Usable Past

There is much a modern American radical can draw from a usable past. A usable past entails finding what has worked in the past and then applying it to modern circumstances. This line of thinking is justified by Mark Twain’s quote “history doesn’t repeat; it rhymes.” When fighting as an underdog the forces against change are fierce. However, organization and unity can force change in the direction the reformers wish.

The best starting example of this is the abolitionist who fought to end slavery and struck a blow to slaveholders and their oppressive capitalistic practices. The biracial coalition who created the National Association and Advancement of Colored People to uphold concepts of equal protection. The left leaning American Civil Liberties Union who sought to protect the freedom of all Americans to dissent. The International Workers of the World was a union that advanced the cause of workers and embraced the concept of brotherhood.

Organizations such as the Southern Tenement Farmers Union who formed a multiracial union protesting racist New Deal policies. The Highlander Folk School trained many of the leading figures of the civil rights era. Figures such as Eugene Debs who introduced Marxist philosophy into American politics. Magazines such as The Masses, The Messenger, The Appeal to Reason, and too many others to name.

Fighting for social change will be hard and met with many defeats. For a better society to emerge these battles must be fought. The significant classes have a major advantage in shaping society through the use of money and will do anything to keep their power intact. They can, and must, be toppled for a better world. This must happen because people of the lower classes deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.


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