Q: Does protest make any difference?
A: It does -- and it doesn't. Let's start with how it doesn't. Protest doesn't make a damn bit of difference if it's "protest as usual". Protest that trims its sails to the political terms set by electing Democrats, or that tries to be respectable, or that doesn't convey that THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE AND MUST BE BROUGHT TO A HALT. No, protest like that doesn't really amount to much. Never has and never will.
We're talking about tens of thousands going into the streets with a clear standard -- BRING THIS TO A HALT -- and a spirited call to others to join this. Our recent statement envisions "a great wave of people unleashed from the huge reservoir of people who are deeply distressed over the direction in which the Bush regime is dragging the country and the world, moving together on the same occasion, making, through their firm stand and their massive numbers, a powerful political statement that could not be ignored: refusing that day to work, or walking out from work, taking off from school or walking out of school -- joining together, rallying and marching, drawing forward many more with them, and in many and varied forms of creative and meaningful political protest throughout the day, letting it be known that they are determined to bring this whole disastrous course to a halt by driving out the Bush Regime through the mobilization of massive political opposition."
That kind of protest could and would make a difference. It would begin to galvanize into an active political and moral force the millions who hate the way things are going but are now paralyzed. The possibility of turning things around and onto a much more favorable direction would take on a whole new dimension of reality. This would send a different message to the whole world.
Face it: no great change has ever been won without protest, without people acting "from the bottom up" to set a new agenda, without struggle, without upheaval. No. The protests in 2002 and 2003 didn't succeed in preventing the Iraq war, but they let the whole world know that Bush was acting in the face of huge public opposition. They put him on the moral defensive. And they helped to set terms for the future - as the ugliness of the war got revealed and people increasingly have come to oppose it. The problem is not that our actions have had no impact; it's that we have not acted up enough. A new season of upsurge must start now, one that sets out to reverse the whole direction in which this society is now hurtling, and to dramatically change the course of history.
The stakes now are too high to keep going through the motions of protest as usual -- politics that say: the people in government exercise power and make the corresponding decisions and our only role is to protest certain things they do. Instead, we need to act on the truth that when people take massive and independent political action, they can change things very profoundly. People in the 60's did not ask the liberal Democrats then in office for permission to fight for civil rights and Black liberation or to protest the war. They just did it, mobilizing millions and effectively saying in the immortal words of Bob Dylan that "your sons and daughters are beyond your command." The whole ethos of a generation and a country changed.
Read the whole thing as they say. If I participate, you shall see me wearing one of these, which will probably cause me to get shot 41 times. Related: These people are also pissed off at Democrats and Pennsylvania's Senate race is one of the reasons.