Can you feel the old world dying?
Don’t worry, we won’t need to mourn its passing. You’ll recognize the old world from all of the stories that make you feel tired to the bone.
“Young black man shot by police while walking home.”
“Family evicted by bank too big to fail.”
“Workers paid pennies at billion-dollar corporation.”
“Rapist gets away with it, again.”
“Syrian hospital destroyed by US bombs.”
This world can’t sustain itself. You can see that in the continual, rolling economic collapse throughout the world. You can see it in the climate crisis that there’s never the necessary political support to really address. You can see it in various civil wars, migrant crises, and uprisings. You can see it here in Rochester, where the empire can’t even maintain the livelihood of its own citizens.
Our world today is falling apart faster than Bernie Sanders’ hopes and dreams. Not only is it crumbling, but everyone knows it. Some people know it in a clear way and can articulate how they think things need to change. But for many of us, it’s like our lives are an apartment infested with bed bugs – shit is uncomfortable, drives us mad, and it seems like we’ll never get rid of the problem.
If only we could find the single individual responsible for the viciousness and stupidity around us, we could just light him on fucking fire. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy.
As this world dies, a new one will inevitably take its place. What will that world look like? We are going to have some real choices to make.
We could allow our world to continue in the same direction it has gone for the past 50 years. This would mean increasing inequality. It would mean power further accumulating in the hands of the very wealthy and powerful.
To run the world this way requires a divide and conquer strategy for society. That means we’ll see continued structural racism and anti-immigrant ideology. We’ll see current problems get worse, as fewer people have access to healthy food, medical care, or decent education. The brutality of irregular wars will grow as an ever-fragmented humanity fights over control of key strategic resources.
But we have another choice. We could use the crisis of this moment to learn some vital lessons.
We could move towards a world where the wealth we create is shared by all. We could foster communities and societies where power is shared by all. We could finally build a world where the perpetual struggle to survive doesn’t constantly loom over us all. Instead we could find real joy and fulfillment of our genuine potential as a unified humanity.
This choice might sound melodramatic. But this is the reality that confronts us. The collapse of the old world demands the creation of a new one.
To the vast majority of us the choice between these two worlds seems like an obvious one. Why would anyone in their right mind want to move towards less democracy and more inequality? Why would anyone want to double down on absurd divisions between people from race to gender to sexuality? Well, if you have these questions, then the rise of lifesize Troll-doll Donald Trump would seem really confusing.
The reality is that those in power now will do nearly anything to keep their luxurious position. They understand something that the rest of us need to learn quickly – crises are opportunities. When the current world becomes unsupportable – when it becomes apparent that change is necessary – people will open themselves to very new ideas and drastic changes. This can be just as bad for us as good. It depends entirely on what we do about it.
Luckily people throughout the world are vigorously fighting for genuine freedom and equality. They’re providing examples that we can follow.
In France, after the government pushed through laws making it easy to fire workers and effectively destroying their 35-hour work week, French workers have done something incredible. Instead of grumbling in front of the TV about what jerks politicians are, they revolted. Industry after industry has gone on strike while thousands are flooding the streets everyday in mass rebellion. The police even begged them to stop protesting so much, saying that they just couldn’t keep morale up and continue attacking workers in the street at the same time. That sounds like a joke. It isn’t. They really said that.
In Syria, the land that literally fucking everyone forgot, the disgusting spiral of war crimes has led to an utterly devastated country and massive migrant crisis. In such horrible circumstances, it’s hard to imagine a group of people pushing for a more idealistic world. But in largely Kurdish territory of what was once northern Syria, you can find the Rojava Revolution taking place as we speak.
In Rojava they’re embracing a revolutionary practice of direct democracy. Decisions at the local level are made through neighborhood and family gatherings with women represented equally in decision making. The wealth of the region is increasingly owned by all of the people of the region, managed and run largely through cooperatives. Meanwhile, they’re fighting a war. Women have their own militia, the Women’s Protection Units, which has been critical in major victories against ISIS. This is especially exciting, as ISIS theology states that being killed by a woman means a man won’t get into paradise. So, of course, they run. You know, to maintain their masculinity.
Just a couple of years ago, students in Quebec put up an inspiring fight for free public colleges and universities. As the government passed a law that would massively raise tuition over a few year period, students went on strike. Colleges and Universities throughout Quebec were entirely shut down as students organized massive protests throughout the province. Many of these students, organized into massive student unions, have been so organized and shown such willingness to shut shit down, that politicians are rightly afraid to screw with them today.
What these moments, and so many more teach us is that everyday people actually have the power in our society. They may pass laws in Washington, Albany, City Hall – but when we are organized and refuse to obey, the agenda of the powerful goes nowhere. At the end of the day, bosses need workers, landlords need tenants, administrations need obedient students, governments need obedient citizens. We don’t need them at all.
We need to begin to imagine what it looks like for us to have real power in Rochester. What would real resistance movements look like here? We need to come together and make real plans if we’re going to seize this moment.
There are plenty of areas where we have real power, and we just need to demonstrate it. Here are a couple of ideas to get us started.
Next time a young black person is executed by police, none of us go to work. Schools, transit, restaurants, and others all shut down as the city grinds to a halt in anger and in mourning. I expect we’d start to get some answers with the hope of placating the new power in town – us.
Rents are rising all over the city while the quality of housing is dropping. Renters across the city need to come together in Tenants Unions and go on rent-strike against ever-rising rents and low quality housing. They can’t evict us all and if they try thousands of us would pour into the streets to defend our neighbors. We could make housing a human right instead of a commodity over night.
Fast food workers in the Fight for $15 have been providing an example too. As they strike demanding higher wages and union rights, they show that even a small number of workers taking bold, public action can win. But it can’t continue to be a small number of workers. Every fast food worker needs to join the Fight for $15. Workers at Walmart, Target, Costco, Wegmans, and all the other poverty-creating billion-dollar companies need to start organizing, making demands, and striking too.
You know what, to hell with the old world! Let’s get to the business of revolution. Crisis or no crisis, there’s no reason we should continue living in a world that sees us as dollar signs instead of people who deserve freedom, joy, and all the wealth of the world that we create and maintain. We deserve a world free of poverty, oppression, and misery. And we have the power to make it happen.
The truth is, we have to start now. The moment in front of us won’t last forever. Not one more murder. Not one more eviction. Not one more child going to sleep hungry. We can have that world. We just have to fight for it.
If we’re going to get there, we need to walk with vision. We need to learn our histories. We need to hear about the the other inspiring fights around the world. We need to begin developing a view of where we’re going. So that’s why we’re writing this paper. We’re not just planning to relentlessly mock those in power – as fun as that is – we’re going to share a vision for the world with all of you. We’re going to share a vision that we hope can help us take advantage of the moment we’re in, a vision that we hope can lead us all towards a new, beautiful world.