They Don’t Get It (Revised)

The following is a revised version of our leaflet posted on October 6, 2011. In addition to US events, it will be distributed in Canada and Belgium this weekend.


When the media talk about Occupy Wall Street, they often do so with disdain: a movement that has no leaders, no set of demands, can’t be taken seriously. In a typical article, the New York Times quoted an ‘expert’ saying, “if the movement is to have lasting impact, it will have to develop leaders and clear demands”, and another one which stated that the passions have to be “channeled into institutions”. (NYT, 10/4) Their message to you is clear: ‘Go back to ‘politics as usual’, follow leaders, work within institutions, become foot-soldiers for the Democratic party and the unions in elections and other campaigns that change nothing at all, that don’t question the power structures that prop up this insane money-system.

They don’t get it that the absence of leaders in this movement is not a weakness but a strength, testifying to our collective determination, to our refusal to remain followers. They don’t get it that the absence of a narrow set of demands that can be recuperated by this or that institution, results from our understanding that the problem lies much deeper. That there are no quick fixes for a system that produces growing inequality, mass unemployment and misery, wars and ecological disasters.

If these problems could be solved by electing wiser politicians, adopting better laws etc, ‘politics as usual’ might be the way to go. But they can’t be solved that way. Politicians everywhere are bound by higher laws, the laws of capital. That’s why governments everywhere, regardless of their political color, are imposing austerity, forcing the working population to sacrifice so that more can be paid to the owners of capital. In fact the harshest cuts in wages, pensions and jobs are implemented by a ‘socialist’ government (in Greece). Politicians on the left may clamor for massive public spending , but that would only mean that we would be made poorer in a different way, through inflation.

There are no quick fixes because the system itself is obsolete. Pain and suffering are sometimes unavoidable but capitalism creates ever more pain that is easily avoidable, that only exists because in this society, profit trumps human needs. Almost two billion people on this planet are unemployed because capitalism has no need for them. Hundreds of millions live in slums, because building decent houses for them is not profitable. Many die of hunger each day because it’s not profitable to feed them. Everyone knows our planet is in danger and yet capitalism is continuing to destroy it in its desperate hunt for profit. Productivity never was higher, yet poverty increases. The know-how and resources are there for every inhabitant of this planet to live a decent life but that would not be profitable. Abundance has become possible but capitalism can’t handle abundance. It needs scarcity. Abundance in capitalism means overproduction, crisis, misery. This is insane. It must stop.


Capitalism is not “the end of history” but just a transient phase. It has changed the world but now no longer fits into it. We have to accept the fact that capitalism offers no perspective, no future. We have to prepare for a post-capitalist world, in which human relations are no longer commercial transactions, in which goods no longer represent a quantity of money but a concrete means to satisfy real human needs. A world in which competing corporations and warring nations are replaced by a human community that uses the resources of all for the benefit of all. We call that communism but it has nothing in common with the state-capitalist regimes that exist or existed in Russia, China and Cuba. Nothing is changed fundamentally if capitalists are replaced with bureaucrats with supposedly better intentions. Those regimes were not only thoroughly undemocratic, they also perpetuate wage-labor, exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of the population. The change must go deeper and must emancipate the oppressed, make them part of a real democracy instead of the sham that exists today.

In 2011, ten years after the attacks on New York that launched a decade of fear and demoralization, a breach has been opened. From Tunis to Cairo to Athens to Madrid to Santiago to New York, a fever is spreading. After taking it on the chin for so long, the working class, employed or unemployed, is beginning to rise up. We’re not gonna take it anymore! Something has changed. True, the Occupy Wall Street movement will not last forever. At some point, it will end, without any clear victory. But it’s just the beginning. This dynamic will continue and will gather strength. Be a part of it!


It’s clear that the”Occupy Wall Street”-movement has touched a nerve. Its message resonates throughout the country, even throughout the world. Everywhere people are raising their voice in protest against a system that produces increasing misery for the many and absurd wealth for the few. No wonder that the unions, progressive Democrats, even the President, and governors like Cuomo who is imposing draconian austerity on workers in NY, are attaching their wagons to this train, in order to get control over the locomotive. Don’t be fooled: These political tendencies are themselves the representatives of the 1%, of the banks and the capitalist system, not of the 99%. Let’s not allow our movement to be co-opted by the very powers in opposition to which it has arisen. The left of capital cynically claims that they want ‘economic justice’, too; that they seek a more just distribution of the wealth, through taxation of the rich, etc. (that’s their rhetoric, their practice is something else, see Cuomo’s recent move to kill the ‘billionnaires tax’ because it would chase the rich away).

The truth is that the unfairness, the unjust distribution of wealth, is built into the system and can’t be taken out of it. It will only increase more as capitalism sinks deeper into its crisis, for which it knows no way out (to throw more money in the economy or to save: they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t). ‘Redistribution of wealth’ is an incomplete demand that can get nowhere if it’s not pushed further. As a slogan of May ’68 claimed: ‘Be realistic, demand the impossible”. The impossible within capitalism, that is. Although there are quite a few capitalists who profit from the crisis, overall, capitalism suffers from it too, so that there is less wealth to redistribute (and the competition between nations for capital assures that the 1% suffers least and the 99% most). No utopian plan for redistribution can address this shrinkage of wealth.

But what is wealth? In this society, goods and services equal money, abstract value that can be endlessly amassed, possessed ad infinitum, or, when no buyer is found, they equal pure waste. So money, abstract value, decides what is produced and what not. That is the box we’ve got to get out of. We have to abandon the idea that wealth is money, that work is wage-labor and start to see production of goods and services as things we can create for each other. We must realize that when we come together we can use the creative powers that humankind has to make technology, housing, food, transportation, art and so much more for everybody because the need is there, instead of for profit. Let’s get rid not just of Wall Street, but the whole exploitation-for-money-system. This perspective may seem utopian to many today, but it will become increasingly realistic as the crisis of capitalism deepens.


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