Commentary on Occupy Wall Street by Robert García:
1. Where is race and ethnicity in Occupy? And by the way who is in the 99%, and starting how far down? From the bottom of the well it's not just the 1% that is a problem. I have been meaning to research not only who is in the 1% -- the New York Times recently analyzed it in typically Times fashion ignoring race and ethnicity -- or maybe the Times just concluded the 1% is virtually all non-Hispanic white anyway so it's not worth breaking out. But what about life in the 99%? David Brooks had a good column recently about disparities that matter besides the 1 v 99 in his column on the wrong inequality. "The zooming wealth of the top 1 percent is a problem, but it’s not nearly as big a problem as the tens of millions of Americans who have dropped out of high school or college. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the 40 percent of children who are born out of wedlock. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the nation’s stagnant human capital, its stagnant social mobility and the disorganized social fabric for the bottom 50 percent. If your ultimate goal is to reduce inequality, then you should be furious at the doctors, bankers and C.E.O.’s. If your goal is to expand opportunity, then you have a much bigger and different agenda." (My God, has it really come to this? Citing David Brooks in support of social justice?)
2. As Tom mentions in passing, the New Deal left out people of color in economic and jobs and social security programs, and women too. See generally Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. The CCC created 3 million jobs, for example, almost all for young white men. And after the New Deal, after WWII which really pulled the economy out of the toilet, returning vets of color were for the most part excluded from vets benefits including mortgage subsidies.
3. Why 1 v 99? There is no solid analytic basis for drawing a line there. Why not 2 v 98 or 10 v 90 etc? Is there a sustained analyses of the political economy that accounts for the current situation -- for example, the inherent contradictions that will hasten the inevitable collapse of the capitalist system? According to Jon Wiener reviewing Eric Hobsbawm's recent How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism: 'Marx was wrong about the workers of the world uniting to create a society without exploitation, but he does seem to have understood something essential about those crises of capitalism: They were not, he said, caused by “external” events like wars, natural disasters, or greedy mortgage brokers, but rather were part of the capitalist system itself — a “structural contradiction.” Periodic crises in fact made capitalism stronger by destroying its weaker units. Marx predicted that as a result of these periodic crises, eventually a small number of gigantic corporations would dominate the entire world. As Hobsbawm writes, that looks “uncannily” like what we call “globalization.”'
4. Hertzberg: “Ultimately, inevitably, the route to real change has to run through politics – the politics of America’s broken, god-awful, immutably two-party electoral system, the only one we have. The Tea Partiers know that. Do the Occupiers?” Mexico was a one party system for decades, then, boom the Zapatista movement and other changes led to, well, who knows, but not the continuation of decades of a one party system.
5. Tom evokes 68 in several ways. He also writes about Valley Forge thinking, "just getting through the winter." That reminds me of Yuppie Abbie Hoffman being dragged by the hair across the table in a hotel dining room at the Chicago convention by a cop, with Abbie proclaiming it is the first duty of a revolutionary to have breakfast. Having breakfast comes before making it through the winter.
Robert García is executive director of The City Project in Los Angeles, California.