Subject: ON BUSINESS AS ``UNUSUAL`` : FROM THE CENTER FOR THE
ADVANCEDSTUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, GRENOBLE,
8 December 2003
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Our Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements is still in the process of organizing our 3rd international conference for next spring. Last June we contacted Michael Moore, Jose Bové, and Jim Hightower, and other specialists on American institutions and social movements, asking them to come to Grenoble in April to participate in a "townmeeting" discussion of : The Contemporary State of American Political Culture. In preparation for this international conference, our Research Center has organized a team of translators who are in the process of preparing for publication in France Jim Hightower's important book, Thieves in High Places, They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back.
Meanwhile, our Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements is sharing with you an excerpt from the new book by American humanist Michael Moore, Dude, Where is Our Country? (see item A.), in which he gives a chilling critique of a capitalist society in crisis, i.e. contemporary America.
Item B. is an article describing the forces of order that confronted mass demonstations in Miami, Florida, and which was sent to us by revolutionary socialist, Maria Lagos, from Chicago, Illinois.
And finally, item C., sent to us by Kathleen Ross-Allee, from
Hollywood, California, concerns the new mobilization against a counteroffensive
attack by the National Rifle Association, whose influence in Washington
D.C., by all accounts, is growing.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
from Michael Moore
copyright September 2003
Perhaps the biggest success in the War on Terror has been its ability to distract the nation form the Corporate War on Us. In the two years since the attacks on 9/11, American businesses have been on a puch-drunk rampage that has left millions of average Americans with their savings gone, their pensions looted, their hopes for a comfortable future for their families diminished or extinguished. The business bandits (and their government accomplices) who have wrecked our economy have tried to blame it on the terrorists, they have tried to blame it on Clinton, and they have tried to blame it on us. ...
But, in fact, the wholesale destruction of our economic future is based solely on the greed of the corporate mujahedeen. There is a master plan, my friends, each company has one, and the sooner you can get over not wanting to believe it, or worrying that to believe it puts you in the ranks of the nutters who thrive on conspiracy theories, then the sooner we have a chance of stopping them. Their singular goal is to take enough control over our lives so that, in the end, we'll he pledging allegiance, not to a flag or some airy notions of freedom and democracy, but to the dictates of Citigroup,Exxon, Nike, GE, GM, P&G, and Philip Morris. It is their executives who now call the shots, and You can go Vote and protest and cheat the IRS all you want to get back at them, hut face it: You are no longer in charge. You know it and they know it, and all that remains is the day when it will be codified onto a piece of paper; the Declaration of the Corporate States of America.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women and their underaged children are created equally to serve the Corporation, to provide its labor without question, to accept whatever remuneration without complaint, and to consume its products without thought. In turn, the Corporation will provide for the common good, Secure the defense of the nation, and receive the bulk of the taxes taken from the people .
It doesn't really sound that absurd anymore, does it? The takeover has happened right under our noses. We've been force-fed some mighty powerful "drugs" to keep us quiet while we're being mugged by this lawless gang of CEOs. One of these drugs is called fear and the other is called Horatio Alger
The fear drug works like this: You are repeatedly told that bad, Scary people are going to kill you, so place all your trust in us, your corporate leaders, and we will protect you. But since we know what's best, don't question us if we want you to foot the bill for our tax cut, or if we decide to slash your health benefits or jack up the cost of buying a home. And if you don't shut up and toe the line and work your ass off, we will sack you-and then just try to find a new job in this economy, punk!
That shit is so Scary, of course we do what we are told, mind our p's and q's in Our dreary cubicles, and fly our little Amen can flags to show that yes, boss, we believe in your War on Terror.
The other drug is nicer It's first prescribed to us as children in the form of a fairy tale-but a fairy tale that can actually come true! It's the Horatio Alger myth. Alger was one of the most popular American writers of the late 18OOs (one of his first books, for boys, was called Ragged Dick). Alger's stories featured characters from impoverished backgrounds who, through pluck and determination and hard work, were able to make huge successes of themselves in this land of boundless opportunity. The message was that anyone can make it in America, and make it big.
