Monday, December 22, 2008

Gathering Our Dignified Rage

This is visionary stuff --> both a primer on the organizing that has taken place over the past three and a half years since the Zapatistas released their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and a proposal on where we need to head in the context of our global crises... a rewrite of an earlier piece updated for the current context and in preparation for the First Global Festival of Dignified Rage, which begins in Mexico City at the end of this week. Enjoy!

Gathering Our Dignified Rage
Building New Autonomous Global Relations of Production, Livelihood and Exchange
by Kolya Abramsky

Up there, they intend to repeat their history.

They once again want to impose on us their calendar of death, their geography of destruction.

Down here we are being left with nothing.

Except rage.

And dignity.

There is no ear for our pain, except that of the people like us.

We are no one.

We are alone, and just with our dignity and our rage.

Rage and dignity are our bridges, our languages.

Let us listen to each other then, let us know each other.

Let our rage grow and become hope.

Let our dignity take root again and breed another world.

If this world doesn’t have a place for us, then another world must be made.

With no other tool than our rage, no other material than our dignity

- Communique announcing the World’s First Festival for Dignified Rage, 15th/16th September 2008

It has been three and a half years since the Zapatistas(1) issued their 6th Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle(2). The declaration, issued through collective discussion in the Zapatista communities in the summer of 2005, calls for a Third Intergalactica to take place, “from below and to the left”. Since the declaration was issued, much has happened. The developments of both global capitalism and global resistance described so eloquently and humourously in the call have come into clearer definition. Dynamics have accelerated, and the stakes have increased. And, now, with the capitalist world-economy seemingly unravelling before our eyes, the Zapatistas are seeking to usher in the next stage in the process. People in struggle throughout the world have been invited to Mexico to participate in the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage, which will take place at the end of 2008(3). Let us dare to seize this glimmer of hope that has been so generously and boldly offered, in order to come together in such a way as to collectively shape the world which emerges from the current crisis, ensuring that it is centred around respect and nourishment of human life, and not destruction, suffering and despair. Time is ticking fast. The abyss is near, and the moment is ripe for action, for hope and for long term strategic visions.


The call for a Third Intergalactica followed two previous Zapatista Intergalacticas, self-organized international gatherings of several thousand people aimed at weaving a global network of grassroots struggles. The invitations to participate in these meetings were humorously extended to participants throughout the galaxy, hence the name. The first took place in 1996 in Chiapas, and the second in the Spanish state the following year. The first two Intergalacticas had a profound effect on inspiring, galvanizing and even giving some organizational form to a major new circulation of global struggles, which we have witnessed in the last decade. There are many good reasons to believe that the new process of global convergence and resistance called for by the 6th Declaration could have a similarly important inspirational and catalytic effect in creating a space in which the next stages of global resistance can take shape and collectively organize themselves.

The call came at a moment in which it was urgently needed, and highly suited to the moment. In a nutshell, it came at a moment when existing global processes of struggle were beginning to run up against their own limitations. After a rapid and far-reaching success, they were starting to get stuck in the difficult process of collectively defining and moving into the next phase of resistance.

Let us first briefly describe these global processes and recap on their stunning success. The 10 years preceding the call had seen a marked rise in the global networking of struggles. A number of highly active, imaginative, visible and above all effective, organizational processes came into existence. In particular, the following organizational processes stand out: Peoples’ Global Action, the World Social Forum, the Via Campesina and Indymedia, though these are merely the tip of the organizational iceberg. These initiatives had a very rapid and far reaching two-fold success. On the one hand, they played an enormous role in strengthening communication and the process of building common political perspectives between large numbers of different and fragmented social struggles in many different countries. There has been a great flourishing of self organized efforts to question and resist power structures, frequently based on a confrontational approach to capitalism, rather than lobbying. Importantly, great attention is paid to principles of autonomy, diversity and non-hierarchical organizing. At times, global networks have worked extraordinarily well. In a remarkably short time period these networks have become excellent at organizing large global meetings, conferences, global days of action on common themes, calling for emergency solidarity actions in support of particular local struggles, as well as translating and circulating up-to-date and accurate information and news throughout the world in a short space of time. Indeed, these communication flows, which simply did not exist fifteen years ago, have become so regular that they are frequently taken for granted, and hardly noticed.

And, on the other hand, these global networks did the seemingly impossible. In the midst of a triumphalist, post-Cold War capitalist rhetoric, they dared to denounce capitalism, and were so successful, that they rapidly plunged the system and its major global institutions into a legitimacy crisis. Institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, World Economic Forum, or G8 are increasingly unable to hold their summits without facing major protests and riots, immense security costs, and harsh media critique. Similarly, with summits relating to multilateral and bilateral free-trade agreements. These institutions are not just facing a crisis of legitimacy, but also deep existential crises. Frequently negotiations are stalled (most notably the World Trade Organization and Free Trade Area of the Americas), as conflicts of interest have shifted from the protests in the streets into the negotiating corridors themselves. And, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are increasingly unable to meet their budgetary requirements, nor to maintain their clients. And, when the USA launched its War on Terror, the global networks were able to respond in such a way as to plunge the US state and its military apparatus in legitimacy crisis too, both beyond and within the US itself. And, while nation states still retain considerable legitimacy, there has nonetheless been a profound questioning of states, their electoral systems and political parties. Many of these developments were, seemingly, unthinkable just 15 years before. Global movements had become incredibly strong.

And yet, this global convergence process between different struggles also had major limitations and had reached an impasse that was making it very difficult to move forwards. Let us consider this now. Despite their immense success in certain areas (namely denunciation, delegitimation and building communication channels between struggles), they were seemingly incapable of actually slowing and reversing the rapid lurch towards an authoritarian global politics based on fear, coercion, militarism, racism and religious fundamentalism. And, perhaps even more worrying, such political developments cannot be attributed simply to the whims of maniacal leaders the world over, but rather to their undeniable mass appeal to large numbers of people. Importantly, such mass politics is at the expense of and in direct competition with the mass appeal of the more emancipatory visions of social change based on autonomy, diversity and self-organization that global resistance networks are based on. And, faced with this, it seems as if a form of at least temporary paralysis, and also routinization have set in with the existing global processes, mentioned above, which had until then been important. This was true both in terms of immediate visible activities at the global level, and also in terms of being able to open up wider long-term strategic approaches.

It was on the lips of many, but few dared to say it explicitly. Movements seem to have reached an impasse, and were unable to build on their success in order to deepen and expand existing networks so as to make them functional enough to be able to create alternative social relations rather than just denouncing existing relations of power. The 6th Declaration implicitly recognised the potential of these struggles, but also of their extreme impasse and dared to seek to offer a potential way out, or at least an invitation for people to collectively explore and chart new paths in this direction.


For years the brutality of the global financial regime has been apparent to all who bore its brunt, and for the rest who cared to look. And now, surprisingly or not, depending on how you may view these things, its sheer fragility has also been revealed in no uncertain terms to people throughout the world. It is no longer possible to label the critics as doomsayers, since now it is major banks, markets and car companies themselves who are hurtling into the void. Governments around the world have responded as headless chickens before a crisis of their own making. Now, the very policy makers who led the world to the abyss are claiming to be its saviours in the making. With bail outs galore, governments have been quick to attempt to rescue failing financial infrastructures and also industrial sectors. They have produced vast quantities of money seemingly out of nowhere, perhaps pulling it from out of their arses, in a move that literally mortgages the futures of several generations of waged and unwaged workers throughout the world. Yet, the bailouts are far from “working”, even in their own terms. Markets stabilize for some days, then plunge again. And, while there is much talk of “all pulling together”, “unity in the face of crisis”, “common sacrifice” and above all of “bi-partisan” solutions, it is crystal clear that infact important interstate tensions are emerging, especially between the EU, China and USA, and also within the EU itself, as economic and political forces pull Germany in one direction and Britain, France and Italy in another. The US political system has been heavily divided internally, first over the large bail out of the banks and more recently (and ongoing as this article is being written), over the bail out of the historic Detroit car industry.

And, on the other hand, in a state of confused semi-incredulity at the demand that they and their as yet unborn children should shoulder the burden of crisis, people throughout the world are slowly but surely breaking out from the constraints imposed by the appeals to trust the world’s leaders in sailing a bi-partisan-ship to the distant shores of salvation.

In the USA, there is a slowly reawakening resistance on foreclosures, ranging from political lobbying, to collectively negotiating rescheduling of bank loans, to direct action and community based resistance to eviction, to squatting of buildings. While nowhere near the scale of anti-eviction resistance during the 1930s Great Depression, there are nonetheless encouraging signs underway(4). And, of great significance, is the grassroots, predominantly Latin@ worker occupation of the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago over the issue of receiving severance pay and other benefits owed to them by Bank of America in the face of being laid off due to the factory suddenly being closed down. The occupation took place under the leadership of Local 1110 of UE (the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America), a union with a history of important struggles including being one of 11 trade unions which during the early days of the Cold War were persecuted and thrown out of the major US labor federation at the time, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, for their unwillingness to persecute radicals within these unions. The factory occupation, which lasted six days, was supported by solidarity actions in numerous cities throughout the US and around the world, and ultimately was victorious. An important victory in the US, showing once again people’s determination and creativity in times of crisis. A week of action calling for a “People’s Bailout” has been called by Jobs With Justice, for December.

People in Europe have responded particularly strongly and fast to the crisis, especially in its Southern peripheries, Italy, Spain and Greece. In Italy repeated waves of strikes, tending towards general strikes, have mobilized literally millions of workers throughout the country. In Spain, a country where the speculative housing and construction boom is rapidly unraveling causing great social dislocation, there was a major day of protest in many places throughout the country on November 15th in response to the G20 meeting which took place in Washington with the aim of shoring up the international financial system. Bank workers have also staged an occupation of the main branch of the BBVA Bank. And, within days of Lehman Brothers going under, “Robin-Bank” announced that he had stolen close to half a million euros from 38 Spanish Banks in order to give the money to emancipatory social movements. In Greece, mass riots and protests were triggered by the police murder of a teenager, but also coincided with a strike that had been called previously by two major unions, and has turned into a many day major social uprising, in a country where youth unemployment is as high as 70% in some places, even prior to the effects of the world-economic crisis being felt. Importantly, in all three of these countries, a common slogan has emerged in a very short space of time: “We will not pay for your crisis”.

On the other hand, processes of globally coordinated resistance in the face of crisis have been slow to emerge. Nonetheless, a number of interesting, if entirely embryonic, initiatives are underway. A wide-ranging statement combining demands and a program of action for a “transitional programme for radical economic transformation” to a radical economy was issued by participants in an international meeting of social movements which took place at the Asia-Europe People's Forum in Beijing in October 2008. There were some attempts to have globally coordinated protests during the November 15th G20 meeting, including a meeting of the Latin American Continental Social Alliance which took place in Ecuador, though this emergency G20 meeting was held so swiftly that it was impossible for any major global coordination of protests to occur. One interesting feature, was a statement put out by ALBA countries saying that the G20 was not the appropriate space to resolve the crisis. It is expected that preparation for protests during the next G20 meeting which will take place in April in London might be more impacting. And an international NGO meeting to discuss the crisis and responses has been called for to take place in Paris in January 2009. On the level of direct action, groups in Spain and in the USA have come together to call for a global debtors strike and boycott of banks. As a side note, it is also worth mentioning two other global processes of resistance, neither of which are explicitly connected to the financial crisis itself, but are none the less intimately related. The first are the food and fuel riots which rocked more than 30 countries earlier this year, a rapid and spontaneous reaction to food and fuel inflation. These took place even before the banking crisis became fully developed. The bailouts are likely to generate a period of major inflation, thus making such protests and riots increasingly common occurrences. The second important process is the international mobilizations which are underway to protest the Copenhagen UNFCCC climate change talks which will take place in December 2009, exactly 10 years to the day since the WTO was routed in Seattle in 1999.

Yet, while offering some hope, all of these responses are still very much embryonic, and there is a long way to go before we will be collectively strong enough to change the course through which the crisis is to be resolved.

And so, in the face of crisis, an extension of the permanent crises which many throughout the world have already been living through for centuries, it perhaps is becoming increasingly clear which tasks are lying ahead of us. And, also increasingly daunting. Furthermore, if we are to avoid further great human suffering and barbarities, we are faced with a paradox. While we need to take the time to do it right, we also need to speed up and do it right all at the same time, since doing it wrong, or doing it slow is not an option either. And, while, now is a time for discussing it is not a time for empty chit-chat, but for discussion through which we can collectively transform ourselves and our ability to create something new together. Yes, let’s take the time for taking a deep, and celebratory, breath at the fact that the George Bush Presidency is in its last days, and to celebrate the first African-American to enter the White House, proudly acknowledging within minutes of his victory that “Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” had contributed to his win. And, while voting for Obama may or may not have been the answer, history alone can judge, his victory surely represents more than a victory of one particular politician, but rather reflects a deep-mass based process that is deeply yearning and searching for a profound change of direction in the face of deep crisis. Again, another point to celebrate. And for sure, it is hard not to be happy on hearing Obama speak out in favour of the Chicago factory occupiers. Yet, despite all this, are we really to believe that Obama represents more than a concerted effort to shore up capitalism in its disastrous entry into the twenty-first century, the West’s belated answer to Mikhail Gorbachev who history bestowed with a correspondingly unfortunate task of shoring up a failing state communist model in its moment of terminal crisis? And, is there not a certain ironic ring to the rallying call "Let's turn Obama into the West's Gorbachev!"?
Above all, now is not a moment for complacency, but one for seizing in order to win strong reforms in the immediate term, avoiding cooptation, and preparing seriously for revolution in the medium term... It is a moment for gathering the combined powers of our Dignified Rage.


