Students Leave the Zapatistas’ First School With Homework August 25, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Latin America, Mexico, Revolution.
Tags: comandante marcos, ezln, marta molina, Mexico, mexico ezln, mexico indigenous, mexico pri, non violence, popular education, revolutiion, roger hollander, zapatista school, Zapatistas
1 comment so far
The 1700 students who travelled from across Mexico and the world to attend the Zapatistas’first school last week are leaving with an important homework assignment: to transfer what they learned to their respective collectives and movements.
Some left with blisters on their hands from working in the fields with a machete for the first time. Others told stories of waking before the sun rose to prepare tortillas and beans and pozol (water with corn flour added) for their companions who were going to work in the milpa (cornfields) and to chop and carry wood. As the students prepared these meals, often for the first time, they listened to the sounds of indigenous languages like Tojobal, Chol, Tzeltal, and Tzotzil. As they ate, they shared experiences and began understanding that their sense of resistance came from their own families, from the very beginning of their childhoods.
The focus of the five-day school’s curriculum was liberty according to the Zapatistas, and students grew to understand how the home stays in Zapatista territories were an integral part of the lesson. “They care for Mother Earth because it’s what brings them food,” explained Marcos, a student from Argentina. “In the cities we buy everything in containers, and we don’t even know where it comes from. That [growing one’s own food] is also part of liberty.”
Others said that liberty lies in exercising autonomy without government help. It is the hard daily work that allows the Zapatistas to survive without the government and be free, said the students. Coherence, resistance and responsibility were words they repeated often in describing the Zapatista way of life.
“To be free is to be able to decide for themselves what lives they want to have,” said Marcos.
“What education they want. How they want to raise their children. How they want to organize. We have to go to the supermarket, go to the school that the system offers us to then reproduce that system — at university as well. We have to take the healthcare system that the system offers us and that we don’t understand,” he said.
During the school, Toño from Brazil stayed in the Rosario de Río Blanco in the Caracol La Realidad, close to the city of Las Margaritas. “It was the best school I’ve been to in all my life,” he said. Toño and other students learned how a Zapatista family can live peacefully in communities where the majority of people support the PRI, the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, and receive money from government projects. “But if one day they lose their government financial support, they won’t know what to do,” said Toño.
Erwin, a student from Cuetzalan, a small town in the Mexican state of Puebla, works to build autonomy for the community where he lives, and he understands how the Zapatistas navigate relationships with their non-Zapatista neighbors.
“They have differences with their neighbors, but they don’t treat them as enemies,” he said. “The system is negatively affecting the everyday life of all, partisan, non-partisan. Even the army has indigenous people in it. And that’s what capitalism wants: for brothers to fight each other.”
Many felt that learning how the Zapatistas live alongside, and assume a non-confrontational attitude toward, people who don’t think like them was an indispensable lesson. Non-Zapatistas can even come to the autonomous clinic when they are sick, and they will be attended to rather than rejected. “In this same community we greet all people who are not Zapatistas with affection, because we are all affected by the system…The real enemy is the same, the system,” said Erwin.
The fact that oftentimes students did not speak the same language as their host families, teachers and guardians, called votanes, was not necessarily a problem. “We wound up understanding each other,” said 17-year-old Camila, who is a student at the College of Sciences and Humanities at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The texts provided by the Zapatista school were very different than those she was familiar with from college. “They explain through anecdotes, which are reflections of practice.” Camila said she hopes that a second grade will be added to the escuelita, and that, if one is, she will be allowed to attend. She said she learned over the course of those five days that autonomy exists and is possible.
The lesson that most impacted Uruguayan Mónica Olaso was when she asked her teacher why they were summoned and what the Zapatistas expected of the students. The response, Mónica recounted, was, “You know, Mónica, a bullet is not going to reach Uruguay. But our word will.” She is returning to her country, she said, with the mission to insist on organizing with the patience required to realize the commitments they make with people in her communities. She also feels the responsibility to pass along the lessons both in the books she was given by the Zapatistas and those already within her — her experiences.
