The Occupy ideology

I went into Washington yesterday and stumbled upon the Occupy D.C. folks.  They were in a little green space on Pennsylvania Avenue, which they have filled up with tents.  I was surprised to see how few of them there were.  Estimates have been a couple of hundred–which in itself is an unusually tiny demonstration by D.C. standards–but even that number seems high, based on the little tent village that I saw.  Also, they don’t really look like 99% of America!  I didn’t notice any working class folks–no truck drivers, factory workers, or farmers–despite the unions coming out in their favor.  (That’s always what’s frustrating to the American left:  the proletariat just never comes out for their causes!)  It was pretty much the usual cast of counter-culture radicals whom I remember so well from my college days back in the early 1970s.

The media has been fawning all over these folks, and Democrats–including the president–have declared their support.  That might come back to bite them, according to Michael Gerson, who describes the ideology at work in the seemingly unfocused protests:

But there is some ideological coherence within OWS. Its collectivist people’s councils seem to have two main inspirations: socialism (often Marxist socialism) and anarchism. The two are sometimes in tension. They share, however, a belief that the capitalist system is a form of “institutionalized violence,” and that normal, democratic political methods, dominated by monied interests, are inadequate. Direct action is necessary to provoke the crisis that ignites the struggle that achieves the revolution.

And we are beginning to see what direct action means. Occupy DC protesters recently assaulted a conservative gathering, then took over a public intersection to prevent the passage of luxury cars. Blocking the path of one driver and his 2-year-old son, an activist shouted, “Sorry, but you have no power right now.” That is the opposite of participatory democracy — the use of power to intimidate a fellow citizen on a public street. It is the method of British soccer thugs.

In Oakland, protesters have been playing at the Paris Commune — constructing barricades, setting fires, throwing concrete blocks and explosives, declaring a general strike to stop the “flow of capital” at the port. Here, OWS seems to be taking its cues from both “Rules for Radicals” and “A Clockwork Orange.”

Defenders of OWS dismiss this as the work of a few bad apples. But the transgressors would call themselves the vanguard. And they express, not betray, a significant ideological strain within the movement. Since the 1960s, some on the political left have sought liberal reform through the democratic process and nonviolent protest. Others have sought to hasten the crisis and collapse of fundamentally illegitimate social and economic systems. Both groups can be found within OWS, but the latter is ascendant.

OWS has, in fact, provoked a crisis of credibility for many American institutions. News coverage of the movement has been both disproportionate and fawning. The two encampments of Occupy DC, for example, have a couple of hundred inhabitants. If they moved to a nearby convention hotel, the group would probably be smaller than a meeting of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. During the Tea Party’s rise to national attention, the press scoured the country for any hint of rhetorical incitement to violence. OWS protesters smash windows, assault police officers and wear Guy Fawkes masks — a historical figure known for attempting to bomb the British Parliament.

City governments have also begun to look hapless for their accommodation of squalor, robberies, sexual attacks, drug use, vagrancy and vigilantism.

And what must Democratic leaders — who rushed to identify with a protean political force — now be thinking? OWS is not a seminar on income inequality — not the Center for American Progress on a camping trip. It is a leftist movement with a militant wing.

Will Americans, looking for jobs, turn in hope to the vandalization of small businesses and the promise of a general strike? Will citizens, disappointed by a dysfunctional government, be impressed by the endless arguments of anarchist collectives? Will people, disgusted by partisanship and rhetorical rock-throwing, be attracted to actual rock throwing?

This seems to be the desperate political calculation of the Democratic Party. Good luck with that.

via As radicalism creeps in, credibility retreats from OWS – The Washington Post.

OK, they have TWO encampments in D.C., so that explains how they might have 200 protesters, despite the mere handful that I saw.   Gerson’s point is a good one:  Radicals, whether Marxists or Anarchists, WANT the collapse of our economic system, which is understood as the prerequisite for the revolution.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Rose

    I was a student at U. Chicago in 1968. The blue-collar workers on campus despised the student radicals. They were privileged and obnoxious. I was a blue collar kid in a type of affirmative action program based on ability, so I related to the workers.
    The destructive element of ‘direct action’ is encouraged both overtly and covertly by the current administration in Washington, which is much influenced by Frank Marshall Davis.

