“Sept 17. Wall St. Bring Tent.” With a simple tweet to its email list Adbusters, an anti-capitalist magazine based in British Columbia, launched a movement which would soon inspire people across the world.
Occupy Wall Street brought to the limelight the consequences of failed and/or misguided/guided, depending upon your point of view, economic and domestic policies, but the Occupy movement isn’t about electoral politics and progressives need a movement that is deeply involved in and committed to electoral politics. In the early 1930s the US had strong organizations that influenced the politics of the day. The socialists, communists, and the trade unions (before the disgrace of the AFL/CIO came along) were powerful forces which were primarily responsible for many of the social programs the right is still trying to destroy today. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 began the systematic destruction of the labor movement and union leadership blindly helped. By the 1950s, the unions and the McCarthys had driven the socialists and the communists from the arena.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Today we have any number of groups who represent any number of interests. They raise funds, recruit members, send out petitions, operate phone banks; but when it comes to putting progressive candidates in office, they can’t seem to organize themselves for a common purpose. Enter Van Jones’ Rebuild The Dream. Jones has some ideas on how to build a movement with enough power to make things happen. It’s not a dogmatic blueprint, but rather a template that can be molded to meet the requirements of local, state, and at some point, national progressive campaigns. It’s difficult in a short introduction like this to summarize a book of this nature, but in the book’s Introduction, Jones writes, “The aim of this book is to prepare citizens and community members at the grassroots level to see their own power differently – and to exercise their own leadership more boldly.” In the main portion of the book he shares his ideas as to how we can organize to accomplish that.
We’ve talked of alternatives here at the Lake for a long time; but the harsh reality has been, and continues to be, there isn’t a progressive movement that can pull together the resources of all the interest groups out there and at the same time have those groups maintain their identity, independence and continue their activities.
Van Jones looks at three movements, Obama For America, the Tea Party, and Occupy Wall Street. I think we’re all pretty familiar with Occupy Wall Street so I won’t go there. In 2008 Obama For America helped get Obama elected and was promptly co-opted by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for its own use after the election. I think most of us have gotten email requests for money from Organizing For America. In 2009 the Tea Party launched. No charismatic leader, just a set of principles that were acceptable to a vast number of people: small government, free markets, individualism, all that cool libertarian stuff, and funded in large part by the likes of the Koch brothers, or as they’re fondly known hereabouts, the Kochroach brothers. One thing both the Tea Party and Occupy were able to do was bring together all these separate groups, over 3000 groups self-affiliate with the Tea Party, under a common banner, a Meta-Brand Jones called it at Netroots Nation last year.
This is the gist of Rebuild The Dream. We have to build a sustainable progressive movement if we want to see any form of social or economic justice, not just for the 99% but for 100%. All the years I was in the streets against the Irak war I was repeatedly asked, “I know what you’re against but what are you for?” The Tea Party has a set of principles it has set forth, the Contract From America, not that different from the Contract for America from 1994. The Rebuild The Dream movement also has a set of principles and it’s called the Contract for the American Dream. Quite a difference between the two. This is the American Dream of Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, not the dream of the Ownership Society.
The Rebuild The Dream movement isn’t exactly new. It launched this month a year ago. Van Jones has been a major spokesman for the movement, not surprising since he’s a co-founding president of the organization. This isn’t a single issue movement, unless one considers putting people in positions to effect meaningful change within their communities and beyond a single issue, be they Greens, Democrats, whatever. As they strapped Joe Hill to a chair in a prison yard in Utah to be shot to death, he said, “Don’t mourn. Organize!”
Van Jones is a long time advocate and activist for green energy and jobs. In addition to Rebuild the Dream he is the co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change and Green For All, all of which have been very successful. He worked as the green jobs advisor to the White House in 2009.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]