By Tory Field and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds
Saturday, 14 April 2012
Rather than having these people inside the Beltway be the experts on the issue… we ask: How can we empower the people who are actually affected by the issues to be the spokespeople?” – Deborah James
Ask just about anyone about the “99%” these days and, regardless of how they feel about the Occupy movement, they’ll probably acknowledge the increasing concentration of wealth and power that the past few decades have brought. Occupy has successfully propelled issues of inequality and corporate control to mainstream consciousness, here in the belly of the beast, in the nation that has been pivotal to defining the world economic system.
The current popular US dissent over the extreme concentration of wealth and the marginalization of the voices of the majority has long precursors in US social movements. The farmers’ movements of the 1870s, the populist movement of the 1890s, the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) and other militant labor unions from the dawn of the 20th Century through the 1950s, the civil rights and Black, Chicano, and Native nationalist movements from the 1960s on, and many other social movements… all have been rooted in calls for a more equitable division of power and economic resources. Parallel struggles, in many different forms, have occurred throughout the world.
The global justice movement, also known as the anti-globalization movement, exploded around the global South in the 1980s, when new draconian reforms demanded by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), as conditions for loans, destroyed national economies and the lives of those within them. The World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999 and the World Bank and IMF meetings in Washington in 2000, when hundreds of thousands of residents of the US and Europe turned out into the streets to protest the trade and financial regimes, marked something new: active alliance from the global North. Since then, organized populations everywhere have worked in their own countries and transnationally to subvert the rules of the global economy, where the wealthiest citizens, corporations, and counties make the decisions for all of us. The people’s movements have reminded us that economic globalization, which we are told is the only possible economic order, only commenced at the end of World War II, and that we do not have to accept it as it currently exists.
Those who are flooding streets today in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, and the millions who have preceded them around the world, all posit an alternative vision for economies: that they be just, that they provide for all without exploitation, that they place the well-being of human beings and the environment over profit, and that everyone gets to be part of shaping them. They believe that economic relationships should be driven by our desire to nurture each other and our communities, not by the competition and greed often underlying the corporate market. And they have won dramatic victories.