It would be interesting to draw some parallels between Occupy Wall Street and a phenomenon that preceded and that fed the rise of Nazism and the ascension of Nazi power in Germany. That phenomenon was the post-World War I paramilitary Free Corps (Freikorps), or Freebooters.
When Germany lost the war, its army was disbanded, setting loose hundreds of thousands of German soldiers into a stagnant, debt-ridden, and government-controlled economy that had yet to begin paying the Versailles Treaty-mandated reparations that came to billions of dollars. Armies of Free Corps roamed the country, fighting pitched battles with the Communists. They probably decided the outcome of the German Revolution of 1918-1919. The common enemy of the Free Corps was the Communist Party. However, before the Weimar Republic was formed – and even after it had been installed – Germany was ruled by anarchy, with armed mobs of Free Corps and Communists clashing in city streets, with casualties in the thousands.
In early 1919 the strength of the Reichswehr, the regular army, was estimated at 350,000. There were in addition more than 250,000 men enlisted in the various Free Corps. Under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany was required to reduce its armed forces to a maximum of 100,000. Free Corps units were therefore expected to be disbanded.
The parallels discussed here are not the social or even military ones, but the moral ones.
After World War I, the German Army was restricted to 100,000 men, so there were a great amount of soldiers suddenly de-mobilized. Many of these men were hardened into a Frontgemeinschaft, a front-line community. It was a spirit of camaraderie that was formed due to the length and horrors of trench warfare of WWI. These paramilitary groups filled a need for many of these soldiers who suddenly lost their “family”—the army. Many of those soldiers were filled with angst, anger and frustration over the loss and horror of the war. (Italics mine.)
What have we here? One could say that the protesters of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) have been addled by the “length and horrors” of, well, making a living. By having to earn their own keep. By dealing with a welfare state which they approve of but which they claim isn’t generous enough with other people’s money. Of being fed up with a Congress that doesn’t respond immediately to their “needs.” By being congenitally outraged by the alleged “pro-business” corruption and lobbying in Congress (but not too outraged by the Solyndra scandal, because that kind of taxpayer fraud and malfeasance is okay with them, it only hurts taxpayers, and it was for a “good cause” – all lobbying and cronyism forgiven). They are unfairly burdened by student loan debt (funded by taxpayers), personal lifestyle debt, and other annoyances.
The irresponsible, the indebted, the reckless, the hankerers after the unearned – that is their “family.”
So, there they are, brimming to their eyebrows with “angst, anger, and frustration.” Many of them are now infested with diseases and illnesses that soldiers during WWI actually contracted in those trenches. The OWSers complain about the police using pepper spray and using force (having to compel a protester to have his wrists restrained with plastic cuffs). Would they like to experience a dose of mustard gas, instead? How about having one’s body riddled by machine gun fire, or being blown to a dozen pieces by an artillery shell? Or being bayoneted? Of simply expiring in water-logged trenches from pneumonia or rickets or typhus? Or dying neglected in a body-strewn, crater-dotted landscape of No Man’s Land because medics couldn’t get to them for fear of being blown to bits, as well.
No, the OWSers have no taste for that kind of misery. Their misery has no antidote, no cure, no magic pill that would make the “pain” and “anger” go away except the expansion of government powers. Theirs is the pain of the unearned uncollected, the frustration of the entitled who cannot be satiated except by the slavery of those who must provide or subsidize the entitlement.
Occupy Wall Street was no spontaneous phenomenon, but a planned and organized instance of “community organizing,” on a scale that would make Saul Alinsky proud. It is orchestrated anarchy intended to cripple the “system,” careening towards whatever target its mobs reach a consensus to freeze, personalize, isolate, and polarize, angling for “confrontation” with the police that would put them in the role of “victims of violence” – when they are the initiators of force. One OWS chant is, “The whole world is watching.” Unfortunately for the chanters, what the world is watching is a farce, of the police not obliging the trespassers and profanities and noise by cracking skulls and water hosing the hordes. Which is what ought to have happened the first time OWS blocked a street or broke a window.
(Interesting side-note: secular leftists do not have a monopoly on Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” Islamist outfits like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, The Islamic Circle, and other Muslim “advocacy” groups already practice targeting and personalizing issues, and with growing success. They are masters of those rules.)
“Occupying” a public space and blocking its use by the public, however, is an initiation of force. Zuccotti Park in New York, for example, is a nominally private park open to the public. OWS closed it to all but its own. The whole world was watching while the filth accumulated in that park, while crimes like rape and theft and threatening local businesses occurred, while a “flying squad” of pillagers went on a rampage in Oakland, while hundreds have been arrested with kid-gloves and led away to school buses. One strongly suspects that what OWS was plotting and hoping for was a repeat of the violence of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The news media were on the side of the left even back then. But, it hasn’t happened – not yet. It doesn’t even have a Tom Hayden to excuse, explain, and sanction their cause and its violence. On the surface, OWS has a central nervous system but no brain, no guiding agenda or petition of grievances except a desire to destroy and loot the ruins.
