An estimated 170,000 protesters marched through the streets of the South Korean capital Seoul on Saturday, calling for President Park Geun-Hye
to resign. In the third peaceful mass protest against the Park government saw people express their unhappiness over a growing corruption scandal surrounding the president. Park is accused of allowing Choi Soon-sil. a close friend, to exerting undue influence of the South Korea government
An estimated 170,000 protesters marched through the streets of the South Korean capital Seoul on Saturday, calling for President Park Geun-Hye
Thousands of people take to the streets of American cities for another night of demonstrations against the election of Republican Donald Trump. In Portland police used teargas against crowds again, while police closely escorted people in Philadelphia and MiamiContinue reading...
More than 10,000 have signed up for a Saturday march from New York’s Union Square to Trump Tower, as unrest continues following his victory
Protesters across the US were gearing up on Friday for weekend demonstrations over the election of Donald Trump, as other activists began work on plans to disrupt the Republican’s inauguration in Washington early next year.
Rowdy protests against Trump and his divisive campaign have spread to cities all over the country following his victory on Tuesday, leading to dozens of arrests and a complaint from Trump in one of his first public remarks as president-elect.
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!
Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!Continue reading...
Donald Trump just rode into power on an anti-establishment wave caused by the deep fault lines of crisis. This is unfortunately what it took for the political establishments of both major parties to grasp the magnitude of the crisis. Unfortunately, members of the political class aren’t the only ones who will be paying the price for their failure of understanding.
The nightmare has just begun. Trump’s unabashed racism and misogyny on the campaign trail should be our first warning about what his presidency will look like. There’s no reason to believe he will now “turn it down,” seeing as how well it has worked for him so far. A cursory look at Trump’s far-right cabinet appointees provides another terrifying glimpse of what’s ahead. The threats before us are perhaps greater than most of us have seen in our lifetime. Already life has become palpably more dangerous for some of the most vulnerable Americans, as unapologetic racists have felt empowered, hate groups have grown, and hate crime incidents are proliferating across the country. While it’s possible that Trump could unravel early on, the fact is that most people thought he would do so a long time ago. He hasn’t. And there seems to be no inherent limit to how far he might go.
The thing is, Trump has shown himself to be more powerful than his own party’s leadership, and more powerful than the Democratic Party — even as he spent half as much money and had far less formal infrastructure for voter turnout. How did he become so powerful? If we are to understand Trump as a threat, and if we are to eventually overcome that threat — seeing as how he wasn’t stopped on November 8 — we have to understand how he gets his power.
Here’s the central reason: Trump intuitively understood the populist times we are living in.
To be living in populist times is to be living in an era when political authority is no longer seen as legitimate by most people; it’s what’s often referred to as a crisis of legitimacy. During such a crisis, populist movements and leaders emerge, from both the right and the left, in order to forge a new popular alignment of social forces. Populists explain the causes of the crisis, they name “the establishment” as the problem, and they articulate a new vision forward — an aspirational horizon — for “the people.” Left-wing populism and right-wing populism thus share certain rhetorical features (i.e., “the people” aligned against “the establishment”), but their contents and consequences could hardly be further apart. The retrograde “aspirational horizon” of right-wing populism tends to be in the rearview mirror: a nostalgic longing for a simpler time that never actually existed. More importantly, despite its ostensible anti-elitism, right-wing populism always punches down, unifying “the people” (some of them) by scapegoating a dehumanized other: blacks, Jews, homosexuals, immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims — take your pick — depending on the opportunities available to the particular demagogue in the given context.
The signs of the present crisis have accumulated for a long time: The Iraq War, crumbling public infrastructure, Hurricane Katrina, growing inequality. But if any single event brought about a popular recognition of the crisis of legitimacy, it was the financial meltdown of 2008. Despite reestablishing some level of relative stability, this underlying crisis has stayed with us since then, even if often out of sight and out of the minds of the punditry and the political class. Their underestimation of the magnitude of the crisis is what has made them so useless in predicting the remarkable success of the insurgencies within both major parties in 2016.
In these two insurgencies we can see the “two sides” of populism and the two very different possible paths. From the progressive perspective, a crisis of legitimacy holds great potential because it presents an incredible opportunity to narrate the crisis, to reframe the premises of American society along progressive lines, and to organize a popular political alignment capable of challenging the entrenched power of elites: in short, a political revolution. But a crisis of legitimacy is extraordinarily dangerous for a political left that is not ready to take advantage of it. History shows that when progressives fail to realign popular social forces in such populist moments, reactionary authoritarians can suddenly step in with remarkable speed and horrific consequences.
That is what happened on November 8. That is what we are witnessing with the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land.
