Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 22, 2011

Bard College professors attack Occupy Wall Street

Filed under: bard college,Occupy Wall Street — louisproyect @ 7:32 pm

I am in the habit of listening to AM radio at work, including WABC. This is the station that is home to Rush Limbaugh and other ultrarightists. Last Wednesday when listening to Sean Hannity fulminate against Occupy Wall Street, I was startled to hear him reading from a blog post by Walter Russell Mead, the Bard College James Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities.

Walter Russell Mead

Mead, a tireless campaigner for the foreign policy needs of the one percent, is also the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relation. My understanding is that in order to be considered for this chair, you have to piss on a homeless person while he or she is asleep.

In 2003 Mead wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post backing the invasion of Iraq. Unlike other inside-the-beltway pundits, Mead never did a mea culpa as fellow Council of Foreign Relations one-percenter Leslie Gelb just did in the Wall Street Journal, blaming his mistake on “careerism”. Seven years after his initial support for Bush’s war, Mead still urged staying the course. This is clearly a man who is career-oriented as most of Leon Botstein’s hires are.

Mead is the editor of a magazine called American Interest (what else would you expect?) that has an editorial outlook quite similar to The New Republic, that is to say a toxic brew of Democratic Leadership Council positions, including a my country right or wrong support for Israel and hatred for trade unions and what’s left of the welfare state.

Blogging there as Via Meadia, Mead has been heaping all sorts of abuse on Occupy Wall Street. His first dispatch is dated October 13 and contains the observation that “Drums and granola in the park is not news” as part of an attempt to write the occupation off as some kind of hippie sideshow. This of course was before the movement became a model for occupations all over the world and a genuine threat to the one-percenters whose interests the yapping lapdog Mead defends.

Five days later Mead wrote another hostile article. Titled “The Vain And Empty Rituals Of Protest On The Streets”, it once again minimized the importance of the occupation:

In a mass democracy where everyone has a vote, and normal peaceful demonstrations carry no professional cost or personal stigma, if 100,000 people gather in Central Park for a protest rally it means that about 8,000,000 New Yorkers chose not to attend.  It is not really news and it doesn’t mean much about where the city is headed.

A day before Mead wrote these words, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that sixty-seven percent of all New Yorkers supported the OWS goals, a clear indication of where the city is headed despite the James Chace Professor’s snotty remark.

Mead also described the occupiers as “scruffy students” and “angry loners”, in other words just like many of the very people he is paid to teach at Bard College. Fortunately, the Bard College contingent at Zuccotti Park chose to ignore the Henry Kissinger Chair at the Council of Foreign Relations and join other students outraged by the rape of America by hedge fund managers and the like—the very kinds of people who sit on the Bard College board of trustees.

Still obsessed with the dirty hippies, Mead let them have it yesterday with both barrels one last time. This time he was all worked up over a proposal to extend a tax surcharge for New York state residents making over a million dollars that was opposed by Governor Cuomo, a tool of Wall Street as some of us 99-percenters would say. By way of comparison, the latest issue of American Interest has an article in support of replacing a graduated income tax with a Value Added Tax (VAT), something closely related to a sales tax and regarded by many liberals as regressive.

Mead was particularly annoyed with the NY Times editors who stated:

But the Occupy Wall Street movement and the spreading protests it has inspired — scores of people gathered at the Capitol on Saturday, and an occupation is planned in Albany beginning at noon Friday — have reinvigorated lawmakers, organized labor and community groups that advocate for the tax’s extension.

He let the grey lady have it:

Note the deep wishful thinking about OWS.  When a proposal with massive trade union backing can rally only “a few scores” of demonstrators to the union-worker rich state capital, this is not a sign of a political groundswell.  It is just the opposite: a sign of advanced arteriosclerosis and apathy.  Turning out crowds for demonstrations is one of those things that unions do; that they haven’t bothered with more than token crowds is a sign of the weakness of the OWS brand, not, as the Times coverage glibly suggests, its strength. And to suggest that the hacks and timeserving careerists who run the state government lobby groups for powerful vested interests were ‘inspired’ by these protests into actions they weren’t already planning is delusional.  The fight over this tax extension is a central piece of the legislative strategy of the union lobby, and there is no doubt that the lobby would be making a powerful push — OWS or none, tiny demo in Albany or not.