Dignified and Undignified Ways Out of a Crisis: Negotiating the Space Between Repression, Divisions and Cooptation

Not to be outsmarted or left behind by global dynamics in the financial sphere, the same day that Lehman Brothers, one of the world’s largest investment banks, went under, the Zapatistas issued their invitation to the wonderfully named “World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage”. The timing may or may not have been coincidence, it does not matter in the slightest. The current moment is both a time of great urgency, and also one of great possibility and openness to major changes in social relations. It is vitally important that the potential of this moment is not lost. And, above all is crucial that we keep at the forefront of our minds the importance of the prescience of the call’s emphasis on Dignified Rage. For, the dangers which almost certainly lie ahead should we follow a path of each-to-their-own Undignified rage, as demonstrated in the recent horrendous multiple attacks in Bombay, are almost unimaginable. The Nazi holocaust is a clear reminder of the extents of horror which can be unleashed by undignified rage in the face of a world-wide financial crisis.

The current situation is likely to open up all kinds of calls for financial and monetary reform, some new, some rehashes of old schemes. The Tobin Tax, designed as an international mechanism to simultaneously curb financial flows and also raise revenue for desirable purposes is one such example. Already much of the mainline press in the USA and western Europe are quick to condemn “greedy finance capital” and call for its regulation, while simultaneously celebrating and attempting to prop up the “good industrial capitalism”. Noble “Main Street” is pitted against heinous “Wall Street.” However, the debate about monetary and financial reform, and the extent to which it is either possible or desirable, is not a new debate. It is one that has surfaced repeatedly, with more or less energy, at different moments of financial crisis. The debate was central to the development of the 1848 European (and elsewhere) revolutions which followed close on the heels of a major financial crisis in 1847, forming the central component of Marx’s critique of different proposed “alternatives”, famously debated with the French anarchist, Proudhon in The Poverty of Philosophy. More recently, the attempt to curb “finance capitalism” while shoring up “industrial productive capitalism” was closely related to the rise of corporatism, fascism and Hitler in the Great Depression of the 1930s. On the other hand, in 2001, when Argentina’s banks went under, a twin process of factory occupation and the creation of local alternative currencies which for a period sustained literally millions of people who simply could not affort to use the existing official currency.

Yet, an oversimplistic focus on reforming the monetary and financial system in isolation presents an enormous threat to current emancipatory struggles. On the one hand it is likely to be largely ineffective, while on the other it may open up a very big space for scapegoating and also ensuring the conditions for a renewed round of capitalist accumulation. Such a focus attempts to solve problems on one level, namely the financial and monetary, while in fact these problems originate in another level, namely at the level of the existing world-wide relations of production and reproduction. As such, the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage is one more step towards creating a global process of resistance and construction of alternative relations that is called for in the 6th Declaration in 2005, and which the proposed Intergalactica would seek to contribute to. It remains unclear what form the Intergalactica will take, should it indeed occur, and whether it will be a one off international event or an ongoing long term process of constructing alternatives. And, for that matter, it also remains an open question whether what emerges is actually called the Intergalactica, as was proposed in the 6th Declaration, or whether it goes by another name. However, for the moment, and for the purposes of this text, I will assume that something called an “Intergalactica” is still on the agenda. If in the end a global process emerges which does not actually go under the name Intergalactica, but under some other name, well, the name itself is not the most important thing.

What is important is that the process of resistance and transformation which emerges is based on a broad and meaningful participation from many different struggles from around the world, with a clear view towards building on the big successes of globally networked struggles in order to overcome their limits and effectively move into a higher phase of struggle. Despite certain very important successes, these global processes are still very limited, and it is important to acknowledge and confront these limitations head on. It is one thing to bring activists from many different countries and struggles together for a face-to-face meeting or protest that takes place over a very short and specific time period, normally lasting a few days only. However, it is quite another thing to actually build long term deep social relations between struggles at the global level, relations that create fundamentally different relations of production, reproduction of livelihoods and exchange and that go beyond the nation state and market as forms of organizing social relations. Until now, most global relations between struggles in different parts of the world have been quite ephemeral and highly superficial, often relying on small numbers of specific individuals rather than being appropriated by larger numbers in the respective movements. At this stage in the young networks, this state of affairs is not especially surprising, due to many different barriers including access to resources for travel and regular computer based communication, foreign language skills, detailed knowledge of the world-economy, the ability to take time away from local struggles and immediate day-to-day concerns, etc. And, while these limitations have not presented a major barrier to networking, protest and denunciation, they do seem to present a major bottleneck to the far bigger task of collectively creating lasting new social relations based on diversity, autonomy and decentralization.

This bottleneck, though not often acknowledged openly and collectively, has meant that global networking processes are not nearly decentralized enough, especially in relation to their own rhetoric of extreme decentralization; nor are they deep enough in terms of their ability to sustain meaningful exchange and mutual support processes, especially between movements in Southern countries. Furthermore, their reliance on small numbers of individuals makes them extremely vulnerable, both to the inactivity of specific individuals and to cooptation and repression (individuals are easier to kill, imprison and buy off than broader collective processes). Above all, global movements are still a very long way from constructing social relations that go beyond both the nation state and world- market, and in many cases (especially in the imperialist countries with a strong social-welfare state), there is still great dependency on state structures, and as the current crisis has shown clearly, financial structures such as the banking and pension systems.

While the construction of alternative relations of production, reproduction of livelihoods and exchange are frequently at the centre of specific local struggles (especially land related struggles in Southern countries), these relations almost never extend to the regional or global level, and where they do (such as direct exchange coffee or the occasional solidarity project related to building infrastructure such as health clinics or renewable energy installations) they still have a very small reach and are limited to specific products (often artesanal). In general, global resistance networks are still far better at spreading news and coordinating protests in different parts of the world than they are at spreading products, people, skills, financial and technical support. (Though these latter set of activities do occur frequently, for the most part it occurs within the context of fairly paternalistic NGO activity that is based around the premise of reform and integration into existing power relations rather than in a horizontal politics based on autonomy, solidarity, diversity and a confrontational approach to power). At the level of “resisting states” there have been important regional integration processes in Latin America, most notably the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas) which has been spearheaded by Chavez, or the Hemispheric Integration of the Peoples, spearheaded by Evo Morales. These states have been able to embark on more extensive and long term cooperation processes, such as in health, energy, communication and finance. However, for the most part, such cooperation has taken place within the framework of nation states, rather than building direct movement-movement relationships. Overcoming these bottlenecks in global networking processes would take horizontal autonomous self-organization to new levels in terms of their collective ability to build far-reaching and lasting global alternatives that go beyond both the nation state and the market. There is an urgent need for movements to tackle these difficult tasks. If these bottlenecks are not overcome very rapidly, enabling a serious and accelerated world-wide process of constructing alternative relations, there is a danger that everything that has been built up in the last years will be lost.

It is in this context that the Zapatista call for another Intergalactica must be understood. For the Intergalactica to contribute to a long term process of building new social relations at the global level, it will be important that it is a participatory process, driven forward by struggles across the world, constructed through a process of dialogue and exchange. The Zapatistas have set the ball rolling, with a directed invitation. This invitation is based on the Zapatistas’ own awareness that they themselves have fought a long social struggle that has spent many years in the laborious and painstaking process of constructing long term autonomous social relations. This process has been based on collectively taking over land, one of the fundamental means of production and reproduction of people’s livelihoods. However, the Intergalactica is not just the responsibility of the Zapatistas but of all those who identify with it throughout the world. Active rather than passive participation from these different struggles will be what gives the process real depth and meaning. This includes the need for a collective global discussion process, based in decentralization and autonomous self-organization, to define what kind of a process the Intergalactica should be. What are its goals, contents and methods, who will participate in it, through what kind of process and which forms of participation? And, if it is to involve particular large international meetings or encuentros along the way, where would they take place and when? However, before discussing possible ways forward for creating such a global process, let us first take a look more closely at the undignified way of resolving crisis.

Undignified Paths in the Face of Resistance

Historically, capital and state power have responded to popular resistance through the combined use of 3 major strategies: dividing struggles, integrating them through partial reforms, and repression. These three strategies have not been employed in isolation from one another, but in careful combination. They have been implemented with varying degrees of success (from the point of view of capital and state power), and never permanently. In the current context of global resistance we are already in the whirlwind of these three responses. Having slowly brewed over the last several years, these dynamics are likely to be greatly intensified and accelerated by the current economic crisis and the Obama election. The degree to which we are able to anticipate, prepare for and confront this three-pronged response will greatly determine how successful movements are in defining the terms of debate and terrain of struggle in order to expand the space from which to go about building viable long term emancipatory social relations and moving beyond their current impasse. It will also be crucially important not to lose sight of history. Let us look at the three prongs – division, integration, and repression – one by one.

The continued existence of the capitalist world-economy has relied on its ability to divide populations from one another, both within countries and between countries, in order to prevent unity of struggle within the world-wide division of labour. Especially important has been capital’s ability to prevent global circulation of struggles by maintaining a world-system divided into nation states. The world-wide division of labor has been hierarchically structured, based on imposed (and continually reimposed) divisions based around (especially, but not exclusively) race, ethnicity and gender hierarchies, as well as those between waged and unwaged labor. When considering the global division of labor, certain (minority) sections of the world’s population have been implicated in the exploitation and discrimination of certain other (majority) sections of the world’s population, due to gaining direct or indirect material rewards from their position in the hierarchy. In particular, the imperial expansion of the late 19th Century (“Scramble for Africa”, etc), and the consequent subjugation of workers in the colonies, enabled often quite substantial partial reforms to be granted in response to the growing strength of workers’ struggles in capitals core, Europe and the USA. Another crucial divide throughout history has been the citizen/non-citizen divide, or, taken to its worst racist extremes, the “human”/”non-human” divide, as epitomized in the 20th Century by the genocidal social deal offered to “pure German” workers in Germany in the Hitler period. And, last but not least, let us not forget the so-called post-World War II “welfare state” model which has provided large sections of the populations in the capitalist center (especially, but not exclusively, white male unionized workers) with greatly improved material standards of living and political freedoms at the expense of the great majority in peripheral countries, as well as people of color and unwaged (especially women) workers within the core countries themselves.

The second major strategy employed in response to social struggle has been cooptation that has integrated struggles, by partially giving in to certain demands for social, economic and political reforms while not substantially challenging private ownership and profit relations, political decision making, and labor control mechanisms that have defined capitalist (and imperialist, patriarchal, racist…) social relations. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Keynesian welfare state was widely introduced in core capitalist countries, in response to the fear of the Russian Revolution inspiring and supporting similar processes throughout the world. In the second half of the century, in response to the 1949 triumph of the Chinese Revolution, developmentalism combined with formal political independence was introduced into the colonies. The Keynesian deal which linked productivity to high wages was so ingenious that not only was it able to buy off social struggle, but also to actually harness it to such an extent that, safely channeled, demands for higher wages actually contributed to economic growth.

Last, but not least, has been state repression. Those resistances which could not easily be integrated or bought off with reform have simply been crushed and intimidated out of existence, involving mass imprisonments, torture, and political murder, as well as war. Of crucial importance in terms of developments in the 20th Century was the repression of the revolutionary wave which circulated much of the world in the wake of World War One and the Russian Revolution, the fascist destruction of movements in Europe, Stalin’s repression on worker resistance in both the USSR and satellite states, repression by the US and its allies in third world countries, such as Vietnam or Indonesia, and the fierce repression of African American struggles in the USA, especially in the late 60s and 70s, amongst many other examples.

World-wide Unity Against Division: an Indispensable Basis for a Dignified Way Out of the Crisis

Bearing this in mind, perhaps one of the most important tasks facing emancipatory struggles in the coming years will be to maintain and deepen the levels of internationalism and inclusivity of global networks across the hierarchies, old and new, which divide people from one another. The inclusive nature of the term “Intergalactic” (fortunately, broad enough to include “aliens”…) is vital. Unity is understood here to be a decentralized unity based on a diversity of autonomous forms of self-organization from which different struggles within the world-wide division of labour can communicate and cooperate with each other in their particular struggles to break free from the domination of capital over their lives, but at the same time are able to struggle amongst themselves to break down hierarchies and divisions which exist within the division of labour itself. In order for the Intergalactica to really move in this direction, it is of central importance that relevant movements and struggles are aware of the Intergalactica process and are actively participating in giving it shape.

