Nobel laureate Lech Walesa, former president of Poland, and one of the great leaders of the 20th century, backs Occupy Wall Street. Say it ain’t so, Lech.
A founder of the union Solidarity, which helped break the back of Soviet communism in Poland, Walesa is even going to pay the brats a visit. I wish Mr. Walesa would read Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen’s piece in the Wall Street Journal before going to the protest:
[T]he Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people—and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform.
The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.
Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.
I can’t believe Walesa would endorse this ideology. Walesa remembers the halcyon days of his own street protests against the Soviet Union, and perhaps it’s just too easy to look at superficial resemblances and identify with Occupy. Or maybe I am wrong about Walesa?
Famous scholars like Cornel West, Slavoj Zizek, and Frances Fox Piven have spoken to the crowd, with their remarks dispersed, word-for-word, from one cluster of people to the next through a "human megaphone." Many others, such as Lawrence Lessig, have lent their support from farther away, as the demonstrations have spread to cities and college campuses nationwide.
None of them, as far as I know, volunteered to take a voluntary pay cut to help bring down those student loans, a big item on the Occupy agenda. But "critical theorists" are lending their intellectual power, such as it is:
The movement has repeatedly been described as too diffuse and decentralized to accomplish real change, and some observers have seen the appearances by academic luminaries as an attempt to lend the protest intellectual heft and direction. Certainly, its intellectual underpinnings and signature method of operating are easier to identify than its goals.
Economists whose recent works have decried income inequality have informed the movement's critiques of capitalism. Critical theorists like Michael Hardt, professor of literature at Duke University, and Antonio Negri, former professor of political science at the University of Padua, have anticipated some of the central issues raised by the protests. Most recently, they linked the actions in New York and other American cities to previous demonstrations in Spain, Cairo's Tahrir Square, and in Athens, among other places.
The Chronicle traces some of the movement’s intellectual roots to “scholarship on anarchy,” including the work of David Graeber, who studied anarchy in Madagascar, and who was an early organizer of Occupy. You may get a (perverse) kick out of the Chronicle’s “Scholars Visit Occupy Wall Street” sidebar.
But I still wish Walesa were not participating in this moment.