Monthly Archives: November 2011

What’s the “Occupy” Movement all about?–Part 5

The following is a message sent by Guy “Josh” Josserand, one of my friends and associates, to the Occupiers in Tucson. It is an eloquent expression of hope and power that I think should be widely shared.–t.h.g.

Dear Occupiers and Occupationists,

Thank you so much from my heart for the power of your presence.

This is a rising tide of public awareness and personal participation for which I have had decades of anticipation.

A tsunami of love and respect for life is forming that can wash clean some centuries of fear-based domination of the many by the few.

Government of the People, for the People, and by the People now faces its last best chance to escape corporate feudalism.

Are we serfs or are we sovereigns?

Toward this end I wish to encourage the Occupation to speak, not about what it needs but WHAT IT GIVES.

As much as the Occupation needs the 99%, we all, the 100%, need what the Occupation offers even more.

It offers us all power and voice.

Let us INVITE each one to take control of the power they have.

Let us encourage them to accept the power they are.

Let us remind them of Marianne Williamson’s message which Nelson Mandela repeated in his Inaugural Address.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Let us incorporate this perspective into every communication and act of Occupiers in every town and city of the world. Success of the Occupation will be measured by the degree to which we can eradicate fear from the hearts of both the 99% and the 1% as well, for the One Percent also suffers from bondage. Though they fortify themselves with wealth, it is only a wealth of power and dominance which is antithetical and incompatible with actual freedom, justice and happiness. Injustice for anyone breeds injustice for all, and as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us many years ago, “None of us is free until all of us are free.”


Guy Josserand III

Is Capitalism in crisis?

One of my correspondents recently alerted me to a review of David Harvey’s book, The Enigma of Capital, and the crises of capitalism. I’ve not seen the book, but if the review is a faithful description, the book seems to be well worth reading.

I’m not inclined to frame my analyses and prescriptions in terms of competing ideologies because that leads to immediate resistance by the true believers on one side or another. Rather, we need to encourage people to think outside of their comfortable boxes by pointing out implicit assumptions and evident dysfunctions, and suggesting structural as well as policy changes that show promise of providing better outcomes.

Of course, what constitutes a better outcome will always be a point of disagreement based on the fundamental values, attitudes, and beliefs that different segments of society hold dear (e.g., the 1% vs the 99% that the Occupy movement has been highlighting). Besides that, our desires and expectations must ultimately adjust to the reality of our planetary limits to physical growth.

Based on the review, the points that I may agree or disagree with Harvey about are inserted in red in the review below.

The Enigma of Capital, and the crises of capitalism, By David Harvey

Review by Andrew Gamble

Friday, 30 April 2010

Andrew Mellon, the US Treasury Secretary during the Great Crash of 1929 and one of America’s richest men, observed that in a crisis assets return to their rightful owners. Nothing much has changed. As the present crisis has mutated from a banking crisis to a fiscal crisis and a sovereign debt crisis, bonuses continue to be paid, while the people of Greece and Iceland suffer huge cuts in jobs and services.

As the head of Citibank helpfully pointed out, “Countries cannot disappear. You always know where to find them.” Once the bubbles are burst, expectations about asset values are dashed, optimism gives way to despair, and wealth is ruthlessly redistributed. Capitalism survives by purging itself of debt and loading the costs of adjustment on the weak and the poor.

[I agree, but something needs to be said about HOW it purges itself of debt. We’ve seen very clearly in this latest cycle how the capitalists have come away whole by pushing the debt off onto the public sector by means of government bailouts. That has cause severe fiscal (budgetary) problems for governments, which now are pressured to cut spending. That is where the weak and the poor (including the “middle class”) get fleeced and sacrificed because the cuts are typically made in social spending and programs that promote the common good.]

For David Harvey, this is the latest of the great structural crises which have punctuated the development of capitalism and which signify that major limits have been reached to further growth. Crises on this view are inherent in capitalism itself, and the means by which it renews itself. Only a periodic clear-out of debt and unproductive activities creates the basis for a further leap forward.

Harvey is less interested in the detail of how the 2007-8 crisis unfolded than in understanding it as a manifestation of how capitalism works. Over the last two decades, he has become a leading exponent of classical Marxist political economy, his work known for its exceptional clarity and for integrating spatial categories into the theory of capital accumulation.

Capitalism in the last 200 years has proved itself by far the most dynamic and productive economic system known to history, but the wealth comes at a price, both for human beings and increasingly for the natural environment.

Periodically, capitalism over-expands and overshoots, encountering limits it cannot immediately transcend. This is a system which must keep expanding by at least 3 per cent a year. What drives it is the hope of profit, and this impulse comes to shape all social relations as well as nature. During booms, capital accumulates very fast, but the amount of surplus generated becomes harder and harder to absorb. The investments that have been made in the boom fix capital in all sorts of ways, in buildings, cities, regions and countries, as well as in labour forces and ways of organising production.

