Shaking the System: A Greek Gift to Occupy USA November 2, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Greece, Revolution.
Tags: bailouts, debt crisis, democracy, Economic Crisis, european debt crisis, Goldman Sachs, Greece, greece austerity, greek referendum, jon corzine, margaret kimberley, mf global, occupy wall street, revolution, roger hollander
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The Greek government, after months of demonstrations by a citizenry that rejects impoverishment for the sake of the bankers, has promised to submit the bailout plan to a referendum. This should be a lesson to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the U.S. public in general: force the issue, or the issue will be forced upon you. “Americans think that backing two political parties who are both eager to work in the interests of banksters is a solution to averting a disaster despite the fact that the disaster never ends.”
The European debt crisis is but one symptom of the crisis in which the capitalist system finds itself. The years of accumulated “fictitious” capital, followed by a succession of ruptured market bubbles, were all signs that the system is like Humpty Dumpty, unlikely to be put back together again.
Greece is the current focus of attention, with American markets rising or falling based on the status of negotiations among the Eurozone leadership. Greece’s “partners” agreed to bail out that nation only on the condition that it impoverish its citizens. Yet because of sustained protest against the austerity measures, the prime minister has promised his people a referendum on the plan, which has thrown domestic politics and international finance into a state of turmoil.
“If only American politicians had to fear their people as much as their European counterparts do.”
The turmoil cannot be confined to Europe either. Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine is in the news because the commodities firm that he heads, MF Global, was caught up in the European crisis and has now filed for bankruptcy. Corzine is a former Goldman Sachs executive who self-financed his own political campaigns for senator and governor. If there were a poster child for the unholy alliance between money and politics, Corzine should be it.
The fortunes of American firms and European politicians are not looking very promising these days, and that is a good thing. Greek Prime Minister Papandreou can’t close the rotten deal because his people won’t stand for it. As a result of popular actions such as strikes and demonstrations, he must offer a referendum which puts the entire system on notice and across the ocean MF Global and the American markets go in the tank.
“Greece’s ‘partners’ agreed to bail out that nation only on the condition that it impoverish its citizens.”
It is an important lesson for Americans. Greeks and other people around the world aren’t taken in by predictions of doom from the high and mighty. They have declared loudly and clearly that they will not pay a price because of corruption committed without their knowledge and consent.
The Occupy Wall Street movement should sit up and take notice. Their consensus organizational structure and national assemblies upon which it is based began in Europe. The OWS organizers would do well to repeat European actions taken against the 1% and the members of political class who are eager to do their bidding.
It is well and good to say that the OWS movement is finding its way, but if it doesn’t notice what happens when people take mass action, then they aren’t ready for the big leagues. Three years ago the American people were told that they would suffer if Wall Street was not bailed out with their money. The TARP deal went forward with the collusion of both Republicans and the then Democratic nominee, Barack Obama and the rest of his party.
The results of that capitulation have been calamitous. TARP was a band aid solution to a structural crisis and Americans are suffering despite the fact that their resources continue to be sucked into the bottomless pit of the federal reserve. Unemployment numbers are not improving, the housing market remains stagnant, and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.
“Even Social Security, the erstwhile “third rail” of politics, is on the table ready to be butchered by the party that used to at least pretend to defend it.”
If only American politicians had to fear their people as much as their European counterparts do. Instead of cowering in fear when the Wall Street chieftains shout, “Your money or your life,” we might have something to show three years after the big heist. Instead, Americans think that backing two political parties who are both eager to work in the interests of banksters is a solution to averting a disaster despite the fact that the disaster never ends.
The Greeks are bearing a good gift to the people of the United States but only if Americans have the awareness to see it. It would be wonderful to witness Barack Obama and the Democrats having to undo their dirty work with the Republicans because of popular action. Instead, even Social Security, the erstwhile “third rail” of politics, is on the table ready to be butchered by the party that used to at least pretend to defend it.
Prime Minister Papandreou has risked the wrath of European leadership because the people of his country won’t stand for anything else. There is no reason to fear turmoil in the markets and firms going belly up. We ought to let American political leaders know that we too have had enough of the back room deals which never serve our interests.
If democracy wasn’t born in ancient Greece, it is certainly exemplified by the actions of its people today. Their actions have rattled cages in many parts of the globe, and not only should these events not be feared, they should be celebrated.
Why the Elites Are in Trouble October 10, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Revolution.
Tags: capitalism, chris hedges, democracy, Economic Crisis, liberty plaza, new york police, occupy wall street, protest, revolution, roger hollander, Wall Street, zuccotti park
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Ketchup, a petite 22-year-old from Chicago with wavy red hair and glasses with bright red frames, arrived in Zuccotti Park in New York on Sept. 17. She had a tent, a rolling suitcase, 40 dollars’ worth of food, the graphic version of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and a sleeping bag. She had no return ticket, no idea what she was undertaking, and no acquaintances among the stragglers who joined her that afternoon to begin the Wall Street occupation. She decided to go to New York after reading the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which called for the occupation, although she noted that when she got to the park Adbusters had no discernable presence.
The lords of finance in the looming towers surrounding the park, who toy with money and lives, who make the political class, the press and the judiciary jump at their demands, who destroy the ecosystem for profit and drain the U.S. Treasury to gamble and speculate, took little notice of Ketchup or any of the other scruffy activists on the street below them. The elites consider everyone outside their sphere marginal or invisible. And what significance could an artist who paid her bills by working as a waitress have for the powerful? What could she and the others in Zuccotti Park do to them? What threat can the weak pose to the strong? Those who worship money believe their buckets of cash, like the $4.6 million JPMorgan Chase gave a few days ago to the New York City Police Foundation, can buy them perpetual power and security. Masters all, kneeling before the idols of the marketplace, blinded by their self-importance, impervious to human suffering, bloated from unchecked greed and privilege, they were about to be taught a lesson in the folly of hubris.
Even now, three weeks later, elites, and their mouthpieces in the press, continue to puzzle over what people like Ketchup want. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda?
The goal to people like Ketchup is very, very clear. It can be articulated in one word—REBELLION. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back.
This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.
“The world can’t continue on its current path and survive,” Ketchup told me. “That idea is selfish and blind. It’s not sustainable. People all over the globe are suffering needlessly at our hands.”
The occupation of Wall Street has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. If the police shut down the encampment in New York tonight, the power elite will still lose, for this vision and structure have been imprinted into the thousands of people who have passed through park, renamed Liberty Plaza by the protesters. The greatest gift the occupation has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint is being transferred to cities and parks across the country.
“We get to the park,” Ketchup says of the first day. “There’s madness for a little while. There were a lot of people. They were using megaphones at first. Nobody could hear. Then someone says we should get into circles and talk about what needed to happen, what we thought we could accomplish. And so that’s what we did. There was a note-taker in each circle. I don’t know what happened with those notes, probably nothing, but it was a good start. One person at a time, airing your ideas. There was one person saying that he wasn’t very hopeful about what we could accomplish here, that he wasn’t very optimistic. And then my response was that, well, we have to be optimistic, because if anybody’s going to get anything done, it’s going be us here. People said different things about what our priorities should be. People were talking about the one-demand idea. Someone called for AIG executives to be prosecuted. There was someone who had come from Spain to be there, saying that she was here to help us avoid the mistakes that were made in Spain. It was a wide spectrum. Some had come because of their own personal suffering or what they saw in the world.”
“After the circles broke I felt disheartened because it was sort of chaotic,” she said. “I didn’t have anybody there, so it was a little depressing. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
“Over the past few months, people had been meeting in New York City general assembly,” she said. “One of them is named Brooke. She’s a professor of social ecology. She did my facilitation training. There’s her and a lot of other people, students, school teachers, different people who were involved with that … so they organized a general assembly.”
