The First 100 Days after the Revolution

  • Rose Lemlich | 
  • February 7, 2021

In a work of “aspirational fiction,” a teacher in Wheeling, West Virginia, in the year 2031, looks back at the socialist revolution in the United States.

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This is the first year that my sixth-grade students have been too young to remember the revolution. For the first couple of years, the kids in my history classes had stories about going to pickets and protests with their parents. Some of them compared scars in the hallways, between classes. A few years after that, the sixth graders could recount just feelings, and vague memories, as though they had dreamed the upheaval and energy and instability and triumph that had flooded our streets. Now, in the autumn of 2031, with all the reverence of whispers, they tell each other stories about what their cousins and big sisters and neighbors had told them, stories passed down with alternating pride and solemnity, exultation and grief.

My new class of students will never truly know what it was like to live in the America of my youth. Until my mid-20s, living in the United States was akin to living in the shadow of a historical empire — a country of people living in a crumbling Rome, their leaders pretending they still enjoyed the wealth described in their legends. But the first wave of public works projects, begun in 2025, are nearly complete. These programs, which mobilized millions of the unemployed and underemployed into well-paid construction, engineering, and administrative jobs, were so easy to implement with the profit motive eradicated, exploitation no longer its driver, and with no bosses to pay or shareholders to focus on.

We’ve already replaced most of America’s crumbling transportation, energy, housing, and sanitation infrastructure. The projects undertaken, chosen by local councils of community members, allocated jobs where work was needed most. We have built 100,000 miles of high-speed train tracks, shored up existing bridges and roads, decarbonized our public housing, and built millions of units more, to house not only the houseless who already reside here, but also incoming millions of climate refugees from the Caribbean and the Global South. Everyone is excited about what could be next. A lot of less populous parts of the country are talking about building arts centers and concert halls they’ve never had, so they can welcome all the traveling musicians and theater troupes that are enjoying audiences hungry for the arts they’ve never experienced live.

How will we explain this to our children? Will we shy away from the shame in our voices as we tell them how, for centuries, we allowed our neighbors to struggle, hunched over bills alone at their kitchen tables, to prepare for the first of the month? How will we react to their disbelief when we tell them how we went into insurmountable debt to gain access to the doctor, or to school? Can we tell them swashbuckling stories of the revolution without disrespecting those whose pain triggered our movements, or those who were lost in the fight? Already I’m grappling with how to explain the past 10 years to my students — the threads of our stories, individual and nation-sized, seem impossible to weave into a comprehensible tapestry that explains how we got from there to here.

* * *

No one can say for sure that the revolution began at a precise moment. A lot of people trace its origins to 2020, but since the system we overthrew contained the seeds of its own destruction, who’s to say the beginning wasn’t centuries ago? The 2020 coronavirus pandemic began to decimate an already-teetering economy. Most kids lost out on going to school for classes, although the poorest kids had to venture out of the relative safety of their homes just to get a meal at their school buildings. Millions of people lost their jobs, their homes, and their ability to keep themselves and their families from falling into what seemed like an abyss — all while a handful of billionaires made money hand over fist as they took advantage of the dire circumstances. Some people were able to keep working from home, but those who ventured out to work were the amazing essential workers in healthcare and people who worked in grocery stores and other places everyone needed. The corporate media back then always called them “heroes,” but never stopped exploiting them and even forcing them to work to their deaths — meatpackers being a group hit particularly hard. My students like to point out that after the revolution, we fixed that early on, and today the worker-heroes of 2020 get the recognition they deserve, and all their needs met.

It is hard to describe to my students why there was no mass strike in 2020, in the face of such abject failure by the state to make sure we all had what we needed to survive. There were some labor uprisings during the pandemic, especially among healthcare workers and the warehouse and delivery workers who made shopping from home possible. But what really brought Americans pouring into the streets in 2020 was fury over the violent police state that murdered hundreds of unarmed Black and Brown people. This was the state that, for the entire history of its police forces, harassed Black and Brown communities, starved them for resources, disenfranchised them, and incarcerated them at rates much higher than white Americans.

Americans in late May 2020 heard the news that Minneapolis cops had killed an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, as he begged for his life. No one could have predicted that this time so many people in so many places would rise up in indignation — first in that city, and then across the country, in large cities and small, remote towns, and eventually around the world. Combined, it was the largest demonstration ever — before our revolution. And it happened in the middle of a raging pandemic.

