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Workers Vanguard No. 991

25 November 2011

Democrats Unleash Cop Crackdown

Drop the Charges Against All Occupy Protesters!

For Socialist Revolution!

NOVEMBER 21—Over the last two weeks, a wave of brutal police attacks has descended on Occupy protesters and encampments across the nation, including surprise nighttime raids, unrelenting pepper spray and baton beatings and hundreds of arrests. Two days after riot police dismantled the Zuccotti Park encampment, during a November 17 “Day of Action” the NYPD left protesters bloodied and beaten and detained over 200, among them leaders of the large Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a city councilman and at least 26 journalists. Billionaire New York mayor Bloomberg unleashed the cops en masse and then praised them for their “restraint.” We demand all the charges against Occupy protesters be dropped immediately!

Crackdowns on encampments in Oakland, Portland, Denver and other cities—launched under the pretext of supposed health and safety hazards—were carried out overwhelmingly by Democratic mayors in a coordinated effort to shut down these popular protests. So-called “progressive” Democrat Jean Quan, mayor of Oakland, admitted to participating in a conference call with officials from other cities nationwide to discuss how to disperse the encampments. Providing a grotesque justification for the Oakland sweep, Quan singled out “anarchist groups who have been looking for a confrontation with the police.”

Amid skyrocketing tuition costs and school budget cuts, Occupy protests have also spread to the universities and come up against the administration and its campus cop thugs. When students at UC Berkeley were attempting to set up an encampment on November 9, police moved in with nightsticks, brutally clubbing protesters who were chanting “Stop beating students!” Graphic video taken on November 18, after cops dismantled the encampment at UC Davis, shows students seated with linked arms being pepper-sprayed directly in the face by police, resulting in several hospitalizations. In an open letter that same day to the chancellor, one faculty member noted: “When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats.”

The FBI and Homeland Security are reported to have assisted the local cops, with the Feds spotted staking out Occupy sites. Last week, federal immigration agents took custody of one protester who had been arrested by local police (while meditating!) during the November 14 raid on Occupy Oakland. A native of Mexico, Francisco Ramos Stierle faces the threat of being deported, as hundreds of thousands already have been, under Obama’s “Secure Communities” program. No deportation of Francisco Ramos Stierle!

Demonstrators across the country have been hit with charges ranging from disorderly conduct and resisting arrest to inciting a riot and assaulting police officers. Such charges are meant to intimidate anyone who would oppose the violence, poverty and exploitation that are endemic to the rule of capital. Despite the brutality against Occupy protesters, many still hold to the illusion that the cops are allies. In fact, it is the job description of the police to protect the profit system through organized violence.

These recurrent, naked displays of capitalist state repression against liberal but defiant protesters, students and veterans have generated widespread anger with the “powers that be.” Suffering the unmitigated effects of the economic crisis—i.e., the closure of schools, high unemployment and the slashing of social programs—many are expressing solidarity with a movement that at least appears to be doing something to protest such ravages. However, the Occupy protests do not in any way fundamentally challenge the workings of the capitalist order, which is the root cause of misery and inequality. Notwithstanding the movement’s insistence on having no demands at all, the program embodied in the protests is simple liberal reform.

The Centrality of the Working Class

As Marxists, we struggle to impart the understanding that the barbaric capitalist profit system cannot be reformed to benefit working people and the oppressed, but must be overthrown. The only way to assure jobs and decent living standards, including free quality medical care and education for all, is by seizing the wealth from the hands of the capitalist class through socialist revolution and putting it in the hands of those whose labor makes society run, i.e., the working class.

The ubiquitous slogan of the Occupy movement—“We are the 99 percent”—is based on a populist notion of the “people,” which ludicrously lumps together everyone besides a small, rich elite, the so-called “one percent.” According to this outlook, workers and the oppressed supposedly share common interests with the managers who fire their employees, cops who gun down black people and religious leaders who preach obedience to authority.

The real, fundamental class division in capitalist society is that between the working class, which sells its labor power to survive, and the capitalist class, which owns the banks and means of production, such as the factories and mines. The bourgeoisie, the group of fat cats that actually is a very small fraction of the “one percent,” makes the real decisions and reaps the profits by exploiting labor. The interests of these two main classes are entirely irreconcilable.

Uniquely, the international working class possesses the social power—derived from its ability to shut off the flow of profit by withholding its labor—and collective interest to expropriate the bourgeoisie and reorganize society globally on a socialist basis. The heterogeneous intermediate social layers in the petty bourgeoisie—encompassing students, professionals and shopkeepers among others —has no direct relationship to the means of production. Lacking social power, the petty bourgeoisie cannot provide an alternative to capitalism and, depending on which way the wind is blowing, will align either with the workers or against them. If the working-class leadership shows that it has the resolve and program to lead society out of its crisis, it can pull much of the petty bourgeoisie behind the workers in struggle.