A key question that needs to be addressed before addressing any other question is who will take part in the process of building the Intergalactica and on what basis. For a long-term and transformatory global process such as the Intergalactica to come to fruition, it is especially important that people from as many countries and as many different struggles of exploited, oppressed and marginal social groupings as possible are able to participate in its construction. Yet, beyond such general and vague niceties, is the particular need of overcoming divisions that are currently being fostered within the world-economy itself, as well as of course transcending hierarchies and divisions which have been built up over centuries of colonial history. Unless intentionally addressed by emancipatory struggles these divisions are likely to be reproduced within global networks themselves. In particular 4 types of “global” divisions currently stand out, divisions which are likely to become much deeper and more damaging in the near the future:
  • The so-called “Clash of Civilizations” is a process which could turn out to have similar divisive effects on global struggle as the Cold War did, in which (on a greatly uneven and hierarchical basis) people from “the west” and “the Arab world” are trained to fear, distrust and hate one another, divided by ignorance and encouraged to align themselves to one or the other side of absolute religious and cultural divides based around “good” and “evil”. The recent horrific terror attacks in Bombay, together with Obama’s insistence on maintaining and strengthening a hardline-approach to the war in Afghanistan (despite using an obviously calmer and less hysterical rhetoric than Bush uses), do not bode well for easing this situation in the near future. Crucially, until now, “the Arab world” has hardly been involved in the (contemporary) secular global networks of anti-capitalist struggles mentioned above. Furthermore, these global networks still remain largely ignorant of and isolated from struggles in the Arab world, though the situation in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan is changing this slowly and some interesting links between movements have been made, such as the International Solidarity Movement in relation to Palestine, and links made with migrant worker struggles in the USA and UK with Iraqi oil workers unions. Most recently is the amazingly successful and hope-inspiring efforts of the Free Gaza Movement to break the Israeli siege of Gaza by entering the territory in ships. Especially as energy and climate change becomes increasingly central to world political and economic debates, there is great need for global movements to be wide enough to include on their own terms the important struggles of oil workers in Arab countries. As people sitting on some of the most important energy reserves in the world, they surely have an invaluable contribution to make in the imagining and building of a new world.
  • Africa has been exploited and marginalized at the lowest levels of the hierarchical world-economy. Unfortunately, sometimes in global anti-capitalist networking processes, these processes of marginalization have also been reproduced. And, as the world-economy becomes increasingly multipolar, a process surely greatly advanced by the current crisis, Africa will almost certainly have even less of a share of the global surplus than it had in the last years. Food and energy inflation are likely to have a particularly strong impact on Africa, especially hitting women, young and elderly particularly hard. It is not unlikely that Zimbabwe, a country with seemingly limitless skyrocketing inflation and fierce internal political struggle and repression, presents a foreboding warning of things to come. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that struggles over control of Africa’s oil are going to have major global impact. The fact that the last two World Social Forums have taken place in Africa (Nairobi and Bamako, the latter as part of the 2006 Polycentric Forum) and that the Forum for Food Sovereignty also took place in Mali last year has perhaps slightly improved this situation. However, African struggles are still highly marginalized within many global anti-capitalist networking processes. The multiple wars in Africa have had very little prominence within global networks, a discussion of reparations for slavery for Africans and their Diaspora is still very low on the agenda of most global networks, and most discussion around debt is still based in the language of pleading for “debt forgiveness” rather than demanding non-payment of illegitimate debts. These discussions, especially in relation to reparations, need to be central in any global debate on resistance in the face of crisis.
  • The Citizen/non-citizen divide, despite sparking a vast amount of self-organized struggles throughout the world, especially in North America and Western Europe, makes it incredibly difficult if not impossible for undocumented migrants to travel to international meetings, gatherings, and protests and to make any form of direct exchanges with movements in other countries. Any form of contact with struggles in other countries must, by necessity, always be indirect, either through web, texts, videos, radio etc, or through intermediary (documented) supporters, who may or may not be mandated by the undocumented people concerned. This reliance on indirect and mediated communication presents profound challenges to self-organization and unmediated self-representation. Movements will have to think of creative ways to overcome this division itself.
  • Rival power/imperialist blocs. Rivalries between regional power blocs have increased in recent years, and are likely to continue doing so in the future, especially along the lines of tensions between USA, China and EU countries, but also other countries including India, Brazil, Russia, Japan and the Koreas and the alignments that these latter countries’ governments and their capitals choose in relation to the former countries. Currently it is still fairly easily for information and people to circulate between these regions, however, regional and national protectionisms (as well as military tensions) could emerge which make such contact more difficult in the future. Importantly, until now, Chinese struggles, which are accelerating rapidly in parallel to China’s growth as an economic power, have been more or less entirely absent from global anti-capitalist networking process. However, in recent years there have been some intentional contact making processes outreaching towards Chinese struggles driven by people active in a range of different global networks, the most prominently the World Social Forum, and most recently the Asia-Europe People's Forum in Beijing in October 2008. The fact that the last major WTO summit took place in Hong Kong also provided an important moment for connections to be made between different struggles, but there is still a great deal of work to be done in this area. The world-economic crisis makes this task even more urgent. The US bailout effectively mortgages generations of workers, and in particular, Chinese workers, since the Chinese economy is the only real guarantee of these loans. In other words, the bail out is based on the highly spurious assumption that workers in China will actually be prepared to shoulder the burden of propping up the world-economy. The crisis is hitting Chinese export factories particularly hard, especially migrant workers, and it remains to be seen what type of responses emerge. There is great danger that interstate competition, rivalry and conflict can increase as different powerful states seek to find “national” solutions to the crisis through offering protections to workers in these countries. And, while history does not repeat itself, the responses to the breakdown of the world-market which preceded World War Two nonetheless serve as an ugly historical reminder of what undignified “solutions” look like.
Global resistance efforts, such as the Intergalactica, or whatever global process emerges from the international process kickstarted by the Zapastistas, will have to acknowledge, anticipate and overcome these divisions to the extent that is possible in order to strengthen global unity of emancipatory struggles. The attempts from capital and state power to divide the global circulations of struggles and the people involved in them is almost certain to intensify in the coming years. However, high levels of participation in the Intergalactica from these regions, countries and sectors are very unlikely to happen spontaneously, and may in fact require an intentional and targeted preparation process that seeks out contacts and collaboration with struggles in these parts of the world, not just relying on existing contacts but rather trying to build new relationships where none currently exist. There are many obstacles that will have to be overcome in this process, not least of all language and access to funds.
Building the Intergalactica Slowly but Surely: A Review of Events from the 6th Declaration to the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage

Until now, the global process outlined in the 6th Declaration has got off to a seemingly solid start. Since 2005, the Zapatistas have convened three large scale international gatherings, or encuentros, a continental meeting (convened together with other organizations), and an international caravan. A fourth international gathering, the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage, is about to take place as this article is being written. So far, the process has been predominantly driven forward by the Zapatistas, with a strong response coming from different groups around the world. The fact that the Intergalactica itself has been slow to take shape (and in fact has scarcely been mentioned in Zapatista communiqués since the 6th Declaration was issued) does not detract from the fact than an important international process is slowly getting underway. Arguably, given that it will be desirable to build a deep long term process rather than simply a superficial one off glitzy meeting, the slow pace of building the Intergalactica itself is in fact a wise move, and is hopefully laying a sound basis for accelerating the process in the near future.

To date, the process outlined in the 6th Declaration has passed through a number of stages(5). The Other Campaign within Mexico itself, an initiative aimed at building a strong country-wide non-electoral political process from below and to the left, has gone through various phases(6); the first and second Encuentros of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World (December 2006/January 2007 and July 2007), paralleled by a period of consultation in which struggles around the world were able to make proposals for the Intergalactica. In October 2007 an Encuentro of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas was convened by eight indigenous organizations, including the Zapatistas, in Sonora, Mexico. In December 2007/January 2008, there was an international women’s Encuentro, dedicated to Comandanta Ramona who died in 2006. In response to the ongoing escalation of repression directed against the Zapatistas, an international Observation and Solidarity Caravan took place in Zapatista territories, Chiapas, in the summer of 2008. All of these events have been important events in their own right. However, none of them are the Intergalactica proposed in the 6th Declaration. Rather, they can all be understood as steps along the way to building an ongoing and long term global process, one that may take the name Intergalactica, or perhaps some other name. And now, the Zapatistas are marking their 25th anniversary by holding the next stop along the way, the World’s First Festival for Dignified Rage(7).

Let us briefly review the international aspects of this process. Narconews, one of the main English language website following developments since the Sixth Declaration was issued, has links to Other Campaign related materials in 8 languages, interestingly, including Farsi. Already, before the first Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World took place in Chiapas last December/January, a decentralized process of preparatory meetings and other activities had taken shape throughout much of Europe, South, Central and North America in response to the Zapatista call. Between July 2005 and July 2006 (the period of consultation), 19 different activities were reported in 16 cities from 9 countries. Importantly, this included several within the USA, involving close overlap with those involved in the powerful migrant struggles that are erupting there. Many of them are Chican@s (Mexican Americans) and Mexican migrants involved in the Other Campaign from within the USA, what has been dubbed “the Other Campaign on the Other Side”. Whilst most of these meeting and initiatives have been fairly conventional processes of one-way solidarity to what is occurring in Mexico, some of them have gone further, employing the language and perspectives of the Other Campaign to engage in activities relating to local issues. Three important examples of this have been the local struggles organized by an immigrant organization Movement for Justice in El Barrio, in Spanish Harlem, New York and two different border camps against the US and Mexican border, as well as the complementary, although not explicitly linked, “Another Politics is Possible” track, which took place at the US Social Forum in Atlanta. From these meetings and activities, a number of proposals have emerged for how the future Intergalactic Encuentro should be organized and what its contents should be, which will be addressed later in this article. Although not without its limitations, which will be addressed later in this article, it is clear that there is a strong international process emerging around the Intergalactica.

The two Encuentros Between the Zapatista Peoples and the Peoples of the World drew several thousand people to the autonomous Zapatista Caracoles(8) in Chiapas, about half from Mexico and the other half from close to fifty countries from around the world. The first meeting was held in one of the Caracoles, Oventic, over four days, and the second held in 3 Caracoles (Oventic, La Morelia and La Realidad) over nine days. The two meetings were opportunities for the Zapatistas to present their grassroots achievements of autonomy and self-government to people in struggle from different parts of the world, as well as for the Zapatistas to learn about struggles in other countries.

In the first Encuentro, members of the Juntas de Buen Gobierno (Good Government Councils) presented Zapatista experiences in the following areas: autonomy and other forms of government; the other education; the other health; women; communication, art, culture and the other commerce; and land and territory. The final session of the first Encuentro was devoted to hearing proposals from around the world as to how, when and where to build the Intergalactic Encuentro, proposals which had emerged from the period of international consultation opened by the Zapatistas. Interestingly, the strongest participation from outside Mexico probably came from the USA and Canada, including a large number of Indigenous and First Nations organizations from these countries, as well as organizations active in the Other Campaign on the Other Side.

The second Encuentro built on the first Encuentro, going into greater depth about the nuts and bolts of autonomous organizing, with presentations by promoters and other community activists from each municipality around the themes of autonomy, collective work, health, education, and women. A very impressive delegation of Via Campesina representatives from major peasant organizations worldwide participated in this Encuentro, from: Brazil, Bolivia, Honduras, Dominican Republic, USA, Canada, Quebec, Basque Country, India, Thailand, Korea, and Indonesia. Unfortunately the one African representative, from Madagascar, was denied a visa. One day was devoted to speeches from most of the Via Campesina delegates. The second Encuentro did not have a session devoted to the Intergalactica, and in fact there was almost no mention of the Intergalactica, clearly a deliberate decision on the part of the Zapatistas. On the other hand, there was an important unofficial, and self-organized, side meeting which involved around 50 people living in the US, and one of the major themes of the discussion in this meeting was the need to have a similar process to the Other Campaign within the USA itself, which rather than focusing on supporting and participating in the process within Mexico (itself a very important task), would aim to start a long term process to building a form of grassroots political process that goes beyond electoral politics within the USA itself. Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike were proposing this.

In a number of ways the second Encuentro built on the first, slowly deepening the global process that these Encuentros aim to be constructing. In addition to a more in depth presentation of how the Zapatistas have organized over the last years, the second Encuentro was a space for greater participation from different Zapatista communities, with people from each municipality presenting, and in three different Caracoles instead of only one. This was an important space to give large numbers of Zapatistas direct experience with international meetings, with the many different forms of participation that this involved, from speaking on a panel before thousands of people, to preparing cultural events, to organizing the logistical side of large international gatherings, to international “baile popular” (popular dance). Perhaps the most important deepening of the process could be seen in the Via Campesina participation, giving the Encuentro the international scope and presence of mass-based grass roots organizations that the first Encuentro had lacked to a degree (in the first Encuentro there were few, if any, participants from Asia and none from Africa). This process of building specific sectoral alliances along the road to the Intergalactica had been building over time, with Via Campesina having distributed Zapatista corn at the World Forum on Food Sovereignty which took place in Mali earlier this year. The decision to hold the indigenous peoples Encuentro and a women’s Encuentro later in the same year was a further step to building important sectoral links, taking the time necessary to ensure that the process being built is firmly anchored in real struggles before moving on to the Intergalactica itself.

The Third Encounter for the Zapatista Peoples With the Peoples of the World took place from December 28th 2007 to January 1st 08. It was a women’s encounter, of Zapatista Women, with Women of the World. Why a women's encounter? ¨Because it was time,¨ repeated the Zapatista voices, Zapatistas who had implemented the Revolutionary Law for Women in the very early stages of the Zapatista uprising. Over 3,000 people came together to listen, observe, celebrate, and build stronger resistances with these rebellious Tzetzal, Tzotzil, Chol, and Tojolabal Zapatista women. The days were filled with talk of the concrete measures Zapatista women and girls have taken to organize for self-determination, liberty, democracy and justice in their own communities. Through a long process of struggle, Zapatista women have gained many advances in their communities, ranging from the outlawing of alcohol and drugs to curb domestic violence, to taking ever more positions of representation and responsibility, as education and health promoters, in the Good Government Councils, as comandantas of the EZLN, and in artisan cooperatives, to choosing their own partners. And, for the days of the encuentro , men were given a secondary role. They were not allowed to represent or translate, nor sit inside the auditorium. Signs had been hung around the Caracol reading "In this gathering, men cannot participate as note-takers, translators, presenters, spokesmen, or representatives [of an organization]. Men can only work making food, sweeping and cleaning the Caracol and the latrines, taking care of the children, and carrying firewood." By having a women's encuentro, women’s voices were heard directly and not spoken over or marginalized, while at the same time, they emphasized that the movement included their brothers, husbands, children, elders... everyone in the community.

The First American Indigenous Peoples’ Encuentro was held in Yaqui tribal territory from the 11-12 October, 2007, in Vicam, Sonora, Mexico. The gathering brought together indigenous groups from all over the continent, communities in resistance for 515 years, to tell their stories of “pain and dignified rebellion” and to share “experience and wisdom” in order for “the continent to recover its voice.” In particular there was strong participation from the settler countries known throughout the world as “Canada” and “United States”, including from the Kanion’ke:haka/Mohawk, the Mik’maq, the Denen nations, the Hawdenaw swee nation, and the Anishanabe. A number of years ago, the CIA issued a report saying its greatest fear was that the continents indigenous people could form an alliance of resistance. Well… it seems that this is indeed happening.

And now, the latest event in this marathon process of globally orientated resistance is the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage, which will take place at the end of December 2008. The Zapatistas are hosting this festival on the basis of their listening and reading of the different proposals and discussions generated in the course of the events described above which have occurred in the three years since the 6th Declaration was issued, both within Mexico and globally. The festival will consist of different thematic exhibitions and discussions in which invited organizations, collectives and individuals will present themselves in their own terms. After a strong process in which the Zapatistas have used the international gatherings to present in great detail their experiences at transforming social relations in Chiapas to people from around, the Festival now offers a space for people from around the world to learn from one another. Importantly, the list of participating organizations includes workers organizations from Iran.