It was a time of protest and learning. Groups of protesters in the Twin Cities, Portland, Seattle, New York City, and elsewhere absorbed the history of protest from activists and revolutionaries from around the world. Resources were shared online. There was advice on how to make riot shields from Hong Kong students who had been struggling for democratic rights; the latest street medic tactics passed along from Europe; and all sorts of new instructions online from seasoned protesters in Palestine about how to identify and disarm various types of “nonlethal” weaponry, frequently manufactured by U.S. companies and tested against dissidents abroad before being sold to police departments here for use against our working class and people of color.

As the pandemic continued and the 2020 presidential election got closer, the protests abated. It would be the last time that activists were duped into abandoning their struggle and turning to the Democratic Party — America’s historic graveyard of social movements. In the first 100 days of the new Biden administration, in 2021, it became increasingly clear that the new efforts to fight the pandemic and keep people afloat would still be governed by the laws of capitalism: profits before people. It took until the late spring for the streets to fill again, but when they did, it was massive. My students react with disbelief when I tell them that we were shocked, but not surprised, when another cop murdered another Black man, this time in the small city of Boise, Idaho. It was an accelerant.

Tactics used by the proletariat in 2020 quickly spread across the country. The torching of a police station in Minneapolis inspired similar attempts in other cities. The new “anti-terrorism law” Biden had pushed earlier in the year was used to shut down our use of all commercial social media. But that didn’t stop us; a group of dedicated students at MIT, Caltech, and other leading technology universities had helped draft an international manifesto on “social technologies for the masses,” and within days they had constructed new ways for us to communicate with our devices that the capitalist class could only interrupt from time to time, but never destroy.

The protests of 2021 were never ending. The dam had been broken, and by wintertime — despite a lot of snow in many of the big cities — it felt as if a full-blown uprising was unfolding. The ruling class — they’re gone now, at least as a class — tried all sorts of things to keep us out of the streets. It didn’t help their cause that it wasn’t a year for anything but local elections, because the Democrats at a national level were particularly determined to get us to shift our focus to electing their candidates in 2022. No wonder the old-timers always used that “graveyard” saying. Soon enough, though, it would be an insurrection of the working class, people of color, immigrants, youth … everyone exploited by capitalism.

The uprising, of course, had had its victories and its defeats. But the one consistency was how it was organized. After some early spontaneous actions, including efforts to compel “friends” in Congress and local governments, as well as the leaders in the trade union bureaucracies, to take up the cause, it became increasingly obvious to people that they were going to have to organize themselves.

I’ve interviewed friends and comrades from around the country, and the overwhelming remembrance of this period is that everyone became anxious to participate in making decisions, and large meetings quickly became the norm. The initial orientation almost exclusively on action gave way to a more profound approach to these meetings — they became schools of how to engage everyone democratically. Some of the time in meetings was given over to learning about how that had been done in the past.

At a mass assembly in Kansas City, Missouri, learning how to organize became a regular part of the meetings. Rail workers, autoworkers, folks from the Black community, local university students, and activists from a number of different social and political movements had come together and driven the police out of the city’s Parkview and Paseo West neighborhoods after the cops had attacked a group of young people preventing some evictions. One of the leaders of that effort suggested studying the experience of trade unionists and others in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006, when local popular assemblies took over the city after also driving the cops away.

As one of my Kansas City comrades recounted to me later, “After a couple of ‘teach-in’ agenda points at the meetings, we elected a neighborhood council. They were coordinating food distribution and public safety, all subject to the decisions of the regular meetings of all of us.” It was, she told me, “the first time in my life I felt like I had control over what was happening to me.”

In those days the threads of political activism intertwined with those of labor power in such intricate ways that today it is sheer madness to assume they had never been part of the same strong rope. There had been a steady increase in workplace organizing over the course of 2021, invigorated by well-publicized union actions such as the Hunts Point Teamsters strike and the organizing of the first Amazon warehouse in the United States in January, and the actions taken by teachers’ unions in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City soon after. Inspired by those brave workers, unionization campaigns began in tech companies, hospitals, and shipping facilities across the country. Only some of these workplaces won federal recognition for their unions, but wherever there were conversations about organizing, power was building. By the end of the year, as more and more people returned to their jobs in person, there was a massive strike wave throughout the country, demanding everything from better pay and safer working conditions to, eventually, city- and countrywide structural changes to healthcare, housing, and policing.

