Waging Nonviolence

Professors and students unite to oppose cuts to Lebanon’s only public university

Over the last month and a half, a strike by faculty and student-led sit-ins and demonstrations against austerity measures effectively shut down Lebanese University, Lebanon’s only public university. 

Regular protests — drawing hundreds of students, faculty members and organizations from different schools, cities and political affiliations — took place in downtown Beirut. 

On June 18, students, joined by supporters from independent clubs, demonstrated in front of the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Learning, marching from there to the headquarters of the League of Lebanese University Full Time Professors, a state-led organization in a neighborhood south of Beirut.

The demonstrations stood in support for the professors’ right to strike. Teachers and supporting students held banners with slogans such as “We oppose paying the price of Lebanese University’s corruption.”

Not backing down

A statement issued by Lebanese University president Fouad Ayoub on June 19 warned professors against continuing their strike. In addition, the statement limited professors’ travel during the school year, telling them that they need “special permission” to travel and that it will be approved only in “special cases.”

The statement said all deans and managers should “take all academic measures to facilitate the resumption of instruction” and requested that the names of professors who decide to continue protesting be recorded. 

This prompted another round of student-faculty demonstrations over the course of the week in front of the university’s central administration building. 

Classes resumed June 20 following a decision to end the strike — something numerous leaders from the government and university administration had been demanding — at a meeting of the League of Lebanese University Full-Time Professors.

However, two days later, professors in Lebanese University’s general assembly council voted overwhelmingly to continue their six-week strike. They were joined by scores of student supporters, cheering the results of the vote.

One professor, Bassel Saleh, who is an activist and advocate for teachers’ rights, recognized the importance of the vote in building power among staff. “We must strengthen our victories by building an independent free trade union movement within the Lebanese University,” he said. 

After the mounting pressure — from the more than six-week strike, coupled with the success of the teachers’ vote to continue the strike — the Education Minister Akram Cheyhab promised to address the teachers’ demands on June 28. University administrators are currently scrambling to make concessions, however, it is still uncertain whether their demands will be met. 

Tired of austerity

Professors went on strike on May 6 in opposition to the Lebanese government’s 2019 draft budget, which proposed major wage cuts to those working in the public sector. Submitted to Prime Minister Saad Hariri in April, it was finalized by the Lebanese cabinet in late May. It was an effort by the government to follow through on promises to the international community, which agreed to loan Lebanon $11 billion last year if it could fix its growing deficit and pass a budget.

However, there is widespread concern that the measures in the budget target public sector employment and services. They would threaten professor’s wages, raise the minimum years of public sector service needed for retirement from 20 to 25, impose a tax on pensions, and lower the number of full-time hires. Lebanon’s political establishment is widely regarded as highly corrupt, with public money and loan dollars systematically ending up in the pockets of the establishment.

Professors are accustomed to being among the hardest-hit victims of austerity measures. Lebanon’s public education sector is already dangerously underfunded, only receiving around two percent of GDP. The annual budget of the university, which has an estimated 80,000 students, is just $250 million. 

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Opposition to the draft budget’s austerity measures spans sectors, with public-sector employees all across Lebanon also striking against austerity and the threats the budget poses to their wages and benefits. 

Despite the education minister’s promises, members of parliament have held off on making an agreement to exempt teachers from the requirement to serve 25 years to retire in the draft budget, and cancelling the teacher exemption on income taxes on pensions.

Student-faculty solidarity

The strikes have impacted students, who have had to indefinitely put their studies on hold. Nevertheless, many students have stood in support of their teachers, recognizing their shared struggle.

“People in charge want to put the professors against the students to make it look like the students are their last concern,” said Zeinab, a student at Lebanese University who has participated in the demonstrations and chose to not disclose her last name. “It’s not right. When [the administration] wanted to raise the tuition the professors refused [the proposal] because students would not be able to pay the amount.”

Ultimately, students, who are affected by missed travel plans, cancelled summer opportunities and strenuous summer make-up semesters, also demanded the resumption of classes. Yet, they insist this must not come at the expense of professors.

“Every time there is a strike, of course, as students we demand that the university opens up and resumes sessions,” Zeinab said. “We do demonstrations, we set up camp in front of the university and sleep there. But of course, we and the [professors] are on the same page. They should have their rights.”

Pushing forward

Despite voting to continue the strike, teachers have put a pause on their action, pressured by the negative effects they have on students. Lessons will continue into the summer to make up for missed coursework. As the teachers protests have scaled down, student voices remain persistent.

The Lebanese University Student Union, an independent student group formed early on in the teacher strikes, plans to continue mobilizing, by demonstrating in front of the Education Ministry and regularly posting updates on the status of the university. 

A June 29 post by the student union called for protests every Monday, yet few have decided to heed this week’s call for massive demonstrations. However, student activists are continuing to push for solutions and decent conditions for students and faculty. 

The group plans to join with students and faculty in negotiations over what the “post-strike phase” of their struggle will look like. While their demands have yet to be met, the strikes did demonstrate the success public sector professors have had in breaking away from sectarian party politics. 

While their demands have yet to be met, their struggle is not lost. The striking professors have decisively broken away from sectarian party politics — and students and public sector workers are expected to continue confronting the effects of austerity on their professions.

How movements can use drama to seize the public imagination

Drama is useful in getting attention for our issues. The Sunrise Movement is only one of the recent movements that grew by seizing the public imagination through drama. How do activists come up with direct action tactics that reach, in author Jonathan Smucker’s useful phrase, “beyond the choir”?

Here we’re entering the realm of creativity. Television shows relying on drama create writers’ rooms where a group of creative people swap ideas and generate options. Activists who expect wonderful ideas to emerge during a large meeting in a dreary church basement after a long workday may not be setting themselves up for success. Kibitzing with creative friends in a bar after the meeting might work better.

Creativity can also be an individual thing. A great idea may come in the shower, while walking along the river, in a worshipping community, while staring out of the window after reading about other actions. One friend of mine likes to scan in a relaxed way Gene Sharp’s list of almost two hundred nonviolent methods.

Drama feeds on uncertain outcomes

While it’s true that a clash with others, including authorities, is an invitation to drama, a conflict can easily be a dud through repetition. Consider the period after the Battle of Seattle in 1999, when a mass of global justice advocates brought the meeting of the World Trade Organization to a premature close. The word went out: Gather at a spot where powerholders meet, generate chaos and get publicity for your cause. The clashes happened at political conventions and elsewhere. While they were exciting for many participants and sometimes got local coverage, the outcomes often turned out to be predictable. The result: little attention for the issue.

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  • 3 ways Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats are changing what is winnable
  • When the Sunrise Movement’s young people occupied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in November no one could know what would happen, Sunrise spokesperson Stephen O’Hanlon told me. Sunrise demanded she support the Green New Deal. The big question, however, was: Would she meet that demand, or at least support the formation of a select committee? (Ultimately, she did allow a select committee on the climate crisis.)

    Other questions emerged: Would she have them arrested? (In the end, she did not.) Would the Green New Deal attract an enormous buzz? (When all was said and done, it received such enormous mainstream media attention that early opinion polls showed majority grassroots support from Republicans as well as Democrats.)

    What worked was the suspense built into the action.

    Stakes can be life or death

    Even a small group can sometimes use this dynamic on a large scale. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson, the “peace candidate” in the 1964 election, escalated the Vietnam war. At that time the wider public had only a dim awareness of where Vietnam was and how that small country might be suffering. In fact, the Vietnamese experienced a bombing campaign that was more massive than that unleashed on all of Europe by the allies during World War II.

    In 1966 Ohio Quaker Horace Champney had an idea for an action, just when the new organization A Quaker Action Group, or AQAG, was looking for one. Horace proposed to put the federal government in a dilemma by trying to take medical supplies to North Vietnamese civilians suffering under the bombing.

    Americans support disaster relief, but didn’t realize that in Vietnam our taxes were paying for the disaster instead of the relief. Creating drama by attempting to bring relief might shift public opinion. True, the government did justify the bombing by painting North Vietnam as the enemy, but Quakers were widely seen as “good guys,” maybe naïve yet sometimes on the right side of history.

    AQAG — of which I was a member — decided that a sailing ship physically attempting to bring medical supplies might show the war in a new light, opening new doors to the growing peace movement. That would be our strategic objective.

    AQAG co-chair George Willoughby knew that a sailing ship “takes the time it takes” to get somewhere, producing a continual drumroll and building suspense. In 1958, he’d sailed on the Golden Rule toward the Pacific’s nuclear testing zone for the Committee for Nonviolent Action. The voyage reaped wide attention, helping build the successful campaign against nuclear testing in the atmosphere.

    In 1966, almost 10 years after George’s voyage, Earle Reynolds offered his ketch-rigged sailing ship Phoenix for AQAG’s project. What would make this voyage dramatic was that no one could predict what would happen. U.S. destroyers and aircraft carriers occupied the South China Sea, blockading North Vietnam.

    Could the Phoenix sail through the U.S. Seventh Fleet? Would the United States stop the ship and crew in Hiroshima or Hong Kong, our departure points? Would it seize the Phoenix on the high seas? Would it stage an “accident” such that the Phoenix was mysteriously lost?

    We needed a crew whose members realized they might not return. Crew member Betty Boardman recounts in her book “The Phoenix Trip” the moment when a U.S. jet did in fact dive at them, pulling out of its dive only a short distance from the main mast.

    The crew of the first Phoenix voyage to North Vietnam to deliver medical supplies. Left to right: Phil Drath, Betty Boardman, Earle Reynolds, Akie Reynolds, Bob Eaton, Horace Champney, Ivan Massar. (Swarthmore College)

    I’ll never forget our meeting in Washington with officials from the Departments of State, Treasury and Defense. We knew we were already surveilled and the feds knew what we were planning, but we liked the assertiveness of our seeking a meeting — the better to tell them to their faces.

    In that meeting they threatened us with multiple consequences, such as seizing our bank account, fining us and arresting the crew. As it turned out, however, the three federal departments couldn’t themselves agree on what to do with the Phoenix.

    Instead, they kicked the decision upstairs to the White House. There it was decided to allow the Phoenix to get to Haiphong harbor in North Vietnam, and National Security Advisor Walt Rostow was assigned the task of making sure that the Phoenix remained safe.

    I learned more about that decision later. While making a cross-country speaking tour I was confronted by an angry Navy pilot. The buzz-cut, heavily muscled young man stopped me before I could enter the Midwest campus chapel where I was to speak.

    “I was a pilot on the aircraft carrier near you guys on the Phoenix,” he said, mistaking me for a crew member for that voyage. (I was actually on a later crew, for the voyage to South Vietnam with aid for the anti-war Buddhists.)

    The upset young man continued by saying, “We were scheduled to fly that day for a training exercise. We were laying bets with each other about which one of us would sink your boat. Then, just when we were getting ready to take off, there was a command on the loud speaker cancelling the exercise. They said the command came directly from the White House.”

    This man was still angry at having missed his chance, and saw me as one of the betrayers of his country. I invited him into the chapel to join the meeting, telling him I’d give him a chance to say his piece. Surprised, he hesitated, then abruptly turned and left.

    The Phoenix voyage to North Vietnam was widely reported on nightly TV news, newspapers and magazines. On return to the United States, crew members were in demand as doors swung open in religious institutions and civic groups. Middle America was waking up to what was going on.

    Today’s campaigns for the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and other bold proposals will increase their chances by organizing more nonviolent direct actions to grow their movements. Such campaigns need tactics that break through in the media, clear messages delivered by disruptive actions that build suspense — endings not easily predicted.

    Slowing down to build greater suspense

    As the ‘60s wore on, liberals who supported the empire began to describe the Vietnam war as a “tragic mistake,” implying that mass destruction in Vietnam was unique. Larry Scott, AQAG’s lead organizer, suggested we counter these opinion leaders by exposing the U.S. investment in biological warfare, grisly weapons intended for mass destruction.

    Almost no one knew, for example, that the Edgewood Arsenal in Northern Maryland was actually stockpiling anthrax.

    In 1970, AQAG launched a walk from the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C. to Edgewood, about 60 miles. The walkers carried seedlings and young pine trees, symbols of the U.S. colonial struggle, as well as life and ecological sanity.

    To increase uncertainty, they said they would try to plant the trees on the grounds of the Arsenal in order to confront death with life and expose the hidden reality.

    The drumroll started at the steps of the Capitol, then increased each day as the walkers stopped at multiple points and explained what they were doing and why.

    The media asked the commander of the Arsenal: would the Arsenal allow the pine trees to be planted there? It was a classic dilemma action, because the commander was damned if he allowed the plantings, and damned if he didn’t. (Side note: I invented the concept “dilemma demonstration” for my book “Toward a Living Revolution.” Many writers have since picked up the concept.)

    The numbers in the walk grew along with the publicity. The walkers were in no hurry. Discussion grew in the media: What is actually going on at Edgewood?

    Finally, the walkers arrived with the commander refusing permission to plant the trees on Arsenal grounds. The walkers proceeded to try to plant the trees, and arrests were made one day after another. By the end of a week, 29 campaigners and even several pine trees were arrested.

    Finally, unable to tolerate the growing heat, the commander told the media, “We’ll accept the tree as a tree.”

    That’s when the Baltimore Evening Sun editorialized, “The wonder is that it took Edgewood a week of confrontations with peace marchers, 29 arrests, endless humiliating pictures of husky [military police] glaring at the offensive seedlings to get the point. The point is that, if rival symbols were to be juggled, the tree had them licked before they started. In symbol language, when the tree said life, all Edgewood could say back was death, no matter how daintily it picked its phrases.”

    Many activists now understand that clear messaging and unusual and colorful actions are a plus when growing a campaign. A third element adds still more to an action’s power: the uncertainty of outcome. If we simply rush into the streets in a traffic blockade, everyone knows what’s going to happen and media coverage focuses on how disruptive we can be instead of our message. With creativity, we may design actions that build drama through presenting a dilemma to the target and over time maintain suspense about the outcome.

    America is as hard to find as ever

    America is easy to find at 35,000 feet, folded into a window seat on a six hour flight across the country. Our vast and conflicted country is all spread out below in neat crosshatches of green and brown, broken up by puffy cloud formations and snowy mountain peaks. Beside me, was an eight-year old and his mother who screen-burned their way through the flight. Missing it all, they embodied the kind of America that makes my head hurt.

    I picked up Kathleen Alcott’s new novel “America Was Hard to Find” after putting down The New York Times. I had stared at the cover photograph of little Valeria and her father Oscar drowned and face down in the Rio Grande River, until my eyes and heart were weary from crying. I looked as long as I could, another facet of America’s hard face, so easy to find. Valeria and Oscar’s arduous, brave journey from their home in El Salvador was cut short by the unpredictable waters and our hateful national politics.

    Even before I opened it, I took issue with Alcott’s imposition of the past tense on Dan Berrigan’s persistent present-ness. I’m glad that didn’t stop me completely, because Alcott tells a very American story about the passivity of the wealthy and the frantic search for the self, for meaning — any meaning. She demonstrates how few real answers emerge from our messy, secular, individualistic culture; America is so hard to find.

    The central relationship in the novel is between a woman named Fay Fern and her son, Wright. Fleeing a privileged upbringing, Fay and her sister Charlie strike out for the desert to run a bar for the flyboys at a Nevada air base. Erudite and impetuous, Fay falls for an older man, a taciturn pilot named Vincent Kahn. He is married. Their relationship is short, intense and ends when he leaves Nevada to train to be an astronaut. He leaves Fay pregnant. She bears a son and her sister names him Wright. Kahn later becomes the first man to land on the moon.

    A single mother supported by her wealthy but isolated parents, Fay is attracted to social movements. She moves with her son to Ecuador, to work among the poor. She meets Randy, a Vietnam veteran so sickened by his experiences of war that he shoots off his finger to get discharged. He then commits himself to ending the war.

    Did you know that Ralph Abernathy protested the Apollo 11 launch as a criminal waste of resources?

    After the successful moon landing, the astronauts head off on an international goodwill tour. Fay, Randy and their friends protest the Quito parade with signs like “We Will Not Be Distracted By Your Spectacle” and throw dead fish and rotten tomatoes at the astronauts in their convertible. Wright, hoping they were in Quito for a birthday party, notices how clean and precise the astronauts are, “a paean to a kind of manhood he knew nothing about.” The boy, eight or so years old, wanted to “climb into their laps.”

    Randy comes to the fevered conclusion that they are not doing enough, “no more protests, not more slogans on paper. If our government continues to destroy, then we must destroy the government.” Fay, Randy and Wright return to the United States, two of them intent on doing just that, one too young to make any other choice.

    Alcott tells of the Vietnam War, the gaping economic disparities, and the rigid racial barriers of 1950s and 1960s American life with vivid energy. The closed society of the nuclear community in the desert, the politics of the race to the moon, the scientific accomplishment’s agitprop momentum are all here too, with unfamiliar and exciting details.

    The moon landing is rendered a test of wills between two of the astronauts. Nixon’s anodyne message of internationalism falls flat in the ears of Vincent Kahn, the first man to step on the moon. He puts a baby sock, bought before his wife’s miscarriage, and other totems beneath a rock at the edge of a moon crater and observes that “The flag, when they unfurled it, seemed foriegn to him, sad and irrelevant in the way of outdated technology. The pole they meant to plant wouldn’t, the surface being too fine and shallow, the surface obdurate and he held up the Stars and Stripes while Rusty made insistent, varied jabs. That it finally caught at all was vaguely disappointing, a concession to them he wasn’t sure they deserved.”

    Did you know that Ralph Abernathy protested the Apollo 11 launch as a criminal waste of resources? I didn’t. Alcott evokes the real life tension between the race to the moon and the quest for racial justice and civil rights in her novel and it led me to the July 15, 1969 exchange between Southern Christian Leadership Council president Ralph Abernathy and NASA director Tom Paine. Abernathy tells Paine, “We may go on from this day to Mars and to Jupiter and even to the heavens beyond but as long as racism, poverty and hunger and war prevail on the Earth we as a civilized nation have failed.” America is hard to find, even when you can see it from space.

    Fay, Randy and Wright join Shelter, a Weathermen-like group of violent provocateurs. Their involvement in bank bombings, robberies and other acts of violence mean constant motion and no schooling for young Wright. Fay becomes a leader, her upper-class poise a chameleon quality that gets her where others of the unkempt, ill-fed Shelter denizens cannot go. Their actions destroy property but not lives. They debate and rage and swap sexual partners, while 11 or 12-year-old Wright reads books, tries to feed himself and avoid the more damaged members of Shelter. But then they cross that line too, planning to plant a bomb at a ball for military officers returning from Vietnam and their wives.