If the movement became qualitatively larger and more influential, Mead’s litany of complaints about OWS would continue. His problem is not that the occupiers are small in number and irrelevant but that they exist. If Mead had a shred of honesty, he would be writing this kind of post:

Look, hardly a member of the right wing conspiracy, the “Liberal” magazine New York did a poll, 34 percent of those “Occupy Wall Street” lunatics are actually convinced the U.S. government is no better than al Qaeda.

And 37 percent say capitalism can’t be saved, it’s inherently immoral. They don’t seem to be telling that side of the story. They think it’s unfair when we’ve actually look at the signs that are being held up there, which are extraordinarily bizarre.

How long does this go on? What is the point in all of this? Do you believe in freedom or in confiscating what other people have? They want to empower their government to confiscate other peoples’ wealth and give it to them. The White House is feeding off of this protest. They’re hoping it becomes the moral equivalent of the Tea Party Movement. What would Rudy Giuliani be doing right now? I doubt he’d be allowing this to go on any further than this.

–Sean Hannity, Fox TV

© 2016 www.vegeldaniel.com

Roger Berkowitz


Berkowitz first weighed in on OWS on October 5th in an article titled “Don’t be Afraid to Say Revolution?” Although happy about the protest, he frets that “One of the ugly aspects of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the indiscriminate anger at all wealthy people, as if being wealthy were wrong.” What a stupid notion. If there is anything that has been made clear down there it is that the resentment is directed at plutocracy, not at rich people per se.

Yesterday in an article that appeared in Michael Tomasky’s “Democracy: a Journal of Ideas”, a kind of upscale version of the pro-Democratic Party babble heard nightly on MSNBC, Berkowitz characterized OWS as “anti-political”. He also repeated the charge that the movement harbored racist tendencies based on the evidence of Atlanta protesters refusing to allow Congressman John Lewis to speak. This is a talking point of the Ann Coulters of the world, it should be understood. It couldn’t possibly occur to Berkowitz that the hostility to the two-party system might have something to do with Lewis being turned down (he spoke later in the day.)

Berkowitz also found himself getting “goose bumps” over the human megaphone used by the crowds at these protests, but not the “good kind”. In his eyes they must evoke Berlin in 1928 or something. One day it is a “mic check”, the next it is breaking the windows of Jewish shopkeepers or something, one supposes.

Mostly what annoys Berkowitz is the refusal of OWS to become political:

To reject leadership, to refuse to govern, to insist simply on talking and debating is not to be political, but is to announce one’s rejection of politics. To engage in politics one must not only rebel and tear down, but one must also found new institutions and build up. It is precisely the concern with foundation—the desire to build responsible institutions with power that would check and other powers and thus guarantee both political power and liberty—that Arendt understood to be the genius of the American Revolution. And it is precisely this political desire to found power that Occupy Wall Street protesters lack.

I for one hope that OWS continues to reject politics of the kind that John Lewis and Michael Tomasky represent. The single most important contribution these young people have made, including a sizable contingent from Bard College apparently, is a loud and clear challenge to the right of the one percent to control political life in the United States and elsewhere.

In my email exchange with him last year, I brought up the names of a number of Bard trustees who certainly fit the description of “one percenters”, all of whom he regarded as “respected people”.

It is difficult to figure out which one of them has abused democracy the worst. Is it Bruce Ratner who used political connections to get the green light for an abysmal development project in downtown Brooklyn and who secretly funded Astroturf “civil rights” groups to back Ratner’s ambitions?

Or is it Stewart Resnick who uses his connections to the Democratic Party in California to divert precious water resources to his pistachio nut and pomegranate plantations, leaving ordinary citizens without clean drinking water and toilets that will not flush? One wonders if this muddle-headed liberal would be so willing to defend the Stewart Resnicks of the world if it was his drinking water that was coming out of the faucet the color of tobacco juice.


