Economic Terrorism’s Big Comeback
By Matthew Vadum
Radical activist groups associated with President Barack Obama have launched a campaign of economic terrorism and sabotage – possibly with his blessing. Mortgage and student loan strikes, crippling bank boycotts, intimidation, and who knows what else are all on the agenda.
The idea of leftists using terrorism to achieve political objectives isn’t new. Leon Trotsky supported the use of terrorism to advance so-called social justice. Decades before an ice-axe found its way into his skull, Trotsky argued in Dictatorship vs. Democracy that Communists who reject “terrorism in principle” weren’t bona fide Communists. Years before that, he justified “proletarian terrorism” because the capitalist state itself, with its “entire state apparatus with its laws, police, and army is nothing but an apparatus for capitalist terror.” In the upside-down world of Marxists, radical activists’ frightening, violent, in-your-face tactics are thought of as merely fighting fire with fire.
Since at least the 1960s, the American Left has embraced terrorism. Striking fear into the hearts of big corporations has proven to be politically useful and lucrative, as the shakedown artists of ACORN and Jesse Jackson’s Wall Street Project can attest.
While most of its practitioners conceal the true nature of what they do, others revel in their depravity. For example, Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America head Bruce Marks has proudly described himself as both a “banking terrorist” and an “urban terrorist.”
The current campaign to wreck America appears to have been in the works for a while. It’s the kind of strategem that would appeal to Obama, who promised three years ago to do the bidding of Saul Alinsky-inspired groups such as ACORN, that Gamaliel Foundation, National People’s Action, and the Center for Community Change (CCC).
Remember that 10 months before he told Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher that he planned to “spread the wealth around,” Obama made it clear to the nation’s far-left community organizers that they would be major players in his administration. At the CCC-sponsored Heartland Democratic Presidential Forum on Dec. 1, 2007, Obama promised to “be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda … for the next presidency of the United States of America.”
He wasn’t kidding.
One of the architects of a recently uncovered subversive plan that aims to destroy the nation’s financial system is Stephen Lerner, an international board member of the radical Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Lerner, who is tremendously respected and influential in leftist organizing circles, has reportedly visited the Obama White House at least four times.
Incidentally, SEIU also happens to be Obama’s favorite union. The labor organization went into hock when it spent a staggering $85 million to promote his candidacy. SEIU even produced a documentary film called Labor Day to let Americans know how much hard work it did to get Obama where he is today.
At a Left Forum conference last month at Pace University, Lerner urged participants to do everything in their power to make the nation’s financial problems far, far worse. If leftists really believe capitalism is in a “transformative stage,” they “need to confront this in a serious way and develop a real ability to put a boot in the wheel.” Lerner opined:
It seems to me that we’re in a moment where we need to figure out in a much more, through direct action, much more concrete way how we really are trying to disrupt and create uncertainty for capital, for how corporations operate. And it may sound like that’s a crazy thing that in a moment of weakness we could deal with it, but the thing about a boom and bust economy, is it’s actually incredibly fragile, because it’s … based on gambling and all of that. And so there are actually extraordinary things that we could do right now that would start to destabilize the folks that are in power and start to rebuild a movement.
Lerner argued that a nationwide mortgage strike would cause a lot of headaches for Wall Street. He noted that 25 percent of homeowners now own a home that is worth less than they paid for it. Of those “under water” homeowners, 10 percent “are now in strategic default, meaning they’re refusing to pay but they’re staying in their homes.” The homeowners, who figured out it might take lenders a year to foreclose on their mortgages and evict them, should be urged to stay put. “If you could double that number, you would … put banks on the edge of insolvency again.”
Sociologist Abby Scher, a City University of New York colleague of small-c communist academic Frances Fox Piven, raved about the plan’s destructive potential:
You were talking about why unions are so invested because of their pension plans and why ungovernability, as Frances Fox Piven and [Richard] Cloward taught us … poor peoples’ movements are successful when they create conditions of ungovernability. And then you win victories.
