Peoples’ General Assembly: Protest flails ‘dictatorship of bankers’

By Dee Knight
New York

A People’s General Assembly near Wall Street on Aug. 2, organized by New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts and others, responded to the debt-ceiling deal signed that day in Washington after a weeks-long game of political “chicken.”

“We need to make sure people know that what happened on this infamous day is a threat to everyone who is not a billionaire or millionaire,” declared Larry Holmes of Workers World Party at the start of the assembly.

“There’s a reason we called it a General Assembly and not merely a rally or protest,” Holmes said. “We believe what we’re dealing with is a dictatorship of bankers and that democracy is a thin façade — if you blow on it you’ll find out it doesn’t exist.” Holmes recalled that German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler pushed out what the bankers and German industrialists considered a weak government in 1933, “because it could not wage war on the workers and the poor. They needed their own version of the so-called Tea Party, and so they got behind Hitler,” Holmes observed. “This was the beginning of fascism in much of Europe.”

Holmes called the “debt ceiling deal” a steamroller that’s rolling over education, daycare, health care, Social Security — everything socially useful. He said now we need to “go beyond protest — it’s not enough to save this or that. We must say that this government does not represent the people — both parties — we have to consider it illegitimate. There’s a provision in the Declaration of Independence that if the government acts tyrannically you have the right to replace it!”

Homeless people were represented by Kendall Jackman of Bronx-based Picture the Homeless, who highlighted the recent surge in homelessness, which has spiked along with joblessness and home foreclosures. The federal government has failed to do anything to solve these problems, which have reached crisis proportions. PTH recently conducted a citywide “vacant housing inventory,” which revealed there is more than enough available housing for all who need it. She called for an expansion of federal and state rent subsidies to make it possible for people to have a home.

Food is a right!

Gwen Debrow of the Food Is a Right Campaign denounced a recent Congressional move to cut $127 billion from the SNAP food stamp program. This came before the recent debt ceiling deal, and is sure to intensify as the so-called “super-committee” of cutters gets to work, she said. A conspiracy of silence in the big business media has blocked out public awareness of these cuts, Debrow said. But there’s a growing campaign to save the food programs, which help more than 45 million people nationally, and 3 million in New York. These numbers represent just 57 percent of those eligible, she said, since many don’t know they can apply. The Food Is a Right Campaign is organizing citywide and nationally, Debrow added.

Larry Hales of the CUNY Mobilization Network and FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together) received an ovation when he asked if people were ready to fight these attacks. He urged people to start concretizing plans for struggle in the fall, including the possibility of a people’s occupation of Wall Street beginning Sept. 17. A variety of groups have begun to call for such an action, and it was an agenda item at the Aug. 2 assembly.

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