The explosion of the Occupation Movement demonstrated growing anger at the corporate policies coming from politicians in Washington. While many workers and young people were already clear about the role of Republicans, now more and more are seeing that the Democrats are also dedicated to the pro-corporate agenda.
Despite promises of change in this election campaign, Obama has not passed any meaningful reforms to help the millions of ordinary working people who can barely keep their heads above the rising floods of an enduring economic crisis. Instead, we’ve had a pro-big business, war president whose policies have been practically indistinguishable from those of the Bush presidency. The last straw for many was the debt deal made in August, which will include over $2 trillion in devastating cuts to needed social services.
Underlying all this, the so-called recovery has now come to a virtual standstill. The only things that have recovered are corporate profits and Wall Street speculation. Unemployment has remained intractable at an official 9.1% that now is widely agreed to be, in reality, closer to 14% of the workforce. Foreclosures are continuing, poverty has reached a new postwar record and a new study concluded that inflation-adjusted median household income plummeted by a staggering 9.8% since the beginning of the crisis in 2007.
It is this shattering of illusions about capitalism and the hypocrisy of the political establishment that triggered the wave of Occupy Wall Street protests that are sweeping the country (see articles page 6&7 and page 11). Unlike the corporate-funded right wing populist Tea Party movement, the occupations reflect a genuine, growing, mass anti-corporate mood that is correctly targeting the bankers and Wall Street speculators.
This has caused alarm in the political establishment. Democratic Party politicians who have presided over the policies of coddling the bankers and imposing austerity on the working class are now parading in the demonstrations in an effort to divert the occupation movement toward the Democratic Party.
Hypocritically, President Obama declared at a press conference that the Occupation Movement reflects a “broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.” Obama knows very well how the financial system works, as he was at the forefront of supporting the bankers’ bailout and he received the most campaign contributions from his Wall Street backers.
One of those who demagogically appeared at the protests is millionaire Harlem Representative Charles Rangel, who declared he was “mad as hell” – but not nearly enough to stop receiving huge campaign contributions from Wall Street.
The Democrats clearly intend to use the movement to energize their electoral base into the 2012 elections. Commenting on the occupations, Paul Krugman said that “Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.” But a turning point for what? Clearly, the Democrats and the leadership of the major unions want to harness this movement into the safe channels of the two-party system and the “lesser evil.”
Obama and the Democrats are already shifting into demagogic, populist electoral mode to mask their real policies that benefit the rich and Wall Street. This is in preparation for the 2012 elections amidst the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.
But Obama’s real agenda for a second term is clear. Despite cosmetic language about creating an insufficient jobs program that will not pass Congress, the real program was expressed in his call for a massive $4 trillion “deficit reduction” – not through stopping the wars or taxing the rich and big business, but overwhelmingly by cuts on social programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, mass unemployment and more cuts in living standards for workers and the poor.
Working-Class Political Alternative
If the Occupation Movement is to become a real “turning point” for working people and the youth then we need to start a campaign to build a mass working-class political alternative. This can start by organizing broad conferences of unionists, participants in the occupations, young people, workers, socialists and others activists in every major city across the country early next year to prepare to run independent working-class candidates in 2012. These campaigns can start with a program of opposition to all cuts and concessions, taxing the rich, a massive jobs program, ending the wars and cutting the Pentagon budget, single payer health care, etc.
Union activists should campaign in their unions to stop funding the corporate-sponsored Democratic Party and its politicians. The Occupy Wall Street Movement has shown how deep is the sympathy of the broad mass of workers and young people for a program to attack the privileges and corruption of the capitalist oligarchy.
The Democrats are fully complicit in the massive cuts that will come from the Super Committee deliberations. The opportunity will be there for serious labor-left and socialist candidates and campaigns to challenge the two corporate parties and lay the basis for a mass, independent workers party and democratic socialist policies to challenge the sick system of capitalism.