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community building | economic justice

Organizing in the Recession

What can we do?
We know who the culprits are in this crash. The large banks and financial institutions who were enabled by a compliant government to rig our economy, taking sickening risks to enrich themselves. These risks caught up with them, but because government and banks are so intertwined, an enormous effort was undertaken to bail them out. The same banks are now in the business of massive, widespread foreclosures. The housing market is floored, so these owner-less homes stay empty while people sleep on the street. Aside from petty fines not nearly commensurate with the severity of their crimes, these banks have escaped punishment and enjoy their impunity to this day. There is no political will on the part of our elected leaders to go after these people because they are of the same class. Instead, the government pushes austerity or extreme deficit spending, maintaining an unjust society meant to obviate the effects of the poor on the wealthy. By building more prisons, increasing surveillance, staying endlessly at war, demonizing immigrants and speaking in thinly-veiled newspeak about the racial makeup of "irresponsible" poor people who were approved for terrible sub-prime mortgages that the banks were pushing.

The latest employment figures have come out and they tell us what we already know: times are tough and they may be so for quite some time. Reading the reactions of our elected representatives, they quickly trot out their partisan ambitions. Republicans want spending cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy and Democrats want to raise the national debt ceiling and spend more money. Neither will comprehensively address the material needs of the people suffering through the recession, much less the people that were hurting before the financial crisis began. While government aid like unemployment checks and food stamps may slightly ameliorate the effects of individual poverty, they do nothing to combat what hurts us as a society. And they cannot provide us with dignity.

Now the unemployed, more people than ever, since the Depression, are delegitimized, surplus humanity. It is the acceptance of this subjectivity that keeps us fractured and disempowered. But we could work together to directly address our condition. We could move beyond protests and rallies to confront the apparatuses of our oppression and solutions to maintain ourselves.

There has never been a more urgent time to organize. How can we do so, to not only fulfill folks' most immediate needs, but build for the long term to legitimately challenge and ultimately rid ourselves of our oppressive economic system and the state?

We do not need to fix our system. We need to build one that people can live in, peacefully and equally. We need to start here and aid other communities in their attempts at liberation and dignity. There are a bunch of people in this town doing great work and, when we are hurting, when living precariously, it can be tough to operate with confidence. To those people: What do you need? How can the things you do dovetail with the efforts of others to amplify their effects? Are there barriers to that kind of cooperation? Can already established groups meet to discuss long-term efforts to organize, work and possibly expand during the recession?

To everyone else: Are there forms of direct, replicable organizing, contemporary or historical, that we could apply here and aren't? Can we take these into consideration and make our city a smart, beautiful, rebellious center for social change? Can we meet to brainstorm better efforts to see a revolutionary future in the face of dispiriting times? We need to take care of ourselves and we can do a much better job of it than our leaders.