Last week President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. His announcement caused huge celebration in the anti-fossil fuel resistance movement. The victory made it clear that we’re living in revolutionary times. Powerful movements for social justice are springing up everywhere, not only on the climate change front, but more generally nationally and internationally.
Even more importantly, there is a red thread running through it all. The changes (and there are many as we’ll see) all represent the impending collapse of capitalism. We are likely standing on the brink of a transformation world-wide that parallels the fall of the Soviet Union a quarter century ago.
To begin with, think about what’s happening with the climate movement. Environmental activists are on a surprising roll in terms of their recent successes.
- The September 2014 Great Climate March in New York City which brought out 400,000 people.
- The subsequent rapid spread of the fossil fuel divestment movement.
- The recent TransCanada Corporation’s decision to temporarily suspend the XL Pipeline project even before President’s Obama’s announcement.
- The unexpected election of Justin Trudeau as Canadian Prime Minister on a platform highlighting commitment to Canada’s First Nations who are key players in the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
- Shell Oil’s abandonment of its arctic drilling plans.
- The expose of ExxonMobil’s cover-up of its own 1980s research identifying fossil fuel combustion as a major cause of global warming. (Despite its findings the company spent millions over a 27 year period promoting climate change denial.)
- The prospect of a lawsuit against ExxonMobil for adopting that “cigarette strategy.”
- Widespread outrage following the release of the Transpacific Partnership text which accords multinational corporations the power to override local environmental protection standards because they might impede corporate profit.
- The resultant promise of huge demonstrations and citizen lobbying efforts against the treaty.
- Pope Francis’ eco-encyclical, Laudato Si’, legitimizing the positions of environmental activists previously called “extremists” for expressing the same ideas.
- Next month’s Climate Conference in Paris which promises to yield further victories.
As Naomi Klein has pointed out, such changes – such widespread resistance throughout what she calls “Blockadia” – change everything. They signal a growing awareness that an economy based on fossil fuel consumption just cannot continue.
And that’s not all. Other mobilizations of people dissatisfied with the socio-economic status quo are sweeping our own nation and creating new socio-political configurations. Here I’m thinking of:
- The success of the Occupy Movement in coining the “One Percent” watchword and making economic disparity a key political campaign issue.
- The unexpected phenomenon of the Bernie Sanders presidential candidacy. (After more than 50 years of subjecting Americans to the most intense anti-socialist propaganda, who would have thought that a self-identified socialist could gain such a following?)
- The mobilization of the Black Lives Matter campaign as a 21st century resurrection of the Civil Rights Movement.
- The spread of the movement to campuses like Yale and the University of Missouri where students of color forced the resignation of Mizzou’s president and chancellor.
- The invasion of our country (and of Europe) with refugees from the U.S.-led and/or supported wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere. (In fact, refugees represent the most powerful and effective anti-war marchers in the history of our planet.)
- The invasion of the U.S. with refugees from Mexico and Central America demonstrating the failure of the War on Drugs which has torn that country and region apart.
- Ditto for immigrants manufactured by the disastrous North American Free Trade Agreement and its Central American counterpart (CAFTA).
Yes, the chickens of Orwellian wars and of neo-liberal economic policies are coming home to roost with a vengeance. It is now possible to speak openly (as Pope Francis has done) about the failures of unfettered capitalism. It not only destroys the environment. It creates massive wealth disparities and unemployment especially in communities of color. Government cut-backs in public services (including police training) wreak havoc everywhere. As a result people are out in the streets. They’re stopping traffic. Students are walking out of class. Even the Mizzou football team and its coach went on strike.
Finally, think about what’s happening internationally:
- On June 17 th 2014, 133 of the world’s 196 countries met and declared their intention to “destroy the New World Order” championed by Western Empire.
- Russia has risen from the ashes and is confronting the Empire on all fronts.
- Vladimir Putin has emerged as the world’s most effective international leader and practitioner of diplomacy aimed at and independence from U.S. Empire.
- Russia and China are both returning to their socialist roots often advancing policies far more humane than their western counterparts.
- Despite recent setbacks, Greece has threatened the neo-liberal order in the heart of the European Union. SYRIZA’s original anti-austerity message has spread to Italy, Spain, and France.
- Latin America has broken free of the shackles of the Monroe Doctrine. Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil are all forging their own paths while cooperating with and supporting one another. All are moving closer to Russia and China.
- The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) representing at least half the planet’s population, are trading with each other in their own currencies now making themselves immune from western sanctions.
- World-wide computer news sites have largely replaced a corporate-controlled mainstream media (MSM). People have awakened to the fact that the MSM can’t be trusted. In Latin America, Russia, China, and Iran, the new media are not even “alternative” any longer. Their mission is exposing the crimes of the West, its Empire and client states. Their message couldn’t be more straight-forward: No more war, torture, rape or genocide.
Economist, Richard Wolff, is fond of saying that when social change happens, it often comes quickly. He says that for decades it might seem that nothing happens. Then in a matter of days, decades happen. That’s the Soviet Union story of a little over 25 years ago.
We’re now in one of those periods where pent-up frustration and zeal for change is being released with hurricane force. It’s a good time to be alive – and to get on the band wagon.