Archive for the Occupy Wall Street Category

Much Ado About Nothing?

Posted in Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on December 14, 2011 by playthell
                  Stopping Independent truckers from making their rounds

Is the OWS Movement politically Irrelevant?

The bill passed by the Republicans in the House of Representatives yesterday to extend tax cuts for working and middle class Americans – over 90% of the electorate – is offensive to fundamental ideals of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which has mobilized hundreds of thousands of protestors on the streets nationwide. Yet, while the Grand Obstructionist Party is brazenly assaulting the interests of the working and middle classes, that movement is focusing its energies on shutting down commerce on the west coast; instead of conducting massive protests in Washington…the scene of the crime!

If the OWS leadership had any clue as to how changes are actually made in the USA, they would be energetically targeting the Republican legislators who passed this atrocious bill and conducting public information campaigns in their home districts; exposing their Congressman’s venality.  If we take the OWS spokesmen’s  arguments seriously, that there is no difference between the Democrats and the Grand Obstructionists Party, we must place the Anti-Wall street rebels in the same category as the man who couldn’t tell his rectum from a hole in the ground!

In exchange for extending the Presidents’ tax cuts to struggling families, the Republican bill reduces benefits to the unemployed, defunds the President’s health care program, kicks thousands of government workers off their jobs in the midst of the worst economic depression since the 1930’s, and funds the Keystone oil pipeline that will put billions of dollars into the pockets of their oil industry sponsors; with no serious debate about the environmental effects or economic wisdom of this massive and hazardous project.   Yet they refuse to raise taxes on the 1% by a single dime!

This country cannot afford the Republican bill, and the Democrats dare not accept it; if they wish to retain their claim as the party that represents the interests of the working and middle classes. Yet while this legislative obscenity is making its way to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reed has pronounced it “dead on arrival,” and the Republicans are using his stance to claim that the Democrats are killing their “jobs bill,” which would employ thousands of workers,  the Occupy Wall Street movement is focusing its energies on shutting down the ports along the Pacific coast.  If ever there was a situation where the old adage “ Rome burned while Nero fiddled” applied, this is it!

Most of the Trade with Asia comes Through these Ports 

The Right String but Wrong Yo Yo? 

Aside from aiming at the wrong target, since their actions are politically irrelevant, their strategy of shutting down the ports is bringing the anti-Wall Street movement into conflict with labor unions.  The decision to launch the present demonstrations was adopted at a meeting of the “General Assembly” of OWS protestors in Oakland on November 18, where it was resolved that they would “blockade and disrupt the economic apparatus of the 1% with a coordinated shutdown of ports on the entire West Coast on December 12.” A fundamental justification for this action was to give support to the dock workers in Longview Washington, who are in a Darwinian struggle with EGT, the corporation that operates massive grain elevators along the Pacific coast.

The outcome of this struggle will determine if 4000 union members will be employed, or the jobs will be go to non-union scabs with greatly reduced wages and benefits. Yet the International Longshoreman and Workers Union – ILWU – issued a statement denouncing the proposed shutdown of the ports on December 6, a week before the demonstrations began. Since this action had not been discussed and voted on by union members, the leadership could not support it.

“The ILWU has a long history of democracy,” said union President Bob McElrath. “Part of that historic democracy is the hard-won right to chart our own course to victory.”  Aside from issues of union democracy – which is a real issue here since closing down the ports can result in a loss of pay for independent truckers and dock workers as Christmastime approaches – there is also the matter of binding union contracts regarding work stoppages.  If the affected corporations take the Unions to court and win a breach of contract decision it could cost the union $5,000 a day!

When the anti-Wall street rebels responded by dismissing the union’s legitimate concerns as simply the manifestation of a timidity born of decades of union retreats and identification with the interests of the bosses, they placed themselves in the position of the stranger in the Ibo Proverb who comes to a funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family.  Such people are always viewed with suspicion by the aggrieved party.

One thing is certain, should the OWS movement and organized labor become adversaries it will result in a devastating defeat of the movement for economic justice.   Big labor is the only working class institution that has the financial resources, political clarity, organizational infrastructure, and organizing skill any movement to transform economic relations in capitalist America must have to succeed.   Without the active participation of progressive unions like the ILWU, the massive demonstrations against the Wall Street plutocrats will turn out to be much ado about nothing!

The Demonstrators’ Numbers are Impressive

But…The troops are 3,000 Miles from the Battlefield!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 13, 2011

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows!

Posted in Guest Commentators, Occupy Wall Street with tags , , , , on December 7, 2011 by playthell

               Hypocrisy in black and White

Evangelical Christianity Vs. Free Market Theology

The Republicans held a Family Forum on recent Saturday, in Iowa, the state where a current poll identified 37% as born-again Christians.  Romney and Huntsman did not accept the invitation to discuss the social value concerns of conservatives in Iowa.  The new frontrunner, Gingrich, participated, along with Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Perry and Paul. 

In a time when the official unemployment rate is 9 percent, homes are being foreclosed in the millions and the economy is growing at a snail’s pace, the pre-occupation of the electorate is not on social issues but on jobs. But there is the intersection of family, morality and economic policy.  In the closing stages of the discourse, the moderator raised the question what is the moral justification for war.  As the presidential candidates spoke, the moderator kept repeating the question as no one was willing to wrestle with the moral question of war.

The Republican Party prides itself with having an evangelical base. During the Bush/Rove years of conservative ascendancy at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the mobilization of the evangelical vote was critical to the electoral strategy.  It is not surprising that Mitt Romney despite the unpreparedness and moral baggage of his opponents has not been able to increase his percentage of support in the Party above 25 percent.  Romney’s baggage is his born-again transformation on abortion.  And there is also the hanging question about evangelicals and whether they are willing to accept someone of the Mormon faith as a Christian.

Mitt the Chameleon and his booster Jersey Fats

 Would you buy a used car from These Mugs?

Ron Paul was a presidential candidate in the previous cycle and as is the case this time around.  He has argued that the United States is a world trouble- maker and the troops should return home and the multitude of bases around the world closed.  Such a position does not sit well with conservatives or neo-conservatives that support the notion that America must be the policeman of the world and must continue to spend handsomely on national security.

The retort given to the moral justification of war was the moral imperative to protect America’s national interest.  Candidates like Santorum, Gingrich, Bachmann and Cain expressed a willingness to order a pre-emptive strike against Iran to halt that country’s development of nuclear weapons.

The Family Forum failed to deal adequately with family or with moral issues.  There is a line of march which every Republican candidate is expected to drink from the communal cup.  All the candidates are expected to be pro-life although the discussion did not get into the controversial ballot issue that went down in defeat in Mississippi that presumably conception began with the release of the egg.

A for real Madman but……

The sanest Republican on Foreign Policy and the Military

All candidates are vehemently opposed to same sex marriage and favor a constitutional amendment that specifies that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman.  Ron Paul accepted the creed but was opposed to “federalizing” the issue as he felt that is a matter for the church and the states.  Family is an important issue in American presidential politics.

Traditionally, America would not elect or select a Party nominee who was divorced.  Reagan shattered that tradition.  Americans want some family togetherness in the White House.  Herman Cain’s campaign has been damaged by the unproven charges of sexual harassment.  Newt Gingrich’s divorces will make his candidacy less palatable to those in the evangelical movement.

