News

Fighting no-show Senators for healthcare, with Autumn Zemke


Hillary Clinton won the “purplish” state of Nevada, notes Autumn Zemke of the Northern Nevada Working Families Party, but one of its Senators is still a Republican. Dean Heller has made noises about opposing Trumpcare, but now he’s dodging his constituents. Zemke and others attempted to hold a sit-in at his office last Friday, June 16, but were only let in one at a time. She talked to me about the movement for healthcare in Nevada, and the state’s own proposed Medicaid-for-all solution to the holes in the Affordable Care Act–one that could be even more important if the federal government repeals the ACA.

I think the American public needs that kind of realization, that kind of wake-up that I had, and I just happened to have it a little bit sooner than some people are coming to it. I think it is important for us to tell that story, “This person died.” There is this gentleman who I just came across on Twitter and he was trying to crowdfund his insulin. I think he was in Austin, Texas and he was big in the arts scene and comic book scene. This man actually died because he couldn’t do it.

We shouldn’t be crowdfunding healthcare. Not in the wealthiest country. It is insanity. Plus, it just doesn’t make financial sense. The reality is we have to hold Senator Heller accountable. “Why would you do this? Why would you take healthcare away from us?” And hold them accountable to the fact that there is no financial reason for it.

I have to add, the reality of people who are in the 1% are there off the backs of our labor. It is not like we are trying to take something from them. They have that wealth because they have workers, they have employees, they have people that have lifted them up to this point of extreme. They got there because they have companies where they have people working for them. That is our wealth. We helped make that wealth. Asking for healthcare shouldn’t be that big of a deal when we create the wealth as employees, as workers.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Up at The Baffler.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

40 acres for liberation, with Chinyere Tutashinda


Juneteenth is not a federal holiday–but it should be. It is the day that the news of emancipation reached the last group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, months after the Emancipation Proclamation and even the official end of the Civil War. To mark the day, and its unfulfilled promises, a group of organizers planned a day of action: of reclaiming vacant land, 40 acres in 40 cities to be precise. From Atlanta to Oakland, Chicago to New Orleans, anchored by the BlackOUT Collective and Movement Generation, black people claimed and held land, taking space to have community dinners, put vacant spaces back into the commons, and challenge gentrification as well as amplify the demand for reparations. Chinyere Tutashinda of the BlackOUT Collective told me about the plan.

There are a lot of people who are out on the streets… I think there is a lot of interest and a lot of people who have been newly politicized and woken up to the fact that now Trump is our president. But, when I think around what has been going on within the Movement for Black Lives and organizations that are part of that constellation–because this is not new for us and because a lot of folks, particularly those in the South, have been living under conditions very similar to the ones that Trump is trying to enact nationally–there was just a different level of “What does that mean for us?”

People have been really focusing on strengthening their organizing and strengthening their base building and trying tto build and do strategy in just different ways. People are noticing there are less people on the streets, but they are not necessarily less people in our organizations or less people doing local work. I think as people are building and are slowly growing, the work that you will see come into fruition in the next year or so.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Stopping Trumpcare wherever you are, with Angel Padilla


The vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with…something is on, but Republicans are hiding the bill away, refusing public debate, and Democrats are unwilling to put it all on the line to stop it. Angel Padilla of the new resistance group Indivisible tells me what their strategy is to stop the bill, and why every single Senator matters.

Republican senators are hiding from their constituency. They are afraid of facing them because they know they are pushing this bad bill that is going to harm them. It is a bill that is literally going to harm thousands and thousands of their own constituents and they are doing it simply because they want to give Donald Trump a win. That is why they are hiding. That is why we have to bring the fight to them.

They are hiding, but constituents can go down to regional offices and they can make their voices heard. They can have sit-ins. They can keep calling. Even if they are not willing to meet with their constituents, they are paying attention. They know that people don’t want it. The only way we are going to stop this bill is if they really get the sense of how widely opposed this bill is. That is the truth.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at The Baffler.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

No is not enough, with Naomi Klein


The rise of Donald Trump seemed shocking to so many, but to Naomi Klein, something of an expert on shock, the feeling that Trump brings out is more akin to the horror of a bad dystopian novel. Indeed, it’s like her decades of previous research into the growth of global brands and a movement against them, into the violence of neoliberalism, and the destruction and movement against climate change has all come together in one presidency. That gives her a lot of ideas of how to fight him, ideas she details in a new book, No Is Not Enough.

