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A few words from the Editor May 2005

One hundred and eighteen years ago, tens of thousands of Chicagoans gathered in Haymarket Square to hear labor, socialist and anarchist leaders call for the establishment of the 8-hour work day. Lacking such a ceiling, men, women and children were routinely broken by workdays that often exceeded 16 hours. The rally in the square, by all accounts, even the mayor’s, remained peaceful until late into the last day. That was when an unidentified person tossed a bomb into the square killing and maiming attendees and police alike. The bombing set off a police attack on the demonstrators, leading to more deaths and the breaking up of the crowd.

Since then, May 1 has been observed as a key moment in the struggle by working people — both in the goals of that first May Day campaign and in the cost paid. The tradition has evolved to incorporate contemporary struggles into the May Day observations. In light of the power capitalists have unleashed to keep the working class in place, May Day celebrations often turn into litanies of labor’s occasional victory over powerful elites and the far more frequent victory of the latter over the former. Celebration easily slides into eulogy.

I firmly believe in the necessity for struggle. Power, as Frederick Douglass so correctly observed, concedes nothing without a demand. Struggle, furthermore, is transformative. Through struggle we come to understand the real face of capitalism and the social construct it has created to control us. There’s nothing like getting clubbed by a cop who doesn’t give a damn about your constitutional right to dissent to begin seeing the world in a different way.

But as humans, we require more than the prospect of struggle that, if not endless, may go well beyond the length of our own lives.

Deprive a woman or man of sleep and she or he will soon slip into madness and eventually death. We are a species that must dream or we die. This characteristic goes beyond the individual to include the social structures we create, including the mass movements necessary to bring about lasting change. Our movements will not survive, or prevail, there is no room to dream — to allow the creative side of our being to thrive.

Making space for our creative side has more pragmatic benefits, as well. Cultivating the creative provides us with opportunities to, at least briefly, experience a new world, whether it is through music, theatre or some other form of artistic expression. Moving beyond the boundaries of these more traditional creative forms means opportunities for even stronger experiences that, like struggle, can be transformative.

One such example is taking place May 20-29. The 5th Annual Village Building Convergence is City Repair Project’s most ambitious “convergence” or transformation of public spaces into “vibrant community places.” These are the people who started with the redesigning of a Sellwood intersection into a gathering place for neighbors and who designed and built structures still in use at Dignity Village. This year, the convergence includes 20 projects throughout the city, ranging from a monumental new entrance for north Portland’s Rebuilding Center to an outdoor kitchen at Sauvie Island Organic Farm.

This is not Bohemian pretense. Projects like the Convergence create spaces where people can experience different — even revolutionary — relationships with each other. As City Repair member Mark Lakeman noted: “People have the opportunity to live differently, directly and creatively engaging with people…People get to be villagers for ten days, working with people, eating with them, opening their lives up to whole new experiences. They get to engage in resistance and creativity at the same time.”

Convergences, collectives, communes and other experiments in a new world may not be enough to topple the old world with which they struggle, but they are certainly an important piece of resistance, struggle and eventual victory. They not only protect our humanity in its present state but help nurture its growth and full realization. Without that, you have a revolution destined to fail, or worse, create a world even more oppressive than the one against which we currently struggle.

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The Alliance has some of the greatest supporters anywhere. Sometimes, however, that enthusiasm can be misdirected. About once a month I get a call from a local business about Alliances left on the premises. We are always looking for new drops but we don’t want to alienate local business in the process. If you know of a spot that would be a good addition, call the office and give us the details. We’ll talk to the owner first, and if they agree, add them to the distribution network. Thanks again for caring about the Alliance.




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Last Updated: June 14, 2005