The question of family goes beyond that of abortion, divorce or same sex marriage.  A family is an economic entity and is assisted or affected by public policy.  Most advanced European countries offer benefits to a mother after giving birth.  The United States in terms of legislation, offers family leave but not a certain amount of financial support after the birth of the child as it is in the case in Canada.

There is a concern for the child until the child leaves the womb.  Justification is made for the state to protect life in the womb but once that child has entered the world screaming, the conservative values suffer the same fate as the umbilical cord.  In debate after debate, the line of march is that the market is the moral force.  When asked about the foreclosure crisis, the candidates invariably bellowed that the market should be allowed to resolve the situation.

The social gospel of Christianity does not synchronize with economic gospel of the market economy.  In many respects, this is a peculiarity of American politics. In Brazil and other Latin American countries, liberation theology emerged as a social movement that had its origins in the Catholic Church in the 1970s.  The Vatican hierarchy moved decisively to stamp out the social gospel of liberation theology, which took the position that the equitable distribution of wealth and the predicament of the poor were matters that were germane to the mission of the church.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was comfortable connecting the social gospel with the need to fight against the “banality of evil”, using non-violence and mass mobilization throughout the South and elsewhere where Martin Luther King, Jr. fought racism and Jim Crow.  The civil rights movement was integrally linked to the black church.

The Family Forum never raised the issue of poverty in America.  The Census Bureau has redefined poverty in America and has discovered that over fifty million Americans are in the category of near poor.  In a nation of over three hundred million, over a third of the populace are in the precarious position of being poor or near poor yet that is not a burning issue to evangelicals or those concerned with family values.

There is this great disjuncture between the values of Christianity and the market economy.  In the 2008 presidential election, there had emerged cracks in the evangelical movement as the younger generation became concerned with issues of poverty and the environment.  If the market economy is allowed to be the mechanism for solving all our social problems, there will be a tremendous upsurge of unrest all over the country.  People will demand some kind of redress of grievances and demand that the market economy be modified to serve the needs of people who have long since left the womb.

The Republican Front Runner

 Porky Pig!!!


By: Dr. Basil Wilson

New York City


Resurrection Of A Freedom Fighter

Posted in Movie Reviews, Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics on December 1, 2011 by playthell

 Byard and MLK in Montgomery 1956

A Timely Portrait of A Master Organizer

Last night I saw a documentary film on the life of the Byard Rustin, at the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem. “Brother Outsider,” an independently produced project by filmmakers Bennett Singer and Nancy Kates, is a excellent film on one of the most important Americans of the twentieth century.  This critical slice of recent American history  has garnered numerous awards and is  widely acclaimed by film critics. The LA Times calls it “Persuasive” and the Wall Street Journal calls it “Brilliant.”

To these accolades I would add Timely!  For me the film is like a revelation from on high, because it succinctly makes all of the points I have been trying so desperately to make in my commentaries on what the budding Occupy Wall Street movement must do in order to achieve its laudable but highly ambitious goals.

The quintessential organizer, Byard was little known nor long remembered by the general public; he was deliberately kept in the background because he was openly gay and the FBI – whose leader J. Edgar Hoover was an omnivorous pervert – sought to use Bayard’s sexual preference to smear the movement with the charge of moral turpitude.  But I would be dishonest if I failed to concede that rampant homophobia in the black community also played a critical role in Bayard’s obscure public profile.  Yet Byard remains a legendary figure among movement people who struggled to make America a more humane and civilized society in the twentieth century.

As Michael Thelwell – an Emeritus Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, who was one of SNCC’s most effective organizers during the 1960’s – makes clear in the film: Bayard tutored them all!  In the struggles for peace, racial equality and economic justice, Bayard strides like a colossus across twentieth century America.

A man of impressive personal qualities – Tall dark and handsome, spell binding orator, gifted singer, competent instrumentalist, impressive athlete and fearless intellectual  – Byard introduced Martin Luther King to the Gandhian philosophy of non-violent passive resistance.   And he personally tutored Dr. King in its methods during the Montgomery Bus Boycott – which Bayard organized and directed from a secret hideout.

Bayard was also the principal organizer of the great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, an event which was the catalyst that spurred the passage of the historic Omnibus Civil Rights Bill of 1964, an event that transformed America!  The anti-Wall Street rebellion is in desperate need of such a leader, and through the magic of media they can have him at his best!!!

The role of media in the development of mass transformative movements is critical, because this is how the ideology, strategy and tactics devised by the leadership are conveyed to the masses.  This is clearly demonstrated in the way in which young dissidents have employed the new social media, made possible by the emergence of the Internet, to create a species of mass movements unlike anything we have seen before.

However as we closely observe this phenomenon it is becoming clear that these movements – from Taquir Square in Egypt which ignited the Arab Spring, to the Occupy Wall Street movement which is an extension of the events in Taquir Square that has spread like wildfire around the world to faraway places like Melbourne Australia and Auckland New Zealand, are spontaneous combustions that bear only a superficial relationship to historical movements that have succeeded in seizing power and actually transforming societies.

It is becoming increasingly clear that bypassing the stages of development which these movements that succeeded in taking power evolved through, the OWS movement is sorely lacking a critical element: A competent leadership with clearly defined goals and a strategy for achieving them.  Hence they will have to educate themselves by other means and do so quickly….alas they have managed to get the masses out into the streets but they have no coherent program to guide their actions.  They are all amped up with nowhere to go!  Fortunately, salvation is at hand.  And if the movement “leaders” reach out grab it this documentary will prove a gift that keeps on giving.

It is conventional wisdom among educational theorist that audio visual media is the most effective of all teaching tools because we remember more of what we see and hear simultaneously than what they see or hear separately. That’s why the documentary film is such a powerful tool for mass education, or indoctrination.  The first person to demonstrate the power of this form was the great German cinematographer Leni Reifensthal.

When the riddle of how the Nazi’s beguiled the German people, the most highly educated in the world, and convinced them that it was a good idea to elect an Austrian corporal with no experience in government to the Chancellorship of Germany, an event that resulted in the death of 50 million people around the world, Reifensthal’s film “Triumph of the Will” is cited as a major factor.  Her work was considered so important in the effort to win the hearts and minds of the German people for Der Fhuerer, that she was barred from ever making films again after the Nazi defeat.

The present film, “Brother Outsider” has all the ingredients that OWS leaders need to shape this rag-tag rebellion into the kind of effective movement that can transform American economic relations – i.e. the relationship between classes – as radically as the Civil rights movement transformed race relations a half century ago.  OWS organizers should pay special attention to what Bayard has to say about building effective organizations without recourse to violence, and watch film clips of him operating in real time in the heat of struggle.

Bayard Droppin Science at the Great March on Washington! 

He succintly laid out the goals of the movement 

They should pay especial attention to how he formulates complex demands into clear simple slogans that can be easily communicated to the masses and offer a path to negotiation for the reigning princes and powers.  Byard is dropping real science here…not meaningless ideological bromides!!!   His axioms have been tested in the laboratory of actual struggles and produced the desired results: Which is how you test if your science is real or pseudo-science!

