When communism collapsed across Eastern Europe in 1989-91, captains of capitalism in their euphoria bragged that they would rule the world till kingdom come. But it now appears that unbridled capitalism is facing an existential threat. The seeds of its destruction, which are found within itself, have grown into creepers. They are throttling capitalism.
In defence of capitalism, profiteers or white collar racketeers talk about economic freedom the system accords the individual, the public service it offers although at a profit, the competitiveness that brings down prices and the useful mechanism of the market forces which not only determine prices of bread, fuel and everything on sale, but also fix the exchange rate and the interest rate.
They also talk about the so-called trickle-down theory which claims that when the big investors earn in billions, the others down the line will earn in millions or in tens of thousands or at least in thousands. Deliberately oblivious to the yawning gap between a billion and a thousand or the bread on the table and the crumbs that fall, they even oppose state intervention by promoting laissez-faire — the capitalists' version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Although they oppose government intervention, they invade every aspect of governance. As a result of their backstage involvement in politics, those in whose hands are placed the trust of governance have become servants of capitalism. In this collusion or equation, the masses only have a commodity value.
But no more! The Occupy Wall Street protests may not be in the scale of the Bolshevik Revolution that brought communism to Russia or the Arab Spring that ushers in democracy to the Middle East. The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is a message to both the capitalists and the politicians on their payroll that an increasing number of people in this information technology era are becoming politically conscious. The United States, which plunges deeper into the financial quagmire each time it makes an effort to come out of it, is beginning to witness a politically-conscious class struggle.
A few years ago, those who protested outside the venues where the meetings of the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the G-8 were held, were labelled anarchists and rounded up. But the OWS is different and it seems to enjoy wider public support and is spreading across the United States.
The Americans are waking up to the reality and protesting the transfer of wealth from the masses to the financial elite, represented by greedy Wall Street investors, who were responsible for the 2008 financial crisis. Facts on the ground show the income disparity is monstrous.
Highlighting this social injustice, the World Socialist Web Site Review in its November 2000 issue said:
"At the top of American society is a possessing class richer, in terms both of wealth and income than any in history. The richest one percent of American households has amassed more, than $10 trillion — ten million million dollars — in wealth — about 40 percent of the total national wealth. The combined net worth of these multi-millionaires is greater than the total wealth of the bottom 95 percent of the population.
"Since the mid 1970s, the top one percent has doubled its share of the national wealth, from under 20 percent to 38.9 percent, the highest figure since1929, the year of the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression. According to another study, the richest one percent of households owns half of all outstanding shares of stocks, two thirds of all financial securities and over two thirds business assets."
Ten years after, figures show that the gap keeps on widening.
The protests show no signs of fading away despite the harsh winter and repressive measures. Yet most politicians in Congress, apparently in empathy with Wall Street, are opposing moves to impose new taxes on the top one percent.
In another twist, President Barack Obama, fighting his biggest political battle for next year's reelection, has hijacked the OWS' cause. He backs the tax-the-rich call and says "if people have a job and feel that they can get ahead then people won't be occupying the streets." But the protesters, 60 percent of whom are Democrats and disgruntled with Obama's performance as President, are unwilling to take him on board. They are aware that Obama's 2008 campaign was backed by Wall Street and he is dependent on Wall Street donations for reelection campaign.
It would be naïve to expect that the OWS would snowball into a major socialist revolution — a recent poll shows that only 11 percent of the protesters are socialists — but one cannot underestimate its power and impact. Within six weeks, almost every major city in the United States is witnessing an OWS-style protest.
However, the protest should be inclusive. If the protests only target Wall Street's greed at the exclusion of what the capitalists are doing outside the US, then as far as morality is concerned they are only marginally better than the top one percent.
The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are capitalist-driven as part of their plan to transfer the wealth from the people in the developing world to the capitalist elite in the US.
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