For Revolution By Zillah Eisenstein

Published: 8 January 2015

Revolutionary imagination is the most dangerous thing any of us have to offer. Hopefully there are new revolutionary imaginations happening just now in the US against the present specific racist/imperial/tortuous moment. This consciousness has been forming since long before the brutal murder of Emmett Till, 1955. Now, recent murders by militarized police have sparked a new anti-racist justice movement from Ferguson, Missouri, to Palestinian struggles in Gaza, to Staten Island, New York, and back. As a white anti-racist feminist I want to work with and alongside these new and insurgent activists.

In order to discard the violence of racism its entire architecture must be dismantled. So capitalism and its white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchal foundations must be uprooted, and recreated. This is a tall order, as is revolution. But this is not meant to deter, but rather to encourage us to mobilize side by side with each other.

I want to think together with others who know “we”-–the all-inclusive “we” that accepts that each of us is multiple in our identities and needs— shifts everything. The proletariat is not singular and never has been. Women are multiplexed with endless variety. Each race and nation has infinite variations that intersect with who else we are—in terms of gender, class, sex, color, place, and so on. Given this, I am pushing out all the contours and borders to see new possibilities for coalition with newly revolutionary hearts and minds.

Our multiplicity allows us to look for and to build sites for coalition and trust. This work can build a new optimism that believes that radical change can happen. Such work feels too hard and feels impossible too much of the time. But it is not impossible to re-radicalize ourselves, it is just hard. To give up is to let the regimes of racist misogyny and hetero-capitalism and trans-phobia, to win.

Russian revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg believed that you change the world by making it align with your hopes, that you do not downsize your hopes to what seems possible. Martin Luther King had a big dream, not an instrumental “achievable” wish. Audre Lorde said that the “masters tools will never dismantle the master’s house”, but she used any means necessary.

Today, all borders are in flux—nations, races, genders, sexes, and classes—are disassembling and reconstituting. And, yet many forms of hetero-racist-capitalist patriarchy/ies remain. “We” need a renewed directive for revolution that fully stands against the suffering and unhappiness of the newest systems of racist/heterosexist capitalist patriarchy, alongside the old. And this revolution will be built mindfully out of the bodily knowing/knowledge of our human complexity. Our recognition of complexity—rooted in our similar differences—allows a new radicalized promise.

I am asking us, especially white people, to rethink non-exclusionary notions of equality and freedom and justice with the recognition of multiple, intersectional, shared identities.

Revolution. It is not a thing. It is not one act. It is not momentary and seismic. It is slow. It is big. It is small. It is messy. It often looks incoherent. The challenge is to think beyond established meanings with our individual sites but towards the sharedness of the globe; with g/local understandings and insights. Then any possibility is both dispersed and connected at the same time. One Billion Rising is not the unifying site. It is the connector. It learns and shifts on the ground with the ground.


There is a new complexity to our oneness that is never simply unitary. “We” can come from differing sites to unify with complex identities to end misogyny and its capitalist and racist and heterosexist structures. Any identity is a plurality of one; and therefore its oneness is always plural and multiple. Identities are polyversal rather than universal.

Differences and conflict requires a lot from each of us but is also ripe with positive potential. Difference(s) should not simply pose a dilemma for shared commonality. Each individual is also simultaneously part of the collective whole of gender with its specificity: race and sex and class and so on.

Reform vs. revolution is no longer a helpful binary or opposition because working towards partial change prepares us to demand it in radical, structural forms. The simple divide—reform vs. revolution—stunts the flows and fluidity of everyday hard work for change.

So much has changed. So little has changed. Everything is changed. Not enough has changed. Each is true. What to do?

The visors of gender, race, sex, and class, though still crucial, then need creative revision. This is not about “post” anything but rather about the huge transformations and changes that have further diversified the meaning of each of us. As gender has become more differentiated by class, gender is more fractured. As race has become more diversified by class it needs more specificity.

But “we”, across and through the “color-line” are also constrained by distinct categories that are totally interwoven with each other. This is why a curious openness is a necessity in order to see the new intersections of camaraderie. Let us be dangerously open to new places to build solidarities that may be least readily in view. It should not, does not, matter if there are differences between and among us on how to do this.