After a time many of these past investments no longer yield a high return and sometimes no return at all. This is what precipitates the crisis. It may take the form of a profits squeeze, caused by militant labour wresting gains from capital, or by factors depressing the rate of profit, or by too little demand. Harvey argues that the present crisis is particularly hard to resolve because it comes after a long period in which real incomes in the US have stagnated, while the wealth of the property-owning elite has soared.

The gap between what labour was earning and what it would spend was covered by credit. The average debt of per household, including mortgage repayments, was $40,000 in 1980. By 2007 it was $130,000. Getting this debt down and restarting the economy is a huge task.

[I too have been preaching that the limits to growth have been reached, and yes, however one might choose to characterize an economic system (capitalist, socialist, or otherwise), there must be a periodic “clear[ing]-out of debt and unproductive activities,” for the system to maintain its vitality, but not necessarily to make way for further growth.

I’m wondering if Harvey’s book adequately explains the phenomenon of “expansion and overshoot,” and whether or not that would also occur under his conception of a alternative non-Capitalist system. I’m also wondering about the basis for his statement that, “This is a system which must keep expanding by at least 3 per cent a year.” I’ve seen estimates that run closer to 6%. My own belief is that the proximate driver of continual economic growth is the compounding of interest that is a fundamental feature of our global monetary system, and that the surplus that is created by the economy goes largely into capital concentration and profit-seeking reinvestment, rather than to increased and more equitable consumption. Thus, we see starvation and want amidst plenty.]

Harvey is pessimistic that growth can be restarted without the infliction of quite unimaginable hardships on the many of the world’s poorest people. Capitalism survives by socialising losses and distributing gains to private hands. Harvey devotes a large part of his argument to show how this is done through the close ties of the state and finance. He calls it the state-finance nexus.

[Yes, this is an increasingly obvious point. I’m glad to see that Harvey is highlighting the “state-finance nexus.” I trace that back to the founding of the Bank of England in 1694, which established the pattern of central banking and government-banking collusion that has since spread around the world and culminated in a rather monolithic regime. But there are cracks beginning to form.]

This is not a conspiracy: both sides of the relationship need one another and support one another. There are frictions and conflicts, but in the end they work together because this is the only system anyone knows or thinks can be made to work. Michael Bloomberg, as Mayor of New York, commissioned a report which declared that excessive regulation in the US was threatening the future of the financial sector in New York.

The financial crash of 2008 destroyed the credibility of the financial growth model put in place after the last great capitalist crisis in the 1970s. It has also, as Harvey notes, put a question-mark over the continuance of US hegemony, because of the shift in the balance of the global economy towards the rising powers of India and China.

He thinks that the accumulated rigidities over the last cycle have become so great that only a very fundamental restructuring can restore the basis for renewed economic growth. But the pressure for an early return to business as usual are very great, threatening an early return of credit and debt as the only way to fuel the economy, and the eruption of another crisis in a few years.

Harvey argues that each major capitalist crisis has been worse than the last one, and more difficult to surmount. He accepts that capitalism, with all its resilience and inventiveness, is quite capable of overcoming this crisis too; but he is sceptical, and believes that this is the moment that a revived anti-capitalist movement can seize the opportunity to put forward a realistic alternative to capitalism as a way of organising the economy.

[Yes, it is evident that each successive cycle is more extreme than the last. The financial system based on interest-bearing debt is shaking itself apart.

It seems odd that he attributes “resilience and inventiveness” to capitalism. These are human qualities that might thrive in a variety of circumstances. The question is how, specifically, to support them. ]

This is perhaps where the argument is least convincing. The anti-capitalist left is fragmented and not particularly numerous. Radical political responses during previous capitalist crises have often favoured the right. The rise of China and India, both of which have continued to grow through the recession, suggests that the fundamental shift in the balance of the global economy is only just beginning, and if it continues is likely to provide huge potential for growth and absorption of surplus, provided certain political conditions are met.

This will not be easy but is certainly possible. Marx thought that no social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed. On the evidence Harvey himself provides, capitalism still has a long way to go before that is the case, and no gravediggers are in sight.

[What are the physical limits to the application of those “productive forces?” It is evident that the masses of India and China cannot possibly achieve the levels of consumption and way of living that have prevailed in the West. The emphasis must shift from capital accumulation and increasing consumption to more equitable distribution and better quality of life for all.]

But this book is a welcome addition to the literature on the crisis. It provides a lucid and penetrating account of how the power of capital shapes our world, and sets out the case for a new radicalism and a vision of alternatives. What we need, he argues, is not just a new world but a new communism, following the failure of the old – although he does accept ruefully that using “communist” as a political label may not bring instant success in the United States.

[I guess we will need to read the book to see what Harvey has to propose in making the “case for a new radicalism and a vision of alternatives.”]

Andrew Gamble is Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge and author of ‘The Spectre at the Feast’ (Palgrave Macmillan)

[Annotated comments by Thomas H. Greco, Jr.]

