Street Action

by SAUL LANDAU

Politicians face a spreading revolt against Wall Street, financial tycoons, banks in general and an insensitive government that ignores people’s needs. The latest poll shows a radical lack of confidence for those running the government

A September 30 Gallup poll said 81 percent felt dissatisfied with the way those running country. Congress’ rating fell from the toilet seat into the toilet (15% approved of them). The public had similar low opinions on those aspiring for office. Force yourself to watch the Republican Presidential “debates”!

Most mass media sources didn’t even report the Gallup findings, or did so in low priority spots. Nor did they pick up on key specifics. New York Times columnist Charles Blow (Oct. 2) noted that the Gallup survey showed that “Americans sense that the federal government poses an immediate threat to individuals’ rights and freedoms is also at a new high.”

Imagine if Cuba or Iran released such a poll! See, we would say: “This is what people feel if they have no democracy.”

But we elect our government – well, less than 50% vote, but who wants to get picky? Well, how come we don’t like or approve of our officials or have any confidence they can run the country? Is there a hole in our democratic logic? Or is discontent with government here and in the rest of the world a signal that systems (economic and environmental) have raced beyond control of the current institutions and imaginations of political leaders?

When many angry tens of thousands hit the streets in Greece, Spain, England, Israel and Chile it is because they had no institutions through which to channel their grievances. No political party or union could negotiate for them; nor could their governments satisfy their basic demands: jobs, housing, free education, safe environment.

Neo liberalism’s failure stares us in the face as tens of millions of jobless despair; millions of homeless seek shelter; natural disasters challenge national capability to deal with them.

The American right blames third world foreigners, sins of abortion and homosexuality and calls for ever more guns and aggression, while slashing budgets meant for the poor: the new Christians. In Europe socialist parties have lost credibility by adopting neo liberalism; communists in the post-Soviet era have splintered and disintegrated into spattering sects in some of those countries.

In the United States, bereft of left parties, people began to demonstrate against the Wall Street criminals (bankers and brokers) whose behavior helped induce a massive collapse. In Manhattan, hundreds of protesters in painted white faces and costumed as corporate zombies rocked and rolled past the New York Stock Exchange. Many showed cameras their handfuls of phony money.

In Chicago, drummers marched through the financial district. Some pitched tents and in them made anti-banking and corporate greed signs, which they showed to gawkers in passing cars.

Instead of the New York mayor offering the imaginative demonstrators a chance for dialogue, he set the police on them, a good lesson for some middle class protestors who said the streets belonged to the people not the police – who pepper sprayed them.

The U.S. protests began earlier in the year, in Wisconsin where a right wing Governor declared fiscal war against the working people. The New York demonstrators demonstrated the same rebellious spirit, turning the Gallup survey results into action instead of griping to pollsters. Like the New Yorkers, young people in Boston, St. Louis, Kansas City, Portland Maine, Los Angeles and other places expressed political indignation over corporate greed. They marched on Federal Reserve banks and camped in parks. All share the anxieties of the wobbly economy, but the leaderless coming together against a common enemy – finance capital – with common values of decency and justice has held people together – including some Tea Partiers. They communicate through websites and streaming video and have invented democratic forms of assembly.

Like their counterparts in the other countries the U.S. demonstrators found no channels for their grievances. Gradually, liberal Democrats and progressive unions begin to support this movement – or moment – and call on others to join them. But can their messages seep into the ossified political membranes of established structures? Can their energy transform a dysfunctional political establishment into one that begins to transform the nation?

The financial sector lends to the corporate elite who impulsively try to reduce the socially necessary cost of labor, which makes life more desperate for the already poor. The elite immunize themselves against the rage over wage differentials of 325 to 1 for corporate executives and workers (See the Institute for Policy Studies report). They ignore pleas for environmental sanity, or embrace denial on climate change.

Without lobbyists the American public had no voice – until it hit the streets. Politicians who throw their weight around for epical interests demonstrate their national concern by “supporting our troops – after 10 years of no progress in Afghanistan and destroying Iraq – and love our country.

Mostly, they woo corporate funders to insure their reelection, while the executive elite hide behind the biblical phrase “National Security,” which the President imposed to justify assassinating a U.S. citizen (al-Awlaki) and denying basic rights to prisoners suspected of terrorism – and harboring anti-Castro terrorists in Miami. The “indignants” remain on The Street. Has the American Spring arrived in the fall?

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP plays Nov 2 at Pomona College and Nov. 9 at University of North Carolina. For DVDs go to cinemalibrestore.com. Counterpunch publiShed his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD

Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender.

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