Many of these strikes took place in sectors of the economy where workers held strategic positions, such as at ports, data centers, and electric companies, which made it possible for them to yank the reins of the capitalist economy right out of the bosses’ hands. The level of militancy, and the sheer numbers of workers compared to managers, made this a growing threat to the rulers. Cops were called on to attack strikers with growing brutality, and there were many instances of the police opening fire on workers. It was reminiscent of the early period of union organizing in the United States.

Strikers, though, held their ground — and the strategic positions idea became an ongoing discussion and point of agreement as the strike wave spread. When I discuss this period with my students, we talk about how workers learned from each other, and from those who had come before. We learn, just like the striking workers in 2021 did, about how Bolivian workers had mounted tremendous resistance by seizing and holding onto the Senkata gas refinery — a struggle that threatened capitalism’s ability to control the economy and continue to make profits.

At the General Electric factory in Lynn, Massachusetts, which typically manufactured turbines for jet engines, union workers occupied the facility and converted production to wind turbines. Their union leaders had been slow to respond to the workers’ demands for militant action, and so they bypassed the bureaucrats and convened their own general assembly of workers to make decisions, run the plant, and organize security to keep the cops from taking back the factory. Famously, an Argentinean immigrant who worked as a machinist at the plant brought articles he translated from Spanish about the factory occupations his father had told him about in 2001, when workers in that country had responded to mass layoffs as part of a financial crisis by taking over all sorts of factories and running them on their own. The MadyGraf printing plant was a particularly compelling example, and the GE workers began to model much of what they did after what they learned.

At other factories around the country, the Argentinean example was just part of their “on-the-job” training about workers’ control. In New Orleans, where so many workers speak both English and a dialect of French, there was particular interest in the lessons from the 1968 takeover in France of the LIP watch factory — which was part of the largest industrial strike in modern capitalist history. YouTube, which by the end of 2021 was also being run by workers, prominently featured a film on the LIP struggle.

The class struggle heated up even more in 2022. Activists took to the streets, and there was labor support for the protests, too, first with individual workers in the streets to protest, and then attending as elected representatives from their workplaces with their coworkers in coordinated, visible groups. Newly organized workers were seen at protests wearing logo T-shirts for their tech startups and union pins from their warehouses and schools. Eventually, more union members — including from more new unions — than anyone would have imagined even a year earlier were in the streets and on strike.

One Monday morning in fall 2022, in solidarity with the activists marching for livable wages, their right to healthcare, affordable housing, and the end of police violence, Chicago teachers walked out — with cheering and stomping support from their students. It was right before the midterm congressional elections that the Democrats in particular were bound and determined to steer our activism toward — even though more and more of us were done with that trick. By the end of that week, teachers across the nation had begun solidarity strikes with the Chicago teachers and with activists in the streets. Nurses soon joined them, followed by flight attendants, Broadway performers and lighting techs, graduate students, software engineers, coal miners, and government workers in all 50 states. Once bus drivers in Chicago, New York City, Atlanta, Boston, and Washington, DC, all announced their own strikes, transit workers in smaller cities followed suit. Subways shut down soon thereafter. The bus drivers in Wichita, Kansas, raised a slogan that took hold across the country: “No rides to work until the jobs are worth going to!”

Every segment of the economy was affected. The institutions of bourgeois democracy could no longer claim “business as usual.” But that didn’t stop the rulers from taking some pretty drastic steps right after the elections. In another maneuver aimed at co-opting the action in the streets and workplaces, Nancy Pelosi — still the speaker of the House of Representatives — stood at a podium with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other members of the Squad, along with a bunch of newly elected “progressives,” and announced that she was stepping down in favor of AOC’s elevation to the speakership. “This is a new era in our democracy,” she declared. “You’ve won some important gains already, but it’s time to go home. These young representatives will get right to work fixing everything you’re protesting against in the streets.”

With each passing day, though, fewer and fewer people had any faith in the system. The death blow to the desperate veneer of “stability” that the state tried to paint came when postal workers at the St. Louis Network Distribution Center walked off the job in a wildcat strike, prompting similar strikes at most USPS facilities across the country and inspiring ad hoc actions by Teamsters locals in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, and California. It was a near-complete shutdown of most major shipping networks in the country. Strategic positions!

