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Protest or Civil Courage?


Protest or Civil Courage?

Frances Moore Lappé, Adam Eichen

(This interview was conducted during the Democracy Spring march from Philadelphia to Washington, DC — part of a two week action to push for a more equal and representative democracy.)

We are about sixty miles into our 140-mile march to Washington, D.C. from Philadelphia. How are you feeling?

Exhilarated…and that’s after waking up at 4 am on a hard floor!


While civic action is always a good thing, and I don't want to sound skeptical, another march around empty buildings in DC for good sounding but vague causes feels good but accomplishes little. I note Dolores Huerta, a supporter of Clinton being a supporter. Yet this is against big money influence?

Unless concrete demands are being made, like support for an amendment stating that corporations are not people or support for a specific set of electoral reforms that get the money out, I feel this is an example of immature politics. That said, I have mentioned it in a supportive way in an article I wrote locally (as well as submitted to CD).

Hopefully it will add heat to the Clinton campaign and bring new folks in to the struggle but I'd like to see this as part of the catalyzing of our movement along with and beyond the Sanders campaign. We need unity around a specific and focused set of demands, not a list of everything.

We need to be running for local offices and we need to understand how to work within the structure that exists, finding allies on issues and building effective coalitions.


Running for local office does nothing to solve the bigger problems of an endless war economy; two-time justice system; to big to fail banks; putting Citizens United in the garbage can of history; sending the architects of the atrocious, illegal Iraq war to the Hague along with other still living criminals such as Henry Kissinger. Whew! So much to do. A march, while I agree is an exercise in futility, it does bring attention to the cause and keeps the cause alive. Running for local elections is another way of joining establishment politics for local changes. It does nothing to solve the bigger national government corruption.


I didn't say we shouldn't run for President but having progressives in local office actually has a real effect. Kashama Sawant being on Seattle City Council is a prime example. We also need progressive in Congress if we are going to take the big criminals to task. We need people on all levels. Sanders can run effectively because he has held office and has proven experience. That's what mature political activism looks like. Another example on the grass roots level in my state is Virginia Organizing which has a good record of effecting change and standing against corporate agendas.

March on but not for marching itself. We need real organization beyond the feel good stuff.


Actually, local office does influence all that. Local office is crucial with respect to these things.

This is an important point. When we talk about "party machinery" and the issues of getting on the ballot and finding donors for candidacy and all of these things, this is all a matter of speaking with various local officials and comparing mutual assurances of conditions and intentions. When you are not doing this between elected officials and their staffs, you must do it within popular organizations that will generally evaporate with one or another change in superficial conditions--the passage or failure of a bill or the penetration of the organization by agents provocateurs or police action or an election or whatever.

Sanders has managed what he has partly because the Democratic Party had so crassly and openly betrayed its base and spat on its left-leaning supporters, but also because he had an organization and a track record. People of all sorts knew that they had abundant reason to count on Bernie Sanders for certain sorts of policies and a certain sort of practicality.

Sanders is still a long shot in this election, but given circumstances as they are, his campaign has been startlingly effective, and the Clinton campaign will not patch its leaks even if Clinton achieves office. If anything, the error has been that there were not enough officials and confreres in local office to push him over against the smarmy manipulations of media and other wealthy pretenders.

Here's to green dogcatchers and teachers' unions.