We're addicted to this happy rags-to-riches myth in this country. People elsewhere in other industrialized democracies are content to make a good enough living to pay their bills and raise their families. Few have a cutthroat desire to strike it rich. If they have a job that lets them go home after seven or eight hours of work and then gives them the standard four to eight weeks of paid vacation every year, they're relatively happy. And with their governments providing health care, good free schools, and a guaranteed pension to live well in old age, they're even happier.
Sure, some of them may fantasize about making a ton more money, but most people outside the U.S. don't live their lives based on fairy tales. They live in reality, where there are only going to be a few rich people, and you are not going to be one of them. So get used to it.
Of course, rich people in those countries are very careful not to upset the balance. Even though there are greedy bastards among them, they've got some limits placed on them. In the manufacturing Sector, for example, British CEOs make twenty-four times as much as their average workers-the widest gap in Europe. German CEOs only make fifteen times more than their employees, while Swedish CEOs get thirteen times as much. But here in the U.S., the average CEO makes 411 times the salaries of their blue-collar workers. Wealthy Europeans pay up to 65 percent in taxes and they know better than to bitch too loud about it or the people will make them fork over even more.
In the United States, we are afraid to sock it to them. We hate to put our CEOs in prison when they break the law. We are more than happy to cut their taxes even as ours go up!
Why is this? Because we drank the Kool-Aid. We bought into the drug, the lie that we, too, could some day be rich. So we don't want to do anything that could harm us on that day we end up millionaires. The American carrot is dangled in front of us all our lives and we believe that we are almost within reach of making it.
It's so believable because we have seen it come true. A person who comes from nothing goes on to strike it rich. There are more millionaires now than ever before. This increase in the number of millionaires has served a very useful function for the rich because it means in every community there's at least one person prancing around as the rags-to-riches poster child, conveying the not-so-subtle message: "SEE! I MADE IT! YOU CAN, TOO!!"
It is this seductive myth that led so many millions of working people to become investors in the stock market in the 1990s. They saw how rich the rich got in the 1980s and thought, hey, this could happen to me!
The wealthy did everything they could to encourage this attitude. Understand that in 1980, only 20 percent of Americans owned a share of stock. Wall Street was the rich man's game and it was off limits to the average Joe and Jane. And for good reason-the average person saw it for what it was, a game of risk, and when you are trying to save every dollar so you can send the kids to college, games of chance are not where you place your hard-earned money.
Near the end of the eighties, though, the rich were pretty much
tapped out with their excess profits and could not figure out how to make the market keep growing. I don't know if it was the brainstorm of one genius at a brokerage firm or the smooth conspiracy of all the well heeled, but the game became, "Hey, let's convince the middle class to give us their money and we can get even richer!"
Suddenly, it seemed like everyone I knew jumped on the stock market bandwagon, putting their money in mutual funds or opening up 401 (k)s. They let their unions invest all their pension money in stocks. Story after story ran in the media about how everyday, working people were going to be able to retire as near-millionaires! It was like a fever that infected everyone. No one wanted to be left behind. Workers immediately cashed their paychecks and called their broker to buy more stocks. Their broker! Ooh, it felt so good... after working your ass off all week at some miserable, thankless job, you could still feel that you were a step ahead, and a head above, because you had your own personal broker! Just like the rich man!
Soon, you didn't even want to be paid in cash. Pay me in stock! Put it in my 401(k)! Call my broker!
Then, each night, you'd pore over the stock charts in the newspaper as one of the all-finance-news-all-the-time cable channels blared in the background. You bought computer programs to map out your strategy. There were ups and downs but mostly ups, lots of ups, and you could hear yourself saying, "My stock's up 120 percent! My worth has tripled!" You eased the pain of daily living imagining the retirement villa you would buy some day or the Sports car you could buy tomorrow if you wanted to cash out now. No, don't cash out! It's only going to go higher! Stay in for the long haul! Easy Street, here I come!
But it was a sham. It was all a ruse concocted by the corporate Powers-that-be who never had any intention of letting you into their club. They just needed your money to take them to that next level, the one that insulates them from ever having to actually work for a living. They knew the Big Boom of the 1990s couldn't last, so they needed your money to artificially inflate the value of their companies so their stocks would reach such a phantasmal price that, when it was time to cash out, they would be set for life, no matter how bad the economy got.
