It is Sunday, August 30, 2020, 1:57 a.m. I am sitting in my dorm room, knowing I will have to start training myself to wake up for my 8:30 a.m. class on Monday, yet completely restless. I reflect on the state of our country, the state of our world. There are people still in the streets chanting “Black Lives Matter!” on deaf ears, the deaf ears of this country that so desperately wants a return to what life was like eight months ago. Amid the various crises the United States is currently facing, from the rising cases of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn to the tragic death of beloved Marvel star Chadwick Boseman, it seems the whole nation craves a moment of peace or a return to “normalcy.”
But what exactly is a return to “normalcy”?
“Normal” itself is subjective. This new fervor of protestors in the streets, this new push toward violence and destruction of private property is out of the ordinary to you. But all that Black people have known their entire lives is violence. That is their normal. You complain about the looting of Targets, the stealing of property from a multibillion-dollar company. But all Indigenous people, in the Americas and in the Global South, have known is the “looting” of their property and land, watching as all they have is taken by force. That is their normal.
You wish to elect Joe Biden, as in your mind, disposing of the “cheeto in the White House” will mysteriously solve all our problems and bring back the peace and quiet. If not that, you see it as the crucial first step that must be taken before any other change may occur. Perhaps you even put a little “BLM” as a decorative ornament in your social media bios or link Change.org petitions under your posts, hoping these quick and easy demonstrations of performative activism bring back the easy, quiet life.
What you do not understand, though, is that this movement, this passion, this ardor, this energy, is so much bigger and so much more powerful than the casting of a ballot or the signing of a petition. What you do not understand is that it matters not who sits in the Oval Office, that casting a vote means nothing more than choosing which color, Red or Blue, you prefer to carry out this oppression for the next four years. Biden will not stop the violence, not for the Black and Brown victims of U.S. imperialism and colonialism, domestic or abroad.
What you must understand is that your call for “normalcy” is a call for the deaths of millions of Americans due to hunger, homelessness, lack of health care, and various other conditions the working class of capitalist countries face. What you must understand is that your call for “normalcy” is a green light for the United States and other Western nations to invade and murder civilians in the Middle East in the name of imperialism and global capitalism. What you must understand is that your call for “normalcy” is a call for the continued exploitation and ruthless slaughter of Black and Brown people, as long as you can turn on the TV and open your window without having to hear the words “Black Lives Matter,” as long as you can drive around town without having to navigate the roadblocks and protestors, or as long as you can visit your favorite shops in the city without them being boarded up.
What you must understand is that your normal is gone—and it is not coming back.
This virus has uncovered the inefficacy of the U.S. government, both in shutting down the country too late and reopening it too early, through the continuously rising numbers of cases while most other countries have it under control. We stand at nearly 5.9 million cases as I write this, comprising nearly 25 percent of the 25 million world total, while only making up 4 percent of the world population.1 In addition, it has demonstrated the inefficiency of the U.S. for-profit health care system, slow to provide both affordable testing services to Americans and proper medical supplies and equipment to doctors and nurses.
The simultaneous emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement has laid bare the problems inherent in the nation’s “justice” system, purposely built to perpetuate in justice and racism. The decades of violence the prejudiced institution of the police has inflicted on the Black community is garnering more attention than it ever has before, an attention that is quickly transformed into anger and revolutionary energy and resulting in the declarations of “ACAB” [“All Cops Are Bastards”] or “1312” making their ways into many Americans’ mouths. The realization that the police evolved out of the slave patrol, that it, from its very roots, is compromised, has brought forth calls for total abolition in place of the lukewarm reformism that prior movements have pushed.
This is our new normal. Both these crises are results of state violence against marginalized groups and have exposed how overwhelmingly Black and Indigenous people are harmed. The peace that you held prior, the peace that lay in blissful ignorance will never return. It is easy to be lost, confused, and to wonder what to do.
So, where do we go from here?
First comes the recognition that there is something terribly wrong. This realization must occur before any other step is taken, for why would you work to fix a system you do not believe is broken? This comes with the understanding that essentially every socioeconomic injustice and inequity, from women’s rights to poverty to LGBTQ+ issues to racism to the environment, can be traced back to Western, or more specifically U.S., imperialism and capitalism. Clearly, this applies to the rampant violence within the “justice” system, but perhaps, in a more hidden manner, it also applies to the United States’s mismanagement of the COVID crisis in the prioritization of profit over people. The same injustices occur today under Democratic and Republican mayors, and the same will occur under the leadership of Biden or Donald Trump.
