The 10-year anniversary for the movement that sprung up against the war in Iraq is on the horizon, and it presents an opportune time to reflect on its progress, and more importantly, the lessons that can be learned from its shortcomings.
While activists were busy organizing in the fall of 2002, the dramatic debut of the movement’s true size and global dimensions took place on February 15, 2003. On that historic date, millions took to the streets around the world in the largest antiwar protest in history. Two days later, Patrick Tyler wrote in The New York Times that there were now perhaps “two superpowers on the planet—the United States, and worldwide public opinion.” Continue reading
It would be an exaggeration to claim that there has been a significant and visible mobilization against the war in Iraq for the past several years. The misinformation used to justify the war and the failure of any workable formula for the governance of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein rather quickly caused a broad segment of the public to adopt a quagmire frame. With the election of a President who was critical of the war and who promised to end it in an orderly fashion, the opportunity to mobilize any significant constituency to take collective action to end this war was essentially closed.
Nevertheless, there are some lessons to be drawn from this experience. Continue reading
On February 15th, 2003, millions of people from around the world took part in a series of coordinated protests against the impending war in Iraq. Although estimates of the number of participants ranged from six to thirty million, it was, without a doubt, the single largest protest event in human history to that date (BBC News 2003). Many scholars commented that the unprecedented level of successful global coordination against the war was made possible by the work of institutional leaders cooperating in large scale coalitions (Boekkooi, Klandermans, and van Stekelenburg 2011; Corrigall-Brown and Meyer 2010). These types of coalitions seemed indispensable for this level of mobilization. However, the recent success of the intentionally unorganized Occupy movement challenges us to reassess the necessity of formal coalitions between organizations and ask: in what contexts are formal coalitions needed for mass mobilization and how do formal organizational coalitions shape the nature of campaigns? Continue reading
In April of 2003, I returned from Iraq after having lived there during the U.S. Shock and Awe bombing and the initial weeks of the invasion. Before the bombing I had traveled to Iraq about two dozen times and had helped organize 70 trips to Iraq, aiming to cast light on a brutal sanctions regime, with the “Voices in the Wilderness” campaign. As the bombing had approached, we had given our all to helping organize a remarkable worldwide peace movement effort, one which may have come closer than any before it to stopping a war before it started. But, just as we’d failed to lift the vicious and lethally punitive economic sanctions against Iraq before the war, we also failed to stop the war and the devastating civil war it created. Continue reading
Kathleen C. Oberlin
Journalists and pundits alike clamored to interpret the recall election that took place in Wisconsin last week on June 5th. As Republicans beam with pride over Governor Scott Walker’s steadfast hold onto his seat, the Democrats are left to reevaluate among many issues whether or not the recall election is a tactic to continue to use in the current political climate. For those unfamiliar with what exactly a recall entails or where and when it can be done (presumably many of us), check out the national center for state legislators’ overview. Until recently state level (e.g., assembly members, governors) recall efforts were quite rare. It remains to be seen if this will continue in the future as a viable means to channel grievances. Continue reading
Have, as Montreal Gazette reporter Karen Seidman suggests, radicals hijacked the conflict over tuition increases in Québec?
In my previous post, I suggested that recent student protests in Montreal were more than just about tuition increases, and that tuition increases served as a triggering event that activated some other latent, longstanding grievances. In a recent May 16th article in the Montreal Gazette, Peggy Curran seems to agree with that assessment and writes that “it was clear the battle against tuition hikes had been transformed into the revolutionary cry of a lost generation. Toss a little anarchist mayhem into the mix, and you get a cocktail called pandemonium.” According to Curran, student mobilization is partially explained by the broader context of social unrest and breakdown characterized by economic uncertainty and high unemployment. But in addition to social unrest, Curran suggests a certain kind of intergenerational conflict between today’s students and baby-boomers – what she calls “boomerhate.” Continue reading
Many television news segments, newspaper articles and blog posts have, of late, asked what’s next for the Occupy movement. With spring in the air, apparently much of the Occupy movement’s strategizing has gone into claiming Labor Day as a way to express contemporary discontent and possibly mobilize new participants particularly in smaller cities. According to Alan Farnham of ABC News, “It’s shaping up to be a busy spring for Occupy.” Because of its cultural significance, or that it presents a perennial opportunity to raise awareness and promote Occupy goals, May Day might get a makeover in becoming the day for the 99%.
For those who study and teach about social movements and collective action, the last year has provided us with numerous cases. From OWS, environmental activism, the Arab Spring, and the Tea Party, we have compared and contrasted these cases, often seeking to find common themes across these, using existing theoretical frameworks to shed light on contemporary cases, or alternatively, use what’s going on out there as a way to reevaluate existing theories of social movements and collective action.
One important and emerging theme is the way in which people – from the public, to the media, to political elites – react to social movements. Scholars have shown how positive and negative reactions, especially by elites, have important consequences for subsequent mobilization. Of course, elite responses to protesters vary; by no means is government surveillance (as is the case with environmental groups in Canada) equivalent to the brutality faced by activists and bystanders in Syria. Yet, there is a common theme when it comes to elite framing of challenges as illegitimate and depicting challengers as radicals and terrorists. Continue reading
Most people following the Occupy movement understand that there were two Washington, D.C. Occupy protests. One was located in McPherson Square and the other in Freedom Plaza. Both camps shared some of the same visual tactics in signage and tents. These two “occupy” protests differed in origin, relationship with permits, tactics, and other fundamental ways. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray asked the National Parks Service to force their combination in mid-January, but both camps opposed this move. They both were evicted from camping in their locations over the February 4, 2012 weekend. Continue reading