Why I Joined the IMT: Communists Out in the Open in Arizona

When I was in high school, I was actively looking for something to belong to. Not a friend group—I had that. And not a sports team—I was on one. Rather, I yearned for a movement like those described in the music I was obsessed with. Bands like Rage Against the Machine sang about police corruption. They dedicated their music to those victimized because of their race or identity and called for action against the victimizers.

When I saw Rage Against the Machine perform in 2007, they had the hundreds of attendees chanting “Fuck the American Dream!” and “Bush is a murderer!” It truly felt like I was a part of a movement or, at least, something with the strength to move mountains. But then their performance ended and we all went home. I spent years after this trying to recreate the feeling I had in that radicalized crowd at the concert, longing to find a mass movement with a defined purpose.

When I saw Rage Against the Machine perform in 2007, it truly felt like I was a part of something with the strength to move mountains. / Image: Wonker, Wikimedia Commons

I learned so much about who my enemy was and what side to be on by researching the lyrics and topics from artists like Immortal Technique. I even changed my last name on social media to “Africa” in honor of the Philadelphia-based MOVE 9, who I had learned about from a song by the band Leftöver Crack. Also on social media, I occasionally found local “actions,” like a protest against the treatment of chickens at a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken. I eagerly showed up and tried to connect with people but with no success, and the corporations and institutions that we were demonstrating against continued business as usual once the police chased us away or arrested us for trespassing.

I went to college in Europe and immediately found the European version of these direct-actionists. On my school’s social media, someone might post a picture of a swastika drawn at a bus stop and call all anti-racists to action. Again, I showed up with everyone else who saw the post and would follow along with chants such as: “We have the best teachings, Judith Butler—hammer and sickle!” (This chant actually rhymes in the original Swedish!).

But then those same protesters would refuse to acknowledge that we had met before or that they were even present at the protest when I would see them around campus or at parties. When a G20 meeting was scheduled in Hamburg, Germany, I paid an anarchist group for a seat on their charter bus to the conference. There, we spent the weekend running from the police and chanting in the faces of Germans going about their daily routines. When we returned home, the same refusal to acknowledge the experience occurred.

All this effort and searching for belonging, and all I had to show for it were arrests, isolation, wasted money, and exhaustion for trying to support the fight against capitalism. These are all examples of burnout I experienced for nearly a decade. Nothing seemed to change in the world around me, and the groups that put on protests and demonstrations only existed as long as there were people like me to show up, yell, and hopefully not get arrested or too burnt out to show up again.

That’s the unfortunate thing about activist burnout. It does not happen for lack of dedication to righting the wrongs of capitalism. It happens due to lack of results. It was not until I met the International Marxist Tendency directly after that anti-G20 Hamburg protest that the cycle of activist burnout finally ended for me.

Fast forward a few years and back to my roots in the western United States, where I was recently at a public street fair with my comrades, looking to recruit and organize any communists who would help us fight for a better future. When interacting with several high school students and answering their questions, I couldn’t escape the thought, “What if I, the young punk rocker, who wanted nothing more than to belong to a movement that embodied Rage Against the Machine’s contempt for the system, had met Socialist Revolution when I was in High School?”

Phoenix First Friday
We cannot allow young communists like myself to have to wait years in search of a viable movement.  / Image: own work

Soon after, at Arizona State University, I noticed a college freshman staring at our banner that reads: “Join the Communists! Students for Socialist Revolution.” I approached him and asked if he was a communist, and he hesitantly said that he thought he was. I was trying to find people ready to build the organization, here and now, so I was a bit skeptical about his initial reply. But then I realized that I couldn’t possibly know anything about this potential communist unless I asked him. The lesson is clear: we cannot know if someone is a communist until we ask.

After striking up a conversation about what could make him “fully” a communist, ready to build and fight here and now, I found that his hesitancy was just that he was shocked to find that we existed. This student could not believe his eyes that there were communists, out in the open, declaring who they were and what they were fighting for. As of September, this unsure freshman has become one of the many, many new members in Phoenix, AZ!

Just days before this interaction, a right-wing social media account posted a picture of the same banner and wrote the caption, “First day of school at Arizona State. This is what I found. Communism.” She was searching for sympathetic viewers to share in her shock at the open communists in Arizona, but was instead met with ridicule and disinterest. This is because there is a massive void on the left in the United States, a void which various, unserious groups only pretend to fill. In this context, the presence of genuine communists active in the real world is a welcome and much-needed breath of fresh air!

In fact, millions of young workers and students in the US consider themselves communists, and it is time to get all of them organized! Trotsky explained that the historical role of the future revolutionaries is to master the traditions of Bolshevism and complete the tasks that Bolsheviks began, a task “not yet carried to a conclusion.” A communist’s purpose in life is to end poverty, racism, sexism, and stop the climate crisis. This is only possible with the massive capabilities of a planned economy under the control of a workers’ state—that is, socialism, the first stage of communism.

We cannot allow young communists like myself to have to wait years in search of a viable movement, and we must never again allow them to go through the pointless cycle of activist burnout. Every college freshman, every young worker must be sought out and trained to fight for capitalism’s downfall. In the same way that language is best mastered at a young age, so too with revolutionary élan!

The communists are out in the open, striving to fuse with the golden layer of the revolutionary youth—people just like myself at that concert way back in 2007. Across the United States and around the world, the International Marxist Tendency will train the revolutionary youth for its historic task: bringing an end to this rotten system.

Are you a communist ready to fulfill your role in the march of history? Then join hundreds of other communists just like you and get organized!

Are you a communist?
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