This also means coming to the realization that Trump is not the problem that has plagued our country, but rather that he and Biden are on the same side, mere symptoms of the U.S. decline into fascism. A vote for the ineffectual, controlled opposition candidate that is marginally better than Trump, the supposed “lesser of two evils” will bring nothing but a cycle of right-wing demagogue and “marginally better” pairs, each moving further and further to the right until we fall into fascism.
It means ridding yourself of the illusion that once Biden is in office, change will be able to take place. When Trump is gone, would you continue to listen, pay attention, and march? Would you hold Biden, the new imperialist/war criminal-in-chief, accountable, like you say? (This is an impossible task, for the office of the presidency is oppressive in nature). Or would you be at brunch? To recognize there is something wrong with this system is also to recognize change must occur outside of the system entirely, for, as Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” You must realize that in the past, voting has done little to nothing for colonized Black and Brown people, in the United States and even less across the world in the Global South. You must realize that going forward, electoralism will bring us nothing and continued faith in it not only perpetuates but also enables our deeply broken system.
At this stage, there may not be a clear solution in your head to this now identified systemic issue of global capitalism. That is alright, this comes through the next step: reading. You must read and learn. As long as you have access, many works are available free online in the form of downloadable PDFs. Read Black revolutionaries and abolitionists like Angela Davis, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, Walter Rodney, Aimé Césaire, and more. Read the works of anti-capitalist philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Read the works of revolutionary anti-imperialist leaders such as V. I. Lenin, Mao Tsetung, and Che Guevara. Reading theory not only helps organize your thoughts through different frameworks, it helps you understand how your frustrations have been previously expressed by historical revolutionary leaders. Moreover, theory provides you the answers to your questions and the knowledge that there is only one antidote to the plague of capitalism and its decline into fascism: a wholly different society that puts people over profits.
Socialism or communism are the singular solutions to capitalism, and can only be implemented through two crucial transformations. First, the transformation of the self: radicalization. This is not a quick and easy process that happens overnight, it is the absorption of the ideas you read in theory slowly becoming part of you. It is transitioning into being hypercritical of everything you read, watch, or otherwise consume; it is the realization that all media in fact puts forward a position and that bias is inherent everywhere. It is the distrusting of every facet of the U.S. and Western imperial machine, from the government to the education system. It is the acceptance that you will never know peace again, because peace is a privilege for you. Peace in the United States translates to bloodshed, violence, oppression, and terror abroad.
I recall sitting at this very desk yesterday, preparing for my first course on Monday entitled “China Under Communism” by working on the assigned reading. As I read the introduction, the author launches into a brief history of China spanning the last three hundred years or so, beginning with the imperial, dynastic era. The author describes this as the “glorious era” where China was able to greatly increase their wealth and size. He goes on to tell of the “failures” China suffered under Mao such as the Great Leap Forward and the subsequent “rise” after Deng Xiaoping’s dissolution of the communes and implementation of market capitalist policies.
Just in the telling of the “history” of China, it is apparent just how deeply entrenched anti-communist sentiments lie in the West and how easy it is to incorporate propaganda into academia. Radicalization comes with the ability to recognize this sort of misinformation and to combat it, as well as to recognize the liberal capitalist bias in the education system as a whole. This author introduces his book saying it is a new and novel take on the history of China, one that focuses on institutions rather than ideologies or rulers. But this distinction is hardly relevant to the way he presents the history. In reality, his interpretation is the same as those the West has produced over the past few decades; just like the rest, it is an analysis from an imperialist and capitalist point of view.
Self-transformation or radicalization consists of unlearning all the lies we are fed from our childhoods and replacing them with truths. I criticized electoralism, but did not necessarily offer an alternative to active participation. The idea that the casting of a ballot is somehow activism is reflective of how deeply electoral politics has been shoved down our throats; we are taught that a vote is the sole way in which we can use our voices. But voting is not your voice.
“So, what is my voice?” you may ask. The second type of transformation is community transformation. Once you have been radicalized, once you have transformed yourself to a certain extent (for self-transformation is never fully complete, we are all always learning), you are ready to begin your practice of enacting the theories you have learned within your community. This leaves us with several answers to the question, “what is my voice?”
As long as you are able to speak, your voice is your voice. You have the opportunity to speak up for those ostracized people who have had their voices stolen from them. You must combat liberalism, complacency and the tendency to “let things drift” if they do not personally concern you; you must take advantage of the constant opportunities to correct misinformation and misdirection. Whether you hear deliberate anti-communist propaganda on the news or hear your friends echoing this unwittingly, call it out. At the dinner table, when your parents spend forty-five minutes discussing election news, redirect the conversation, slowly explain and help them understand how broken the electoral process is, day after day adding more and more information and recommending reading until they start to realize the system itself is futile. Use your voice as your voice.
