What began over two weeks ago as a relatively small protest against capitalist greed has grown into a dynamic uprising that could well become our Egyptian equivalent.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has issued the right message at exactly the appropriate time, having the potential to positively resonate with the beleaguered U.S. populace like nothing we’ve seen since left-wing organizing successes during the Great Depression.
“We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent. “
That’s a starkly correct assessment of present reality, and it stands in radicalizing contrast to the massively immoral Republican/Tea Party belief that wealthy “job creators” should be spared hiked taxes and stronger regulation, while everyone else ought to painfully sacrifice to fix our nation’s economic mess.
Wasn’t it the unbridled greed and reckless speculation of the conservative-coddled corporate/financial elite that caused that mess to begin with?
Also, jobs created in recent years by the supposed saviors of our economy have largely been overseas, resulting in lost employment here, plus remaining jobs that pay less than a living wage and provide scant benefits.
Real job growth is spurred by strong consumer demand, which occurs only if the masses have enough money and confidence to buy goods and services at an expanding rate.
Union-scale labor is key to achieving such levels of prosperity and purchasing power. Conservatives, however, have always been staunchly anti-union.
Meanwhile, Forbes magazine data reveals that the total 2011 budget deficit for all 50 states is just one-tenth the combined net worth of the richest 400 Americans.
Why can’t they muster the proper patriotism to help save our country, now experiencing a devastating poverty rate?
Maybe it’s because they’re not job creators at all, but selfishly motivated downsizers, outsourcers, and foreclosers, with treasonous loyalty only to ever-increasing private profit, not public welfare or the American people’s common good.
Organized labor has now thrown its considerable weight behind the Occupy Wall Street effort, with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka stating, “I think it’s a tactic and a valid tactic to call attention to a problem. Wall Street is out of control . . . I think being in the streets and calling attention to issues is sometimes the only recourse you have because, God only knows, you can go to the Hill, and you can talk to a lot of people and see nothing ever happen.”
New York City’s powerful Transport Workers Union (Local 100) has formally endorsed the action, and other labor bodies are expected to do the same in the days ahead.
Significantly, the “occupy” idea is spreading everywhere, with solidarity protests arising in communities from coast to coast.
Here in Wisconsin—the state that pivotally generated a populist fightback against rampant reaction this past spring—rallies/occupations are already slated for Appleton, Madison, and Milwaukee.
A prairie fire of protest is sweeping the land because the capitalist system—experiencing deep, global crisis—plainly no longer works.
It’s so beset by limiting contradictions that it can’t simultaneously meet the profit desires of a moneyed elite and the crying human requirements of society’s wage-earning majority.
Harsh austerity is all that typical folks can look forward to, ultimately making them virtual, super-exploited Third World peons within our nation’s own borders.
That’s an intolerable future, which the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon stands well poised to effectively keep from coming to pass.
Are we at a revolutionary turning point in U.S. history?
With mass need being constantly savaged by the narrowest corporate and banking avarice, it wouldn’t be realistic or honest to think that we’re not.
It’ll take more than pepper spray to stop this rebellion, and any escalation of repression against working people whose lives are coming apart under current injustice will simply anger the multitudes more and bring ever-greater numbers of demonstrators into the streets.
It’s begun. This is the real thing.
Dennis Rahkonen of Superior, Wisconsin, has been writing progressive commentary with a Heartland perspective for various outlets since the ’60s.