An Open Letter to Those Seeking to Build a World from Below, in Which Many Worlds Are Possible
We call on all anarchists, horizontalists, autonomists, anti-capitalists, anti-authoritarians, and others organizing a world from below to bring our best creative spirits to the project of a “Celebrate People’s History and Build Popular Power” bloc on January 20, 2009, in Washington, DC — or in your hometown, if you can’t make it.
As people striving toward a nonhierarchical society, yes, we can — and should — be rigorously critical of Barack Obama. It goes without saying that we want a world without presidents; we want worlds of our own constituting via directly democratic structures, not states. But not all heads of state are alike, and if we fail to recognize both the historical meaning and power of this particular moment, we will ensure our own irrelevance.
We can — and should — also be in critical solidarity with people who have been violently marginalized, who see in the Obama campaign the possibility of their own agency. The inauguration affords a unique space for us to stand with a diverse group of activists inspired by Obama, many new to political organizing, even as we maintain our views on the limits of change from above.
Perhaps, as people working to build a world from below without electoralism or statecraft, we also need to listen on January 20. It is neither the time nor the place to critique hope or excitement on the part of people who have engaged in grassroots struggles in so many ways and won a substantial victory. The inauguration marks a watershed event in the often cruel history of these United States, and the whole world will be watching, hoping that we’ve done just a little to grapple with the legacy of slavery, lynching, segregation, displacement, and racism in general, both of the personal and institutional varieties.
There’ll be a true rainbow coalition on the streets of DC, made up of exactly those people who the libertarian Left has always aligned itself with and always should: those who are not radicals but who have been exploited, oppressed, and relegated to powerlessness. So instead of breaking things, if we’re serious about building visionary social movements, doing meaningful anti-racism work, and honoring those who have resisted and dreamed before us, we should break bread with those millions globally who will feel moved by Obama’s inauguration — many of whom were also moved enough to participate politically (well beyond voting) for the first time in this election.
With our bloc — using banners, photos, artwork, zines, theater pieces, posters, armbands, and other visual expressions — let’s illustrate the many moments when people on this continent and across the world aspired to better approximations of freedom, via their own forms of collective organizations and mutual aid. Let’s create and display images of social movements, cultures of resistance, and especially our experiments to institute the new society in the shell of the old: from popular assemblies to self-managed workplaces, from freedom schools to free clinics, from autonomous villages to reappropriated land, and much more. And let’s remember all those many moments throughout history when we took to the streets, factories, schools, and neighborhoods; when we built movements ranging from abolition and civil rights to the American Indian Movement and the Black Panthers, from Zapatismo to Ya Basta!, from No One Is Illegal to anti-capitalist mobilizations, from Argentina’s factory occupations to Oaxaca’s federated assemblies; and when we reclaimed the commons and, in the process, ourselves.
For if we aspire one day to live in a world without borders and prisons, without states or capitalism — or presidents for that matter — we must stand in solidarity on January 20 with those most impacted by hierarchy and institutional oppression. Then, in the days beyond, we’ll join with millions of others in demanding fulfillment of, as Obama put it on election night, the possibility of change, as we support the growth of social movements toward a free and directly democratic society.
Points of Unity:
- We believe that human freedom and happiness would be best guaranteed by a society based on principles of self-organization, voluntary association, egalitarianism, and mutual aid. And thus, we reject all forms of social relations premised on systemic violence and hierarchy, such as the state, capitalism, and white supremacy.
- On January 20, we will actively seek to cooperate with as well as support anyone who is working to create a more liberatory world, and in fact, to learn from them and each other.
- We will gather as a bloc, unmasked and with open arms, respecting the celebratory spirit of the day — presence rather than protest — and will encourage others who want to honor social struggles from below to join us.
To sign on to this call, please send us an email at hopefrompeople [at] gmail [dot] com.
This call is endorsed by:
Cindy Milstein, Montpelier, VT
Andrew Willis Garcés, Washington, DC
Walter Hergt, Montpelier, VT
Chris Dixon, Sudbury, Ontario
Jessica Hall, Washington, DC
Jeff Winder, Charlottesville, VA
Vasudha Desikan, Washington, DC
Pavlos Stavropoulos, Littleton, CO
Lindsey Hobbs, Washington, DC
Andrej Grubacic, San Francisco, CA
Mark Lance, Washington, DC
James Tracy, housing organizer and writer, San Francisco, CA
Ellen Chenoweth, Denton, TX (Washington, DC)
Noam Chomsky, MIT, Cambridge, MA
Staughton Lynd, Youngstown, OH
Welch Canavan, Washington, DC
Hillary Lazar, Seattle, WA (Washington, DC)
Joshua Stephens, Washington, DC
Harjit Singh Gill, Oakland, CA
Chris Crass, Catalyst Project, San Francisco, CA
Lelia Spears, New York, NY
Howard Zinn, Auburndale, MA
Ernesto Aguilar, Houston, TX
Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward, Catalyst Project, San Francisco, CA
Brian Tokar, East Montpelier, VT
Madhuri Singh, Washington, DC
Ericka Taylor, Washington, DC
Patrick Lincoln, Harrisonburg, VA
Andrew Cornell, Brooklyn, NY
Ben Grosscup, Amherst, MA
Almah LaVon Rice, Baltimore, MD
Maria Mier, Shaw, Washington, DC
Brooke Lehman, New York, NY
Carwil James, New York, NY
November 20th, 2008
For more information, visit <hopefrompeople.com/>.