October 06, 2011

How will the oligarchy respond to Occupy Wall Street?

As long as the Occupy Wall Street movement remains fairly small and contained, the oligarchy can treat it with condescension, in the expectation that it will dissipate with time. The reaction of the political leadership has been cautious with few venturing comments. Mitt Romney, as unoriginal as ever, has called it (sigh) 'class warfare' and that it was 'dangerous' but dangerous for whom he did not specify. Herman Cain reached new levels of the smugness that afflicts so many rich people, saying, "Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!" Some people at the Chicago Board of Trade seem to think that mocking the movement is a good idea and, like the champagne swillers in New York, display a sense of ignorance to the legend of Marie Antoinette. These people have no idea of the rising level of anger in the country.

The movement has latched on to succinct slogans that capture the essence of the problem, like "We are the 99%" and the chant "Q: How do we end this deficit? A: End the wars, tax the rich." These are dangerous messages for the oligarchy because they are simple and right on target. As a result, the movement is gaining public support nationwide and growing, and even linking to global protest movements. Nearly a 1000 people turned up in Philadelphia on Tuesday night merely to organize the occupation in that city on October 6th.

The movement is also gaining mainstream acceptability. Even chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke (Ben Bernanke!) said in Congressional testimony that there was "some justification" for the protests and that "At some level I can't blame them. Nine percent unemployment and slow growth is not a good situation." Editorial cartoonists are also spreading the message about the revolt against the 1% epitomized by Wall Street.



Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! interviewed Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers, two key organizers of the October 2011 movement that was planned six months ago for an indefinite occupation of Washington DC starting today, and that has coincided in a symbiotic way with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

As the movement grows and expands, I fully expect at some point in the near future that the repressive apparatus of the state will be brought in to quash it. I am certain that right now there are high-level discussions amongst members of the oligarchy on how to derail the protests. It will be difficult to forcibly disperse the peaceful occupiers since the initial protestors were mostly educated, white, middle-class, young people (though yesterday's march was much more diverse in terms of age and color) and baton-charging, tear-gassing, and arresting them in large numbers would not look good on TV. The usual method of dealing with such situations is to dispatch some provocateurs to mix in with the protestors and then create divisions and destruction and confrontations. The purpose will be two-fold: to lower public sympathy for the movement by associating it with violence and to provide an excuse for harsh measures to 'restore law and order'. I hope the organizers are prepared to combat this tactic

The rising tensions surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement reminds me of the mood in the classic 1967 song For What It's Worth written by Buffalo Springfield band member Stephen Stills in the wake of an assault by the Los Angeles Police department on young people during that turbulent period.


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There are videos of a peaceful young protester maced by police posted on youtube

Posted by Alex on October 6, 2011 01:45 PM

I also like this comparison on Sociological Images' blog

Posted by Alex on October 6, 2011 01:49 PM

"For What It's Worth" holds more import than just what you mentioned.

Stills was in a Central American country in 1966 (Guatemala, if memory serves...). He saw people protesting in the street and police violence against protesters. Three days later, the government was overthrown.

Then he returned to the US to see protesters in California and police using violence against them. What was he to think?

The same could be said of the "arab spring" and government overthrows in 2011, now followed by the Occupy Wall Street movement.


Posted by P Smith on October 6, 2011 03:12 PM

We are the 99 percent - we are the 1 percent - it's all the same. It's a matter of choice. What do we choose? To be the 99 percent complaining about lack of jobs as if everyone else should just give us a job? And pay us? Why should they?

I choose to be the 1 percent, and anyone else can, too!

Posted by Cal Emerson - Occupy Wall Street Protest Protestor on October 11, 2011 01:27 AM