aware of having been screwed, blued and tattooed by the banks and are disgusted with the role their elected officials have played in that. The economic pinch is the unifying factor here--from college grads enmeshed in debt and unable to find jobs, to homeowners facing eviction to 99ers who have fallen off the end of unemployment insurance, to workers facing demands for monstrous givebacks, to poor people threatened by the erosion of basic civil services. That is the foundation for Occupy Wall Street!.

But it is very much to the credit of the folks at the encampment that they realized that workers are key allies they must unite with, and that it was up to them to take the initial steps. Thus, within days of opening the camp, nine activists stood, one after another, and disrupted a sale at the high-tone Sotheby's auction house in support of Teamster union members locked out by the hugely profitable firm. The following week 100 people from the encampment showed up at a rally called by postal unions (including my old local, NY Metro) to defend Saturday delivery and post offices in poor neighborhoods threatened with closings.

The unions too, battered by a decade of losses in membership and influence, facing savage union busting attacks, and painfully aware that there's precious little they are going to get from the Obama administration or a divided Congress, see an opportunity to be part of a broader fight back against corporate power. And so the first steps toward rebuilding the Seattle united front are being taken.

3. This has a profound global impact.
Think back to the early months of this year and how we watched when first the Tunisians and then the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square launched, then maintained and defended occupations that challenged longstanding entrenched undemocratic regimes. People around the Arab world and the globe watched, transfixed, and tried to figure out how to replicate these magnificent uprisings. Even here, it provided massive inspiration and something of a template to the working class and its allies in Wisconsin.

Well, trust me, the US is far more visible on a global scale than Tunisia. From pure self-defense, people across the planet keep one eye on this country at all times. And now they are watching very closely indeed, They want to see what we, the 99%, can do against such a powerful and deadly enemy, one with claws sunk in their own countries, and with their junior versions of our 1% in power at home.

Tbis is very clear in the message from left wing Chinese activists and intellectuals in support of Occupy Wall Street! published here at Fire on the Mountain a few days ago. Describing the repression we face here, they mention how much worse it is elsewhere, like in China, then matter-of-factly say, “There is nowhere left where we can live and die as people.”

We must not turn our heads away from what this implies. The battle launched by Occupy Wall Street! is one in which the stakes are the future of the planet. No wonder Occupy! actions have broken out in more than a dozen other countries, in which contradictions had not yet reached the intensity they have in Spain and Greece, where far more massive battles have raged for months.

This means that what we do in the coming months as the movement unfolds is a contribution to the people of the world. Stepping up is our internationalist duty. To stand aside from this unfolding movement or critique it at a remove is to abdicate that duty, to settle for being Americans, instead of standing with the world’s people.

In closing, I have only argued here the importance of Occupy Wall Street and the movement it has spawned. I have not commented on its shortcomings--like the weaknesses of "leaderless resistance," the chasm between the relative handful of full timers and the millions who will want to be part of the action but whose lives do not permit them to set up camp on a city street indefinitely, the replication of hierarchies of privilege under the banner of horizontalism. I have not addressed the challenges--like doing outreach, preparing for more violent repression, avoiding suffocation in the embrace of the Democratic Party and its allies and fronts, I could write a basic list of things that need consideration as long as this article itself.

Well, these are the kind of questions all of us need to grapple with, and the starting point should be involving ourselves as deeply as possible in this wonderful, contradictory, unexpected eruption. See you at the Occupation!

Read more!

October 4, 2011

The Chinese Left Hails Occupy Wall Street!

[This statement, translated by the worthies of the China Study Group, is extremely important. It has been signed by a crew of intellectuals and activists in China, many of whom are left critics of the Chinese state and its capitalist economy. Its analysis of the economic roots of the crisis and the connection to politics is trenchant and goes much deeper than denunciations of corporate greed by themselves can.

But more important is what it teaches us about the global importance of the movement that started less than three weeks ago. True, the statement may seem to be far too optimistic about the immediate prospects of the upsurge and to make more sweeping claims for the movement than any of us who have, say, actually been down at Liberty Plaza would dare, but consider the meta-message here. People around the world are looking to us in the US for inspiration, courage and ideas about how to fight the system--and to build a global movement to end capitalism and build a new world!

Think about that for a minute before you let cynicism about the movement's very real shortcomings justify your inaction.

Message from Chinese activists and academics in support of Occupy Wall Street

From the middle of September, a great “Wall Street Revolution” has broken out in the United States. This street revolution, going by the name of “Occupy Wall Street,” has already expanded to over 70 cities and countries in North America, Europe, and other areas. In their statement on “The Wall Street Revolution,” the American people have sworn that this demand for “a democratic country, not a corporate kingdom” mass democratic revolution must spread to every part of the world, and they will not rest until this goal is met. From the anti-capitalist demonstrations that began after the 2008 financial crisis, and which this year have spread across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and South America, this magnificent global mass democratic movement has finally spread to the center of capitalism’s financial empire–Wall Street.

