Wall Street was already occupied
Sophielle writes from the Wall Street occupation
Insofar as its empty tarmac has most often been lined with standard portable steel fences and policemen, Wall Street has not exactly been “occupied” these past ten days. The encampment is, as we all know, at Liberty Plaza a.k.a Zuccotti Park, a few minutes’ walk away from the street that evokes high finance. On the other hand: the reason that the space normally used by cars in that area is now vacant and patrolled by the NYPD is #occupywallstreet. As Nathan Schneider says at the end of this article, some feel that “we’ve already achieved our objective”.
But ‘occupy Wall St’ is not an objective, it is a tactic; a symbolic one. As Noam Chomsky has just said (in a statement in solidarity with the protesters), the 99% ‘precariat’ has been screwed over for over thirty years by the gangsterism of that élite financial clique that is “too big to jail”. Wall street ought to be our street, the banks, our banks. But this is not the case, and the people’s revolt against the rule of high finance is spreading. Whether Alessio Rastani, the trader who addressed the BBC on the Eurozone crisis, admitting he hoped for another recession and that “Goldman Sachs rules the world”, is real or not – and Forbes magazine (who, you’ll remember, recently all but called for class war) is trying to allege that he is not – the point is that Rastani’s craven opportunism is plausible. That tells us enough. [ed. It now appears Rastani is real but is more of an attention seeker than a professional trader]
Occupy Wall Street has been springing march after march on its target, and the authorities have recently escalated their repression of the action (according to The Guardian, ‘Wall Street protests reveal slice of America’s barely tamed brutality’). But we keep swelling in size, whilst some blue-collar cops, unconfirmed reports suggest, are staying at home. Where this ends is unclear. We have a technically – potentially? – revolutionary strategy here. Capitalism as a system of human relations cannot function if the masses rule the banks. Radical banking reform is a transitional demand (for partial realisation of a maximum demand we have yet to formulate). Whilst ‘anticapitalist’ is not a word #occupwallst does, or necessarily needs to, embrace, the power of this burgeoning movement, which follows in its organisational praxis the precedent set by international alter-globalisation activists, lies in its anti-hierarchical, directly democratic nature.
It is widely noted that the ‘tone’ of the occupation, and the composition of its participants, changes day by day. I have heard from several places that the crowd has contained a small handful of Zeitgeisters, at least one propagandising anti-Semite, which is a shame, and a handful of Ron Paul supporters – these last being people who oppose, presumably, not so much the banks’ stranglehold on government, but what they perceive as the reverse. As David Graeber notes, however, #occupywallstreet seems largely to be composed of working-class people whom the system has patently ridiculed. The failure of our imaginations, in response to the trashing of their futures, can be rectified. We can start by changing core perceptions around illegitimacy and crime (as those demagogues amongst us in the Square are also trying to) before moving on to a more comprehensive restructuring of society; towards the new set of social and economic relations our current ecological crisis requires. So. As a plethora of laws exist, technically speaking, to protect the collective from confidence tricksters, ransom-extorters and thieves, let us determine to prosecute. What are the banks supposed to be here for? What are they, in fact, doing with the foundational social space allocated to them? What is Wall Street, in fact, other than an illegal occupation?
Do the sensible thing with regard to your own personal security: join the movement. #occupywallstreet
You can visit Sophielle’s own blog here