However, to understand how this happened we can’t just point fingers at the right. The Democratic Party had a surprising opportunity this year to claim the mantle of a vibrant progressive populism. When the Democratic Party establishment defeated the Sanders insurgency in the nomination contest — in part by conspiring to stack the deck against him — it shot itself in the foot. It was dismissive of Sanders’ electability in the general election for the same reason that it was dismissive of Trump’s electability: it failed to understand the populist moment. And by nominating the establishment candidate it ceded powerful anti-establishment messages — and the trappings of the underdog, the outsider, the insurgent — to Donald Trump for the remainder of the election season. Try as she might, Hillary Clinton could not convincingly tap into a populist spirit. And the problem isn’t that she’s bad at messaging or “too cold.” The problem is that she symbolizes the establishment precisely because of the political choices she has made over the course of her entire career.
And this isn’t just about the person Hillary Clinton or her individual choices; it’s about the choices of the whole Democratic Party establishment over the past few decades. In ingratiating itself to Wall Street and the “1 percent,” the Democratic Party has forfeited a resonant moral message on “bread-and-butter” issues that could win over a solid majority of Americans. The party’s problem isn’t just a “messaging dilemma.” There is no message that can inspire the working people who were once-upon-a-time the predominant social base of the Democratic Party while simultaneously appealing to the neoliberal professional class and the finance cabal that has become the functional base of the party today. It’s very difficult, for example, to take a $225,000 speaking fee from Goldman Sachs and then deliver a convincing economic populist appeal to voters.
This also isn’t just about Bernie Sanders. He was in many ways a less than ideal candidate and his campaign had its share of errors and shortcomings. What this is about is the potential progressive direction for the Democratic Party — and for the country— that Sanders symbolized. Economic inequality is central to the emerging progressive force that the Bernie Sanders campaign represented — along with the conviction that the political system has been rigged to serve only an obscenely wealthy few. (Racial justice will also have to be central to this progressive force in the coming years — a topic I will return to shortly.)
Race, class, liberalism and populism
This burgeoning progressivism is different from liberalism in important ways. While economic justice values may have been important to liberalism in the past, today for many people the term liberal has come to only mean socially liberal and it is also associated with elitism. This negative association is partly the product of a quite effective decades-long conservative project to tarnish the label. Liberals have been associated with a caricature of “the 60s” — a story of pampered, affluent, irresponsible youth; hippies who soon enough grew up to become yuppies. Strategic racism provides another big part of the explanation for how the right “negatively branded” liberals and liberalism. Over the past few decades, conservative politicians and operatives cynically appealed to white solidarity and white fear as they associated liberalism with a welfare state whose recipients were framed as lazy and taking-advantage, if not outright dangerous criminals; the plausibly deniable insinuation was that this “element” of society was colored black or brown (even if the actual data showed that whites comprised the majority of welfare recipients). It is hard to overstate the significance of this strategy in turning middle-class whites against public institutions and social welfare.
Yet there’s another reason why this negative branding campaign against the liberal label worked so well, which is that there’s more than a grain of truth to the charge against contemporary liberalism — that it is elitist. As organized labor declined, and along with it, unions’ influence as an essential bloc in the (then unraveling) New Deal coalition, successful baby boomers grew up to become the new creative professional class and a central social base of the new Democratic Party. More individualistic than their parents, this generation of liberals pursued its private dreams, which tended to include living and working in socially liberal, highly educated, relatively affluent enclaves. Whether or not there is a correlation between affluence and those who identify as liberal, there is certainly a popular association between the two.
Trump played on that association very effectively. And to stop him now, we have to understand how this works. On the one hand, it is a mistake to argue that white working-class and middle-class people voted for Trump only because they have been screwed by neoliberalism and they’re resentful of educated liberal elites. Trump is a racist bigot — in his heart and for cynical strategic reasons — and xenophobia was at the center of his campaign. So we have to see that for many white Trump voters, racism — even if often unconscious — was a major motivating factor in how they cast their votes. On the other hand, it is also a mistake to argue that white people voted for Trump only because they are racists. It is both things at once, and that’s precisely why it works. This is the classic formula of right-wing populism, and why it is so dangerous. Trump’s appeals resonated not just because of racism and not just because of economic insecurity. He blended together a dangerous cocktail of both central elements (along with a huge dose of misogyny). Many white people are legitimately experiencing economic, social and psychological strain and they may harbor understandable resentment toward educated elites. Trump, like other right-wing demagogues before, appeals to this anxiety and resentment while simultaneously appealing to — and stoking — racial prejudice and a racialized national identity.
So then, what undermines the power of right-wing populism? Progressive populism! By telling a more compelling story about the causes and culprits of working people’s economic woes, progressive populists like Bernie Sanders are able to seriously weaken one of the central pillars of the right-wing populist appeal. First of all, Bernie could equally wield the power of being an anti-establishment outsider candidate in a populist moment. As such Sanders was also uniquely positioned to go after Trump as a particularly scorn-worthy member of the billionaire class — to frame Trump as a poser who adorns himself with the superficial trappings of populism, while he enriches only himself. To be clear, the number of people who voted for Trump who would have voted for Sanders had he been the Democratic nominee may or may not be significant, and it’s not the main thing that matters here. Remember that over 43 percent of eligible voters did not vote in this election. As an authentic progressive populist, Bernie Sanders would have enjoyed enthusiastic backing across the country, including in many areas where Trump’s strongest supporters were to be found. We know this because the primary numbers make it clear. Like Trump, Sanders was bringing in a whole new enthusiastic and committed voter base — because he was connecting with people’s experiences, frustrations and aspirations.