    In the midst of this, a version of Dan Berrigan enters, unnamed but described as “a priest imprisoned for burning draft cards, a man with a face so long and noble that his pacifist message seemed painted on it.” This man writes to the group, worried that they “had become what they wanted to eradicate.” He asks, “Shouldn’t a revolution differ vastly, in action and feeling, from the forces it hopes to dismantle.” They meet this genuine query, this invitation to dialogue, with derision. And then they died. The bomb they were building for the ball blew up in their safehouse instead and three people died. This happens in the novel and in real life. On March 6, 1970, on 11th Street in Manhattan, the Weathermen’s nail bomb exploded prematurely, killing three and inflicting serious injury on two more people.

    Fay is on the run again, wanted by every authority and cut off from all surviving Shelter members. She drags Wright with her in a desperate cross-country journey. He is old enough to rebel, to resist, to hate her at times. As she plans one last action, she explains to Wright in a breathy, speechey way that he has long recognized as obdurate and inarguable: “America has to see what it has done to its future.” He responds: “who are you talking to? Who do you think is recording this right now? … We are two people in a very bad hotel room in Georgia and I’m not its future. I’m just your son and that I’d gladly give up.”

    As I look for an America, worthy of all those starry, soaring songs, Langston Hughes’ rejoinder, “America was never America to me” keeps coming back to me.

    And he does. He has to. Because Fay’s next action changes everything. Wright then lives out the rest of his fractured childhood in the care of his grandparents — strange, shamed people in their own unmappable, unfindable America.

    Thankfully, Alcott’s story does not end there and there are new chapters to Wright’s life as a young adult in San Francisco, free and independent. He waits tables, makes friends, builds a found family and discovers himself as a gay man. His terrible past is uncomfortably buried, but he is finally not alone in that. The mothers and fathers of all his friends and lovers are similarly loved and hated and pined for from afar.

    They watch TV and Wright observes, “there was no one like them in the commercials for small cellophane candies, antidotes to migraines, juice so fresh it jumped from the glass and clothing so clean it shined. There was pride in this, that their lives were unmappable, irreducible, existing under the known American fabric. But also fear, like some nightmare in which the mirrors when you pass by them are empty.”

    But this is the 1980s and as he writes long, late night drunken letters to the famous, hermitted Vincent Kahn, his unknown father who he uncannily resembles, his friends and lovers start dying and his roommate gets political. And the boy who watched his mother turn to flame and then ash in a political statement cannot march and chant. Wright thinks there is not “enough of him that he could add his voice to an angry cause and not give himself over to it, now become that sound.” His fear of loosening his conscience and losing himself is so massive that it breaks his relationship with his best friend. It is repaired. America is still lost, but some wholeness is found.

    But back to the long-faced priest for a minute, because Dan Berrigan’s real letter to the real Weathermen is collected in the real book that he authored “America is Hard to Find.” And as I look for an America, the America, worthy of all those starry, soaring songs, Langston Hughes’ rejoinder, “America was never America to me” keeps coming back to me.

    In “Letter to the Weathermen,” Dan calls out their whiteness and privilege, their choice of violence and contrasts it to how the Black Panthers and the Puerto Ricans and the Vietnamese are rejecting of victimhood and adopting a posture of self defense. He offers his brothers and sisters in the Weather Underground a simple rule of thumb, “the revolution will be no better and no more truthful and not more populist and no more attractive than those who brought it into being. Which is to say, we are not killers … we are something different. We are teachers of the people who have come on a new vision of things. We struggle to embody that vision — day after day, to make it a reality among those we live with so that people are literally disarmed by knowing us.” He sent this just a few days before he was apprehended on Block Island and arrested, ending his own time underground.

    In a beautiful, poignant remembrance shortly after his death in May 2016, Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn recalls this moment and writes that her group “responded with a much less eloquent ‘communiqué’ to ‘Brother Dan,’ just after he was arrested in 1970. ‘We watched you, Dan, on TV when they took you to jail, smiling and with hands raised, handcuffed, giving the sign of peace. You have refused the corruption of your generation.’” That might not be eloquent, but it is the truth for sure; America was not hard to find for Dan Berrigan.

    And it’s not for Alcott either, who finds America. She puts it under a microscope and pulls us close to see all its refracted contradictions — the staggering beauty and the rapacious violence. Her characters, her Americas, are all lost and damaged and so alive you can hear them breath and seethe between her pages. So, we end where Alcott began, with a slightly fuller evocation of “America is Hard to Find.” As Dan wrote (and it is best read aloud):

    “Dear friends, I choose to be a jail bird (one species is flourishing) in the kingdom of fowlers
    Like strawberries
    Like good bread
    Swans herons great lakes
    I shall shortly be hard to find
    An exotic uneasy inmate of the nationally endowed inescapable zoo
    Remember me I am
    Free at large untameable
    Not really
    As hard to find as America.”

    The problem with saying movements must be ‘totally nonviolent’ to succeed

    It can be hard to criticize a movement elder who has been a friend and mentor to you, whether you do it in private or in public. Yet, I need to make a public criticism of the late nonviolent organizer and strategist Bill Moyer. His classic 2001 book “Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements” continues to reach new audiences — thanks, in part, to an educational initiative by my organization, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

    Over the past six months, we have translated Bill’s book into seven different languages — including Arabic and Brazilian Portuguese, which are now available as free downloads. Nevertheless, while working on this initiative, I worried about releasing them without going public with my longstanding disagreement with Bill over the way he framed the issue of nonviolent discipline. Despite his well-meaning attempt at discouraging movement violence, I believe his approach is not only inaccurate, but also disempowering and defeatist.

    Given the increase of civil resistance movements around the world — such as the ongoing struggle in Sudan — and the fact that international activists frequently have to make tough strategic decisions about nonviolent discipline and violent flanks, I think it is time to end my silence.

    What’s good about Moyer’s MAP

    As a member of the U.S. nonviolent revolutionary activist network Movement for a New Society in the 1970s, I was among the first people to benefit from Bill’s workshops, where his Movement Action Plan, or MAP, first came into being. It continued to evolve over the years, through Bill’s further study and reflection, his experience offering training workshops to over 25,000 people around the world and the various printed versions of his strategic framework for organizing effective social movements. When I founded Antioch University New England’s activist-training program in 2001, I assigned Bill’s “Doing Democracy” every year in my class on “Organizing Social Movements and Campaigns.”

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  • This book provided my students with more “aha” moments per page than any other I assigned. In it, Bill shares his most important strategic lessons learned in over 40 years of nonviolent movement-building experience with Martin Luther King and others. They include his thinking on helpful and unhelpful theories of power, the four roles of effective activism, the eight stages of successful social movements and developing a realistic view of movement impact unclouded by a socially-indoctrinated sense of powerlessness.

    One of Moyer’s insights that my students found particularly valuable was his warning to avoid becoming what he called a “negative rebel.” Such rebels are activists who are often fired up and well-meaning, but also unstrategic or immature. While social movements often need rebellious direct action campaigns to win, their success can also be compromised by negative rebels riddled with such personal limitations as despair, powerlessness, vanguardism, disdain for ordinary people, extreme radicalism, and quickness to denounce others based on ideology — or an unwillingness to cooperate well with others who may disagree with them. Some negative rebels also focus on individual/small sect expressions of violent protest rather than on an effective approach to building multicultural, multi-class majority support for meaningful reforms and victories.

    As noted by Moyer, these ineffective rebels too often “alienate not only the people who aren’t involved in a social movement, but most movement activists as well — even though they need both groups to achieve their stated goals.” Indeed, he points out that negative rebels “can be so damaging that power holders even hire infiltrators to play the negative rebel in an effort to subvert movements.” While noting negative rebels may be sincere in their hopes for social change, he argues, “These disruptive, angry, radical activists who vehemently and militantly call for revolutionary change through any means necessary — disruption of meetings, property damage, battle with police, or [attempts at] the violent overthrow of authorities and the establishment — perform the same function as agents provocateurs.”

    This is an important insight. Today, the best available evidence strongly suggests that civil resistance movements with a high degree of popular participation and nonviolent discipline will have significantly higher success rates than movements either focused on armed struggle, or mixed campaigns with spotty nonviolent discipline and/or organized violent flanks. This suggests that whatever we can do to help our movements maintain courageous nonviolent persistence, as well as increase recruitment and outreach, is an important part of success.

    What Moyer gets wrong

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  • My objection is that Moyer does not always frame this insight in the most helpful way. Every 20 pages or so, Bill adds a comment like, “Social movements need to be totally nonviolent to be successful.” The inexperienced activists in my organizing classes sometimes took this as gospel, but it is just not true. While there are still some gray areas, significant data points to the conclusion that nonviolent discipline significantly increases a movement’s chances of increasing mass participation, limiting repression, attaining victory, and consolidating democratic gains. Yet, some movements still succeed in spite of some violence.

    The successful ANC-led struggle against apartheid in South Africa is a good example. At its most effective, this movement included a primary reliance on popular unarmed civil resistance, both domestically and internationally. At the same time, it included a small and disciplined armed military force that harassed South African troops occasionally, but mostly engaged in industrial sabotage. Today, some ANC organizers admit that the violent component of their movement did not make a meaningful contribution to its success and was at times even counter-productive. This was still not enough of a problem to keep the anti-apartheid movement from succeeding.

    More importantly, though, Bill’s claim can be disempowering to any inexperienced activists who believe him. If you think a movement can only be successful if it is “totally nonviolent,” you are likely to give up whenever there is a riot, or angry protesters engage in street fights with police, or a small sector of the movement organizes an ongoing violent flank. Any movement violence ends any chance of success, right? Therefore, if you can’t control every single person in a movement, success is hopeless. You might as well give up. This unrealistic attitude is very likely to reduce a movement’s success!

    To be as effective as we can be, we need to stay in the game even when we face power-holder repression or when people sympathetic to our movement, or agents provocateurs, engage in political violence. I think Gene Sharp deals with this challenge better than Moyer in his book “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” where he argues that limited violence within in a movement should not be reason to abandon nonviolent political defiance. Instead, it is “necessary to separate the violent action as far as possible from the nonviolent action. This should be done in terms of geography, population groups, timing and issues. Otherwise, the violence could have a disastrous effect on the potentially much more powerful and successful use of political defiance.”

    Respectfully challenging elders and mentors is worth it

    About six weeks before Moyer died of cancer in 2002, he and I were sitting together on a park bench having one of our many great political discussions. That afternoon, I worked up my courage and made my case to Bill that he was being misleading and disempowering when he said that movements need to be “totally nonviolent” to succeed.

    Previous Coverage
  • ‘Doing Democracy’ follow-up puts the emphasis on finding common ground
  • We went back and forth in an animated conversation. After a while, he paused, and then he agreed with me. He explained that he had exaggerated in his book because it is so important for a movement not to become captured by the “negative rebels” in its midst.

    We ended our conversation by agreeing that the closer our civil resistance movements can get to the ideal of 100 percent nonviolent discipline, the greater the probability of success. Yet, we also agreed that exaggerating this important strategic goal by claiming that a movement must be “totally nonviolent” in order to succeed is just not a helpful way to get there.

    LGBTQ movement trailblazers honored at Stonewall Inn

    Fifty years ago, on a street emptying onto New York’s busy 7th Avenue, the harassed and fed-up patrons of a popular bar called the Stonewall Inn spilled out onto the street, giving birth to the modern LGBTQ liberation and human rights movement. Not unlike similar movements, the spark which ignited that set off the rioting, direct action, and ultimately annual celebratory parades was police brutality.

    NYPD harassment of gay bars and hang out spots was nothing new, but something shifted that night as angry patrons began to evade or escape from police custody and fight back. Maybe it was the influence of the increasingly militant black freedom struggle and emerging feminist movement. Some suggest the inspiration grew out of grief around the drug overdose death of Judy Garland several days before. But maybe the mobilizations, now referred to as the “Stonewall Riots,” took place because many in the crowd felt that there was nothing left to lose.

    Police force people back outside the Stonewall Inn as tensions escalate the morning of June 28, 1969. (Wikipedia)

    As Stonewall veteran “instigator,” Andy Warhol model and beloved drag queen Marsha P. Thompson, in a phrase today being used as headline to the Brooklyn Museum’s official Stonewall 50th special exhibition, commented: “Nobody promised you tomorrow.” People were going to have to take history into their own hands.

    Fifty years later, many activists complain that the commemorations and Gay Pride parades that have become features in every major city throughout the world have become too corporate, commercialized and institutionalized. Perhaps the perfect symbol of official acceptance is the space just outside the still-operating Stonewall Inn, now a monument maintained by the National Park Service.

    On the eve of the 50th anniversary, however, the scene inside the bar was as political as ever. The National LGBTQ Task Force partnered with one of the oldest, most respected and largest LGBTQ organizations — the International Imperial Court — to host the official dedication and unveiling ceremony of the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor, a permanent tribute to pioneers and trailblazers of the movement.

    Keirra Johnson, center, with Mandy Carter (right), and Toni Atkins (left), California State Senate President pro tem. (WNV/Matt Meyer)

    Task Force deputy executive director Kierra Johnson passionately noted the need to keep the focus on campaigns and action, linking with environmental, women’s rights and other movements. “Stonewall was not just the birth of the LGBTQ movement,” Johnson asserted. “It was a re-birth of the feminist movement. It was a rebirth of the civil rights movement.”

    The Wall, spotlighting 50 inspiring LGBTQ figures, includes well-known writers and poets such as James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, June Jordan and Adrienne Rich. Artist Keith Haring and organizer Bayard Rustin are also featured alongside less recognizable bridge-builders.

    Stuart Milk (center), president of the Harvey Milk Foundation, with president of the Imperial Court of New York Coco LaChine (left) and Toni Atkins (left). (Twitter/Sen. Toni Atkins)

    All 50 individuals are now deceased, but many were represented at the dedication by family members and close colleagues. Assassinated politician Harvey Milk was spoken for by his nephew Stuart Milk, president of the Harvey Milk Foundation and himself an outspoken global leader for LGBTQ rights.

    Matthew Shepard’s parents outside the Stonewall Inn. (Twitter/Matthew Shepard Foundation)

    The parents of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old college student from Wyoming who was beaten to death in 1998, were present for the ceremony and extremely well-received. “Straight and gay are boring,” proclaimed father Dennis Shepard. “We are all just humans … you just dress better than we do!” Shepard noted, to the mostly LBGTQ audience.

    WRL activist Mandy Carter with International Imperial Court System Chair Queen Mother Empress Nicole Murray-Ramirez, and San Diego’s human rights commissioner. (WNV/Matt Meyer)

    The final presenter at the dedication, described as “an icon of the struggle” by International Imperial Court System Queen Mother Empress Nicole Murray-Ramirez, was nonviolent activist and War Resisters League leader Mandy Carter of Durham, North Carolina. Also celebrating the 50th anniversary of when she first became a paid organizer for the West Coast office of the WRL, Carter reminded the gathering of the two necessary qualities for a life of working for justice and peace: “resistance and resilience.” Carter is now embarking on a year-long, North Carolina-wide voter registration initiative with Southerners on New Ground, which she helped form 27 years ago.

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    The roots of a movement based on resistance and mass organizing could be felt throughout the Wall dedication, by the speeches, the spirit, but also by the bar’s own history. A “Raided Premises” posting from the 1969 NYPD is prominently displayed on a wall to remind folks of how far we’ve come. It was therefore more than fitting that Mandy Carter closed the Stonewall Inn dedication with a chant popularized by the New Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Mondays Movement: “Forward together, not one step back!”

    ‘Red State Revolt’ offers an inside look at the recent wave of teacher strikes

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    West Virginia teachers, who stunned the nation with their historic 2018 strike, staged a two-day walkout in February and are continuing to battle their Republican-dominated state government this summer. While the immediate issues this time are legislators’ attempts to introduce charter schools and impose stiffer penalties on strikers, the need for greater public funding of education remains the core of the struggle.

    In the new book “Red State Revolt,” author Eric Blanc describes the origins of this strike and the wave of subsequent strikes it ignited across the country by giving a play-by-play account of the action — offering lessons that apply to future strikes, as well as other kinds of nonviolent action.  

    Blanc was well placed to observe the strikes. Sent to cover them by Jacobin magazine, his approach could be described as a participant observer — in that he not only wrote about the strikes, but also helped organize national solidarity actions. As a former high school teacher himself, he became a trusted confidant, interviewing service personnel, students, union staffers, and various officials to get their take.

    Despite admitting to an “unabashedly partisan account,” Blanc insists that he “tried to remain scrupulously committed to the facts” and expects that no one will fully agree with his conclusions. Overall, it is clear from his approach that Blanc is more interested in showing the effectiveness of certain strategies and tactics — as well as explaining the relevance of the strikes to broader political issues — than in promoting the account of any individual or group.

    The backdrop

    West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona were unlikely candidates for state-wide strikes in 2018. All three are so-called right-to-work states, meaning that non-union workers do not pay fees to unions for representing them in collective bargaining. What’s more, all three states are dominated by conservative Republican legislators and governors, which support laws that make it illegal — as it is in most states — for teachers to go on strike. Given this environment, teachers’ unions have long been cautious, when it comes to bargaining for pay, benefits and improved working conditions.

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  • Labor organizer Jane McAlevey on why strikes are the only way out of our current crisis
  • This non-militant, “service” model of unions emerged as a result of deindustrialization, the immensely damaging outcome of the air traffic controllers strike of the early 1980s, and the closer association of unions with reformist advocacy groups, as well as the centrist Democratic party.

    Nationwide, long-term declines in education budgets have also led to lower teacher salaries — relative to the cost of living — plus increased class sizes, outdated textbooks and an overall greater difficulty in delivering the quality education they seek for their students. For example, one in five teachers has a second job and many are forced to purchase instructional materials for their classrooms.

    Enter the militant minority

    After years of relative passivity and accumulating grievances, it took a militant group of teachers in West Virginia with a “class struggle orientation” to organize their colleagues and prepare to strike. These teachers traced their activism back to the Bernie Sanders primary campaign of 2016, which spurred the founding of several Democratic Socialists of America chapters. Teachers from some of these chapters started to think seriously about taking collective action after forming a study group during the summer of 2017 to teach themselves about labor activism.