The eruption of the “Wall Street Revolution” is an historical indicator that the popular democratic revolution that will soon sweep the world is set to begin. It is an especially significant and important event for this movement. Before this most recent action, street protests had virtually been exclusively used as a tool by US elite groups to subvert other countries. Now, however, the “Wall Street Revolution” – with its goals of shared prosperity and popular democracy – has launched protests in the country that is the self-proclaimed defender of democracy. This will inevitably strike a hard blow against the US elite group, itself responsible for the plunder and oppression of people all over the world, and the group that pushed the world into crisis and instability. The protests ring the death knell of the rule of capital. Popular democracy will replace elite democracy in the 21st Century, and the curtain has lifted on the movement from elite politics to popular politics. Using the language of the “Wall Street Revolution,” this is a struggle of the popular 99% against the corrupt 1%, a struggle of the popular 99% against the elite 1%,and is the final struggle of the popular forces against elite capitalist rule.

The world belongs to all of the people of the world. Countries belong to the entire people of those countries. Even moreso, wealth is produced by the entire people, and therefore should be shared by the entire people, it cannot be monopolized by the 1% – or even less than 1% – that is made up of an extremely small number of elites. The demand for common prosperity in economics, and popular democracy in politics has become an unstoppable historical trend! The rapid expansion of a fictitious economy and the massive flow of social wealth has created an amply reliable material foundation for the realization of the common wealth of all people. The development of internet technology and political civilization has created the conditions for human society to make the transition from capitalist democracy to popular democracy. Human society is fully capable of transforming, on the foundation of the past democracy of slaveholders, the democracy of feudal lords, and the democracy of the capitalist class, to make the fundamental shift from the democracy of the elites to real popular democracy. Common prosperity and popular democracy will become the main content of the historical transformation of the 21stCentury. No matter how brutally the American riot police will attempt to suppress the participants in the Wall Street revolution, no matter how much the global elites – especially those in the U.S. and China –try to suppress news of the Wall Street revolution, they cannot stop the vigorous growth and ultimate victory of the democratic revolution of the people of the world.

The violent repression and virtual blockade of news about the “Wall Street Revolution” by elite groups led by the US proves that the fate of oppressed people around the world is the same, regardless of whether they are from developed or developing countries, whether they are from so-called democracies or authoritarian countries. The international elite was the first class to link-up internationally via globalization. Their plunder of public wealth and repression of popular democratic movements is cruel and far-reaching, and utterly lacking in freedom and democracy. So-called freedom and democracy in modern society is nothing more than democracy for capitalism, an elite democracy. Freedom is another word for the elite to plunder, oppress and violently suppress others. Popular forces have been completely excluded from the freedoms and democracy of modern society, and the extent of democratic rights is to choose between presidential candidates that have already been vetted by capital. You can vote once every four years, but you have no way of affecting the people above you who directly determine your fate: your boss or superior. And there is no way of constraining the capitalist oligarchs who can take away the wealth of the majority of the population with the slight of hand of fictitious capital. Freedom and democracy have become a virtual game, nothing more than a tool to subvert other countries. Now the popular and democratic world revolution – symbolized by the “Wall Street Revolution”- demands an end to this political game, and that freedom and democracy be returned to the people. Democracy is not just a check on the president, but a check on government officials; democracy is not just a check on power, but a check on capital. If the rights and privileges of feudal and absolute rulers are understood to be a sin and abomination, then giving those rights to capital is also a travesty.

Securities and computer networks should have been two crucial elements of our shift from an industrial society to an information society, from a material economy to a virtual economy, from capitalism to a human-centered economic system, and from elite politics to popular politics. But the elite class has turned securities into a tool of appropriation akin to the ‘indulgences’ issued by middle-age church functionaries in Europe. In the new securitized economy, all the public’s wealth can easily melt into thin air – including their houses, wages, labor power and even their hope for the future. All these things have become the targets of appropriation by a tiny elite minority. Both the white-collar middle classes in developed countries – owners of fictitious property, and the blue-collar workers in developing countries who cannot afford housing or health care, belong in point of fact to the same class: modern proletariat. When the people protest the unprecedented plunder and vast income gap perpetrated by fictitious capital, they are met with violent repression – both in so-called democracy countries that claim to be defenders of human rights such as the US, and in authoritarian countries that are said to lack freedom and democracy. Faced with street protests erupting from the Balkans to North Africa, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have repeated over and over, “The rights of peaceful protest and the occupation of public space should be respected at all times.” Yet when US citizens attempt to exercise this right they immediately are faced with violent repression by armed police, and a blockade by the news media. If this is reaction of the US – the self-proclaimed leader in human rights – then we can imagine what the reaction will be in other capitalist countries. Rule by the capitalist elite is just as described by the “Wall Street Revolution” – everywhere. There is nowhere left were we can live and die as people.

