Letters and Politics

Protest is Broken: A Conversation with Micah White

Micah White is considered a co-founder of the Occupy Wall Street Movement as he put out the call for the original protest in 2011 while with the group Adbusters. He says the protest tactics of today are broken.

And, Beyond Greece: Debt Globally

With Tim Jones, economist with the Jubilee Debt Campaign and author of the report The New Debt Trap: How the Response to the Last Global Financial Crisis Laid the Ground for the Next.

From the report:

Debt crises have become dramatically more frequent across the world since the deregulation of lending and global financial flows in the 1970s. An underlying cause of the most recent global financial crisis, which began in 2008, was the rise in inequality and the concentration of wealth. This made more people and countries more dependent on debt, and increased the amount of money going into speculation on risky financial assets. Increasing inequality reduces economic growth as higher income groups spend a smaller proportion of their income on goods and services than middle- and low-earners. To tackle this problem, countries relied on either increasing debts, or for the countries which are the source of the loans, promoting exports through lending. This allowed growth to continue even though little income was going to poorer groups in society.
Meanwhile, the rich were putting more of their growing share of national income into speculative lending and risky financial investments, in search of higher returns. Rising inequality, along with financial deregulation, therefore fuelled an unsustainable boom in lending and was an underlying factor behind the crisis which began
in 2008.
  • Martha

    Mitch. I’m really disappointed in your softball interview of Micha White-The tactics are all broken? And we are to wait for that emotional, magical moment to do something no one has done yet? Seriously? Am I the only one who finds this whole interview odious in the extreme? I am really saddened that you did not question White’s blanket statements about protest and civil disobedience at all. You let him lead the listeners into total inertia, since he is unwilling to state any action he does support. I suppose we should all wait for the next time he and his pals decide to drop an innovative tactic, as they supposedly did in Occupy. How dare he describe the movement against bank crime as an experiment that needed to happen! (and then failed, because somehow, it would be cool to see what happened if a movement had no demands.) People’s lives have been ruined, and this guy’s flippant tone is beyond offensive. I am a regular listener to your show and I would love to hear how some of the brilliant people you’ve interviewed over the years, ones who have given their lives over to struggles using multiple means of effecting change, would respond to this poser.

  • Karin Lease

    Well Micah….if you’re not going to support Bernie because he’s too “old
    school”….who ya gonna vote for….Hillary or Jeb Bush? They’re not
    “old school”? You like corporate money? Thanks for throwing Bernie along with progressive citizens, under the bus. I mean really…who ya gonna vote for? I know Micah isn’t “on here”, so he won’t answer, but just sayin’….

    • Hi Karin,

      Follow your heart.


      • Jonathan Campbell

        Dear Micah,

        I think, unfortunately, you have completely misread or misinterpreted classical protest. Without realizing it, you are throwing 4 decades of successful protest campaigns under the bus (along with Bernie Sanders).

        The Vietnam War, the largest war endeavor since the 2 World Wars, was stopped by protest. But it needed more than a small, essentially leaderless group of occupiers, even the many thousands of similarly essentially leaderless protesters walking through the streets.

        Stopping the Vietnam War did not happen by an emotional awakening. I know, because I was involved in the movements that stopped that war. It took a combination of effective leadership nationwide, along with people who were committed to doing more than just marching and protesting. To stop the Vietnam War took students shutting down their ROTC centers and their universities, sometimes at their peril, as we learned at Kent State and Jackson State. It took longshoremen refusing to load the weapons and materials ships going to Vietnam. It took soldiers, who were convinced by our bold actions at home, who then refused to fight. There were thousands of us, working and organizing and taking public actions.

        Yet we did not change the system, because we did not fully understand its power structures, the nature of its hold over most of the world’s citizens, or the acceleration of its destruction of the world around us.

        Naomi Klein states this so clearly when she says that the right-wing anti-climate change folks understand very well that if people really understood the nature of climate change, they would understand the central problem that is commodifying and destroying the earth, sending our jobs to China and Pakistan, and bankrupting us as workers or students or homeowners. That problem, as Klein so brilliantly states, is the dreaded “C” word: Capitalism.

        Organizing to change the system, and find an alternative to capitalism that works, is not a short-term proposition. It will take us a lifetime. I’m not sure we can succeed, but we can sure try. Meanwhile, the best we can do is to organize movements everywhere to mitigate the damage being done to everyone and everything. It will take whistleblower martyrs like Edward Snowden to stop over-reaching surveillance. It will take brave people in towns and cities to expose and stop police violence against blacks and latinos. It will take non-violent civil disobedience to stop dangerous pipelines. It will take huge boycotts and other actions to break the power of the giant corporations.

        Neither the long-term problems nor the damage mitigation will be accomplished by the navel-gazing and posting on social media that you suggest.

        Jon Campbell

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