Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

_The Next American Revolution:  Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century_ by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige
Berkeley, CA:  Univ of CA Press, 2011
ISBN  978-0-520-269240-8

Introduction by Scott Kurashige

(6)  Reflecting on the limits of her prior encounters with radicalism, Grace fully embraces the feminist critique not only of gender discrimination and inequality but also of the masculinist tendencies that often come to define a certain brand of movement organizing - one driven by militant posturing, a charismatic form of hierarchical leaderhsip, and a static notion of power seen as a scarce commodity to be acquired and possessed….

Her observations of these encounters have reinforced her repeated observation that marginalization serves as a form of liberation.

(12)  The only certainty with capitalism is that it never stands still.

(15)  In words that will resonate throughout this book, we must define revolution both by the humanity-stretching _ends_ to be achieved and the beloved community-building _means_ by which to achieve those ends.

(17)  As Grace argues, echoing author Margaret Wheatley, movements are born of critical connections rather than critical mass.

(25)  It is easy to unite against that which you are _against_.  Hence, the Bush era produced heightened cooperation between liberals, progressives, and radicals.  Grace directs our focus to the greater task:  defining what we are _for_ while enacting proposals to govern the whole of society.

(47)  We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other.  We urgently need to bring the neighbor back into our hoods, not only in our inner cities but also in our suburbs, our gated communities, on Main Street and Wall Street, and on Ivy League campuses.

(48)  Now, in the light of our historical experiences and thanks especially to the indigenous cultures that the Zapatistas have revealed to us, we are beginning to understand that the world is always being made and never finished;  that activism can be the journey rather than the arrival;  that struggle doesn’t always have to be confrontational but can take the form of reaching out to find common ground with the many “others” in our society who are also seeking ways out from alienation, isolation, privatization, and dehumanization by corporate globalization.

(50)  In what Wheatley calls “this exquisitely connected world,” the real engine of change is never “critical mass”; dramatic and systemic change always begins with “critical connections.”
NB:  Only connect

(51)  We must have the courage to walk the talk, but we must also engage in the continuing dialogues that enable us to break free of old categories and create the new ideas that are necessary to address our realities, because revolutions are made not to prove the correctness of ideas but to begin anew.

(52)  What we urgently need are impassioned discussions everywhere, in groups small and large, where people from all walks of life are not only talking but also listening to one another.

(53)  We especially need to explain how and why the ideas of most leftists about revolution have become narrow, static and even counterrevolutionary.

The historian I have found to be most insightful about he rethinking of radical strategies mandated by the movements of the 1960s is Immanuel Wallerstein, author of _The Modern World-System:  Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixtennth Century_.

(54)  The movements of the 1960s, writes Wallerstein in _After Liberalism_, published in 1995, culminated in what he calls “the world revolution of 1968.”  Since that world revolution, he says, six premises that were accepted as axiomatic by revolutionaries since the French Revolution have become questionable:
The two-step strategy (first take state power, then transform society) is no longer self-evidently correct.
We can no longer assume that political acitvity is most effective if channeled through one party.
The labor-capital conflcit is not the only fundamental conflict in capitalism;  there are also contradictions revolving around gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality.
Democracy is not a bourgeois concept but a profoundly revolutionary, anticapitalist idea.
An increase in productivity is not an essential goal of socialism.  We need to address capitalism’s ecological and human consequences, including consumerism and the commodification of everything.
We need to reassess our faith in science and reconsider the complex relationships between determinism and free will and between order and chaos.

Next, in his little 1998 book, _Utopistics:  Or, Historical Choices of the Twenty-First Century, Wallerstein explains how 1968 dethroned both the Leninists and the Social Democrats, the two anti systemic movements that had emerged from and prevailed since the French Revolution.

(55)  The next year, in _The End of the World as We Know It:  Social Science for the Twenty-First Century_, Wallerstein assured us that uncertainty rather than certainty about the future provides the basis for hope.
NB:  Conversation between Boggs and Wallerstein at 2010 United States Social Forum in 2010 in Detroit:

(57)  I have learned over the years that _when_ you become a radical usually decides your politics.

