The Occupy Wall Street movement, since its inception in September, has come to a crossroads.
Founded on issues of social and class inequality, the Occupy movement began as a response to corporate power and greed, becoming a significant voice in public media.
Now the movement is searching for direction and practical application.
Andre Damon of the Word Socialist Web Site, in a public forum titled, “Occupy Wall Street and Beyond: Equality And The Fight For Socialism,” spoke to a small crowd at MCCC Nov. 9 about what socialism means and how it applies to the Occupy movement’s goals.
“This is part of a global response by working people to the economic crisis,” Damon said.
He presented figures that showed that poverty rates in the United States have risen from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 15.1 percent in 2010, while median household incomes also fell from $53,252 in 1999 to $49,400 in 2010.
“Still, the percentage of total national income received by the upper .01 percent of the population doubled over the course of 10 years,” Damon said.
According to Damon’s statistics, American wages have fallen 2.7 percent, yet corporate profits have risen by 8.7 percent, with the wealth of the top 400 families in America also going up by 12 percent.
“The occupy movement, in its essence, saw the impetus to do something about this,” Damon said.
The response to the Occupy movement, however, has been mixed. In September, police arrested 400 protestors at the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and later used tear gas and rubber bullets at California’s Occupy Oakland in October to deter protestors.
“All of this is feeding on the central point that there is a crisis or crossroads in the movement itself,” Damon said.
Where does the movement go from here? The Socialist Equality Party, which Damon represents, believes that the movement must be won by the working class, and for socialism.
“The way to have a political movement that has real strength is to place it on a social class,” Damon said.
“When you talk about the ’99 percent,’ you have people who work for a living, who are struggling to get by, who have no prospects, whose wages are falling every year, and then you have people who are pretty well off. People who really want a somewhat cosmetic change in society.”
The Occupy movement, in the eyes of the SEP, has to focus on socialism and the working class, the true “99 percent,” if it hopes to succeed and have real political pull.
“There’s no party of the working class, as of yet, in public view. In fact, the working class, if you had to categorically define it, is probably 85 to 90 percent of the American population,” Damon said.
Damon discussed three ways to correct social inequality in America. The rich could be taxed, or all of the wealth in America could be redistributed.
However, Damon acknowledged that both methods are vulnerable to personal greed and proposed a third solution: socialism.
“This is a mass movement of working people that basically takes political power and enacts laws that say, ‘OK, the major corporations like Disney and Apple, we’re not going to destroy them, because they do useful things’,” Damon said.
“But right now they’re being mismanaged, in the interest of generating profits for the rich when there are instances of mass unemployment. They should be taken over and run democratically, so that everyone has a real genuine vote on all issues.”
Damon’s vision of Socialist America, the aim of society, as opposed to making a profit as it is now, would be to make sure that unemployment is gone, and to make sure that everyone has enough of what they need and what is necessary for survival.
“The only way to achieve equality under the present set of circumstances is socialism, to take over major corporations and run them democratically,” he said.