June 20, 2013
Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges on Class Struggle
Posted on Nov 1, 2011
Robert Scheer: Well, one good sign is that in Oakland last night we saw nurses turn out, and members of SEIU service employees union, to show support. But what I’m wondering is, what is the next stage? And that might be an irritating question, but it’s very difficult to sustain this kind of “occupy”; people get tired; where does it go?
Chris Hedges: We never know where movements go. And all of the movements I’ve covered—I covered all of the revolutions in Eastern Europe; all of the street demonstrations that brought down Slobodan Miloševic in Belgrade; the two Palestinian uprisings. You don’t know. The movements have a kind of life of their own that even the purported organizers don’t grasp or understand. So that on the afternoon of November 9, 1989, I was with the leaders of the East German opposition movement all out of Leipzig. And they said well, maybe within a year we’ll have free passage back and forth across the Berlin Wall. By that evening, the Berlin Wall, at least as an impediment to movement, did not exist. So even they didn’t know. And I think that is true; I mean, with all movements, ‘we just don’t know’ is the answer. And even the most—even those who are most intimately connected with the movement don’t know.
Robert Scheer: You know, I was just at home watching some of this, this morning. And my wife turned to me—you know Narda Zacchino, a journalist, cares a lot about it—and she says well, why don’t they call for a reversal of Glass-Steagall? Why don’t they call for an increased millionaires tax? She came up with a five point program in a few minutes, and so forth. And aren’t there some common demands—and in Egypt we had some common demands—that we could rally around at this time, that would give it greater clarity?
Chris Hedges: Well, I think that groups who support the Occupy movement can make those demands. But I think we have to keep focused. And you know, look, you’ve written a lot on this, on the corporate coup d’etat, on the fact that speculators and criminals have seized our economy and our political system and have no intention of letting go. And we can supplicate, we can make demands; of course, that’s just what they want. But unless these people are held accountable for the crimes that they have committed, and prevented from carrying out further criminal acts; unless there is some kind of accountability and restitution to the American public; then specific demands don’t matter. And I think that the clarity of the movement is that it recognizes that our political system doesn’t work, that there is no way in this country to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs, and that if we don’t reverse that situation we will be radically reconfigured into a neo-feudalistic state. And we’re already very far down that road. So all of those demands are great, and I think they have wide support—certainly they do in New York and Washington—but drawing up a list of demands deflects attention from the main problem, which is of course the corporate coup d’etat.
Chris Hedges: I think we’ve reached them. And the groundswell of support for the occupiers is staggering. People are shipping boxes of sleeping bags and tarps and supplies through the UPS box office, which you can find on the Occupy Wall Street website. They are sending money. They are ordering with local restaurants and fast food chains to deliver mostly pizza, but it gets delivered. I think the message is there; I think the message resonates, and we know from the polls that that is correct. The secret of movements is that they grow; you start with candlelight marches, with a few clergy and church members in Leipzig, and you end with half a million people standing in Alexanderplatz in East Berlin.
Now, the secret to bringing down authoritarian regimes that are as corrupt as ours is that the foot soldiers of the elite, i.e. the police, no longer enforce the dictates of a discredited power elite. So once these crowds assume gigantic proportions—and I saw this also in Prague, as well, with the Velvet Revolution, and that discredited elite became terrified and tried to employ mechanisms of overt force—those foot soldiers wouldn’t comply. And at that point, these regimes were finished. Will we reach that point? Absolutely no one knows. But I think that the steady refusal to be baited by the police, and the respect that is shown towards the blue uniform cop—not the guys in the white shirts, who are the supervisors and who are probably even more detested by the blue uniform police than they are by the protesters—is absolutely crucial. And that was something that also took place in East Germany and in Czechoslovakia and was vital in bringing down the power structure, the communist parties in both of those countries.
Robert Scheer: You know, what’s disturbing in this situation are the examples of false consciousness. After all, I mean, these blue uniform police are dependent upon unions; that’s one of the reasons they got decent wages and had the right to organize, which had formerly been denied them, along with most government workers. And what we’re having is these sort of false battles, a place like Oakland, where everybody knows Oakland has suffered enormously because of what the bankers did. Here in Los Angeles, everyone knows. So even the top city officials, the mayor of Los Angeles, city council, the mayor of Oakland, are people who call themselves progressive, who support the demonstrations. They supply, in the case of Los Angeles, bathrooms and electric power and so forth. But at the end of the day, they are sort of under this tremendous pressure to do the bidding of the bankers, because of the way the laws are set up, the way the power works, the way the media, corporate media, functions, you know, describing this disarray and so forth. And it’s really a sad situation of sort of pitting people who probably support these demonstrations against them, I think. I mean, it was sort of a classic ...
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