    When the new school year started, these teachers were ready to organize their colleagues around the state. Helping matters along was the state’s announcement that dues would be increased for the public employees’ health insurance plan and that teachers would be required to wear invasive body monitoring devices. The militants created a Facebook page to widen discussions among teachers and other public sector workers. From there, momentum built steadily, as the teachers organized and engaged in actions of increasing size and risk in order to build greater support. When the time for the strike came, 80 percent of the state’s teachers voted to walk out.

    The pivotal moment in the West Virginia strike occurred about halfway through the nine-day labor stoppage, when the official teachers’ unions announced an agreement with the state legislature and governor. In short, because it had failed to solve the health insurance funding issue and they were not asked to vote on it, the teachers decided to publicly oppose the agreement and continue the strike. Gathering at the capitol in Charlestown, they chanted “Fix it now,” “Back to the table” and “We are the union bosses,” asserting their voice over that of the three established unions.

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  • How free lunch and daycare are bolstering the Oklahoma teachers’ walkout
  • Spurred by the success in West Virginia, militant teachers in Oklahoma and Arizona were able to spark major actions in a matter of weeks. In Oklahoma, there was huge energy, with massive strikes taking place at the state capitol for days on end. However, there was relatively little teacher-to-teacher organizing within the schools. Instead, self-appointed leaders managing a teachers’ Facebook page were at the center of much of the communication, and there was little democratic decision-making.

    In the end, despite winning average pay increases of $6,000 per teacher and modest new funding for education, the Oklahoma teachers strike dissolved after the union called on teachers to go back to work. The problem, according to Blanc, was that Oklahoma’s teachers were “insufficiently organized to overcome the hesitancy of their union leaders” in contrast to West Virginia, where the teachers went “wildcat,” taking it upon themselves to continue the strike without the union’s blessing.

    The Arizona case was similar to that of West Virginia. A militant group of teachers understood the importance of face-to-face organizing and had liaisons in nearly every school. For Blanc, one of the most impressive aspects of the Arizona strike was that it occurred in the most difficult environment: a very conservative, anti-union state with a government beholden to the Charles Koch Institute and American Legislative Exchange Council.

    As in the other two states, Arizona militants set up a Facebook page that quickly became very popular. But, in contrast to Oklahoma, key organizers in Arizona recognized that it was critical to build from the base and made sure they had enough organizational strength to call for a strike. They also established a consultative process that encouraged input from below in decision making through what was called a “site liaison network.”

    What the strikes won

    In all three states, teachers won significant pay increases — some immediate, others to kick in later. They also won increased funding for schools and students, although those increases were small compared to the budget cuts of the past decade. A big issue in all states, still largely unresolved, is how to pay for the increased education funding.

    Beyond the specific gains by teachers and schools, however, the strikes established a foundation for further union building. Blanc quotes teachers who talked about how their participation in the intense struggle gave them a new sense of personal efficacy and collective power. As one Arizona teacher noted, “Rallying at the capitol was one of the few moments in my lifetime where I felt I stood exactly where one ought to — it was unequivocally purposeful, courageous and joyful.”

    Blanc’s overall assessment of the strikes is multi-layered. Although the immediate gains for teachers, other public sector workers, and people living in those three states were meaningful, they were by no means transformative because they did not disrupt overall power relations. While further struggles are needed to defend and entrench their gains, he argues the teachers’ movements — on a broader level — amounted to a “frontal challenge to austerity and neoliberalism.” Blanc thinks they also appear to clearly portend “a dramatic increase in working-class consciousness and organization, setting the stage for the conquest of further victories in the months and years ahead.”

    Lessons learned

    The red state revolts took place in settings different from standard labor action, where workers join unions and then engage in struggle through those unions. In the 2018 cases, unions were constrained because they could not legally call for strikes. In addition — like many unions these days — they were focused on member services, rather than fights with the bosses. That meant it was largely up to the teachers to do the hard work of organizing their colleagues and preparing for strikes. The unions did provide important logistical and financial support, which teachers recognized as crucial to their ultimate success. But the strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, were ultimately led by the teachers themselves. Teachers in other states — including Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia — also took it upon themselves to mount one-day walkouts.

    Not being able to organize within a formal union structure was a definite challenge, seen most clearly in Oklahoma, where the lack of grassroots organizing amounted to a significant weakness that ultimately led to the strike’s collapse. In contrast, in the 2012 Chicago strike and the Los Angeles strike of early 2019, all organizing was done within the union framework and benefited from union largesse, as well as an experienced, militant leadership. These more typical cases took years to develop, whereas the red state revolts built within a matter of weeks.

    Another notable difference between these two types of teacher strikes, was the role of social media in the red state revolts. Despite his initial skepticism about Facebook, Blanc ultimately concluded that without it the teachers would not have been able to organize so quickly. That being said, Facebook organizing was something of a shortcut, particularly in Oklahoma, where teachers saw what happened in West Virginia and believed that they could do the same thing using Facebook and word of mouth.

    In the end, they did indeed prove that advanced communications tools, along with very strong grievances, were enough to pull off a massive strike that actually sustained itself for several days. But that structure was built on a weak foundation that ultimately led to dissolution. The general lesson for organizers should be that social media provides excellent tools for dialogue and communications, but cannot replace the hard organizing work and democratic decision-making infrastructure necessary for a lasting social movement.  

    It is also significant that teachers are particularly well-placed to engage in strikes. Although they cannot disrupt the economy directly the way industrial workers can, they are still able to upend daily life. Students need to go to school, where low-income kids are fed one or two meals a day, and parents need to go to their full-time jobs. To use the leverage of disruption effectively, teachers have realized that they must stay on the side of their students and their communities.

    Everywhere teachers strike, they clearly articulate the objective of helping students achieve their educational goals. They also work assiduously to deliver food to students and organize temporary daycare centers in order to minimize the disruption to low-income families. In all three states, there was overwhelming support from the community, which understood all too well the deteriorating state of their schools and implicitly trusted the teachers from day one.

    This support insulated the teachers from government repression. Although state officials threatened teachers before the strikes, there was little they could do when such overwhelming numbers walked out. Blanc quotes various officials saying they knew that if they were to arrest teachers or coerce them with threats of fines, they would face a huge backlash that would only strengthen the teachers’ political standing and resolve. For their part, the teachers understood early on that if they walked out in large numbers, there was nothing the authorities could do.

    The strikes can also be seen as confirming key elements of nonviolent direct action. Teachers in West Virginia and Arizona carefully studied their strengths and weaknesses relative to their opponents in the state governments. That understanding was used to build their movements deliberately, ensuring accountability and important aspects of democratic decision making. The teachers recognized and empowered their allies — their kids and their kids’ families — and were adept at communicating their goals to society in general.

    Finally, the teachers realized the importance of building solid structures from the ground up. Yet, events moved so quickly that there were limits to how far those communications channels and self-help networks could be institutionalized.

    While “Red State Revolt” was about the teacher strikes of 2018, it tells the story of what, in essence, were progressive social movements resisting the politics of austerity imposed by hard-line conservative forces. For activists seeking to build progressive power, whether through labor activism or by organizing racial and economic justice coalitions, “Red State Revolt” is full of helpful practical and theoretical insights.

    The antiwar movement no one can see

    This story was first published by Tom Dispatch.

    When Donald Trump entered the Oval Office in January 2017, Americans took to the streets all across the country to protest their instantly endangered rights. Conspicuously absent from the newfound civic engagement, despite more than a decade and a half of this country’s fruitless, destructive wars across the Greater Middle East and northern Africa, was antiwar sentiment, much less an actual movement.

    Those like me working against America’s seemingly endless wars wondered why the subject merited so little discussion, attention, or protest. Was it because the still-spreading war on terror remained shrouded in government secrecy? Was the lack of media coverage about what America was doing overseas to blame? Or was it simply that most Americans didn’t care about what was happening past the water’s edge? If you had asked me two years ago, I would have chosen “all of the above.” Now, I’m not so sure.

    After the enormous demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the antiwar movement disappeared almost as suddenly as it began, with some even openly declaring it dead. Critics noted the long-term absence of significant protests against those wars, a lack of political will in Congress to deal with them, and ultimately, apathy on matters of war and peace when compared to issues like health care, gun control, or recently even climate change.

    The pessimists have been right to point out that none of the plethora of marches on Washington since Donald Trump was elected have had even a secondary focus on America’s fruitless wars. They’re certainly right to question why Congress, with the constitutional duty to declare war, has until recently allowed both presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump to wage war as they wished without even consulting them. They’re right to feel nervous when a national poll shows that more Americans think we’re fighting a war in Iran (we’re not) than a war in Somalia (we are).

    But here’s what I’ve been wondering recently: What if there’s an antiwar movement growing right under our noses and we just haven’t noticed? What if we don’t see it, in part, because it doesn’t look like any antiwar movement we’ve even imagined?

    If a movement is only a movement when people fill the streets, then maybe the critics are right. It might also be fair to say, however, that protest marches do not always a movement make. Movements are defined by their ability to challenge the status quo and, right now, that’s what might be beginning to happen when it comes to America’s wars.

    What if it’s Parkland students condemning American imperialism or groups fighting the Muslim Ban that are also fighting the war on terror? It’s veterans not only trying to take on the wars they fought in, but putting themselves on the front lines of the gun controlclimate change, and police brutality debates. It’s Congress passing the first War Powers Resolution in almost 50 years. It’s Democratic presidential candidates signing a pledge to end America’s endless wars.

    For the last decade and a half, Americans — and their elected representatives — looked at our endless wars and essentially shrugged. In 2019, however, an antiwar movement seems to be brewing. It just doesn’t look like the ones that some remember from the Vietnam era and others from the pre-invasion-of-Iraq moment. Instead, it’s a movement that’s being woven into just about every other issue that Americans are fighting for right now — which is exactly why it might actually work.

    A Veteran’s Antiwar Movement in the Making?

    During the Vietnam War of the 1960s and early 1970s, protests began with religious groups and peace organizations morally opposed to war. As that conflict intensified, however, students began to join the movement, then civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. got involved, then war veterans who had witnessed the horror firsthand stepped in — until, with a seemingly constant storm of protest in the streets, Washington eventually withdrew from Indochina.

    You might look at the lack of public outrage now, or perhaps the exhaustion of having been outraged and nothing changing, and think an antiwar movement doesn’t exist. Certainly, there’s nothing like the active one that fought against America’s involvement in Vietnam for so long and so persistently. Yet it’s important to notice that, among some of the very same groups (like veterans, students, and even politicians) that fought against that war, a healthy skepticism about America’s 21st-century wars, the Pentagon, the military industrial complex, and even the very idea of American exceptionalism is finally on the rise — or so the polls tell us.

    Right after the midterms last year, an organization named Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness reported mournfully that younger Americans were “turning on the country and forgetting its ideals,” with nearly half believing that this country isn’t “great” and many eyeing the U.S. flag as “a sign of intolerance and hatred.” With millennials and Generation Z rapidly becoming the largest voting bloc in America for the next 20 years, their priorities are taking center stage. When it comes to foreign policy and war, as it happens, they’re quite different from the generations that preceded them. According to the Chicago Council of Global Affairs,

    “Each successor generation is less likely than the previous to prioritize maintaining superior military power worldwide as a goal of U.S. foreign policy, to see U.S. military superiority as a very effective way of achieving U.S. foreign policy goals, and to support expanding defense spending. At the same time, support for international cooperation and free trade remains high across the generations. In fact, younger Americans are more inclined to support cooperative approaches to U.S. foreign policy and more likely to feel favorably towards trade and globalization.”

    Although marches are the most public way to protest, another striking but understated way is simply not to engage with the systems one doesn’t agree with. For instance, the vast majority of today’s teenagers aren’t at all interested in joining the all-volunteer military. Last year, for the first time since the height of the Iraq war 13 years ago, the Army fell thousands of troops short of its recruiting goals. That trend was emphasized in a 2017 Department of Defense poll that found only 14 percent of respondents ages 16 to 24 said it was likely they’d serve in the military in the coming years. This has the Army so worried that it has been refocusing its recruitment efforts on creating an entirely new strategy aimed specifically at Generation Z.

    In addition, we’re finally seeing what happens when soldiers from America’s post-9/11 wars come home infused with a sense of hopelessness in relation to those conflicts. These days, significant numbers of young veterans have been returning disillusioned and ready to lobby Congress against wars they once, however unknowingly, bought into. Look no farther than a new left-right alliance between two influential veterans groups, VoteVets and Concerned Veterans for America, to stop those forever wars. Their campaign, aimed specifically at getting Congress to weigh in on issues of war and peace, is emblematic of what may be a diverse potential movement coming together to oppose America’s conflicts. Another veterans group, Common Defense, is similarly asking politicians to sign a pledge to end those wars. In just a couple of months, they’ve gotten on board 10 congressional sponsors, including freshmen heavyweights in the House of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.

    Members of Common Defense with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Twitter/Common Defense)

    And this may just be the tip of a growing antiwar iceberg. A misconception about movement-building is that everyone is there for the same reason, however broadly defined. That’s often not the case and sometimes it’s possible that you’re in a movement and don’t even know it. If, for instance, I asked a room full of climate change activists whether they also considered themselves part of an antiwar movement, I can imagine the denials I’d get. And yet, whether they know it or not, sooner or later fighting climate change will mean taking on the Pentagon’s global footprint, too.

    Think about it: not only is the U.S. military the world’s largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels but, according to a new report from Brown University’s Costs of War Project, between 2001 and 2017, it released more than 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (400 million of which were related to the war on terror). That’s equivalent to the emissions of 257 million passenger cars, more than double the number currently on the road in the United States.

    A Growing Antiwar Movement in Congress

    One way to sense the growth of antiwar sentiment in this country is to look not at the empty streets or even at veterans organizations or recruitment polls, but at Congress. After all, one indicator of a successful movement, however incipient, is its power to influence and change those making the decisions in Washington. Since Donald Trump was elected, the most visible evidence of growing antiwar sentiment is the way America’s congressional policymakers have increasingly become engaged with issues of war and peace. Politicians, after all, tend to follow the voters and, right now, growing numbers of them seem to be following rising antiwar sentiment back home into an expanding set of debates about war and peace in the age of Trump.

    In campaign season 2016, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, political scientist Elizabeth Saunders wondered whether foreign policy would play a significant role in the presidential election. “Not likely,” she concluded. “Voters do not pay much attention to foreign policy.” And at the time, she was on to something. For instance, Senator Bernie Sanders, then competing for the Democratic presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton, didn’t even prepare stock answers to basic national security questions, choosing instead, if asked at all, to quickly pivot back to more familiar topics. In a debate with Clinton, for instance, he was asked whether he would keep troops in Afghanistan to deal with the growing success of the Taliban. In his answer, he skipped Afghanistan entirely, while warning only vaguely against a “quagmire” in Iraq and Syria.

    Heading for 2020, Sanders is once again competing for the nomination, but instead of shying away from foreign policy, starting in 2017, he became the face of what could be a new American way of thinking when it comes to how we see our role in the world.

    In February 2018, Sanders also became the first senator to risk introducing a war powers resolution to end American support for the brutal Saudi-led war in Yemen. In April 2019, with the sponsorship of other senators added to his, the bill ultimately passed the House and the Senate in an extremely rare showing of bipartisanship, only to be vetoed by President Trump. That such a bill might pass the House, no less a still-Republican Senate, even if not by a veto-proof majority, would have been unthinkable in 2016. So much has changed since the last election that support for the Yemen resolution has now become what Tara Golshan at Vox termed “a litmus test of the Democratic Party’s progressive shift on foreign policy.”

    Nor, strikingly enough, is Sanders the only Democratic presidential candidate now running on what is essentially an antiwar platform. One of the main aspects of Elizabeth Warren’s foreign policy plan, for instance, is to “seriously review the country’s military commitments overseas, and that includes bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.” Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel have joined Sanders and Warren in signing a pledge to end America’s forever wars if elected. Beto O’Rourke has called for the repeal of Congress’s 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force that presidents have cited ever since whenever they’ve sent American forces into battle. Marianne Williamson, one of the many (unlikely) Democratic candidates seeking the nomination, has even proposed a plan to transform America’s “wartime economy into a peace-time economy, repurposing the tremendous talents and infrastructure of [America’s] military industrial complex … to the work of promoting life instead of death.”

    And for the first time ever, three veterans of America’s post-9/11 wars — Seth Moulton and Tulsi Gabbard of the House of Representatives, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — are running for president, bringing their skepticism about American interventionism with them. The very inclusion of such viewpoints in the presidential race is bound to change the conversation, putting a spotlight on America’s wars in the months to come.

    Get on Board or Get Out of the Way

    When trying to create a movement, there are three likely outcomes: you will be accepted by the establishment, or rejected for your efforts, or the establishment will be replaced, in part or in whole, by those who agree with you. That last point is exactly what we’ve been seeing, at least among Democrats, in the Trump years. While 2020 Democratic candidates for president, some of whom have been in the political arena for decades, are gradually hopping on the end-the-endless-wars bandwagon, the real antiwar momentum in Washington has begun to come from new members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar who are unwilling to accept business as usual when it comes to either the Pentagon or the country’s forever wars. In doing so, moreover, they are responding to what their constituents actually want.

    As far back as 2014, when a University of Texas-Austin Energy Poll asked people where the U.S. government should spend their tax dollars, only 7 percent of respondents under 35 said it should go toward military and defense spending. Instead, in a “pretty significant political shift” at the time, they overwhelmingly opted for their tax dollars to go toward job creation and education. Such a trend has only become more apparent as those calling for free public college, Medicare-for-all, or a Green New Deal have come to realize that they could pay for such ideas if America would stop pouring trillions of dollars into wars that never should have been launched.

    The new members of the House of Representatives, in particular, part of the youngest, most diverse crew to date, have begun to replace the old guard and are increasingly signalling their readiness to throw out policies that don’t work for the American people, especially those reinforcing the American war machine. They understand that by ending the wars and beginning to scale back the military-industrial complex, this country could once again have the resources it needs to fix so many other problems.

    In May, for instance, Omar tweeted, “We have to recognize that foreign policy IS domestic policy. We can’t invest in health care, climate resilience, or education if we continue to spend more than half of discretionary spending on endless wars and Pentagon contracts. When I say we need something equivalent to the Green New Deal for foreign policy, it’s this.”

