I used to work in the Dearborn Michigan
Ford Rouge Plant, in the iron foundry. I worked nights, and dreaded my
approach to the bridge over the road that took me into the plant. I could
see flames spewing from the silo that was my work place, the molten iron
casting down long troughs into freight cars below. I could smell the sulphur,
feel the jarring clangs of huge presses, barely hear the shouts of workers
straining for presence over their machines. I hated the Rouge, and I learned
to hate the fascist history of the family who own it: Fords. It was like
walking into hell.
When I worked at the Rouge, more than
100,000 people worked there. We made everything that went into a car right
there, nearly from scratch. We did import rubber for tires, but otherwise
we made the glass for the windows, the iron to be the steel, molded the
doors, fashioned and installed the door handles, polished the exterior
and wrested the engine under the hood. Our plant was the size of a town,
as big as Kalamazoo. My UAW local was the largest and most militant in
the union. The union engaged in massive pitched battles with the Fords
and their goons; one fight, at the Battle of the Overpass (where I used
to cross to enter work) led to massive outpouring of Detroit citizenry
in support of the communists who formed the union. Today, the Rouge employs
just around 9,000 people, most of them working for a foreign iron manufacturer
who bought the section of the plant where I used to work, the iron foundry.
The largest local in the UAW now is one I helped found, the local representing
Michigan state employees. The state workers' UAW local has never been on
strike, has no rights to bargain collectively with the employer--and no
plan for struggle except steady organized retreat. The fastest growing
sector of the state work force is prison guards and police.
When I was in the fifth grade in Michigan,
I had a wonderful teacher, Hope Linstruth. I was probably a difficult boy.
I had my own plans, I fought a lot, was full of arrogance and fear. Ms
Linstruth gave me freedom and direction. She let me read what I wanted,
urged me to write and criticized my writing, offered me a long but tight
rein, in a class that probably had 35 kids in it. Perhaps because of her,
I did well on a high-stakes exam and won a scholarship to a prestigious
private boys school outside my hometown, Detroit. Cranbrook is a huge rolling
estate, acres of beautiful rolling green mowed fields, tall pines, an observatory,
an art and science institute, architecture by the finest of moderns, and
the most traditional of Brits, a series of swimming pools, "Jonahs,"one
pouring down into the next via pristine natural waterfalls-the largest
Big Jonah the size of a football field.
The boys school, perhaps a mile from the Kingswood girls school, looks a little like a miniature Cambridge; classroom buildings of solid stone, a chapel and dining hall with stained glass windows, a basement rifle range, a library with a fireplace and leather chairs.
On one of my first days at the school,
the boys were arranged by age, marched into a chapel lined with two stories
of stained glass. We sat on old wood pews, faces forward. waiting. Down
the center aisle came the Headmaster coiffed and suited, not in the manner
of Chips, but Brooks Brothers. Harry Hoey took the podium, picked up a
globe next to him, and said, "Gentlemen, this is ours--and during your
tenure at Cranbrook we will learn how we make it act."
The idea that we can understand our world,
and overcome the conditions we are born into has vanished from schooling.
I think that is related to the death of the Rouge and the social developments
that trail capital's hunger for cheaper labor, easier access to raw materials
like oil and water, markets; at each stage diminishing all that it touches,
reaching its zenith in capital simply seeking more capital, producing nothing
of value but violence and irrationalism--a full assault on everything living,
at war to enslave every body, every mind, in a capsule of fear and false
The rich society in the history of the
world that offers its children perpetual war is likely to make peculiar
demands on schooling.
The jobs at the Rouge have evaporated
in North America, and then were lost again. The Mexican maquilladoa plants
across the boder from San Diego laid off 250,000 workers from 2000 to 2002.
Capital moves quickly these days, not tied to physical plants and only
tied to nations in its demands for earnest military recruits who will salute
capital's varied flags--and die for a process that they neither understand
In this context, we can ask a reasonable
question, and try to answer it: Why have school?
There are some transparent answers. We
have school so people will learn skills, reading, writing, math, and more.
We have school so people will develop ideas, at least in general ways,
perhaps to learn to socialize with one another. The standard myth is that
school will move you up on the social scale. It might, but the odds against
that are terrific. Very, very few people ever escape their birth-class;
not the rich and not the poor and not those shrinking numbers in-between.
What most people miss is that schools
are huge markets. Consider the costs of the busses, the salaries, the architectural
costs, the two billion per year testing industry, coke sales, and textbooks.
