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Challenging Paul Ryan on his home turf, with Randy Bryce


Ironworker and cancer survivor Randy Bryce made a splash with the announcement of his campaign against Paul Ryan for Congress. His first ad focused on universal healthcare and Paul Ryan’s attacks on the existing system, and quickly went viral. Bryce talks to me about his decision to get into the race against Ryan, the resistance movement in Wisconsin, and why more working people ought to run for office.

It took a lot of people that were starting to ask me to consider getting into it. I said, “Thanks, I am flattered that you are asking.” Then, some other groups and local electeds had said, “Randy, you should really think about this. You are exactly the kind of guy that we need. You are everything that he is not. What you do for a living, you are a vet,” the experiences that I have had. Pretty much everything that he is doing and everything that he is taking away affects me somehow, is some part of my life he is trying to snatch away.

I know just talking to neighbors that they are being affected, too. This whole divide and conquer thing really has people upset; talking about making America great again, that doesn’t happen by dividing us. It has never helped make us great. What makes us great is bringing up the “united” part of the United States. People are having a lot of buyer’s remorse. Donald Trump had a message that resonated with some working people, but I said, “Just wait and see. He is not going to do any of it. It sounds good, but he is not going to do any of it because he is not one of us.”

Paul Ryan is totally complicit. He is choosing the party over the people. He thanked the entire Wisconsin Republicans at their convention, thanked everybody for electing Donald Trump. He owns Donald Trump. There was a chance at one time, when he was hesitant to back him, but they are handcuffed together right now. They are in the same boat and that boat has a leak.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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No is not enough, with Naomi Klein


The rise of Donald Trump seemed shocking to so many, but to Naomi Klein, something of an expert on shock, the feeling that Trump brings out is more akin to the horror of a bad dystopian novel. Indeed, it’s like her decades of previous research into the growth of global brands and a movement against them, into the violence of neoliberalism, and the destruction and movement against climate change has all come together in one presidency. That gives her a lot of ideas of how to fight him, ideas she details in a new book, No Is Not Enough.

There is no doubt that the far right is entering into a vacuum left by neoliberal centrism and liberalism. It is worth remembering that not so long ago, there was a very large, progressive, committedly internationalist movement that was taking on the whole logic of what was called “free trade” or “globalization” or “corporate globalization.” We called it “corporate rule” for the most part, because the problem was not trade, it was the writing of rules for the global economy in the interests of a small group of powerful corporations. Forget hollow brands. The center of that fight was about the hollowing out of democracy. Yes, sure, you can still vote, but the most important decisions about your life are being outsourced to institutions over which you have no control.

The fact that neoliberal centrist parties pushed those deals, signed those deals, negotiated those deals, and never aligned themselves with that grassroots progressive movement, left the space open for the Donald Trumps and the Nigel Farages and the Marine Le Pens of the world to come in and say, “We know how out of control you are. We believe you should be authors of your own fate, of your own destiny.” We left these ideas unattended, let’s just say. There are lots of great groups that never stopped focusing on trade, like Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch and lots of groups in Europe. But it stopped being a mass movement in the global north after September 11th. It is worth interrogating why that happened.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Knock every door, talk to everyone, with Becky Bond


In the wake of Trump’s election, Becky Bond says, people began to ask her what they could do. Beyond just donating money to campaigns or showing up to protests, she says, people wanted to be active in their communities, talking to their neighbors. She and some of her Sanders campaign colleagues decided to create a platform for people to do just that, and thus KnockEveryDoor was born.

The big data strategy is where essentially you hire a bunch of data consultants to run a bunch of models to find out “What is the smallest number of people you can talk to and win? Who are those people and what do they care about?” We need to talk to everybody. When you talk to a small group of people, they may not reflect back what the campaign needs to hear and about what is really going on with most of the constituents in that race. I think that campaigns need to hear from the majority of the people how policies are affecting their lives. Then, that could really change what politicians decide to talk about and fight for.