“It’s funny that the cops won’t let us use megaphones, because it’s to make our lives harder, but we actually end up making a much louder sound [with the “people’s mic”] and I imagine it’s much more annoying to the people around us,” she said. “I had been in the back, unable to hear. I walked to different parts of the circle. I saw this man talking in short phrases and people were repeating them. I don’t know whose idea it was, but that started on the first night. The first general assembly was a little chaotic because people had no idea … a general assembly, what is this for? At first it was kind of grandstanding about what were our demands. Ending corporate personhood is one that has come up again and again as a favorite and. … What ended up happening was, they said, OK, we’re going to break into work groups.
“People were worried we were going to get kicked out of the park at 10 p.m. This was a major concern. There were tons of cops. I’ve heard that it’s costing the city a ton of money to have constant surveillance on a bunch of peaceful protesters who aren’t hurting anyone. With the people’s mic, everything we do is completely transparent. We know there are undercover cops in the crowd. I think I was talking to one last night, but it’s like, what are you trying to accomplish? We don’t have any secrets.”
“The undercover cops are the only ones who ask, ‘Who’s the leader?’ ” she said. “Presumably, if they know who our leaders are they can take them out. The fact is we have no leader. There’s no leader, so there’s nothing they can do.
“There was a woman [in the medics unit]. This guy was pretending to be a reporter. The first question he asks is, ‘Who’s the leader?’ She goes, ‘I’m the leader.’ And he says, ‘Oh yeah, what are you in charge of?’ She says, ‘I’m in a charge of everything.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah? What’s your title?’ She says ‘God.’ ”
“So it’s 9:30 p.m. and people are worried that they’re going to try and rush us out of the camp,” she said, referring back to the first day. “At 9:30 they break into work groups. I joined the group on contingency plans. The job of the bedding group was to find cardboard for people to sleep on. The contingency group had to decide what to do if they kick us out. The big decision we made was to announce to the group that if we were dispersed we were going to meet back at 10 a.m. the next day in the park. Another group was arts and culture. What was really cool was that we assumed we were going to be there more than one night. There was a food group. They were going dumpster diving. The direct action committee plans for direct, visible action like marches. There was a security team. It’s security against the cops. The cops are the only people we think that might hurt us. The security team keeps people awake in shifts. They always have people awake.”
The work groups make logistical decisions, and the general assembly makes large policy decisions.
“Work groups make their own decisions,” Ketchup said. “For example, someone donated a laptop. And because I’ve been taking minutes I keep running around and asking, ‘Does someone have a laptop I could borrow?’ The media team, upon receiving that laptop, designated it to me for my use on behalf of the Internet committee. The computer isn’t mine. When I go back to Chicago, I’m not going to take it. Right now I don’t even know where it is. Someone else is using it. But so, after hearing this, people thought it had been gifted to me personally. People were upset by that. So a member of the Internet work group went in front of the group and said, ‘This is a need of the committee. It’s been put into Ketchup’s care.’ They explained that to the group, but didn’t ask for consensus on it, because the committees are empowered. Some people might still think that choice was inappropriate. In the future, it might be handled differently.”
Working groups blossomed in the following days. The media working group was joined by a welcome working group for new arrivals, a sanitation working group (some members of which go around the park on skateboards as they carry brooms), a legal working group with lawyers, an events working group, an education working group, medics, a facilitation working group (which trains new facilitators for the general assembly meetings), a public relations working group, and an outreach working group for like-minded communities as well as the general public. There is an Internet working group and an open source technology working group. The nearby McDonald’s is the principal bathroom for the park after Burger King banned protesters from its facilities.
Caucuses also grew up in the encampment, including a “Speak Easy caucus.” “That’s a caucus I started,” Ketchup said. “It is for a broad spectrum of individuals from female-bodied people who identify as women to male-bodied people who are not traditionally masculine. That’s called the ‘Speak Easy’ caucus. I was just talking to a woman named Sharon who’s interested in starting a caucus for people of color.
“A caucus gives people a safe space to talk to each other without people from the culture of their oppressors present. It gives them greater power together, so that if the larger group is taking an action that the caucus felt was specifically against their interests, then the caucus can block that action. Consensus can potentially still be reached after a caucus blocks something, but a block, or a ‘paramount objection,’ is really serious. You’re saying that you are willing to walk out.”
“We’ve done a couple of things so far,” she said. “So, you know the live stream? The comments are moderated on the live stream. There are moderators who remove racist comments, comments that say ‘I hate cops’ or ‘Kill cops.’ They remove irrelevant comments that have nothing to do with the movement. There is this woman who is incredibly hardworking and intelligent. She has been the driving force of the finance committee. Her hair is half-blond and half-black. People were referring to her as “blond-black hottie.” These comments weren’t moderated, and at one point whoever was running the camera took the camera off her face and did a body scan. So, that was one of the first things the caucus talked about. We decided as a caucus that I would go to the moderators and tell them this is a serious problem. If you’re moderating other offensive comments then you need to moderate these kinds of offensive comments.”
The heart of the protest is the two daily meetings, held in the morning and the evening. The assemblies, which usually last about two hours, start with a review of process, which is open to change and improvement, so people are clear about how the assembly works. Those who would like to speak raise their hand and get on “stack.”
“There’s a stack keeper,” Ketchup said. “The stack keeper writes down your name or some signifier for you. A lot of white men are the people raising their hands. So, anyone who is not apparently a white man gets to jump stack. The stack keeper will make note of the fact that the person who put their hand up was not a white man and will arrange the list so that it’s not dominated by white men. People don’t get called up in the same order as they raise their hand.”
While someone is speaking, their words amplified by the people’s mic, the crowd responds through hand signals.
“Putting your fingers up like this,” she said, holding her hands up and wiggling her fingers, “means you like what you’re hearing, or you’re in agreement. Like this,” she said, holding her hands level and wiggling her fingers, “means you don’t like it so much. Fingers down, you don’t like it at all; you’re not in agreement. Then there’s this triangle you make with your hand that says ‘point of process.’ So, if you think that something is not being respected within the process that we’ve agreed to follow then you can bring that up.”
“You wait till you’re called,” she said. “These rules get abused all the time, but they are important. We start with agenda items, which are proposals or group discussions. Then working group report-backs, so you know what every working group is doing. Then we have general announcements. The agenda items have been brought to the facilitators by the working groups because you need the whole group to pay attention. Like last night, Legal brought up a discussion on bail: ‘Can we agree that the money from the general funds can be allotted if someone needs bail?’ And the group had to come to consensus on that. [It decided yes.] There’s two co-facilitators, a stack keeper, a timekeeper, a vibes-person making sure that people are feeling OK, that people’s voices aren’t getting stomped on, and then if someone’s being really disruptive, the vibes-person deals with them. There’s a note-taker—I end up doing that a lot because I type very, very quickly. We try to keep the facilitation team one man, one woman, or one female-bodied person, one male-bodied person. When you facilitate multiple times it’s rough on your brain. You end up having a lot of criticism thrown your way. You need to keep the facilitators rotating as much as possible. It needs to be a huge, huge priority to have a strong facilitation group.”
“People have been yelled out of the park,” she said. “Someone had a sign the other day that said ‘Kill the Jew Bankers.’ They got screamed out of the park. Someone else had a sign with the N-word on it. That person’s sign was ripped up, but that person is apparently still in the park.
“We’re trying to make this a space that everyone can join. This is something the caucuses are trying to really work on. We are having workshops to get people to understand their privilege.”
But perhaps the most important rule adopted by the protesters is nonviolence and nonaggression against the police, no matter how brutal the police become.
