There is a world of difference between the “occupation” of Wall Street and many other cities not only in the US but all over the world by unarmed protestors, and the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya by the US and NATO armed forces. But there is also a definite and clear, though not obvious connection between them.
Occupy movements and people’s protests the world over spring from deep resentment and despair over the state of their economies, the dire effects on the people’s lives and livelihood, the grim future ahead, and how governments and the economic, especially the financial elite, are passing on the crisis to the 99% while bailing out the 1% who caused the unprecedented crisis in the first place.
More significant and ominous, the Occupy movements are a clear signal that ordinary people who mostly prefer to stay away from protest actions have decided that enough is enough, they will not stand idly by while the 1% steal from them their lives and the future of their children. They will add their voice and their warm bodies to the burgeoning protest against The System.
Adding fuel to the fire, governments in the advanced capitalist countries are attacking working people’s fundamental rights to collective bargaining, unions and strikes as well as gutting established entitlements in social welfare achieved through decades of struggle for socio-economic reform. And now, police are brutally attacking and dispersing Occupy demonstrations in many parts of the US, the way they earlier did in the most troubled EU country, Greece.
It is becoming exceedingly clear for many of the world’s peoples that what is in crisis today is the system of global capitalism. With workers’ wages being pressed down while hi-tech production grows by leaps and bounds, capital finds less and less profitable productive ventures. Neoliberal policies designed to remove “fetters” to profit making paved the way to the abuse by big banks of unregulated financial derivatives such as the credit default swap scheme, inflating bubbles that burst one after the other in the past decade and peaking in the financial meltdown of 2008.
This crisis of capitalism, in its mature stage of monopoly capitalism or imperialism, has impelled US and NATO to launch wars of aggression and occupation against sovereign countries in resource-rich and geopolitically strategic regions of the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. Lenin’s oft-quoted statement, “Imperialism means war” acquires heightened relevance.
The US and the biggest NATO countries have resorted to military Keynesianism or the pouring of billions of dollars into the yawning jaws of their military-industrial complexes in order to stimulate their depressed economies. Revving up their respective war machines, they have infused jingoism and paranoia into their foreign policy frames and called it a “war against terror”.
All sorts of false accusations and fabricated charges — the possession of “weapons of mass destruction”, the harboring of Osama bin Laden and the “massacre” of civilians and unarmed protesters — were used by US and NATO to bomb the daylights out of the Iraqi, Afghan and Libyan peoples.
After “victory” they sent in occupation forces and installed puppet regimes to replace what had hitherto been sovereign governments and thus sparked fierce armed resistance from the aggressed peoples. Thus came to pass the recolonization of these benighted countries, the take-over of their oil and other natural resources as well as the installation of pseudo-democratic regimes ever ready to do the bidding of their imperialist masters.
A key imposition is the permanent stationing of US-NATO military bases and troops on their soil as staging ground for armed intervention in neighboring “hot spots” such as Syria, Iran and Pakistan.
Finally, after four years of shopping around in vain for a strategic base for its Africa Command (even its closest allies in the region had refused to be so demeaned in the eyes of fellow Africans), the US finally seized the most strategic and lucrative site — Libya.
Doubtless, the US and NATO have sent out the clear and unmistakable message that no sovereign country anywhere can challenge their military might and it is best that every one does their bidding.
The US can rally its allies to gang up on any leader who dare think otherwise, with a United Nations mandate to boot. It can invoke humanitarian objectives such as protecting civilians even as it indiscriminately bombards cities, kills and maims tens of thousands of civilians, destroys infrastructure and properties, and assassinates perceived enemies with absolute impunity.
The US and fellow imperialists Britain, France and Italy condemn attacks on protestors by sovereign leaders they have branded and stigmatized as despots, even as they send their own police and national guards to attack and arrest Occupy protestors and disperse peaceful demonstrations.
The initiators of the “Occupy Wall Street” battle cry had looked to the so-called Arab Spring for inspiration, believing that the time had come for the American people to occupy their own Tahrir Square, the epicenter of protests by the anti-Mubarak, pro-reform movement.
The parallels between the poor, backward and miserable conditions of the Egyptian people weighed by the yolk of US-backed authoritarianism and that of the American people — suddenly dispossessed of the security and comforts of middle class existence and the promise of the “American dream” while living under the oppressive rule of the US ruling elite — are all too real.
The peoples in North America and the European Union are waking up from the cultivated illusion that they are living in a “democracy” and have control over their lives; that their political leaders are answerable to them; and that the fruits of their labor are theirs to enjoy into their retirement years.
They are now taking to the streets, occupying the plazas, blockading banks, marching on parliaments and other symbols of ruling class power and leading hugely successful general strikes. They are having teach-ins and general assemblies where political activists, trade unionists, progressive intellectuals and artists and ordinary folk especially young people are discussing and learning the truth about their situation, what are the real causes of their misery, and who are the 1% against the 99%.
As the world watches both the Occupy movements and the occupation of invaded and vanquished countries, seemingly disparate happenings in a troubled world, the bigger picture emerges each time the smoke from the teargas and bombs momentarily clear.
The expanding arenas move inexorably closer to each other. The specter of bigger and wider confrontations looms in the future.
Published in Business World
11-12 November 2011