Perspectives: A Review of 2011
by Paul Buhle
(Swans - December 19, 2011) Not infrequently, in the streets immediately around the Wisconsin capitol building in Madison, old-timers would meet each other within the throng of a thousand to a hundred thousand others, and manage to shout or whisper that they had been waiting since 1970 for something like this. And thinking to themselves, also, that this was likely to be their last big shot at social transformation, from anything but the sidelines: we who were the young generation of 1970 were now getting old.
That was the kind of year. Wiser minds and better organizers had responded to the summer and fall global events by planning a response or at least getting themselves ready for winter-spring events here in the U.S. The rest of us, still suffering from the massive disillusionment in Obama (faded yard signs, sticky remnants of bumper stickers, etc.) rather incredulous that any such thing would happen, seem to have been remarkably unprepared for all that followed.
It followed swiftly in Wisconsin (those who google "Paul Buhle Madison" will see my demonstration reportage across months, February to May) and in ways beyond our anticipation. Fourteen Democratic state senators leave Wisconsin, local firefighters lead the crowd occupying the capitol, the police turn friendly, massive demonstrations continued in bitterly cold weather for months, and a state of mobilization continued, or rather continues with the recall (the governor) campaign as this is written.
How could it be the same elsewhere, anywhere? It wasn't, of course. The willingness of (some) Democrats to take leading parts was not going to happen anywhere else, from the looks of things. Nor was the demography of the Wisconsin movement (disproportionately older, with many retirees, including this writer) likely to be repeated except, perhaps, in Ohio.
But somehow, Occupy has not seemed so distant (we occupied the capitol, after all!), and Occupy seems now part of a chain of global events going onward into the New Year. Find all the reasons for pessimism and cynicism -- there are plenty -- and it has still been one of those years that we lived for, and will look back upon as long as we live. It was a year of Struggle Recontinued.
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About the Author
Paul Buhle retired from college teaching to produce radical comics fulltime. His latest include Studs Terkel's Working, A Graphic Adaptation [reviewed in these pages], The Beats, A People's History of the American Empire (aka an adaptation of Howard Zinn's classic) and a pictorial biography of his childhood hero, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman. Buhle is working on his ninth comic book. (back)