What Movements Do
The ruling class is organized and well-funded. What can be done to confront and defeat concentrations of power? As a veteran activist once said, “Organized people can beat organized money.” There is a rich history of ordinary people getting together and doing extraordinary things. Take the disability rights movement. Who gave that a chance? Oh, we can’t build ramps and put in elevators. It’ll cost too much. Or another example is the civil rights movement. African Americans achieved voting rights after overcoming fierce resistance from entrenched white segregationists. There are contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter which protest against police killings of African-Americans. Teachers in Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia organized, went on strike and demanded better pay. And they got it. Movements to be effective embody the immortal words of Muhammad Ali: “Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee.”
Frances Fox Piven is a leading activist scholar. She is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at CUNY. She is co-author with Richard Cloward of numerous award-winning books including Regulating the Poor and The Breaking of the American Social Compact. She is the author of Why Americans Still Don’t Vote, The War at Home, Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven and Lessons for Our Struggle.