Newsletter: An Opening For People Power

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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?

Filipino climate and environmental activists helped mobilize thousands during the global people’s climate march during the weekend before the opening of COP21. by Loi Manalansan/Kalikasan - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2015/12/13/cop21-failed-people-and-future-generations/#sthash.tAVnYGKy.dpuf

Filipino climate and environmental activists helped mobilize thousands during the global people’s climate march during the weekend before the opening of COP21. by Loi Manalansan/Kalikasan – See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2015/12/13/cop21-failed-people-and-future-generations/#sthash.tAVnYGKy.dpuf

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.

A “die-in” outside a McDonald’s in Manhattan during a rally for higher wages, one of many protests on pay held across the country Wednesday. Credit Lucas Jackson/Reuters

A “die-in” outside a McDonald’s in Manhattan during a rally for higher wages, one of many protests on pay held across the country Wednesday. Credit Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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:

1basicEnding 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.

15-1116-BLMPutting 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.

1occupyThe Challenge of Transformation

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.

1venOf 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.”

1connectWhat 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.

  • History301

    I figured that, after the death of Chavez, the far right, baked by the U.S. would regain power and as I see in this article, I ask the same questions about what response will be forthcoming from all the people who helped elect Chavez.
    I’m also happy to see the paragraph about sinking U.S. empire, the wealth divide and so on. I’ve been writing much the same message since Vietnam ended.
    Likewise with climate, I hardly see how this can be called an agreement, outside of admitting we have a human caused climate problem on our hands. Voluntary agreements to act are unreliable at best and I was also disappointed by who was excluded from those meetings.
    In any event, I hope it’s becoming clearer to the public in general that, reality is far from what they hear from the corporate news, and often the PBS types too. In my informal polling, I find most people understand much of what is wrong with government in particular and given the choice, they would love to replace the vast majority of those inside this system with people that represent them, not the ruling elites and what I sometimes call, the self-appointed ownership. Many feel powerless; however isn’t this by design? Just as the economy is by design, as those behind it continue to transfer what’s left of middle class wealth into their pockets and walking on the backs of the impoverished is considered normal by such people as a general rule of thumb.Yet, I do see signs that people are becoming closer to ready to work towards something different than what we have today and as I continue to organise locally, I’m interested to see what can be accomplished. In fact, at the turn of the last century, folks around here once built paddle wheels along the New River to power that new fangled light bulb and back then, people simply took turns maintaining that system. An idea I’ve discovered many are willing to work on today and isn’t that how community is supposed to work?

  • DHFabian

    The popular rhetoric can be reassuring, but we have to start facing reality, and considering where we go from here — or of we even still have a choice. Reality: We are in the midst of a class war. We watch now as the rich do to the middle class what the middle class already did to the poor. Since B. Clinton, liberals have vigorously promoted middle class elitism while Democrats have continued to worsen conditions for the poor. Reality: There aren’t enough middle class Democrats alone to win any elections. We tried to point this out when Gore lost, and again with the 2014 Dem Party defeats. Liberals won’t listen.

    How do you think this will all turn out? As our attention began turning to the 2016 elections, Democrats made their position perfectly clear by voting to virtually end food stamps to the elderly poor and the disabled. Liberals shrugged. How do you think the poor — and all those who get why it matters — will vote in 2016?

  • DHFabian

    Chavez’s agenda was antithetical to the thinking of even to today’s US liberals. Chavez understood that the only possible way to build a strong house is by starting at the bottom, building a strong foundation. Previous generations of Americans understood that it’s impossible to save/build a broad middle class — necessary for the economic survival of the US — without shoring up the poor.

    The notion of the “1% vs. the 99%” is popular. But it’s false. A lie. Right now, we watch as the rich start doing to the middle class what the middle class already did to the poor — often, interestingly, using the same “justifications.” Who should fight whom? Liberals welcome the poor to stand in solidarity with the middle class — just don’t expect a crumb to trickle down!

  • Aquifer

    I am glad you are using the term “political organization” to describe a face that solidarity needs to present – I think the Greens have the potential to do that, but they need to work out some significant “kinks”, IMO – 🙂

  • Matthew Borenstein

    “the Greens have the potential…” = when you & loads of others join up & in, that’s how the “kinks” will be dealt with.