    A few days before that, at a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing, Ocasio-Cortez confronted executives from military contractor TransDigm about the way they were price-gouging the American taxpayer by selling a $32 “non-vehicular clutch disc” to the Department of Defense for $1,443 per disc. “A pair of jeans can cost $32; imagine paying over $1,000 for that,” she said. “Are you aware of how many doses of insulin we could get for that margin? I could’ve gotten over 1,500 people insulin for the cost of the margin of your price gouging for these vehicular discs alone.”

    And while such ridiculous waste isn’t news to those of us who follow Pentagon spending closely, this was undoubtedly something many of her millions of supporters hadn’t thought about before. After the hearing, Teen Vogue created a list of the “5 most ridiculous things the United States military has spent money on,” comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted out the Ocasio-Cortez hearing clip to her 12.6 million followers, Will and Grace actress Debra Messing publicly expressed her gratitude to Ocasio-Cortez, and according to Crowdtangle, a social media analytics tool, the NowThis clip of her in that congressional hearing garnered more than 20 million impressions.

    Not only are members of Congress beginning to call attention to such undercovered issues, but perhaps they’re even starting to accomplish something. Just two weeks after that contentious hearing, TransDigm agreed to return $16.1 million in excess profits to the Department of Defense. “We saved more money today for the American people than our committee’s entire budget for the year,” said House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings.

    Of course, antiwar demonstrators have yet to pour into the streets, even though the wars we’re already involved in continue to drag on and a possible new one with Iran looms on the horizon. Still, there seems to be a notable trend in antiwar opinion and activism. Somewhere just under the surface of American life lurks a genuine, diverse antiwar movement that appears to be coalescing around a common goal: getting Washington politicians to believe that antiwar policies are supportable, even potentially popular. Call me an eternal optimist, but someday I can imagine such a movement helping end those disastrous wars.

    What we can learn from the LGBTQ movement’s 50 years of achievement

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    Now that the LGBTQ movement in the United States has reached the half-century mark, what can activists learn from its story of struggle? Since polarization continues to deepen, this might be a good time to learn from a movement whose enemies once felt so panicked that some suggested gays be put in concentration camps to protect society from AIDS.

    As a young man living in Philadelphia in the late ‘60s, cautiously coming out to friends, I was aware of demonstrations for gay rights at Independence Hall led by Barbara Gittings and others. I was too scared to join them. By then I’d already risked in the civil rights and peace movements, even in a war zone in Vietnam, but publicly coming out as gay seemed even scarier than getting seriously injured.

    Previous Coverage
  • What white allies can learn from allies in the gay rights struggle
  • Once publicly known as gay, I’d face the unknown: living a drastically changed life. I was right. In the early ‘70s, when I did come out via a speech to a thousand people at a national Quaker conference, my life was forever altered. Doors closed. My marriage, family and role as an activist were impacted on every level.

    Support also appeared, even from unexpected places. I found ways to be of use, and even to flourish, despite it all.

    I also learned that coming out would be a powerful nonviolent tactic to add to the methods of noncooperation in Gene Sharp’s classic taxonomy. It turns out that gay oppression, to remain stable, needs us to remain invisible.

    It was around this time when a high school student named Steve Chase invited me to speak on peace in his school assembly in Illinois. I did so, and came out in the context of the speech. I later learned about the ruckus I’d caused, or rather, the ruckus Steve had caused. Called to the principal’s office to explain himself, he admitted he expected me to come out, even though he didn’t ask me to. He wanted it to stir school-wide discussion, which it did. As Steve pointed out to the principal, it might have saved the life of a gay classmate who was pondering suicide.

    Nevertheless, there were times I overlooked the strategic power of coming out. One such instance was when I disparaged some leading gay organizations’ choice to focus on equal marriage and equality in the military. I was for liberation and questioned both traditional marriage and the military. What I missed was that the fight for equality in those institutions would spur many additional people to come out. The tactic would itself support their own liberation and add power to the overall movement.

    For me, coming out meant stepping into a new place of freedom. As feminists were teaching us at the time, “the personal is political; the political, personal.” I hit the streets, recruited in bars for boycotts, got arrested and supported organizers. I learned more about love and solidarity. I also saw some tactics and strategies that today’s movements can use right now.

    We learned from those who’d gone before us

    In the decades before 1969, when drag queens in New York City led the Stonewall rebellion, civil rights had been “the mother of all movements” in the United States. Like African Americans, LGBTQ people were a minority whose oppression was enforced by rejection, job and housing discrimination, bullying, church burnings, police brutality, corruption and killings.

    Partly because of the civil rights struggle, a spirit of defiance was spreading among LGBTQ people. In 1959 LGBTQ people confronted police officers at Cooper’s Donuts in Los Angeles, and in 1966 drag queens rose up in Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco. These outbursts revealed readiness to risk. In the rhetoric of the day, “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

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  • Get real about privilege — become an ally
  • Spontaneous outbursts, however, aren’t likely to gain change. Intention increases the chance of winning. In 1965, Philly’s chapter of the Janus Society led a gay sit-in at a Dewey’s restaurant, prompting an end to the restaurant’s discrimination practice. That was followed by nonviolent defiance orchestrated by New York’s Mattachine Society in Julius’ Bar, resulting in the dropping of a discriminatory regulation.

    The results were consistent with the civil rights movement’s experience, whose greatest successes came from direct action campaigning. That movement confronted even the Ku Klux Klan and won victory after victory in the Deep South.

    We could see that drama can ignite “movement moments,” as when in Greensboro the four black students on Feb. 1, 1960 sat in and began a wave of nonviolent direct action campaigns across the South.

    The June 28, 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn also sparked a movement moment. The action, reportedly a mix of violence and nonviolence, certainly was dramatic. Unlike Greensboro, Stonewall didn’t model for us what should be done next. How to make use of the energy that was unleashed? The Gay Liberation Front, however, made use of the energy that was unleashed, putting together a coalition to create the first pride march, the Christopher Street Parade.

    In both Greensboro and New York, the combination of drama and organization got the movement moving.

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    When marches matter

    My friends know me to be very skeptical about the strategic value of marches. Considering the energy that goes into a major march, and knowing the much greater power of direct action campaigns, I’m known to ask for the compelling strategic reasons for each march I hear about.

    However, I started this article the day after I donned the bright purple shirt my grand-daughter Raquel gave me and, yet again, joined a pride parade. I see four strategic reasons that justify a pride march, even 50 years after Stonewall.

    LGBTQ oppression has an unusual feature: It tries to make sexual and non-binary gender difference invisible. To spotlight our tactic of direct noncooperation, the parade makes us out, loud and in numbers.

    Proudly calling public attention to the part of us that has been despised also inspires others who are still cooperating with the oppression. Many of us know people who first were onlookers before taking the risk to join the march itself.

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    The march provides a visible on-ramp for mainstream community leaders and office-holders, non-gay family members, and even the usual enforcers — like police, who join the march in uniform — to declare “which side they’re on.”

    Along with growth in numbers over time I noted differences in who was there. Now there are more people of color, more young people (even teenagers holding hands), more inter-racial couples. The growth in the marches is important in two ways. For us as a minority with some internal tensions around our differences, growth signals solidarity. Growth also reveals to the power-holders our force as an interest group.

    During the parade, I found myself frequently smiling and crying, sometimes simultaneously. I kept remembering my best friend Gary, one of the early casualties of AIDS.

    My strong feelings reminded me again of the model of the civil rights movement, where displays of emotion were frequent. Both movements have provided strong containers for feelings: anger, grief, self-affirmation, despair, fear, sense of agency, shame, joy, acceptance.

    Working with anger while aiming for strategy

    Participants in ACT-UP were famous for expression of anger about the criminal neglect of AIDS from government, Big Pharma and hospitals. Their campaigns forced a sea change in research, policy and practice and saved countless lives. I recommend for all groups the film “How to Survive a Plague” to stimulate discussion about strategy and tactics.

    In 1991, Philadelphia police rioted on unarmed, whistle-blowing demonstrators outside a hotel where President George H.W. Bush was speaking. Eventually the police ended up admitting they’d broken the law and settled with ACT-UP for $61,500.

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    ACT-UP leaders called me after the beatings and said their members needed more nonviolence training before their next encounter with the police. When I got there, the church basement was packed with angry ACT-UP members who, despite my invitation from their leaders, were in no way interested in nonviolence.

    I facilitated a go-round in which each person said one word describing how they felt. The atmosphere was hot. I then acknowledged that nonviolent direct action, like anything, has its upsides and downsides. At the top of the flipchart, I placed the signs for plus and minus, then asked for their responses.

    They nearly filled the chart with minuses before someone ventured a plus. More minuses were shouted, then a plus, and another and another, then back to minuses.

    When the crowd ran out of suggestions, the newsprint was lop-sided on the negative side but a fair number of pluses were up there.

    I asked in a neutral tone of voice: “Shall we do a nonviolence workshop tonight?”

    A tall man in the back said, “I see the group is ready for the workshop, so I just want to say I can’t picture myself doing nonviolence. But I won’t stand in the way. I’ll show up for the next action but stand across the street so you’ll know I’m there even though I just can’t go with this nonviolence shit.”

    A couple of others made similar statements while noting that the group seemed to want the workshop. I waited a beat, then I heard others: “Come on, George, let’s do it!”

    It was one of the most electric workshops in my life.

    I went to ACT-UP’s next action: civil disobedience, with a very large police presence. The bold, yet unprovocative, behavior of ACT-UP members would have made Gandhi proud. On the sidelines I saw earnest conversation between an ACT-UP leader and the police commander. I got close enough to hear the commander say, “I’m old and near retirement, and I’m just trying to get through this alive.”

    The ACT-UP leader looked at him squarely. “Well then now you know how we feel.” He paused. “We want to get out of this alive.” I watched them, in silence, have a moment.

    A leaderful movement

    Because of the prominence in U.S. history of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s common for people to imagine that a social movement “needs its Dr. King” to achieve a string of victories. The LGBTQ movement never had a uniting, charismatic figure. Its unity, such as it was, sprang from broad agreement on the goal of equality and a diversity of approaches including nonviolent direct action.

    People continue to argue about the movement’s vision, including “civil rights” vs. “liberation.” The pride parades themselves include a stunning variety of styles and views, revealing a diversity that marches in the same direction. The parade also includes a welter of hiking, music and other recreational groups that help tie together a network.

    Supporting a leaderful movement is the abundance of targets for change. Discrimination in jobs, housing, retail and education operates on many levels: small and large towns, cities, states and the nation. Transgender activists, for example, targeted the mass transit system, successfully campaigning to end gender markers on commuter passes.

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  • 4 lessons for climate organizers from the anti-nuclear movement
  • Like the climate crisis, gender and sexual oppression invites multiple campaigns and therefore widespread leadership development. As with the successful grassroots movement that prevented the economic elite from achieving its goal of a thousand nuclear power plants, the LGBT movement does fine without a Dr. King.

    Movements can win even when some campaigns lose

    LGBTQ activists, in common with both the civil rights and anti-nuclear power movements, have had a dynamic relationship between campaigns and the success of the movement as a whole. In all three movements, members organized a variety of targeted campaigns — local, regional and national.

    Individual campaigns built organizing skills, courage, and taught each other what works and doesn’t. Even though some of the campaigns didn’t win their immediate goal, all three movements won major gains. National and international movements can win through their aggregate growth and cumulative impact. Like other campaign-focused movements, LGBTQ activists experienced defeats along the way and nevertheless changed this country decisively.

    What do generals, Gandhi and gays agree on?

    In the 1980s President Ronald Reagan presided over the economic elite’s counter-offensive, designed to roll back progress made by activists in the 1960s and ‘70s. Most liberals and progressives went on the defense, trying to hang onto previously-achieved gains. As billionaire Warren Buffett has observed, the rich have been winning the class war. Most of the movements are today still defending and still losing ground, now with a touch of romance by calling it “the resistance.”

    The LGBTQ movement, despite the pain, loss of many talented leaders, disruption, and grave threats caused by AIDS, refused to go on the defense when Reagan moved into the White House. Instead, the movement went on the offense, decade after decade — launching new campaigns for more advanced goals, including rights for trans people.

    Bigots who publicly aired their fears of “the homosexual agenda” have been right to be scared. Our agenda is equality, and that means creating more advanced goals with new campaigns to achieve them.

    Other movements are starting to re-evaluate their strategy. More American workers were involved in major strikes in 2018 than in any year since 1986. The Sunrise Movement and other climate justice activists are pushing the Green New Deal. They are using the strategic principle that unites gays, Gandhi and military generals: the only way to win is to take the offense.

    How to avert the impending war on Iran

    Since coming to power, the Trump administration has had Iran in its crosshairs. The United States unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran. With the other signatories doing little to cushion the blow, Iran now says it will breach part of the agreement. In all likelihood, this is exactly how hawks — like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton — hoped Iran would respond to U.S. provocations.

    Ann Wright is intimately aware of how politicians use fear and distort reality to drum up support for war and its devastating consequences. She spent her career in the U.S. Army — rising to the rank of colonel — and served as a diplomat in the State Department, before resigning in opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Since then, she has been a courageous and steady voice at the forefront of the antiwar movement. With what seems like super-human endurance, she is constantly on the move — participating in countless actions for peace and traveling to countries at the receiving end of U.S. bombs.

    I first had the good fortune to spend time with Ann on a trip to Afghanistan almost 10 years ago. Earlier this year, we traveled to Iran on a delegation organized by Code Pink, which has been organizing regular protests to challenge those ratcheting up tensions. With calls for war growing louder by the day, I spoke with Ann to see how she is reading the administration’s current machinations and what those inside and outside the system can do to avert another catastrophic war in the Middle East.

    The invasion of Iraq was a critical turning point in your life. Can you explain why you resigned and the parallels you see between that moment and what is happening today?

    The drive to war in Iran is so reminiscent of what was going on in 2002 with the war on Iraq. We’re still facing pretty much the same conditions. My letter of resignation was based on the Iraq war, but it also contained a couple of other things that are still very important. I was opposed to the Patriot Act and all the sweeping curtailments of civil liberties and privacy. And now, 16 years later, you look at what we face, and it’s much worse. Palestinian rights was another issue I put in my letter of resignation. And now you look at this plan that Jared Kushner has cooked up — it essentially gives everything to Israel and leaves the Palestinians in an even worse predicament.

    And then there’s other aspects of my letter of resignation, like the issue of North Korea, where there has been some movement from the Trump administration. Even though we’re in another period of minor hostility, he at least has met with Kim Jong-un twice. I don’t think it’s lost. So the conditions under which I resigned in 2003 are very much the same as they are now in 2019.

    At least the media is being a little better now about challenging some of the things the Trump administration is saying about Iran. They are trying to force the government to provide details about why Iran is this increased threat to U.S. national security, and they’re not getting much information back. So that is a little different from when the media in general just took what the Bush administration was saying at face value on weapons of mass destruction. That’s a little hopeful.

    With the threats and talk of repositioning troops — along with the claims that Iran is responsible for attacks in the region — are we seeing the manufacturing of a conflict like we have so many times before?

    The U.S. is doing everything it can to precipitate a conflict — to poke and provoke the Iranians to do something that the United States can have a military response to. When you look at what the Iranians are capable of doing in response, the Department of Defense is probably the greatest voice in the U.S. government against any sort of military action against Iran. They know full well that the Iranians have the capability of destroying, very quickly, a hell of a lot of U.S. military property and personnel.

    You could do a limited air strike before the Iranians start blasting our planes out of the sky, but there’s no way in the world the United States could ever put troops in Iran. The U.S. military knows that the Iranian military will eat our lunch.

    So you think those in the government — particularly the military and State Department — can play, or maybe already are playing, an important role in averting a new war with Iran?

    In a subtle way, they are putting the brakes on a lot of things that come out of the White House. I can imagine that they are slow rolling thousands of initiatives that Bolton and his gang of warmongers are putting forward. The military can move very quickly if it wants to politically. But it also can slow down the political desires of politicians too.

    The commander of that aircraft carrier said that we are not going through the Strait of Hormuz because we know that could lead to provocative actions. That’s a pretty clear statement, at least from the operational side of the Department of Defense, that they don’t want to get involved in this.

    Do you have any advice for ways that ordinary people can encourage those inside the system to take a stand?

    Just the tried and true stuff. I don’t have any magic bullet so to speak. Write letters to the editor explaining why you think the Trump policies are wrong and encourage people in the military to hold strong against these things that they know are dangerous to U.S. national security. Write letters to your Congress people. If there’s enough volume into the congressional offices, it will make a difference. We get feedback from offices all the time, saying, finally, there was enough citizen action that we’ve signed on as co-sponsors to whatever resolution it is. And sometimes you see Congress people changing their public stances in their speeches.

    Without citizen activism, constituent activism, they’re not pushed to do anything. So that’s really important. And hitting the streets, having signs out on street corners, and hosting conferences or seminars to educate our community. And if the Trump administration moves in a very fast manner on any of this, we have to prepare to call for a quick mobilization with as many people out on the streets as we possibly can.

    There were massive protests before the invasion of Iraq, but the Bush administration was not deterred. What have we learned from that experience, and how can we build a more impactful antiwar movement this time around?

    We can elect politicians who are not warmongers. That’s number one. As long as we continue to elect these jerks that love war, we’re in big trouble. We’ve got to start holding these people accountable. The fact that the Obama administration would not hold any of the Bush administration people accountable shows the power of the politicians. It’s just like in other countries, where dictators are overthrown, but other dictators take them in and give them a life of luxury. That’s really the system we have in the United States, where all the presidents take care of each other.

    The elites pardon each other and the citizenry go to jail. Reality Winner, who disclosed one classified document about Russians interfering with the elections, has been in jail for over two years now and has three more to go. It doesn’t give one a great feeling that everything will come out okay.

    So how do you keep going, despite the bleak circumstances we face?

    It’s important to look back through history. I’m reading a new book that Michael Smith wrote called “Lawyers for the Left.” It goes into the lives of probably 30 different lawyers from the 1950s onwards, who have been challenging the system on behalf of citizens. And it gives us the courage to keep going. We’re just part of a long, long struggle. I don’t know that we will ever win, but at least we will go down fighting for social justice and protection of rights for as many people as we possibly can.

