By Jules Lobel for Common Dreams. Millions of people marched throughout the United States and abroad last Saturday to protest Donald Trump’s first day in office and to affirm women’s rights and human rights. The demonstrations were inspiring—full of energy, witty signs, slogans and chants—and brought into the streets a diverse multitude, many of whom were not normally politically active. But a demonstration is not a movement. The key question for many is how does all this energy, outrage and action get channeled into a movement not simply against the Trump Presidency, not only to defend our rights, but for basic societal change. The current upsurge in political activism among ordinary people stems from the perceived danger that Trump presents: to democracy, decency, progress, rights, women, immigrants, minorities and generally civilized values. The very danger causing the consternation, outrage and grief which moved people to action presents an enormous opportunity to change the country’s political dynamic. But that takes translating the protest against Trump and those who empower him into a positive vision of social change.
By Staff of M4BL - No matter where you are in the world, the name Martin Luther King, Jr., is synonymous with freedom, equality, and hope. On January 16, we’ll commemorate his life, legacy and the contributions of other civil rights warriors whose resistance to oppression pushed the country toward equality. But this year will be different. Just four days after MLK Day, we’ll witness the inauguration of a President who is the antithesis of everything Dr. King stood for; a demagogue who galvanized millions by spewing hate and promising to harm the most vulnerable in this nation. The threats of mass deportation, the dismantling of Obamacare, the registration of Muslims and the criminalization of women’s health, are loud and clear.
By Bruce A. Dixon for Black Agenda Report - As funders of the nonprofit industrial complex, the one percent of one percenters literally own what most of us call the movement. Last summer the “Ford Foundation and anonymous donors” pledged to invest $100 million to “strengthen the next generation of social justice leaders… in what many call the Movement for Black Lives.” Do we want to go where the owners of this movement are taking us? Is there any other destination or way to ride? For more than a generation now the accepted wisdom, whenever people aim to tackle some societal problem has been to join or start or seek employment with or volunteer for this or that nonprofit organization.
By Jack Shuler for Truth Out - When Chris Wills got out of prison, he could not find a job. He applied, but no one would hire him because of his record. And then he started using drugs again. In a moment of desperation, he went to talk with a friend who ran programs in the local jail. His friend didn't tell him to just get clean. He didn't tell him to just get a job. He gave him some advice that, in the moment, Wills thought was just weird. His friend told him to go meet with some community organizers from a group called the Newark Think Tank on Poverty.
I’m thinking about 15 years ago in the rainy streets of Seattle, but even more about farmworkers in the fields of Immokalee and the roads of Burnaby Mountain, British Columbia where First Nations-led mass blockades against Kinder Morgan’s tar sands pipeline are currently happening. After not writing about the Seattle WTO protests for many years, I realized that what people think and know about the past shapes what they do now and thus the future. It’s important to keep some continuity between movements and generations, so new movements and generations can take what is of use and understand what really happened and why from the past and continue to innovate. When Hollywood actor Stuart Townsend called me and told me he was going to make the film Battle in Seattle, I started writing analysis and reflections about Seattle to combat the false myth’s about the Seattle WTO mass direct action shutdown. At this time each year I think and write reflections and analysis around this time.
The events of the past few weeks in Ferguson and the surrounding St. Louis community have forced us to ask ourselves some tough questions. Many young African Americans are asking themselves, “How do I feel about my city? And how does my city feel about me?” Many white St. Louisans – who have long considered themselves “liberal” or “progressive,” yet have been surprised by the unrest they’ve seen on their televisions – are asking themselves, “Why are they so angry?” and “Has this anger been there all the time? And if so, how did I not see it?” All of us should be asking questions about the role of government and police departments, and the danger that arises when those bodies so grossly do not reflect the populations they are supposed to serve. What we have witnessed these past few weeks is the result of broken trusts. The trust between government and the people is sacred. Trust between a community and their police is absolutely required for police to effectively serve and protect it. Without it, police become something more similar to an occupying force, which is what the images from Ferguson last month resembled. People need to trust that if they call police for help, the police will arrive ready to serve and fairly enforce the law. People should not fear that their call to report a simple shoplifting could result in a young man being gunned down on the street by the very officers they called for help.
