This manifesto was originally published in the Full Stop Quarterly “Cultural Politics of Land” issue (Fall 2023). Subscribe at our Patreon page to get access to this and future issues, also available for purchase here.
In this statement, we offer an overview of the historical context from which Making Worlds Bookstore and Social Center emerges. Our guiding principles and core principles are articulated through an understanding of our past and our desire to contribute to a collective future of dignity and freedom. We share that vision as an educational, multimedia, and publishing project within the broader context of movements for social, political, economic, racial, and environmental justice.
Connections in an Imperiled World
Our world presently exists on the precipice of unprecedented change, inundated with warning signs—natural, social, and political—repeatedly signaling that many things are deeply wrong on our planet. As Grace Lee Boggs importantly asks: What time is it on the clock of the world? Ours is a world on fire, flooded, starved, wounded, violent, and oppressive and at the same time heroic, inventive, resilient, adaptive, beautiful, and endlessly imaginative. We need spaces that help us harness our vital social energies. We need to build places that bring people together to work collectively, side by side, so that we can learn from one another. We believe the tasks we’ve inherited, and the responsibilities that call us, require collective vision and scope in order to open up a line of sight from which to decipher our histories and assemble a more just, equitable, and free world.
There are signs—alarming, catastrophic, and disorienting—everywhere that we have to face in order to interpret the economic, political, and cultural forces that have shaped our world. We see them increasingly as the expressions of a complex of crises in our social and natural worlds, each intensifying the others. The emergencies of climate catastrophe are normalized and recuperated to sustain an immovable present that extends into an impossible future that we, now, in order to survive, have to learn how to refuse. The pacification of our determination to live meaningful lives in alignment with others and our living world comes with the aggression of a war machine. That machinery intends to dictate what is possible for our future and the future of this planet, and its concessions to our appeals for revolutionary change are equally violent. The ongoing commitment to a fossil fuel economy (equally embedded in the century-old carbon-intensive economy as it is in the compromise that the Green New Deal posits) redoubles its reliance on colonial state violence to facilitate hyper-extractivism and tempts us with new green imperial energy projects and commodities.
We’re promised, in the meantime, ongoing economic stagnation and an erosion of our wages amidst inflation, debt, the rising cost of living, amidst a crumbling public education, limited access to health care, and other services for social well-being. When we turn to those who’ve acquired official leadership, we see their maintenance of an old corrupt Party and boss system and the gradualism and centrism of progressive elements that seek entry into the electoral arena. The political impasse is buoyed by a rise of violent and virulent white supremacy, nativism, xenophobia, redoubled by every form of patriarchal violence against women and LGBTQ+ peoples, itself rooted in a reproduction of settler colonial logics of elimination. In an epoch defined equally by war and climate catastrophe, we carry the memory of our own diasporic histories, centuries long, and hope to find the right organization of solidarity and mutualism in the face of unprecedented migration and displacement.
The multiple crises of this moment have their own genealogies. They have international dimensions that we are beginning to perceive particularly as resistance movements articulate the connections among colonial domination and state violence in places like Gaza, Ferguson, Chiapas, Philadelphia, Soweto, and Wetʼsuwetʼen.
We glimpse the cracks these overlapping crises make in the foundations of the economies, politics, and cultural formations in the United States and other so-called “core” countries. Here, many of us are beginning to buckle under the “adjustment” of the very neoliberal structures and policies that were earlier and more often brutally imposed on the peoples of Africa, Latin America, South and East Asian, and other formerly colonized peoples who were reordered into an imperial periphery in the advent of the neoliberal age.
The present conjuncture reveals the dangerous weakness of neoliberal ruling consensus around the world. The rise of “strong man” figures, regimes, and coalitional governments that renew nationalism within a globalist discourse of planetary authoritarianism is one direct expression of the dis-ordering of rule. The thread of division and distraction is what is so often and reliably used to stitch together the image of order (and the image of a rising order to resolve this crisis) amidst the havoc that spreads in the wake of unmitigated accumulation of power and extraction of wealth.
The grave devastations of climate catastrophe and planetary displacement amidst counter revolutionary and reactionary formations present formidable challenges to the work of making worlds of safety, self-defense, mutualism, and dignity. Our survival relies on solidarity and the social movements that seek revolutionary transformations in our dying world. These questions define our moment as an interregnum, or the passage from one ruling order to another. It is in between the wretched crisis of neoliberal rule and what is to come that we find ourselves and build on the important work already being done to articulate a livable future.
We seek, therefore, to fight against the barbarism that is here and the barbarism that will otherwise come, to engage in our fullest humanity through a revolutionary practice of care, mutualism, and international solidarity. Making Worlds emerges as a space for collective learning in community form, of sharing our histories and the questions that shape our futures, reflecting on ongoing and historical practices of organizing.
