Tag Archives: black liberation

On Rage, Reading Books and Other Necessities for the “Millennial Generation”

10 Jan

 

 

Danny Haiphong, BAR contributor 07 Nov 2018

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Young people in the US are increasingly open to socialism and radical ideas, but less likely to study the science of revolutionary change.
“Neoliberal education and activism in the United States has infected young leftists with an aversion to books and study.”
Theory takes a break this week for a special message to young leftists. The Trump Administration has decried socialists as a threat to the United States. Both corporate parties have since 2016 been busy accusing left-leaning young people in this country of complicity in the rise of Trump and the fall of so-called “centrism.” The Democratic Party has worked overtime to move the attention of young leftists toward watered down “blue wave” candidates as the establishment attempts to ram through CIA and military intelligence officials into Congress in relative secrecy. It is no secret, however, that the US ruling class is concerned with the growing leftist views of the younger generation.

 

 

Polls have shown that so-called “millennials” view socialism in a positive light. Capitalism has failed them, even those white youth who believed that their parents had achieved the (white) American Dream. Millennials are poor. They work for low wages and have few opportunities to build wealth. Home ownership has fallen out of economic reach. Student debt is over a trillion dollars . Young Black Americans are terrorized by the police and forced to attend schools that funnel them into the prison regime . Young Latino Americans are terrorized by the deportation regime . In other words, US imperialism has little to offer a generation that sees no prospects for retirement and is often forced to choose between low-wage work or prison.
Young leftists also face a crisis of consciousness. While leftist ideas are on the rise, the reality remains that those labeled “millennials” know little to nothing about class struggle, Black liberation and anti-imperialism, or the fruits that prior movements won from struggle. After all, many of these fruits are disappearing by way of privatization, austerity, and state repression. Furthermore, the left is without an organized vehicle of the working class and oppressed. COINTELPRO lives on in the FBI’s “Black Identity Extremist” files. The general crisis of capitalism has developed many individual activists but few revolutionary organizations.
Of course, youth cannot be considered a class or an oppressed section of society in and of itself. There is great variance in the conditions that young people face depending on their relationship to the means of production and the ruling class structure. During the Obama era, some basic points of unity arose from the Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street insurgencies. One, the police murder of Black Americans is an unjust manifestation of racism. Two, Wall Street has run amok and forced an entire generation into material hardship through student debt and other forms of parasitic finance. Much can be developed these two points of unity.
The ruling class has made sure that the era of Trump has arrested the development of a left insurgency through desperate attempts to invalidate and erase leftists. Bezos and the rest of the capitalist class concocted Russiagate from thin air to lay an imaginary basis for the claim that the radical left and the “alt” right are mere puppets of Putin’s campaign to destroy the United States. Trump has been given billions worth of airtime to scare young leftists back into the bosom of the so-called “moderates” of the corporate parties. The “moderate” ruling class promise two things and two things only: austerity and war. These promises represent the only possible fruits of impeaching Trump, regardless of what corporate media pundits have to say on the matter.
This doesn’t mean that young people should sympathize with Trump. However, Trump navel gazing should not be allowed to suppress the genuine class demands of the people. Class demands must be brought to the fore regardless of who is President. Questions such as healthcare, jobs, and war ultimately shape the growing rage among much of the population in the United States with the status quo. The job of the young generation is to study this rage, engage with this rage, and organize this rage.

 

 

