above, for articles in
Champions for Peace:
almost exactly 102 years since the Industrial Workers of the World was born here
in Chicago. I learned about the IWW from my father, Claude, who was a founding
member of the Wobblies in Sydney, Australia. The Wobblies, he would say, spoke
the minds of ordinary people and were prepared to stand up and fight--and
standing up and fighting was what mattered.
itís fitting that my own political education should achieve graduation here on
the streets of Chicago, during the four days of August in 1968, when the antiwar
movement marched on the Democratic Partyís infamous convention from that
on those marches as a foreign correspondent. Although I was tear-gassed during
the battle of Michigan Avenue, I was delighted to learn I could outrun a posse
of Chicago cops, wishing to break my head with their nightsticks.
year and the years that followed, millions of young Americans reclaimed much of
this country from the warmakers. The atmosphere was electric, inspiring--at
times, almost revolutionary. People from all backgrounds were proud to belong to
a movement that fought for civil rights in America and peace in
did that movement achieve? It finally ended slavery in the South, and it stopped
an all-out military mobilization that would have set alight Asia well beyond
the same critical public intelligence is stirring again. Generations immersed in
Cold War and post-Cold War propaganda are waking up--thanks to Bush, Cheney and
Blair and the rest of the gang. A great many people in the West no longer see
humanity merely through the eyes of their rulers and the media--as useful or
expendable, as worthy or unworthy.
believe that fundamental changes in public attitudes are underway, especially
toward governments, patriotism and war.
an awakening expressed both directly and indirectly. Witness the millions of
people who took to the streets in cities all over the world in those two days in
February 2003--the first time in history an invasion was so widely condemned
before it began.
the response of people in the West to the tsunami in 2004. While Bush and Blair
offered stricken countries aid worth less than the cost of Bushís inauguration
party, ordinary humanity reached out. More than charity, their generosity was, I
believe, a spontaneous attempt to reclaim the politics of community, morality
and internationalism. It was a statement to the warmongers and the neoliberal
fanatics that we, the people, are different from them.
Britain today, the majority of opinion polls leave no doubt that most people
revile Blair as a liar. In the years Iíve lived in Britain, Iíve never known
such contempt for a prime minister. In the last two British general elections,
barely a fifth of the eligible adult population voted for the Blair
government--the lowest turnout since the vote was won a century ago.
wasnít apathy, as the media like to tell us. It was, and it is a general
great liberal thinker Walter Lippmann once described the public as a bewildered
herd. This contempt is shared today by those who claim his elite legacy, in
politics and the media. Why? Because they fear that the so-called herd will
suddenly change direction.
fear this because they know their power is not invincible. Thatís why they
expend so much energy and wealth trying to distract and deceive us. Thatís why
the New York Times on Thursday of this week carried a full-page decrying the
campaign for sanctions against Israel. There was a sense of panic about that ad.
Why? Because the boycott campaign is growing, and growing fast--and Tel Aviv and
Washington fear its power.
course, there are those who argue that ordinary people have been successfully
distracted. Well, if they have, the anesthetic is wearing off.
would have predicted--including, perhaps, some of you here tonight--those recent
huge demonstrations of anger by Latino immigrants? Here were the lowest-paid,
the most brutalized, suddenly demonstrating their power. I must admit, I looked
at the pictures of that great militant spectacle on the streets of America, and
felt both admiration and a sense of longing.
two-thirds of Americans want their country out of Iraq, according to the polls.
To achieve that, they voted for the Democratic Party last November. And what did
they get? They got the usual bipartisan bullshit, and Bush got another $124
billion to extend the war.
have been some great demonstrations against the war, but the so-called liberal
Democrats have been allowed to confuse and divide the forces of dissent, and not
for the first time.
was the same party in government that attacked Vietnam, then produced a
carpet-bagger, Robert Kennedy, and a false prophet, Jimmy Carter, and clever,
head-wagging Bill Clinton, who rained bombs on Iraq and destroyed its children,
while ending the last decencies of the New Deal.
surely time to abandon wishful thinking, the lesser of two evils, and the
Democrats completely--just as Britons are abandoning Blairís corrupted Labour
itís surely time for the antiwar movement to address the alienation of ordinary
Americans, and express their dissent and anger and frustration. Itís simply not
good enough for certain groups to claim their own territory. This week, in Los
Angeles, the theme of the gay pride celebration was being who you are. Thatís
fine. But was there anything said about the 655,000 Iraqis who have no choice
ever again to be who they are?
believe people are never still, and that human renewal is not a phenomenon. Yes,
the continuation of a struggle at times appears frozen. But thereís always a sea
beneath the snow.
at countries where it seemed hopeless--where people had nothing except their
will and courage, like South Africa, East Timor and many others. Look at Latin
America today. The sheer ferocity of the propaganda coming from the American
media tells us that something good and exciting and hopeful must be happening
down there, and it is.
the triumph of indigenous people in Bolivia--the poorest of the poor. Remember
SŠnchez de Lozada running for his plane to Miami. Look at Venezuela, and the
tens of thousands of people who came down from the barrios to rescue their
president. Witness the Venezuelan children who no longer die from preventable
even at the Middle East, where every day, Palestinian families get their
children to school against odds that we canít imagine. Look at the ordinary
people, who, unarmed, marched toward the Israeli army in southern Lebanon last
year, and saw them off.
all the headlines about Iraq, the one we never read is that a popular Iraqi
national resistance is defeating the most powerful invader in
believe, in conclusion, that our task is straightforward. It is to reject
outright the notion that collusive liberalism sets the limits of free debate. It
is to end indulgence of parliaments and congresses and governments that commit
and sanction crimes in our name. It is to persuade people that their precious
freedoms were not handed to them, but won by the struggle of people just like
activists, never believe that ordinary people are as conservative as you might
think they are. Remember always, how isolated people often are. And as
activists, be brave. Always speak your mind in the face of the most casual
bigotry, bullying and hypocrisy.
are potentially the greatest popular movement the world has seen. And those who
regard humanity merely as useful or expendable should be warned. People all over
the world are rising. Indeed, I would say that their resistance never
stopped--and is unbeatable.
John Pilger is a vibrant investigative
journalist and documentary filmmaker who has reported on wars and revolts on
every continent for forty years. The above comments were delivered
before the Socialism Convention in Chicago 2007. He is the
author of numerous books, including most recently Freedom Next Time. This
essay is herein reprinted with the author's permission.
Posted September 02, 2007
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