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: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Monday, December 14, 2009

EMPIRE DISSOLUTION TRAVEL STORIES (another exciting episode)

On the train ride back to Maine after speaking in wet New Haven, Connecticut last night I noticed that water was dripping quite steadily onto me from the right and left sides of my seat. I moved to another row.

Soon after I moved the train came to a dead stop and a couple of minutes later the conductor announced that we were waiting for a boat to pass under a draw-bridge and that as soon as it passed, and the bridge went down again, we’d be on our way.

The next announcement was that the draw-bridge was stuck in the upright position and we would be further delayed…..but we were promised, maintenance teams were on the scene to fix the bridge as quickly as possible.

(We eventually got going again after about a 45 minute ‘pause‘.)

While in New Haven I was told by one gentleman, who is being forced into early retirement by wealthy Yale University as a budget cutting mechanism, that a middle school in the region is now only teaching reading and math to their students. All other subjects have been cut from the school curriculum. Is there any wonder why working class kids are quitting school before graduation in record numbers? They know that they are getting an inferior education and that they have virtually no job prospects upon graduation - with the exception of a free trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan. The return to feudalism in America is full-bore on the way.

I spoke to a peace group in New Haven that has been in conflict for the past couple of years. I didn’t know before I made the trip that the group had been in a legal battle for control of a considerable endowment they had been sitting on. My talk was their first annual meeting in several years and the small attendance was clear evidence of their struggle to reestablish themselves again.

I fashioned a talk about connecting the dots between space warfare issues, endless war for control of declining resources, climate change, the dissolution of social progress, and the great necessity for the peace movement to talk about jobs - using conversion of the military industrial complex as the key vehicle to create more jobs. After all the public wants jobs, don’t they? Why can’t we confidently proclaim that we have a much better way of dealing with the collapse of corporate capitalism? The people are anxiously waiting for someone to stand up and tell the truth about a better way……

In the 24 hours before my talk I spoke with several activists in the New Haven area who told me that many in the “progressive” movement in the city (unions, environmentalists, social justice, etc) were not particularly interested in talking about our current wars or cutting military spending. Their powerful Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat, also doesn’t want to discuss those issues with representatives of the peace community. The subject is essentially verboten.

This is one snapshot of a crumbling America in total denial about the elephant in the middle of the room. We are not supposed to talk about our wars and historic levels of military spending, especially with the Democrats now in charge. And amazingly there are some elements of the “progressive” community who go right along with the jolly minstrel show - because they don’t want to piss the Democrats off! Just stick to your single issue focus and pretend that everything else is gonna be alright.

The idea of real solidarity does not exist within significant portions of the “progressive” movement in the US. Sure we sing about it (Solidarity forever, solidarity forever, solidarity forever, our unity makes us strong) but we don’t practice it much. The Indians used to say “put your ear to the railroad tracks and hear the train coming.” Here we are in the middle of two endless wars that are chewing up scarce resources like a river full of piranha, and some declining organizations are too damn afraid to speak the truth about what is coming down all around us.

(I hear a faint voice in the back of my mind…..power corrupts, even among the powerless.)

It’s like people are frozen in time just hoping for change. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have to make things happen - change doesn’t just take place because the oligarchy suddenly decided to “make nice”.

The missing ingredient in all of this is courage. The only way we are going to get out from behind the eight-ball is to find the will to pull ourselves out of our collective isolation and move together into purposeful action. Look at the way Latin American movements have taken power in recent years by building multi-issue coalitions that connect the dots.

We could begin by talking to everyone we come across about bringing our war money home to help deal with our crumbling nation. I tried it with one of the chimney guys that came to our house the other day and discovered his son is in Afghanistan. By the end of the conversation he was expressing real doubts about the war and its costs. I’d bet anything that few people ever ask him how he feels about the whole mad situation.

Speak up, where ever you are, and see how much better you will feel for having done it. We need your voice.


Anonymous The ACTivist magazine said...

Look at the way Latin American movements have been taken power in recent years by building multi-issue coalitions that connect the dots.

My guess is that the average American doesn't have a clue as to what is really going on South America, much less how the people are actually organizing themselves for progress.

12/14/09, 3:37 PM  

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