Many on the Right have tried to classify the ideology of the Wall Street Protests. Glenn Beck has sounded an alarmist note, describing the ideas behind the movement as Leninist and even fascist. It’s true there is much in the rhetoric that recalls the Bolshevik leader’s love of violence and brown-shirt style anti-semitic comments (this doesn’t necessarily separate Wall Street yellers from Leninism). However, my own experience while at ground zero of the protests gave me a different impression.
Leninists and fascists revealed some knowledge (albeit cherry picked) of history and they had read books or even a pamphlet. Lenin quoted Adam Smith, Hitler; Frederick the Great. The protestors, however, don’t even know who is being quoted (they aren’t sure whether to clap or not when Eugene Debs is cited) or who they are even wearing. I asked one masked protestor why he was wearing a Guy Fawkes’ mask and was corrected in the condescending tones of the hip that it was “V For Vendetta.”
Far from being the products of any studied ideology, they are instead the products of youtube and Comedy Central. Silence greets any invocation of Tom Mooney or Tom Joad and applause rises to a roar when Micheal Moore and Susan Sarandon do a drop-by. They do show a low animal cunning about the alternative media. Aware that the Left no longer owns it, they evince a media savviness that would make Obama envious. Asked by a reporter what system they want to replace capitalism with, a protestor was advised by a comrade not to say it. Image conscious, they know to try to block the limos that bore Sarandon and Moore to the event from camera-view. They know that slogans have consequences, so very few of them wave placards describing Wall Street as crony capitalists, which reveal an awareness that such a slogan might track pedestrians back to the president who bailed out Wall Street.
One matter that keeps them assuredly away from kinship with Leninists and fascists is that the Bolsheviks and Nazis took to the streets against the government. Both groups targeted the rulers of their countries as having to go; winter palaces were stormed, tsars and their children executed, marches on the capitals planned. The Wall Street Protestors, however, desire none of this. Indeed, some of their slogans sound designed for the Obama 2012 campaign. Many of them speak of their President and how they have to help him. If there is a march on Washington it will definitely detour past the White House.