By Volkhonsky Boris
“Many big things in politics once started off quite small,” writes a famous Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza referring to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. In fact, right now the movement itself seems to be rather marginal and reflecting the frustration felt by the radical liberals who invested too much hope in the “Change We Can Believe In” back in 2008 and received politics as usual in response.
But certain recent developments have shown that at least parts of the establishment begin to attach more importance to the demonstrations that started in New York and have by now spread to no less than 20 out of 50 states. And the reaction of the authorities is typical for those who are afraid but would not like to show it.
On Thursday, a private company owning Zuccotti Park in New York where most of the protesters stay day and night declared that it was going to clean the park on Friday, and after cleaning, they would prohibit using sleeping bags and lying on benches. That could look as an attempt of the company, Brookfield Properties, to simply restore its property rights, be it not for one small and seemingly insignificant fact – according to the “Occupy Wall Street” website, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s girlfriend Diana Taylor is a member of Brookfield’s board of directors.
The protesters quite rightfully saw that the attempts to “clean” Zuccotti Park were an attempt to evict them. They issued a warning to their supporters to come and “defend the occupation from eviction”. Their message on Facebook said, “Be warned, this is a tactic that Bloomberg has used to shut down protests in the past, and a tactic used recently in similar protests throughout Europe.”
Now what is going on in New York and other U.S. cities and more so – what is going on around the OWS movement makes many experts wonder what its implications are for the future. What parallels should be drawn in connection with the OWS?
It is quite obvious that the authorities would like to associate the movement with the recent pogroms in London suburbs, thus portraying the protesters as an uncontrolled crowd of thugs. But such comparisons do not sound true to any ear – while London mobs were nothing but violent gangs committed to using violence against everything and everybody, the OWS movement is a totally peaceful one, with quite a number of middle class people taking part in it. The movement’s slogan “We are the 99 percent” might look like an exaggeration, but not a big one.
The historic parallel with the 1960s would probably be the safest one for the authorities. Despite the scale and revolutionary fervor of young “Guevardists” of the time, that movement ended up quite comfortably with some of its leaders dying from overdose and others being incorporated into the establishment. But this parallel is also a limited one. The scale of the protests might be smaller, but the feeling of frustration felt by the demonstrators is much deeper. The polarization demonstrated by the Tea Party on the one hand, and the OWS on the other, shows that politics as usual is something that different factions of the society are feeling fed up with.
In fact, the only plausible parallel with the OWS movement comes from the East – be it from the “orange” and other “colored” revolutions in several post-Soviet states, or the “Arab spring”.
Remember how eagerly the consequent U.S. administrations supported the crowds in Kiev or Tbilisi. What did it result in – one Mafia-like structure being replaced by another and fierce fighting for power still continuing.
Or the uprisings in the Middle East… How ardently Obama’s administration supported the “peaceful demonstrators” protesting against the “oppressive regimes”! Now the entire world and not only the U.S. has to deal with a completely new reality, with radical Islamists being close to taking the entire Middle East under their control.
What is more, the seeds of the “Arab spring”, so thoroughly watered and fertilized by the West have given sprouts in the American heartland. They may seem small at the moment, but how tall they will grow and will the “Arab spring” turn into an “American fall”?