Listen Up Anti-Wall Street Rebels!

 progressive Florida Democrat unseated by Republicans

 Working Americans have 3 friends in this world: God, Yo Mamma, and the Democrats!”  This simple declarative statement by former – and hopefully future – Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida, a former Wall Street whiz kid who has become their worst critic, appears to be very hard for many on the left to grasp, and totally beyond the comprehension of the most vocal elements of the Occupy Wall Street rebels. Yet it is fairly easy to demonstrate that the third assertion is true, because the Republicans are clearly the enemy of the working class and the public interests.

Despite spurious rhetoric about concern for “the American people,” which has no observable relation to their actions, the Republicans are unambiguous in their support for the filthy rich in the policies they propose. This is why the Super-Committee failed, and this is why the payroll tax break for working and middle class Americans is about to lapse.  The Republican position, which they repeat ad nauseum, is that unless the rich are exonerated from any increased tax burden they are quite willing to starve the poor!

This charge is not overblown rhetoric, it is an accurate description of policies that seeks to destroy unions; cut health and welfare benefits to the poor; reduce Social Security benefits for the elderly; raise taxes on the poor, and allow unemployment benefits to run out – during the Christmas season no less – while refusing to agree to any increased taxes on the rich; even if it just means allowing the ill-conceived avaricious Bush Tax Cuts to expire.

Furthermore, the raison d’etre of the anti-Wall Street movement is the gross and growing inequity in the distribution of wealth in American society, yet the Republicans have blocked the tough regulatory regime designed to keep the Wall Street bankers from driving the economy off a cliff again.

This legislation was passed by a Congress controlled by Democrats and signed into law by President Obama.  This bill also includes the toughest consumer protection legislation in American history.   Clearly it is the Democrats – people like Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd, Anthony Weiner and Professor Elizabeth Warren, the Congressional Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus, et al – who have waged the fight for goals that are implied in the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

The fact that the rebels do not recognize this obvious connection, embrace the Democrats as allies and work for their empowerment in the coming elections by electing men like Alan Grayson to Congress, portends a real danger that this confused and slipshod rebellion will fail to metamorphose into an effective force capable of transforming economic relations in this country.

As I write most of these rebels are so clueless that don’t even know who the enemy is, let alone the path to victory.  And leftist ideologues – many of who claim to have a “science of society” that guides their actions – are not advancing the developmental process with their mindless prattle about the Democrats and Republicans being the same!  While simultaneously cheering any sign of an uprising against capitalism no matter how irrational it’s vision or improbable it’s success.

Alas the budding movement is in grave danger of missing this historic moment and squandering its revolutionary potential in meaningless street theater that will amount to little more than a collective temper tantrum, deserving little more than a footnote in the historical record.  Some members of the punditocracy, echoing spokesmen from the OWS movement, are attempting to compare the present uprising with the Civil Rights Movement.

These misguided wags argue that in the beginning the civil rights movement was just like OWS, and then they began to identify goals and formulate demands.  If ever there was a false analogy this is it!  The Civil Rights Movement had clearly defined goals and negotiable demands from the outset.  (See “Reflections on the Council of Elders”)

 Abbie Hoffman in his Hey Day

It Was All Theater!
 An OWS Protester

Will they go the way of the YIPPES?

The present movement has much more in common with the YIPPIES, who relied on consciousness raising “Guerilla Theater” as their sole strategy; remember Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin?  What is their legacy?   What lasting changes did they bring about?  What were their goals?   They got a lot of attention at the time and they didn’t have the internet.

Yet there were those at the time, this writer among them, who doubted that a group of disorganized acid head anarchist could bring down the American capitalist system.   Evidently Jerry Rubin also began to doubt; that’s when he wised up, sobered up, scrubbed up, and became a Wall Street Stock broker.

Rubin’s close comrade Abbie Hoffman refused to grow up and spent his post-Yippie days wandered about in a drug induced haze and died from an overdose of 150 Phenobarbital tablets washed down with alcohol.   He was fifty two years old and living in a converted Turkey coop in a Pennsylvania hick town far from the scenes of his glory days in the limelight.

While his acolytes have tried to conjure a more heroic ending for their fallen idol, the notes written by his own hand portray a youth obsessed man who couldn’t deal with the onset of middle age, and was bewildered by the right-wing conservative forces that had risen to power and was imposing their agenda on the nation.

The movement Abbie and Jerry “led” had descended into historical obscurity in their life time and is remembered by few today.  If the OWS rebels do not become political and develop a strategy for effective political action that can defeat the shills of the Plutocrats in the Republican Party, they too will be doomed to failure and historical irrelevance.  That would be a tragedy of incalculable proportions.

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 30, 2012

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