Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope From People

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.

For the bloc’s meeting place and time, ideas for celebratory images, and upcoming details on the post-inauguration teach-in and party, keep checking this Web site.

The Celebrate People’s History & Popular Power Bloc will meet on January 20th at 10am at the northwest corner of McPherson Square, 15th St NW at K St NW.

[See Spanish version of this call below.]

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
Jose Palafox, Oakland, CA
Michael Friedman, San Francisco, CA
Dave Zlutnick, Friendly Fire Collective, San Francisco, CA
Petros Evdokas, Portland, OR
Karen Ganey, Plymouth, VT
Hannah Dobbz, San Francisco, CA
Janelle Treibitz, Washington, DC
Philippe Duhamel, Montreal, QC
John Hardenbergh, Washington, DC
Jean Marie Pearce, Albany, VT
Joshua Kahn Russell, Oakland, CA
Carlos Perez de Alejo, Austin, TX
LLoyd Strecker, Monte Rio, CA
Dana Ward, Claremont, CA
Bill Templer, SE Asia
Heather Pipino, Montpelier, VT
Bob Spivey, Vashon, WA
Julie Yoder, Washington, DC
Dan Berger, Philadelphia, PA
Jonathan Uss, New York, NY
Kazembe Balagun, outreach coordinator, Brecht Forum, NY
Harris Bucklin, Burlington, VT
Charlie Clements, Athens, GA
Jonathan Bates, Holyoke, MA
Samuel Meneely, Salinas, CA
Emily Forman, Brooklyn, NY
Arun Aguiar, New York, NY
César Maxit, Washington, DC
Johann Jaeckel, New York, NY
Nicole Poindexter, teacher, Santa Rosa, CA
Eugene Rodriguez, Boulder, CO
Camilo Viveiros, Fall River, MA
Marguerite Tingkhye, Seattle, WA
Ken Montenegro, technologist and law student, Los Angeles, CA
Sean Gleason, Princeton, NJ
Barry McCann, Fort Collins, CO
Mesha Monge-Irizarry, community organizer, San Francisco, CA
Liana Sweeney, Amherst, MA
Andy Kafel, Jersey City, NJ
Robert Riversong, Warren, VT
Karim-Philipp Eid-Sabbagh, Beirut, Lebanon
Maia Ramnath, New York, NY
Thomas Chen, Jamaica Plain, MA
Aaron R. McMullin, student, Sarah Lawerence College
Amber Kelly, Gainesville, FL
Friendly Fire Collective, San Francisco Bay Area
Nathan Coe, Animas SDS, Durango, CO
Caitlyn Wallace, Berkeley, CA
Michael Novick, Los Angeles, CA (ARA-LA for identification purposes)
Roxanne Lawson, Washington, DC
Elen Awalom, Washington, DC
Lis-Marie Alvarado, Wecount! organizer, Homestead, FL
Salma Mirza, United Students Against Sweatshops, Buffalo, NY
Rahula Janowski, anarchist, mediator, mother, San Francisco, CA
Jason Lydon, Community Church of Boston, Boston, MA
Patrick Vitale, student, Pittsburgh, PA
Robert Jensen, Third Coast Activist Resource Center, University of Texas at Austin
Rebecca Mintz, Washington, DC
Lasitha Ranatunga, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Christina Tzintzún, Austin, TX
Molly McClure, Catalyst Project, Oakland, CA
Louis Frederic Gaudet, Montreal, QC
Mike Zmolek, Washington, DC
Matthew Johnson, Baltimore, MD
CODEPINK Women for Peace
Namdol, New Haven, CT
Francisco “Pancho” Ramos-Stierle, Berkeley, CA
Nico Amador, trainer and organizer, Philadelphia, PA
Parag Rajendra Khandhar, Takoma Park, MD
Josh Raisler Cohn, Boston, MA
Pete Perry, Washington, DC
Christy Pardew, Boston, MA
William Thomas, community organizer and homeless advocate, San Francisco, CA
Erika Biddle, New York, NY
Amrita Wassan, Washington, DC
Wooden Shoe Books Collective, Philadelphia, PA
Clayton Dewey, Denver, CO
DC Asian Left, Washington, DC
James Ploeser, Washington, DC
Charo Mina Rojas, Washington, DC
Joaquin Cienfuegos, Los Angeles, CA
Erik Forman, Minneapolis, MN
Andrew Munn, Ann Arbor, MI
Yesenia Marquetti, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY
Kathryn Hutchison, Germantown, NY
Monkey Wrench Books, Austin, TX
Unconventional Denver
Giuseppe Cavaleri,
San Francisco, CA
Z. Zsido, Boston, MA

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