And that's what happened. While the average sucker was listening to all the blowhards on CNBC tell him that he should buy even more stock, the ultrarich were quietly getting out of the market, selling off the stocks of their own company first. At the same time they were telling the public-and their own loyal employees-that they should invest even more in the company because forecasters were predicting even more growth, the executives were dumping their own stocks as fast as they could.
In September 2002, Fortune magazine released a staggering list of these corporate crooks who made off like bandits while their company's stock prices had dropped 75 percent or more between 1999 and 2002. They knew the downturn was coming, so these executives secretly cashed in while their own employees and common shareholders either bought up more stock ("Look, honey, we can get GM now really cheap!") or held on to their rapidly depleting "worth" in the hopes that it would bounce back ("It has to! It always has before! They say you have to be in the market for the long haul!").
At the top of the list of these evildoers was Qwest Communications. At its peak, Qwest shares traded at nearly $40. Three years later the same shares were worth $1. Over that period, Qwest's director; Phil Anschutz, and its former CEO, Joe Nacchio, and the other officers made off with $2.26 billion-simply by selling out before the price hit rock bottom. My corporate overlords here at AOL Time Warner stuffed their pockets with $1.79 billion. Bill Joy and Ed Zander and their friends at Sun Microsystems? $1.03 billion. Charles Schwab of, yes, Charles Schwab, took home just Over $350 million all by himself. The list goes on and on and covers every sector of the economy.
With their man Bush in the White House and the economy pushed about as far as it could go, the market took a wallop. It was at first massaged with that old chestnut that "the market is cyclical-don't take your money out, folks, it will come back up, just as it always does." And so the average investor stayed in, listening to all the rotten advice. And the market kept going down, down, down-so low that you looked insane if you took your money out. It HAD to have bottomed out by now, so just hang tight. And then it just went down further, and before you knew it, your money was gone, gone, gone.
Over four trillion dollars was lost in the stock market. Another trillion dollars in pension funds and university endowments is now no longer there.
But here's what's still here: rich people. They are still with us and
they are doing better than ever. They laughed all the way to the Swiss
bank over the scam of the millennium. They pulled it off, mostly legally,
and if they bent the law here and there, no problem, there aren't more
than a small handful of them behind bars as I write this. The rest, they're
on the private beach with the well-groomed sand.
Cuckoo Nutty World of Business
If CEOs whose behavior has raised questions of criminal wrongdoing were not in business, they would be considered sociopaths, a psychoanalyst contends.
"Analyzed as individuals, they might easily be seen as sociopathic," Kenneth Eisold, president of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations, said of business executives such as Kenneth Lay of Enron end Dennis Koziowaki of ~yco in an address to psychiatrists. "But within the context of a group that never challenges them, their unethical behavior becomes normative-they have no internal conflict."
Because of a willingness to ignore ethical issues during the economic boom of the 1990s, when many Americans profited from the stock market, "we got the CEOs we deserved," Eisold said.
So, here's my question: After fleecing the American public and destroying the American dream for most working people, how is it that, instead of being drawn and quartered and hung at dawn at the city gates, the rich got a big wet kiss from Congress in the form of a record tax break, and no one says a word? How can that be?
I think it's because we're still addicted to the Horatio Alger fantasy drug. Despite all the damage and all the evidence to the contrary, the average American still wants to hang on to this belief that maybe, just maybe, he or she (mostly he) just might make it big after all. So don't attack the rich man, because one day that rich man may be me!
Listen, friends, you have to face the truth: You are never going to be rich. The chance of that happening is about one in a million. Not only are you never going to be rich, but you are going to have to live the rest of your life busting your butt just to pay the cable bill and the music and art classes for your kid at the public school where they used to be free.
And it is only going to get worse. Whatever benefits you may have now are going to get whittled down to nothing. Forget about a pension, forget about Social Security, forget about your kids taking care of you when you get old because they are barely going to have the money to take care of themselves. And don't even think about taking a vacation, because odds are your job won't be there when you get back. You are expendable, you have no rights, and, by the way, "what's a union?"
I know, many of you don't think it's that bleak. Sure, times may be tough, but you think you'll survive. You'll be that one person who somehow escapes the madness. You are not going to give up the dream of some day having your slice of the pie. In fact, some of you believe the whole pie might some day be yours.