The Occupy Movement Wins Support From British Quakers

“Quakers in Britain share the concern for global economic justice and sustainability expressed by the Occupy movement.  We agree with the statement of Occupy London Stock Exchange that our current economic system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives.

We, too, “want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich,” (as stated in Occupy LSX initial statement). We are grateful to the various Occupy groups for raising these issues so passionately and respond to the deep spiritual significance that we recognise in the movement.

“Those of us who have visited have been welcomed, and found the Occupy sites an exceptional learning experience.  We honour the values and positive ways of working within Occupy communities: without hierarchy, based on care for others, open to the contributions of all and searching for the truth.  These are in harmony with our Quaker practice and business methods.

“The idea that another world is possible is crucial for us too.  We cannot accept the injustice and destructiveness of our economic system as it is. At the annual meeting of Quakers in Britain in August 2011 we wrote: “We need to ask the question whether this system is so broken that we must urgently work with others of faith and good will to put in its place a different system in which our testimonies can flourish”.   We support the process initiated by the Occupy movement to create a path towards a different future, and to develop it democratically.

“We hope that individual Quakers will continue to provide support, both moral and practical, to the movement.  We greatly value its peaceful quality and we pray that this can be actively supported by all, including the civil and ecclesiastical authorities who have the difficult task of maintaining simultaneously both public order and the right of peaceful protest.”

Signed Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain

Financing alternatives

More and more people are wondering about how the Occupy movement will shift from protest and demonstration to strategies and actions that will result in personal and community empowerment, actions toward restructuring our institutions and shifting the balance of power from Washington and Wall Street to Main Streets, neighborhoods, and civic organizations. 

One rather obvious strategy is to change the way we spend and invest our money.

Click here to see a list of financing alternatives that I started preparing as a resource list for my presentation to the Financial Planning Association in May, 2011. I have since added a few items to it, including a link to One PacificCoast Bank, a relatively new bank which has as its mission, “to build prosperity in our communities through beneficial banking services delivered in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.” According to a description on the BALLE website, the “founders granted 100% of the bank’s dividends, when declared, to a foundation dedicated to the communities and environment upon which we all depend.  This unique structure ensures that the bank’s interests are aligned with the needs of its customers and communities. We call this “beneficial banking.” 

I like the sound of that and I’m hoping that this case may be the forerunner of a new pattern of corporate ownership in which service is the foremost purpose and profits are distributed to entities that serve the common good, not just the narrow interests of a few.

I have made my resource list a permanent page which is listed in the sidebar to the right under Resources. It remains a work in progress.–t.h.g.

Did Libya’s Gadhafi Threaten the Global Power Structure?

From the beginning of the NATO offensive against the Gadhafi regime in Libya, there has been a lot of buzz about the real reasons behind the Western powers’ agenda for regime change. This article from the New American sketches a plausible explanation. It may have had more to do with Gadhafi’s new money plan than it did about Libya’s oil riches.—t.h.g.

Gadhafi’s Gold-money Plan Would Have Devastated Dollar

Written by Alex Newman

Friday, 11 November 2011 10:15

It remains unclear exactly why or how the Gadhafi regime went from “a model” and an “important ally” to the next target for regime change in a period of just a few years. But after claims of “genocide” as the justification for NATO intervention were disputed by experts, several other theories have been floated.

Oil, of course, has been mentioned frequently — Libya is Africa‘s largest oil producer. But one possible reason in particular for Gadhafi’s fall from grace has gained significant traction among analysts and segments of the non-Western media: central banking and the global monetary system.

According to more than a few observers, Gadhafi’s plan to quit selling Libyan oil in U.S. dollars — demanding payment instead in gold-backed “dinars” (a single African currency made from gold) — was the real cause. The regime, sitting on massive amounts of gold, estimated at close to 150 tons, was also pushing other African and Middle Eastern governments to follow suit.

And it literally had the potential to bring down the dollar and the world monetary system by extension, according to analysts. French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly went so far as to call Libya a “threat” to the financial security of the world. The “Insiders” were apparently panicking over Gadhafi’s plan.

“Any move such as that would certainly not be welcomed by the power elite today, who are responsible for controlling the world’s central banks,” noted financial analyst Anthony Wile, editor of the free market-oriented Daily Bell, in an interview with RT. “So yes, that would certainly be something that would cause his immediate dismissal and the need for other reasons to be brought forward [for] removing him from power.”

According to Wile, Gadhafi’s plan would have strengthened the whole continent of Africa in the eyes of economists backing sound money — not to mention investors. But it would have been especially devastating for the U.S. economy, the American dollar, and particularly the elite in charge of the system.

“The central banking Ponzi scheme requires an ever-increasing base of demand and the immediate silencing of those who would threaten its existence,” Wile noted in a piece entitled “Gaddafi Planned Gold Dinar, Now Under Attack” earlier this year. “Perhaps that is what the hurry [was] in removing Gaddafi in particular and those who might have been sympathetic to his monetary idea.”

