What if, rather than feeling powerless and paralyzed by these overwhelming times, we instead slow down and carve out some time in our busy lives to read some revolutionary texts? What if, rather than reading alone and getting cynical, we could gather regularly to share ideas and questions about what we had just read? What would happen? What could possibly change?
What you are about to read is a true story about how my friends and Iattempted to answer these questions by putting up a reading group (kind of) and choosing to be revolutionaries. Yes, you read this right. We are revolutionaries.
Every week, we meet for two hours to discuss a text that one of us has chosen. It could be a chapter of a book, an article, a podcast, or a documentary—anything that pushes us to think. We start a session with each of us saying, “I am a revolutionary” because it’s important to affirm our commitment to change and to each other. Once we have all said this, the moderator then asks if anything needs to be put on the agenda for thee day. After taking note of responses, the modrator has 15 minutes to summarize the key points of the text and open the floor for everyone to give their reactions. We each have three minutes to speak. After, the moderator also shares his or her reactions and impressions and then proceeds to ask the group a question inspired by the tekst. There is another round of 3-minute responses from the members and then an open discussion takes place. At this point, anyone in the group can request to speak, always for 3 minutes at a time. We can share new questions, respond to others, or just speak about the new ideas floating in our heads. To wrap up the two hour session, each participant is given 2 minutes to share their main takeaways and then we discuss whatever concern has been raised. This has ranged from simple changes to the way we organize the session and when to conversations about what else we want to do, or how we want to grow within the group. Finally, we close as we began with each of us saying, “I am a revolutionary.”
By choosing to act together in this way, we have chosen to become part of a tradition, a history, a movement that learns and adapts. This tradition works in a cycle: it strategises, acts, evaluates, restarts. When you step into this movement, you step into this cycle. It may be that you find yourself protesting on the streets or it may be that you are not yet sure how to act. That’s ok. The movement consists of many different groups struggling for different goals with overlapping objectives. It can get defeated on the way. That’s ok. Every now and then everything converges: the many small victories on the way grow into something bigger. The many demands converge into one. Suddenly massive energy is released. We are now in such a moment. A system that has held up for decades is breaking down and it is unclear what will come next. The only certainty is that things will change and we have to be ready when it does.
Our Mexican friend, who was once part of a diverse reading group inspired by Trotsky, shared the idea with us and we started this group convinced that we needed to prepare for whatever change was coming. At the time, we didn’t even know what this change meant—we couldn’t even imagine what a better future could look like in Belgium. We came together mostly as like-minded people feeling burnt-out, isolated by work, disconnected from society, and in need of self-care. We were busy but as we kept to the habit of meeting and practicing our method, the initial challenge of finding time to read and prepare for our weekly sessions turned into excitement. The reading group became a source of energy and optimism and a space for community care and connection. Here we sharpen our minds, chisel out our ideas the way sculptors work on stone. We know it’s hard to imagine something better but we’ve started. We’re daring to ask questions like: What idea sounds wild today but would absolutely be part of the world as it should be?
To build another world, you have to imagine it first.
The method we described is simple—you can easily try it out with friends the way we did with ours. You’re also welcome to join us. Together we can grow comfortable fighting for radical change. Our only condition is that we connect with each other. Nobody changes the world by living on an island by themselves, shouting at the sky. It is hard to build this world, even in our imaginations, but we have started—and we want to invite you along to imagine, engage, and connect.