(62)  These two notions - that reality is constantly changing and that you must constantly be aware of the new and more challenging contradictions that drive change - lie at the core of dialectical thinking.
NB:  Add Karl Popper’s Open Society where you don’t know everything.
Rojava as today’s possible Paris Commune

(67-68)  In the Black Panther Party and the rebellions of the 1960s, there was a lot of righteous anger because in the sixties we defined ourselves more by our expression than by the power that we have within us to create new loving relationships.  That is why, beginning in 1968, Jimmy and I felt that our main responsibility as revolutionaries was to go beyond “protest politics,” beyond just increasing the anger and outrage of the oppressed, and concentrate instead on projecting and initiating struggles that involve people at the grassroots in assuming the responsibility for creating the new values, truths, infrastructures, and institutions that are necessary to build and govern a new society.

(70)  By contrast, as citizens of a nation that had achieved its rapid economic growth and prosperity at the expense of African Americans, Native Americans, other people of color, and peoples all over the world, our priority had to be in correcting the injustices and backwardness of our relationships with one another, with other countries, and with the Earth.

(71)  Jimmy [Boggs] in the chapter titled “Dialectics and Revolution” in _Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century_:  
The revolution to be made in the United States will be the first revolution in history to require the masses to make material sacrifices rather than to acquire more material things.
NB:  Systemic changes to local production (swadeshi) and integration with new and existing infrastructure can provide the same (or better) quality of life with less energy and materials intensity.

(74)  Our City of Hope campaign involves rebuilding, redefining, and respiriting Detroit from the ground up:  growing food on abandoned lots, reinventing education to include children in community building, creating co-operatives to produce local goods for local needs, developing Peace Zones to transform our relationships with one another in our homes and on our streets, and replacing a punitive justice system with restorative justice programs to keep nonviolent offenders in our communites and out of multibillion-dollar prisons that not only misspend monies much needed for roads and schools but also turn minor offenders into hardened criminals.

(75)  Despite the huge difference in local conditions, our Detroit-City of Hope campaign has more in comon with the revolutionary struggles of the Zapatistas in Chiapas than with the Russian Revolution of 1917.
NB:  Zapatistas and Gandhian economics

…  Therefore, World War IV, the war in which the whole world is now engaged, is a new kind of war:  an ongoing and total war, the war of the “Empire of Money” against Humanity.  The Empire of Money seeks to impose the logic and practice of capital on everytying, to turn every living being, the Earth, our communities, and all our human relationships into commodities to be bought and sold on the market.

(79)  History is not the past.  It is the stories we tell about the past.  _How_ we tell these stories - triumphantly or self-critically, metaphysically or dialectically - has a lot to do with whether we cut short or advance our evolution as human beings. 

(89)  The struggle for independence from Britain, he insisted, should not be mainly a struggle for state power.  It should revolve around going to people at the grassroots, helping them to transform their inner and outer lives, and encouraging them to think for themselves in order to create self-reliant local communities.  Such communities should be based on two pillars:  Work that preserves rather than destroys skills while fostering cooperation rather than competition and Education whose goal is the building of community rather than increasing the staus and earning power of the individual.  Stressing the importance of human relations beyond the nation-state, Gandhi began projecting a new concept of global citizenship - one that especially appealed to Martin Luther King, Jr. 

(92)  We must begin the shift from what [ML] King called a “thing”-oriented society to a “person”-oriented society.  “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people,” he declared, “the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

… [ML] King:  “Communism fails to see the truth in individualism.  Capitalism fails to realize that life is social.”

(96-97)  Instead of pursuing rapid economic development and hoping that it will eventually create community, we need to do the opopsite - begin with the needs of the community and create loving relationships with one another and with the Earth.