The Sanders 2016 campaign points the way forward for progressives and for the Democratic Party — though imperfectly. His campaign had problems that we must correct for as we figure out how to move forward. Progressive populism is worlds apart from right-wing populism, but it is nonetheless susceptible to its own kinds of blind spots and dangers, especially concerning racial justice. To be clear, in an anti-establishment era like the one we’re in, the alternative to building progressive populism is to cede the “populist space” to dangerous reactionaries, which is a far more dangerous prospect for the interests of both racial and economic justice. Incidentally, that’s precisely the situation we’re in at the moment. But if and when we regain the populist momentum, we have to do better than previous struggles have done. The central fissure that has prevented progressive political alignment throughout the history of the United States is the tension between racial justice and economic justice frameworks. That tension played out in 2016 — dramatically in the Bernie campaign — and it will continue to be a very real tension for a long time to come. But we can step up to navigate it conscientiously and strategically. We can build a progressive populism that centers both racial justice and economic justice, and whose leadership reflects the diversity of a multiracial alignment of social forces. The millennial generation, with its promising new wave of social movements — from Black Lives Matter to immigrant Dreamers to Occupy Wall Street — may just produce leaders capable of doing this better than others have been able to do in the past. It will not be easy, but that is the task.
Persuading or replacing them
But how can this be the path forward not just for progressives but also for the Democratic Party if the party establishment is actively resisting such a direction? There are only two answers to this question: We’ll have to either persuade them or replace them. More precisely, once we prove capable of replacing some of them, we will be have the power to persuade others. We have to start right now.
The thing is, Democratic Party leaders don’t presently have a leg to stand on. We have just witnessed one of the most epic failures in the history of the party. This failure is the culmination of a much longer historical failure. The Democratic Party’s ostensible reason for existence is to fight for working people. Yet it has neglected that charter for four decades now; in so doing, it has unsurprisingly failed to inspire working people to turn out to the polls.
In most countries, when a political party’s leaders fail so severely, heads roll. That leadership faction is typically forced to step down. And if there were, say, an insurgent faction in the party that had accurately predicted the failure — and that had just successfully brought in a substantial new social base, whose enthusiasm the party desperately needed — that faction would typically take the helm of the party. That’s how it works. That’s what has to happen now. And not just because I’m partial to a progressive political agenda, but because to proceed in any other way would be political suicide for the Democratic Party and for progressives alike.
If a broad center-left political alignment is to win elections in 2018 and 2020 and to do effective damage control in the meantime, progressives will have to be popularly framing the fights. To do so, progressives will have to expel, persuade or at least outmaneuver the current failed leadership of the Democratic Party. All indications are that this entrenched leadership is unlikely to even admit fault, let alone to willingly step aside, so this will be no small task. Social movements will have to push from the outside. Savvy progressives will have to run for office or support other progressives who are doing so. Large progressive membership organizations will have to majorly invest in recruiting and developing a proliferation of progressive candidates. Elected progressive champions and grassroots organizers will need to have a shared “war room.” We’ll need to break out of old categories, and to blur the lines between outsider social movement, political party and state power. And insiders and outsiders alike will need to articulate a shared progressive aspirational vision for the nation — of an America that works for all of us.
If we’re to force the Democratic Party to stand up and actually fight for working people, there will have to be a profound change of course and of leadership. A popular united front against a dangerous Trump presidency will not be effective if we don’t win a long overdue fight over the leadership of the Democratic Party. Spineless centrist neoliberal careerists have had their day. Their failure to fight for — and thus inspire — working people is what enabled a Trump presidency. It is time for them to step aside. It is time for us to step up.
The Republican president-elect’s base, a hitherto unremarkable building in midtown Manhattan, is now subject to tight security and a no-fly zone
Perhaps no other building has shot from irrelevance to epicenter as quickly as Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.
Following Donald J Trump’s shock of a winning campaign, the home of the president-elect has drawn to its doorstep the full presidential protection apparatus, as well as both sides of a deeply divided nation.Continue reading...
For many the US election result could inspire despair – but far better that mourning be brief, and followed by positive action. Here dedicated activists explain why giving up is not an option, and we list six ways to get involved
Related: Will Donald Trump destroy America?
The shock may have started to subside, but the despair is just beginning. For non-Americans, the aftermath of the US election feels like being in mourning, but perhaps in that detached way we feel when a beloved musician or actor dies (and goodness knows we’ve had enough of that this wretched year) – it was not our election; Donald Trump is not our president. And yet it does affect us, not just in whatever economic impact is to come, or because the president-elect couldn’t care less about climate change. The seeding of fear and hate, the misogyny that has been condoned, the attacks on our most vulnerable: this affects us all. It is time, therefore, to get to work – even from over here. You could retreat to a bunker, but fighting back will probably make you feel better, as long-time activists confirm.Continue reading...
