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Front Page > Issues > 2002 > October

A few words from the editor, Oct 2002

We find ourselves, once again, perched at the edge of the abyss. As we’ve stated more than once this year, as you read this issue of The Portland Alliance, the United States may be waging war against Iraq. George W. Bush, the man we all enjoy laughing at because of his obvious inadequacy, appears ready to launch a new military adventure whether any or not anyone else approves.

While George prepares to expand our imperial frontiers overseas, his minions are working overtime battening down the hatches on what remains of our civil liberties. Attorney General Ashcroft, the lunatic who has made a personal pledge to restore the reputation of Jefferson Davis and has ordered the covering of nude statues, continues to escape censure from a Congress too interested in its own reelection to actually take a stand. The Attorney General has taken a few hits from both sides of the aisle, but none have proved slowed his efforts to militarize our judicial system.

Many progressives and other folks feel overwhelmed by these events. One veteran activist described told me she felt as if she was walking through cotton, struggling with every step and unable to see anything around her. I’ve heard similar remarks from others.

Such feelings are understandable. We are, after all, at the mercy of a clueless president and a Strangelovian cabal of “advisors” who could very well blow up the whole show. But we shouldn’t lose site that the power we face is not invincible. We can find examples around us of people resisting and succeeding against incredible odds.

Last month the Alliance, along with several local organizations, sponsored a forum on the U.S. presence in the Philippines. Although the growing U.S. military presence in the Philippines is cause for concern — it is likely the Bush administration will seek to reopen the military base at Subic Bay — the real story of interest that evening was the description of how the Philippine people successfully toppled a corrupt, autocratic president (their second successful toppling in 30 years if anyone is counting).

Ace Victor, coordinator of the Filipino Workers Action Center and convenor of the “Not to the WTO” people’s assembly, played a significant role in the organizing that eventually led to the mass actions that toppled the Philippine president. He described the strategy as one of “arouse, mobilize, and organize.” Organizers went into the local communities, bringing people together around local issues. The key was helping people to see the link between these local issues and the broader underlying cause — imperialism, more specifically, U.S. imperialism. From that common perception, organized community groups, despite certain sectarian difference, were able to come together in large formations to achieve specific goals. In this case, that strategy led to general strikes across the Philippines that brought the nation to a halt, forced the Philippine judiciary to move forward with an indictment of the president, and eventually forced that president to flee.

Our own anti-war movement in Portland could take heart and an important lesson from the brave people of the Philippine. That movement continues to focus too much on the symptom — war — rather than the cause — imperialism. Some elements within our anti-war movement clearly want to avoid the issues of class and race an anti-imperialist analysis would raise out of fear it may scare off the middle class elements of the movement.

By taking up such an analysis, the anti-war movement would make far more new friends than those whey would lose from such a move. As most the people of the world already know, the problem is not a president, or a political party, or any other single factor. The current state of the world and the way in which the U.S. behaves in that world is a manifestation of problems that are systemic. We are not going to get out of this for once and all by adopting a few timid reforms. We need to aggressively pursue actions intended to curb imperialism’s reach inside and outside the frontiers of our empire.

Taking a page from our comrades in the Philippines, we must go out and create a presence in our communities. We must take up local issues. We must stretch beyond our own boundaries and organize people we may not normally encounter but with whom we clearly through our shared struggle enjoy a bond.

Imagine organizing the next anti-war, or I should say anti-imperialist, demonstration somewhere in Washington County’s Silicon Forest. Many of Oregon’s high tech firms do work that eventually has a military application. Such firms, furthermore, rely heavily on workers from southern Asia, people familiar with imperialism’s legacy and open to joining us in the struggle.

Who knows, if the Philippines are any indicator, we could change the world. That’s a remedy for even the most despairing activist in our midst.


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Last Updated: January 29, 2003