“The Zapatistas wanted us to hear them, to see them, to share with them their experiences of struggle. Now, we have a mission: that every one of us, in accordance with our ways and places, continue organizing according to our context,” said Mónica from Uruguay. Toño, who is part of the Passe Livre Movement in Brazil, which helped organize the mass protests against the fare hikes earlier this summer, agreed. “Rural movements, urban movements, no matter which. But we have to learn how to be more autonomous, and therefore we will be more free. We will even live alongside the enemy itself, because if you are autonomous and free, then you can live with them,” he said.
Alex, a student from San Francisco, Calif., stayed at the Caracol La Realidad with Toño during the school. He says that he learned discipline, listening and the importance of having a long-term strategic vision. In his opinion, these are three things that are missing from social movements in the United States. “There are two main lessons,” he said. “First, is the discipline to accomplish what you say you’re going to do. The second is being self-critic and evaluating our mistakes and victories.” He quoted the Zapatista saying — “we walk slowly because we are going far” — as he explained the longevity of the movement: the Zapatistas have already celebrated 30 years since founding the EZLN, 20 years since establishing the municipalities and starting to build their autonomy, and ten years since the creation of the autonomous governing structure, the Councils of Good Government. This long-term view, Alex said, is lacking in the United States.
In addition to organizing the escuelita, the EZLN also brought together representatives of indigenous peoples from all over Mexico to inaugurate the first Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Traveling Seminar. Held directly after the escuelita at the Centro Indigena de capacitación Integral,
The University of the Earth, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas in Chiapas, the seminar was a gathering of members of indigenous communities from around the world. The location for the inaugural seminar was significant because the Zapatistas are organizing — like so many other indigenous communities in resistance — to defend their territories from threats by transnational corporations, narco-trafficking and governments. Some students who attended the escuelita to listen and learn with Zapatista families about the meanings of liberty and autonomy also attended the Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Seminar. Indigenous participants shared their victories and organizational missteps as a way to measure of the strength of the indigenous communities that conform the National Indigenous Congress, and those who still do not belong to it.
The ongoing seminar will continue to re-convene in different regions of the Americas and is intended to create a traveling forum for indigenous voices, while the Zapatistas have announced that they will hold a second escuelita this coming winter.
The Zapatistas’ First School Opens for Session August 13, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Education, First Nations, Latin America, Mexico, Revolution.
Tags: chiapas, indigenous, marta molina, Mexico, popular education, revolution, roger hollander, subcomandante marcos, zapatista movement, Zapatistas
add a comment
Roger’s note: The Zapatistas are perhaps the most important revolutionary movement of our times. The figure known as Subcomandante Marcos was a Mexico City academic who went to Chiapas to teach revolution to the Indigenous population. Instead, he himself got his world view flipped 180 degrees, coming to realize that the true revolutionary spirit is indigenous to the Indigenous. What the Zapatistas have taught us is the prime importance of the notion of “dignity,” self-governance, and that genuine revolution at a given time does not necessarily imply the necessity of winning state power. I recommend that anyone interested in revolutionary theory and practice look into the Zapatista experience. I also recommend a work greatly inspired by the Zapatista movement, John Holloway’s “Change the World Without Taking Power.”
Last December, tens of thousands of indigenous Zapatistas mobilized, peacefully and in complete silence, to occupy five municipal government office buildings in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. That same day, which coincided with the end of one cycle on the Maya calendar, Zapatistas released a communiqué, asking, “Did you hear it?”
It appears that the answer was yes, because this week thousands of people from around the world are descending on Chiapas for the Zapatistas’ first organizing school, called la escuelita de libertad, which means the little school of liberty. Originally the group allotted for only 500 students. But so many people wished to enroll that they opened an additional 1,200 slots for the weeklong school, which begins on August 12.
Just as the Zapatistas have, for two decades, rejected hierarchical systems, the escuelita will also eschew traditional teaching models. Instead, it will be an open space for the community to learn together.
