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The Tasks of The People-Powered Movement for 2014
Posted on Jan 10, 2014
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
An example of some advocates making the mistake of accepting compromises is the health law. Advocates know that the empirical evidence shows that the only approach that will provide quality healthcare to all and control costs is a single payer, Medicare for all, system. We saw a variety of approaches to the “not on the table” claim of those in power during the debate on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Many single payer advocates bought into the ACA, which is really a big insurance scam, because they were Democratic Party-leaning organizations. These groups were given tens of millions of dollars to advocate for the ACA. This is the classic strategy described in leaked documents from Stratfor, the private intelligence firm that works with big business and government, of how the power holders deal with political movements. They divide and conquer by defining four groups of activists. First, they pulled the ‘realists’ and ‘opportunists’ away from the movement by giving them access to politicians and funding for their work. Then, they further try to isolate the ‘radicals’ (people who want transformative change of the system) by pulling the ‘idealists’ away. Idealists were given the fake choice of the public option, not only was this not a real solution to the health crisis but it was never really on the table.
The problems with the roll out of the ACA website exposed the deeper problems, that the law is a complicated, insurance-based and for-profit approach that will consistently lead to greater costs and obstacles for patients and will weaken our public insurances. The ACA entrenches a system that treats healthcare as a commodity rather than a public good and that will make some investors very rich. This has renewed calls for single payer as people see how such a system would be superior in many ways. This makes it essential for those who favor single payer to call out groups like MoveOn, who are closely tied to the Democratic Party, for their continued advocacy for the ACA as well as elected officials who claim to support single payer but who are staying silent despite the problems with Obamacare.
Keep the moral high ground and remain a movement based in principled dissent
One of the risks in this phase of the movement is becoming a member of the professional non-profit community. Moyer calls these groups ‘professional opposition organizations’ or POOs. Instead we must remain what he calls a principled dissent group. We must advocate for transformational change and not for inadequate reforms that do not solve the problem but merely make it look like the system is responding to our concerns.
During this time period the power structure will try to pull the movement into the system. Foundations may start to offer financial support. Care must be taken here because money is needed to build the necessary grassroots infrastructure, but funding cannot have strings attached that compromise the goals of the movement.
The kind of infrastructure that is needed is grassroots organizations that understand the goals and strategy and how the various sub-issues being worked on relate to the overall goals of the movement. Infrastructure includes training of hundreds of people who either organize grassroots groups or work with grassroots networks, or who work on the ten fronts of struggle we identified in our last article. Additional infrastructure is needed to build movement media. The corporate mass media will not cover the movement because their job is to make people think it has disappeared and when we have victories, they will make sure not to give the movement credit. We need to build our own media so people in the movement can stay informed on issues and on what others in the movement are doing as well as have a tool for reaching out to the public.
In addition to remaining true to our principles, we need to be open to expanding our demands. During this phase, as we better understand the issues we are working on, we will find that the problems run deeper than we realized. This has shown itself in debates in the environmental movement, e.g. rather than calling for no Keystone pipeline, we need to be calling for no tar sands mining. Similarly, rather than regulating fracking for methane gas, we need to be calling for a ban on fracking. Indeed, when the overall energy situation is looked at the movement needs to be making a broad call for the end of the extraction economy and putting in place a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy.
Of course, this will be ‘off the political table’ but it is the only approach that makes sense in light of the ecological destruction of extraction, the militarism caused by resource conflicts and the steps needed to combat climate change. This has led to aggressive actions by front-line environmentalists and indigenous peoples with blockades, tree-sits, mass protests and other acts of civil resistance. If the traditional groups are to remain relevant they will be pulled toward these new groups as we are beginning to see, reversing divide and rule into unite and win.
A goal is to hold the POOs accountable and to keep them from co-opting the movement’s goals and allowing the power holders to undermine the movement through false solutions. We expand on this more in our article, “Gang Green or Fresh Greens.”
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