by Nina WESTBURY | 16 October, 2011
All eyes were on New York City over the weekend as protesters declaring themselves part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement expanded into the most visible parts of the city, such as Times Square and Washington Park, chanting populist slogans and advocating for higher taxes for the wealthiest 1% of Americans. In the United States, where the consciousness of workers and the general public is among the lowest in the industrialized world, the “Occupy Wall Street” protests can be seen as a somewhat surprising development. Even more surprising is that most major media outlets are covering the protests.
However, upon closer examination, these developments shouldn’t be surprising. While some leftist groups have carried banners and published their own programs within the context of the protests, for the most part protesters are asking for cosmetic reforms — changes to the tax code and maintaining the status quo as far as social spending and programs are concerned. This has been the cornerstone of the capitalist Democratic Party platform for years. As Democratic President Barack Obama pursues corporatist policies that benefit the interests that fill his campaign coffers, and former Democratic presidential candidate and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pursues a disastrous imperialist foreign policy that has seen war crimes committed in Libya and attempts to provoke war with Syria and Iran, these Democratic politicians and the party apparatus that put them into power could certainly use a distraction to divert attention away from the fact that they are mirror images of their predecessors and opponents in the ultra-capitalist Republican Party.
Is it any surprise then, that President Obama supports the Occupy Wall Street protests and is trying to channel the frustration of protesters into support for his policies? The answer is a resounding “no.”
The Occupy Wall Street protesters miss the point: no tax-the-rich scheme can stop the inevitable boom-and-bust cycles or extreme inequality that is a trademark of the capitalist state. The only way to “make the rich pay” is to smash the capitalist state and lay the groundwork for a socialist revolution that replaces phony “representative democracy” with participatory democracy.
The following was originally published in the Spartacist League’s Workers Vanguard No. 921:
“You can solve a lot of problems with ‘domestic cash transfers’—make life livable for workers, blacks, Latinos, jobless, homeless, welfare mothers, drug users, etc. And we communists intend to do so. But you have to first smash the power of the bourgeoisie. For that you need to build a workers party, one that doesn’t ‘respect’ the property values of the bourgeoisie, a party that says to the exploited and oppressed: we want more, we want all of it, it ought to be ours, so take it. And when we have the wealth of this country, we will begin to build a planned socialist economy on an international scale. Then we can right some historical wrongs and crimes and pay off some debts left over by our rulers, like some tens of billions of dollars to the Vietnamese and others whose countries have been maimed under the passing treads of American tanks. As for ‘compensation’ to the people who have driven the United States to ruin, we can offer to those who don’t get in our way that they will live to see their grandchildren prosper in a truly humane society.”