“There isn’t one teacher,” wrote Subcomandante Marcos, the spokesperson for the Zapatista movement. “Rather, it is the collective that teaches, that shows, that forms, and in it and through it the person learns, and also teaches.”
While attending the escuelita, students will live with a family in a rebel zapatista community and participate both in the school and in the daily life of the community. Participants will cut wood, work in the cornfields and cook and eat with their host families.
Subcomandante Marcos acknowledged that attending this type of school requires shifting one’s way of thinking about learning and indigenous communities. As he asked in a communiqué:
Would you attend a school taught by indigenous teachers, whose mother tongue is typified as “dialect”?
Could you overcome the temptation to study them as anthropological subjects, psychological subjects, subjects of law or esoterism, or history?
Would you overcome the urge to write a report, interview them, tell them your opinion, give them advice, orders?
Would you see them, that is to say, would you listen to them?
Leading up to the school, the Zapatistas published a series of seven communiqués entitled “Them and Us.” These essays illustrated the absurdities of “those from above” — those who hold coercive and repressive power — trampling the freedoms of “those from below.” The writings also spoke to the need to learn by observing and listening in order to build an alternative world. But more than abstractions, the seven publications were a collection of lessons about how everyday life in the Zapatista communities, including how people resolve problems and how they organize themselves into an autonomous networks in which the people rule and the government obeys.
The last installation of this manual, published on March 27, also announced the upcoming escuelita and outlined three requirements necessary for any applicant: “an indisposition to speaking and judging, a disposition to listening and seeing, and a well-placed heart.”
The Zapatistas are unique not only for challenging power or maintaining their resistance for nearly 20 years. What sets them apart is their ever-evolving definition of liberty, and this topic — liberty according to the Zapatistas — will be the central focus of the school. According to Subcomandante Marcos, liberty is “to govern and govern ourselves according to our ways, in our geography and in this calendar.” But the definition also shifts from generation to generation, and Marcos explains that new generations must find their own paths through rebellion and dignity.
The experience of living with Zapatistas and other indigenous families will be another central part of the school. Some students will stay with families living in autonomous rebel communities, while others will be with nearby non-Zapatistas, or even anti-Zapatistas families. These hundreds of families have all agreed on a votán, a person who, in the Zapatista movement, represents a guardian and the heart of the community. The votáns will translate for the families and the foreign students, although Marcos acknowledges that translation itself is an imperfect process.
“In legal cases, do cultures translate?” he questions. “In that sense, one understands that what they call ‘equality under the law’ is one of the greatest travesties of justice in our world.”
As for final evaluations, the school won’t, unsurprisingly, have an exam, a thesis, or a multiple-choice test. Rather, as Marcos explained, the school “will make its own reality,” and the results will be “a mirror.”
The school began after three days of festivals in rebel communities to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the councils of good governance, the Zapatistas’ autonomous governing system in which the community makes decisions and the government carries them out. During the celebrations, one could see empty buses and vans parked along the streets to Ocosingo and Palenque, waiting to transport the 1,700 students from San Cristobal de Las Casas into the rebel communities the following morning.
Earlier this summer, the Zapatistas announced that future escuelitas in the Zapatista communities will be held this coming winter.
Tags: arab spring, egypt capitalism, egypt military, egypt revolution, frantz fanon, morsi deposed, mubarak deposed, muslim brotherhood, roger hollander, tamarod, U.S. imperialism, war on libya, war on syria
add a comment
by Ajamu Baraka
In the two-and-a-half years between the ouster of Mubarak by the Egyptian military and the ouster of President Morsi by that same military, no revolutionary process occurred. Yet, “the emotional response to seeing hundreds of thousands of people on the streets seems to have created a case of temporary insanity,” an imagined revolution in which the “military and the people are one.”
by Ajamu Baraka
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
As the military in Egypt consolidates its putsch against the leadership and political structures of the Muslim Brotherhood, it should be obvious that the initial narrative rationalizing intervention by the military as a necessary corrective to a “revolutionary process” has lost all credibility. Yet many liberals and radicals appear united in a fanciful reading of the events in Egypt that not only legitimizes the coup but characterizes the collection of small-minded state-capitalists thugs who make up the top officer corps of the military as part of the people and the revolutionary process.
