Reasons to Write

We write because we think. And we think that there are some things that need to be thought out loud. Thoughts crystallize when they are written down and put out into the world, even in a relatively informal way.

As regular collaborators across a variety of projects, we decided to start this blog as a way to strengthen our collaboration and work through ideas that we find engaging as participants in radical left politics, in cultural and literary work, and in our research on geography and subjectivity. We decided to make it public because there are others out there whose thoughts and feedback we value. We hope that by thinking aloud, in the presence of comrades, we can contribute to an exciting collective series of inquiries taking place across the new left.

It's this, the inquiry, that really interests us. The questions that aren't answered, or the ones whose answers have been rehearsed for so many decades that they have become pat and outdated. The confusions that arise when you try to stretch a worldview to accommodate a dizzying daily reality. The moments when you realize that this worldview has to face up to challenges not just of politics or economics or history, but geography, culture, and the potential for a future. Hence "Say It With Paving Stones..."

We could always just Tweet these thoughts or post them on Facebook. But there is something about those formats that skips a step; somewhere between sitting with a hypothesis and the interminable one-upmanship and snide "gotcha" arguments that achieve nothing in the way of consensus.

Frankly, we are a bit exhausted and very exasperated with that atmosphere, where one needs to sum up their knowledge of broad topics in short posts -- leaving little room for nuance -- and be prepared to defend it or be dismissed. This doesn't just exist in the worlds of the "extremely online." A great many radical and activist meetings feel disappointingly similar to the online forums, relying on rhetoric and phraseology, often in order to dodge some very difficult questions about how we have wound up where we are and what it’s going to take to get out.

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There are signs that healthier versions of such spaces may be returning; the growth of socialist organization, the flourishing of radical publications of various strains, flashes of a renewed workers movement. We both joined the Democratic Socialists of America in 2017, bringing along experience and baggage from previous years of activity elsewhere. We participated in the founding of the Refoundation Caucus in order to build the organization and push it leftward. We are dedicated to the production of Red Wedge magazine and we work with comrades across a number of groups and publications. We are enthusiastically engaged with the new left. But the whole of the movement is still struggling with years of inertia, of isolation and defeat.  

We also think that the need for clarity and exploration are more urgent than they have ever been. This is particularly so for anyone who is concerned with questions of liberation and radical social change. Are they possible? We think so, but "possible" is not synonymous with "inevitable,"  or even "likely." In fact the prospects often appear exceedingly grim. We are however certain that a radically different world and social order are urgently necessary.

But, to dwell on the question of possibility a bit, there are gaps that need to be bridged between the already existing, the likely consequences and the desired outcome. We don’t necessarily intend to construct any of the necessary bridges here by ourselves. Rather we intend to tangle with the questions that come to mind as we look across the chasm.

We both come from a political lineage of "socialism from below," a tradition that centers the subjectivity of working and oppressed people as the agency of liberation and puts little stock in bureaucrats or elected officials. We still identify with that lineage, and it will naturally inform the questions we ask and the suggestions and we make.

In other words, we write because as workers, as revolutionary socialists, we need to write. The idea that working people can think for themselves is not a new one. The idea that working people can think new thoughts --  original thoughts, thoughts that have never been thought before, the kinds of thoughts that even if they are prima facie wrong might point the way toward something new and enlightening -- is one that we think hasn't been regarded nearly enough. Nor are there enough spaces for that to happen. Nobody was providing one for us, so we went ahead and did it ourselves. Welcome to the nightmare.