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Occupy Wall Street: A Selection of Commentary
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As #OccupyWallStreet protesters continue to gather in the streets of New York and other cities across the country, a selection of commentators give their views on the United States' version of the uprisings occuring throughout the world. Are we witnessing the birth of a new commonwealth of economic equality?

The All-American Occupation: A Century of Our Streets Vs. Wall Street - Steve Fraser, TomDispatch.com

Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now - Naomi Klein, The Nation

Occupy Wall Street: Search Party for a New Equality in What We Have, What We Do - Charles Andrews, MR Zine

Why I'm in Solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet - David Korten, YES! 

Today Liberty Plaza had a visit from Slavoj Zizek: Transcripts - Slavoj Zizek, OccupyWallStreet.org

Further Resources


The All-American Occupation: A Century of Our Streets Vs. Wall Street

13th October 2011 - Steve Fraser, TomDispatch.com

Occupy Wall Street, the ongoing demonstration-cum-sleep-in that began a month ago not far from the New York Stock Exchange and has since spread like wildfire to cities around the country, may be a game-changer.  If so, it couldn’t be more appropriate or more in the American grain that, when the game changed, Wall Street was directly in the sights of the protesters.

The fact is that the end of the world as we’ve known it has been taking place all around us for some time.  Until recently, however, thickets of political verbiage about cutting this and taxing that, about the glories of “job creators” and the need to preserve “the American dream,” have obscured what was hiding in plain sight -- that street of streets, known to generations of our ancestors as “the street of torments.”

After an absence of well over half a century, Wall Street is back, center stage, as the preferred American icon of revulsion, a status it held for a fair share of our history.  And we can thank a small bunch of campers in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park for hooking us up to a venerable tradition of resistance and rebellion.

The Street of Torments

Peering back at a largely forgotten terrain of struggle against “the Street,” so full of sound and fury signifying quite a lot, it’s astonishing -- to a historian of Wall Street, at least -- that the present movement didn’t happen sooner.  It’s already hard to remember that only weeks ago, three years into the near shutdown of the world financial system and the Great Recession, an eerie unprotesting silence still blanketed the country. 

Stories accumulated of Wall Street greed and arrogance, astonishing tales of incompetence and larceny.  The economy slowed and stalled.  People lost their homes and jobs. Poverty reached record levels.  The political system proved as bankrupt as the big banks.  Bipartisan consensus emerged -- but only around the effort to save “too big to fail” financial goliaths, not the legions of victims their financial wilding had left in its wake. 

The political class then prescribed what people already had plenty of: yet another dose of austerity plus a faith-based belief in a “recovery” that, for 99% of Americans, was never much more than an optical illusion.  In those years, the hopes of ordinary people for a chance at a decent future withered and bitterness set in. 

Strangely, however, popular resistance was hard to find.  In the light of American history, this passivity was surpassingly odd.  From decades before the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century through the Great Depression, again and again Wall Street found itself in the crosshairs of an outraged citizenry mobilized thanks to political parties, labor unions, or leagues of the unemployed.  Such movements were filled with a polyglot mix of middle-class anti-trust reformers, bankrupted small businessmen, dispossessed farmers, tenants and sharecroppers, out-of-work laborers, and so many others. 

If Occupy Wall Street signals the end of our own, atypical period of acquiescence, could a return to a version of “class warfare” that would, once upon a time, have been familiar to so many Americans be on the horizon?  Finally!

What began as a relatively sparsely attended and impromptu affair has displayed a staying power and magnetic attractiveness that has taken the country, and above all the political class, by surprise.  A recent rally of thousands in lower Manhattan, where demonstrators marched from the city’s government center to Zuccotti Park, the location of the “occupiers” encampment, was an extraordinarily diverse gathering by any measure of age, race, or class.  Community organizations, housing advocates, environmentalists, and even official delegations of trade unionists not normally at ease hanging out with anarchists and hippies gave the whole affair a social muscularity and reach that was exhilarating to experience.

Diversity, however, can cut both ways.  Popular protest, to the degree that there’s been much during the recent past -- and mainly over the war in Iraq -- has sometimes been criticized for the chaotic way it assembled a grab-bag of issues and enemies, diffuse and without focus.  Occupy Wall Street embraces diverse multitudes but this time in the interest of convergence.  In its targeting of “the street of torments,” this protean uprising has, in fact, found common ground. To a historian’s ear this echoes loudly.

