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furniture from a foreclosed home
Furniture from a foreclosed home in suburban Atlanta.
PHOTO /JOHN SLAUGHTER

By John Slaughter


There is no scene more tragic in all of America than that of a family’s belongings piled in mounds in front of their foreclosed home. Kicked to the curb. Yet that image has come to characterize the very nature of the economic crisis we are now enduring. Millions are being dispossessed of their homes, but also their jobs, their health care, their kids’ education, their pensions. The 95 percent of us that the politicians like to call the middle class are being forcefully transformed into a new class of dispossessed, robbed of our very livelihood.

Why is this happening? It is rooted in the breaking down of the economic system which forms the foundation of our society. Those who rule this society would like to have us believe that the crisis has been brought on by the greed and excesses of a few speculators on Wall Street. The truth is that greed, as the law of the maximization of profits, is what drives the capitalist system of production, and that has led to the irrevocable rupturing of the mode of production of society.

To put it another way, we had a deal, and that deal was that workers would work for the capitalists for a wage, and in turn the capitalists would be allowed to exploit the labor of the workers and sell the commodities they produce for a profit. It never was a good deal, but what we might otherwise call the social contract was that the wages of the workers would be enough to allow us to procure the things we need, including our health care and education, our security in our retirement years. But the drive to maximize profits led to the workers being forced to work longer and harder for less and less pay.

Finally, the capitalists introduced a new technology into production – electronics, computers, robots – that permanently replaces workers, and that is what is at the root of the crisis. Laborless production means wageless workers, and workers without money cannot purchase the very goods they produce. It is the first act of dispossession, and it gives rise to all the rest. The social contract is ripped.

Meanwhile, while we are being kicked to the curb, the corporations have moved to take over the government and to run it in their own interests. Some are describing this as a kind of Wall Street socialism, the end of capitalism as we know it, even going so far as to nationalize the banking and financial system. Others call this reorganization a “new capitalism” in which the government takes a direct role in the operations of the economic and financial system. Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz describes the new capitalism as “a public-private partnership where the ‘private’ gets the profits and the ‘public’ gets the losses.”

We the dispossessed are also being dispossessed of our government. Nationalization in the hands of the corporations is devastating. But in our hands? A new social contract written by we dispossessed could take the form of the nationalization in our interests of health care, education, energy, all of the things we need to live a full human life. Such nationalization of vital services could be a step toward a whole new kind of society, a cooperative society where each of us contributes according to his or her ability, and receives from society what we need. Now that would be a new America to which we all could subscribe.

We, the people. We, the dispossessed. We are America, and there is no higher patriotism than the fight for a new America that is based upon a program written in the interests of we dispossessed, and of a government that is of, by and for the people. We have to get beyond waiting for our bailout. The corporate/government solution has proven that no one is going to give us anything. We have to be about re-possessing what has been taken from us. If we are to attain a new America organized in our interests, we have to make this country our own.






Mai Summer Vue
Mai Summer Vue, speaking on behlaf of the Hmong gardeners who
do not want ot leave.
PHOTO /MIKE RHODES
By Mike Rhodes

The City of Fresno is trying to evict a group of Hmong gardeners from plots they have tended for the last eight years.  The city wants to replace the community garden with a police station.  Mai Summer Vue, a spokesperson for the Hmong gardeners, said that “as a community we feel abused by city officials, they took our voice away, violated our civil rights, and disrespected our elders.”

Standing in the four-acre garden, with about a dozen Hmong gardeners with her, Vue asked “where is our due process and democracy when city officials decided that they are going to demolish the Hmong garden and push our elders to a little dried up pond?”  City officials had visited the garden on Friday, October 17 and announced that they were going to relocate the gardeners to Melody Park, a couple of miles away.  The city officials announced to the media that an agreement was made and the gardeners would move to the new location.  Vue and the gardeners disputed that claim at a press conference 3 days later.  Speaking in Hmong, all of the gardeners present said that they did not want to move.  The battle to save the garden then shifted to the Fresno City Council who heard testimony calling on them to reconsider their previous decision to force the Hmong to move.

Jonathan Cranston, speaking before the City Council, asked them not to demolish the garden and said the Hmong gardeners had not agreed to move, as had been previously reported.  Cranston asked “what about the 300 friends and family members that this garden feeds?  The Melody Park site is 1/8 the size of the current garden and won’t be ready for many months.  How are these people going to eat?  How is taking food away from 300 people in the best interest of the community?”  Cranston also asked why an offer to locate the police station on land owned by a developer in Fancher Creek (about one mile away) for a $1 a year lease was rejected.  Instead, according to Cranston, the city will pay $700,000 for the Hmong Community Garden land.

Summer Vue, speaking to the City Council, said “the gardeners and city officials did not make an agreement on October 17. As you will hear them this morning, the gardeners clearly stated that they did not and will not agree to move anywhere else, but to remain at the current location.  They have also stated that they are not interested in the shade and the tennis courts at Melody Park.  The extra accessories are not important to them.  They stated that the garden is more than just a garden.  To them, the garden is a way of life, a peace of mind, food for their family, exercise, therapy, stress relief, and it eases their mental health issues that was caused by the Vietnam war.”

Vue continued “Many Hmong feel that the city officials took advantage of the gardeners.  They robbed the rights of the gardeners and disrespected the entire Hmong community.  They fail to conduct politics with our community with proper process and procedures — there was no Town Hall meeting or dialog with the community and the gardeners.”

Numerous Hmong gardeners and their supporters lobbied the City Council at the next two meetings to save the garden.  A motion to relocate the police station failed in a 3 - 3 vote, with Blong Xiong the first Hmong City Council member in the country, voting against the gardeners.  Supporters of the Hmong Community Garden are re-grouping and plan to continue the struggle.  



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