Investor newsletters and commentaries have been buzzing for months with speculation about the link between Gadhafi’s gold dinar and the NATO-backed overthrow of the Libyan regime. Conservative analysts pounced on the potential relationship, too.

“In 2009 — in his capacity as head of the African Union — Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi had proposed that the economically crippled continent adopt the ‘Gold Dinar,’” noted Ilana Mercer in an August opinion piece for WorldNetDaily. “I do not know if Col. Gadhafi continued to agitate for ditching the dollar and adopting the Gold Dinar — or if the Agitator from Chicago got wind of Gadhafi’s (uncharacteristic) sanity about things monetary.”

But if Arab and African nations had begun adopting a gold-backed currency, it would have had major repercussions for debt-laden Western governments that would be far more significant than the purported “democratic” uprisings sweeping the region this year. And it would have spelled big trouble for the elite who benefit from “freshly counterfeited funny-money,” Mercer pointed out.

“Had Gadhafi sparked a gold-driven monetary revolution, he would have done well for his own people, and for the world at large,” she concluded. “A Gadhafi-driven gold revolution would have, however, imperiled the positions of central bankers and their political and media power-brokers.”

Adding credence to the theory about why Gadhafi had to be overthrown, as The New American reported in March, was the rebels’ odd decision to create a central bank to replace Gadhafi’s state-owned monetary authority. The decision was broadcast to the world in the early weeks of the conflict.

In a statement describing a March 19 meeting, the rebel council announced, among other things, the creation of a new oil company. And more importantly: “Designation of the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and appointment of a Governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi.”

The creation of a new central bank, even more so than the new national oil regime, left analysts scratching their heads. “I have never before heard of a central bank being created in just a matter of weeks out of a popular uprising,” noted Robert Wenzel in an analysis for the Economic Policy Journal. “This suggests we have a bit more than a rag tag bunch of rebels running around and that there are some pretty sophisticated influences,” he added. Wenzel also noted that the uprising looked like a “major oil and money play, with the true disaffected rebels being used as puppets and cover” while the transfer of control over money and oil supplies takes place.

Other analysts, even in the mainstream press, were equally shocked. “Is this the first time a revolutionary group has created a central bank while it is still in the midst of fighting the entrenched political power?” wondered CNBC senior editor John Carney. “It certainly seems to indicate how extraordinarily powerful central bankers have become in our era.”

Similar scenarios involving the global monetary system — based on the U.S. dollar as a global reserve currency, backed by the fact that oil is traded in American money — have also been associated with other targets of the U.S. government. Some analysts even say a pattern is developing.

Iran, for example, is one of the few nations left in the world with a state-owned central bank. And Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein, once armed by the U.S. government to make war on Iran, was threatening to start selling oil in currencies other than the dollar just prior to the Bush administration’s “regime change” mission.

While most of the establishment press in America has been silent on the issue of Gadhafi’s gold dinar scheme, in Russia, China, and the global alternative media, the theory has exploded in popularity. Whether salvaging central banking and the corrupt global monetary system were truly among the reasons for Gadhafi’s overthrow, however, may never be known for certain — at least not publicly.

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Class War, the Oligarch’s conspiracy, and the Occupy movement

Here is a remarkable statement by Paul B. Farrell that tells the unvarnished truth about the class war that is being waged against Americans. It is remarkable for two reasons, first, because Farrell has a background as a financial establishment insider–he was an investment banker with Morgan Stanley; executive vice president of the Financial News Network; executive vice president of Mercury Entertainment Corp; and associate editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Secondly, because this article appeared in MarketWatch, a mainstream news source controlled by Rupert Murdoch.

According to Wikipedia, MarketWatch “is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Jones, which in turn is owned by News Corporation. MarketWatch is part of Dow Jones’ Consumer Media Group, along with The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, the and affiliated Internet properties. Through the Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp. ownership, MarketWatch is also affiliated with, among many other global media properties, the New York Post, The Times of London, Fox News Channel and multiple other 20th Century Fox spinoffs, and HarperCollins publishers.”

I urge everyone to read the entire article paying close attention to Farrell’s conclusion.—t.h.g.

Rich Class fighting 99%, winning big-time

Commentary: Reagan began class war in 1981, Buffett declared in 2006

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch. Nov. 1, 2011, 10:22 a.m. EDT

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Yes, “there is class warfare, all right,” declared Warren Buffett. “But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Yes, the Rich Class is at war with you, with the 99%, a war against America. This class war actually started a generation ago, in 1981 when Ronald Reagan became president. Since then, the Rich Class has been winners. Big-time. And the 99% are the losers. Real big-time.

I am going to keep reminding you over and over of this Rich Class declaration of war and how they’re defeating America.

