Exiled on Main Street: Urban Utopian Insurrection

The dynamics of capitalism is postponement of enjoyment to the constantly postponed future.

— Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History, 1959

Is There No Alternative? Thinking Outside the Ballot Box

Are we happy yet?  Where is the democracy we were promised? Where is the hope and change we were promised? How can we transform society when we are discovering, to our dismay, that we’re doing everything wrong? What means can people use to rid themselves of abusive governments controlled by a wealthy elite serving only themselves to the detriment of the many and the teetering ecosystem? What new social structures can replace the authoritarian and plutocratic states? How shall we struggle against the forces of illegitimate power? They’ve got the guns, violence being the language of the state.

The formal political system exhorts us to vote for change, but the electoral system has been captured by the wealthy.

Shall we carry signs and protest for a day or a week, whine and beg for our corporate-owned politicians to listen to our pleas and address our grievances, and then return home to sit in front our TVs every evening after slaving each day making the rich richer, while we struggle paycheck-to-paycheck?

As we look around the world, powerful elites give us two options for large-scale social and political organization: 1) the corrupt state system, controlled by a ruling elite, far from the democracy we were promised, or 2) deadly chaos, created by direct US military violence (Iraq, Vietnam), or indirectly through covert political subversion (Ukraine, Chile). TINA. The ruling elites insist that “there is no alternative.”

We argue here for a third way — forged out of building decentralized democratic institutions intended to supplant corporate and state power. The challenge before us is to organize independent action, independent of the formal political system. Such a strategy substitutes illegitimate large-scale power with robust local direct democracy and also evades the chaos of a collapsing state initiated by capitalist economic implosion or external subversion. Let us begin an exploration of ideas by claiming internal, autonomous, psychological space for the purpose of imagining democracy-all-around.

The Failure of Armed Struggle

Armed struggles in the USA and Western Europe are a thing of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. The American Revolution resulted in the people removing themselves from a distant, established monarchy to one of an oligarchy constructed by and for educated white men of wealth and property. After more than two hundred years of sometimes deadly struggle tweaking that oligarchy, the US government still primarily serves the same class of wealthy men, and it can be convincingly argued that those men are the government, owning the politicians in Congress and the White House and whose corporate consultants and lobbyists write the legislation.

The wealthy aristocracy rid themselves of their visible thrones and crowns and titles, and replaced them with the rich and their hierarchies produced by capitalism in conjunction with an easily-controlled parliamentary system. Plutocrats called this system a democracy while reigning unseen behind a facade of legitimacy that the label democracy provided. The Civil War temporarily broke that parliamentary system into two like but competing systems. The ruling class won that war, too, and the system became one economic whole again. Human and natural resources and capital were once again united for them to control.

French Revolutionaries thought the “end of aristocracy” was achieved when they executed King Louis XVI, but this ending resulted in a dictator who made himself “First Consul for life” with the right to choose his successor, and then later crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I. After some back and forth conflict between Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces and those who wanted to restore the Bourbon kings to the throne, the monarchy was reestablished, although with limited power, as a constitutional monarchy. More years of power struggles ensued, but minus a popular movement. The struggles were between the upper classes vying for power— royals against deputies, politicians in the constitutional monarchy who falsely claimed to have the people’s interests at heart. These upper class power struggles and internal conflicts caused years of economic hardships for the lower class, finally resulting in another populist revolution, and eventually leading to a parliamentarian system. Today France has a fake socialist government that caters to the insatiable capitalist desires of the ruling class.

Recent armed struggles in Libya and Syria have had disastrous consequences for the people. Libya is a failed state with a decimated infrastructure, compliments of NATO. Four and a half years after the ouster and death of Muammar Gaddafi, the possibility of a unity government exists. Two other governments established during those four and a half years were both overtaken in Tripoli by various religious militia groups vying for power. If this unity government holds together long enough to be officially recognized, it’s possible the UN will send in an Italian-led “advisory and training” group of 5,000 troops to assist the establishment of the new government. Armed struggles for power still continue in Libya among different militia groups, some claiming to be a Libyan wing of ISIS.