In November 1966, the birthplace of the hippie movement was shaken by a confrontation that was an early salvo in the culture wars to come
Fifty years ago this week, a “riot” took place on Los Angeles’s famous Sunset Boulevard. Bemused reports appeared in the days that followed with headlines like “Long Hair Nightmare: Juvenile Violence on Sunset Strip”, and “Anarchy on Sunset Strip”. All of them speculating on why middle-class, mainly white, youths should riot on a street better known for elegant Hollywood nightspots. Although the street cuts through Los Angeles, from Figueroa Street to the Pacific Coast highway, the riot, AKA the “hippie riots” and the “Sunset Strip Curfew Riots”, occurred right in its heartland, in and around 8118 Sunset Blvd, just off Crescent Heights. The focal point was Pandora’s Box, originally a jazz club but since 1962 an independent music venue and gathering place for long-haired and mini-skirted youths in search of music, recreational drugs and casual sex.Continue reading...
Thousands take to the streets of American cities for a second time to demonstrate against the President-elect, Donald Trump. Protests in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Dallas, Portland, Oakland, Baltimore and Atlanta expressed their anger with the result of the 2016 presidential election. In Portland police used teargas against protesters
Protesters were preparing to gather in major cities for a third night after crowds descended on Trump buildings in New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington
Tens of thousands of Americans were on Thursday planning further protests and acts of dissent against the election of Donald Trump, after a wave of demonstrations across the US in which dozens were arrested.
Protesters began mobilizing in major cities for a third day after crowds had descended on Trump buildings in New York, Chicago and Washington into the early hours of Thursday to rail against the shock election result..Continue reading...
I joined the protesters outside Trump Tower on Wednesday night because I don’t want to live in a country whose leader wants to roll back our rights
I woke up on 9 November in a state of shock and disbelief. As I tried to go about my day, I found myself suddenly crying when the reality of a Donald Trump presidency started to set in. Thoughts of gay marriage being overturned, Muslims getting humiliated for their beliefs, his denial of climate change, his sexist and misogynistic language permeating our society made me sick to my stomach.Continue reading...
by George LakeyEmbed from Getty Images
This was a highly emotional election, and we need time to feel our feelings and sort out what it means for us and for the country. Donald Trump is a con man; his game is to manipulate emotions and activists can be as vulnerable as anyone else. Knowing that, we can give ourselves some space to breathe rather than hype each other’s fear. We can also begin to ask, what does his victory mean for social activists on the left?
First, and most obviously, Bernie Sanders was not Trump’s opponent. Many Trump voters liked Sanders for the same reason they supported Trump: He was an outlier who was an alternative to the establishment that has for decades been implementing what billionaire Warren Buffett calls the economic elite’s “class war.”
We activists on the left, even with some disagreements with Sanders, could reasonably regard him as a standard-bearer for us, but that’s not the choice voters made this November. I voted for Hillary without believing for a minute that she was putting forth my politics — or that my politics even got attention in the general election.
What we learn from the vote against Hillary is that many people who are losing the class war don’t like losing, and took it out on a pillar of the establishment. In 2008 and 2012, many white working-class people in the North gave their support to Barack Obama because he was the most credible hope for change, running in each election against a pillar of the establishment. By wide margins they didn’t let the color of his skin prevent them from voting for the chance of a pause in the battering they’d been getting.
For people interested in learning how to make major change in the United States, the electoral arena is only a tiny peephole covered with gauze. Voter participation is low in the United States compared with, say, Scandinavia, and that was true this year, too. Because the election only involves part of the citizenry and is mostly about money, celebrity and manipulation, it tells us little and invites us to make up stories laced with our own fears.
Nevertheless, combing the electoral data can tell us something. Exit polls, for example, tell us that one in five voters who pulled the lever for Trump do not believe he is qualified to be president.
Why vote for someone so unqualified? One answer is because that voter feels certain they know what a second Clinton presidency would bring: unjust policies that further degrade the lives of the oppressed. Here’s the chance for activist empathy, crucial for our having any chance of success in the future: When people so desire change that they will vote for someone they believe unqualified, they are desperate. Activists are used to calling people who are rendered desperate by unjust polices “the oppressed.” If using that name helps us stop othering working-class Trump voters, let’s use that name.
The white working class reading of recent American history may be more accurate than that of many activists. Bill Clinton betrayed the Democratic Party’s traditional working-class base through the North American Free Trade Agreement, destruction of “welfare as we know it,” and subsidizing corporations’ moving industrial jobs overseas. Even when the presidency and both houses of Congress were in the hands of the Democrats, a union movement that worked night and day to get Democratic politicians elected could not get its priorities enacted.
Many in a social class that once believed the Democratic Party was its ally were bound to notice, sooner or later, that the party’s allegiance is elsewhere. I’ve often heard middle-class liberals complain about working-class people voting against their interests, but I’m not hearing them complain that tens of millions of middle-class people vote against their interests – something they do routinely, and did so again by voting for Trump. In fact, the middle class reportedly provided Trump’s most reliable funding during the primary season.
