Cascadia - a fictional short story
Greetz internet friend, and welcome back to my blog for this special post! I’ve been working on this short story for the last two months or so, and I’m finally ready to share it. Before I do, let me share my motivation for writing this in the first place.
Two and a half years ago, I was roughly a year in my information security career and I eager to make a name for myself. I started writing for the (now defunct) website Peerlyst.com but decided to submit an essay to 2600 for their series Hacker Perspective and forgot all about it. Well, the sunday of DefCON this year I got an email that they accepted my essay and it would be appearing in the Summer edition of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly: Volume Thirty-Seven, Number TWo
I had also forgotten that I started the essay by mentioning that I was an anarchist and although I had previously written about it and this website was originally a class-conscious comic that come online almost four years ago, and my Twitter had been growing increasingly political, I’ve not written about my politics (or lack thereof) in an explicit manner. This website originally included a series called Bourgeois Bear Explains The Class War and I also wrote songs and did a comic about what would happen if people gained the powers of their D&D characters. My graduate thesis was on an anarchist who later join the Communist Party, and my undergraduate thesis was on the Home colony, the anarchist colony where Jay Fox (the subject of my MA thesis) was the third editior of their paper. I went to college to learn the answer to the question, “what happened to the anarchist movement in the United States” and I discovered there were essentially two answers. First, it was brutally destroyed by the state - particularly the United States but the Soviet Union also did a number on anarchists. Second was infighting and fracturing of the left, which I’m sure doesn’t sound at all familiar to anyone following politics today, at least in the U$. Many of the big names of the anarchist movement thought the greatest chance for success was with the Communist Party and, seeing the success of the Soviet Union, got involved in the American CP. Unfortunately that brings us back to point number one, because there was a time (and I’m paraphrasing but) one of my history professors used to say that half the membership of the CP were members of the FBI, CIA, and other various State Department bureaucrats.
Why write this short story? Well, I originally wrote an essay explaining my political philosophy and what I advocated and it grew to over thirty pages and I realized that no one wanted to read that much theory. Instead I thought it would be more fun to write a short story that I use my imagination to think about what I would like the revolution to look like, and then, through the power of fiction, everyone else can imagine it too!
So again, let me reiterate that this is fiction. This is the imagination of one man, and the starting point for my novel. Which is to say that if you like this, you should keep on the lookout for other stuff I’ll be writing in the future. Also, if you don’t follow me on Twitter, you should do that. You can see all my snark and tweets, and soon new pictures of my dog!
Finally, I hope you like this short story. I’ve been working hard and thinking about it for weeks - I hope you dig it!
A short story by Dave Collins
Long before the election of 2020, the people of the Cascadia bioregion had started the revolution, and they were just waiting for the rest of the country to catch up. From small communes scattered across the Pacific Northwest, a newsletter began circulating that was printed on an eighteenth century printing press that was stolen from a museum just outside the Home colony.
“What is to be done” was the title, taken first from a novel by Chernyshevsky. This book was said to have inspired both Vladimir Lenin and Peter Kropotkin. Prince Peter Kropotkin was born to Russian aristocracy but renounced his crown in favor of science. On an expedition he discovered that mutual aid was a better arrangement for his work than rigid hierarchy, and wrote numerous books on this subject.
In this updated version, the anonymous author argued that waiting around for political reform was a trap, and the best solution was for all the radicals to stop waiting for reform, move to Cascadia, and start the revolution. It was sent out from the Home colony using their press, although it was quickly digitized and made available to the entire world.
Immediately, reports of solidarity came from all the corners of the global. First to recognize Casacadia was Rojava, quickly followed by Christiania and then the word came that the EZLN was also offering support. Owing to it being a colony originally established by anarchists in 1919, the small town of Home already had infrastructure in place for communal living.
People around the United States had been inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders and had decided to support the Home colony and their paper. When I heard about what was happening, I sent an email to the editorial board at the Home colony, introduced myself, shared with them that I had done my undergraduate thesis on their colony and offered to provide them copies of my work. They quickly agreed and I forwarded them a copy, along with my graduate thesis on Jay Fox.
Fox was the third editor of the Home colony newspaper and it turned out the printing press used by the colonists to reproduce their paper was the same used by Fox. They had liberated it from the museum and put it to practice. I cannot tell you how honored I was to read in their next edition my own words, as they had printed my undergraduate thesis!
By this time, news of the colonies had spread and people were angry that Donald Trump had tried to steal another election and was refusing to give up. In what would surprise people initially, California declared it would welcome the Cascadia bioregion in and without realizing it myself and forty million other Californians had left the United States and joined Cascadia!
This was around the time that the United States and Donald Trump started to get serious about brining California back in the fold, but there were a few problems. First, California was one of the top ten largest economies in the world, which had a direct impact on number two – Cascadia now had the ability to build tanks and could thus directly compete with the United States in a war.
