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Alexander Cockburn
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 5 November 2011
“Having briefly tasted batons and pepper spray, OWS-ers should know that when the capital feels it is being pushed to the wall, it will stop at nothing to crush any serious challenge.”

America’s Crisis - Has Anyone Got the Slightest Idea What to Do?

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Just over a year from now, Americans will be deciding whether to re-elect President Barack Obama or ... probably Mitt Romney. In the latter case, this is to assume that Mitt, a Mormon and a family man, doesn't, like one of his rivals for the Republican nomination — Herman Cain — get caught up in the dreadful minefield known as "charges of sexual harassment." Study recent photographs of the broken Frenchman named Dominique Strauss-Kahn if you want to be reminded of what such charges can do to a candidate for high office.

Do any of the present candidates, Obama included, offer an answer to America's dreadful situation — a crisis caused by 40 years of neo-liberal onslaught? They do not because there is no answer available within the terms and boundaries of the present system.

The middle class has — at least two-thirds of it — crashed into penury. Americans' store of value and savings — the house — is worthless; social safety nets have eroded; students emerge from higher education crushed by debt. Thirty million Americans are without work or are working part-time. Nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs in the United States have disappeared since 2000, and more than 40,000 factories have closed. African-Americans have endured the greatest loss in collective assets in their history. Hispanics have seen their net worth drop by two-thirds. Millions of whites have been pitchforked into poverty and desperation.

This is the mulch that has created the Occupy Wall Street movement. Its strength lies in the simplicity and truth of its basic message: The few are rich; the many are poor. In terms of its pretensions, the capitalist system has failed.

But for all its simplicity and truth, how much staying power does the OWS message have as presently deployed? In terms of its powers of repression, the system has not failed. To date, the OWS movement has not even confronted the moneyed elite with a threat on the scale of the 1999 protests in Seattle.

Indeed, right now everyone loves OWS. The London Financial Times ran an editorial in favor of it. But in the end, to reform finance capital you have to offend people and institutions, including the Financial Times.

Writing these lines at the start of November, after digesting the daily reports from the national OWS battlefield (Zuccotti

Park in Manhattan, Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland and similar venues across the country Austin, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Nashville, Portland etc.), my eyes flicker across the world map to Greece, and my heart beats a lot faster. Now there surely we can savor the whiff of a pre-revolutionary situation!

I've no doubt that if, by chance, the left in Greece today evicts the local political agents of the international banks, it won't be long before a NATO intervention, covert and then overt, is under way, using the usual arsenal of assassination, drone attacks and armed support for whatever security forces do not defect to the left.

Sixty-six years after the defeat of Hitler and 40 years on from the neo-liberal capitalist counterattack that ratcheted up its tempo in the early '70s, the premises of the system are under fearsome pressure. They are being powerfully evoked by demonstrations from Athens to Oakland.

Having briefly tasted batons and pepper spray, OWS-ers should know that when the capital feels it is being pushed to the wall, it will stop at nothing to crush any serious challenge. The cop puts away his smile. The indulgent mayor imposes a curfew. "Exemplary" sentences are handed down. The prisons fill up. Nationwide, organized resistance can only defeat organized repression. How to mount this, is the OWS-ers' urgent and immediate challenge. In Oakland, on Wednesday, OWS staged a rally calling for a General Strike. That's at least thinking along the right lines.