How the Democrats became losers
In 2008, Main Street rose in outrage against Wall Street’s irresponsibility, forcing a defeat in Congress of the first stimulus package. It was a fantastic opportunity for left-of-center organizing, and I looked in vain for signs from organized labor or other Democratic Party players that had the needed organizing capacity.
Later I asked a Washington insider friend who knows what goes on inside the party, “Did you hear of anyone in the Democratic Party even making the suggestion that this was an opportunity to win back the blue collar workers who feel frustrated by Democratic distance?”
He did not. We both knew the Republicans did jump right on the opportunity, gathering anti-Wall Street energy into the Tea Party movement. Years went by: widespread unemployment, replacement jobs at half the wages, people continuing to be thrown out of their homes. Not until 2011 did Occupy happen, and it proved largely uninterested in ongoing organizing, or carrying out campaigns that could engender hope.
Pollsters found years later among Tea Party-identified people a continuing strong anger against Wall Street. The Trump campaign used this effectively, linking (accurately) Hillary Clinton to top financiers. Despite Bernie Sanders’ rallying of significant white working-class support in the primary, Clinton failed to build on that momentum. How could she? Back in the 1990s she and her husband solidified Wall Street’s ownership of the Democratic Party, moving it to the right.
What this means for activists in the next two years
The alienated white working-class people who cast their protest vote for Trump remain without a home, since neither party intends to meet their needs. The Republicans will at least talk to them, inviting them to vent their frustration at scapegoats (“the Mexicans”). We can offer something better. It’s time for a crash program by activists to design hard-hitting direct action campaigns that cast our issues in terms that address their needs for economic security and self-respect.
Peace activists can do this; the Jobs with Peace Campaigns of the 1980s reached beyond the choir and involved working-class people through neighborhood associations and unions. School reformers can do this; campaigners already involve working-class parents and demand well-funded schools that are seven-day-a-week community centers building skills, solidarity and self-respect. Climate justice advocates need to make jobs central to their campaigns, as does Earth Quaker Action Team with its Power Local Green Jobs demand in Philadelphia, targeting a fossil fuel-dependent electrical utility.
At this point, activist campaigns aren’t massive enough to shift macro-economic decision-making. For one thing, we give away too much energy to the co-opting welcome of the Democrats. However, we can build the scale of our movements by frankly admitting that alienated white working-class people are right: Both major parties are together destroying the country on behalf of the 1 percent. It may be hard for college educated activists to admit that the cynical working-class view is more accurate than the belief of graduates of political science courses. However, the sooner the humility arrives, the better. With humility comes the chance to scale up our campaigning and take the next step in the living revolution.
From New York to Los Angeles, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the election of Donald Trump as the 45th US president
by Sarah Aziza
“We were born and live under Israeli occupation,” an Arabic-speaking voice opens the film “Disturbing the Peace,” his somber narration overlaying scrolling footage of the barrier wall that separates the West Bank from Israel. “We are ready to do anything to get our freedom — even this.”
“Disturbing the Peace” begins with familiar, bleak histories of the Holocaust, the 1948 Nakba, and the ensuing wars over the Holy Land. The film presents this history through the alternating narratives of Israeli Jews and Palestinians, framing the decades of violence through the dual lens of Zionist and Arab experiences. While the film touches on political events, the film focuses on the “on the ground” effects from the Yom Kippur war to the Intifada, glimpsing the personal losses suffered on each side.
Yet, while the audience is given insight into both Palestinian and Israeli worldviews, the film’s narrators are, at first, bewildered by each other. Absent a civilian dialogue, eruptions of violence are used to justify crackdowns from the Israeli forces and inspire attacks from the Palestinian resistance. “I really didn’t understand,” says one former Israeli soldier, describing the chaos he faced as an IDF soldier during the Intifada, “why do they hate us so much?”
“Disturbing the Peace” turns on this question. The film chronicles the awakening of both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian political prisoners to ideas of nonviolent resistance. Sulaiman Khatib, in prison after attacking an Israeli soldier, describes being shaken after viewing a film about the Holocaust. After this, Khatib began reading about leaders like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, drawing inspiration from their legacies. Shifa al-Qudsi, a would-be suicide bomber, is also moved after an encounter with a jailer who lost her brother in an attack by a suicide attack. “I expected her to be angry with me for her pain,” recalls al-Qudsi, “But she said, ‘I am not angry with you. Blood brings blood.’” After this, says al-Qudsi, “I began to think a lot. I thought … maybe goodness is possible.”
On the Israeli side, too, the recognition of the “other” comes softly, but forcefully. Chen Alon describes detaining a Palestinian at a checkpoint, then finding himself moved at the sight of the sick children in the backseat. A father himself, Alon says, he began to realize that his enemies were not so different from him after all. “I was looking at these children and I felt that something is extremely wrong in the situation. I realized there was a split, of me as a father … and me as a soldier. I knew that I could not live with this split anymore.”