Syria is an ongoing disaster as well. Syrians are unable to fend off the numerous “hirabis” trained and sent into the country by multiple governments with self-serving interests in the conflict. “Hirabah” is the Arabic word for unlawful warfare or terrorism. In Islamic law, it is illegal to commit publicly-directed violence. It is not “jihad” that is being waged by these hirabis who are funded and trained by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. These foreign-sponsored hirabis are waging “hirabah” against the Syrian people. Syrians are currently enduring the bombing of a US-led coalition. The Russians were asked by the Assad government for military assistance. They are bombing Syria, too. It is primarily the poor who suffer most in Libya and Syria, people who can’t afford to be smuggled out of the danger zones and, remaining behind, can’t afford the high prices for what little food can be had and must contend with the devastating lack of infrastructure.

Singularly important to the ruling class, armed struggles (limited domestic and foreign) are profitable. War is a highly profitable business because it benefits numerous industries, dozens unrelated to directly waging war but serving every need of armed conflict.

The US has a contingent of gun-toting, self-proclaimed right-wing patriots ready to use the abundant arms sold to them by profit-bearing gun manufacturers. Although the US has the highest number of guns per-capita on the planet, armed insurrection in the US is extremely unlikely. The current US government’s capacity for committing armed violence against the domestic population, intended to protect the capitalist ruling elite system, precludes the possibility of another civil war.

Electoral Organizing As a Failed Means of Change

The ruling class doesn’t want us to vote not only because it’s expensive and profitable to buy our votes through the campaign finance bribery and propaganda system, but also voting legitimates the corporate-state. Thus, electoral organizing hasn’t yielded desirable results for the people. Podemos (We Can) in Spain has become “we can’t.” Founded by political scientist Pablo Iglesias in March 2014, Podemos is a populist left-wing party in Spain. It arose from the Indignados movement in 2011 (coincident with Occupy in the USA and the Arab Spring, also) against the usual corruption, government budget austerity, and increasing income inequality.

Although the number of seats won by Podemos in Spain’s most recent elections were larger than any ever won by a third party, they were far from enough to have majority control. Forming a coalition government with the two most powerful parties has been impossible and could result in the Spanish king dissolving the parliament and calling for new elections. Even if that doesn’t happen, Podemos will have to work with the established parties and compromise on many issues dear to their own supporters. It appears that some people in Spain want change, but the majority are clinging to the state electoral system and, as usual, electing a majority of the established parties’ candidates. Podemos, a people’s electoral movement, is not supported by the majority of the people. How can a movement be called a People’s Movement if the people are too afraid of system change to fully support it? Spain’s wealthy ruling class and international banks remain dominant.

The coalition for the Radical Left in Greece known as Syriza has not only been an electoral failure, but also a betrayal of the people who supported them. Unlike Podemos, Syriza had the solid support of the public, but they bowed to pressure from the established system and its financial masters. The people voted for Syriza in order to end the austerity policies imposed by the IMF, but Syriza caved to the economic demands of the ruling class.

Electoral organizing, working within the established political systems has not challenged or changed the power system of the ruling class. The famous words of Audre Lorde, an American writer of Caribbean descent, seem to apply: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Although Lorde wrote those words in criticism of the white feminist movement, they can be applied to the various tools and systems of the ruling class, in this case applied to the political system. Using the master’s tools (voting, electoral organizing) will never dismantle the master’s house nor his power structure. Working within the system benefits the system, not the people who would change it.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

The current method for change in the US is one of pleading for legislation. “Please, Congress, get money out of politics!” was the cry of protesters recently in Washington. Over 800 people were arrested during the first four days of non-violent civil disobedience actions scheduled by Democracy Spring protests in Washington this April. These actions were meaningless. They didn’t disrupt the system, hurt or challenge it. These protesters provided an excuse for a lot of overtime pay for the police, and they will be filling city government coffers with the fines and court costs they’ll be charged (and will most likely obediently and proudly pay, thinking of it as money paid “fighting for their freedoms”). The ruling class doesn’t care about briefly arrested protesters, and it will take much more than a week of protests and minor civil disobedience to catch their attention. Public actions that do nothing to challenge or financially endanger the ruling class will do nothing to foment change.

Prior to the Democracy Spring fiasco, some workers have occasionally been marching and pleading with signs begging for a minimum wage increase, “fighting for $15,” while other people have begun squabbling over who is allowed to use which public restroom, pleading for understanding the needs of transgenders. A minimum wage of $15 isn’t even a living wage, and the safety of a small group of people using public restrooms can surely be accommodated by national or local debates or a government-funded study which would please the capitalist ruling class. We need protests aimed at systemic change, not social issues that leave the system intact. Single-issue and identity politics result in distractions away from the major problems that are killing us and the Earth, problems that can be directly linked to capitalism and the money-power system it has created.