  • Rose

    I was a student at U. Chicago in 1968. The blue-collar workers on campus despised the student radicals. They were privileged and obnoxious. I was a blue collar kid in a type of affirmative action program based on ability, so I related to the workers.
    The destructive element of ‘direct action’ is encouraged both overtly and covertly by the current administration in Washington, which is much influenced by Frank Marshall Davis.

  • SKPeterson

    I note the sad irony that the OWS protesters are camping out in urban locations and destroying property (and jobs) in cities with left-leaning mayors and city councils – they are protesting precisely in those venues most appreciative of their views. In other parts of the country, the Occupy folks are making very polite (Nashville) or they’re virtually non-existent (Dallas, Houston). It may also be that the property owners in these latter locales can be, and often are, willing to defend their property rather aggressively. They also can rely on police in those locations to actually show up to protect lives and property (a very real problem in D.C.).

  • SKPeterson

    I note the sad irony that the OWS protesters are camping out in urban locations and destroying property (and jobs) in cities with left-leaning mayors and city councils – they are protesting precisely in those venues most appreciative of their views. In other parts of the country, the Occupy folks are making very polite (Nashville) or they’re virtually non-existent (Dallas, Houston). It may also be that the property owners in these latter locales can be, and often are, willing to defend their property rather aggressively. They also can rely on police in those locations to actually show up to protect lives and property (a very real problem in D.C.).

  • Random Lutheran

    If these “Marxists” believe that that is the prerequisite for revolution, they haven’t been reading their Marx (though they may well have paid good attention to Lenin, or, more likely, Trotski). Marx was clear that for the Revolution to come, Capitalism must reach its logical endpoint, with the system running full steam ahead — a collapse of the system would only delay the Eschat–, I mean, the Revolution. These folks are, so far, closer to the various socialist groups that lost out in the Russian Revolution — talk, talk, talk, public scenes, good at getting attention, while being otherwise ineffective.

  • Random Lutheran

    If these “Marxists” believe that that is the prerequisite for revolution, they haven’t been reading their Marx (though they may well have paid good attention to Lenin, or, more likely, Trotski). Marx was clear that for the Revolution to come, Capitalism must reach its logical endpoint, with the system running full steam ahead — a collapse of the system would only delay the Eschat–, I mean, the Revolution. These folks are, so far, closer to the various socialist groups that lost out in the Russian Revolution — talk, talk, talk, public scenes, good at getting attention, while being otherwise ineffective.

  • Tom Hering

    I’m pretty sure OWS will fall apart on its own. (It has no core, and the object of its anger is not an identifiable person, or persons, but an abstraction: “the rich.”) Scenes of police clubbing and bulldozing will only delay its collapse, by re-energizing the most radical element of OWS.

    Though it has lost a small percentage of support among the general public, the latest polls still show OWS receiving more support than the Tea Party (which peaked a year ago). And this (I would guess) because OWS at least expresses the anger and frustration that a good part of the population feels. What happens to that anger and frustration if OWS falls apart or is crushed? Things could get even uglier if America’s problems get worse.

  • Tom Hering

    I’m pretty sure OWS will fall apart on its own. (It has no core, and the object of its anger is not an identifiable person, or persons, but an abstraction: “the rich.”) Scenes of police clubbing and bulldozing will only delay its collapse, by re-energizing the most radical element of OWS.

    Though it has lost a small percentage of support among the general public, the latest polls still show OWS receiving more support than the Tea Party (which peaked a year ago). And this (I would guess) because OWS at least expresses the anger and frustration that a good part of the population feels. What happens to that anger and frustration if OWS falls apart or is crushed? Things could get even uglier if America’s problems get worse.