From bourgeois intellectual hacks like Isabel Coleman to venerable Marxist materialists like Samir Amin, who implied that the Egyptian army was a neutral class force, the emotional response to seeing hundreds of thousands of people on the streets seems to have created a case of temporary insanity, or as Frantz Fanon refers to it as – cognitive dissonance. This can be the only explanation for the theoretical and rhetorical acrobatics many are engaged in to reconcile their beliefs in democratic rights and revolutionary transformation with what is occurring right before their eyes in Egypt.
A revolution in name only
The popular use and acceptance of the term revolution to describe the events in Egypt over the last two years demonstrates the effectiveness of global liberal discourse to “de-radicalize,” with the collusion of some radicals, even the term “revolution.”
Eschewing the romanticism associated with revolution and the sentimentality connected to seeing the “masses in motion,” it has to be concluded that between February 2011, when Mubarak was ousted, and July 3, 2013, when the military officially reassumed power, there was no revolutionary process at all, in the sense that there was no transfer of power away from the class forces that dominated Egyptian society. No restructuring of the state; no new democratic institutions and structures created to represent the will and interests of the new progressive social bloc of students, workers, farmers, women’s organizations etc.; and no deep social transformation. In fact, the rapes and sexual assaults that occurred during the recent mobilizations were a graphic reminder that sexist and patriarchal ideas still ruled, untouched by this so-called revolutionary process.
A revolutionary process is a process by which structures of power are created by a broad mass of people that allow them to eventually transform every aspect of their society – from the structure and role of the State and the organization of the economy to inter-personal relations – all with a view to eliminating all forms of oppression. There were some important organizational advances made by some elements of the labor movement in Egypt, including the creation of independent trade unions. However, the organizational imperative for revolutionary change that requires the building of popular structures to sustain mass struggle and represent dual power, was not as strong as it should have been in Egypt.
“The liberal appropriation of the term ‘revolution’ to describe everything from the events in Libya and Syria to the Green movement in Iran not only distorts social reality but also advances a dangerous narrative.”
Early 2011 in Egypt saw mass agitation for social change and a mass rebellion against a dictatorship that galvanized previously disparate social forces and classes – Westernized secular liberals, labor rights activists, radical students, women’s rights activists and Islamic fundamentalists – into one oppositional social bloc. The initial demand was for the end of the Mubarak dictatorship and the creation of a democratic system that respected democratic rights – the essential component of an authentic national democratic revolutionary process. However, the maturation of this process was arrested due to three factors: (i) the seizure of power by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) on February 11, (ii) the channeling of mass dissent primarily into the electoral process, and (iii) the failure of the oppositional forces to organize sustainable mass structures to safeguard and consolidate the developing revolutionary situation.
The concern with characterizing the nature of mass struggle in Egypt and in Tunisia that eventually was branded as the “Arab spring,” is not driven by a desire for some kind of neat, categorical purity that abstracts complex social phenomenon from its historical context. But instead the concern is the need to differentiate politically and programmatically the specific political challenges and tasks between an insurrectionary phase of struggle and one that has entered a pre-revolutionary or revolutionary phase.
This is important because the liberal appropriation of the term “revolution” to describe everything from the events in Libya and Syria to the Green movement in Iran not only distorts social reality but also advances a dangerous narrative. That narrative suggests that revolutionary change takes place as a result of spectacle. It devalues organizing and building structures from the bottom up as unnecessary because it is the theater that is important; the episodic show; the display that refutes Gil Scott Heron’s admonition that “the revolution will not be televised!”
