Even the New York Times was forced to admit it, after the mammoth Feb. 15-16 demonstrations: "there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the
On one side we have governments and corporate elites. Their shared agenda is what it has always been. They universally seek to protect and enlarge their advantages over the overwhelming majority of the worldâ€™s population. Their shared means are two-fold. First, they want to rewrite the rules of international exchange to tilt even more toward their own aggrandizement. This is called corporate globalization. Second, they want to steadily erode popular protections and rights won in long-standing struggle around the globe. They want to assault affirmative action, immigrant rights, welfare programs, and broader social spending. They want to entrench new methods of repression. They call all this patriotism. Beyond this broad consensus, however, elites are split.
Since 9/11 the most central and powerful elite sector has felt that it could dramatically enlarge its control by concocting a war on terrorism. This overwhelmingly U.S.-based contingent of the world's elites is seeking to scare and cajole publics all over the planet, hoping to propel all kinds of otherwise impossible redistribution and repression. Bush Blair and Co. now seem to think that turning the clock back a hundred years to reinstate brute force in international relations promises them even more control and power. Bombing
Others at the top of the pile of detritus that rules the planet are perfectly content with business as it had been the past couple of decades. They want some tweaks here and there, but they think that seeking overt empire risks too great a dissident reaction and/or they fear that too much of the benefit may accrue to a too narrow a sector at the top. They worry
Against the haves who want more wealth and power but who arenâ€™t quite sure of the best path to pursue it, stands our growing world-spanning movement of movements. The shared agenda of our movements is no war in
Regarding understanding, the big variation is that some of us think we are only trying to win various proximate gains such as preventing war in
At the level of methods and tactics, there is also a major divide. Are we mostly trying to make a statement and manifest the feelings that we ourselves have percolating through our nervous systems at any given moment â€“ or are we trying to build a movement aimed at winning massive change over the longer haul?
In the first case, as situations unfold we make decisions about what to do by consulting primarily our own feelings: how angry are we, how much do we wish to do this or that action based on our mood and desires and in light of what is called for from us and how we will look and feel in the aftermath?
In the second case, we make decisions instead by primarily consulting our best judgment as to what will enlarge our movements and best increase our insight and commitment. The second approach also has to pay attention to how we feel and what we are capable of, to be sure, but it prioritizes what is needed to win and not just to feel fine. It may sound harsh, but I do think this is a real and serious difference, even if it appears here in words a bit more stark than it often appears in practice.
In short, are we building an activist community that preserves itself against incursions from without, creating an identity for ourselves as dissidents which we protect from dissolving, sometimes even becoming more concerned about persisting unchanged in all our formulations and processes than we are concerned about growing and diversifying? Or are we developing a movement whose intention is to constantly grow and alter, and in which we must constantly adapt our personal proclivities as we attract new constituencies and incorporate new agendas? Are we eager to empower others thereby reducing our own level of power and our own impact on how things proceed, though seeing the overall power of the movement enlarge?
(1) Success is not a single â€œall or nothingâ€ affair. Of course we want to prevent war in
(2) The anti-war demonstrations this past weekend were perhaps the largest such outpouring in modern history. Were there two million or one and half million in
(3) We must not in the flush of growth set our short-term goals so high that they are unattainable, making ourselves depressed about our efforts when we inevitably donâ€™t attain them. We must instead see what we are doing as a process. We should exult in the growth of this process and see that growth as a tremendous achievement â€“ but as an achievement that paves the way for more to come. The growth of our opposition brings a responsibility: more growth. We should not become enchanted with our current size and breadth whether it is on a single campus, or in a town, or a city, or a country, or internationally. The trick is not to celebrate ourselves but to celebrate our potential. The task is to reach out, reach out, reach out â€“ precisely to constituencies we think we cannot reach out to â€“ because we can. On a campus we need to do it in the dorms and the fraternities, seeking not only the dissidents but also the footballers â€“ yes, the athletes, by all means! Put a leaflet under every door. And then do it again. And then knock on the doors and talk. And then do that again. In our neighborhoods and workplaces, give materials to and then talk with our fellow citizens over and over. Reach out to mail deliverers, public school teachers, short order cooks, flight attendants, assemblers, truck drivers, hospital orderlies, coal miners, and even the military and police, yes even and arguably most importantly the military and the police.
On one side there is Bush, Blair, and other political masters and mullahs, plus owners and CEOs galore. On the other side we have a movement of movements â€“ and a massive worldwide constituency that we need to reach.
If movements for social change unswervingly seek diversity, solidarity, equity, and self-management â€“ peace and justice â€“ and if they do it in a manner and with a tone and with tactics all of which seek to empower the weak and to meet the needs of the poor, they/we can win this struggle â€“ and the struggle I have in mind to win, the one I think we are all in, is not just over a reform here or there â€“ and it is not just over peace now and then -- it is a struggle over who will decide the future and who the future will serve. Showdown indeed.
We have reason to celebrate. But we must have courage. And we must have stamina. Our struggle will require much time and tremendous perseverance. But the day for the ship of equity, for the ship of self-management, for the ship of solidarity, for the ship of diversity, and for the ship of justice and peace to dock is coming. Row!
History is not over. It is, instead, ours to take.