    We just have to keep giving people hope, not stay at home and watch the stupid TV. But to get up, do some stuff and be with like-minded people. If you leave them in their homes, everybody just gets dejected and immobilized. That’s why I think having weekly, or at least twice a month, events talking about social issues is really important. It’s important for organizations to step up to the plate now and help people understand that they do have a role. How effective we will be, who knows? But we know how effective it is if we don’t do anything.

    You have traveled a lot to places that are targeted by our government militarily or economically. Why do you think it’s important for peace activists to make such trips?

    Our government, no matter who’s in charge, Republicans and Democrats, they all lie to us. So it’s important that we go to the places where they don’t want us to go — to see with our own eyes what’s happening and talk to people in these countries.

    What risks does this kind of travel involve, and how do you prepare for it?

    Many of these are dangerous places in their own ways. When social issues flare up you might just be out on the streets at the wrong time or, as a former government worker, you might be accused of being a spy for the United States – even though I resigned in opposition to government policies. So that’s something that I always keep in mind.

    One of the ways that I try to protect myself is to do a lot of writing and speaking, so that governments can see what my positions are — and that there’s a history of my protesting U.S. government actions — long before I go to these places. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been given visas to Iran twice.

    Ann Wright speaks with a group of young Iranian women in Isfahan in March 2019. (Code Pink)

    With a couple months of hindsight on the trip we took together to Iran, what are your key takeaways from the meetings we had with officials and ordinary people?

    From having spoken to several government officials, the history of what the United States has done to Iran is important, and a lot of Americans just don’t know about it. So we come back to write about it and reference the very educated, professional people we met and what their comments are about U.S.-Iranian relations.

    And on the civilian side, ordinary Iranians told us about the effects of U.S. sanctions over decades, and the difficult situation that Iranian-Americans have in getting to Iran. And very few Iranians are now able to come to the U.S., including those who have family members here. It may backfire in Trump’s face because many of the Iranians that live here don’t support the revolution, but they support their own family members. Let’s hope that Trump’s policies will produce the votes that will get his sorry ass out of there.

    We obviously want to avoid war but there are serious problems with the Iranian government. If we want to encourage a homegrown, grassroots pro-democracy movement inside the country, what can we do?

    I think the best that we can do to create space for resolution of all of these issues is to speak out against sanctions and to get the United States to stop its pronouncements of regime change and military options. The feedback you get from Iranians is that the sanctions have made life much more difficult, and that they’re not willing to stand up.

    But we aren’t willing to stand up against the Trump administration — to go out there and block roads and have thousands of people thrown in jail, and get beaten up by the cops. So why in the hell should we expect that of folks who know that they are going to get killed if they do that? We are very concerned about what goes on in their country, but we ought to be damned concerned about what’s going on in our own and work to stop it.

    Iraqis prepare a Carnival for Peace as US plans for more war

    This story was first published by Tom Dispatch.

    There’s a dark joke going around Baghdad these days. Noof Assi, a 30-year-old Iraqi peace activist and humanitarian worker, told it to me by phone. Our conversation takes place in late May just after the Trump administration has announced that it would add 1,500 additional U.S. troops to its Middle Eastern garrisons.

    “Iran wants to fight to get the United States and Saudi Arabia out of Iraq,” she began. “And the United States wants to fight to get Iran out of Iraq.” She paused dramatically. “So how about all of us Iraqis just leave Iraq so they can fight here on their own?”

    Assi is among a generation of young Iraqis who lived most of their lives first under the U.S. occupation of their country and then through the disastrous violence it unleashed, including the rise of ISIS, and who are now warily eying Washington’s saber-rattling towards Tehran. They couldn’t be more aware that, should a conflict erupt, Iraqis will almost certainly find themselves once again caught in the devastating middle of it.

    In February, President Trump sparked ire by claiming that the United States would maintain its military presence — 5,200 troops — and the al-Asad airbase in Iraq in order to “watch Iran.” In May, the State Department then suddenly ordered all non-emergency government employees to leave Iraq, citing vague intelligence about threats of “Iranian activity.” (This so-called intelligence was promptly contradicted by the British deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS who claimed that “there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.”) A few days later, a rocket landed harmlessly in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. embassy. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi then announced that he would send delegations to Washington and Tehran to try to “halt tensions,” while thousands of ordinary Iraqis rallied in Baghdad to protest against the possibility of their country once again getting dragged into a conflict.

    Much of American media coverage of rising U.S.-Iranian tensions in these weeks, rife with “intel” leaked by unnamed Trump administration officials, bears a striking resemblance to the lead-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. As a recent Al Jazeera piece — headlined “Is the US media beating the drums of war on Iran?” — put it bluntly: “In 2003, it was Iraq. In 2019, it’s Iran.”

    Unfortunately, in the intervening 16 years, American coverage of Iraq hasn’t improved much. Certainly, the Iraqis themselves are largely missing in action. When, for example, does the American public hear about how female students in Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, heavily bombed and taken back from ISIS in 2017, have organized to restock the shelves of the once-famed library at the University of Mosul, which ISIS militants set aflame during their occupation of the city; or how booksellers and publishers are reviving Baghdad’s world-renowned book market on Mutanabbi Street, destroyed by a devastating car bomb in 2007; or how, each September, tens of thousands of young people now gather across Iraq to celebrate Peace Day — a carnival that started eight years ago in Baghdad as the brainchild of Noof Assi and her colleague, Zain Mohammed, a 31-year-old peace activist who is also the owner of a restaurant and performance space?

    In other words, rarely is the U.S. public allowed glimpses of Iraq that make war there seem less inevitable.

    Assi and Mohammed are well accustomed not only to such skewed representation of their country in our country, but to the fact that Iraqis like them are missing in action in American consciousness. They remain amazed, in fact, that Americans could have caused such destruction and pain in a country they continue to know so little about.

    “Years ago, I went to the United States on an exchange program and I discovered people didn’t know anything about us. Someone asked me if I used a camel for transportation,” Assi told me. “So I returned to Iraq and I thought: Damn it! We have to tell the world about us.”

    In late May, I spoke with Assi and Mohammed separately by telephone in English about the rising threat of another U.S. war in the Middle East and their collective two decades of peace work aimed at undoing the violence wrought by the last two U.S. wars in their country. Below, I’ve edited and melded the interviews of these two friends so that Americans can hear a couple of voices from Iraq, telling the story of their lives and their commitment to peace in the years after the invasion of their country in 2003.

    What first inspired you to begin doing peace work?

    Zain Mohammed: At the end of 2006, on December 6, al-Qaeda-[in-Iraq, the precursor to ISIS] executed my dad. We are a small family: me and my mom and two sisters. My opportunities were limited to two options. I was 19 years old. I had just finished high school. So the decision was: I had to emigrate or I had to become part of the system of militias and take revenge. That was the lifestyle in Baghdad at that time. We emigrated to Damascus [Syria]. Then suddenly, after about six months, when our paperwork was nearly ready for us to emigrate to Canada, I told my mom, “I want to go back to Baghdad. I don’t want to run away.”

    I went back to Baghdad at the end of 2007. There was a big car bombing in Karrada, the part of the city where I used to live. My friends and I decided to do something to tell our friends that we have to work together to promote peace. So, on September 21, on International Peace Day, we held a small event in the same place as the explosion. In 2009, I received a scholarship to the American University in Sulaymaniyah for a workshop about peace and we watched a movie about Peace Day. At the end of the movie, there were flashes of many scenes from around the world and, for just one second, there was our event in Karrada. This movie was amazing for me. It was a message. I went back to Baghdad and I spoke to one of my friends whose father had been killed. I told him it’s systematic: If he’s Shiite, he’ll be recruited by a Shiite militia for revenge; if he’s Sunni, he’ll be recruited by a Sunni militia or al-Qaeda for revenge. I told him: we have to create a third option. By a third option, I meant any option except fighting or emigrating.

    I spoke to Noof, and she said: “We have to collect youth and organize a meeting.”

    “But what’s the point?” I asked her. All we had was this idea of a third option. She said: “We have to collect youth and have a meeting to decide what to do.”

    Noof Assi: When Baghdad was first built, it was called the City of Peace. When we first started talking to people, everyone laughed at us. A City of Peace celebration in Baghdad? It’ll never happen, they said. At that time, there were no events, nothing happened in the public parks.

    Zain: Everyone said: you’re crazy, we’re still in a war…

    Noof: We didn’t have any funding, so we decided to light candles, stand in the street and tell people that Baghdad is called the City of Peace. But then we grew into a group of around 50 people, so we created a small festival. We had zero budget. We were stealing stationery from our office and using the printer there.

    Then we thought: Okay, we made a point, but I don’t think people will want to continue. But the youth came back to us and said, “We enjoyed it. Let’s do it again.”

    How has the festival grown since then?

    Noof: The first year, around 500 people came and most of them were our families or relatives. Now, 20,000 people attend the festival. But our idea isn’t only about the festival, it’s about the world that we create through the festival. We literally do everything from scratch. Even the decorations: there is a team that makes the decorations by hand.

    Zain: In 2014, we felt the first results when ISIS and this shit happened again, but this time, at the societal level, lots of groups were starting to work together, collecting money and clothes for internally displaced people. Everyone was working together. It felt like a light.

    Noof: Now, the festival happens in Basra, Samawah, Diwaniyah and Baghdad. And we’re hoping to expand to Najaf and Sulaymaniyah. Over the last two years, we’ve been working to create the first youth hub in Baghdad, the IQ Peace Center, which is home to different clubs: a jazz club, a chess club, a pets club, a writing club. We had a women-and-girls club to discuss their issues within the city.

    Zain: We had a lot of financial challenges because we were a youth movement. We weren’t a registered NGO [non-governmental organization] and we didn’t want to work like a regular NGO.

    Iraqi children at the 2018 Baghdad City of Peace Carnival. (Facebook / Baghdad City of Peace Carnival)

    What about other peace efforts in the city?

    Noof: In the past few years, we’ve started seeing a lot of different movements around Baghdad. After many years of seeing only armed actors, wars and soldiers, young people wanted to build another picture of the city. So, now, we have lots of movements around education, health, entertainment, sports, marathons, book clubs. There’s a movement called “I’m Iraqi, I Can Read.” It’s the biggest festival for books. Exchanging or taking books is free for everyone and they bring in authors and writers to sign the books.

    This isn’t exactly the image that I suspect many Americans have in mind when they think about Baghdad.

    Noof: One day, Zain and I were bored in the office, so we started Googling different images. We said, “Let’s Google Iraq.” And it was all photos of the war. We Googled Baghdad: Same thing. Then we googled something — it’s famous around the world — the Lion of Babylon [an ancient statue], and what we found was a picture of a Russian tank that Iraq developed during Saddam [Hussein]’s regime that they named Babylon’s Lion.

    I’m an Iraqi and I’m a Mesopotamian with that long history. We’ve grown up living in a city that’s old and where every place, every street you pass, has a history to it, but the international media doesn’t talk about what’s happening on those streets. They focus on what the politicians are saying and leave out the rest. They don’t show the real image of the country.

    I want to ask you about the rising tensions between the United States and Iran, and how people in Iraq are responding. I know you have your own internal problems, so whatever Trump tweets on a given day might not be the biggest news for you…

    Noof: Unfortunately, it is.

    Especially since 2003, Iraqis have not been ones controlling our country. Even the government now, we don’t want it, but no one has ever asked us. We’re still paying with our blood while — I was reading an article about this a few months ago — Paul Bremer is now teaching skiing and living his simple life after ruining our country. [In 2003, the Bush administration appointed Bremer head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran occupied Iraq after the U.S. invasion and was responsible for the disastrous decision to disband Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s army.]

    What do you think about the news that the U.S. is planning to deploy 1,500 more troops to the Middle East?

    Zain: If they end up coming to Iraq, where we have a lot of pro-Iranian militias, I’m afraid there could be a collision. I don’t want a collision. In a war between the United States and Iran, maybe some soldiers will be killed, but a lot of Iraqi civilians will be, too, directly and indirectly. Honestly, everything that has happened since 2003 is strange to me. Why did the United States invade Iraq? And then they said they wanted to leave and now they want to come back? I can’t understand what the United States is doing.

    Noof: Trump is a businessman, so he cares about money and how he’s going to spend it. He’s not going to do something unless he’s sure that he’s going to get something in return.

    That reminds me of the way Trump used the rising tensions in the region in order to bypass Congress and push through an $8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    Noof: Exactly. I mean, he was asking Iraq to pay the United States back for the costs of the U.S. military occupation in Iraq! Can you imagine? So that’s how he thinks.

    Amid these rising tensions, what’s your message to the Trump administration — and to the American public?

    Zain: For the U.S. government, I’d say that, in every war, even if you win, you lose something: money, people, civilians, stories… We have to see the other side of war. And I’m sure we can do what we want without war. For the U.S. public: I think my message is to push against war, even against economic war.

    Noof: For the U.S. government I would tell them: please mind your own business. Leave the rest of the world alone. For the American people I would tell them: I’m sorry, I know how you’re feeling being in a country run by Trump. I was living under Saddam’s regime. I still remember. I have a colleague, she’s American, and the day Trump won the elections she came into the office crying. And a Syrian and I were in the office with her and we told her: “We’ve been there before. You will survive.”

    On September 21, Noof Assi, Zain Mohammed and thousands of other young Iraqis will crowd a park along the Tigris River to celebrate the eighth annual Baghdad City of Peace Carnival. In the United States, meanwhile, we will almost certainly still be living under the Trump administration’s nearly daily threats of war (if not war itself) with Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and god knows where else. A recent Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows that Americans increasingly see another war in the Middle East as inevitable, with more than half of those polled saying it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that their country would go to war with Iran “within the next few years.” But as Noof and Zain know full well, it’s always possible to find another option…

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    Chinese students and workers are uniting again, 30 years after Tiananmen Square crackdown

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    This article was first published by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

    “We will fight together, advance and retreat together,” concluded Qiu Zhanxuan in a video his comrades released on May 4, 2019. Qiu was the former leader of a Marxist student association at the prestigious Peking University. He had prepared the digital testament to be released in case he disappeared.

    Qiu did disappear in late April after he’d dared to call for a united front between students and workers, 30 years after the infamous Tiananmen Square crackdown. He had previously been arrested and then released in December 2018 on his way to a mark Mao Zedong’s 125th birthday.

    This came after students from Peking united with striking workers at the company Jasic Technology, whose attempts to form a union were blocked in July 2018. Students from Peking University, but also Renmin and Tsinghua universities, travelled to the south of China the following month to support the aggrieved workers. They were arrested, some released, and others, such as Qiu, have since disappeared.

    It was students based in Peking who began protesting in April 1989 after the sudden death of Hu Yaobang, the reform-minded former Communist Party of China secretary-general. They called for political reform and democracy, but also for more social freedom and equality. Progressively, workers joined the movement all across China. Initially they weren’t welcomed by the students, who feared their movement would be diluted, but they soon realized that all Chinese citizens were fighting for the same cause: the realization of the socialist ideal in the form of a more democratic and equal society.

    The students’ peaceful hunger strike in Tiananmen Square ended on June 3 and 4 when more than 200,000 troops were sent in to suppress what the communist regime saw as a counter-revolutionary riot. It’s estimated anywhere between hundreds and thousands of protesters were killed.

    Today again, the same issues are at stake, that of equality and justice in a society which hasn’t achieved the socialist dream, but instead become a fierce capitalist market. With economic growth in China stagnating and as President Xi Jingping’s promise of a “China dream” becomes more distant for many of the 300m Chinese workers, student agitation could jeopardise the regime’s stability.

    Fallen proletariat

    Long gone are the days of the “iron rice bowl” – the guarantee of a stable job for life with the assorted social benefits. The Chinese proletariat is no more the elite of communism but the prime victim of Chinese-style capitalism and fierce globalization. Chinese workers are in a worse situation than they were in 1989. They have fewer state protections, and the fate of many depends on their ability to accept and survive the often unregulated working conditions of the private sector.

    As Han Dongfang, executive director of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, or CLB, observed, the situation is much more complex now than it was 30 years ago. The charismatic railway worker was only 26 when, on April 17, 1989, he gave a speech at Tiananmen Square to advocate the right of Chinese workers to freely organize. He helped create the Beijing Worker’s Autonomous Federation, the People’s Republic of China’s first independent trade union. It was dismantled soon after the June 4 crackdown in 1989.

    One of the most wanted Tiananmen protesters, Han turned himself into the police and spent two years in prison. Banned from China, he continues his fight from Hong Kong where he set up CLB in 1994.

    Han Dongfang on a visit to the University of Portsmouth in April 2019.
    Salil Tripathi, Author provided

    There is still a lot to struggle for. There is no right to go on strike and no right to unionize in China today – yet some workers still protest over issues such as unpaid wages, restructuring plans, health and safety or even gender equality. The CLB recorded 1,701 strikes in 2018. Chinese workers are very active despite the risks strikes entail – from being fired, to be being arrested, imprisoned or even disappeared.

    Disenchanted and repressed labor

    Chinese labour law is actually well designed to protect workers, as my research has documented. Chinese-style public-interest litigation as well as forms of collective negotiation – if not yet collective bargaining – have become widespread in China since legal reforms in the 1990s and early 2000s. But these laws only work if they are implemented and adjudicated independently, and the system remains unpredictable.

    The past ten years have also brought massive disenchantment about a Chinese legal system that circumvents the rule of law. Too many murky practices remain commonplace, such as forced labor known as “reform through work” (laogai or laodong gaizao) or “re-education through work” (laojiao or laodong jiaoyang). Such practices are still used by the state and some private companies alike, both on Chinese territory but on flagship foreign investment projects abroad. Reports have detailed Chinese workers dispatched overseas forced to live in inhumane conditions deprived of their passports, going unpaid for months.

    In the past, discontent was centered among construction workers. Many migrated from the countryside to the cities without a clear residence permit, or what’s known as hukou status, making them vulnerable to possible abuses. Now, discontent is spreading.

    One recent movement, called “996” made headlines as Chinese tech employees name and shame their employees about a culture of working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. This has included denunciations by workers of the powerful Alibaba founder Jack Ma who advocates such a punishing working culture. Tech workers have also protested online about long hours via GitHub or in using memes, stickers and T-shirts.

