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Lessons of the Occupy Wall Street movement
Issued by: CPGB-ML
Issued on: 31 October 2011

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The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement started on 17 September, when thousands of people moved into Zuccotti Park on Wall Street, New York, in emulation of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt that overthrew tyrannical governments this spring. Anger against capitalism worldwide has led to these protests spreading to 1,500 US cities and 80 countries.

A struggle against capitalism

In common with the Arab spring protesters, however, there is no clear consensus as to what demands must be met before the protest is lifted. In Egypt and Tunisia, although the presidents are gone, the alarming levels of unemployment and escalating cost of living that caused the protests remain.

But now the masses in the imperialist countries themselves are also beginning to fight back. In Britain, following the August uprisings, we now have the OWS-style occupations at St Paul’s, London, and elsewhere.

They correctly identify the capitalist system as the enemy. This understanding is the great strength of the movement. Its weakness is that it has as yet to accept that the ONLY viable alternative to capitalism is socialism – generally called communism.

The prejudice against communism engendered by the propaganda of the exploiters against whom the people are demonstrating is so great that people shy away from it, even though it offers the only possible solution to poverty, war and environmental degradation.

Prejudice must be overcome because

(a) the solution to these problems lies in the proletariat seizing from the capitalists all the means of production in order to deploy them, under the direction of a planning commission, to producing directly to meet people’s needs – material, intellectual and spiritual,

(b) this will arouse the fury of the super-rich, who stop at nothing to retain their privileged existences – the murderous wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are typical of their vicious ruthlessness; and

(c) the proletariat can only overcome such a powerful enemy if it has the highest possible level of organisation and a leadership of seasoned and experienced cadres to act as its general staff in its historic mission of overthrowing the capitalist system.

This can only be provided by a genuine communist party, and the masses will have to learn to distinguish the genuine article from the many fakes on offer.

To reduce the risk to the capitalist system posed by the occupation movement, the bourgeoisie rely not only on the police, courts, army, etc – although these are all much in evidence – but above all on saturating the movement with ideological confusion, to prevent it knowing what it needs to do.

Blind alleys on offer

Historically, progressive social movements have been infiltrated, their leaders co-opted and manipulated, through the corporate funding of non-governmental organisations, trade unions and political parties. The ultimate purpose of ‘funding dissent’ is to prevent the protest movement from challenging the legitimacy of the economic elites ...” (‘Occupy Wall Street and “The American Autumn”: Is it a “coloured revolution”?’ Part I by Michel Chossudovsky,, 13 October 2011)

In Britain as much as in the US, the political parties who have connections with the trade-union leadership (ie, the Democrats in the US and the Labour party in Britain) are wheeling out those bureaucrats to support the protesters in words, mainly to improve the electoral chances of these parties – even though the Democrat party is in power and is actually implementing the cuts that have given rise to the protests, and the Labour party when in power was itself planning deep austerity!

It is absurd to present such parties as supportive of the protesters. As one US protester said: “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party, and it has two right wings, Republicans and Democrats.” The UK’s Property Party has three right wings: Conservative, Labour and LibDem.

Other attempts to confuse the movement are made by:

1. Those who think that breaking the system under which political parties depend on handouts from the rich to conduct electoral campaigns will in itself solve the problem.

This would make bourgeois elections more democratic, but would not prevent the economic crisis that is destroying millions of lives regardless of the party in government. Moreover, if the ruling class can’t get the governments it wants, history proves that it will resort to fascism.

It is always the élite, not elected governments who control the machinery of state, the army and police, etc.

2. Those who oppose all political influence, especially that of communists, alleging that ‘all political parties are the same’, but refusing to take into account the class perspective of any particular party.

By depriving the proletariat of its general staff the result of this stance is to disarm the masses organisationally and ideologically.

3. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize-winning economist and former director of the World Bank, blames not capitalism but the ‘frauds’ of greedy “banksters”. He attributes the crisis to improper lending to people unable to repay.

Such bourgeois economists refuse to accept that the crisis is a crisis of overproduction caused by the fact that the impoverished masses cannot afford to purchase the mass of commodities produced by capitalist producers, thus threatening the latter with bankruptcy. The ‘irresponsible’ loans propped up capitalism by enabling the poor to keep spending. The crisis erupted when the lending had to stop. The lending postponed the crisis rather than caused it

Lessons to be learned

The protests will prove to be exceptionally educational for the proletariat of the various countries in which they are taking place.

Participants will witness the brutality of the police sent to try to disperse them and learn at first hand the nature of the bourgeois state and the class interests that it serves. They will also learn how the bourgeois media unashamedly distort the truth to undermine the progressive movement.

Communists must ensure that this education advances to the greatest possible extent, and that they are there to explain the impossibility of reforming capitalism and the importance of its replacement by socialism, along with the hard realities of the class struggle.

No more crisis, no more war!
Smash capitalism!
Forward to communism!

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