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December 2011 (Volume 63, Number 7)

The last month (late September to late October 2011) was to all appearances a historical turning point. The Arab Spring gave way to the New York/World Fall as protesters occupied Wall Street (basing themselves in Zuccotti Park), and the movement of the 99% spread across the entire globe. A brief, selective chronology serves to highlight the speed with which events unfolded. (December 17, 2010) Tunisian protests give rise to Arab Spring. (May 15, 2011) Tens of thousands of protesters begin occupying Puerta de Sol square in Madrid. (June 9) Adbusters magazine acquires the domain name (July 13) Adbusters calls for a Wall Street occupation on September 17. (August 23) Anonymous, a hactivist group, releases a video encouraging its followers to take part in the occupation. (September 5–11) U.S. Day of Rage, an Internet-based activist organization, releases tactical guidelines on Occupy Wall Street. (September 17) Occupy Wall Street begins with an estimated 1,000 people. (October 1) More than 5,000 protesters march towards Brooklyn Bridge; over 700 arrests made. (October 6) Occupy the Hood emerges as a major part of the Occupy movement. More than 5,000 protesters march in Portland, Oregon. Occupy protests spread throughout the country. (October 11) More than 100 are arrested at Occupy Boston. (October 13) Mayor Bloomberg tells Occupy Wall Street that it will need to move out of Zuccotti Park the next day for park cleaning. (October 14) Bloomberg retreats in the face of mass support for the protesters. (October 15) Worldwide Occupy demonstrations take place; protests spread to 951 cities in 82 countries. Occupy London begins outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. Occupy Toronto begins in St. James Park. Occupy Johannesburg launched. Police crackdown on Occupy Chicago leads to 175 arrests. Thousands in New York march on U.S. military recruiting station to protest U.S. military interventions. Seventy people injured, three seriously, during clashes with police in Occupy Rome. (October 21) City of Melbourne evicts Occupy Melbourne. (October 25) Police move against Occupy Oakland, using teargas and rubber bullets. Iraq War veteran, Scott Olsen, is in critical condition after being shot in the head by a police projectile. (October 26) Occupy Rio begins. (October 27) Occupy Oakland calls for a general strike in Oakland on November 2. Slogan “We Are All Scott Olsen” emerges. (October 29) Police fire pepper spray and pepper balls (hollow projectiles filled with chemical irritant) at Occupy Denver protesters; arrest 20 people. (October 30) Police make 39 arrests in Occupy Austin. Thirty arrested in Occupy Portland. (October 31) Police break up Occupy Richmond encampment, arresting those who refused to leave. Federal lawsuit filed over arrests at Occupy Nashville. Occupy Tulsa begins.

Given its crucial role in this struggle we at MR would like to express our gratitude on behalf of all radicals to Adbusters magazine for its role in sparking this extraordinary movement. We are proud to acknowledge that recent issues of Adbusters, prior to Occupy Wall Street, carried an excerpt and quotes from MR, aimed at sparking revolutionary social change. We urge MR readers to check out Adbusters.

MR authors and friends have participated in the Occupy movement from the start, sometimes playing prominent roles. We have heard from friends directly involved in Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Eugene, Occupy Oakland, and from people associated with Occupy movements throughout the world. On September 26 Noam Chomsky endorsed Occupy Wall Street and on September 27 Cornel West joined the protesters at Zuccotti Park. On October 15 John Bellamy Foster spoke at a rally in Eugene, Oregon that preceded a march of 2,000 protesters and the beginning of Occupy Eugene. On October 23 John and Fred Magdoff led a teach-in on capitalism and the environment at Occupy Wall Street, Zuccotti Park, New York. Fred went on to speak on October 30 at Occupy Boston. MR has donated magazines and books to Occupy Wall Street, and to other Occupy movements. We will continue to do what we can to support this movement, which, as Naomi Klein said, and we agree, is “the most beautiful thing in the world now.”

As Howard Zinn taught, U.S. history is not what is to be found in standard textbooks, in which people’s movements and radical ideas have been carefully erased. Recently there has been renewed interest among scholars in the connection between Marx and Lincoln. A new book by former New Left Review editor, Robin Blackburn, entitled An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln (Verso, 2011), consists of a long introduction by Blackburn and various source materials, including Marx’s letter to Lincoln and Lincoln’s official reply, as well as documentary material about Lincoln, Marx, and the left in relation to the Civil War. However, a more startling contribution to the understanding of the Marx-Lincoln connection comes from the pen of John Nichols, the Washington correspondent of the Nation, in a chapter entitled “Reading Marx with Abraham Lincoln,” in his new book, The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition…Socialism (Verso, 2011). In a journalistic coup worthy of I.F. Stone, Nichols uncovers the extent to which Lincoln, in his speeches, took the side of labor over capital, seeing the former as the true source of wealth (value). He goes on to tell the story of Lincoln, the “Red Republican,” who was an avid reader of Marx’s New York Tribune articles, a supporter of European revolutions, and a backer of socialists and revolutionaries—to the point that Lincoln and Marx had a number of key acquaintances in common. For example, Charles Dana, managing editor of the New York Tribune, a Fourierist socialist who went to Cologne to recruit Marx as the European columnist of his paper, was appointed assistant secretary of war in Lincoln’s administration. Nichols concludes:

Lincoln was not a Marxist, but the first Republican president belonged to a time when men such as he were familiar with the writings of Marx and the deeds of the revolutionary circle that spread from Europe to the United States in the aftermath of the 1848 rebellions. He sifted and winnowed the radical ideas of his day. He found truth in notions about the superiority of labor to capital, just as he found important—at times essential—allies among the radicals who shared the view that a dying southern aristocracy was mounting not merely a last desperate defense of slavery but “in fact, a war upon the rights of all working people” (97).

Correction: In John Bellamy Foster, Robert W. McChesney, and R. Jamil Jonna, “The Global Reserve Army of Labor and the New Imperialism,” Monthly Review, November 2011, there was an error on page 28, paragraph 2, line 9: “Korea” should be “South Korea.”

2011, Volume 63, Issue 07 (December)
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