Austerity terrorism: From Kiev to NYC
Caleb Maupin is a radical journalist and political analyst who lives in New York City. Originally from Ohio, he studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College. In addition to his journalism, analysis, and commentary, he has engaged in political activism. He is a member of the Workers World Party and Fight Imperialism – Stand Together (FIST). He is a youth organizer for the International Action Center and was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement from its planning stages in August 2011. He has worked against police brutality, mass incarceration, and imperialist war. He works to promote revolutionary ideology, and to support all who fight against the global system of monopoly capitalist imperialism.
On Tuesday, as Petro Symonenko was speaking in the Ukrainian parliament, he was attacked by two members of Svoboda, the ultra-right wing nationalist party. Symonenko, an MP from the Communist Party of Ukraine, was speaking in defense of those in Kharkov, Donetsk, and other parts of Ukraine who were protesting the new, US-backed regime that recently took power. The response of his opponents was to violently drag him from the podium.
The very same day, over 4,700 miles away, jury selection was beginning in a criminal trial in New York City. Cecily McMillan, a young woman who is the northeast regional organizer of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, was grabbed and assaulted by the police while participating in protests on the sixth-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street on March 17, 2012. They beat her severely, breaking her ribs, and leaving huge, hand-shaped bruises on her breasts. Because she raised her elbow in response to a violent police assault, she is on trial for "assault on a police officer" and faces a possible sentence of seven years in prison.
‘Doing everything to intimidate people’
The US State Department defines terrorism as the "use of violence or threat of violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies." Globally we are seeing a campaign of violence and repression designed to instill fear into those who challenge the economic setup in this time of crisis.
We are in a period where the global economic order, controlled by bankers on Wall Street and in London, Frankfurt and elsewhere, is creaking and moaning. The current world system cannot continue to function without ever-rising misery.
Though a large proportion of Ukrainians had no desire to join the European Union, or put themselves under the financial slavery of the IMF, and no official vote was held in this regard, both were forced upon them. The US-backed right-wing government of ultranationalists seized power against the will of the population. This government cut the old-age pension in half. It raised the price of heating oil. The cost of basic items like food has risen dramatically, and privatization plans are on the table.
Petro Symonenko, a Communist, was speaking against this, defending those who dared challenge the new regime, imposed on the people of Ukraine to serve Wall Street imperialism. As he was being attacked by Svoboda members, he shouted: "You are today doing everything to intimidate people. You arrest people, and start fighting people who have a different point of view."
The same Western bankers who have imposed austerity on Ukraine have created a situation of mass unemployment in the United States. With unemployment already very high in the US, it is especially high for youth, with 18.5 percent of people age 16-24 who are looking for work unable to find any. The youth who are lucky enough to be working are not making anything near the wages their parents in the "middle class" once had. Jobs in industry, known for their higher wages, benefits and union protection have been eliminated. The jobs young people find themselves in are low-wage, service jobs. They are rarely able to work full-time, often stuck with less than 20 hours per week, with pay as low as $8 an hour.
The fact that hundreds of thousands of young people joined the Occupy movement in 2011 was directly linked to economic conditions. Many of the occupiers were young people with college degrees who simply could not find a way to get by, and were filled with rage. Placards carried by the occupiers read "Where is my future?"; "Where is my bailout?" and "I can't afford a lobbyist", expressing the anger of millions of young people in what is supposedly the "richest country in the world."
McMillan is, like Petro Symonenko, an anti-capitalist who calls for a different economic order. Now the repressive forces seek to "make an example" of her, by possibly sending her to prison for seven years, after already causing her extreme physical injuries for daring participate in a protest.
In both of these instances, we are seeing the billionaire capitalists defending their power, and trying to very publicly suppress those who oppose them. They are attempting to send a message: "No matter who you are, a member of parliament in Ukraine, a socialist youth in New York City, don't stand up to us! Don't fight back! We will attack you!"
Capitalism in decay
In 1935, Georgy Dmitrov, who had recently been released by the Nazis after a global campaign, explained the nature of fascism to a gathering of progressive people from around the world in Moscow. He said: "The imperialist circles are trying to shift the whole burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the working people. That is why they need fascism. They are trying to solve the problem of markets by enslaving the weak nations, by intensifying colonial oppression and re-partitioning the world anew by means of war. That is why they need fascism. They are striving to forestall the growth of the forces of revolution by smashing the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants... That is why they need fascism."
What Dmitrov was observing in 1935 about the rise of figures such as Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, and Adolf Hitler, is just as true in the current global economic crisis. In economic times like these, the billionaires who dominate the global economy will try to force the rest of humanity to bear the brunt of the crisis they created. They will try to start wars in order to make profits, and to re-divide and plunder the world. They will try to halt those who would get in their way and demand a different economic system.