From time to time, schools are exposed
as focal points of corruption. In Florida, one of the major fruit juice
manufacturers was caught selling sugar water as apple juice and slapped
with a fine. In Detroit, construction companies made hundreds of thousands
of dollars from no-bid school contracts. School administrators rarely have
backgrounds in the accounting world and may be especially vulnerable to
scams. Or they may just be crooked.
People send their children to schools
because schools are centers for hope, hope about all kinds of things. Hope
that the kids will come away better able to survive in a harsh world, hope
that their kids might have some fun, hope that they will get some food
and medical care, hope that they will someday help out the parents, hope
that they will be away from home for extended periods so care-givers can
have some peace.
Once, not so long ago, it was widely understood,
part of the popular conversation, that hope in school had some deeper substance.
Now, that substance, like the jobs at the Rouge and the notion of education
to comprehend and transform the world, is silenced. Once it was hope that
school could make us all more free, not free in the sense of being more
isolated, seperated, greedier; but hope in the sense of being more free
by being more connected with others in friendly ways, more rational, more
reasonable, more able to play one instrument very well, but to also hear
and enjoy the whole orchestra.
With the audience, decode, "Why have school?"
1. In the interim, as they think: "We
made sure we all got it, then we moved on," Evaluation in a country school.
Cranbrook, Rouge Stories
You can understand and transform the world. Shift in society away from the power of the industrial working class, away from the industrial plants in North America, to schools as the central organizing point of life, making schools ever more than before, contested terrain.
Demonstrate on the one hand the outlook that can offer us ways to create the tangible equality that will be necessary to transform what on the other hand is the crisis of the organized decay of an inequitable and unjust society which is, primarily, out of control. That hopeful outlook is not unfounded, but rooted in the processes that transformed the Rouge Plant, the remarkable ability of capital to bring people together through systems of production, exchange, communication, transportation,; yet to simultaneously divide people through inequality, hyper-nationalism, racism, religious irrationalism, and sexism. This unifying and disunifying process is one of many contradictions that I hope to highlight today.
On Friday, March 8th, the US Senate voted unanimously to support the perpetual war that George Bush and Al Gore have offered to the people of the world. People in the U.S. and around the world are offered an untenable choice: Tyranny or Terror--or both.
Not one year before, the same people were wondering where the peace dividend might be spent next.
But, we in the Rouge Forum were writing three years ago that middle school teachers were looking at students who would probably be the soldiers in the next oil war. We were a two years off.
It was easy to see this coming, but it
was not easy to see this specific
series of events coming.
2. What was the social context before September 11?
*Booming Inequality within the US, and between the US and the world
*Segregation within communities and schools Harvard
*Irrationalism--religious fundamentalism in school and out
*Regimentation of society via spectacles, surveillance, and the suspension of common civil liberties.
*Rising authoritarianism on the job and off, as the vertical discipline of society sharpened. This was especially easy to see in schools.
*Militarization of the schools and society.
*Technology leading to massive unemployment and overproduction
*A mystical economy built on Ponzi schemes like Enron, and economy that was unraveling with the nasdaq collapse
*A deepening divide of town and country, with masses of people being driven off the land and arriving in cities, homeless and hopeless.
*A cultural attack in North American, designed to re-heorize the military and to eradicate memories of Vietnam.
*Government less and less as a neutral
arbitor of disputes, more and more a weapon in the hands of the powerful.
But September 11, the despicable terrorist
attack and what followed , was both a qualitative shift in our social context,
and a bright light illuminating what was already going on that went often
September 11 and the events that followed corroborated at least these other contradictions:
The contradiction between global capital and the national base of capitals personifications, the people who seek to ride the process.
In Oil, which is central to understanding these events, this plays out with the battles between Unocal, Chevron, Bridas from Argentina, Russia, the countries of the Middle East oil fields, the new central asian nations, Columbia and Venezuela, Japan, and China, among many others.
It appears that the US now seeks to resolve that contradiction by invading the world, everywhere from the Phillipines to Central Asia, Iraq, and Columbia and unannounced more to come. So, the U.S. seeks to resolve the national/global contradiction by extending its global rule, by invading the world, with permanent bases everywhere, under its national base.
That will create another contradiction, the deepening inequality that the war costs will create will lead to intensified suffering among the poorest section of U.S. society.