There is no doubt that the far right is entering into a vacuum left by neoliberal centrism and liberalism. It is worth remembering that not so long ago, there was a very large, progressive, committedly internationalist movement that was taking on the whole logic of what was called “free trade” or “globalization” or “corporate globalization.” We called it “corporate rule” for the most part, because the problem was not trade, it was the writing of rules for the global economy in the interests of a small group of powerful corporations. Forget hollow brands. The center of that fight was about the hollowing out of democracy. Yes, sure, you can still vote, but the most important decisions about your life are being outsourced to institutions over which you have no control.

The fact that neoliberal centrist parties pushed those deals, signed those deals, negotiated those deals, and never aligned themselves with that grassroots progressive movement, left the space open for the Donald Trumps and the Nigel Farages and the Marine Le Pens of the world to come in and say, “We know how out of control you are. We believe you should be authors of your own fate, of your own destiny.” We left these ideas unattended, let’s just say. There are lots of great groups that never stopped focusing on trade, like Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch and lots of groups in Europe. But it stopped being a mass movement in the global north after September 11th. It is worth interrogating why that happened.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Knock every door, talk to everyone, with Becky Bond


In the wake of Trump’s election, Becky Bond says, people began to ask her what they could do. Beyond just donating money to campaigns or showing up to protests, she says, people wanted to be active in their communities, talking to their neighbors. She and some of her Sanders campaign colleagues decided to create a platform for people to do just that, and thus KnockEveryDoor was born.

The big data strategy is where essentially you hire a bunch of data consultants to run a bunch of models to find out “What is the smallest number of people you can talk to and win? Who are those people and what do they care about?” We need to talk to everybody. When you talk to a small group of people, they may not reflect back what the campaign needs to hear and about what is really going on with most of the constituents in that race. I think that campaigns need to hear from the majority of the people how policies are affecting their lives. Then, that could really change what politicians decide to talk about and fight for.

One of the things that I really learned from talking to people across the country is that the people that are not participating in elections, the so-called “low information voters,” it is not that they are ignorant people at all. In fact, time and time again, when I talk to them I come away feeling like they have a very sophisticated political analysis and they are choosing not to participate in politics. Not because they don’t know, but because their liberation is not on the ballot or they don’t see how voting is actually going to materially change anything in their lives. I think that reestablishing the feedback loop of talking voters is doing an important thing. That the concerns from the people that are not participating can also be something that politicians take into account, not just the narrow slice of voters who they think will put them over the top.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Progressive.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

A unified working class movement, with Nijmie Dzurinko


The conversations since the election have mostly hinged on how divided Americans are, on the splits between rural and urban, black and white, immigrant and citizen. But there are material issues that affect many, many people in this country right now, starting with healthcare, and Nijmie Dzurinko of Put People First PA has been organizing across divides in the deeply split state of Pennsylvania for years, using healthcare as a way to unify working-class communities around the things that matter most.

To speak to a long-term organizing strategy, I think we have got to get clear on a few things. One is that my work is still around the idea that we have got to be organizing an intersectional working class movement. That means that we have got to be organizing the folks who are forced to work for wages and particularly folks who are the most marginalized workers and/or folks who can’t work, who are locked out of the system of work, but who need to in order to survive. That group of people is representative of every race, every gender, every status of documentation. That group of people is very broad. We need to make sure that the most marginalized people in the class are in the center of our work, but we have got to be organizing a working class movement.

One of the things we have got to recognize in that sense is that to build a long-term strategy is that the 1% is not necessarily going to fund the unity of the 99%. The 1% is pretty comfortable funding segments of that group to fight for their own piece, but not necessarily for the coming together of that class as a class. I think that in terms of long-term strategy, we need to be okay with that. We are going to have to do some things that might not get funded. We are going to have to put in some work that might not get paid. No one wants to hear that necessarily. We are in this moment where there are some dreams about how everyone is going to have a career, everyone is going to be able to do some kind of revolutionary work and get paid really well to do it and that is still a contradiction. It never hasn’t been and it always will be because, again, the 1% is not going to put their money behind a class struggle that is aiming at them. They might put their money behind a struggle that was aiming at better representation among their class of a certain group of people, but they are not going to put their money behind a unified group of folks that are coming for them.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.
Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

End of an Era: Books for the Obama years

Emmett Rensin included Necessary Trouble in his round-up of books to read to understand the Obama era, at Bookforum.

Necessary Trouble is a book that’s virtue lies primarily in the willingness of author Sarah Jaffe to perform the actual work of a journalist and go investigate these movements in person.. She explores all kinds: the reactionary, the revolutionary, the mundane, and shows that residents of fly-over states clad in red trucker hats are not the only demographic that has escaped the notice of Washington. The hidden chaos of the Obama era has also produced viable movements for revolutionary change, including movements that are perhaps more threatening than their reactionary counterparts to the power of liberal technocracy because these left-wing movements cannot be fought in the open without betraying the conservative instincts of many notionally liberal progressives and Democrats.