Why more reminders? Because, except for Buffett, the vast majority of the Rich Class really are engaged in a massive cover-up, a widespread conspiracy that includes the Super Rich, Forbes 400 billionaires, Wall Street bank CEOs, all their high-paid Washington lobbyists, all the Congressional puppets they keep in office by spending hundreds of millions on campaign payola and all the conservative presidential candidates praying the same Rich Class dogma.

Yes, Rich Class has been fighting a 30-year war to rule America

They’re fighting you, winning big-time, and you’re the loser. It’s just one generation since conservatives put Reagan in office: In those three short decades the income and wealth of the top 1% has tripled while the income of the bottom 99% of all Americans has stagnated or dropped.

Yes, they are at war with you, fighting to gain absolute power over America … and they will never stop their brutal attacks.

Buffett didn’t admit to this Declaration of Class War on America till five years ago. It happened in Omaha, Neb., in Buffett’s “unpretentious offices” back in 2006 during a New York Times interview with Ben Stein, a former Nixon speech writer. Here’s Ben describing the declaration of war:

”Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

”It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all.

“He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. ‘How can this be fair?’ he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. ‘How can this be right?’ Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.”

And to that comment by Stein, Buffett made his famous declaration of war: “There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

In spite of that unequivocal declaration, Buffett’s Rich Class buddies still want you to believe that it’s the Occupiers, the lazy unemployed, the 99%, someone else, anyone other than their Rich Class that’s fomenting class warfare.

So you need occasional reminders, because the “Rich Class” has been spending mega-bucks for decades to shift responsibility. Fortunately today, folks like the Occupiers aren’t buying the con job.

Here’s a few:

Rich Class warriors: puppet-politicians in GOP-controlled Congress

We know the GOP is the Party of the Rich Class. But the Dems are co-conspirators fighting the class war as pawns of the wealthy. No wonder the Occupy Wall Street crowd focuses on the inequality gap between America’s top 1% and the 99% who’ve seen no income growth since the Reaganomics ideology took over American politics. Many are like House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, clones of Ayn Rand’s narcissistic cult of selfish capitalism.

Listen, both parties are singing in harmony: “Yes, there’s class warfare. And yes, it’s our duty to fight for the richest class of capitalists who are making this war. We must help them win, get richer, squeeze more and more out of all Americans.”

Rich Class warriors: Federal Reserve-Wall Street bankers conspiracy

Yes, there are five banks in America that control about 90% of all the deposits … they control over 90% of America’s trading in the $650 trillion global derivatives casino … they control the Federal Reserve through directors and governors … their campaign payola and lobbyists virtually control the presidency, the Senate and Congress … they siphon huge bonuses from depositors, shareholders and pensioners alike:

“So yes, there is a class warfare running our banking system, every day. And yes, the CEOs in our rich class are leading that class war, and winning big. But more is never enough, so we want new ways to skim off profits, because we are invincible, too big and too greedy to fail.”

Rich Class warriors: Pentagon’s Perpetual War-Mongering Machine

The rich class loves war (war profiteering is a big business). Of course they often have to brainwash the 99% with fears like the mushroom-cloud lies Bush-Cheney used to get America into the $3 trillion Iraq War. Americans have a powerful love-hate relationship with war. Why else would we spend almost half our federal budget, several hundred billion dollars, on war every year?

“Yes, there’s class warfare, all right,” the former vice president might say as a one-time defense contractor CEO and oilman who continued profiting in office. He’d obviously admit: “Yes, we’re in a class war, and it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we proud that we kept winning that war while we was in office.”

Rich Class fighting to turn America back into Reagan’s ol’ Wild West

The list goes on: The Rich Class wants to time-travel America back to a lawless Old Wild West, back to a free-market Reaganomics anarchy where the top 1% trickle down leftovers to the 99% using this kind of self-destructive programs:

  • Privatize: Turn Social Security over to Wall Street bankers to run Main Street’s retirements into the dirt (worse than they did in 2008), a $20 trillion blunder that’s guaranteed to trigger total bankruptcy of the America economy.
  • Vouchers: Turn our educational and health-care systems into a voucher system so that private companies owned by the Rich Class can siphon off even bigger profits from every little trickle-down bone the wealthy toss to parents, the sick and elderly.
  • Regulations: They’ll also turn over environmental, drugs, food, banking and all other regulatory agencies back to be controlled by the very company executives they’re supposed to be regulating, just like Bush and Cheney did for eight years.
  • Tax-Free: Extend Bush tax cuts to Rich Class, eliminate estate taxes and give Corporate America another tax–free holiday to return huge foreign profits so they can deposit those profits direct into pockets of the Rich Class.

But, of course, there’s nothing new here. We just forget so easily, because it’s so bad. Which is why we’ll be reminding you often that the Rich Class has been fighting this war against you for 30 years, since Reagan.

And they’re so greedy they cannot stop fighting. So they will likely keep attacking the 99% for another decade, till the 2020 presidential elections, or more likely, till a catastrophic collapse of the economy coming soon.

