As we look back over 2015, we see progress and, as we look forward to 2016, we see continued challenges ahead. Overall, the strategic path of resisting harmful policies and practices and building alternative systems to replace the current dysfunctional ones, known as ‘stop the machine, create a new world,’ is being taken by a growing number of people.
The movement continues to grow on multiple fronts and is unifying around issues, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that impact us all. We are on our way to the 3.5% of activated people necessary to defeat the plutocracy, but there is still much to do. And we must be prepared to face even more difficult times before we break through the current paradigm and transform our economic, social and political systems.
One of the areas where progress has occurred is a greater awareness of the connectedness of the social, economic, racial and environmental justice. Public dialogue has advanced from the days of Occupy which focused on the growing wealth divide and corruption of government by money to an understanding of the intersectionality of the -isms that create the wealth divide and corruption and their impacts on our movement work. Militarism and genocide, the climate crisis and health, debt and poverty, for example, are deeply connected by racism, capitalism and colonialism.
Nafeez Ahmed writes that the failed ‘war on terror’ and the global climate and financial crises are “interrelated symptoms of our global civilisational paradigm” and that “by the end of this century, if the scientific consensus is remotely accurate, this paradigm will not be capable of surviving.” Ahmed sees this as an opportunity, as do we, to change that paradigm by creating new systems. He highlights current initiatives and urges readers to educate themselves and then take action in their communities to build something new and tangible.
Constructive work is essential, but not sufficient. Frank Rotering is more closely aligned to our strategy in his call to both resist and create. We support his idea of youth-led revolts, but would add that all who are oppressed should participate in the revolt and that, rather than fostering divisions, people of all ages should collaborate with mutual respect to share their strengths and wisdom.
Transforming the economy is a fundamental step towards social and political change. Gar Alperovitz, the author of “America Beyond Capitalism,” teaches us that just as capitalism grew within feudalism, a new solidarity economy is growing within capitalism. Now he is working on the Next System Project to define this new economy, an economy that doesn’t ‘save capitalism,’ but creates a system which builds wealth in communities rather than extracting it, empowers workers rather than exploiting them, protects the environment and builds the commons.
It is critical that the new economy doesn’t replicate the mistakes of the past but truly creates a new paradigm. An example of this is the ‘sharing economy.’ The new sharing economy began as a way for people to share resources such as tools, seeds, property and more in order to reduce financial burdens and global footprints. It is important to recognize, and reject, that it has been co-opted by corporations such as Uber and Airbnb, which use the sharing economy language without the inherent values, and so exploit workers for their profits.
Similarly, when it comes to workers, while the gains of the Fight For $15 movement have been significant, minimum wage will increase in 14 states next year, worker rights are also important as is the question of where the profits earned from the work end up. Leo Gerard proscribes a recipe to make significant progress in protecting worker rights, but it falls short of building community wealth if the companies have no loyalty to the communities in which they operate.
An important alternative is growing, communal or collective ownership models that are governed democratically and that can empower workers and protect the environment. For example, Brian Van Slyke describes models of worker cooperatives. And while we are remaking the way we work, Stephen Assink also urges us to rethink the way we plan our cities in terms of transportation and food systems. Here are more groups that are building local food security.
Creating the new economy at the local level is critical, especially given that many economic experts are predicting another financial crash which, on top of the ongoing recession that most of us are experiencing, will hit many people very hard. It is also important that we work at the national and global levels to resist threats to our economic security. For example, the new US budget includes more than a trillion for the military rather than adequate funds for the necessary green energy, transportation and anti-austerity measures that would create greater security. Projects like Fund Our Communities demand that our tax dollars be used to build up our communities at home.
International treaties, like the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), that are currently being negotiated will undermine any progress that we’ve made on a wide range of issues if they become law. President Obama can sign the TPP as soon as February 4, 2016 and he can send it to Congress after that if he thinks he has the votes. We must prevent that. Join the Nationwide Mobilization to stop the TPP on February 4 and take the pledge at FlushtheTPP.org to stay informed about that fight.
There is a geo-political struggle between the US with its allies and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries over the future of international finance and development. The US continues to defend its global hegemony through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while Russia, China and other countries are building alternatives to the US neo-liberal economic agenda. Much of the anti-Russia and anti-China propaganda in the US is to protect US domination rather than allow a multi-polar international system that forces nations to work together.
Due to the consistent and aggressive persistence of many activists throughout the country, the Black Lives Matter movement had a great impact in 2015 that shows no signs of stopping. And how can it stop when it seems that we learn of more racial injustice every day? Just before Christmas, the grand jury in Texas decided that nobody will be held accountable for the death of Sandra Bland who was stopped for no justifiable reason, arrested and later died in her cell.