But that leads yet to another key contradiction: The fact that global capital did not globalize civilization, though its technological and intellectual advances certainly did make it possible. Instead, capital moved to enclaves of the relatively prosperous whose lives were comfortable if empty (and even they were beginning to realize that--after three SUV's and an RV, what is there?). Still, while capital is a totalizing system, unearthing the most dedicated hermits, while the people of Tora Bora or the Falklands would testify that there is no where to run from capital, it remains that the gaps capital has left in modernization must be considered gaping gaps in capital itself.
Capital also created enclaves which can today be consider Talibanized, fountainheads of impoverishment, despair, mysticism, ignorance, intolerance, and brutality. Everywhere, the abused abuse. Yet, at the same time, we must recognize that it has always been the wisdom of the slaves, whose daily lives offer not only the horrible details of enslavement, but whose social practice offers better understandings of the complex routes to freedom.
This points to another contradiction illuminated by September 11 is that of the shifting development of capital itself, from a revolutionary scientific system that developed and changed the world, to a system that created the possibility of destroying the world, a system which is no longer so much concerned with productive development, but which is solely interested in recreating capital itself. After he demanded, and won, millions of dollars of concessions from his work force, with the cooperation of the United Steelworkers Union, the president of US Steel purchased a Canadian liquor company, Hublein, and says, "I am not in business to make steel, I am in business to make money."
September 11 deepens the question of the
relationship of government to the private sector, as does, certainly the
collapse of Enron and subsequent exposures of the seamless connections
of the political world with the world of wealth. Research following September
11 shows, for example, that US oil company officials were directing the
activities of the US military in Central Asia for at least three years
before the twin tower explosions. Or, consider that the the political leaders
in the House popped up from hiding after September 11and passed a bill
that includes :
$1.4 billion for IBM
$833 million for General Motors
$671 million for General Electric
$572 million for Chevron Texaco
$254 million for Enron
The bill also includes a rider that says the salaries of airline executives, who had laid off more than 20,000 workers before receiving their own multi-billion dollar bailout. could not be capped. Little companies, like Dallas Power and Light, with about 15, 000 employees (compared to GM's 350,000) got a healthy chunk too, about $699 million, perhaps as a hope offering to entrepreneurs.
In the cultural arena, the interests of capital went public when the top radio stations in the US banned, seemingly for good, hundreds of songs, like John Lennon's Imagine, and even the Jerry Lee Lewis classic Great Balls of Fire. Hollywood immediately swore devotion, and just as it demonized communists in an earlier era, so did it turn its eyes on terrorists--of all stripes, but the US stripe.
September 11 makes clear that the second tier representatives of imperial capital, like their predecessors in Vietnam, often become convinced that they are not puppets, but players, and their actions reverberate onto the Big Nation that initially brought them to being. This is the likely fate of the bogus "National Alliance," the coalition of war lords and drug dealers that the US is using as a front group in Afghanistan now.
Last, post September 11 it became fairly clear that the target that US interests fear most, see as a likely foe in the future, is China. Michael Ledeen, formerly of the State Department and probablly the CIA, now with the American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, calling China Fascist, and a dangerous state ready to go rogue. China is the latest straw man to be set up and beaten down, while the rulers of China themselves use the false veil of the "communist party" to attack the Chinese working class and the millions of homeless peasants, forced off the land, now pouring into the cities.
But despite the realities of company vs
company and nation vs nation, the real context of all of this, that which
makes it possible to understand all the rest, is the fact that this is
an international war of the rich on the poor, for resources, markets, raw
materials, cheaper labor: The full mix of maximizing profits.
3. As I noted at the outset, in North
America and in the deindustrialized nations, schools are central now. The
contest over the terrain in schools is severe. Every social tension is
a tension in schools.
4. More than ever what teachers do counts.
Educators can teach for justice and equality, or we can show kids they
cannot comprehend and transform their world, tamp down their hopes and
One of the key trends in schools now,
perhaps following the British example, is the standardization of the curricula
and the high-stakes standardized exams that necessarily follow. The line
is not, "Leave No Child Behind" nor even the better, "Leave no family behind,"
but "Leave No Child Left Untested."
These exams do more than fluff the pillow of intellectual laziness, tho they surely do that. They create a false and low horizon that serves to block a greater vision.
The business of big tests in the k12 schools, which sets up the SAT and related exams, is a ONE Billion Dollar business in direct costs alone. At issue, beyond the commodification of school, however, is tyranny and segregation, or equality and democracy.