Also, on the surface, OWS does not resemble the pre-Nazi Free Corps. The rabble sports no uniforms, no semblance of military or other discipline, no decorum to speak of, no homogeneity of any kind. It is a conglomeration of slobs, wannabe criminals, punks, weirdos, women with bees in their bonnets and men with only half a deck of cards in their craniums. The variety of protest signs, usually scrawled on cardboard, and often revealing a profound illiteracy in spelling and grammar, testify to the unity of “angst and anger” and the triumph of a university education. OWS brandishes a variety of banners, including the American, but the Palestinian and Puerto Rican flags were also in evidence. On the whole, what OWS is rebelling against is reality, a reality their elective ilk have created.
But like the Free Corps, OWS is a kind of syndicate or an uneasy alliance of disparate collectivist causes and organizations. Some Free Corps upheld the Weimer Republic. Others fought to bring it down. OWS is an amalgam of communists, welfare state liberals, old school radicals, gray panther leftists, new age hippies, holders of worthless degrees, the professionally unemployed, the perpetually alienated, the clinically certifiably disgruntled, career vagrants, vehicles of middle class guilt, black power advocates, Muslims, anti-Semites, Hispanics of indeterminate national origin, unions, AmeriCorps manqués, Peace Corps veterans, environmentalists – all the bilious movements that mushroomed on the mulch of American educational philosophy, and that were prepared and sanctioned by grade and high schools and universities and patronized, idolized, and encouraged by the news media.
But while Barack Obama is blamed for OWS and its violence and health issues and the whole mess, it would be unfair to lay it all on his doorstep. Obama and OWS, like Tom Hayden and the radicals of the 1960’s and 1970’s, are a consequence of the collapse of philosophy and the disparagement of reason. OWS is merely the post-Woodstock, second wave of Borg raiders with bachelor’s degrees.
The protesters of OWS are prime cannon fodder, and perfect recruits for an American version of the Free Corps. We have seen how quickly they can be called up for “action”; that mobs of “Occupiers” sprang up almost simultaneously in cities all over the country testifies to the availability of so many aimless foot soldiers and to a committee or cabal of planners and “community organizers” working behind the scenes and who remain undiscovered and undiscussed by the news media. As we get further into the presidential election campaign, we will see more of this kind of “action.” The “interruption” of Michelle Bachmann’s speech in South Carolina by OWS, and the attempted storming of the Americans for Prosperity event in Washington DC, are but a taste of what is ahead – unless the planners decide that OWS has been a failure, even for the dereliction of responsibility of various municipal leaders of having let the movement grow out of control, as Mayor Bloomberg did in New York. He had Zuccotti Park cleared out – and then invited OWS back, sans tents, tarps, and other camping gear. As though that would make a difference.
The denizens of OWS can be organized into roaming and violent Free Corps. They can be taught discipline and minimal decorum. The SEIU, the UAW, and other strong-arm outfits can give them advice on logistics, manpower, and offer seminars on the art of news-hogging police provocation. They can be given any cause their philosopher-kings wish to give them, and most OWSers will be amenable to it. The news media will give the new Free Corps their blessing, and cheer them on from their insulated TV studios and round tables, and call it freedom of speech, when in fact OWS is an enemy of the First Amendment.
As with the German Free Corps and the consolidation of power that brooks no rivalry – the Free Corps SA was purged, while the Free Corps SS was elevated – there will be purges from OWS and a campaign to paint it in respectable colors. The purges won’t be pretty; there will be weeping and wailing and the gnashing of teeth. As with the non-violent Tea Party movement, it will seek to become an influential “voice” in Washington (not that it lacks such a voice now, as witness the endorsement of OWS by the POTUS, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and other America-changing activists).
OWS in this instance is merely an exploratory phenomenon, to see what will or will not be tolerated, of feeling out the “establishment” for weaknesses and sizing up its strengths. As of this writing, the “establishment” has no proven strengths to counter the intended terrorism of OWS but its own inertia. It has no philosophy of individual rights, of laissez-faire, of limited government, of an understanding of the purpose of government. Fundamentally, in the deepest sense, the federal, state, and municipal governments are one with OWS.
2012 will be a watershed election year. Chickens came home to roost in 1968. In 2012, it will be vultures who flock in large numbers to pick at the carcass of the American Republic.