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When We Fight Back
Posted on Nov 24, 2011
By Scott Tucker
Morality in the land of the free is a curious mix of Tinkertoys and torture racks. We have just witnessed a full week of brutal coordinated police assaults upon peaceful protesters. The Occupy movement must therefore rise to a new level of coordinated and class-conscious actions against the corporate state. But let’s not be seen in public with signs saying, “They only call it class war when we fight back.” We might frighten away all our potential friends in high places. Every last member of the Occupy movement must have the patience of the saints while being pepper sprayed, or else the ruling class will not enjoy three square meals of duly seasoned sacrificial lambs.
Certain front groups of the Democratic Party, including MoveOn, have sought to force the wider Occupy movement into the narrow channel of their chosen corporate party. And the more bureaucratic labor unions such as the SEIU (dominated by labor bosses aligned with the Democratic Party) have also taken up the 99 percent slogan. Although working people are welcome, labor union bosses should be reminded that they remain bosses. Indeed, the Occupy movement is a public forum in which workers can call into question the class collaboration of their own union leaders.
So we shall see just who is better at changing minds about this capitalist system. Socialists should avoid triumphalist rhetoric, since we, the people, now face grinding regimes of austerity round the world. Austerity is demanded by international banks and corporate regimes. This is the strong medicine the doctors order for malingering patients in Greece, Spain, Italy and, soon enough, most of Europe. Just as several officially “socialist” parties joined in the enforcement of austerity in Europe, Democratic politicians are willing partners in the enforcement of an austerity regime in the United States.
Make no mistake: The corporate state is still strong. That’s why Ray Lewis, the retired Philadelphia police captain who went to New York City to protest police abuse of Occupy Wall Street protesters (and was arrested), is more than welcome in our ranks.
No class-conscious worker or socialist will be surprised that many members of the police are also questioning the “excesses” of capitalism. But such excesses are not mere statistical blips; these excesses are predictable though they do not run on strict timetables. The boom and bust cycles of the “free market” are structural elements of the profit system much in the way steel and glass are structural elements of the corporate mausoleums of Manhattan. These excesses are necessary consequences of the whole structure of waged and unwaged exploitation. But police officers willing to risk their own jobs to join insurgent political protests still remain a small minority. Yes, police are members of the 99 percent, just as the Occupy movement has always claimed. Especially in times of open class struggle, however, the police are also paid to defend the power and profits of the 1 percent. If we ever forget this fact then we may be sentimentalists, but we are not giving our ideals a fair chance in the real world.
Do you happen to be solidly comfortable? Good for you! No harm in comfort. But do you really want to be a rich person in a poor country? The real problem is not that you might own an Aston Martin or a nearly Olympic-size swimming pool. That merely makes you a lover of luxury, or a dweller in the hills of Malibu. After all, a fraction of filthy rich aristocrats took up the republican cause in revolutionary France, and in 2006 nothing kept Daryl Hannah from occupying a walnut tree during the defense of a community farm in Los Angeles. If a bad conscience, or a good friend, or simply a deeply rooted aesthetic aversion to the brutal built environment of big American cities moves you to cross over the lines of class and join the Occupy movement, then please feel right at home. You may not be a working-class hero but you are an evolving human being. That is good enough.
Like the Catholic Church, the Occupy movement also welcomes late vocations. We are all pickled alive in the rancid vinegar of class culture, and as the Gospel of St. John declares, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Most comfortable people have our own dear reasons for enjoying luxuries whose cost might feed a hungry family for a week in Appalachia or in North Philly. We may not be called to be St. Francis, much less professional revolutionaries, but we are called to be citizens so long as we pretend to defend this republic.
So if you really must vote by rote, at least take a public risk once in a while in some other realm. Or if your conscience has truly atrophied into a mental appendix, maybe you should have it surgically removed before it causes any future headaches.
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