The perverted logic of this approach is reflected in both the failure of the opposition to organize itself beyond the spontaneous mobilizations of 2011 and the knowledge of Morsi’s opponents, the Tamarod – thanks to signals from their patrons in the U.S. – that if they demonstrated significant street opposition to President Morsi the U.S. would have the cover to support intervention by the military.
The military’s pre-emptive strike against revolution
To have a clearer view of the current situation in Egypt, we must debunk the nonsensical, a-historical gibberish that suggests that the Egyptian military is a neutral, grand mediator of contending social and political forces, and stepped into the political scene in January 2011 and again July 2nd as a national patriotic force allied with the interests of the “people.”
The reality is that what we have witnessed in Egypt is a lateral transfer of power, in class terms, from the civilians in the Mubarak government, representing capitalist interests tied to the State, to the military, which has similar economic interests, with their enterprises and retired officer corps populating companies connected to the State sector. In fact, under President Morsi, the military never really went away. It maintained an independent space in the Egyptian state and economy. Critical ministerial positions in the Morsi cabinet, such as the Interior Ministry, Defense and Suez Canal Authority, were given to individuals associated with the Mubarak regime that were allied with the military. And the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, populated by Mubarak-era appointees, was the main instrument used by the military to limit and control any efforts to restructure the state or expand Morsi’s power.
For U.S. policy-makers, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi government were never seen as an alternative to Hosni Mubarak. Despite the repression meted out to members of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Mubarak regime, it was well understood that the Brotherhood was part of the Egyptian economic elite and open to doing business with the West. Therefore, Morsi was seen as an acceptable and safe civilian face to replace Mubarak while the U.S. continued its influence behind the scenes through the military.
“We must debunk the nonsensical, a-historical gibberish that suggests that the Egyptian military is a neutral, grand mediator of contending social and political forces.”
Both the U.S. government and the Egyptian military had objective interests in making sure that the power of the Morsi Presidency remained more symbolic than real. The military, working through the Constitutional Court and the bureaucracy, made sure that President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood only had nominal control of the State. Morsi did not control the intelligence or security apparatus, the police, the diplomatic corps, or the bureaucracy, which was still staffed with Mubarak holdovers.
In fact, one of the major sources of tension between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood was the threat – and real moves – made by the Morsi government to use their nominal state power to curtail the economic activity of the military, which holds interests controlling anything from 15 to 40 percent of the economy, in favor of the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood itself, representing sectors of the competitive capitalist class.
One way of looking at the assault on the Muslim Brotherhood is that it was nothing more than a militarized solution to an intra-bourgeois class struggle within the context of Egyptian society, and had nothing to do with the interests of the fragmented and institutionally-weak opposition.
So the idea that the military, as a neutral force, allied itself with “the people” and only stepped in to resolve a political crisis is nothing more than a petit-bourgeois fantasy.
The class-based, social and economic interests of the military mean that it will oppose any fundamental transformation of the Egyptian economy and society, the ostensible aim of the “revolution.” Significantly, this means that the power of the military is going to have to be broken if there is to be any prospect of revolutionary change in Egypt.
A National Democratic Revolution: One step forward, three steps back
This analysis, however, should not be read to suggest that the people were just bit-players in a drama directed by powers they had no control over. The mass rebellion in Egypt created a crisis of governance for the corrupt elite that were in power and their U.S. patron. The demand for the end of the dictatorship was an awesome demonstration of people-power that created the potential for revolutionary change. The problem was that the dictatorship had severely undermined the ability of alternative popular forces to develop and acquire the political experience and institutional foundations that would have positioned them to better push for progressive change and curtail the power of the military. Unfortunately for Egypt, the force that had the longest experience in political opposition and organizational development was the Muslim Brotherhood.
The call by a sector of the “people” for the Morsi government to step down was a legitimate demand that expressed the position of a portion of the population that was dissatisfied with the policies and direction of the country. Yet, when the Egyptian military – a military that has not demonstrated any propensity for supporting democratic reforms – intimated that it would step in, the mass position should have been “no to military intervention, change only by democratic means” – a position that a more mature and authentically independent movement might have assumed if it was not being manipulated by powerful elite forces internally and externally.