One of my closest contacts in New York City at the time was Maria, a clerk at a grocery store in Brooklyn. She told me they started from behind. “We didn’t have a union in our store, but we organized anyway,” she said. “We walked off the job probably in the middle of the first wave of strikes, and then we stayed off. That was hard, financially. We set up a mutual aid network to make sure everyone was getting fed, even if no one in their house was going to work and getting a paycheck for weeks at a time.”

The workers’ innovation didn’t stop with financial support, though. “Our boss called the cops on us at one point,” Maria remembered, “and the cops claimed they’d gotten a noise complaint about our picket. They beat up a couple of my coworkers, and two people got arrested. After that, we formed a self-defense committee and started talking to people at other pickets near us, to share tactics on how to stand our ground. I was the one who organized our first neighborhood-wide picket assembly at a dive bar in Bed-Stuy. Two hundred people came. When we heard about other assemblies forming around the city, we got in touch, and together we formed a workers’ assembly for the whole city. I was elected to represent our neighborhood — that was one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Democratic conferences like the Workers Assembly of NYC sprung up all over the country — while the election campaigns for Congress were going on. At the end of 2022, each assembly elected delegates to the first national conference in St. Louis, each one representing people back home. In early 2023, the second time these thousands of delegates got together — this time in Denver — someone proposed setting up a new government.

“The U.S. Congress was tight in the hands of the two parties of capital,” Maria told me. “So a coalition of workers’ parties began to establish a new government, based on the authority of workers’ defense. Like dual power in the Russian Revolution.”

The unemployed were not idle during any of this. Of course, they came out for the street protests, but then something remarkable happened. A small group of Black high school students in Chicago, energized by their teachers’ militancy, began to research effective ways of organizing themselves and their families to support the striking workers. They came upon the history of the Lucas County Unemployed League of 1934, which successfully rallied thousands of unemployed persons in Toledo, Ohio, to picket in solidarity with striking workers at the Auto-Lite factory, where automotive parts were made.

I invited several of these young organizers, no longer students but still leaders of their communities, to my classroom last March. Of course, they rode the new high-speed train for free. They told my sixth graders about their struggle, sometimes even within their own homes, to teach their loved ones about what they were fighting for.

“We explained to our parents,” one of them said, “and then to our grandparents, churches, and neighbors, that our teachers were striking for better conditions not just for themselves, but for us, too. They were out there for all of us.”

Just as in Toledo nearly 90 years earlier, police had descended on the school picket lines to intimidate the teachers into standing down. And also just like in Toledo, the picketers held their ground. They were joined by 100,000 Chicagoans, rallied by those young students. When the police escalated — which the picketers knew they would, having lived through the uprising for Black Lives in 2020 — the picketers fought back. They threw back canisters of tear gas and surged past police and into the school buildings themselves. The teachers, their students, and their communities held down the schools for a full day before the Illinois governor mobilized the National Guard. That, as we all remember, didn’t work out as the government had hoped.

On the first day of Guard deployment, the soldiers were met with teachers on the steps of every school, wielding bullhorns and calmly explaining what their strike was about, and why they were occupying the schools. They weren’t leaving, they said, until they were good and ready. Guard members watched as food arrived; restaurants across Chicago had mobilized to feed the picketers; restaurant workers, bus drivers, and postal workers used delivery vans to blockade the streets behind the National Guard units, kettling them between delivery workers and the school buildings themselves.

“We yelled stuff at them,” a former USPS driver told my class, “called them scabs and told them to be ashamed of themselves. My favorite chant was just ‘Quit your job! Quit the Guard!’”

It worked. That first day, a few dozen members of the National Guard put down their weapons and walked away. By nightfall, those who remained were letting the food and supplies through to the people inside the buildings.

As one restaurant worker who delivered food recalled to me later, “When we got inside, it wasn’t just a massive party, although the vibe was euphoric. Folks were debating what to do if the National Guard advanced on the school buildings, talking about whether occupying the buildings was actually advancing our cause. It was a big debate, the whole time I was there helping serve the food, people teaching each other union history and about how people have won their struggles over the decades. People were holding classes in revolution — in a public school!”

