Bill Ayers’ short new book, Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto, is different from the typical liberal view of a better world in two ways. First, its goals are a bit grander, more inspiring. Second, it adds as the first and most important goal one that others don’t include at all.
A typical proposal that a lesser evilist might give for “voting against Donald Trump” might include minor economic or police or prison reforms, a bit of environmentalism, healthcare, or education. Ayers wants to abolish prisons, end capitalism, disarm the police, redesign schools, create universal healthcare, and nationalize energy companies. And he’s right. The radical vision is the better one, not just because it leads to a better place but also because the incrementalist approach will get us all killed — only a bit more slowly than doing nothing.
The more important, because rarer, difference in Ayers’ manifesto is the addition of the missing topic. Most U.S. “progressives” imagine a world of greater economic equality and opportunity, environmental sustainability, fewer police killings, shorter prison sentences, investment in human needs, and the withering away of all sorts of bigotries, prejudices, sexisms, racisms, and other sorts of unfairness and cruelty — resulting in a multicultural community all united in our support for dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing for battle with our collectively loathed foreign enemies, and supporting the weapons trade as a supposed economic program.
Ayers takes a different approach. “What,” he asks, “if we broke from the dogma of militarism — rejecting the anemic and seemingly endless debates about whether the United States should bomb this country or instead boycott some other country . . . — and organized an irresistible social upheaval strong enough to stop U.S. invasions and conquest[?] What if we occupied bases, blocked munitions shipments and private militias, boycotted arms dealers, sabotaged surveillance operations and drone manufacturers — and forced the U.S. government to disarm and close all foreign military bases within a year? . . . Or what if we built a colossal transnational movement that organized shadow elections (initially), inviting any resident of a country with a U.S. military presence within its borders to vote in U.S. national elections?”
Ayers proposes that we take on the culture of militarism, not just the industrial structure of it. “[I]magine,” he writes, “any bit of the war culture transformed into a peace-and-love culture: the Super Bowl opening with thousands of local school kids rushing through the stands distributing their poetry, and then everyone singing ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ or ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ or ‘We Shall Overcome’; an airlines or bus terminal clerk saying, ‘We want to invite any teachers or nurses in the gate area to board first, and we thank you for your service’; urban high schools eliminating ROTC and banning military recruiters in favor of school-wide assemblies for peace recruiters featuring Code Pink, and after-school programs led by Black Youth Project 100 and the American Friends Service Committee.”
Some of us like this idea so much we’ve organized an event this weekend to try to advance it. The event is called #NoWar2016. This Friday and Saturday, you can watch the live stream at TheRealNews.com. Videos of Friday through Sunday will be quickly posted online. Sunday will include activism workshops and a planning session for a protest at the Pentagon at 9 a.m. Monday morning. The details are all at http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016.