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Ron Radosh

The Meaning of the OWS Day of Protest

November 17th, 2011 - 5:45 pm

Occupy Wall Street has carried out its day-long action throughout the country — blocking the ability of people to get to work, attempting to close down the New York City subways, and generally acting in a disruptive fashion in all the cities in which they carried out their activities.

Thursday’s New York Post carries the most complete and vivid coverage. The paper reported that “the march began peacefully, but quickly grew tense and escalated as cops arrested 60 people that had tried to jump over barricades near Wall Street. Others were cuffed and hauled off after they sat on the ground in defiance after cops had ordered them to scatter.”

By day’s end, nearly 300 people had been arrested in New York City for various offenses, including throwing vinegar in the eyes of four police officers, and for injury to some others who had harmful objects thrown at them.

Decades ago, when I was among the anti-Vietnam War protesters, I recall that the Left of that era had two chants. The first was “The people, united, will never be defeated,” which it picked up from various third-world revolutionary groups. It seemed to me that this was always said in the time in which the Left was on the verge of defeat. The second was: “The streets belong to the people.” Of course, that particular chant revealed our own arrogance: we were not “the people,” but actually middle-class students living off our parents’ largesse, and in the process of alienating the actual people, who were too busy working at jobs to join us in the streets, even if some of them did not support the Vietnam War. On Thursday, OWS had a variant. When police asked them to get off Wall Street, they responded, as The Daily News reported, with: “Whose street? Our street.”

In the day’s OWS protest, the motley crew of old New Left veterans, younger self-proclaimed socialists, Communists, and anarchists, as well as a bunch of New York University students protesting their private university’s tuition hikes, were to be joined by the SIEU and other AFL-CIO affiliates, who have decided to link their dwindling power to the OWS bandwagon — a move that will eventually backfire and lead to further erosion of trade union strength. After all, a movement that seeks to prevent working people from getting to their jobs is not likely to be popular with the union rank-and-file.

This week, even the usually hesitant Anti-Defamation League released a report that showed how much of the OWS included supporters of Hamas, opponents of Israel’s right to exist, and old fashioned anti-Semites. “History demonstrates,” Abe Foxman of the ADL said, how “time and again… economic downturns can embolden anti-Semites to spread malicious conspiracy theories and promote stereotypes about Jews and money. As a consequence, these statements must not be left unchallenged.” To date, no official representatives of OWS have addressed this issue.

A few days ago, the ADL released a more definitive condemnation, obviously because no one from the OWS responded to Foxman, who implied that the anti-Semites were just a fringe element of the protest.

Citing the endorsement of OWS by the BDS movement, the ADL statement proclaimed the following:

The first formal attempt to unite OWS and the anti-Israel movement came from the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee, the coordinating body of the global BDS campaign against Israel. On October 13, 2011, the committee issued a statement expressing solidarity with OWS and describing the objectives of the two movements as similar. The statement, titled “Occupy Wall Street not Palestine!,” called on Occupy protesters to incorporate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into their demands: “So as you break your own chains and build your own effective resistance against corporate tyranny, we ask you to demand a just peace for all the peoples in the Middle East…. Palestinians, too, are part of the 99% around the world that suffer at the hands of the 1% whose greed and ruthless quest for hegemony have led to unspeakable suffering and endless war.” ADL  also cites the words of Phyllis Bennis, a leader of the left-wing think tank, The Institute for Policy Studies, who put their united goals in these words:

“What we are really seeing there is really a classic example of the one percent, where most of our interests do not lie, controlling the 99 percent, the one percent being Israel and its supporters in the United States.”

Anti-Semitism, once condemned in the last century by the German Social-Democrat August Bebel as “the socialism of the fools,” is again emerging as part and parcel of the OWS protest in this country and abroad. It is clear that the participants and leaders see the two fights they are engaged in as one and the same. The ADL article continues with citations of anti-Semitic incidents all occurring at OWS protests in the last month. Read these if you are the slightest bit in doubt of the reality.

Looking at the photos of the demonstrators, it looks like a group primarily composed of 20 and 30 year olds, with a smattering of old 1960 veterans looking to recapture the moment of their youth and their long-abandoned revolutionary zeal. This, I think, explains the unmitigated support given to the OWS by people like Todd Gitlin, the left-wing historian Mark Naison, and others.

It did not help their cause when the police arrested one widely televised protestor, who swore that Molotov cocktails would be thrown in the window of Macy’s, and that they would stop at nothing to achieve their goals. The man was evidently charged with incitement to terrorism.

The big question is whether or not the Democrats will continue to endorse the sentiment and cause of OWS. It seems that Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, who first endorsed the protestors, has just refused to sign an “Occupy Harvard OWS” statement. Clearly, Warren was worried that her previous endorsement might hurt her chances of winning against Scott Brown in the next election.

As regular Americans watch OWS’s increasingly raucous and counter-productive actions, their cause will stop being viewed as one that expresses the real views of 99 percent of the country. Americans will see that these views of perhaps the 10 percent or less who represent only the far Left whose members believe in causes of the past — reactionary causes like socialism and communism. Thursday’s antics are good proof of what they really want for our nation.

And don’t miss Zombie’s “A New Perspective

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