    While a lot has changed in China since 1989, much has remained the same. The state is present at every level of society, which has become extremely unequal. The leadership of the Communist Party of China remains unchallenged politically, and yet a form of civil society coexists with an authoritarian regime that represses individual democratic aspirations. In this context, some students and workers are trying to unite around the same hopes and aspirations as their predecessors in 1989 – for equality and justice.

    Wave of creative protests threaten Kazakhstan’s elite ahead of elections

    In Kazakhstan, where the government aggressively regulates peaceful assembly and punishes those who dare to break its strict rules, there has been a surprising uptick in creative protests in recent months.

    The current wave of actions started in February after five young girls died in a house fire. As a result, dozens of mothers staged rallies across Kazakhstan to draw attention to insufficient welfare provisions for families. Then, in March, small crowds gathered in major cities to protest the government’s sudden move to rename the capital from Astana to Nur-Sultan, in honor of longtime Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Over the past few weeks, a handful of young activists have been detained and fined for displaying banners with political messages.

    Nazarbayev is the only president Kazakhstan has known, taking office in 1990, before the Central Asian country declared independence from the Soviet Union a year later. Kazakhstan’s governing elites have taken it for granted that the population will quietly submit to an illiberal political system in exchange for the trickle-down effects of the country’s exorbitant oil wealth.

    Whereas other Soviet-era holdovers in the region held on to power until they died, Nazarbayev opted to resign on March 19 and manage the power transition from a distance. Presidential elections were called for June 9, leaving little time for a competitive field of candidates to emerge. Even with a handful of politicians announcing their intention to run for president, many are not convinced that the first elections without Nazarbayev on the ticket will be credible. (To be fair, presidential elections in Kazakhstan have always only been for show, as Nazarbayev was reelected in 2015 with a whopping 97.7 percent of the vote.)

    Foreign Policy correspondent Reid Standish sees the president’s resignation as a way for Nazarbayev to avoid growing domestic frustration, but the political transition now underway has signaled cracks in the appearance of stability that Nazarbayev has worked for decades to achieve.

    Asiya Tulesova and Beibarys Tolymbekov hung a banner at the Almaty marathon on April 21 that said “You cannot run from the truth,” with two hashtags reading “For Fair Elections” in Kazakh and “I have a choice” in Russian. (Instagram/@tamina_spnv)

    On April 21, while delegates from Nazarbayev’s political party unanimously backed interim president and regime loyalist Kassym-Jomart Tokaev as their candidate, two young activists sat on trial for demanding fair, independent elections. That morning, Asiya Tulesova and Beibarys Tolymbekov hung a banner reading “You cannot run from the truth” while participants in the Almaty marathon ran past. The banner included two hashtags reading “For Fair Elections” in Kazakh and “I have a choice” in Russian.

    Building on the momentum following Tulesova and Tolymbekov’s trial, where the audience chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as the activists were sentenced to 15 days in jail, artist Roman Zakharov hung a banner over a highway in central Almaty. The banner read “The people shall be the only source of governmental power,” a quote pulled directly from Kazakhstan’s constitution. Police arrested Zakharov and charged him with hooliganism for littering in public.

    In an attempt to test authorities, blogger Aslan Sagutdinov went to the main square in his hometown Uralsk on May 6 carrying only a blank placard. “I’m not taking part in a protest,” 24-year-old Sagutdinov told reporters. “I want to show that they’ll still take me down to the station, even though there’s nothing written on my placard, and I’m not shouting any slogans.” After standing with his blank poster for only a few minutes, a group of police officers approached him and escorted him to the police station. Sagutdinov was released later that day because the police could not decide what to charge him with.

    Blogger Aslan Sagutdinov went to the main square in his hometown Uralsk carrying only a blank placard and was promptly hauled away by police. (Twitter/@jardemalie)

    On May 9, police took activist Zhanbota Alzhanova from her home in Nur-Sultan. Alzhanova thinks the arrest was linked to a photo she posted on Facebook, in which she and a friend parody Sagutdinov’s arrest by pretending to hold up an invisible poster. Officially, Alzhanova was charged with supporting those who had been arrested on May Day protests in several Kazakhstani cities, but the fact that her arrest synced up with the photo did not go unnoticed.

    The creative thread linking these actions is obvious and taps into a long history of art as a channel for protest in Kazakhstan. But another factor has been necessary for these demonstrations to proceed as they have: widespread internet access.

    In 2007, only 4 percent of Kazakhstan’s population was online. There was a sudden spike to 11 percent in 2008, then to 31 percent in 2010, and today more than 70 percent of Kazakhs are connected to the internet. They are active on a range of social media platforms, including Russian services like vKontakte and Odnoklassniki and global giants like Facebook and Instagram. Young people are using social media in the traditional sense — to post selfies and share memes — but also to engage with politics. The hashtags emblazoned on the banner that got Asiya Tulesova and Beibarys Tolymbekov arrested collectively have been used on over 8,000 posts on Instagram, for example.

    But how does this internet activity feed into or enable collective action? Mass communications technology decreases the cost of participating in collective action, but digital participation — posts, likes and comments — is not a guarantee of tangible political or social change. This is especially true given the lack of consistent organization among activists, who struggle with state repression — since vocal dissenters have been exiled or arrested — as well as the fracturing of political and social opposition. While artistic actions like flash mobs and banners make for powerful art and are increasingly likely to go viral, the one-off nature of organizing these demonstrations makes it difficult to have a major impact.

    Even so, the iterative progression of nonviolent demonstrations in Kazakhstan in recent weeks demonstrates that the boundary between digital and “real” politics is more fluid than commonly understood. Beyond enabling a creative series of nonviolent actions, social media ties the regime’s hands (and therefore potentially feeds into tangible politics) in three specific ways.

    First, technology fosters links with international actors. By posting photos of violent reactions to nonviolent action, translating court proceedings into English, and criticizing government control over the internet, Kazakhstani activists have been able to get the attention of outsiders. This includes foreign journalists, officials in neighboring countries, the diaspora living in Western countries and representatives of international organizations. Each of these actors can put pressure on Kazakhstan’s government in different ways by citing and engaging with social media discussions of peaceful demonstrations.

    Second, the optics of arresting people who quoted the constitution for littering or simply stood in public with a blank piece of paper look bad for the state. Digital communications technology gives activists the upper hand in defining the narrative to the masses. In this way, the visual and conceptual absurdity of police reactions to peaceful behavior — taking blue balloons away from toddlers suspected of participating in an opposition protest, for example — undermines the government’s authority and presses them to either relax restrictions on expression and public gatherings or to own up to their paranoia.

    The government — which is accustomed to traditional tools of repression — is at once compelled to silence dissent, but simultaneously constrained in how it can respond. Digital repression is not a precise tool, and is therefore a costly choice for the state. This constitutes the third and final way in which communications technology facilitates nonviolent action.

    Digital activism triggers widespread censorship, which can in turn arouse backlash. It is a fair concern that only a narrow segment of the population — urban, well-to-do, Russian-speaking people — is participating in these demonstrations, and so social media buzz does not reflect broader sentiments. But frequent internet blackouts can encourage and give credibility to an otherwise invisible opposition. Those who were not curious about political content or were not using virtual private networks before the regime blocked access to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube multiple times in May, could be motivated to seek out subversive content.

    In the government’s attempt to silence critics, they inspired an iterative progression of creative demonstrations that straddle the digital and tangible spheres. Artists have already started tagging buildings with graffiti, sporting homemade T-shirts and writing songs that draw inspiration from the banners unfurled in Almaty. It appears that Kazakhstan’s ruling elite have started a game of Whack-a-Mole that they can’t win.

    Anti-occupation coalition grows stronger in the face of Israeli military violence

    I watched the Israeli Defense Forces throw several stun grenades — one right after the other — deep into a crowd of my friends earlier this month. I saw people dear to me get choked by soldiers, thrown forcefully onto the ground and dragged away by their limbs. Following this, the army arrested 17 people — including many Jewish activists from around the world, two Palestinian journalists and three Palestinian residents from the area.

    The crime? Presumably, the IDF’s harsh punishment would be because our protest turned violent. However, we were steadfastly nonviolent. We were simply fixing a dirt road that would enable Palestinians in the area to access food, water and basic supplies.

    The IDF’s behavior in this situation is sadly not shocking nor inconceivable, but to see it up close with my own eyes was deeply unsettling and upsetting.

    The rehabilitation of this road was planned by a broad coalition of groups. Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills assembled a wide array of Palestinian partners. Meanwhile, the anti-occupation collective All That’s Left organized diaspora Jews based in Israel-Palestine, and the Center for Jewish Nonviolence brought 40 North American Jews to the action as part of a nine-day delegation to Israel-Palestine to learn about the occupation.

    I know the sting of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and otherness, so I must work to ensure that no one else ever feels it.

    In my own activist community in Israel-Palestine — which is the collective All That’s Left — we bring Jews together who are unequivocally committed to ending the occupation and building the diaspora angle of resistance. We leverage our position and privilege as diaspora Jews living in Israel-Palestine to bring more people into our cause, take part in educational activities, and engage in nonviolent activism in collaboration with our Palestinian and Jewish-Israeli partners. We grant diaspora Jews accessibility to what’s happening in Israel-Palestine and to other anti-occupation activism, which can be daunting given that neither Arabic, Hebrew, nor cultural competency come naturally.

    We were founded in 2012 in Israel-Palestine by diaspora Jewish activists to create a coalition that includes people with different stances on Zionism and what the solutions to the conflict should be. We are all equal members of a community that seeks to work alongside those fighting the occupation on the ground. We do this work with an intentional effort to minimize hierarchy among ourselves. We also work with and learn from our Palestinian partners, whose leadership in the struggle is essential.

    All That’s Left, delegations from the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, and other groups made up of international activists demonstrate the growing coalition of Jews who originate outside of Israel and are hungry to fight for what they know is right. They come with different knowledge and perspectives, and they want — and need — to connect to each other.

    Like many of my American-Jewish peers, I grew up being told that Israel was a home for me. In my case, it actually became one. The sabbatical year my family spent in Israel was life-defining. I have joyful memories from my childhood of living in Jerusalem every summer, and Israel’s centrality was reinforced over and over again during summer camp and my day school education. These childhood lessons contributed to my decision to move to and live in Jerusalem at this point in my life.

    Similarly, my rearing was heightened with lessons of social justice — of standing up and fighting for what was right and rejecting what was wrong. I knew the sting of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and otherness, and so I must work to ensure that no one else ever feels it.

    But this connection to Israel and my understanding of justice are hard to reconcile. During our action to repair the road on May 3, cognitive dissonance abounded, but I did what I could to remain focused on the plain and present reality of the moment — no matter how disturbing it might be.

    Previous Coverage
  • Coalition paves way for Palestinian homecoming after 20-year displacement
  • Along with our Palestinian partners in the villages of Susiya, Umm Al-Khair, A-Tuwani and elsewhere, we watched in anger as the IDF demolished homes in Area C — a part of the West Bank that’s under Israeli military control — and violently responded to our simple attempts at filling in potholes.

    Nevertheless, we will continue to bear witness to these hateful acts. We will livestream, post pictures, tweet, hashtag and enact every nonviolent action we can think of — however big or small — so that those who can’t be there alongside us can also see the cruelty.

    We refuse to stand idly by as the Palestinians we live alongside face ongoing violence, and we will use our bodies and the privileges they carry to do all we can to defend them. These are the same people who welcome us into their villages and homes. They make us tea, feed us pita and laugh with us while we work with them to rehabilitate their homes.

    When Jews living in the diaspora and those living in Israel come together, we make a formidable force. When groups like All That’s Left, the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, and other groups from abroad work in collaboration with each other, both our Judaism and our activism are strengthened. And when we work under the guidance of our Palestinian partners — with whom we have been able to cultivate longstanding relationships — we forge a more powerful and just movement.

    There’s an importance in cultivating relationships with each other. After the army violently evacuated us, we went to a nearby village where our partners live in the South Hebron Hills. Activists from the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and All That’s Left were intermixing, sharing food and stories. People used to this common violence shared their coping tactics and their trauma with newcomers who were processing what had just happened. Though all were upset, shaken and angry, there was genuine camaraderie born from difficulty.

    The army may have tried to halt our work, and our collaboration, but our partnership began long before and will assuredly continue long after.

    Vision is finally on the rise in U.S. politics

    Our country’s political discourse is becoming more interesting. On May 16, Washington governor and presidential candidate Jay Inslee released a progressive $9 trillion-plus “Evergreen Economy” plan.

    By proposing a dramatic response to the climate crisis, Inslee joins a few Democratic presidential candidates already supporting the Green New Deal. Both proposals challenge the Democratic leadership’s rigid adherence to incrementalism and their belief that — no matter how urgent the problem — it’s best to avoid offending the 1 percent with policies that can make a difference.

    We saw that principle operating in 2009 when Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House. Their response to an economy heading for the cliff: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which focused on bailing out Wall Street.

    When President Obama urged a second stimulus that would bail out Main Street in towns across the United States, his party refused. The Democrats thereby laid the groundwork for the Trump victory seven years later.

    Incrementalism also stopped President Obama in relation to climate. The Recovery Act included some small support for renewable energy. President Obama asked then-Sen. John Kerry to put together a major climate bill. (The Democrats at that time had the majority in both houses of Congress.) Kerry tried, but could not get his Senate colleagues on board. The growing climate crisis wasn’t enough to risk their relationship with the economic elite.

    How U.S. activists became so vision-averse

    Historically, radical and progressive social movements that have made the biggest difference did their vision work — going beyond protest to describe the systemic changes that would result in more justice, peace and equality.

    Even though the anti-vision “fearful ‘50s” had a hamstringing effect, the mass movements of the 1960s and ‘70s encouraged some growth of vision. School reformers re-imagined education, environmentalist and feminist writers generated utopias, black activists engaged in neighborhood renewal, community policing and alternative institution building. The vision work was not robust enough to stimulate a movement of movements, but growth did happen.

    The widespread use of nonviolent direct action campaigns in the ‘60s and ‘70s put movements on the offensive and produced major victories. Alarmed, the 1 percent organized a counter-offensive.

    In 1981 President Ronald Reagan fired a shot across the bow of the movements. He broke the air traffic controllers’ union, signaling what billionaire Warren Buffett later described to the New York Times as a “class war” that his class started.

    In response, most progressive movements went on the defensive, trying to hold on to previously-achieved gains. Going on the defensive was a tragic mistake.

    LGBTQ activists took the opposite strategy. ACT-UP led the charge with militant nonviolent campaigns against Big Pharma, hospitals and the federal government. These campaigns were followed by multiple LGBTQ demands including equal marriage, equality in the military and accessible toilets. While there has never been unity among us for a fully liberatory vision, a critical mass of LGBTQ people stayed on the offensive, with allies, for equal rights. We won victory after victory.

    The sad story for most U.S. movements since 1980 has been defeat after defeat, which is to be expected when movements go on the defensive. The work of visioning correspondingly lapsed. Movements focused on protests instead of vision-led direct action campaigns, and popular culture trended toward dystopia.

    The re-birth of visioning

    The blockbuster “Black Panther” film signaled in popular culture a turn-around on vision. Artists created an Afro-centric utopia, and the popular response in 2018 was overwhelming.

    Previous Coverage
  • ‘A Vision for Black Lives’ is a vision for everyone
  • Earlier, in 2016, social activists led the charge when the Movement for Black Lives issued its vision. Dozens of organizations signed on, even though the vision’s breadth and boldness meant that the signers wouldn’t necessarily agree with every sentence.

    Also in 2016 came Solutionary Rail, envisioning a massive, solar-based reinvention of industrial transportation that would put new economic life into a rural America that had concluded, correctly, that the Democrats abandoned them. A year later, in 2017, Popular Resistance convened a gathering that wrote “The People’s Agenda,” which grew out of the work — and organizers involved in — Occupy Washington, D.C.

    Those are just the ones I’m aware of. There may well be other collective vision-writing projects released in the United States that have escaped my attention.  

    Vermont initiates multi-level vision work

    At about the same time, a Middlebury, Vermont “huddle” group concerned with climate was reading Naomi Klein’s book “No Is Not Enough,” which describes a Canadian visionary process known as The Leap Manifesto. The huddle turned to my book, “Viking Economics,” to learn about the role of vision in the Scandinavian social movements that waged successful nonviolent revolutions and are leaders in climate today.

    The Nordics were emboldened by the early Nobel Prize-winning work of economist Gunnar Myrdal, who asserted that classical economics had its priorities all wrong when it came to capital and labor. Myrdal believed an economy should center ordinary people — workers, farmers and small shopkeepers — and use capital as a resource to further their well-being. His model was the opposite of “trickle down.” Take care of the grassroots, using capital for the common good. It’s OK to have a market, but regulate it highly and make sure a large part of the economy is owned by the people.

    That’s the vision that makes the Nordic track record superior to free market capitalism, even in economic metrics: higher worker productivity, more start-ups, more patents, a higher percentage of the people in the labor force, and the virtual elimination of poverty.

    In 2018, the Middlebury huddle group organized a Vision for Vermont Summit, and over a hundred people from all parts of the state gathered for a weekend at Middlebury College to launch a visioning process.

    This May, a year later, I went to Middlebury to join the Vermonters as they reviewed and celebrated their work. We heard from Middlebury professor Jon Isham’s students who interviewed small farmers, racial minorities, migrants and others who can easily be marginalized in the visioning process.

    Their draft vision is broader than the Green New Deal but, in my view, the two are compatible. Middlebury’s Sunrise Movement is proposing to work with the Vision for Vermont group to go to the Vermont legislature with specific proposals related to the Green New Deal.

    The Vermont process generated synergy from an activist/academic collaboration. Community organizer Fran Putnam, along with members of the huddle group, worked closely with faculty and students. The students found that the project built their skills and conceptual grasp, and realized their results have policy implications.

    Activists and academics in other states may want to experiment with the model that seems to be evolving in Vermont. Not only are local thought leaders brought together on a state level to draft a vision, but an extra effort is taken to include marginal grassroots voices, through interviewing. The interviews can lay the foundation for relationship and further movement-building.  

    The state-level vision can be refined with an eye to the visions being developed on a national level, like that of the Movement for Black Lives. One question the drafters can ask is: “Now that we have our principles clear, what are the structures that need to be in place to implement the principles? For example, if we assert that health care is a right for all, what is our preferred structure to get that done?”  

    Some already-developed national visions will help to answer that question.

