Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World
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About the Author
David Solnit was a key organizer of the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle. A twenty-year veteran of global justice, anti-war, environmental justice and community struggles, he has worked to popularize the use of direct democracy to build mass movements in the United States and globally. He is a founder of Art and Revolution, which has helped popularize the use of art, street theater and giant puppets as an innovative form of resistance in numerous movements across North America, and from Israel and Palestine to Argentina. He is a trainer in grassroots organizing, direct-action strategy and street theater. He lives and works as a carpenter in Oakland, California.
1) What's the problem? (political analysis)
2) How to change things (tactics and strategies for change), and
3) Ideas in action (examples of various movements).
The editor, David Solnit, is a Bay Area activist with long years of experience, going back to the Bay Area Peace Test of the late 1980s. He was a key organizer of the successful nonviolent shutdown of the WTO (World Trade Organization) meeting in Seattle in November/December, 1999. Solnit works as a carpenter in Oakland, enough to keep him on the frontlines of a constant stream of NVA (nonviolent direct action) campaigns. In his editor's note, he says:
"As a carpenter, I have packed this book like a toolbelt, with the most useful and practical tools: ideas and understandings of how to uproot the system causing our problems and build a better world... ...This book is a resource, but does not offer a repeatable blueprint, roadmap or recipe for the changes our planet so desperately needs."
Of course if it did offer The Answer, you can bet that it would be VERY hard to find, and that everyone who desires progressive change would be circulating bootleg copies! But GLOBALIZE LIBERATION offers plenty of insight into making radical change from people who've been trying to make it. Most of the authors are unsung grassroots activists, but there are contributions from Walden Bello, Starhawk, Naomi Klein, George Lakey, andElizabeth Martinez, all of whom are widely published and well-known in progressive circles. (No Rage Against the Machine, though, Amazon description to the contrary!)
The book makes no claim to represent the entire global justice movement -- certainly there are no contributions from conservative opponents of globalization such as Pat Buchanan. But neither are there contributions from the AFL-CIO, or such leading organizations as Public Citizen, the Institute for Policy Studies, or any of the Big 10 environmental groups. Solnit and his contributors basically fall into two categories -- anarchist/antiauthoritarians, and grassroots/populist organizers. The word anarchism, oddly enough, is not used overly much by the contributors -- but the basic approach is clear enough from the Introduction. Solnit says "[t]he new radicalism is a movement of movements, a network of networks, not merely intent on changing the world, but -- as the Zapatistas describe -- making a new one in which many worlds will fit." He goes on to distinguish this radicalism from the hierarchical/authoritarian Left of the 20th century -- I'll leave it to you to judge whether the movements of GLOBALIZE LIBERATION are really "beyond left and right," as he suggests, or are best thought of as an antiauthoritarian left. Here are the common principles Solnit sees in the new radicalism:
..."the commitment to uprooting the system that is the cause of our social and ecological problems; doing it ourselves with people power and direct action; making change without taking power; practicing direct democracy in our resistance and in the world we create; and making our efforts a laboratory of resistance, creating newlanguage and new forms of struggle."
So the vision, while loose and diverse, is basically a vision of direct democracy and nonviolent direct action -- as Solnit says, "[a] common theme within the new radicalism is the practice of letting the means determine the ends." Groups like Public Citizen and the IPS, which are liberal or social democratic in orientation, are tactical allies of "the new radicalism," but ultimately have different aims. There are examples in the book from various protests, many in the U.S., but also elsewhere, including the U.K., Italy, Argentina, Mexico (of course, the Zapatistas), and Serbia. The book avoids any lengthy debate over the tactical issue (where exactly is the boundary on nonviolent action?), but stakes out a clear position in favor of NVA, particularly notable with the inclusion of Lakey, a long-time proponent of Gandhian nonviolent strategy. Lakey was an influential voice in the successful movement to remove Milosevich from power in Serbia, and the book includes his account of Otpor, the student movement which used creative non-cooperation tactics. The fact that the CIA & U.S. Endowment for Democrcy also backed Otpor is not addressed, though apparently the Otpor leaders minimize this and say the U.S. intel support was not critical, nor did it guide their objectives (this is from Lakey via the editor).
GLOBALIZE LIBERATION is an excellent, up-to-date primer on "the new radicalism." It isn't the only one, though -- see my "Tools for Activists Against Global Capital" for more. The 4 that are most similar to the present volume are WE ARE EVERYWHERE, CONFRONTING CAPITALISM, ANTI-CAPITALISM, and A MOVEMENT OF MOVEMENTS.
Given thecrisis we face -- and I personally am most concerned about the ecological crisis, and the fact that the oil is running out without any concerted plan for a transition to renewable energy -- the activism of GLOBALIZE LIBERATION is a source of hope. And the most hopeful thing is that it will spark more activism!