High school teachers are now leading classes
of students who are expected to willingly, enthusiastically, march in the
endless war over resources, raw materials, cheap labor, and markets that
the US leadership promises as a future--promising more body bags, a permanent
commitment to necromancy.
5. Standards and Standardized tests are born in this context. They are part of a multi pronged attack designed to regiment and regulate social life. Along with school takeovers, and vouchers and charters-each adding a new form of social division and social control.
Detroit Public Schools Test scores and takeover
San Diego City Schools and INS Bersin
SDSU doc program
.6. The Big Tests are not just weapons
of tyranny. They are imbued with the processes of tyranny. Let us look
at what they are designed to do.
A. Assault the key relationship of schooling--the
triangle of teacher/student/community, each unique, with a circle, a paradigm
open to critique around it, ----to replace the mind of the teacher with
the mind of the standard and test writer-to turn teachers into missionaries
B. To make invisible the first two barriers
to the tests: affect and literacy
C. To Steal our Time with kids
D. To divide, segment, segregate kids,
under the guise of science...to measure a child's relationship with power,
declare that intelligence, and solidify the razor thin sorting of society
by class and race
The first hit are disabled kids, and kids
with little power
As kids are divided so are their parents,
teachers and communities
E. Notions of integrity are inverted,
by standard and charges of cheating
Detroit principal, Michigan Cheating Scandal,
The Real Cheats go Free--like Bill Gates and his monopolist Microsoft bribe
to San Diego.
1. Intellectual Bias-these are partisan
exams, truth is settled within the test. Sadly, the tests were not only
written by upper-middle class white suburbanites, they were written by
upper-middle-class white suburbanites who were racists, mediocre scholars,
and who openly wanted to replace teaching with standards. Note the California
take on the war in Vietnam, posed as a war of north and south, in which
the US intervened in the South.
2. Irrationalism, a series of irrelevant
and bogus facts, each disconnected from the next. Bad students forget the
answers before the exams. Good students forget the exams and the answers,
after the exams.
3. Racism...look at the results. The test
scores routinely demonstrate racial bias, since they are in fact designed
to segment kids by race and class, under the banner of science.
4. Fatuous anticommunism. In California,
teaching about Marx and Lenin in anything other than the most crude and
propagandistic way is illegal in the k12 schools.
5. Witless patriotism --core democratic
values are denied, particularly the international critique of tyranny which
has propelled every democratic movement in history.
6. Pure selfishness, what Conrad suggested
was the origin of the Heart of Darkness. Me First.
7. An abiding fear of sexuality
8. A justification of the way things are,
as if the way things are did not exist.
1. Subservience--kids learn to be sullen
objects of others designs
2. Intensified surveillance and quantification
of kids, the exams move discipline from mind to body, making external discipline
internal-maybe I really am no good. Kids learn to fear freedom, guessing,
risk taking, and become, instead, whiners, line cutters, tattlers.....And
I have seen that at work in San Diego.
3. Teaching is shifted from provocation
4. The creation of an author less spectacle
with a life of its own--makes careers and pumps real estate values......
5. Powerlessness, incoherence, the message
of the tests is--What you do Does NOT Count, the world cannot be understood,
and the struggle to understanding it is obliterated by the bullshit that
underlies the employee, boss relationship the test creates and represents.
6. Counter-agency----indifference, submission,
diminution, is anchored in personalities.
1, Honest Human Relationships.......every
exam-based relationship is built on distrust, a casino consciousness that
looks at others and thinks: sucker. The sham of the exam counts, honest
struggle for the truth does not.
2. Critique of tyranny-tyranny is hidden.
The whole idea that people must sell their labor, be exploited to create
surplus value for the masters, be alienated from each other and their work,
and finally they are urged to join in the destruction of reason itself.
3. Sexuality, especially as a matter of
sensual pleasure. The body is taken out of the test, except as a site of
4. Negation--change. Nothing changes.
But this is NOT the highest stage of human development. We can be certain
this will change. But how?
4. Wisdom--knowing the relationship of
yourself, and others, to the social totality. Knowing yourself and the
social relationships of all people. The test myth is that a few parts should
dominate the whole, as if the whole had vanished. Note Lunacharsky, each
person should be able to play one instrument very well, yet understand
the whole orchestra as well as their part in it, and be able to enjoy all
the sounds it makes.....
Well, first, what have we learned NOT to do?
