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Agitate for Change

Agitate for Change


by Stephen Lendman


Sitting on the sidelines accomplishes nothing. Indifference isn’t an option. Nothing important changes without public involvement and activism. “We the people” must show we mean it.


Doug Dowd is an economic historian, economist, and political activist. At age 94, he’s slowed, but still active, vibrant and committed for long overdue change.


He’s a radical economist in the best sense of the term. His academic career spanned six decades. He’s still writing books and articles. He discusses cutting-edge economic, political and social issues.


His recently published book is titled “Inequality and the Global Economic Crisis.” Vital issues covered include:


  • class, political, racial, and gender-based inequality;


  • big business and inequality;


  • inequality worsened by consumerism and media manipulation;


  • globalization’s unintended consequences;


  • inancialization caused inequality;


  • militarism and inequality;


  • inequality’s overall consequences for democracy, the economy, and social decency; and


  • comparing inequality in America and Western Europe.


His previous book was titled “At the Cliff’s Edge: World Problems and US Power.” He believed then and now that world societies stand on “a cliff’s edge.”


He discussed four frightening realities: current and likely new wars, a deepening economic crisis, pervasive corruption, and the earth dangerously near a “tipping point” of environmental disaster.


His books and other writings are informative and warnings. Things are terribly wrong today, he believes. Too much poverty, unemployment, underemployment, hunger, homelessness, war, violence, and privilege exist.


Too little of what matters most does not. Blame colonialism (now imperialism), capitalism, nationalism, and industrialism. They’re “processes,” not “things.” They feed destructively on each other.


Today, America bears most responsibility. It brought world societies dangerously to “a cliff’s edge.” A permanent state of war exists. It’s combined with corporate empowerment, economic crisis conditions and police state repression.


De facto one-party rule prevents change. Judicial corruption supports it. So does iron-fisted militarism. Media manipulation reinforces it. Constitutional freedoms are endangered.


Electoral politics in America are farcical and meaningless. Major issues go unaddressed. Horse race journalism substitutes. Popularity, not competence, is stressed. Vital information is suppressed. Managed news leaves people in the dark on their own.


In 2008, Dowd hoped Obama might be different. Like many others, he’s angry over his support for Wall Street, war profiteers, other corporate favorites, militarism, and permanent wars. In contrast, he ignores people needs.


At the same time, he thinks Republicans are more dangerous and must be defeated. What’s needed is a vibrant third party seeking “genuine and peaceful democracy.”


He fears America may bomb Iran. He expects all hell to break lose if it happens. He’s seen a lifetime of wars and wants them ended. He feels the same about politically and economically destructive policies. He wants America’s resources used for helping, not harming, people. He wants conditions mirror opposite of today’s.


His latest article is titled “We Need a People’s Movement: Soon.” It’s the 10th in a series begun in fall 2011. It came by email. It’s not yet posted on his site. Watch for it. It will be. You’ll also find information there on his books.


He urges readers to pass his articles on to others. He sees “the world now headed for the worst ever disasters.”


He’s not alone believing America is the source of most anger and violence combined with socially, politically, economically, and militarily destructive policies.


“We the people”, he believes, “must take the lead toward transforming the country toward peace and decency: now.”


“Time is running out.” No matter who wins in November, “two overlapping actions” must be addressed:


(1) Overcoming right wing fascism.


(2) Mobilizing for real democracy. It’s the kind America never had.


In the 19th century and earlier, America was called “democratic” while enslaving millions of Blacks, robbing Native peoples of their land and resources, and exterminating them in what perhaps was the world’s greatest ever genocide.


In the 20th century, unions formed, organized, grew, and gave workers a seat at the table. It was all for naught. Past gains were lost. Unions today are a shadow of their former selves. They’re corrupted, weak, and ineffective. Rank and file issues are marginalized.


Most workers are “overworked, underpaid, unemployed,” or underemployed. Earlier civil rights gains are entirely lost. Conditions now are worse than decades ago.


Privilege alone matters. Ordinary people are left out. The nation is becoming Third-Worldized. America the beautiful exists for wealth and power interests only.


“As we continue to rob and kill abroad, and millions of workers fight poverty at home, we also continue to see ourselves as the world’s leading democracy.”


“Enough of that: we must get to work now to create and maintain a substantial people’s movement and take the U.S. toward becoming a genuine democracy.”


“That can only be done if millions of us make political actions part of our existence.”


It happened successfully in earlier struggles. Challenging authority works with enough commitment. Gains won were lost because energy generated waned.