These revelations lead these characters to search for their own forms of nonviolent resistance. In the case of the Israelis, this began by conscientious objection to the mandatory IDF service, a decision that drew contempt from their families as well as the Israeli government and media. For their Palestinian counterparts, choosing nonviolence meant abandoning armed resistance and making the controversial decision to engage with Israeli partners. In both groups, a sense of mistrust loomed large.
Eventually, the activists come face-to-face in a tense meeting in the West Bank. Recognizing their shared commitment to oppose the occupation, in 2006 the group founded a collaborative they called “Combatants for Peace.” The group draws on nonviolent tactics from abroad, such as Theater of the Oppressed, wherein Israelis and Palestinians “rehearse the transformation of the reality … which wants to keep us separate,” explains Alon. The participants also create works of art in paper mache, which they carry with them during dramatic actions at the Israeli barrier wall. The film glimpses large, bilingual gatherings of Israelis and Palestinians, during which members participate in dialogues and sit side-by-side listening to presentations on nonviolent resistance. At times, blocked by checkpoints and walls, members use Skype to “meet” and organize.
The film touches on the question of “normalization,” the objection that cooperation between “oppressed” and “oppressors” may obscure the inherent power imbalance between the two groups. While leaders like Omar Barghouti of the BDS movement has disavowed such efforts, the participants of Combatants for Peace believe they are able to work together while remaining conscious of the disproportionate power of the Israeli regime. “We don’t need to pretend that Israelis and Palestinians are in equal circumstances,” Khatib tells a group of participants, “but I hope together we can be stronger than the reality we are living in.”
The message of the Combatants for Peace is strongly in favor of a political solution for the conflict, even as many of the members remain outspoken about their nationalism. Officially, the group endorses a two-state solution, while highlighting the need to end the occupation. The group is tested through assaults on Gaza and failed negotiations between their respective leaders, but holds firm to their nonviolent message. “There is no military solution,” argues Khatib, in Hebrew, to an Israeli audience. “War is not our fate.” Later, in Arabic, Jamel Qassas reiterates: “There is no answer but peace, there is no path but peace.”
“Disturbing the Peace” will premier in New York City on November 11 at the Lincoln Plaza. Members of Combatants for Peace will also join partners from the Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, and other organizations on the same day as part of the Peace Contingent in the city’s Veterans Day Parade. Members of these groups have issued an open call to people in the area to join them in the march at 1:30. (The expected meeting point is East 27th St between Madison and Park, but participants should check the Facebook page for location updates.)
Thousands demonstrate against the election of Republican Donald Trump in 18 American cities on Wednesday night. The largest events took place in New York and Los Angeles
- WARNING: contains strong language
- US election 2016: protests against Trump break out across major cities – live
Rallies and protests against President elect Donald Trump have broken out in several US cities. If you’re protesting, tell us why
Protests and rallies against the election of Donald Trump have broken out in several US cities.Continue reading...
During the night between Sunday 30 October and Monday 31, dozens of buildings were squatted in São Paulo. The action was coordinated by several homeless movements, including the FLM (Frente de Luta por Moradia) and the MMPT (Movimento de Moradia Para Todos).
Beyond the struggle for housing, the action was also made in solidarity with the current social movement against austerity measures taken by the government.
More than 1200 schools and almost 150 universities are currently occupied by students throughout the whole country against the austerity policy of Michel Temer’s ultra-liberal government. Temer is officially ruling the country since August after a sort of institutional coup which replaced the PT government (Worker’s Party, in power for almost 15 years).
The social movement – which has the slogan « OcupaTudo » («Occupy everything ») – began a few weeks ago in response to a proposal to amend the constitution, in order to freeze government expenditures in public health and education sectors. Here is an excerpt from the communiqué published by the homeless movements after the occupations of the buildings:
“The violence against workers spreads (…). The purpose of PEC 241 (proposal to amend the constitution) is to put an end to pensions, public healthcare, public education and social support (…). The economic reality seems to become each day harder, the workers’ hunger and desperation will increase. Homeless people will be directly affected. The apparatus of oppression – security forces, judicial power, mainstream media etc. – is going to act in order to protect property, those who run the state and their economical interests. The only thing that remains for the workers and homeless people is the struggle. The struggle for their rights and for justice. To occupy empty properties and search a shelter for their families (…). While the students are occupying schools and conducting a legitimate struggle for education, we are occupying the empty buildings in order to ensure social justice and conquer our proper accommodation”.
Of the nine buildings that were squatted during this night, one of them, in Santa Cecilia neighbourhood, was violently evicted by the Military Police.
Two days afterwards, the FLM tried to occupy another building, in the centre of the city, but the 250 occupiers were soon evicted by the Military Police. They tried to resist and placed some barricades on the neighbouring sidestreets. A few of them were wounded and a journalist was hurt by a close range flash-ball shot. Three persons were arrested.
- Demonstrations at university campuses from California to New York
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Donald Trump’s shock election victory sparked dramatic protests across the US early on Wednesday morning. College students and activists shut down roads, started fires in the street and angrily cried “not my president”.
