99% contro il potere
Interview in Italian about my book “American Fall”
by Mattia Gallo
1) What is the current situation of the Occupy movement in America? What were the developments after the first months of its birth until now?
Only a couple of months after Occupy began, federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, worked with the mayors of major cities to coordinate police repression and shut down the camps. So Occupy didn’t dissolve willingly; it was crushed by a greater force, a hostile force. Because Occupy was mainly spontaneous and not organized, when most people were dispersed, they did not return.
Some of the participants re-grouped and went on to try other organizing projects, such as protecting foreclosure victims from eviction, providing debt relief, and responding to disasters (for example, after Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast). Many others were co-opted by the Democratic Party. Some of the more radical elements attempted a general strike the following May Day, and while some protests occurred, there was nothing like a general strike.
Some people, who expected Occupy to be the beginning of the revolution, may have been disappointed enough to give up when the revolution didn’t happen. But others continue to be active in various capacities. Widespread anger against the crimes of the system continues to increase, and resistance will be expressed somehow. No one knows what form it will take next. But certainly the social problems that sparked Occupy in the first place have not been resolved; they are only intensifying. So there will undoubtedly be other uprisings. The state understands this, which is why they are solidifying a horrifyingly thorough surveillance and repressive apparatus.
2) In your book you talk about the “need to create organizations openly anti-capitalist.” Why? How much anti-system and in anti-capitalist policy is present in “Occupy”?
If we are to change society, we have to understand what makes our society what it is, and how it works. The various problems addressed in Occupy — economic crisis, ecocide, war, oppression, unemployment – are all caused by a system, the capitalist system. If we address each issue as distinct, without connecting them to their root cause, we cannot hope to solve any of them. Only by identifying and combatting their common source, can we have that chance.
Capitalism is inherently exploitative, ecocidal, and expansionist. Even the nicest capitalists in the world can’t change its cruel and destructive nature. For me, to put it bluntly, the only alternative that can decisively eliminate capitalism is for the working class to emancipate itself – to seize political power and control over the means of production – and eliminate surplus value (which is how capital reproduces) by abolishing the wage system and private accumulation. Only through this process can we end the atrocities that capitalism inherently generates, and overcome class-divided society in general.
3) You are part of an organization called “One Struggle”. When and where was it born? What are your basic values? What are its activities?
One Struggle was born and then re-born. The first time, it started at the “US Hands Off the Haitian People Coalition,” a group active in the 1990s in Miami. I was a member then too. We worked to oppose US intervention in Haiti and the forcible return of people fleeing the murderous Cedras regime, and to build solidarity with workers’ struggles, particularly in garment factories. After a few years it expanded its scope to become anti-imperialist in general, and changed its name to One Struggle. The group dissolved at the end of the 1990s due to various factors.
In 2010, several of the original members revived it. It is not a revolutionary organization, but an intermediate-level organization. Its goal is to build a broad, non-sectarian, combative, anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist mass movement. As of today, we have chapters in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and New York. Our projects include a newspaper and a Rapid Response Network, which builds support for struggles of workers with whom we have organized ties. We give presentations to expose how capitalism and imperialism function (for example, how they use NGOs as tools of domination). The website is onestruggle.net.
4) Some of the most famous American cartoonists like Matt Groening and Charles Schulz are able to look deep and with satire to the reality. The beginning of the history of comics is due to the “Yellow Kid”, proletarian comic published at the end of the nineteenth century in the “New York World”, which was shut down by building properties in New York because the comics were drawn the slums of the city. Do you like Schulz and Groening? Do you think there’s a real school of American comics able to look critically at reality? What are the comics that you like most and that are important to you? What do you think about the encounter between politics and comics?
For years as a child, I was obsessed with the comic strips of Charles Schulz. I learned to draw by copying Snoopy. I read every Peanuts book, and learned that the combined power of words and images can be more compelling than either of these elements alone. I decided at age 10 that I wanted to be a cartoonist too. As for Matt Groening, yes, I’ve admired his work since I began reading “Life in Hell” in the Village Voice in the early 1980s. He was one of those who first developed the “alternative” cartoon form, popular in the alternative press newsweeklies, which inspired me to develop my own regular cartoon, “Minimum Security.” So both of these artists were very influential for me.
There are various comics that have appeared in the US that do shed light on reality. I have always liked comics with strong political or social messages, rather than simple gag cartoons or empty entertainment. In my formative years I read “MAD” magazine, “Love and Rockets,” and the magazine “World War 3 Illustrated.” As a political activist, I felt connected to the topics and characters they portrayed, in an immediate and visceral way. Some contemporary editorial cartoonists who use their work to expose the system include Ted Rall, Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen, and Ruben Bolling. I follow these regularly.