Karl Marx described high finance as “the Vatican of capitalism,” its diktat to be obeyed without question. We’ve spent a long generation learning not to mention Marx in polite company, and not to use suspect and nasty phrases like “class warfare” or “the reserve army of labor,” among many others.   

In times past, however, such phrases and the ideas that went with them struck our forebears as useful, even sometimes as true depictions of reality.  They used them regularly, along with words like “plutocracy,” “robber baron,” and “ruling class,” to identify the sources of economic exploitation and inequality that oppressed them, as well as to describe the political disenfranchisement they suffered and the subversion of democracy they experienced.   

Never before, however, has “the Vatican of capitalism” captured quite so perfectly the specific nature of the oligarchy that’s run the country for a generation and has now run it into the ground.  Even political consultant and pundit James Carville, no Marxist he, confessed as much during the Clinton years when he said the bond market “intimidates everybody.” 

Perhaps that era of everyday intimidation is finally ending.  Here are some of the signs of it -- literally -- from that march I attended: “Loan Sharks Ate My World” (illustrated with a reasonable facsimile of the Great White from Jaws), “End the Federal Reserve,” “Wall Street Sold Out, Let’s Not Bail-Out,” “Kill the Over the Counter Derivative Market,” “Wall Street Banks Madoff Well,” “The Middle Class is Too Big To Fail,”  “Eat the Rich, Feed the Poor,” “Greed is Killing the Earth.”  During the march, a pervasive chant -- “We are the 99%” -- resoundingly reminded the bond market just how isolated and vulnerable it might become.   

And it is in confronting this elemental, determining feature of our society’s predicament, in gathering together all the multifarious manifestations of our general dilemma right there on “the street of torments,” that Occupy Wall Street -- even without a program or clear set of demands, as so many observers lament -- has achieved a giant leap backward, summoning up a history of opposition we would do well to recall today.

A Century of Our Streets and Wall Street

One young woman at the demonstration held up a corrugated cardboard sign roughly magic-markered with one word written three times: “system,” “system,” “system.”  That single word resonates historically, even if it sounds strange to our ears today.  The indictment of presumptive elites, especially those housed on Wall Street, the conviction that the system over which they presided must be replaced by something more humane, was a robust feature of our country’s political and cultural life for a long century or more.

When in the years following the American Revolution, Jeffersonian democrats raised alarms about the “moneycrats” and their counterrevolutionary intrigues -- they meant Alexander Hamilton and his confederates in particular -- they were worried about the installation in the New World of a British system of merchant capitalism that would undo the democratic and egalitarian promise of the Revolution. 

When followers of Andrew Jackson inveighed against the Second Bank of the United States -- otherwise known as “the Monster Bank” -- they were up in arms against what they feared was the systematic monopolizing of financial resources by a politically privileged elite.  Just after the Civil War, the Farmer-Labor and Greenback political parties freed themselves of the two-party runaround, determined to mobilize independently to break the stranglehold on credit exercised by the big banks back East.

Later in the nineteenth century, Populists decried the overweening power of the Wall Street “devil fish” (shades of Matt Taibbi’s “giant vampire squid” metaphor for Goldman Sachs). Its tentacles, they insisted, not only reached into every part of the economy, but also corrupted churches, the press, and institutions of higher learning, destroyed the family, and suborned public officials from the president on down.  When, during his campaign for the presidency in 1896, the Populist-inspired “boy orator of the Platte” and Democratic Party candidate William Jennings Bryan vowed that mankind would not be “crucified on a cross of gold,” he meant Wall Street and everyone knew it. 

Around the turn of the century, the anti-trust movement captured the imagination of small businessmen, consumers, and working people in towns and cities across America.  The trust they worried most about was “the Money Trust.”  Captained by J.P. Morgan, “the financial Gorgon,” the Money Trust was skewered in court and in print by future Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, subjected to withering Congressional investigations, excoriated in the exposés of “muckraking” journalists, and depicted by cartoonists as a cabal of prehensile Visigoths in death-heads.

As the twentieth century began, progressive reformers in state houses and city halls, socialists in industrial cities and out on the prairies, strikebound workers from coast to coast, working-class feminists, antiwar activists, and numerous others were still vigorously condemning that same Money Trust for turning the whole country into a closely-held system of financial pillage, labor exploitation, and imperial adventuring abroad.  As the movements made clear, everyone but Wall Street was suffering the consequences of a system of proliferating abuses perpetrated by “the Street.”

