Last week, we wrote about the first five stages of successful social movements, as described in the third class of the Popular Resistance School course, “How Social Transformation Occurs.” In class four, we cover stages six through eight, in which movements gain broad support, succeed in changing the power dynamic so they win, and then watchdog the gains they’ve made as they proceed to the next struggle.
We spend a lot of time on these stages because we believe that for many fronts of struggle, the United States is currently in stage six, the step before success. It is important for people to know the tasks and what the roles of activists are in stage six.
The sixth stage, “Building National Consensus,” can take a long time. During this phase, we move from majority support, achieved in the previous stages, to a super-majority of people recognizing that there is a problem and that the current system cannot solve the problem. They also become supportive of a new solution to the problem and develop the courage to make that new solution a reality.
As the popular movement is building consensus on these issues, the power holders are doing what they can to prevent national consensus. As support for change grows, power holders appear to agree with the popular movement while still protecting the status quo. If the movement rejects the non-solutions of the power holders and the struggle reaches a crisis moment, the popular movement has the potential to win.
Watch the video lecture below:
What the Power Holders Do
As movements grow and gain power, the power holders – elected and appointed government officials, wealthy elites and the corporate media – use a variety of tactics to protect the status quo. They will first try to keep the movement’s issue out of the dialog by suppressing it in the media. They will also create myths and threats to dissuade people from supporting the issue. If that doesn’t work, they will try to weaken the movement by discrediting it, creating distractions or co-opting the movement. They may also switch to a new tactic to achieve their goal. And finally, as the movement grows and power holders feel pressured, they may double down on what they are doing while at the same time giving the appearance of listening to the movement’s concerns and even negotiating with the movement.
If the movement is able to recognize these tactics and respond to them effectively, it will become capable of succeeding. It is critical throughout this process that the movement does not back down from its demand(s). If the movement compromises too soon, before it has attained the necessary public support and mobilization, it will lose.
There are many examples of power holders using the above tactics today on a broad range of issues. Let’s examine some facets of one issue, United States imperialism. The fact that the US is the largest empire in the history of the world is not taught in schools and is not discussed in the media. It is hidden by the myths that the US is the police of the world working to protect freedom and democracy for all people and that we must have a large military to defend ourselves from those who “hate us for our freedom.” Institutions that are tools of US empire are given misleading names such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the US Agency for International Development, Freedom House and the US Institute for Peace.
More specifically, we can see the power holders’ tactics in current events. For example, the prevention of detente with Russia. One reason for this is US power holders are in competition with Russia over which country will sell oil and gas to the European Union. Of course, there are other issues, such as maintaining US hegemony in the Middle East, which Russia threatens through its alliances with Syria and Iran, and Russia’s participation in the BRICS coalition (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) that threatens US domination of global financial institutions. And of course, conflict is healthy for the bottom-line of weapons-makers, the Pentagon, and intelligence agencies.
There is a long history of the US demonizing Russia and before that, the Soviet Union. In 2014, the US supported a violent coup in Ukraine in order to install a US-friendly government and guarantee a US stronghold on the Russian border. The coup benefited Democrats and global corporations. Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and John Kerry’s family friend, Devon Archer, were given top positions in Ukraine’s oil industry. Monsanto was allowed to start growing GMO-corn in Ukraine, which was previously banned.
During the coup, Russia was falsely portrayed as the aggressor. There was little mention of the $6 billion spent by the US to support the coup or that the US was allied with violent neo-nazis, who, with Kiev, threatened Eastern Ukraine and went on a killing spree against ethnic Russians. Thousands of ethnic Russians were killed and hundreds of thousands fled into Russia. Russia took action to protect Eastern Ukraine and was accused of stealing Crimea, even though the population voted by over 90% to return to Russia.
Fast forward to today when we are in the midst of “Russiagate.” This is the latest version of the power holders creating a new threat to protect their interests by continuing to demonize Russia. Hillary Clinton, who, as Secretary of State, supported provoking a conflict with Russia by creating a “no-fly zone” in Syria, lost the election, creating a quandary for the Democrats. Trump was willing to talk to the Russians rather than escalating conflict. So, what to do? Blame Russia for Clinton’s loss and attack Trump for any efforts to work with Russia. Sadly, the tactic is working. Many liberals and progressives have hopped on the Russiagate bandwagon.
