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General News    H4'ed 1/6/16

A Message of Hope for the New Year

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Message Jack Balkwill

JB: With war and "defense" eating up the lion's share of government spending, where do you see us starting to chip away so that resources are freed to address public interest needs?

KZ: The biggest secret in the United States is that we live in the largest empire in world history. The US has 1,100 military bases and outposts (800 bases) covering the planet while the rest of the countries have only 30. In fact, the UK and Rome, when they were the world's largest empires, each had less than 40 bases. The US has bases on every continent. Military bases cost $120 billion annually; i.e. "as much as four times the amount spent on Social Security, Unemployment & Labor ($29 billion); nearly twice as much as Housing and Community ($63 billion); four times as much as Science ($30 billion); and 1.7 times as much as Education ($70 billion)." At a time when US infrastructure is falling apart, the economy is faltering and we need to rapidly transition to a carbon-free, nuclear-free democratized energy economy, this is a misuse of tax dollars.

The secret of the US being the biggest empire in world history is important because it also hides that we are an "empire economy." This means that the empire serves big business; the result: transnational corporations which profit overseas hollow out the domestic economy. That means the oligarchs overseas become vassals who profit from transnational corporations but whose people and environment are put at risk. An empire economy puts the profits of corporations ahead of the necessities of the people and planet; and it is why 55% of domestic discretionary spending is spent on the military.

If people understood the US was an empire, the Asian Pivot, moving 52% of the US Navy to the Asia Pacific and developing military alliances with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Indonesia and others would be understood.
The same with the US move through NATO to line the Russian-European border with bases and missiles as well as the US supported coup in Ukraine. People would understand that the US is the aggressor, not Russia.

They hide the empire from the people of the United States -- it is never mentioned in the media or by elected officials -- because if the people knew the US was an empire, they would oppose it. First steps to ending US militarism is for the American people to see the reality of the US Empire, understand what it costs them and realize we are the only nation in world history to have bases throughout the world.

JB: What do you see representing hope for activists who may need inspiration?

KZ: We are at a stage in world history where we understand better than ever how movements succeed. It has been more than 100 years since Gandhi first used the strategy of nonviolent resistance. He was the beginning of modern movement history (there were movements before Gandhi, as well, that we can also learn from). As a result, we now have a lot of history where movements have won and movements have lost. We can see some of the commonalities of winning movements. We now can develop a strategy to transform the nation.

The key is for a movement to be a mass movement, not a fringe movement. History shows that if 3.5% of the people mobilize by getting involved in a movement that represents supermajority views of the public, then that movement has always won whether in a dictatorship or a democracy. Some win with less than 3.5%, but they have always won when they reached that level.

And, we have learned from history the successful ways of building a mass movement. It requires a strategic approach. For example, there are power blocs that hold the current government in place; e.g., business interests, political parties, workers, law enforcement, the military, media, religious groups, nonprofits, students. When we seek to grow the movement, we also need to seek to weaken the power structure by using tactics designed to bring people from the power blocs into the movement.

Research has also compared violent movements with nonviolent movements. The latter succeed at a much higher level. Why? It is hard to get 3.5% of the population to participate in a guerilla war. And, if the goal is to weaken the power structure, then violence usually has the opposite effect as it unifies the power structure. We saw that during occupy. When the police were violent the occupy movement grew. It pulled people to us. When police were attacked, it rallied the government and public to unify against the movement and the movement got smaller. The issue is not violence, property damage or nonviolence as a tactic; the issue is effectiveness. What tactic will accomplish the goal of growing the movement so it cannot be ignored?

The good news is that since the occupy encampment phase, the movement has grown significantly. Our guess is that at the peak of Occupy we had 350,000 to 400,000 people involved. That is a tiny .01% of the public and look how it created fear in the power structure and put new issues on the political agenda. We follow the movement every day at Popular Resistance and our guess is that when the various strands of the movement are counted; e.g., Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, Our Walmart, Climate justice etc. then we are probably over one million people active today.

This is still a long way from 3.5% but it is definite growth. Public awareness is even larger as the ideas of the movement have hit mainstream political culture. One key to our strength will be if we can unify across different issues; and we saw much more of that as well. People realize all issues are connected and that we are blocked by the same power structure.

The other good news is that Bill Moyer, a long-time activist, who developed the eight stages of successful social movements, shows us that we may be closer than we realize to success; and helps us to define what the movement needs to do now. We seem to be in stage six of the eight stages of successful social movements -- stage seven is success.

So, the good news is we are growing, winning progress and getting stronger. If we continue our progress, 2016 will begin the era where the mass social movement cannot be ignored.

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Jack Balkwill has written for publications from the little read Rectangle, magazine of the English Honor Society, to the (then) millions of readers USA Today, and progressive publications such as Z Magazine, In These Times, Counterpunch, This (more...)

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