by Peggy Wang (APA, MTA/NEA – personal capacity)
Growing up, I never considered myself “political”. That changed when I entered college in 2008. While the big banks crashed the stock market and got bailed out, working people lost jobs and homes.
A few years later, tens of thousands gathered in NYC and refused to leave, shouting “we are the 99%”. The internet exploded with news of Trayvon Martin’s death, and the collective shock and rage turned into mass protests against the police.
I couldn’t make sense of these events. Why was this happening, and who was to blame?
In 2016, I was introduced to socialism and it all became clear. Capitalism, in putting profits over people, was the driver of the problems I’d been witnessing: the recessions, police brutality, massive wealth inequalities, poverty. Disillusioned with corporate politics and excited by socialist ideas and solutions, I saw the need for society’s resources to be put towards social good, towards free healthcare and education, and a sustainable future rather than some rich person’s 20th yacht or mansion.
But what to do with that knowledge? What role could I play in bringing about a socialist world?
Joining the Independent Socialist Group, I found an internationalist organization of people deeply committed to this cause and actively taking it upon themselves to build a working-class movement. Though we can push for symbolic changes like renaming streets, they don’t fundamentally challenge the capitalist system. That’s why we take so seriously the need to understand where best to put our energies, what tactics to use, and what lessons to learn from past struggles. We must do the hard but necessary work to develop a movement that ensures that the working people already running society are the ones making the decisions.
Because as much as I wish that work could be done for me, it won’t. We can’t rely on a handful of leaders—we need to be our own. The capitalists only benefit when we remain too resigned and exhausted to act. As Eugene Debs, a founder of the American Railway Union and socialist presidential candidate said: “If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out.”