Sunday, 6 October 2013

Resistance Movement

Status of the Resistance Movement: Growing, Deepening, Succeeding

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

So much has been accomplished by Occupy and other social justice movements in the past two years that it is incredible the corporate media and their pundits do not report on what is happening around them. Despite the lack of corporate media coverage, the movement is deepening, creating democratic institutions, stopping some of the worst policies from being pushed by the corporate duopoly and building a broad-based diverse movement.
This is not to say things are getting better for the 99%; in fact, quite the opposite is happening. Big business government continues to funnel money to the top while robbing most Americans of the little wealth they had. More Americans are being impacted by the unfair economy and realize that their struggle is not their fault but is the reality of living in a system with deep corruption and dysfunction. Economic injustice is the compost creating fertile ground for the movement to grow.
Too many commentators focus on the lack of encampments and think Occupy is dead. Camping out in public parks was a tactic - it was not the movement or the only tactic of the movement. Too many fail to look at what members of the Occupy community are doing along with other social justice, environmental and peace activists. We report on the movement every day at Popular Resistance so we see lots of activity all over the country on a wide range of issues and using a variety of tactics. And we see a growing movement having a bigger impact.
On the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (OWS), these writers captured the essence of Occupy. David Callahan, in Seven Ways Occupy Changed America And Is Still Changing It, correctly noted how we changed the debate, revived progressive populism, spurred worker revolts and challenged capitalism. Rebecca Solnit, who has been active in Occupy and other movements, also made important points. She writes, “Those who doubt that these moments matter should note how terrified the authorities and elites are when they erupt. That fear is a sign of their recognition that real power doesn’t only lie with them.”
Occupy taught us that we have power, that we can have an impact and that by building an ever-bigger movement, the power structure will shake. We are optimistic that the movements for peace and social, economic and environmental justice will continue to grow and find ways to work in solidarity. As the movements mature, we expect to see more successes in the struggle to weaken corporate domination and create a more just and sustainable society.
Deeper and Broader Resistance Movement
We recently spoke with three people who have been involved with OWS since its beginning two years ago. Each is still active, and their work demonstrates how the resistance movement is deepening.
Laura Gottesdiener is the author of A Dream Foreclosed. She traveled across the country to record the stories of one of the most vibrant aspects of the Occupy - the anti-foreclosure movement. This includes Occupy Our Homes and groups like Take Back the Land, Home Defenders League and City Life/Vida Urbana, which work to stop home foreclosures and evictions. Through a range of tactics, including blockades, these groups have kept hundreds of families in their homes.
Gottesdiener writes that 10 million have been evicted since the crash began in 2007; that is more than the number of people living in Michigan. According to the Department of Treasury, the housing crisis has destroyed $19.2 trillion of US household wealth.
In addition to blockading homes to prevent evictions, housing activists take back vacant properties and fix them up so families can move into them. They have successfully pressured banks to accept this as a better alternative than leaving the properties vacant.
Preventing evictions is ongoing work. The Center for Responsible Lending reported in 2011 that we were not even halfway through the foreclosure crisis. Every month thousands are still evicted and facing foreclosure.
When Gottesdiener drove across country to see the nationwide reality of the movement to stop foreclosures and evictions, she found that it had especially deep roots in the African-American community, where people see this as part of a historic pattern of disenfranchisement. The old prejudicial practice of red-lining to keep blacks out of neighborhoods has been transformed into predatory lending to drive them into debt then take away their homes. The resistance movement is fighting back where the government has failed to act to stop this theft of wealth by the looting class.
Our next guest, Justin Wedes, is working with a new project that went public on the anniversary of Occupy - the Occupy Money Cooperative. This group sees itself as the “start of the financial services revolution.” It is a financial services project that will be owned and controlled by its members in a democratic way. It seeks to provide financial services to the millions of people shut out of the banks in a way that is transparent, with no hidden fees.
The Occupy Money Cooperative will show by example that financial services do not have to rip people off to succeed. And by doing so, it will push other financial institutions in that direction. It will begin with the Occupy Money Card, a debit card, savings facility and virtual checkbook that people can use without the cost, or the balances required for a regular bank account. They see it as a “bank on a card.”
The Occupy Money Cooperative is a great example of the evolution of Occupy. The movement started because of the excesses of Wall Street, the financial collapse, mass debt and an unfair economy. While the movement knows that it is going to take a mass resistance movement mobilized for change to put in place polices that end the rule of money, it also knows that right now we need to build our own institutions that can provide the services people need. This requires operating outside of government. They are capitalizing the bank in a grass-roots way, seeking donations from people across the country.
Finance, the wealth divide and unfair economy are central issues among Occupy and other justice activists, and many of the strongest off-shoots of Occupy are in this area. Occupy the SEC does brilliant work by pushing the SEC to properly regulate the banks. Strike Debt, a nationwide movement of debt resistors that sees “debt as the tie that binds the 99%” published the Debt Resistors Manual. And, their Rolling Jubilee project has raised $615,000 and has forgiven $12,300,000 of debt.
Across the country, creative alternatives to the dominant finance and employment system are developing. These include local currencies, time banks, community supported agriculture, farmers markets, worker or consumer cooperatives, land trusts to control housing prices and discussion of complementary monetary systems. There is a growing movement for public banks and remaking the Federal Reserve while people take steps to opt out of Wall Street by moving their money from the big banks. A new democratic economy is being created outside of the Wall Street-dominated economy.
One of the main purposes of the Occupy encampments was to show people they were not alone, that a lot of people shared their values and concerns about the unfair economy and dysfunctional government.
Occupiers showed people they could stand up. And the police repression showed their courage against an abusive government that was doing the work of the banks rather than protecting the constitutional rights of Americans. This courage has been contagious as we can see in the growing movements around the country.
Environmental activists have escalated their protests against the extreme energy economy that relies on risky and expensive extraction methods like tar sands, hydrofracking, mountaintop removal and off-shore drilling. At the same time, increased resistance turned the nuclear renaissance into a nuclear retreat with companies pulling out and reactors being closed. These protests have been joined by, and often led by, Native Indian groups like Idle No More.
And, for the first time, the American people helped stop a war after a president said he wanted to bomb a nation. The bombing of Syria may be halted only temporarily, but this is an amazing feat. This may be the beginning of an antiwar movement that crosses the political spectrum and can take on the challenge of ending US imperialism and militarism.
This brief review does not do justice to the depth and activity of what is occurring every day in the United States and around the world. Rather than disappearing, Occupy has evolved and is bigger and deeper, more connected to communities and other organizations, than it was when there were encampments all over the country.
The movement continues to grow and broaden because of the very fertile environment created by a government that cannot respond to our demands for a fair economy, that tramples on our Free Speech and other rights and that puts profits ahead of protecting the planet. The hubris and greed of those with unfair wealth has not diminished. They continue to take more, want more and create a rigged economy that serves only them, not all of the people.
We have no doubt that the movement is growing, that support for our views are rising and that we are reaching a tipping point that will ensure our ultimate success. People who want to see transformative change in this country should go forward with confidence and build on the strengths we have shown. We will look back on this era in amazement at all we have accomplished.