Opening Speech at World Can't Wait National Conference
What We've Accomplished...And What We Must Do to Drive Out the Bush Regime, Part 2by Debra Sweet, National Coordinator, World Can't Wait
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The national organizers conference of The World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime movement took place in New York City on Nov. 19-20. Debra Sweet, national coordinator of World Can't Wait, gave an important opening speech at the conference. In the first half of the speech, which appeared in the previous issue of Revolution, Sweet discussed the foundation of this movement, the Call to drive out the Bush regime (see page 12). And she said of the nationwide protests on Nov. 2: "We had thousands of people out in 200-some locations, and the low thousands in several large cities. This IS a beginning step, but it is not yet nearly what we need to drive out the regime, where millions are in the streets taking responsibility, led by tens of thousands of organizers... We learned much more deeply on November 2 how it IS realistic to move thousands and thousands of people around this demand, and on the foundation of our Call. Now we have to take what we learned, and what we accomplished, and get this thing into a whole other place."
The following is the second part of Debra Sweet's speech. The text of the entire speech is available online at worldcantwait.org.
Now I want to speak directly to a huge question we are asked often. Why would Bush step down? How could the Bush Regime be driven out? There are actually quite a few different possibilities. If we build the movement powerfully and quickly enough, things can start opening up and coming out. The first bit of criminality has been attached to the Bush Regime with the Libby indictment. This could go much deeper. The Downing Street Memo has not been answered; the WMDs never found. The lies the Bush Regime is based on way surpass anything Richard Nixon was forced to resign over. The stolen elections--including the voting machine scandal which has remained suppressed--could open up. Thieves fall out when the going gets tough, and ugly splits in the ranks could develop, even between some very bad people.
Now there is absolutely no juice behind impeachment right now--that would take more than the Democrats in Congress, even if they did want to push that. But that could change with a big movement in the streets. I can never resist the example of Richard Nixon, who won by the biggest landslide ever in the 1972 election; and was gone in disgrace less than two years later. But whether it's by impeachment or resignation--it can only happen with a huge social movement, determined to settle for nothing less than getting this regime OUT OF THERE.
And we are not talking about a President Cheney or Rice, either. We are talking about a REGIME, not just one individual. And we are saying "Take your whole program with you." We are building a movement to drive out this regime, and as we do that we are galvanizing people against the whole logic and direction this crew is taking society.
But we got a problem.
We're up against a way things work politically in this society that people have come to accept. We're up against a framework of "how things work" which is killing us. It's called accommodation. Some people who should know better, like the President of the National Organization for Women, are declaring that "the tide has turned" because a Democrat won election in Virginia over a Republican Bush campaigned for. This guy Kaine is anti-abortion and pro-death penalty and ran on the basis that he's more openly religious than the other guy! This wasn't a victory against the moves to turn this country into a theocracy. This was not a blow against the trend to force intolerant and absolutist religious dogma into every realm of public and private life -- including into the law. No, this was a maneuver -- yet again -- on the part of the Democrats to see if they could become more like the Republicans we all hate and should hate so much. And, they are saying openly, this is a model for them, something to emulate.
I want to quote from an essay that is on our website.
"Of course, there are still people who hate everything the Bush regime represents, and its whole agenda, but who are holding out the hope that the difficulties it is facing will make things more favorable for electing a Democratic Congress in 2006 (and a Democratic president in 2008) and who therefore think that, rather than mobilizing to drive out the Bush regime, we should pin our hopes on, and wait for, those elections. But the questions must be honestly, and urgently, posed:
"Can we afford to wait that long before doing something decisive to defeat this regime and its whole agenda? And by voting for Democrats would people really be doing anything to change the whole course on which this regime has set the country, and indeed the world? The answers are NO and NO.
"If, instead of bringing forth, from here forward, the kind of massive resistance, of millions, that is both urgently needed and is possible, we focus our attention on elections and on electing Democrats, this will only mean that things will be in an even far worse place by a year from now, in terms of what is happening in the world and what it is possible to do to oppose it. And, anyway, what exactly is it we would be "waiting for" in terms of these elections? Can anyone honestly say that in 2006 (or 2008) it will be possible to vote for a Democratic Party that would:
- "Bring an end to U.S. occupation in Iraq and other wars to enforce and extend American imperial domination in the world?
- "Put a stop to the torture being carried out by the U.S. government and others cooperating with it?
- "End the imprisonment of people without rights or legal representation and the heightened repression embodied in the Patriot Act?
- "Actively and uncompromisingly oppose Christian fundamentalist attacks on evolution and on science and the scientific method in general, and on the separation of church and state?
- "Vigorously defend the right to abortion, and to birth control?
- "Consistently and systematically defend the rights of gay people?
- "Seriously address and do something to actually end the continuing discrimination and institutionalized racism, oppression and poverty that were once again and dramatically brought tow light through hurricane Katrina and in the way the government has dealt with that natural disaster and its aftermath?
"The answer to these questions, as well as the actions of Bush himself, in the face of growing difficulties for his regime and its agenda, show once again why the Call, 'The World Can't Wait! Drive Out The Bush Regime!' is speaking to a profound truth and a profound need when it says:
"There is not going to be some magical 'pendulum swing.' People who steal elections and believe they're on a 'mission from God' will not go without a fight."
Quite frankly, it seems to me that the "fix is already in" on the 2006 elections. The Diebold machines are in place, the crooked redistricting has all been done, and the money and high-level support that does go to Democrats are for the ones running on anti- abortion or other "Republican lite" platforms.