One of the things that I really learned from talking to people across the country is that the people that are not participating in elections, the so-called “low information voters,” it is not that they are ignorant people at all. In fact, time and time again, when I talk to them I come away feeling like they have a very sophisticated political analysis and they are choosing not to participate in politics. Not because they don’t know, but because their liberation is not on the ballot or they don’t see how voting is actually going to materially change anything in their lives. I think that reestablishing the feedback loop of talking voters is doing an important thing. That the concerns from the people that are not participating can also be something that politicians take into account, not just the narrow slice of voters who they think will put them over the top.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Self-determination in Mississippi, with Chokwe Antar Lumumba

n 2013, radical attorney Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi on a platform of economic self-determination for the people of Jackson, a plan that as Kali Akuno explained (in Interviews for Resistance #1) aims at Ȑtransforming the economy, creating a democratic economy leading towards the creation and construction of a socialist economy, but through a democratic bottom-up process. Lumumba’s untimely death less than a year into his term put some of those plans on hold, though the movement continued its work outside of political power, founding the organization Cooperation Jackson to create a network of worker cooperatives in the city. Now, Lumumba’s son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, is running for mayor of the city, to expand on the work that began years ago.

[W]hen people ask, “How did you feel the Wednesday after the election?” I said, “Well, I woke up in Mississippi.” What that means to me is that no matter whether Trump is president or whether Obama was president, in Mississippi if you were poor before Obama, you were most likely poor after Obama. Mississippi has not had the opportunity to feel great booms or big busts in the financial market of our country, because no matter whether the country was excelling or on a decline, we still were at the bottom. We have always been at the bottom. Mississippi has been largely neglected by everyone.

The real opportunity to win Mississippi or to organize in Mississippi is to address the needs of the people in this space. I think it is a real opportunity to develop, because if you take a place like Mississippi, which has been the haven of oppression in many regards, whether we are talking about racially, culturally, socially, or even economically. It is a haven for bad employment practices. If you can change the conditions in Mississippi, right here in the belly of the beast, then it speaks to what we can achieve across the globe. We no longer want Mississippi to be the refuge for companies that want to pay low wages and create conditions in which employees are treated in a devastating fashion. If we can change that dynamic here, then it makes it unsafe for them to go to any place to do that. We start creating an agenda and creating the model for what we can achieve as a people and what principled leadership can achieve, so there is no safe space for that type of oppression.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Running the movement for office, with khalid kamau


In the wake of the massive political shake-up that was the 2016 election, khalid kamau, a Bernie Sanders supporter and local movement activist, makes the argument that change has to come from below, not from the election of one leader to the top office. Accordingly, he’s running for local office, in the newly-incorporated city of South Fulton, Georgia, part of the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. A member of Democratic Socialists of America, a union activist, and an early part of BlackLivesMatter Atlanta, kamau argues for bringing the message of democratic socialism to a Southern, majority-African-American city.

I think the thing that is most powerful about this race, or even my campaign, is that I love Bernie, but I think where his campaign failed – I don’t think this is a personal failure of Bernie, but perhaps of the people that were around him and advising that campaign – is that there wasn’t enough attention paid to people of color. I am not sure that people of color who were in that campaign were listened to the way they should have been. Bernie didn’t make—he made a very excellent class argument. I think it is implied that people of color are more disproportionately affected by class disparities than whites. I think there was an assumption that people of color would understand that and would understand that the arguments that he was making about class and equality were implicitly also arguments about racial inequality.

I think that, frankly, because Bernie was an old white man, black folks, people of color, did not implicitly get that he was speaking to them. I did think he was speaking to them, but I am not sure everyone else did. One of the things that the progressive movement is going to have to do is find leaders of color and candidates of color to carry this message. When I speak about it, rightly or wrongly, when I am talking about income equality and when I am talking about working class families, the black and brown audiences that I speak to do implicitly get that I am speaking to them and that I am speaking for them and that I am speaking about them. I don’t necessarily go around making a lot of racial arguments. I think that my bona fides of BlackLivesMatter speak volumes about my own racial politics and that I can make these arguments of class and people of color get, because this city is 89% African-American and because I am African-American, people know that I am talking about them.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.