Editor’s note: A shorter version of this article first appeared in today’s issue of USA Today.
As the indignation of the Wall Street Occupiers spreads across the nation, it is time to step back and consider the broader historical perspective. What will history books record about the Wall Street Occupation? For starters, what was the start date? The answer to that simple fact alone has some potentially profound meaning.
The Wall Street Occupation began on September 17. How ironic that date is.
If the Wall Street Occupiers could hop into a time machine and read their New York Times from September 17 almost a century ago—specifically, September 17, 1920—they would be struck by this headline: “WALL STREET EXPLOSION KILLS 30, INJURES 300; MORGAN OFFICE HIT; BOMB PIECES FOUND.”
At noon the previous day, a horse-drawn wagon carrying hundreds of pounds of explosives and deadly shrapnel exploded in front of the headquarters of J.P. Morgan at 23 Wall Street, the heart and busiest section of America’s financial district. The final death toll was 38, with over 400 injured.
The suspects were surprisingly similar to the spectrum of leftist protestors who are occupying Wall Street right now. They ranged from radical progressives to socialists to communists to anarchists, from homegrown Bolsheviks to Italian Galleanists to Communist Party USA. No matter their labels, all shared one thing in common: they were anti-capitalist, anti-Wall Street, anti-banker, and generally despised what President Obama constantly refers to as “millionaires and billionaires” who do not “pay their fair share.” They saw banks, loan-makers, investors, Wall Street, and the wealthy as sinister forces. They, too, shouted “down with capitalism!”
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."