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Friday, 2 April 2010

Brothers, Sisters, Comrades

I'm a socialist. I'm proud of the fact.
I don't wish to be part of the me, me, me society that prevails and I lust for a fairer, more balanced and just existence for my fellow man/woman whom I share this planet with.
I'm not a politically correct liberal hippie, but I would rather people think that than the alternative. A greedy self obsessed drone being manipulated by a Machiavellian minority.
Push my buttons and you will see that I'm pretty much an intolerant fella.
I'm intolerant of intolerance.
Racist thick as shit sexist homophobes will always hear my voice opposing theirs.
So with my cards out on the table I want to share with you an email I got this morning from David Rovics.
Now all I want anyone reading to do is just think about what he is saying. I'm not asking anyone to sign on for the gospel according to Rovics as I don't agree with every word that comes from his pen either, but just absorb what he is trying to convey here.

Here in the USA, millions of people are continuously losing their jobs and
not finding new ones, millions more are losing their homes, still more
millions are in prison for nothing more than self-medicating with drugs
that arbitrarily happen to be illegal and will be discriminated against as
felons for years to come. Tens of thousands are being shot to death every
year, there are massacres happening somewhere in the country every other
week or so, our Democrat-controlled government has just passed a health
care “reform” that is being praised by the corporations who bought the
government in the first place, we continue to spend as much on the military
as the entire rest of the world combined, and our military is actively
employed killing people in at least four different countries while
threatening to expand that number. The oil industry is making good on
their investments in the Congress and expanding off-shore drilling for the
first time in twenty years, while the nuclear industry is getting a great
bang for their Democratic buck and now has the chance to build new nuclear
reactors for the first time in the US in three decades.

Those of us who have woken up from our Obama-induced trance state or never
got hypnotized in the first place (because we're too busy being bombed by
drones, for example) are feeling frustrated. Some of us, certainly, are
venting that frustration in various constructive ways, but by and large
that old “silent majority” is being pretty silent. As I travel around
the country doing concerts people earnestly, often a bit desperately,
wonder aloud to me, what's it going to take to get people really riled up
and ready to do something about this situation? How much greater must the
divide between the rich and poor grow? How many more ecological disasters?
How much more climate change? How many more dead Muslims? Etc. People
start feeling bad about their fellow Americans – are they just sheep
after all?

Backing up a moment, the fact that people are asking the question “where
are my fellow outraged citizens” tells me that one important thing is
already understood, at least by most people who come to my shows – that
mass movements of outraged citizens (and other people) is what's needed in
order for real change to have a chance to occur. So then the question is,
what are the conditions that need to exist for this movement to coalesce?
If the situation is so bad for so many why is so little happening in

This is, of course, one of those perennial questions that everyone who
yearns for a sane society is trying to answer. If there were a clear
recipe, if it were like baking a loaf of bread or something that would be
nice, but it's somewhat more complicated. If there's one thing I think
many people need to understand – and there are probably many things, but
if there's one thing that seems most relevant in what I get out of these
conversations I'm having with people all over the place, it is this:
sustained mass movements rarely happen unless many of the participants
believe they might win.

It seems especially worth noting given that in hindsight everything is a
bit less volatile – what's happened has happened. When you're there,
making history, everything is much less predictable. The rebels in the
Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 knew they were merely choosing the time and place of
their deaths, and they referred to each other as “the walking dead.”
They are the exception, however, not the rule – most rebellions take
place in an atmosphere not just of need but of hope. The tens of thousands
who went to Spain in the 1930's were not just planning to become martyrs.
They were risking their lives, yes, but they thought that if enough of them
joined in, and perhaps if France or Britain helped out a little (they
didn't), they could defeat fascism in Spain. As for the thousands of
brigadistas who came from Germany and Italy, why did they not launch a
rebellion against fascism in Germany or Italy in 1936 rather than going to
Spain to fight German and Italian troops there? Because they thought in
Spain they might win, and they had already lost the fight in their home
countries for the time being, most of their comrades by then already dead
or in prison camps.

You can't organize workers to go out on strike if they think they'll
inevitably lose their jobs and get blacklisted – people are generally
willing to strike if they think there's at least a decent chance that some
of their grievances will be redressed. During the first two decades of the
twentieth century there were millions of people involved with a militant
labor movement that was ultimately crushed with the Palmer Raids and other
events following World War I. During the 1930's another massive wave of
labor organizing, this time resulting in lasting reforms to the capitalist
system. Why no huge strike wave in the 1920's? Were conditions so good
for workers then? No, there were other factors at play – among them the
sense that victory was (or wasn't) possible.