Copyright Creators.com


Author pic
ABOUT Alexander Cockburn

Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

huhqikr

huhqikr

All the talk about violence

All the talk about violence is a symptom of the typical gotta have it NOW mentality. We didn't get into this mess overnight. We spent long decades of irresonsibility, compliance and dismissing our better judgement for what we wanted NOW. It's going to take a long timeof doing the opposite--of thinking past the sound bite, researching the unintended consequences and learning to discipline ourselves and work together for the good of our neighbors rather than just go our own merry way. There are people who are hurting so bad they have completely lost hope--those we need to help. Those of us who are just losing ground and getting angry at the reason need to do everything. Every little step you can think of is one toward the goal of change. Talk to the blind person who doesn't understand what is going on. Show him. Yes, patronize responsible business where you can find it and never let your legislators stop hearing the sound of your voice. Praise them when they do well and send a buck if you can, to underline your satisfaction. Let them know when yoou're disappointed or angry and let them know why. It took lots of little steps to get us here--it will take lots of little steps to get us to where we want to be. Those who demonstrate are needed and should be supported. Those who report responsiblyh should be thanked and praised. Everyone can do something. Do it! The 1% has money. We have numbers. Those are our weapons. Violence will only force violence and anyone who thinks that Bastille Day would turn out the same inthis day and age is kidding himself. Keep it peaceful so that the use of violence is shaming to those who use it--like in Oakland. Praise the people (Albany) who refuse to go down that road. Peacefully shame every use of violence and keep coming back over and over again until they realize the only thing that will shut us up is reform. Maybe it's easier for some of us oldies who remember when life here wasn't lived under the current situation--we remember times when great injustices and obstacles were overcome a step at a time and we remember that even though things are bad now, they have been worse and can be made better. I find when I talk to my younger co-workers that I am constantly amazed to be reminded that they don't know any other America. The clelbrity/elite/wealthy-grubbing one we have now, only hit the general culture in the eighties--they really don't know anything different because it hasn't existed in their lifetime. They range from cynical acceptanceof the staus quo to those who instinctively know it can be better. Nurture those in the latter group--they are the key to change. It's their world they are saving--remind them that progress comes in steps. Refer them to the civil rights movements of the past--this IS a civil rights movement. It has nothing much to do with color or gender as it most often has in the past--it has to do with what's right and just.
R dthose under for

I read this whole stream

I read this whole stream curious no one is mentioning Ron Paul. He has consistently and accurately predicted our current crisis for years and he is running for president with some very good showings in polls in Iowa and California-which the major media never covers. He receives more financial support from military folk and their families than all other candidates because of his consistent stance against war. I am a lifelong democrat who just registered republican to vote for paul in my state in the primary. From following his voting record and listening to him in 2008 campaign and now, I believe he is the only major party candidate capable of getting us out of the wars and setting us on a path of financial recovery if he's elected. If you know only a little or nothing about Ron Paul please listen to him speak. Thanks

I like Ron Paul but would

I like Ron Paul but would never vote for him. He'd get us out of debt for sure by abolishing half of the government.

I've no doubt that if, by

I've no doubt that if, by chance, the left in Greece today evicts the local political agents of the international banks, it won't be long before a NATO intervention, covert and then overt, is under way, using the usual arsenal of assassination, drone attacks and armed support for whatever security forces do not defect to the left.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~You're right you Have NO Doubt

The only ‘American Problem’

The only ‘American Problem’ that I can see is its pre occupation with consumption and its continuing attempt to recruit as many human individuals to its global project of increasing consumption based on the “Growth Model of Development (GMD)”.

In this context that has led to Rapid Resource Depletion(RRD), Pollution and Global Climate Change(P&GCC), Global Monetary Collapse (GMC) and the increasing incredibility of this American Growth Model of Development (GMD), asking for a more equitable division of the National Pie looks like someone’s fat bratty spoiled child crying for more.

The real problem is global, it concerns the whole human species and all forms of life on Earth and it is a problem caused by the growth model of development(GMD). Those who wish to contribute to its resolution will have to get out of the perceptual categories of the Growth Model of Development(GMD) and think beyond ‘America’.

While I certainly agree that

While I certainly agree that constant growth cannot be maintained, and even global population numbers will have to decline, I cannot agree that Americans per se' are entirely to blame.

Sustainable levels of population will be reached by one method or another. Sustainable economies will also be reached, but at great political costs. However, I do not believe that any of these solutions must mean destruction of the middle class or not raising the standard of living for everyone. It is not a zero sum game Mr. Dhas. Picking a fight with the American people, who have shown a tremendous generosity throughout the last century and a willingness to change will not mean that change will come to everyone else as well. There is a difference between American politics and the American people as we are now demonstrating. Sustainability does not mean beggaring those who wish to improve their lives, and by so doing, improve the lives of everyone in all places.