  1. Ah, the professors! Good skewering of these dogs, Louis.

    Comment by michael yates — October 22, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  2. you have to piss on a homeless person while he or she is asleep.
    Not to refuse to piss on them if they are on fire unless adequately compensated for the urine extracted?

    Comment by skidmarx — October 22, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

  3. Thank you Louis. As an academic, I find these guys so embarrassing.

    Comment by Barbara Regenspan — October 22, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  4. After the revolution can’t we do like Lenin did and load these so-called academic on to a couple of ships and send them off to some distant land, that will accept them, where they won’t be able to do much harm?

    Comment by Jim Farmelant — October 22, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  5. I wouldn’t piss down his throat if his guts were on fire.

    Comment by dave r — October 22, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  6. Skidmarks, oh my god I can’t top that one and I’m the queen of sarcastic remarks.

    You get a trophy for that one comrade.


    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — October 22, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

  7. Walter Russell Mead exposes himself as a cornball ringer in the Wall Street game of three-card monte.

    Comment by Sandwichman — October 22, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

  8. Why do college professors always pose in front of book cases filled with books? Does that mean they’re smart or something?

    Comment by dave r — October 22, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

  9. When liberals are in Washington they suck up all the non-Marxists of the academic left. When conservatives come into power, the lefties are all thrown out and back into academia. It’s the dance.

    Comment by Cecilieaux Bois de Murier — October 23, 2011 @ 12:32 am

  10. Nevertheless almost all Bard students are likely one-percenters – else how could they pay that remarkable tuition? But still, I’m glad they’re thinking about the rest of us.

    Comment by Ben Boretz — October 23, 2011 @ 2:15 am

  11. I tried googling the Gelb editorial that you mentioned but I couldn’t find it. Since I’m a glutton for punishment, please tell me when it came out. Seeing that guy admit that he endorsed war for career reasons would be satisfying.

    Comment by Crosley Bendix — October 23, 2011 @ 2:32 am

  12. Ben, you are falling into the same trap as Berkowitz. There is no stigma attached to being rich. The problem is the plutocracy we live under that allows some rich people to control the system.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 23, 2011 @ 3:28 am

  13. [There is no stigma attached to being rich. The problem is the plutocracy….]

    Great point. I never really thought about it that way before but that was basically the Bolshevik’s attitude towards the wealthy.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 23, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

  14. Wonderful – there is no stigma being rich. There is no stigma being rich.
    Just keep repeating that on the way to the guillotine – it’ll stop the process.
    Great, now that that’s all settled, let’s start a new one:
    There’s no stigma attached to being a hypocrite.
    My Daddy’s hedge fund millions that permit me to go to Bard came from helping little
    old ladies across the street.
    Party time at Hedges’s clubhouse tonight, boyee!

    Comment by MJ — October 23, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

  15. “Why do college professors always pose in front of book cases filled with books?”

    To highlight their “authority” (books/author = authority).

    Comment by Sandwichman — October 23, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

  16. “There is no stigma attached to being rich.” Most certainly not, if you consider the term “stigma” in its etymological sense as a mark branded on a slave. On the contrary, it is the rich who brand the poor with the marks of slavery. Funny what you can come up with if you actually think about what you’re saying!

    Comment by Sandwichman — October 23, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

  17. It’s not the class you were born into that’s important, it’s the class you adopt that counts. So there is, in fact, no stigma attached to the wealthy, at least not for Marxists.

    Comment by dave r — October 23, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  18. The photo of Berkowitz doesn’t seem to have any books, so that’s a counter-example right there.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — October 23, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

  19. MJ:

    You really should read up more on the history of revolutions. From the French Revolution through the Bolshevik and Chinese all the way to the Cuban there were wealthy people who turned their backs on the ruling class they came from and turned their face to the oppressed by providing decisive material aid to the movement — everything from printing presses to guns & money.