1. Accepting the logic of the tests, segregation,
the idea that the tests and society have no connection, as some dishonest
testistos do (Alvarado), failing to draw the direct line from testing to
the processes of capital, that is a serious misstep. Stopping the destruction
of wisdom requires a grasp of the source of the attack.
2. To create spectacles of resistance,
just as the tests create spectacles of knowledge, that is a serious mistake--as
in the recent motion that passed the NEA, or the more recent NEA action
that criticizes yet promotes the tests.
3. To rely on the unions or related organizations,
that will not work. None of the traditional structures of redress are ready
to meet this challenge, which relates not just to isolated pockets of the
work force, but to all of society.
4. To rely on the state, as in plans for
lobbying, etc. ........We will not vote this away.
5. What we must do is build close one
to one personal ties across all the boundaries that divide us, race, job,
sex, language, etc, all of the boundaries but one: Class.
6. Civil strife--Oakland, Ontario, Detroit,
Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Minnesota
We can and we will overcome. What is our
aim? A mass conscious movement of poor and working people, young and old,
an integrated inclusive movement of people who will never forget what they
have suffered under capitalism, for that after all is the crux of the matter,
but who also know as specifically as possible what capitalism is, in its
whole, and who know that it is not hatred and bitterness that will overcome,
transform, capital and the people who pretend they run it, but a mass of
people who know, as Dr Martin Luther King said, "the answer to injustice
is not justice, but love."
The Rouge Forum and the WSC, seek to build
communities of care and resistance where people can authentically discover
how to love one another within a society that declares as its founding
principle the "war of all on all." while at the same time those people
take action against tyranny, building a mass conscious base of people who
can understand and see beyond the limits of capital.
We can grasp and change the world
We can do this in the time of war.....Steel
strike of 1943.......Civil strife everywhere is on the rise. In March 2002
more than 2000 citizens and school workers stormed the school board meeting
of the city of Detroit and shut it down. The Argentine people are on the
rise. Mass labor struggles are erupting in China. Philadelphia citizens
shut down their expressways in response to a school privatization move.
In many cases, it is clear that closed schools are better than open schools,
training children to be prisoners or slaves.
This is not just reason meeting reason
but reason meeting power, or so it must be. For it is not enough to simply
shut down the factories of irrationalism. We must at the same time create
Freedom Schools, as Grace Boggs and many others are doing with the Detroit
Summer project, an effort that unites young and old in urban gardening
and schooling programs, a radical effort that truly goes to the roots of
things. This project, in social practice, is demonstrating how we can live
in new ways, understanding and changing our world.
Everything is now in place for a mostly
equitable, inclusive, democratic world. Abundance exists--along side inequality.
We must overcome the domination of inequality, and the system that demands
it as a prerequisite. At issue is a mass change of mind, coupled with social
action, a change of mind that can envision what people have never yet lived.
This, then, is a most hopeful view, but one that simply occupies terrain
that for the most part already exists. We must recognize that the ceiling
of capital is not far above us, that it can no longer grow without massive
destruction and human suffering, that we can change our world through reason.....built
At issue is: What must people know and
how must they come to know it--in order to stop being instruments of their
We asked at the outset: Why have school?
We noted many good reasons: to do skill training for jobs, to do intellectual
work, to provide markets and to warehouse kids, to create real or false
hope. But I wish to add one more thing: to create a society where people
can wittingly choose to be free and creative not only in private life,
but at work as well, where freedom is constructed not as something in opposition
with others, but as a form of connection with other people in a truly social,
equitable, democratic society--our recognition of the meaning of love for
one another.....of the meaning of Acts 4:4 which says, essentially: From
each according to their commitment to each according to their need.
Should there be time
Where does the power of school workers
What value do we create
How do we do that--collectively.......
We can and we will win. The table is already
set for us. All of the last thousands of years have led us to this point,
when with a change of mind and determined action, when we couple wisdom
with social practice, reason and action, this is the time when we can truly
build a society rooted in love for our neighbors, and our world community.
At issue is not whether we will win, but when, and how much
lose in the interim.....
Marx on School
The only worker who is productive is one
who produces surplus value for the capitalist, or in other words contributes
to the self-valorization of capital. If we may take an example from outside
the sphere of material production, a schoolmaster is a productive worker
when, in addition to belaboring the heads of his pupils, he works himself
into the ground to enrich the owner of the school. That the latter has
laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory,
makes no difference to the relation. The concept of a productive worker
therefore implies, not merely a relation between the activity of work and
its useful effect, between the worker and the product of the work, but
also a specific social relation of production, a relation with a means
of valorization. To be a productive worker is therefore not a piece of
luck, but a misfortune.
