The streets of Venezuelan cities are aflame as Nicolás Maduro’s thugs try to snuff out opposition to his regime. Ukrainian patriots eager to join the west are digging in at the barricades in Kiev. And yet the revolutionaries of Occupy are nowhere to be found. The website of Occupy Wall Street calls for “World Revolution.” Well, the day of insurrection has come, and the Occupiers are almost completely oblivious to what is happening in the world.
That’s not to say the Occupiers are inactive. They’re exchanging activist strategies and new stats about the “one percent.” But as far as the actual cause of freedom is concerned, they don’t care. Scan the Occupy Twitter feeds; you detect a faint interest in the clashes of Kiev and ambivalence about the abuses perpetrated by Hugo Chávez’s successor: criticism of his methods but resentment that some bourgeois claim victim status.
To Occupy, the only revolution worth noting is a struggle against global capitalism and the state infrastructure that capitalism deploys in its defense. In that sense, Occupy is the alter ego of Barack Obama, who has returned yet again to the theme of inequality as his focus. That theme shapes Obama’s foreign policy as much as his domestic policy, as he has sought to undo American hegemony and establish a “new equilibrium.”
In practice, that new equilibrium has meant allowing tyranny and autocracy to advance. The “reset” with Russia meant abandoning the young democracies of Eastern Europe, accepting the Assad regime in Syria, and allowing Vladimir Putin to assert control in the former Soviet empire. The attempt to achieve peace at any price with Iran has allowed the ayatollahs to shore up their regime, join in the Syrian slaughter, and threaten democratic Israel.
In general, the revolutions that have seized the streets around the world in recent years have targeted the regimes that Obama’s foreign policy has served to keep in power. Recall that the Obama administration sought to cut off funding to pro-democracy groups, reversing George W. Bush’s freedom agenda. It said Hosni Mubarak was not a dictator and claimed that Bashar al-Assad was a reformer, before flip-flopping as the tide turned.
The Occupy movement took heart from the successful rebellions of the Arab Spring. So, too, did the left-wing protesters who encircled the state capitol in Wisconsin in 2011, who declared Gov. Scott Walker a “dictator” for seeking to pass collective bargaining reforms that ultimately saved public sector jobs. They declared, “This is what democracy looks like!” as they occupied the building and tried to prevent the legislature from voting.
The truth is that Occupy was never interested in democracy or freedom. It wavered between a preference for a redistributionist socialist state on the one hand and collectivist anarchy on the other. President Barack Obama supported the movement and appropriated its “ninety-nine percent versus one percent” rhetoric. Indeed, twenty years before, Obama the community organizer would likely have been among the Occupiers themselves.
The Occupy movement, like Obama, is more concerned with punishing success than helping the oppressed. Both have shown a lack of interest in events in Venezuela and Caracas–with Obama merely urging both sides in Kiev to show restraint and dispatching Vice President Joe Biden to make calls. The revolutionary pretensions of both ought to be remembered the next time a group of well-off radicals throws a tantrum against the system.