Ending sexual and gender and racist violence are a key site of intersectional mobilization. The “we” of us is intertwined today. Sexual/gender violence is a trans-local language that binds us, cross-racially, not identically, but in coalition. Violence—and the body’s vulnerability—glues other differences of our bodies together.


If I continue my thought about finding any singular “identity” constraining because identity is always too multiple and uncontainable, then any singular term/naming requires review. There is no homogeneous meaning of race, gender, woman, or Islam. And there is no capitalism without misogynist militarism and racist wars. So radical thinking must recognize a more multiplexed notion of revolutionary acts.

“We” need to think with this complexity and intersectionality. Maybe the Climate March in New York City, 2014, this past fall bespeaks just this reality. The huge array of demonstrators represented all kinds of identities. The many banners read from all sorts of labor coalition, women’s groups, civil-rights, indigenous peoples, immigration rights community, and so on. These identities crosscut people’s age, locale, sexuality, race, class, and so forth.

The hundreds of thousands of marchers represented the panoply of humanity across and through its huge variety. Given the hyper individualism of neo-liberalism–the protector of capitalist racist hetero/patriarchy–coalitions made up of our intersectional selves and movements is truly a best hope.

This was a revolutionary day, in new non-singular form, to continue forward with. People of all kinds stood against the destruction of the planet with its concurrent excessive and brutal poverty and hunger. Demonstrators embraced this all as a kind of politics of the body, against the anxiety, depression, cancer, lupus, Ebola, malaria, asthma instigated by ruthless capitalist greed and the destruction of a healthy globe.

The #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations throughout the US, more recently, also promise new revolutionary sites where racism and misogyny is de-mystified and uncovers the gendered and racialized hierarchies of imperial and capitalist wars and endless violence. So “we” need a new multifaceted agenda of/for reparations and abolition that unplugs and reconstructs the systemic abuse of hetero/racist/capitalist patriarchy. This means that “we”, the “we” made up of the non-exclusionary us, must keep imagining and re-imagining the breadth of “our” revolution.


New revolutionary possibility grows from beyond singular individual Identities or nations. Nations and their nationalisms enforce unitary and solitary brutalizing lies. Yet, nations keep fraying around the edges—Iraq no longer exists as it once did to most Iraqi’s; Egypt is unrecognizable to its revolutionaries; the U.S. is unknown to many of its historical immigrants.

Our identities are about imprecise contours. But I/”we” also use our identity as an anchor in a complex fluid world. And, the anchor often drowns us. The tension between identities that are plastered onto us with no choice, and the solace and allegiances that is created with and through these identities must be used as a source of resilience rather than wounding.

Women of all colors, and the revolutions they might create usher forth from us knowing the limits of singular identities. Our bodies tell too many other tales than the singular homogenized narrative. New revolutions will sally forth from the multiple identities of women’s bodies, (what ever their journey has been) in the U.S., Egypt, Congo, Morocco, Paris, Missouri, or Syria.

Our bodies are a treasure trove—they are simultaneously intimate and public, local and global. This reality is rife with amazing possibility for a radically new revolutionary understanding of structural and personal power. From our bodies to the globe; from our personal to the structural, women say no to each and every kind of violence.

The militarist regime of the US uses the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, to enforce white privilege at home and abroad. The underside of the newest militarized policing is the high levels of incarceration of Black and brown peoples, women and men alike. The US, now fully militarized both at home and abroad, fuses daily life with combat.

Let us use both, always, and everything. From “Occupy” to the “Moral Monday” protests, to the “People’s Climate March” to #ICan’tBreathe and #BlackLivesMatter.

The big “we” of us is everywhere and embedded in every struggle: home care workers rights, anti-sexual violence campaigns, domestic violence activism, prison and incarceration reform and abolition, reproductive justice work, racial justice movements, worker’s rights to a $15 minimum wage, and a fair wage for workers with tips, abortion rights, immigration reform, climate change, anti-fracking, voting rights, anti-war activists.

Let us coalition together in new revolutionary solidarity. The modernized tyranny and brutality of the US state and its collaboration with transnational corporations requires brilliance on our part to thwart the very confines that it attempts to imprison most of us in.

Do not be looking for a revolution like the past. We need one for the future.