Archive for the ‘Inspiring Moments in Resistance’ Category

Tales of Resistance: the Battle of Newbury Bypass

Directed by Jamie Lowe (2016)

This inspirational video is about the massive British resistance movement that arose in the 1990s to oppose the frenetic highway building spree of Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Majors. It culminated in the Battle of the Newbury Bypass, which destroyed nine miles of pristine old growth forest to build and extension to the M3. The stand-off between tree sitters and police lasted three months. The protestors were eventually evicted and the highway built – but at immense cost to the government. By the time the protest ended, public opposition to the highway expansion scheme was so strong the government had to end it.

The documentary depicts quite elegantly the advanced technical expertise required to carry off a massive tree sitting campaign, as well as the powerful sense of community that evolved between the protestors who assembled from across the country. Surprisingly the hardest aspect of this type of direct action is boredom, ie the long wait for the police to take action.

The footage of the police and security personnel brutally removing protestors from hundreds of trees is ugly enough. The scenes of majestic hundreds of years old oaks and evergreens being felled are heart wrenching.

The BBC

The Forbidden Colony

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This Al Jazeera documentary examines the undemocratic nature of the European Union and it’s role in allowing banks and multinational corporations to colonize Europe. It begins by focusing on the EU Parliament, which meets in secret and bans public observation of its proceedings. Elected members of the EU Parliament lack the authority to initiate legislation. They can only rubber stamp laws proposed by the non-elected European Commission.

Croatian philosopher Srecko Horbat examines the right and left wing movements that have arisen in reaction in response to the massive economic dislocation (job loss, low wages, high housing costs) people have experienced following the creation of the EU.

The far right tends to campaign against the massive influx of migrants, which they blame for their declining standard of living. The left, in contrast, is more focused on rebuilding European democracy from the ground up.

For me, the most interesting part of the film was its examination of various European experiments in direct democracy. Examples include

  • The grassroots movements in Hamburg and 170 other German cities and towns that have bought back electric power companies from private companies to hasten their transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
  • Ada Colau, the radical mayor of Barcelona,* who is working to transform squats into cooperatives and forcing banks to make vacant buildings available for social housing.
  • Greece’s parallel economy, which operatives massive “no middlemen” food markets in reaction to price gouging by corporate supermarket chains.

*The capitol of Catalonia, which is organizing a popular referendum to declare independence from Spain – see Showdown in Spain

The Whole World is Watching celebrates the vital importance of citizen journalism (and the Internet) in a time of growing corruption and repression on the part of governments who serve corporate paymasters rather than the people they’re supposed to represent.

Highlighting growing police attacks on journalists and photographers, the filmmakers outline the laws regulating filming and taking photos in public places. In essence, a person standing on public property has an absolute right to film anything within their line of vision – provided it doesn’t violate another person’s reasonable expectation of private (eg if they’re undressing). The police are behaving unlawfully by demanding to see a photographer’s identification, deleting their photos or confiscating their photos, videos or equipment.

The documentary features Will Potter, independent journalist and author of Green is the New Red, about the ongoing US effort to criminalize environmental activists. See his blog at  Green is the New Red

 

 

How to Change the World

Directed by Jerry Rothwell (2015)

Film Review

Māori TV showed How to Change the World last night. It relates the story of the 1971 founding of the international environmental group Greenpeace. Based on archival Greenpeace footage and retrospective interviews with its founders, the documentary makes it appear as if the organization founded itself by accident out of Vancouver’s strong anti-Vietnam war movement. During the late sixties and early seventies, the Canadian city was a magnet for young American expatriates fleeing the draft.

The accidental pairing of eco-freaks with antiwar activists in a sea protest to block a nuclear test on the Aleutian island of Amitchitka led them to coin a name – Greenpeace – representing both camps.

Bob Hunter, an environmental reporter for the Vancouver Sun, went along on that first protest in his journalistic role. When the popular uproar generated by that first protest resulted in the shutdown of the Amitchka nuclear test site, he resigned from his newspaper job to spearhead the Greenpeace Save the Whales campaign. His genius lay in creating media “mind bombs” with spectacular footage that instantly riveted popular attention.

The documentary replays the original footage from a confrontation with a Soviet whaling ship off the California coast. It’s graphically cruel and bloody and definitely unsuitable for children’s viewing.

The founders allowed the name Greenpeace to be freely borrowed by environmental groups all over the world. Which, as with most grassroots organizations, led to significant growing pains. Hunter made a number of unpopular decisions without consulting the rest of the group. One of the most contentious was his decision to accept the CIA ‘s offer of free fuel and intelligence an the location of Soviet whaling vessels.

The film can be viewed for free for the next few weeks at the Māori TV website:

How to Change the World

The Prison Factory

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This remarkable Al Jazeera documentary is about an Alabama prisoner named Kinetik Justice who organized the September 2016 nationwide prison strike with a cellphone he smuggled into solitary confinement. The strike, which spread to 50 prisons in 24 states, also included guards in some prisons, owing to their abysmal working conditions.

Strike demands included an end the illegal use of solitary confinement and beatings by guards, overcrowding (most Alabama prisons exceed their capacity by 100%), inedible food, lack of access to health care and being forced to work without pay.

The escalating hunger strikes and work stoppages organized by Kinetik Justice and the Free Alabama Movement prompted the Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation into Alabama prisons (where the majority of prisoners are African American) in 2016.

Since Trump has taken office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who as governor reinstated chain gains in Alabama prisons in 1995) has announced the Department of Justice will “back off” this investigation.