One of the most important things to be learned from the critical lessons conveyed in this film is how crazy the so-called “revolutionaries” actually were.  Viewed in retrospect it is embarassing; especially since I was one of them.  Although many of these firebrands are celebrated by untutored activists today,  it is undeniable that all serious gains won by the Civil rights movement came to a screeching halt once the “black revolutionaries” siezed the spotlight  It was good street theater but it did not advance the movement .  Alas, the gun totin antics and militant rhetoric rhetoric of the “revolutionaries,” black and white, moved most of the country to the right and helped elect Richard Nixon!

If the OWS leadership pays close attention and heed Bayard’s instructions, this master organizer and movement tactician will teach them invaluable lessons that will help them avoid dangerous pitfalls and succeed in achieving real victories. By virtue of the alchemy of the internet, which is driving this world wide revolt against the plutocrats, Brother Outsider can become as effective a weapon of carefully directed mass mobilization and political education for the anti-wall Street movement, as Triumph of the Will was for the Nazi’s!  And that would be a very good thing!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 31, 2011

Listen Up Anti-Wall Street Rebels!

Posted in Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on November 30, 2011 by playthell
 progressive Florida Democrat unseated by Republicans

 Working Americans have 3 friends in this world: God, Yo Mamma, and the Democrats!”  This simple declarative statement by former – and hopefully future – Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida, a former Wall Street whiz kid who has become their worst critic, appears to be very hard for many on the left to grasp, and totally beyond the comprehension of the most vocal elements of the Occupy Wall Street rebels. Yet it is fairly easy to demonstrate that the third assertion is true, because the Republicans are clearly the enemy of the working class and the public interests.

Despite spurious rhetoric about concern for “the American people,” which has no observable relation to their actions, the Republicans are unambiguous in their support for the filthy rich in the policies they propose. This is why the Super-Committee failed, and this is why the payroll tax break for working and middle class Americans is about to lapse.  The Republican position, which they repeat ad nauseum, is that unless the rich are exonerated from any increased tax burden they are quite willing to starve the poor!

This charge is not overblown rhetoric, it is an accurate description of policies that seeks to destroy unions; cut health and welfare benefits to the poor; reduce Social Security benefits for the elderly; raise taxes on the poor, and allow unemployment benefits to run out – during the Christmas season no less – while refusing to agree to any increased taxes on the rich; even if it just means allowing the ill-conceived avaricious Bush Tax Cuts to expire.

Furthermore, the raison d’etre of the anti-Wall Street movement is the gross and growing inequity in the distribution of wealth in American society, yet the Republicans have blocked the tough regulatory regime designed to keep the Wall Street bankers from driving the economy off a cliff again.

This legislation was passed by a Congress controlled by Democrats and signed into law by President Obama.  This bill also includes the toughest consumer protection legislation in American history.   Clearly it is the Democrats – people like Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd, Anthony Weiner and Professor Elizabeth Warren, the Congressional Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus, et al – who have waged the fight for goals that are implied in the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

The fact that the rebels do not recognize this obvious connection, embrace the Democrats as allies and work for their empowerment in the coming elections by electing men like Alan Grayson to Congress, portends a real danger that this confused and slipshod rebellion will fail to metamorphose into an effective force capable of transforming economic relations in this country.

As I write most of these rebels are so clueless that don’t even know who the enemy is, let alone the path to victory.  And leftist ideologues – many of who claim to have a “science of society” that guides their actions – are not advancing the developmental process with their mindless prattle about the Democrats and Republicans being the same!  While simultaneously cheering any sign of an uprising against capitalism no matter how irrational it’s vision or improbable it’s success.

Alas the budding movement is in grave danger of missing this historic moment and squandering its revolutionary potential in meaningless street theater that will amount to little more than a collective temper tantrum, deserving little more than a footnote in the historical record.  Some members of the punditocracy, echoing spokesmen from the OWS movement, are attempting to compare the present uprising with the Civil Rights Movement.

These misguided wags argue that in the beginning the civil rights movement was just like OWS, and then they began to identify goals and formulate demands.  If ever there was a false analogy this is it!  The Civil Rights Movement had clearly defined goals and negotiable demands from the outset.  (See “Reflections on the Council of Elders”)

 Abbie Hoffman in his Hey Day

It Was All Theater!
 An OWS Protester

Will they go the way of the YIPPES?

The present movement has much more in common with the YIPPIES, who relied on consciousness raising “Guerilla Theater” as their sole strategy; remember Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin?  What is their legacy?   What lasting changes did they bring about?  What were their goals?   They got a lot of attention at the time and they didn’t have the internet.

Yet there were those at the time, this writer among them, who doubted that a group of disorganized acid head anarchist could bring down the American capitalist system.   Evidently Jerry Rubin also began to doubt; that’s when he wised up, sobered up, scrubbed up, and became a Wall Street Stock broker.

Rubin’s close comrade Abbie Hoffman refused to grow up and spent his post-Yippie days wandered about in a drug induced haze and died from an overdose of 150 Phenobarbital tablets washed down with alcohol.   He was fifty two years old and living in a converted Turkey coop in a Pennsylvania hick town far from the scenes of his glory days in the limelight.

While his acolytes have tried to conjure a more heroic ending for their fallen idol, the notes written by his own hand portray a youth obsessed man who couldn’t deal with the onset of middle age, and was bewildered by the right-wing conservative forces that had risen to power and was imposing their agenda on the nation.

The movement Abbie and Jerry “led” had descended into historical obscurity in their life time and is remembered by few today.  If the OWS rebels do not become political and develop a strategy for effective political action that can defeat the shills of the Plutocrats in the Republican Party, they too will be doomed to failure and historical irrelevance.  That would be a tragedy of incalculable proportions.



Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 30, 2012


Posted in Guest Commentators, Occupy Wall Street, On Foreign Affairs, Uncategorized with tags , , on November 15, 2011 by playthell
Australian Gendarmes Attack Demonstrators in Melbourne

The Occupy Wall Street Movement Down Under 

 Melbourne, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand – 95 people were arrested, over two dozen injured and Australia’s second city shocked, as mounted police moved-in on a band of protesters, numbering roughly about 200 in all. It was the sixth day of a nearly week-long occupation at  City Square in Melbourne.  City and state officials were determined to break it up.

It was the afternoon of October 21st, a Friday, as police on horseback had surged into the crowd with night sticks flailing, followed by a second wave of cops who used attack dogs and pepper spray when the mass arrests began. Robert Doyle, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, stood at a City Hall window
flanked by staff members looking on approvingly. Citizens of Doyle’s city had made their point for six days in the Occupy Melbourne actions, now it was time to move-on….. Thus was his mantra in the hours and days that followed.

For most Melbournians the action by police to move the protesters out of the City Square was shocking, excessive, and even brutal. Yet Doyle, and later Ted Ballieau, the Premier of Australia’s Victoria state, had justified the actions of police as measured, controlled and professional. What was particularly striking about the actions of elected officials and police in Victoria was the stark contrast in the way ‘Occupy’ activists in Sydney and Brisbane were treated. They were allowed to continue their protests without police intervention. But that was soon to change in these two other Australian cities within a week’s time.