“The cops, I think, maced those women in the face and expected the men and women around them to start a riot,” Ketchup said. “They want a riot. They can deal with a riot. They cannot deal with nonviolent protesters with cameras.”
I tell Ketchup I will bring her my winter sleeping bag. It is getting cold. She will need it. I leave her in a light drizzle and walk down Broadway. I pass the barricades, uniformed officers on motorcycles, the rows of paddy wagons and lines of patrol cars that block the streets into the financial district and surround the park. These bankers, I think, have no idea what they are up against.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
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Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now October 7, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Revolution.
Tags: capitalism, democracy, Economic Crisis, environment, global economy, naomi klein, occupy wall street, protest, roger hollander, unemployment, Wall Street
I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I say will have to be repeated by hundreds of people so others can hear (a k a “the human microphone”), what I actually say at Liberty Plaza will have to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.
I love you.
And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.
Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.
If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.
And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say “No. We will not pay for your crisis.”
That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.
“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.” And most of all: “Welcome.”
Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called “the movement of movements.”
But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.
Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It’s because they don’t have roots. And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.
Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.
Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows. More wisdom.
But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shutdowns.
We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.
Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.
The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.
These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.
We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.
The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.
What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.
I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.
That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says, “I care about you.” In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, “Let them die,” that is a deeply radical statement.
A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things that don’t matter.
§ What we wear.
§ Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.
§ Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.
And here are a few things that do matter.
§ Our courage.
§ Our moral compass.
§ How we treat each other.
We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.
Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.
Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (which has just been re-published in a special 10th Anniversary Edition); and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit www.naomiklein.org. You can follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.
#OccupyTogether: The Best Among Us October 1, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Revolution.
Tags: chris hedges, civil disobedience, Economic Crisis, eviction, home eviction, mass movement, occupy together, occupy wall street, revolution, roger hollander, unemployment, Wall Street
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There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.
To be declared innocent in a country where the rule of law means nothing, where we have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where you, as a citizen, are nothing more than a commodity to corporate systems of power, one to be used and discarded, is to be complicit in this radical evil. To stand on the sidelines and say “I am innocent” is to bear the mark of Cain; it is to do nothing to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet. To be innocent in times like these is to be a criminal. Ask Tim DeChristopher.
Choose. But choose fast. The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets. They have their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the New York financial district, where the mandarins in Brooks Brothers suits use your money, money they stole from you, to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number soon to rise to 10 million, where a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care, where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20 percent, where the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.
Protesters march past Federal Hall on Wall Street on Monday. The Occupy Wall Street protest is in its second week in New York City as demonstrators speak out against corporate greed and social inequality. (AP / Louis Lanzano)
The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because they want that money themselves. Let the sick die. Let the poor go hungry. Let families be tossed in the street. Let the unemployed rot. Let children in the inner city or rural wastelands learn nothing and live in misery and fear. Let the students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs. Let the prison system, the largest in the industrial world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters. Let torture continue. Let teachers, police, firefighters, postal employees and social workers join the ranks of the unemployed. Let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools and libraries crumble or close. Let the rising temperatures of the planet, the freak weather patterns, the hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems, the polluted air increase until the species dies.
Who the hell cares? If the stocks of ExxonMobil or the coal industry or Goldman Sachs are high, life is good. Profit. Profit. Profit. That is what they chant behind those metal barricades. They have their fangs deep into your necks. If you do not shake them off very, very soon they will kill you. And they will kill the ecosystem, dooming your children and your children’s children. They are too stupid and too blind to see that they will perish with the rest of us. So either you rise up and supplant them, either you dismantle the corporate state, for a world of sanity, a world where we no longer kneel before the absurd idea that the demands of financial markets should govern human behavior, or we are frog-marched toward self-annihilation.
Click here to access OCCUPY TOGETHER, a hub for all of the events springing up across the country in solidarity with Occupy Wall St.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
Occupy Wall Street Protest Enters Second Week; 80 Arrested at Peaceful March September 26, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Revolution.
Tags: amy goodman, civil disobedience, democracy, Democracy Now, first amendment, jon gerberg, liberty plaza, michael bloomberg, new york police, occupy wall street, police brutality, police violence, raymond kelly, revolution, roger hollander, ryan devereaux, wall steet protest, Wall Street
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www.democracynow.org, September 26, 2011
It is day 10 of the “Occupy Wall Street” campaign. On Saturday, more than 80 protesters were arrested as hundreds took part in yet another march to Wall Street. Many of them were committing civil disobedience by walking in the street, but some say they were on the sidewalk when officers with the New York City Police Department used nets and physical force to break up the crowd. Videos uploaded to YouTube show officers pepper-spraying protesters in the face from close range, punching demonstrators and dragging people through the street. Since Sept. 17, thousands have gathered near in New York City’s financial district near Wall Street to decry corporate greed. Many have said they have been inspired by other popular uprisings from Spain to the Arab Spring. On Sunday, protesters issued a communiqué calling for the resignation of the NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and for a dialogue with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Thanks to Democracy Now!’s Ryan Devereaux and Jon Gerberg for this report.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, it’s day 10 of the Occupy Wall Street campaign. On Saturday, more than 80 protesters were arrested as hundreds took part in yet another march to Wall Street. The New York Police Department used nets and physical force to break up the crowds. Videos uploaded to YouTube show officers pepper-spraying protesters in the face from close range, punching demonstrators and dragging people through the street.
Since Saturday, September 17th, thousands, inspired by popular uprisings from Spain to the Arab Spring, gathered near Wall Street to decry corporate greed. On Sunday, protesters issued a communiqué calling for the resignation of the New York police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, and a dialogue with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Ryan Devereaux and Jon Gerberg of Democracy Now! were in the streets talking to people about what took place.
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: There were some arrests down in the Wall Street area, including someone from the media team, around Fifth Avenue and 12th Street. There was a mass arrest. As many as a hundred, perhaps around a hundred, were taken in, in police vans, in city buses. And then those who remained came down. There were reports of pepper spray being used, people being dragged around on the ground by their hair. The witness reports are still coming in.
YELL: My name is Yell. This one police officer had whipped out his mace and sprayed it about a foot away from me and around my area, where there were other people. The mace at that point was so close to me that it was dripping down my face, down my chest, all over me. It was ridiculous. I was about maybe 45 to an hour—I was blind for about 45 minutes to an hour. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere. They need to do a lot more to move me.
CHRISTINA GONZALEZ: My name is Christina Gonzales. I’m from Far Rockaway, Queens. Today I was involved in the protest. I was actually arrested. The guy told me to stop filming. I told him I wasn’t, and I heard him say, “Get her!” The next thing you know, they all came up behind me. They grabbed me by my wrist. They took their feet and swept it under my feet to try to take my feet from under me. They put the cuffs on really tight. I could not feel my hands. And all I kept doing was screaming, “Please get these cuffs off of me! Get these cuffs off of me! I cannot breathe! I’m suffocating! My hands!”
We sat inside one of these police vans, 16 of us, for two-and-a-half hours with the doors closed. We couldn’t breath in there, and there was a man in there who needed medical attention. He had a big, huge laceration on his eyebrow. There were a couple other brothers who had scrapes on their leg, big cuts into their leg. And everybody was just laughing at us. The cops kept circling around. We asked for water. No water. We had our phones. We were sending pictures; we were making phone calls. We even called 911, and 911 said, “You’re with the cops, they’re there to protect you,” and she hung up the phone on me.
