By Matt Meyer
November 13th, 2020
In this time of uncertainty, movements must continue the long-term work of building democracy.
Almost as clear as the deep divisions within the United States is the
exhaustion we feel about the current political process unfolding during
a growing wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The surprises and swings of
this post-election period must be met with a careful, nuanced look at
the realities we are facing — so we can best prepare and organize today
for a more just and peaceful tomorrow.
With that in mind, here are six talking points — looked at through a
lens of historic movement-building — that provide some possibilities for
hope and a sense of the hard work that lies ahead.
1. Trump is a trickster with amazing staying power. While he
has defied all expectations, he alone is not able to alter reality based
on his house of lies.
In the weeks leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, there is likely
to be one after another outrageous and infuriating action — not only on
the part of Trump but also possibly on the part of some anti-Trump
individuals who do not share a holistic vision of a world free of
oppression and violence. It would be both disastrous and untenably
exhausting to try to prepare for, counter-act and/or resist each and
every one of these outrages.
We must first be alert for repression against the most targeted communities and leaders among us.
We must choose our actions wisely, remembering that there are many,
many people across the United States preparing for many different
scenarios: machinations on the state legislative level; interventions at
the electoral college; state, federal and Supreme Court legal
subterfuge; hiring and firings to enable disruption of government
departments and agencies; fundraising to deal with massive personal and
campaign debt; media manipulation and the expansion of direct lies to
undermine the transition and government in general; and attempting to
mobilize parts of the military and law enforcement. We must first be
alert for repression against the most targeted communities and leaders
among us. We must plan for the inauguration and the post-inauguration
period. But we must not think that each of us or our organizations must
respond to every disruptive move.
Successfully reversing a popular victory of over five million votes
and a comfortable electoral victory — which virtually every credible
authority has stated was essentially free from fraud — will take a
massive effort well beyond the reach of Trump’s inner circle or a divided Republican Party. We must remain vigilant, while also recognizing these realities.
2. We ride on the cusp of amazing mass organizing, but one
that can only wield real influence if we consolidate into a full-fledged
movement with successful short-term campaigns and long-term goals.
Joe Biden didn’t receive the largest vote in U.S. history because he
is such an overwhelmingly inspiring, unifying or visionary figure. The
close to 78 million ballots cast in the midst of the coronavirus show
the depth of anti-Trump sentiment more than any pro-Biden feelings, but
they are also evidence the successes of extraordinary registration,
get-out-the-vote and grassroots empowerment efforts.
Contrary to myths that are already being spread within progressive circles, these efforts were led mainly by Black and Latinx communities,
militant trade unions, young people concerned about their future and
that of the planet, and others long disenfranchised but deciding once
again to come out in record numbers to prevent further devastation. We
would do well to keep sight of this instead of quickly cashing in on the
idea that only “lowest-common-denominator” compromising principles will
yield the power we need to make basic change.
3. As we work to build a “Beloved Community” movement —
multi-issue, Black, Indigenous and people-of-color-led, with clear class
and gender analysis — we must stay focused on what we are organizing
for (not just a single presidential campaign). We also need to remember
that the Trump constituency is also large and continuing to organize.
Just as it would be foolish to see the election outcome as “a
people’s victory against fascism,” it would be a terrible mistake to see
even the formal transition of power in January as the end of an era.
Trump’s power has always been his ability to mobilize a base with an
overt acceptance of white supremacy, patriarchy, militarism and/or
nationalism — and those mobilized will not go away.
Organizing for real
democracy — beyond a single election, individual candidate or electoral
politics itself — must be one task of a creative progressive movement.
Unless we look very closely and stay focused, we aren’t likely to see
how a more covert, armed, locally-based, right-wing series of groupings
will intensify over the next two to six years. At the same time, we
shouldn’t be surprised if a figure far less brash and chaotic than Trump
(but equally or more charismatic) emerges in the coming years to take
power through elections or others means. Recognizing and preparing for
this — organizing for real democracy
beyond a single election, individual candidate or electoral politics
itself — must be one task of a creative progressive movement.