One reason for the abrupt decision to move the Occupy Melbourne protesters out of the City Square may have been the visit by Queen Elizabeth, whose long anticipated visit to Australia was already underway. The Queen was attending meetings, ceremonies, and formal affairs in Canberra, the Australian capital, when the Australian Occupy Wall Street spin-offs got started. Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane were among the large cities the Queen was slated to visit, and it is speculated that officials in all three cities were ordered from on high to ‘clean-up’ the sites where protesters had set-up camp before the British Royal was due to hit town.

In this global recession, Australia is a funny place when compared to the rest of the industrialized world. While calls by the Occupy Melbourne group focused on the issues of reigning-in corporate greed, and greater oversight of the banking industry that mirror those voiced by other ‘Occupy’ movements across the globe, Australians according to recent polls see themselves as somehow insulated.

This perception is fed in large part by the success of the country’s mining industry that drives this nation’s economy in ways both seen and unseen. Fuelled by Chinese demand for iron ore and other minerals, the mining industry is an engine in much the same way as the steel industry once was for the U.S. But even with that success, there may well be storm clouds on the economic horizon.

There are pockets of economic discontent inside Australian society that receive some news coverage. At the same time such coverage can be scant, spotty or even marginal. In many quarters it usually takes something dramatic to draw media attention. For example, Baiada Poultry, the largest chicken processing plant in Australia, is one such place where worker discontent over both company hiring practices and safety issues is slowly boiling to the surface. In August of this year, Sarel Signh, 36, a company employee was killed instantly when a Baiada Poultry company machine sucked him into a large valve and instantly decapitated him at a company plant just outside of Melbourne.

Occupy Marchers supporting Qantas Employees…


Then in late October following months of union backed worker slowdowns, Alan Joyce, the CEO of Australia’s largest airline, Qantas, ordered a company ‘lock-out’ of his employees. Joyce’s dramatic and abrupt call to shut down the airline was his way stemming the tide of worker slowdowns from baggage handlers and other Qantas employees that he said had cost the company millions of dollars. But his call for a sudden ‘lock out’ also had consequences as it stranded thousands of Qantas customers at airports across Australia, and around the globe.

The Occupy Melbourne group has since moved to Treasury Gardens, a public and green space area that sits south of Victoria’s State Parliament House. There are no tents allowed, let alone a media center, and one local activist, Alex Ettlinger, said that the Melbourne group had been threatened with further police action should even one tent be erected. This threat, says Ettlinger, has had a chilling effect on the Occupy Melbourne movement participants in the weeks since the clash with police.  What remains interesting for this writer is the way in which the call for greater scrutiny of the financial industry is played out in the media.

Much could be said about media critics of the Occupy Wall Street spin-offs on Australian shores, like, Chris Berg, the widely respected voice of reason found in The Age newspaper in Melbourne. Or Andrew Bolt, the Australian Rush Limbaugh-wannabe, whose shrill commentary aruges that absent  specific demands by the protesters the government is not obligated to take them seriously. Yet, reaction to the stance of both pundits has brought a surprising storm of criticism from readers of the newspapers that carry their critiques, and the broadcast organs that air their views.

The Rupert Murdock-owned Herald Sun screamed with the headline, MADNESS, as the Occupy Melbourne sit-ins reached a head with the arrest of 95 people. New York Daily News-like photos of the skirmish dominated the first seven pages of the paper. The more sedate broad sheet, The Age placed the story on page three, with few photos, and little commentary. While the national newspaper, The Weekend Australian – also a Murdoch owned Media organ – quite surprisingly, had no coverage of the dramatic events that took place in Melbourne’s central business district, at all.

In quotes right out of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s playbook, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, called the protesters “disruptive,” and charged the original group of occupiers had been taken over by “professional protesters who were likely to cause trouble in the City Square.”  He defended the tough tactics by the state-run Victorian police in clearing the City Square, tactics that have been widely criticized in the public arena. Despite a virtual mainstream media news blackout of the ‘Occupy Wall Street” Movement  since the Melbourne police actions, activity continues across Australia.

Occupy Perth gatherings, and sit-ins were allowed to proceed without a police crackdown. This is noteworthy in that Perth, a city that to Americans could be likened to San Diego as it is located on Australia’s west coast, is largely a politically conservative metro-area. The same could be said of actions in Adelaide, in South Australia, and in Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, where Occupy Wall Street spin offs continue, although smaller than what is now taking place in Australia’s larger eastern cities.

Across the Tasman Sea, the scene is quite different than in Australia. Elected officials in New Zealand’s largest city have allowed the Occupy Auckland movement to proceed, and even to flourish. A campsite of over 50 tents just outside to City Hall in Auckland’s Central Business District, sit in an adjacent park, and remain in place as of this writing.

The site, known as Aotea Square, includes a kitchen area, a meeting tent, and even a fully operational media center that keeps tabs on similar gatherings across New Zealand. The Occupy Auckland group had been present in Aotea Square for 23 consecutive days without incident.

Street March in Auckland Queen

During a recent visit by this writer, a march along Auckland’s Queen Street, a major thoroughfare in that city was underway one Saturday morning. It was comprised of roughly 100 local residents who had marched peacefully along the way making frequent stops in front of bank offices where short speeches about the bank profits and questionable practices of the various financial institutions were voiced. Some of the marchers blew soap bubbles at the bank offices and at the handful of employees who had to work that day.

It was a humorous, yet symbolic display, referring to what many economists call the hype surrounding financial ‘bubbles’ of ‘runs’ covering the gamut of housing, business and financial bubbles that investors are drawn to. There were no more than two police cars present that had tagged along with the march, and the two vehicles quickly disappeared once the marchers had returned to the camp site at City Hall.

New Zealand banks, collectively, announced a fiscal year profit of over $2.6 billion Kiwi dollars just days before my arrival. The activists had said that these profits were derived largely from ‘interest margins,’ or the interest rates generated from the fees New Zealanders pay in bank interest for the use of credit cards, and other financial transactions.

Most of the profit, they said, was transferred out-of-country and shifted to other financial institutions across the Tasman Sea, most of which is based in Australia. And so, at least from the Kiwi activist viewpoint, such a practice flies in the face of the claim advanced by the banking groups who say their profits help to generate New Zealand jobs.

The practice of shipping money across the Tasman is one that even has officials of New Zealand’s Federal Reserve asking questions. Also important is that this is an election year in New Zealand. John Key, New Zealand’s sitting conservative Prime Minister is in a hotly contested race for re-election against Phil Goff, a Labor Party candidate. Key, who some believe will win re-election, has come under fire from the Occupy Auckland movement for his Wall Street connections, his policy of privatizing public assets, and his cozy relationship with the business community.

What is also a matter of note, and one issue that is largely unknown to people living in the Americas or other parts of the world, is the tensions between Australia and New Zealand. It s largely economic, but fair to liken it to the tensions between, say, Canada and the United States. In this scenario, New Zealand would be Canada, and Australia the U.S.

Occupy Auckland 15′

The Kiwi Occupy Auckland Camp

Since the late 1980’s Kiwis have flocked to Australia in large numbers. In the 1998 financial year 26,000 Kiwis moved across the Tasman to Australia in search of work. Last year that number nearly doubled to 45,000 New Zealanders who left their country for Australia. In the 13 years since 1998 nearly 483,000 Kiwis moved to Australia, essentially joining an estimated more than one million Aussie-Kiwis according to Statistics NZ. These are remarkable numbers when one considers the overall population of New Zealand, roughly just four million citizens. Most, who have left, according to the Auckland-based Sunday New Zealand Herald in a recent article, cannot come home.