There is a sense of solidarity with the working class among Occupy activists, but mainly the workers are seen as simply another victimized sector of the “99 percent.” On November 15, Occupy Los Angeles approved a proposal for a “port action” on December 12 that would include the occupation of “at least one facility owned by SSA Marine, a shipping company belonging to Goldman Sachs.” The motion said that this action “could be coordinated with a possible port shutdown by port truck drivers.” Twenty-six of these largely immigrant, and unorganized, workers were recently fired by the Australian-owned Toll Group transportation company for trying to organize with the Teamsters. Three days later, a November 18 Occupy Oakland General Assembly voted to expand the L.A. proposal. It called on “each West Coast occupation to organize a mass mobilization to shut down its local port” on December 12, emphasizing solidarity with the ongoing fight by longshoremen in Longview, Washington, against the union-busting attacks of the giant EGT grain conglomerate (see “ILWU Fights Deadly Threat,” WV No. 986, 16 September).

That these activists want to solidarize with labor is welcome. At the same time, thanks in large part to the betrayals of the trade-union bureaucrats, few if any in the Occupy movement have much sense of working-class struggle. Instead, protesters have been led to believe that solidarity with workers means activists setting up community pickets to shut down port operations. However well-intentioned, such actions do little to advance the workers’ consciousness of their power as a class not only to defend their own interests but to champion the cause of all the oppressed against the capitalist ruling class and its state. As was the case when thousands of demonstrators shut down the Port of Oakland the night of November 2, the workers are relegated to the sidelines. Seeing the opportunity to allow the ranks to blow off some steam, the labor tops are happy to subsume the workers under the populist politics of the Occupy movement, politics that the bureaucrats themselves amply share.

An article in Socialist Worker (10 November), newspaper of the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO), argues that: “Many labor leaders have correctly seen Occupy as a key to a revival of the union movement.” On the contrary, the labor tops embrace the Occupy movement not to revive workers struggle but to divert workers’ discontent once again into advancing the electoral fortunes of the Democratic Party. This was put baldly in a video statement by SEIU president Mary Kay Henry: “We agree, all across SEIU, that we need to stand for a 99 percent agenda and re-elect our president, Barack Obama, and that those two steps are on the same path…so that we can make the 2012 election about the agenda for the 99 percent.” For the unions to become instruments of militant struggle against the exploiters requires a leadership that will advance to the battle from the perspective of class war, not acceptance of capitalist exploitation and reliance on bourgeois politicians.

Democratic Party, Enemy of Workers and the Oppressed

The populism of the “99 percent” slogan boils down to the defense and extension of American capitalist “democracy.” A posting on the official Occupy Wall Street Web site following the police raid on Zuccotti Park proclaimed, “Facing the most brutal assault on our Democracy since 9-11, New Yorkers must once again stand as one!” This statement echoes the outlook of the American ruling class, which seized upon the September 11 attacks to push “national unity” jingoism. In calling on the population to “stand as one,” the goal of the capitalist rulers was to line up support for their imperialist wars of depredation abroad, while they launched anti-immigrant witchhunts and shredded civil liberties at home. This is the true face of American “democracy.” With the protests awash in such patriotism, it is no surprise that the ongoing imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be off the radar of the Occupy movement.

Always glomming on to anything calling itself a movement, the fake socialists have fully embraced the Occupy protests. Workers World Party honcho Larry Holmes absurdly hailed Occupy as a “fledgling revolution” (, 12 October), while the ISO has enthused over it for supposedly “transforming the political landscape in the United States” (, 8 November). For the reformist left, Occupy is the latest vehicle for peddling their “fight the right” opportunism, which amounts to nothing other than promoting illusions in the other party of capitalist rule, the Democrats.

The U.S. ruling class has two primary ways of dealing with protest—state repression and political co-optation. Describing how the Occupy movement receives funding and support from key Democratic Party foundations and outfits, including, Patrick Henningsen commented in an article in the London Guardian (15 November): “When the dust settles and it’s all said and done, millions of Occupy participants may very well be given a sober lesson under the heading of ‘controlled opposition.’ In the end, the Occupy movement could easily end up doing the bidding of the very elite globalist powers that they were demonstrating against to begin with.”

Militant youth and workers seeking a solution to capitalism’s ills must draw the lessons of past struggles to avoid being caught in a revolving door of Democratic Party pressure politics. Mobilizing the power of the working class, independently from the parties of capital, is crucial to every struggle against imperialism, exploitation and the myriad forms of oppression under capitalism. A revolutionary workers party is the necessary instrument to weld together these struggles into the fight for proletarian power. Our task, as a small internationalist Marxist organization, is to fight for the understanding that the road to human freedom lies through socialist revolution.


Workers Vanguard No. 991

WV 991

25 November 2011


Down With Imperialist Sanctions!

U.S./Israel Hands Off Iran!


Democrats Unleash Cop Crackdown

Drop the Charges Against All Occupy Protesters!

For Socialist Revolution!


Sentenced to Life in Child-Porn Witchhunt

Free Daniel Guevara Vilca Now!


Consciousness and the Tasks of a Revolutionary Vanguard

(Quote of the Week)


Free the Class-War Prisoners!

26th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal

An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!

(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)


South Africa

Early Years of the Communist Party

Part One


“The Bolsheviks Are Coming”


Black Struggle, the Vietnamese Revolution and the Working Class

From 1960s New Left to Trotskyism

Recollections of a Participant

Part Two