As Jimmy Boggs used to remind us, revolutions are made out of love for people and for place.  He often talked about loving America enough to change it.  “I love this country,” he used to say, “not only because my ancestors’ blood is in the soil but because of what I believe it can become.”  Shea Howell, Oakland University rhetoric professor and former director of Detroit Summer, has helped hundreds of students and community organizers appreciate what Jimmy meant:  Love isn’t just something you feel.  It’s something you do every day when you go out and pick up the papers and bottles scattered the night before on the corner, when you stop and talk to a neighbor, when you argue passionately for what you believe with whoever will listen, when you call a friend to see how they’re doing, when you write a letter to the newspaper, when you give a speech and give ‘em hell, when you never stop believing that we can all be more than we are.  In other words, Love isn’t about what we did yesterday;  it’s about what we do today and tomorrow and the day after.
(99)  King was very clear that suffering and oppression are not enough to create a movement.  African Americans began the Montgomery Bus Boycott because that had “replaced self-pity with self-respect and self-depreciation with dignity.”  In other words,  a movement begins when the oppressed begin seeing themselves not just as victims but as new men and women - pioneers in creating new, more human relations and thus advancing the evolution of the human race.

(99-100) Movement builders are also very conscious of the need to go beyond slogans and to create programs of struggle that transform and empower participants… engage in “self-transforming and structure-transforming” direct action 

(100)    Confident in their own humanity, movement builders are able to recognize the humanity in others, including their opponents, and therefore the potential within them for redemption…. nonviolent struggles can become swords that heal…
NB:  Aikido

At the heart of movement building is the concept of two-sided transformation, both of ourselves and of our institutions…

Thinking dialectically is also pivotal to movement building because it prepares us for the contradictions that inevitably develop in the course of a struggle.
NB:  Open Society uncertainty, Buddhist logic

(101)  Yusef Shakur’s _The Window 2 My Soul:  My Transformation from a Zone 8 Thug to a Father and Freedom Fighter_

(103)  Ron Scott and the Coalition Against Police Brutality as well as Peace Zones for Life.
NB:  Violence interrupters and public health solutions

It promotes “community-based conflict resolution and mediation initiatives,” using methods that will allow the citizens options to submit their grievances for resolution by their neighbors or persons whom they trust;  thereby, remaining outside the police/criminal justice system and eliminating conflict within our communities.”
NB:  This can also be a two-edged sword

(111)  In a 1985 speech, he [Jimmie Boggs] had said that we needed to go where we have never gone before and focus on “creating communities.”  During the 1988 debate on casino gambling, he projected a new kind of city whose foundation would be citizens living in communities who take responsibility for decisions about their city instead of leaving these to politicians or to the marketplace and who create small enterprises that emphasize the preservation of skills and produce goods and services for the local community.     

(112-113)  Recalling how the Freedom Schools of Mississippi Freedom Summer had engaged children in the civil rights movement, we asked Detroiters to just imagine how much safer and livelier our neighborhoods would be almost overnight if we reorganized education along the lines of Detroit Summer, if instead of trying to keep our children isolated in classrooms for twelve years and more, we engaged them in community-building activities with the same audacity with which the civil rights movement engaged them in desegregation activities forty years ago:  planting community gardens, recycling waste, organizing neighborhood arts and helath festivals, rehabbing houses, and painting public murals.

By giving our children and young people a better reason to learn than just the individualistic one of getting a job or making more money, by encouraging them to make a difference in their neighborhoods, we would get their cognitive juices flowing.  Learning would come from practice, which has always been the best way to learn.  In Detroit Summer we combined physical forms of work with workshops and intergeneraional dialogues on how to rebuild Detroit, thus further expanding the minds and imaginations of the young, old, and in-between.  Instead of coercing young people to conform to the factory model of education, the time had come, we said, to see their rebellion as a cry for another kind of education that values them as human beings and gives them opportunities to exercise their Soul Power [satyagraha].
NB:  Gandhi’s Constructive Programme

(115)  Detroit Summer brought us into contact with the Gardening Angels, a loose network of mainly African American southern-born elders, who planted gardens not only to produce healthier food for themselves and their neighbors but also to instill respect for Nature and process in young people.

