Fighting for a future free from capital

October 29, 2015

I WAS in Madison, Wisconsin, recently to speak at an International Socialist Organization (ISO) meeting on gender violence and capitalism. It was a large meeting at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, full of engaged students and workers. Some of them asked probing question about women's oppression. Some shared painful personal experiences of oppression. But all of them were there because they wanted to change the world.

On my way back from the meeting, I was being given a lift by an ISO comrade who I had not had the opportunity to speak with before. We chatted about Wisconsin, Scott Walker, what the comrade did professionally (he saved lives as an emergency responder). And then I asked him "the question": Why did he become a socialist? So he told me his story.

As a working-class boy from upstate New York, he had imagined that he would be in the army since childhood. Soon after high school, he signed up. He was prepared to fight for us and defend us, his people.

So in 2003, he found himself in a barrack full of future soldiers watching the live bombing of Baghdad. He was prepared for blood and carnage. But he was not prepared for the sheer injustice of it all. Throughout the video, as Afghan villages were set on fire, as men and women fell to their deaths over the bodies of their own dead children, the war acquired its full figuration for this man. It was not a mission to save American communities, it was a mission to create carnage in others.

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When he left the room that day, his world had acquired different shades and tones. It came together in ways that finally made sense.

He found the ISO soon after and discovered, to his delight, that there were people in this organization who saw the world the same way as him. Even more importantly, they helped him connect to a history and tradition of working people who had fought hard to change it. Suddenly from a single man with a sense of injustice, he was a man touched by the wings of history--a history peopled with power and hope.

I am writing to share this story with readers for two reasons. One, this comrade's life reminded me, yet again, that the fundamental human sense of justice can never be quite fully extinguished by capitalism. Even in a room full of potential military recruits for empire, that sense can act as a map out of the labyrinth. And two, because his was not a story of a personal rage against the machine where he gained a superior moral position of anti-imperialism and remained content. His is a story of a search to find the resources, the tools to give body to that set of politics.

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To find an organization where he could unite a past of people struggling against capitalism with a future free of capital.
Tithi Bhattacharya, West Lafayette, Indiana

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