There’s a lot of—there’s a lot of causes out here, but I think the main thing that we’re looking for is that we’re human beings, and human beings should come before money. Human beings should come before profit. There’s a lot of greed out here, and a lot of people don’t have things, and there’s a few small people who do have it, and they’re keeping it from us. And they’ve got the cops out here to protect them, and they should be out here protecting us, you know? That’s why we’re out here, because there’s injustice going on. And everybody wants to know, what’s our cause, what’s our cause? Listen, this is not just a protest. This is a struggle. It’s a fight. It’s a war going on. And we’re fighting a peaceful war.
WYLIE STECKLOW: I believe, as a constitutional lawyer, that the actual act of being here, of doing two general assemblies a day, of doing two marches a day, and of trying to have this peaceful assembly, putting out cardboard signs that other individuals will come around and see, this whole act is expressive speech. This is the First Amendment. It’s a living, breathing moment of the First Amendment in action and something that I don’t recall really seeing quite like this before.
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: What they’re doing here is the assembly. The core demand, I think, right now, seems to be the right to organize, to have a political conversation in a public space, to show Wall Street, so to speak, what democracy looks like.
AMY GOODMAN That was Nathan Schneider, editor of the website wagingnonviolence.org. He talked about the protest over the last 10 days.
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: This protest began on Saturday with a rally down near Bowling Green and then a march up to a surprise location, which turned out to be Liberty Plaza. Since then, people began spending the night, that first night. Every day since, there have been interactions with the police, generally including arrests. There’s been a lot of frustration about media coverage. But what matters more is that this group is learning the skills that are necessary in order to build that kind of coverage and build that kind of presence in the media.
HENRY JAMES FERRY: My name is Henry James Ferry. The media center is a—it’s a varied group. It’s made up of people who are live streaming through a handle of “Global Revolution.” It’s made up of people like me, who are tweeting from “The Other 99.” That’s my handle, “The Other 99.” I also have a Facebook account that’s putting up the list of our media events at “We are the Other 99.” And we want to be a primary source of information. This is day eight of the occupation. We want to create a narrative that the media can use to tell this story. Right now, this is a very messy, disconjointed story, and I don’t think the media knows how to cover it. We’re trying to create that narrative so that they have primary information, sourced with pictures, with video, with sources that they can trust, so they can go out and tell the message to the whole country and the whole world.
AMY GOODMAN For more on Occupy Wall Street, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. And organizers in Los Angeles have now just announced an Occupy Los Angeles campaign.
UK Unions Plot a Winter of Discontent as They Ballot More Than a Million Workers for Biggest General Strike Since 1926 September 14, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Europe, Revolution.
Tags: anna edwards, britain, civil disobedience, dave prentis, david cameron, england, general strike, labor, labour, organized labor, roger hollander, uk strike, unions, unison
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Millions of workers including police, firefighters, health workers, teachers and prison officers could strike over bitter pension row Unions describe potential walk-out as ‘unprecedented’ in scale and ‘the biggest fight of our lives’ Unison says they will be ‘vilified’ for striking but urges members to ‘stay strong’
A ‘winter of discontent’ looks imminent as Unison, the country’s biggest public sector workers’ union, gave formal notice today that its 1.1 million members will be balloted for industrial action in the bitter row over pensions.
A crowd of protesters made their feelings clear in London as marches take place across the country, sparked by a proposed increase in the retirement age for public sector workers and paying more into their pensions The Government face the threat of the biggest outbreak of industrial action since the 1926 General Strike after unions served notice of ballots over the row which will see workers pay an extra 3.2 per cent in pension contributions.
Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said 9,000 separate employer groups would be involved in the action, describing the ballot as ‘unprecedented’ in scale.
He blamed the Government for the ballot decision, which could see workers in school, hospitals, police and voluntary sectors, join the move.
He said: ‘A ballot unprecedented in scale will cover over a million workers in health, local government, schools, further education, police, the voluntary sector and the environment and private sector.
‘It’s a decision we don’t take lightly and the stakes are high, higher than ever before, but now is the time to make our stand.
‘It will be hard, we’ll be vilified, attacked, set against each other, but we must stay strong and united.’
The union was joined by Unite and the Fire Brigades Union, who all gave notice of ballots in the worsening row over pensions and launched angry attacks against the Government.
Mr Prentis announced to the TUC Congress in London that unions were involved in the ‘fight of our lives’ over the Government’s controversial reforms of pensions, which will see workers pay an extra 3.2 per cent in contributions.
He said Unison would work with the GMB and Unite, which could mean the country grinding to a halt if millions of the members decide to strike together.
His announcement was met with a standing ovation as delegates applauded the move, which brings the prospect of a winter of strikes closer.
Mr Prentis accused the Government of an ‘unprecedented’ attack on workers with its ‘audacious and devious’ pension reforms.
Mr Prentis said that exhaustive talks had not worked for the unions: ‘We’ve been patient, we’ve co-operated, but there comes a time when we say enough is enough because, if we don’t, they’ll be back for more.
Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, told the conference: ‘When the coalition came to power we knew we faced the fight of our lives, we knew they would seek to weaken and divide us.
‘While we will never walk away from talks, neither can we sit on our hands. We will support days of action and tactical selective action.’
The Fire Brigades Union’s ballot of its 43,000 members raises the threat of a walkout without ‘Green Goddess’ military cover.
Firefighters last took national strike action in 2003, when Green Goddesses were used as emergency cover, but the ageing military vehicles have since been taken out of service.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, which has already announced fresh industrial action in November, said today’s moves showed that opposition was growing to the Government’s ‘raid’ on public sector pensions.
‘Following the hugely successful strike by civil servants, teachers and lecturers in June, there is a clear momentum behind our campaign that ministers cannot ignore, and they must now enter into serious and open negotiations.
‘We will now join our colleagues from across the public sector to discuss the nuts and bolts of this fightback, which we fully expect will mean industrial action on a scale not seen for many years.’
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, which is not allowed to take industrial action, warned that his members would defy the law if no deal was reached on pensions.
Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB, announced that his union’s 250,000 public sector members will also be balloted for strikes, warning that industrial action could last for months.
‘We are not talking about a day – we are talking about something that is long and hard and dirty, running through the winter, into next year and following the legislative programme right into the summer.’
The dispute will involve hospital and ambulance workers, meals-on-wheels staff, refuse collectors and cemetery workers, he said.
Mr Strutton said recent talks over pension reform had been held between Government ministers and local authority leaders, with unions ‘not even in the room’.
Public sector unions will meet later today to discuss co-ordinated action ahead of more talks with the Government planned for next week.
Joining them, workers at four British Sugar plants are to be balloted on industrial action in a dispute over pay and the ‘soaring cost of living’.
Unite said 250 members based in the East of England will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of strikes after rejecting a 3.5 per cent pay offer.
The union said it was seeking a pay deal equal to RPI inflation, currently running at 5.2 per cent, plus 0.5 per cent for the year to next April.
Regional officer Mick Doherty said: ‘Our members are being hit very hard by the soaring cost of living.
‘British Sugar is a very profitable company and despite its complaints that the sugar beet crop was hit by last winter’s bad weather, it is well able to afford a decent pay rise.’
The Government hit back at the ‘disappointing’ strikes, saying they had tried to reach a negotiation with unions.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman described the calls for strike ballots as ‘disappointing’, and slammed the industrial action would be irresponsible at a time of economic difficulty.
‘Our view is that the best way forward is to continue with talks and we have always been very clear that we should try to have a constructive dialogue with the unions,’ said the spokesman.
‘Clearly, it is disappointing that there have been calls for industrial action, particularly as the talks are still ongoing.
‘On pensions, we have been very clear about the need for reform, but we have also been making the point that even after these reforms come through, public sector pensions will still be amongst the very best available.’
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, answering questions after a speech in London, said: ‘It is very regrettable that they are rushing to announce days of strikes when the discussions are still ongoing.