It’s up to people power to create a society worth living in. It’s their responsibility to keep it. Otherwise, expect much worse ahead.


Dowd discussed how anti-war activism helped end the Vietnam war.


“The movement was created at a meeting of 18 representatives of political organizations of both the left and the middle. In our strong years, we had more than 200 participating organizations (unions, health care and women’s organizations, peace and religious groups, etc.).”


Later during the 1970s, energy waned. Years earlier, however, participating organizations bonded with many “non-war social actions.” Hundreds of thousands participated nationwide.


Today, that and more is needed. “We may or may not win, but surely it’s better to lose while fighting than while kneeling.”


Domestic and geopolitical criminality today are more worrisome now than earlier. Activism against militarism is vital. Other key issues must be addressed.


Most important is “replac(ing) today’s heavily corrupted Congress with one that” serves everyone equitably, not just corporate favorites and super-rich elites.


“We must work together constantly to end the control of the government from the top and put it in the hands of the middle and the bottom.”


“We must democratize U.S. politics if we are ever to have a decent society with an economy which meets the needs of the majority for health care and decent housing for all, a protected environment, an end to wars, and whatever else is needed for a safe and decent life for all.”


Change for the better isn’t handed us. Getting it involves determined struggle. Bottom up democracy is the real kind. Ideally, it should be direct.


Representative democracy never worked. Today it’s too corrupted to fix. Presidents and congressional members serve monied, not popular, interests.


Victor Hugo said, “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”


That time is now. With enough committed believers, it can happen. It has to. There’s no other way.


“Today the U.S. is a sick and dangerous nation run by a handful of the politically powerful, permitted to do so by a population much of which envies them instead of fighting them.”


“Beginning now and staying with it, we must create a set of national policies to transform today’s plutocracy into a genuine democracy.”


Dowd raises serious, challenging questions:


(1) “Who are ‘we’ in terms of the relevant politics?”


Earlier, small unconnected groups represented the “we.” Occupy Wall Street offers change. It’s too early to tell how successfully. Its energy may wane and disappear. Severe repression may crush it.


Yet what begin in New York spread like wildfire nationwide. Numbers involved are small but committed. Will they stay that way and attract others? They better to have any chance for positive change.


It’s up to us on our own. It won’t be easy. Great struggles never are. This one is the mother of them all. Perhaps decades of commitment are needed. How many will stay the course and see it through?


(2) “How do we create a national movement?” How best can it be done at the federal, state and local levels? What issues are most vital to address? Clearly, challenging militarism, corporate empowerment, social America’s decline, and environmental destruction stand out.


How can a vibrant national movement be created and sustained? The answer is the same as it always is - “get to work in all realms: local, regional and especially national.”


It’s vital “to have political involvement become the norm for a large movement, or we will never defeat the powers of” powerful destructive forces.


Everything important destroying democratic freedoms must be challenged. That involves putting our bodies and spirit on the line. Monopoly capitalism is the root cause of everything wrong.


(3) If and when a viable third party is created, “how will its politics be decided? Will it address the most vital issues? Who’ll finance and promote it?


First off, creating a committed political alternative is essential. America’s two party duopoly is too dysfunctional, corrupted and lawless to fix.


Change depends on abandoning and defeating them. There’s no other way. Throwing out bums for new ones never worked and won’t now.


Replacing them with politicians committed to serve everyone equitably is the only way. People aware of today’s dangers have to lead, encourage others, organize and agitate for change.


“The critical need in the U.S. today is to change our political structures, south and north, east and west.”


“The main participants in politics in all realms have been leaning more to the right than to the middle.”


“To change that there must be an increased involvement by those of us in both the middle and the left.”


Change depends on us. It’s our country and our choice.


“So let’s get to work.” Writing his manifesto was easy, said Dowd. The moment of truth is what comes next. Our lives and futures depend on it. If that’s not incentive enough, what is?


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]


His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”


Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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About The Author

Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960.   After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967, remaining there until retiring at year end 1999.   Supporting progressive causes and organizations, he began writing in summer 2005 on a broad range of issues. Topics regularly addressed include war and peace; social, economic and political equity; and justice for long-suffering peoples globally - notably, victims of America's imperial wars, Occupied Palestinians and Haitians. In early 2007, he began hosting his own radio program. Currently he hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. Airing three times weekly, it features distinguished guests discussing vital world and national issues in depth. Today perhaps more than ever, vital social, political and economic change is needed. What better way to spend retirement years than working for it. We owe at least that much to our loved ones, friends and humanity.

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