Conversations with Activists Worldwide on How to Use Latin America’s COP to Build Citizen Action on Climate (From the Introduction…) “Mobilizing effective citizen action on the global climate crisis has never been more urgent or seemed more daunting. Across the world’s continents, due to drought, storms and fierce flooding, 2014 may well be remembered as the year when climate change became understood as a current reality instead of a distant projection. This is also the year in which, after stalled progress and dashed hopes, activist energies are turning once again to the demand for international action. [...] To help the climate change movement look more strategically at how to make use of the COP gathering, we undertook a diverse set of exploratory one-on-one conversations. When you speak with people in this way, you not only benefit from the best of their thinking and analysis, you can also push them to think about things even more deeply than they may have before. Sometimes face-to-face, sometimes over Skype, expressed in different ways by different people, we found a strong collective wisdom about a potential set of COP20 strategies. This report offers our best effort to synthesize that wisdom into something people can rally around as planning gets underway for the COP in the Andes.”
Would Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic marches to end segregation and grant voting rights to Black Americans have happened at all if Bull Connor’s police owned the same military equipment that the Ferguson Police Department has today? Can peacefully exercising First Amendment rights create any lasting change if police have the weaponry – and, apparently, the legal authority – to immediately and violently disperse crowds? Bull Connor became legendary as the Birmingham public safety commissioner who ordered police dogs and fire hoses to be used on peaceful civil rights protesters in 1960s Alabama. Birmingham became known as “Bombingham” after multiple racially-motivated bombingsaimed at intimidating the city’s black residents rocked the city, from the North Smithfield neighborhood to the notorious 6th Avenue Baptist Church bombing. In response, Dr. King declared “Project C (Confrontation)” on the Birmingham police, both to expose Connor’s heavy-handed law enforcement approach and to fill the jails with civil rights protesters willing to throw themselves at the grinding machine of the nation’s most racist police department.
Roger Annis: Can you describe the origin of the "Maidan" protest movement that arose last year in central and western Ukraine? What was its social base and program? Daniel Grigor'ev: To begin with, the so-called Maidan movement isn't something untypical for Ukrainian politics. You see, unlike some other post-Soviet countries (including Russia), the Ukrainian bourgeoisie found itself unable to promote any kind of stable, governing agreements. Instead, we see a number of business clans who are constantly fighting with each other in an effort to get the biggest share of national wealth. That's why protests, demonstrations, intense debates and more or less democratic procedures are common there, though it may be very misleading for someone who hasn't yet analyzed the nature of the newborn, post-USSR countries. When it comes to the social base, I think it would be accurate to distinguish two main categories. The first would be mainly Kiev's "middle class" (which isn't a middle class in a European understanding, but a relatively small and extremely privileged group). Apart from considering all the Maidan events as some kind of adventure (or a perfect place to take some selfies), those people provided a number of demands, which say a lot about their viewpoint. For example, we heard about "European choice," "joining the Western world," "becoming a part of civilization" and so on. Those claims seem rather peculiar, given the fact that no one invited Ukraine to become a part of the European Union.
As the crisis of austerity deepens, forcing workers and the public to swallow the costs of the global financial meltdown, the need for the radical imagination is more urgent than ever. But what is it, actually? How can we understand the radical imagination as more than a hollow slogan? How can it be a critical tool for building movements to reclaim our world from a renegade form of capitalism rooted in sexism, racism, homophobia, mass incarceration, the illegalization of migrants and the destruction of the earth? These are the questions we ask and seek to answer in our book The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity (Zed Books, 2014), which is based on our study of today's social movements. Here are a few key things we learned. The radical imagination is not something that we have as individuals; it's something that we do, and that we do together. The idea of the imagination typically makes us think about our own unique, individual mental worlds. But in a very real way, our mental worlds are shared imaginative landscapes. When we tell stories about our past, present and future or about inspiring victories or humbling defeats, we are crafting such landscapes through dialogue and participant power.
