The history of oppression and the history of struggle go hand in hand. No people in any part of history have been a willing victim to the stripping of their liberties. Regardless of identity, our truly collective history as working people is one of struggle against the ruling class. Black, white, African, poor, queer, disabled, Muslim, no matter the identity, we have all risen up time and time again to try and throw off our oppressors and reclaim our liberties. Our greatest successes have been when we have joined forces across those boundaries in solidarity, both within cultures nationally and between cultures internationally.
It is extremely important to study the history of social movements and to study it with the proper lens. Only through this study can we learn what tactics will help us end oppression once and for all! Because we are intentionally NOT taught this history in our formal education, we are apt to believe that the struggle we are experiencing in this age is new. This is a very disempowering belief because it seems absolutely terrifying to learn about all of the injustice in the world all of the sudden and be confronted to deal with it every single day. We are all going through an extremely trying emotional time with the escalation of the Trump regime’s attacks and an information age that is dropping new horrifying realities that shake our world view on a regular basis. Many of us go through this emotional turmoil alone! No wonder we all feel so exhausted and immobilized! We want to fight, we want to learn, but how????? The ruling class has very intentionally kept this information from us by dictating public school curriculum for many decades. It’s going to take time to relearn!
This is why I enjoy being a part of a real fighting organization like Socialist Alternative. Instead of going through this scary time alone, I get to meet weekly with my comrades to discuss current events, politics, and methods of action. Then, during the week, we go out into the world and put our work into practice by going to political meetings and hosting actions like tabling, public meetings, or protests. We also read A LOT. We are literally studying the 10,000 year global struggle of working people against oppressors. There is soooo much to learn! I read political material and current events every single week, and instead of processing it alone, I get to hang out with people who are smarter than me and can help me to better understand the information. It’s humbling, challenging, and incredibly empowering.
Over the last year of my serious involvement in this organization, I have built relationships with this group of 15 or so and we have challenged our trust in each other many times. We expect A LOT from each other, often because our safety is at risk because of the work we do. I have complete faith in my comrades – we put our bodies out in traffic for one another, we risk arrest with one another, we come through when serious shit goes down with cops or violent people, we challenge ourselves to do things we are scared of, like speaking in front of a protest crowd or preparing a 25 minute political presentation. We have become an incredible team. And the beautiful part about SA is its national AND international community that connects us to struggle all around the world in real time. In the last 6 months, we have had comrades come speak to us from Belgium, Ireland, and other national branches, and we have sent comrades to political meetings, trainings, and campaigns in Ohio, Minnesota (twice), and even Germany. As an individual member, I am up to date on the national and international actions of my organization on a weekly basis. This is what democracy looks like, my friends.
Every week, one of us has the task of deepreading a political article, doing background research on the topic, and preparing a 15 minute presentation before a 30 minute group discussion. I do this once every three months or so and it’s a joy more than a burden honestly. Every other week, I just read and show up for discussion. This week, I gave a presentation on Marxist Feminism from an excellent pamphlet by Socialist Alternative. We have been studying this topic for a month and it’s been really exciting for me as the radical queer feminist I am. I’m always excited to push my theory and understanding further. There were two major lessons that I learned from this study as a whole:
- Women have been an absolutely instrumental force in the global struggle for all 10,000 years of human civilization. Because of our double oppression as women (from Capitalism as workers and from Patriarchy as women), we have been at the forefront of struggle for a long time. In fact, women sparked the earliest worker uprisings in England post-industrial revolution (early 1800s) and a women’s strike sparked the February Revolution in Russia in 1917, which led to the only successful socialist revolution in history. We have the power. We need to organize and get into the fight. We have incredible women to look up to!
- Our success in this fight historically has always hinged on our strength in solidarity with men and other identities within the working class. Enhancing identity divisions within the struggle has always damaged the movement at large. This is true not only for men and women working together but also for blacks and whites in the U.S. and intercultural solidarity between thousands of different identities all over the world. We need to keep our eye on the common enemy: the ruling class, which oppresses us all in unique and unacceptable ways! We, the united working class, have the power. We need to organize and get into the fight, supporting the specific needs of ALL oppressed people.
Years ago when I was first getting involved with activism through the Black Lives Matter movement, I had a lot of local organizers I looked up to and learned from: Julia Johnson, Bekezela Mguni, Joy KMT, Celeste Smith, Etta Cetera, and many many more. I learned how to put my body in the streets from these women. I learned how to chant. I learned how to fight. I learned how to face cops. I learned how to yell. I learned that it was my duty to keep showing up. Once I learned these basic tools, I took it upon myself to continue my training by joining Socialist Alternative and combining my political action with studying political theory. Etta once led a song chant at a protest that I still echoes in my mind. The lyrics are simply “Organize! Organize! Organize!” but the song has so much power when sung by a crowd. Three years later, I know why this one has stuck with me so magnetically: you learn through studying the struggle that organizing the working class as a unified body is the only way to win the fight against ALL oppression. There is no place for division. None are free until all are free. Our strength is in solidarity, and we have proved this as a global people time and time again. We must learn from our radical ancestors! We must follow our radical leaders!
As Americans at large, 2017 was our year of shock and awakening. Let’s make 2018 the year of organizing and action!
Join me in the fight! https://www.socialistalternative.org/