An important feature of this whole process has been the progressive deepening of the revolutionary discourse and how this is markedly different from most other international networking processes. In the first Encuentro the speeches repeatedly stressed the need for resistance to find ways of self organizing in order to come together in common struggle. An emphasis was on the need to organize resistance which is already occurring throughout the world. The second Encuentro started with a pre-Encuentro event the night before the Encuentro itself at the indigenous training center, University of the Land in Chiapas in San Cristobal, which in no uncertain terms laid out the terms of struggle, setting the scene for the main Encuentro. The Zapatistas recognize that there are three main ways of embarking on anti-capitalist struggle: establishing alternative consumption patterns, establishing alternative trade patterns or establishing alternative production relations. They have decided to go for establishing alternative production relations, namely collectively taking over the means of production. Having taken over the land, they stressed the importance of rural and urban unity in struggle, so that in addition to taking over land, it will become possible to take over factories in the future. Whilst respectful of the other methods of trying to create non-capitalist relations, taking over the means of production is, in their opinion, the most direct way of struggling against capitalism and creating alternative social relations. Related to this, is their experience of basing autonomy on a process of disengaging from reliance on the state, creating their own self-managed systems in replace of the very limited and distorted state health, education and other state support systems and mechanisms. For an Intergalactica coming “from below and to the left”, such a shift in rhetoric is a very important challenge to global movements who seem very timid around discussing (and above all acting on) the question of means of production. It is an especially challenging discourse for struggles in the capitalist core countries, where that idea was largely abandoned years ago in favor of some form of social-democratic welfarism. Another important challenge that has been thrown out, if not explicitly, then at least through the language used by the Zapatistas, is the need to fundamentally challenge the concept of expanded citizenship as an emancipatory route. Neither the 6th Declaration nor the spoken Zapatista word at the Encuentros themselves have contained any trace of lobbying about them, nor of defining people in relation to the state. The word “citizen” is refreshingly completely absent. Citizens have always existed throughout history only in relation to non-citizens, people defined to be of unequal status to those defined as citizens. The concept of citizenship is intimately bound up with the concept of the nation state, and the struggle for alternatives that go beyond the nation state also point to a conception of the human being that goes beyond citizens and citizenship.

No Time to Lose! – Accelerating the Construction of New Autonomous Global Relations of Production, Livelihoods and Exchange

And, so, what are the long term strategic and short term organizational concerns that lie ahead? In a nutshell, there is a need for a global process that seeks to both expand and deepen global networks, on the one hand to include geographical (as well as sectoral) areas that are scarcely part of global networks and avoid “national” solutions to the crisis, and on the other hand increasing the functional strength of existing networks, so that they can move beyond exchange of information and coordination of protest towards an accelerated process of building long term autonomous and decentralized livelihoods based on collective relations of production, exchange and consumption that are based on dignified livelihoods.

Expanding the geographical and sectoral reach of global networks will entail a particular effort to reach out to struggles in Arab countries, China and Africa, so that these struggles can participate actively in defining the global process of struggle that develops in the future. This is likely to require going beyond existing contacts, making special efforts at both linguistic and political/cultural translation. It will also be important to continue developing creative ways that allow for as unmediated and direct a participation as possible of migrant struggles, many of who lack the legal (let alone financial) possibility to travel internationally, making it very difficult, if not impossible, for them to participate directly in international meetings, protests and exchanges. Crucially, this is not just about expanding networks for the hell of it, but to keep struggles internationalist and not nationalist in orientation, to ensure that our struggles do not inadvertently result in one section of the world’s population winning reforms that can only be offered on the backs of another section of the world’s population, as was the case with the nationally orientated reforms offered by Keynesianism. This is especially crucial when it comes to maintaining and expanding the western welfares states. Particularly challenging in this regard is how to meet the demands of refugee and migrant populations in these countries in such a way that avoids integrating them as new privileged layers into an already highly unequal and hierarchically organized world-wide division of labour, whilst simultaneously maintaining and, in all probability, actually exacerbating that hierarchy. It will be important to find ways of meeting these demands while simultaneously undermining the global hierarchy.

Deepening the functionality of global networks will entail strengthening the capacity of direct exchanges between movements (especially South-South), so that they are really able to learn from each other and to dialogue with one another in order to build common analyses, perspectives and above all common agendas for creative and constructive actions, both short and long term. In particular, this might include exchange of experience on how to avoid, prepare for and respond to repression; exchange of experiences on how to avoid cooptation – especially new forms of protectionism and racist deals, dangers of regional integration, reforms that grant reforms but do not challenge global market, etc; exchange of experience about differing approaches to the state in order to avoid falling into dogmatic approaches towards taking state power or not, but about a discussion process about what actually works, how organizations make decisions in terms of how to approach the state, factors to take into account, compromises to make, etc. It could also include very practical exchanges on all the concrete skills and knowledges necessary for autonomous self-management, such as language training, exchanges on agricultural techniques, renewable energies, self managed health, to name but a very few examples. Importantly, it would be important to build up such a participatory process on the basis of the delegates mandated from organizations and movements, not just individuals, and it would need a financial basis to make these expensive processes viable.

These are all some short term activities that could provide a basis for long term strategies that seek to fundamentally change the global social relations which currently exist. The financial crisis reveals the urgently necessarily, but enormously difficult, task of massively reducing people's dependence on the money economy and financial institutions, so that we can collectively disengage from them and leave them behind. This is an especially difficult task in the core capitalist countries, where people’s daily lives are so intertwined with this world. It will only be possible to break our dependence if we are able to build major capacity in the non-commercial and mutual support-based provision for key areas of satisfying our basic needs (e.g. food, shelter, energy, health, education pensions, etc.), in order to reduce our dependency on waged labour. It will be necessary to reach a far greater capacity than currently exists. Paradoxically, for this to happen movements will have to be able to access larges sums of money, infrastructure, skills and knowledge, as well as many other sources of wealth, again on a far greater scale than movements are currently able to muster. It will require a concerted world-wide effort to acquire key means of generating wealth and sustaining life.

Faced with a worsening world-economic crisis, a twin-pronged approach is called for. On the one hand, there is the need to demand vast sums of money from the state, in the form of public funds and an increasing share of public wealth, access to interest free and unconditional loans which could enable movements to buy collectively controlled and non-commercial sources of wealth generation such as those described above. It will be necessary to create levels of mobilization and pressure on national governments and international institutions so they are unable to avoid making these concessions, especially in relation to the new Obama government, while at the same time maintaining autonomy and avoiding cooptation.

And, on the other hand, it will be necessary to once again place the seizure without compensation of the key means of production (and reproduction) at the heart of revolutionary strategies. Again, this is a monumental task, one that will not occur without strong social mobilization and struggle, but it is a process made much more possible and realistic to imagine by the massive bankruptcies and devaluation of capital that the crisis entails, leaving a trail of abandoned buildings, companies and other pools of social wealth that are deemed “non-competitive” and hence useless. And, crucially, if they are not taken over and collectivized, they will be bought up on the cheap and will fuel a new round of socially and ecologically disastrous capital accumulation. Entire regions or even countries are simply waiting to be taken over and collectivized and defended for common use outside of the realm of profit, not least General Motors, Ford and the USA itself!

And so, the Zapatistas have invited people throughout the world:
Let our dignity take root again and breed another world.

If this world doesn’t have a place for us, then another world must be made.

With no other tool than our rage, no other material than our dignity
1 It is important to stress that that this article deals with the global resistance process the Zapatistas have launched with their 6th Declaration. However, it is not a discussion about the Zapatistas themselves, nor is it an attempt at analyzing the internal political developments within Chiapas or Mexico. On the one hand, this is not the purpose of the article, and on the other, I am in no way qualified to write such an article.

2 For a detailed discussion of the global dimensions of the Zapatistas’ 6th Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, and for a comprehensive reference to related links etc, see : Kolya Abramsky, August 2008 [April 2007] – ‘The Bamako Appeal and the Zapatista 6th Declaration - From Reorganizing the Existing World to Creating New Ones’. CE1 in the Critical Engagement series from CACIM. Available also at

3 The invitation to the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage, together with information about participants and programme, can be found at

4 An interesting organization to have emerged in this respect is Take Back the Land.

5 Information and footage from these events and processes can be found at and also

6 A discussion about The Other Campaign is beyond the scope of this article, and, in any case, the author is in no-way qualified to write such a piece.

7 The author attended the First and Second Encuentros of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World. The observations which follow about these gatherings are based on this direct experience. However, the descriptions of the other events, which he did not attend, are based on second hand readings, from the Zapatista websites, other related sites and personal conversations with people who did attend, and consequently may be slightly less accurate, updated and detailed.

8 Caracol is the most important organ of self-governance in the Zapatista construction of autonomy. It literal translation in English is “snail”, though the word “conch” is also frequently used.

Read More!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

World Festival Updates

UPDATE Dec 10: Informational Bulletin on the First World Festival of Dignified Rage

(NOTE: If any additional updates on this festival are released between now and when it begins on December 26th, I'll link to them at THIS post... also stay tuned for a future post with links to images, text, video and audio from the festival itself -along with some zapagringo commentary- coming in late Dec/early Jan --> and please be in touch if you are going as I would love to get your thoughts, reportbacks, etc.)


Sixth Commission and Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN
26th of November 2008.

To the adherents to the Sixth Declaration from the Lacandona Jungle in Mexico and in the world:
To the guests of the First World Festival of the "Digna Rabia":
To the people of Mexico:
To the peoples of the world:







26th of December 2008.


1100 hrs. The Four Wheels of Capitalism: EXPLOITATION. Open forum with the participation of maquila workers from Baja California and Tamaulipas, the National Confederation of Workers (CGT from the Spanish State), workers from Solano (Argentina) and workers from the Middle East (Iran), as well as those workers who wish to participate and who let us know in advance.
Moderator: Multidisciplinary Analysis Centre (CAM, UNAM, Mexico).

1700 hrs. The Other Paths: ANOTHER CITY. Open forum with the participation of the National Union of Popular Organizations from the Independent Left (UNOPII Mexico), the Workers and Socialist Unity (UNÍOS Mexico), young people from anarchist, punk, and libertarian collectives (Mexico). Street Brigade (Brigada Callejera Mexico), as well as those who struggle in the cities who wish to participate and who let us know in advance.
Moderator: UNOPII (Mexico).

27th of December 2008.

1100 hrs. The Four Wheels of Capitalism: PLUNDER. Open forum with the participation of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI Mexico), dwellers of Lomas de Poleo (Ciudad Juárez) (Mexico), Indigenous Cabildos Association from the North of the Cauca (Colombia), as well as those who have a say on capitalist plunder who wish to participate and who let us know in advance.
Moderator: Bárbara Zamora (Mexico).

1700 hrs. The Other Paths: OTHER SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. Open forum with the CNUC -Tlaxcala (Mexico), Indigenous Chinanteca Force (Fuerza Indígena Chinanteca Mexico), People’s Front (Frente del Pueblo Mexico), Blanca Navidad Neighbourhood of Nuevo Laredo (Mexico), Independent Francisco Villa Popular Front (FPFVI Mexico), CACTO-Oaxaca (Mexico).
Moderator: CNI (Mexico).

28th of December 2008

1100 hrs. The Four Wheels of Capitalism: REPRESSION. Open forum with the Doñas of Sinaloa and Chihuahua (Mexico), message from the Atenco political prisoners (Mexico), recorded message from Gloria Arenas, political prisoner (Mexico), We are all prisoners collective (Tod@s somos Pres@s (Mexico), National Network against Repression and for Solidarity (Red Nacional contra la Represión y por la Solidaridad (Mexico), and Bárbara Zamora (Mexico).
Moderator: UNÍOS (Mexico).

1700 hrs. The Other Paths: ANOTHER HISTORY, OTHER POLITICS. Roundtable with the participation of John Holloway, Felipe Echenique (Mexico), Francisco Pineda (Mexico), Raúl Zibechi (Uruguay), Olivier Besacenot (France), Mónica Baltodano (Nicaragua), Sergio Rodríguez Lascano (Mexico).
Moderator: Revista Rebeldía (Mexico).

29th of December 2008.

1100 hrs. The Four Wheels of Capitalism: CONTEMPT. Open forum with the Anarcho-Punk Collective La KURVA (Mexico), National Indigenous Congress (Mexico), Braceros National Assembly (Mexico), Mercedes Oliveira (Mexico).
Moderator: CNI (Mexico).


Adolfo Gilly (Mexico)
Pablo Gonzalez Casanova (Mexico)
Monica Baltodano (Nicaragua)
Luis Villoro (Mexico)
Oscar Olivera (Bolivia)
Michael Hardt (USA)
Walter Mignolo (Argentina)
Pier Luigi Sullo (Italy)
Sylvia Marcos (Mexico)
Jotxe Iriarte (Basque Country)
Paulina Fernandez (Mexico)
Marcos Roitman (Chile-Spanish State)
Gustavo Esteva (Mexico)
Jean Robert (Switzerland)
Arundhati Roy (India) (who will send her participation)
Barbara Zamora (Mexico)
Carlos Aguirre Rojas (Mexico)
Raul Zibechi (Uruguay)
Carlos Gonzalez –CNI- (Mexico)
Juan Chavez –CNI- (Mexico)
John Berger (England) (who will send his participation)
Olivier Bensacenot (France)
Jaime Pastor (Spanish State)
Landless workers movement-MST (Brazil)
Sergio Rodriguez Lazcano (Mexico)
Via Campesina (International).