It is useful to examine one's

It is useful to examine one's options realistically and to make pragmatic choices. I cant think of any reason to abandon legal measures until and unless those have been taken away from us by naked force.The most immediate challenges we face now are two fold: to get the money out of politics and to prevent the massive disenfranchisement that is being attempted in a number of states. These will be hard fought battles but they make more sense than vandalism or worse.Obama? He has shown a tendency to go along to get along but he will have to make a clear choice when the battle lines are better established. We shall all have to make a choice before too long - between the further concentration of economic power and the creation of a culture that is humane, productive, and not too unstable. There are reasonable ideas available toward that end but the political establishment is not addressing them.

I agree with Patrick. The

I agree with Patrick. The problem is: for 40 years the arch Conservatives have been scheming and spending money to make the US a one party nation. This is now paying off. Check out George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant". Does anyone remember that when the banks got a bailout, their officers all got big bonuses and the bank's customers got no loans and mortgage help? does that make you angry at banks? If so, switch to a credit union.

Some of you people sound

Some of you people sound crazy and how are we supposed to get our economy growing if we all quit spending?

I'd say do everything we can

I'd say do everything we can to: (1) change the culture and break free from the grip of monopolies, through co-ops and local banks, credit unions, etc; (2) stay in their faces until we get Washington back, if we can avoid the immediate threat of totalitarianism; 2012 is crucial. Fix democracy, and fast (reverse Citizens United, fix lobbying, get money out of politics); (3) Start people's initiatives, like "green" community projects, and alternative education - it's already happening.
There's a lot that can be done, and we should be doing all of it. Stay on the streets, and don't give up. This will take time and hard work, and this is how most of us will be spending the rest of our lives. But there's no better game in town. Remember, the bottom 99% is already in a depression (yes), and "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." We've never been freer! And there's 99 of us for every one of them: Let's take our country back.

You know, for years now I

You know, for years now I have been concerned with the "monopoly thing" and have wondered why we have allowed them to exist. Too big to fail should mean too big to exist. One cannot tolerate global corporations so large simply because they say they need to be so large to "compete" Compete with whom? Governments? What happened to Taft-Hartley? Why did we allow the consolidation of the news media as recently as the Clinton Administration?

I certainly agree that public financing of elections is preferable to what we have now, and long for the days of my youth when candidates got free time on tv and radio to present their messages. Yet, I also want organizations to be able to present their messages and have a forum to do so. If you would stop groups like Citizens United, we might also, by law, stop organizations like the NRA and NAACP, Unions et al from being able to present their viewpoints as well and that might not work out so well. I think that "truth in advertising" is important for political messaging too. At the very least we should demand that any political message be tied to whoever is funding it and what their agenda is.

I'd say do everything we can

I'd say do everything we can to: (1) change the culture and break free from the grip of monopolies, through co-ops and local banks, credit unions, etc; (2) stay in their faces until we get Washington back, if we can avoid the immediate threat of totalitarianism; 2012 is crucial. Fix democracy, and fast (reverse Citizens United, fix lobbying, get money out of politics); (3) Start people's initiatives, like "green" community projects, and alternative education - it's already happening.
There's a lot that can be done, and we should be doing all of it. Stay on the streets, and don't give up. This will take time and hard work, and this is how most of us will be spending the rest of our lives. But there's no better game in town. Remember, the bottom 99% is already in a depression (yes), and "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." We've never been freer! And there's 99 of us for every one of them: Let's take our country back.

