Occupy Movement and the Economy

Wall Street as Public Enemy Number One

By Glen Ford

There’s some talk in veteran left circles about the need to politically “educate” the adamantly leaderless, mostly white young people who have made Zuccotti Park in Manhattan’s financial district the center of the U.S. lefty world since September 17. Although there’s a large portion of Yippie-like mush in the Zuccotti mix—the kind of activism that seems more like aroma than substance—the core is clearly comprised of serious people determined to end the rule of the “One Percent.” The 99 percent versus one percent formula is quite powerful, directing the people’s anger towards the class that conducts its oppressive business on Wall Street: finance capitalists.

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) crew has identified the beast in his lair—which is a very big deal in the United States, a nation that is the most politically backward and confused in the industrial world due to the endemic racism that is its birthright and that has always thwarted the growth of a strong Left. The Zuccotti Park campers are eons ahead of the faux radicals and “progressives” who, in terror of the Tea Party and Republican presidential clown candidates, will soon return to the Obamite fold in their eternal search for lesser evils. Given that so many of the “old heads” of the Left only a few years ago put themselves at the service of Wall Street’s presidential candidate—a talented and attractive Black man who would become the far more effective evil in facilitating the dismantling of the New Deal—it may be best that they keep their political education classes to themselves.

In identifying finance capital as the common enemy, the supposedly “apolitical” park occupiers are in some ways more advanced than a lot of folks that call themselves scientific socialists but have not come fully to grips with what it means when finance capital achieves absolute political hegemony—the reality that is central to how U.S. imperialism ultimately collapses. It is a class that produces nothing; that exists solely through rigging and armed coercion of markets and the destruction of all that cannot be monetized; that actively suppresses and makes war against human productive potential, worldwide; and that has now turned, like piranhas, against the state structures they themselves helped build in Europe and North America.

The political rule of finance capital is the end game. In the early stages of the Great Depression, banking baron Andrew Mellon urged President Herbert Hoover to “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate” in order to solve the crisis. Mellon didn’t get his wish because, even then, the finance capitalist class did not wield hegemonic power in U.S. society. They do now. With all the other capitalist sectors totally subservient to Wall Street—including mass communications—they are financializing the State, seeking to convert many of its components (Social Security, healthcare, public education, and much more) into profit centers, and discarding much of the rest. This is of necessity, because finance capital can no longer preserve itself in any other way.

Nothing is left standing in the capitalist sector to resist them. For that reason, there is no Hoover, much less a Roosevelt, to articulate an alternative capitalist vision, a new compact, an accommodating “reform.” Finance capital rushes forward, creating conditions in which its own imminent destruction can only be temporarily averted by frenzied predation on the real economy and the State, itself. Obama Democrats and the Republicans, alike, facilitate the pillaging, captives of the hegemon.

To live in the age of finance capitalist hegemony is different than when Vladimir Lenin said “the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with.” Wall Street daily invents and plays fire with its own form of money: derivatives that are notionally valued at $600 trillion to $1,000 trillion (no one really knows!), many times the yearly Gross Planetary Product of Earth. The finance hegemon is disconnected from, yet a parasite on, the real economy. He is not in the business of selling or making ropes, or anything else. He is about transforming the world into capital, to feed capital, for the reproduction of capital. He can no longer coexist with human life.

Therefore, the righteous demonization of Wall Street, the symbolic and literal headquarters of the class that is the primary threat to human existence, is a great place begin a mass movement. 99 percent to one percent is encouraging odds, and an accurate reflection of reality.

The occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, starting Oct 6, should showcase the national government as the domestic and international superpower servant of finance capital—and Barack Obama as Servant-in-Chief. The United National Anti-War Coalition’s (UNAC) October 15 rally at the OWS encampment marking the tenth anniversary of the U.S. war on Afghanistan, proclaims that “Wall Street is War Street.” And the November 5 national conference of the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace, and Reparations, in Philadelphia, will remind us that the European war against the rest of the world that began more than five hundred years ago is till being waged for the benefit of a predatory class whose primary address is right next to Zuccotti Park.

Black Agenda Report, October 6, 2011