Donald Trump and the GOP were used to bullying people and having them just roll over. Before California had joined Cascadia there were rumblings of far right groups about stopping the anarchists and socialists from reclaiming some land and running their own anti-capitalist experiments. Fortunately for the Cascadians, organizations like the John Brown Gun Club and other anti-fascist and anti-racist organizations appeared to provide material (read armed) support for the revolution. It turned out that many left wing people had also been stocking up on guns and ammo and were ready for the inevitable theft of a second election with the help of Russia.
Fortunately, like most bullies, the old United States was easily defeated and quickly decided it was not in their best interest to continue and lose more territory. It was only a few short weeks of fighting before Donald Trump appeared on television offering an apology and a surrender, and a truce was worked out.
Once the revolution had been solidified, the people turned to making new lives for themselves. Soviets were established and after a grace period a number of former states and territories opted out of the United States and instead decided to move to Cascadia. Each state was allowed to vote about whether they stayed or left, and those whose states voted to stay but themselves wanted to leave were provided a free ticket to Cascadia. There were even international groups who asked to be considered as special territories and some were considered and accepted.
After the revolution was over there and the brief war with the United States finished, the vanguard who helped bring about the revolution put out an open call for people who held radical beliefs to move. Land was provided for people who wanted to build and collective apartments available as they waited for their homes to be built.
As a result of the influx of new citizens there was a tremendous housing boom that resulted in massive employment. In fact, it got to the point that the United States was sending workers in on a temporary program to assist in the massive construction efforts needed to house all the incoming residents. In fact, there were a few who saw socialism in action and decided to immigrate themselves!
Anarchists were the first to show up when they heard about the Home colony, and they were quickly followed across Cascadia by Catholic Workers organizations who began building houses and doing outreach. Next people involved in organizing Black Lives Matters and Occupy protests. As an act of solidarity former United States President Jimmy Carter took a few months out of his busy schedule to build houses in Cascadia.
After a few years the migration began to slow down and people began work on building a new society. It only took a few years before the anarchists had persuaded the Marxists that the state could wither, and most large functions of the state were relegated to worker cooperatives and decentralized organizing. Labor unions gained more control and workers found themselves in a position of relative comfort.
Since so many people had come to Cascadia, it was possible for everyone to only work twenty hours a week while still getting full-time pay. All benefits from health insurance to housing were covered by a fifty percent tax, but everyone had all their needs met and thus all money was basically surplus.
Given that everyone had a job and a place to live, crime went down massively. Homelessness was eliminated and the overall health of the population began to increase.
However, the most shocking thing of all was that the new socialist experiment was allowed to flourish without being crushed by the United States. To be sure, there were a few times when the United States and the CIA tried to infiltrate and sabotage the fledgling socialist country, but each time they were quickly discovered, exposed, and such strict and tough sanctions were placed on the United States that they only attempted this twice.
While you could be excused for thinking that many corporations would immediately flee Cascadia and resist being nationalized, in fact it was the opposite. Cascadian soviets worked out deals that allowed corporations to work within Cascadia while abiding by rules to ensure the rights and liberties of the workers were not violated. Google was tired of dealing with the United States and agreed to re-adopt their, “don’t be evil” slogan in exchange for working within Cascadia. They were broken up in to smaller worker-owned collectives and still managed to prosper despite having to pay taxes. With all the new roads, schools, and infrastructure projects, no one was in a position to complain.
When artists learned of the country where they only had to work twenty hours, and that there were programs in Cascadia that recruited artists such that those twenty hours were all spent on creating the art of their choice, it lead to a new Renaissance. Painters, poets, songwriters, comic artists, novelists – artists of all types flocked to Cascadia to have a home and create truly amazing art.
Once the artists had moved in and made the neighborhoods cooler, and the live music spots became such tourist attractions that required constructing more buildings. Once the construction workers saw what it was like to only work twenty hours a week doing something they loved, they moved as well.
Unfortunately, not everyone who moved to Cascadia had good intentions and there was still some crime. People were still killed, and other violent crimes that society cannot accept still happened. Instead of having police and building prisons – both of which had been abolished at the beginning of the revolution – Cascadia decided to institution a system of restorative justice.
All sexual contact between inmates was disallowed in the workhouses that replaced prisons after the revolution, as it was and is not possible to consent without agency and autonomy. Despite the improve freedom and diminished violence of workhouses, it was still determined to be ethically problematic to allow sexual contact in the workhouses. For those who were found guilty of committing crimes and were physically able, they were sentenced to work on communal farms producing goods for the society. Unlike prisons, their dignity and humanity was respected. Each inmate had their own room, was allowed to dress as they saw fit, and the maximum sentence was twenty years. All these inmates were also paid a fair wage for their labor and were part of a union that made sure their rights were respected.