Neoliberal education and activism in the United States has infected young leftists with an aversion to books and study. There are few opportunities for young people to learn history and politics from a revolutionary perspective. On college campuses, coursework tends to ascribe to neoliberal and for-profit imperatives. Professors are promoted based on the volume of research produced and the amount of money they make for institutions rather than the content of their work. Higher education institutions have always been openly hostile to radical ideas, purging professors who become too radical and viciously cutting Black Studies and other departments that were born from grassroots political struggle.
Young leftists seeking to avoid the mistakes of the past and the obstacles of the present must read books. They need to engage with revolutionary ideas just as much as they commit to on the ground struggle. Young leftists must drop the corporate ideology of “diversity” and replace it with the politics of power. They must reject the influence of the education system and the Democratic Party, two forces that have collaborated with the imperialist state to erase the history of revolutionary struggle from popular consciousness. This erasure has been complemented by the development of an anti-intellectual, counterrevolutionary political culture in the heartland of the United States Empire.
“Young leftists need to engage with revolutionary ideas just as much as they commit to on the ground struggle.”
I am twenty-eight and attend graduate school for social work, a profession with a long history of collaboration with the forces of social control and oppression in the imperialist world. Social work education speaks highly of its “social justice” roots but does little to teach social workers about the true history of the imperial context from which it practices. The profession leans on liberal notions of race and class as forms of “diversity.” As Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford explained on Chris Hedges’ On Contact, diversity is a con that erases the complicity of the white liberal and Black misleader ship class in the reproduction of imperialist evils. Social work education has endorsed diversity because it has no answers for austerity, militarism, and the crisis of capitalism. Just like most academics who teach students to normalize imperialism, social workers are trained to further their careers by helping their “clients” adjust to increasingly horrid conditions.
Yet young leftists, even educated leftists, have few career options to further. Social work, for example, offers few economic incentives besides a job (if lucky) and thus must rely on the non-profit industrial complex’s obsession with values to distract from its social control function. Studying revolutionary theory and history is one way to combat the mundane and stagnant liberalism of the corporate academy. However, this must be done in conjunction with a search for political and organizational involvement. Here are some critical arenas of struggle that deserve more attention from young leftists:
“Study must be done in conjunction with a search for political and organizational involvement.”

 

 

Political prisoners: The United States warehouses dozens of political prisoners. Many of these prisoners served the people as leaders of the Black liberation movement of a generation ago. This includes Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and several members of the MOVE organization. Political prisoners suffer from a wide array of abuses from the prison regime. Without a movement, they will die in prison. Young leftists who are serious need to get involved in freeing all political prisoners. You can get started through the Jericho Movement here.
War: The U.S. spends trillions around the world to destabilize nations and make the world safe for corporate plunder. War is a permanent feature of a declining capitalist empire. Meanwhile, U.S. military spending not only terrorizes workers around the world but also loots the wages, social services, and taxes of workers in the U.S to pay for it. The Women’s March on the Pentagon that occurred earlier in October sought to unite the struggle for women’s rights in the U.S. with the cause of women around the world who are murdered and oppressed by U.S. warfare. The Black Alliance for Peace has been organizing to revive the Black Radical Tradition’s long history of solidarity with nations under siege from imperialism. Young leftists who are serious need to consider joining one or both efforts.
“Without a movement, political prisoners will die in prison.”
Labor: The age of austerity has decimated the labor movement. Many young leftists have never organized or joined a union. Union density is at an all-time low in the United States, which in part explains why wages have declined and poverty has risen over the last several decades. Unions may not offer a revolutionary solution to U.S. capitalism or imperialism, but they must be defended and (re)organized amid the fierce corporate assault against them. Workplaces must remain a primary site of struggle if the left is to ever wage a serious challenge to the capitalist and imperialist establishment.
Independent Media: The crisis of capitalism and imperialism is also a crisis of consciousness. A wave of “leftish” ideas has spread to younger people in the United States. Yet these ideas run the risk of dying at the altar of so-called liberal “identity” struggles born from the university or from the well-endowed graveyard of social movements, the Democratic Party. Young leftists must embrace independent left media like Black Agenda Report. They must create their own media and collaborate with existing independent media institutions to ensure that the ideological maturity of the working class and oppressed masses is given space to develop.
Whatever the case, young leftists must ultimately be drawn AWAY from Democratic Party electoral organizing. Instead, write, join an independent leftist organization, or organize a study group. Map your workplace. This is a difficult period, a period defined by crisis and stagnation. However, as Lenin stated, “there are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen.” And as political and economic contradictions in the U.S. and globally become more acute, those weeks may be coming sooner than we think.

Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the forthcoming book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990@gmail.com.

 

“None are more helplessly enslaved than those that believe they are free.” Left Wing Books & 60s -70s Memorabilia – We Support the Yellow Vest Uprising – http://stores.ebay.com/fahrenheit451bookstore

 

 

 

 

The real History; Juana Azurduy de Padilla; Bolivian guerrilla fighter who fought against the Spanish rule in South America. International day of women’s rights

5 Mar

 

Juana Azurduy de Padilla was a Bolivian guerilla fighter who fought against the Spanish rule in South America. It was this day in 1816 that she along with 200 Indian women on horseback, defeated the Spanish troops in Bolivia.

