Newsletter – Mobilize For System Change

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Decades of neoliberal economic policies in the United States and debt, which is required by the bottom 90% to survive, have fanned political unrest and the call for transformation, rather than reform.

Just as Obama and the Democrat’s populist façade disintegrated under a growing wealth divide, worsening climate change and militarization of our communities and woke many self-described progressives up to the need for systemic changes, the Trump presidency could have similar effects on conservatives. Voters who thought they were ending the status quo, “draining the swamp,” by voting for Trump may find that loss of health care, trade deals that drive a race to the bottom and tax cuts for the wealthy move them to be open to solutions they may have once rejected.

The other possibility, as Richard D. Wolff points out, is that if by “playing on race and ethnic (and also regional and educational) differences, [Trump] postures as their champion, the only leader who will favor them by protecting them against the threatening long-term descent into poverty and degradation,” then this would fuel racism and nationalism and the rise of a violent right.

Thus, tasks of the movement for social transformation are to reject ideologies and groups that foster white nationalism and demonstrate that there are root causes to the crises we face and solutions to address them.


Political change begins with cultural change

There is no guarantee that policy changes will bring us to a more just and equitable society if the cultural norms are still rooted in imperialism, capitalism, racism and patriarchy. For example, the transition to a clean energy economy will be primarily for the wealthy if it is based in the market. Like Internet service, hospitals and banks, low income communities will miss out while rich communities will have more than they need.

William Hawes writes that the reason social democracy works in Scandinavian countries is because there is a culture of solidarity. Quite the opposite exists in the United States, particularly for conservatives. Hawes describes four beliefs that prop up our current culture: The Puritan/Calvinist belief that there will always be poor people, the Monroe Doctrine belief that the world is ours to conquer, Social Darwinism that believes certain people are inferior and Positivism, which neglects to take humanity into consideration. Positivism, he explains, leads to materialism and over-medication in our population.

An antidote to these beliefs is to promote the common wealth. Rivera Sun writes that pursuit of individual wealth has been destructive to common wealth, often requiring exploitation of peoples and places. Common wealth is much broader than material wealth, it includes “our society, communities, knowledge, beliefs, practices, culture, arts, stories, myths, philosophies, psychologies, healing arts, education, innovation, expression, and connection… the ‘wealth and prosperity’ of the forests, oceans, plains, rivers, skies, glaciers, mountains, deserts, lakes, and so on.” Sun sees the culture shifting to embrace ways of living that are more cooperative and sustainable.

Lily Rhoads/ Flickr

Lily Rhoads/ Flickr

At a crossroads

Across the United States and around the world, people are coming together to do more than protest, they are defining what positive solutions they want to put in place and are working to change the underlying systems. There are exciting campaigns and gains that are being made.

People from the United States and Canada who have been fighting the privatization of water met in Flint, Michigan to form a new coalition focused on the Great Lakes area. Nestlé has been a big problem on both sides of the border because it preys on small towns and takes water with little compensation to communities, so they are calling for a boycott of all Nestlé products and are working to end bottled water as a commodity.

There is also a growing campaign against privatization of education. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is being protested wherever she goes.

Dominion Energy has long dominated politics in Virginia and surrounding states, but that is changing. People have been organizing to stop Dominion Energy’s fossil fuel projects and now state agencies have started denying Dominion’s requests. In California, where PG&E’s poor maintenance of electrical infrastructure may have caused some of the deadly wildfires, there are rumblings about placing PG&E under public control. And union workers are calling on the AFL-CIO to fight for a transition to clean energy. In the past, unions have supported dirty energy projects because they meant jobs, but those jobs come at a cost to the planet and the health of workers.

Last week, Popular Resistance and allies organized actions in Washington, DC to protest the re-negotiation of NAFTA during the fourth round of talks. The Trump administration is pushing to include many of the provisions we opposed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership such as corporate courts and other corporate power grabs. We are calling for a new model of trade that protects people and the planet. The next round in the United States will be in December. We need to have an even greater presence there. Please sign up at if you are willing to join us.

Recent victories include a New York Supreme Court ruling against a private prison’s attempts to hide information on immigrant detentions. In Colorado, the ACLU wrote a report about the unjust practices of a particular judge, and now they are working with the city council to reform the court. In Chicago, youth have organized amazing days of actions to stop a $95 million police training academy and redirect that money back into communities where schools have been closed.

Public banks are gaining traction in Los Angeles and Oakland. Public banks save cities millions of dollars that would otherwise go to Wall Street and can be used to fund projects that benefit local residents. Ellen Brown of the Public Banking Institute also writes that Puerto Rico’s debt can easily be erased by quantitative easing, the same mechanism that bailed out the banks in 2008.

And the call for peace is rising. Thousands of women, both Israeli and Palestinian, marched together for two weeks calling for peace talks. Next weekend, the Divest from the War Machine summit will take place in Washington, DC. And Veterans for Peace are calling for Veteran’s Day to be celebrated as it was originally intended, Armistice Day, with activities focused on peace.


Which way forward?

In “A Tale of Two Islands,” Vijay Prashad compares the situations in Cuba and Puerto Rico after the devastation of recent hurricanes as a way to compare a socialized state with a neo-liberal state. In the poor country of Cuba, steps were taken prior to the hurricane to protect people and infrastructure and to prepare for their needs after the storm. As a result, fewer people died and power was restored within a few weeks. In Puerto Rico, a US colony ravaged by debt and austerity, the death toll continues to rise as people go without water, food and power. It will take many months to restore the electrical infrastructure.

We too can choose whether we want a future of solidarity where human needs and protection of the planet come before profits or whether we will continue down the path where corporations and the politicians they fund deny access to basic needs to satisfy their shareholders. The impacts we are experiencing are the result of human-made systems and those systems can be changed and must be changed if we are to solve the crises we face.

