Wednesday April 16th, 2014, 12:19 am (EDT)

Social Movements

Social Movements

Will Miller

The Life of an Activist-Educator

In many parts of our country—in communities large and small—there are activists engaged in a wide range of struggles for social and economic justice. In some communities and states there is one person who stands out as a consistent force for social change. This person inspires others and provides continuity over the years. In Vermont, University of Vermont professor of philosophy Will Miller was such a major force for left education and change—in local communities, at the university, and in the state. A committed socialist and Marxist, Will’s devotion to activism was inseparable from his role as teacher. His devotion to change and knowledge and understanding of history and economics—and his willingness to discuss almost any issue at the drop of a hat—meant that he was an educator both inside and outside the classroom. Unlike most academics (radical or not), Will choose to concentrate on teaching and social change through various means instead of on publishing articles in scholarly journals … | more |

Bound for Glory—Indeed!

Ed Cray, Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004), 488 pages, cloth $29.95.

Ed Cray’s new biography of Woody Guthrie marks another step in a growing interest in the left-wing Okie troubadour. In 1997, historian Charles J. Shindo published Dust Bowl Migrants in the American Imagination, which includes analysis of Woody Guthrie’s work along with that of John Ford and John Steinbeck. Joe Klein’s enthusiastic biography of Guthrie, first published in 1980, was reissued in 1999, the year after Ed Cray began the new biography. Elizabeth Partridge’s book for young readers, This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie was published in 2002… | more |

Committed Chronicler: Eleanor Marx’s Biographer

Yvonne Kapp, Time Will Tell: Memoirs (New York: Verso, 2003), 296 pages, cloth $25.00.

Yvonne Kapp is best known for her biography of Eleanor Marx (1855–1898). Published in two volumes in 1972 and 1976, it rescued the youngest daughter of Karl Marx from the obscure corner she occupied in biographies of her famous father and restored her to a position of prominence among the major players in the development of late nineteenth-century British socialism. In bringing her subject to life, Kapp manages at the same time to provide a panoramic view of the rise of the progressive movement, in all its variety and complexity. Upon its release, Eric Hobsbawm praised the work as “one of the few unquestionable masterpieces of twentieth century biography.” Verso has now reissued the books in one volume and has published this memoir of its author for the first time… | more |

The Achievement of Malcolm X

The life of Malcolm X, who was murdered forty years ago this month, spanned a trajectory from oppression and victimization to inchoate rebellion and revolutionary autonomy. His was a voyage from resistance to an informed radicalism. It was a journey from which he ultimately gathered political and historical insight which, combined with his tools of persuasion and skills at leadership, made him at the time of his death arguably the most dangerous figure in this country’s history to confront its ruling class. For us, forty years later, Malcolm’s life is also informative: both about the destructive encounters that Africans, Asians, Latins, and indigenous peoples have had with this country, its culture and its history, and how deeply domestic resistance to that oppression is embedded in the global anti-imperialist struggle… | more |

Interview with Malcolm X

The Muslims, as the Nation of Islam is called, stress the futility of the integrationist program. They argue that there is no precedent for the absorption of Negroes into the greater white American mainstream in fact or in history, that integrationists are asking for something the American socioeconomic system is inherently unable to give them—mass class mobility, so that at best Negroes can expect from the integrationist program a hopeless entry into the lowest levels of a working class already disenfranchised by automation… | more |

The Murder of Malcolm X

By publishing this article, we do not mean to imply endorsement of the view that Malcolm X’s actual murderers, the men who wielded the fatal weapons, were politically motivated. On the basis of what little evidence is available, it would seem as reasonable to assume that he was the victim of a vendetta in which the murderers were mere tools. But in a deeper sense, the only sense that has historical meaning, we have no doubt that Malcolm’s assassination was a profoundly political event. It was because of his ideas and his politics that he represented a threat to the privileges and vested interests of powerful groups, both white and black. Whatever the immediate pretext, it was certainly this threat in the background which caused his enemies to wish to be rid of him… | more |

Inspiration from Behind the Walls

David Gilbert, No Surrender: Writings from an Anti-Imperialist Political Prisoner (Montreal: Abraham Guillen Press, 2004), 283 pages, paper $15.00.

David Gilbert is serving a seventy-five year to life prison sentence for his participation in the 1981 holdup of a Brinks armored truck in which three persons were killed, two police officers and a security guard. The attempted robbery was an effort to raise money for the Black Liberation Army (BLA), an underground offshoot of the Black Panther Party. By the time of the Brinks events, David had been a committed revolutionary for nearly twenty years. In 1965 he founded the Committee Against the War in Vietnam while a student at Columbia University; he was a founding member of the Columbia chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1967; he was a leader of the famous student strike at Columbia in 1968; and he was an early member of the Weathermen faction of SDS in 1969, whose members soon went underground to wage war against U.S. imperialism and racism, renaming themselves the Weather Underground. They hoped to support all those around the world actually fighting against U.S. imperialism and even to ignite a popular uprising in the United States through a series of spectacular bombings of government facilities (including the Pentagon) and corporate offices and banks, as well as by written propaganda and analysis… | more |

A Man for All Seasons

Carl Marzani, The Education of a Reluctant Radical, Book 5, Reconstruction (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), 285 pages, cloth $24.95, paper $16.95.