Juana Azurduy Llanos (July 12, 1780 or 1781 – May 25, 1862) was a South American guerrilla military leader.

She was born on July 12, 1780 or 1781 in the town of Chuquisaca, Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (now Sucre, Bolivia). She was Mestizo by ethnicity, meaning she was half Spanish and half indigenous. “Her mother married into a family of property” meaning she married into a more wealthy family. Her father, however, was killed by Spaniards, and the killer apparently got away without any repercussions. She grew up in Chuquisaca and at the age of 12 joined a convent to become a nun. She was then expelled at the age of 17 because she rebelled too often. She married Manuel Ascencio Padilla in 1805, a man who shared her love of the indigenous populations in Bolivia. She spoke Spanish and two South American languages: Quechua and Aymara. Juana Azurduy was born in Toroca, a town located in the Municipality of Potosí in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (present-day town of Ravelo, Potosí Department, Bolivia) on July 12, 1780. Her parents were Don Matías Azurduy, a rich white owner of many properties and Doña Eulalia Bermudes, a chola from Chuquisaca.

Upon their return they raised an army and joined in the fighting in the area. She fought a guerrilla style war against the Spanish from 1809 to 1825. On March 8, 1816, her forces temporarily captured the Cerro Rico of Potosí, the main source of Spanish silver, also leading a cavalry charge that resulted in the capture of the enemy standard. For these actions she was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 16, 1816, by Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, the Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata at Buenos Aires. However, Shortly after Juana, who was expecting her fifth child, during a battle in November 1816, she was injured and her husband was killed while trying to save her, The body of her husband was hanged by the realists in the village of Laguna, and Juana found herself in a desperate situation: single, pregnant and with realistic armies effectively controlling the territory. After giving birth to a girl, she joined the guerrillas Martin Miguel de Guemes , which operated in northern Alto Peru. On the death of this leader guerrillas north dissolved, and Juana she was forced to malvivir in the region of Salta. at which she led a counterattack to recover the body of her husband. When the Spanish eventually counter-attacked in 1818, she fled with some of her soldiers to Northern Argentina where she continued to fight under the command of the Argentinean governor/guerrilla leader, General Martín Miguel de Güemes. She was appointed to the position of commander of patriotic Northern Army of the Revolutionary Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. With this army she was able to establish an insurrection zone, until the Spanish forces withdrew from the area. She was so determined to the cause that she actually fought while she was pregnant, at one point, giving birth to her daughter, then returned to the fight soon after. At the highest point of her control, she commanded an army with an estimated strength of 6,000 men. After her military career was over she returned to Sucre (Chuquisaca), where she died on May 25, 1862. Throughout all the conflicts she lost her four sons and her husband, yet she continued to perform her duties until she retired and later died.

 

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At the time of her death, she was forgotten and in poverty, but was remembered as a hero only a century later. She was awarded the rank of general of the Argentine Army in 2009. She also has “The National Programme for Women’s Rights and Participation” of Argentina is also named after her.

A 25-ton, 52-foot-high statue of Azurduy was created in Buenos Aires and unveiled July 15, 2015. It was commissioned by Bolivian president Evo Morales, and placed in the space where a statue of Columbus has stood. As of December 2015, months after its inauguration, it shows weathering damage.

A bas relief sculpture of Juana Azurduy was on display as part of an outdoor exhibition of famous Latin Americans on the grounds of the Pan American Union Building in Washington, DC in Spring 2014. Juana Azurduy is also the subject of a children’s cartoon designed to promote knowledge of Argentine history.

 

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It’s not just racial tension; It’s White Supremacist Capitalist Imperialist Patriarchy! #BecomeUngovernable.

Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump;  #BecomeUngovernable

24 Feb

The great American radical showed how ordinary people mattered more than stars – a lesson today’s celebrities could do with learning.

These are strange times for popular music and politics. On the one hand, the opposition to Donald Trump now extends so deeply into the entertainment industry that the president struggled to find any real talent willing to play his inauguration.

On the other hand, it’s by no means clear what difference most anti-Trump interventions by musicians actually make. After all, during the election, the galaxy of A-listers backing Hillary Clinton spectacularly failed to generate either turnout or votes, with some pundits even suggesting the campaign’s reliance on celebrity power legitimised Trump’s claim to fighting “liberal elites”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music and the uses of fame over the last few years, as I’ve worked on my book No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson.