    Vision work leads to even more practical outcomes when, as in Vermont, advocacy groups begin to generate specific proposals to take to state legislators. Legislative outcomes are often inadequate, the result of “sausage-making.” If, however, the proposals come from a larger, coherent vision grounded at the grassroots, and are backed up by a movement that knows the value of nonviolent direct action, they can accelerate to a living revolution.

    Populist alliances of ‘cowboys and Indians’ are protecting rural lands

    This article was first published by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

    The sea of red on recent election maps make it look like rural areas are uniformly populated by Republicans. And conventional wisdom suggests that those Americans are largely conservative populists who question many government regulations and do not welcome cultural diversity.

    But the growing influence of Native American nations in some rural areas is starting to change that picture. Empowered by their treaty rights, they are beginning to shift the values of their white neighbors toward a populism that cuts across racial and cultural lines to challenge large corporations.

    I’m a geographer who studies the relationships between tribes and rural white farmers, ranchers and fishers. In my book “Unlikely Alliances: Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands,” I relate what I learned through dozens of interviews with Native Americans and their non-Native allies who described how the tribes are fusing the power of their sovereignty with the populist grievances of the tribes’ historic enemies.

    By teaming up to defend the place they all call home, they are protecting their lands and waters for all.

    (Zoltán Grossman) Unlikely alliances

    Ever since Native Americans began to reassert their treaty rights to harvest fish, water and other natural resources, starting in the 1960s in the Pacific Northwest, a far-right populist backlash from some rural whites has sparked racial conflicts over those resources.

    But starting in the late 1970s, some Native nations across the country joined with their rural white neighbors — including people who had been their adversaries in treaty conflicts — to block threats to rural lands and waters, such as mining, pipeline, dam, nuclear waste and military projects.

    The alliances joined tribes and rural, mostly white, Americans to confront common enemies. They helped whites in these areas learn more about indigenous cultural traditions, legal powers and ecological values. Tribal members also learned that their neighbors valued the local environment, and wanted to protect it from outside corporations.

    In South Dakota and Nebraska, for example, a group called the Cowboy Indian Alliance has, since 2013, brought together Lakota and other tribes with white ranchers and farmers to stop the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The alliance drew from earlier coalitions that stopped uranium and coal projects and a bombing range in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

    Farmers and ranchers in these two deep-red states opposed the use of eminent domain to seize their private property for the pipeline. That land had originally belonged to the tribes.

    As they worked together against the pipeline, the tribes influenced some white neighbors to protect sacred burial sites on their property.

    “We come from two cultures that clashed over land,” Alliance spokeswoman Faith Spotted Eagle observed. “This is a healing for the generations.”

    Fossil fuel and mining projects

    In Washington and Oregon, Native nations are using their treaty rights to stop plans to build coal and oil export terminals. The same largely white fishing groups in that region that used to aggressively protest treaty rights now back the tribes in protecting fisheries from oil and coal shipping, and in restoring fish habitat damaged by development.

    The Lummi Nation, near Bellingham, Washington, led the fight that staved off a coal terminal in a sacred burial ground. The Quinault Nation on the Pacific coast led an alliance that helped kill plans to build oil export infrastructure that would have threatened salmon and shellfish.

    The mostly white working-class residents of former logging towns in the area, who have strongly opposed timber industry regulations, have worked more easily with local tribes than with urban environmental groups to protect their local economy from fossil fuels.

    “The relationships we have with our neighbors arose out of a relationship of much division, strife, and conflict,” Quinault President Fawn Sharp told me. Through that, she added, “they’ve come to know who we are.”

    Leaders of Washington tribes and fishing groups speak at Shared Waters, Shared Values Rally against Grays Harbor oil terminals in 2016. (Zoltán Grossman/CC BY-SA)

    In Wisconsin and Michigan, Ojibwe and Menominee tribes are fighting to prevent new mining projects, joined by their rural white neighbors, because those projects threaten fishing streams, wild rice beds and burial sites.

    As recently as the early 1990s, many white anglers in northern Wisconsin were violently protesting Ojibwe treaty rights to spear fish, harassing and physically attacking Native Americans after anti-treaty groups led to them to believe that tribal fishing threatened the local tourism economy.

    But the tribes presented their treaties as a legal obstacle to the mines that both groups viewed as a threat to the fishery.

    The Midwest Treaty Network convinced many anglers to cooperate with tribes and environmental groups to join in the effort to stymie plans to build a copper and zinc mine near Crandon, Wisconsin. They won a protracted fight in 2003. The anglers had realized that if they kept arguing with the tribes over fishing rights, there might not be any fish left.

    More recently, the Bad River Tribe on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior led an alliance that stopped the Penokees iron mine in 2015, upstream from wild rice beds culturally valuable to the tribe.

    And the Menominee Nation and its allies are trying to block the Back Forty zinc and gold mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

    A 2014 protest against the Penokees mine near the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation in northern Wisconsin. (Flickr/Joe Brusky) Unity through diversity

    One advantage that sovereign tribal nations have in these battles is that they can draw federal agencies and courts into the fray in a way that local and state governments cannot.

    Tribes are in the fight for the long haul, because the survival of their cultures is at stake. They can’t simply move away from environmental hazards, because they have harvesting rights only within their treaty territory, and their identities and cultures are rooted in a particular place.

    Some areas of the most intense treaty conflicts, where the tribes most strongly asserted their rights, developed the earliest and most successful tribal alliances with white farmers, ranchers and fishers.

    In these areas, rural populists have begun to see the tribes as more effective guardians of their local economies from large corporations than their state, local or federal governments. Wisconsin fishing guide Wally Cooper had spoken at rallies against Ojibwe treaty rights. He told me he changed his mind “because Native Americans can stop” the Crandon mine that threatened the rivers that he loved.

    The success of these unlikely alliances challenges political stereotypes. Some progressives tend to dismiss rural whites as recalcitrant and unwilling to treat people who are different as equals.

    Many conservatives – along with some liberals – presume that highlighting cultural differences through identity politics gets in the way of unifying people who otherwise share economic or environmental goals.

    But celebrating differences and unity can be compatible. Native sovereignty can protect land and water for all rural people, and help build an anti-corporate movement that crosses cultural lines. If even cowboys and Indians can find common ground, maybe there is hope for what I call cross-cultural populism.

    #FreeBlackMamas bails black mothers from jail for Mother’s Day

    In 1870, abolitionist Julia Ward Howe issued her Mother’s Day proclamation: a call for mothers across the United States to end war.
    It was five years since the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment, which banned chattel slavery with one notable exception: involuntary servitude is allowed as punishment for a crime.

    Nearly 150 years later, Howe’s dream of ending war has yet to become a reality. And the 13th Amendment has become more significant as, over the past 40 years, the number of people being sent to prison has skyrocketed. But accompanying these soaring numbers have been calls for abolition of another kind — to abolish prisons. It’s a call that’s been gaining traction and popularity over the past decade.

    Among the numerous tactics taken by abolitionists is one focusing specifically on mothers, particularly mothers of color, who have been hard hit by both poverty and tough-on-crime policies. It also challenges the country’s bail system, in which people who cannot afford to pay bail must stay in jail for months — and sometimes years — as their cases slowly wind their way through the court system.

    Even a few days in jail can result in losing one’s job, housing and even custody of one’s children.

    When a person appears in court after being arrested, the judge has the option to release them, jail them until trial or set bail, which is a monetary amount that they or their family will have to pay. The reasoning behind bail is not that the person is deemed a risk to themselves or their communities. Instead, it’s based on the logic that, by paying a certain amount, the person is more likely to return for subsequent court dates. If they fail to appear, they forfeit that money. But in reality, bail serves as a two-tiered system in which people with money are allowed to prepare for their court date at home, while those without money must languish in jail.

    On any given day, 462,000 people (of all genders and races) are held in jail pretrial, meaning that they are currently awaiting their day in court. The majority are jailed simply because they cannot afford to post bail — or a money amount assigned by the judge ostensibly to ensure that a person returns to court.

    Being jailed can mean the difference between an acquittal or a conviction. Being in jail prevents a person from meeting with their attorney, showing up to court in their own clothes, or gathering evidence or witnesses that could bolster their defense. People in jail are more likely to plead guilty; 94 percent of state convictions (and 97 percent of federal convictions) are because of plea bargains.

    But even a few days in jail can result in losing one’s job, housing and even custody of one’s children.

    An action for #FreeBlackMamas in Nashville. (Twitter/SONG)

    In the United States, #FreeBlackMamas is entering its third year. The idea started with Mary Hooks, the executive director of Southerners for New Ground, or SONG, an LGBTQ organization. Hooks proposed a mass bailout of black mothers in time to spend Mother’s Day with their families instead of languishing in jail cells. The call spread across the country and over a dozen organizations — from reproductive justice groups to organizations focused on mass incarceration and criminalization — took up the call. They raised awareness about bail, as well as funds needed to pay it. Then they sat in courtrooms, clerks’ offices and jail waiting rooms — sometimes for hours on end — in order to post the bail that would allow mothers to be home with their families in time for Mother’s Day.

    Why black mothers?

    The number of women in jails across the United States has increased 14 times between 1970 and 2014. Of those women, 44 percent are black (though black women make up only 8 percent of the country’s population). Eighty percent of women (of all races) are also mothers.

    In 2017, #FreeBlackMamas organizers raised over $1 million in two months, enough to post bail for 106 mothers nationwide. Not only did they bail these mothers out of jail, but they also connected them with support services — such as housing and counseling — while also providing transportation to their follow-up court dates. Their efforts sparked other bailouts, including a Father’s Day bailout and a Black August bailout, which freed 71 other people. In October 2018, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights launched a two-week bailout of women and minors held pretrial on Rikers Island. They spent over $1.2 million posting bail for 105 people, ages 16 to 62 with bails that ranged from $750 to $100,000.

    Previous Coverage
  • How organizers raised over $233,000 in one day to bail hundreds out of jail
  • This year, groups and organizers in 17 different states — including New York, Georgia, California, Mississippi, Colorado and Texas — have committed to bailing out black mothers before Sunday. Each group has its own fundraiser and many have already raised tens of thousands of dollars. So far, 70 mothers have been freed in 22 cities.

    In New York City, VOCAL-NY — a grassroots organizing group of people affected by HIV, the drug war and mass incarceration — has already posted bail for three women. The group noted that one mother was five months pregnant and might have faced the possibility of giving birth behind bars. Another had a $2,500 bail set for shoplifting. The third had a bail that took 24 hours to process. In Philadelphia, organizers have bailed out seven black mothers.

    Bailouts aren’t limited to Mother’s Day or holidays. In some states, organizations have arisen to bail people out all year round. The Massachusetts Bail Fund has been posting bail for the past six years. In April alone, they paid nearly $48,000 to bail 100 people out of jail. Their efforts have also brought the need to eliminate cash bail into conversations about criminal justice, including in Boston’s recent prosecutorial race. The winner, Rachel Rollins, signed onto a letter calling for the end of cash bail. She also promised that her office would decline to prosecute 15 low-level crimes, though organizers say she has yet to keep that promise.

    In the neighboring Berkshire County, prosecutor Andrea Harrington has said that she would stop requesting bail for minor offenses. In Middlesex County, Marian Ryan, who has been the county prosecutor since 2014, issued a public memo stating that she would stop holding people for misdemeanors.

    “We’ve changed the conversation in Massachusetts, period,” said Bail Fund organizer Mallory Hanora. In other words, the collective and sustained effort of groups such as the Bail Fund and Families for Justice as Healing — an organization of formerly incarcerated women in the Boston area — has made cash bail impossible to ignore in criminal justice conversations.

    At the same time, organizers’ efforts have brought more people into conversations about bail. They’re teaming up with Wee the People, an anti-oppression education program for children, for this year’s Black Mamas’ Bailout. The collaboration isn’t just fundraising and posting bail. It’s also discussing with the program’s youth about the incarceration of mothers and grandmothers, as well as the federal Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, drafted with input from formerly incarcerated women and aimed at improving conditions in women’s jails and prisons.  

    SONG leaders chained themselves to the Durham County Jail in North Carolina on May 9. (Twitter/@bear_peretz)

    Across the globe, in Western Australia, formerly incarcerated women and prison abolitionists have been challenging another way in which people, particularly Aboriginal women, are jailed for lack of money. In Western Australia, people are jailed for unpaid fines. These fines can be for actions as insignificant as not registering a pet dog or getting on public transportation without a ticket. But then there are additional fees and costs added to the original fine, which can bring it from the low hundreds to the low thousands of dollars. No payment plan is allowed — the debt must be paid in full. If a person does not — or cannot — pay, the fine becomes a warrant. Every $250 owed becomes a day spent in jail. Western Australia is the only state that jails people for unpaid fines, and the majority of people jailed are Aboriginal women.

    In 2014, the practice briefly made headlines when Ms. Dhu, a 22-year-old Aboriginal woman, died while jailed for $3,362 in unpaid fines. She would have had to spend 14.5 days in jail, but she died two days after her arrest.

    In January 2019, Sisters Inside, an organization that works with women in Australian prisons, began their #FreeThePeople campaign. Organizers identify women who are either currently jailed or at risk of being jailed for unpaid fines. Then, they pay those fines.

    How do they find these women? First, they put word about the campaign to Aboriginal elders, Aboriginal organizations and non-governmental organizations, asking them to help identify women with unpaid fines. Sometimes the groups will give them names — other times, the women will contact them directly. Once they have their names, they begin the process of paying the fines so that arrests don’t happen or the women can go free. (Unlike the U.S. bail system, payment for these warrants can be done over the phone or online.)

    As of mid-March, 10 weeks after beginning the campaign, Sisters Inside had already paid the fines for over 100 women. Some of these fines aren’t cheap: “It’s worked out to an average of $3,300 [to] $3,500 per woman,” said Deb Kilroy, the director of Sisters Inside and founder of the #FreeThePeople campaign. But some are much more. Kilroy recounted the story of one woman, a 23-year-old fleeing domestic violence with three children under the age of six, who had more than 10 fines adding up to $8,100. But with $9,500 in additional fees and costs, she was looking at paying $17,500 or spending 70 days in jail. Neither was an option she could afford.

    “I’ve spoken to Aboriginal mothers who’ve had their fines paid in full,” Kilroy tweeted. “I told them they can’t be arrested. They cheered, screamed & cried. They’re overwhelmed at donors’ generosity. One even asked, ‘What’s the catch?’ To which I said ‘No catch you’re free.’”

    #FreethePeople has raised over $391,000 over the past four months. But here’s the catch: In the United States, bail fund organizers can expect most, if not all, of the money posted for bail to be returned once the person completes their court case. (In some places, a non-refundable administrative fee is taken out of the bail amount.) In Western Australia, however, the court-imposed fines, fees and costs are non-refundable, meaning that Sisters Inside must constantly be raising money to keep women out of jail.

    That could be a Sisyphean task if not for the second prong of the #FreeThePeople campaign — advocating to abolish the practice, something that other Australian states have already done. People who donated to #FreeThePeople are encouraged to email the state’s attorney general, John Quigley, to repeal this law. Nearly every one of the 8,000 people who donated during the first two months did so. In response to the flood of emails and the media attention raised by the campaign, Quigley’s office has said that a set of reforms to the law will be introduced in July 2019. Meanwhile, Sisters Inside continues to raise funds and reach out to Aboriginal organizations to pay for women’s freedom.

    In the United States, black mothers who had been freed through #FreeBlackMamas in previous years traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in September to participate in a convening of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. They gathered on stage for the Sunday morning plenary to talk about the importance of being bailed out of jail, of being able to fight the charges against them from the outside, and of not being torn away from their children and loved ones. One mother talked about finding a year-old flier about the Mamas Day Bailout. She called her mother and asked her to call the number listed. The following week, she was bailed out and came home one day before her son was murdered. If not for the bailout, she would not even have had that last day with him.

    Some had never been involved in political advocacy before being bailed out. Now, every one of the women on the stage was deeply involved in anti-prison work, including participating in and organizing this year’s bailouts.

    Drivers strike ahead of Uber’s public offering today

    On May 8, Uber, Lyft and other ride-hail drivers in New York City went offline during morning rush hour, joining over two dozen cities around the world that went on strike ahead of Uber’s initial public offering today. Drivers are demanding higher wages and better working conditions, which they say have deteriorated over the past few years. In New York City, the strike was aimed at pressuring the City Council to pass new legislation on regulating the ride-hailing industry amid Uber and Lyft’s efforts to push for further deregulation and corporate-friendly policies.

    Drivers rallied in front of Uber and Lyft’s Long Island City headquarters in the afternoon and chanted “We want cap now” and “Driver power, union power.” Then, New York Taxi Workers Alliance executive director Bhairavi Desai addressed the crowd.

    “In 2015, when the City Council backed down from capping the number of for-hire vehicles temporarily — straight out of that victory for Uber and Lyft — Wall Street overloaded them with money, which they used to saturate the streets with cars,” Desai said. “By the end of the year in 2015, the streets were flooded. By January 2016, Uber and Lyft started to cut the fares and that was the beginning of the race to the bottom.”

    A few men behind her held signs with the names of six professional drivers that have committed suicide since that time. Through years of organizing, the Taxi Workers Alliance has been able to push New York to regulate the industry more than many other cities around the country. Still, Desai said, drivers face foreclosures, bankruptcy and eviction.

    Since 2010, when Uber first came to New York, the city has become the largest market for the ride-hailing app in the country. Desai pointed out that of the 130,000 for-hire vehicles in the city, around 80,000 are app-based cars, primarily those of Uber and Lyft, which remain empty 42 percent of the time. “There is absolutely no reason beyond corporate greed for why there would be no cap on the number of vehicles,” Desai said.

    She explained that Uber and Lyft have created a “false narrative” around a supply problem, noting that a quarter of all Uber drivers leave the company within a year. Her solution: Treat the workers better. “Regulation is the only thing that will bring stability back to this industry and keep a workforce of 100,000 people from going deeper into poverty.”

    Following a study that found 85 percent of drivers made less than minimum wage, the City Council passed legislation for a minimum of $17.22 per hour before taxes — a victory drivers saw at the end of last year. The City Council also passed legislation to temporarily stop issuing for-hire vehicle licenses for 12 months and is scheduled to hold another vote on a vehicle cap on Aug. 8.

