Revolution #59, September 3, 2006
The Urgent Stakes and the Significance of Martin Niemöller’s Famous Quote
Revolution asked Debra Sweet to speak about the stakes involved in the struggle to drive out the Bush Regime. She said:
There is a great urgency right now that we get something going in society, where people know in this country and all over the world know that there is a movement determined to bring this to a halt. There are the stakes that are facing us if we don't stop them and if we don't get this movement going that has to do with what they're going to do. But there is another set of stakes from the side of the people that I think we have to be responsible to. And that is that if the Bush regime is not opposed, resolutely, from the bottom, by a massive movement independent of the two parties in power, if this doesn't happen, what happens is exactly what is in our Call that we said a year ago: “That which you do not resist and mobilize others to stop, you will learn or be forced to accept.” And the level of acceptance and accommodation in this society is only increasing as it is fostered and led by the party that a lot of people expect to be in opposition to the Bush Regime, the Democrats. All the forces in this society that accommodate to and accept the direction this is going, whether that's voices in the media not challenging what this regime is doing, or whether it's religious forces who are saying well, it's really not a good time to speak out because we might face problems with our tax status, or coming down to individual people living in this country saying, look, if I speak out my name might get on a list or if I sign this call on the Internet I might have repercussions from this. All of the people honestly looking at what it's going to take to stop this do need to look seriously not just at the risk it takes to oppose them now, but the risk we all assume and the moral and political responsibility we have as the people living in this country if we do not stop the direction which we have identified correctly, as a fascist direction which can be locked in place for generations to come.
I know that a lot of readers of this newspaper are familiar with the famous point by Martin Niemöller when he summed up the experience looking back at World War 2 and the years leading up to it, and we've actually attached it as an appendix to our whole plan for October 5th. It starts out saying, first they came for the communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist and then they came for the trade unionist, so forth—and he names four or five groups in society and we could insert the famous quote here: "Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up." But in speaking after the war, he was really trying to help us and future generations, of which we are now looking back 60 years at this time, to see that there was a moment, there were a number of moments, but there were key moments when people looked at the situation going on and they made a conscious choice, to either face up to what was going on and get deeper beyond the appearance of what was going on and really look at the developments, or they chose denial. Or they said, well, there's something really bad going on but it's not happening to me so I'm going to take a pass right now, I'm gonna hope it doesn't come to me. This is really what he was talking about. And I think his whole point in saying this, after he survived being in a concentration camp, and after he felt incredibly responsible for not having spoken up and was issuing this call to humanity that you can never let this happen again by not speaking up, even if it meant that people speaking up at that point would have paid a tremendous price, including death for speaking up, even many thousands of people could have been killed. He's left a legacy for us to say, look, you should have spoken up, you could have stopped this dynamic. The stakes actually are for us at this point in 2006, when this regime has more than two years to go, when they can wreak untold havoc on the world, not to mention the abuses and the horrors that they have brought to people living in this country. There comes a time when the scales will have tipped so far that it would not be possible to build this movement, to get the voices out there and the critical mass we need to stop them. We’d still have to resist, but it would be from a far far worse position, facing even heavier odds. So this is part of facing up to the stakes right now as well.
There's a moment right now when we have, I believe a great basis to act and a huge necessity and we absolutely have to seize the time, over the next six weeks and build and bring this momentum into this movement where we have great potential to deliver the message to the whole world that there's a movement determined to bring this to a halt and drive out this hated regime.
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