Up from the Ashes: New and Powerful Possibilities

The pandemic has changed everything. Donald Trump’s ineptness and buffoonish incapacity has caused countless deaths and endangered everyone. The system is out of control. But people are fighting back.

Solidarity is making a comeback. Some is real, and then there’s the congressional version. Money by the trillions flooded to banks and big business; for ordinary people, there was about enough to cover rent for a month or two, plus some unemployment checks. Landlords had to put evictions on hold in some places. 

Common people are banding together for mutual support and common demands. It’s a new stage of the “political revolution.” Bernie won the best unemployment package ever: coverage for gig workers, “independent contractors,” restaurant workers and more, at a higher rate. He changed the congressional agenda, prioritizing human needs.

The crisis highlights how massive debt has crippled the lives of ordinary people: mortgage debt, medical debt, car debt, student debt, credit card debt, payday loan debt, and more. Instead of life savings to fall back on, millions face overwhelming, unpayable debt. There’s a movement to cancel it: “We can’t pay, we won’t pay!”

The flood of money raises questions: if all that money is there, why not cancel debt for students and others? If transit can be free in a crisis, why not all the time? If the government can flood the system with money, why not end homelessness? 

Trump’s mismanagement is shredding his vaunted invincibility. His effort to blame the pandemic on China fizzled. After initial attempts to ignore it, China’s effective “people’s war” against the virus impressed people everywhere. While Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo move to intensify sanctions against Iran and Venezuela – hoping to strangle them as the pandemic rages – Chinese medical workers and supplies came to the rescue in those countries, in Europe, and elsewhere. Cuban doctors, and medication, have joined them.

There were detailed simulations of the pandemic months before it broke out, so why weren’t they prepared? Why didn’t they have supply stockpiles? 

The glaring inadequacies of our so-called healthcare system have made the demand for Medicare for All even more urgent.  Equally urgent is the need to end the endless wars that Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continue to stoke. 

U.S. global prestige has shrunk. European NATO members cancelled planned war games against Russia in March and have found ways to get around U.S. sanctions against Iran now that the U.S. banking system seems less threatening than before. 

Popular mobilization continues. “We need to build a political revolution not just to make the Green New Deal victorious in this election, but to upend the balance of power in this country for a generation,” said Sunrise organizing director Dyanna Jaye. 

Varshini Prakash of Sunrise declared, “Our movement is more powerful than ever, but we are in a fight for the soul of this country… We know that no matter what happens over the coming months, elections alone won’t be enough… That’s why our movement is oriented around a guiding strategy for this year of: Organize, Vote, and Strike.” She meant student strikes to stay out of school, but with schools shuttered, the youth have supported and joined rent strikes in many cities, as well as refusals to work without protective gear and hazard pay for nurses and other essential services workers.

“History has shown that when millions of young people dedicate themselves to a cause, and show up in overwhelming numbers, revolutionary change isn’t just possible — it’s inevitable,” Prakash said. “As long as we are organizing our generation into an unstoppable force in American politics, we will eventually ensure that the Green New Deal comes to pass — no matter what happens this election.” Sunrise has become a force, along with Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, nurses, teachers, and many others.

Blanca Estevez, a DSA National Political Committee member from Arkansas, pointed to another looming force for change: the Latinx community. Bernie’s outreach to Latinx voters in Nevada “clenched it for him,” she wrote. They also carried Bernie to victory in California, and kept him strong in Texas. Latinx people are 18% of the country’s population. Together with African Americans and other people of color, they make up more than a third of the U.S. population.

Although Joe Biden got the primary vote of older African American voters loyal to Barack Obama, the alliance of black and Latinx workers will be strong in the fight against Trump. This alliance combines with other forces to be a solid working-class majority: women and men, black, Latinx and white, LGBTQ, immigrants of all nationalities. Together with the youth, this is the decisive majority for the elections and for the future.

Imagine millions of workers joining the youth, with the message: you can’t do anything without us, and we can stop you from hurting us!

Consider the sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, whose captain was fired after calling publicly for help when crew members became infected. The crew cheered him for putting their safety above the “chain of command.” Will other sailors and soldiers across the globe demand that their safety come first? They will need massive and vocal support.

Talk of  resistance and revolution is now common: “Big Changes Ahead – Let’s Be the Whirlwind,” wrote Max Elbaum, author of Revolution in the Air. “It’s end time for the ‘end of history/there is no alternative’ era,” Elbaum wrote. “The fight is on over what will replace it.” He added that “we are for ‘upending’ the current political order…”

The question of the moment is, How can the horrifying reality here and around the world be transformed to “a future we can believe in”? 

The crashing economy holds the answer. The pandemic panic exposed the economy’s fragility and instability. Wall Street is a roller coaster: “the worst since…” 2008, or 1987, 1929, or ever. 

The economic shudders across the globe that the pandemic triggered are signals for us. Consider these: in France, President Emmanuel Macron’s moves to change the pension system brought millions of people into the streets for a months-long general strike; massive and repeated popular rebellions shook Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, and Colombia recently. These are harbingers of the future in our own country. 

The traditional answer to such threats has been military force, police repression, and CIA subversion. The status quo depends on economic stability, which really cannot last, but also on repression and people’s passivity. Soldiers and sailors can disarm the military by refusing to fight, as they did in the Vietnam era. And it will take the rest of us becoming the whirlwind. If we shake things up by the millions, we can begin to shape a future we can believe in.