From the Mexican South-eastern Mountains.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
EZLN’s Sixth Commission

Teniente Coronel Insurgente Moisés.
EZLN’s Intergalactic Commission

Mexico, November 2008.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Revolution & Evolution in the 21st Century

Grace Lee Boggs

I really hope that you find some way to to read the piece below, Grace Lee Boggs' new introduction to "Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century" penned by her and the late James Boggs in the late 1970s. Sit here and read it, or cut and paste and print it out... whichever you choose, please consider ordering the 2008 re-print, which has been re-titled "Revolution and Evolution in the Twenty First Century", at the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership's on-line bookstore here. That might be the most convenient way to read this intro - and certainly the one that most supports those whose labor has created this powerful work :-)

Over the past 2+ plus years, zapagringo has become a place to not only further circulate my own zapatista-inspired thoughts, articles, interviews, etc but also a place to bring for the first time on-line (and sometimes for the first time anywhere) some really groundbreaking, similarly inspired political writing by other authors... from Kazembe Balagun's biography of Kuwasi Balagoon and the Matrix Magazine's interviews with Estación Libre members Karl Jagbandhansingh and Ashanti Alston to Kolya Abramsky's analyses of the Zezta Internazional (1,2) as well as the collective reflection of Rethinking Solidarity and -of course- Paula X. Rojas' meditations on movement building and the non-profit industrial complex.

Laying in bed last weekend reading the piece included here below, I was moved to tears by this movement elder's reflections on her life and growth -and that of those she's lived and grown with- over the past 90+ years. The level of resonance I felt with her ongoing discovery was moving, inspiring, and even surprising to me given that I had already read some of her work and heard her speak before... I hope that in providing this piece an on-line home it will find an even wider resonance and touch the hearts of all those who it deserves to reach. Thank you to the author and everyone at the Boggs Center who helped make this writing possible and who have given us permission to share it here - and a special thanks to Allied Media Project's Mike Medow for making that communication between us possible.

Again, please do consider picking up the 2008 edition of "Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth (21st!) Century" at their on-line bookstore. On this weekend following one of this country's most dubious national holidays, let's engage with this elder intellectual from the Other USA...

Introduction to New Printing of Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century
by Grace Lee Boggs
(zapagringo's note: footnotes make up about a 3rd of the text and are indicated by bold roman numerals - please find a way to jump down to the footnote and back to get the full weight of this work)

I feel blessed that at ninety-three I am still around to tell a new generation of movement activists the story of why James and I wrote Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (RETC) in the early 1970s, and why I welcome its present republication by Monthly Review Press with its original contents and a new title: Revolution and Evolution in the Twenty-first Century.

James died in July 1993. We had been partners in struggle for forty years. He and his way of looking at the world are still very much with me. But the world and I have changed a lot in the last fifteen years as I have continued our struggle to change the world. i

RETC (as I will refer to the 1974 publication) is an example of the critical role that continuing reflection on practice and practice based on reflection need to play in the lives of movement activists.

In the late 1960s, in the wake of the urban rebellions and the explosive growth of the Black Panther Party, both before and after Dr. King’s assassination, Jimmy and I decided that after our intense involvement in the Black Power movement, we and the American movement needed a period of reflection. This would enable us to figure out where we were and where we needed to go in order to transform the United States into the kind of country that every American, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, or national origin, would be proud to call our own.

So in June 1968 we got together with our old comrades, Lyman and Freddy Paine, on a little island in Maine to begin the annual conversations that continue to this day. ii

The first outcome of these conversations was our recognition that the ongoing rebellions were not a revolution, as they were being called by many in the black community and by radicals and liberals. Nor were they only a breakdown in law and order or a riot, as they were labeled in the mainstream media. A rebellion, we decided, is an important stage in the development of revolution because it represents the massive uprising and protest of the oppressed. Therefore it not only begets reforms but also throws into question the legitimacy and supposed permanence of existing institutions.

However, a rebellion usually lasts only a few days. After it ends, the rebels are elated. But they then begin to view themselves mainly as victims and expect those in power to assume responsibility for changing the system. By contrast, a revolution requires that a people go beyond struggling against oppressive institutions and beyond victim thinking. A revolution involves making an evolutionary/revolutionary leap towards becoming more socially responsible and more self-critical human beings. In order to transform the world, we must transform ourselves.

Thus, unlike rebellions, which are here today and gone tomorrow, revolutions require a patient and protracted process that transforms and empowers us as individuals as we struggle to change the world around us. Going beyond rejections to projections, revolutions advance our continuing evolution as human beings because we are practicing new, more socially responsible and loving relationships to one another and to the earth.

In the process of arriving at this evolutionary humanist concept of revolution, it became clear to us that Marx’s revolutionary scenario (which so many generations of radicals, including ourselves, had embraced) represented the end of an historical epoch, not the beginning of a new one. Writing over one hundred years ago, in the springtime of the industrial revolution and an epoch of scarcity, Marx viewed the rapid development of the productive forces and the more just and equal distribution of material abundance as the main purpose of revolution. In a period when industrial workers were growing in numbers, it was natural for him to view the working class, which was being disciplined, organized, and socialized by the process of capitalist production, as the social force that would make this revolution.

Since then, however, under the impact of the technological revolution, especially in the United States, the working class has been shrinking rather than growing. At the same time the material abundance produced by rapid economic development has turned the American people, including workers, into mindless and irresponsible consumers, unable to distinguish between our needs and our wants. Moreover, we, the American people, have been profoundly damaged by a culture that for over two hundred years has systematically pursued economic development at the expense of communities, and of millions of people at home and abroad. Our challenge is to continue the evolution of human race by grappling with the contradiction between our technological and economic overdevelopment and our human and political underdevelopment. iii

Armed with this new, evolutionary humanist concept of revolution, we presented the Manifesto for a Black Revolutionary Party at the National Black Economic Development Conference meeting in Detroit in 1969, urging Black Power activists to recognize that blacks have been in the forefront of revolutionary struggles in the United States down through the years because their struggles have not been for economic development but for more human relationships between people.

The next year we gave a series of lectures “On Revolution” at the University Center for Adult Education in Detroit. We began by pointing out that, although Lenin and the Bolsheviks had been able to seize state power in 1917, they were unable, in power, to involve the workers and peasants in governing the Soviet Union because their “revolution” had been an insurrection or event rather than a protracted process involving empowerment and transformation. Fortunately, however, the leaders of subsequent revolutions in China, Vietnam and Guinea Bissau learned from the Russian experience, and struggled valiantly to make transformation, serving the people and self-criticism an integral part of the struggle for power, in the process enriching the concept of revolution.

Thus the historical development of revolutions during the twentieth century has been a dialectical process in the course of which revolutionary leaders have been constantly challenged by the contradictions created by earlier revolutions to keep deepening the theory and practice of revolution.

Our challenge as American revolutionaries is to carry on this legacy, always bearing in mind that, unlike Russia in the early twentieth century and China, Vietnam and Guinea-Bissau in later decades, our country has already undergone a century of rapid industrialization and is in the midst of a technological revolution whose political and cultural implications are as far-reaching as those of the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture eleven thousand years ago and from agriculture to industry three hundred years ago. Our challenge, as we say at the end of the chapter on “Dialectics and Revolution” in RETC, is to recognize that the crises facing our economically overdeveloped society can only be resolved by a tremendous transformation of ourselves and our relationships to each other and to the rest of the world.

Only a few dozen people participated in the ”On Revolution” series. But the process was so inspiring that we decided to use the materials as the basis for forming revolutionary study groups. So in Detroit and a few other cities we began to bring together black activists with whom we had worked during the 1960s. At the same time we arranged with Monthly Review Press to publish the series as Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century. iv

By the time RETC came off the press in 1974 we had formed revolutionary study groups of black activists in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York City and Muskegon, Michigan, some of whom went on to form local organizations. These groups were small because most blacks were taking advantage of the mushrooming opportunities for upward mobility that had been created by the rebellions. v Thousands of people bought copies of the Manifesto for a Black Revolutionary Party and carried them around conspicuously in their dashiki pockets. But only a handful were willing to commit the time and energy necessary to begin thinking about revolution in a more evolutionary way. vi

In the early 1970s these study groups did not include whites because our focus was on developing black leadership for the American revolution. However, after blacks joined the coalition that elected Jimmy Carter president in 1976, we decided that, like labor and women, blacks had become a self-interest group. Therefore the period in which an American revolution might have been made under black revolutionary leadership had come to an end. The time had come to develop members of the many ethnic groups who make up our country so that together we could give leadership in the protracted and many-sided struggles needed to revolutionize the United States. vii

By the 1980s, through a carefully thought-out program for what we called national expansion, new, mostly white, locals had been founded in Milwaukee, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Syracuse, Boston and the Bay Area, and had joined with the mostly black locals in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Muskegon, Newark, New Jersey, and Lexington, Kentucky, to form the National Organization for an American Revolution (NOAR). Each new local created its own founding document from a study of the city for which it was assuming responsibility.

Except for Detroit and Philadelphia, most locals consisted of only a half-dozen or even fewer members. But our output was prodigious, mainly because of the sense of empowerment that had come from the study of RETC. Each member felt called upon to go beyond protest and rebelling, and embrace and inspire in others the conviction that we have the power within us to create ourselves and the world anew.

To demystify leadership, we decentralized responsibility for writing and publishing pamphlets that explored the new concepts and institutions needed for our rapidly changing reality.

Thus Philadelphia assumed responsibility for publishing five printings of the Manifesto for a Black Revolutionary Party. Detroiter Kenny Snodgrass, barely out of his teens, wrote the introduction to The Awesome Responsibilities of Revolutionary Leadership. The tiny Muskegon local wrote and published two pamphlets, one entitled A New Outlook on Health and the other, Women and the New World. The New York local wrote and published Beyond Welfare. Syracuse produced Going Fishing, a statement on the local environment. Seattle published A Crisis of Values and A Way of Faith, A Time for Courage, based on a talk on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Rosemary and Vincent Harding. Detroit produced Crime Among Our People (five printings). Education to Govern (three printings). But What About the Workers? What Value Shall We Place on Ourselves? Women and the Movement to Build a New America. Towards a New Concept of Citizenship. Manifesto for an American Revolutionary Party (English and Spanish). Look! A Nation is Coming! Native Americans and the Second American Revolution.

In our internal development programs we studied American history and gained an appreciation and love for our country as a work in progress, constantly challenged by those excluded from its promise and by the contradictions of capitalism to keep deepening the concept of citizenship and what it means to be an American. While most radicals rejected this approach as “American exceptionalism,” we welcomed the uniqueness of our history as the key to the American revolution. viii

We explored what it means to think dialectically and to go beyond the scientific rationalism of Descartes. In propaganda workshops we analyzed the significance of the spoken and written word, and practiced writing preambles for community organizations, using the Preamble to the U. S. Constitution as a model.

We tried to create an alternative to charismatic leadership and a balance between activism and reflection. At annual conventions every member participated equally in evaluating the previous year’s work and in deciding the direction and structures for the next year. Our continuing conversations in Maine and in Detroit provided opportunities for the reflection necessary to give deeper meaning to our activism. ix

We were proud of our self-reliance. With no paid staff we had no need for grants or outside funding. Instead each local sustained itself by membership dues and literature sales.

Meanwhile, profound changes were taking place in the United States and the world because of new developments in transportation and communications. The fragmentation of the production process into a host of component operations was making it easy for corporations to abandon U.S. plants and cities and move to other parts of the country or the world where they could make greater profits with cheaper labor and fewer social or environmental regulations. Corporations were abandoning cities, and blackmailing city governments by demanding tax abatements and other concessions, making it increasingly difficult for municipalities to supply normal services.

To understand these developments and the changes they required in our thinking and our practice, in 1982 we published the Manifesto for an American Revolutionary Party in which we warned that capitalism had entered a new stage, the stage of multinational capitalism, which was even more destructive than finance and monopoly capitalism because it threatened our communities and our cities:
Up to now, most Americans have been able to evade facing the destructiveness of capitalist expansion because it was primarily other peoples, other cultures which were being destroyed.... But now the chickens have come home to roost. While we were collaborating with capitalism by accepting its dehumanizing values, capitalism itself was moving to a new stage, the stage of multinational capitalism.... Multinational corporations have no loyalty to the United States or to any American community. They have no commitment to the reforms that Americans have won through hard struggle.... Whole cities have been turned into wastelands by corporate takeovers and runaway corporations....

That is why as a people and as a nation, we must now make a second American revolution to rid ourselves of the capitalist values and institutions which have brought us to this state of powerlessness - or suffer the same mutilation, the same destruction of our families and our communities, the same loss of national independence as over the years we have visited upon other peoples and cultures.

To move towards this goal we need a new vision of a self-governing America based on local self-government, strong families and communities, and decentralized economies. Therefore revolutionary leadership will:
project and assist in the organization of all types of community committees: Committees for Crime Prevention that will establish and enforce elementary standards of conduct, such as mutual compacts not to buy ‘hot goods,’ Committees to Take Over Abandoned Houses for the use of community residents who will maintain them in accordance with standards set by the community; Committees of Family Circles to strengthen and support parents in the raising of children; Committees to Take Over Neighborhood Schools that are failing to educate our children or to take over closed down schools so as to provide continuing education for our children; Committees to Resist Utility Cutoffs by companies which, under the guise of public service, are in reality private corporations seeking higher profits to pay higher dividends to their stockholders; Committees to Take over Closed Plants for the production of necessary goods and services and for the training and employment of young people in the community; Anti-Violence Committees to counter-act the growing resort to violence in our daily relationships; Committees to Ban All Nuclear Weapons that will rally Americans against the nuclear arms race as the anti-war movement rallied Americans against the Vietnam war in the early 1970s.

These grassroots organizations can become a force to confront the capitalist enemy only if those involved in their creation are also encouraged and assisted by the American revolutionary party to struggle against the capitalist values which have made us enemies to one another. For example, in order to isolate the criminals in our communities, we must also confront the individualism and self-centredness which permits us to look the other way when a neighbor's house is being robbed.

The publication of the Manifesto for an American Revolutionary Party energized the organization. Talking about our country and our communities, working together to develop ideas and programs for building communities, listening to the stories of everyone's lives and hopes, comrades discovered a new patriotism, a deeper rootedness and sense of place both in their communities and in the nation.

