I drove by the Santa Cruz County building at around 10, Saturday morning. On the steps, I saw about twenty to thirty cardboard signs and 2 people apparently guarding them. Well, it was Saturday, so, the demonstrators were probably sleeping in. Who am I to judge, I thought? On Monday, also about 10, there were even more signs on the courthouse steps and seven people, including a child. Well, it was Columbus Day, so the demonstrators were probably taking the holiday off. Or, perhaps, many people who would have been demonstrators were too confused to demonstrate.
The biggest sign said: “Occupy Santa Cruz.” On television, I see plenty of signs damning capitalism with “Occupy” crowds all over this great country, starting with Wall Street, of course. This leads me to suspect that the demonstrators are mainly left-oriented. The numerous signs against disparity, “inequality,” lead to the same conclusion. And Republican candidate Herman Cain loudly agrees with me. (I like this man more and more.) But what to do if you are a Santa Cruz leftist? On the one hand, you don’t want to risk missing the demonstration, any demonstration. On the other hand, you probably know that you and your ilk have effectively occupied Santa Cruz for thirty years. This occupation is to thorough, people like me can barely ever get their Letter to the Editor in the local paper. If it were not for the brave family-owned am station KSCO, we would have no voice at all.
Their Trots-Mao-progressive -liberal elected reps have managed to expel most productive businesses from our town. Periodically, they even try to do the same with the only remaining big enterprise, the University of California. It’s a little like desperate teen-agers cutting themselves though because the university is full of leftist brethren. If it went, they might have to go too rather than compete for a job in a coffee shop at $9/hour, the maximum wage in the Peoples Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz.
Now, I will tell you where the “Occupy” movement comes from, sociologically speaking. It has two sources that would exist irrespective of the feverish, panicky work of left-activists. The first sources is that the left of the Democratic Party has suffered from grass-root envy for many months, since the advent of the Tea Party that everyone can see is not a party in any sense of the word but a real grass-root movement.
This is not the way the world is supposed to run. Grass-root movements are on the left and from the left according to the usual leftist playbooks. Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals assumes this. Lenin pretty much said the same but in obscure terms infected by his reading too much badly written German philosophy. (Not that today’s left-activists read Lenin often; too difficult.)
So, the emergence of what was clearly a spontaneous, leaderless, aggressively anti-collectivists grass-root movement on their right makes leftists as unhappy as anything could. It gets them where it hurts. It gets them where they live. It had to be made especially painful by the fact that the pretense that Pres. Obama was a sort of Tribune of the People deteriorated during the same period, a victim of the realities of governing. (Think closure of Guantanamo.)
The second sociological source of the “Occupy” movement is much older. Throughout the 19th Century, leftist groups and parties fought bravely for universal suffrage (Did you know that even complete male suffrage was not achieved in the UK until the end of WWI?) Immediately as they achieved their goals, the masses began disappointing left-wingers by declining to bring them to power. Thus, the Bolsheviks held a free legislative election a few months after taking over Russia in a coup. When they found that they had obtained only a minority of the vote, Lenin, who had most of the guns in St Petersburg that year, simply annulled the results. Socialist Russia did not have another free election for 70 years. And then, it did not remain “socialist” much longer.
Wherever any collectivist party took an active role in governing a modern country, it disappointed deeply and was left behind (the French Popular Front), or it eventually resorted to arms (the end of the Spanish popular Front with a Communist coup within the Republican camp).
American leftists know this history, if vaguely. They have always felt, they are feeling now, a deep mistrust of ordinary elections that give equal influence to their enlightened selves and to regular people possessing neither a university degree nor a union card. I have such left-liberals in my family. When they think about it, they are sick with fear of rednecks, rednecks being pretty much as defined above.
With Barack Obama’s free fall in the polls, Democrat leftists are telling themselves it’s happening again: Betrayal by the masses. That and the more recent grass-root envy. They had to do something. The result is the so-called “Occupy Wall Street Movement.” I don’t know exactly what organization initiated he whole thing but the simplistic slogan, “Occupy,” “Wall Street,” with its implicit contempt for those it seeks to recruit suggests a Trotskist organization, one of the several that seem to survive every social upheavals by hiding behind the drapes.