    Trotsky in particular wrote about how in a proletarian revolution a section of the bourgeoisie would always, not so much because of politics but rather physics, break away from reaction and join the socialist revolution.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 23, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  20. The great thing about our system is that such bold statements coming from these two professors doesn’t require the safety of tenure. Anyone with a teaching credential is free, no encouraged, to voice the exact sentiment. The frosty days of Ward Churchill, replete with investigating the tiniest detail for whiffs of plagiarism, have thankfully come to a their bitter end… Bard College School of the Humanities weighs in on defending America’s financial institution from public oversight, thereby strengthening the bulwark of western civilization from those democratic voices arrayed against it.

    Bravo, guys!

    Comment by Pablo — October 23, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

  21. Re: people calling “hypocrisy” at Bard students supporting OWS, consider a couple points.
    A: Almost no one who attends Bard actually pays that tuition. Not even close. Financial aid and student loans allocations are massive. I’m an alum (class of ’11) and I’m around $30,000 in debt, another several thousand of the tuition was covered by aid, and my father – who firmly believes in the importance of his children getting a good education and in no way works for a hedge fund or any other financial institution – has likewise gone into debt sending myself and my sister’s to college. The point is, I’m a Bard student that is firmly in the 99%, an active supporter of OWS (been there several times now) and many of my fellow former students and many current students who support the movement are in a similar situation.
    and B: it’s perfectly reasonable to be rich – as a handful of the Bard OWS supporters likely are – and STILL support OWS. Warren Buffett may or may not support the movement but the fact remains that he has called for higher taxes for millionaires and billionaires. He truly thinks that he and the other super rich of this country should pay their fair share. This is one of the core beliefs behind OWS as well. Is he a hypocrite? If not, than neither are those who are wealthy (or come from a wealthy family, which I would argue is NOT the same thing) and actively support OWS.

    Comment by DF — October 24, 2011 @ 12:03 am

  22. Of course, DF. Ben B. makes a valid point but it’s overstated. He said “almost all Bard students” — which is overstated.

    If he had said “a majority of Bard students” he’d probably be closer to the truth but even then the times these days they are a changing and even supreme bourgeois culture factories like Bard cannot count on replicating their species when the economic foundations of capitalism are crumbling from the rot, decay & neglect of unbridled corporate greed — no more than could some supreme Soviet university count on churning out the intellectual stalwart defenders of its doomed regime.

    Like Mario Savio said during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964:

    “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 24, 2011 @ 12:52 am

  23. Otpor leader speaks at occupy wall street:
    on the plus side, the April 6th youth movement also spoke at the protest:

    Comment by Jenny — October 24, 2011 @ 2:06 am

  24. Louis, I think that you meant this:
    But yeah, what a turd.

    Comment by Crosley Bendix — October 24, 2011 @ 2:19 am

  25. 1. DF – Of course you are free to say you are in the 99% – by definition, that’s everybody, just about, so who;s counting? Bard and the other super high ticket alleged meritocracies like Williams, Harvard, Stanford, are credential mills built by corporate endowment expropriation of resources, are basically mobbed-up with cash from the finer criminal families of our boardrooms and overseas adventures. That you and your father chose to go into debt over this completely imbalanced sham is scandalous, but it leaves you without much affiliation with the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed without a degree.
    2. Of course there is a “stigma” attached to being rich – that’s the least there could be for all the advantage financial spoils bring.
    3. Warren Buffett is no great sage of the people, more a wheeler-dealer with many, many crooked deals that can be researched if you have the time.
    4. If revolutions have been fought with class-abandoning rich, that does well to explain why revolutions have failed.
    So, enjoy the rocking boat of American hypocrisy – there’s leaks all over the place, from Pastor Hedges to St. Ralph to OWS to our very own Todd the avenger – noble pure humanists with love for all and churlishness for none.

    Comment by mj — October 24, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  26. mj wrote:

    “Todd the avenger”

    Do you seriously think I read like Captain Fucking America?

    Comment by Todd — October 25, 2011 @ 3:17 am

  27. […] with faint praise” stance of Roger Berkowitz that I dealt with in a post titled “Bard Professors attack Occupy Wall Street“. This time it is Steven Mazie, a political science professor, who has a web-only NY Times […]

    Pingback by Another Bard professor proffers bad advice to OWS « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — October 25, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

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