Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz

The Fierce Urgency of This Movement Moment

Filed By Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz | March 11, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: movement

Revolution doesn't happen by accident. Revolution doesn't happen without tremendous vision, loss, and wisconsin-art.jpegsacrifice. Revolution happens when a critical mass of courageous people come together to struggle for it with every fiber of their being. Revolution takes place over time and, more often than not, raises complex questions that can't be answered in the immediate. Revolution happens when the people not only name their circumstances on their own terms but also organize with the strategic intention of reaching mass scope and scale action.

We are seeing this all over the Middle East, in Wisconsin, and in many other parts of the world as people come together to create a visible culture of resistance against deep seeded economic, social and political oppression/repression.

Revolution is local. Yet, when a social consciousness begins to emerge that makes the connection between uprisings (without taking away from their specificity and nuance) it gives us a window into the kind of broad social change that is possible. Yes, through these interconnected struggles we can begin to see that another world is possible.

A Democratic Awakening for the Queer Movement?

The organizing taking place in the US and across the Middle East has the potential to spark a democratic awakening in the United States, one that challenges the deeply rooted corporate and colonial power of this country. Yet the national LGBT movement could miss this moment of possibility if we are not prepared to participate in the broad based organizing required to bringing about sweeping economic, political and social change.

We could also miss the opportunity to reframe even the issues that the mainstream movement does work on in ways that resonate across communities. For example, if we intentionally reframe our work around ENDA we could begin to tie our organizing work to a bigger set of economic justice issues such as jobs, health care, immigration, poverty, homelessness, the corporate take-over of the economy and worker justice and labor.

Rooting our movement's political agenda in a single issue framework leaves us totally and unequivocally unprepared to work across communities to usher in the kind of change that could create social transformation for every aspect of the queer community. Isn't this what we should be striving for? Isn't this what building a movement should be about?

The Importance of Mass Scope and Scale

In order to understand why reaching mass scope and scale is strategically important to building a broad based movement it's important to summarize what constitutes a movement. In an article written by Beth Zemsky and David Mann entitled "Building Movement Organizations in A Movement Moment" they detail the interconnected elements that make a movement.... a movement! These elements are: collective intentional action, continuity of sustained interaction, outsider status, scope and scale and formation of a collective identity. All of these elements, which they define and detail in their article, are the core elements that help us to recognize that a shift in social consciousness and political action are taking place.

An example of this can be seen at the height of the Civil Rights movement in 1963. Bayard Rustin, a primary architect of the Civil Rights Movement, started organizing for jobs, peace and freedom in the 1930's and by 1963 the Civil Rights movement reached mass scope and scale as hundreds of thousands of people flooded the National Mall in Washington, DC. Reaching large scale action didn't happen overnight. It happened through decades of protest, strategic action, the will of the people and a tremendous faith in the possibility of justice. It also happened because, although not perfectly inclusive, the frame of the Civil Rights movement was broad enough to have profound resonance and relevance to the lives of poor and working class people across communities, particularly communities of color.

Achieving large scale action, such as was seen in the the Montgomery Bus Boycott, is critical to the success of a movement because it is one way for us to know that our organizing is having impact on a large scale institutional, social and political level. Essentially we know change is happening--even if it's happening slowly and painfully--because we can see it unfolding across all aspects of society. A culture of resistance becomes pervasive.

This is what we want. This is what we should be working for. This is what we need in order to create change for all LGBT people.

What Should the Queer Movement Be Working on Right Now?

This is a moment for all of us to act in concert and in solidarity with peoples movements in the US and internationally. Our movement should be focused less on attending to a narrowly defined set of interests and rights and more focused on the issues fueling a global resistance movement of mass scope and scale happening right here and right now! As LGBT people we need to understand that our survival is tied to broader movements for peace, freedom and justice.

As a result, here are some of the issues I think the national LGBT movement should be prioritizing:

    Engaging in deep political education and organizing around the economy, issues of poverty and economic justice.

What is happening in Wisconsin is part of a bigger economic picture--one that has put our economy firmly in the hands of corporations. For example, in 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case on the side of corporations. As Erica Payne states in her Huffington Post piece entitled "Corporation in Chief" this ruling gave corporations unprecedented control of over our 'democracy':

We are in a political and economic moment where every social safety net is being sacrificed and undermined in order to maintain the wealth of corporations and the top wealthy 1% of this country. This is a direct dismantling of social and economic structures that have historically been in place to support poor, working class and middle class people - of which queer people are in significant numbers. Any queer organizing that doesn't center economic justice is failing to address the most pressing needs of our communities and have in impact on the broader global and domestic issues of our time.

Ramping up our organizing around the right wing and racism in partnership with other movements for social justice

The right wing is no stranger to the queer movement. No stranger at all. It's also no stranger to other movements for social and economic justice either. All we need to do is to look at the latest efforts to defund Planned Parenthood
and erect racist and sexist billboards in New York targeting Black women to know how potent this right wing activity is.

Given the increase in right wing activity why isn't the LGBT movement focusing our time and attention on organizing strategies and frames that resonate with and activate fair minded people committed to justice? How much more of a wake-up call do we need to work seriously and intentionally on racial and economic justice issues? The right wing is taking over our economy, using white supremacy to fuel their base and at the same time positioning themselves as a movement rooted in real community and family values.

In an article written by Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law Center entitled "The Arizonification of America" SPLC "found that the latest count of hate groups last year had risen to 1,002 from 932 in 2009. The number of nativist vigilante groups was up, too, from 309 in 2009 to 319 in 2010. And there was truly explosive growth in the antigovernment "Patriot" movement, which added 312 new groups last year, skyrocketing 61% from 512 in 2009 to 824 last year."

