Speaking up for the majority

October 13, 2011

I WANTED to express my undying gratitude to the courageous youth who organized Occupy Wall Street. You have given a voice to the voiceless.

Unlike many people in the U.S., I am in a union, belong to a socialist organization and have been an activist since high school. At very early age I found my voice, along with ways to channel that voice and be heard. This is not true for most people. It is not easy to question the status quo; it requires accepting that almost everything you have ever been taught has been a lie.

From a very early age, I questioned how a system that benefited the few at the expense of the many; could be that great. My high school social studies teacher introduced me to a small pamphlet--I think many of you might have heard of The Communist Manifesto. Its words not only struck a chord with me, but explained to me why capitalism will never work for the majority. How can a system that is built on producing wealth for a small majority through the exploitation of the many, every benefit everyone?

It confirmed that I wasn't crazy; the world I lived in was. Forty years ago, my generation was asking the same questions you were and fighting for a better world. Somewhere along the way, we lost our way. Thank you for waking us up and leading us back into battle.

Many have criticized you for lack of structure. While some form of structure is necessary, it is not my place to tell you how to organize, it is for you to figure out. You must be doing something right--you are getting things done. You are doing what we have been told couldn't be done, bringing us together to fight back. You have working groups who are making decisions democratically and I trust you to figure it out as circumstances unfold.

That being said, beware; the full force of the state is lurking around the corner, and our side will need to be organized to fight it, or be crushed under the weight of the state. This is spoken from experience.

The state exists to "protect and serve" not the majority, but that small minority and all their wealth. While you may have sympathetic police officers out there who, like many of us, are a paycheck away from poverty, the police and our government representatives are arms of the state and are charged with protecting Wall Street and those who benefit from our financial system. Congress and Obama are doing what they were hired to do, that is why your movement is so important and absolutely necessary.

MOST OF all, I want to thank you for being all inclusive. Unlike the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street has opened up a space for everyone. There is room in your movement for:

Students and youth; who ask the question, "Why should I have to be burdened with debt in order to get an education, so I can get a job?"--who then graduate only to find that that job doesn't exist.

The unemployed, who worked hard all their lives, did nothing to be laid off or fired, who want to work, but can't find a job. For the employed who in the near future know they will soon join the unemployed.

The underemployed, part-time workers, workers who don't receive a living wage, workers struggling to support themselves and their families.

The union worker, who wonders why, in every contract, he or she has to give up more and more of what generations of workers before them fought for and won. Union workers have been demonized for having health care plans, decent wages and safe workplaces. All workers deserve this. Collective bargaining is more than just wages. For example: nurses negotiate nurse-to-patient ratios that affect the quality of health care, and teachers negotiate class size, which influences the quality of education. To end collective bargaining will negatively affect all of us in the long run.

The non-union worker, who wants to organize his or her workplace without the risk of losing their employment. These workers need congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and reinstate "card check". The problem with workplace elections is that they are unduly influenced and often rigged by the employer to prevent workers from exercising the right to bargain collectively. Ask anyone who works in a "right to work" state: it is the "right" to work for harder for less and nothing more. Right-to-work laws have not produced jobs, especially good jobs.

The undocumented worker, who wonders why, if capital can freely cross arbitrary borders, lines on a map, can't they, and who wonders why going to where the jobs are is a criminal activity? Immigrant workers' rights are workers' rights. Immigrant rights are human rights.

Sweatshop workers, whose extreme exploitation fuels the race to the bottom. Steve Jobs didn't make your iPad, Chinese children did. I once read that if we paid 25 cents more for every item of clothing in this country, sweatshop labor could be eliminated. Times are tough, but I think I can spare a quarter or two if it will end sweatshop labor.

Troy Davis--and all the "Troy Davises"-- the thousands of prisoners who are behind bars or on death row not because they pose a threat to society, but because they couldn't afford good legal counsel or were in the wrong place at the wrong time and looked "like a suspect." To the victims of the prison-industrial complex that has turned people into commodities and introduced a new form of slavery. Punishment should fit the crime; jail time for non-violent crimes serves no purpose for society. It is time to stop warehousing people--and to free the forgotten political prisoners like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal among others.

The homeless, who have lost their homes or been evicted from their apartments. And for those who are a paycheck away from homelessness.

The uninsured and underinsured, who have little or no access to health care. We need universal health care.

Those who go to bed hungry every night, especially children, while food is destroyed so the price of food commodities can remain high. Even primitive societies provided food, shelter and health care to everyone, not just to those who could afford it. Food, shelter, and health care should be a civil and human right.

LGBT people, who should have the right to choose who they love and should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. LGBT people should be able to demand that they not face discrimination or violence because they dare to openly be themselves and not hide in the closet.

Our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends, who deserve the right to be able to walk down the street without being harassed or sexually assaulted. "No means No." Women deserve to be treated equally, to have the right to control their own bodies and lives. Women are people not property, and more than capable determining their own destinies.

"Mother Nature" and environmental advocates. Our survival depends on this--if our planets dies so do we. All of our efforts will be for nothing if we don't stop the willful destruction of our planet by corporate greed.

THANK YOU, for embracing our differences and opening the movement to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnic background, religion or lack thereof. Thank you for not letting their labels divide our movement.

Thank you for standing up and not allowing anyone to co-opt your movement, especially the Democrats, who wish to channel your momentum to the voting booth and out of the streets. Howard Zinn got it right: "It doesn't matter who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in."

Thank you for realizing that a fundamental change in the way we organize not just a movement, but society, needs to take place. Not tomorrow, but today. Our future, our very existence, depends upon it.

Capitalism is not "broken"--it is functioning at its highest level, it is returning to the "golden age." Capitalism is serving the class it was created to serve: the 1 percent, not the 99 percent. Empire is the capitalism at its highest level.

Thank you for reminding us that "we are the many, and they are the few." We are the 99 percent. They call it "class warfare," but there has always been a class war--only now it has two sides and our side is fighting back. We can win this, as long as we stay united and see it through to the end.

When I go down to Zucotti Park I see the birth pangs of not just a movement, but a revolution.

Thank you for letting me live to see the beginnings of revolution inside the "belly of the beast." I hope to live long enough to see that revolution come to fruition but even if I don't, long live Occupy Wall Street, and long live the revolution!
Cindy Klumb, New York City

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