Social Movements and Resistance—The Time has Come

I think there is a good possibility that we are about to enter a period of major uprisings, social movements and major protests focusing on but not limited to the global  recession/depression we are entering into. I am talking both about the United States and globally although my comments focus primarily on the United States.

One  sign of this bubbling unrest is the massive national support for the occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago by their workers when the owners shut down the plant and laid off the workers there last Friday. It seems that the majority of workers were Latino/a immigrants pointing out the key role of immigrants in a more militant labor movement, and the continuing importance of the strongest movement in the U.S., the immigrant rights movement, in the current period.


This sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors by its workers really resonated with people throughout the United States, even those who in normal times talk about respecting private property and the law. I think there is large-scale understanding and anger that the economic system is broken, and that those most responsible for the current situation are those with political and economic power.


In Europe, the riots, militant protests and strikes in Greece against the police killing of a youth and growing economic hardship there is another sign of renewed activism, as is the support for this Greek resistance in many other countries in Europe. Just like the occupation of Republic Windows and Doors, the uprising in Greece is tapping into broader conscious and unconscious feelings of anger at the economic break-down and repression.


In the U.S., the Obama campaign has reawakened interest in politics, in yearnings for economic and social  justice, and for  peace and against war by millions of people, particularly youth. Combined with a rapidly spiraling downward economy that is already causing a lot of hardship which will sadly worsen in 2009, and the ineffective and in many ways criminal bailout to financial institutions, there is a lot of anger and dissatisfaction among the people of the United States. There is strong interest and desire in understanding what is going on and what should be done.


Obama’s pro corporate, pro capitalist globalization and neoliberal economic advisers are likely to underestimate how serious the economic problems are and misdiagnose the problem and the necessary policy changes. Poverty, in the next two years, will grow substantially as well as people losing their homes and jobs. The new foreign policy and military team are likely to carry out a foreign and military policy similar to Bill Clinton’s administration. The continued militarism will possibly awaken anti-war activities, particularly the huge and continued war and military spending during an economic depression when human needs are so great. Even with regards to the environment and climate change, the Obama administration reforms are likely to be wholly inadequate. Progressive economic and foreign policy will not come from the Obama administration unless there are huge and organized social movements demanding this.


So I think we need to be preparing for these possibilities of increased interest in activism and a spreading and growth of  organized and unorganized uprisings. Let us think big!! We need to strengthen the infrastructure of existing movements, connect issues and organizations better, be bolder in our explanations of what is going on and in our demands. Capitalism is not working. It is particularly  important that we build and strengthen institutions  locally, regionally, nationally and even globally that can provide explanations of the economic and financial collapse, teach potential activists useful skills, and be a  place for the discussion of causes, impact, and strategies for reformist and revolutionary change. Perhaps most importantly we need to talk and listen and connect  more with those who are losing their jobs, their homes, their health care, cannot afford higher education and who are falling into poverty and near poverty.


In the Pacific Northwest, a few of us have begun talking about doing a major teach-in and strategy conference in spring, 2-009 explaining what is going on economically and building on current organizing and resistance. The response so far in a few informal conversations has been very enthusiastic.


Recession/depression does not necessarily mean more organized resistance and radicalization but I have a feeling that there are more possibilities today than there have been in a long time.


In solidarity,

Peter  Bohmer   

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