‘It would lovely to wave a magic wand and say we have discovered pots of gold, and the ageing population is not ageing, and, hallelujah, pension funds are entirely sustainable.
‘We entered into these discussions in good faith and we will continue to do so.”
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who is leading negotiations for the Government, told BBC News: ‘I think the public will be really fed up if they see industrial action damaging the economy, damaging their ability to get to work and earn their own living when (they) may be paying more towards public sector pensions than they are towards their own.
‘We want this to be a proper settlement so that we know that public sector workers are going to be able to enjoy these good pensions – better pension schemes than are available almost anywhere else – but that’s on a sustainable basis.
‘I don’t want governments to be coming back in five or 10 years’ time and saying ‘We need to have another go at this because it wasn’t sorted out properly in 2011′.
‘I think the unions need to think about the effect on the public and the effect on the economy and on their own members.
‘Their own members want to be going to work, they don’t want to be giving up a day’s pay, or more than that, at a time when we are all of us working under major constraints.’
Increasingly militant transport union leaders joined in with the walkout threats, warning they were planning the ‘biggest campaign’ of civil disobedience in Britain’s history.
They plan to disrupt public services and block motorways as well as declaring they are ready to ‘go to prison’ in protest at proposed changes to pensions.
In a bid to persuade them to stop striking and wrecking the Games, transport bosses have offered hefty bonuses to railway workers amid fears the militant RMT union could wreck the Games with strikes.
Train drivers will pocket up to £1,800 simply for turning up for work during the London Olympics next summer.
Last night, MPs condemned the payments as a ‘bribe’ and accused the unions of holding the public to ransom.
Astonishingly, the Daily Mail understands that the £1,800 bonus deal with Tube drivers does not even include a no-strike clause.
The glaring omission leaves them free to pocket the cash and still cause mass disruption with industrial action.
A senior source connected with the talks said: ‘The drivers could have demanded fur coats for the wives or football season tickets for the men if they wanted.
‘It’s an amazing deal but one which the Tube had to do. There was no alternative.’
Union sources revealed a battle plan has been devised, mapping out ‘blocks’ of strikes running in ‘target areas’ for two to three days at a time.
One union leader said to expect scenes reminiscent of the 1978 ‘winter of discontent’ when rubbish filled the streets.
Another, unnamed, told the BBC: ‘In some areas there will be two or three days. In other areas it will be continuous. In other areas it will be a rolling programme.’
The irony of David Cameron’s riot condemnation August 10, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Revolution.
Tags: bullingdon, bullingdon club, cavid cameron, england, england riots, natasha lennard, oxford university, roger hollander, uk riots
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The British prime minister was a member of a student club famed for smashing windows — but in the name of elitism
British Prime Minister David Cameron has been unequivocal in his condemnation of the riots that have broken out across the London and other parts of the U.K. in recent days, decrying the scenes of destruction as “sickening.”
As a student at Oxford in the late 1980s, however, Cameron was part of a members’ club (the British equivalent of a fraternity), which ritualistically smashed up local restaurants. Unlike the rioters, however, Cameron’s club, The Bullingdon, was exclusive and notoriously elite.
“This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated,” Cameron said on Tuesday, having returned from his vacation in Italy three days after the riots first ignited in the British capital. He added: “If you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment” (referring to the fact tha many of those involved are in their early teens).
The prime minister has never applied such strong words to condemn the actions of his former club. The Bullingdon Club — a members’ only dining society in the university preserved for the most privileged of (male only) students — is known for breaking the plates, glasses and windows of local restaurants and drinking establishments and destroying college property in Oxford. (The U.K. newspaper, The Independent, described it as a club “whose raison d’être has for more than 150 years been to afford tailcoat-clad aristocrats a termly opportunity to behave very badly indeed.”) New recruits are secretly elected and informed of this by having their college bedroom invaded and “trashed”.
The Conservative leader’s affiliation with the Bullingdon and its elite and riotous reputation has at times haunted his political career. In the 2010 election, in which Cameron’s Conservative Party won a majority in Parliament for the first time since 1997, his opponents and the media frequently brought up his Oxford past. A television documentary was devoted to one particular night in 1987 — when both Cameron and the current London mayor, Boris Johnson, were Bullingdon members – during which club members were arrested for causing havoc in Oxford and broke a restaurant window. Cameron claimed he went to bed early on the night in question, but the Financial Times reported in 2010 that he was “most definitely” at the party. An old Bullingdon friend told the paper that Cameron’s determination not be caught was “extraordinary.”
Today’s rioters and the Bullingdon club are diametrically opposed in terms of socio-economic background and racial diversity. Cameron’s college cadre were all upper-class and white; the rioters in London are from many different racial backgrounds and are almost exclusively from council estates, the British equivalent of project housing. Unlike the rioters, the Bullingdon club’s modus operandi involves leaving large sums of cash or checks behind, to cover damages. It is not traditional, however, that they pick up brooms or face serious recriminations.
Iceland’s On-going Revolution August 6, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Oregon, Revolution.
Tags: deena stryker, default, democracy, Economic Crisis, financial crisis, iceland, iceland constitution, IMF, neoliberal, revolution, roger hollander
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Democracy 2.0: Iceland crowdsources new constitution
by Jérôme E. Roos on June 11, 2011
just three years, Iceland went from collapse to revolution and back to
growth. What can Spain and Greece learn from the Icelandic experience
and its embrace of direct democracy?
Just two or three years after its economy and government collapsed, Iceland is bouncing back with remarkable strength. This week, the small island nation earned praise
from foreign investors despite allowing its banks to collapse and
refusing to pay back some of its debt — belying the dominant idea among
Europe’s ruling class that bank failures and defaults necessarily engender disastrous economic consequences.
in an historically unprecedented move, the government has decided to
draft a new constitution with the online input of its citizens —
the creation of Iceland’s real democracy. Rather than just involving
voters at the end of the process through a referendum, the Icelanders
have an opportunity, through social media, to be directly involved in
the writing process. It’s the ultimate affirmation of participatory
democracy. It’s Democracy 2.0.
How did Iceland get from there to here? And what are the lessons for Europe’s troubled periphery?
Back in 2009, months after the greatest banking collapse in economic history, the people of Iceland took to the streets en masse to
denounce the reckless bankers who had caused the crisis and the
clueless politicians who had allowed it to develop. Quietly, as the
world was busy watching the inauguration of President Obama, the people
of Iceland overthrew their government and demanded a referendum on the country’s debt.
the referendum, the Icelanders decided not to repay foreign creditors —
Great Britain and the Netherlands — who had so foolishly deposited
their savings in one of the world’s most over-leveraged banks, Icesave.
In fact, the President had already vetoed
the deal, so the referendum was largely symbolic, but still, the
outcome of the vote (93 percent against repayment) was a watershed in
the epic battle between people power and foreign financial interests.
what’s really interesting about the Icelandic case is not just the
referendum, but the fact that the consequences of the outcome were far
from being as disastrous
as Europe’s self-proclaimed economic ‘experts’ had predicted. In fact,
within just two years of the collapse of its government, Iceland is
bouncing back rapidly, and is actually being rewarded for it by foreign
investors. As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:
first international bond offering since its spectacular economic and
banking collapse late in 2008 has been snapped up by investors. The
five-year $1 billion deal, yielding just under 5%, is a milestone in
rebuilding confidence internationally and follows a turnaround in the
economy, forecast to grow 2.25% this year.
So it’s no surprise that Iceland became a rallying point for the ‘indignados‘
in Spain during the mass protests that broke out there last month.
Spanish demonstrators could be seen carrying placards reading “Iceland
is my goal” and “I think of Iceland.” The Icelandic model has also come
to inspire the indignant protest movement in Greece, which is rapidly picking up steam. So what are Iceland’s main lessons for Europe’s troubled periphery?
