In mid-November, Paul LeBlanc – a professor of history at La Roche College – spoke at Occupy Boston as part of The Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series. Above are videos of that speech taken by the Boston Occupier’s Doug Greene, and below is the full transcription of the speech.
AS SOMEONE who has been substantially involved in Occupy Pittsburgh, and who has recently returned from London, where I was able to rally with sisters and brothers from the London Occupation (in the face of an enormous police confrontation), it is a genuine pleasure and honor for me to have an opportunity to speak with activists who are part of Occupy Boston.
In London, I heard the working-class singer Billy Bragg being joined by many others in the crowd to sing a wonderful song about the Diggers, an extremely radical movement that was part of the English Revolution of the 1640s. I think it is a great source of strength to be able to draw from one’s own revolutionary traditions, from our own history, as we engage in present-day struggles for radical social change.
“We are the 99 percent” is the wonderful slogan of our movement–which recognizes that the wealthy 1 percent that controls the economy and, for all practical purposes, controls the government of our country has interests that are fundamentally different from ours. Our struggle is to replace the tyranny of the 1 percent with a deep and genuine democracy–rule by the people–in which the free development of each person will be the condition for the free development of everyone. We seek a community, animated by liberty and justice for all, and animated by what some would call a spirit of brotherly and sisterly love.
This goal will not be achieved quickly or easily, but only by a sustained, massive, multifaceted, powerful social movement. I believe that in order to make our movement as strong and effective as it needs to be, we need to explore and learn from experiences of the past–from struggles and social movements that have actually brought about changes for the better in our country.
It is altogether appropriate to start our exploration with the words of Howard Zinn. “Democracy does not come from the top, it comes from the bottom,” Zinn tells us at the beginning of his wonderful film The People Speak. “The mutinous soldiers, the angry women, the rebellious Native Americans, the working people, the agitators, the antiwar protesters, the socialists and anarchists and dissenters of all kinds–the troublemakers, yes, the people who have given us what liberty and democracy we have.”
These splendid troublemakers that Zinn tells us about were not the entire 99 percent of their time–they were a militant minority who fought for the interests of the 99 percent, and who did that by reaching out to persuade their sisters and brothers to join them in the struggle for a better world, and to include more and more and more of them in the struggle, a struggle taking place under the shadow of what some refer to as “globalization”–a globalization dominated by multinational corporations that seek to amass huge profits for the 1 percent at the expense of the rest of us.