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Elections? Stay in the streets

Published Jan 29, 2012 6:30 PM

The Occupy movement has made it very clear that hundreds of thousands of people across the United States, from big cities on both coasts to smaller ones in the midlands and hundreds of towns and rural areas in between, are distressed and angry enough at the present situation to march in the rain and snow, occupy banks, sleep on the ground, attend countless meetings, defy hordes of cops before getting arrested, and above all make their voices heard.

More and more, they are reaching out to the unions and the communities, both to give support and to get support when the state clamps down and tries to bust them up.

This is how genuine movements coming from the grass-roots are born and grow. They are demanding change and are directing their demands at the 1% — the very, very rich who in the sixties and seventies were called the Establishment and who Marxists know as the ruling class.

This movement gets some attention from the corporate media now and then — but nothing like the day-in, day-out barrage of manufactured news, commentary and opinion about the election process that is portrayed as the most important thing happening in the country.

We hear again and again about the Tea Party “movement” — a bunch of reactionaries and racists who heeded the call of the super-rich Koch brothers to get right-wing Republicans elected in the 2010 congressional elections. Now they are getting much attention again, having put some muscle into the Gingrich campaign in South Carolina. He was speaking to wealthy whites in South Carolina when he attacked Obama as the “food-stamp president.” It was really a racist attack on poor people that shows who the Tea Party types really are.

But what has the electioneering season got to do with the problems facing so many tens of millions of workers and oppressed communities in this country? Will anyone in either the Republican or the Democratic party, from Obama, Romney and Gingrich on down to those running for lower offices, put forward a program to do what the people want?

Poll after poll shows a rising tide of anger at the very, very rich and the financial institutions that serve them. People want jobs or an income to live on if they can’t get work. They want the rich to pay a lot more taxes so that social services aren’t cut while more workers are laid off. They want their money spent on the environment and schools and hospitals and housing, not bailouts to the banks and endless wars.

Obama’s State of the Union address, his opening shot in the campaign, tried to tap into this anger when he said he was for an economy where “everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” This is open to many interpretations. By the same set of rules, does he mean an economy where someone with $1 billion and someone with $10 both have the right to start a bank? One where a rich person and a poor person will both be punished equally for stealing a loaf of bread?

Capitalist politics is aimed at obscuring the class differences that lead to poverty, on the one hand, and obscene wealth, on the other. In this season of open reaction versus liberal demagogy, it is what the movement does in the streets that will count and lay the basis for real change.