Yes, folks, America really is under attack daily. We are fighting on the defense in an historic class warfare. Yes, the Rich Class really did start this war. And yes, they really are winning, big-time. And yes, they are addicted to winning at all costs, to get richer and richer just for the sake of getting richer and richer.

They have no conscience about the collateral damage done to the rest of Americans. They’ve lost their moral compass. In short, they will fight this war to the death, yours, theirs, even the death of America. Bet on it: Because more is never enough for America’s morally bankrupt Rich Class. [emphasis added-ed.]

Copyright © 2011 MarketWatch, Inc. All rights reserved.

A Report on Popular Assemblies: Insights for the Occupy Movement

Tom Atlee alerted me to this report which I think provides some good insight into the popular movements that have been ongoing in Europe over the past few months. It may be helpful in determining how the Occupy movement might avoid losing momentum and move on with strength to the next level of planning and organizing. What comes after the protests and expressions of dissatisfaction? Is it really necessary to reach consensus in presenting demands and moving toward positive action? –t.h.g.

Occupy to Self Manage
By Michael Albert

I have yet to see my nearest large occupation, Boston, or the precursor of all U.S. occupations, Wall Street. Instead, I have been on the road for the past six weeks in Thesselonika and Athens Greece; Istanbul and Diyarbikar Turkey; Lexington, Kentucky; London, England; Dublin, Ireland; and in Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia Spain.

In all these places, I talked with diverse individuals at many meetings and popular assemblies. I met people involved in occupations, as well as audiences assembled by my hosts to hear about participatory economics. Beyond addressing assigned topics, my own priority was to learn about local movements. I repeatedly asked what folks struggling for many months wished to say to other folks first embarking on similar paths.

Boredom, Disempowerment, and Consensus Obstruct Growth
In Greece and Spain, a single message predominated. It had nothing to do with analyses of capitalism or other analytic focuses. Instead, Greek and Spanish activists reported that they had massive assemblies in widespread cities and their occupations grew, grew, grew, so that assemblies were up to 12,000, 15,000 – and then they shrunk, shrunk, shrunk, so that assemblies are now not meeting, or are meeting in the hundreds, or less.

Yet I heard, time after time, that nothing had diminished regarding the population’s rejection of unfolding injustices. The people remain fed up in huge numbers and still turn out massively for demonstrations, marches, and strikes. So why were most people who were rallying and marching no longer assembling? The reply I heard at every stop was that the decline of the assemblies wasn’t due to repression, or to people being co-opted, or to people being tricked or saddened by media distortion or dismissal. In fact, the assemblies shrinking wasn’t due to anything anyone else did to the assemblies, or said about them, or didn’t do to them, or didn’t say about them, activists repeatedly reported. Instead, they told me, the problem emanated from within.

For example, Greek and Spanish activists said that at assemblies initially people spoke with incredible passion of their plights and desires. Their voices often broke. Their hands shook. Each time someone rose to speak, something real, passionate, and persistent happened. It was enchanting and exciting. People were learning not only new facts and interpretations – and, indeed, that kind of learning was relatively modest – they were also learning new confidence and new modes of engaging with others. But after days and then weeks, the flavor of the talks shifted. From being new folks speaking passionately and recounting their reasons for being present and their hopes for their future by delivering deeply felt and quite unique stories, the speakers shifted toward being more seasoned or habituated folks, who lectured attendees with prepackaged views. The lines of speakers became overwhelmingly male. Their deliveries became overwhelmingly rehearsed. Listening to robotic repetition and frequent predictable and almost text-like ranting got boring and alienating. Sometimes it was even demeaning.

At the same time, new people, who were still far more prevalent, didn’t know what to do while they were occupying. We could assemble, they reported. We could talk and engage with each other. We could listen to others and sometimes debate a bit – the Greek and Spanish Assemblers reported – but, how long could we do that and feel it was worth the time we had to spend away from our families, friends, and jobs, not to mention from rooms with a roof?

As they first formed, the assemblies were invigorating and uplifting. We were creating a new community, I was told. We were making new friends. We were hearing from new people. We were enjoying an environment where dissent was the norm. But as days passed, and then weeks, it got too familiar. And it wasn’t obvious to folks what more they could do. There weren’t tasks to undertake. We weren’t being born anymore, we were dying. It was hard. For many it was impossible to keep learning and keep contributing. There was a will, but there was not a way. Folks didn’t have meaningful things to do that made them feel part of a worthy project. We felt, in time, only part of a mass of people.

After a time, many asked, why should I stay and listen to boring talks? Why should I be hugely uncomfortable and cut off from family and work, if I have nothing to do that is constructive, nothing that is empowering, nothing that furthers worthy aims? And so people started to attend less, and then to leave.

Another factor that was initially exciting but later became tedious, was seeking consensus. At first it was novel. It implied trust, which felt good. It implied shared intentions, which felt inspiring. But after awhile, seeking consensus became tortured, a time waster, and its reason for being the only decision making approach became steadily less compelling.

