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The Occupy Wall Street Movement

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The Occupy Wall Street Movement: Strengths and Weaknesses

Excerpts of a Speech by Mohsen Hakimi in Iranian Sociological Association

Source: http://www.akhbar-rooz.com/article.jsp?essayId=42103
Date: December 2, 2011

Translated from Farsi into English by Frieda Afary

…I would like to begin my presentation by citing the Occupy Wall Street Movement’s definition of itself. This description is posted on its website and acts as its manifesto:

Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions.
The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.
We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.
This movement empowers real people to create real change from the bottom up.
We want to see a general assembly in every backyard, on every street corner because we don’t need Wall Street and we don’t need politicians to build a better society.
The only solution is World Revolution. [See www.occupywallst.org]

The Strengths of the Occupy Wall Street Movement:

1. Based on the above statement, this movement can be called an anti-capitalist movement (and not merely anti-war or anti-imperialist or anti-globalization and the like) for the following reasons:
* Wall Street is the world’s most important financial trade center. Openly stating that 99% of the population do not need Wall Street or the politicians, signifies open opposition to capitalism.
* The active body of this movement mainly consists of the unemployed, women, college students and dissatisfied and protesting artists…Let me start with the unemployed. Unemployment is an effect of the capitalist system. A fundamental feature of this system is the effort to increase profit-making for the capitalist class in different ways. One of these methods which is mainly used in advanced capitalist countries such as the U.S. and Europe, is to increase the productivity of labor through the use of the latest technological and scientific achievements. However in the context of capitalism, the use of advanced technology and machinery leads to unemployment and the redundancy of workers…This system uses advanced technology to increase profit.

However, in doing so, i.e. by making living workers redundant, it deprives capitalism of the real source of profit, i.e. those very same living workers. Hence, it creates a tendency in capitalism which is called “the tendential fall in the rate of profit.” The rise of crises in capitalism is the actual result of this very tendency. Whether this tendency is actualized or not, an inevitable outcome of capitalism is unemployment. In 2011, international capitalist institutions such as the International Labor Organization and the International Monetary Fund have declared that youth unemployment in the U.S. stands at 17.7%…

Women are another important pillar of this movement. Although women in the U.S. are legally equal to men, in reality they are subjected to prejudice and inequality. Women receive less pay for work equal to that of men…Another form of oppression of women in the U.S. and the West in general is violence against women…

Finally, college students are another sector of the population that has created the Occupy Wall Street Movement. One of the main reasons for the active participation of college students in this movement is their inability to pay student loans obtained from universities…

* …A unique feature of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is that it has further penetrated the depths of society. In addition to opposing finance capital and the politicians, it has turned the social problems of everyday life into another realm of the struggle against capitalism. Problems such as illness (for example AIDS or cancer), homelessness, and death resulting from illness and loneliness had been marginalized in previous movements under the leadership of parties and unions. By intervening on these issues, the Occupy Wall Street Movement seeks to challenge competition and prejudice in human relations and instead develop solidarity, cooperation and equality among people…

* …This movement has placed new sectors of the population within the ranks of the working class, sectors which were not seen as part of the working class before. This implies the acceptance of a new definition of the working class, a definition which has been buried under the debris of capitalist and specifically postmodernist or reformist or sectarian perspectives in the post-Marx period. For example, one of the perspectives propagated by postmodernist thinkers was that the industrial working class—which in their opinion constituted what Marx meant by “the proletariat”—had diminished and had been replaced by the expanded service sector. Thus, postmodernist thinkers removed non-production workers such as sales clerks, transportation workers, teachers, nurses and the like from the ranks of the working class, and gave the working class a very weak and ever diminishing identity. Rescuing Marx’s definition of workers from this debris, and confirming the fact that a worker is not only an industrial worker or a production worker but someone who has no other means of survival but selling her/his labor power to the owners of the means of production, distribution and exchange, was a turning point, a great achievement and a strong point against capitalism…

* Calling for “World Revolution” as the only solution to problems, can only be meaningful in opposition to capitalism, because capitalism is not only the problem of this or that country but a global problem…

2. …Another important strength of this movement is that it is not dominated by traditional parties and unions…For leftist parties, the main issue has not been to guide a social revolution of the working class for the abolition of the social relation of capital and through the establishment and rule of anti-capitalist councils. Rather [their goal] has been to use workers’ struggles in order to achieve political power and establish another form of capitalism i.e. state capitalism. Labor unions have not only failed to elevate workers struggles for reforms within the context of capitalism, to the level of the struggle against the system of wage labor. Labor unions themselves have turned into the main agent for the domination of reformism within the working class anti-capitalist struggle…

3. …Prior to the rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the liberal opposition movement in Iran could present western liberal democracy as the promised land which Iranian workers should struggle to reach. Now this inversion of reality is hardly possible. Now even the uncritical supporters of liberal democracy have no option but to admit to the problems which capitalism has created for humanity…Now they will try to tell workers not to look for an alternative beyond capitalism and only seek the escape route within the confines of reformed capitalism…In order to prove their claim, they point to the collapse of the alternatives counterposed to capitalism up to now ( including state capitalism which has called itself “socialism” in countries such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea and the likes)… It will be a big mistake if labor activists in Iran counter liberal capitalism’s strategy of inversion by repeating a fatal experience of the past and presenting as an alternative to capitalism, that which has been put into practice in the name of “socialism” and “communism” and has failed disastrously…

The Weaknesses of the Occupy Wall Street Movement:

* This movement is still not organized, self-conscious and connected to a movement of employed workers …
* The Occupy Wall Street Movement still considers capital not as a social relation but as merely a financial power concentrated in banks…
* The Occupy Wall Street Movement lacks a charter, a minimal set of demands…
11 Azar 1390 (December 2, 2011)

Cited from : Iranian Progressives in Translation

www.iranianvoicesintranslation.blogspot.com