Beyond protest

| March 02, 2005
There's a point early in Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis' film The Take, which the Independent is sponsoring at showings in Raleigh, Cary and Durham next week, when Klein is on a "bobble-head" show--the name bloggers have for those Sunday morning gabfests. She is arguing against Argentine President Carlos Menem's plunge into unfettered, free-market capitalism that put hundreds of thousands of people out of work and the country tens of billions of dollars in debt to the International Monetary Fund. Thousands of people are in the streets demonstrating, and the host asks what she would do about it. He doesn't let her answer the question, but she acknowledges he has a point. "There's only so much protesting can accomplish," she says.

The couple's inspiring documentary goes on to look at a phenomenon that went far beyond protest: thousands of workers taking over their closed factories, defending themselves with slingshots, making deals to sell their goods, and starting the assembly lines up again. In the meantime, Menem is defeated in a bid to again become president and Congress starts legalizing the takeover process. You can't help but ask the question: Could it happen here?

Why not? OK, it's unlikely that Pillowtex workers will try (or be allowed) to take over their old North Carolina factories. And, as Hal Crowther warns this week, we are faced with an administration and a culture increasingly based on ignorance, apathy and intimidation. But we still have plenty of opportunities to affect change and a government that can be at least as responsive as Argentina's.

For starters, look at the Democratic Party. The elections of Howard Dean and Jerry Meek to head the national and state parties mean that, as Bob Geary writes this week, "Democrats, getting together at platform meetings, might ... insist on fair-trade policies, a jobs program, restoring taxes on multimillionaires' estates and generally balancing the country's outlays (and wars) with its revenues."

Despite President Bush's constant campaign to create a Social Security system that enriches mainly stockbrokers, the latest polls show that only 38 percent of Americans think major change is needed--down from 49 percent in January. Just read Farnum Brown's "The Business" column this week to understand why.

And next month, thousands of people from around the Southeast will descend on Fort Bragg for a "National March & Rally to Bring the Troops Home Now." It's not a radical idea--the Elon University Poll found last month that 45 percent of North Carolinians disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the war in Iraq, and only 43 percent approve. Go to ncpeacejustice.org for more information.

See The Take. Then protest. Then keep going.

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