Why It Takes Organized Resistance To Bring in the Sweeping Change That the Public Wants
Organized Resistance Brings Sweeping Change: Lessons for the US
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
It has been an incredible week of protest leading to change. The power of the people has been on display and there are lots of lessons we can learn from how the people have wielded that power.
The big story of the week was Egypt. Protests organized by Tamarod (Rebel) that have been building for months, resulted in the biggest protest in Egypt’s history, four days of mass protest beginning on June 30 that ended the rule of President Mohamed Morsi. More than a week ago, Tamarod recommended that the head of the Egyptian Constitutional Court become the interim president and that is what was announced by the Egyptian military. The military made the announcement after lengthy meetings with religious groups, including minority religions; opposing political parties, including a Muslim party; and civil society including Tamarod. All of these groups spoke at the press conference announcing the transition. The theme that threaded itself through the comments was that all factions in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood, should be included, and that the revolution which began in January 2011 was beginning anew.
While people cheered the military facilitating the transition, they are well aware of the risk of military rule and already are opposing it. Signs could be seen that opposed the military being in charge along with protesting the rule of Morsi. People remember the harsh military rule that occurred after the fall of Mubarak, but also remember – and remind the military – that the people went into the streets and forced the military to hold elections. Already, there is a site with a countdown and checklist from the transition government to an elected government. A lot remains to unfold but so far the military does not seem to be dominating the transition. The whole world is watching – especially the tens of millions of Egyptians who helped to end the rule of Morsi. Many commentators are making the point that if the military is going to have any legitimacy it needs the support of the people.
An interesting note from Egypt is that in the January 2011 revolt, Egypt followed Tunisia into the Arab Spring. This time, we may see Tunisia follow Egypt in challenging religious rule as Tamarod has now been organized in Tunisia and is following a similar tactical path as was followed in Egypt.
It was not only in Egypt where the organized resistance of the people won, in Brazil they are winning as well. After three weeks of protest in Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff conceded many of the demonstrators’ demands, and called for a national compromise to improve public services, by investing 100% of Brazil Oil revenues in education and health care (the legislature agreed to 75%). In addition, there is support for more participatory democracy so the people have more say in the direction of the country. People continue to be in the street demanding that change continue, changes be increased and that they occur quickly.
In Turkey, the spark that lit the fire of nationwide protests against neoliberalism has been put out. The Gezi Park remodeling has been stopped by a court saying it did not serve a public purpose. It seems unlikely, now that the people’s consciousness has been raised, that resolving the Gezi Park dispute will end the dissatisfaction of the people with the economy and government.
An open letter from “Comrades in Cairo” described how the revolts around the world were connected. There are a variety of common denominators, but in essence the people of the world are suffering from the grip of neoliberal economics. This is the economics of transnational corporate capitalism. Whether people are living under a dictatorship, religious government or in a managed democracy, they are suffering from economic policies that call for cuts to public services, privatization of government functions, as well as tax and other policies that funnel money to the wealthiest. As a result countries like Brazil and Turkey looked like success stories with rising GDPs, but in reality, the money went to very few and most people are suffering; both countries were tinderboxes waiting for mass protest to be ignited.
We see these same problems in the United States. We live in a managed democracy where Americans have the illusion of participating. People of voting age can vote, but their choices are limited to two corporate parties, funded by Wall Street and big business, that run candidates approved and funded by concentrated wealth. As a result the policies coming from government serve concentrated wealth, not the people.
This week, PopularResistance.org, along with other groups, announced a campaign to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This outrageous trade agreement has been negotiated in secret for four years, except for 600 corporate advisors who participate and tell the US government what they would like in the treaty. We’ve organized under the name FlushTheTPP.org, a website that is action oriented and provides quick, easily-understandable information and tools.
The first step is to educate the public about the contents of the agreement. This is where you are needed to hold #TPPTuesdays: actions around the country, focused on some of the corporations that are involved in negotiating or advising on the TPP. The corporations who are the most hated in America, e.g. Monsanto, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Wal-Mart, big pharmaceuticals, big finance, are all involved. We want people to know what the former US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, who now is a lobbyist for multi-national corporations, said, that if the people knew what was in this agreement it would be so unpopular that it could not be signed. To help educate, you can order or print the new TPP OccuCard to hand out at your action.
In fact, over and over again people have stopped trade agreements, which is why President Obama has taken a secret path on the TPP. He knows that if the people organize and resist, it will not become law. Since 1999, a dozen agreements have been stopped and we have developed a strategy based on what has stopped previous agreements. The bottom line is the TPP will mean corporations will be dominating all aspects of our lives. Here is a first in a series of videos by “The Naked Emperor,” featuring Oli Garch, this one focusing on how Monsanto is dominating food negotiations.