Doing this, however, means an abolition of democracy. If the people cannot be fooled into voting away their livelihoods, then their very right to vote must be stripped away.
In Detroit, the city is no longer run by a mayor and city council elected by the people. The elected government has been pushed aside, and an "emergency manager" named Kevyn Orr, with close ties to the banks, now rules by decree. He is talking of privatizing the city's assets, such as the Detroit Art Institute, and Belle Isle, and cutting away at the pension of city workers.
While the US economy cannot provide decent paying jobs for young people, the "prison industrial complex" is on the rise, with over 2.5 million people locked away. The schools the youth attend are filled with cops, who handcuff and arrest them for what would previously have been a matter of classroom discipline.
The NSA has been exposed by Edward Snowden to be engaging in an unprecedented amount of spying. Though the US constitution supposedly protects the people from unreasonable "search and seizure," such liberties are being eliminated as the policing agencies declare their right to watch our every move.
Obama now assassinates people by drones, and has declared that even US citizens are not immune from these extra-legal executions. Without a judge or jury, or any legal proceeding, the US president can order that a button be pushed and a US citizen be killed.
In this time of economic crisis, the trend is for the abolition of civilian rule and popular sovereignty. The western capitalist societies are moving toward the direct rule by the military and police apparatus, and the abolition of civil liberties.
Increasingly, those who act as strong-armed thugs, violently enforcing this march of society toward autocracy and militarism, are open about their fascist beliefs. The ultranationalists in Ukraine openly speak about pro-fascist insurgents during World War II as heroes, and burn monuments to those who died fighting Hitler. In Greece, austerity is being enforced by Golden Dawn, another group of unapologetic Hitler worshipers. In Britain, the English Defense League and the British National Party are growing in popularity, pushing for heavy police repression and preaching hatred for immigrants. The ultra-right wing in the US has turned George Zimmerman into a hero for killing an unarmed African-American youth, and Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi groups are holding more and more public rallies.
While once the US and the countries of Western Europe bragged about being "democratic," in a time of economic crisis, the supposed signs of this "democracy" are fading, and fascism and authoritarian militarism are on display.
‘Specter of Communism’ rises again
The targets of these latest public displays of austerity terror are those who raise possibility of a whole new world. Cecily McMillan, a "democratic socialist", Petro Symonenko, a Communist, both think and say what so many voices in Western media have declared is impossible. They say that the "free market" is not the only way society can be organized. They dare raise the possibility of reorganizing society so that the economy serves to meet the needs of all humanity, not making profits for a small class of owners.
It is no surprise that they have become targets of austerity terrorism.
During the financial collapse of 2008, long before the words "Occupy Wall Street" had ever been imagined, the US right-wing was suddenly speaking about "the red menace" again. The Tea Party was calling Obama a Communist, and Glenn Beck was declaring he had found the fingerprints of Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, and the US Communist Party in all kinds of places across the US political establishment. Just as the Marxists of the world predicted there would be a rise in protests, revolts and anti-capitalist sentiments, the billionaires predicted the same thing. The fears of some, and the dreams of others, are coming into reality, with protest movements, strikes, and red flags popping up, years after so many declared "the end of history."
The fear of "socialism" and "communism" is rising among the powerful, because such ideas are gaining popularity. Polls in the United States show larger than ever percentages of the population declaring a favorable view of "socialism" and "communism," despite the US being a center of world anti-Communism with the Cold War "victory" as its heritage.
The fact that protests and uprisings are taking place and post-capitalist models of society are being envisioned is scaring the powers into the frenzy of violence we are currently seeing. But, the drive to destroy democratic institutions and carry out austerity terror has never succeeded in halting opposition and resistance. Hitler stormed into power burning books, executing leaders of trade unions, and outlawing leftist political parties. Yet, within Nazi Germany underground communist groups flourished. When the peaceful hungry peasants marchers led by Father Gapon were gunned down in Petrograd in 1905, this only created more radical sentiments. By 1917 the Bolsheviks were riding in to power on a program, fighting for "Peace, Land, and Bread." The attempt to execute revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu Jamal by the state of Pennsylvania made him an international celebrity, with streets in Paris being named for him, and his writings being circulated across the world.
Attempts to terrorize people into accepting greater poverty and police repression cannot succeed for this simple reason: They further reveal the ruthlessness of those who carry them out, and expose the very reasons for rebellion.
While some may theorize about "propaganda of the deed," the campaign of austerity terrorism is a real--life example. By attacking speakers on the floor of the Ukrainian parliament, by beating and attempting to imprison peaceful occupy protesters, by creating a police state and fomenting a rise in fascism, the Western billionaire class and their enforcers in the governments are making clear to many exactly why it is necessary to revolt against them.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.