This enlarged sense of ourselves was unmistakable at the second NOAR convention in 1982. It came across especially in the poem "We Are the Children of Martin and Malcolm," written by Polish American John Gruchala, African American Ilaseo Lewis, and myself for the June 1982 Great Peace March in New York, and read by John and Ilaseo at the convention:
We are the children of Martin and Malcolm
Black, brown, red and white
And so we cannot be silent
As our youth stand on street corners
and the promises of the 20th century pass them by.

We are the children of Martin and Malcolm
Our ancestors.
Proud and Brave
Defied the storms and power of masters and madmen.

We are the children of Martin and Malcolm.
So when money-eyed men remove the earth beneath our feet and bulldoze communities,
And Pentagon generals assemble weapons to blister our souls and incinerate our planet, We cannot be silent.

We are the children of Martin and Malcolm.
Our birthright is to be creators of history,
Our glory is to struggle,
You shall know our names as you know theirs,
Sojourner and Douglass, John Brown and Garrison.

We are the children of Martin and Malcolm,
Black, brown, red and white,
Our Right, our Duty
To shake the world with a new dream.

It was a very moving convention. We felt that together, African American, European American, Asian American, female and male, gay and straight, we were beginning to create a more perfect union and carrying on the American revolutionary tradition of Sojourner and Douglass, John Brown and Garrison, Martin and Malcolm.

Inspired by the ideas in the Manifesto for an American Revolutionary Party, members of the Detroit local began organizing in the community. Some members organized the Michigan Committee to Organize the Unemployed (MCOU) and began a struggle to obtain continuing health insurance for laid-off workers. Others organized Committees to Resist Utility Cutoffs. After MCOU failed to rally laid-off workers, comrades began helping residents in the Marlborough neighborhood, where MCOU had been holding street corner meetings, to close down crack houses.

After Reagan and Bush won the 1980 election, we called on all Americans to "Love America enough to change it.“ “Our Communities and our Country are now up to us!" During Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1984 we distributed leaflets challenging both white and black Americans to seize the opportunity to create a new movement. “We can't leave it all to Jesse!”

In 1984 we also joined the "cheese line," which during the Reagan years provided millions of Americans with basic commodities. On the “cheese line” in Detroit we discovered that the elderly and disabled were being trampled on by the young and able-bodied. So we organized them into a group calling itself Detroiters for Dignity and waged a successful campaign for an extra distribution day for elders. Detroiters for Dignity brought an elders’ conscience to the struggle in our city. We wrote letters to the editor, organized and attended community meetings, hosted meetings against the military involvement in Central America, and in 1985 drove to Big Mountain in Arizona to support the resistance of the Dineh (Navajo) people to their forced relocation.

Then, suddenly, despite or perhaps because of all this external activity, NOAR began falling apart. Differences that had been viewed as enriching became sources of tensions. Members began resigning, citing personal concerns (family, jobs) that demanded their time and energy. But political questions, even if unspoken, were also at issue. For one thing, members had committed themselves to build an organization with people who shared their views. Going out into the community to try to build a movement from scratch required a different kind of commitment and preparation. Also, despite our efforts to decentralize and demystify leadership, we had not deconstructed Marxist-Leninist concepts of democratic centralism and the vanguard party. Organizations in the black community especially need to accept this challenge because it is too easy for them to adopt the topdown and male leadership patterns of the black church.

Another troubling undercurrent was the decision the organization had made to go beyond projecting black leadership of the American revolution. Theoretically it was clear that the black movement as a movement was dead, but for black comrades the concept of black leadership for the American revolution had been a very heady one and giving it up felt a lot like betrayal.

We never formally dissolved NOAR. Between 1985 and 1987 it just faded away as members resigned or became so much involved in community activities that they had no time for our meetings. Our total membership was never more than seventy-five to a hundred. But between 1970, when we first began organizing on the basis of the ideas in the Manifesto for a Black Revolutionary Party, and 1985, when NOAR ran out of steam, these few comrades were incredibly creative.

The audacity of Jimmy's challenge to blacks to stop thinking like a minority and assume leadership for an American revolution had lifted black comrades beyond victim or minority thinking (Jimmy called it “thinking like an underling”) and empowered them to use their anger in a positive way, uncovering talents and energies that otherwise might have been wasted.

Our emphasis on the contradiction between economic and technological overdevelopment and political and human underdevelopment enabled us to explore a wide range of social, political, cultural, and artistic questions and to tackle questions of crime and welfare with proposals and positive programs for building social responsibility, community and citizenship. As a result, we attracted people with imagination and artistic sensibilities from all walks of life. Between 1974 and 1984 few joined us as members, but thousands read our literature and hundreds attended our meetings.

Overall anyone who was a NOAR comrade or was exposed to its ideas felt that our humanity had been enlarged by the challenge to go beyond rebellion to revolution, beyond victim thinking, and beyond our personal grievances and identity struggles to assuming responsibility for a new concept of citizenship and of a self-governing America. Almost everyone has continued some form of activism.

In retrospect, I think that the main reason for NOAR's demise is that it had outlived its usefulness and the time had come to let it go out of existence. That is one of the many important lessons I learned from the experience. Even though we went through various stages with different names, we had essentially come out of the rebellions of the late 1960s. Our goal had been to do what the Black Panther Party had been unable to do: develop evolutionary/revolutionary ideas and a new kind of leadership for the exploding black movement. When that movement came to an end, we kept trying to adapt ourselves to the changing situation. It is no accident that our internal development programs and our publications, which boldly explored visionary solutions for our rapidly changing reality, were our major achievements. x By contrast, our organization had been founded to correct the shortcomings of a movement that was already on the decline. A new kind of leadership would have to come out of a new movement whose hopes and dreams were still undefined.


In Detroit we did not have to wait long for the opportunity to begin creating a new movement. It came in 1988 when Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, began grasping at straws in his efforts to stop the violence that was escalating among black youth in the wake of de-industrialization.

Coleman Young was a tough and charismatic politician who had been a Tuskegee airman during World War II and a leader of the National Negro Labor Council and a state senator in the post-war years. He was elected Mayor in 1973 not only because the black community wanted a black mayor but because the massive rebellion in July 1967 had warned the power structure that a white mayor could no longer maintain law and order.

As the city’s new CEO, Young acted quickly to eliminate the most egregious examples of racism in the police and fire departments and at city hall. But he was helpless against the relentless de-industrializing of the city and the widespread violence resulting from the drug economy that jobless blacks had created in the inner city. By the mid-1980s the school system was in deep trouble because Detroit teenagers were asking themselves “Why stay in school hoping that some day you’ll get a good job when you can make a lot of money rollin’ right now?” In the summer of 1986 47 young Detroiters were killed and 365 wounded, among them sixteen-year-old Derick Barfield and fourteen-year-old Roger Barfield. Their mother, Clementine Barfield, responded by founding Save Our Sons and Daughters (SOSAD) which received widespread local and national attention. I edited the SOSAD newsletter and Jimmy contributed a column: “What can we be that our children can see?”

For three years from 1989 to 1992, through the heat of summer and the sleet of winter, we participated in the weekly anti-crackhouse marches of WE PROS (We the People Reclaim Our Streets), chanting “Up with hope, Down with dope!“ “Drug Dealers, Drug Dealers, you better run and hide, ‘cause people are uniting on the other side!” In a few neighborhoods, especially Dorothy Garner’s near the Linwood exit of the Lodge Freeway, we were successful in reducing crime and violence. But our marches did not attract young people, and we recognized that any program to rebuild and respirit Detroit had to be built around a youth core.

Meanwhile, Young had been trying in vain to keep or bring manufacturing plants in the city. xi Near the end of his fourth term, in 1988, he decided that casino gambling was the solution. Gaming, he said, was an industry that would create fifty thousand jobs. To defeat Young’s proposal, we joined Detroiters Uniting, a coalition of community groups, blue collar, white collar and cultural workers, clergy, political leaders and professionals, led by two preachers, United Methodist pastor William Quick and Baptist pastor Eddie Cobbin, one white and one black. I was the vice-president. Our concern," we said, "is with how our city has been disintegrating socially, economically, politically, morally and ethically.... We are convinced that we cannot depend upon one industry or one large corporation to provide us with jobs. It is now up to us - the citizens of Detroit - to put our hearts, our imaginations, our minds, and our hands together to create a vision and project concrete programs for developing the kinds of local enterprises that will provide meaningful jobs and income for all citizens."

During the struggle Young denounced us as “naysayers.” “What is your alternative?” he demanded. Responding to Young’s challenge, Jimmy made a speech in which he projected an alternative to casino gambling: the vision of a new kind of city whose foundation would be people living in communities and citizens who take responsibility for decisions about their city instead of leaving these to politicians or to the marketplace, and who also create small enterprises that emphasize the preservation of skills and produce goods and services for the local community. xii

To introduce this vision, in November 1991 we organized a Peoples Festival of community organizations, describing it as "A multigenerational, multicultural celebration of Detroiters, putting our hearts, minds, hands and imagination together to redefine and recreate a city of Community, Compassion, Cooperation, Participation and Enterprise in harmony with the Earth."

A few months later, harking back to Mississippi Freedom Summer and drawing on our connections in the city and with nationally emerging environmental groups, we founded Detroit Summer, with a long list of endorsers, as a “Multicultural, Intergenerational Youth Program/Movement to Rebuild, Redefine and Respirit Detroit from the ground up.“ Detroit Summer youth volunteers began working on community gardens with African American southern-born elders (they called themselves Gardening Angels) who were already appropriating vacant lots to plant these gardens, not only to produce healthier food for themselves and their neighbors, but to instill respect for nature and a sense of process in city youth. Detroit Summer youth also rehabbed houses, painted public murals in the community, cleaned up neighborhood parks, and engaged in both intergenerational and youth-only dialogues.

There was something magical about Detroit Summer as there had been about Mississippi Freedom Summer. In a city that had once been the national and international example of the miracles of the industrial epoch but had now become a sea of vacant lots and abandoned houses, people were moved by the sight of young people and elders reconnecting with one another and with the earth. Their community gardens created a new image of vacant lots, not as blight but as a treasure-house of health-giving food. Their murals established a positive youth presence in the community. Students from universities all over the country who participated in or heard of Detroit Summer began to see their own futures, the future of cities and the environmental movement in a new light.

The result since 1992 has been an escalating urban agricultural movement in Detroit: neighborhood gardens, youth gardens, church gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, senior independence gardens, teaching gardens, wellness gardens, Hope Takes Root gardens, Kwanzaa gardens.

A few blocks from the Boggs Center, Capuchin monks have created Earthworks, a program which uses gardening to educate Detroit school children in the science, nutrition and biodiversity of organic agriculture and also provides fresh produce for WIC and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen's daily meals.

At the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public high school for pregnant teens and teenage mothers, students raise vegetables and fruit trees. They also built a barn to house a horse, donkey, and small animals that provide eggs, meat, milk and cheese for the school community. xiii

Architectural students at University of Detroit Mercy produced a documentary called Adamah (“of the earth” in Hebrew), envisioning how a two and one-half acre square mile area not far from downtown Detroit could be developed into a self-reliant community with a vegetable farm to produce food, a tree farm and sawmill to produce lumber, schools that include community-building as part of the curriculum, and co-housing as well as individual housing. xiv

The National Black Farmers Union, whose mantra is “We can’t free ourselves until we feed ourselves,” brought its annual convention to Detroit.

Inspired by Jimmy’s speech, Jackie Victor and Ann Perrault worked in a bakery to learn the trade and then opened their own organic bakery in midtown Detroit as an example of the kind of small business that our cities need instead of big box and chain stores. xv

Every August the Detroit Agricultural Network conducts a tour of community gardens. In 2007 six big buses were not enough for the hundreds of people of all ethnic groups attracted by Detroit’s mushrooming urban agricultural movement. After the tour, a retired city planner told me that it gave her a sense of how important community gardens are to a city. “They reduce neighborhood blight, build self-esteem among young people, provide them with structured activities from which they can see results, build leadership skills, provide healthy food and a community base for economic development. I see it as the ‘Quiet Revolution.’ It is a revolution for self-determination taking place quietly in Detroit.” xvi

This quiet revolution has been preparing Detroiters to meet today’s growing crises of global warming and spiraling food prices. Instead of paying prices we can’t afford for produce grown on factory farms and imported from Florida and California in gas-guzzling, carbon monoxide-releasing trucks, we can grow our own food and not only achieve food security but grow our souls because we are creating a new balance between necessity and freedom. xvii

This revolution was also deepening our sense of the connections between our own locally based work and the new urban agriculture movement weaving a new future both in our own country and around the earth. From our growing conviction that something new was emerging, we began to look again at larger philosophical questions.


During the 1960s Jimmy and I had paid little attention to the speeches and writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Like other members of the Detroit black community, made up largely of former Alabamians, we rejoiced at the victories the civil rights movement was winning in the south. xviii But as activists struggling for black power in Detroit, we identified much more with Malcolm X than with Martin. In fact, we tended to view King’s call for nonviolence and for the beloved community as somewhat naíve and sentimental.

Jimmy and I were also not involved in the fifteen-year campaign that Detroit Congressman John Conyers Jr. launched in 1968 to declare King’s birthday on January 15 a national holiday. I recall holding back because I was concerned that a King holiday would obscure the role of grassroots activists and reinforce the tendency to rely on charismatic leaders.

Meanwhile I was troubled by the way that black militants kept quoting Malcolm’s “by all means necessary,” ignoring the profound changes that Malcolm was undergoing in the year following his split with the Nation of Islam. After his pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm was seriously rethinking black nationalism, and in December 1964 he had gone to Selma, Alabama, to explore working with Martin Luther King Jr. xix

As violence in Detroit and other cities escalated in the wake of the urban rebellions, I began to wonder whether events might have taken a different course if we had found a way to blend Malcolm’s militancy with King’s nonviolence and vision of the beloved community.