What we see from Brazil to Egypt to Turkey is the importance of building a mass movement and acting in solidarity. Stopping the TPP is an opportunity for solidarity in the US and with the global community because every issue people care about is negatively impacted by the TPP. Take the pledge now to join or plan an action. It is simple to do. And share the pledge with your community.
We are heartened by the great solidarity actions of our colleagues at Fearless Summer. In their first six days, Fearless Summer had 28 actions in 18 states. They brought together many of the frontline environmental justice groups to oppose radical energy sources that require extreme extraction techniques. Here’s a story showing all of the protests that have occurred against hydro-fracking for methane gas since President Obama’s climate speech which gave the green light to this environmentally destructive process – that actually makes climate change worse. Less and less people are falling for Obama’s rhetoric, are watching what he is actually doing and are building a movement.
More people are being mobilized because the veil of ignorance has been lifted up from our eyes. This is quite apparent in the Edward Snowden case. As Elliot Sperber wrote, “if knowledge is power, then the lack of knowledge, or ignorance, amounts to a lack of, or exclusion from, power. As such, removing, obscuring, or hiding knowledge – in a word, secrecy – not only creates power, it produces powerlessness, weakness, and vulnerability as well.” This means that as the government gathers information on us, one billion calls a day, they gain power. But, Snowden turned that on its head by proving to all that the US security state is spying on everyone. With that knowledge we have all gained power.
You can sense that new found power in this incredible tape of an NSA recruiting session. Several young people, armed with the truth, put their recruiters on notice, highlighted their lies and told them being a whistleblower is more honorable than being an NSA spy. Now, their tape is being shared widely and more people are gaining power.
Indeed, the Snowden revelations have not only lifted our ignorance, they have created action. As we can see today, thousands of people are taking action the Fourth of July to restore the 4th, in more than 100 actions around the country. More than 500,000 have signed on to take actions to stop the NSA spying – a figure that could vastly increase with online actions today. (Take action here.) And, as Eric Snowden’s father points out in an open letter to his son, even some in Congress are waking up to the surveillance state. We have a lot of work ahead; a former East German Stasi officer warns us the only way to protect ourselves is “not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”
Last week, the Europeans united against the invasive US spying of their leaders and people. At the same time, the powerful security state took the extraordinary action of ordering allied nations not to allow Bolivian President Evo Morales to fly over their territory and they complied. This forced President Morales’ plane to land in Austria where he had to spend the night – why because they suspected that Snowden was on board. They were wrong. Not only did the surveillance state once again show it is not invincible but they further turned Latin America against the United States.
Look at all the impact one person’s actions caused. A relatively low-level technocrat in the security state has turned their power upside down. One person can make a difference – a truth we have seen over and over.
Another person who has made a tremendous difference is Bradley Manning. This week Nobel Prize winner, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, urged that Manning be given the Peace Prize. The documents he leaked showed the daily operations of US Empire. It was not flattering. It showed to all truths that can no longer be denied. The US is the strongest nation in the world, but it is a rogue nation, willing to violate the law, commit war crimes, arrest people without charges, allow torture, pressure countries on behalf of transnational corporate interests and lie about it to the world. Well, Manning is in the midst of his trial. The prosecutor rested their case this week, with some big holes in their evidence, so we can expect a strong motion to dismiss next week from David Coombs. Support for Manning is growing as you can see in this 1,000 strong contingent at a Gay Pride Parade.
The state of dissent in America is rising, but so is the security state response. More and more people need to join in taking action so we protect our right to dissent from the government, to speak out against and to redress our grievances. We need to flex our rights to build our power. One group that is flexing its rights is veterans who stand for peace and justice. A group of 17 vets and allies will be going to trial this week in New York City to stand up for their right to protest. They were arrested while reading the names of the war dead at a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The police decided to enforce a curfew, only enforced when people are exercising constitutional rights, and arrested them.
This is the week when we were shown once again the power of the people from mass nationwide protests, to solidarity actions on specific issues, to individuals standing up in acts of conscience. All of these cases this week showed that in the end, we have the power. We must embrace it, join together and use it to transform the United States and the world.
This article is produced by PopularResistance.org in conjunction with AlterNet. It is based on PopularResistance.org’s weekly newsletter reviewing the activities of the resistance movement. We want to thank you for participating in PopularResistance.org. In our first month, 80,000 people visited the site. You may have noticed a few times where the site crashed. As a result we moved from a shared server to one of our own. This will cost us an additional $2,000 per year, but we see it as a worthy investment because as good as our first month was, we expect PopularResistance.org to grow. Please share this newsletter with your friends, relatives and community. Let them know people are taking action to create a better country and world, and they can join the effort. We also want to thank AlterNet with whom we partner in turning this newsletter into a weekly article.