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Hope, Change and Direct Action

category north america / mexico | miscellaneous | opinion / analysis author Wednesday October 22, 2008 10:50author by GregA and Jeremy - Common Action Report this post to the editors

This election year, millions of new voters are demonstrating newfound hope and a strong desire for change. For many, this campaign is their first political act. We must preserve this first glimmer of hope in the 21st century over the next four years, even as the war drags on, millions lack healthcare, employers attack the right to unionize, and the Democrats forget promises and neglect inequalities of every sort. [Ελληνικά]

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Hope, Change and Direct Action


This election year, millions of new voters are demonstrating newfound hope and a strong desire for change. For many, this campaign is their first political act. We must preserve this first glimmer of hope in the 21st century over the next four years, even as the war drags on, millions lack healthcare, employers attack the right to unionize, and the Democrats forget promises and neglect inequalities of every sort.

Obama has tapped into a deep hunger for change using grassroots organizing to excite and mobilize supporters to the point of attracting an unprecedented 2,000,000 small donors. If he wins with his current level of support, the Democrats could follow through with their promises. But will they? Even the most honest politician can only respond to money and power. As long as the wealthiest 5% in the U.S. have more wealth than the bottom 95% combined, we can't compete financially. Also, it's unlikely that the Democrats will achieve the 60 seats required for a filibuster-proof senate, and they have repeatedly caved at the hint of a Republican filibuster. So how can ordinary working people make real our desire for change and create a 21st century worthy of our hopes?

Direct action.

Whether it's the war, dignity in the workplace, fighting oppression, or fighting economic disparities, direct action is about working people creating power for ourselves, instead of relying on the rich and powerful to grant it. This strategy works whether or not the Democrats win and whether or not they keep their promises. We can use direct action to push the Democratic Party to act, and then ultimately move beyond it.

Here's an example. One of Obama's promises is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which, despite its failings, puts some teeth in labor law. Right now, when a majority of workers seeks union representation, employers have months and months to mount an anti-union campaign and illegally fire pro-union employees. But under the EFCA, if a majority signed authorization cards, winning union recognition would require a simple card check. The EFCA would also award triple back pay for illegal firings.

More important than the law itself, though, is the idea that workers have a right to organize. We build power by organizing and standing in solidarity against attacks from employers. With the law, we have to take direct action to enforce our legal rights. Without the law, direct action is our only hope.

Another promise is Obama's timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. Full withdrawal in 16 months will happen only if the American people step up resistance to the war. Why? The Democrats are terrified that if they withdraw, Republicans will shift blame for all failures to them. So they will withdraw troops only if our direct action raises the financial and political costs of more delays.

We can reduce military recruitment by continuing to wage anti- recruitment campaigns in schools across the U.S. We can even slow the flow of supplies through port militarization resistance, as in Tacoma and Olympia. Through our direct action, we can also help shift public opinion against the war.

One unspoken promise is that electing Obama will somehow let us put racism behind us. That's as absurd as the idea that women politicians will make feminism obsolete, but we have been hearing the term "post racist society" despite continuing institutional racism that causes segregation, discrimination, economic disparities, and the high incarceration rate of young people of color.

Rather than ignore institutional racism, we can fight it with independent grassroots power. Direct action on the part of those most directly affected can win immediate gains as well as strengthen the community. In New York City, for example, the Harlem Tenants' Council (HTC) has been organizing community forums and using direct action to fight gentrification and evictions. And El Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio, an organization in East Harlem inspired by the Zaptistas' Other Campaign, has also been using direct action to fight oppression against the Latino community.

Whichever way the election goes, 2009 will bring new opportunities for advancing change. By using direct action and embracing the newfound sense of hope, we can move beyond the Democrats to create a grassroots movement for collective self-liberation.


GregA and Jeremy


Announcing INTERSECTIONS, Vol. 1, Issue 1
Newsletter of Common Action

Common Action is proud to announce the publication of our newsletter Intersections. Written with regular people in mind, the newsletter strives to connect community issues to anarchist ideas, serving as a paper that any neighbor might find interesting, informative, and reliable. It can be left in laundromats and bus seats just as easily as a radical bookstore.

This issue's contents include:

* Whose Streets? Gentrification in Seattle
by Andrew Hedden and Jacquelyn Hermer
* Northwest Anarchist People of Color Gathering: A Report-Back
by Brooke Stepp
* Hope, Change, and Direct Action
by GregA and Jeremy
* Crude Profits
by Joshua Neuhouser
* Advice Column by Sally Darity

Intersections is available as a PDF for reading and single page printing, and 11" x 17" printing.
Please visit our website to download it : http://nwcommonaction.org
To get a hard copy, or to let us know what you think, hit us up at nwcommonaction@gmail.com
Related Link: http://nwcommonaction.org/

Related Link: http://nwcommonaction.org/
This page can be viewed in
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Revista "Socialismo Libertário" num. 2

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