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David—1, Goliath—0

La Jolla, Calif.
 
Congratulations on your February 21 issue—most stimulating! Egypt, a left-wing Tea Party, feminism in Iceland and Marshall Ganz teaching us David sometimes wins!
 
TANJA WINTER

 


 

Vacaville, Calif.

The Egyptian protester shown carrying a cellphone instead of a gun?—it worked!

ROCCO J. COLELLA

 


 

Corporate Citizens: Pay Your Taxes!

Port Townsend, Wash.

Johann Hari’s “The UK’s Left-Wing Tea Party” [Feb. 21] is huge. Has anyone picked a target corporation and commenced action that we here in Washington can join? Let’s get it going!

MARK STEVENSON

 


 

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Johann Hari’s article on protests against tax dodgers in England presents a great example of creative tactics largely using social media. What Hari does not present, however, is a credible organizing model for a progressive equivalent to the Tea Party.

First, the Tea Party may be odious and destructive, but it has a comprehensive political vision—eliminate social programs, shrink government, deregulate big business and let individual Americans do whatever the heck they want. Because of this clear vision, the Tea Party not only cast doubt on healthcare reform but pushed both parties to attack deficit spending, shifting the terms of debate.

The British protesters Hari describes are against corporations and the rich dodging taxes. But what are they for? Do they represent a pro-tax “movement”? Do they defend taxes for everyone, or even call on the government to raise taxes? Unlike conservatives, US progressives have long been hobbled by their lack of a vision on this and other issues. Organizing protests on Twitter doesn’t change this.

Second, there is a fundamental difference between mobilizing and organizing. “Mobilizing” means inspiring or provoking people to participate in an action. “Organizing” is a more sustained process that builds individual and group power to identify goals and engage in sustained action to achieve them. Mobilizing is thin and narrow. Organizing is thick and transformational. Both are important, but to suggest that some oppositional protests—albeit creative tactically—are the same as a more sustained ideological movement is like suggesting that going to a McDonald’s is equivalent to cultivating a farm. Empty calories can feel satisfying, but…

Mobilizations can become transformational movements—but that takes deep organizing and a positive long-term vision.

SALLY KOHN, founder, chief education officer
Movement Vision Lab

 


 

Hari Replies

London

Mark Stevenson: you can find a map of all planned US Uncut protests at usuncut.org/actions/list. If there isn’t one in your area yet, it’s very easy to arrange one and add it to the map. Let me know how it goes!

Sally Kohn: UK Uncut has a very clear vision. The British government says every day that the only way to deal with its budget deficit is to dismantle public services and make the middle class and poor pay. UK Uncut says that the government should instead collect the £120 billion the superrich are currently avoiding and evading in taxes every year. What could be clearer? Make the people who caused this crisis pay for it—starting by collecting the taxes they already owe, and by (yes) increasing them.

Kohn asks, the protesters “are against corporations and the rich dodging taxes. But what are they for?” It’s there in my article and in everything UK Uncut says: preserving and extending the welfare state that has been built up by centuries of activism and preserving all the things we value about our country—from publicly owned forests to good schools—by making the people who crashed and trashed our economy finally pay their share. Isn’t that a positive vision?

She also asks, “Do they represent a pro-tax ‘movement’? Do they defend taxes for everyone, or even call on the government to raise taxes?” Yes, yes and yes, as she could have seen if she’d looked at UK Uncut’s website before insultingly comparing the group to a political Happy Meal. If the UK Uncut agenda—which commands majority support, according to polling—succeeds, hundreds of thousands of people being forced out of their homes, and millions of public workers being fired, will see their terrible suffering vanish. I think you’d find it hard to tell those people this amounts only to “empty calories.”

I agree that “‘organizing’ is a more sustained process that builds individual and group power to identify goals and engage in sustained action to achieve them.” If Kohn wants an inspiring model of that, she’s welcome at a UK or US Uncut meeting anytime.

JOHANN HARI

 


 

Clarification

Gary Younge’s March 7/14 “Beneath the Radar” column, titled “Selling History Short in Mississippi” stated that “[Diane] Nash and other original freedom fighters will not be attending” a reception honoring Freedom Riders being hosted by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. To clarify: some Freedom Riders, including John Lewis and Bob Filner, will be in attendance.

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