Frightening the Ruling Class

Armed struggle, electoral organizing, and pleading protesters do not work in dismantling the oligarchy. Armed struggle tends to cause immense suffering for the people and eventual gains for the ruling class. The system that enables their domination remains intact. Electoral organizing results in betrayal or such a lack of enough popular support as to be ineffective. Pleading protesters who do nothing to disrupt the system are ignored. What method can possibly work against today’s militarized corporate-state?

The first clue is plucked from the US history of 50 years ago — the Hippie movement from the mid 1960’s to the early 1970’s, “Hippie movement” being the label that applies to the US component of the global uprising during those years. This was a generation who challenged the ruling elite and their accepted norms. They wanted to Make Love, not War. They wanted the “real” instead of the “plastic” (fake). Just as important, they rejected materialism (consumerism); they embraced environmentalism.

Hippies thought they were rejecting the “establishment” and challenging “the man,” but they were actually rejecting capitalism, the wheel of the ruling class used to drive the government itself. The way of life the Hippies lived was one of counter culture, in opposition to American capitalist consumer culture. The sixties expression of dissent, in terms of counter-culture, reminds the authors of Graeber’s concept of counterpower ((Graeber, David. 2004. Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. Prickly Pear Press)), though we prefer the former term because it conveys a concept of broad rejection of consumerism, corporatization, competition, nationalism, suburban mall development (the antithesis was the back-to-the-land organic farming movement), celebrity culture, money meritocracy, hierarchy, the Puritan work ethic, racism (driven by the Black Power movement), social isolation, and war. Perhaps the most egregious shortcoming was a persistent patriarchy that was soon under challenge by a nascent women’s movement.

How could the wealthy ruling class effectively grow the consumer market if a generation of young people were determined to be non-consumers? How could the ruling class make money from war if the population turned against that “profitable alternative?” Who could possibly instigate war among a people determined to love one another and the Earth, too? What would become of Big Oil and Big Coal among an environmentally-conscious public?

Corporate Counter-Revolutionary Revenge on Counter Culture

Lewis F. Powell, Jr., a corporate lawyer, later appointed to the Supreme Court, detected the dangers to the capitalist oligarchy presented by the sixties counter-culture. Powell served on city and state boards of education in Virginia, and performed much legal work for tobacco companies. Shortly before he was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon, he drafted a confidential letter (now known as the Powell Memo ((Powell, Lewis F. 1971. Powell Memorandum, dated August 23, 1971)).)  The memo, entitled “Attack on American Free Enterprise System,” urged corporate America to become active in politics and the formation of legislation.

Expanding Hippie counter culture was antithetical to capitalism, though lacking in organization due to a narcissistic “do your own thing” movement attitude. Ruling elites, through their corporations, united to preserve and expand the elitist power system. Unbeknownst to the youth of that time, the culture they produced was what was needed to bring down the abusive economic system of capitalism. However, Powell articulated the potential threat and alerted corporate America of the dangers. He was positioned to help the corporate cause after being appointed to the Supreme Court. The ruling class set about corrupting the Hippie movement, actively using the government to distribute hard drugs among the youth and using media to demonize them. Media stereotyped Hippies as being interested only in “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.” They were called “stoners and slackers,” lazy bums and drug addicts who didn’t want to work like “good, responsible citizens.”

At the same time, corporate America began commodifying the Hippie movement. Department stores carried tie-dyed shirts, designer jeans, and “granny dresses.” Clothing that was formerly purchased by Hippies at yard sales and thrift stores was co-opted by big-name capitalist fashion designers. The “British invasion” of the Beatles and other groups from Great Britain provided more youth culture to commodify with the Mod Look — “tent dresses” and “granny glasses” were two fashion trends. The ruling class took this threat seriously and immersed themselves into molding the public into mass consumers.

Movements falter and fade. Young people age, and eventually become trapped in the capitalist system. The “day job” is the only alternative to poverty and homelessness for the masses. Once-vibrant youths on college campuses were sucked into the system and, unknowingly, many became members of the indoctrinated educated class who actually enable the oligarchy. The Hippie movement, lacking the political consciousness of the Black Power movement, never materialized as a social force to challenge the capitalist system. They didn’t recognize the class war being waged against them, and the general public as well, by the plutocrats.

