Archive for the Occupy Wall Street Category

Will Wall Street Rebels End Up like Jack the Bear…

Posted in Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , on October 12, 2011 by playthell

Great Passion but little Politics

…..Making tracks but getting nowhere?

In my first commentary on the Wall Street demonstrations I questioned whether this budding movement was revolutionary or anarchistic, and concluded that thus far it was closer to anarchy – which is a synonym for political chaos.  This observation elicited a howl from many of those who support the demonstrators; some even suggested that I opposed them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is because I share their outrage at the Wall Street Robber Barons, and the decadent Plutocracy they serve, that I offer up critical analysis in the hope that it might have some effect on the debate about the direction of this budding movement that has now gone nationwide through the agency of social media.  I want them to succeed in curtailing the power of the Plutocrats, but I know from many years as a participant observer and serious student that all successful mass transformative movements must contain certain factors.

The most important of these factors, after defining the enemy, is to put forth a set of realizable demands around which one can rally and organize the masses.  These demands are defined by what the movement stands for, which is usually determined by ideology.  In the absence of a unifying ideology the movement lacks coherence and thus it becomes unclear what their objectives are and confuses the masses.

The demonstrators say they are patterning their movement after the Mid-East uprisings collectively labeled “The Arab Spring.”  Yet a close look at those social upheavals reveal a world of confusion which could easily end up with the cure being worse than the disease, as governments fall with no organized political formation capable of taking power and governing.

There is no chance of this in the US, because no unorganized rag tag force is going to bring down the American government.  And no highly organized force operating outside of the two party system is going to change the American capitalist system, whether armed or not.  This is the problem I have with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Yesterday I spent considerable time among the demonstrators listening to their vision of the mission they have undertaken.  And I found them as confused as two weeks  before in both their objectives and how to achieve them.  The most common theme in their arguments is that there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans; hence they are above politics!

When John Was their Age 

He was fighting against armed fascist! 

They demonstrators exposed the depth and pervasiveness of this belief by denying Democratic Congressman John Lewis the opportunity to address the demonstrators in Atlanta.  Not only does Lewis share their feelings about the criminal maldistribution of wealth in the US, but when he was their age he was the leader of an organization that played a critical role in a mass movement that qualitatively changed American society for the better.  Here was a staunch ally in Congress who could transform their demands into legislation and put it before the Congress for a vote.

Then the demonstrations would have specific achievable goals to organize their activism around!  They cannot achieve their hopes and dreams by any other method. Yet they turned Congressman Lewis away. If the anti-Wall street rebels do not soon get a grip on political reality –which is to understand how change is actually made in American society – their boisterous demonstrations will be all sound and fury…signifying nothing!  Like Jack the Bear, they will make tracks but get nowhere!

The Beat Goes On! 

Intoxicated by the Afrocentric Polyrhythms

An Aroused citizenry is on the March!

But where are they headed?


Text and Photos by: Playthell Benjamin

* Picture of John Lewis: Smithsonian Institute

October 10, 2011

It’s a Barnum and Bailey World!

Posted in Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , on October 4, 2011 by playthell

Protesting the Wall Street Plutocrats in California

“The whole world is in trouble…and the danger zone is everywhere”
Percy Mayfield, Bluesman

Revolution or Anarchy?

As I look at the mass uprisings against government authority around the globe it is clear that they are a class of phenomena that share several fundamental features. They are leaderless, present no specific demands, and possess no ideology or theory of change that envisions the new society they wish to construct.  In other words they are spontaneous combustions directed by social media like Facebook and Twitter, which has bypassed the organizational stages that all the successful mass transformative movements in history have evolved through. Thus their prospects as agents for qualitative change appear more illusionary than real in spite of their zeal.

Although they often refer to themselves as revolutionaries, which mean they are about the  business of making a revolution, the young people who are participating in these uprisings appear fairly clueless about the history and character of successful revolutions in the modern world.  The most shocking sign of their naiveté is the belief that they can accomplish radical change in a complex mass society like the US while bypassing politics – which is a process that requires serious discipline and organization.

Yet we see this naiveté in youth driven uprisings around the world; it is no wonder that many participants describe themselves as “anarchist,” and sing the praises of anarchy despite the fact that anarchy is a synonym for chaos.  In Israel for instance, we hear 26 year old Yonatan Levy refer to the tent cities that have cropped up in urban areas to protests the concentration of wealth in a small elite, the domination of government by ultra-Orthodox Jews and the absence of affordable housing as “a beautiful anarchy.”

In Spain, where the official unemployment rate is 21% – the highest in the industrialized world – we hear Marta Solanas, a 27 year old demonstrator in Madrid declare “Our parents are grateful because they are voting…we’re the first generation to say voting is useless.”  Clearly these demonstrators, who were 70,000 strong, have not pondered the riddle of how they are going to persuade the masses of Spaniards to join a revolution when they can’t convince them to vote for the issues they deem of critical importance.

The real difference between the vision of these youths and their parents is that their parents lived through the fascist period under Generalissimo Francisco Franco, thus they know the difference having the right to vote for their leaders can make in the quality of life…or one’s chances in life. This naviete plagues the growing anti-establishment movement from Israel, to Greece, to India, to England to Wall Street.

And while the demonstrators in the “Arab Spring” were forced to resort to violence because there was no alternative avenue to change, such as in the democracies, their lack of a clear cut vision of the society they are ushering in is a contradiction they share with other demonstrators around the world This is abundantly clear in the statement that appears on the website recruiting people to join the Wall Street demonstrations, either as physical actors or support groups; which describe their nascent movement in the following terms:

“Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring   tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”

The apolitical confused nature of the burgeoning demonstrations on Wall Street was made crystal clear by the ubiquitous gadfly Michael Moore, who has long been a foe of the shenanigans of the “economic royalist.” When asked if they were demonstrating to force Congress to fund the agency
tasked with carrying out the President’s rigorous new regulations of Wall Street, or to force them to pass the President’s American Jobs Act, Big Mike glibly replied “We’re beyond all that.”

While one can sympathize with the demonstrator’s motivation and objectives, the serious student of revolutionary movements cannot fail to conclude that an unorganized headless host challenging the citadel of world financial power, but could not present a list of realizable demands if the Robber Barons capitulated and were willing to deal today, has about as much chance of changing the modus operandi of the financial elite as a chimp has of performing the Paganini Variations for solo violin.

Hence from all the observable evidence I am convinced that what we are witnessing is anarchy not revolution!  And if they don’t build an organization and coherent ideology they will not win the support of the public and they will be crushed by the police power of the state…a scenario that we are already beginning to witness.  Let us hope that the entrance of organized labor into the fray will give this populist revolt some real direction and increase their chances of having a positive impact.

The People are on the Move

But Where Are they Headed?


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

October 4, 2011


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