The many thousands of people who were participating in the movement in
Tiananmen Square in 1989 were not planning on being massacred, they were
planning on bringing lasting change in China. The millions who poured into
the streets of Caracas after the coup against Chavez in Venezuela in 2002
were not planning on being massacred, either. They were planning on
bringing about the return of their president this way – and they were
successful. A year later millions of people pouring into the streets of
every city and many small towns in the US and around the world hoped
through these demonstrations they could affect Bush's foreign policy. If
they had known for sure before the fact how little impact this would have
on the US government most of them would probably have stayed at home.

Of course there are innumerable other factors involved with
movement-building – especially successful movement-building -- aside from
the existence of conditions people want to change and people having a
feeling of optimism about changing those conditions. I'll outline my take
on some of those factors, for what it's worth.

It seems to me the first thing people need is a sense of who is out there.
A heck of a lot of people in this country live in suburbs where they don't
know their neighbors and their main contact with the world is what they see
on TV, what they see out the window of their cars, and what they experience
at either of their two jobs. These people and people around the country
need to know that most of their fellow citizens are also unhappy with the
status quo – according to mainstream poll after poll it is clear that
most people think things like health care, housing and education should be
government priorities rather than oil drilling and empire-building. Most
people think action should be taken urgently to deal with climate change.

First and foremost it is a battle for the hearts and minds of the people.
The ruling elite knows it, that's why they've bought up most of the
airwaves and won't even let Al-Jazeera on cable here. Successful social
movements have met this challenge in the past by creating their own media,
running their own educational institutions, summer camps, theaters, etc.
At the heart of successful social movements is a vibrant culture of
resistance, complete with a more sensible historical narrative, a vision of
a better society, and lots and lots of songs. There is a clear sense of a
larger community of like-minded people and a sense of being part of a long
and often successful history of social movements that have come before us.

The movements that tend to succeed are also broad-based, inclusive, and
more or less democratically organized. There are commonly-held ideas about
tactics and strategies. Tactics tend to be militant and may often be
illegal, but are designed to build your support rather than to alienate
your supporters.

Naturally, the ruling elite, their lackeys in Congress and the White House,
bought and sold by the Fortune 500, will try to convince us that raising
money for political campaigns and then voting in rigged elections is the
way forward. (Either that or smashing the windows of your local
Starbucks.) They won't tell you that democracy doesn't happen that way.
Naturally, the ruling elite will have their own, much better-funded and far
more ubiquitous institutions of learning, their media, their outlets of
propaganda in Hollywood or Nashville.

But when people ask me whether I am hopeful in these dark times, my answer,
unequivocally, is yes. Perhaps partially because I take a long view of
history. But also because I am privy to a secret that is known well to the
powers-that-be: for all the wealth and power of the corporate clique who
are ruining the world for their private gain, they still require the
consent of the governed. They will throw us crumbs while they rip us off
and they will try to give us a false sense of security as we race headlong
towards the proverbial wall. But, to use a dangerous word, there are basic
truths on our side, and as someone said, ten minutes of truth can
counteract 24 hours of lies.

We live in a corporate-run empire, not a democratic republic, and there is
a mysterious thing that can happen when enough people who are being
adversely affected by this fact understand it and realize that they're not
alone. I was interviewing veteran organizer Leslie Cagan for my internet
radio show the other day, asking her about the police infiltrators
constantly trying to create divisions within activist groups. “They're
just people,” she said. And just like us, they can make mistakes, and
regularly do.

What I'm trying to say is, sure, always question tactics, strategies and
visions. But whatever you do, ye fellow members of the choir, know your
history and don't give up. Know that as you're apparently spinning your
wheels, doing whatever things you do to try to organize, educate, agitate
or otherwise work to build the infrastructure of a future democratic
society, the darkest hour is often just before the dawn. At any moment,
apparently quite suddenly, the spell can be broken, and things can shift.
That another such moment is coming is certain. What we and our neighbors
will do with it is the question.

...and here's some artwork I did for an old fanzine that seems relevant.
Think about it. How often does the claims by those in a position of power actually tie in with our experiences.


  1. Great bit of artwork there mate. Yep it seems we have to deal with arseholes the world over.

    Keep up the great work mate loving this blog cheers.

  2. Thanks Marky. Glad you like the blog. I'm enjoying prattling away on it.

  3. Nice sentiments, and a good blog.

    I don't know how it's been the case that I've just found it.

  4. Thank you fir the comment. The blog hasn't been running long and I've kept it low key. I just want it to go at it's own pace.
    There's a request bit on the right of the screen that I up stuff people have asked for. Just leave a message in a comment somewhere and if I can oblige with anything I will.