This is about us. This is about all of us... So, I say let's get to it people!

Working to create a meaningful, intentional, and accountable internationalist frame that connects the complexity of issues facing our LGBT communities to a global movement for justice and liberation.

We've got to stop being a go-it-alone movement that prioritizes our narrowly defined national agenda (made of DADT, hate crimes, marriage equality and ENDA) over everything else that's going on in the world. What is taking place is a global shift in consciousness. Sticking to a national agenda that is disconnected from broader and far reaching economic, racial, reproductive and environmental justice issues is out of sync with what is taking place beyond the LGBT movement.

In a recent article in Colorlines entitled "The Wave of Popular Uprisings has Washed Beyond the Middle East" Michelle Chen not only details the range and depth of uprisings taking place all over the world but also raises the question of what lessons we can learn from them. She states:

We can start by resisting the impulse to read simplistic explanations out of a diverse spectrum of popular movements. The recent uprisings do not derive their power from a common agenda or strategy. What they share is a sense of openness and possibility, spontaneity and resilience, and a deep belief that violence and factionalism are toxic to that revolutionary potential.

The revolutionary possibility we are witnessing all over the globe is very different from the kind of organizing we see coming out of an LGBT movement that values equality over liberation and justice. The reason why the current national LGBT movement will not reach mass scope and scale is because its core strategies and values aren't rooted in building collective power beyond a narrow set of 'gay' issues. Revolution is only possible when the issues at stake are so core to the mutual survival of the people that it brings masses into the streets and to a collective consciousness that has the potential to create transformation.

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Government Unions are nothing more than a Mafia trying to collectively extort more money from the taxpayers.

Perhaps these Looters should remember they are PUBLIC SERVANTS, not Nobles who have unlimited access to the public's money.

Moreover, it is hardly "revolutionary" to whine and protest over no longer being able to receive more than the public cares to willfully have robbed from their paychecks.

You are an ignorant f*ck. No other way to say it. Gov Walker makes this about fixing a deficit he created in the FIRST legislation of the state this year, when it's now obvious his intent is union busting, AFTER the unions had given EVERY financial concession asked for.

I will NEVER understand anyone who is LGB or T buying any of the crap fed them by the right. Look at what has happened in the last 3 years and ask yourself who has benefited? The middle class who makes the same effective wage as 20 years ago?!? The bottom 50% in the country whose assets are matched by the wealth of the top 400?

No need for me to tell you to f*ck yourself Ali. The rich are already doing it for you.

Thank you for the kind words and in-depth rebuttal to my opinion.

Your philosophy of name-calling, intimidation, and justification of theft of property is disappointing, albeit expected.

Victor Raymond | March 13, 2011 10:11 AM

Alli - by that standard, corporations are no different. Worse, they do not even have elected leadership, but leadership by those who own the corporation. I didn't realize that the United States was supposed to be run along similar lines. How much wealth do you have? As much as any CEO? I doubt it.

You say "public servants" - given that in Wisconsin, those "servants" make in total compensation (including wages AND benefits) approximately 8% less than their counterparts in the private sector, their access is hardly "unlimited". It seems your impressions do not match the actual reality on the ground.

You say "robbed from their paychecks" - so ALL taxes are robbery? You don't make any sort of distinction there, and if you did, then the question becomes what is fair compensation for the work being done on the public's behalf? As I mentioned above, public employees in Wisconsin would do better in the private sector. So is it still robbery then?

Using another example - how would you characterize the concept of no-bid contracts to sell off power plants to private corporations? That's in Wisconsin's Budget "Repair" Bill. By any rational standard, that's *actual* robbery. What makes it worse is that many of those power plants will be sold to private owners and rates will likely go up for Wisconsin taxpayers. When outside experts say there's no need to sell the power plants in the first place, how do you account for that, except collusion with corporate greed? Isn't that robbery?

The end of collective bargaining in Wisconsin is going to lead to a loss of over $46 million dollars in Federal public transportation funding. In the Fox River Valley, that will result in the annual budget being slashed by $2.5 million out of $8.5 million. The manager of the transit system says they may have to shut down for the 4th quarter of the year. Isn't that robbery?

Your comparison is fundamentally flawed as it relates to a PRIVATE union and corporation collectively bargaining vs. the Looter mafia PUBLIC union.

Whereas when a PRIVATE union negotiates and obtains benefits while failing to offer a substantially better product, lower production costs etcetera, you, me and everyone else is free to look elsewhere to find an alternative superior product.

Unfortunately, when the Looters who FREELY chose to become PUBLIC SERVANTS use their Mafia to extort additional benefits from the thieves in government, there is no escape from the effect on the taxpayer, they must submit more of their PROPERTY, i.e. WAGES to the government.

We see this play out in the automotive sector. Private unions successfully negotiated such lopsided benefit packages that the cost/benefit of a domestically manufactured car could and cannot compete with foreign automakers, thus resulting in an unsustainable financial situation for the companies, ultimately resulting in lost jobs, ergo a lose/lose.

Unfortunately, taxpayers cannot escape the government monopoly on education whereby even when we chose not to utilize the government schools, we are still forced to pay for their lackluster product.

..and no, I am not a CEO, make nowhere near their salary, and thus why every penny matters to the financial stability of our family and why I refuse to pay one more nickle to the corrupt Public Unions or financially irresponsible government.

Let them struggle, pay for their own health benefits, retirement, et al, just like the rest of us serfs.

I too was disappointed when some people tried to say there was no connection between these protests in and those in the middle east. Yeah, they aren't for the same exact reasons, and they aren't being run by the same people, but the point of each is the same: working people telling the overlords that they aren't going to be treated like total shit.