In 1996, Sessions’ chain gangs were outlawed by federal court.

Anarchism in America

Pacific Street Films (2009)

Film Review

Despite its 2009 release, this fascinating documentary is largely based on 1980s interviews with America’s most prominent anarchists, including Karl Hess, Molly Stermer, Murray Boochkin and Ed Edamen. As well as a rare interview with Emma Goldman at age 64 (1933) when she was granted a 90-day permit to return to the US.

There is also footage from the 1919-1920 Palmer Raids, in which thousands of anarchists (including Goldman) were rounded up and jailed and/or deported; the global protests triggered by the police frame-up (1920) of Boston anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti; the Spanish Civil War (during which 3 million anarchists ran their own towns, schools, clinics and cultural centers for three years); and the anarchists involved in civil disobedience during the 1980s anti-nuclear movement.

Dispelling many common misconceptions about anarchism, the filmmakers depict anarchist political philosophy as the belief that people are capable of governing themselves independent of any state or hierarchical authority. They challenge all hierarchy – whether in male-female relations, the family, schools or work. Instead they champion decentralized participatory democracy.

Several of the anarchists interviewed view anarchism and distrust of authority as innate in the American cultural identity. This is evidenced by pervasive anti-government and anti-corporate sentiments among the greater US population. Hess asserts that right wing writer Ayn Rand borrowed most of her so-called “objectivist” philosophy from anarchist Emma Goldman.

Edamen asserts that at the end of the 20th century (before it was captured by the Koch brothers and other corporate elite), there were more anarchists in the US libertarian movement than any other group.

The filmmakers also highlight the anarchist roots seen in worker-run cooperatives and the homesteading (now called “prepper”) and anti-government punk rock groups such as the Dead Kennedys.

In 2011, to address the failed US recovery, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) introduced HR2990, the National Emergency Employment Defense Act. The bill proposed to abolish the Federal Reserve system and end the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air.* If the bill had passed, it could have instantly ended all federal deficits and debt, while simultaneously providing trillions of dollars for vital infrastructure and restoring funding to states and local authorities for education, hospitals, clinics, housing, police, libraries and other programs cut after the 2008 economic crash.

The late Stephen Zarlenga, founder of the American Monetary Institute and co-author of the bill, always found it ironic that in 2008-2099 the US Treasury “printed” between $3-15 trillion of new money (aka quantitative easing) – as HR2990 proposes. However instead of spending this government-created money into the economy as HR2990 specifies, they handed it over to private banks. They in turn used it to pay obscene CEO salaries and to inflate their stock prices by buying back shares.

Among other provisions, of HR2990 would

  • Dismantle the Federal Reserve and transfer its powers to a new Monetary Authority operating under US Treasury oversight.
  • Replace all Federal Reserve notes with United States Money.
  • Instruct the Secretary of the Treasury to create United States Money to address any and all deficits resulting from a discrepancy between tax receipts and funds appropriated for government services.
  • Subject to criminal and civil penalties any person [ie banks] who creates or originates United States Money by lending against deposits through “fractional reserve banking.”
  • Prohibit borrowing by the Secretary or by any federal agency or department, independent establishment of the executive branch, or any other instrumentality of the United States (other than a national bank, federal savings association, or federal credit union) from any source other than the Secretary.
  • Require the Secretary to begin to pay off all outstanding US debt payment in full in United States Money.
  • Prescribe requirements for the entry of United States Money into circulation.
  • Require the Monetary Authority to instruct the Secretary to disperse monetary grants to states for public infrastructure, education, health care and rehabilitation, pensions, and paying for unfunded federal mandates.
  • Direct the Secretary to make recommendations to Congress for payment of a tax-free Citizens Dividend to all U.S. citizens residing in the United States in order to provide liquidity to the banking system at the commencement of this Act, before governmental infrastructure expenditures have had a chance to work into circulation.
  • Prescribe requirements for federal funding of education programs, coverage of any deficits in Social Security Trust Fund account, a universal health care plan, resolution of aspects of the mortgage crisis, and a program of interest-free lending of United States Money to state and local governmental entities.

As Kucinich points out in the preamble to his bill, Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution places the power to create money in Congress. In 1913, Congress made the foolhardy decision to delegate this bower to the Federal Reserve system and private banks. Predictably the latter operate the US monetary system (and money creation) in such a way as to their profits – and not for the benefit of the American people. The result has been increasing economic instability, skyrocketing income inequality and growing power of private banks, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan – to the extent they virtually control our so-called democratic system of government.

More information on the American Monetary Institute at their website: http://www.monetary.org/

Link to HR2990: HR2990

In the video below, Kucinich** speaks about HR2990 on the floor of Congress in 2013.


*Contrary to popular belief, the government doesn’t create the dollars in circulation in the US. The vast majority is created by private banks out of thin air when they initiate loans. See How Banks Invent Money Out of Thin Air

**Like Bernie Sanders, Kucinich was more of an anti-coproratist than a Democrat. He opposed military intervention in Iraq, Libya, Syria and the Patriot Act. As a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008 he called for single payer health care, free education (including pre-school and university), instant run-off voting, a moratorium on GMO crops, withdrawal from the WTO and NAFTA, ending the death penalty and the War on Drugs and lowering the voting age to 16. He collaborated with libertarian Republican Ron Paul on a number of bills and currently serves on the Ron Paul Institute advisory board. He lost his seat in 2013 after the Ohio state legislature re-districted his Congressional District out of existence.