The tradition the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have tapped into is a long and vibrant one that culminated during the Great Depression. Then as now, there was no question in the minds of "the 99%” that Wall Street was principally to blame for the country’s crisis (however much that verdict has since been challenged by disputatious academics). 

Insurgencies by industrial workers, powerful third-party threats to replace capitalism with something else, rallies and marches of the unemployed, and, yes, occupations, even seizures of private property, foreclosures forestalled by infuriated neighbors, and a pervasive sense that the old order needed burying had their lasting effect. In response, the New Deal attempted to unhorse those President Franklin Roosevelt termed “economic royalists,” who were growing rich off “other people’s money” while the country suffered its worst trauma since the Civil War.  “The Street” trembled.

“System, System, System”: It would be foolish to make too much of a raggedy sign -- or to leap to conclusions about just how lasting this Occupy Wall Street moment will be and just where (if anywhere) it’s heading. It would be crazily optimistic to proclaim our own pitiful age of acquiescence ended.

Still, it would be equally foolish to dismiss the powerful American tradition the demonstrators of this moment have tapped into.  In the past, Wall Street has functioned as an icon of revulsion, inciting anger, stoking up energies, and summoning visions of a new world that might save the New World. 

It is poised to play that role again. Remember this: in 1932, three years into the Great Depression, most Americans were more demoralized than mobilized.  A few years later, all that had changed as “Our Street, Not Wall Street” came alive.  The political class had to scurry to keep up.  Occupy Wall Street may indeed prove the opening act in an unfolding drama of renewed resistance and rebellion against “the system.”

Steve Fraser is Editor-at-Large of New Labor Forum, a TomDispatch regular, and co-founder of the American Empire Project (Metropolitan Books).  A historian of Wall Street, his most recent book on the subject is Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace.  He teaches history at Columbia University.

Link to original source


Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now

6th October 2011 - Naomi Klein, The Nation

I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I say will have to be repeated by hundreds of people so others can hear (a k a “the human microphone”), what I actually say at Liberty Plaza will have to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.

I love you.

And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.

Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.

If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say “No. We will not pay for your crisis.”

That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.

“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.” And most of all: “Welcome.”

Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called “the movement of movements.”

But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.

Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It’s because they don’t have roots. And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.

Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows. More wisdom.

But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shutdowns.

We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.

Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.

We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.

I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.

That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says, “I care about you.” In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, “Let them die,” that is a deeply radical statement.

A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things that don’t matter.

  • § What we wear.
  • § Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.
  • § Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.
  • And here are a few things that do matter.
  • § Our courage.
  • § Our moral compass.
  • § How we treat each other.

We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.

Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.

Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.

Editor’s Note: Naomi’s speech also appeared in Saturday’s edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal.

Link to original source


Occupy Wall Street: Search Party for a New Equality in What We Have, What We Do

7th October 2011 - Charles Andrews, MR Zine

The Occupy Wall Street camps in New York City, joined by Boston, San Francisco, and more cities every week, began with no program, but two major themes are apparent: we are 99 percent against one percent along an economic fault line, and corporate tyranny must end.  These are two banners raised by an advance search party in search of a new economic equality.

Drawing the 99-1 line is profoundly human.  We are in this economy and society together, except for the tiny stratum of rich.  They want it all for themselves, and the implication of the response by Occupy Wall Street is that we should create a society of no rich and no poor.

As for corporations, Occupy Wall Street calls them out as a tyranny based on recognition that these vast institutions operate as the wealth faucets of the rich.  Some of the signs say, "End Corporate Personhood."  Corporations enjoy the constitutional rights and protections of real people, as though they had a heart.  Ralph Nader has said for decades that corporate personhood is a legal reality under capitalism but an obvious fiction to common sense.  The essence of such personhood is that it magnifies the domination and wealth of one percent of the actual persons.

Occupy Wall Street is like an advance search party, scouting the terrain held by an enemy who blocks our march to a new land.  There are various reforms that would, if achievable and achieved, take us a bit forward.  For example, a tax on Wall Street's trillions of dollars of transactions in financial paper could wipe out the federal deficit at once and guarantee equal health care for all.

