C OVID-19, and before Covid everything else, has raised a question that is now percolating, and even reverberating. And then came a white knee crushing a Black neck. A dream so long deferred suddenly exploded in city after city. What’s next? From the social distancing, what? From the fumes and flames, what? From the bodies in morgues and the ashes littering streets in hundreds of cities, what? Are we going back or are we going forward? Keeping our distance and feeling incredible anger are both understandable, both warranted. The former uniquely now. The latter since before whenever. But how does either become sustainably constructive?
A school burns. Its lunches for youngsters become unavailable. A call goes out. In hours the school’s community generates truckloads of food. Mutual aid is one way social distancing becomes constructive.
A man is choked to death in a modern day lynching meant to scare and subordinate. People in his community, and in all communities, feel rage and lash out. Do lasting connections form? Do thousands of local organizing efforts, mutual aid associations, and even grassroots assemblies become new sinews of new movement growth? They can, but if they don’t create lasting connections, one to the next, each upsurge will wilt in splendid isolation. What can make this moment’s passion positive? What can make this moment’s anger future-seeking?
So what glue can network it all? Perhaps we need future-seeking anger. Perhaps we need positive passion. Could vision of a better future be our needed glue? Could vision of what we want, not just for survival but for liberation, move us from disorganized disparate resistance to highly organized coherent rebellion? WE WANT TRUMP DEFEATED
Can post Covid lead us toward post racism, post sexism, post authoritarianism, post capitalism, post global warming, post war, rather than leading us back to the ugliness that preceded and provoked our current crises?
What can make this moment’s passion positive? What can make this moment’s anger future-seeking? Fuck it all—what do we really want?
Some people will say the only solution is more authority, more surveillance, more domination. Call out the cops. Call out the national guard. Call out the army. They will seek to parlay current chaos into accelerated regimentation. They will play on fear to birth more fear. Some who do that will ignorantly believe what they are saying. Some who do that will despicably want no more than their own safety and enrichment.
Others will avoid the questions entirely. They are pained, and they want no more pain. Their feeling is fair enough, but somehow they think looking the other way is valid, moral, worthy, and for that matter even a pain-diminishing approach. They will seek to laugh and not feel the encroaching pandemonium. “I must go where it is quiet.” It is an understandable sentiment, but they are the good people who will do nothing and thereby, against their own better natures, abet evil.
Some other people will curiously address these questions. Their inquiring and all too abstract minds want to know. “I want to understand.” They may gain knowledge. They may even share it. But with only curiosity, will they move beyond words?
Some people will approach the questions desperate, their equanimity shattered by their own oppressions. “Get me outta this place.” They will seek relief and with good reason. But only desperate, theirs will be a lonely pursuit.
Finally, some people will approach the questions curious, desperate, and also passionately angry. “I want safety and comfort for all.” They will cultivate intent. They will seek collectivity. They will want to know what’s next so they can help make it happen. What unresolved issues can we agree we need to all together further investigate by thought, experiment, and construction if we are to arrive at a shared perspective of how a better world can fulfill our many and varied desires? Into the streets with vision. Into action with destination.
Trying to embody that last most positive motivation, and feeling that vision of a better world can help glue disparate energies into a powerful sustained force, we in Collective 20 wonder what can all us who want a better world already agree on regarding its features? What can we agree we don’t want? What can we agree we do want? What unresolved issues can we agree we need to all together further investigate by thought, experiment, and construction if we are to arrive at a shared perspective of how a better world can fulfill our many and varied desires? Into the streets with vision. Into action with destination. What can resistance advocate? What should activists consider and even try out?
The ideas we offer below address aims, organization, and organizing. They combine insights from many decades of diverse anti-racist struggle, global climate activism, international immigration activism, LGBTQ organizing, feminist activism, struggles for economic and social justice, anti-fascist organizing, movements for electoral and judicial innovation, labor organizing, anti-war organizing, anti-imperial organizing, and much more.
Six overarching values inform and guide our offerings below, and we hope you will find the chosen values as congenial and helpful as we do. Decisions ideally ought to be collectively self managed, not authoritarian, not elitist.
Material benefits and social circumstances ought to be equitably distributed, not grotesquely unequal, not at all unjust.
Mutual aid and empathy ought to be institutionally nurtured and defended, not competitive greed, not anti-social brutishness.
Diverse cultural and social community preferences ought to be celebrated and protected, not denigrated and denied, not choked to submission.
Natural habitats and environments ought to be societally respected and protected to ensure sustainability and ecological diversity, not to exploit and violate to extinction.
Worthy values should apply not only to each society, but internationally to the community of all societies so all societies prosper in internationalist peace, not dissolve in internecine war.
We tentatively write what’s below because we believe attaining a much better world will require considerable mutual aid and shared priorities including self consciously proposing, discussing, augmenting, refining, and finally collectively advocating and implementing a shared path forward.
Our words therefore provisionally seek discussion, addition, deletion, and refinement. We hope only to provide grist for a wide ranging conversation about winning a better future. The elements we offer here may have merit, or they may not. They are not so much answers as questions and entreaties. Either way, whether our views prove helpful or dismissible, the point is to embark on conceiving and then employing worthy vision. Who Decides What?
What of governance, the polity? Most broadly, can we agree we want to fully liberate political life from elitist domination? Can we agree we want no more bought and sold officials? No more rampant corruption and coercion? And can we agree that these gains require new participatory political institutions that take account of and benefit all citizens equally?
If so, can we agree that to eliminate political elitism, we will need transparent mechanisms to carry out and evaluate political decisions and to convey to all citizens information, confidence, and self managing say as much as possible proportionate to effects on them?
And wouldn’t that in turn entail establishing grassroots venues for popular participation, augmented by frequent direct participation or, when needed, recallable and accountable representation and delegation that utilizes voting options such as majority rule, […]
This Piece Originally Appeared in www.laprogressive.com