I have some news for you: You're not even going to get to lick the plate. The system is rigged in favor of the few, and your name is not among them, not now and not even It's rigged so well that it dupes many otherwise decent, sensible, hard-working people into believing that it works for them, too. It holds the carrot so close to their faces that they can smell it. And by promising that one day they will be able to eat the carrot, the system drafts an army of consumers and taxpayers who gladly, passionately, fight for the rights of the rich, whether it means giving them billions in tax breaks while they send their own children into dilapidated schools, or whether it means sending those children off to die in wars to protect the rich man's oil. Yes, that's right: The workers/consumers will even sacrifice the lives of their own flesh and blood if it means keeping the rich fat and happy because the rich have promised them that some day they can join them at the table!
But that day never comes, and by the time the working stiff has this figured out, he's in an old-age home spewing a lot of bitter mumbo jumbo about authority and taking it out on the aide who is just trying to empty his sorry bedpan. There might have been a more humane way to spend his final days, but the money that would have financed that was spent by him on all that fantastic AOL Time Warner and WorldCom stock-and the rest was spent by the government on that outer space weapons system that never did quite seem to work.
If you are still clinging to the belief that not all of Corporate America is that bad, consider these three examples of what our good captains of industry have been up to of late.
First, are you aware that your company may have taken a life insurance policy out on you? Oh, how nice of them, you say? Yeah, here's how nice it is:
During the past twenty years, companies including Disney, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Dow Chemical, JP Morgan Chase, and WalMart have been secretly taking out life insurance policies on their low- and mid-level employees and then naming themselves-the Corporation-as the beneficiary! That's right: When you die, the company-not your survivors-gets to cash in. If you die on the job, all the better, as most life insurance policies are geared to pay out more when someone dies young. And if you live to a ripe old age, even long after you've left the company, the company still gets to collect on your death. The money does not go to help your grieving relatives through hard times or to pay for the funeral and burial; it goes to the corporate executives. And regardless of when you croak, the company is able to borrow against the policy and deduct the interest from its corporate taxes.
Many of these companies have set up a system for the money to go to pay for executive bonuses, cars, homes, trips to the Caribbean. Your death goes to helping make your boss a very happy man sitting in his Jacuzzi on St. Barts.
And what does Corporate America privately call this special form of
Dead Peasants Insurance.
That's right. "Dead Peasants." Because that's what you are to them-peasants. And you are sometimes worth more to them dead than alive. (It's also sometimes referred to as "Dead Janitors" insurance.)
When I read about this in The Wall Street Journal last year, I thought I had mistakenly picked up one of those parody versions of that newspaper But, no, this was the real deal, and the writers, Ellen Schultz and Theo Francis, told some heartbreaking stories of employees who died and whose families could have used the money.
They wrote of a man who died at twenty-nine of complications of AIDS, who had no life insurance of his own. His family received no death benefits, but CM Holdings, the parent company of the music store where he worked, collected $339,302 at his death.
Another CM Holdings policy was taken out on an administrative assistant who earned $21,000 a year, who died from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). According to the Journal story, the company turned down a request from her grown children, who cared for her during her illness, to help buy a $5,000 wheelchair so they could take their mother to church. When the woman died in 1998 the company received a payout of $180,000.
Some of the companies-WalMart among them-have stopped the practice. Some states have enacted laws banning "Dead Peas-ants policies, and others are considering similar actions. And numerous lawsuits have been filed against companies by survivors of deceased employees seeking to be named the beneficiaries of the policies. But, for now, the policies continue at many companies. Is yours one of them? You might want to find out. It's good to know that, after you die, your corpse could in fact mean a new Porsche for the chairman.
Still not convinced that the rich could care less about you? Here's another example of just how little you mean to your corporate masters once they've got your vote and your obedience. Congress is considering a bill that will let companies put less money into your pension funds if you work in a blue-collar job because, they say, as a result of the filthy, unsafe working conditions they've created for you, you aren't going to live that long anyway. So companies don't need to really be planning to give you all your retirement money because, heck, you ain't going to be around to use it! You'll be dead because they didn't install enough ventilation or they made you work so hard you'll be lucky if you're not coughing up blood by the time you're fifty-eight. So why make them set aside all this pension money for you?