Cherrylogger's picture

Yes, everyone has an idea

Yes, everyone has an idea about to do. And moving money into credit unions is just one. The financial system and the govt. agencies that support it, have vulnerabilities, pressure points, where effective pressure can be applied. Authors and elective supporters of onerous legislation and ordenances can be targeted. Voter lists with phone numbers published with a plea to the many to call and make the case. Viable alternatives must stand for office but raising money may not be necessary. Creating guidelines for local sheriffs about when not to disposeses home home owners. States and local governments own most of the national debt. Their services are more critical than those of the DHS. Specific choices about which debts to pay can and will be identified. I suspect that we will be asked to go to war with Iran next Spring. Lets begin the protest now. Move Your Money started as a tweet. The ideas are coming, lets broadcast the ones ones you like. I particularly abhor the drug three strikes law and would vote for anybody that opposed it. There are legions of hired goons paid to shout us down. Ignore them or better say, There you go again!Cheers, Folks. Keep up the good work.

Unfortunately, Wall Street is

Unfortunately, Wall Street is only part of the problem. What we really need to do, is get security to let us patriots - unarmed - into the capitol and join us as we make it perfectly clear to all that we are not going to be screwed by our elected officials any more.
If our elected officials did their jobs, the banks would be investigated, prosecuted, monies owed "We the people" would be used to reduce the deficit. The bigwigs would be fined, personally, and bring them down to where they belong. They would then be broken up - no more mega banks. All this through rose-colored glasses!

Bionkiknight, your original

Bionkiknight, your original posting of this was interesting for its zeal. But your persistent re-postings are what's known as splogging, and your repeated polemic, at least to me, has begun to work against itself. I'm behind the OE movement, and your heart is in the right place, but this has become alienating and a little embarrassing to me as one of the 99%.

He's a repetitive offender.

He's a repetitive offender. long message repeated for weeks then it changes. Posted to every article here. Tiresome.

you state in your article

you state in your article that the present crisis is the result of 30 plus years of neo liberalism. The opposite is the reality and truth of what has brought us to this crisis. Neo conservatism has nearly destroyed the middle/working class of our country! The decline of our society started with the Reagan administration.

Not much difference between

Not much difference between neo-conservatives and neo-liberals, really.

Patrick Roberts: Absolutely

Patrick Roberts: Absolutely true! Reagan would have been impeached if it weren't for his Alzheimer's .... he broke the law pure and simple. The special prosecutor came to realize that the President wasn't "all there" when Reagan took him by the arm (at the White House during a break in the questioning) and pointed out to him the San Clemente Airport (which was actually Wash. Natl Airport), right away the prosecutor knew he had to fold the investigation.
And the mentally ill that Reagan had tossed out of homes and hospitals (to cut govt spending) and the lies from Reagan about less taxation and less govt spending, were not accurate -- but nonetheless, what he preached. And the fake invasion of Grenada right at his re-election time (what a sham!). GWBush just brought it to new heights (hopefully never to be seen again). Conservatives make a lot of noise and love fear, but their unintentional results are working to destroy the nation. Pure and simple.

I agree with both of you and

I agree with both of you and has it occurred to any of you that the Republicans set out on a course of running up the debt to the point where we would have no choice but to cut entitlements and government in general and they would get what they have always wanted. And I don't want to hear how Obama tripled it. He had no choice and half of it was tax cuts and which party loves those so much. It is just too bad that the people in charge of the stimulus monies didn't distribute it in a way that would have done the most good.

We are asked if there is

We are asked if there is anything that The People can do, to resolve the crisis (not quite yet a gross crash) in America's people and power imbalance.

Yes, I believe there is a way. Most community activism work operates on top of the system - working within what some call the "regulatory model".

"Regulatory" is when the corporate lobbyists set the rules through their elected legislators, for how much pollution is OK, and for how much economic strife under the constitution we will be told to tolerate, so that they-the-1-percent can continue to rake in their money and power.

But there is a deeper mode, that they did not teach me in Middle-School civics. Go study the differences between the Declaration of Independence -- and the original US Constitution. Note what was present in the former (with lots of people-input) and absent in the latter (with major input by the power-brokers of that day.)

Then, how did (as afterthoughts?) the slaves get the right to be freed and gain the right to vote -- and women gain personhood and the right to own real property and the right to vote? Oh, there's a keyword there - "the right". I think there are other places where rights could be very useful.

