The View from the Left: A Day on Wall Street

My longtime friend David Walters shared a few thoughts with me regarding his recent visit to New York in the midst of the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement.  He kindly agreed to share his impressions with others through this website.

While visiting New York last week, I took the opportunity to experience the Occupy Wall Street movement firsthand. I also attended a special event on Washington Square.  I spent a day there and noticed that while the crowd’s diversity  — in terms of class, race, ethnicity and so forth – were not entirely indicative of the city’s diversity overall, the general composition of the group made it feel like the broad appeal of the movement speaks across many of the traditional divisions in American society.

Decisions were made largely by consensus. Such efforts delayed any sort of hard and fast decision-making, allowing a small, controlling minority to completely prevent the masses of participants from actually doing anything. Consensus is not unanimity but it appears to be synonymous for the anarcho-liberals who “facilitate” it. Most working people cannot stay for hours of this stuff as they have to work, go home, be with their families, and so forth. It is the most undemocratic aspect of an otherwise wonderful explosion of activism. Where friends of mine and I were able to participate, we simply asked if people wanted to vote on this or that question and everyone but the anarcho-liberal facilitators were in favor of this. It’s been done this way in San Francisco and Boston with great success, especially if there are a lot union types there who are used to actually ending a discussion and voting.

The spirit, however, is totally anti-capitalist. Everyone, it seems, is open to socialist and revolutionary ideas. It reminds me of the mid-1960s before the movement against the war in Vietnam really got going. It’s inspiring.

It does not, however, have any direction despite the almost exponential growth. “Regular” people who show there almost universally agree – at least in my impression – that demands on the government are needed. It’s not enough to yell at the banks; we need to get our money back and we have to demand it. Things like defending social security and ending the war in Afghanistan are widely received as something the General Assemblies ought to decide on.

There are at least 1500 cities having OWS now in their towns. Starting in Greece and Spain, this has now been amplified by it hitting the US and the movement is now traveling internationally – like a global tsunami, – picking up speed and strength while focusing, not dissipating.

We are living in interesting times.

David Walters is the Director of the Holt Labor Library in San Francisco, California. He is also the Director of the Marxists Internet Archive. I would not be the person I am today without David’s influence and I am truly fortunate to know him.

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