The eruption of the “Wall Street Revolution” in the heart of the world’s financial empire shows that 99% of the world’s people remain exploited and oppressed – regardless of whether they are from developed or developing countries. People throughout the world see their wealth being plundered, and their rights being taken away. Economic polarization is now a common threat to all of us. The conflict between popular and elite rule is also found in all countries. Now, however, the popular democratic revolution meets repression not just from its own ruling class, but also from the world elite that has formed through globalization. The “Wall Street Revolution” has met with repression from US police, but also suffers from a media blackout organized by the Chinese elite.

The same fate, the same pain, the same problems, the same conflict. Faced with a common enemy in an elite global class that has already linked-up, the people of the world have only one option: to unite and in a unified and shared struggle overturn the rule of the capitalist elite, to ensure that everyone enjoys the basic human rights of work, housing, health care, education, and a secure old-age. But we must go further if we are to realize shared prosperity and popular democracy in a new socialist world historical framework, If we are to fully escape and neutralize the crises and disasters that capitalism has brought the human race, and realize harmonious social development.

The great “Wall Street Revolution” and the great popular “Chilean Winter” that preceded it signal that the day when we realize shared prosperity and popular democracy is approaching. It signals that worldwide popular and democratic socialist movement – dormant since the 1970s – is waking up again. But this time, it will be the final battle to put capitalism in its grave. The victory of popular democracy and death of elite rule are inevitable! The embers of revolt are scattered amongst us all, waiting to burn with the slightest breeze. The great era of popular democracy, set to change history, has arrived again!

Resolutely support the American people in the “Wall Street Revolution”!

Resolutely support all street protests pushing for shared prosperity and popular democracy!

Long live the “Wall Street Revolution”!

Long live the global movement for popular democracy!

Long live popular international solidarity!

Signed by,

1. 马宾(中共老一辈无产阶级革命家,对鞍钢宪法有重要贡献)
2. 张宏良(北京学者)
3. 孔庆东(北京学者)
4. 张勤德(中共中央某机关退休干部)
5. 司马南(北京资深主持人)
6. 左大培(北京学者)
7. 苏铁山(北京学者)
8. 贾根良(北京学者)
9. 韩德强(北京学者)
10. 韩中(电视剧《毛岸英》中饰演毛泽东主席的演员)
11. 刘毅然(电视剧《毛岸英》导演)
12. 顾秀林(昆明学者)
13. 赵磊(成都学者)
14. 刘长明(济南学者)
15. 孙锡良(长沙学者)
16. 郭松民(北京学者)
17. 杨思远(北京学者)
18. 徐亮(北京学者)
19. 范景刚(北京左翼网站乌有之乡网站负责人
20. 吴国屏(江苏无锡红色文化大讲堂负责人)
21. 戴诚(江苏常州红色合唱团负责人)
22. 葛黎英(郑州红色事业活动志愿者)
23. 任羊成(河南林州,修建红旗渠的特等劳模)
24. 袁金萍(河南安阳,林州市红旗渠精神学习会理事)
25. 赵东民(西安红色法律工作者)
26. 桑文英(西安红歌会负责人)
27. 李忠(太原红色事业活动志愿者)
28. 聂晓萍(北京老中医)
29. 吴泽刚(四川理县,藏族农民,中共党员)
30. 苏群(深圳红歌会志愿者)
31. 朱超(重庆红色事业活动志愿者)
32. 刁伟铭(上海红色事业活动志愿者)
33. 李欣(天津红色事业活动志愿者)
34. 曹文质(北京景山红歌会负责人)
35. 吴凤藻(北京首钢退休干部)
36. 薛云(北京红色企业家,点石金校校长)
37. 杨晓陆(北京反转志愿者)
38. 马婷娜(北京反转志愿者)
39. 吕霙(北京,退休科技工作者,当年红卫兵)
40. 刘英(广西桂林学者)
41. 陈红兵 (郑州当年红卫兵)
42. 石恒利(辽宁社科院退休研究员)
43. 熊 炬(男,中共党员,诗人,作家,重庆出版社退休干部)
44. 谢明康(男,中共党员,重庆市垫江县城乡建委退休干部)
45. 邬碧海(女,浙江红色事业活动志愿者)
46. 王庆人(天津学者,南开大学教授)
47. 司马平邦(中国名博沙龙常务副主席)
48. 王左军(资深媒体人士、绿色环保人士)
49. 曾有灿(工程师)
50. 陈晶(北京红色事业活动志愿者)

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