“There are so many of us who want to come home,” says Jules Paalvast, whose husband Adrian works in the Australian forestry industry. “It’s just so hard to get (back) there. You just can’t afford things, and the pay isn’t as good,” She added. Her husband earns more than three times the salary of what a Kiwi would earn for the same job. In a recently televised political debate between Key and Goff neither man offered any solutions for the tens of thousands of New Zealanders drawn to Oz by higher wages, but who are essentially stuck there unable to return. It is families like the Paalvasts that members of the Occupy Auckland group say they speak for.

The contrast between what had happened in Melbourne on the 21st of October and what continues to take place in Auckland could not be more striking:  One government coming down hard against its citizens while another having a hands-off approach. Yet there are similarities in both message and tactics between the ‘leaderless’ leadership of the Occupy movements in Australia and New Zealand. In the case of both nations, input from the indigenous communities is noteworthy and significant. In Melbourne, noted Aboriginal activist Gary Foley has lent a sympathetic voice to the cause.  In Auckland it was Te Ariki-nui Te Kuru Pounmu, a leader of the Maori Wai Taha nation who spoke to the crowd at Aotea Square the day I attended that rally.

 Members of the Wai Taha Maori Nation

At the Aotea Square Rally.

It is hard to say just where the Occupy movements will go in the coming weeks and months ahead. Members of the Occupy Auckland group handed out leaflets that proudly proclaimed themselves as a “leaderless resistance.” Also, as in the United States, a platform of demands elected officials might take to the table to negotiate, are absent.Yet these related global movements inspired partially by the so-called Arab Spring, including the actions in New York this autumn, could very well morph into something very special not seen anywhere in the industrialized world. As the noted New York Radio News Broadcaster, Stan Brooks, might say on
all of this, “Stay Tuned.”


By: Eric Williams

Melbourne Australia

November 14, 2011

Reflections on the Council of Elders

Posted in Occupy Wall Street with tags , on November 14, 2011 by playthell

 In The Beginning: Greensboro  N. C. 1960

Militant Youths Need Mentors  not Cheerleaders!

I just watched a splendidly produced video on The Council of Elders, a newly minted group composed of people who led the heroic struggle to rid the South of Apartheid in the 1960’s.  These icons of the Civil Rights Movement have come together to express their solidarity with the youths in the Occupy Wall street Movement.  Alas, I am profoundly disappointed with what I heard:  A gathering of old warriors reflecting on past battles and wishing the youths well.

It goes without saying that this magnanimous gesture of recognition and support is a good and positive development.  And I want to make it clear at the outset that I am with them in spirit. The problem I have with this video however is that the anti-Wall Street activists need something more than mere boosterism and inspirational anecdotes about past victories from their elders; what the militant youths desperately need is guidance and instruction!

Alas, I am beginning to feel like the curmudgeonly Harold Cruse, when he was writing his masterpiece “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.” I met Harold in 1964, when he was in the process of composing this great book – which is indispensable reading for anyone trying to build a radical movement today, especially the chapter “On the Intellectuals and Force and Violence” – and he seemed something of a brilliant misanthrope at the time.

Cocksure of our purpose and methods, the way most impassioned self-righteous youths are, Cruse seemed to be pissing on our parade with his brutally honest criticism of our strategy and objectives.  I was one of those who had rejected the methods and “reformist” objectives of the Civil Rights Movement and was on the road to revolution –or so I thought. Cruse dismissed the idea that we were making a revolution as dangerous folly, and told me that he was writing the “Crisis” because my generation needed to understand our historical antecedents so that we wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes.  And that is precisely why I am writing these commentaries: IT IS AN ANCESTRAL IMPERATIVE!!!!!!

What the young people who are spearheading the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations now need from elders who were active in the Sixties movement that succeeded in changing America, is clear cut analysis and instruction about how to build an effective movement today.  The most critical thing they need to understand is that from the outset the Civil Rights movement – which was the most effective of all the social movements of the second half of the 20th century, and gave rise to the others – was an organized phenomenon that had specific demands from the outset.  And these demands were negotiable.

It was not a random act inspired by outrage when North Carolina A&T students Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond sat down at the Woolworths’ lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina in 1960.  This was a well organized well thought out action that was part of a larger strategy for attacking the racial caste system in the former Confederate states.  Furthermore, from the outset the Civil rights movement’s demands were based in deeply held American ideals of freedom and equality, and by their dress, speech and orderly behavior the Civil Rights demonstrators were a portrait of respectability.

Hence when Civil rights workers were attacked by southern racists they won the support of millions of whites elsewhere in the nation.  This movement became so powerful that eventually their demands were enshrined into law!!  The brilliant essayists Albert Murray called the Passive Resistance strategy advocated by Dr. King “moral jujitsu,” because they turned the violent aggression of southern rednecks into moral victories.  That didn’t happen by accident: It was a systematic movement!!!

It is important to inderstand that  The STUDENT MOVEMENT COULD NOT HAVE SUCCEEDED WITHOUT THE INPUT AND GUIDANCE OF OLDER CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND MOVEMENT VETERANS!!!!!   The Occupy Wall Street movement is also based in deeply held American beliefs about equality, but in order to induce change in the economic priorities of the United States the movement must win the  majority of Americans over to their cause and PUT THEIR OBJECTIVES INTO REALIZABLE POLITICAL DEMANDS THAT CAN BE TURNED INTO LAWS.

It is also important to draw a distinction between the Civil rights Movement from the counter-cultural movement – i.e. hippies – which was a drug fueled apolitical cultural movement with vague ideals that promoted anarchy.  That’s why we cannot point to any concrete achievements from that movement which even begin to compare with the civil rights movement – or the Anti-War, Feminist or Farm Workers movements that transformed America in the twentieth century.

Echoes of the 60’s Counter-Culture 

Fodder for Right-Wing Bloviators 

The drugged out craziness of the Hippies had the opposite effect of the Civil rights Movement and turned millions of Americans off.  As did the televised images of urban rebellions with cities in flames and black Panthers running around brandishing guns on television shouting slogans like “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun!” – a slogan lifted directly from Mao Tse Tung’s Red Book that was irrelevant to our actual situation – and “Off the Pig!” a public exhortation to kill the police.

Oakland BPP founders Bobby Seale and Huey Newton 

Fashionable Pop Icons or Real Revolutionaries? 

These developments appalled the majority of Americans – including quite a few Black Americans – and resulted in the destruction of the Panthers by the police power of the State and the election of Richard Nixon.  By adopting a “southern Strategy” and opportunistically manipulating white anger and resentments over the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, Republicans, which had been a northern based Party with moderate views on the Civil Rights question and helped pass the 1964 Omnibus Civil Rights Bill even while southern Democrats opposed it, transformed the south from solidly democratic to solidly Republican and moved the control of the government from the liberal left to the right. (For a serious analysis of how this happened read “Haley Barbour is a Lying Fat Redneck” on this blog”

We are still living with the tragic consequences of this development.  At present, the encampment at Zucotti Park and many others around the country, bear a closer resemblance to the Counter-Cultural movement than the Civil Rights Movement. Whereas the Civil rights movement was aimed at prodding the government to act in behalf of the people – the non-white and the poor of all colors – the Occupy Wall Street movement is anarchistic.