Some of you guys are talking

Some of you guys are talking crazy.

Do not preach the violent overthrow of the government. Preach the nonviolent overthrow thereof: ballots, not bullets. Boycotts, not bombs. Do not vote for Democrats or Republicans. BUT VOTE! Vote for anyone else, particularly if he or she is running on a "rule of law" or "restore the Bill of Rights" platform, or doesn't smell strongly of any evil corporations, or might actually win.

Q: What do the major parties have that the 99% don't have?
A: A large team that gets out the vote.

What's keeping you from canvassing your neighbors and urging them to vote for anyone but a Republican or a Democrat? There's no danger in it, and it's definitely not something you can be arrested for. It's just time-consuming, that's all. And it's hard and lonely work. So team up with a like-minded friend and canvas all your neighbors twice. They'll think more than twice if they're hit twice by different people working separately. And you can compare notes. No telling what you may learn.

Mr. Cockburn, You write: "But

Mr. Cockburn,
You write:
"But for all its simplicity and truth, how much staying power does the OWS message have as presently deployed? In terms of its powers of repression, the system has not failed. To date, the OWS movement has not even confronted the moneyed elite with a threat on the scale of the 1999 protests in Seattle."

You seem to be saying that OWS must be violent to make any change, but it has already changed what the media are talking about. Perhaps nonviolence and democratic change can not change things, but you present no evidence of that. MLK made changes that could easily could have been seen as impossible. So did Gandhi.

What has happened in this country over my life time is that money has taken over the political process and the news media. It has made it possible for the great majority of the country to be made ignorant through propaganda. Now that people are finally in the streets against this, I am hopeful that some of these pernicious changes can be rolled back. It might not work, but let's give it a try before we start a violent revolution.

I like Bionicknight's

I like Bionicknight's approach and I would and could do it. But what happens to our kids who are desperately working at non-sustainable wages at these stores. Their jobs, meager as they are, will disappear. What will they do?

Wild idea. I envision a professional, up-to-date website that lists all the stores in each town (could be done state by state our county by county) that is not owned by corporations or banks. (your local/mom-pop store). And some kind of aggressive pr to buy at these stores only. Maybe the increased business would allow them to lower their prices a little and to expand and hire. But guess that would mean bank loans which they seem unable to obtain. And it would take time.

During the holiday season, only give home-made gifts or contributions donated in the name of the recipient. Or limit any purchases to the local, small stores.

HEY 99%! Are you angry? Use

HEY 99%! Are you angry? Use it!

We have POWER! “Buying Power.” And, it’s about time we used it. Here’s how.

STOP BUYING THINGS. STOP BUYING…EVERYTHING.

WE CAN INSTANTLY STOP THE FLOW OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

STRANGLE THE COMPANIES THAT ARE KILLING US!

Companies want our money, but they don’t want to help America get back on its feet?
We are being starved, now let’s starve those greedy corporations who took our money.
We want companies to hire us, politicians to vote for us, and this is how to force it.
We have an incredible mobile army of millions and millions and millions of people!
Let’s combine the power that we all have. VOTE, by NOT spending.

Stop buying as much as you can. Stop buying from ALL of the big corporations, retailers and banks; Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, CVS, Rite Aid, Kroger, Costco, Target, Home Depot, Best Buy, Sears, Lowe’s, Supervalu, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Georgia Pacific, RJR, Brown & Williamson, Kraft Global, Sara Lee, Tyson, BP, Shell Oil, Exxon Mobile, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Sprint, Dell, Microsoft, Dow Chemical, Chevron, Kimberly-Clark, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Capital One, Ford, Chrysler, GM, Disney, Macy’s, Kohl’s, The Gap, Penny’s, Colgate, Nike, Staples, Office Depot, Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Avon, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Kellogg’s, Dean Foods, General Mills, etc., etc., etc. All of them!
Add your own companies to our list and pass it on.