The son of an escaped slave, Paul Robeson graduated Phi Beta Kappa on a scholarship from Rutgers before studying law at Columbia university. He was arguably the greatest footballer of his generation (some say of all time); he played basketball professionally and was seriously tipped as a heavyweight contender to fight Jack Dempsey. He was handsome and impossibly charismatic, spellbinding, prize-winning orator, who could sing in over 20 languages, including Russian, Chinese, Yiddish and a number of African tongues.

Robeson launched his vocal career in the mid-1920s with reinterpretations of spirituals, the “sorrow songs” of the American plantations. The spirituals expressed the misery of slavery through biblical themes but their innate ambiguity also allowed Robeson to voice the preoccupations of the Harlem Renaissance.

For instance, Go Down, Moses celebrated the release of the Israelites from bondage. But when Robeson sang “let my people go”, his audience understood the challenge to all present-day pharaohs.

Likewise, the exquisite Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child emerged out of the familial separations of slavery. Robeson’s rendition, however, also spoke to the experience of the Great Migration, the process in which African Americans left their homes to flee north for jobs and an escape from racist violence.

 

 

In 1930, Robeson played Othello in London. At that time, the part was always given to a white actor in dark makeup on the more-or-less explicit basis that a black man could not convey the deep humanity of Elizabethan tragedy.

Robeson’s critical and popular triumph not only reshaped Shakespearean theatre, it also struck a blow against the assumptions underpinning Jim Crow America.

You can hear Robeson explaining and performing the final monologue from Othello in this concert recording:

Though Robeson became a huge Hollywood star (in films such as Show Boat, Sanders of the River, The Proud Valley and so on), he consistently struggled to find parts worthy of his talents.

As a musician, he enjoyed more freedom. Critics urged him to embrace a traditional operatic or classical repertoire, but his deepening political commitments led him to identify as a folk singer, assiduously learning languages to perform the songs of different cultures in their original form.

“The artist must take sides,” he announced. “He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

That declaration was made in the context of the Spanish civil war, a conflict that Robeson, like many others, recognised as the last opportunity to prevent the advance of fascism. He travelled to the Spanish front line in support of the International Brigades, a multiracial, anti-fascist army based on volunteers drawn from almost every country in the world.

In besieged Madrid, the desperate Republicans quite literally deployed Robeson’s music as a weapon, rigging up loudspeakers so that his bass baritone carried to the fascist trenches.

But it was probably in America in the 1940s that Robeson used his celebrity most effectively, in a prolonged campaign against segregation that predated the more famous boycotts of the civil rights era.

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For instance, in a concert in Kansas City, Robeson stopped singing when he realised that, contrary to what he’d been promised, his audience was divided along racial lines. When the booking agent apologized, the victory spurred a broader campaign against discrimination in the state. As the historian Gerald Horne says, “Robeson was a kind of Pied Piper of anti-Jim Crow, journeying from city to city inspiring fellow crusaders.”

In the 1930s, Robeson had visited Moscow and the apparent absence of anti-black feeling amazed him. For the rest of his life, he remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet dictatorship, backing the regime even as news of Stalinist atrocities spread.

Not surprisingly, during the cold war, red baiters in the US increasingly targeted him.

By 1952, Robeson had become, in Pete Seeger’s words, “the most blacklisted performer in America”. The FBI intimidated promoters to deny him venues while radio stations refused to play his records, which were no longer available in the shops. He couldn’t sing at a commercial hall, no producer would put him on stage, and his movie career had long since come to an end. Worse still, the state department denied him a passport, trapping him inside the US.

The destruction of Robeson’s reputation dates from that period, a time when attending a Robeson concert became a suspicious act and sporting records were surreptitiously revised to disguise his past achievements.

Many other figures smeared during McCarthyism – Albert Einstein, Langston Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, WEB Du Bois, etc – have been subsequently rehabilitated. Robeson’s ongoing obscurity stems from his obstinate refusal to recant or back down.

“I am a radical,” he insisted, “and I am going to stay one until my people get free to walk the Earth.”

Called before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956, he was asked why, given his beliefs, he remained in the United States.

“Because my father was a slave,” he replied. “And my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear”’

When he won his passport back in 1958, he embarked on a worldwide tour. You can glimpse something of Robeson’s effectiveness as a political singer in the film that survives from his visit to Australia.