“The mass position should have been ‘no to military intervention, change only by democratic means.’”
It was wishful thinking that bordered on the psychotic for liberal and radical forces in the country and their allies outside to believe that a democratic process could be developed that reflected the interests of the broad sectors of Egyptian society while disenfranchising the Muslim Brotherhood, a social force that many conservatively suggest still commands the support of at least a third of the Egyptian population, and is the largest political organization in the country. Liberals and some radicals that supported the coup did not understand that the construction of the “people” is a social/historical process that requires both struggle and engagement. Not understanding this basic principle has resulted in the killing of the national democratic revolution in its infancy.
The powerful national elites that bankrolled the anti-Morsi campaign and their external allies, including Saudi Arabia and the U.S., have successfully set in motion a counter-revolutionary process that will fragment the opposition and marginalize any radical elements. The Egyptian elite understood much more clearly than the Tamarod or the National Salvation Front that a revolutionary process would entail the development of a political program that has as its objectives the subordination of the military to the people, the public appropriation of state capitalist sector and the rejection of neoliberal capitalist development. Because of that understanding, they moved with textbook precision over the last year and a half to protect their interests.
Sadly, the liberal and radical collusion with the anti-democratic forces of the Egyptian military and economic elite has provided legitimacy for the same retrograde forces that dominated Egyptian society under Mubarak to continue that domination, but this time in the name of “revolution.”
Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation Movement. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Baraka can be reached at www. Ajamubaraka.com.
Homeland Security Prepares for Civil War August 28, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Revolution.
Tags: civil revolt, civil unrest, civil war, dhs, doug haggman, hollow point bullets, Homeland Security, jack swint, madison ruppert, revolution, roger hollander, tea party
add a comment
Roger’s note: I have no idea how reliable is the author of this article. If the facts are correct, then we have good reason to fear massive repression of civil unrest. The article suggests that it is more likely to come from the right (tea party) than the left. In either case the notion of economic disaster leading to civilian rioting being confronted by agencies armed with lethal weapons is truly frightening.
Orwell’s 1984 Solution to Criminalize War: “If There was Hope, it must Lie in the Proles” August 28, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Revolution, War.
Tags: 1984, howard zinn, james tracey, mass media, orwell, public opinion, roger hollander, war
add a comment
Roger’s note: It is no dramatic discovery that the vast majority of Americans (and people everywhere around the globe) hate and oppose not only warfare, but the legalized theft of human rights and human labor and the destruction of the biosphere that is perpetuated by every government of every capitalist state and largely bolstered by the mass media and the political culture. Change (the accomplished dissimulator Obama notwithstanding) will not come via electing leaders in contests where the option for peace and justice are never represented. From the Paris Commune to the Russian Revolution to the successful overturning of oligarchic capital rule in places like Cuba and Nicaragua, it was the common people who took things into their own hands. Although in each of the cases the humanistic revolutionary goals were corrupted by a combination of internal and external pressures, nevertheless, our guide for future humanistic revolution lies with these historic victories. Today’s Arab Spring and the Occupation movement are the heirs of the previous popular uprisings.
“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance-it is the illusion of knowledge.”-Daniel Boorstin
Mystified by its own credentials, surrounded by peers who conceive of reality along similar lines, and underscored by the corporate media’s overwhelming tide of disinformation, much of today’s professional class is impervious to “rumors” and “conspiracy theories” that all too often captivate the sordid masses—from unreasonable suspicion over mysterious terrorist attacks to the poorly-informed questions surrounding their leader’s hidden background. Much like the expert officials and agenda setting outlets they look to for prepared interpretations of the world, the opinion leading class’ constituents understand themselves as above all well informed, similarly disinterested and unmoved by groundless passion.