  • SKPeterson

    Tom – Have you noticed, though, the correlation between poll popularity and media coverage? There really haven’t been any large-scale Tea Party protests in the past years or so, as you note, so there hasn’t been much related media coverage. OWS is now the media darling, and getting plenty of attention. As a result, their poll numbers are up. We can observe a similar phenomenon in the Republican presidential primaries – Bachmann! No, wait. Perry! No, wait. Cain! Lather, rinse, repeat.

  • SKPeterson

    Tom – Have you noticed, though, the correlation between poll popularity and media coverage? There really haven’t been any large-scale Tea Party protests in the past years or so, as you note, so there hasn’t been much related media coverage. OWS is now the media darling, and getting plenty of attention. As a result, their poll numbers are up. We can observe a similar phenomenon in the Republican presidential primaries – Bachmann! No, wait. Perry! No, wait. Cain! Lather, rinse, repeat.

  • michael henry

    “..expresses the anger and frustration that a good part of the population feels….”

    If that population is of the Marxist, radical, openly I hate America segment, I agree with that. However, outside of what does the word “left” gross injustice, I can’t see how much if any of the so-called OWS represents anything of the bulk of our country.

    I’m not just venting. The Marxist, violent vitriol that very little MSM or OWS-ites dis-avow is well documented. The physical violence, disregard for law and simple human respect is absent. And there are countless instances reported to leave no other impression then that many of these folks indeed hate their own country.
    With all respect, I think they really represent very little of any sizable segment of America, just the loudest and most violent.

  • michael henry

    “..expresses the anger and frustration that a good part of the population feels….”

    If that population is of the Marxist, radical, openly I hate America segment, I agree with that. However, outside of what does the word “left” gross injustice, I can’t see how much if any of the so-called OWS represents anything of the bulk of our country.

    I’m not just venting. The Marxist, violent vitriol that very little MSM or OWS-ites dis-avow is well documented. The physical violence, disregard for law and simple human respect is absent. And there are countless instances reported to leave no other impression then that many of these folks indeed hate their own country.
    With all respect, I think they really represent very little of any sizable segment of America, just the loudest and most violent.

  • Tom Hering

    michael henry @ 6, I didn’t say OWS represents anyone but OWS. I said they express the anger and frustration that a good part of the population feels – though it’s probably less than 50%. Which, history teaches us, is enough to bring about radical change, if not revolution. I think it would be wise for municipalities to allow the protests and tent cities to continue – as a relief valve – while dealing surgically with any criminality.

  • Tom Hering

    michael henry @ 6, I didn’t say OWS represents anyone but OWS. I said they express the anger and frustration that a good part of the population feels – though it’s probably less than 50%. Which, history teaches us, is enough to bring about radical change, if not revolution. I think it would be wise for municipalities to allow the protests and tent cities to continue – as a relief valve – while dealing surgically with any criminality.

  • –helen

    Radicals, whether Marxists or Anarchists, WANT the collapse of our economic system, which is understood as the prerequisite for the revolution.

    The collapse of our economic system and the world’s has been/is being? more effectively attempted by AIG and GoldmanSachs, et alia. Is it coincidence that AIG originated in China?
    (Or is that misinformation?)

  • –helen

    Radicals, whether Marxists or Anarchists, WANT the collapse of our economic system, which is understood as the prerequisite for the revolution.

    The collapse of our economic system and the world’s has been/is being? more effectively attempted by AIG and GoldmanSachs, et alia. Is it coincidence that AIG originated in China?
    (Or is that misinformation?)

  • SKPeterson

    Helen – AIG is American, but it was begun by an American entrepreneur in Shanghai in the early 20th century. They left when the Communists took power. Shanghai was/is the commercial capital of mainland China, so it made sense to locate an insurance business there – China was booming in the early 1900′s.

  • SKPeterson

    Helen – AIG is American, but it was begun by an American entrepreneur in Shanghai in the early 20th century. They left when the Communists took power. Shanghai was/is the commercial capital of mainland China, so it made sense to locate an insurance business there – China was booming in the early 1900′s.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    We need to give these folks all the press the want. The rope will eventually be long enough to hang themselves.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    We need to give these folks all the press the want. The rope will eventually be long enough to hang themselves.


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