4. We must remember that as good as Biden may seem to some in comparison to Trump, he is in many ways a “Blue MAGA.” His brand of “Make America Great” neoliberalism may look different than his conservative friends in the Senate, but it shares the same roots.
Giving Biden a “pass” at this time or pinning our hopes on him or
Kamala Harris would be like giving an endorsement to our jailers. There
is a reason why, in response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter
uprisings, Biden loudly asked: “Do I look like a radical socialist with a
soft spot for rioters!?” Clearly the two of them will attempt to split
those they deem to be “nonviolent” and acceptable and those they condemn
as “the bad protesters.” Many who consider themselves liberal might
look the other way as a new generation of those working for social
change are criminalized, disempowered or worse.
Let us also not forget that it was former President Barack Obama — in
his behind-the-scenes moves to push Biden’s White House bid — who
undercut the budding NBA and wider sports strike. It will be a primary
task to stand up against cooptation, sectarianism and shadier forms of
repression — and in favor of an explicitly revolutionary nonviolence which defends all people’s organizing in defense of their self-determination rights.
Waging Nonviolence depends on your support. Become a sustaining member today and receive a gift of your choice!
We must be appealing, use positive messaging, build bright cultural
icons and tell the truth as we go well beyond “preaching to the choir!”
If Late Night talk show celebrity Seth Meyers feels comfortable
talking about the roots of systemic injustice beyond Trump and the need
for long-term organizing, surely we can do no less. On Nov. 10, Meyers
exclaimed, “Clearly the deep rot in our political system and the
conservative movement exposed by Trump’s rise is not going away anytime
soon; he is not unique and fixing that will require bold, systemic
We must be aware that the United States is an empire in decline.
Whomever the government “leader,” the United States now faces divisions
typical of such a historic moment. Instead of being passive consumers
of left or right orthodoxies, we must dare to take radical and inspiring
direct actions which build political-economic programs that educate and
bring people into a progressive movement. We must dare to have fun — to
laugh and love and take care of and pace ourselves — while doing this!
6. Build for a #PeoplesStrike.
The last year has seen a great rise in successful, local workers
strikes. And more and more people are now preparing for a possible
general strike — a need which will still be necessary to pressure a new
administration. Centering on a singular, coordinated date and time is
not the only way to organize. However, ongoing, rolling actions that
boldly challenge all systemic injustices can take place on a limited
monthly basis (as the group Peoples Strike has proposed, calling for actions on the first of each month).
We have to construct
the kinds of transformative policies that even the next generation and
seven generations forward can be proud of.
Fighting back against the austerity measures that are trying to save
capitalism, has been the unifying focus of People’s Strike since its
founding in April 2020. Initiated and led by Mississippi-based
Cooperation Jackson, People’s Strike respects and encourages diverse
local work around people-centered decolonization, decarbonization and
environmentalism, a people’s bailout, universal health care and
critical-thinking education. If we are to hope for success in reversing
not just Trump but the root politics he gave voice to, we have to build
strong coalitions and united fronts like the People’s Strike — to
construct the kinds of transformative policies that even the next
generation and seven generations forward can be proud of.
It is our collective job to learn from history and not get fooled
(again) by half-baked efforts to lull us into minimal reforms tomorrow,
which will only be taken away the day after. It is time to build across
ideological differences and borders — to fight all forms of fascism and
neofascism. It is time to build decentralized institutions of people’s
power that provide mutual aid and sustenance in our times, no matter who
holds the reigns of the state.
Matt Meyer is author of numerous books on
resistance and social change chiefly published by PM Press and Africa
World Press. He is the Secretary General of the International Peace
Research Association, a long-time leader of both the War Resisters
League and Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Senior Research Scholar of
the Resistance Studies Initiative, and an advisory board member of
Matt Meyer’s Books