Now stopped at Broadway and 8th. pic.twitter.com/zm9UxmW0HeContinue reading...
Students from California’s universities take to the streets on Wednesday to demonstrate against the election of Donald Trump. Students from UC Los Angeles, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley and UC Davis all protested against the new president-elect. In Oakland, demonstrators set fire to bins and dumpsters
Two years ago, what is now the third-largest worker-owned cooperative in the United States couldn’t get more than a dozen people together. That might be hard to believe, because they all have their own transportation. They’re cab drivers.
It was early October, notoriously one of the most uncomfortable times of the year in Austin, Texas, when the temperature often still reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Victory seemed out of reach then for the Taxi Drivers Alliance of Austin, which had convinced about 20 percent of the city’s cab drivers — mostly older immigrant men, from Ghana, Sudan, Jamaica, Pakistan and many other places — to pay annual union membership dues. Because drivers are classified as independent contractors, taxi unions often have trouble getting traction. But times were especially tough for drivers in Austin, who were having trouble competing with Uber and Lyft — which were operating openly (and illegally) in defiance of local laws — and squeezed by the city’s three cab companies, who charged each driver around $280 per week just for the permission to get behind the wheel, to say nothing of the costs of actually leasing a taxi and putting it on the road. And because of the competition from Uber and Lyft, cab companies were raising their fees on drivers to make up for lost revenue.
The union was scarce on momentum; most meetings were drawing five to 10 people. The slim participation was not for lack of solutions to the many problems confronting drivers. The union’s elected leaders had solid proposals for capping the fees drivers were charged and for cracking down on Uber, whose cars didn’t have to meet the same requirements imposed on taxis, like buying insurance that covered passengers in case of accidents and maintaining wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Scheduling meetings with city council staffers or testifying at the Transportation Commission — a toothless, mostly ignored city agency — hadn’t gotten them results or new members. The union still didn’t even represent a majority of the city’s more than 800 cab drivers after five years in existence. Some drivers had urged them to be more aggressive in confronting cab companies. But many of the officers had been academics or business owners in their home countries; they weren’t comfortable with confrontation, and they had grown accustomed to being ignored.
Growing their base through conflict
That began to change one day in October when five younger drivers showed up to a union meeting. On their phones they had photos of a notice that had gone out to drivers of the largest cab company notifying them that the terms of their lease agreements would be changing. The company would also be advancing a proposal to the Transportation Commission requiring drivers to let it re-lease their cabs for the hours they weren’t “on duty” — a proposal they called “double-shifting,” but that the drivers dubbed “double profits.”
The young cabbies showed off dozens of WhatsApp text message chains, all of drivers complaining angrily about the latest abuse of the company’s power. The union leaders sympathized; they had seen similar tactics in the past. “Maybe we could circulate a petition,” one offered half-heartedly. But most fell back on their organizing comfort zone. “We could try to schedule a meeting with the company to discuss it with them,” another suggested. The young drivers’ eyes started to glaze over; they knew the company wouldn’t listen. Only one person took a different line. “What if we forced them to back off?” he said. The younger drivers looked up from their phones. “How could we do that?” one asked.
“What if we got a lot of drivers here, to a meeting, then got them to take small actions registering their defiance, like showing up all together to deliver that petition, and demanding a meeting with the company’s general manager — with all 50 of us?” someone said. “If he blows us off, we’ll head to city hall, and we’ll park all of our cabs around city hall, at rush hour. We’ll announce that we’re holding a ‘taxi auction’ to demonstrate how the company can hold us hostage under current laws, and shame the politicians for not doing more to stop them.”
One of the new drivers picked up the action brainstorm, saying: “and if the people at city hall don’t help us, we’ll organize a strike. No one pays the company for two weeks. We’ll occupy the cabs. They don’t have much money in reserve; we’ll hit them where it hurts.”
The others nodded their heads. “I could get 10 more guys to come to a meeting, easy,” one driver said. The union officers signed off on a special meeting, if a little unsure about where it might lead. Only one of the young drivers had been a member of the union at the start of the meeting, but by the end they had all paid their dues.
They scheduled a “crisis” driver meeting for a week later, and spent the coming days handing out flyers at the taxi airport holding lot, sending texts and making calls. Sixty-five people showed up to the next meeting, a new record for the union. Before it started, volunteers worked the crowd, signing up drivers as paid members. In small groups, they talked about the history of abuses by cab companies and discussed an escalation plan: first, dramatize the problem; then, demonstrate their opposition and attempt to negotiate; then escalate to cutting off the driver fees the company needed to operate. But they knew they needed more drivers to really be a threat. At the end of the meeting, each person was asked to pull out their phone and call one driver — and text two more — to invite them to the next meeting, a week later.
