We are all subjects of the American Empire. Whether we live in North America, South America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East . . . we are all under the thumb of neo-liberal capitalism that puts concentrated corporate power in control of our lives. For decades, American Empire and wealthy elite have forced privatization of resources in developing countries and austerity measures on public programs. Now, we are also experiencing these same policies in wealthier nations like the US and Europe.
All but the wealthiest are now members of the “Global South.” And, more and more people realize this. People from all over the world recognize that we must stand together in solidarity to challenge the tiny minority that dominates us. The revolts in Turkey, Brazil, Europe, the Middle East and Asia – as well as in the United States – are all connected.
These struggles share common messages that people are more important than profit, that human rights must be respected and that we want to live in peace with dignity. We see that capitalism is failing and that the people must take control to create the kind of world in which we want to live. The Afghan Peace Volunteers said this clearly in their recent open letter: “accomplishing these actions hinges on us, on climate change citizens, Arab Spring citizens, Occupy citizens and the ‘awakening’ citizens of every country to free ourselves from the unequal dominance of corporate governments with their laws and weapons of self-interest.”
And it’s happening. People from around the world are working in solidarity and protesting on behalf of others. Across the US, people are taking action to stop the drone warfare that kills innocent Afghans, Pakistanis and others. In Maine, they are taking a legislative approach along with protest and in Iowa, people are walking 195 miles to the Capital, Des Moines.
The campaign to close Guantanamo stretches from the living rooms of US veterans to the Washington, DC to Yemen. Three veterans, Elliott Adams, Diane Wilson and Tarak Kauff are on a solidarity hunger strike with the prisoners. They are coming to Washington, DC next week to protest and invite you to join them. Codepink recently traveled to Yemen to learn from the families of the prisoners about the impact of Guantanamo on their families.
People in Hong Kong marched in support of Edward Snowden and to oppose his extradition. Japanese railroad workers in Tokyo protested a lockout in Oregon, nearly 5,000 miles away, of American dockworkers who load grain ships headed for Asia.
Before the G8 Leaders met this week in the UK, protesters held a Carnival Against Capitalism. Last year, we protested the G8 in the US with an Occupy G8 Peoples Summit. President Obama traveled to Germany after the G8. His visit was preceded by a large march that looked like it could have taken place in the US. Protest signs had messages around issues of mass incarceration, Guantanamo, Bradley Manning and illegal spying with a play on Obama’s campaign message, “Yes We Scan!”
In fact, thanks to the courage and sacrifice of Edward Snowden, we are learning more about the extent of spying by the National Security State and that we are subjected to it, in the US and around the world. Author, Nafeez Ahmed writes that this is part of preparation by the government for a citizen’s revolt in case of a climate and energy crisis as well as economic collapse. This includes new powers claimed by the DoD to use the military “to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.”
What the security state doesn’t realize is that their extreme response to peaceful protests actually brings more people out. We’ve seen this recently in Turkey and Brazil. Though these protests seemed to be sparked by minor events, the development of a park and a rise in bus fare, they are actually caused by neo-liberal, capitalist policies similar to those in the US in which as wealth of the nation grows, so does the wealth divide.
The responses by the leaders of Turkey and Brazil are very different. The Turkish Prime Minister ordered violent attacks on protesters, the arrest of lawyers, journalists and a crackdown on health professionals who cared for the wounded. But this brought more people out including lawyers and health professionals who marched in the streets. When Gezi Park was violently cleared, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets. When marches were banned, people started holding standing protests.
Now there are community assemblies being held throughout the country, using the hand signals of the Indignados and Occupy; and the unions are calling for Erdogan to step down because he has lost legitimacy after his attacks have wounded thousands, critically injured 59 and killed 5 people. Erdogan continues on a destructive track and has ordered more tear gas and water cannons. Here is a petition asking the US not to supply more.
In Brazil, violent police attacks on peaceful protesters also brought hundreds of thousands into the streets night after night. The protests started in Sao Paulo and spread throughout the country. But in response, the President of Brazil expressed sympathy with the protesters and bus fares were lowered. The protests continued on Thursday in 100 cities and on Wednesday, some police joined the protesters and were welcomed with cheers. Police defections are a key step forward that greatly increase the chance of success.
Growing movements so that they become mass movements is also important for success and that is happening within the US in the fight against extraction of resources for energy. Front line environmental groups working to stop pipelines that will carry tar sands, mountain top removal of coal, offshore oil drilling and hydrofracking have joined together for “Fearless Summer.” Their kickoff event was a tree sit to protect an old forest in Oregon. Next week, they kick-off a week of nationwide protests.
More people understand that the extraction economy must end. Coalitions in New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois are calling for a ban on hydrofracking (not merely regulation) and are willing to engage in civil resistance to make that happen. Creativity is also important as artist-activist, Lopi LaRoe who comes out of Occupy, demonstrated with her Smokey the Bear stickers and posters saying “Only You Can Prevent Faucet Fires;” the Forest Service was not amused.
Another global struggle that is uniting people across issues and across the world is the opposition to corporate power grabs through new ‘free trade’ agreements, the TransPacific Partnership (TTP) which is coming close to being completed and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which is just beginning. This is a struggle that we can win.
The secrecy surrounding these talks shows the insecurity of the negotiators. They know that, as former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said, if people know what is in this agreement, it will not become law. People are taking action for transparency.
The negotiators so desperately want to avoid protests that would expose how the TPP will adversely affect people’s lives that last weekend they tried to hold secret negotiations in Vancouver. But they failed because protesters learned of the meetings and were able to mobilize within a matter of hours with actions to “Break the Silence” on the TPP.
Groups, like the Green Shadow Cabinet, are calling for unity to stop these agreements. Solidarity is growing across continents and issues, with occupiers and traditional activists working together. Watch on PopularResistance.org in the coming weeks for the launch of a direct action campaign to stop the TPP.
Conditions are ripening in the US for a mass uprising. More and more people are protesting corruption and an unfair economy. There were actions this week for worker’s rights in Oakland and San Francisco. Students and parents occupied a public elementary school in Chicago that is being closed down. It was beautiful to see young children speaking out on behalf of their school and community.
And in addition to resistance, the climate crisis and unfair economy are creating opportunities to build the kind of world we want to see. Thousands of communities around the world have started the transition town process that is now spreading across the US. It puts in place a new sustainable, egalitarian community where for example people can break from corporate food and learn the benefits of community gardens. Strike Debt has a new manual focused on college student debt calling for free education as a public good.
People across the world are standing up and demanding that government be responsive to them, not to the rule of money; that the economy be re-made so it serves all in a democratic and egalitarian way. Progress is being made toward the world we want, every day, by millions of people around the world. You are not alone, you are part of a worldwide movement.