In recent years four remarkable and quite disparate stalwarts of the left have died, but not without each leaving his own quintessential and characteristic hallmark. Although each was profoundly different from the others, they had much in common for, as I will argue, their core was identical… | more |

Possibility and Hope: Getting from Here to There

Pete Seeger is one of the world’s quintessential activists, having played such an important role in singing the songs and engaging in the struggles of civil rights, free speech, human rights, anti-Vietnam War, environmental, peace, anti-nuclear, and social justice movements. (David Kupfer, “Longtime Passing,” Whole Earth Magazine, 104, 2001, p. 19.) … | more |

Prevention and Solidarity: Democratizing Health in Venezuela

Halfway up the hill, in a semi-finished, rustic house, a sheet divides the consulting room from the treatment room. Rarely is there a need to identify oneself upon arrival. “How are you Mr. Antonio, has your pressure decreased?” says the fifty-three-year-old Venezuelan nurse Carlota Núñez. Antonio goes in and, little by little, the inhabitants of the neighborhood Las Terrazas de Oropeza Castillo, municipality Sucre, Caracas move through the waiting room… | more |

On Revolutionary Medicine

This simple celebration, another among the hundreds of public functions with which the Cuban people daily celebrate their liberty, the progress of all their revolutionary laws, and their advances along the road to complete independence, is of special interest to me… | more |

After the Referendum: Venezuela Faces New Challenges

With President Hugo Chávez’s victory in the August 15 referendum, the Venezuelan opposition suffered the third great defeat in its struggle to end his government. The unprecedented recall referendum ratified Chávez’s presidency by a margin of two million votes and was declared valid unanimously by the hundreds of international observers who scrutinized it… | more |

The Greening of Venezuela

With all the hullabaloo about Chávez’s alleged authoritarianism, opposition strikes and demonstrations, and a possible recall referendum, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing constructive is being done in Venezuela and that the nation’s energies are entirely absorbed by political mud-slinging. Indeed, that’s just what the corporate media would like you to think… | more |

Encounters with Che

We think the following letter, written to the daughter of long-time friends, will be of interest to our readers. —The Editors… | more |

In your name

Marge Piercy’s most recent novel is The Third Child (William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2003), and Colors Passing Through Us (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003) is her most recent book of poetry. Her CD, Louder, We Can’t Hear You (Yet!): The Political Poems of Marge Piercy, is available online from Leapfrog Press, www.leapfrogpress.com.… | more |

Puerto Rican Obituary

“Puerto Rican Obituary” was first read in 1969 at a rally in support of the Young Lords Party, an anti-imperialist Latino youth group in New York. Like the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords were community activists, supporting demands for fair and affordable housing and decent health care, and they ran free breakfast programs for children. They linked their neighborhood militancy to a program that called for the end of U.S. imperial adventurism in Vietnam and elsewhere, third world liberation, an end to the oppression of the poor and people of color, and the building of a socialist society. The Young Lords were destroyed by U.S. government provocations in the mid 1970s, but Pedro Pietri continued on as a radical activist and poet—he saw no distinction between these roles. Most notably he helped to found and sustain the Nuyorican Poets Café, an acclaimed center for oppositional arts and literature… | more |

Self-Reflection and Revolution

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960–1975 (San Francisco: City Lights, 2002) 411 pages, $17.95 paperback.

This summer I moved into an old house in the Catskills full of the random possessions of those who have used it as a retreat since it was built in the 1920s. With most of my books in storage and no television I entertained myself by reading a stack of Time magazines from the late sixties and early seventies that I found in a trunk in the small attic. Flipping through them nearly every evening, I enjoyed countless articles about the hippies, the Yippies, Richard Nixon, the Black Panthers, and the inevitable revolution on America’s horizon. I read the ongoing coverage of the Chicago Eight (turned Seven) trial, sensational portraits of California’s fringe cultures, and panic-stricken reports of the now too-often forgotten wildcat strikes of the early seventies… | more |

She Challenged the Rules

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press, 2003) 470 pages, cloth $34.95.

Ella Baker was known and revered by a generation of Southern civil rights organizers. Her name is virtually unrecognized by political activists today. Yet she persisted as a Southern African-American woman in male-dominated national organizations, working as an organizer/educator for five decades to help transform the poisonous U.S. landscape of white supremacy. She was a founding mentor of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who nurtured a radical democratic practice: that the black sharecroppers and most oppressed rural poor could resist oppression, challenge power, and speak for themselves. Leadership for the black community must emerge, she insisted, from the courage, experiences, suffering, and understanding of ordinary, often illiterate, people in the Mississippi Delta, in Lowndes County, Alabama, and in Albany, Georgia. Students might spark the flame: the Freedom Rides, the voter registration drives, and Mississippi Summer were staffed with young volunteers, but Baker taught them to learn from—and be transformed by—grassroots leaders and to respect their wisdom in a dynamic, group-centered manner. Never fixed or finished, she remained a work in progress; she encouraged a spirit of radical, democratic humanism that influenced the black freedom movement, labor, the women’s movement, the student antiwar movement, GIs and veterans, prison and solidarity work, and community organizing for decades to come… | more |

Notes on the Antiwar Movement

The movement against the war in Iraq was the largest antiwar movement that has ever taken place. Even in the United States, where opposition to the war was not as large as in many other parts of the world, demonstrations against the war grew with astonishing rapidity. Before the war began demonstrations had reached sizes that, during the war in Vietnam, took years of organizing to mobilize. The antiwar movement, in the United States as elsewhere, was also in many respects quite broad. It included not only people on the left, antiglobalization activists and peace organizations, but also churches, other religious organizations, trade unions, and many other organizations not associated with the left. And it included very large numbers of people who came to demonstrations as individuals, rather than as members of organizations, and who had never before participated in a political protest… | more |

Homeland Imperialism: Fear and Resistance

The creation and cultivation of fear is one of the pillars of empire both abroad and within the imperial “homeland.” And that fear is always accompanied by the threat of discipline, punishment, and violence. Every state uses violence to enforce its power against its enemies, but we must recognize that a major change has occurred. September 11, 2001 gave a green light for a full blown, and bipartisan, agenda of repression at home, as well as for the expanded imperial project abroad… | more |