The beaded curtains hanging in doorways, the Summer of Love, the scent of flowers and incense, and the emotional high of intoxicating hope for the future slowly disintegrated as the social engineers ushered in the disco culture. Suddenly youth were singing Bee Gees’ tunes, concerned only with “Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive,” disco dancing, and being willingly herded in droves to trendy new suburban shopping malls that destroyed urban downtown culture. The plutocrats won the battle without anyone realizing that a class war was raging against them. Indeed, the language of liberation that included such concepts as ruling class, plutocrats, class war, oppression, and liberation were missing. An ideological divide manifested between the Black Power movement in contrast with the Hippie, Free Speech, and Anti-War movements — the former possessing a deeper understanding of the realities of American capitalism.

The Return of Revolutionary Counter Culture

After almost half a century of slumber, another populist movement began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park during September 2011. It was dubbed the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement (later shortened to simply “Occupy”), and quickly spread to cities throughout the country, the biggest movements being in New York City and on the West Coast in the Oakland/San Francisco Bay area. What began as a demonstration against Wall Street elite quickly became a counter-culture movement. People began exploring direct democracy, setting up their own schools and childcare, holding organized meetings to determine political goals and how to best help their communities; people were peacefully uniting and working together, all things that challenged the capitalist culture of the ruling class. Like the Hippie movement, Occupy was non-violent, but unlike the Hippies, Occupy protesters were actively organizing for change — drastic change to the oligarchy by experimenting with systems that used Direct Democracy under the people’s control through various committees in front of which anyone could speak.

As in the 60’s and 70’s, the ruling class became nervous. However, this time, they were immensely more powerful and well-prepared. They had the full resources of their corporate media, all mainstream outlets having been consolidated into only six sources and in the hands of the plutocrats. They also had the full resources of the government they own and control. Media began the campaign to demonize Occupy protesters, casting them as drug users gathering for sex and defecating on public property, creating health hazards. Officials brought known drug addicts to Occupy gatherings, addicts who would cause arguments and fist fights which, of course, corporate media was on the scene to broadcast. Union members were brought in to infiltrate OWS organizational meetings in order to pit one group against another, focusing on single group interests and thus, dividing the people whose objectives were to address the needs of the whole community.

The political servants of the ruling class stepped up, including the President who encouraged city localities to quickly pass laws against the protesters occupying public property in tents and enforce any current laws that could “legally” disburse the growing crowds. The militarized police force did its duty for the ruling class— pepper spraying the masses, beating many of them, injuring many more with their rubber bullets, and injuring protesters in custody after arrest.

The ruling class successfully quashed the Occupy Movement. The threat of counter culture was once again nullified. Since the Hippie Movement of the 1960’s, US politics has ensured that such a challenge to the ruling class will never happen again. When there is evidence of a popular movement coalescing, political forces step in and, in service to the ruling class, these movements are co-opted by one of the two dominant political parties. Co-optation ensures that the movement operates within the system instead of challenging it. For example, instead of the Tea Party Movement becoming a viable competitor against the Republican Party, it was co-opted and absorbed by Republicans. Efforts to co-opt the Occupy Movement by the Democrats failed. Movement organizers as well as their supporters rejected that Occupy be associated with the Democratic Party at which point, the oligarchy unleashed its network of media, police, and politicians against protesters.

Before Occupy in the United States, there was the Arab Spring which began in Tunisia during December 2010. In 2011, “democracy movements” spread to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. These peaceful movements were beaten down by state violence as well as outside interference and internal violence mainly at the hands of militant fundamentalist sects. Tunisia emerged with a new constitution, but little change to the money-power system. A few secular political leaders were assassinated as religious zealots sought to secure power through fear. An Islamist mass shooting attack occurred at a Tunisian tourist area near the city of Sousse in June 2015 and a bomb exploded on a bus carrying 12 members of the presidential guard in November of 2015. Egypt is under another freely elected military dictatorship as it has been since the days of Nasser in June of 1956. Several Egyptian protesters were killed by state forces during the uprising which began eleven days after the Tunisian government was overthrown. Thousands were imprisoned. Thousands more are being imprisoned today who dare to criticize the current government under al-Sisi.

