Editorial Note: Chaos or Community?

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. published his final book, titled Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? Many of the basic goals of the Black freedom movement were achieved with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite these remarkable victories, however, King and others in the movement recognized that their work was far from over. In the book, he conceded that “the persistence of racism in depth and the dawning awareness that Negro demands will necessitate structural changes in society have generated a new phase of white resistance in North and South,” and that real equality for African Americans would not be won without the establishment of economic and social justice for all – a new society that he did not hesitate to call democratic socialism. In many respects, even after long years of blood and fire, the work had only just begun.

This issue is published at one of the darkest moments in recent history. On October 7th, Hamas fighters entered southern Israel from the Gaza Strip and massacred roughly 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and took over 200 hostages. In short order, the Israeli military launched a horrendous wave of collective punishment against the residents of Gaza. Many, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, have warned that this overwhelming assault could be an act of genocide unless it ends now. As of this writing, the death toll in Gaza passed the grim milestone of 10,000 dead – including over 4,000 children – while the Israeli military had effectively cut the territory of Gaza in half. Entire families have been wiped out. Under the relentless fire of bombs and artillery and suffering from a blockade of food, water, medicine, and fuel, Gaza’s population is trapped in a living hell. Amid this obscenity, Congress is considering sending billions of dollars in fresh aid to Israel, on top of the roughly $4 billion it already sends each year. The Biden administration claims it is pressing the Israeli government to exercise restraint, avoid civilian deaths, and increase humanitarian aid, but it’s clear as day – the US government is complicit in these crimes, and in the oppression of Palestinians in general.

DSA chapters around the country have played an important role in responding to the crisis. Members have made thousands of calls and sent thousands of emails to elected officials, demanding that they join the “Ceasefire Now” resolution in the House of Representatives bravely sponsored by Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush. They have helped to organize protests demanding an end to the killing in big cities and small towns and everywhere in between. They are showing in no uncertain terms that our government does not speak for us, and that we will do everything in our power, in solidarity with as many allies as possible, to help bring justice, equal rights, and security to all people – Arab, Jewish, and otherwise – living in the land of historic Palestine.

Even if a ceasefire is won tomorrow, it will have come far too late for far too many people. Many thousands are dead. Even more are injured, displaced, and dehumanized. The wounds of those who manage to live through this nightmare will never fully heal. The long, hard work of ending the occupation and securing a just peace will still remain. But maybe the sheer horror of this moment will finally lead, in time, to a new beginning. As Shahd Bishara, a Palestinian Israeli citizen and a leader of Standing Together, the left-wing Arab-Jewish solidarity movement, recently beseeched: “May our collective grief ignite a movement that shakes the foundation of the status quo and paves the way for a better tomorrow.” In doing so, she recalled the final lines of King’s last book, from a chapter evocatively titled “The World House“: “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.” We choose the latter.