A stop on the road to dictatorship in America
While addressing the G-20 Summit along with the protests meant to challenge the Summit and what it represents, Chris Hedges recently characterized the repression implemented by the federal government and the local governments in the Pittsburgh region as follows:
The draconian security measures put in place to silence dissent in Pittsburgh are disproportionate to any actual security concern. They are a response not to a real threat, but to the fear gripping the established centers of power.
A quibble: I would say that the threat is real and that the elite rightly believe their position to be insecure. But the actual threat posed by the G-20 demonstrators gathering now in Pittsburgh will not be in any way related to whatever violent acts they might commit during their demonstrations. The actual threat which motivates this kind of fear among the elite is political in nature. It takes the form of a politics meant to represent the interests, identities and lives of those largely excluded or ignored by America's compromised political institutions. This political exclusion supports and reflects the economic dispossession that is now operative in an economy teetering on the brink.
Additionally, the repression is future-directed, as Hedges recognizes:
The power elite grasps, even if we do not, the massive fraud and theft being undertaken to save a criminal class on Wall Street and international speculators of the kinds who were executed in other periods of human history. They know the awful cost this plundering of state treasuries will impose on workers, who will become a permanent underclass. And they also know that once this is clear to the rest of us, rebellion will no longer be a foreign concept.
How, indeed, will the dispossessed respond to their knowing that their lives were sacrificed so that the finance capital might thrive in the difficult future now coming into being? To whom will they attribute their suffering? Will they have the cultural and social resources they will need if they are to survive the global system coming into being? How will they survive the slums they will inhabit when they know so little of solidarity and political communication?
The American political system, tenuously democratic and corrupted as it has been by the militarism and market fundamentalism of the last decades, can produce only one response to this threat, which is, to be sure, a threat generated by its growing illegitimacy and the inadequacy of contemporary capitalism:
The delegates to the G-20, the gathering of the world's wealthiest nations, will consequently be protected by a National Guard combat battalion, recently returned from Iraq. The battalion will shut down the area around the city center, man checkpoints and patrol the streets in combat gear. Pittsburgh has augmented the city's police force of 1,000 with an additional 3,000 officers. Helicopters have begun to buzz gatherings in city parks, buses driven to Pittsburgh to provide food to protesters have been impounded, activists have been detained, and permits to camp in the city parks have been denied. Web sites belonging to resistance groups have been hacked and trashed, and many groups suspect that they have been infiltrated and that their phones and e-mail accounts are being monitored.
In other words, "Force is all the elite have left," as Hedges succinctly states. The elite have no other response to these protests because they lack a reform politics that points to a possible world that exists beyond the crises of the present and which resolves these crises in a manner that can be judged legitimate. Force — the 'reasoning' and 'communicative' technique used by the stupid to address problems they do not understand and cannot resolve.