William Hawes closes with a quote from Marcos about building “…an intercontinental network of resistance against neoliberalism… in which distinct resistances may support one another. This network of resistance is not an organized structure; it doesn’t have a central head or decision maker; it has no central command or hierarchies. We are the network, all of us who resist.”

There is much to do and we can all do something from helping each other to meet our needs, educating ourselves and others about what is going on to participating in campaigns to end harmful practices or build new systems. You are the Popular Resistance.

As we celebrate our sixth year since the Occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, enjoy this compilation of some of the actions we have organized or joined.


  • Aquifer

    “playing on race and ethnic …..differences, [Trump] postures as their champion, the only leader who will favor them by protecting them against the threatening long-term descent into poverty and degradation,”

    Can’t help noticing that Trump isn’t the only one who has been “playing on race and ethnic differences” …

    “William Hawes writes that the reason social democracy works in Scandinavian countries is because there is a culture of solidarity. Quite the opposite exists in the United States, particularly for conservatives.”

    Not just for conservatives …

    “An antidote to these beliefs is to promote the common wealth”

    No kidding ….

  • 6 years. Beautiful days to remember and cherish. Occupy Tucson was wonderful and life-changing. Camping is what I do. Tucson’s Freedom Park camp began at Armory Park, but then was forcibly cleared one month later. We regrouped downtown for another month among the tall buildings of the “too big to fail banks”. There, We being about a hundred, more and then less, caring people, created in two short tumultuous months a very solidarity-styled home-style urban camp. The feeling of People power that I and many others shared was mind-blowing, to say the least! lol

    I was liberated from my rat-race existence and with everybody else! To talk. Meet. Share. Camp. Together. Yeow! lol Big difference from just days before! I had just been released from a nursing home for a stroke and still on a cane with a recent hip replacement. I was NOT to be denied my rightful place in an historic moment! I packed up my camp home that I wouldn’t see for some weeks. My campsite home is on multiple acreage 75 miles to the northeast of Tucson.

    Originally in October I volunteered as security, but usually saw a greater need as camp-lead in the litter detail. Support with sanitation, water and cooking was an Occupy community effort. Donations of porta-potties, tents, generators, food, water barrels, etc. poured in and continued until the final days, as the city declined to give support. Foolish me thought that we would be treated with Constitutionally-derived rights and welcomed. Boy, was a I deluded! (I was brought-up republican and racist but then Woodstock cured that!)

    Exactly the opposite happened! lol That was my first hard COLD WET slap into reality. Peaceably remaining in our public space was not to be. Progressively, we were harassed, bullied by imposters, police plants and two-bit hustlers, along with whatever the city could throw at us. Confrontations were always met with transparency and love. But two months on, we were tired, ticketed and beat but not out! lol The struggle goes on to today and beyond, I fear for a long time. I live too far away to daily and weekly protest, but I write, and pray and hope and dance with all of you, MY FAMILY of true human b beings.

  • subcomandante Felix

    One might say transformational political change begins with cultural revolution. Up to this point, no political revolution has successfully changed the hierarchical and patriarchal organization and structure of nation state societies. What most call political revolution, is merely the rearrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic, where one male hierarchy is replaced with another. It is instructive to look at what were arguably the three most important revolutions of the 20th Century, one political, one political/cultural and one primarily cultural.

    The October Russian Revolution was a case where political revolution radically changed the State, without an adequate cultural base. As a result, political change was forced to rely on a revolutionary vanguard to
    implement the necessary supporting cultural change. Despite the best efforts of Lenin, Trotsky et al. to build a socialist culture for transformational change, the end result was the authoritarian Stalinist system of State capitalism. And now, the return of patriarchal oligarchic rule not totally dissimilar to feudal Tsarism.

    The post-WWII Chinese political revolution, again achieved at the barrel of a gun, has also resulted in an authoritarian/hierarchical system of State capitalism. This again despite valiant post-political revolution efforts to build supporting cultural change including what was the most-important failed political revolution of the 20th Century – the Cultural Revolution of the sixties.

    The third, the Zapatista cultural revolution started on a much smaller scale. It is important to note that the Zapatistas initially tried to seize political power by force but then turned to cultural revolution to implement transformational social change. Having first transformed their local and regional culture, the Zapatistas are now running an indigenous woman for president of Mexico. Zapatismo remains the most promising model of how to first build the cultural basis for transformational political change locally before seeking political change at the level of the State.

    Like Russia and China, the U.S. at this time does not have the cultural basis to support a transformational political revolution. Without the organization and structures for self-governance and economic independence (homespun), political change in the U.S. remains an exercise in making superficial reforms while the underlying capitalist and patriarchal hierarchy remains in place — largely calling the shots. Nevertheless, the largely non-political cultural revolution is making great progress in preparing the way for the transformational political change that is sure to follow.

  • Linda Jansen

    Speaking of reforms, I didn’t see Medicare for All mentioned in Margaret and Kevin’s summary. Have you guys moved on?

  • subcomandante Felix

    To people without affordable health care, superficial reforms are far more important than transformational social change. But the two are not mutually exclusive and a diversity of approaches and efforts is the key to making change. Not sure however, why you are questioning Margaret & Kevin’s commitment to health care as a human right? I don’t know of anyone who is, or has been, a stronger advocate.

  • Margaret Flowers

    Definitely not! The Health Over Profit for Everyone national call is tonight, Oct. 16, at 9 pm Eastern.

  • Linda Jansen

    Okay. Just checkin’

  • Linda Jansen

    I’ll listen later. My pin didn’t work to get on the call for some reason.