Following are excerpts from a talk given by Caleb T. Maupin, a Workers World Party youth organizer and WW writer, at a Sept. 21 WWP forum in New York City on the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.
I looked up the actual law that some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested on Sept. 17 are being charged with. The law isn’t specifically “assault on a police officer.” The actual text of New York State Penal Code 120.08 also talks of assault on firefighters, medical technicians and paramedics.
Yet who is attacking public employees right now? Who is cutting the pensions of paramedics, firefighters, nurses and teachers? Who is slashing the wages of the people who care for the sick?
It’s not Occupy Wall Street that is assaulting public workers. OWS is trying to bring the grinding wheels of austerity to a halt and stop these attacks on the lives of working people.
If there was any seriousness in enforcing this law, the cops would arrest the superrich. They would also arrest the Republican and Democratic politicians who serve them. But we know who the police really serve.
The few of us who went to Bowling Green Plaza on Sept. 17, 2011, had no idea what was waiting for us. When I arrived there with a few other Workers World Party members, I had an electric feeling. There was something in the air. There was some real energy. You can just feel it sometimes. It felt like it would be the beginning of something beautiful.
The superrich were convinced they could get away with austerity. They thought they could set up a situation where it’s impossible for young people like us to get jobs, where education is basically unaffordable, where there are loads of cops in our schools and 2.5 million people in prison.
They were convinced as long as they dangled the new iPhone in front of us and had a new season of “American Idol” on TV that we young people were so stupid we would just accept it. They were wrong.
If you’ve been at an OWS demonstration lately, you have undoubtedly heard a chant in Spanish that has caught on. In English it’s: “The anti-capitalists are here!”
After years of cutbacks, after Reagan, after Clinton’s welfare reforms, after wars, after so much reaction, after the ultra-rich have gotten away with so much, finally, before the entire world, the youth, the next generation, are standing up and saying, “The anti-capitalists are here!”
We’re fighting and we’re not going away. We aren’t going to let this situation continue.
Police brutality doesn’t stop protesters
Once I was down in Union Square, and there was a young woman who was being looked after by the medics. They were inspecting her because she had two broken ribs. The night before, during another demonstration, two of her friends had been arrested. She had stood there with her phone and recorded what went on.
So the cops grabbed her, took her phone and deleted the video. They opened her arms up and held her against the wall. Then they started punching her. They knew precisely how to beat her so she was severely injured.
Yet, after being so horrifically brutalized, where was this woman? She was at a protest. The next day she was in the middle of a protest despite having broken ribs.
I also think about Chicago at the demonstration against NATO. The whole march we walked past endless lines of cops with huge wooden riot sticks on display, making clear what would happen if we dared step out of the permitted march route.
But this didn’t stop a huge crowd of youth from chanting and trying their best to bust through the police line. They were excited and happy as they did it, even though they got their heads clubbed.
What makes people so excited to charge a police line? What makes people keep coming back to demonstrations after they’ve been badly injured and had their ribs broken?
It’s the same thing that made thousands of Chinese youth give up their middle-class lives and go into the countryside to join Mao Zedong and the People’s Liberation Army. It’s the same thing that made Che Guevara give up his chances of being a comfortable middle-class doctor and go join Fidel Castro.
The millions of young people who have been locked out by this system have a desire to contribute to society. They have a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. As much as it is in people’s economic interests to fight against capitalism, there is still another component. There is heroism, the “great love” that Che spoke of. This is also part of the Communist tradition.
Putting on ‘class glasses’
Occupy Wall Street has made a huge contribution in the struggle against capitalism. The fact that people are talking about 99% and 1%, not just in New York, but in Utah, Missouri, South Carolina and everywhere else is a huge leap forward.
V. I. Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, said, “People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises.” (“Three Components of Marxism”)
Sam Marcy, the founding chairperson of Workers World Party, used to always urge people to put on their “class glasses.” As a result of Occupy Wall Street, literally millions of workers are walking around with their class glasses on, and this is a huge victory.
One of the big Marxist concepts we saw play out with Occupy Wall Street is that of “expropriating the expropriators.”
Zuccotti Park is owned by a corporation called Brookfield Properties. Why? Because they have a sheet of paper, a certificate of ownership, which says they own it.
But every stone in the park was laid by a worker, all the cement was poured by workers, it is workers who clean that park each day, it is workers who relax there and enjoy it. But a small group of capitalists has expropriated it. We, the 99%, came together to create it and maintain it, but the 1% gets to own it.
Socialist revolution means we take back what we created. We seize the means of production, the banks, the factories, the big-box stores — all this wealth we have created should be “expropriated.” We should take it back and hold it in common.
The seizure and occupation of Zuccotti Park was a step in that direction. It raised the consciousness of millions of workers toward understanding that they have the right to take the world for themselves. This too is a huge contribution.
Occupy Wall Street activists may not all agree with Workers World Party. They may be anarchists. They may be liberals or social democrats. But they should know that we support them, we have their back, and we owe them a great deal.