However the Occupy Wall Street Movement is a class based movement against economic injustice, which is an issue that transcends race, gender and ethnicity.  This is a good thing; that’s why the most integrated multi-ethnic organization in New York is the Tenants League, because all tenants suffer equally at the hands of rapacious landlords.  By virtue of this fact the OWS has the power to transform American society in fundamental ways.  But if it is to succeed it must become POLITICAL!

This is what the elders should be talking about.  We must do for this generation of activists what people like Ms. Ella Baker, Queen Mother Moore, Byard Rustin, A Phillip Randolph, James farmer, Roy Wilkins, and legions of other highly skilled seasoned organizers from the old left and peace movements did for our generation. Although the popular belief is that Ms. Rosa Parks just sat down one day because she was tired of white folks mess and the Montgomery Boycott, a seminal event in the birth of the Civil Rights Movement that transformed the South during the 1060’s, appeared into the world as a fully formed phenomenon like the goddess Athena sprang from the forehead of Zeus in classical Greek mythology.  Not so!

The Montgomery Bus boycott was a planned event, organized by the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was the brain child of E. D. Nixon, an organizer with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Here was a master organizer who was part of a tradition that boasts one of the most successful stories in American labor history.

When the Pullman porters began to organize it was considered by almost everyone as an impossible dream.  After all, the Porters were hired when George Pullman introduced his new luxury car during the 1880’s to accommodate the rich, the  plutocrats, the American nouveau Riche of the “Gilded Age,” when the “Captains of Industry” amassed such great fortunes the were aptly named “The Robber Barons.”

Pullman’s idea was to create private cars so opulent it would be like a luxury liner on rails.  And to insure that the rich white folks he intended to cater to receive the best possible service, old George Pullman stipulated that all of his porters must be ex-slaves because they knew how to serve white people best!  This was his view of the men who would eventually confront him and demand that he recognize them as a collective bargaining unit.

The fact that the Pullman Car Company was the biggest corporation in the world at the time speaks to the heroism of the founders of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.   One of their best moves was to approach A. Phillip Randolph, Publisher of The Messenger, which he billed as “The only Scientific Socialist magazine in the world published by Negroes,” and ask him to be the President and spokesman for the Union.

With his regal bearing and rich baritone voice trained for the Shakespearian stage, buttressed by his unshakable courage and unassailable integrity, Randolph became the perfect choice.  They chose him not because he was a great organizer, but because they believed he would be a great spokesman and negotiator for the Union.  It was a lesson well learned by E.D. Nixon.

He in turn recruited a brilliant young black Baptist preacher from Atlanta, who had come to Montgomery to finish a Ph.D. thesis and pastor a church for a year in order to experience what it was like to pastor a flock before returning to a cloistered life as a scholar at Boston University, where he was to become the first Afro-American professor in the school of theology.  Nixon talked the young Martin Luther King Jr. into becoming the spokes man for the Montgomery Improvement Association, and King emerged as the face of what became known around the world and preserved in history as “The Montgomery Bus Boycott.”

While it was Martin King’s grand and deeply moving oratory that stirred the conscience of the nation and won the sympathy of people of conscience around the world – which is the role of CHARISMATIC REVIVALISTS – it was the on the ground organizing of skilled labor operatives like E.D. Nixon, and the brilliant Bayard Rustin, who directed it all from a secret command post, plus the vehicles supplied by the United Auto Workers that ferried the boycotters around town, which together made the Montgomery Boycott a success.

It is critical that those who are trying to organize an effective movement today understand that the Civil Rights movement was not just some spontaneous eruption where everybody showed up and did their own thing!  Such as we are now witnessing in Zucotti Park and elsewhere around the country, where you have Ron Paul supporters calling for an end the Federal Reserve Bank; anarchists that believe no government can be trusted; 9/11 conspiracy theorist; Christian clergyman bearing witness to the evils of avarice and trying to live out the biblical commandment to minister unto the least of us – a critical element in the civil rights struggle – Marxist revolutionaries; left adventurers and agent provocateurs out to pick a fight with the cops.  And nobody is in charge!

A Ron Paul Acolyte


The evidence of profound confusion 

This is a new phenomenon, where huge crowds of protestors can be mobilized through social media to demonstrate in record time. It is not the same thing as the great mass movements that transformed American society in the Sixties. The down side of this approach to mass mobilization is that you skip critical stages that are necessary to successfully building a mass movement capable of transforming a complex mass society like the US.  (For a through explanation of this see the essays under Occupy Wall Street on this blog.) We are beginning to witness the shortcomings of this approach in Egypt – where the Occupy Wall Street movement says they took their inspiration and model for action.

The events in Egypt are reminding us that there are certain steps that cannot be avoided in building a successful mass movement – for instance clarifying your objectives with an ideology that spells out the ultimate goals of the movement.  Failure to do this in Egypt has set the stage for the anti-democratic Islamic theocrats to hijack the movement, because they have an all encompassing philosophy that adresses every aspect of human existence.  It is the role of movement elders to point these things out.  Standing on the sidelines acting like cheer leaders is insufficient: not when the youths in the streets require something different and something more!

Get out and rap with the militant youths

“Revolutionaries must swim among the people like fish in the sea”

The Great Helmsman


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 13, 2011

Oaktown Takes the Movement Higher!

Posted in Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , on November 3, 2011 by playthell

 On Broadway: Downtown Oakland on a Normal Saturday


The Struggle Advances in Oakland but where is it headed?

The epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement has now shifted to Oakland California.  This is due to the fact that they have advanced the struggle by putting forth specific demands and seeking alliances with organized labor to organize a “general strike” designed to bring the economy of the city to a halt. This is a unique development because the AFL-CIO denounced the general strike long ago, dismissing it as a “communist tactic.”

Hence the emergence of the concept of a general strike in Oakland is a genuinely radical development.  It is a tactic that places the contradiction between the working class and the Plutocrats out in the open, and helps clarify fundamental issues for the mass electorate.  It is both an educational tool as well as a means of creating economic chaos.

It is not surprising that this movement would become radicalized in the Bay Area.  It was in Berkley that the “Free Speech Movement” began, which sent shock waves throughout the American student community in the early Sixties and served as a catalyst for student activism elsewhere.  The Counter-Cultural movement was born across the Bay in San Francisco, and the most influential of the armed resistance organizations the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, was founded in Oakland.  These activists  were heirs to an earlier history of leftist radicalism such as the Longshoreman Union led by the legendary Harry Bridges.  However it remains to be seen what lessons have been learned from these earlier radical movements.

Since the demonstrators managed to actually shut down the Oakland waterfront, the 5th largest seaport in the US, this action is most reminiscent of the four day San Francisco “General Strike” of 1934, led by the Longshoreman’s Unions.  This strike so crippled shipping all along the west coast that the police intervened to break the strike and violence broke out all over the city on “Bloody Thursday.”  However this violent confrontation resulted in great gains for the workers. This is because they were organized and had specific demands.

On the other hand, the present demonstrators who are engaging in violent clashes with the police have vague goals that span a wide range of issues and no disciplined organization with leaders skilled in negotiations who can speak on their behalf. And, just as in New York, they take pride in this unfortunate fact.