During this period my interest in King was also piqued by the little pamphlet A Way of Faith, A Time for Courage published in 1984 by the Seattle NOAR local. In this pamphlet our old friends, Vincent and Rosemary Harding, who had worked closely with MLK in the 1960s, explain that “Martin wasn’t assassinated for simply wanting black and white children to hold hands, but because he said that there must be fundamental changes in this country and that black people must take the lead in bringing them.... Put simply, these problems are Racism, Materialism, Militarism, and Anti-Communism.” xx

Meanwhile, in 1982, Reagan signed into law the decision to observe King’s birthday as a national holiday, and scholars were beginning to re-evaluate his work and life. xxi In 1992, at the opening ceremony of Detroit Summer, I had noted the similarity between our vision and King’s projections for direct youth action “in our dying cities.” In the spring of 1998, when I was asked what I thought about the Black Radical Congress, I replied that in order to create a new movement, we must first understand the old. For radicals in this period this means grappling with the significance of the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and King. xxii

As a result of all these developments, I began studying King’s life and work from the perspective of RETC and our work in Detroit. To my delight I discovered that Hegel had been King’s favorite philosopher. This reminded me of the influence that Hegel has had on my own life ever since I read his Phenomenology in my early twenties and learned that the process of constantly overcoming contradictions, or what Hegel called the “suffering, the patience, and the labour of the negative,” is the key to the continuing evolution of humanity. xxiii

I also discovered that in the last three years of his life King had viewed the American preoccupation with rapid economic advancement as the source of our deepening crises both at home and in our relationships with the rest of the world.

As King’s life and ideas became more meaningful to me, I began speaking about him at MLK holiday celebrations and on other occasions. For example, at the University of Michigan 2003 MLK Symposium, my speech was entitled “We must be the change.” At Union Theological Seminary in September 2006, I spoke on “Catching Up with Martin.” At Eastern Michigan University in January 2007, I emphasized the need to “Recapture MLK’s Radical Revolutionary Spirit/Create Cities and Communities Of Hope.” At the Brecht Forum in May 2007, my speech was entitled “Let’s talk about Malcolm and Martin.” xxiv

The more I talked about King, the more I felt the need for each of us to grow our own souls in order to overcome the new and more challenging contradictions of constantly changing realities.

The 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, I realized, was the first struggle by an oppressed people in western society based on the concept of two-sided transformation, both of ourselves and of our institutions. Inspired by the twenty-six-year-old King, a people who had been treated as less than human had struggled for more than a year against their dehumanization, not as angry protesters or as workers in the plant, but as members of the Montgomery community, new men and women representing a more human society in evolution. Using methods including creating their own system of transportation that transformed themselves and increased the good rather than the evil in the world, exercising their spiritual power and always bearing in mind that their goal was not only desegregating buses but building the beloved community, they had inspired the human identity, anti-war and ecological movements that during the last decade of the twentieth century were giving birth to a new civil society in the United States.

The more I studied King’s life and ideas, especially in the last three years before his assassination, the more I recognized the similarity between our struggles in Detroit after the 1967 rebellion and King’s after the 1965 Watts uprising.

On August 6, 1965, nearly a decade after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King was among the black and white leaders who joined President Johnson in celebrating the signing of the Voting Rights Act, the result of the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Less than a week later, on August 11, black youth in Watts, California, protesting the police killing of a speeding driver, exploded in an uprising in which thirty-five people died and thousands were arrested. When King flew to Watts on August 15, he discovered to his surprise that few black youth in Watts had even heard of him or his strategy of non-violence and that, despite the loss of lives, they were claiming victory because their violence had forced the authorities to acknowledge their existence.

The Watts uprising forced King to recognize how little attention he himself had paid to black youth in the cities. So in early 1966 he rented an apartment in the Chicago ghetto and was able to get a sense of how the anger that exploded in Watts was rooted in the powerlessness and uselessness that is the daily experience of black youth made expendable by technology. He also discovered the futility of trying to involve these dispossessed young people in the kinds of nonviolent mass marches that had worked in the South. And they gave him a lot to think about when they demanded to know why they should be nonviolent in Chicago when the U.S. government was employing such massive violence against poor peasants in Vietnam.

Thus, King’s “A Time to Break Silence” speech against the war in Vietnam was the result of his wrestling not only with the Vietnam War but with the questions raised by these young people in what he called “our dying cities.”

“The war in Vietnam,” he recognized, ”is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit. We are on the wrong side of a world revolution because we refuse to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

“We have come to value things more than people. Our technological development has outrun our spiritual development. We have lost our sense of community, of interconnection and participation.”

In order to regain our humanity, he said, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values against the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism. Projecting a new vision of global citizenship, he called on every nation to “develop an over-riding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” xxv

By drawing on the transformational ideas of Hegel, Gandhi and Jesus Christ, all of which had become more meaningful to him since the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King began to connect the despair and violence in the urban ghettos with the alienation which young people experience in today’s world.
This generation is engaged in a cold war with the earlier generation. It is not the familiar and normal hostility of the young groping for independence. It has a new quality of bitter antagonism and confused anger which suggests basic values are being contested.

The source of this alienation is that our society has made material growth and technological advance an end in itself, robbing people of participation, so human beings become smaller while their works become bigger. xxvi

The way to overcome this alienation, King said, is by changing our priorities. Instead of pursuing economic productivity, we need to expand our uniquely human powers, especially our capacity for agape, which is the love that is ready to go to any length to restore community.

This love, King insisted, is not some sentimental weakness but somehow the key to ultimate reality. xxvii

In practice, taking this statement seriously requires a radical change or paradigm shift in our approach to organizing and to citizenship, which is the practice of politics. Instead of pursuing rapid economic development and hoping that it will eventually create community, we can only create community if we do the opposite, i.e., begin with the needs of the community and with creating loving relationships with one another and with the earth.

It also requires a paradigm shift in how we address the three main questions of philosophy: What does it mean to be a human being? How do we know? How shall we live? It means rejecting the scientific rationalism (based on the Cartesian body-mind dichotomy), which recognizes as real only that which can be measured and therefore excludes the knowledge which comes from the heart or from the relationships between people. It means that we must be willing to see with our hearts and not only with our eyes. xxviii

King believed that we could achieve the beloved community because he saw with his heart and not only with his eyes. We can learn the practical meaning of love, he said, “from the young people who joined the civil rights movement, putting on overalls to work in the isolated rural South because they felt the need for more direct ways of learning that would strengthen both society and themselves.”

What we need now in our dying cities, he said, are ways to provide young people with similar opportunities to engage in self-transforming and structure-transforming direct action. xxix

King was assassinated before he could begin to develop strategies to implement this revolutionary/evolutionary perspective for our young people, our cities, and our country. After his death his closest associates were too busy taking advantage of the new opportunities for advancement within the system to keep his vision and his praxis alive.


Meanwhile, as we continued our struggle to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up, I was keeping up with the new thinking taking place on a scale unparalleled since the Enlightenment which preceded the French revolution more then two hundred years ago. xxx

I was also very conscious of the new revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces that had been emerging since King’s assassination.

In the wake of the civil rights, black power and anti-war movements of the 1960s, women, Chicanos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, gays, lesbians, and the disabled were creating their own movements for recognition and social change. The vitality and creativity of these movements reminds us that our country has not been and never will be just black and white.

Out of their experiences of sexism in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements, women were carrying on a many-sided philosophical and practical struggle against all forms of patriarchy. Activist intellectuals like Starhawk were exposing the sixteenth and seventeenth century witch hunts as the means by which the British power structure expropriated the land of the villagers and replaced the immanent knowledge of women with the scientific rationalism of the intellectual elite. Indian physicist and activist Vandana Shiva and German sociologist Maria Mies were explaining how the labor of western societies “colonizes” women, nature and the Third World. By a deeper appreciation of the work of women, peasants and artists, they suggested, we can get an idea of what work will be like in a new non-capitalist society: difficult and time-consuming but rewarding and joyful because it nurtures life. xxxi

Also, having discovered that the personal is political, women activists were abandoning the charismatic male, vertical, and vanguard party leadership patterns of the 1960s and creating more participatory, more empowering, more horizontal kinds of leadership. Instead of modeling their organizing on the lives of men outside the home, e.g. in the plant or in the political arena, they were beginning to model it on the love, caring, healing and patience which are an organic part of the everyday lives of women. These, along with an appreciation of diversity and of strengths and weaknesses, go into the raising of a family. xxxii

Transnational corporations were growing by leaps and bounds. By the 1980s factory jobs were declining as more and more capital was exported overseas to countries where more profit could be made with cheaper labor. National and local legislation establishing minimum social and environmental standards were being overruled by organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO). Global corporations were reducing the power of nation-states, turning people all over the world into consumers, and changing the relationships between people and with the earth into commodity relationships.

In response to this commodification and dehumanization, tens of thousands of individuals and groups, representing very diverse sections of society, including steelworkers and anarchists, mobilized to close down the WTO meeting in Seattle in November 1999. During the ”Battle of Seattle” Starhawk and other activists created affinity groups to decide their own tactics democratically. At subsequent mobilizations, e.g. against Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) in Quebec and Miami, these affinity groups also set up their own communal kitchens, street medic teams, and media centers. Out of these experiences local activists began to see the possibilities for new forms of year-round, more democratic kinds of organizing in their communities.

Following mass mobilizations against corporate globalization in Seattle, Quebec, and Miami, thousands of individuals and groups from around the world gathered at annual World Social Forums and National Social Forums to declare that “Another World is Possible.”

In response to corporate globalization, people in communities all over the world began to create new ways of living at the local level to reconnect themselves with the earth and with one another. xxxiii

The best known of these are the Zapatistas, the indigenous peoples of Chiapas who took over Mexican cities on January 1, 1994, the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) legalized the power of transnational corporations over local economies and government. The goal of the Zapatistas is to create a participatory economy and a participatory democracy from the ground up by a patient process of democratic discussions and nonviolence. Since 1994 Chiapas has become the Mecca and model for revolutionaries all over the world. xxxiv

In the last four years, as a member of the Beloved Communities Initiative, I have been impressed with the diversity of the groups which are in the process of creating new kinds of communities in the United States. xxxv

These include Detroit-City of Hope; the Beloved Community Center and Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Greensboro, North Carolina; an annual fall gathering in New Mexico where Tewawa women share the wisdom of indigenous cultures with people of many different backgrounds; Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a two and one-half acre farm with five greenhouses which is not only growing food for two thousand families but new multiethnic community relations; Access, a Center for Independent Living in Chicago, where the prideful struggle of individuals with disabilities is deepening our understanding of what it means to be a human being; Cookman United Methodist Church in North Philadelphia, where neighborhood residents are creating a loving, caring environment for young people to complete their schooling and also develop leadership skills; Great Leap in Los Angeles, where individuals from different faith backgrounds are expanding their individual identities through spiritual and physical rituals and exercises.

Since 1968 a counterrevolutionary movement has also been developing in the United States. It began with the election of Richard Nixon as president in reaction to the turmoil of the 1960s, e.g. the urban uprisings, the assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy, the police riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. In the 1980s, as the export of jobs created unemployment and insecurity among factory workers and with families also in disarray, a growing number of Americans began to blame the anti-Vietnam war movements and blacks, feminists, gays, liberals and radicals for turning the American Dream into a nightmare. xxxvi

Around the same time a group of conservatives in the power structure with close ties to the arms and energy industries, including Dick Cheney, who was President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff in the 1970s, and Donald Rumsfeld, who was Ford’s secretary of defense, began developing a long-range program to restore U.S. hegemony. Their aim was to increase an already enormous military budget at the expense of domestic social programs, topple regimes resistant to U.S. corporate interests, and replace the UN’s role of preserving and extending international order with U.S. military bases. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these neoconservatives felt that the main obstacle to unilateral U.S. actions had been removed, and in 1997 they founded the Project for the New American Century. xxxvii

The attacks of September 11, 2001, gave them the opportunity to launch the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

How do we overcome this shameful and shameless counterrevolution which has cost the lives of so many American servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, killed more than a million Iraqis, made refugees of other millions, used security as an excuse to destroy rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and violated international law and dishonored our country by torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo? Because it is a movement, it cannot be defeated in the ordinary course of electoral politics. For the same reason, it cannot be eliminated by a seizure of power or insurrection like the Russian revolution in 1917. xxxviii It can only be overcome by a new kind of evolutionary humanist revolution.

In a speech entitled “The Next American Revolution,” which I gave on March 16, 2008, at the closing plenary of the Left Forum in New York City, I explained how this revolution would differ from all previous revolutions. xxxix

I began by quoting from the chapter on “Dialectics and Revolution” in RETC, where, nearly 30 years before 9/11, Jimmy wrote:
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. We must give up many of the things which this country has enjoyed at the expense of damning over one-third of the world into a state of underdevelopment, ignorance, disease and early death. Until the revolutionary forces come to power here, this country will not be safe for the world and revolutionary warfare on an international scale against the United States will remain the wave of the present – unless all of humanity goes up in one big puff.

It is obviously going to take a tremendous transformation to prepare the people of the United States for these new social goals. But potential revolutionaries can only become true revolutionaries if they take the side of those who believe that humanity can be transformed.

Thus the American revolution at this stage in our history, and in the evolution of technology and of the human race, is not about jobs or universal health insurance or fighting inequality or making it possible for more people to realize the American Dream of upward mobility. It is about creating a new American Dream whose goal is a higher humanity instead of the higher standard of living that is dependent upon empire. It is about acknowledging that we Americans have enjoyed upward mobility and middle class comforts and conveniences at the expense of other peoples all over the world. It is about living the kind of lives that will end the galloping inequality both inside this country and between the global North and South, and also slow down global warming. About practicing a new, more active, global and participatory concept of citizenship. About becoming the change we want to see in the world.