One thing we can say with certainty is that the Democratic Party will not do anything in the direction of what the vast majority of its base truly wants and believes in--like the overwhelming public opinion to end the war now, or the over 400 cities that opposed the Patriot Act--until their feet are held to the fire--until they fear that people are getting beyond their control. The blunt truth is that as long as they think people are willing to passively go along with the whole process and are dependent on them, they are never going to bend to the things people really care about.
Even for those of us who strongly believe there is still hope and something to believe in in the electoral process -- or room to be created for those in congress trying to do something -- we are here together because there is recognition that this will not happen short of a massive upsurge from below. When that does happen it changes everything and creates a political situation that everyone has to respond to.
We have to recognize that the only thing that can save us is our own independent political activity.
Now, the political cohesion of our Movement is not voting vs not voting; the Call doesn't tell people not to vote. And it would be very wrong to make that the dividing line. Anybody who says that this movement is against voting perhaps has not read the Call. The point is that we cannot rely on the Democratic Party -- that as our Call says, "This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into leadership who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people."
Let's be real clear. This regime may be wounded, but is as dangerous, and determined, as a wounded beast. And at this State of the Union Bush will attempt a big comeback for his regime and his program. It must be massively answered. And it will not be answered by what is being brought forward following after the leadership of the Democratic Party. In fact, the time of the State of the Union is going to mark the beginning of a whole campaign to draw people's hopes and energies into relying on "leaders" who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics.
Our mass actions around the State of the Union must provide people the way to get on a different road -- the road of taking independent mass political action, driving out this regime. Our plan for the State of the Union must meet that challenge -- nothing less--or we will fail in our responsibility to powerfully provide people with that path, at this crucial time. The future we get really is up to us.
So let's talk about what we ARE going to do. Let's talk about, and let me share, an audacious vision that our steering committee has come up with, beyond what we sent out earlier in the week. Let's talk about a vision commensurate with what we need to really make a leap toward driving out this regime. Let's talk about taking a step that's going to create a whole new dynamic in this society.
Let's talk about the State of the Union speech, when Bush will strut out there, putting on his best face, and put forward his program of more war, more repression, and more horror, with all the major networks covering him and all eyes on him. Let's talk about how just as he starts to run his lies to people all over the country and all over the world, from every corner of the country he is politically drowned out by mass action. Let's talk about how THIS becomes what everyone has to relate to, and how the biggest question in society becomes, to quote the Clash: SHOULD HE STAY OR SHOULD HE GO?
And let's talk about how we answer that question loud and clear to millions and millions of people with further powerful action. That's what we have been wrestling with, and I'm going to present you a new and even more powerful vision, from the Steering Committee, of how to do that in a minute.
But let's be clear first: that is a tall order but this is what we need. To say we made a beginning on November 2 cannot mean that now we settle into gradual and incremental tactics to slowly grow this movement. This is not the same old same old. This is not a pet project or a way to build a movement. It is a serious challenge to unseat and drive out of power a sitting regime and not just any old regime--but one that has to be driven out--because what will happen if we don't?
We said in our Call that, in the face of what this Regime is doing, silence and paralysis are NOT acceptable! If we are going to politically drown out the State of the Union and get things into a different dynamic, we have to shake people up AND we have to make a compelling case that they join us! There are many people who would respond to our message, but we have not yet even reached them. That's for starters--we REALLY have to get this Call out there much more broadly.
At the same time, we very much need to learn better the things that prevent some people who have heard our message and speak to their questions more powerfully. But we can do that. The very things that compelled thousands to step up and step out in the face of both repression and despair are still here, and getting worse by the day. The very things that made each and every person in this room turn their lives around are still there, and getting worse by the day. And the vision that inspired all of those people that is embodied in our Call is still here, and the potential to make that seemingly impossible dream a reality not only manifested on November 2, but can and must manifest all the more powerfully as we go into the State of the Union. We can break the constraints--political and practical--that held people back. And we will.
This weekend we have to decide this will happen and build our own framework to make it happen. We are responsible to all the people who are not here, who worked behind the scenes to make those events happen, or who couldn't afford to come here today. We're responsible to our growing movement.
Therefore, the Steering Committee proposes a more ambitious and audacious plan for the State of the Union, in two phases:
1) On the night of the State of the Union message, in real time across the country, everyone mobilizes in their own area to Drown Out Bush's Lies. At rallies called one hour before the speech (starting at 8 pm EST, 5 pm PST, and so on) we will proclaim our determination to Drive out the Bush Regime. The whole diversity of our movement, from high school students who have spent the day mobilizing, to local government officials who bring resolutions calling for Bush to Step Down, to prominent artists and activists, unions, professional associations, student governments will represent. As Bush begins to speak, literally, we will BRING THE NOISE in a cacophony of sound that drowns out his speech. From drum circles to violins, cat-calls to air horns to banging pots and pans--the whole variety of musical expression from hip hop to classical will make a noise. Big media outlets like Fox News might make good gathering spots for public DROWN OUTS. People in nursing homes and hospitals, or at work on late shifts, could participate where they are. The students, especially the high schools, can help by not even going to school that day, but by criss crossing the cities and towns in car caravans and flat bed trucks, and marches.
This part of the plan utilizes the strength we have in the youth and the fact that people want to demonstrate wherever they are that they demand BUSH STEP DOWN, and Take your whole program with you!
2) Then, the very next Saturday, we will get everyone possible to Washington, DC by bus, car, train or plane to protest at the seat of government. There will be prominent voices of conscience to help deliver the people's verdict on the State of the Union. And that verdict will ring through the streets of DC, and echo through the world: STEP DOWN STEP DOWN, BUSH MUST GO! DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME!