Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Successful Outcome for #OWS?

Someone who is participating actively in the Occupy movement, who has been doing so since the early days in Liberty Park in NYC, and whose judgement I respect and trust, asked me via Twitter yesterday: "Here's a question for you: what would an outcome for this look like? What would you consider a success?"

He was referring to the Occupy movements as a whole in asking the above questions, and he was referencing the blog post I published on Sunday, Oct. 23rd: "#OWS Now In 1500 Cities/Towns In US--Will It Be Enough?".

My answer is simple enough: a complete reconstruction of the American socioeconomic and political systems.

To flesh that answer out a bit, I mean the reconstruction of the American socioeconomic system, which would include the elimination not of capitalism per se, but the ending of predatory capitalism, of crony capitalism, and of the American corporatocracy, the last of which issues also falls under the reconstruction of the American political system since the two have become inextricably linked. As for the reconstruction of the American political system, I believe that assuming the retention of the present Constitution as a starting point, several constitutional amendments would be required. Among these would be an amendment which would effectively and for all time reverse the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous decision in Citizens United vs. FEC, another amendment which would set term limits for members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, another amendment which would end lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary (including the SCOTUS) and replace those judicial appointments with appointments of specified duration, another amendment which would end the pernicious, dangerous, and undemocratic practice of organized lobbying, an amendment which would forbid all forms of paid political advertising, and at least one further amendment which would subject all elected (and some appointed) federal officials including the presidency, members of Congress, and justices of the Supreme Court to the process of recall elections under set terms and conditions.

Obviously, there isn't a chance in hell that all of those issues, perhaps even any of them, will ever be addressed--not in the lifetimes of those now protesting in the streets of America's cities and towns, and probably not in the lives even of their great-great-great grandchildren. But my friend (and I do think of this man in that way, although we have never met and probably never will) didn't ask me for a realistic appraisal of the possible, only what I would consider a "success."

"But you didn't mention ending America's wars!" someone reading this post might point out hotly. No, I didn't, because if the American people actually controlled their own government, American empire-building and military interventionism/adventurism would stop in about ten seconds, and U.S. troops overseas would be boarding ships and planes for the trip home beginning in twenty-four hours or less.

If you are reading this and asking "Why not all or any of the above?" the answer, as I've stated in this blog numerous times before, is even simpler than my original answer to my friend's questions. Those who currently hold the strings of power in their hands in the United States, including the elected officials of either party not to mention the corporate CEOs and boards of directors who pull their strings, are not about to let power slip out of their hands. In fact, in all of human history, no entrenched socioeconomic/political system has ever voluntarily relinquished its power and authority; and say what they will, pretend to "understand" or "sympathize with" today's Occupy protesters as much as they may, those men and women who run the United States of America today will prove no different when push comes to shove.

"Ah, but what about Tahir Square?" you may ask. Didn't the people of Egypt, or at least the people of Cairo, manage to force basic regime change in a country which, unlike the United States, had no effective democratic traditions in the first place? Yes, they did, but the protesters in Cairo were in Egypt's capital city, and they numbered not thousands but tens or even hundreds of thousands. And even then, they were not successful until the Egyptian military decided that their best bet was to dump their allegiance to Hosni Mubarak and his regime and to go over to the side of the protesters instead. The same was true in Tunisia. Protesters there were only successful when the local gendarmerie and military dumped their former employer in favor of those who were protesting the status quo. Can anyone imagine a similar situation occurring in the United States? In Washington, D.C.? I can't.

The late, former revolutionary and Chinese leader Mao Zhedong once observed that, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," and he wasn't wrong, although one might well generalize the former Chairman's observation to read that political power grows out of the control of armed force, for all the fantasy Americans are still taught today in school that "government derives from the consent of the governed."

In the United States, "armed force" means police departments and active members of the United States military. As of today, in cities and towns across the country, American governors, mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, and other authorities are demonstrating clearly that, constitutional rights notwithstanding, they have no hesitation in using the armed forces available to them in the form of militarized police departments to sweep up protests and protesters whose goings-on they find threatening or even simply inconvenient, nor is such repression occurring only in areas where elected officials are self-proclaimed "conservatives." And this when the Occupy protests are little more than a month old. Already the forces of repression are trampling constitutional rights which Americans have taken for granted for centuries, and they've just barely begun warming up.

As the repression builds, will more Americans (in tens or hundreds of thousands, or even in the millions) be motivated to come out into the streets and take an active part? I would't care to bet on it.

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