By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
The major task for the social movement: 2015 the Year We Build Power Together.
In 2014 we saw tremendous growth of the movement across numerous fronts of struggle -- worker rights and the wages, racism and policing, climate, the environment and extreme energy extraction, building a new economy and so much more. We also saw how uniting and working in solidarity is essential for success.
"Building power together" means working together as a movement of movements to build on the progress of 2014 when people created a larger and bolder movement. We build together because our issues are all connected and unified power is when we are strongest.
We have an immediate challenge in 2015 that threatens our progress. Obama and Congress are pushing to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If we don't stop it, our struggles will be set back and social, economic and environmental justice will be more difficult to achieve. But we can defeat the corporate powers that exploit our communities if we unite and work together and doing so will strengthen us greatly.
Our Struggles Are Connected
The #BlackLivesMatter movement, while focused on the urgent issues of police abuse and institutional racism, is also recognizing that economic injustice in black communities is pervasive. The wealth divide between the top .1% and the rest of us is stark enough; but the wealth divide between African Americans and Caucasian Americans is extreme and growing rather than shrinking. Whites have much greater wealth, with white median wealth at $142,000 to blacks at $13,700. Black unemployment has been double white unemployment for 50 years, throughout that time black unemployment rates have averaged recession levels, 11.5%. Also, during that time whites Americans have earned $20,000 per year more than blacks. Poverty has been rising in the black community for 15 years. Police are needed to keep unfairly treated communities in check.
When the bottom drops out of the economy or when wages are lowered, it is communities of color who feel the impact first and deepest. That is why issues like global trade rigged for big business interests will most adversely impact these poorer communities. Global trade seems distant but it has impacts at the local level.
Communities will experience lost jobs and lower income, an expanding wealth and income divide. They will find themselves competing with people in Vietnam where the average annual income is under $2,000 per year or Peru where it is $6,000. How can the campaign for a living wage succeed with this reality? How can already poor and impoverished communities lift themselves up when big business seeks cheap labor abroad?
In St. Louis some are recognizing the need for a new economy where focus is put on black-owned businesses, cooperative businesses owned by workers and putting in place a solidarity economy. However, trade pacts will make it more difficult for local governments to put in place a new economy. Transnational corporations will be required to be given greater access to local markets. Practices like purchasing local or buying green will be seen as trade barriers and will be prevented.
The same is true for the climate justice movement. It will become impossible to ban extreme energy extraction in our communities because this will be a threat to corporate profits. The global corporate trade agreements are pushing for more fracked gas and off-shore oil. Europeans want the US to be exporting these climate-destroying fuels to lower their energy costs and diversify from their reliance on Russia to isolate it further.
We Can Win the First Big Challenge of 2015