    Previous Coverage
  • New NYC regulations on Uber and Lyft a victory for union organizing
  • Inder Parmar, who’s been driving for Uber for six years says he relies on support from his children, who are now out of college. “Uber used to pay us $2.60 a mile in 2013. Today they pay us $1.25 a mile.” Had his children still been in college,” he told the crowd, “I would most probably have had to sell my house for their college fees.”

    Passing comprehensive legislation at the federal level will prove even more difficult and those organizing for higher pay and increased job security face an uphill battle. A study by the National Employment Law Project notes that companies like Uber and Lyft have followed an aggressive strategy of state interference similar to those pursued by the NRA and tobacco industry.

    The study’s authors wrote that in 2016 “Uber and Lyft lobbyists outnumbered Amazon, Microsoft and Walmart combined.” Many of these efforts were focused on the state and local level. Forty-one states, the study found, have either “overrule[d] or preempt[ed] local regulations” on app-based vehicles and, in two states, “Uber wrote or co-wrote the original drafts of legislation.”

    If it weren’t for the fact that drivers are classified as independent contractors — exempting them from traditional full-time employee benefits like workers compensation, healthcare and the ability to form a union — Uber, with its fleet of three million drivers, would be the world’s largest employer. To put this in perspective, Uber is larger than the United States Department of Defense (2.87 million), the People’s Liberation Army of China (2.5 million), and Walmart (2.2 million).

    With a driver base that large, a coordinated strike is nearly impossible, but the strike was still large enough to generate headlines across the media spectrum — while also raising concerns about the future of the company, as it enters the stock market. Estimates put the IPO at over $80 billion, making it one of the largest in U.S. history. Many within the company are expected to make millions overnight, adding to the $143 million in total compensation that Uber’s top five executives saw last year alone.

    The strike also garnered support from some politicians in Congress who are in more of a position to reign in an industry that sees no limits to its potential growth. Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren were just some of the strike’s supporters in Washington. Last year, Sanders introduced legislation to the Senate revising how the National Labor Relations Act defines “employee” to extend traditional employment rights — like forming a union — to gig economy workers.

    Under the Trump administration, however, the Department of Labor, in a recent statement, reaffirmed the classification of gig economy workers as independent contractors, a move that further empowers tech companies at the expense of drivers across the country.

    “They are making clear that while technology can often be an instrument of progress and efficiency, we cannot allow it to be another corporate weapon against workers,” Sanders wrote in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle.

    If Uber’s IPO goes anything like Lyft’s — which went public in late March and has since seen its shares plummet — the company’s prospects don’t look good. Worse still is what a flop IPO would mean for workers, who could face more “deactivations,” as they say in Silicon Valley. At this point, the only recourse that drivers have is to keep organizing for a greater share of the company’s revenue through increased regulation, such as the minimum wage passed in New York City.

    Others have proposed more drastic measures. In The Nation, Mike Konczal calls for socializing the company entirely. Uber’s executives contribute very little, he writes, while “workers labor individually, doing the same tasks, so there’s no need for a management class to control their daily operations.” Costs such as insurance, licensing fees and vehicles are already paid for by drivers. The only thing executives really provide is a software platform in the form of a phone app, a negligible cost when considering the approximately 15 million trips drivers complete each day.

    Taking the company from the New York Stock Exchange to being worker-controlled isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, but it would give a whole new meaning to the term sharing economy.

    How LGBTQ people are resisting Bolsonaro’s Brazil through art

    This article was first published by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

    Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil in October 2018 and took office in January 2019. Since then, the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights has chosen to remove the legal protection status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people. Some politicians are now pushing for a ban on talking about gender diversity and sexual orientation in schools.

    Bathroom laws pertaining to which toilet facilities trans people are allowed to use and bills defining what constitutes a family, same sex marriage and laws enabling trans people to change their legal name are also seen to be under threat.

    Brazil has a reputation as one of the most violent countries in the world and is known as the LGBT “murder capital” – 167 trans people were reported murdered between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 alone. In the lead up to and since Bolsonaro’s election, LGBT hate crime has increased.

    No wonder that many Brazilian LGBTQ people are worried that they are becoming isolated from the rest of the world. Marielle Franco – a young politician who took a strong stance against police violence – was murdered in Rio de Janeiro in March 2018.

    She was a bisexual black woman who grew up in the Maré favela and pushed for social justice for marginalized people in the city. She was reportedly targeted by professional killers.

    In Brazil, military police patrol the streets and are independent from the municipal police who carry out investigations. In March 2019, a year after her murder, it was reported that two ex-military police had been arrested for the killing.

    Theusa Passareli – a 21-year-old art student who identified as genderqueer or non-binary – was murdered in April 2018, killed on their way home from a party.

    Their work was incomplete in Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janiero’s design studio when I visited in November 2018 and will stay to commemorate their memory, as the university and the trans community mourn the murder of another young person.

    Resin on glass by Theusa Passareli.
    Catherine McNamara, Author provided

    A safe place to protest

    I was in Rio for a short residency with the TransArte festival – a three day art show that explores gender identity and sexuality. The festival brings together trans people and allies to exchange ideas, make and share work, and celebrate the strengths of the LGBT community in Brazil within a place of safety.

    It’s not easy to protest when faced with violence, nor is it easy to enjoy culture – particularly for people living in poverty where basic needs are difficult to meet. Trans artists have said that being trans is a barrier to participating in the arts, but “safe spaces” such as the TransArte festival allow protest art to flourish and create opportunities for LGBTQ people to express themselves.

    Trans and LGB artists, activists and educators from Rio de Janeiro and London.
    TransArte Festival Team, Author provided

    A theater company led by trans people created Come As You Are – a series of autobiographical stories with physical theater and improvisation. The stories were about family – supportive and loving family as a source of strength, and familial rejection as a result of being trans.

    They explored life as trans men and women in a culture of toxic masculinity, normativity and police brutality. A photography exhibition of several artists included Bernardo de Castro Gomes, whose work also explored his identity as a black trans man facing intimidation, harassment and violence.

    Queer drag artists such as Le Circo de la Drag spoke about their political performance – using their bodies to resist toxic masculinity and defy the threats of violence they often receive.

    Le Circo de la drag pay tribute to Marielle Franco and Theusa Passareli.
    Marianna Cartaxo, Author provided

    The show Monster, Whore, Bitch – Waldirene’s Dreams, directed by Dandara Vital, compiled the everyday experiences of Brazilian trans people interwoven with a re-telling of the story of Waldirene – the first trans woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery in Brazil in December 1971, at the height of the military dictatorship.

    Resistance is clearly flourishing in Brazil against the odds and not only within festivals like TransArte. A Portuguese translation of Jo Clifford’s play The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven was due to open in Londrina, a city in southern Brazil, but the venue cancelled at the very last moment.

    The lead, a trans woman called Renata Carvalho, received death threats. The company moved to a semi-derelict space where they performed by torchlight instead, despite injunctions from both Pentecostal and Catholic groups to stop the production.

    My own experiences working with the TransArte festival team in Rio have shown me the value of safe places free from judgement and hostility. The people we worked with told us that being there in solidarity with the trans communities of Rio felt like a powerful action in itself, resisting the culture of violence that thrives in Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

    What if most people love violence?

    For decades, I’ve investigated and promoted nonviolent action as a means to help create a better world. Although there are signs of hope, the obstacles remain enormous. For example, military systems seem as powerful as ever, and nationalism is not fading away. The capacity of humans to harm each other and the environment is frightening. Just think of child soldiers, torture and climate change.

    Because the problems seem so huge, I’ve long been on the lookout for insights about what activists are up against, including deeply rooted driving forces. Recently, I made contact with Steven James Bartlett, a philosopher and psychologist who has spent his career investigating dysfunctional features of the thought and behavior of “normal” humans. One of his books, “The Pathology of Man: A Study of Human Evil,” offers startling assessments that I think are relevant to nonviolence.

    “The Pathology of Man,” which came out in 2005, is the result of a decade’s immersion in writings and research related to human evil. To be clear, the word “man” in the title refers to the human species, not just males, and — in addressing evil — Bartlett develops a scientific rather than a religious definition. For him, evil refers to the human capacity to harm and destroy other humans, as well as other species and the environment, which supports all life.

    “The Pathology of Man” is a mammoth work, addressing a wide range of writings and evidence relating to human psychology and behavior. Bartlett examines the ideas of psychiatrists like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, the work of mathematician and peace researcher Lewis Fry Richardson, the observations of ethologist Konrad Lorenz, and many others who are less well known today. He examines evidence from genocide (especially the Holocaust), war, terrorism and ecological destruction.

    Bartlett’s conclusion is stark and disturbing. He says humans are pathogenic, namely destructively harmful, towards themselves as well as the environment. The pathological features of human behavior and thinking enable violence, cruelty and ecological destruction.

    Reading through the extensive evidence and careful arguments in “The Pathology of Man,” I decided Bartlett’s ideas deserve greater attention. The book did not have a big impact when it was published over a decade ago, in part because its message is so disturbing. Yet, to be more effective in bringing about positive change, it is valuable to understand the dark side of the human species. Inspired by Bartlett’s study of evil, I offer here some insights relevant to nonviolent campaigners.

    Lessons from the Holocaust

    The Holocaust was not the deadliest or the quickest genocide, but it is the best documented. It is useful to remember that Germany in the 1930s and 1940s was one of the most “civilized” cultures in the world, with advanced technologies and leading artists and intellectuals.

    It seems that, in Nazi Germany, to actively resist evil was to be different from the norm.

    Bartlett examines evidence about the psychology of people in Germany during the genocide, looking at five groups: leaders, doctors, bystanders, refusers and resisters. Nazi leaders engineered the Holocaust, yet despite overseeing horrific deeds, most of them were psychologically normal. Likewise, most of the doctors involved in the genocide were psychologically normal — in fact, many were model citizens in their home life. Bystanders were those Germans who knew about the killings but did nothing. They constituted the majority of the population, with the same psychological diversity.

    Then there were refusers. When men were called up to join killing squads, they could decline to participate, and there were few penalties for opting out. Yet most of these raw recruits decided to remain, seemingly preferring conformity in killing over nonconformity in refusing. Finally, there were resisters — those who actively opposed the genocide. They were a small minority.

    Bartlett’s conclusion from this, and much other evidence, is that most of those who participate in or tolerate evil are psychologically normal. It seems that, in Nazi Germany, to actively resist evil was to be different from the norm.

    Hannah Arendt, in writing about Nazi Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann, famously introduced the concept of the banality of evil. Bartlett says the problem is broader than this, and has referred to “the evil of banality.”

    Mass murder, according to Bartlett, draws on the satisfaction humans derive from killing others. This is connected to the psychological process of projection, in which negative aspects of one’s own psyche are denied and instead attributed to others, who then may be attacked. In collective violence, projection is allied to the human urge to conform to the in-group. The out-group, or the enemy, becomes the embodiment of evil and is seen as deserving extreme adverse treatment, while the in-group is seen as innocent, and being part of it is satisfying.

    Lt. Col. Dave Grossman raises a noteworthy counter-argument in his 1995 book “On Killing.” He points to a military study that found most U.S. soldiers on the front lines during World War II did not fire their rifles at the enemy, even when their lives were in danger. Grossman found evidence from many earlier wars of the same reluctance to kill, concluding that there is “within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man.” This applies especially in front-line combat — killing at a distance, for example by using artillery or aerial bombing, generates far less revulsion.

    Furthermore, as Bartlett notes, Grossman reported that the U.S. Army developed new training techniques using operant conditioning that ensure that nearly all soldiers kill, leading to a dramatic increase in the rate of PTSD among veterans. Many of these methods — such as playing violent video games that associate killing with pleasure — are widely used throughout U.S. society, influencing children and adults.

    War as a ‘functional pathology’

    Bartlett cites ample evidence that most of those who participate in and support war are normal. His observations highlight features of human emotions and social systems that may be familiar to peace activists but are revealing when placed in the context of a study of evil.

    War is like a disease that most people don’t want to cure because it provides great psychological satisfactions.

    As well as examining the psychological factors that enable war, Bartlett also looks at the factors that restrain people from resisting war. His conclusion is that wars, and war-making, continue because most people choose not to do anything differently. For example, consider the wars in Afghanistan over several decades, at least since the Soviet invasion in 1979. Since then, most people in the countries involved — including Pakistan, the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and many others — have not made special efforts to stop the war-making. Most continue in their usual roles: only a few engage in agitation against the war.

    Bartlett observes that “If men and women were desirous of peace, they would invest significant resources to further the causes of peace, but hardly a country in the world reserves a significant part of its national budget to study ways to foster peace.” To this might be added that budgets for the military are enormous, while there is only minuscule funding for nonviolent action. Few people pay much attention to military budgets or spend time exploring nonviolent alternatives. It is this very complacency that enables the evil of war systems to continue.

    Bartlett’s conclusion is that war is a “functional pathology.” In other words, it is like a disease that most people don’t want to cure because, when it flares up, it provides great psychological satisfactions. For soldiers, there is an intense experience of bonding, so strong that many remember combat as the most meaningful part of their lives. For those on the home front, war can provide meaning too. Being part of the cause puts humdrum daily life into the shadows, replacing it with something more dramatic and urgent.

    Peace activists have long had to deal with the power of patriotism. It is a psychological force seemingly immune to rational argument, and the label “unpatriotic” is the ultimate insult. Patriotism provides a way of merging with the whole, of relinquishing one’s own responsibility and putting one’s trust in a greater power. The attachment of patriotism to organized violence is one of the major psychological obstacles to ending war.

    For most people, vicarious experiences of violence provide satisfaction, including violent video games, war movies, violent sporting events and even the daily news. Most people are willing to watch lethal violence, finding it thrilling or satisfying, especially when the baddies are the ones being hurt. Few are so repelled that they have to look away. Fictional portrayals of violence, from cartoons to murder mysteries, are seen as exciting and enticing, not repulsive.

    What is it about humans that enables the rise and perpetuation of institutions that harness and amplify some of the worst sides of human behavior and thinking?

    War provides an escape from everyday morality. Religious leaders preach about the sanctity of life, but few do much to resist the war system, revealing how moral principles can be compromised to enable preparation for mass violence. Bartlett concludes that war “is one of the most evident expressions of human evil” because it causes enormous harm, provides justification for killing without penalty, suspends compassion, fosters hatred and cruelty, and is a source of meaning and gratification.

    It has been argued that — especially prior to the development of agriculture and industry — many human societies have shown the capacity for living in harmony with each other and the environment. So is human destructiveness primarily a result of current social institutions, including states, militaries and massive corporations?

    Bartlett recognizes that there are numerous examples showing that humans have the capacity to do good. His argument is that there is also a widespread capacity for evil. Some social institutions, such as the military, seem designed to harness and facilitate that capacity. So it might be asked, what is it about humans that enables the rise and perpetuation of institutions that harness and amplify some of the worst sides of human behavior and thinking?

    No ready alternative or simple fix?

    Bartlett does not propose any solutions to the problem of human evil, in part because he does not want to provide false hope. Indeed, provocatively, he argues that hope is part of the problem because it causes people to avoid acknowledging the immensity of the challenge.

    The central lesson from Bartlett’s study is that the capacity for cruelty and violence is deeply rooted in human thinking and feeling. War and violence provide many deep satisfactions to people who are psychologically normal, and there is no ready alternative. No simple fix, not even the promotion of nonviolent action, is likely to be effective in the short run.

    In the early 1980s, when I first became involved in a group advocating nonviolent alternatives to the military, I imagined that significant progress was possible, even recognizing that social institutions are highly entrenched. Today, despite the efforts of many dedicated campaigners, the military seems just as widely accepted and alternatives just as far away.

    To a large extent, acceptance of systems based on violence is widespread due to indoctrination, including thinking of the world as necessarily divided into countries, each with a central government that uses force to maintain power. The indoctrination includes acceptance, and often passion, for overcoming those designated as enemies. Also important is the constant attention to violence in news and entertainment.

    Those who make efforts against systems of evil may need to be psychologically different from the norm by being morally intelligent.

    To foster development of different attitudes and values, there are several possibilities. One is interventions to create a different media environment, one that counters nationalism, domination over nature, enemy-creation and violence as the solution. There have been many worthwhile initiatives, but the challenge of creating full-scale alternatives — from child rearing to rituals honoring contributions to society — is immense.

    One lesson from history is that persuading people that war and violence are bad is inadequate. Knowledge and logic are not enough. If they were, the horrors of war, and the devastation of a future nuclear war, would be more than adequate to impel masses of people to join peace movements. Warning people that nuclear war could annihilate much of the world’s population should be all it takes. However, despite warnings since the early 1980s that nuclear war could trigger a globally devastating “nuclear winter,” most people take no special action against nuclear arsenals.

    Awareness of the damaging effects of violence is not enough to turn more than a few people towards a rejection of violence. The implication, following Bartlett’s analysis, is that those who make efforts against systems of evil may need to be different from the norm via greater moral intelligence. Beyond distinguishing right from wrong, this means having the capacity to link reason and emotion to enable doing good. Morally intelligent people need to be able to act against oppressive authorities rather than going along with the crowd. They need to be willing to stand up to persecution.

    Rather than just telling people about nonviolence, it may be more effective to show them through actions. Activists have long known that participation in social action is a powerful way to forge commitment. Social movement scholars have shown that more people join action groups by being invited along by a current member than by moral outrage. Essentially, this is to rely on the common human urge to join with others. This is fine, but insufficient, because systems based on violence, such as the military, use the same techniques and have far more resources to deploy them.

    Schools promote intellectual development, but there is no institution systematically helping people to achieve the most advanced forms of moral development — ones that involve seeing beyond self-interest, attachments to organizations and countries and our species. The challenge for nonviolence supporters is to help develop forms of learning through practice that foster moral development. For example, it would be useful to study whether extensive training and practice in nonviolent action causes participants, in other circumstances, to become more compassionate to humans and nature.

    What can be done to counter the satisfactions many humans gain from participating directly or vicariously in violence, and the willingness of most humans to tolerate the existence of social and technological systems designed to cause death and destruction? Almost certainly, nonviolence is part of the answer. Participating in nonviolent actions can provide powerful psychological satisfactions and may be an alternative to the appeal of violence. However, despite the dedication and sacrifice by millions of people over the years, there has not yet been a mass shift in commitments to reject violent systems in favor of nonviolent action.

    Nonviolent strategists emphasize the importance of innovation, of testing out new methods of struggle. To this should be added a wider search for innovative methods of broadening participation in challenges to human evil and the systems built on it.

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