 

 

Famously, Robeson gave the first ever recital at the Sydney Opera House – a concert delivered to the trade unionists constructing the building.

In that performance, Robeson sang Ol’ Man River, his best-known track.

The song – from the musical Show Boat – was composed with Robeson in mind by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, as a conscious imitation of the spirituals. Robeson initially thought the role of Joe in Show Boat to be demeaning – before changing his mind and then utterly dominating both the stage show and the subsequent movie.

In their original form, the lyrics spoke of phlegmatic African American resignation to misery and oppression.

Ah gits weary

An’ sick of tryin’

Ah’m tired of livin’

An’ skeered of dyin’,

But ol’ man river,

He jes’ keeps rolling’ along.

In Sydney, Robeson sang instead:

But I keeps laffin’

Instead of cryin’

I must keep fightin’

Until I’m dyin’

When he mouthed the word “laffin’’’, his lip curled in scorn; at “fightin’”, he punched his fist in the air, making clear to the listening unionists that he had in mind their shared enemies: the employers and politicians for whom an uneducated labourer in Sydney was no better than a black man in Tennessee.

The song now suggested that what was inescapable was not resignation but human dignity – the desire for freedom that persisted, and would prevail, like the mighty river itself.

In 1960, construction workers were not respectable. Concert halls did not cater to labourers, whom few considered deserving of fine music or sophisticated entertainments.

So, with the gesture at Bennelong Point, by transforming – if only for a lunch hour – their worksite into the musical venue it would eventually become, Robeson made a statement characteristic of his life and career.

You aren’t, he said to them, simply tools for others; you’re not beasts, suitable only for hoisting and carrying, even if that’s the role you’ve been allotted. You’re entitled to culture, to music and art and all of life’s good things – and one day you shall have them.

According to some accounts, by the end of the performance, men in the crowd were silently weeping.

What made Robeson’s interventions so powerful?

First, and most obviously, he was an extraordinarily gifted artist, over and above his politics. When the critic Peter Deier described Robeson as “the most talented person of the 20th century”, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Second, though Robeson had no compunction about using his fame, he was committed to a politics of social change from below. He didn’t simply urge his fans to donate to a charity or check their personal privilege. On the contrary, he assured them that they themselves had power – and they should use it.

Thus, in 1938, he explained to a journalist how ordinary people mattered more than stars:

During one of my films I was struck by this very forcibly. There was everybody on the set, lights burning, director waiting, head of the company had just come on to the set with some big financial backer to see how things were going – and what happened? Everything stopped. Why? Because the electricians had decided it was time to go and eat, they just put out the lights and went and ate. That’s my moral to your readers.

Third, Robeson persistently sought to connect disparate issues and link varied oppressions, in a manner that’s rare today.

For instance, his film The Proud Valley is based on a comparison that Robeson often made between Welsh mining towns and African American communities.

Likewise, on his Sydney trip, he insisted on meeting with Indigenous activists – and then, in his public appearances (such as in the clip below), raised Australia’s brutal history in the context of the anti-colonial struggles taking place everywhere at that time.

 

 

 

 

Fourth, when Robeson urged his audience to become active, he could often direct them to groups and campaigns through which that activism might be made meaningful. The Opera House concert, for instance, was arranged by trade unionists – and, as a result, Robeson’s performance gave a direct spur to workplace organisation.

That’s an obvious difference between Robeson’s era and the context in which artists are speaking out against Trump in 2017.

In the United States, as in Australia, the trade unions and the radical movements to which Robeson oriented during the latter half of his career have either declined or disappeared, leaving something of an organisational void for grassroots activism.

Under those circumstances, it’s easy for musicians and other celebrities to see themselves as the sole agents for change – and then engage in the sort of self-congratulatory posturing that helps Trump more than it hurts him.

At the same time, significant campaigns do exist, and they’ve been given new impetus by Trump’s victory. The Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, was both reflected in, and reinforced by, hip-hop music in particular – and it’s not surprising that rappers have so far produced some of the best musical responses to the Trump presidency.

As many people have noted, in 2017, we’re entering uncharted political waters. But that doesn’t mean we can’t draw on the resources of the past. As the cultural resistance grows, it’s worth looking back on the giant legacy of Paul Robeson. No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow is published in Australia by Scribe

Source: Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump | Jeff Sparrow | Music | The Guardian

 

 

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