New Year, New Class, New Vision
Though the dates vary from deep winter to mid spring (and in some African countries, fall), every part of the world celebrates the coming of the New Year. We shoot off fireworks, accompany them with noisemakers, hold parades, make toasts and resolutions and eat foods like black-eyed peas for luck. For the most part, after the weather turns cold and we spend some time looking back at the year behind us, maybe singing “Auld Lang Syne,” this is the moment we turn our eyes forward.
In some ways, our hopefulness at New Year’s can feel naïve. Studies have shown most of those New Year’s resolutions last no more than a month. And, in parts of the country, New Year’s comes at the heart of the darkest, coldest, most unforgiving season. In the U.S. the winter cold kills twice as many people as summer heat. We have more heart attacks shoveling and scraping, we catch more epidemic flus, we get our gas shut off, and we freeze to death on the streets. We are all facing most of the same struggles in January as December (not to mention paying off our Christmas bills), and, in an election year, the mainstream news, if it’s even possible, will be more dominated than usual by the Republicans and Democrats funded by the ruling class, leaving almost no room for the stories of the rest of us out here fighting for our lives.
But the beauty of the New Year is that we recognize life is not simply a cycle of years, but a progression of new life from old. Winter is a necessary stage of growth — the destruction of the old makes way for the new and important processes that take place underground, preparing for the spring’s new awakenings. What we do now will prepare us for a very different 2020 than the year we’ve left behind. To do our work well, we need to constantly develop and spread a new vision of where we are at this precise point in history, where conditions allow us to fight forward, and what, ultimately, wants to be born out of the dying world that surrounds us.
The Crisis of a Dying System
Income inequality is at its highest rate since the U.S. Census began measuring it, and our population’s health reflects this directly with the wealthy living 10-15 years longer than the poor. While rich Americans actually pay less for their housing than in the past, housing costs have risen for working people and poor people, and homelessness is on the rise. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors reported in September that half a million Americans are homeless. As uprooted Americans have done since the Dust Bowl, most of the homeless have found their way to the West Coast, but 20 percent live in New York City, and Washington, DC has the highest rate of homelessness in the country. What’s particularly telling are the increases throughout the rest of the country, with some of the highest rates in the Southwest, the South and the Midwest, Minnesota having seen a leap of 10 percent over the past four years.
Problems have only been made worse by civil authorities shutting down attempts at support by community groups and faith-based organizations. Corporate and governmental think tanks keep churning out new ways to abdicate responsibility for the homeless, using mental illness and addiction as reasons for inaction, while also threatening further criminalization and federal clampdowns.
These fights for survival take place against a global backdrop of perpetual war in the Middle East and heightened tensions regarding the U.S.’s relationships with China and neighboring countries. The next world war hangs on the horizon. Meanwhile, the American Institute of Physics reports the warmest temperatures in “tens of thousands of years” and the highest CO2 levels in our atmosphere “in millions of years.”
A New Class to the Rescue
Yet, amidst all this destruction emerges a time of enormous opportunity. As bleak as the state of the world is, we also see average Americans more concerned with all of these issues than ever before. Health care and Medicare remain center stage in American politics, while economic inequality drives voters to one candidate or another seeking some kind of relief. This fall, an anti-communist organization once signed into existence by President Bill Clinton and chaired by President George W. Bush found that 70 percent of millennial voters lean socialist. Ideas like the Green New Deal are spreading across America, bringing together the victims of corporate poisoning with traditional environmental groups. Working class Americans all across the country are protesting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and traveling to the border to protest the immigration camps. They are organizing strikes on behalf of students and schools, and strikes to save the environment. Unlike in any other era, protest has become a common occurrence in American culture because more people than ever are more aware than ever that they are caught up in a fight for their lives.
All across America and the world, industrial workers are joined by teachers, nurses, doctors and others who were once viewed as a “professional class” but now launch strikes against a system that is no longer offering them dignity or the wherewithal to survive. While the rich get richer, the rest of us are being thrown together into a new class, no longer having a stake in a system based upon the buying and selling of labor. Though the ruling class voices that manage the mainstream media offer no direct challenges to the dying capitalist system, people everywhere understand that the economy is at the heart of our problems. Building political unity among this vast variety of dispossessed is key to all of our futures. The future truly is about the 99 percent taking control of the world out of the hands of a 1 percent who try to keep us divided while hoarding, misusing and wasting half of the world’s increasingly endangered resources.
The Importance of a New Vision
To unify that great majority, we have to spread an understanding of where we are in human history. New tools once transformed a hunter-gatherer society into a world of warring civilizations, just as industry at one point liberated great masses of the population from ancient concepts of class, first creating and eventually ending American chattel slavery. We are now at a point where the digital revolution has destroyed the basis for capitalism – an exchange system based upon the labor expended in production and distribution, represented and held in place by the accumulation of private property. The maintenance of ruling class property in a world where labor has no value offers us only fascism and ongoing destruction at a time when humanity has the capacity to be free in ways unimaginable in the past.
The moment we are in is a leap from one society organized around an obsolete system for production and distribution to a new society organized around the abundance created by new tools that can easily provide for everyone. The new class will be on every front of this struggle for economic justice and human dignity because the ruling class will do everything in its power (including electoral politics) to maintain its control over the great mass of the human population.
Our job as revolutionaries is to work shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters on all of these fronts and help to show them what’s possible in a world freed from the hold of the capitalist class and private property. With a clear understanding of where we stand in history, we can work together knowing it is within our power to end homelessness and hunger and war and environmental destruction forever. A cooperative society that works together to solve our problems, based upon a generous distribution of our abundance according to our needs, a communist solution, is the practical response to the problems faced by a society which has too long been driven by private property and profit. With this vision in hand, we bring hope and energy to 2020 as the beginning of a new epoch in human history.
January/February 2020. Vol30.Ed1
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011