Later, a teacher described some of what had been going on inside his building. “There were conference calls between teachers at different schools across the city, talking about tactics and how to make sure the parents of kids who weren’t inside the buildings were still getting childcare every day. People on the outside were coordinating wellness checks on everyone’s families, making sure everyone on the outside was taken care of, as well. They were showing up on the steps of apartment buildings, keeping the cops from evicting people, blocking the doors and screaming. And the cops eventually gave up, every time. And then the people whose homes we saved came out to the picket line. It was like the whole city was with us.”

Meanwhile, by the third day, thousands of members of the National Guard had abandoned their strikebreaking posts. Some had gone into the buildings to help protect the occupiers. Others had gone home and returned with their families to join the picket lines.

This is where I always want to end the story of the revolution, when I tell it to my students. I wish, every time, that I could keep from them the stories of the reactionary violence we had to confront when the dying capital class tried to turn to fascist gangs. Some people back then put their faith in the Democratic Party, believing they would wield the power of the state to protect us. But Democratic mayors and governors kept instructing their police forces and guard units to shoot protesters, and that illusion disappeared quickly. But the tiny minority of professional oppressors was no match for wave after wave of working people. To stop telling that story is to forget, and to forget is to lose what we learned from that painful chapter in history — that the power of the united working people is more powerful than any state, no matter how advanced, or entrenched, or engrained in our psyches.

* * *

We are only here, in 2031, because of that struggle. And what an evolution we have had since. Indigenous communities and political collectives that have been practicing nonhierarchical decision-making for centuries have helped teach the rest of the country how to organize locally and govern by consensus. We learned from the soviets in the Russian Revolution, and from lots of what everyone now claims as “our history.” We have used these new governing practices, as well as a wide network of local census takers, to figure out what goods are needed in every community. Administrators with long procurement, import, or logistics experience work with our wide network of technologically connected communities around the world to determine how to get the commodities our communities need. Long live the “everything store,” where we can go to pick up whatever we need! They dot the vast landscape of North America, many of them housed in what used to be “dollar stores” — which were a horrible reminder of how capitalism had failed to allow so many of us to keep up with the rising cost of staying alive.

Sometimes I still wake up at night, worrying about how I’m going to pay for school supplies for my own son. I do the calculations in my head — I have to cover the electricity bill, the rent, the groceries, the bus pass, and buy new pants and a new backpack? I can’t afford crayons on top of that, the math doesn’t work. And then I remember. Nothing is scarce anymore. We are living in a time of abundance. My heart unclenches. It’s like Leon Trotsky wrote in 1934 — that socialism “will be the means of greater individual liberty and shared abundance.”

Workers have taken over their workplaces. Based on their years of experience and specialized knowledge of their companies and coworkers, they have reorganized their offices and factory floors around the most efficient way to produce what they were already producing. In every office, in every factory, productivity has increased as inefficient systems that existed only for the gratification and edifice of capitalism were removed. Technology has, naturally, done its part to increase productivity as well, by allowing individual workers to produce more and therefore lower the number of hours they must spend in the workplace. Some jobs have been fully automated. Instead of shunting aside the workers whose job descriptions have been deemed unnecessary, those workers have found purpose shoulder to shoulder with their comrades whose manual skills are still required. All workers now share the burden of the same amount of work necessary for the still-existing jobs, as was done previously, but now each is able to do ever less of it. Some day, with technology for us and not for profit, there will be even less work that machines can’t do on our behalf.

Now that all productive workplaces are self-organized, and now that we have the robust infrastructure for determining where public works projects should be undertaken and for determining how much work needs to be done, we have been able to quantify how much work and what type of work is needed to continue running our communities successfully. Things are nearly precisely as envisioned by American Trotskyist James P. Cannon in his 1953 lecture on “What Socialist America Will Look Like.” He wrote that “the amount of labor time required of the individual by society during his whole life expectancy will be approximately computed, and ... he will be allowed to elect when to make this contribution.”

The lecture in which Cannon hypothesized what our socialist future could look like has been studied and popularized to the point where, in many towns and cities across this continent, local councils have created registries or “time banks” to track needed work and allow people to volunteer to fill open roles. And just as Cannon proposed back then, “The great majority will elect to get their required labor time over with in their early youth, working a full day for a year or two. Thereafter, they would be free for the rest of their lives to devote themselves, with freedom in their labor, to any scientific pursuit, to any creative work or play or study which might interest them.”