First of all, make sure to read this excellent piece
by Robert Wade, my former Professor at the London School of Economics,
to understand how Iceland’s mistakes in the lead-up to the crisis were
just an extreme version of what we did on the continent: capital account
liberalization combined with financial deregulation and unprecedented
political disinterest in the face of an epic bubble blowing up right in
front of our eyes.
Wade helps us understand what not to do. But perhaps at this stage, it’s more interesting to find out what we should do. In
this respect, one overwhelming lesson jumps out: while letting banks
collapse and refusing to pay back foreign lenders certainly has negative
consequences in the short run, those consequences are born largely by
the reckless bankers who instigated the crisis in the first place.
of socializing the losses of the banks, making ordinary people pay for a
crisis they never caused, the Icelandic model forced the bankers to pay
for their own stupidity. During the Icelandic crisis, all three of the
country’s largest banks collapsed. The government didn’t save them.
Secondly, Iceland actually went after
those responsible — both to enact justice and to set a precedent that
this type of reckless speculation on the livelihoods of real people will
simply not be tolerated in the future. Key figures in the banking
sector have been arrested and a former prime minister has been formally charged. Treating reckless speculation as a crime is a crucial first step towards real democracy.
Thirdly, Iceland did what no one is supposed to be doing according to neoliberal dogma: just like Malaysia did — to the dismay of the IMF — during the East-Asian crisis of 1997-’98, the Icelandic government instituted capital controls
to stem the outflow of hot money from the country in the wake of its
banking collapse. The EU should have done the same (and can still do the
same) to stem the outflow of capital from the periphery.
Fourthly, and this is obviously the most crucial lesson of all, the people of Iceland managed to sever the neoliberal straitjacket
that had kept their politicians enthralled to the interests of the
financial sector for so long. Through mass mobilization, the people
toppled the government and instituted a radically new form of political
participation. The crowdsourcing of the constitution is the most
powerful symbol this new, real democracy.
As a result, the Icelandic people are now slowly but surely beginning to recover
from the worst ever economic collapse of any country during
peacetime. By contrast, countries like Greece, Spain, Ireland and
Portugal are still struggling — and likely to remain mired in deep
recession, if not outright depression, for years to come.
Untold suffering and hardship
will fall on millions of people as the ECB, IMF and Germany continue to
expect full repayment while imposing draconian (and ultimately
counterproductive) austerity measures. A lost generation
will flee these countries in a desperate search for opportunity.
Countless lives, businesses, families and dreams will be destroyed. And
for what? A handful of bankers who refuse to take a haircut?
What Iceland teaches us is that it need not be that way. The Atlantic currents and Arab winds have already reached
the European periphery. It’s just a matter of time before the first
government on the continent will be toppled by its people. Democracy 2.0
is on its way. No one can stop it now.
Originally posted to Deena Stryker on Mon
Aug 01, 2011 at 08:47 AM PDT.
Tags: extractivism, gerard coffey, Latin America, Latin American politics, neoliberalism, neoliberalismo, poverty, raul zibechi, revolution, roger hollander
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The Uruguayan journalist Raul Zibechi is one of the best, and best known, political analysts in Latin America. He has worked with numerous publications in the region and has a long list of books to his name. His latest, Latin America: Counterinsurgency and Poverty was published in June of this year in Bogotá Colombia, by desdeabajo http://www.desdeabajo.info . The book is critical of the current wave of progressive governments in the region, in particular regarding the Poverty Reduction Policies most of them have adopted. Zibechi calls these a new form of domination.
The principal problem, according to the author, is that these policies adopt the language and methodology of World Bank programmes, dividing and sub dividing the population into groups of ‘beneficiaries’ of programmes that do little more than smother the appetite for the structural change. To make things worse, the very social movements that until recently lead the fight for change have not only become institutionalised, but now form the leading edge of attempts by governments to create a world in which everything is resolved peacefully through a type of lop sided negotiation. This is a world with only two ‘actors‘ : the state and business.
According to the author: “The strategy of domination and control of populations, of consolidation of states without problematic dissidence’, is taking on new forms and is becoming a reality in many places. This book allows us to get inside the details of these new forms, known by the name of the ‘Integrated Action Doctrine’, applied in Colombia with full force, but also in the majority of Latin American countries by means of the Poverty Reduction Policies promoted by the Multilateral Banks after the defeat of the United States in Vietnam.”
Interview with Raul Zibechi
LATIN AMERICA: COUNTERINSURGENCY AND POVERTY
18th August 2010
G.C. Your book appears to be calling for revolution, or rather a non frontal resistance in the small spaces of daily life in order to overwhelm the capacity of the state to control, and from there go on to achieve structural change.
R.Z. I’m not in the habit of calling for anything in particular, least of all revolution. My interest in writing this book, is to make the new forms of ‘open sky’ oppression and domination visible (the idea comes from Gilles Deleuze) , because I think that by making domination visible it’s easier to neutralise it. I’m not someone who thinks that taking control of the state is a good idea, I do think that the best idea is to resist in the small spaces of daily life and, as a result, create non state forms of power in order to defend those small spaces. That’s where that “other possible world” can be created, not from above, nor through the state.
GC. You say that the fight against poverty, at least in the way it is carried out by progressive governments in Latin America is a mistake, that wealth, not poverty is the real problem.
RZ. Of course poverty is a problem, but poverty can’t be resolved with crumbs but rather with basic changes that impede a greater accumulation of capital at one end of the societal scale. I’m not against fighting poverty, but I am opposed to only using this type of mechanism, because it’s something that doesn’t address the real issues. It’s like trying to cure a serious illness with aspirin. It helps alleviate the pain a bit, but the illness is still there. And this particular illness is called neoliberalism, whether due to accumulation by eviction or by robbery, as David Harvey has pointed out.
GC. And these poverty reduction policies are nothing more than a form of governability, a way to make sure that the social movements lose ground vis a vis the state, and only serve to cover over the structural problems and dissipate the fight for structural change.
Compensatory poverty reduction policies, i.e. those that based on monetary transfers that compensate the loss of the right to an income, domesticate social conflict and push social movements into a dynamic of vying to present the most attractive projects in order to resolve the smallest problems. For example, pregnancy amongst rural adolescent girls. That’s fine, it’s a problem, but by presenting the issue like this you lose the wider perspective, which is that these families are being ruined because their land is being taken from them, or because they’ re being pushed into abandoning the countryside so that increasing amounts of soya or sugar cane can be produced for biofuels. So while it is possible to apply a policy such as this as part of a structural reform, as an isolated proposal it achieves nothing. What it does do, is weaken social movements.
GC. Isn‘t this era of progressive governments inevitable after decades of right wing or corrupt administrations? And isn’t it also inevitable that, despite the risks involved, people are willing to abandon the fight when a government appears that gives them a good part of what they have been asking for during those decades of struggle for rights?
RZ. Of course. An important phase of struggle has come to an end and people need something. And that something, whether it be a little or a lot, are progressive governments that do have some positive characteristics: they have put poverty on the agenda, they’ re not so repressive, some have nationalised oil and gas; they have a more sovereign stance. It’s no small thing viewed from a historical perspective. There’s been a major change of direction in Latin America, a change that can be summed up by the reduced domination of the United States. To me this is all to the good, but it’s not enough. And if the consequence is that social movements are weakened, then there will be no one left to defend these progressive governments.
GC. If the only way to fight for real change is to break with the state and its social policies and challenge the NGO’s and the International Aid Agencies that have a negative effect on the social movements, and in fact have had no effect on poverty or inequality, does this imply that that these institutions and their staff are always a problem rather than a solution, no matter that they work in good faith.
