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The movement opened up by Occupy Wall Street is the most exciting event on the US political left since 1968. As in '68, the current movement extends globally, encompasses multiple grievances, and is being met by violent police responses. Also as in '68, an economic wrong, the wrong of capitalism, is at the core of the political rupture.
In May 1968, a general strike shut down the French economy. Students occupied the Sorbonne and workers occupied factories. In September 2011, inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol, and the 15 May movement of the squares in Spain (as well as by the occupation movements that in recent years have accompanied protests over cutbacks in education and increases in tuition in California, New York, and the UK), protesters in New York occupied Wall Street. That Wall Street was actually the nearby privately owned Zuccotti Park didn't really matter. What mattered, and what opened up a new space of political possibility in the US, was that finally people were waking up—after forty years of neoliberalism's assault on the working and middle class and after a decade of rapacious class warfare in which the top one percent saw an income increase of 275% (their share of the national income more than doubling) while most of the rest of the country saw an income increase of roughly 1% a year. 1 Instead of continuing in the fantasy that "what's good for Wall Street, is good for Main Street," the occupation claimed the division between Wall Street and Main Street and named this division as a fundamental wrong, the wrong of inequality, exploitation, and theft.
The movement's early slogan, "We are the 99 Percent," quickly went viral. It spread in part because of the Tumblr collection of images and testimonials to the hardships of debt, foreclosure, and unemployment, a "coming out" of the closet imposed by the conceit that everyone...