A common class background made it a little easier for working class youth – employed and unemployed, housed and homeless – to come together across the color line. This unity is complicated by the dominance of petty bourgeois folks in these occupations. The petty bourgeoisie are small shop owners, as well as professionals who serve in a managerial capacity, such as cops, judges, bosses, transit security, etc. Many of them are losing their jobs, houses, and businesses, and are being thrown into the ranks of the working class, so they are joining this movement. They are part of the 99%, but they have had very different experiences than the groups we have discussed so far, and this shapes their political outlook. Many higher paid workers are not petty bourgeois, but they still share petty bourgeois outlooks and ideas, especially the illusion that they are part of the “middle class”.
I had hoped this time it would be different. This time we’d keep our focus, be smart and not alienate people who it would be profitable to have on the side of the angels. Then I saw this and I knew, just knew, that OWS is doomed. I hope that before it tears itself a part in an orgy of “more-left-than-thou” accusation and counter accusation, somethings get done. I hope that before it alienates educated professionals that income inequality, joblessness and the fact that corporations are not people in any sense gets pushed to the front of the national consciousness enough that it won’t be at all easy to pretend, in six months, that it never happened and for the Beltway media to revert to “What joblessness? The deficit will kill us all!” But I knew that inevitably it would come to this, the inevitable ‘we must smash capitalism’ talk.
Later, in a demonstration that they only love certain *kinds* of working class people--those who aren’t, for instance cops or soldiers--there’s this bit:
They lecture working class youth when we chant “fuck the police” or “cops, pigs, murderers”. They don’t understand that we face police brutality all the time, and we’ve been struggling against it for a long time. Unlike us, these folks (used to) own property , and are used to the police protecting it. They have not yet learned that being part of the working class means owning nothing of significance, it means being dispossessed, and that means getting pushed around by the police who function as enforcers of the rule of the 1%. The police exist to make sure we don’t steal the luxury cars of the wealthy- or occupy the factories that make those cars.
We lecture you because cops ARE working-class people! We lecture you because the cop who deters you from stealing the luxury car is *also* the cop who deters some rapist from breaking into your house at night and violating you or someone you love.
We need to reach out to everyday people in our communities, those of us who are people of color, who are unemployed, who are mothers working more than 1 job to care for our children, who are workers and students. We do not need self-appointed leaders, more interested in their bureaucratic positions, and politicking, than in our collective liberation from white supremacy, police brutality, patriarchy and capitalism.
Best of luck with that.
It is difficult to speculate about where this movement is headed.
Actually, no, it’s not at all difficult to speculate about it. To the degree that OWS listens to this kind of campus radical bullshit the movement is doomed. Capitalism is not going to be overthrown and a whole lot of people aren’t going to trust anyone who is talking about overthrowing capitalism. Some of us--the writers of this piece are not among them--know some history and know how the movie that starts with people shouting about the glorious day when all will own everything in common turns out. It turns bloody and brutal and resembles nothing like a free society. It does not become more equal and just. Rather it becomes more unjust. It didn’t work in Russia. It didn’t work in China, or Cambodia, or Vietnam or North Korea or anywhere else.. It always went wrong, it always turned oppressive. We know this movie.
Earlier in the piece the authors say:
When we work, we produce goods and services to sell for profit, not to meet each others’ needs and desires.
Yes, in fact that’s precisely what we do. I do not go to work because I love my CEO. I do not work hard because I love the people who own the company. I go to work because when I do, I get paid and I can then take that money and buy the things I need and pay others who then go and buy the things they need and so on. There is nothing inherently wrong with that system. It should be a regulated system, but there is nothing inherently wrong with it. They are not going to do away with capitalism and they aren’t going to get all that many people to WANT to do away with it. The authors seem to forget that OWS started out as a protest about jobs. People who want to be able to work aren’t trying to ‘smash the system’ but to reform it so that they can be part of it.
To the degree that OWS buys into this campus-socialist crap it dooms itself to irrelevance. It breaks my heart, though, I so wanted it to be different this time. I wanted my side, the side that is for the people and not for the rich and the powerful, to be smart. Alas, it isn’t so.
The whole sorry thing is posted at People of Color Organize!