Commentary

Is Occupy Wall Street a Socialist Movement?

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In a Bill O’Reilly segment, the commentator accused Occupy Wall Street of opposing capitalism, citing the outrage protesters have expressed over “distribution of wealth.”

“Wealth is not distributed in America. You either earn it, steal it, inherit it. Or win the lottery. There’s no distribution. Many Americans simply don’t understand what’s at stake here. The Occupy Wall Street movement is basically socialistic. It essentially wants the government to control who gets what.

“The primary goal of The Occupiers is to demonize capitalism. Again, most Americans don’t understand that, but it’s right before our eyes.”

I agree with O’Reilly that wealth is not, nor should it be, distributed among the American public in a Marxist fashion. American ingenuity has given individuals of the world a new lease on freedom. The revolutions of the Arab Spring and Occupy movement would not be possible without capitalism or without the American Dream that has made the Internet and other technologies possible.

As an Occupy Wall Street sympathizer, it’s not capitalism I am against, but the trickle-down economics that have dominated our society and public policy since the Reagan era. I do not support a system that would prefer to cut the EPA, the FDE or the FDA without confronting the gaping money pit that is military spending. I do not support the claim that giving tax breaks to the wealthy will spark job creation — because it only takes a few greedy people to start an avalanche of abuse, which is the same principle that makes socialism a risky, even dangerous, system.

I believe in a socially responsible community, and this is what unites me with the Occupy movement. The Occupiers are demanding human needs be considered above all else, and in a world where the main focus has been the accumulation of individual capital, this value is extreme, possibly even idealistic and sentimental, but it is not entirely alien to American politics. Consider these words from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous first inaugural address:
“Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

“Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

“Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”

Roosevelt’s actions were unpopular with corporations. He was called a socialist and a communist for abandoning the gold standard and introducing job creation into the national agenda. It is alleged that in 1933 a group of wealthy businessman formulated a plan to overthrow the president with a mercenary army backed by unlimited funds. Some historians write this off as propaganda of the time, but some consider it fact.

Regardless, Roosevelt’s presidency created a tension between money and politics in a time of economic crisis during which policies were created to champion the impoverished masses, not the wealthy.

Today, money and politics are intertwined. What will it take to divorce the two principles? What will it take to transform greed and power into competition and leadership?

2 Comments

George DeMarse May 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Right on Blair. I agree with your comments and your position on this matter. Many on the right dismiss OWS as a radical “socialist/communist” movement. Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. Americans, at least OWS sympathizers (of which I am one) are no longer scared to be termed “socialist” or “communist.” They are not even afraid to read Marx by golly. Why? Because global capitalism, and the trickle down economics to which you refer, have failed the middle class. Evidence? Numerous studies in main stream journals showing growing income inequality since the 70s, large masses of wealth gained by a small elite in the same time period, benefits and pensions dropped by corporations en masse, offshoring of jobs, lack of meaningful job creation, states cutting already meagre benefits for the poor, etc., etc.
Ted Nugent notwithstanding, Americans are dumping the failing promises of capitalism and seriously considering “regulated capitalism” and “regulated wealth distribution” in this country.
Bravo.

The Sage of Wake Forest

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