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Reflections on the World Social Forum. Tunis, Spring 2013.

Tunisia is a society under construction. After a successful revolution in 2011 that sparked the "Arab Spring", the country, and the entire region, are in the midst of profound social transformation. I went to Tunisia thrilled to learn from the social movements that overthrew a profoundly entrenched, decades-long dictatorship. The World Social Forum (WSF), held in Tunis in late March, occurred in the wake of this groundbreaking change. The Forum brought together 50,000 people from social movements on all over the world to share and learn from each other and from the advances of the "Arab Spring."

Alma Blackwell, lead member of Causa Justa :: Just Cause, and I were both part of a majority-women of color delegation of Left community-based organizations from the United States, organized by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ). In our community organizing work at Causa Justa :: Just Cause in California, we emphasize bringing our work to scale, and building a movement strong enough to have national impact. Just last month, we helped launch Right to the City's national "Homes for All" campaign and brought together homeowners in foreclosure with public housing residents, homeless people with renters, all with the goal of building a movement large enough to win the change we need.

5 dgheadshot220This interview originally appeared in Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture, 5:2, 259-270.  For a PDF of the interview, go here. It is reprinted here with permission.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many activists looked to the prisons for political leadership, while viewing prisons themselves as institutions of repression and social control integral to larger systems of oppression. Around the world, the prisoner emerged as an icon of state repression and a beacon of liberation. If the prison served as the bricks and mortar of oppression, the prisoner became the flesh and blood of movement iconography. Black American prisoners held special sway within this global visibility of confinement, in part because so many prisoners became prolific authors connected to wider social movements of the time. In prison, black activists from Martin Luther King, Jr to George Jackson and Assata Shakur penned tracts that offered trenchant insights into race, class, and American power. Black activists proved the most incisive, the most creative, inheritors of a deep and multiracial tradition of political critique behind bars. These imprisoned author-activists articulate a profound paradox: one of the best places to understand the "land of the free" is the place where freedom was most elusive. It was both a sobering and inspiring message for a generation on the move.

Published in Community Organizing

 ArabSpringThis is the second section of  a three-part piece by Bill Fletcher, Jr, reposted from Philosophers for Change. The last post, available here, addressed the current political context and efforts at socialist renewal.  This post addresses: “The Arab democratic uprising and the rise of mass Left radicalism” and “The question of who makes history”


The Arab democratic uprising and the rise of mass Left radicalism

The reshaping of the global Left, and quite possibly global politics, may have been found in the Arab democratic uprising (what some call the “Arab Spring” or Arab Democratic Revolution) that kicked off with the December 2010 rising in Tunisia. Though none of these uprisings can be described as “Left”, at least in traditional terms, and though in some places the Left played a role in the uprisings, e.g., Tunisia, the scale and scope of the uprisings has been so significant so as to send shockwaves around the planet that go beyond the Left.  In effect these uprisings were anti-neo-colonial and objectively anti-neo-liberal.  They were mass and were not religiously inspired (though drew upon various faiths for inspiration).[iii]  And, contrary to many prior risings in the Arab World, they were not coups but rather were mass interventions that in many cases brought normal life to a halt.           

Published in Bill Fletcher

to kick wars outWashington's Wars and Occupations:
Month in Review #85 • May 31, 2012

By Greg Hom

Taking inspiration from the IVAW activists who led the big anti-NATO protests in Chicago, Greg Hom assesses the continuing challenges facing antiwar activists regarding Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Mali.

Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans, hand-in-hand with Afghans for Peace, made history this month when they led a march of thousands against NATO and returned their Global War on Terror medals to NATO's generals. Just the boost needed for the hard work ahead in the face of challenging developments from the Middle East/West Asia to too-often-ignored Africa. Adding a complicating twist, this is an election year in the U.S. It’s a lot, but it’s a crazy and big world.

Published in War and Militarism

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