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Finding the Future in Radical Rural America | Boston Review
"It's time to rewrite the narrative of “Trump Country.” Rural places weren't always red, and many are turning increasingly blue."



"Rural spaces are often thought of as places absent of things, from people of color to modern amenities to radical politics. The truth, as usual, is more complicated."



"In West Virginia, what is old is new again: the revival of a labor movement, the fight against extractive capitalism, and the continuation of women’s grassroots leadership."



"Appalachia should not be seen as a liability to the left, a place that time and progress forgot. The past itself is not a negative asset."



"To create solidarity in the present, to make change for the future, West Virginians needed to remember their radical past."



"West Virginia’s workers, whether coal miners or teachers, have never benefitted from the state’s natural wealth due to greedy corporations and the politicians they buy."



"It matters that workers are rising up, and it matters that women are leading. It matters that the fight against extractive capitalism is fiercer than ever."



"The 2016 election still looms over us. But if all you know—or care to know—about Appalachia are election results, then you miss the potential for change. It might feel natural to assume, for example, that the region is doomed to elect conservative leadership. It might seem smart to point at the “D” beside Joe Manchin’s name and think, “It’s better than nothing.” There might be some fleeting concession to political diversity, but in a way that makes it the exception rather than the rule—a spot of blue in Trump Country.

If you believe this, then you might find these examples thin: worthy of individual commendation, but not indicative of the potential for radical change. But where you might look for change, I look for continuity, and it is there that I find the future of the left.

It matters that workers are rising up, and it matters that women are leading. It matters that the fight against extractive capitalism is fiercer than ever. And for all of these actions, it matters that the reasoning is not simply, “this is what is right,” but also, “this is what we do.” That reclamation of identity is powerful. Here, the greatest possible rebuke to the forces that gave us Trump will not be people outside of the region writing sneering columns, and it likely will not start with electoral politics. It will come from ordinary people who turn to their neighbors, relatives, and friends and ask, through their actions, “Which side are you on?”

“Listen to today’s socialists,” political scientist Corey Robin writes,

and you’ll hear less the language of poverty than of power. Mr. Sanders invokes the 1 percent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez speaks to and for the ‘working class’—not ‘working people’ or ‘working families,’ homey phrases meant to soften and soothe. The 1 percent and the working class are not economic descriptors. They’re political accusations. They split society in two, declaring one side the illegitimate ruler of the other; one side the taker of the other’s freedom, power and promise.

This is a language the left knows well in Appalachia and many other rural communities. “The socialist argument against capitalism,” Robin says, “isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree.” Indeed, the state motto of West Virginia is montani semper liberi: mountaineers are always free. It was adopted in 1863 to mark West Virginia’s secession from Virginia, a victory that meant these new citizens would not fight a rich man’s war.

There are moments when that freedom feels, to me, unearned. How can one look at our economic conditions and who we have helped elect and claim freedom? But then I imagine the power of people who face their suffering head on and still say, “I am free.” There is no need to visit the future to see the truth in that. There is freedom in fighting old battles because it means that the other side has not won."
rural  westvirginia  politics  policy  us  economics  future  history  democrats  republicans  progressive  race  class  racism  classism  elizabethcatte  aaronbady  nuance  radicalism  socialism  unions  organizing  environment  labor  work  capitalism  inequality  appalachia  coalmining  coal  mining  coreyrobin  grassroots  alexandriaocasio-cortez  workingclass  classwars  poverty  identity  power  change  changemaking  josemanchin  2019 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco

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