Why can’t we arrive at decisions which some people do not like and don’t even want to participate in? Why can’t we arrive at decisions, and have a strong minority that dissents, and then respect that minority, and even have it pursue other possibilities to see their worth? Why do we allow some small group to cause discussions to continue without end, turning off many from relating when the small group has no legitimate claim to greater influence than anyone else – save that our mode of decision making gives them a veto?

Folks recounted all these dynamics very graphically and movingly. No one said that people stopped participating in assemblies because of fear or the cops or depression over the newspapers. No one said people left because they had developed doubts about protest or resistance, much less about the condition of society. Instead, everyone I spoke with, and it was a lot of very committed people, told me participants left due to lacking good reasons to stay. The bottom line was that the assemblies got tedious and, ironically, even disempowering. Folks wondered, why must I be here every day and every night? The thought nagged. It led to legions moving on.

Making the Very Good Even Better
What is the solution, I asked, in each new city, and we discussed possible answers. Occupy but better yet, self manage, I was told. The former option is basically passive – the latter is active and yields tasks and opportunities to contribute.

Grow in numbers and awareness, but those who become well learned must stay in touch with new people, and always remember that new people’s involvement matters most. Otherwise old timers are getting more knowledgeable but also more aloof, and new people will not stay.
Why not have classes for learning? Why not have activities for creating? Why not have actions for winning changes? Always speak to the new people. Always speak from experience, from events, not from preconceived lines. Always involve yourself and new people in tangible and worthy activity. Make the options evident and easy to become involved with.

Of course some things can’t be solved at occupations themselves. Sleeping out is a young person’s passion – but not an option for everyone. In Dublin, this was particularly evident. So, while sleeping in an occupied space makes sense for some young or homeless folks, why not proactively take for granted that many other folks, particularly with families, will not and cannot sleep under the stars? Why not have a program of activities that returns people to their home locales for organizing purposes each night, or even for all but the explicit time of assembly meetings, perhaps?

Ideas that resonated in the many discussions, and that activists involved felt needed preponderant support, included: once an occupation has a lot of people, have subgroups initiate other occupations in more places, all federated together and providing one another mutual aid. In the most local, neighborhood occupations, visit every home. Talk with every resident. Involve as many neighbors as possible. Determine real felt needs. If what is most upsetting neighbors is housing concerns, daycare issues, traffic patterns, mutual aid, loneliness, whatever, try to act to address the problems.

Have occupations self manage and create innovations artistically, socially, and politically. Have occupations occupy indoors, not just outside. It is a leap, perhaps, but not much of one. In Barcelona and Madrid – some have tentatively begun occupying abandoned apartments and other buildings, preparatory, I believe, to inviting the homeless to dwell in them, as well as to using them for meetings and the like. In Valencia I was at a very fledgling university occupation, begun, indeed, after a talk. But to occupy buildings, especially institutions like universities or media, isn’t just a matter of call it, or tweet it, and they will come. It is a matter of go get them, inform them, inspire them, enlist them, empower them, and they will come.

In Greece and Spain, and to an extent the other venues I visited too, violence was another focus. All who I talked with agreed it was a suicidal approach on two counts. First, violence is the state’s main strength. Shifting the terms of conflict toward violence shifts it precisely where the state and elites want it – toward their strength. Second, violence distorts the project. It makes it inaccessible for many. It makes bystanders critical. It diminishes outreach, and outreach is the basis of all gains.

I have been to Greece a number of times, and in earlier trips this view was quite weak among young Greeks, who were more typically ready and eager to rumble. But now the non violence stance has growing traction in Greece. In Spain, from the start, it was predominant and Spanish activists have successfully avoided giving the state an excuse for violence, thus causing every act of violence by the state to reverberate to its disadvantage.

Forget about violence and rioting, develop campaigns emanating from occupations, which means, said activists in Spain, developing demands to fight for. Indeed, over and over activists involved asked about demands that could unite constituencies and which could be fought for in creative and participatory ways so that victories were possible which would really matter to people’s lives and enthusiasm and spur further struggle. They felt that while the open ended character of dissent worked fantastically initially, and was warranted while waiting for enough outreach so demands would represent a real constituency’s views, not just those of a few leaders, over time, one needs focus.

Some suggestions for demands that arose were welcome. Others less so. For example, everyone liked demanding big cuts in military spending and reinstatement and enlargement of funds for social programs. But what folks really liked was when that demand was explored and enlarged to include transforming the purposes of military bases that would otherwise be shrunk or closed due to budget cutting to instead stay open and do worthy public works such as building low income housing, first for base residents who would need and appreciate it, and then for the homeless.

And regarding the homeless, a demand that hit home was freezing foreclosures, returning homes, distributing vacant homes, housing the homeless – including the idea of enacting occupations to undertake these results directly, a process that has begun in Barcelona and Madrid which also have robust movements to block foreclosures.

