We Have to Fight the Plutocrats to Build an Economy that Works
Continued from previous page
At first blush this sounds a little crazy. It runs counter to the message many economists and politicians bombard us with every day in the media. Their claim is that businesses aren’t investing, jobs aren’t being created and the housing market isn’t stabilizing because the corporate community needs greater certainty and predictability. These same people would argue that Obama and the Democrats need to be more business-friendly. Yet, Corporate America already has record profits and cash on hand. In short: the best of all worlds.
They know far better than we do that their hold on power is dependent on our acquiescence to their false premises and pseudo-free market ideology. Therefore we must directly challenge them in the streets so that they have more to lose by ignoring the public interest than by accepting real change.
The limits of cynicism
I know many Americans are cynical about the possibility of the success of such an effort in the United States.
But we have a long and proud tradition of challenging the economic and political interests of the powerful through direct action. Far from being alien to the American experience, it is central to the founding mythology of the country. Ironically, the Tea Partiers named themselves after one of the earliest acts of civil disobedience, the Boston Tea Party. Resistance to injustice is as American as apple pie. From the populist movement of the late 19th century, to the bonus marches after World War I, to the factory occupations of the 1930s, to the civil rights, student, anti-war, women’s and environmental movements born in the 1960s, to the LGBT rights, immigrant rights, and anti-globalization movements in more recent years, we have a long history of direct action mass movements that at certain moments capture the imagination of the country and lead to fundamental change.
And at no time since the Great Depression have so many people become disconnected from the promise of the “American Dream.” Millions of people are losing their homes or are trapped in upside-down, underwater mortgages. Students have close to a trillion dollars in debt from student loans, their schools’ budgets are being cut and they have few job options upon graduation. Millions of public-sector workers are at risk of losing their jobs, benefits and pensions. African Americans have been stripped of wealth accumulated over generations through subprime loans and declining housing values. The majority of white, non-college educated workers believe that the standard of living for them and their children will be worse in the future. Latinos and other immigrants have seen hopes of immigration reform dashed. The list of those increasingly left behind by the re-organization of the economy goes on and on.
The same is true for many organizations and movements. As a result of the Citizens United decision, groups that have worked for years for electoral and political change are now confronting defeat. So too are environmentalist and anti-climate change groups that have been stymied in trying to pass legislation that just a few short years ago seemed a near certainty. Organizations that have focused on state budgets and public services are under siege in state after state. There isn’t a shortage of people, constituencies or groups for whom the system no longer works. So the question is: How do we encourage, spark, magnify and grow the number of people, groups and places where people are standing up for our communities and our future?
A new kind of mass movement is now possible because of the speed and variety of communications. The Internet and social media not only offer an opportunity to communicate, organize and mobilize in new and creative ways, but they are uniquely designed to support efforts to destabilize and create uncertainties for elites. The exciting part is figuring out how to combine online activity with offline traditional organizing so that they magnify each other’s impact. “Anonymous” has already demonstrated how a “cyber” action can prevent a major corporation from engaging in business as usual while trampling on the public interest, in the same way a factory occupation stops production until a company negotiates fairly with its workers. We have more potential, people, organizations and tools to stand for economic justice than we have had at any time in recent history.