Alan Wieder is the author of Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War against Apartheid, an oral history of the iconic revolutionary couple and their struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He is interviewed by Walter Turner for Africa Today on Berkeley’s KPFA, also available to stream online.
(Michael Lebowitz is the author of The Contradictions of “Real Socialism”.) Why did ‘real socialism’ and, in particular the Soviet Union, fall? Let me note a few explanations that have been offered. With respect to the Soviet Union, one very interesting explanation that has been suggested is that it’s all the fault of Mikhail Gorbachev. And not simply the errors of Gorbachev but the treachery. Those who offer this explanation rely in particular upon a document which is sometimes described as his confession.
“A Freedom Budget for All Americans,” published in 1966 by the A. Philip Randolph Institute, demanded that the federal government put in place policies and programs that would eliminate poverty within ten years. Its authors demonstrated with clear and realistic assumptions about government taxes and revenues that this could be accomplished easily. The “Freedom Budget” was a direct descendant of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The organizers of the march and the architects of the “Freedom Budget”—people like A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr.—understood that ending poverty, achieving full employment, guaranteeing incomes, winning higher wages and providing good schools, national health care and decent housing would not happen without tremendous struggle, one that challenged not only the federal government but the basic structure of a capitalist economy. Their sensibility was democratic and socialist; it envisioned a society both egalitarian and controlled by the people themselves
In America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth, Henry A. Giroux focuses on the dysfunctional nature of US culture and politics. Giroux offers an alternative to the corporate-teaching model prevailing in US K-12 schools now. To this end, he analyzes mainstream assumptions and conclusions about the social purpose of education. He terms our present moment as an era of “casino capitalism.” In this time of an ultra-rich minority calling the cultural and political shots, Giroux is a vital voice against corporate education reformers that talk progress for students and fund tests that restrict classroom curriculum and subvert critical thought.
As two excellent new books about the march and the men and women who made it happen — “The March on Washington” by William P. Jones and “A Freedom Budget for All Americans” by Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates — make clear, the march was initially conceived in late 1962 primarily to spotlight the growing unemployment, underemployment and job discrimination plaguing African Americans in northern cities. Only when all hell broke loose in Birmingham, Ala., in the spring of 1963 — with Bull Connor loosing attack dogs on black schoolchildren demonstrating for equal access to public accommodations — did the focus of the march expand to the civil rights demands with which it is linked in popular memory today.
Henry Giroux is the author of America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth, recently published by Monthly Review Press. He is interviewed by Ted Asregadoo of Truthout in this video, published on August 22, 2013.
Three years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a number of its core organizers projected a new stage of the struggle for equality — expanding and deepening it, creating the economic and social foundations needed to realize Martin Luther King’s dream. Their program, “A Freedom Budget for All Americans,” was issued by the A. Philip Randolph Institute in fall 1966. In his foreword, King called the document “a moral commitment to the fundamental principles on which this nation was founded.” Chances are you’ve never heard of it.
Despite recent efforts to efface its history through the practice of renaming, the area of mid-west Manhattan that real estate agents now call the Clinton Historic District (or even ‘Clinton Heights’) remains – to many existing residents and to the popular imagination at large – Hell’s Kitchen. Just how and why this moniker and all that it conjures have stuck is part of the story that Joseph Varga tells in Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space, a nuanced and theoretically-sophisticated history of the social relations and spatial imaginaries that produced this area in the turbulent decades from 1894 to 1914. Though this period of American urban history – the era of Progressive reform – has received considerable attention from historians, Varga adds a much-needed dimension to the discussion by engaging directly with critical spatial theory. The result is not just an eminently readable history of Hell’s Kitchen, but a fascinating example of how ‘taking space seriously’ can alter our historical understandings and perspectives in powerful ways.
Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates explain the origins of the Freedom Budget, how it sought to achieve “freedom from want” for all people, and how it might be re-imagined for our current moment. Combining historical perspective with clear-sighted economic proposals, the authors make a concrete case for reviving the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement and building the society of economic security and democratic control envisioned by the movement’s leaders—a struggle that continues to this day.
What does it mean to live in a “bad neighborhood”? How do urban dwellers themselves produce urban space as history, in the changing modes of perception, in the shifting conceptual ideas that are literally the result of the numerous encounters with the everyday physical paths, nodes, and routes. Here in urban laboratories like New York’s Hells Kitchen, we see the actual creation of the Progressive Era reformer, forged in the encounter with the space of tenement life. We see the emergence of a new politics, of an urban working class aware of its role as object of study, performing the routine of urban “problem” by insisting that their collective voice be heard. We see the space itself being produced in everyday use, and altered by the demands of economy, of culture, of politics, spaces that then act themselves, framing the new conceptual ideas that would drive future restructurings.