Workplaces with a need for more hands have been able to bring on board members of what the capitalists had long maintained as a reserve army of the unemployed, eager to do their part in creating the goods or providing the services our families need. No longer are our teachers and nurses overburdened, no longer are our seamstresses and support agents overworked.

Jobs that require years of training, like those in medicine, which before were lifetime careers, are now buoyed in their ranks by free education and training for all who want it. Certification for technical jobs like these still exists, but the gates have been opened, and hundreds of thousands of workers who could have never afforded the tuition (or the costs of living during four to 12 years of training) to become healthcare workers, scientists, teachers, and engineers can now do so, because our community supports them as we support all of us. One hundred new medical and nursing schools are opening in the geographic boundaries of the former United States alone within the next four years, following the 30 already opened in this first 100 days, and the expected flood of new doctors, nurses, technicians, physicians’ assistants, medical assistants, and skilled laboratory workers will enable those who have been working hard in this field to retire early, or go part-time, and will allow new graduates of these programs to serve their communities for fewer and fewer hours per week. With all these trained individuals, we will still be able to provide state-of-the-art care for everyone in our communities, under much more humane conditions for the workers themselves.

At the nationalized pharmaceutical companies, scientists young and old have a new focus on research and development. Also freed from the profit motive, they’re working on eradicating diseases that affect millions, but also developing the “orphan drugs” for small groups of people with very specific health problems. As one scientist, also a member of her local governing industrial council, put it in a recent meeting that got a lot of attention, “This is why I majored in biology before the revolution!”

Free schools have opened up to provide education for every person, regardless of need, based solely on their desire to learn. With our abundant leisure time, many people in our communities are engaging in the kinds of courses that were previously available only to those who could afford six-figure degrees. No longer are we graduating only a few anthropologists, or chemists, or reporters each year. The gates have been flung open — and students have a very different view of what becoming an expert in this or that discipline means for their future. With the time and financial support granted to us by our shared investment in the work needed to sustain our communities, and no more, we all have access to the treasures of education that used to be afforded to only a few. Not only are all places of learning free to the public, but hundreds of “nontraditional” schools have opened, schools where any person can design and teach a course on their area of interest and expertise.

With the rise in the past few years of increased leisure time and access to educational opportunities (both formal and informal), we have seen an explosion in art. The sheer volume of new music, fine art, handicrafts, theater, film, and written work has been mind-boggling. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has an exhibition this week, spanning two floors, exclusively of work done by residents of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Another exhibit in the same museum is dedicated to paintings by a collective of women who used to be house cleaners.

Universal childcare, which many attempted to implement during the revolution and that was extended soon thereafter via a vast network of public schools run by the state, has been a resounding success, as have public daycares held in community centers and even in some homes. Some parents still keep their children home for the first few years of their lives, and a rare few still home-school for 18 years, but the vast majority of parents, including me, have opted to send their children at least part-time to free childcare centers and preschools. These day care centers were, for a time, open 24/7 to accommodate parents who worked night shifts or erratic hours. Thanks to humane scheduling of work, no one is obligated to work overnight or weekend shifts, and these daycare centers have scaled back their hours to morning through evening, purely based on lack of demand and after a process of democratic decision-making. Many are open until 11 p.m. for babysitting, still free of charge for all parents who would like a night to themselves.

Other care work jobs, such as housecleaning, home nursing, and in-home eldercare, have also flourished in our new work-allocation systems. These services were in great demand before the 2020s, but most people who needed help couldn’t afford it, and most jobs in the sector were very poorly paid and received near-zero recognition for the incredible benefits they provide to all of us. But now we have full employment, with fulfilling jobs for everyone who can work, and a guarantee that all of us will get help and support as we age or need assistance from our community.

