Vinod Mubayi


As a potent symbol of global capitalism, the one surprising fact about the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is that it was so long in coming, a full three years after the excesses of the major investment houses and their high flying tycoons, the so-called Masters of the Universe, caused a severe downturn of the U.S. economy and threw it into a recession from which it is yet to recover.


In the immediate aftermath of the huge government-funded bailout of the leading engines and engineers of capitalism, major banks, insurance companies, General Motors, etc., the intense public anger at what was correctly perceived as a rescue with taxpayer money of billionaires who happened to have gambled recklessly was seized instead by the Tea Party, a movement of social and religious conservatives adroitly manipulated by far-right business and political leaders.  However, the far-reaching electoral victories at the state and federal level of this movement created its own backlash; the intense attacks of the newly elected right-wing leaders on any kind of progressive and working class groups began to generate a determined opposition at the state and local levels over the last year, which seems to have morphed into OWS.


The occupation began just over a month ago but has grown so rapidly and widely that it is now a staple on the mainstream media in America, having completely displaced the Tea Party from the news headlines.  While the right-wing media in the U.S. like the Fox network of Murdoch foams at the mouth about OWS, important voices in the mainstream liberal media, usually quite scornful of anything that smacks of a “radical hippie” movement have begun to change their tone. E.J. Dionne, Jr. a leading columnist for the Washington Post newspaper recently wrote: “the agitation of Occupy Wall Street [has] “begun to change the context of our discussion. Politicians and commentators who had been silent about economic inequality and the excesses of the financial sector are finally facing up to economic injustice and the irresponsibility of the financial elites. In the meantime, Obama’s moderation has won him absolutely nothing. Having done much to save Wall Street and the banks, he receives in return only ingratitude and criticism. Bankers and financiers who needed the rest of America to bail them out now respond arrogantly when the rest of America complains about the unpaid promissory note it holds.”  Other articles have talked of the death of American-style capitalism something impossible to think about a few years ago when the U.S. was busy lecturing the rest of the world about the virtues of the free-wheeling free market. With a true jobless rate hovering close to 16-17%, almost double the official rate of 9.5%, which counts only those who are “looking” for jobs and neglects those who have become discouraged and dropped out of the labor market, the U.S. is now hardly in a position to preach to anyone else; it is too busy with its own problems that have divided the main political parties into two camps: the (mainly crazy) Republicans who want to use the economic crisis to further eviscerate the role of government and the cautious Democrats keeping one anxious eye on their financial patrons while trying to hold on as best they can to their liberal following.


OWS has also come at a time when economic inequality is reaching new heights in America. A report in New York Times of Oct. 26, that reports the findings of an official study, reveals that the top 1% of Americans more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last 3 decades causing the country to reach a level of inequality last seen before the Great Depression of the 1930s.  This gives a real meaning to the slogan of the OWS protestors: We are the 99%.


Meanwhile, India is awash in corruption scandals as well as in the fake solutions being offered by the Anna Hazare movement that is currently disintegrating.  Despite the excesses of India’s plutocrats, exemplified by Ambani’s 27-story tower residence with its 3 helipads in downtown south Mumbai, a move to Occupy Dalal Street, the counterpart of Wall Street in Mumbai where the stock exchange is located, has not developed yet.  One would think this would be an opportunity for the left parties in India to demonstrate their resilience and recover from their recent electoral defeats but nothing of the sort seems to be happening, which probably demonstrates their irrelevance.


The crisis graphically illustrates that the highly unstable and speculative nature of capitalist development remains an essential element of its functioning, despite the efforts of the Keynesians and other market reformers. Marxist analysis of capitalism has been shown to have greater power of predicting the wild cyclical swings of the capitalist economy in contrast to the smooth operation of the invisible hand of the free market economics.  However, the fact that OWS protestors are making no specific demands and, more importantly, the fact that this is proclaimed to be something positive, as it is acknowledged that any specific list of demands the OWS movement could make would go unfulfilled and thereby diminish its stature, points to the dilemma of what comes after capitalism.  The failures of the “actually existing socialisms” of Soviet Union and China have left a huge vacuum that remains unfilled.

Top - Home