What we are witnessing is not so much an attempt to bypass the 2012 elections as an attempt to invigorate that part of the left electorate that Obama disappointed deeply. Yet, the threat of a kind of coup is not completely absent. (More on this below.) In the immediate future, the “Occupy” movement will push for extreme, irrational, undemocratic measures of dubious constitutionality but calculated to alleviate quickly the distress of large numbers of young people. Why am I guessing this? For two reasons. The first is obviously the American precedent of giant public works launched by the Roosevelt Administration during the great Depression. The other reason is that it’s simply what all anti-democratic, collectivist movements always demand: Instant employment of many unqualified people by-passing normal private enterprise, a big first step toward state socialism, with government as the main employer, one that appears to flow naturally from adverse circumstances.
Of course, that was precisely the strategy pursued with great success by Chancellor Hitler of Germany in the 1930s. In his first three years in power, he actually reduced German unemployment from 6 million to less than 3 million. (I choose these dates because further and latter reductions in German unemployment were manipulated and are subject to discussions by competent historians.) This unqualified success with the working class is not surprising given that the name of Mr Hitler’s party was “National Socialist “(often shortened to the more practical: “Nazi.”) The National Socialist economic program was loudly based on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, (See the “Nazism” article in Wikepedia. Other sources will not contradict this.) One of the benefits of this Nazi success in combating unemployment is that had Hitler chosen to run in free elections say, around 1938, he would probably have won because of the gratefulness of the formerly unemployed.
The story of Mussolini’s Italy is similar and also the story of Communist-led regimes in Eastern Europe. The fact is that totalitarian collectivist organizations historically have been good at putting people to work.
One point of the Hitler story that should be kept in mind, and often is not, is that there was real mass distress in Germany as Hitler was kidnapping political power. Likewise, there is real mass distress in this country right now. It’s is useless as well as cruel to consider the 9,1 % of Americans who are unemployed as so many lazy-bones. It is self-defeating for conservatives to underestimate the causes of the feeling of hopelessness that has overcome the unemployed and many of the employed. I, for one, don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, absent a decisive conservative win in the 2012 elections for President, for both houses, and for major governorships. I say “decisive” and I say “conservative” because a lukewarm Republican win by a moderate Republican probably will not fix the problem. It will take radically free market measures to reverse the current economic plunge. I don’t think a moderate with a weak mandate would have the intestinal fortitude to break clearly with the current statist discourse, or to propose or to implement strongly free-market measures.
I asserted above that the function of the “Occupy” movement is merely to influence the 2012 election. This assertion is based on the assumption of an America not much different, not dramatically worse off in one year than it is now. Let there be anything resembling a real emergency and all bets are off. It could be a natural catastrophe. It could be a stock-market collapse. It could be a successful terrorist attack from abroad. It could even be a North Korean missile over Juneau or Seattle. Any such event could be used as an excuse to suspend normal electoral processes, possibly with the concurrence of some Republican leaders in Congress. National emergencies are everywhere and at all times, the midwives of fascism.
Some readers who never expelled the brain virus they contracted in college will reproach me for confusing Nazis and fascists on the one hand, with Communists and more or less authoritarian “socialists” on the other. They will think that this poor old guy has become soft in the head. I am not soft, reader, I am hard as rock and completely free from the residual idealism that does so much to trouble the vision of my former fellow academics. My view, is that, for our purpose, the difference is artificial. Historical and geographic accidents determined whether tyrannized countries would be taken over by one kind or the other. Some countries, like Romania during WWII, went from fascist rule to Communist rule without so much as a sigh. And here is something to ponder in connection with your belief that there is a difference: Until Hitler came to power in 1933 Communists regularly pulled 10 to 15% of the votes cast in German elections. That would be several million voters. After 1933, all the Communists disappeared. I can tell you that, at that time the Nazi-led government was not in a position to place millions in concentration camp. So, the question is: What happened to the millions of German Communists under Nazi rule? Where did they go. What did they move to, into?
See also my:
if you want more on the identity of totalitarian parties supposedly of the left and supposedly of the right and also on totalitarian street parties.