OWS activists well-off and educated. So what?

Occupy Wall Street Some comments on a new study.

Bei diesem Beitrag handelt es sich um ein Blog aus der Freitag-Community.
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„NYC Occupy was white, rich“ reported the Washington Post, consequently adding „Zucotti glitteratti“ to its headline, the New York Post saw „OWS exposed“, while article title's in the Gothamist and the New York Times were more nuanced.

The headlines were inspired by a new study released by sociologists from the City University of New York. Or rather a selective reading of it. Time to correct some lines in the debate.

The articles in the above cited media reported that 35% of the surveyed Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors came from households with an income higher than $100,000 a year and 75% of the respondents were non-Latino white. Among New York citizens however they account only for 33 percent and only 24% have the afore mentioned income. Also 76% of the New Yorker Occupy protestors had a bachelor degree.

Besides these now well reported facts, the study only scientifically confirms and describes what some journalist observers, analysts and critics have said before about OWS` nature and problems. For instance that the proclaimed horizontalism was not always given thus creating and masking a „tyranny of structurelessness“ in which the leading core activists, who were overwhelmingly white and male, took over.

One interesting detail is that 24% of the many unionized protesters that participated in the study were organized in the American Federation of Teachers from City University, thus confirming and living up to CUNY´s reputation of being the „Harvard of the Proletariat“.

In an effort to defend OWS against the more or less denunciatory media discourse on the study, The Nation author Allison Kilkenny has called co-author Stepanie Luce for her article on the study. Luce confirms that „harping“ on the household income is misleading because it does not represent the individual income.

It can be doubted however, that Kilkenny's defense helps OWS and its organizers much.

Rendering OWS more harmless than it was by depicting the protesters as „Americans“ who are just „exercising their First Amendment rights“ depolitizes Occupy (not withstanding the debate how „left“ Occupy really was and is). Or to freely cite the wise chairman Mao: „If the enemy is not fighting against us we don't do our job“. But maybe the defensive defense of Occupy in the „flagship of the American left“ is just another sign of its current weakness.

The fact that the Occupiers were mostly midle class and well educated is not that much important. Neither are questions of representativeness that Kilkenny raises.

Social movement scholars know that most movements have been and are still mostly led by educated middle class activists. Karl Marx himself was the son of a lawyer and has nevertheless and undoubthedly done much for the emancipation of the working class and the dispossed. Thus the more important question is if the Occupy organizers will continue to work for social change, as the authors of the study imply, if they will be willing to „betray their own class“ as Marx did.

Dieser Beitrag gibt die Meinung des Autors wieder, nicht notwendigerweise die der Redaktion des Freitag.

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