Monday, October 3, 2011

Wall Street's First Victims


The past three weeks have been pretty inspirational in regards to the Occupy Wall Street movement. That it's spread now to other cities throughout the United States shows the wide support it has.

A recent poll says that 74 percent of New Yorkers support the protest. Overwhelming anger towards Wall Street and the bankers that have put us in this economic crisis is the driving force. There was a tweet that I saw which said: "0 bankers were arrested while, over 1,000 protesters were arrested."

The financial bank, JPMorgan recently donated $4.6 million to the NYPD foundation--hmm, I wonder why. This is a telling sign of where government interests lie in this capitalist system, where the richest 400 households in the U.S. have a combined wealth of $1.37 trillion. The government calls for cuts in social programs while handing out over $16 trillion to Wall Street and continuing expensive wars around the world. Some call this backwardness, but this is exactly how the capitalist system works.

This experience, which is new to some people in this country, is the continued story of the American Indian--a people who have been subject to oppression by the speculators on Wall Street and the government ever since Europeans came to the Americas. This country was founded on the genocide, displacement and on stolen land of the American Indians. As their lands were stolen, they were then forced to live on prisoner of war camps called reservations. Any Indian who didn't go to the reservation was considered hostile to the U.S. government and subject to arrest.

As we see today, the police defend the criminals on Wall Street. This is reminiscent of General George Armstrong Custer's exploration for gold into the Blacks Hills in western South Dakota in the 1870s. This land was sacred land and titled land to the Sioux (the Lakota) as part of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. This treaty created the "Great Sioux Reservation", which included all of western South Dakota west of the Missouri River. The Lakota people were entitled to this land for as long as the sun shined. But because gold was there, the U.S. government decided that they didn't need abide by the treaty and seized the land in 1877.

In the 1970s, the American Indian Movement (AIM) came to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. AIM leaders there led the occupation of Wounded Knee (the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890). At the same time, AIM was talking about treaty rights and the Lakota's rights to the Black Hills, uranium was found in the Blacks Hills--and "Custer's expedition part II" started as companies came to drill for profit and help the United States war machine. The FBI came in defense of Wall Street to stop the occupation and protests happening on the reservation.

In 1980, the Supreme Court, in United States vs. Sioux Nation Indians, ruled that the seizure of the Blacks Hills was indeed illegal and the U.S. government would have to pay $15.5 million, plus 103 years of interest (an additional $105 million), to the Lakota. The tribe turned down the money and instead demand the seized territory back. Obviously the U.S. government has not given the land back to the Lakota.

This story is not unique, but rather the normal experience of tribes throughout the United States. Currently, conditions on Indian reservations in the United States are similar to those in the developing world. Most times you will find a significant number of people without running water, electricity or without housing, in very harsh weather conditions and living on desolate land.

Jewell Praying Wolf James, a descendant of Chief Seal'th, in a testimony titled Ecocide and Genocide, wrote:

"The American Indians have the highest infant mortality, shortest life-expectancy, highest unemployment and underemployment, lowest educational and vocational attainments, highest poverty, and the poorest housing. They have been deprived of their traditional foods and medicines, and have been forced to convert religions that oppose the Mother Earth spirituality of indigenous peoples. Their parents and grandparents have been forced out of traditional roles, and family institutions have been destroyed. Our traditional forms of government have been destroyed and non-Indian governmental structures instituted. Our people suffer great amounts of alcohol and drug abuse and psychological and sociological depression and dysfunctionality."

The government moved westward in the name of "Manifest Destiny," but it might as well been Manifest Profits. The government, with the partnership of Corporate America, destroyed the native way of life in order to gain profits and expand markets, simply because the indigenous people's way of life was contradictory to capitalism. So the government deemed these people "savages."

In the same testimony, Praying Wolf James said, "In this society there were no police, no nobles, no kings or queens, no regents, no prefects, no prisons, and no state. There existed a socialist form of economics and marketing."

He went on to say:

"Today, it is corporate and industrial greed that demands more and more from the government, more exploitation of individual rights and the natural resources. The rich get richer and the poor die in toxic contamination caused by mass production, the fever of consumerism, and rampaging materialism. Multinational, transnational and international corporations and industry owe loyalty to profit-making and not humanity.

"When national governments...impose stricter laws to protect the poor, the environment, the wilderness, or to force conservation measures to be implemented, these corporations transplant themselves amongst the Third or Fourth world peoples. They then tell their own people that they are "unproductive" and export their exploitation and toxic wastes to Third World and "underdeveloped" countries."

This show us why we need an international movement of solidarity amongst all the oppressed people of the world against capitalism, whether it's the Egyptian worker, the Wisconsin worker or the oppressed Palestinian. Because the fact is, capitalism is an international system and we can only fight it internationally.

Protesters today across the U.S. as part of the Occupy Movement need to understand that what is happening right now with Wall Street is nothing new and is at the very core of the foundation of this country. Whether it was the genocide of the American Indian or the enslavement of African Americans, this was how the market worked.

It is important to know that this isn't a short-term problem--and the only way we can win is by fighting for a socialist society that is based on human need, rather than profits. A society where American Indians could have true sovereignty for the first time since Europeans came to the Americas.

The protests erupting around the country are inspiring and we need socialist activists to be on the front lines making these arguments and connecting these various struggles to fight for a better world.

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