Antagonizing Russia, as outlined in the “Summit Declaration” from the NATO meeting this month in Brussels, comes with grave risks to people in the US and around the world. As Pepe Escobar points out, “the latest Russian weapons systems present immense strategic – and historical – ramifications. The missile gap between the US and Russia is now ‘a technological abyss,’ with ballistic missiles ‘capable of trajectories which render any kind of anti-ballistic defense useless.’” The anti-war and peace movements in the US have a formidable task of overcoming the anti-Russia hysteria and demanding diplomacy with Russia.
An example in which the power holders are not having as much success is in Latin America. Although the US has altered its regime change tactics in Venezuela and Nicaragua by supporting a violent opposition and blaming the government for the violence, they have not yet succeeded in ousting either Maduro or Ortega.
Media outlets, including The Guardian and Democracy Now, reported on the recent events in Nicaragua with a pro-imperialist bias, confusing people on the left. To counter the media propaganda, a group of activists in Nicaragua and the US wrote an open letter to The Guardian pointing out it’s inaccurate reporting, which was published widely in independent media outlets. This forced The Guardian to publish a shorter version of the letter and undermined their credibility.
US Empire Ending
Analysts, such as Alfred McCoy, predict that the US Empire will collapse in the next decade. The Pentagon recognized this in their 2017 “Post Primacy Report,” which calls for increased military spending, surveillance and aggression. They are doubling down even though these tactics are failing. This week, the House passed a new National Defense Authorization Bill that prevents the US from reducing troops in South Korea and authorizes $716 billion for the Pentagon, a significant increase over the 2018 budget.
Such doubling down comes at a significant cost to people in the US and around the world. As the Pentagon budget consumes a greater proportion of federal discretionary spending, and taxes on the wealthy are cut, there is less money available for necessities such as housing, education, healthcare and repair of failing infrastructure. Increased aggression by the US makes the whole world insecure.
If we are in stage six, we need to build a national consensus to end US empire and change US foreign policy from domination to cooperation. We need to put forward a vision of what the post-empire United States could become and present a path that is a positive to the US and world, rather than a dangerous and destructive end of empire.
It is clear that the US government is incapable of transitioning to being a cooperative member of the global community and putting in place a peace budget, one that draws back the US military presence and invests in constructive programs. The peace movement has an imperative to strengthen itself in the US. There are many current efforts in that direction.
The Black Alliance for Peace is working to rebuild the black anti-war movement. CODEPINK launched a campaign to divest from the war machine. Veterans for Peace is holding its yearly conference in St. Paul, MN in August. Other efforts are World Beyond War, United National Antiwar Coalition, ANSWER and No US Foreign Military Bases.
The above organizations and more are working together to oppose the military parade ordered by President Trump in November. This parade will glorify war and waste tens of millions of dollars. The intention of the No Trump Military Parade is to stop the parade and celebrate peace, as well as reclaiming Armistice Day on its one-hundredth anniversary as a day to remember the horrors of war and promote peace. Events include a peace concert and art-making on the Mall on November 9, protests of the military parade on November 10 and a veteran and military family-led silent march on November 11. Sign up to participate on NoTrumpMilitaryParade.us.
On October 20 and 21, there will be a Women’s March on the Pentagon. Activities will be held daily between the Women’s March and the military parade events to connect the two. In addition, there will be a World Beyond War conference in Toronto, Canada in September and a No US Foreign Military Bases conference in Dublin, Ireland in November. This will be a powerful anti-war autumn.
In addition to the Popular Resistance School, which provides information on what activists need to know to succeed, we are expanding our podcast, Clearing the FOG. We launched a Patreon page to raise funds so that we can improve the program and reach more people. We also added a new weekly program, “Thinking It Through”, in which we discuss current events in greater depth. All Patreon subscribers will have access to the new program and those who are able to contribute at higher levels will receive Clearing the FOG items.
We have a responsibility to prepare ourselves so that we can realize the transformational changes we need in the coming decade. Spread the word about the Popular Resistance School and Clearing the FOG podcast so that we have tools and information to stop the machine and create a new world.