Creating “conditions of ungovernability” was precisely what the Trotsky-inspired Piven and her late husband Cloward advocated from the 1960s forward. Their infamous call to overwhelm governments with impossible financial demands, “The Weight of the Poor,” was published in the Nation magazine in 1966. The article inspired a generation of community organizers, such as ACORN founder Wade Rathke, to hit governments and capitalists where it hurts. (Pseudo-intellectual Hugo Chavez collaborator Cornel West and Piven are planning a national online teach-in on sticking it to the system on April 5.)
Just last year, Piven urged delinquent mortgage holders to stay in their homes for as long as possible without paying in order to bring the system crashing down. She told videographer Kyle Olson:
But if millions of people … refuse to go along with foreclosure proceedings, and refuse to pay off those mortgages that are under water, that will be enormous pressure on the banks. And if they do it in the form of a social movement, if they do it with pride and audacity, if they do it with a sense of self-righteousness, the political leaders of this country will not be able to round them up.
But radicalizing “under water” homeowners is only one component of the SEIU plan: Lerner also spelled out how he would help to destroy the stock market. “We need to build a movement based on … the oppression we’re going to face … and the key thing … is, we have to say, what does the other side fear most? They fear disruption; they fear uncertainty.”
After Greeks rioted over austerity measures, the stock market fell, he observed. “The folks that control this country care about one thing: how the stock market does; how the bond market does; and what their bonus is.”
Lerner said a strategy was needed that addressed the following questions: “How do we bring down the stock market, how do we bring down their bonuses, how do we interfere with their ability … to be rich?” It is important “to politically isolate them, economically isolate them and disrupt them,” he said.
Lerner said that after consulting his allies he decided that JPMorgan Chase would be “a really good company to hate.” He explained
We’re going to roll out over the next couple of months what will hopefully be an exciting campaign about JPMorgan Chase that is really about challenging the power of Wall Street. And so what we’re looking at is in the first week of May, we get enough people together – we’re starting now – to really have a week of action in New York with the goal of … I don’t want to go into any details because I don’t know which police agents are in the room, but the goal would be that we would roll out in New York the first week in May.
The fact that Lerner was concerned “police agents” might be spying on him is telling, especially since SEIU is well-known for violence and for storming banks and the homes of corporate executives.
Lerner provided more details of his plan in a column at In These Times, which also happens to publish convicted, unrepentant cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
In the op-ed he calls for state and local governments to stop doing business with banks that refuse to become de facto relief agencies by redistributing their own wealth to homeowners who made dumb investment decisions. Targeted are banks that don’t pay their “fair share” in taxes or refuse to slash interest rates and partially forgive mortgage principal.
Lerner exhorts students and local governments –which employ many public sector union members— not to pay back “[u]nfair [d]ebt” unless interest rates are lowered. Such a loan strike “would threaten CEO bonuses and bottom lines of the banks.” Public employee unions can also press state and local governments to dump their more sophisticated investments such as “interest rate swaps,” which he claims cost taxpayers at least $1.8 billion a year nationally.
California can be threatened with public employee strikes to force it to renegotiate outstanding debt, which Lerner fantasizes would save $21 billion that could then flow into the pockets of organized labor. Whether California, whose outstanding debt has engendered the lowest bond rating of all 50 states, is even in a position to seek a rating upgrade is far from clear.
Lerner isn’t the first to advocate using in-your-face tactics. Small-c communist Heather Booth and George Goehl openly discussed how to murder the American Dream at the “America’s Future Now!” conference last summer in Washington, D.C.
“The banking crisis is the next big thing,” said Goehl, executive director of Chicago-based National People’s Action. “The banking crisis is the way to build a big economic justice movement in this country.”
The crisis presents “a once in a lifetime opportunity as progressives to engage millions of Americans in a big conversation around serious economic restructuring,” he said, “not around eking out some victories around the margins, not about making life a little less worse for people, but about big time transformative change.”
“People are ready to move to the streets, some because they’re angry, some because they want justice right now, and some because they’re tired of hearing about the tea party coming out.”
Booth, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, said an economy-killing “financial speculation tax” was needed to curb the incentive for people to participate in markets. “A big battle still needs to be waged to curb the incentive for speculation and to get our money back to fund jobs and health care, climate and more,” said the old hand at leftist astro-turfing operations.
If President Obama had attended the 2010 panel discussion, he probably would have given Booth and Goehl a spirited fist bump.