That more and more people across the U.S. are beginning to consciously recognize themselves as part of the exploited 99% and see the need for deep changes in the way the world economy is run in favor of the elite 1% is in itself a breakthrough.
For decades, the belief in the “American Dream,” the hegemony of a consumer culture, and the illusion that the free market is the best and only way to organize economic life has stymied dissent. These fantasies are eroding under the brunt of what is unfolding as the worst economic crisis in human history.
All the empty talk of the present world order as the “end of history” or that capitalism is the best system and there are no alternatives to it has become passe as millions of people over the world seriously consider replacing it with a system that can give a decent living for the majority.
Neoliberal rightwingers, pseudoprogressive social democrats, and armchair postmodern pundits’ who all too easily dismisses what they disdainfully label “class essentialism” in favor of a “war of civilizations” or a “multicultural global village” are caught flat-footed with the reemergence of class struggle as the overarching frame that can make sense of the present juncture.
More and more people across the U.S. are waking up to the truth about the capitalist system faced as they are with the highest unemployment levels in decades, budget cuts for social services, and the use of public funds to bailout bankrupt banks and multinationals.
The #OccupyWallStreet movement is breaking the spell cast by Hollywood on millions of people over the world who are still enamored by the illusion of escaping the poverty of their own Third World homelands by escaping to the “land of milk and honey.”
The Root of Dissatisfaction
#OccupyWallStreet can educate more people of how the 1% enrich themselves by owning all the land, factories, and other means of production used by the laboring 99%. It can emphasize how the monopoly of all the wealth made under capitalism by the elite that makes way for the system’s collapse as the toiling masses are unable to buy the products that they themselves produced.
This basic contradiction immediately leads to the question of imperialism as monopoly capitalist governments take control of Third World countries as colonies and semi-colonies to get access to natural resources, cheap labor, and markets for their surplus products. This geographical expansion of capital has made war a very profitable business.
But all these only mired the system in even more problems as it now confronts a crisis rivaling the magnitude of the Great Depression!
Located in a long line of protests against economic difficulties brought about by the ruthless functioning of the global capitalist economy, the emergence of Occupy Wall Street in the U.S. is indeed ominous.
It continues the recent resurgence of the militant tradition from the month-long student occupations in Chile, the months-long occupation of major cities in Spain by the los indignados, the recurring General Strikes in Greece in the past two years, the massive demonstrations in the rest of Europe, the ouster of despotic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia through gigantic protests, the anti-authoritarian protests in the rest of North Africa and West Asia, to the Maoist people’s war in India, among many others.
The issues raised by the #OccupyWallStreet movement are also nothing new in the Philippines were more than 80% of the population live on less than $2 a day and where 7 out of every 10 peasants are landless.
This, as foreign monopolies and their local big landlord and comprador partners benefit from the country’s riches. President Noynoy Aquino’s family owns 30,000 hectares across the country, including the 6,000 hectare Hacienda Luisita.
It is this glaring contrasts that makes crisis in the country and the consequent people’s resistance chronic and perennial. Until genuine land reform and national development that benefits the country’s exploited classes are enacted, the situation will always be ripe for revolutionary upheavals.
The worsening international crisis opens the way for a revolutionary crisis in the country with the attendant swelling of mass struggles and resistance.
But as more massive protest movements comes to the fore, social democratic factions in the pay of the Aquino regime as exemplified by Akbayan can be expected to try its best to beautify their elite masters in exchange for more positions in the bureaucracy and access to funds and projects.
In words, social democrats play the game of redirecting the people’s anger along the familiar frame of making capitalism more human, as observed by philosopher Slavoj Žižek, by way of “pressure of media exposure, parliamentary inquiries, harsher laws, police investigations etc.”
They peddle the illusion that formal democratic mechanisms, mechanisms that form “part of a bourgeois-state apparatus that is designed to ensure the undisturbed functioning of capitalist reproduction,” are the only legitimate means of pushing change.
In actual practice, they are in cahoots with the regime in advancing a thoroughly anti-people agenda of amending the constitution to allow foreign corporations more control over the Philippine economy, budget cuts for education and social services, continued monopoly control over oil and other vital industries, and the prioritization of military and foreign debt spending.
But their machinations will be for naught as the weight of the crisis bears on millions of the destitute. The Aquino regime’s dole outs and its pseudoprogressive cheerleaders cannot prevent them from rising up.
Even the more well-off middle classes and intelligentsia have had, as Žižek noted, “enough of the world where recycling your Coke cans, giving a couple of dollars to charity, or buying a cappuccino where 1% goes towards developing world troubles, is enough to make [us] feel good.”
#OccupyWallStreet is just the beginning.