Hence this movement has much more in common with the contemporary San Francisco May Day group, who issued a statement describing an approach to struggle which – like the organizers of the original Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, who say they were inspired by the “Arab Spring” – views itself as part of the global revolt conducted through social media against an ill-defined enemy.

“Like fishermen turned pirates off the horn of Africa who have hijacked a primary artery of global capital as they defend their lives and communities, mass coordinated anti-capitalist attacks across Greece that illustrate how an anarchist initiated insurrection can bring a state to its knees, or crews of friends taking over the streets of downtown Oakland in resistance to police violence, the May Day mutiny in San Francisco has revealed weak points for us to take note of and exploit. The illusion of an invincible corporate state able to crush or undermine all its enemies has been shattered. The forces of repression have no real defense against our evolving rebellions.”

Alas, it is precisely this kind of misguided thinking that convinces the anti-wall street demonstrators they can achieve their objectives by organizing mass demonstrations alone; that they don’t need organization or ideology and are above politics.  It is a dangerous delusion that will lead this budding rebellion against the plutocracy into a blind alley, which will prove a road to defeat.  This is the pitfall that the nascent Oakland movement must successfully hurdle….if they are to achieve real rather than rhetorical  victories.

 The Power of the People!

Shutting Down the Port of Oakland


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 3, 2011

*** Photo of street muscian by: Playthell Benjamin

On Wall Street Protests and the Legacy of Dr. King

Posted in Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , , on October 22, 2011 by playthell

King of the Great Mall

The dedication of the monument to Martin Luther King was unveiled on Sunday, October 16, 2011.  Forty-three years after his assassination, every segment of American society can identify with Martin Luther King, Jr.  Conservatives sing his praises and liberals honor his contributions to racial justice.  There is a remarkable consensus on the historical significance of the civil rights movement and the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Social movements are unpredictable.  Throughout American history, social movements have had a profound impact on American civilization.  Social movements tend to propel the society forward yet there are instances when social movements have been regressive.  The “Know Nothing” movement in the 1850s aimed at Catholics manifested a bigoted sense of who or what constituted America.  The Know Nothing’s were vehemently opposed to immigration that would ethnically diversify America.

Another social movement that kept America backwards was the “Jim Crow Movement that captured the race interest of southern whites in a strange quest to preserve the privileges of the ante-bellum life that supposedly flourished prior to the 1860s Civil War.  Jim Crow reigned supreme until the challenge of the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Regressive social movements are usually born of fear. Progressive social movements are born of hope.  Progressive social movements invariably deepen the democratic process.

Jim Crow!

The minstrel character that came to exemplify racial segregation

Although there is a certain unpredictability about social movements, there are discernible forces that serve as a catalyst for mass uprisings. At the end of World War II, there had occurred a sizeable expansion of the black industrial workforce who were organized into unions.  Many African Americans had fought in the war against the fascist undemocratic forces. Obviously, once they returned to American shores, they were quite strident about asserting their democratic rights.

Many from this burgeoning working class/middle class generation were sending their children to black colleges in the south and elsewhere.  Church leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. were ready to throw off the yoke of racial subservience and take to the streets to demand fundamental changes in the cruel world of Jim Crow.  The world was changing rapidly. The Third World was breaking the shackles of colonialism and marching towards self-determination.

The civil rights movement was inspired by the anti-colonial struggles and challenged the Jim Crow status quo. America’s political establishment unwillingly accommodated themselves to the demands for equal accommodations, the right to participate in the political process, and for the statutory elimination of employment and housing discrimination.

Martin Luther King’s mass movement had precipitated historical changes and pushed American civilization closer to becoming that city on the hill.  But King’s vision of America took him beyond civil rights. He became increasingly critical of America’s involvement in the war in Viet-Nam and was incensed by the plight of the poor.  He became pre-occupied with rampant economic injustice.  He intervened in the strike of the sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He made plans for putting together the poor people’s campaign in the nation’s capital.  At that juncture in the midst of a new struggle that had yet to become a mass movement, Martin Luther King was assassinated!

The momentum for social justice was buried with Dr. King.  Nonetheless, other social movements deepening the democratic process in America emerged. The feminist movement sought to transform male hegemony in the home and in the public sphere.  Women sought to enter the workplace, equality, to shatter glass ceilings and to change the gender dynamic in American society.

The feminist movement changed the gender complexity of American society.  Nowhere is that more manifested than in the sphere of higher education.  Women are equally represented in undergraduate education, graduate education, and doctoral programs. In the case of black women, they have outdistanced the men.  In the words of Julius Nyerere, while the men walk, the women run.

The gay and lesbian movement has made painstaking progress in recent decades.  The struggle for sexual equality has been advanced but there is still great resistance in civil society, in religious circles, and in the political system. Those objectives are essential to deepening the democratic process.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement epitomizes the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.  In an age of revolutionary technology, conventional political actors take the position that the jobless and powerless must wait for the magic of the marketplace.  The Nero-like Congress plays the fiddle while the circumstance of the sixteen million unemployed workers and the multitude of underemployed continue to deteriorate.

Occupy Wall Street has not only gone national. It has gone global.  Globalization as it took root bred a certain degree of mass paralysis.  Now the communication revolution that is an integral part of globalization is also instrumental in fostering a culture of resistance. At the time of his death, Martin Luther King, Jr. had become a drum major for justice and his life had a remarkable impact on America and across the world.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is a clamor for social and economic justice.  At this juncture, the vision is not being projected by any one leader but by a grassroots mass uprising that has captured the imagination of what is left of Fanon’s wretched of the earth.

Night falls on tent city outside Philly’s City Hall

As the Occupy Wall Street Movement Spreads

Anti-Wall Street Protestors in Rome!

The wrath of the people in the Eternal City

The Protest Bug spreads to Asia

Anti-Wall Street ghosts On the streets of Seoul


By: Dr. Basil Wilson

Originally published in Carib News

On Wall Street and Economic Inequality

Posted in Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , on October 14, 2011 by playthell

Civil Servants Struggling for Bread

Working Americans are Standing up to the Plutocrats!  

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has sprung up in a number of key cities after its genesis on September 17, 2011 in New York City.  The protesters in New York City have taken over John Zucotti Park and have triggered a grassroots movement that is appalled at the high level of social injustice in America.  The Movement is still a trickling tributary and some have argued that the objectives are too amorphous. On my visit to Zucotti Park, I was surprised by the miniscule nature of the Park. 

The people gathered in the Park had their cups runover.  They were mostly college educated middle class young men and women who had played by the rules, taking out loans to snatch an education, and had collided with a political system growing increasingly undemocratic, a system where money-lords controlled lopsided decision-making. One of the slogans repeated by the protesters is that they constitute ninety-nine percent of the population yet the one percent kept downloading the lion share of the nation’s wealth.

Will the Occupy Wall Street Movement capture the imagination of the quizzical American electorate and change the dialectic of electoral politics?  The movement represents the Winter of Working Class discontent.  They along with Americans of all stripes are contributing to sites on Facebook, on Twitter, and on internet sites established to facilitate and make the non-violent uprising into a mass movement.

In Zuccoti Park

All races and ages were representin!

