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Thoughts on the theme — September 2020

The theme of this month’s issue, “Hoping, coping, doping, and shopping” comes from a phrase in the book, How Will Capitalism End by Wolfgang Streeck. Streeck argues that we are witnessing the tail end of the uneasy alliance between democracy and capitalism. As he writes, “Democracy was always a problem in a capitalist society. There’s an enormous inherent tension between the two. Democracy is inherently egalitarian because every citizen has one vote. And the rich also have one vote but the rich are only five percent. Whereas in the market, every dollar has a vote.”

Thinking out loud

What’s at stake in this moment is whether our collective present and future will be determined by votes or by dollars. The struggle is visible in the Trump administration’s attack on the US postal service and our ability to vote by mail, and the massive protests across the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Capitalism, and capitalists, has an interest in promoting hoping, coping, doping, and shopping as strategies for averting our attention from voting. The articles and graphics in this issue show us some alternatives.

Dennis Langhans writes about the Olympia Port Commissioners’ (2-1, with Commission EJ Zita voting no) decision to accept the Panattoni Agreement for port development. Langhans’ discussion of community-based vs. lobbyist influenced approaches to decision making locally shows that at least in this context, dollars are beating votes. We can’t act on what we don’t know, however, and Langhans’ reporting helps bring these dynamics to light.

Cecilia Pérez’s article in this issue illustrates an instance where people who organized and fought together won. As COVID cases were rising in early May in the Yakima Valley, Pérez stated, farmworkers tapped into the “labor activism spirit of earlier decades” and organized. Farmworkers in fruit packing warehouses joined in solidarity with field pickers, going on labor strikes together. As a result of these strikes, employers conceded and were forced to provide masks, hand sanitizer and increased safety measures. Proof that when we the people organize and fight together, we win.

Streeck cautions that because environmental deterioration happens more slowly than the human life span, we can ignore it. Lee First’s article challenges us to notice what’s happening in our rivers and estuaries by focusing on green sturgeon. She presents the need to advocate for establishing aquatic reserves. As she writes, “there is a process for tribes, stakeholders, individuals and government agencies to nominate sites to become Aquatic Reserves.  The process takes about two and a half years, but new nominations are delayed until 2021.” Whether we can alter that timeline is up to us.

As Enrique Quintero writes, “The transition from acknowledging “it is what it is “to “it doesn’t have to be this way” is not easy. Shifting from interpreting the world to changing it requires political fortitude, resilience, determination, endurance, and an imagination not trapped in the cultural sterility of mainstream society.”

For thirty years, with the support of countless community members, WIP’s project has been to give voice to the possibilities of changing this world.


Upcoming themes

October: The struggle for justice. WIP’s mission is to contribute to the struggle for justice across economic, social, political and environmental realms and to the expansion of participatory democracy across classes, races and genders.  October 2020 marks the 30th year that Works in Progress has been trying to live up to that mission, as a publication produced and distributed by volunteers. The paper has shaped and reshaped itself across the years, depending on who puts in the time and energy to make it happen.  We invite anyone who has read, contributed to or helped produce the paper to send their memories, critiques, old copies, artifacts etc. that have been part of WIP on its journey. Be sure to save the date for an anniversary celebration Nov. 21Copy deadline for October issue:  September 13

November/December: What is political? Some of us are looking forward to the November elections as the biggest opportunity we have to shift public policies at the federal, state and local levels so that we address systemic racism and inequality, made more visible than ever by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the concept of “political” is bigger than voting. What does “political” mean to you? Copy deadline for November/December issue: October 15

January: What we can’t face. The end of the year often prompts reflection about the year that is ending and the one that lies before us. Naming our fears—admitting the existence of difficult problems–might make us happier and healthier in the long run. We invite your thoughts about this. Perhaps, as they say, what we resist, persists.

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