Amazing, just amazing. We win one a week ago on the tar-sands pipeline — not a final victory but a big one — and then yesterday, the young (and older) people of Occupy Wall Street pull off a tremendously powerful day-long series of actions in response to the Bloomberg/police, middle-of-the-night Tuesday eviction at Liberty Park. It began with nonviolent disruption of Wall Street, continued with organized outreach, education and movement-building on the NYC subways and concluded with a massive march and rally of tens of thousands across the Brooklyn Bridge and into Brooklyn.
But not just this. Yesterday was also the day that the Delaware River Basin Commission, in response to the aggressive and effective organizing of the mid-Atlantic no-fracking movement, announced that it was canceling its planned meeting for this Monday. At this meeting they were likely going to lift a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River basin area.
I can’t remember ever in my life a week so full of concrete actions and victories which presage hope for the future.
Why is this happening? What is it in the air, over the internet, in the world, that is driving not just a popular upsurge for justice and democracy but actual victories, here in the U.S., in North Africa and elsewhere?
The movement of history. And the speed of communications today. These are two primary reasons.
Here is an edited version of something I wrote 11 years ago, at a point where the global justice movement had pulled off successful actions against the World Trade Organization in Seattle and the IMF and World Bank in Washington, D.C. The words ring true for what is happening today:
“I recently received a letter from someone who quoted Karl Marx as having once said, ‘History moves with the speed of communication.’ This quote struck me.
“We are living in a time when communications are both near-instantaneous and potentially worldwide for an ever-growing number of people. Something which happens in one part of the world can be reported on or learned about at the same time it is happening all over the world.
“More significantly, with the advent of the internet, grassroots, labor, progressive, revolutionary and people’s movements can be in direct, immediate contact, in an interactive way, with millions of people involved. The internet, through email lists, web sites, twitter, facebook and more, because it is not controlled by the ruling corporate elite, is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for the building of massive movements for progressive change. Without it, it is highly unlikely that the actions in Seattle last November and Washington, D.C. this past April would have attracted the numbers and had the immense political impact that they did.
“It seems to me that this makes it possible for positive change to take place much more rapidly than many of us might think. If it is true that the year 2000 is witnessing a rebirth of the kind of popular, activist, multi-issue movement that we haven’t seen in 30 years in this country, and if history does indeed move ‘with the speed of communication,’ this first decade of the 21st century could well become a time of great historical significance.
“After all, it is a law of physics that ‘things in motion tend to stay in motion.’ If the new people’s movement of the 21st century can hold together and keep building and interconnecting, there is no way to forecast how much we can do in a relatively short period of time.”
What happened to that movement? It was overwhelmed by the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks and the government’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of those part of that movement shifted their focus to anti-war activism and, years later, the Obama Presidential campaign.
Another Obama presidential campaign is getting underway, but I don’t expect the people’s power movement and the climate movement to repeat what happened in 2008. Instead, I expect, and will be doing what I can to build, a continuation of the kind of strategic nonviolent direct action and independent movement building we have been seeing in the U.S. since late August and the arrest of over 1,250 people at the White House.
Some of those active in this movement will be critical supporters of Obama, others will support the Green Party, others won’t have anything to do with elections, and that’s all just fine. We can agree to disagree on tactics as far as our corporate- and two-party-dominated, undemocratic electoral system while we join forces to build the people’s movement in the streets, in the schools, in the workplaces and communities.
While we keep making history in 2012.
Get Grist in your inbox