Art by Mirko Rastić
Humanity is living through a number of simultaneous, mutually-reinforcing crises. A once-in-a-century pandemic has triggered a global public health crisis. Capitalism has wrought social and economic disruption on a global scale. Neoliberal policies have seen the billionaire class multiply its fortunes, while billions of people struggle to meet their basic needs. The far right is on the rise, actively exploiting manufactured concerns over “masses” of refugees and “job-stealing” migrants. All the while, the climate crisis is getting worse, with superstorms, flash floods and wildfires raging through local communities, leaving death and destruction in their wake.
These are not just symptoms of global capitalism gone slightly wayward — these are the signs of a system in decay, growing ever more vicious as it struggles for its own survival, intensifying the plethora of crises to which it gave birth.
Yet, amidst the chaos, we can also discern beacons of hope. The past decade has seen millions upon millions of people around the world mobilizing for radical social change — from the Arab uprisings to Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter; from Chile’s student protests to Thailand’s pro-democracy movement; from the strikes of India’s farmers and South Africa’s miners and the occupations of Gezi Park and Syntagma Square to the water protectors and land defenders from Standing Rock to the Amazon and beyond.
Each of these movements expressed a powerful counterforce to the political status quo. They were physical manifestations of the radical imagination, rejecting the dominant paradigm of authoritarian neoliberalism. Together, they embody the conviction that a different future is still possible — and show that social movements will have a key role to play in making it a reality.
Recent struggles point a way forward, not only in the radical demands they voice, but also in the prefigurative practices they employ. On countless occasions, social movements have demonstrated a capacity to organize large groups of people based on the principle of solidarity rather than competitive individualism. Over the past decade, popular mobilizations have toppled authoritarian leaders, forced governments to repeal repressive legislation and created openings for meaningful political opposition. In practicing a politics of liberation — resisting colonial border regimes, tearing down femicidal patriarchy, fighting fascists in the streets — they offer an alternative vision of what it means to be free.
But a crucial question remains: What type of movement organizing and social organizations do we need in order to meet the enormous challenges that lie ahead in the next decade?
This issue of ROAR is our attempt at answering this question by offering important insights from our current age of uprisings. The essays we have collected here share experiences from struggles past and present that can help inform future efforts at movement building. They show that the alternatives we are looking for often already exist. As Max Haiven writes in his introductory essay to this issue: “Another world is not only possible, it has always been here.”
Indeed, movement organizers need not reinvent the wheel: there is much to be learned from past struggles. Precarious workers in the gig economy are applying the lessons from a rich history of labor organizing to the new paradigms of platform capitalism. Indigenous activists from Turtle Island to Palestine are building their solidarity on the foundations laid by their elders over decades past. And, of course, the global movement for Black liberation that reignited in the wake of George Floyd’s murder is but the latest expression of a Black radical tradition that dates back to the first slave revolts and organized resistance to white supremacy. “Movements are born from the ruins left behind by the ‘splendid failures’ of the past,” Bedour Alagraa writes in her essay for this issue, adding that the uprisings of the past years are “both old and new at the same time, born out of the calamity that engulfs us.”
For over ten years now, ROAR has offered a home to writers, scholars and activists reflecting on the multitude of struggles for real democracy around the world. Throughout that period, our work has always been guided by a key underlying conviction: that social movements are foundational to social change. The crises of our times will never be resolved without large and organized groups of people exerting sustained pressure from below and unleashing the creative force of the radical imagination. Without such popular mobilizations, the future looks very bleak indeed.
As we find ourselves at a historic crossroads, this final issue of ROAR offers a testimony to what is possible when we come together and organize for a future that belongs to all. The need to mobilize is more urgent than ever. As the radical thinker Murray Bookchin already noted: “If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.” Clearly, the time to do the impossible is now.
Source URL — https://roarmag.org/magazine/preparing-for-the-struggles-ahead/