Read more.

News

An equitable infrastructure plan, with Bishop Dwayne Royster

Donald Trump’s plans to “Make America Great Again” included promises of massive infrastructure spending, but it turns out he’s mostly interested in privatizing what’s left of the American public sector to make his cronies rich at the expense of everyone else. But infrastructure spending is desperately needed, so the “Millions of Jobs” coalition is coming together with a big, positive, public-oriented vision for infrastructure that goes beyond roads and bridges to the infrastructure of care. Bishop Dwayne Royster of the PICO Network is part of that coalition, and he explains:

I think Trump and others are trying to make deals and they are trying to maximize the profits for their friends and the other billionaires that they care about. But, when we think about infrastructure I think we have to think about the whole in terms of how we are building out our country, our nation, how we are building out future generations. Any infrastructure project is a project that you are looking at that has to last several decades. What better investment in infrastructure could there be than building up solar energy, building out education priorities for our kids, making sure that we are creating job opportunities for people that have been locked out of those opportunities by creating good-paying middle-class jobs? I think that is infrastructure, as well.

I think infrastructure is much bigger than just looking at roads and bridges. Of course, they are incredibly important, don’t get me wrong on that. But, it is important that we are looking at the infrastructure of a nation which also includes the human resources that we have, as well.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Listening to the picket line, with Cecilia Aldarondo


The workers at the Momentive plant near Albany, New York didn’t get as much attention in the weeks surrounding Donald Trump’s election as did those at Carrier in Indianapolis, but in many ways they are similar. While the Carrier plant was closing down, the workers there had faced repeated demands for givebacks in their contracts like the ones the Momentive workers fought against. And like Carrier, in the state from which Trump drew Vice-President Mike Pence, the Momentive plant too had a Trump connection: Steve Schwarzman, billionaire hedge-fund titan and Trump economic adviser, had been part of the team of private equity investors who owned the plant once it was spun off from GE. Yet when filmmaker Cecila Aldarondo began visiting the workers on the picket line they walked outside of Momentive for over 100 days, she found that many of them had voted for Trump. Her short film, Picket Line, is part of Our 100 Days, a short film initiative from Firelight Media and Field of Vision examining America after Trump, and we talked about stereotypes of Trump voters, the power of the union in resistance, and how to talk to people on the other side of the political line drawn by the 2016 election.

One of the things that has already sort of bothered me and troubled me a little bit is in seeing how people have reacted to the film since it was released, is people making knee-jerk statements about the white working class. Mostly people who think of themselves as liberal, who are rabid anti-Trumpers, who are essentially saying, “I am sick of hearing the story about the aggrieved white working class. These people are idiots,” etc. and “Thanks for screwing us over.” Something like this.
The first thing that I would say to that is, “First of all, this is not a universal… These people are not all white” and like you said, they are not all male. I would say this area is largely white, but there were a lot of people of color that I talked to for the film. I think that these sort of bumper-sticker narratives are things that people have been clinging to to explain very complicated and much longer-running issues around the growth of economic inequality, the erosion of union power in this country, etc.
Anyway, I just want to say, this is a film that really tries to challenge those kind of monolithic understandings of not just what happened, but what is happening to working people in this country. That includes all working people of all ethnicities, all genders, etc.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at The Baffler.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

News

Resistance or revolution, with James Hayes


Several months into “the resistance” to Trump, there are multiple political threads claiming that title and they don’t always agree. Longtime Ohio organizer James Hayes says that it’s actually fine for progressives and neoliberals all to lay claim to the idea of resistance, but the question for the left has to be: how do we move beyond just reactive politics to constructing the real world we want?

So often our movements are stuck in a reactionary phase and posture because there is so much happening urgently that we have to address, but I think the last several years that I have seen movements in this country develop and there are a lot more people who are asking very deep questions about “How do we actually move beyond just being against police brutality, against racism, and those things?” but really figuring out what we’re for and figuring out “What is the strategy to get there?” We definitely need more spaces for that.

After the election it became even harder to have that space because of how pressing everything was. Then, after the inauguration, Trump starts signing all these executive orders one after the other and we saw people jumping into the streets, but now the resistance is still strong and with the firing of Comey it is getting stronger, even. But this question of “How do we actually move forward?” isn’t really being addressed. Even in the movements, I think part of what is going to have to happen is our social movement leaders are going to have to start taking responsibility for answering that question and then also fighting to have the power to govern society, to actually put those answers into motion, rather than just sort of being in the social movement space forever.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.