Future Hope column, September 23, 2007
By Ted Glick
This is the third time over the course of my many years of writing this column that I have written about what I called, in my first, April 2000 column, the “nonviolent army.”
I wrote about it then after spending several days in Washington, D.C. preparing for and participating in a major, 10,000 person strong day of action on April 16th where our “army” tried to prevent IMF/World Bank meetings from happening. Although that didn’t happen, this was a hugely successful action, spotlighting the anger that many felt towards those institutions’ corporate-supporting, destructive policies and building momentum for a continuing series of similar actions over the next year and a half.
That mass momentum was halted by the 9-11 attacks in 2001, but there have continued to be smaller nonviolent civil disobedience skirmishes, and sometimes more than skirmishes, since 9-11. A few have been directed toward corporate globalization targets, particularly the November, 2003 actions against a Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting in Miami, Fl. Most have taken place within the context of the peace movement, organized as symbolic actions, with very few having the objective of actually trying to shut something down or prevent business as usual over an extended period of time.
While symbolic actions are important and are sometimes the best that can be done, it is not the same thing as an action with enough people power and organization to actually physically disrupt the planned work of an unjust institution.
Why are actions like this important?
A successful people’s movement to fundamentally turn around the USA is going to need four kinds of practical political work to be successful:
1) strong, independent, grassroots-based organizations, community-, labor- and student-based, working on local levels around the survival/justice and other issues most immediately affecting and of most concern to local people;
2) an alliance, or alliances, that link these and other progressive organizations across lines of nationality, culture, issue and geography. The recent U.S. Social Forum is the best example of this;
3) independent electoral activity, people rooted in and responsible to our movement running for office and winning or doing well, gaining electoral skills and consciously building towards what we must ultimately have, a strong, broadly-based electoral alternative to the Democrats and Republicans; and,
4) a network of activists and organizers who are prepared to up the ante, to push the envelope, to underline the urgency of our situation through mass, nonviolent civil disobedience actions (nvcd) —a “nonviolent army.” These actions must be linked to also-important and larger mass demonstrations and other forms of visible “street heat.”
This fourth leg of our four-legged stool is needed in part to keep the rest of the work honest, to help keep it from being sucked into the subtle and not-so-subtle corruption of the corporate-dominated system within which we operate. It is also essential to speed up the timetable of change. The longer it takes to turn this country around, the more people will suffer and die needlessly, and the greater the risk that we reach a point of no return as far as the inevitability of catastrophic climate change.
There is an action coming up that is going to tell us where we are when it comes to this mass nvcd fourth leg: the Monday, October 22nd planned disruption of business as usual on Capitol Hill by the No War, No Warming network.
In the words of a Call to Action circulated a couple of months ago, “the intention of No War, No Warming is to hold Congress accountable; we will hold an intervention by taking over Capitol Hill on a day that Congress is in session. We will be putting our bodies on the line to say enough is enough. We will be taking positive action to make visible the cost of these failed government policies and to creatively manifest the world we know is possible. Until our government representatives changes course off the path of destruction, we have no choice but to get in the way.
“Some of us may gather in the intersections and set up windmills or solar panel blockades. Others may hold people’s assemblies in front of the doors or create a bicycle bloc in front of a parking garage. Actions may bring to light the cost of war and climate change through die-ins or cough-ins. Others may sit in silent prayer, or form a chorus of resistance in the streets.”
This October 22nd action is happening about a week before a series of mass legal demonstrations around the country being organized by United for Peace and Justice, and about two weeks before hundreds of Step It Up Two actions on the climate crisis. The No War, No Warming mass intervention in D.C. can only help to build both of those, stimulate more people to come out for these less risky and more traditional forms of street heat political activity.
It is a good thing to see the way in which masses of people are taking action this fall. The huge anti-racism turnout in Jena, La. just a few days ago was a tremendous development. The tens of thousands at the ANSWER anti-war demonstration last Saturday, the 190 people arrested at the Capitol in a nvcd action organized by Iraq Vets Against the War that day, and the many local actions organized through the first Iraq Moratorium day and the Pledge of Resistance are all indications that the peace movement is very much alive and stepping it up. Let’s keep the momentum building through the Troops Out Now action on September 29th and then onto two weeks of action from October 19th through November 3rd in D.C. and around the country.
Another World Is Possible; Another U.S. Is Necessary!
Ted Glick is the coordinator of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council and is on the 20th day of a water-only Climate Emergency Fast (http://www.climateemergency.org ). Information on No War, No Warming can be found at http://www.nowarnowarming.org.