Looking back at when the United States’ rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement on the first day of Joe Biden’s administration, so celebrated by so many, it is today already recognized as a toothless gesture. In 2025, through a national referendum, there was a democratic vote that banned the creation of new natural gas pipelines and the opening of new mines or coal-powered power plants. The remaking of America’s energy infrastructure began in earnest. The new carbon-neutral high-speed rail connecting all major cities, and even my small city of Wheeling, and the expansion of carbon-neutral public transit in every locality, has removed 1 million cars from the roads. In Los Angeles, newly crisscrossed with quiet, carbon-neutral elevated trains and ground-level trolleys, the decrease in cars on the road is a sight to behold. These efforts were not undertaken in a vacuum — the United States upheld its portion of enforcing the Second Paris Climate Accords, which placed the responsibility for the largest reduction in carbon emissions on those countries that emitted the most (and in particular, the sectors of the economies of those countries that emitted the most); the construction of new fossil fuel power plants has halted around the world; and the dismantling of the old ones has begun. We have successfully lowered global carbon emissions to the equivalent of those from the year 2005, and continue to make progress on achieving net-zero emissions.

We did not act too soon. We are reminded of how much we need to do to support the victims of global climate inaction during every hurricane season, when hundreds of thousands more climate refugees move to the global north. We are reminded during our yearly hundred-year floods in the Midwest, every March during Mardi Gras, and every fishing season when the indigenous peoples of Alaska and Canada are driven from their homes by warming seas that are hostile to their lifeblood. But at least there’s hope for earth’s survival, which had been largely abandoned before the revolution.

I am also reminded, frequently, of the violence we have avoided from the state itself. I ran into a former colleague recently, a woman I taught with back in 2021. “Can you believe our children are going to learn about cops from textbooks?” she asked me. “I can’t imagine how they’re going to introduce that idea to little kids. Yeah, I guess they’d have to say something like we didn’t have community service corps members to run programs at the community center for kids after school. We didn’t have mental health emergency ambulances. We didn’t have conflict resolution specialists. We had these people who carried batons to beat people with, and guns to shoot people with, and they stood in the hallways in schools between classes, and on street corners and threatened people of color when they walked by. If you needed help back then — a job, help watching your kids, help paying for groceries, you couldn’t actually get it. But there sure were cops everywhere.”

No longer are our suburban and rural communities centralized around prisons that sequester our discarded and marginalized.

* * *

This is how I describe our country to my students, anyway. They pepper me with questions, as we read books about the worker-heroes of the revolution and watch documentaries about the movements that have sprung up around the country during the past decade, forming and disbanding and remaking themselves and their communities and our country.

“Well, my family’s originally from Ghana,” one of my students said recently. “When are we going there to help?”

Some countries around the world are still struggling to overthrow the oppression of their police states, I told him. And that is true. But it’s not a sign of failure, only that our revolution isn’t yet finished. A revolution in the United States means every other country of the world, even if it hasn’t yet gotten as far as us, is on the right track — because our defeated imperialists won’t be backing up their local ruling classes. The Russian Revolution suffered because it was the “weakest link in the capitalist chain” and the German Revolution was crushed before it could aid the Bolsheviks, but the opposite is true here. We’ve been helping everyone, all the way from joining their fights to helping them build their futures. Soon enough, the idea of a single “richest country in the world” will be a distant memory.

In some parts of the world, people are still suppressing the insurgent efforts of their former bourgeoisies, who are desperate to regain power and nauseated at the sight of the “rabble” able to live the lives of leisure and comfort and abundance that were reserved until recently only for a few. As members of this global community, we are sending aid in the form of borderless trade, whatever we can spare and whatever is needed, as well as volunteers in whatever fields those communities need hands to serve in.

We have before us a forest full of paths, I tell them. We practice voting, listening, and debate — skills they will need as they help us shape our future. They share their ambitions with me, and I think often about how their dream jobs of garbage collector or paleontologist or ballerina or doctor or astronaut — did I mention the discussion of a new global cooperative space program to explore the universe? — are not far-fetched or fantastical, as they were when I was 12 years old. I think about how they will leave their parents’ homes at whatever age they wish and find safe housing, unburdened by debts they took on in order to secure the right to work them off. I hear their hopes and think about the lost centuries of Americans, hunched beneath the boots of capital and racism, who dreamed of making their own world and building their futures together.

In 2021, we talked about the future as though it were a mushroom found on the forest floor — most likely poison, with only the scant possibility remaining that it wouldn’t kill us, but at best only survivable. We talk about the future now the way we talk about a child, with abundant health and energy, boundless diverging paths in front of us.

Our responsibility, over this next decade and all those to come, is to keep fighting to maintain that future.

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