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    RQ Review

    Globalize Liberation

    How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World

    Edited by David Solnit

    Globalize Liberation is a collection of essays inspired by the worldwide movement against the growing corporate control of...everything - exemplified by such institutions as the World Trade Organization and corporations like Bechtel and Chevron. Editor David Solnit has been a tireless organizer for over two decades, and he taps the wisdom of a wide array of people he's worked alongside, letting them speak for themselves.

    Solnit says the stories, strategies, and voices in this book are a "new radicalism," "a movement of movements" which "has many names or no name at all."

    Such paradox speaks to my sense of the world. I appreciate how he and several of the writers challenge us to embrace seeming opposites in need of reconciliation. Starhawk points out the need for us to embrace the "hard" and the "soft," the "compassionate as well as the hard-core," the "fighter and the healer." Revolutionary Chris Carlsson challenges us not to dichotomize too severely "radical" and "reformer" in his essay "Assuming We Refuse, Let's Refuse to Assume." People working for "total transformation" and those focusing on "incremental change" need to embrace, or at least not belittle, each other's work. Throughout the collection we see groups trying to do both "prefigurative" visioning and nitty-gritty work.

    Neighborhood assemblies in Argentina, Zapatismo from Chiapas fueling activism in the U.S., stopping Thatcher's poll tax in Britain in the late 1980s, linking struggles (like environmentalism and anti-prison organizing) for mutual benefit: all are important histories presented to us with details enough for us to see if we can use some of their experiences in our own struggles.

    The ideas that inspired Solnit to bring these voices together and to the fore are that "no one size fits all" and the desire to help us all pack our activist "tool belt, with the most useful and practical tools."

    I enjoyed many visceral reactions to turns of phrases and titles throughout the book: Reinsborough's "post-issue activism" and "direct action at the point of assumption"; Carlsson's warnings about "tactical cul-de-sacs"; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' "Consciousness+Commitment=Change"; the Zapatismo articulation of a "listening revolution"; Martinez's "Racism: The U.S. Creation Myth and its Premise Keepers."

    Some of the pieces present important histories for us to learn from. George Lakey's lengthy piece (I did think that several of the subjects would have been better if represented by a couple of shorter offerings.) makes mention of several major victories of non-violent uprisings, underscoring changes in tactics that led to much greater success when seen in a strategic context. Many of the examples in his and other essays pointed to the importance of evaluating and changing tactics in the face of state or other responses to their organizing.

    Of all the movements and organizations I work with, the one that I wish were in this book is the catholic worker movement with its intent to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." In fact, there is little to nothing in G.L. about religious-based social justice activism like Liberation Theology or that done by A.F.S.C. Despite the oppression caused by dominant parts of the Catholic Church, significant anti-oppression work, revolutionary work and the necessary work of caring for people's dire needs now, during the struggle, have been carried out under the auspices of nuns, priests and other religious. Their capacity to reach into the mainstream may even be unparalleled.

    A fundamental problem that impedes positive social change is the need to fill the vacuums that would be created by success. If we get rid of oppressive institutions and power dynamics, what will replace them? Most authors in this book have something to say about this, sometimes just pointing out the problem; others being more concrete in their recommendations. Without exception, the authors name "capitalism" as a problem, but old-school communism or socialism aren't held up as the solution either. Overall, David and others present a vision in which the work is "making change without taking power." In Starhawk's article, she reiterates her longstanding differentiation between "power over" and "power with." These are concepts I've embraced for some time now, but I'm still not sure that the less politicized masses will trust in something as amorphous and grand as "direct democracy" or even "consensus process." Globalize Liberation makes me feel more hopeful that they can, and in fact already do.

    Reviewed by Jim Haber. This review first appeared in The NonViolent activist magazine, published by War Resisters' League is a developing experiment -- give us your feedback! Write us at

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