To see the fundamental program, just use an insight that social reality has always confirmed sooner or later: things turn into their opposite.  The emergence of Occupy Wall Street against the domination and exploitation of 99 percent of society by the one percent points to a new commonwealth of economic equality.  It is defined by three principles: 

  1. No rich, no poor.  All jobs pay enough that no one who works is poor, everyone who works gets a comfortable income, and no one gets rich by ridiculous salary, business manipulation, or milking corporate wealth.
  2. Full employment always and forever.  Everyone who wants a full-time job gets one.  We have known for decades how to run an economy at full employment.  The time has come to make it a bedrock principle.
  3. Corporations are chartered to run at break even for society.  If there are profits, they go to a social investment fund.  Conversely, if a corporation consistently loses money, it is reorganized.  Since everyone is guaranteed a job, this is nothing to fear.  The people in these vast institutions can create, produce, and distribute all that we need, in a socially and ecologically responsible way.  What a wonderful day for the 99 percent when the Kochs and the Waltons as well as Mr. Weill (CitiCorp), Mr. Gates (Microsoft), and the rest of the rich cannot dispose of our lives, our labor, and the machinery that we and our ancestors built.

The principles of a new commonwealth appear to address what wehave.  That is one aspect of economic equality, but there is more.  Participants in Occupy Wall Street have the time, the anxiety, and the anger to show us the way forward because they are denied meaningful work.  Capitalism allows precious little of it to be done.  When everyone who wants work is guaranteed a job, and when elimination of rich and poor converges wages to an ever more narrow range, it becomes necessary that everyone has useful work.  This revolution is also about what we do.

In the era of industry staffed by tens of millions of factory workers, the work was alienating, but capitalists needed our parents' and grandparents' labor.  Confronted by mass struggles in the 1930s and again in the 1960s, the rich made concessions out of the fruits of this labor to keep their profits flowing.  However, the industrial era has wound down for decades.  Machines need far fewer human servants who repeat a cycle of motions over and over.  In a decent society, this change would free us to take up the huge amount of human work to be done.  Just look around our cities, think about our earth, and look into our schools and colleges.

Consider, too, what needs to be done with the river of things we consume.  As the volume has grown, the quality has declined; we need to reverse that.  In addition, the waste and harm generated as things are made, used, and disposed of have been "external costs" to corporations.  We, the society bearing these costs, can reconstitute the entire process of production to be renewable in the widest conceivable scope.

We can have a good life and be far-sighted stewards of this world at the same time.  It will be the noble work of millions of people.  The only downside will be for the rich.  They will no longer be able to crush us in stultifying, artificially repetitive, prison-like jobs, while excluding huge numbers of us from work and income.  Occupy Wall Street points to a new commonwealth dedicated to equality in what we have and what we do.  The lords of banks and corporations cannot accept that an economy should simply be our relations throughout society to achieve a good life for all of us.

Charles Andrews is the author of No Rich, No Poor: Why a Failed Economy Must Give Way to a Program of Common Prosperity.

Link to original source


Why I'm in Solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet

4th October 2011 - David Korten, YES! 

At this moment the brave and dedicated #OccupyWallStreet protesters are in the streets of New York and cities around the world. They call the world’s attention to Wall Street greed and corruption as a common source of the many crises that threaten the human future—economic, political, social, and environmental. This is a defining moment for America. It is our country’s version of the uprisings occurring around the world. It is a ray of hope for democracy and real prosperity in America and beyond.

Contrary to the Wall Street propaganda, Wall Street is a job killer, not a job creator. Wall Street banks and corporations have no interest in creating jobs, educating American children, or assuring that Americans have health care and retirement security. They appeal for ever more tax breaks and regulatory relief only to have yet more money to use as they used their taxpayer provided bailout: to increase executive bonuses, pay dividends, buy other companies, buy back their own stock to increase the value of their stock options, buy political favor, create new financial bubbles, and outsource yet more jobs.

Wall Street cloaks itself in the American flag to gain public favor, but offshores its profits to avoid paying its share of America’s upkeep—leaving it to the “little people” to pay for the public infrastructure on which Wall Street profits depend. Its relationship to America is that of an alien occupier who comes only to extract, not to build.

The ruckus about the budget deficit is a typical Wall Street inspired and funded political diversion. America is far from broke. Our problem is too much money in the wrong places – unjust but profitable wars, corporate bailouts, and CEO bonuses to name a few. Wall Street banks and corporations are sitting on record amounts of idle cash in the trillions of dollars. Their highest return investments are in the politicians who favor them with public subsidies, tax breaks, and freedom from public oversight.

