Learning from Popular Struggles: How We Might Unite

One of the most important political developments in today's world has been the emergence of new and surprising alliances within countries, and significantly, across national boundaries and across political spectrums. This has taken the form of 'civil society strategies' and what has been called 'globalization from below.' February 15, 2003 protests against the invasion of Iraq-where more than a million people jammed the centre of London, similar throngs marched in Rome and Barcelona, and hundreds of thousands demonstrated in Seoul, Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Sydney, and New York and every major city in the world - the people of the planet spoke out as never before in one unified voice. The New York Times reporter Patrick Tyler conferred "superpower" status on this anti-war movement. Even UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan used the phrase in referring to antiwar opinion.

This diversity of views and constituencies gives the civil society and these new alliances much of its strength. At the same time, such new formations and relationships are still very unsure and unstable.

The surprising resonance that the Zapatistas have encountered in international circles or the support for the Landless Movement (MST) in Brazilian society, or the anti-war movement, provides eloquent testimony in favor of approaches that abandon verticalism, vanguardism, exclusivity, and political jargon, in favor of inclusiveness, the building and strengthening of civil society to achieve our basic human rights. The Oakland Institute studies what makes these movements work, and how progressives and populists can learn from such disparate examples, especially as we forge cross-class, multi-cultural, and cross-border alliances. We also work on new approaches to social change, including the awareness of economic, social and cultural rights, which help bridge activist networks and help create a shared sense of movement.