As people in Northampton and around the world danced in the streets with the news of Joe Biden’s electoral victory over incumbent Trump, little about the power structure of the two party system that brought us Trumpism has changed. As is all too familiar from previous election cycles, often vapid election coverage dominated the focus of news outlets both national and local. Prognosticators were wrong about whether the Democrat’s strategy of coveting right wing voters while attacking more progressive voices within the party would bring the much anticipated down-ballot “blue wave”. All in all, untold sums of money continued to flow into corporate party politics nearly unabated by law or ethics in what was once again dubbed “the most important election of our lifetime”. Luckily, politics exist outside of election season and the whims of our corporate duopoly. With this in mind The Shoestring turned to local organizers to get their take on what the election means to them (if anything), how they’re responding, what they’re working on and how people can plug in. —The Shoestring
Great Falls Books Through Bars
Total abolition and decolonization will never be on the ballot, so we’ll stay busy regardless of any election, pushing for liberation and mutual aid. This fall we’ve been coordinating outdoor volunteer days to be able to safely continue sending free books and resources to people who are incarcerated around the country. Especially now with Covid-19, the rise of open white supremacy and fascism, as well as the risk of liberal complacency under Biden, we want to make sure that our community inside prisons and jails are not forgotten. In addition to supporting folks inside, we also want to support each other fighting on the outside. Follow us on facebook for updates: https://www.facebook.com/GreatFallsBooksThroughBars or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on our listserv for upcoming events and ways to get involved!
Decarcerate Western Mass
The election doesn’t change much for people in prisons and jails. The United States – and yes, Massachusetts especially – has been locking up and torturing our marginalized communities – Black, indigenous, and Latinx people, poor people, queer and trans people, people with disabilities, neurodivergent people and more – under Democrat and Republican alike. So our fight continues, whether it’s Biden or Trump, and Covid-19 has only made the situation more dire.
Right now we are mobilizing to support individuals incarcerated at the Hampden County Jail and House of Corrections in Ludlow who are asking for community to reach out to their legislators, especially in Hampden County, to get the jail to meet the following, urgent needs:
- Increase in COVID testing along with numbers shared with the public about testing access.
- The end of using the threat of lockdown as retaliation. A COVID-19 Lock Down is currently being used as a threat to incarcerated people.
- More sanitization. Scheduled and recorded daily cleaning along with more cleaning supplies available to incarcerated people.
- Having paper records of all grievances given to incarcerated people when they file one. This provides accountability for officers to reply. Currently, there are no grievance receipts given and there is no proof of filing one. This has meant grievances have been left unresponded to.
- Allow people who are incarcerated to watch press conferences with Sheriff Cocchi. They currently turn off the television every time he appears.
- Stop the use of speaker phone during legal conversations. This is a violation of rights that is currently happening in the jail.
Please email, tweet or call your legislators and follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/decarwmass or Instagram: instagram.com/decarwmass/ or email email@example.com to get more involved. We’ll also be hosting an Abolition 101 orientation for people looking to join the abolition movement today, November 22 at 5pm. [See The Shoestring’s recent profile of Decarcerate Western Mass.]
A Knee is Not Enough
Now that we know the winner of the presidential election, AKINE is actively working towards local transformation while taking the opportunity to take a step back and reassess and refine our groups goals and action strategies—especially looking at focusing on the local city elections that will occur next year. We are also updating our website (www.akine.org), working towards a weekly newsletter, while also keeping folks updated via our private Facebook page. We look forward to continuing to organize events and create platforms for education and dialogue that centers critical thinking, reassessment and cultural shifts towards acknowledging and interrupting racism and bias. [See The Shoestring’s profile of AKINE here.]
413 Stay Woke, Stay Active
Through the 413 Stay Woke, Stay Active (413 SWSA) Collective, we organized all Summer 2020 to push our greater 413 community to move boldly and collectively towards transformative justice, equity and authentic anti-racism. Although we believe voting to be an essential step towards racial justice in our society, as queer, Black, female organizers who exist at the cross-sections of prejudice on a daily basis, our goal wasn’t necessarily to push folks to vote. Rather, it was to bring awareness to the injustices that Black people and other people of color experience, and to give a voice to community members who have been aching to finally be heard.
The Marches and other community actions blatantly showed our communities that racism will no longer be tolerated in any form, and intentionally forced others in opposition or in denial to actually hear us. We can’t recall the last time “racial tensions” have been so visibly high in our local communities, and we think that the current tension lends itself to a closer and less naive look at how racism and white supremacy have long existed in the 413 area. Pre and post-election, our goal as organizers of color was and still is to activate people to MOVE, to resist the urge to be silent about the things that matter most, and to encourage people to #staywoke and #stayactive.
While we know that being loud and proud advocates for this kind of radical change immediately makes us a target, we believe that it is important to not be distracted by the current election (which was WAY too close for “comfort”). Our focus remains on serving our community’s immediate needs because we know first-hand that as long as racism is still the same, our job to disrupt and dismantle is still the same. We will continue to push just as hard post-election, if not harder.
The Pioneer Valley Democratic Socialists of America
The Democratic Party didn’t produce the repudiation of Trump and the GOP and the “blue wave” that it expected. Against all data and logic, it’s blaming its Left flank, BLM and socialism for the failures of Dem moderates to win their races—despite Democrats refusing to run on clear, positive economic or social messaging; nothing but “believe science,” “Trump sucks” and “let’s get back to brunch.” This did not work as they’d hoped, unsurprisingly. But the collection of victories by DSA-endorsed candidates and ballot measures speaks for itself, as do the successful re-elections of nearly all swing district Dems who backed signature democratic socialist policies, like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
We think nationwide trends bode well for socialist organizing in already-pretty-blue Pioneer Valley. But we must push in statewide coalition with other MA DSA chapters and committed Left organizations to beat back inevitable “back to brunch” complacency and any anti-socialist scaremongering they want to throw at us. We need to be in fighting shape. We’ve already seen our membership rise as people are looking for a positive place to put their political energy. As for our chapter, we did our very first endorsement of a campaign besides DSA for Bernie this last cycle—Yes on 2—and phonebanked for it, so we were disappointed to see it fail, of course. But in the weeks and months to come, we’ll be regrouping on chapter priorities to launch our own campaigns, as well as work with Valley activists and labor on renewed efforts to build working class power. These efforts include defund police/refund society strategies, rank-and-file labor work, political education and organizing training, and more!
For those who are interested in learning more, we invite you to join us on December 1 at 7:30 to meet us and discuss the future of democratic socialism beyond 2020, locally and nationwide!
Photo credit Ellery Berenger.