(115-116)  Gerald [Hairston] maintained close ties with the naitonal and local black farmers movement, which spread the vital message that “we cannot free ourselves until we feed ourselves.”  In other words, it is only when we can provide for own basic needs that we are empowered to make our own choices.

(121)  So CFA [Catherine Ferguson Academy] students now learn science by running a fully functioning on-site farm with a community garden, fruit orchard, bees, and horses, as well as ducks, goats, and chickens that provide eggs and meat for the school community.  They learn physics by buildilng and raising their own barn on the school site.  and most notably, the school is remarkably successful, graduating an overwhelming majority of teenage mothers, considered most at risk of dropping out, and sending nearly all of them to college.

Marjetica Potrc, Slovenian artist who creates visionary and practical solutions of communities around the world

(122)  They [Potrc’s projects] include a dry toilet in the La Vega barrio of Caracas, Venezuela, which reduces the amount of water used by residents while also providing a sustainable solution to the wastewater problem, and a roundhouse for earthquake victims in El Retiro, El Salvador, which is resistant to small earthquakes and can be built by as few as two people in ten hours…

(124)  In 2000 and 2001 students involved in Kyong Park’s studio at the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Archtiecture created a vision of how a prairie-like area of two and a half square miles on the Eastside of Detroit near my house could be developed into a self-reliant community.  They called this vision “Adamah,” which roughly translates to “of the Earth” in Hebrew.  Drawing from the work of Steve Vogel, dean of the architectural school, they proposed unearthing Bloody Run Creek, which had been covered over and absorbed into the city’s sewer system aroudn the turn of the twentieth century, and remaking it into a canal for both recreation and irrigation.  They envisioned greenhouses, grazing land, a dairy, and a vegetable farm to produce food;  a tree farm, a lumber sawmill, and a shrimp farm;  windmills to generat electricity;  and living and work spaces within the massive structure housing the former Packard auto plant.  They saw cohousing as well as individual housing, and schools that include community building as part of the curriculum.

(131)  In the past, working within the Marxist-Leninist tradition, we would have tried to unite them [different urban gardening groups] all within one organization, to have them following one set of leaders and subscribing to one central strategy.  But in the twenty-first century I have come to appreciate (in the words of authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri) the value of the “singularities” that compoose the “multitude.”  Our diversity is the source of our strength.  We are not aiming simply to impact one election or one government.  Rather, we are striving for long-term and sustainable transformation, and for that we need the wisdom that comes from many cultures, movements, and traditions.

(132)  Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen and Maria Mies, The Subsistence Perspective
pamphlet with Grace Lee Boggs ‘Another World Is Necessary, Another World Is Possible, Another World Has Already Begun

In the ensuing discussion [in New Orleans after Katrina] folks who had never heard of Adamah made proposals that seemed to come right out of the Adamah vision: community gardens to grow their own food;  grocery stores, banks, barber, and beauty shops within walking distance, green spaces with trees;  more intergenerational activities;  a small neighborhood school where, instead of the old kind of schooling for jobs, children would develop responsibility for one and other and for the community through a curriculum that engages them in community activities;  a resource center with a community theater, artists’ studios, and information about the different skills available in the neighborhood (e.g. car repair, plumbing, carpentry, tutoring).

(136)  1969 speech and pamphlet, Education to Govern by GL Boggs, Harvard Educational Review

(144-145)  Because [John] Dewey insisted that education is “a process of living and not a preparation for future living,” he called for the school to “represent present life - life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood or on the playground.”  “Our present education,” he said, "is highly specialized, one-sided and narrow.  It is an education dominated almost entirely by the medieval conception of learning."

