have heard some commentators refer to the Occupy Wall Street
and other such efforts at the "US Autumn." I
have been reflecting on that phrasing. I assume they
mean that this rising is taking place in the autumn but
I still do not like the imagery. We are either looking
at a "January Thaw" (with an eventual return to
winter) or the beginnings of a "Spring", let's
say, like March. Keep in mind that the Arab democratic
uprisings, now known as the "Arab Spring," started
'Occupy' risings have taken the country by storm and while
there are all sorts of reasons that one can be skeptical
or have any number of criticisms, the bottom line is that
the Occupy Together risings have demonstrated that resistance
is not futile; resistance is essential.
They have also demonstrated that mass resistance
can and does change the terms of the political discussion
once that resistance begins to cascade.
The response by the political elites is not particularly
surprising. The Republicans either do not know what
to say or in some cases, e.g., Ron Paul followers, are trying
to intervene in this movement and shift its focus right-ward.
Among the Democrats there are very mixed responses. President
Obama has attempted to focus on what he sees as the legitimate
grievances against Wall Street but, as he apparently said,
not demonizing those who work on Wall Street. Some
other Democrats have been a bit more forthright in their
support. In most cases, however, the Democrats hope
to capture this energy for the 2012 elections.
The focus on Wall Street is good symbolism, but
these risings are about more than finance capital. They
are about resistance to gross economic injustices. This
is why the efforts by right-wing forces such as Ron Paul
and the LaRouchites must be defeated and repudiated.
What has driven this country into a hole is a combination
of the very workings of capitalism plus the dynamics connected
to the policies of neo-liberalism that we have been experiencing
since the beginning of the Reagan era. These policies
have weakened the so-called safety net, driven down the
standard of living of the average US working person, forced
millions to rely on debt in order to survive, and destroyed
cities, all of this having a disproportionate impact of
people of color generally and African Americans in particular.
Americans are participating in the 'Occupy' movement in
varying numbers. This is good and we should increase our
participation. But what we need to also do is to advance
an economic agenda which is fundamentally anti-racist. In
other words, time and again during economic crises we are
told that a rising tide raises all boats and, therefore,
that general economic improvements will help African Americans.
While there is some truth to this, I think that we
need to look at this differently. A focus on the people
at the bottom, a focus on the structurally unemployed and
our decaying cities, a campaign to truly root out poverty,
these are all efforts that will push the boat up.
African Americans we cannot count on anyone to advance this
anti-racist economic justice movement but us. Once
we get moving, we will win allies. When we wait for
someone else to kick start the effort, well, we are often
taken for a ride.
Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior
Scholar with the Institute
for Policy Studies, the immediate past president
of TransAfricaForum and
co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice (University of California
Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in
the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.