Occupy Wall Street: What can the protesters achieve?

Occupy Wall Street protests Solidarity Occupy events have sprung up around the US in the weeks since the New York protests began

The singer keeping the Occupy Wall Street protesters entertained in Liberty Plaza in New York sounds uncannily like the young Bob Dylan.

"In unrestricted greed we trust, bail out the banks and not the single mum, borrow from China to pay for the bombs…"

The protest song may be coming back into fashion.

An American flag flies in the square, but there's a difference. This one has the stars replaced by corporate logos. It just about sums up what this movement is about.

America, they say, is ruled by a few rich companies.

Their "frequently asked questions" sheet says: "We seek to end the collusion between corrupt politicians and corporate criminals…

"Democracy has never been a spectator sport and Americans have an obligation, particularly if we claim to love our country, to build serious and meaningful change from the bottom up."

There are many on the left who hope this is their version of the Tea Party, which has had such a huge impact on American politics.

The Occupy Wall Street FAQ denies the comparison, saying they are not about "disrespect, mistrust and marginalisation".

Feeling of malaise

Of course, their aims are completely different.

They are made up of different types of people, divided by age and wealth more than anything else.

The Tea Party dislikes big government, not big corporations.

But both movements feel a deep frustration and a distrust of the elite who make the rules.

There is a common feeling that the system is unresponsive to the needs and wishes of the people. A suspicion that the system itself is broken.

I strongly suspect that many Americans who wouldn't sign up to the ideology of either the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street share this feeling of malaise.

But other differences suggest it would be wrong to read across from one movement to another.

These are early days, but Occupy doesn't seem to have drawn people into politics for the first time in the way that the Tea Party has.

Most of those I have spoken to here and in Nashville were already interested in radical politics.

I have yet to meet any one who turned up because their own economic situation made them want to change the world.

There is another critical difference too. The Tea Party worked as a very effective galvanising force within the Republican party.

They were disillusioned conservatives who forced their natural party onto a more economically conservative route.

They did this not by floating ideas in the ether but by deselecting candidates they didn't like.

They are having a huge impact on the Republican presidential selection process at the moment because they are the most active, most vocal part of the Republican electorate.

While many Occupy supporters will have worked to elect Obama, many are now disillusioned.

Their way of getting involved again is not to influence one party in the mainstream political process, but to urge radical reform of the process itself.

That is a lot more difficult to achieve.

Protest map
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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    When there is nothing to lose, and all dignity, respect and prospects are gone, when the masters of the universe own the security apparatus down to the ISP address and GPS location of every person with a communication device, the time has arrived to take the street with all free men and women. We are here, and we are not going away. Person to person live, face to face, being together in struggle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I'd like to know do any of them have jobs or school responsibilities to tend to? Maybe their disenchanted Greeks who forgot to get off the bus at their designated protest area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    "regulations existed before the protests began but have not been enforced.

    They include a prohibition on lying down on the ground or on benches, using sleeping bags or tarps, or the storage of personal property.[...]

    "The cleaning is expected to take about 12 hours." (BBC)

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Oh dear...this article and all the comments have chosen to ignore a VAST difference between the WS people and the Tea Party .

    This may be news to you all , so hold tight..

    The Tea Party is underwritten to the tune of millions and millions of dollars by Billionaires (Koch brothers) wanting to make more money for themselves .

    To ignore this.. is just plain Right Wing bias 'fraid .

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Whenever companies or individuals with big money are able to influence politics, things need to change. It starts with a ban on political donations over $100 per person per year (nothing allowed for companies).

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    What can the protesters achieve?"

    Getting fined for urinating in the streets of Manhattan.

    [yes, it's against the law]

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Being "reasonable" and "playing by the rules of the game" (the establishments rules, the establishments game) is never going to achieve anything if you wish to protest against them, or bring them down. Nonviolent Direct Action is the only type of protest that is going to make a difference, make people sit up and listen and perhaps act. Those who wish to be violent against us show their true colors

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    One of the differences is that the Tea Party showed consideration for others:

    Applied for permit
    Did not occupy anywhere
    Has their protest and/or event than left
    Cleaned up
    Did not engage in raciscm or anti semetic behavior
    showed consideration for other in not disrupting their lives or business

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    AndreaNY @11
    Good point

    Educated NOT to understand

    Young 'go along' with 'low pay'

    Even unemployment for a while

    Effectively owned

    Cannon & factory-fodder

    Politically manipulable

    Angered on Tax v Infrastructure

    Easy to 'come together' to blame

    Led to scapegoat elimination

    Ever more divided, we Fall

    Time to share work & fruits

    This crisis our Last Chance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Tea party contain people who are religious nutters angry about other people - usually poorer or pregnant. OWS are angry about the corporate system and inequality - they may be naive but they are certainly more rational.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    These protests provide a focal point for anger. Today, everybody's angry with (blaming) someone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    To pharaphrase a rather famous saying - 'You cannot serve the power of life and the power of money at the same time'.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    At last the 99% are waking up to the fact that democracy has to be fought for! Time the whole system was made transparent. The 1% who control everything are the corporate mafia and financiers who have the politicians and media in their pockets. Time for the silent majority to shout NO MORE! Fear is now big business.
    See I AM NOT MOVING video on Youtube .

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    As a prediction, the 2012 US elections will not be a passive event.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Party politics is a dead-end - it's not democracy.

    Democracy has to be direct, not 'representative'.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I'm an establishment guy who was so upset the night Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush that I had to go into the bathroom to cry. I've got investments, a house and children to get through college and grad school. These Wall Street protests are jeopardizing all of this, and all I want to do is grab a pitchfork and join them. I used to be a reasonable man--today I'm an angry mob.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Have Wall Street give each of the hippies 100,000 dollars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I would love to see Wall Street go. It serves no useful purpose other than the interests of a load of non-productive parasites, But, to do this, first we must replace the corrupt political system we have in this country. If anyone has any idea how this might be accomplished, I am waiting to hear.
    Peter D


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