Black Lives Matter protests were held in cities across the country around Christmas to shut down shopping and transportation hubs in order to show that we cannot continue with business as usual as long as racially-biased killing, mass incarceration and other injustices exist. In Chicago, the public is calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign. In Minneapolis, organizers faced intimidation after they publicized a protest at the Mall of America and refused to back down. It turned out that the city shut down the mall for them and that the organizers had planned all along to protest at other locations, which they did.
Activists with Black Lives Matter also address other aspects of systemic racism such as unfair housing policies and lending practices, disparities in health care, education and more. In 2015, students at every level fought back and got real results from protecting curriculum that teaches about racism to making campuses a safer space for people of color. Principal Jamaal Bowman from the Bronx explains why this activism is critical and why it’s time for parents to join in civil disobedience.
The Black Lives Matter movement has also impacted presidential candidates, and by doing so, has established a national discussion of why all lives cannot matter as long as black lives don’t matter. Candidate Donald Trump has also exposed that Muslim’s lives don’t matter in the US. Organizing is going on in Muslim communities across the country to raise the profile of the growing number of hate crimes committed against them. Matthew Johnson urges us to respond to this inhumanity with humanity. We hope that 2016 will be a year when Muslim lives matter too.
While we at Popular Resistance do not endorse political candidates, we do want to comment on the political system especially since 2016 is a presidential election year. It is important to understand the relationship between movements and political parties because they are not the same. First, social progress depends on ending an entrenched and wealth-dominated two party system. Second, movements are best represented politically by candidates that come from the movement and run in alternative parties that challenge the status quo. And third, no matter who is in office, a strong popular movement that is willing to pressure all elected officials is critical for positive social change. We look at recent events in Spain and Venezuela to illustrate these points.
The two party system in Spain, where the People’s and Socialist parties have alternated being in power for decades, came to an end this week. Under two party rule the country suffered from unemployment, austerity measures, neo-liberal policies and police repression, much like the US has under the Republican and Democratic parties. The most recent election ended the Spanish duopoly’s stranglehold. Two new parties, Podemos, which came out of the Indignado Movement, and Ciudadanos, a center-right party, won enough seats so that no party has a majority in the legislature. Each party received under 30% of the vote. This will create a significant shift in power that will make it difficult for the status quo parties to continue to rule and opens the door to political change as the various parties negotiate policy.
This new report on the activists and social movements in Spain shows how the momentum of the popular uprising in 2011 translated to the creation of alternative political parties that ran movement candidates who won. Even with some electoral success the Spanish movement must continue to build popular pressure for their demands while movement candidates use the tools at their disposal to work to meet those demands.
Venezuela is farther along than Spain in its process of social transformation now that the Bolivarian Revolution has had an elected president for 17 years. There is a great amount of misinformation in the US about Venezuela which we won’t go into in this newsletter, but you can find more information about it on our most recent radio program. The US has been working with the wealthy class in Venezuela to defeat the revolution throughout its history, and in the recent elections the oligarchs made substantial gains which threaten its progress, but also teaches us lessons. One lesson of the revolution is that once elected, the movement politician still needs the movement to push for changes, protect from coups and ensure elected officials respond to the people’s views. Another lesson is that ongoing political education and mobilization of the movement are essential to defend victories. And finally, once in power, the movement politician must do whatever is possible to expose and prevent corruption and to push for a bold transformational agenda that creates tangible changes for the people who are suffering the most while they have the power. There may be political setbacks, but the movement must persist! There are signs in Venezuela of a revitalization of the Bolivarian Revolution that is reconnecting with its popular base.
We want to take this opportunity to thank our readers and activists across the country and around the world who are working for transformation. Popular Resistance works to report on various movements, to show the connections between movements, to provide useful tools and to run campaigns that advance our goal of building that activated movement of movements that shifts political culture and power in the US and around the world to end the domination of wealth and create a world that works for all of us.
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We look forward to another incredible year of resistance and creation as we take the confluence of crises we face as an opportunity to work together for bold transformation to a world of peace, justice and sustainability.
We close with the words of Kumi Naidoo, who just resigned as executive director of Greenpeace:
“We can believe that change is impossible, or too expensive, or naive, and consign the fate of this earth to death by business as usual. Or we can fight back. We can stand up and say that a better world is not only possible, it’s being built right now, by the individual and collective acts of courage of every one of us.”
See you in the New Year!