Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev has recognized the Occupy Wall Street movement, and he says the uprising sweeping America is like something he’s seen before himself.
Speaking at Lafayette College last week, Gorbachev likened the current unrest in the US to what he witnessed before the dissolution of the USSR. The solution, says Gorbachev, is a new world order.
“We are reaping the consequences of a strategy that is not conducive to cooperation and partnership, to living in a new global situation,” the former leader said from a venue at the Easton, Pennsylvania university. “People are asking ‘why do our leaders want to decide everything at the expense of the people?’” he asked.
In his address, given October 19, Gorbachev added that America needs its own perestroika to free itself from its current economic and cultural crisis.
“Some people in the United States were pushing the idea of creating a global American empire, and that was a mistake from the start. Other people in America are now giving thought to the future of their country. The big banks, the big corporations, are still paying the same big bonuses to their bosses. Was there ever a crisis for them? . . . I believe America needs its own perestroika.”
Gorbachev ushered in a process of perestroika himself during the 1980s as the Soviet Union moved towards disintegration. The restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system saw the dissolution of the USSR. Regardless of what an outcome would be on American soil, Gorbachev insists that something in America, and something drastic, needs to be done.
Much like the anger in Lower Manhattan and other Occupy locales across the country, Gorbachev said cries from the people were loud and constant. “We needed changes in our own country; the people were demanding change, saying ‘we can no longer live like this, we can no longer live as before.’ This required us, the leaders of the country, to propose something bold,” he said.
The result, he said, was “to move toward democracy and freedom…and step by step towards a new economy, toward market economics. But the most important thing was freedom and glasnost.”
With so many Americans feeling helpless to the conditions in the country today, perhaps the cries of a new breed hungry for reform and, yes, even freedom, is exactly what it will take to redo the US. Now in its second month, the Occupy Wall Street movement has confirmed that those cries are there — and they’re growing.
“We cannot leave things as they were before, when we are seeing that these protests are moving to even new countries, that almost all countries are now witnessing such protests, that the people want change,” he said. “As we are addressing these challenges, these problems raised by these protest movements, we will gradually find our way towards a new world order.”
Gorbachev added that America’s current policy of grossly funding the world’s largest military is creating a society that is incapable of handling matters other than war, especially at a time when the country is being terrorized domestically by a crumbling economy and opposition to the buy-out of politics. “We need to build a society where human beings are at the center. A lot of brain power is concentrated in the military-industrial sector; we need to shift that to other goals,” he said.
Before concluding his address, the 80-year-old former president warned Americans to take action and not let the movement continue without lending their own voice.
“History is not preordained,” said Gorbachev. “We can influence history if we understand the most important things.”