Marx 1977, Capital, Vol 1, translator, B. Fowkes, New York, Vintage
6. From the National Council for the Social
Studies (US) this triumphalist nonsense issued in August 2001:
"Our nation has fought and won many important battles against tyranny around the world. The promise that democracy holds for
people of every walk of life is being spread around the globe. It is a time of triumph. The values identified in our founding
documents are providing the platform from which people everywhere are asserting their voices as the right of the governed. For
Americans, this is a proud moment." (NCSS
Web page 2001).
Justice as fairness- byValerie Ooka Pang
>Justice as fairness must first be looked at from the agreed upon system of
>rules and practices that have been adopted by the members. These practices
>have been in place for many years and our teaching schedules reflect those
>mutual understandings. In addition, we as a group have been using as our
>premises the importance of decisions made by the Knowledge Base Group. In
>addition, we adhere to a system of cooperation along with rules as defined
>by the university to provide stability and mutual expectations in our
>relationships as faculty members.
>In our decisions we have followed the wisdom of Aristotle that justice does
>not arise when someone is seeking advantage for oneself by coveting what
>belongs to another, or by showing disrespect to another, or by taking the
>fulfillment of an agreement already in place. In addition, justice as
>fairness as defined by John Rawls indicates that one is not to gain from
>the cooperative labors of others without doing their fair share.
>When social arrangements in our department are changed without cooperative
>decision making, hostility and suspicion arises. Our social equilibrium is
>destroyed. Therefore changes to our teaching schedules and assignments
>without our agreement, threatens the stability of our department.
Living for change: Legacy of MLK Jr. (Part 2)
The Michigan Citizen News Forum: Old News: 2002: February: Living for
change: Legacy of MLK Jr. (Part 2)
By webmaster (Webmaster) on Thursday, January 24, 2002 - 02:13 pm:
Living for change: Legacy of MLK jr. (Part 1)
The Michigan Citizen News Forum: Old News: 2002: January: 01.20.02:
Living for change: Legacy of MLK jr. (Part 1)
By webmaster (Webmaster) on Thursday, January 17, 2002 - 03:12 pm:
Living for change
By Grace Lee Boggs
The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (Part I)
In the 60s I didn't pay much attention to King's vision of the beloved community or his concepts of non-violence. Like most Black
Power activists, I viewed them as somewhat naive.
But as I reflect on the time and energy that we have spent in struggles to free our communities of crime and violence over the
last thirty years, I can't help wondering whether we might be better off today if we had found a way to infuse our struggle for
Black Power with King's philosophy and ideology.
I was also not involved in the 15-year campaign, launched by Congressman Conyers in 1968, to declare King's birthday a national
holiday. I held back because I thought it would turn King into an icon, obscure the role of grassroots activists and reinforce the
tendency to rely on charismatic leaders.
Some of that is undoubtedly taking place. But what I didn't foresee (because I was stuck in either/or thinking) was the wonderful
opportunity that celebrating King's birthday every year provides for concerned citizens, regardless of age, race, class or gender,
to revisit King's writings and speeches and discover their enormous
power for movement-building.
In the process of doing this myself, I have come to believe that just as the works of Marx and Lenin provided ideas and
strategies for 19th and early 20th century radicals (including myself), King's works are now the indispensable starting point for
21st century revolutionaries.
Marx and Lenin's ideas and strategies were developed during the industrial era when we were mainly concerned with extending
our material powers. People's lives were determined by economic necessities. So our strategies for radical change centered
around struggles in the economic arena.
The goal of revolutionaries was to help workers understand that they were victims of the economic system and that the only
solution was to get rid of it. That is why we struggled for political
power, to get rid of the economic system.
That is still the revolutionary scenario for most radicals, including
What they haven't recognized is the great divide created by the dropping
of the atom bomb that ended World War II.
The splitting of the atom brought human beings face to face with the reality that we had expanded our material powers to the
point where we could destroy our planet.
Therefore we could no longer act as if everything that happened to us was determined by external or economic circumstances.