RZ. My impression is that things are not black and white. In the period when labour struggles were important, in the factory the foremen and other company people whose job it was to control, often sided with the workers, or at least maintained a neutral position that benefitted them. So it’s not always that clear. Although times are different, it’s the social workers on the ground, in the local areas, who are putting the policies into practice, that have now assumed that role. Many of have an activist background, at one time were part of a social movement, and this is an attractive for Social Development Ministries. In the future these workers could play an important role, that is if they side more with those that receive the benefits rather than those that provide them. It’s the same situation with many of the people that work for NGO’s, people who have a moral commitment to the people they work with. They can all be allies of the social movements, and in fact it’s evident that they’ re often very unhappy with these social policies.
GC . Isn’t it likely that the social movements will revive when these progressive governments start to lose legitimacy and are replaced by right wing governments more aligned with business and capital?
RZ. The movements were never inactive, even when some of them were co-opted by governments. And there are new social movements that have cropped up under these progressive governments. For example, in Argentina the fight against mining involves the more than 100 members of the Union of Citizen’s Assemblies; in Brazil the urban ‘Sin Techo’ movements that were fairly weak before Lula arrived on the scene, have acquired a new urgency; in Chile youth movements are an important element, and in Bolivia the lowland, i.e. Amazonian, indigenous groups are very active. We don’t know what’s going to happen, what’s certain is that if the Right gets back into power it will be difficult for them to govern, but what is clear is that they’ll keep using the same social policies.
GC. And you think that because the fundamentals of domination are no longer questioned, that’s why financial power groups are willing to work - given certain conditions of course – under governments led by left wingers, and even ex guerrilleros such as José Mujica in Uruguay where 1,500 business leaders pledged to work with his administration?
RZ. That’s the point of view of Chico de Oliveira, a Brazilian sociologist and a founder of the Workers Party (PT) but who has since left the organisation. And I share his analysis. When domination isn’t questioned, anyone can govern; the dominant classes don’t need to take control of power directly, or even indirectly. Now the businessmen and the rich say: the best way to maintain the Status Quo is for you, the leftists and ex guerrillas take charge. But don’t start questioning wealth. And if you don’t, then not only can you govern with no problem, we‘ll also give money to help the poor thought eh social responsibility of the companies who are paying their taxes. And they are right. The ex leftists look after their wealth and also look after the crowd. That is, until the crowd wakes up to the illusion and begins to rebel. This is what I’ve been writing about all these years, about dispelling the illusion.
GC. You talk about extractivism as another stage of a neoliberalism, a neoliberalism that hasn’t been defeated, but simply changed its shape. On the other hand in Bolivia the state depends on, and presently has much more control over, natural resources such as oil and gas. Not only that, but the struggle to control these resources has been one of the major political changes that have taken place in that country. What’ s your opinion?
RZ. I don’t think that there is such a thing as good extractivism and bad extractivism. It’s a matter of defending the environment and of a system that creates exclusion. Whether the resource companies belong to the state or not doesn’t change this. Almost a century ago the same debate took place in the Soviet Union. It was said that when the companies belonged to the state there could be no exploitation. But when you go to a factory, and see that it functions on the basis or Fordism or Taylorism, with work rates like those in Chaplin’s film ‘Modern Times’, and you put yourself in the place of the worker, there’s not the slightest difference. In the USSR it took decades to wake up to the reality. These days in Bolivia they say that because the mines and the gas are state property there’s no problem. But the indigenous people are fighting for control over their resources, and this is a conflict that has no solution within the framework of the state, plurinational or not. There’s also conflict in Venezuela with the Yupka, and in Ecuador over water and mining, and conflicts are increasing in all parts of the continent.
GC. In the Soviet Union everyone was expected to sacrifice for the good of the revolution, but here, now , we’re not talking about sacrifice. So isn’t it possible to resolve the problem by improving working conditions? And then if the government redistributes the income from the copper or gas or whatever, and improves the living conditions of the general population, doesn’t that legitimise the extraction?
RZ. The problem is that extractive industries employ very few people and the consumption takes place outside the country. So increasing salaries doesn’t change anything. And redistribution is exactly what they are doing now. How? They haven´t nationalised gas in Bolivia for example, they’ve negotiated new contracts and the increased income has been distributed, even though it might be a small proportion, to the general population. Of course this increases the legitimacy of extractivism , but the population becomes dependent on subsidies and not work, which from my point of view affects self esteem as well as personal and collective sovereignty.
GC. As a last question, if Brazil is now a middle class country, and increasingly powerful, what implications does this have in the medium term for the rest of the countries of the region, above all vis a vis the presence of the United States?
RZ. These are two different issues. That Brazil is a middle class country implies that the internal market is going to grow a great deal. This offers the chance to depend less on the global market, and above all the North, which is in crisis and can’t buy what it previously imported. On the other hand, Brazil is the fifth ranking economy in the world and its reserves of oil and uranium and other resources are amongst the largest in the world, as are some of its multinationals. So you could say that its economy is in a major expansionary process. To complete it, Brazil needs South America as its back yard, in the same way that a century ago the Caribbean was, and still is, the United States backyard. On the one hand this is positive, because the United States will no longer be the region’s dominant power, but on the other the fact that Brazil could take its place would not be quite so positive. For the moment we’re are in an era of transition and this is important because in all situations of change cracks open that the marginalised sectors can use to exert influence on the process.
Tags: 1960s, anglea davis, asha bandele, black panther, black panther party, black power, Criminal Justice, history, jericho movement, laura whitehorn, mumia abu jamal, political prisoners, revolution, roger hollander, safiya bukhari, wonda jones
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It is 1990 and I am the newly elected student government president at Hunter College of the City University of New York. My political worldview, largely shaped heretofore by my active opposition to apartheid, Ronald Reagan and nuclear proliferation, is about to make a mighty leap forward. I know, then, that racism is a vise still choking Black people, even those of us born post the Civil Rights movement. I know the philosophy of Martin Luther King. I love Nelson and Winnie Mandela, and have even traveled Zimbabwe in the wake of its liberation struggle. I know some feminist theory, some feminist history. But for all the knowledge I have gathered at this point, I do not know enough to predict the learning curve I am about to embark upon, in large part because it is in this period that I meet Safiya Bukhari.
Under her mentorship I will come to have not only an intimate understanding of which political prisoners are in the U.S., but I will learn how to organize and run a defense campaign for them. Under her mentorship and because she led by example, I will learn never to downplay my leadership as a nod to the patriarchy that shapes, both silently and loud, the role of women in too many of our movements and organizations. Under her leadership, I will learn the power of human touch, the holding of hand of a man or woman who is about to enter their second generation locked down. I will learn patience; the first political prisoner case I worked on was for the New York 3 and it was 1991 and we were fighting to get them an evidentiary hearing; we did. But to get there, Safiya and I worked for months, including one long night where we stood for hours in a downtown New York law school and copied non-feedable onion skin page of transcript after another until all the thousands of them were done and we could get them to the attorneys who were volunteering their time. We lost that hearing but because we came within a hair’s breadth of winning, and because we were just off the victories of Mandela on one side of the planet and Dhoruba on another, and mostly because I had come to deeply love Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaquim and Albert Nuh Washington, the loss shook me in all my naivité to the core. But at the moment when I could have given up, perhaps would have given up, I learned from Safiya Bukhari that we do indeed soldier on, that we come from a long-line of women and men who were kicked down, beaten down, shut down, shut up but got up and got up and got up again. She got up again and made me get up and went on to forge the New York Chapter of Mumia abu Jamal’s support committee and organize the Jericho Movement, a call for the liberation of all U.S. political prisoners and prisoners of war.