Ordinary people all across America are rising up to expose Wall Street’s deceptions and reclaim their country from this alien occupier. The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City enumerates Wall Street’s crimes against people, country, nature, and the world. The personal stories emerging from Occupy Wall Street document our common experience under Wall Street’s rule—unemployment, wages that cannot support families, dwindling retirement accounts, foreclosed homes, student debt, and deferred health care. These stories are inspiring yet more Americans to come forward.

There is also the quiet—but powerful—protest of the millions of Americans who are putting their shoulders to the wheel of change by building the new community-rooted, market-based, life-serving Main Street economies we need for a 21st century America that provides secure, adequate dignified, and meaningful livelihoods for all in a balanced relationship to nature.

The corporate media are obsessed with the question: “What do the Occupy Wall Street protesters want? What is their demand?” It should be obvious. They want their economy, their government, and their country back from the alien occupiers.

As our forebears liberated America from rule by a distant king and the British East India Company, the time has come to liberate America from Wall Street and reclaim the power Wall Street has usurped. It is time to establish democracy in America and build a national system of Main Street economies owned and accountable to people who have an inherent interest in building healthy communities with thriving local economies and healthy natural environments for themselves and their children. By the calendar it’s autumn, but for many it is the beginning of the American Spring.

Link to original source


Today Liberty Plaza had a visit from Slavoj Zizek: Transcripts

9th October 2011 - Slavoj Zizek, OccupyWallStreet.org

Part One

…2008 financial crash more hard earned private property was destroyed than if all of us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is tuning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scenes from cartoons. The cart reaches a precipice. But it goes on walking. Ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street – Hey, look down! (cheering).

In April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV and films and in novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. It means that people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dream. Here we don’t think of prohibition. Because the ruling system has even suppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism. So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful old joke from communist times.

A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors. So he told his friends: Let’s establish a code. If the letter you get from me is written in blue ink ,it is true what I said. If it is written in red ink, it is false. After a month his friends get a first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theaters show good films from the West. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.

This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink. The language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom war and terrorism and so on falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here: You are giving all of us red ink.

There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember: carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after. When we will have to return to normal life. Will there be any changes then. I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like - oh, we were young, it was beautiful. Remember that our basic message is: We are allowed to think about alternatives. The rule is broken. We do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?

Remember: the problem is not corruption or greed. The problem is the system that pushes you to give up. Beware not only of the enemies. But also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process. In the same way you get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice cream without fat. They will try to make this into a harmless moral protest. They think (??? unintelligible). But the reason we are here is that we have enough of the world where to recycle coke cans…

Part Two

….Starbucks cappuccino. Where 1% goes to the world’s starving children. It is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture. After the marriage agencies are now outsourcing even our love life, daily.

We can see that for a long time we allowed our political engagement also to be outsourced. We want it back. We are not communists. If communism means the system which collapsed in 1990, remember that today those communists are the most efficient ruthless capitalists. In China today we have capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American capitalism but doesn’t need democracy. Which means when you criticize capitalism, don’t allow yourselves to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and capitalism is over.

The change is possible. So, what do we consider today possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand in technology and sexuality everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon. You can become immortal by biogenetics. You can have sex with animals or whatever. But look at the fields of society and economy. There almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes a little bit for the rich, they tell you it’s impossible, we lose competitivitiy. You want more money for healthcare: they tell you impossible, this means a totalitarian state. There is something wrong in the world where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for health care. Maybe that ??? set our priorities straight here. We don’t want higher standards of living. We want better standards of living. The only sense in which we are communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature. The commons of what is privatized by intellectual property. The commons of biogenetics. For this and only for this we should fight.

Communism failed absolutely. But the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not Americans here. But the conservative fundamentalists who claim they are really American have to be reminded of something. What is Christianity? It’s the Holy Spirit. What’s the Holy Spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other. And who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense the Holy Spirit is here now. And down there on Wall Street there are pagans who are worshipping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience. The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nostalgically remembering what a nice time we had here. Promise ourselves that this will not be the case. 

We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire. Thank you very much!  

Last Note: This is only a part of the entire speech.   

Link to original source   


Further Resources: 

OccupyWallStreet.org  

The Occupied Wall Street Journal, Issue 1  

The Occupied Wall Street Journal, Issue 2 

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City: This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly on September 29, 2011, with minor updates made on October 1, 2011. It is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park.