The grievances of people with ordinary jobs

Paul Berman says calm down, Occupy Wall Street isn’t that bad.

Occupy Wall Street is a festival. It is declaiming truth, and this is good. Wall Street has led the country and the world over a cliff. Somebody needs to say so. The damnable conga-drummers in the downtown streets have appointed themselves to say so. The drumming is not too articulate, but the job of festivals is not to be articulate. (It is the job of magazines to be articulate.)

Anyway, the demonstrations, in their anarchist spirit, leave room for other people, more sensible or more sophisticated or, at least, more elderly, to put the protests in a properly institutional form. Last week I marched with the trade unions in support of Occupy Wall Street. The unions may not always be right, but they were not in fantasy’s grip. They were expressing the grievances of people with ordinary jobs, which is, in fact, the right thing to do. My particular delegation was the Jewish Labor Committee. The New Republic editorial worries about a danger to liberalism. The Jewish Labor Committee poses not the slightest danger to liberalism. On the contrary!

Solidarity forever.


  1. badandfierce says

    Could he be any more pompous and asinine? Sure, he comes out in favor, but with the tone of an indulgent uncle handing out candy.

    Yes, ha, those idealistic protesters have a point, but now the real people are here to make it for them. That was very nice with the ideals and the expression and the message, but now people who suit my idea of proper will express the exact same thing and be acceptable due to age and not dressing funny.

    With friends like these, who needs enemies?

  2. Ikallicrates says

    ‘Occupy Wall Street isn’t that bad’. Unfortunately it isn’t that good, either.

    It’s no Arab Spring, although that appears to be what finally goaded a few ordinarily passive and apolitical Americans into protesting the destruction of this country.

    The corporate elite has been gutting our commonwealth for a long time, and they know trouble when they see it. They look at the people occupying Zuccotti Park (they’re too polite to actually occupy Wall Street itself and bother the bankers), and they see a bunch of frustrated serfs making a futile gesture and pretending they’re doing something important. Nothing they need worry about.

  3. says

    Anyway, the demonstrations, in their anarchist spirit, leave room for other people, more sensible or more sophisticated or, at least, more elderly, to put the protests in a properly institutional form.

    I’d put the sense and sophistication of Peter Kropotkin or Emma Goldman up against Paul Berman’s any day of the week.

  4. says


    I don’t know about that. If they aren’t worried, then why have they been trying to shut it down? (Bloomberg trying to run everybody out so the park can be cleaned, assorted pundits and political candidates trying to discredit it, etc.) If they really didn’t think there was anything to it, they wouldn’t be bothering.

    I don’t think the 1% is as worried about this as they should be yet, but I think the protests have more of their attention than they’re letting on in public.

  5. says

    As an OWS supporter, I’d ordinarily consider that article’s backhandedness to be insufferable. But then I remind myself that endorsing a diversity of tactics might also include actively tolerating the badly reasoned sympathies of Paul Berman.

  6. Dave says

    I have made some points here that may be relevant:

    In short, getting a bit of snark for your counter-cultural demeanour is better than discovering that you’ve brought the system crashing to its knees, you have no clue what to do next – seriously, in the absence of ‘capitalism’, how would you get food onto Manhattan Island for everyone who lives there, in the 2-day window before huinger-riots start? – and the half of the population that already hates you is the half with the guns.

  7. says

    Through market syndicalism. That, at least, is what they officially demand. Look it up.

    But even putting the official demands aside, I think a lot of protesters are reacting to the 2008 crisis. If that’s so, then they would be satisfied by much less than the syndicalization of the economy. They’d rather just replace the corporate kleptocracy with a capitalist market that is carefully circumscribed by healthy regulations, where externalities are controlled for in a responsible way, etc.

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