Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'm back to work for the Global Network. Will continue to help Lisa Savage for US Senate campaign on my free time. Trying to self-isolate as much as possible. Best wishes and good luck to you all.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

DEALING WITH THE PANIC AND THE PAIN

Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion in Portland about the economic crisis. The panel consisted of two economics professors, a historian, a labor organizer, an immigration lawyer, and myself. It was quite an interesting two hours.

The historian began the event with a review of past "panics" in American economic history. She suggested we should call recessions and/or depressions panics again as the word better described what was going on for the public.

The best part of the event was hearing from the 50 people in the audience. Several talked about the need for groups to begin organizing to resist home foreclosures by getting the community to stop people from being thrown out of their homes. Others talked about the need to link arms with one another when the state soon moves to cut $50 million in human needs programs. Usually social service groups are pitted against one another to fight over a few crumbs. We must not let that continue to happen. One example was given how anticipated cuts at the state university system will turn education workers against social program activists.

Several of us talked about the military budget and the need to demand major cuts in military spending as a way to prevent the dissolution of social progress. Unless we are willing to call for cuts in military production in our own states then we will never succeed in creating the national momentum for Pentagon budget cuts. (We must remind the public at every opportunity that Bush doubled military spending during the last eight years and that moving war spending to civilian "green" production and social program funding will in fact create more jobs.)

We were reminded by some in the audience that "liberalism" is dead. The notion that we can "grow" our way out of this current economic crisis ignores the reality that fossil fuels are a declining resource. An entire new way of life is coming our way and we have to begin to rethink, relearn, and articulate a new vision of a livable and sustainable life style.

In my closing words I said that we have to think like organizers at this time. We must create opportunities for "popular public education" by putting together town hall meetings that will serve multiple functions. They will give us the chance to work with other organizations and interest groups to pull together mass events. The events will allow folks to share with each other their emotion, their questions, their ideas, and to create hope and energy. These public meetings will also serve to put the political class on notice that people are making specific demands like single-payer health care, cuts in military spending, an end to casino capitalism and more. If properly organized the events will also serve to alert a disempowered public that people are moving and engaged and force them to at least reflect on these serious questions and political demands.

It is true that the Obama campaign has created alot of "energy" amongst many sectors of the society. One key question is where will that energy go after November 4? We must challenge Obama supporters to now move their passion into helping take the political debate to the next level.

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