Another approach that seemed to gather considerable support was to demand full employment. But that wasn’t all. Recognizing the lack of current demand for produced goods people realized a sensible full employment demand would require also reducing the work week by 10 – 25 percent, depending on the country’s unemployment rate. Of course if most people saw their incomes decline by a corresponding amount, they would face catastrophe, and thus the reduced hours demand has to be combined with a demand that most people would incur no loss of income. (Living wage policies and redistributionist progressive taxation would also be part of the mix.) Full employment additionally strengthens working people because when they all have jobs, the threat of being fired declines to near irrelevance. Winning this demand also means workers enjoy more leisure and higher hourly wages for those in need. Additional costs would have to be born by owners, and if they don’t agree, that’s fine – workers might want to occupy those factories, and then move to self manage them.

Another popular notion was going after media. One option that resonated as a possible campaign goal, even while obviously falling short of total transformation (though certainly on the way toward it), was demanding one or more new sections of mainstream newspapers, or shows, or whatever which would be devoted to, for example, labor dissent, or feminism, or peace, or ecology, and so on. Crucially, these would not be managed in the usual corporate fashion, but, instead, via self management of their participants under the umbrella of major labor, women’s, peace, or ecology organizations, for example.

In these exchanges, activists were imagining a worldwide campaign against mainstream media, against military spending, for low income quality housing, and for full employment including accompanying income redistribution and increased leisure. They envisioned these campaigns unifying protest into resistance and then unifying resistance into creative self management, even as each occupation also related to its own local concerns.

Self Managements!
Occupations – or what might come to be known, in time, as self managements – would occur in local neighborhoods and federate up to cities and beyond, but also at the entrances to, and perhaps even inside, mainstream media, and at military recruiting stations and bases, at government ministries and branches, and finally, one can envision, even at factories and other workplaces. And in such endeavors not everyone would have to sleep outdoors but everyone would have to give some of their time, resources, insight, and energy to aid one or another campaign of the overall project.

The revolution, so to speak, is not immediately at hand. In my youth we bellowed – “We want the world and we want it now!” It was fine as a rousing chant. But we need to also understand that it takes time, it takes sustained effort, traversing not weeks or months, but years.
Indeed, even with the incredible speed and ingenuity of current outbreaks of activism, there are undeniably pessimistic scenarios in which occupations wind down and then demos happen for a time but manage to win only minor if any gains until movement morbidity sets in. This is what the Greeks and Spaniards are trying to avoid. It is why they are beginning new kinds of occupations aimed at media, housing, universities, and at the transformation of budgets, and soon, perhaps at hiring and firing. Projects that are designed to enhance and widen participation in ways leading to massive involvement of masses of people – all knowing what they want and how they can contribute to attaining it.

There are, however, also optimistic scenarios in which occupations diversify and morph into self managing projects radiating out campaigns for change while also welcoming into sustained participation countless actors of all ages and orientations. In this picture, daily marches to support other campaigns in a city – like in New York currently – with growth in numbers and confidence, leads to empty buildings becoming residences and meeting places, to mainstream media businesses becoming targets for occupation, and likewise for universities, and other workplaces of all kinds. Simultaneously, local neighborhoods generate their own assemblies, again, like in New York, initiated by the residents who had been schooled in the earlier, larger, city-wide endeavors, and then local participants patiently and empathetically enter every house, every kitchen and living room, and elicit desires, and, in time, participation.

Paths Forward
Envisioning all this and much more, once people’s ambition is unleashed from the shackles of daily pessimism, was not hard for folks I talked with. The optimistic path is a scenario involving planting the seeds of the future in the present. It is a scenario that marshals energy and insights to building alternatives, but also winning gains now all fought for and implemented in ways that build desires and organization aimed at winning still more gains in the future.

We need a sense of proportion and pacing. The occupations now underway still involve only a small fraction, indeed a tiny fraction, of the people in pain and angry about it. To grow, the occupations need to very explicitly conceive themselves in ways that address immediate needs, are aimed at viable and worthy long term goals, and develop modes of participation that cause normal folks, enduring normal harsh conditions, to feel that giving their time makes good sense because it can eventually lead to a new social system with vastly better outcomes than those presently endured. Occupations that began in response to economic insanity need, as well, to broaden and adopt a more encompassing focus taking into account not only the economy, but also, and equally, matters of race, gender, age, ability, ecology, and war and peace. This is what makes a movement a threatening project able to induce capitulation from authorities afraid to make it grow even larger. It is what makes a movement worthy of winning, as well.

We need not only patience in the face of a long struggle, but also a sense of optimism and desire. The occupations are a start, a veritable firestorm of initiation, and they already have vastly wider support than their direct participation evidences. There is a possibility lurking in these events that is awesome in its potential implications. We should all be patient and keep our heads, yet we should all also realize that this may be a very special time, especially for young people, during which it is possible to make an indelible, enduring, and incredibly desirable mark on history.

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