What's even more disgusting about this legislation is that it is backed
by unions such as the UAW who want to see the pension money used now in
the form of higher wages for their workers. But the numbers don't add up:
Blue-collar workers who are union members actually live longer than nonunion
industrial workers because they are paid better and have good health benefits.
People with more money who have access to health care tend to stick
around longer in this life and thus need more, not less, money put into pensions to support them during their lengthy retirements.
The third example of how expendable you are comes from our good friends in the Bush administration's Environmental Protection Agency. They have a plan called the "Senior Death Discount." Corporate polluters have complained for a long time about how the government figures the actual cost, in human lives, of their poisoning of the air and water The EPA develops its regulations-and establishes fines-in part by calculating how many people will die as a result of the pollution. So, they came up with a number for the actual "worth" of a human life-$3.7 million. (See, you are worth millions, after all!)
But the business community complained. They said, "No way are all these schmucks worth nearly $4 million!" So, the Bush EPA came up with a neat little math trick: They said, okay, in order to reduce your costs and your efforts to clean up your pollution, we'll now say that anyone over seventy is only worth $2.3 million. After all, they're almost finished anyway, and they aren't producing anything for you anymore, so their lives just aren't worth as much.
That's when critics coined the policy the "Senior Death Discount." The elderly protested, and EPA Director Christie Whitman claimed the agency would stop using the calculation. And then she resigned.
So, you slaved your life away, you worked long hours, you gave everything you had to help your company earn record profits. When you went into the voting booth you voted for their Republican (and Democratic) candidates just like they asked you to -and after you retired, this is the thanks you got. A senior discount-just at the movies or at McDonald's, but on your very life.
Look, I don't know how to put it any gentler than to say that these bastards who run our country are a bunch of conniving, thieving, smug pricks who need to be brought down and removed and replaced with a whole new system that we control. That is what Democracy is supposed to be about-we, the people, in f**** charge. What happened to us? Perhaps we never were really in charge and those words just sounded good at Independence Hall on that sweltering day in 1776. Maybe if the Founding Fathers had air conditioning and a corporate jet they never would have written such a foolish thing. But they did, and that's what we're left to work with.
So how did we let the bad people win out, the ones who would've been blowing George III back then if they had half a chance? When are we going to get this country and its economy in our hands, electing representatives who will split the pie fairly and see that no one gets more than their fair share?
Instead, what we have are sad realities like this one: the two bosom
buddies, George W. Bush (CEO of America), and Kenneth Lay (Chairman of
Enron, the seventh largest company in the U.S.). Before its collapse, Houston-based
Enron was raking in a monstrous $100 billion a year; mostly by trading
contracts for commodities including oil, gas and electricity around the
world. The increasingly deregulated energy market was a gold mine for the
company, which was known for aggressive deal-making. . . . .
from Maria Lagos :
Resistance in Occupied Miami
Thousands Protest the FTAA and Capitalist Globalization
by Osage Bell
Revolutionary Worker #1221, November 30, 2003, posted at rwor.org
During the week of November 17, officials from 34 countries of the Western Hemisphere--from Canada to Chile (excluding Cuba)--met in Miami, Florida to discuss the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). Like other gatherings of international exploiters in different cities of the world in recent years, this FTAA event was met with mass resistance. Thousands of protesters from all over the U.S. and different countries of the world gathered to take a stand against the FTAA and capitalist globalization. A slogan during the week of protests captured the spirit of many: "The FTAA was born here, so let's bury it here!"
Initiated in Miami in the mid-1990s under U.S. President Clinton's direction, the FTAA is aimed at further expanding U.S. imperialism's ability to exploit all of Latin America. Some people call FTAA "NAFTA on steroids." The North American Free Trade Agreement, which began in 1994, has devastated the lives of millions of people in Mexico, especially the peasants. The FTAA is designed to enable U.S. imperialism to exploit all of Latin America even more deeply. (For background on the FTAA, see accompanying sidebar.)
The anti-FTAA protesters faced unprecedented levels of repression and weapons used by the police. The city even passed a temporary ordinance that made things like two people walking down a street together an illegal "parade." The Miami mayor touted these police measures as blueprints for Bush's Department of Homeland Security. One indication of the attention that top levels of the U.S. power structure paid to the FTAA summit is that in the recent $87 billion bill to finance the ongoing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress included $8.5 million for security in Miami for the meeting.
