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America in the 90's

by Refuse & Resist!

"In a world teeming with change, two things are certain: first, the new world order will be neither orderly nor peaceful; second, much of humanity does not share - and has little hope of sharing - in progress toward a better life."
    - Robert M. Gates, retired director of the CIA (1992).

"We will work to shape change, lest it engulf us."
    - President Clinton's inaugural address (1993).


The Refuse & Resist! statement of 1987 called on people to resist becoming complicit in the reactionary climate that characterized America in the 1980s. This pervasive climate was orchestrated from above and was intensely connected with preparations for war. Its themes were a restoration of "traditional values" at home and a restoration of U.S. world power-the historic themes of fascism.

Today the United States has emerged from the Cold War racked with debt and facing a world situation even more unstable and out of control. Military intervention is definitely "in." The debt crisis and the competitive pressure of world markets have produced a sharp attack on domestic living standards-an attack that hits hardest those on the bottom. There is intense alienation from the government in the middle class. The new slogans for the nineties may be "change," "inclusion," and "empowerment." But the bottom line is "austerity," "sacrifice" and "order."

What does the United States in the nineties look like? It remains the country with more people held in jail per 100,000 than any police state in the world. The criminalization of Black and Latino youth continues unabated. The death penalty has become an acceptable "liberal" position.There is an escalating war on immigrants, with raids, concentration camps, militarized borders, U.S. slave catchers off Haiti, and the declaration that millions are "illegal." The actual ability of women to obtain abortion is methodically stripped away through gangster action, parental consent, waiting periods, and the denial of government funding. The censorship of music and culture has passed directly into corporate hands. There is no foreign military venture of the Bush-Reagan years to which Clinton did not wholeheartedly subscribe.

The mean-spirited, openly racist, misogynist, homophobic Christian-fundamentalist demands for "family values" and preparation for Armageddon continue to fester in growing organized networks. But the political face of reaction has been refurbished as shared sacrifice, "getting the economy moving," and "community based policing." The "evil empire" of the Soviet Union is gone, but the threat to the status quo, by those whose lives cannot but worsen, increases at home and abroad. The five-day city-wide rebellion in Los Angeles was a harbinger for the nineties.

There has been a desperate attempt to "bring back into the fold" the broad reaches of middle-class America who became intensely alienated from government during the eighties. Some even came to see government as the enemy. The response has been a series of quick policy adjustments: Tax relief would be promised if not delivered, women's right to abortion would be recognized although increasingly restricted, homosexuality would be legitimated for the purpose of military service for the empire, and gratuitous attacks on the environment would no longer be flaunted. At the same time, the resurgent racism and criminalization of minority youth of the eighties are retained and they lay the foundation for a new and dangerous social compact between those at the top and a frightened middle class.

The net result is a policification of America. The articulation of a fuzzy social concern masks expanded police forces, the creation of a National Police Corps, the enlistment of neighborhood snitch networks, the barricading (fencing) of poor neighborhoods, and open-air detention camps ("boot camps"). Their "community based policing" is nothing but intensified police control of minority and oppressed communities.

In our 1987 founding statement, Refuse & Resist said: "The transformation now taking place is not some periodic swing of the pendulum from 'left' to 'right'. . ." This has proven profoundly true. The very terms of political discourse have been shifted dramatically to the right. The Reagan-Bush era was NOT followed by a corrective swing to a golden age of liberal social policy. Rather we see a strategic realignment to meet new threats‹administered by the most conservative Democratic administration in the post-WWII period.

What we concluded in 1987 pointed to the only way forward: "There can be no communality of purpose, healing of divisions, or coming together as one nation behind this new course. To acquiesce further in silence is to be complicit. It is not enough to hope that all of this will simply go away. There must be massive resistance."

If anything, this call has increased relevance in the nineties. There is a heightened, not a lessened, need for people of conviction, compassion and conscience to come together in an even broader and more powerful movement of resistance.

Adopted by the National Council of Refuse & Resist! meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, February 14, 1993

[first issued 2/14/93]


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