We live in a time of significant change.

We live in a time of significant change. Living out of balance economically and politically for the past 40 or 45 years with a growing gap between family wealth of rich and poor, and with changes occurring because of people around the world wanting to increase the living standards of working people, and because we in the US lose purchasing power each year, the people demand change. 

How do we bring about the kinds of change we want? In this kind of environment, it would be very easy for a fascist to step in and gain the hearts and minds of people just as Hitler did after WW I. Germany was left in such a devastated state and huge debts against their government as their cost of starting the war, the people were ready for anyone who promised them a way out.

Howard Zinn talked about change, its risks and opportunities.

"Significant changes occur when social movements reach a critical point of power capable of moving cautious politicians beyond their tendency to keep things as they are — or when these movements, by direct action, bypass the political system and bring about change by acting directly on the obstacles to change.”

The Anti-slavery movement pushed President Lincoln and Congress toward the 13th, 14, and 15 Amendments to the constitution.

The Labor movement become militant, and called strikes directly against employers and pushed the government into the New Deal reforms: minimum wage, Social Security, subsidized housing, etc.

As Duane S. Vogel wrote, other movements at the grassroots level leveraged their political power to bring about changes, i.e. the suffrage movement, Trust breakers, the populist movement and the civil rights movement.

“We live in an oligarchic police state, but so did the people who stood up at the time. They had their heads bashed in, but they eventually won.”

When does real change take place in the USA? Zinn stated that in regards to the means of production and the distribution of power to the working class, power to command could not be voted away. When the power of the wealthy has dominion over a people, the people have the right and responsibility to command their sovereignty.

Change does not come through voting, it comes through people at the grassroots level taking action to force the government to change or end the empire. FDR was forced to put into place the New Deal because of the demands of the people. He didn’t go into office planning to overturn the oligarchs. The Robber Barons had too much power and the only way to get them out was for the people to force the president into action.

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Comment by tom sarbeck on June 22, 2015 at 12:29pm

It's a true saying ... that we get the government we deserve.

That thought reminds me of the "we are all sinners" talk I heard in Catholic schools.

In its stead, try we get the government we allow.

Comment by tom sarbeck on June 22, 2015 at 12:21pm

People are defenceless against the powers that be.

If that is not a self-fulfilling prediction, it certainly contradicts much of history.

Comment by Gerald Payne on June 21, 2015 at 10:55am

These are difficult issues to pin down Michael. Without profit we stagnate, with profit we probably feather someone  else's nest. The fact of the matter is that the status quo is all powerful. People are defenceless against the powers that be.

Comment by Michael Penn on June 21, 2015 at 8:49am

The entire idea seems to be taking the safeguards off everything used by the consumer in the name of profit. If we can make more crap or create more crap without worry of regulation, then the profits will be higher. The corporate world lives by this as they try to lull us to sleep on real issues.

It's up to the rest of us to make real truth known.

Comment by tom sarbeck on June 21, 2015 at 4:40am

An ancient Chinese curse: May you live in a time of change.

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on June 19, 2015 at 11:14am

Joan, we totally live in a time of significant economic, political and Climate Change. This moment in history is a big tipping point.

In short, the next four days seem like the final knife-edge precipice to irreversible Climate Crisis. Meanwhile the public and our "leaders" are effectively blind to our danger.

unrelated image source

Comment by Ted Foureagles on June 17, 2015 at 4:39pm

From the perspective of a U.S. citizen I think it informative, even vital, to understand, learn from and reject or adopt or adapt historical policies.  The Soviet Union didn't last, but for complex reasons beyond simple Communism vs. Capitalism.  China has had to adapt, and is starting to do quite well by many measures.  The U.S. seems to be fading even as it expands influence and becomes more and more polarized between the haves and have nots while most Socialist Democracies in the world, at least those not being militarily and diplomatically suppressed, are doing pretty well.

I'd really like to think that we could stand on our hind legs and change things, but I'm becoming cynical.  I protested the Vietnam war and in part our protests ended that war by making Nixon realize that he couldn't forever get away with doing whatever he wanted.  Without that resistance it could have been business as usual and we might have had a Haig / Kissinger administration and nine more years of senseless war.

But I see little like that now.  Oh there was the Occupy movement that made a strong statement and then fizzled, and I fear that current enthusiasm for Bernie Sander's message will fade when electoral reality settles next year.  But where are those willing to vigorously oppose the status-quo and get hauled to jail for it.  There are a few, and I wish that I were still young and vital enough to join them.  But they are very few and their voices are drowned by overwhelming corporate money that increasingly rules U.S. politics.

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Comment by Gerald Payne on June 17, 2015 at 3:23am

It's a true saying Joan that we get the government we deserve. Socialism Although ethically a far fairer system hasn't got the wealth generating impetus of capitalism. But capitalism could be a quick fix in historical terms with socialism proving its true value over the longer period. I personally think that capitalism is a hangover from the religious era, and socialist ideas will advance as superstition recedes. It's not going to happen overnight, and these things are more to do with states of mind than political choices, but I think there will be an evolution towards socialism, without the need for a revolution.

Comment by Gerald Payne on June 17, 2015 at 1:56am

An aristocracy of the rich seems to be evolving Joan. Was it inevitable? Maybe it's a natural consequence of capitalism. But capitalism, even in the social democracies of Europe, is the only mechanism proven to drive growth.  We've seen how economies, guided by well meaning ideologies, have collapsed under their own weight.

As more and more people struggle to make ends meet, and charitable organisations seem to have to pick up the tab, it's clear governments are having to make some tough decisions, but I get the impression, in the UK at least, that the economic situation is being used as an excuse to implement right wing ideology. People are taking it on the chin, but for how long?

It's not so much a change of system that's needed as a change of priority. Governments stress the need for pay restraint at the middle and lower end of the earning scale, whilst allowing the top earners pay rises of 20% or more, under the defenceless claim that their powerless to do anything about it. Then there's the call for less taxes to stimulate growth, more growth, more jobs, problem solved. Nice if it was that simple. The chief responsibility of government is the health and welfare of its citizens, not the latest craze in economic management.

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