No doubt Miami was a testing ground for what the ruling class is planning in order to stifle dissent at future gatherings like the Republican and Democratic conventions next year. In total, the Miami police made over 200 arrests during the week--including the day after the major protests when riot police surrounded, brutalized, and arrested over 70 people who had gathered outside the jail to protest the treatment of those already arrested.
When I arrived, the area of downtown Miami where the FTAA was going to meet was completely surrounded by a tall black metal fence. Cops of various kinds were everywhere--parked up on curbs, dressed in riot gear walking through shopping centers, undercovers, and those on horses and bikes.
The rest of downtown was basically deserted. For days, the police and media had been talking about the "horrors of Seattle"--referring to the huge protests that shut down the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting. So many businesses closed out of fear. In the evenings, downtown had a unique feel to it. If you've ever seen the movie The Handmaid's Tale (based on the novel by Margaret Atwood), you can imagine. It was like a bleak future where the cities are lifeless wastelands inhabited only by fascist security forces and the few others who manage to scurry around them strictly by permission. Of course, here in Miami (as in the book/movie), there are daring subversive elements.
One reason for the deserted state of the downtown area was that many businesses are boarded up and abandoned. Another reason was the leap in repression. Each night there were roadblocks and sirens and helicopters. An anti-war protester I know from Philly said, "Can you imagine living in a place like this 24/7?" She pointed out that people in many place of the world do live in similar situations: "It's like this--with U.S. troops on every corner, harassing people."
But in the days after the intense protests and clashes with the police, I was with some Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade members and other youth when we went through the Black neighborhood of Overtown. When people in the neighborhood saw us, they raised their fists in solidarity. One person greeted us by saying, "Fuc* the police!" One family called us over and gave us some hamburgers. We talked about the police--about how they attacked the protesters and how we see them as enforcers of an oppressive system. One of these folks told us, "You all are talkin like you're Black." The police brutality against the protesters was obviously no aberration--people in oppressed communities face it on the daily. Clearly, not all of Miami had feared our presence.
The big events of the week started off on Tuesday, November 18. Root Cause, a coalition of south Florida-based organizations--like the Miami Workers Center, Power U Center for Social Change, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (farm workers who are struggling to organize--see RW #1137), and other activists--were culminating a 34-mile People's March from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. The march stopped at the INS Miami office and the local Taco Bell to protest the injustices of U.S. immigration policy and Taco Bell's continued exploitation of farmworkers. The march highlighted the disastrous impact of capitalist free trade on poor and oppressed communities throughout the Americas.
On Wednesday night, a free concert was held by the Tell the Truth tour in solidarity with the anti- FTAA protesters. Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, Steve Earl, Boots from the Coup, and Lester Chambers were the lead performers. The tour has been traveling around the country.
The air was a lot cooler that night. Goose bumps decorated our skin, and it began to rain. The show was held in an amphitheatre in the shadow of the InterContinental Hotel where the capitalists were meeting to decide the hemisphere's fate. Someone cried out from the stage, "If all this [FTAA] stuff is in our best interests, then why do they need to barricade themselves in? Why do they need the fences and the cops?"
The musicians were simply amazing. They started off with Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" and ended the evening with a version of the Chamber Brothers' "Time Has Come Today." In between, they shared a righteous defiance against the way the world is set up, as well as a real appreciation for all those who fight against that. Their performances lifted the spirits and gave heart to many in the crowd.
The last performers of the night--not part of the Truth Tour--was Dead Prez. Thousands of youth were suddenly standing on the benches with their fists in the air." This night was a great way to get people amped for the next day--the day of the main march and direct action.
Thursday began with a rush of activity as early as 7 a.m. Youth marched to the fence for direct action and rowdy protest. Hundreds were surrounded by the police--shoved, beaten with batons, and electrocuted with tasers. Police also used a concussion grenade.
The youth fought back fearlessly, creating shields from discarded wood and using their arms and slingshots to hurl back the rubber bullets and tear gas that the cops shot at them. Bonfires were set in the streets. The scene was reminiscent of Palestine. These youth dared to proclaim that another world is possible and that it is worth risking whatever the police may do to go up against the horrors promised by the FTAA.
In the afternoon, thousands of people gathered at the Bayfront Park, just blocks from the police fence, for a permitted rally by the AFL-CIO and other labor unions. Estimates of the crowd ranged from around 10,000 to 20,000.
