Friday, February 7, 2014

New Blog Coming Soon

A few months ago, I mentioned that I was thinking of the endgame for this particular blog. Now, the time is almost at hand for the new blog to be launched. Basically, after nearly eleven years, this particular blog is a bit of a sprawling mess, and I've been narrowing my focus considerably over the last few years. The new blog will be more focused on my current interests, and will not have the massive links that plague the current blog. I've also been able to update the interface to be a bit more user-friendly. Once it's ready, I'll give you all the word. I don't know whether I'll keep this one available as a publicly available archive, or simply delete it. That's a decision I'll delay for a while, I suspect. Obviously, I want to respect mutual links to the fullest extent possible - a holdover from my Blogroll Amnesty Day era. More as it develops. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Charles Barron Sees the Radical Movement Picking Up Steam

The keynote speaker for the event was Chokwe Lumumba, the Jackson, Mississippi mayor who in September told Al Jazeera: "Nowadays you've got to call yourself a 'change agent' or something, or else you'll make people scared. But I am a revolutionary."

Unlike Charles Barron, Lumumba does wear suits. But his political philosophy grew from the same intellectual root. In fact, the two have known each other for decades. Like Barron, Lumumba first entered the public stage as an activist--he served as vice-president of the Republic of New Afrika, an organization founded in 1968 to promote creating an independent black nation out of several southern states. He eventually channeled his advocacy into law, specializing in criminal defense.

"It's not like a last man standing kind of thing," says Barron. "I see the radical movement picking up a little steam in the electoral arena."

He can rattle off the examples. There's Ras Baraka, the city councilman in Newark and son of poet-activist Amiri Baraka. And then in Detroit, there's JoAnn Watson, the civil rights activist who served on the city council from 2003 to 2013, and Kwame Kenyatta, a councilman from 2005 to 2013. Kenyatta now works on Lumumba's staff.

"I see a resuscitation, a revival of black radicals actually winning seats," says Barron. "Remember in the '60s black radicals didn't win a lot of the electoral seats."

Huey Newton ran for U.S. congress. Bobby Seale ran for mayor of Oakland. Elaine Brown ran for Oakland City Council. Eldridge Cleaver ran for president. Each one lost.

"We maintain that radical spirit," says Barron. "And won elections. I don't know of a time in history that many radicals won seats."


Monday, February 3, 2014

Building the future

- As far as you visited post-soviet countries, has such an experience made an influence on you views?

- I've been particularly struck by the failure of the US, UK, and western Europe to learn from the socialist experiments. It's like there has been a deliberate effort to obliterate the experience of trying to build egalitarian societies. Full fledged capitalism, privatization, and all the theft and impoverishment that result from it was unleashed with no regard to preserving the best attributes of the socialist systems. Both materially and conceptually, these countries have been taken over by capitalism and in the name of democracy. Why the rush? Why the attempt to obliterate history?

I think it was because of capitalism's deep fear of the people, its attempt to buy people off with some quick goodies, divide them from one another, and all before people have time to think about what is going on and undertake new political experiments. To my mind, some of the most important work that needs to be done is compiling histories, testimonies, archives of the socialist experience with an eye toward asking what worked and why? Where did problems arise? Too much of that history was totally distorted by the Cold War.

- Could you wish something to our students and left activists who try to oppose neoliberal capitalism?

- Organize. You are stronger collectively. Draw from the communist legacy. Don't fall for trendy anarchist rhetoric that is just another form of capitalist individualism.

- Can you imagine our world in 10, 20 or 50 years? How do you see it?

- You know, at the beginning of the Bush administration, I was lamenting about how bad things were going to be. I had no idea. Reality has been much worse than I imagined -- Guantanamo Bay prison camp, indefinite detention, torture, a security state, the dramatic increase in inequality, collapse of basic infrastructure. The same with Obama -- I knew he wasn't a liberal or a progressive (much less a communist that the Right accuses him of being). But I didn't think he would be the president of the big banks, the savior of Goldman Sachs and the president to attempt to make cuts in the most popular and successful social program in the US, Social Security. Yet I also didn't foresee Occupy Wall Street, which has been the most exciting development on the US left since 1968.

So it's like things get worse, but new possibilities appear. That's what I expect will continue. Inequality will continue to get worse, yet the left will build a new global communist party stronger and more flexible than anything we've ever seen. Our Communist International will exert a counterpower with which the IMF, European Central Bank, World Bank, and others will have to contend. It will unite workers and non-workers throughout the world and make our collective force felt. To paraphrase Mao, everything will be in chaos, yet the situation will be excellent.