Winter Editorial: Persuasive Pessimism

It is a truism to say that we live in interesting and scary times. With far, or alt-right, groups gaining ground, influence, and increasingly real political power everywhere we look, Brexit looming over all of us in the UK and beyond, thousands of people dying on the Mediterranean Sea while desperately trying to reach the safety of Fortress Europe.

Children are being kept in prisons for the crime of being born to the wrong parents, climate change is affecting us all, rapists are being elevated to the supreme court of the US, fascists have been unashamedly marching across both bigger and smaller cities, anti-migrant, bigoted and xenophobic sentiments have been growing under the pretence of “freedom of speech.”  It is easy to conclude that there is no point anymore in our struggles and that we have lost for, at least, the foreseeable future. If not forever.

However, please allow for some optimism. Whilst the fact that we, as the left, are losing ground, sadly might be true, we strongly believe not all hope is lost and it is up to us where we go from here. Now it is time to up our activist, or just decent human being, game.

After all, most lasting changes in this world originate in the time of crisis such as the one we are experiencing today. Obviously, our struggles and organising were never an easy task, and likely it will soon become even more difficult. But, for the first time in decades, what we say and what we do might actually matter: provided we know what we are doing and are open for new ways to organise and relate to society.

Despite the gloom and difficulties of today’s world, It is our duty to take advantage of the current state of affairs in our organising and political and social struggles.Most good organising doesn’t come from great ideas only. It comes from the urgent necessity of change recognised by wide parts of our society. This necessity has became apparent to almost everyone who isn’t high enough on the social ladder to just ignore the general situation of the world and get on with their trouble-free lives.

One of our problems is that our opponents seem to be very good in taking advantage of this situation in order to promote their ideas. They are the ideas directly opposing ours: they want isolationism, they want strong national states, they don’t want migrants, women, black and ethnic minority people and other groups as their equals. They are very good in convincing large parts of the population that their only hope is to follow them while they are trying to get their old mythical world back. They are even better in getting some parts of the population to mistake losing their privilege for losing their rights.

While it may look like a hopeless task, we ought to at least try, as hard as we can, to direct the current of change the way we want it to go. It is now when we ought to promote our ideas and actions. It is now when we ought to speak with those around us to find out how, and where, we are going now. Clearly, this work will not be easy and certainly not pleasant or speedy.

While we often find ourselves in a defensive mode, there are many groups and individuals doing great work in an attempt to create a better, just world based on anti-authoritarian left principles. Many of them don’t say it like that, but this doesn’t matter: they are still more than worthy of our attention and support.

While the big traditional trade unions may be losing their influence and find themselves a little too irrelevant for the modern world, there are other older and newer organisations gradually taking charge and gaining influence and attention.

In the UK, there is a not too well reported, but ever growing struggle for decent wages and decent employment: fighting against the so-called gig economy. Women all over the world are pissed off and fighting for their rights, often reaching out to their counter parties across national borders. Anti-gentrification struggles are gaining more and more attention. So are numerous environmental groups.

Our latest issue of Freedom is partly dedicated to such groups and individuals. From the amazing United Voices of the World union going from strength to strength with their successful and unorthodox strike actions, through the Solidarity Federation doing their bit with their workplace organiser training days, IWW Couriers Network organising all over the country, kids campaigning for prisoners’ rights, and many others showing us that there is indeed a space and need for grassroots organising.

And that, however difficult it may be, it needs to be dealt with right here, right now. After all, it is not called struggle for nothing.


Pic: Neerav Bhatt