THE BLOG
11/15/2011 08:15 am ET Updated Jan 15, 2012

A Sixties Activist Thoughts for the 99%ers

Sixties activists are fascinated by the occupy Washington movement. A new generation has taken to the streets. The outcomes of our struggle were far reaching. The African¬-American rights campaign sped from the 1961 brutal beating of freedom riders in Montgomery to voting rights and anti Jim Crow legislation in 1974-75. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X died during those battles that helped awaken every other suppressed group in the country. With over-night rapidity they organized for uplift. I experienced the take=off of the Chicano/Latino movement teaching at Cal State LA in East Los Angeles. I almost remember a particular morning when Latinos came to class realizing, metaphorically, that tortillas were better than shredded wheat. They shed the dominant culture in the blink of an eye. Chicano/Latino Studies wee embedded in college curricula. Upward mobility for Latinos was underway thanks to organization and mobilization. All disadvantaged groups were organizing and marching. Resultant change happened in flashes and bursts. The Gay burst happened at the Stonewall bar in Manhattan where they successfully faced down the gay-repressing New York Police.
The most effective campaign was mounted by women. Though some gender inequalities persist, women now outperform men in every level of education. If the admission to the freshman class at Harvard were just on the basis of academic merit, about sixty percent of the class would be female.
Ending the Vietnam War and granting political rights to the excluded were compelling, but highly controversial, objectives. It was forceful pressure against forceful counter pressure mixed with the non-violent restraints urged by Martin Luther King. Appeals to morality were paramount.

Different today are the absence of the Cold War and the failure of economic polices based upon neo-liberal free market theories imposed during the Ronald Reagan-George W. Bush era. The United States and Europe are no longer able to dominate the world economy. 99%ers all over the world have realized this. Occupy Wall Street follows upon movements that started in Tunisia and Egypt.
In the United States the aftermath of near national financial collapse and sympathy for protesters from millions of people suffering home loss and unemployment have legitimized the movement. Many young persons do not see a future providing a decent life. That threat is real. The U. S. Congress, in the pay of corporate interests, is unable to take. corrective action. The stage was set for massive response in the streets.
The tactics of the 99ers are more sophisticated than ours were. We did not have the internet and the social media. The 99%ers use togetherness in the street for a exchanging experience, policy formulation and strategic marches and occupations. They hold popular assemblies in the street. They are given wide public support and media tolerance. Our goals were more specific and immediate. Theirs are long term and they seek basic changes. They coordinate with labor unions and human well-being, and ecology groups.
We understand that these are different times that call for measures and different goals. There are new antagonists. The U.S. political response to the sixties brought structural changes enhancing the plutocratic character of U.S. society. The religious right that allied with Reagan was given support by Republican politicians for the religious bid to stop abortion and gay marriage. The corporate elite goal was increased profits and lessened taxation. This was a strange but abiding alliance of greed and problematic religious views. Plutocrats and zealots in power produced the greatest concentration of wealth since the roaring twenties. Middle and Working class wages had stagnated. Te financial collapse of 2008 worsened structural inequality. The 99%ers know that the corporate-capitalist structure must be unfrozen by government intervention or high levels of unemployment will be permanent. The 99%ers have unleashed a powerful national and international revolt. I salute you.