Don’t use global banks. Move your money from a big bank to a neighborhood bank.
Don’t use your credit cards or ATM’s…at all.
Don’t shop any retail chain stores. Shop local, or mom and pop shops.
Don’t buy gasoline. Walk, take a bus, car pool, or ride a bike.
Don’t buy any extras like music, movies, electronics, or toys…nothing.

BUY AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE, FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.
STOP SPENDING OUR BILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND WATCH WHAT HAPPENS.

Greedy global companies will be left in shock not knowing what to do.
Wall Street, the oil barons, corporate fat cats, stockholders, executives, marketers, retailers, politicians, and President Obama, will be asking us, the 99%, what we want!

“WE” WILL FORCE WALL STREET AND CORPORATIONS TO HELP AMERICA!

We have already started.

V

Your proposal seems designed

Your proposal seems designed to create a truly massive depression. The corporations are normally engines of wealth creation. They have been allowed to run amok and they need to learn better manners, which will require a large investment in public education and in debunking the usual spin, lies, sophistry and ideological baloney. That will require a lot of hard work by level headed citizens. Romanticism will not put bread on the table.

It is useful to examine one's

It is useful to examine one's options realistically and to make pragmatic choices. I can't think of any reason to abandon legal measures until and unless those have been taken away from us by naked force.The most immediate challenges we face now are two fold: to get the money out of politics and to prevent the massive disenfranchisement that is being attempted in a number of states. These will be hard fought battles but they make more sense than vandalism or worse.Obama? He has shown a tendency to go along to get along but he will have to make a clear choice when the battle lines are better established. We shall all have to make a choice before too long - between the further concentration of economic power and the creation of a culture that is humane, productive, and not too unstable. There are reasonable ideas available toward that end but the current political establishment is not addressing them.

It is useful to examine one's

It is useful to examine one's options realistically and to make pragmatic choices. I cant think of any reason to abandon legal measures until and unless those have been taken away from us by naked force.The most immediate challenges we face now are two fold: to get the money out of politics and to prevent the massive disenfranchisement that is being attempted in a number of states. These will be hard fought battles but they make more sense than vandalism or worse.Obama? He has shown a tendency to go along to get along but he will have to make a clear choice when the battle lines are better established. We shall all have to make a choice before too long - between the further concentration of economic power and the creation of a culture that is humane, productive, and not too unstable. There are reasonable ideas available toward that end but the political establishment is not addressing them.

Revolution is never easy and

Revolution is never easy and the road to freedom is fraught not only with blood and sweat and tears but also with faith, hope and charity for all....oppressed and oppressor alike. Courage, skill and a wry sense of humor will be needed in the weeks and months ahead.

Like you, I hesitate to even

Like you, I hesitate to even contemplate what revolution and civil war (the inevitable aftermath) would entail.

I do think that general strikes are a possibility for change because they show two things... (1) That people are fed up and require change and are willing to do it peacefully at least for now. And (2) That they have the organizational power and skill to carry them off which demonstrates that they also have political power because they can also organize the vote if required.

Perhaps that will work.

If in fact, the present

If in fact, the present system is so riven with faults as is predicated by Mr. Cockburn, then he is in effect saying there is no chance to change the system to one more likely to meet the aspirations of the OWS, other than by revolt with the hope (see Egypt) of a wholesale change in personnel who run the government. It was difficult to storm the Bastille, but a forced change of government now makes the storming of that prison/fort a pushover.

We know what fearful

We know what fearful governments can do when sufficiently threatened. Look at the many who have been killed in the Arab Spring, and yet resistence continues and we should hope it continues to. Likely, we will suffer sacrifice on increasing scales of severity and must be courageous and continue no matter what. It remains to be seen what nonviolent resistance is capable of when confronting a government of the elites that we should have absolutely every reason to believe is, behind their fronts, utterly ruthless and without mercy when push really does come to shove.We may all, individually, need to become the heroes that this magnificant movement will continue to need.

One day, armed patriots will

One day, armed patriots will show up at Wall Street. When Wall Street's security lets them pass and joins their ranks, the end will be near.

We will have justice, it won't be pretty, but it will be justice for our oppressors.

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