Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.
Behind the deceptive words designed to entice people into supporting violence -- words like democracy, freedom, self-defense, national security -- there is the reality of enormous wealth in the hands of a few, while billions of people in the world are hungry, sick, homeless.
We need to organize ourselves and protest against existing order - against war, against economic and sexual exploitation, against racism, etc. But to organize ourselves in such a way that means correspond to the ends, and to organize ourselves in such a way as to create kind of human relationship that should exist in future society. That would mean to organize ourselves without centralize authority, without charismatic leader, in a way that represents in miniature the ideal of the future egalitarian society.
Scholars, who pride themselves on speaking their minds, often engage in a form of self-censorship which is called "realism." To be "realistic" in dealing with a problem is to work only among the alternatives which the most powerful in society put forth. It is as if we are all confined to a, b, c, or d in the multiple choice test, when we know there is another possible answer. American society, although it has more freedom of expression than most societies in the world, thus sets limits beyond which respectable people are not supposed to think or speak.
When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not fall in meekly behind them. We who protest...are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress.
The idea of direct action against the evil that you want to overcome is a kind of common denominator for anarchist ideas and anarchist movements. I think one of the most important principles of anarchism is that you cannot separate means and ends. Anarchism requires means and ends to be in line with one another. I think this is in fact one of the distinguishing characteristics of anarchism.
Transcendentalism is, we might say, an early form of anarchism. The Transcendentalists also did not call themselves anarchists, but there are anarchist ideas in their thinking and in their literature. They were all suspicious of authority. We might say that the Transcendentalism played a role in creating an atmosphere of skepticism towards authority, towards government.
If democracy were to be given any meaning, if it were to go beyond the limits of capitalism and nationalism, this would not come, if history were any guide, from the top. It would come through citizen's movements, educating, organizing, agitating, striking, boycotting, demonstrating, threatening those in power with disruption of the stability they needed.
History can come in handy. If you were born yesterday, with no knowledge of the past, you might easily accept whatever the government tells you. But knowing a bit of history--while it would not absolutely prove the government was lying in a given instance--might make you skeptical, lead you to ask questions, make it more likely that you would find out the truth.
What most of us must be involved in--whether we teach or write, make films, write films, direct films, play music, act, whatever we do--has to not only make people feel good and inspired and at one with other people around them, but also has to educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world.
Imperialism is the factor in American policy, not just since 1898, but in fact long before it when we were expanding across this continent and taking away Indian lands in order to enlarge the territory of the United States. We have been an imperial power and an expansionist power for a very long time.
I would prefer to use a very inclusive definition of the working class. I'd like to include all of those people who are, if they're not exploited by an immediate employer over them, they're exploited by the system and therefore have a cause to want to change the system. Having a very inclusive definition of the working class creates a great opportunity for organizing people.
I had always insisted that a good education was a synthesis of book learning and involvement in social action, that each enriched the other. I wanted my students to know that the accumulation of knowledge, while fascinating in itself, is not sufficient as long as so many people in the world have no opportunity to experience that fascination.
No doubt that anarchist ideas are frightening to those in power. People in power can tolerate liberal ideas. They can tolerate ideas that call for reforms, but they cannot tolerate the idea that there will be no state, no central authority. So it is very important for them to ridicule the idea of anarchism to create this impression of anarchism as violent and chaotic. It is useful for them.
There is a power that can be created out of pent-up indignation, courage, and the inspiration of a common cause, and that if enough people put their minds and bodies into that cause, they can win. It is a phenomenon recorded again and against in the history of popular movements against injustice all over the world.
Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.
I think a way to behave is to think not in terms of representative government, not in terms of voting, not in terms of electoral politics, but thinking in terms of organizing social movements, organizing in the work place, organizing in the neighborhood, organizing collectives that can become strong enough to eventually take over - first to become strong enough to resist what has been done to them by authority, and second, later, to become strong enough to actually take over the institutions.
I've always resented the smug statements of politicians, media commentators, corporate executives who talked of how, in America, if you worked hard you would become rich. The meaning of that was if you were poor it was because you hadn't worked hard enough. I knew this was a lite, about my father and millions of others, men and women who worked harder than anyone, harder than financiers and politicians, harder than anybody if you accept that when you work at an unpleasant job that makes it very hard work indeed.