Questioning the 99%: The System Is Criminal – It’s Not Just Bad Apples

I (Joe) participated in the comment thread to this article by Josh Eidelson about labor and progressive groups joining the Wall Street Protests, seeking to intervene in what I’ve already seen/heard happen too much: repressing/shushing critical thought in the name of ideological unity.


“Yes to the rank and file. No to the top leadership.

The top union leadership are generally lackeys of the democrat party as is MoveOn. They will try to drive the General Assembly into trying to reform the democrat party. It’s a con.

People on the left should be aware of this, since every movement for real democracy and away from corporate capitalist rule that the dems touch turns to co-opted, tragic slush. The protests should be separate from the #2 business party entirely. Union leaders and MoveOn will try to push the protesters into the conventional political stream saying that’s where the real power is. It’s a mirage. The power is there because the corporate money is there. They should avoid this at all costs if they want ANY real change. Democrats are 100% in opposition to the changes the protesters want. 

People in the US should finally consider both big business parties what they are—the third rail for real change. Know who their operatives are—the co-opters of real change.”

Pelican Beak:

“Scarcely is our 99% unity proclaimed,
when folks as noinks go to work undermining it 
and emphasizing disunity.

His choice got 0.12% of the vote in 2008.
Talk about disunity!
Everything he addresses gets dragged down toward that.
The poison politics of divisiveness are all he knows.”


“You have no idea what my choice is. The democrats servants of Wall Street. You don’t even understand that much. The protesters do.”

Pelican Beak:

“More divisiveness.
You even do it when you’re denying doing it.
Why is unity so distasteful to you?

Join us, noinks.
Don’t always set yourself apart like this. “


“Better to be divisive in favor of the truth than repressive in the name of ideological unity.”

Pelican Beak:

“Joe has decided to declare a false opposition in the service of divisiveness. Clever wickedness, indeed.”


“You baldly assert false-opposition like it’s an argument. It’s a conclusion and you have no argument to back it up.

Noinks remarks are a call to broaden our protest to include not just the high-profile, almost cartoonish players of “wall street”, but also the uncomfortably everyday figures of the 99% like the business-friendly leaders of our unions. Your call to repress that uncomfortable truth about the nature of the crisis we’re in is no different than those people who blatantly stand up for the hyper-rich and denounce their critics as engaging in class-warfare. The 1% is not simply an income-bracket. It’s a matter of principles and relationships to the power of money. If anything, it’s a call to MORE unity.”


“Noinks wants to exclude caring people because they may only be activists like MoveOn who have been working for progressives for years.

There are also people who may have jobs even good jobs but care about what’s happening to the rest of us.

I welcome both.”


“I welcome both too; haven’t read anything by Noinks that makes me think they don’t either. What they’ve taken to task is the idea that our unity can be reduced to some abstract opposition to an income bracket. Because thinking and strategizing that way defines US in the terms of THEIR fucked up world. Many of the terms of their world, the limits placed on us by their ideological myths about labor and capital (while creating a sense of stability and security for some), are ALL OF OUR problem. 

The players in creating that world are not limited to an imaginary cable of bankers or even their political consorts in DC. We in the 99% personally know many “caring” people whose INVESTMENT – financial, emotional, spiritual – is still fundamentally in that imaginary world of winners, losers and the “hard work” that separates them. They are in a way people who confound the whole 99/1% thing, but when push comes to shove their class ties to the so-called 1% are as important to interrogate and evaluate as any politician. Most people aren’t saying exclude the politicians, but they are demanding an account of their relationship with “Wall Street” and there is a broader group of people than Big Bankers and Big Politicians and Big Business that deserves that scrutiny. 

Seriously though, it’s already happening. Even a local NY Fox station is reporting at the end of today that “During the day, unions and students joined the demonstrators. What was once a protest of powerful Wall Street financial firms and banks is growing into a larger movement about the working class, employment, poverty, education, and more.Read more:…”

4 thoughts on “Questioning the 99%: The System Is Criminal – It’s Not Just Bad Apples

  1. bankers “internalize” the superficial features that result from the underlying structure of capitalism, and to that extent becoming the embodiment of capitalism. But it is not as if the banker or capitalist can act independently of the logic of capital. He himself is subject to the coercive laws that issue forth from its organic composition. I believe Marx explained this best:

    Only as a personification of capital is the capitalist respectable. As such, he shares with the [precapitalist] miser an absolute drive towards self-enrichment. But what appears in the miser as the mania of an individual is in the capitalist the effect of a social mechanism in which he is merely a cog. Moreover, the development of capitalist production makes it necessary constantly to increase the amount of capital laid out in a given industrial undertaking, and competition subordinates every individual capitalist to the immanent laws of capitalist production, as external and coercive laws. It compels him to keep extending his capital, so as to preserve it, and he can only extend it by means of progressive accumulation. (Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I. Pg. 739).

