Newsletter: An Opening For People Power
The reality that corporatism cannot deal with the urgent problems faced in the US and around the world is becoming more obvious. People power is growing as more see that the current system is unable to operate in a functional way. People power is having an impact, forcing the country to listen. How do we create the transformation we need?
The UN climate talks, COP21, are now recognized widely as a failure, at best a framework to be filled at a later date. Why were countries unable to confront climate change? The dominant economic and political power in the world is the United States. We are ruled by corporate power which is corrupted by Big Energy and as a result the US ensured a bad agreement. Even the best climate plan put out by a presidential candidate from the two parties, Bernie Sanders, is far from adequate, indeed Sanders’ climate goals are the same as what Hillary Clinton put forward in 2007.
On another issue of global concern, war and peace, more people including top government officials, are admitting that the ship of US Empire is sinking. During the presidential debates, rather than recognizing that the United States is committing war crimes and acknowledging that torture is a crime, candidates are being asked if they are willing to commit war crimes. Would they kill civilians, women and children? Would they torture? And, at least in one party, most candidates are admitting they would do so.
And, when it comes to the economy, the wealth divide has become so grotesque that 20 people have wealth equal to half the US population, 152 million. This has not occurred by accident or because those 20 people work harder than everyone else, or are smarter; it has happened because we live with a corrupt economy managed by a corrupt government and enforced by militarized police. And, those in power effectively divide people – by class and economics – to prevent people power from flourishing. The result has been the end of the middle class, a country where last year 51% earned less than $30,000 per year.
Can People Power Transform the Nation and World?
We follow the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice on a daily basis. We see the movement as growing consistently and significantly. There are more than a million people involved in various fronts of struggle, up from under 500,000 a few years ago. Our first task is to undo the perception that we have no power and begin to organize ourselves in ways that manifest our power.
We are in a phase of global corporations pursuing a new colonialism. It is occurring in developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America through a combination of corporate-rigged trade agreements, IMF loans to create indebted nations and, when necessary, US militarism.
To achieve power, the people must recognize this new colonialism whether they are nations victimized by it or people in the US and Europe who oppose their nation’s new colonialism. We must work together to decolonize people’s minds and lands. We must continue to build a movement of movements to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership (see the call for decentralized protests against the TPP in February) and other corporate-rigged trade deals and must oppose US militarism wherever it rears its chaos and destruction.
Below are a few examples of effective use of people-powered strength to confront issues and make positive change:
Ending Poverty, Creating Fair Wages, Moving Toward a Basic Income: There has been a lot of effective work in trying to end poverty through the Fight for $15. People are also recognizing that community based solutions represent the best path do end poverty and create a new democratic economy that serves all of us. Issues like a Basic US Income are starting to bubble up with people developing a path to putting a Basic Income in place.
Climate, Stopping Carbon Infrastructure, Ending Nuclear and Creating a Clean Energy Economy: There is a strong front of struggle over energy issues pushing to save the planet from the climate crisis and transform the economy to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy. This week there were actions to hold Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada accountable for breaking his pipeline promise by failing to listen to First Nations Peoples. Indigenous communities continue to fight pipelines and related issues to ensure their voices are heard. There are blockades, protests and arrests in the US around carbon and nuclear infrastructure. This week, We Are Cove Point protested Bank of America for financing a fracked gas export terminal. The opposition is trying to undermine protest by turning public meetings into private testimony, where those who want to comment are ushered off to the side and do not talk publicly, but people are fighting back against this. People are seriously looking at how we transform our energy economy.
Putting Black Lives Matters Issues on the Political Agenda: The #BlackLivesMatter movement has put black issues on the political agenda by aggressive and nonviolent resistance actions. Right now they, and local allied groups like Black Youth Project 100, are pressuring to remove the mayor of Chicago, they are unifying to defend two South Carolina youths arrested when a police officer got violent with one of them in the classroom (the officer has already been fired), they are removing major confederate monuments from a southern city, and challenging Princeton University to distance itself from former President Woodrow Wilson who most people now recognize was one of the most racist presidents in history. As a result of their campaign, policing is already changing but next year black issues will be on the agenda of legislatures across the country; and they have injected themselves into the presidential race.
There is no easy path to transformation. It is a process that requires deep political education, development of a national consciousness and mobilization of a solid core group of people. It also requires a vision for the future and creative imagination to get there. We see many of these essentials being put in place in the US and around the world. We are on the right path, even though we confront a neoliberal establishment that seems to be growing as well.
Jack Balkwill, a long-time independent writer and editor, put forward his vision of how a revolution could progress in the United States. He envisions a revolution for real democracy. This view is consistent with the view of many of the movements we have seen in recent years in the US and around the world.
Even when a movement succeeds, the fight will not be over as those who profit from the current system will be fighting for its return. We saw this most recently in Venezuela, a country which had made incredible progress on illiteracy, poverty, the wealth divide, democracy and so much more. It also organized Latin American opposition to US imperialism. It was a model for others to understand that there was an alternative to big finance capitalism. As a result, Venezuela was constantly under attack from inside by the oligarch class and from the outside by the United States. After 15 years, these attacks finally succeeded with the Chavez-Maduro government losing a major legislative election at sufficient levels to give the right wing tremendous power to reverse progress.
Of course, that is not the end of the story, but the beginning of the next chapter. We do not know how the grassroots will react, how the Chavistas will re-vitalize the revolution or how the right wing will use their power. Will the right wing be united? Will they be aggressive in reversing positive changes? In the end, the key ingredients still exist in Venezuela, a political and deeply educated mass grassroots that has shown itself to be able to mobilize. That could be the determining factor in the next steps for Venezuela. We expect a smarter and deeper transformation is in Venezuela’s future.
Jerome Roos, the editor of ROAR Magazine discussed these issues this week as well. He point out the need to build a new anti-capitalist movement. He sees some of the seeds already growing:
“The Greek riots of December 2008, the mass protests against austerity in Southern Europe, the Occupy movement in North America and the UK, the student mobilizations in Canada and Chile, the mass demonstrations in Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, and countless other countries of the Global South, the urban uprisings against anti-black police brutality in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore—each of these brief ‘insurrectionary’ episodes constitutes a flashpoint in the emergence of a new politics, offering a collective vision of a radically different future that is being imagined in the very process of struggle.
“Seen in this light, it becomes clear that the intense collective outrage and the immense social creativity expressed in these mobilizations is already breathing much-needed new life into a moribund left.”
What Roos describes as “brief insurrectionary episodes” we see as linked struggles, all part of a continuum of a growing movement of movements. Roos points out that one of the challenges the movement faces is solidarity. There are multiple fronts of struggle where people are campaigning for change – how do we build a political organization that brings all of these together and that reflects the commonalities that link us?
At Popular Resistance our goal has always been to help build that kind of political organization. When we build the kind of organization that allows for flexibility in the movement but also links us to a common agenda and strategic framework we will have made a major step toward the transformation to economic, racial and environmental justice we all seek. On the road to getting there, we need to build our power by working together, mobilizing and building the national, really international, consensus we need for transformation.