Our book, The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity (Zed Books, 2014), is a set of reflections on an experiment. Our experiment began, as most do, with questions. What if researchers studying social movements understood their role as less about gathering reliable data to share with other scholars and more about catalyzing and convoking the radical imagination? What if, instead of distanced observers, researchers understood themselves to be integral, generative and critical parts of how movements reproduced themselves? What if researchers — and here we don’t just mean gainfully employed academics but something far broader — were committed to enlivening and empowering those most important forces for social transformation: the social movements which, though sidelined and belittled in mainstream history, are and have always been the motors of historical change? What if we saw ourselves and our work as borrowed from a future that we must, in turn, help usher into being? We began The Radical Imagination Project in 2010 with two key theoretical assumptions. The first is that social movements are, at their hearts, animated by the radical imagination. The radical imagination is not a thing one can possess, no matter how “outside the box” one’s own personal thinking is or how many clever books one has read (or written). The radical imagination is a collective process, it’s something we do together. It is a shared landscape of political refusal, a mutually reinforcing agreement to question the social order and the roots of exploitation, inequality and oppression. Beyond merely a feel-good slogan, the radical imagination emerges out of questions, conflicts, friction and debate.
We gather again! For the third year, the Occupy movement invites all to gather together to review the year, share knowledge and skills, celebrate successes and analyze disappointments, and prepare for another year of fighting for the better world that we all know is possible. From Philadelphia in 2012 to Kalamazoo last summer, and this year in Sacramento (July 31 through August 3), Occupy has been heading west, bringing its hopeful, resistant message. We are the 99%—so we say, but are we really? On July 30, the day before the gathering, independent yet connected, there is an anti-racism training customized for the movement by the Catalyst Project: Antiracism Training for Collective Liberation.
There’s a well-known quote from Mohandas Gandhi that, like many of his, is now common enough to verge on cliché: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Every so often it describes a situation perfectly. One such occasion was this Monday, reading Matthew Cunningham-Cook’s recent piece “Why the fossil fuel divestment movement is a farce.” The title isn’t as far off in its description as one might think. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary explains a farce as a funny staged production about “ridiculous situations and events.” An economy that can only operate through the extraction of land and labor is a ridiculous situation to find ourselves in as a society; rightfully so, no one is laughing. The climate crisis is one catastrophic symptom of an economic system that has not only driven us to the brink of destruction, but every day destroys millions of communities in our own backyard and around the world. The movement, though, has progressed in a less linear fashion than Gandhi imagined. For its first two years, divestment was largely ignored by university administrations, the media, the investment community, and just about the entire public. It’s been laughed at its fair share already, but — quicker than anyone predicted — is already starting to win. As noted in the article, not only have major cities and institutions committed to divest, but the international conversation on climate change and extraction is already starting to change. Endorsements have come from such unexpected places as the World Bank, and even former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs’ COO Henry Paulson this past week.
A half-century since the apex of the Civil Rights Movement, the quest for racial and economic justice continues unabated in the United States. Arguably the most powerful expression of that struggle today is the growing movement to end the racialized system of mass incarceration. At the forefront of leadership in the struggle to dismantle the US prison-industrial complex and to alleviate its negative consequences, stands the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People's Movement (FICPM). The FICPM is a nationwide coalition of formerly incarcerated men and women who are holding forth a radical vision for justice and transformation and who are putting that vision to work in towns and cities across the nation. This 29-minute radio documentary highlights the voices of nine members of the FICPM steering committee, men and women who have experienced the workings of the US criminal justice system from the inside out and who have dedicated themselves to the work of building a new and better future, not only for presently and formerly incarcerated people, but for the entire nation.
After a decade of grassroots advocacy, my personal belief is that the greatest obstacle to positive change in the world isn’t corporations, the government, or the 1%, but lack of movement solidarity. And no, I’m not pretending to be some modern day Moses bringing the divine truths down from the mountain. I’m just someone who has participated in the entire spectrum of the environmental movement — from mainstream to “radical,” on both coasts — who has witnessed a lot of unnecessary failures over the years, in large part because people can’t figure out how to work together. Since my work these days focuses on the health and environmental impacts of dirty energy — nuclear, fossil fuels, and biomass/trash incineration — most of the specific examples I give in this article will come from that realm. However, chances are the “Ten Commandments of Solidarity” can also apply to your movement, whatever it is…unless it’s evil. In which case, it won’t, so don’t bother.