The United States has reached a turning point. Where we turn is dependent on what we do as people to determine our future.
Cornel West writes that we are at the end of forty years of neo-liberal order with the rejection of the Democrats and the election of Trump. “This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees.” Unfortunately, the policies of a Trump presidency are unlikely to bring economic security for most people.
Danny Haiphong argues that the election was the reflection of a crisis of legitimacy for the two ruling parties and that “Whether one analyzes the economic, military, or political spheres of US imperialism, one thing is abundantly clear. The very fabric of the United States is in deep crisis.”
Neither of the major political parties are going to adequately solve the crises we face. This is a time to examine and discuss some fundamental issues: who we are and who we want to be. Out of crises come opportunities to put bold solutions in place. We are calling for a People’s Agenda.
An Opportunity to Change History
The current conflict at Standing Rock is an opportunity to reverse the 500-year history of American Genocide. At present, we understand that 10,000 people are at the Sacred Stone camp in North Dakota to oppose the completion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline that will run under the Missouri River. Hundreds of tribes have joined in solidarity to oppose the pipeline in a way that has never happened before.
The pipeline is being built by Energy Transfer Partners against the will of the Standing Rock Sioux and in violation of sacred lands and an ancestral burial ground. The tribe sued to stop the pipeline and lost, but the Army Corps of Engineers put a hold on it. Then the pipeline company sued to be able to complete the pipeline anyway. The pipeline is still not being built on the Army Corps of Engineers’ land, really land that is Indigenous land based on a treaty, and where the water protectors encampments are located.
Water protectors at Standing Rock have persisted in peaceful protest to stop construction of the pipeline, but they have been met with very aggressive attacks by militarized police coming from all across the country. Last Sunday night, police sprayed demonstrators with water cannons in freezing weather causing near-lethal hypothermia. Police shot concussion grenades, tear gas and pepper spray causing serious injuries, including to 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky who may lose her arm. This is reminiscent of past large-scale attacks on indigenous peoples; of course, the commercial media covered it poorly.
Activists have responded in a powerful way with actions throughout the US and Canada on Friday to protest banks that are invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and at malls to raise awareness. In Baltimore, six people locked down in a branch of Wells Fargo. In Toronto, three women locked down at the head office of TD Bank. Some towns have passed resolutions in solidarity with Standing Rock. And Anonymous shut down the Safariland website, the company that supplies police with weapons.
Also on Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers sent an eviction notice to the people at Sacred Stone Camp, effective December 5, and offered to set up a free speech zone in a safe place. This shows how out of touch the government is with the people. The best way to keep people safe is not to build pipelines and not to attack nonviolent protesters, especially when they are on land given to them through a treaty. The Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, replied that they will not leave and are filing a lawsuit and calling for an injunction against the police and Energy Transfers.
This is our moment to stand in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock and the hundreds of tribes who have joined them. This is the time to say “No more” to centuries of genocide against Native Americans. On Dec. 4, thousands of veterans are planning to go to Standing Rock to stand with the water protectors. We and others who we know are heading to Standing Rock to serve in any way that we can. We must demand that the pipeline be stopped, that the violence be stopped and that we honor the treaties. Click here for more information about the camp.
A United Front Against Trumpism
Just as we take action in unity to protect indigenous rights and Mother Earth, we will need to unite against harmful policies of a Trump presidency (which would also have been true of a Clinton presidency). Deborah Rogers calls for Solidarity Politics, creating a broad movement across the political spectrum in our communities and offers concrete suggestions for doing that.
It is particularly important that we work together to protect each other from hate crimes. The Southern Poverty Law Center has already documented over 700 acts of hate since election day. Several hundred Neo-Nazis of the National Policy Institute gathered in Washington, DC last week and were protested both at their conference and at their dinner.
There will be much to protest under a Trump administration. His selection of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education means even more attacks on our public schools and privatization masked as ‘choice’. His immigration plan will significantly roll back immigrant rights and continue the tide of deportations. The appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general is good news for the Monsanto-Bayer merger and other moves toward monopolies. Attacks on workers will come from multiple directions and will create a workers crisis that will force labor to reinvent itself or disappear. Trump’s tax plan will create massive tax cuts for the wealthy, which will force austerity measures on the rest of us. And it looks like all of the work we did in 2014 and 15 to protect net neutrality will be undone, unless we mobilize to stop them.
While we are pleased that Trump is willing to pursue a less aggressive stance with Russia, there are signs that his administration will not exactly respect international law or human rights under the influence of Michael Flynn or under Mike Pompeo, who is a proponent of torture, as CIA Director. In addition, the weapons industry is well represented in the Trump transition team and he has promised increased budgets especially for space weapons.
Noam Chomsky states that two very important and life-altering events occurred on election day. One was a report by the World Meteorological Organization at the climate talks that global warming is accelerating and the other is the election of Republicans in the White House, Senate and House who largely deny the climate crisis and are determined to burn more carbon when we should be moving rapidly off it. At the climate talks, many countries made a commitment to act on climate regardless of what the United States does. The power of oil, gas and coal inside the Trump administration will require the climate movement, which has grown so rapidly during the “all of the above” Obama years, to escalate, expand and mobilize more aggressively.
We have the power to make changes in this country that completely alter the course of our nation and the world. We can say no to genocide against Native Americans. We can end systemic racism. We can demand respect for the human rights of all people. We can promote peace and prosperity for all. We can solve the climate crisis. It is up to us and how we organize in our communities.
Erica Chenowith, author of “Why Civil Resistance Works,” writes that we are living in a time of dissent. She offers “10 established social science insights about unarmed dissent that everyone should know.” At the heart of the success of popular movements is what we have advocated – the building of a broad and diverse unified movement that is active and has built national consensus for the changes we wish to see. We offer the People’s agenda as one example of the vision for the future.
Here are some upcoming events that you can join:
Nov. 29 – Join the Fight for Fifteen nationwide day of action.
Dec. 1 and 2 – We will participate in the People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War.
Dec. 5 – Stand with Standing Rock in North Dakota or plan local actions at banks or the Army Corps of Engineers.
Jan. 20 and 21 – Join Occupy the Inauguration and the Women’s March. We hope to create a Popular Resistance contingent in the march that highlights the People’s Agenda.
March 3 to 5 – Attend the Left Elect conference in Chicago to move towards building a united left in the United States.