Published Mar 30, 2012 9:39 PM
Chris Hedges, a writer for The Nation and former New York Times reporter, spoke at the Left Forum’s closing plenary on March 18 in New York City.
As someone who was among the thousands of youth on Sept. 17 when the occupation of Zuccotti Park began; as someone who attended some of the early General Assemblies prior to that historic day; as someone who was arrested as part of the OWS Martin Luther King Day actions; as someone who is currently involved in the continuing occupation of Union Square in preparation for the May 1st General Strike, I must say loudly and clearly that you, Chris Hedges, do not speak for me.
The speech you gave at the Left Forum this year, in which you presented yourself as someone with authority and wisdom needed by OWS, said things that are the opposite of how I and many other OWSers feel.
First of all, the police brutality rained down on OWS by police departments around the country, coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security, is not the fault of the Black Bloc anarchists or any other elements inside OWS. Before a single window was broken or trash can turned over, the NYPD was brutalizing OWS activists. The blood of OWS activists has been spilled by the NYPD without pause or remorse since the beginning of these demonstrations.
By engaging in particular tactics of resistance, correct or incorrect, the Black Bloc is not responsible for the NYPD’s behavior. The NYPD has killed Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell and countless other African Americans without any provocation. They need no excuse for their viciousness. Don’t blame the victims.
In Oakland, Calif., and all across the U.S., many OWS activists are facing serious criminal charges. Why would you divide the movement by trying to label one section as “violent” and “dangerous”? Why would you aid the state in isolating some sections? Aren’t the Wall Street bankers the real criminals?
Secondly, the remarks you made about the events of 1989-1991 in Eastern Europe were way off.
When the USSR collapsed and the socialist governments of Eastern Europe were overthrown, this was a huge victory for the 1% against the 99%.
Things like the right to health care, education and employment were abolished. Life expectancy in the Eastern European countries went down by big numbers. Right now, the women of Eastern Europe, who once had paid maternity leave, guaranteed employment, and birth control and abortion on demand, are sex trafficked at higher rates than ever.
The events you described in your speech as being so glorious were simply the 1% taking control of Eastern Europe for themselves. Things for the working class have gotten worse since Wall Street recolonized a big chunk of the globe, with your confessed assistance.
I don’t want to model our movement on the events that led to economic catastrophe and mass suffering in Eastern Europe. Rather, the political movements I look to as inspiration for the OWS are the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Chinese Revolution of 1949, the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and other socialist revolutions where the 99% took power away from the 1%.
In addition, I think much can be learned from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, where young people like us fought to prevent capitalist restoration.
Likewise, the anti-war movement, the Black Liberation movement, the Unemployed Councils and sit-down strike waves of the 1930s have real lessons for OWS on how to fight and win against the 1% here in the U.S.
Many within these movements, just like many of us in OWS, thought of capitalism and U.S. imperialism as the true enemy of humanity. They saw their movements, as we see OWS, as a place to fight to overthrow the system and create a society where the 99% rule.
A new chant has been catching on at OWS rallies in New York. It was on our lips in Union Square on March 21 when they tried to evict us. We also chanted it when we took back Zuccotti with crowds of Left Forum activists.
We chanted, “Just like Ho Chi Minh! Occupy is gonna win!”
When the Vietnamese people kicked the Wall Street bankers out of their country, it was a great victory for all humanity. It took a great deal of militancy and relentless years of heroic sacrifice on the part of the Vietnamese people.
I have no doubt that it will take a similarly long and relentless struggle to bring down the 1% in the U.S. But I’m confident that just as the Soviet people drove the Nazis out of Eastern Europe, the Chinese Red Army drove Japanese imperialism out of their country, and the people of Cuba still stand strong, that just like Ho Chi Minh, we too will win and defeat the 1%!
— Caleb T. Maupin
OWS activist and Workers World Party youth organizer