Organize! Organize! Organize!

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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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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/

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Matriarchal Time & Healing

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Recently, I’ve been studying a lot about Marxism and dialectical materialism, the theoretical approach Marxists take toward history. Materialism asserts that culture is informed by the material conditions that exist around a particular group of people, specifically concerning how they produce and reproduce the essential goods they need for survival. This essentially refers to the economic organization of a given people, since economic systems exist to determine how to produce things like food and shelter and how to distribute them. The second part of this theoretical approach (dialectics) asserts that once a culture grows out of an economic system, the culture will also begin to inform the material conditions, which will then in turn affect the culture, and so on and so forth in a neverending feedback loop. Economics forms the root of culture, but they grow together, influencing one another over the course of time.

About 10,000 years ago, humans began using agriculture to produce food for the first time in our 200,000 year history. Cultivation allowed for surplus for the first time in human history, which led to stockpiles of extra food that could be controlled by a small group of people. This marked the beginning of class society. Written language was actually first developed to keep track of the distribution of these goods, and since only a few people understood the markings, it allowed a small group of elites to control the food supply. This was the first example in human history of “bosses” and “workers,” or as Marx would say: people who control the means of production and people who labor to survive.

Before the invention of agriculture, human beings all across the globe lived in what Marx calls “primitive communism,” small clan-based societies that operated in equality. The skills of all members were valued because they all contributed to the group survival. Women, men, and children had differentiated roles based on the material conditions of their environment, but none of the roles were valued among the others. Decisions were made and conflicts were resolved democratically through group action.

When humans progressed from this stage into the stage of cultivation and thus class society, systemic inequality followed. One of the most harmful effects of this development has been the onset of the Patriarchy, which has continued to oppress women and all non-cismales for the last 10,000 years. If you’re interested to read more about the connections between agriculture, class society, and the Patriarchy, check out this pamphlet: “It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This: Women and the Struggle for Socialism.”

As the millennia pass, we see other horrific developments as a result of the introduction of class society, including systemic Racism, but for now I am going to focus on the Patriarchy and the way it has affected our view of time and, by extension, our understanding of suffering and healing.

Capitalism is largely centered on the notion of forward progress, and we are taught through our culture and the way we teach history to understand that human beings are marching in a straight line of betterment. Yes, slavery existed in the past, but then MLK Jr came and we got over that. Women used to be barred from voting and earning money, but then we all decided that was wrong now we’re in a better place. As informed individuals, we know that this is not really the way things work. Chattel slavery is technically abolished, but the world still has over 40 million people living in conditions similar to slavery. Women have the right to vote and work (in some places), but we make significantly less than our male counterparts and we experience absurdly high rates of gender violence in the form of assault and regular harassment.

I would like to argue that this false sense of forward movement and progress is rooted in Patriarchy because it disconnects us from the natural flow of time that is expressed in our universe through planetary orbits and seasons, which manifests in the assigned female body through the cycle of menstruation. I also would like to argue that this disconnection from the reality of time interferes with our individual and collective understanding of suffering and healing.

When we look at the world (and the worlds) around us we can clearly see that time passes in a cyclical manner. The Earth does not move forward in a straight line with the Sun racing alongside of it. Time is moving forward, but it does so while moving in a circle. As the Earth moves around the Sun, we experience the changing of seasons. When our part of the world is facing toward the Sun, Summer brings life and growth, and when it is facing away from the sun, the Winter brings death and decay. This happens year after year with no chance of stunting this cycle to create a neverending summer. We see this same kind of cyclical phenomenon in the way the Moon orbits the Earth, creating tides which influence the flow of ocean currents on our planet.

Assigned female bodies also experience this cyclical nature. For the majority of our adult lives, we bleed for a week out of the month every month. As our periods approach, we experience of the symptoms of our body preparing for this shedding: volatility, sadness, discomfort, and pain. Then the bleeding hits and these feelings intensify as our body rids itself of its waste. As the bleeding ends, we start to regain our energy, which builds over the next two weeks until we begin to prepare for the next cycle.

This cycle mimics the changing of the seasons so perfectly. Winter is a tragic time for all life. It puts all creatures through intense trial. As the Summer turns into Fall, we watch the Earth prepare for her Winter. Leaves fall, annual plants that are only meant to live for one season put out their seeds and die, and perennial plants and animals begin to store their energy for the long and cold struggle ahead. Over the course of Winter, those that are alive continue to struggle and not all creatures make it through. Spring comes, breathing new life into the Earth. New seeds begin to take root and sprout. The creatures who made it through winter will show off their new growth as Spring comes and rolls into Summer. Summer is a celebration of life and production, but it is only one of four seasons, and even in the deepest joy of Summer we know that Winter will still come.

By attaching ourselves to the Patriarchal notion of time, which implies that we are capable of overcoming struggle once and for all, we put ourselves in a very difficult position to handle new stress when it arises. In order to really process the struggle of life, we need to embrace Matriarchal Time, which is based in alternating cycles of difficulty and growth. It seems obvious that this is a lesson humans should know, considering that half of the population is imbued with physiology that reminds us of the cyclical nature of our universe, but the Patriarchy has disempowered the feminine for so long that this understanding of time was thrown out in preference of a notion of straightforward progress. Under the Patriarchy, vulnerability and healing are seen as weaknesses that should be avoided at all costs. But the Earth reminds us that Winter cannot be avoided and is not a sign of weakness but a necessary part of the growth process. Assigned female bodies remind us of this truth too: in order for life to continue, we must endure the pain and blood.

Understanding Matriarchal Time has helped me personally cope with the difficulty and struggle I endure in my life, including that associated with my period, which is very painful and taxing. Instead of seeing struggle as permanent or as a failure, I am able to see it as a part of the cycle of life. Three weeks out of the month, I am strong, energetic, and productive, but for the other week, I am to forced to take a break to handle the pain and the blood. The same is true in my life on a larger scale: pain and success happen in cycles and the pain I endure helps me grow into a person who can reach even greater successes. Looking at my own narrative, I can see clear examples of this cycle over the course of my whole life. Struggle and achievement are in this constant reciprocal dance, and I can very clearly see periods that are Spring (rebirth), Summer (production), Fall (maturation), and Winter (death). The stronger I am, the more I am capable of surviving hard Winters, and the more beautiful and impressive I am come Spring. Healing doesn’t come from eliminating struggle, but from understanding the way struggle relates to growth and building an empowering narrative that will allow us to face difficulty head on.

Part of my radical Marxist feminist journey is exploring the deepest ways that the Patriarchy has infiltrated our culture and prevents us from healing and advancing to a stage of peace. As a dedicated permaculturist, these reflections are always considered alongside examples from the natural world because I believe the Universe provides us with material examples of how to live in harmony and abundance. This is a style of analysis I hope to continue to develop through writing this blog and I hope you will participate in this journey with me!