Blog post

John Nichols for The Nation: "The 99 Percent Rise Up"

Francisco Salas 3 November 2011

John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation and author of The "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism writes on the three things Occupy Wall Street have gotten right from the start, and where to go from here.

The target

By aiming activism not at the government but at the warren of bankers, CEOs and hedge-fund managers to whom the government is beholden, Occupy Wall Street went to the heart of the matter ... Like the populists, the socialists and the best of the progressive reformers of a century ago, Occupy Wall Street has not gotten distracted by electoral politics; it has gone after the manipulator of both major parties–what the radicals of old referred to as "the money power."

The numbers

The brilliance of Occupy Wall STreet's message, "We are the 99%," is that it invites just about everyone who isn't a billionaire to recognize themselves as members of the class that has suffered what Thomas Jefferson once described as "a long train of abuses and usurpations."

The demands

The most comic complaint about Occupy Wall Street—not just from critics but even from some elite sympathizers—is that it lacks well-defined demands. In fact, the objection of the occupiers to a system of corporate domination and growing inequality, and their desire to change that system, makes a lot more sense to a lot more Americans than anything being said by politicians ... The American people desperately wanted this movement. That is proven not only by the polls but by the practical embrace of the Occupy Wall Street ethos in more than a thousand communities accross the nation.

Nichols draws on his knowledge of the radical tradition in the United States to comment insightfully on the emerging movement and its relationship to the electoral politics that would appropriate and neutralize it:

America needs a new politics, as much of the streets as of the polling place, a politics that, like the labor movement of the 1930s, the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, the environmental movement of the early 1970s, forces both parties to transform. Anything less is more of the same—more poverty, more inequality, more economic injustice. And if occupy Wall Street is anything at all, it is a south from the 99 percenters: "We have had it!"

Visit The Nation to read the piece in full.