Neither the peaceful protests of Tunisians nor of Egyptians secured them a nonviolent and revolutionary path to change; the people’s causes have been a victim of violence. Libya and Syria remain in physical and social ruins. Yemen is being bombed by Saudi Arabia (supported and supplied by the USA and the UK) while the Saudi kingdom and those in Bahrain and Jordan remain intact. Although not a total success, the Arab Spring can be characterized as an important component in the social evolution of North Africa and the Middle East.

After the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, the same scenario of peaceful protests meeting with state violence played out in Turkey at Gezi Park beginning in late May of 2013. As soon as peaceful protesters began organizing to challenge the existing state, setting up their own forms of government through popular committees, and acting as a cohesive counter-culture movement, the ruling class attacked them in the same manner as Occupy, but even more violently. There were deaths at these protests due to violence instigated by the state, not the protesters.

Currently a new counter-culture movement has emerged in France,  literally meaning “Night Stand” and loosely translated as “rise up or stand up at night.” What started out as a one-day march against proposed draconian labor laws, Nuit Debout quickly erupted out of the hands of the organizers into a subversive, revolutionary movement by the expression of an attitude of creating a separate socio-political space, a counter-cultural space, unconcerned with the formal legislative process. These autonomous zones are best described by David Graeber ((Graeber, David. 2002. “Reinventing Democracy“. In: In These Times. February 19, 2002)) and Bookchin’s Municipal Libertarianism ((Bookchin, Murray. 1987. “Libertarian Municipalism: The New Municipal Agenda“, in: From Urbanization to Cities (1987; London: Cassell, 1995), with revisions)), and Boggs’ discussion of what he calls prefigurative communism ((Boggs. Carl. 2010. Marxism, prefigurative communism, and the problem of workers’ control. Libcom)). This was the collective strategy of the global revolutionary movements of 1968, and on back to the Paris Commune of 1871 of which Nuit Debout is a modern version. The European concept of “convergence des luttes” (Convergence of Struggles) is similar to Counter Culture in the US. The Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring were not failures. They were beaten down by state violence, yet these experiments were nascent revolutionary substitutes for the current dominant cultural systems.

Where Do We Go From Here? Prospects and Pitfalls

American fascism, the Dark Ages II, and systemic collapse due to ecosystem damage and/or economic collapse are serious possibilities. Without mass mobilization, business and government as usual will certainly result in dire consequences for humans and the planetary ecosystem. Without mass mobilization, we have no future, if indeed we even have a future worth contemplating. We have arrived at an unprecedented moment in human evolutionary history. We could drive ourselves into extinction — though hard to imagine, the human population of more than seven billion could collapse to zero in a relatively short time if the planetary ecosystem support functions collapse. Remember, most of us are dependent on agriculture, and agriculture is highly sensitive to ecosystem damage.

If we assume the realization of significant mass mobilizations, we have room for imagining different social relations and relations to the planetary ecosystem. Egalitarian revolutionary change, as we envision one pathway, lies in counter-culture movements that embrace different, democratic value sets (democracy-all-around, at work, at governance, at play). We must build mass counter-cultural movements replacing those of the dominant culture (competition, economic tyranny; political oligarchy), as controlled by and benefiting elites. These movements would focus on creating actual physical land-based as well as social conceptual autonomous zones. Such zones, discontinuous, may take form in communities, cultural regions, ecosystem bioregions, Commons-based, direct self-governance, thus replacing municipal and corporate hierarchy with community-and-worker-owned and controlled enterprises. The domains of modern life: home, school, work, government, and casual socializing would be integrated into a new concept of community. Revolution by organizing and experimenting with ways that challenge and change the current cultural systems are the methods needed to eliminate the tyranny of illegitimate and abusive power.

Where do we go from here? The critical problems of civilization are centralized, concentrated monetary wealth, state power, and the theft of the Commons. To address these problems requires the inverse, to decentralize economic and political power. The goal is to introduce direct democracy in all domains of life, including economic and political matters. Private wealth and the private property that wealth buys are the central problems of concentrated wealth. State power, concentrated and sold to private wealth through the bribery of a specialized political class, completes the survey of illegitimate power.

