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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 44, October 22, 2011

‘Occupy Wall Street’—Sit-in at the Seat of Global Capitalism and Corrupt Corporate Power

Tuesday 25 October 2011

The following was the lead piece in ML update, the weekly news magazine of the CPI-ML (Liberation), in its issue of October 11 to 17, 2011. It is being reproduced with due acknowledgement.

For the past three weeks, a very remarkable protest has been unfolding at the heart of the US economic power and global capitalism. Thousands of American people have ‘occupied’ a site near Wall Street, and hundreds of solidarity actions and sit-ins have followed both in the US and in other countries. Describing themselves, the protestors have declared: “We are the 99 per cent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one per cent.”

The protest has given voice to the growing anger of ordinary Americans, especially working class Americans, against being made to bear the burden of the economic crisis while the corrupt corporations responsible for the crisis in the first place, are being bailed out. The choice of venue and the slogans raised say it all—Wall Street houses the offices of the notorious Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Brothers and other companies implicated in the 2008 economic crisis, and the demonstrators shout: “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out!”, “We will not pay for your crisis”, and “We Want The Sacks Of Gold Goldman Sachs Stole From Us”.

The protests are an outpouring of the accumulated resentment and sense of betrayal that the US people feel against President Barack Obama, who won a popular mandate promising change, but who has delivered nothing but a fresh edition of continued war and pro-corporate policies.

It is significant that the Occupy Wall Street movement coincided with protests marking one decade of the US war and occupation of Afghanistan. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq stand exposed as wars to defend and expand the interests of US imperialism, specifically the US corporations and US economic interests. The protestors, in selecting Wall Street as a target, are aiming at US corporate power that fuels US imperialism. In doing so, their protest resonates with the entire world which is facing the economic and military offensive of US imperia-lism. Not only are the plunderers on Wall Street, protected by the US Government, responsible for growing unemployment and deprivation in the US, they are responsible for global hunger and poverty, for the impoverish-ment of countries and global loot of resources, and for the economic policies and military aggression used to batter down the resistance of reluctant countries and pave the way for US corporations.

As the protest has persevered and grown, some of New York’s biggest unions—such as the Transport Workers’ Union of workers in the city’s public transport system and the SEIU 1199 healthcare workers union—have declared their support for the occupation. The unions have raised the issue of pay cuts, lay-offs and attacks on workers’ right to organise. Many participants in the occupation of Wall Street claim inspiration from the occupation, in February this year, of the state legislature in Madison, Wisconsin in protest against a Bill to restrict collective bargaining rights of state workers. That workers’ protest failed and the Bill was passed, but even in its failure it has sparked the imagination of the American working people, and the occupation of Wall Street is one of the outcomes.

THE Occupy Wall Street protest draws on the legacy of the anti-globalisation protests at Seattle in 1999, the global anti-war protests that followed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and several other countries.

Thousands of students in universities in New York and other US cities have joined the protest, linking it to steep increase in tuition fees and privatisation of education. Protestors have noted that the economic crisis has been used by the ruling class to push through privatisation of social security and cut-backs in public services, while the corporates responsible for the crisis have continued to enjoy undiminished profits. While protestors have faced mass arrests (in one instance, 700 demonstrators were arrested together), they point out that not a single corporate banker implicated in large-scale corruption and malpractices that devastated people’s lives has been arrested.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has much in it to inspire Indians. By targeting Wall Street, the demonstrators in the US have directly taken on the corrupt corporations and the US Govern-ment and imperialist economic and military policies that are protecting and promoting them at the cost of the ordinary citizens. We have just witnessed huge public protests against corruption in India too. But the dominant current in the anti-corruption movement has avoided naming and targeting the corporate plunder that is the fountainhead of the worst corruption.

We in India must hail and support the sustained protest by American citizens at the very seat of global capitalism and US imperia-lism. In India too, the anti-corruption protests need to recognise and confront the pro-imperia-list, pro-corporate policies that are behind some of the worst scams and scandals in our country—including the scams in telecom, minerals, and land, and the cash-for-vote scam.

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