The momentum continued to build. Over 120 drivers packed the Texas AFL-CIO auditorium the following week. A guest speaker from a group of immigrant construction workers that had successfully used dramatic direct actions to win wage protections from the city gave a short presentation on their campaign escalation. The drivers were buzzing with energy as they weighed in on the proposed action plan, which would start with a “drive-in” at the next Transportation Board meeting the following Tuesday afternoon to quickly raise public awareness of Yellow Cab’s exploitation. After the meeting many drivers remained in the parking lot debating the merits of the union or whether they could really get the city council to act, and dozens stayed late to color in signs with taglines like “Sharecropping on Wheels” and “Make the Companies Pay.”
Conflict in view and under the surface
By this point, many in the elected union leadership were getting nervous. They were worried about what might happen — would the cab company attack back in a way they couldn’t anticipate? Would they lose their cordial relationships with company staff and city employees? Under the surface, fears brought from many of their home countries simmered. To some, acting out publicly raised the specter of being jailed for dissent. These tensions spilled over into open conflict in leadership meetings; some in leadership were resentful that the new members were asserting themselves so forcefully at all.
The new union activists didn’t feel much loyalty towards elected city officials, and they couldn’t understand why publicizing their grievances would bring them harm. “If anything,” one argued, “aren’t we suffering because we aren’t visible enough? Our problems are easy to ignore if we’re only raising them behind closed doors.” Their willingness to engage in conflict with outside targets, and to hang in with arguments between union leaders, proved decisive in unleashing the taxi union’s power.
By the day of the protest, a few union officers wary of backlash were openly discouraging drivers from participating. But other leaders held them off. They had signed-up a majority of the city’s drivers for the first time — over 400 paid union members — and wanted to use their new power.
The union’s new activists, together with a few elected officers, met at a coffee shop adjacent to the city government building to rehearse their talking points, gather together their signs and practice their chants. Most were nervous. Would their fellow drivers show up for their first public action?
Half an hour before the agreed-to time, drivers began circling the building. By 5:30 p.m., traffic was at a crawl for blocks, with a sea of yellow and blue cabs honking and surrounding the building. A half-dozen TV news crews gathered for the group’s press conference. The activists realized they had a new organizing problem: Convincing the drivers to get out of their cabs. They were having too much fun circling the building, honking and cheering. (They did, eventually, and packed the hearing room, demanding the city address Yellow Cab’s proposed new policies.)
By the end of the week, multiple council members had gone on the record for the first time endorsing the idea of a cap on driver fees. And Yellow Cab announced it was rescinding its new policy and would hold monthly meetings with drivers to hear their concerns.
Not all of the union’s leadership had been won over to the new strategy. But the union now had a permanent “action team” of activists primed for confrontation — what Waging Nonviolence columnist George Lakey would call the group’s “official rebels” — and a much changed political landscape more sensitive to their demands.
A new coop
In early 2016, taxi drivers and their allies convinced the city council to require fingerprinting and background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers — two of the requirements for driving a cab that both companies’ drivers already do in New York. In response, the companies bankrolled a ballot initiative to overturn the city’s new law. They lost the vote in May, prompting both to follow through on their threat to pull out of Austin entirely.
With the two largest ride-sharing companies out of the picture, Austin’s taxi drivers finally had a reason to believe they could fight for a living wage by winning approval for a driver-owned cab company. After months of advocacy, the city council gave them the permission to create ATX Coop Taxi, the city’s fourth cab company. The drivers were ecstatic. After 18 months of organizing, they had driven their most urgent threat out of the city, and won a new way to control their wages and working conditions.
When it opened last month, ATX Coop Taxi — which has already raised over $425,000 in ownership shares from over 360 coop members — became the third-largest worker cooperative in the country. Drivers will see immediate savings. Driving for Austin’s other three cab companies costs the workers from $250 to $315 each week in “terminal fees,” while the coop’s weekly rate is just $131. In their first weeks with cars on the road, the new coop already controls a third of the taxi permits on the market.
“We were paying out more than we could take home. It’s insanity to work 16 hours a day like that,” said Dave Passmore, president of the new coop. “That’s why we’ve been building this, to have a company for the workers.” The drivers expect to reach 400 paid members in the next month, and are allowed to expand to 650 coop owners if they meet conditions set by the city. They are also working on adapting the CABiT app — designed with and for taxi drivers — to better attract local customers.
Although the drivers can share credit for their success with many organizations that helped them along the way, the momentum they built through conflict two years ago was surely a factor. And given that they are likely to be tested again — the city council hasn’t given up on ride-sharing companies that don’t play by the rules — their experience dealing with internal and external conflict will likely help them on the long drive ahead.
When the polls close, a new battle will begin – to resist a racist climate denier, or to force a centrist Democrat to deliver genuinely progressive change
Presidential elections are a form of madness that comes over us once every four years. They fit the great-man or -woman narrative of history, seducing us into forgetting how powerful we are. They erase our memory of grassroots power, direct democracy and civil society. Leaders beget followers; people pin their hopes on one person, and with that they seem to shed responsibility for anything beyond getting that one person into office. Or, they wash their hands of any further involvement if it’s not their one person.
We forget our own influence, the innumerable times we’ve swayed outcomeContinue reading...