(146) Teach people what will truly help them, he [Gandhi] said, not to become servants and bureacrats for the Empire but to aid them in all the little things of village life.  Education, he said, should be of the Heart, the Hand, and the Head.  It should give people an understanding of themselves and where they stand in the world and, from there, their obligations toward their neighbor.  The three main resources for this popular education, he said, are the community, the natural environment, and the world environment.

(148-149)  Transforming relations means that revolution is not about the oppressed switching places with the oppressors, nor is it about the “have-nots” acquiring the material possessions of the “haves.”  It is about overcoming the “dehumanization” that has been fostered by the commodification of everything under capitalism and building more democratic, just, and nourishing modes of relating to people.  Critical of the Marxist-Leninist and nationalist parties that had led most of the anticapitalist and anti colonial movements around the world, [Paolo] Freire insisted that what was needed to revolutionize society was not a narrow focus on seizing state power but a cultural revolution in the form of a continuous struggle to transform human relations.

(154)  [George] Siemens recommends that educators celebrate local excellence and innovations, let people teach each other, and allow students to organize themselves.  Education, in other words, serves as a model democracy.   

(168)  Every environmental group, every class in public health, should discuss them [Seventeen Principles of Environmental Justice] periodically.  Some of the most vital principles include
Principle #1:  Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the pinterdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
Principle #7:  Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, palnning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
Principle #17:  Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible;  and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.   

(171)  from Gar Alperovitz, _America Beyond Capitalism_:
In all, 130 million Americans are now involved in co-ops, mostly credit unions, and cooperative housing.
Eleven thousand employee-owned companies already exist in this country.  Together they involve more workers than the total membership in unions of private corporations.
The number of community development corporations (CDCs) and municipally owned utilities is steadily growing.
Since the 1960s, countless nonprofit organizations have been created to serve community needs.  Most of these are funded by foundations but many support themselves by organizing local enterprises.
The share of locally owned businesses has also increased from 30 to 60 percent.  Many of these were founded by socially conscious entrepreneurs not only to make a profit but also with the aim of protecting the environment and promoting social justice.

(174)  One of the highlights of the 2008 Allied Media Conference was an especially moving video presented by Sista II Sista, a grassroots community organization based in Brooklyn, New York.  These are people in a community, living together like family, taking care of children and of elders, dealing with each other and with conflict in new ways, not out of anger at injustice but from love for one another and for our communities.  They are not building power over others but empowering each other.  I believe that these and like-minded activists have arrived at these practices mainly because so many activists these days are female and queer.

(175)  We are creating a revolutionary alternative to the counterrevolutionary and inhuman policies of the U.S. government, but we are not subversives.  We are making the leap forward in the precious human qualities of social responsibility and creativity, now necessary and possible in the evolution of the human species.  We are creating the kind of global citizenship that Martin Luther King Jr. said every nation needs to create to preserve the best in its traditions.  We are struggling to change this country because we love it.

(176)  Beloved Communities Initiative

The BCI began with a “These are the times to grow our souls” call to those celebrating MLK’s birthday in January 2005 and continued with visits to sites that we identified as in the process of creating new kinds of communities in the United States.

(177)  We visited Will Allen’s urban farm, Growing Power, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Will is at the forefront of the urban agricultural movement, which may be the fastest growing movement in the United States.  “We’re having to go back to when people shared things and started taking care of each other.  That’s the only way we will survive.  What better way than to do it with food?” said Will, as he was honored with a 2008 MacArthur Genius Award.

(178)  These visits [around the USA] have reaffirmed my belief that the movement today, in this period and this country, is being created not by the cadres of a vanguard party with a common ideology, but by individuals and groups responding creatively with passion and imagination to the real problems and challenges that they face where they live and work.                                                                                                        

(187)  Urban Ecology:  Detroit and Beyond edited by Kyong Park (Hong Kong, Map Book, 2005) - founder of International Center for Urban Ecology [ICUE]

(189)  New econmics institutions, locations, and experiences at Democracy Collaborative