Occupy Wall Street: The Left’s Answer to the Tea Party?

My guess is that the “occupiers” of Wall Street are on the cusp of an activist movement that will rival the Tea Party in influence: the right has its contemporary movement for underground men and the left now has its equivalent.

If things get really, really bad in America, I suppose we could see the two groups clash in the streets (as fascists and Marxists clashed in the streets of Weimar Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s). Though seemingly irreconcilable, what the fascists and Marxists of an earlier time agreed on was this: they both hated conventional parliamentarian and bourgeois democratic politics based in dialogue, compromise, and measured appeals to reason. Like today, partisans of the right and left regarded the existing system as corrupt and unworkable.

Of course, in Germany the economic stagnation and turmoil in the streets frightened people and, via elections, vaulted the farthest of the far right into power.

Here we go again?

.

I like Chris Hedges a great deal, and think that a lot of what he says makes sense, but the Occupy Wall Streeters and the Tea Partiers are both playing with what Freud characterized as psychological fire: they are implicitly calling on people to invest their erotic and libidinal impulses in movement leaders and erect their hate onto outsiders.

Chris Hedges is not the best of men, and the occupiers of Wall Street are not the freest of men, but they think that they are, and this is how mass movement psychology is energized and power gets gathered, often to mischief. As Chris Hedges gathers love and libido from the swelling crowds he’ll address over the coming year, I hope he keeps his head about him.

Occupy Wall Street is recto to the Tea Party’s verso.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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6 Responses to Occupy Wall Street: The Left’s Answer to the Tea Party?

    • santitafarella says:

      Andrew,

      The left is doing to Obama what it did to Al Gore in 2000: abandon him in the name of purity. The result in 2000 was getting 8 years of George W. Bush. I’m hardly surprised Nadar is encouraging yet another abandonment.

      —Santi

  1. David Yates says:

    So, Tea Partiers protest against the policies of the Obama administration, claiming they’re too leftist, and in doing so they’re labeled as racists. And the Occupy Wall Streeters protest against the policies of the Obama administration, claiming they’re not leftist enough, so they must be racists too, right?

    • santitafarella says:

      David,

      Many Tea Partiers are not labeled racists. They are racists. And others in that movement flirt with racism. And many Occupy Wall Streeters flirt with anti-Semitism and ridiculous conspiracy theories that place Jews or the Illuminati at the center of evil cabals. Historically, resentment directed toward rich bankers and elite business people has led to desires for physically harming them. Mass psychology has always worked on eros and libido directed to movement leaders and hatred and stereotyping of the enemies of the group. Socialism and communism are ideologies that derive part of their energy from demeaning stereotypes about the rich and Jews and a desire to stick it to them. Likewise, Tea Party energies are partly derived from racism. There’s no need to deny the obvious.

      So let’s not be Orwellian here. See things for what they are.

      —Santi

      • David Yates says:

        Santi:-
        I assure you, I am seeing things for what they are; namely, the blatant double-standard that exists when it comes to “seeing” evidence of racism. People on the political left can say or otherwise express quite explicit racist comments and they’re essentially given a pass, whereas if someone on the political right makes ANY comment that can sorta, kinda, possibly be perceived as racially suggestive, well then their “obvious” racial bigotry is now a great big scarlet letter to be tattooed on their foreheads.
        Joe Biden can condescendingly refer to a black politician as “articulate and bright and clean” as he did when describing Barack Obama in 2007, but that’s okay. He can stupidly claim that “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent… I’m not joking,” but that’s perfectly alright. Harry Reid can racially stereotype Hispanics for political gain and offensively refer to President Obama’s “light skin” and “lack of a Negro dialect” the way he did just last year, but that’s no matter. Or, back in 2007, then-Senator Obama spoke at a New Black Panther Party rally, standing proudly next to its leader, Malik Shabazz, a Jew-hating, America-bashing, 9/11 conspiracy theorist who once averred: “If 3000 people perished in the World Trade Center attacks and the Jewish population is 10 percent, you show me records of 300 Jewish people dying in the World Trade Center. . . . They got their people out.” But hey, no big deal. In fact, it won’t even be reported!
        BUT…!!!
        If there are remote hunting grounds of a Perry-linked ranch, which are somehow “associated” with Rick Perry through “his father, partners or his signature on a lease,” because it once had a rock located somewhere on them that had the word “Niggerhead” painted on it, then The Washington Post will interview dozens of people about the legend of this rock — which Perry says his family painted over and then rolled over years ago — and will further claim that unidentified “minority legislators” had a problem with Perry’s “complicated record on matters of race” and will cite unnamed minority politicians decrying Perry’s right-wing “racially tinged rhetoric.”
        This is the same guy who appointed the first black Texas Supreme Court justice, hired several minority members as top aides, and “enjoys warm associations with many black leaders” (according to the Post itself!). So what’s “complicated”? These same unidentified minorities reportedly don’t like his “embrace of the tea-party movement” — among which many currently favour Herman Cain as their choice for the GOP nomination by the way, but never mind that. (They also wanted Col. Allen West (ret.) to run and are practically salivating over the idea of a future candidacy of Marco Rubio, but these should also be ignored).
        “(T)he way things are” is that, to the extent that racism exists at all, it exists on both sides of the political spectrum. However, when it rears its ugly head among those who would self- identify as conservatives, it’s rather unambiguous. But its form on the left is often more subtle — and so therefore more insidious — in that it’s a “soft” racism of diminished expectations.

        -:David

    • santitafarella says:

      David,

      I don’t have any quarrel per se concerning your analysis of the double standard. I agree that both white liberals and white conservatives make racist statements and that they are typically treated differently whenever it happens. I also agree that black liberals, when they say evil or stupid things about Jews, often get a pass.

      It’s all racism, though. And there’s no reason to call it otherwise. The reality is that there are a lot of white conservatives all across this country who, for the past 3 years, have melted down over having a black president. They’ve behaved hysterically; they’ve treated him with gross disrespect; they’ve shown hatred. It’s partly just the liberal-conservative divide, but it’s not the only source of the energy driving them.

      If a liberal says, “The energy behind the Wall Street protests is all about justice,” we know that’s bullshit. Envy also lurks, and resentment. And anti-semitism. It’s not easy to decouple the mixtures of positive motivations and negative ones energizing a movement. Likewise with the Tea Party. Racism plays a role in the movement. It energizes people at key moments; it lurks. Pointing it out may be just another way to score a political point from the left, but it’s there.

      —Santi

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