"If you believe America desperately needs a great surge of democracy in the face of fierce opposition from reactionary and corporate forces, then remembering and reviving the spirit of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died 69 years ago this week, is in order.
In January 1941, FDR’s State of the Union address made it clear that a fight was inevitable, a fight to preserve, protect and defend four essential freedoms: freedom from fear and want and freedom of speech and religion.
This week, Bill speaks with historian Harvey J. Kaye, author of the new book, The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great, about how FDR’s speech was a rallying cry to build the kind of progressive society that Roosevelt hoped for but did not live to see at war’s end.
Kaye says the president was able to mobilize Americans who created “the strongest and most prosperous country in human history.” How did they do it? By working toward the Four Freedoms and making America “freer, more equal and more democratic.”
<iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/91731674" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="">Fighting for the Four Freedoms</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user9013478">BillMoyers.com</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>
"Mass movements don't just appear out of the fog, fully grown, structured and mobilized. They emerge in fits and starts over many years, just as the American Revolution did, and as did the Populists' original idea of a "cooperative commonwealth." A successful people's movement has to take the long view, to learn about itself as it builds, nurture the culture of its people, take chances, create fun for all involved, adapt to failures and successes, stay steadfast to its principles, have a stoic tenacity — and organize, organize, organize. A little serendipity helps, too, so grab it when you can.
In 2011 a serendipitous moment for the populist cause rumbled across our land, though later it was widely (and wrongly) dismissed as a failure. That September, hundreds of young people, loosely aligned with an upstart group called Occupy Wall Street, took over Zuccotti Park in New York City and audaciously camped out on the front stoop of the elite banksters who'd crashed our economy. Occupy's depiction of the 1-percent vs. the 99-percent struck a chord with the unemployed, underemployed, and the knocked-down middle class. Occupy encampments quickly sprang up in some 200 cities and towns from coast to coast.
The uprising was ridiculed (even by many progressive groups) as naive, undisciplined and "not serious." Who's in charge? Where's their strategic plan? Why don't they have position papers? All this carping about Occupy failing to produce the usual trappings of a Washington-focused interest group missed two essential points the young people were making: (1) such trappings are not producing any change, and (2) we're not an interest group, we're a rebellion.
Rebellion has to come first. As it builds, structure and process will follow in due time. The great strength of Occupy is that it was a genuine, non-institutional, social, non-wonkish, morally compelling, and spontaneous stand against the culture of inequality that the moneyed powers are imposing. It touched people in deeper ways than issue politics will ever do. And the great achievement of Occupy is that it prompted a cultural shift that turned Wall Street's barons into social pariahs and put the issue of inequality directly at the center of our nation's political debate."