The organization exists still today and is known nationally and internationally despite her death in 2003, a loss that put many of us, both behind the wall and not, on our collective knees. I was a pallbearer that mean August day we buried her and I remember feeling so profoundly as we carried her coffin up the stairs of the House of the Lord Church, what many of us feel when someone important to us dies: please God, can have just one more day, one more hour, one more hug or touch or kiss or moment in silence or laugh or cry or anything. Anything.
My call out to the Universe didn’t come to pass that day, but on this day it has because I have my Safiya back with me when every time I pick up this important, this urgent new collection, The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith in Prison, & Fighting for Those Left Behind (The Feminist Press, 2010).
Edited by former political prisoner and former Weatherman Laura Whitehorn, this book which includes a forward by Angela Y. Davis, and an afterword by Mumia abu Jamal, has pulled together the political writings of woman who lived the sprit of transformation and with the unshakeable belief that a new world was possible. After her untimely death, Laura and Safiya’s daughter, Wonda Jones, undertook the work of collecting and collating the organizer’s writings and interviews into a comprehensive volume that is now this book, The WarBefore. Here I sit down with Laura to discuss who Safiya was and what we can learn from the vision of a woman, a wise and committed, loving and giving worker woman.
asha: What was your relationship to Safiya Bukhari?
I first met Safiya in the late 1990s, when I was in prison in California and she came to visit. She came in to see all the women political prisoners who were there at the time — the Puerto Rican Independentistas Carmen Valentin, Alicia and Lucy Rodriguez, and Dylcia Pagan; my sister anti-imperialists (and my co-defendants) Marilyn Buck and Linda Evans; and me. It was one of many visits she made to prisoners during the organizing for a 1998 Jericho rally at the White House demanding recognition and amnesty for U.S. political prisoners. After my release in 1999, Safiya and I talked together at conferences and events, but I was not permitted to see her much because I was on parole. She died in 2003 while I was still on parole.
What was one of the most important things Safiya taught you?
From Safiya I drew a model of how to be serious about the work of supporting political prisoners. She knew from her own years behind bars the danger of promising prisoners you’ll do things you can’t deliver. She knew the critical importance of outside support. In her writings she says that while she was serving her eight-plus years in Goochland, Virginia, her biggest challenge was maintaining her sense of her own identity as a political person–as someone committed to fighting for justice. That is so opposite to what prisons are, it sometimes can feel like you are in a dream world. Her hard work in support of political prisoners, and the energy and joy–the sense of optimism–she brought to all of us was something I felt in my bones to be critical.
Again and again as I do this work, I remember what she said at a party when I got out of prison: When you leave prison, and you leave those others behind, it’s like you leave part of you inside the institution. So you have to continue to do the work, because as long as there’s a political prisoner — any prisoner — inside this country, that means that you’re not truly free.
Given that this book was published posthumously, would you please talk a little bit about the process of gathering her papers and putting them into one collection?
Safiya had left a small manuscript of essays, including her own autobiographical narrative and a paper on sexism in the Black Panther Party, among other articles. Once those were all put into the computer and edited, though, it became clear that a huge part of Safiya’s work was missing — years of speeches, articles, and interviews reviewing the history of the Panthers and arguing that the people still doing time from those years should be supported and freed. We found some little-known pieces, such as a debate over whether the U.S. should grant amnesty to political prisoners — the opposing team included some high-power government attorneys. We also found an article Safiya wrote describing post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the government attack on the Panthers.
The first round of challenges was to choose amongst all these materials. At first I tended to want to include everything, because finding the items was sort of a process of discovery, and so many of them are historic. But it was clear that what was needed was not a recapitulation of every word Safiya had written or spoken, but rather a selection, to reflect the development of her thinking and, more importantly, the history of the movements she was part of. For example, Safiya considered at various points the nature of divisions within Left organizations, and how those allowed the government to use provocateurs and informants to divide groups and ultimately destroy them. She returned several times to that theme, and to the question of how individual weaknesses played a role. She tied those themes, again and again, to the overriding theme of how Black people and other oppressed people can struggle for justice in this country. No small task.
At each point, Wonda and I tried to be objective and yet faithful to what Safiya might have wanted. She did not set out to write a book; she was an organizer. We hope that the book will not only be educational but also agitational–that, as Angela Davis writes in the foreword, “readers of The War Before will commit themselves to the campaign to bring Assata Shakur home, and to freeing Mumia, Leonard Peltier, and every one of the human beings for whom Safiya Bukhari so passionately gave her life.”
What makes this book different than other books written by Black Panthers?
This book is unique precisely because Safiya did not try to write a book. The War Before consists of primary source material–Safiya’s accounts of life in the Black Panther Party as it was happening; her thoughts and reflections at several points during her history — rather than a retrospective summing up of the history and her conclusions about it. Safiya’s writings about the Panthers have an in-the-moment quality that I think is similar only to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s book, We Want Freedom. Safiya allows the reader to participate in the conclusions she is suggesting, rather than presenting a summary of those conclusions.
The War Before is also not a polemic. Safiya considers various points of view about the history of the liberation movements. She is above all self-aware, self-critical, honest. She is not protecting her own decisions and role, she is questioning those, looking for answers rather than asserting them. Unlike many books about the 60s and 70s, Safiya’s writings assert again and again that the history of that era is not frozen in the past. She talks intimately about the members of the Black Panther Party who remain in prison, and how that reality belies any sense that the battles the Panthers fought are over and done, relics of the past. One of the most moving sections of the book involves a discussion between Safiya and a former Panther who was then dying in prison, Albert Nuh Washington. In the discussion, only a few months before his death, Nuh talks about their shared history and its significance. He, too, is re-evaluating, considering the past as living history that continues to exert influence on what we do now and how we see the world.
What do we learn as women about the Panthers and the Black Power movement from this book?
In addition to a thoughtful essay on sexism and the Black Panther Party, Safiya writes and speaks frequently about the role of women. From those specific writings, we glean a sense of how women influenced the Party toward programs dealing with the basic needs of the Black community. But her writings elucidate a much deeper importance of the role of women in the Black Power movement: She shows that militancy is much more than standing up to U.S. state power in demonstrations, or with guns. By the end of “The War Before” I think readers will understand that true militancy does not exist in how we act, but in what we struggle for–and in how consistently we struggle. Safiya’s power lay very much in her willingness to keep fighting. She kept fighting for political prisoners when many others had given up. As Cleo Silvers, another former Black Panther, put it, Safiya showed not only how to be a revolutionary woman during a revolutionary period but, more important, how to be a revolutionary woman during a very non-revolutionary time. The other thing I think Safiya teaches us about the role of women concerns the nature of solidarity. The way Safiya writes about political ideals is not abstract. What we are fighting for, she shows us, is an extension of the best in human beings who rise out of oppression and construct liberation. She shows us her feelings, too, and reflects a depth of collectivity very different from what we see in other histories of the second half of the twentieth century.
What do you think Safiya would say the most urgent issue for people to be working on today is?
For Safiya, the continued incarceration of people like Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Russell Maroon Shoatz and Eddie Conway — former Black Panthers who remain behind bars for up to 40 years and more–demanded urgent attention and action. I think she would say that many struggles are critical, but that if we do not fight to release our comrades then our movements will suffer. But from Safiya’s writings you get a sense of an ongoing struggle. And I think you get a picture of a struggle that has not been won, but has not been lost. That is a very different sense of the history of the Black Panther Party than you get from many other sources. So I think that really Safiya would say, if you are fighting for justice, you are doing the most urgent work there is to be done.
asha bandele is an award-winning author and journalist whose most recent book is Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Journey (HarperCollins, 2009)