Beware the monster at the party: protests with ANSWER and the WWP

In my area there’s a website called IndyBay. It’s part of a media apparatus that emerged in the aftermath of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests- something the activist left routinely refers to as the Battle of Seattle. The traditional media reaction to the protest, including a damaging accusation by the New York Times that protesters had used Molotov cocktails (which they had to retract) led to a shadow media devoted to organizing and defending activism.

There is a calendar where people can put up vigils, marches, or lectures. Some are important and straightforward- the Berkeley UU congregations post up their events, for instance.

But there’s a less colorful side of it. There are marches ostensibly to protest various injustices; a year ago I went to a march in Oakland in the aftermath of the Treyvon Martin shooting. However, they’re an illusion of sorts- the issues draw a diverse group of people in, but the event is actually more of a seminar for a political party.

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Industry (part I)

When with one last gasp, feudalism

Died on the steps of a grim factory

Its body was ignored as the clock chimed and

The serfs of old trod upon it

It was a revolution they say, and with it

The walls rose up, bigger, thicker than before

And the pebbled soil beneath

Covered with squares of dull stone

And paced adamantly by grim-faced foremen

At the gate each man was stripped of all

History and talent he had accumulated

All luxuries

For all that was needed was a sixty-degree turn, counterclockwise

Every nine seconds- truly

A revolution of the highest order

The bright eyes dimmed, and the clamor became a

de facto moment of silence that nobody sought to end-

What was there to cry for in jubilation, when

Their peril and suffering was taken from them

And turned in short order into

A tailored suit for the man who watched above

A new era inaugurated, but age old struggles

Would come again, as in all eras that lay

Long forgotten and built over

On the same rotten foundation

The revolution will not be organized

As a member of what most people would consider the political left, I am often flabbergasted and let down by my colleagues (or in this context, my comrades). The history of leftist coalitions is one of faction and division. The 1960s and the aftermath of all its rage and radical politics showed little progress, in some cases facing strong backlash. The United States began a forty year turn to the right, joined by many European democracies. 1968 saw a devastating defeat for anti-Vietnam elements and the rise of Richard Nixon. There were also setbacks in the student’s revolt in Mexico, and the events of May in France; a series of unprecedented general strikes created a socialist opposition to Charles De Gaulle that took his government to the brink of collapse. Yet a few weeks later the conservative establishment was in firm control of France, convincing winners of snap elections.

Continue reading “The revolution will not be organized”

In the midst of history

Several years ago, in the summer before I started high school, I attended an academic summer program for gifted children. It was a collection of the best my generation had to offer- a collection of pure genius from all around the world.

There were many different classes one could take. Over the previous year, I had moved away from math and science, and became interested in politics and writing- if you read what I wrote at 13 from what I wrote at 14, the change in quality is substantial. I chose a global politics class, taught by an eccentric instructor, Karl, who specialized in the Caucasus, and before this class had spent a semester teaching in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Great discussions were the norm- things from globalization to weapons proliferation, the bloodbath in Chechnya and the stalemate in Israel/Palestine.

What truly touched me, and fills me with deep emotion, is a short video shot by Karl himself. It’s not on the Internet and I assume relatively few people have ever watched it. Simply put, it is history unfolding.

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Leave your fear behind

A way forward, past fear and intimidation


A few days ago, I got a package in the mail. It contained a pamphlet, one that is not famous like Common Sense by Thomas Paine, but in the modern world is deeply relevant and useful. It is, simply, a road to revolution.

From Dictatorship to Democracy is the distilled wisdom of Gene Sharp, an 84-year old academic who lives in East Boston. His life has been quiet- he has written no best-selling books, held no prestigious professorships. However, he is the world’s leading expert on nonviolent struggle. He believes that ideas and willpower are more powerful than guns. Through case studies, one learns that even in the face of the worst evil, nonviolence had been used and been used effectively. Fear is what keeps people in line, supporting their autocrats. But if you remove your support, your obedience, then dictatorships crumble before your eyes. Nonviolent struggle is a way to empower people, and give them a way forward, past fear.

Continue reading “Leave your fear behind”