In fact, the programming necessary to attain such a degree of self-assuredness often tends to distance one from reality. For example, revulsion towards war in the United States has historically tended to run strongest among those who have escaped the heavy indoctrination of the professional class—those members of the non-or semi-skilled, working class majority. As historian Howard Zinn observes,
Recent public opinion indicators point to the enduring nature of antiwar sentiment. For example, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press shows that on March 19, 2011, one week before President Obama announced the NATO bombing of Libya, 77% of the US public opposed the destruction of the country’s air defenses. Polling one year later revealed a 62% majority against NATO “bombing Syrian military forces to protect anti-government groups in Syria,” even though almost the same percentage (64%) admitted to having heard “little” or “nothing at all” on “recent political violence in Syria.”
May we thus safely conclude that a majority of the population despite ceaseless propaganda still recognizes how war remains the supreme crime and the greatest demarcation between master and slave? “If there was hope, it must lie in the Proles,” Orwell wrote, “because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, eighty-five percent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated.”
James Tracy is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University. He blogs at memorygap.org.
|James F. Tracy is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by James F. Tracy|
Egypt, women and permanent revolution July 19, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Egypt, Revolution, Women.
Tags: arab spring, arab women, egypt, egypt revolution, genital mutilation, Marxist Humanism, Middle East, misogyny, mona eltahawy, revolution, roger hollander, sexism, terry moon, women
add a comment
NEWS & LETTERS, July – August 2012
by Terry Moon
Mona Eltahawy, an American-Egyptian journalist, wrote an eloquent essay published in the May/June edition of Foreign Policy titled “Why Do They Hate Us? The real war on women is in the Middle East.” The myriad negative responses to it reveal serious examples of counter-revolution from within the revolution in the wake of Arab Spring.
ARAB SPRING FACES COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Eltahawy takes up “the pulsating heart of misogyny in the Middle East.” It is crucial that her essay is about the need for the revolutions of Arab Spring to continue and deepen. So important is this to her that she begins and ends with that point. On the first page she declares:
“An entire political and economic system–one that treats half of humanity like animals–must be destroyed along with the other more obvious tyrannies choking off the region from its future. Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors on our streets and in our homes, our revolution has not even begun.”
And on the last page she writes:
“The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by an Arab man–Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation–but they will be finished by Arab women…. Our political revolutions will not succeed unless they are accompanied by revolutions of thought–social, sexual, and cultural revolutions that topple the Mubaraks in our minds as well as our bedrooms.”
Not one of the critiques I read mentions that this is what her essay is about. Rather than speaking to her essay’s content–the unbearable sexism that women experience in the Middle East–they try to discredit her. Where she talks of how “more than 90% of ever-married women in Egypt–including my mother and all but one of her six sisters–have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty,” she is chided for using the “wrong” word, genital mutilation instead of circumcision. Another critic attacks her by reminding the reader that genital mutilation of women did not originate with Islam or in the Middle East. But none speak to the actuality of genital mutilation, under whatever name.
FORM ATTACKED, CONTENT IGNORED
She was also widely criticized for publishing the essay in Foreign Policy, as if that somehow silenced other Arab women’s voices, even though Foreign Policy invited four responses from Arab women. Or, critics say, it was wrong to publish in Foreign Policy because her audience was presumed to be Americans, but no publications or websites the critiques were in would have printed her essay, and it is crystal clear from the responses that her essay was widely read by an Arab audience.
Then there was this age-old shibboleth, used whenever someone wants to shut up a woman who dares to bring up the fact that we live–all of us–in a deeply misogynist world: Eltahaway “blames and hates all men.”
Any who doubt the importance of what Eltahawy raises need only remember the Iranian women who, in the midst of revolution in 1979, came out by the thousands against Khomeini’s order to wear the chador. They cried out: “At the dawn of freedom we have no freedom.” They were calling for the Iranian revolution to continue. Had their demands been taken seriously by the Left, Iran might be in a very different place today.
NEED FOR PERMANENT REVOLUTION
In an interview given several weeks after her essay was published, Eltahawy reiterated that she is talking about deepening revolution:
“So what my essay is trying to do, is to say that the women…now have two revolutions that need to be completed: The revolution against the regime, which oppresses all of us; but also a second revolution against a society that oppresses us as women.”