Making Worlds, Media Justice, and Class Consciousness
Organized as a nonprofit cooperative movement-based bookstore and space located in West Philadelphia, Making Worlds Bookstore and Social Center offers resources and space where people with common interests can gather, learn, teach, and organize in support of and with communities subjected to the current iterations of systemic inequities. With roots in independent book publishing, education, community media and journalism, and organizing, our cooperative seeks to promote collective knowledge, skills, and visions of liberation from our communities. By distributing literature and other resources, as well as fostering a vibrant cultural programming space, we aim to strengthen neighborhood and Philadelphia grassroots organizing for people to care and support each other and make worlds of liberation possible. Through diverse political and cultural education initiatives, we promote learning from each other and the intersecting histories and futures of community organizing and movement building of Indigenous, Black, and Brown people and others resisting oppression worldwide.
The technologies that make the production and transmission of information possible define one of the key contested terrains of our current collective historical moment. Multinational corporations use these technologies in service of capital and political and imperial forces. Social movements use these technologies as one of many organizational tools, or weapons, in defense of land, water, territories, Indigenous rights, human rights, and the very survival of our planet in the wake of climate catastrophe.
Making Worlds Bookstore and Social Center is positioned at the crossroads of these struggles, functioning as a site for books, media, and information sharing around broad themes related to local, national, and international anticolonial struggles. We believe that we need to create and help sustain grassroots media projects that allow for the telling, circulation, and learning from people’s experiences, both in the city of Philadelphia and in the world at large. Part of that work is about centering community media that advances storytelling, oral history, and other forms of narrative expressions. It involves working in coalition with other organizations to develop new narratives that supplant and undo the work of harmful narratives promoted in establishment media and their relations to politicians, police, and powerful interests of the owning class.
We also seek to experiment with different forms of communication that can help us maneuver around a widely-accepted dependency on corporate-owned social media. We want to move beyond the constraints of corporate media structures, both in the psychic sphere of alienation, ego inflation, and hyper individualist competition, and also in their algorithmic control of our media landscapes and in the profits they reap from an accumulation of our digital lives. We seek to add deeper forms of relationality in our physical encounters with one another and to wield the tactical advances available in digital organizing. This will require us to learn how to manage our connections on a planetary scale of friendship and comradeship in struggle, without being subsumed in the logic of social media communications that will only steal key elements of our collective power—energy, time, and imagination—from us.
Rather, we seek to support an intentional scale and pace of movement building for media justice and the coordination of new institutions for people’s journalism. Our relationship to book publishing seeks in a similar manner to promote and distribute resources for consciousness and revolution as they are available in the book trade—not incidentally, one of the oldest pillars of private property and tools of settler and imperial expansion; while supporting independent publishers and publishing workers’ struggles within the trade that refuse the prevailing white supremacist tendencies, the diversity of neoliberal multiculturalism, the profit and celebrity orientation of a social justice industry that claims for their own the honest work of people’s collective movements, and that organizes against the bourgeois and, in the case of Hindu supremacy in India, the Brahminical cultures that pervade book publishing.
Finally, we organize ourselves as a worker cooperative in order to signal our intentions around the role workers play in the decisive battles of our times, and also to deepen our practice of multivocal direct democracy at the workplace and in our communities. To demonstrate, to practice, and to develop our skills, and take conscious part in the range of experiments in cooperation and mutualism, of collectivity and respectful unity in our discreteness that is so required of us in this moment.
We seek to prepare ourselves in ways that deepen our resistance to the ongoing “forever wars” that proliferate amidst imperial crisis, to renew our contributions to a global antiwar and anti-militarism movement that recognizes the role we can play in anti-imperialist organizing while positioned inside the United States. We also commit to reconnect meaningfully to our roots in other parts of the world and foster new relations with others in a dignified struggle against the wars of displacement and wars of oblivion that drive colonial state violence and global capitalist accumulation.
The heart of this project centers on possibility. It is rooted in the notion that fundamentally altering our world for the better is not only necessary for survival, but within our reach. It requires the resurrection of an adaptive and collective consciousness that speaks across time and space, connects the local and global, demands deep historical understanding linked to contemporary political and social struggles, and spans generational realities and lived experiences. Making Worlds is a space where possibility thrives, gains traction, and translates into collective action in the world.
Principles and Praxis: Making, Building, and Believing
I. Internationalism or barbarism
One of the most important aspects of the work we are attempting to undertake in this space is to promote and foster a deep commitment to internationalism that is anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, and informed by anti-racist and radical feminism and a thoughtful and reflective practice of global solidarity. We are living in a moment of immense environmental devastation and climate catastrophe, ongoing war and militarization here in the United States and across the globe, rampant violence from racial capitalism in all of its manifestations, and shifting formations of fascism among many other social, political, and economic problems. We desperately need to identify and understand the ways our lives are interwoven with the lives of others—both near and far—and how to create an architecture of decolonization that is capable of rising to the gravity of this moment at home while centering questions of imperialism abroad.