Founders of Cascadia believed that repeat offenders who would not or could not be rehabilitated would be expelled out of the community. If restorative justice was not possible, they felt their society would be better off without having that individual. Each person had three chances, and if they were found guilty a forth time they were expelled from Cascadia.
Despite what people hear or read, there were regular elections and people could choose between different political parties of affiliations. Anarchists, socialists, communists, people who felt more in line with a new-left type of progressive politics, even more moderate Democrats, all had representation in the soviets. Some bioregions became more explicitly anarchist and preferred to send a cadre of representatives because the citizens did not want anyone representing them besides themselves. This initially presented problems but because true Democracy was so important to the people who founded Cascadia, they were able to work this out as well.
What these soviets did for the world was really remarkable. Some of the progressives and communists got really interested in a Green New Deal and built massive infrastructure projects to generate clean energy. Given the socialist and cooperative nature of those regions, they formed partnership with China and Vietnam, as well as Cuba and Bolivia and began exporting their products. Climate change was stopped and the children were given a future back. As a result of this, the so-called Zoomer Generation began much more actively participating in politics.
It was quickly decided that anyone who was eighteen could not only vote but also be a representative in their local soviet. This got even more participation from the youngest generation, instead of the moldy politics in the United States that was run by rich, elite, out of touch, and frequently elderly politicians. These young people came up with amazing innovation that accelerated the improvement of the planet.
Scientific breakthroughs also began happening at a much faster rate as relaxed scientists, enjoying fantastic art and only twenty-hour work weeks because developing technology much faster than before. They were able to use these advancements to develop the technology for inter-stellar space travel and a few young volunteers signed up for the new Cascadia space exploration project.
Inspired by science fiction movies and television shows, these brave new thinkers made contact with an alien species on their first day outside our universe. Fox News in the United States ran stories insulting the nerds from Cascadia for building their space cruiser as the tears ran down their faces. As their host was mocking the space program on air, something strange happened.
It was a camera person who noticed it first, and tried to point and yell but no words came out. He just stood their gasping and sputtering as the alien walked up behind the host and tapped him on the shoulder. Without turning around, the host tried to shove the intruder away and continue with his rant, but the alien was insistent. It slapped the host and gestured to the man behind the camera, who was able to get the hint and aim the camera squarely at the alien.
“People of Earth” the alien began, “we have finally decided to come to your home planet after your Cascadian citizens exited the bounds of your galaxy. We make it a point to never contact any societies in an official capacity until they have moved beyond their galaxy because in the past, when we tried, you just captured us and slowly deployed our technology. DID YOU THINK YOUR SCIENTISTS COULD GO FROM FLYING TO LANDING ON THE MOON IN LESS THAN SIXTY YEARS? GET REAL!” As the alien got more angry and began to shout, everyone in the room started trembling and a few even started crying.
“Don’t worry, people of Earth. We aren’t looking for revenge. We know that none of you were the ones who did all the stuff, it was a long time ago. Plus, we are cool, we’ve evolved to take it easy, because we realize that life is short and you never get out alive. Sure, some people put their brains in robot bodies and, you know, don’t really die anymore, but that’s a personal choice now.” After the alien finished, it pulled out what looked like a flask and took a drink.
“I just realized I didn’t introduce myself! My name requires you to make sounds that your voices can’t really produce yet, so why don’t you just call me Ted. I am a representative of the international socialist council of the Milky Way Galaxy and since we’ve already met the Cascadians in space, we thought we would come to Earth and meet you as well.” Ted took another pause and a deep drink from the flask-like thing and another deep breath before looking straight at the camera.
“I know y’all are busy” the alien said, “so I will get straight to the point. I am a representative of the Intergalactic Socialist Council here with a message and a question. Cascadia has already joined our collective and we are here on Earth to establish their soviet. It will become an intergalactic hub of transport for your galaxy, all because their unique brand of socialism allowed them to conquer space travel. As such, they are the primary recipient of the hub for this planet, but we believe in sharing and giving equal opportunities, even to those who don’t deserve it. You have three days to talk amongst yourselves and decide if you want to join our socialist alliance, establish a secondary hub here on Earth, and join your comrades in Cascadia and the larger galaxy to end war and bring harmony to the planet. It goes without saying, but I will say anyway, that there will be so much new money coming in that society will grow rich beyond your wildest comprehension, but it requires giving up your competitive and destructive capitalist economies and giving way to socialism. The choice is yours, and I will return in three days to learn of your decision. Now go forth, talk to your fellow citizens, and decide your future.”
That’s the end of my short story, internet friend. I hope you liked it! If you did, feel free to let me know and/or share it with your friends. Then start hounding publishers and tell them you want to read an entire novel set in this future society! I’m kidding, unless…. :) Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read it, and I hope you have a very nice day and you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Cheers!