While Eltahawy is not talking directly of Marx’s concept of revolution in permanence, that is what she is calling for. As Arab Spring faces counter-revolution from within and without–and is now facing an election where both candidates may well worsen women’s oppression–we call for the greatest possible solidarity with what Eltahawy is raising.
a few “pre-revolutionary” thoughts I had November 21, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, India, Occupy Wall Street Movement, Revolution.
Tags: #occupy movement, Afghanistan War, Arundhati Roy, drone missiles, Economic Crisis, economic inequality, India poverty, Iraq war, occupy wall street, ows, revolution, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism
add a comment
Tuesday morning, the police cleared Zuccotti Park, but today the people are back. The police should know that this protest is not a battle for territory. We’re not fighting for the right to occupy a park here or there. We are fighting for justice. Justice, not just for the people of the US, but for everybody.
What you have achieved since September 17th, when the Occupy movement began in the United States, is to introduce a new imagination, a new political language into the heart of empire. You have reintroduced the right to dream into a system that tried to turn everybody into zombies, mesmerized into equating mindless consumerism with happiness and fulfillment.
As a writer, let me tell you, this is an immense achievement. And I cannot thank you enough.
Ever since the Great Depression, the manufacture of weapons and the export of war have been key ways in which the United States has stimulated its economy. Just recently, under President Obama, the US made a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia – moderate Muslims, right? It hopes to sell thousands of bunker busters to the UAE. It has sold $5 billion-worth of military aircraft to my country, India, which has more poor people than all the poorest countries of Africa put together. All these wars, from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Vietnam, Korea, Latin America, have claimed millions of lives — all of them fought to secure the “American way of life”.
Today, we know that the “American way of life” — the model that the rest of the world is meant to aspire towards — has resulted in 400 people owning the wealth of half of the population of the United States. It has meant thousands of people being turned out of their homes and their jobs while the US government bailed out banks and corporations — American International Group (AIG) alone was given $182 billion.
The Indian government worships US economic policy. As a result of 20 years of the free market economy, today, 100 of India’s richest people own assets worth one-quarter of the country’s GDP while more than 80% of the people live on less than 50 cents a day. Two hundred and fifty thousand farmers, driven into a spiral of debt death, have committed suicide. We call this progress, and now think of ourselves as a superpower. Like you, we are well-qualified. We have nuclear bombs and obscene inequality.
The good news is that people have had enough and are not going to take it any more. The Occupy movement has joined thousands of other resistance movements all over the world in which the poorest of people are standing up and stopping the richest corporations in their tracks. Few of us dreamed that we would see you, the people of the United States on our side, trying to do this in the heart of Empire. I don’t know how to communicate the enormity of what this means.
They, the one percent, say that we don’t have demands” perhaps they don’t know, that our anger alone would be enough to destroy them. But here are some things — a few “pre-revolutionary” thoughts I had — for us to think about together:
We want to put a lid on this system that manufactures inequality. We want to put a cap on the unfettered accumulation of wealth and property by individuals as well as corporations. As “cap-ists” and “lid-ites”, we demand:
One, an end to cross-ownership in businesses. For example, weapons manufacturers cannot own TV stations; mining corporations cannot run newspapers; business houses cannot fund universities; drug companies cannot control public health funds.
Two, natural resources and essential infrastructure — water supply, electricity, health, and education — cannot be privatized.
Three, everybody must have the right to shelter, education and healthcare
Four, the children of the rich cannot inherit their parents’ wealth.
This struggle has re-awakened our imagination. Somewhere along the way, capitalism reduced the idea of justice to mean just “human rights”, and the idea of dreaming of equality became blasphemous. We are not fighting to just tinker with reforming a system that needs to be replaced.
As a cap-ist and a lid-ite, I salute your struggle.
Salaam and Zindabad.
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
add a comment
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
add a comment
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.
- Posted in
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.