Freedom now included the responsibility for making choices. As Robert Oppenheimer, the "Father of the Bomb" put it, "physicists
have known sin." Or in the words of Einstein, "the release of atomic power has changed everything but our way of thinking. The
solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind."
Henceforth radical social change had to be viewed as a two-sided transformational process, of ourselves and of our institutions,
a process requiring protracted struggle and not just a D-day replacement of one set of rulers with another. We could no longer
view struggle simply in terms of us vs. them, of victims vs. villains, of good vs. evil or of transferring power from the top to the
Everyone raised in a society committed to material expansion has internalized its materialistic values. We can no longer afford a
separation between politics and ethics.
Consciousness and self-consciousness, ideas and values, mere "superstructure" in the Marxist-Leninist paradigm, must become
integral, both as end and as means, to radical social change.
(to be continued)
Living for change
By Grace Lee Boggs
The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (Part II)
Last week I emphasized the great divide in the evolution of humanity created by the splitting of the atom and dropping of the
bomb during World War II.
For the first time, I said, we were confronted with the reality that we had expanded our material powers to the point where we
could destroy our planet.
This required a profound change in how we thought about everything,
including revolutionary struggle.
We could no longer act as if everything that happened to us was determined by circumstances beyond our control and/or that
our needs were only material.
Henceforth we had to accept the responsibility for making choices, which
requires redefining the meaning of Freedom.
Consciousness and self-consciousness, ideas and values, mere "superstructure" in the Marxist-Leninist paradigm, now had to
become integral, both as end and as means, to our struggles.
Revolutionary struggle now had to be viewed as a two-sided transformational process, of ourselves and of our institutions, a
process requiring time and not just a D-day replacement of one set of
rulers with another.
We could no longer view struggle simply in terms of us vs. them, of victims vs. villains, of good vs. evil or transferring power from
the top to the bottom.
The civil rights movement, which was launched by the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, was the first struggle by an oppressed
people in Western society from this new perspective.
Because American Blacks had developed a new confidence in their humanity as a result of their "Double V" struggles during World
War II, and also because, pragmatically, violent struggle in the fascist South would have been suicidal, tens of thousands of
Blacks in Montgomery, Alabama, were able to carry out a year-long non-violent, disciplined and, finally, successful struggle
Before the eyes of the whole world, a people who had been treated as less than human struggled against their dehumanization
not as angry victims or rebels but as new men and women, representative
of a new more human society.
Using methods, including the creation of their own system of transportation, that transformed themselves and increased the good
rather than the evil in the world, always bearing in mind that their goal was not only desegregation of the buses but the beloved
community, they inspired the human identity and ecological movements which over the last forty years have been creating a new
civil society in the United States.
The speeches and writings of Martin Luther King Jr., produced in the heat of struggle, played a critical role in the success of the
Montgomery and later struggles. As a Black man living in racist America and as a philosopher, King was supremely conscious of
the contradiction between our technological overdevelopment and our
We have "guided missiles and misguided men," he said.
Constantly pointing out to activists that their refusal to respond in kind to the violence and terrorism of their opponents was
increasing their own strength and unity...
Constantly reminding them and the world that their goal was not only the right to sit at the front of the bus or to vote but to
give birth to a new society based on more human values...
King not only empowered those on the frontlines but in the process developed a new strategy for transforming a struggle for
rights into a struggle that advances the humanity of everyone in the
society and thereby brings the beloved community closer.
Boggs Living For Change on King Part 4 Grace Boggs Michigan Citizen
In the last two years of his life especially in Time to Break Silence
and in "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" , King calls for
a radical reconstruction of society and a radical revolution in values..
"The profit motice, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages
a cutthroat competietion and selfish ambition that inspire men to be more
I centered than thou centered,....the good and just society is a socially
conscious democracy which reconciles the truths of individualism and collectivism.
" A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies and to see that an ediufice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation ut will look overseas and see individual capitalissts of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Latin America, and Africa only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say "this is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everyting to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will say of war, "this way of settling our differences is not just."
"Poverty, insecurity, and injustice are the fretile soil in which the
seeds of discontent grow.
1. In this I have drawn from work by Istvan Meszaros, especially his Beyond Capital and his Socialism or Barbarism, material by Raya Dunayevskaya, especially Philosophy and Revolution, Georg Lukacs' Ontology of Social Being, Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle, and my own piece, Outfoxing the Destruction of Wisdom, published in Theory and Research in Social Education and online at http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/Outfoxing.htm
material is on my www page at http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/
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