Excerpts from a talk given by Yen Alcala, Occupy Charlotte activist, at the Workers World Party Nov. 17-18 conference in New York. See video at youtube.com/wwpvideo.
I speak to you today about some of the momentous actions, coalition building and manifestations of people’s power that have come to fruition in Charlotte over the past year. We the people have made tremendous strides in mounting strong defenses and raising potent opposition to some of the gravest, most oppressive and despicably destructive forces we the people face.
Whether it has been neo-Nazi/KKK groups descending on our city promoting discrimination and hate, the corporate criminals known as Bank of America holding their annual shareholder meetings, the pro 1% anti-democratic mechanism for corporate control over legislation known as the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC holding their spring summit, dirty Duke Energy price-gouging people already teetering on the edge of their own fiscal cliff with further proposed rate hikes to fund further dirty energy exploitation, homophobic and hateful state legislation with Amendment 1, battling oppressive abusive infringements on civil liberties by the City Council with targeted anti-Occupy ordinances, standing with city workers in their fight for dignity and for a basic bill of workers’ rights, standing for and with our undocumented and immigrant brothers and sisters for dignity against depraved inhumane discrimination, or when one of the corporate political duopolies descending on our city for their national convention with the DNC in September… We have been there!
In the face of these powerful forces, we have stood strong with solidarity and we have won great victories.
Not North American capitalism, not European capitalism, but the entire capitalist system is faltering and collapsing upon itself. This is not just an economic bubble bursting or the annihilation of a market. This is a full blown capitalist crisis — the inevitable annihilation of a self-destructing system — the implications and the unavoidable outcomes and consequences of which are the lesson we need to heed as we move forward.
Not only in Charlotte, North Carolina, or here in New York City, but across this nation and planet — the signs are everywhere — the continued deep recession; sustained sky-high permanent un- and underemployment; ever rising poverty; crumbling infrastructure and social services; permanent wars; bankrupt cities, counties, states and governments; our impending fiscal cliff; the possibility of sequestrations; the continuation of QE3 or quantitative easing — should make us all uneasy as austerity and further peril is coming our way. Just as it has in Europe.
It is coming here. It’s coming to our backyard very soon. We need only to look to Greece, Spain, Portugal, France and on and on. Just this week millions have taken to the streets in protest, strikes and general strikes unified and unprecedented in number and scope across the entirety of the European Union.
That is what we need to be preparing for. That is what we need to be learning from. That is what we need to be gearing up for. This is the greatest lesson. We need to be getting prepared.
The same dangerous policies and practices that haven’t worked over there are on their way here. It’s the same broken, ignorant logic that says that in order to fix this global and national capitalist crisis, created by them, they must take more from the people who have already been left on the brink of disastrous catastrophe.
It is their insatiable self-indulgence, and the toxic greed that is embedded within their free market system, that has them bound, not to fix but to further perpetuate the downward spiral of the capitalist crisis.
This means we have a great responsibility and opportunity before us in the near future. No one knows how rapidly this will occur, but it is coming. The question is: when will millions upon millions out of desperation and sheer frustration be ready to take to the street? When will masses of the people, who may have never been engaged or involved before, be ready to take action?
What infrastructure will be available for them? What options will be available for them?
Look to the last comparable capitalist crisis — the Great Depression. When facing the possibility of great austerity, the people came together and fought in solidarity. The people mounted the greatest surge in union membership and workers’ rights protections in our history, where masses of people were able to put real pressure on [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt], forcing him to create social protections and security with the passing of the Social Security Act, unemployment insurance and public works that put over 12.5 million people to work. All by making the 1% pay their fair share.
I will close by saying that the lesson for Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, D.C., NYC, the message to us all should be that we need a robust reinvigoration of People’s Power Movements everywhere in preparation for the things to come, which is why we have been working hard to establish a People’s Power Assembly in Charlotte. [We] plan on continuing that work in our city and hope to see a network of people power in action.