    This is how I framed it in my recent “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What it Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Problems”:

    If you ask the protestors what the root of society’s woes is, one common response you will hear is “greed” or “corporate greed.” Greed, however, is hardly unique to the capitalist mode of production. Max Weber made this abundantly clear in his outstanding introduction to The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism:

    Unlimited greed for gain is not in the least identical with capitalism, and is still less its spirit. Capitalism may even be identical with the restraint, or at least a rational tempering, of this irrational impulse. But capitalism is identical with the pursuit of profit, and forever renewed profit, by means of continuous, rational, capitalistic enterprise. For it must be so: in a wholly capitalistic order of society, an individual capitalistic enterprise which did not take advantage of its opportunities for profit-making would be doomed to extinction. (Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Pgs. xxxi-xxxii).

    Beyond this basic point, the problem with seeing “greed” as the root of all society’s evils is that it mistakes an epiphenomenal characteristic of capitalism for something more fundamental. It is remarkable the way that capitalism tames the traits of greed and competitiveness into our everyday patterns of behavior. Capitalism exists in such a manner that it normalizes these personality traits throughout the whole of society.

    Another consequence of blaming the gross disparity of wealth that exists between the highest echelons of the capitalist social order and the rest on a mere personality flaw (the poor moral constitution of the top 1%) is that it ignores the way that the capitalists themselves are implicated by the intrinsic logic of Capital. This misunderstanding ultimately amounts to what might be called the “diabolical” view of society — the idea that all of society’s ills can be traced back to some scheming cabal of businessmen conspiring over how to best fuck over the general public.

    (The “diabolical” view of society is not all that far removed from conspiracy theories about the “New World Order,” the Illuminati, or “International Jewry.” Indeed, it is not surprising to see that shades of anti-capitalism misrecognized as anti-semitism have cropped up amongst some pockets of Occupy Wall Street; see Moishe Postone’s excellent essay on “Anti-Semitism and National Socialism.” One can easily see how the “abstract,” “international,” and “alien” qualities of the capitalist totality were transposed onto the person of the Jew, who thought in “abstractions” and made his money through the “abstract” process of financial investment, was “cosmopolitan,” and was an “outsider”).

    Capitalism is not a moral but rather a structural problem. Though he obviously enjoys the benefits that his great wealth affords him, it is not as if the capitalist acts independently of the (reified) laws of bourgeois economics. He is constantly compelled to reinvest his capital back into production in order to stay afloat. In this way, even the capitalist is made subject to forces beyond his control.

    The critical theorist Max Horkheimer picked up on this in a fragment from one of his early essays on “The Little Man and the Philosophy of Freedom”:

    The businessman is subject to laws which neither he nor anyone else nor any power with such a mandate created with purpose and deliberation. They are laws which the big capitalists and perhaps he himself skillfully make use of but whose existence must be accepted as a fact. Boom, bust, inflation, wars, and even the qualities of things and human beings the present society demands are a function of such laws, of the anonymous social reality, just as the rotation of the earth expresses the laws of dead nature. No single individual can do anything about them. (Max Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline. Pg. 50).

    These laws of the capitalist mode of production are regarded by bourgeois economists as natural and thus transhistorical, operative in every society past and present. This misrecognition of dynamics peculiar to capitalism as eternal laws of nature has been termed by Marx as “commodity fetishism,” and conceptualized by later Marxist theorists like Lukács as “reification.”

    The logic of capitalist accumulation demands that value be ceaselessly thrown back into the circuit, the perpetuum mobile, of production and circulation. Not even the highest 1% can afford to act outside this logic. If they try to defy it, they go under, and swiftly rejoin the so-called 99%.

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    Did you build this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my own blog and would like to learn where you got this from or what the theme is named. Appreciate it!

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