Christopher Ketcham’s essay “The Reign of the One Percenters,” which we linked to a few weeks ago, shows how long-standing American individual and group behavior visible nationwide is profoundly determined by inequitable consumer capitalism. With the occupation of Wall Street gaining momentum, Ketcham revisits the subject to offer protesters some historical perspective.

He writes that activists should be familiar with the Populists — a movement that targeted predatory corporate elitists who “had captured government and established monopoly power over the political economy” more than a century ago.

For its clear and sensitive presentation of the social conditions that continue to rally thousands at New York City’s Liberty Plaza, Ketcham’s original essay provides a necessary frame for understanding what is happening around Wall Street. –ARK

Christopher Ketcham at The Orion Blog:

In the midst of this our Second Gilded Age, the Occupiers need to remember that the Populists also formed a political party—the People’s Party—and they ran candidates who won office, and they formed real-world cooperatives between business and labor to challenge the hegemony of corporate capitalism. Theirs was not a platform of quixotic revolution, but one of radical reform that took decades of hard labor to bear fruit.

In the meantime: the politics of radical protest; the politics of turmoil and disruption; the politics of ridicule and shaming; the politics of the rhetorical rotten egg smashed in the eyes of the criminal banking class—these are the orders of the day. The protest in Liberty Square, the protest of the Ninety-nine Percenters, is currently driven by no mere platform of demands, nor should it be. It is driven by moral outrage, as a challenge to the authority of an immoral economic system.

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