Thursday, August 21, 2014


Imagine if all the groups struggling today  for various aspects of social, economic and environmental justice truly realized that they all have the same enemy--the oligarchs who have the money and power to buy and appropriate more power and influence. These are the 1%, their lobbyists and their lackeys in government. Every systemic injustice extant in this country is either perpetrated or supported by this ruling elite.

During the struggles of the sixties and seventies some on the left tried to get this message across to the many "single-issue" groups. "You are all essentially fighting the same enemy. By joining forces your power and likelihood of success would be enormously increased".  The strategy was used at times but never adopted as a consistent approach. In the current period, the lesson needs to be re-learned.

Americans now live in a period characterized by a permanent state of war, virulent attacks upon civil liberties, education,  economic well-being and by the damaging and dangerous affects of unchecked, man-made climate change. The "commons" are under attack as well. Roads, bridges and public buildings, including schools, are being left to the forces of entropy. Immigrants fleeing chaos and violence in their home countries are being treated like criminals by Federal immigration and border authorities. Families and unaccompanied children are being abusively warehoused and/or deported to life-threatening situations. This list only scratches the surface.

People always resist injustice, abuse and oppression. Groups are fighting back on all of these fronts. In the face of loses such as Citizens United, McCullough, anti-voting legislation, anti-abortion legislation and the militarization of the police, among others, extraordinary advances have been made in the growing number of states where gays can marry legally and where medical and even recreational marijuana is legal. It has also been remarkable to watch the number of states and cities that have raised, and are now considering raising, the minimum wage, including for tipped workers in some cases, refusing to wait for the Federal government to act. Exciting as well is an awakening of the long-dormant union movement, particularly in regard to organizing fast food workers who have been successfully sustaining a campaign for better wages and conditions. The recent Supreme Court decision declaring that McDonald's is a player in the level of wages paid by their franchisees is a significant win that came out of this campaign.

The gains enumerated are principally the result of the work of issue-oriented groups. So, again, imagine if your group rallying for better wages and conditions in front of Walmart Headquarters was joined by members of anti-war, voter rights, equal pay for women, local union, civil rights, LGBT rights, environmental, immigration rights groups and others. In the same way that the power of workers is multiplied by union membership and representation, the power of groups working for progressive change is multiplied by working in coalition with other such groups against the common enemy.