Some protesters were dressed like dolphins or flowers or even a butterfly--representing their defense of earth's ecology. There were thousands of youth dressed in black, with padding under their clothes and bandanas soaked in vinegar around their faces for protection. The Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade came from different cities. There were activists from Students Against Sweatshops, the Green Party, etc. Food Not Bombs and Radical Cheerleaders provided actual and "spiritual" sustenance.
Battalions of cops were on every side of the park area, trying to both instigate and intimidate. In addition to pepper-spray guns, rubber bullet guns, tear gas, and tasers, they had a few armed personnel carriers--one of which had a black-saucer/satellite-type object on the roof. I did not know what it was or what it did.
The labor march was lively and warmly received by the few local residents we saw. The streets that had been silent and emptied suddenly vibrated with echoes of our voices and footsteps. Police dressed like Darth Vadar were all around us--staring and looking like they wanted to get it on.
At the end, people hung out in the park, waiting for musicians to perform, and some youth had run over to take down a part of the fence. That's when the police started to move in. A solid line of them marched forward, pointing various weapons directly at people, forcing everyone from the park. Hundreds of us ran and walked down one side street--and noticed that bike cops were closing in. Then police behind us started randomly and massively shooting rubber bullets and other projectiles into the crowds. Some people got hit seven or eight times. Some were severely injured--bleeding from their ears or head--but continued their resistance. Even when injured, some of the fiercest fighters continued to put themselves on the front lines to keep the cops back and protect others.
Police even attacked people who were recovering from their injuries in the volunteer Wellness Center. They opened the door and pepper-sprayed the entire space. Clearly the police weren't acting in "self-defense." The authorities were trying to send a message that if you go up against them, they will put a stranglehold on you. Everywhere we looked, more and more cops advanced toward us-- some slowly and menacingly and others at a fast clip.
But what really shined through were the fearlessness and creative strength of the protesters, as well as their heart and care for each other. People kept coming toward us, telling us which ways were safe. Medics came from all over to make sure everyone was okay. Food Not Bombs kids on their bikes passed out oranges and water to people running from tear gas and low-flying helicopters, as well as food to the homeless who were in the area. These are youth who couldn't live with themselves if they didn't cause a ruckus against the crimes the U.S. is commiting all over the world. And I can really imagine how all this creativity, fearlessness, and selflessness could be further strengthened and unleashed in a struggle to change the world in a fundamental way through revolution.
Dozens of people were arrested that day--including one lawyer, Marc Steier, who was acting as a legal observer. Ironically, he was charged with "obstruction of justice."
Despite all the massive police preparations of the ruling class, their TV and newspapers could not say that the FTAA met unopposed in Miami.
Leading up to the week and even during the protests, Miami police officials declared over and over that they respected people's right to protest--as long as people stayed within acceptable boundaries. What happened in Miami shows that under this system's democracy, as soon as people step outside the acceptable boundaries set up by those in power, the velvet glove comes off the iron fist of the state. And they come down hard with their police, courts, and laws. Here, and around the world, the capitalist rulers cannot allow their system and their institutions to be challenged in any fundamental way. As Miami showed, often the police will even attack protesters who do stay within the supposedly acceptable confines of the system.
From Miami, many of the activists planned to go to Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the School of the Americas (SOA). The SOA--or the School of Assassins, as many call it--trains soliders and police from pro-U.S. regimes throughout Latin America. The school says that part of its mission is "protecting the supply of strategic natural resources and access to markets" in the Western Hemisphere.
The Miami anti-FTAA protests come just two months after defiant protests against the WTO in Cancun, Mexico--where people also went up against serious police attacks. In Fortress Miami, people again stood fearlessly in the face of brutality and repression, continuing to globalize resistance.
Everywhere these institutions of capital go in the world, they are being met by opposition and resistance. These clashes highlight the confrontation of two opposing forces--those who control this dying and decrepit system of global exploitation and oppression, and those who are determined to fight for a different future.
from Kathleen Ross-Allee :
Subject: nra blacklist-great music, hilarious!
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 2003
I thought you might enjoy watching this.........
Francis McCollum Feeley
Research Center Director <http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ciesimsa>
and Professor of North American Studies