During the Obama Presidential election of 2008, there was much talk about whether we had entered a post-racial America.  There are many aspects to this discourse but one critical aspect was young America getting to a point where race was declining in significance, to use William Julius Wilson’s words, and class was becoming increasingly salient.  The Occupy Wall Street Movement in the making is about class and democracy.  This burgeoning grassroots movement has within it the seeds to challenge the hegemony of Wall Street greed.

When the Tea Party popped out like a Jack-in-the Box after the election of Barack Obama, it began as a grassroots movement financed by big capital. It is is opposed to big  government, big spending, bank bail-outs and federalized health care.  After the 2010 election, the Tea Party elements elected to the United States Congress were instrumental in changing the conversation. They had the nation fixated on deficits and debt.  Joblessness took a back seat.  Legislation passed by the 2010 Congress focused on spending cuts and were oblivious to jobs.  Spending cuts in a time of economic downturn only makes the plight of the jobless more hellish.

There is a confederate syndrome to the Tea Party adherents.  They are for having everything settled at the state level yet they are supportive of corporate capital.  The Tea Party has not been able to put forward a jobs program to put Americans back to work.  These older, very white, fairly well-off supporters, as the Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman remarked, have no sense of science and have no workable ideas about the business of governing other than to reduce the taxes on the wealthy and give them the opportunity to have more than 25 percent of the wealth.

President Obama after the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, calculated that to win a second term he had to run as a centrist with the expectation that he would hold his Democratic Party base and capture a majority of the independent voters. The center in American politics has come apart.  The Tea Party has dragged the Republican Party into looney right wing self-righteousness. The Occupy Wall Street movement, if it catches fire, is going to pull the Democratic Party to embrace critical issues of social justice.

It is not surprising in an age where class is trumping race that Herman Cain has emerged as a possible Presidential candidate for the Republican Party.  Cain, who slept through the civil rights movement of the 1960s, has become an articulate spokesperson for the Tea Party’s simplification of complex  American realities.  His solution to the economic crisis is reduce corporate taxes to 9 percent, income taxes to 9 percent, and a value added tax to 9 percent.

Right wing conservatives have been clamoring for a flat tax but are not in favor of flat bonuses, flat health care and a flat educational system.  Cain’s 999 plan to fix America’s economic woes would push up the Gini Index – a measure of the distribution of wealth in our society, which is one of the worse in the western world – and make the slice of the 99 percent even more miniscule.  It would wreck social security, Medicare and Medicaid.  It would turn America into a place where wealth would be so terribly skewed that Charles Dickens’s London would appear progressive!

Occupy Wall Street must take its time and explore a new paradigm for America.  We live in a time of great confusion.  Even as clear a thinker as Senator Bernie Sanders thinks that the solution to concentrated investment capital is to break up those holdings.  But there has been an inexorable tendency towards greater and greater concentrations of investment capital historically.

Thus the critical question for the Occupy Wall Street Movement is: what democratic interest  should that concentration of wealth should serve?  Underlying the newly surfaced voices is the demand that those entities must be structured in a way that is commensurate with democratic precepts.

“This is what Democracy Looks Like!”

The people chanted as they marched 

Steve Job didn’t settle for shopworn technology.  He invented gadgets that enriched human lives.  What the Occupy Wall Street Movement seeks is an America that enriches the lives of the 99 percent, not just the one percenters and not those who shamelessly cover up the moral bankruptcy of Wall Street.



* By: Dr. Basil Wilson, Political Scientist 

Originally published in Carib News, 10/15/11

Is the Liberal/Left Self Destructive?

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, Occupy Wall Street, Playthell on politics with tags , on October 12, 2011 by playthell

Katrina Vanden Hueval: Editor of The Nation

Notes on the Folly of the Left

The protesters  in the nascent movement have been criticized for being too decentralized and lacking a clear list of demands.” writes Ms. Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of the influential left/liberal journal of opinion “The Nation” regarding the Wall Street rebels.  She goes on to pronounce: “But they are bearing witness to the corruption of our politics; if they made demands to those in power, it would suggest those in power could do something about it. This contradicts what is, perhaps, their most compelling point: that our institutions and politicians serve the top 1 percent, not the other 99.”

Not content with spewing this bit of spurious prattle – since it is only those in power that can solve our problems – alas Katrina’s analysis goes quickly downhill and descends into pure  foolishness: “The movement doesn’t need a policy or legislative agenda to send its message. The thrust of what it seeks—fueled both by anger and deep principles has moral clarity.”

This would be quite sufficient if we were discussing the mission of a Church or Synagogue, whose raison d’etre is helping their supplicants find “moral clarity.” But the aspirations and goals that she ascribes to the movement can only be achieved through the art of politics – which is the process by which relationships of power are formed.  To conclude otherwise is to retreat into fantasy!

Speaking of the burgeoning movement against criminal avarice of the Plutocracy symbolized by the anti-Wall Street Protests she tells us: “It wants corporate money out of politics. It wants the widening gap of income inequality to be narrowed substantially. And it wants meaningful solutions to the jobless crisis. In short, it wants a system that works for the 99 percent. Already Occupy Wall Street has sparked a conversation about reforms far more substantial than the stunted debate in Washington. Its energy will supercharge the arduous work other organizations have been doing for years, amplifying their actions as well as their agendas.”

Bill Mahr: An insightful, witty, comedian….

…..But no political philosopher!

Apologist for the apolitical confusion of the Wall Street activist appears to be  multiplying like wild rabbits.  The kind of well intentioned albiet confused blather we hear from Ms. Vanden Heuval is repeated ad nauseum among the liberal/left cognoscenti.  It is echoed in the smug too-clever-by-half drivel spouted by Bill Mahr on the Rachel Maddow show recently.  Silly Willy went to great lengths to poo poo the importance of politics, and gave but little indication that he clearly understood who the real enemy is, let alone how to develop a strategy to defeat them.

Indeed, intellectual leaders of the American left actually encourage this kind of misguided and dangerous thinking on the part of celebrity entertainers like Bill Mahr, whom Isometimes think is taken far too seriously – after all, clever and verbose fellow though he is, he remains a clown of renown, not a scholar whose opinions are based on years of serious study!

Ms. Vanden Heuval has no such excuse alas.  As the majority of her commentary on the anti-Wall Street rebels, “Will Occupy Wall Street’s spark reshape our politics”  demonstrates, Ms. Vanden Heuval is a woman of surpassing intelligence. And as Editor of the “Nation” magazine she has rich sources of information readily available to her

Yet these facts beg the question of how she could have concluded the following: “Many, if not most of the protesters are openly wary about the embrace of the progressive establishment.  Rightly so. The movement, unlike the Tea Party, is not based on electoral strategy, and there is a concern about being co-opted.” This kind of flawed thinking led the demonstrators to deny Congressman John Lewis the opportunity to speak in Atlanta, turning away a powerful natural ally.

When we consider that the Tea Party strategy resulted in the election of over eighty Congressman, who succeeded in blocking funding for President Obama’s regulatory regime to check the power of the Wall Street Bankers and stop them from driving the economy over a cliff again – and the American people being soaked for hundreds of billions to bail them out – plus just last night we saw the Grand Obstructionist Party kill the President’s jobs bill, it is fair to ask is the liberal left self-destructive?


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

October 12, 2011