As long as you are able to walk, your legs are your voice. Go into the streets, protest, march. Walk in solidarity with those that are being murdered by the state. Walk in remembrance of those that have been murdered by the state. Scream at the top of your lungs, straight into the ears of the police officers. If you are not Black, stand as a human shield between the Black protestors and the cops. Use your legs as your voice.
As long as you are able to use them, your arms are your voice. Help your disabled neighbors carry their groceries into their house. Make sandwiches, drive around the city, and hand them out to the homeless population. When it gets cold, bring some soup and hand it out to them along with some extra coats. Open the door to your house to them, invite them in for a warm, home-cooked meal sometimes. If you see police violence happening before your eyes, do not walk idly by. Use your arms as your voice.
As long as you have a dollar in your pocket, your wallet is your voice. Buy a meal for a homeless person or a struggling friend. Donate to mutual aid funds and crowdfunded medical expenses. At this moment in time, Black, transgender women are at the most danger in society. Help them pay for their surgeries. Help them escape their abusive and unreceptive family or living situation. Help them pay their rent. Donate to Cashapps and Paypals of those being evicted or those bankrupt by their medical expenses. Use your wallet as your voice.
Through all these methods of community transformation, through all these uses of your voice, they show your heart. Your own self-transformation, or radicalization, is manifested in your actions plainly and clearly. Your heart is seen to be one that loves, takes care of, and actively works to uplift its community. You show yourself to understand that we all have the mutual responsibility to care for one another, especially in such an unpredictable time. You become an example that begins to demolish the capitalist mindset of individualism in your community and instills the new idea of collective responsibility, one that will begin to spread into communities, with or without the explicit recognition of doing so.
That is where we go from here.
Your parents at the dinner table laugh and say revolution will not happen in two and a half months. You respond saying perhaps they are right—revolution may not occur in the next two and a half months. But, as Che Guevara said, “the revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” You explain that we cannot simply wait around to take up arms when the time for a revolution comes—it will never come that way. A revolution first develops through the revolution of the mind, through these aforementioned transformations of self and of community, eventually leading to the transformation of society from slaves of capitalism to a group of liberated souls, ready to fight against the oppressive bourgeoisie.
I think of the time eighty years ago, at the height of the Great Depression, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. The growing frustration with the status quo in the United States at this point in time, the one that exacerbated and worsened the economic crisis, culminated in the election of Roosevelt, the most left-wing president the country has seen (a problem in and of itself). He came to power by appealing to the masses of exhausted working-class people and populists, portraying himself as an ally of the struggling population in the United States, effectively quelling third-party opposition from the left, such as the Socialist and Communist Parties, by acting as the “unifying” candidate.
As president, Roosevelt continued to connect with Americans on a personal level, giving regular “fireside chats” and gaining the trust of the population as a fearless leader who would bring them out of the depression. With the angry communists and socialists behind him, he approached the bourgeois class, the bankers and the CEOs, and struck the New Deal, a deal in which the capitalist system they created would be left intact, provided they pay a bit more in taxes. The ruling class and elites complied, knowing that if they did not, the alternative was total destruction of their apparatuses of control by the communists. Essentially, Roosevelt saved capitalism. To this day, the strongest welfare state the United States has ever had, and the highest taxes the wealthy have ever paid, were under Roosevelt. All subsequent presidents have made all their best efforts to roll back the progress he made, leaving us where we are today, with the worst wealth inequality this country has ever seen.
Today, there is a man named Bernie Sanders, recently emerging prominent in U.S. politics, whom many see as the reincarnation or second coming of Roosevelt. In the eighty years since Roosevelt’s presidency, the United States has experienced another huge market crash, along with a plethora of other smaller ones every few years. Capitalism is crumbling before our eyes. But, for the second time this year (the first in 2016), the bourgeoisie has declared that it is uninterested in the prospect of striking another New Deal under Sanders in order to save it.
Well, that is okay—neither are we.
We are uninterested in another temporary solution that fails to consider what got us here in the first place and will last a few decades, just to leave us in a situation worse than where we started. We are no longer interested in this capitalist compromise, one that compromises millions of lives of colonized peoples abroad to fund the weaving of a welfare state mask to cover the destructive U.S. imperial war machine underneath. We want the complete and total destruction of the bureaucratic state, we want the seizing of the means of production from the capitalist class, and we will stop at nothing short. This is where we are headed, this is what we march and protest and scream and fight for. Will you come with us?