Putting the Occupy movement in historical perspective


"The whole history of Mankind ... has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes ..."

- From the Communist Manifesto, 1848

These words resonate as powerfully now, in the Age of Technology, as they once did in the dawn of the capitalist epoch in Europe and America. As do the words of the socially-conservative American philosopher George Santayana: "Those who have not learned the lessons of history are bound to repeat them."

Lately I have heard criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement - overall a positive movement - that the occupiers' encampments foment crime, trash private property, create disorderly conduct and general "civil unrest."

While some of these criticisms may be correct - as happens with any mass movement of peoples - they cast a shadow over a just cause. A look at history helps to put them in perspective.

As can be found in any American history textbook, patriots committed many injustices against "loyalist" families during the American Revolution.

And was not that revolution, as seen through the eyes of the British imperial masters, the epitome of "civil unrest?"

But the Occupy movement is civil unrest in the interest of constitutional rights - the right to assemble, to protest, to exercise free speech.

As to "civil unrest," what about the civil unrest of bank foreclosures, families living in cars and left to forage for food in dumpsters following evictions?

What about the jobless, the blue and white collar workers, who have run out of unemployment benefits and find themselves lining up in charity dining rooms? (How reminiscent of the soup kitchens of the Great Depression!)

What about soldiers returning from the debacle in Afghanistan only to find themselves jobless and homeless as well? What about 31 million children in America living in poverty, 5.3 million children affected by foreclosures? Even the media has said, "Who would have believed these figures would characterize social conditions in 21st Century America?"

Indeed there is civil unrest! Workers cry out for justice, as workloads grow and wages stagnate while owners' profits soar, as jobs are sent overseas.

What impact has this movement actually had on Wall Street? None.

The Bears and Bulls continue their ups and downs. Stock averages up, employment figures down. The so-called business cycle rolls along on the backs of the working class, the poor and disenfranchised, on the backs of African American and Latino communities. Some Republican presidential candidates have even suggested deporting 11 million Mexican immigrants they call "illegals," as a solution to the country's economic woes.

But the economic woes are precisely the reason for the outcry by the Occupy Wall Streeters. Yes, there is disruption. Lives have been disrupted in America: families forced from their homes, children traumatized by these circumstances. Yes, undesirables have infiltrated the protesters' encampments, damage has been done to private property in some circumstances, but on the whole the Occupy Wall Street movement has been peaceful and respectful of others' property. But this is the risk during mass movements.

Civil unrest has been here in our midst, as we see the Arab masses rising against dictator-governments in the Middle East, as the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators cry out, "We are the 99 percent" - the exploited, abused, disinherited, awaiting emancipation.

With them we all await the promise of American democracy, with liberty and justice for all, not just the privileged 1 percent!

"However much the state of things may have altered ... the general principles laid down in the Manifesto are on the whole as correct today as ever."

- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1872

Sotere Torregian is an American poet associated with the French surrealist poets. Coffee House Press will publish his 15th book, "On the Planet without Visa," in August 2012. Torregian was assistant to Dr. St. Claire Drake, teaching with the program in Afro-American Studies at Stanford University, 1969-75. He is a lifelong peace activist and socialist.


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  • this is completely inaccurate, bias and unfortunate to say the least. People find what they want to find, it is obviously true here. This is a poor attempt at writing without an agenda; though it does in fact work on those without the sense to see beyond the drivel. This article is comprised of half-hearted attempts at "siding with the opposition on just a few unimportant points in order to seem fair" while ultimately being unapologetic and absolute in conclusion which fulfills for the author their initial agenda of swaying the public with false evidence to think that the occupy movement is without credibility. Whether you claim The Occupy Movement has no point, or is ineffective, or has no direction or what ever the media uses to dismember them, it all stems from the same source. Fear. This pathetic defense is executed clearly to protect whoever lay behind the scenes. Bottom line, do your research, do not trust the media and think for yourself.

    Posted by evee421, 03/11/2012 9:23pm (3 years ago)

  • George Santayana had a student, his name was W.E.B. Du Bois. Clayborne Carson calls Du Bois the preeminent American Intellectual-The father of American Sociology-The father of the Civil Rights movement-The father of the Pan-Africanist movement, earning doctoral degrees in five(really six,counting his economic work at Berlin)areas, from philosophy to English literature.
    Spawning an army of prominent historians-Aptheker, John Hope Franklin, even Woodson, the now, Foners, Gates, Lewis and the Hornes, the historical perspective broadens and widens to mammoth proportions, even daily.
    His influence in Africa is from Ghana to Egypt to South Africa to Libya and to Liberia. His largely anthropological World and Africa is lauded by both anthropologists and physicists-as revolutionary intellectual activity, and he is yet a guide to armies within armies of post graduate students on the rise.
    A personal friend of many activists, from Albert Einstein to Paul Leroy Robeson to Shirley Graham Du Bois to Martin Luther King Jr. ,to Mao Zedong-his massive contributions to the modern Civil Rights movement moved those of the massive 1963 Jobs and Freedom march to state that he (W.E.B. Du Bois) wrote the protest signs they carried on their backs.
    King, helping to continue Du Bois's work, also continuing the profound work and influence of The Mahatma Gandhi, the father of non-violent passive resistance through Du Bois, form the material and spiritual basis for Occupy.
    This vast, vast circle of influence starts to capture the significance of Occupy and the historical perspective of Occupy-even its "Spiritual Strivings"in which area also, Du Bois was singular leader and internationalist, in fact, as well fiction, as his beautiful Dark Princess will attest.
    The multinational, multiracial, international spirit of the in many ways mysterious, peace seeking Occupy probably has its foundations in the uncanny statement of Du Bois in 1906:
    "The morning breaks over the hills. Courage brothers! The battle for humanity is not lost or losing. The Slav is rising in his might, the yellow minions are testing their liberty, the Black Africans are writhing toward the light, and everywhere the laborer is opening the gates of opportunity and peace."
    Let us take the genius advice of our wise counselor Du Bois and greet the universe as "a fresh beacon of light" not in any way the reflection of what especially our detractors think of us.
    Peace of Occupy.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 12/08/2011 11:50am (4 years ago)

  • I wonder what ever happen to personal responsibility?

    Posted by Darrell Russell, 12/06/2011 9:09am (4 years ago)

  • The Occupy Movement is NECESSARY for our citizens to expose the corruption which Big Business has infected our Government with. Every single person occupying the streets and protesting Corporations is a hero and a patriot. I was compelled to lend a hand and create some new posters for the movement which you can download for free on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/11/propaganda-for-occupy-movement.html

    Posted by Brandt Hardin, 12/05/2011 5:18pm (4 years ago)

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