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Criticism, Violence and Roosting Chickens

Wednesday, 16 November 2011 07:44 By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | Op-Ed
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Criticism Violence and Roosting Chickens

Protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement in Zuccotti Park in New York, Nov. 15, 2011. (Photo: Marcus Yam / The New York Times)

The 99 percent offered criticism of the 1 percent. They exposed and made clear what most Americans know. They struggled peacefully to inform and mobilize public opinion. They won huge numbers of hearts and minds. The 1 percent in the US did what their counterparts in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and so on did earlier this year. First, they tried to deny the 99 percent the media access needed to reach the people. That failed. Then, they tried scattered police intimidation and pressure to stop the criticism. That failed. Then, Democratic Party operatives tried to convert the Occupiers to become Obama enthusiasts for next year's election. That failed, too.

So now, the weapon of criticism wielded by the 99 percent suffers the counter criticism of violence by servants of the 1 percent. No one will miss which side resorted to organized, massive violence so early and so unnecessarily in this conflict. As in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, having failed to win hearts and minds, US government agencies cover their failure by resorting to violence. Chickens raised abroad return home to roost as they often do. Consider the image: New York Police Department machines and personnel destroy the free library that had functioned so well in Zuccotti Park.

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New York has acquired newly renamed mayor: Mubarak Bloomberg. Situated atop the 1 percent, he gave the order to "clear and clean" Zuccotti Park. This mayor, who presides over some of the world's filthiest tunnels and stations - that daily threaten the public health of millions of subway riders - suddenly acquired an obsession with cleanliness in the small Zuccotti Park. This mayor - whose city handles garbage by piling it in bags on the street that forever break and scatter their contents across the streets - wants us to believe he is concerned about public safety.

Will the failures that renamed New York's mayor spread to yield a Mubarak Obama too? Or will the Arab Spring - so blithely praised by Secretary of State Clinton as "freedom struggles" - resurface here to confront the Clintons with their hypocritical complicity in repression policies at home?

The deepening economic inequality, the moneyed corruption of politics and the collapsing fortunes and prospects of the mass of Americans: none of those basic conditions and causes of Occupy Wall Street have been addressed by Bloomberg or Obama. Instead, they seek to repress those who expose and oppose those conditions.

Meanwhile, the system that keeps reproducing those conditions - a capitalism becoming increasingly intolerable - loses more bases of support. In times like these, the criticism of weapons risks losing to the weapon of criticism. Will the Arab Spring be reborn as the American Winter?

Richard D Wolff

Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. He also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan. Earlier he taught economics at Yale University (1967-1969) and at the City College of the City University of New York (1969-1973). In 1994, he was a Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Paris (France), I (Sorbonne). His work is available at and at

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