Our tasks are to decentralize wealth by production for use not for exchange, to reject the money system altogether, and to replace private property through reclaiming the Commons. We prefer melding the ancient concept of commons and modern concept of counter culture (and counterpower) because these world views encompass the whole person-in-society-and-nature, in contrast to classic Marxist conceptions that identify an artificial social construct labelled “industrial workers” (men in factories). These measures reverse the ongoing enclosure movement (theft of land and so-called intellectual property), and decentralize state power through the construction of local, self-governing autonomous systems managed by worker-and-community controlled production, community-control of land use— all managed by way of direct local democracy expanded horizontally into larger-scale systems of federations, thus replacing the independent state system with self-governance.

Grubacic and Hearn discuss at length their concept of “exilic communities” closely corresponding to prefigurative communism and counter culture (counterpower). ((Grubacic, Andrej, and O’Hearn, Denis. 2016. Living at the Edges of Capitalism Adventures in Exile and Mutual Aid. UC Press.)) We note here that the rock music group, The Rolling Stones, released an album titled “Exile on Main Street” in 1972 which unconsciously presaged the end of the sixties counter-culture movement. The American Hippie movement, a component of a global uprising, was the first modern exiled community found on the ideological edge of Main Street, USA.

The first task of autonomous zones within a flat federation should be the creation of a new constitution. The original constitution cannot be improved because it was written by the patriarchy, the Founding Fathers. This archaic document is taught as if it were religious doctrine, distanced from anything that can be improved or examined in a historical context. We will need a new constitution defining the manner in which autonomous zones coordinate large-scale activities through federation with delegates sent directly from local zones — no elections, no president or prime minister, no parliament or congress. A new constitution might include Canada and Mexico because it would be a plan of mutual aid and cooperation not domination, replacing NAFTA. We already have international economic agreements, but do not have transnational political cooperation. We assert as Graeber has observed that nationalism is a fiction. ((Graeber, David. 2007. “There never was a West“, In: Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire. AK Press.))

Constructing autonomous zones, exiled communities, counter cultures, through the conscious application of counterpower is facilitated by the fact of the fragility of American and Western European nation-states. The states are held together with the glue of state violence. All states are failed states vulnerable to exiled counter-cultural metamorphoses. Malcolm X, declaring “the ballot or the bullet” as means to end racism, defined two historic strategies employed to achieve egalitarian social change. A third way, counter-culture movements, acting to claim both physical and social space, has emerged since the Paris Commune of 1871 as a powerful decentralization strategy.

Exiled communities might not be codified, or they might choose to adopt a formal, written contract, a constitution that might include language regarding the rights of people and the planet, using the UN Declaration of Human Rights to stimulate debate. What this new contract might include should be determined by the people through direct public debate conducted within each autonomous zone, sent horizontally by delegates to regional and global federation bodies. We don’t need leaders deciding our future. Through local, Commons-based, bioregional, utopian collective experimentation, egalitarian social and political spaces emerge, driven by mutual aid and direct democracy.

Indeed, our definition of Utopia incorporates the expectation of conflict, the adoption of principles of human rights within a context of decentralized power, the inclusion of dissent within the core of society, not marginalized, and the adoption of means of conflict resolution formalizing dignified exit. Counter-cultural movements characterized by creation and expansion of exiled communities embedded in the existing urban space engage in conflict with the dominant culture, presenting visible decentralized direct democracy at home, at work, and in the political domain. The exiled perceive not the state as the obstacle to Utopia, but class oppression manifested as impediments to individual and collective desire.

We are compelled to change everything, nothing less than everything. Everything is suspect. Everything is corrupted and co-opted and enslaving and fraudulent and destructive. Everything.

Every daring attempt to make a great change in existing conditions, every lofty vision of new possibilities for the human race, has been labelled Utopian.

— Emma Goldman, in “Socialism: Caught in the Political Trap”, a lecture (c. 1912), published in Red Emma Speaks, Part 1 (1972), edited by Alix Kates Shulman

Susan Cain’s introduction to human rights activism was as a high school student participating in the Memphis, Tennessee Sanitation Workers' Strike during its peak in March 1968, and she retains an active interest in human rights and US foreign policy. She once was a blues singer, now writing about international political "blues." Mark Mason emerged from a childhood desert crucible, real and cultural, to find himself shaking the hand of Robert Kennedy shortly before his assassination. Subsequent to protesting the Vietnam War, he studied human evolution at UCLA and UC Berkeley, teaching briefly. Since the realization of the Occupy movement, Mark has been providing commentary on US policies to the international media. Read other articles by Mark Mason and Susan Cain.