Recent history is instructive. International solidarity with, and in support of, anticolonial movements were critical, for example, in the anti-apartheid movement and the struggle against the racial-capitalist regime in South Africa. The eventual demise of the apartheid state was aided, in part, by anti-apartheid street protests around the world, the erection of shanties on many American campuses in the 1980s, and by the public declarations of solidarity from African American civil rights organizations. The late elder Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke fervently about the fundamental necessity of international solidarity in his oft-repeated affirmation that no one in the world is truly free until all oppressed peoples are all free. He was steadfast in linking the struggle in occupied Palestine with the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
International solidarity continues to be critical to the current ongoing struggles of oppressed peoples in Palestine, Kashmir, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Burma, and Indigenous Nations in the Americas. Making Worlds Bookstore and Social Center is committed to creating opportunities for international solidarity through events such as teach-ins, political education workshops, collective research, and the printed and digital materials in store and online.
Theories of change are everywhere. Who initiates and brings about transformative social change? How are political agendas drafted and actualized? Whose histories and lived experiences inform a collective understanding of what needs to be altered and who carries the power to make change happen? While we recognize that there are electoral movements that focus on lobbying state governments for better policies and programs and the integration of historically marginalized voices into the formal political sphere, that is not where the political work of this space is located.
Instead, Making Worlds is dedicated to the cultivation and sustaining of a self-determined people’s movement that exists outside of the traditional political structures that have caused (and continue to cause) so much harm—structures, that have, in fact, been produced as a result of slavery, genocide, and colonial violence and continue to function to maintain oppression. Self-determination means that the scope, focus, and agenda of political change comes from everyday people, knowledge keepers, and cultural leaders and that it is their stories, histories, and experiential knowledge that is the basis from which social movements build towards revolutionary change.
III. Antiracist and anticolonial radical feminism
Making Worlds Bookstore and Social Center embodies the tenets and praxis of antiracist radical feminism; a revolutionary, global philosophy that demands a fundamental re-ordering of society to eliminate all forms of male supremacy and domination, effectively abolishing the social and political structures that support the reproduction of patriarchal gender violence at its intersection with race, class, and sexuality. What this means in the day to day operations of the bookstore and social center, is a commitment to critical self-reflection about the way relationships and programmatic and political agendas are developed, power is exercised, the cooperative is constituted, and decisions are made. It means identifying and addressing the linkages between intimate, interpersonal forms of patriarchal domination (as they reveal themselves in the everyday gendered patterns of life) and the larger, systemic, historical, and social arrangements that provide the ongoing structural scaffolding for gender violence. We are certain that social movements must commit to the eradication of patriarchy and gender violence in order to truly produce revolutionary change.
IV. Coalition Building
This world is already made up of many worlds. How do we move towards a future for the planet that takes into account multiple histories of oppression and violence across the globe while also learning from a rich tapestry of resistance movements and strategies of social and political survival? One of our answers to this is to seek new practices of building coalitions. We need a theory of coalition that can respond to the manifold crises whose combined and uneven devastation of our social and natural lives is a common condition. How we understand and shape our political resistance to the crises of our times depends on our ability to work and learn from one another, of sharing the responsibility of our own and others’ experiences in these imperiled times.
By anchoring our learning and programming at Making Worlds to notions of interdependence and interconnectedness, we hope to create platforms where people with different experiences can share stories, engage in debates about power and history, and work towards developing a more nuanced and clear understanding of how our lives always exist in relation to one another. These linkages will allow us to unify around a set of political goals and to put a check on hierarchies in movement spaces. We aim to support and build powerful movements within West Philadelphia neighborhoods and communities facing displacement, deportation, and incarceration due to the ongoing violence of settler colonialism and imperialism and collectively resist gentrification, ethnic cleansing, border control, prisons, neoliberalism, genocide, and fascism within a world imperiled by capitalist-driven climate catastrophe and militarization. We center a commitment to building good relations with each other and the world around us. We are committed to building an inspiring space for all who embody and share the principles of a better world built through grassroots, community-powered movement building. We therefore organize our social center as an ongoing forum for encounter, learning, and building experiences of thinking and organizing together, to create an internationalist geography of connections to peoples around the world to deepen our awareness of our own histories in a properly collective framework that can help us to shape the consciousness of our collective futures.
For example, refugees arriving from Afghanistan have recently stepped into Philadelphia. They are human beings who have been dislocated by US imperialism and militarization in ways not too different from the immense violence that Black and Indigenous peoples, as well as immigrant communities, have faced from the settler colonial state that is the United States. If we want to enact revolutionary change, we have to find a way to learn from one another and build collectively towards a shared future. We have some crucial work to do to figure out how to build coalitions that will foster durable and adaptable bonds between us, bonds that can remain intact even in the wake of ongoing resistance to oppression in all of its manifestations and forms.
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