This means that it is not enough to organize mobilizations that call on Congress and the President to end the war in Iraq. We must also challenge the American people to examine why 9/11 happened and why so many people around the world who, although they do not support the terrorists, understand that terrorism feeds on the anger that millions feel about U.S. support of the Israel occupation of Palestine and Middle East dictatorships, and the way that we treat whole countries, the peoples of the world, and nature only as resources enabling us to maintain our middle class way of life.

We have to help the American people find the moral strength to recognize that, although no amount of money can compensate for the countless deaths and indescribable suffering that our criminal invasion and occupation have caused the Iraqi people, we have a responsibility to make the material sacrifices that will enable them to begin rebuilding their infrastructure. We have to help the American people grow our souls enough to recognize that, since we have been consuming 25 percent of the planet’s resources even though we are only 4 percent of the world’s population, we are the ones who must take the first big steps to reduce greenhouse emissions. We are the ones who must begin to live more simply so that others can simply live.

Thus, the next American revolution is about challenging the American people and ourselves to “form a more perfect union” by carrying on the revolutionary legacy of William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Audre Lorde, and Malcolm and Martin. It is about claiming this legacy openly and proudly, reminding ourselves and every American that our country was born in revolution. Therefore we are the real Americans while the un-Americans are the neocons, the homophobes, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the anti-immigrant crusaders who, like yesterday’s slaveowners, General Custers, imperialists, and White Citizens Councils, are subverting what is best in the American tradition.

The courage, commitment, conviction and visionary strategies required for this kind revolution are very different from those required to storm the Kremlin or the White House. We can no longer view the American people as masses or warm bodies to be mobilized in increasingly aggressive and more massive struggles for higher wages, better jobs, or guaranteed health care. Instead we must challenge them and ourselves to engage in activities at the grassroots level that build a new and better world by improving the physical, psychological, political and spiritual health of ourselves, our families, our communities, our cities, and our planet.

To my surprise and delight the two thousand or more people gathered in the Great Hall of Cooper Union responded to my speech with a standing ovation. It was, I believe, a sign that a new generation of Americans is ready to recognize that the next American revolution is not about reconstituting the welfare state but about making the radical revolution in values that Martin Luther King Jr. advocated. From the calamity of the Vietnam and Iraq wars they have learned that power does not come out of the barrel of a gun or from taking over the White House. Only right makes might. xl

I also believe that, in much the same way and for many of the same reasons that Detroiters have been forced by the devastation of de-industrialization to begin rebuilding, redefining and respiriting our city from the ground up, the American people are being forced by the interconnected crises of the Iraq war, global warming, floods, job insecurity, and a sinking economy to begin making a radical revolution in their way of life.

For example, a lot of Americans are furious these days because gas prices are soaring. But one hundred years from now our posterity may bless this period when high gas prices finally forced Americans to bike or take public transportation to work, to dream of neighborhood stores within walking distance, and to start building cities that are friendlier to children and pedestrians than to cars. xli

Likewise, as food prices skyrocket, hunger riots erupt, and obesity, diabetes, and other health problems caused by our industrialized food production system reach epidemic levels, the urban agricultural movement is the fastest growing movement in the United States. Americans are beginning to recognize that our health and the health of our communities and our planet require that we grow our own food closer to where we live.

This is how necessity and freedom have come together in Detroit, and how I see them coming together in other cities in the days ahead. It was not an abstract idealism but the real and deteriorating conditions of life in a de-industrialized Detroit that moved us to found Detroit Summer in 1992, so that young people could begin taking responsibility for rebuilding, redefining and respiriting our city from the ground up.


2007 was the fortieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Break the Silence” speech and also of the July 1967 Detroit rebellion. To commemorate these historic events, the Boggs Center convened two meetings: one in April “To Transform Grief into Hope” and one in July to involve Detroiters in a conversation on “Where Do We Go from Here?”

At the July meeting people told so many inspiring stories of grassroots activities and projects that Detroiters are creating or want to create that we decided to launch a Detroit-City of Hope campaign to identify, encourage and promote these as a new infrastructure for our city. Among these activities and projects (which recall those in the Manifesto for an American Revolutionary Party in 1982 and in “Rebuilding Detroit: An Alternative to Casino Gambling” in 1988) are:
  • expanding urban agriculture and small businesses to create a sustainable local economy.
  • re-inventing work so that it is not just a job done for a paycheck but to develop people and build community.
  • re-inventing education to include children in activities that transform both themselves and their environment.
  • creating co-ops to produce local goods for local needs.
  • developing peace zones to transform our relationships with one another in our homes and on our streets.
  • replacing punitive justice with restorative justice programs to keep nonviolent offenders in our communities and out of prisons that not only misspend billions much needed for roads and schools but turn minor offenders into hardened criminals. xlii
Over thirty years ago in RETC we projected a vision of two-sided transformation of ourselves and our institutions as the key to the next American revolution. In the last three years of his life, in response to the Vietnam war and youth despair in our dying cities, this is the kind of American revolution that MLK was also projecting in his call for a radical revolution of values.

I believe that twenty-first century revolutions will be huge steps forward in the continuing evolution of the human race. But I also believe that, more often than not, these huge steps will be the accumulation and culmination of small steps, like planting community gardens and creating community peace zones. xliii

We are all works in progress, always in the process of being and becoming. Periodically there come times like the present when the crisis is so profound and the contradictions so interconnected that if we are willing to see with our hearts and not only with our eyes, we can accelerate the continuing evolution of the human race towards becoming more socially responsible, more self-conscious, more self-critical human beings.

Our country is also a work in progress. This is our time to reject the old American Dream of a higher standard of living based upon empire, and embrace a new American Dream of a higher standard of humanity that preserves the best in our revolutionary legacy. We can become the leaders we are looking for.

Towards that end we need to keep combining practice with reflection and urgency with patience. That is what I have learned after nearly seven decades of struggle for radical social change.

i After Jimmy’s death, friends and comrades founded the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership to continue our legacy of combining practice with reflection, and local groundedness with visionary strategizing. Some of Jimmy’s most memorable speeches (Think Dialectically, Not Biologically; The Next Development in Education; Rebuilding Detroit: An Alternative to Casino Gambling) are posted on the Center’s website at

The naturalness and ease with which Jimmy thought dialectically never ceased to amaze me. It was rooted in his sense of himself as a black American, born and raised in the deep agricultural South, who then became a Chrysler worker for twenty-eight years, and was now wondering about the far-reaching cultural changes that the new informational technology was bringing.

Almost everyone who talked with him for only a few minutes realized that they had come into contact with an “organic intellectual,” even if they had never heard of Gramsci. It was obvious that Jimmy’s ideas came not out of books but out of continuing reflection on his own life and the lives of working people like himself.

Long before we met, he had decided that he was an American revolutionist who loved this country enough to change it. He was very conscious that the blood and sweat of his ancestors was in this country’s soil and had already embarked on the struggle to ensure that his people would be among those deciding its economic and political future. That is why he was able to write paragraphs like the following that end chapter 6 on “Dialectics and Revolution” in RETC:
Technological man/woman developed because human beings had to discover how to keep warm, how to make fire, how to grow food, how to build dams, how to dig wells. Therefore human beings were compelled to manifest their humanity in their technological capacity, to discover the power within them to invent tools and technologies which would extend their material powers. We have concentrated our powers on making things to the point that we have intensified our greed for more things and lost the understanding of why this productivity was originally pursued. The result is that the mind of man/woman is now totally out of balance, totally out of proportion.

That is what production for the sake of production has done to modern man/woman. That is the basic contradiction confronting everyone who has lived and developed inside the United States. That is the contradiction which neither the U.S. government nor any social force in the United States up to now has been willing to face, because the underlying philosophy of this country, from top to bottom, remains the philosophy that economic development can and will resolve all political and social problems.

ii The four of us, from very different backgrounds, had been members of the Johnson-Forest Tendency led by West Indian Marxist C.L.R. James and Russian-born Marxist Raya Dunayevskaya. One Alabama-born African American, one New England Yankee, one Jewish American and one Chinese American, we reflected the American experience.

To learn more about Lyman and Freddy and these conversations, see Conversations in Maine: Exploring our Nation’s Future, South End Press, 1978; and my autobiography, Living for Change, University of Minnesota Press, 1998, pp. 146-157. Lyman died in 1978 and Freddy in 1999. Richard Feldman wrote the introduction to Conversations in Maine. Shea Howell has continued to host the conversations in Maine since Freddy’s death. Both Rich and Shea reviewed this introduction and made helpful suggestions.

iii Decades before writing Das Kapital in the British Museum, a twenty-nine-year-old Karl Marx had anticipated this contradiction when he wrote in the Communist Manifesto that as a result of the “constant revolutionizing of production... all that is sacred is profaned, all that is solid melts into air, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his conditions of life and his relations with his kind.”

iv Harry Braverman, whose classic Labor and Monopoly Capital was also published in 1974, represented Monthly Review Press in these arrangements. Monthly Review had already published two books by Jimmy, The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook, in 1963 (brought to the attention of Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy by W.H. “Ping” Ferry); and Racism and the Class Struggle: Further Pages from a Black Worker’s Notebook, in 1970. In The American Revolution, Jimmy had challenged the validity of Marx’s nineteenthcentury analysis for a technologically-advanced society like the United States in the midtwentieth century, and had also warned that to make a revolution in our country, all Americans, including workers, blacks, and the most oppressed, would have to make political and ethical choices. Soon after its publication, The American Revolution was translated and published in five other languages (Japanese, French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan. Racism and the Class Struggle, a compilation of Jimmy’s speeches during the 1970s, has been widely read in Black Studies classes. At a twentieth anniversary celebration of The American Revolution in 1983, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis linked RETC to Jimmy’s earlier books by performing a LOVER-LOVE/REVOL-EVOL skit.

v For example, before the 1967 rebellion, there were only a few black foremen in the auto industry and few, if any, black tellers in Detroit banks or black managers in supermarkets. In 1965 we tried, unsuccessfully, to get a few blacks elected to the Detroit City Council by organizing a plunking (“four and no more”) campaign. In 1966 Detroit high school students went on strike to demand Black History classes and black principals. After the rebellion, the white power structure was so fearful of a recurrence that it rushed to promote blacks to highly visible positions.

vi Shea Howell used to joke that an elephant could be born in the time it took to complete one of our study groups. Living for Change, p. 163.

vii This decision was explained in the new introduction to the fifth printing of the Manifesto for a Black Revolutionary Party, published in April 1976.

viii Over the years it has been difficult for traditional radicals to develop a vision and praxis for an American revolution because any appreciation of the uniqueness of American history was shunned as “American exceptionalism.” As a result, historical agency was displaced onto subjects in other countries, especially in the Third World. Jimmy began thinking about his first book The American Revolution when he saw how radicals in the plant would fumble around for an answer when workers asked “What is socialism and why should the people struggle for it?” The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Workers Notebook, Monthly Review Press, 1963, p. 43. See the little 1976 pamphlet Towards a New Concept of Citizenship by James Boggs.

ix GM worker Jim Hocker, who co-authored But What About the Workers? with Jimmy in 1974, stopped by regularly after work for conversations in our kitchen. In 1982 NOAR published these conversations as These Are the Times that Try Our Souls: Conversations in Detroit, with an introduction by Rich Feldman who worked at the Ford truck plant.

x These publications can be ordered from the James & Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership at

xi In 1980 Coleman Young,
joined with General Motors to announce that the city was demolishing an entire neighborhood, bulldozing 1,500 houses, 144 businesses, sixteen churches, two schools, and a hospital in Poletown so that GM could build a Cadillac plant, with Detroit assuming the costs of land clearance and preparation. The endangered community, an integrated neighborhood of Poles and blacks, carried on a heroic struggle to save their homes and their community, but the UAW supported Young and GM because they promised that the new plant would employ six thousand workers. Ralph Nader sent in a team of five members to work with the Poletown protesters for six months. But in vain. All the homes, businesses, churches, schools, and the hospital were leveled. After the demolition I could not bear to drive around the site that was not far from our house. It was like a moonscape, so desolate that I could not tell east from west or north from south.

When the new Poletown plant finally opened in 1984, it was so automated that it only employed 2,500 workers, and it has never employed more than 4,000 - this despite the fact that the two older Cadillac plants that the Poletown plant replaced had employed 15,000 people as recently as 1979. Living for Change, p. 179.

xii James Boggs: “Rebuilding Detroit: an Alternative to Casino Gambling.”

xiii “The Emerald City” by Michele Owens, Oprah Magazine, April 2008.

xiv See “Down a green path: An alternative vision for a section of east Detroit takes shape” by Curt Guyette, Metro Times, October 31, 2001.

xv “On a roll: Avalon International Breads isn't just about making dough” by Lisa M. Collins, Metro Times, October 4, 2002.

xvi “Detroiters point way for twenty-first century cities” by Grace Lee Boggs, Michigan Citizen, November 25-December 1, 2007. Eight years ago I began writing weekly columns in the Michigan Citizen. The hundreds of columns I have written are posted on the Boggs Center website at

xvii “... it is unfair, or at least deeply ironic, that black people in Detroit are being forced to undertake an experiment in utopian post-urbanism that appears to be uncomfortably similar to the sharecropping past their parents and grandparents sought to escape. There is no moral reason why they should do and be better than the rest of us – but there is a practical one. They have to. Detroit is where change is most urgent and therefore most viable. The rest of us will get there later, when necessity drives us too, and by that time Detroit may be the shining example we can look to, the post-industrial green city that was once the steel-gray capital of Fordist manufacturing.” Rebecca Solnit: “Detroit Arcadia: Exploring the post-American landscape.” Harper’s Magazine, July 2007.

xviii In June 1963, Dr. King, arm-in-arm with Detroit black power leaders and labor leader Walter Reuther, led a huge march down Woodward Avenue in Detroit. I was one of the organizers of the march. For the story of how and why it came about, see Living for Change, p. 124.

xix In the spring of 1964, together with Max Stanford of Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM); Baltimore Afro-American reporter William Worthy, and Patricia Robinson of Third World Press, Jimmy and I met with Malcolm in a Harlem luncheonette to discuss our proposal that he come to Detroit to help build the Organization for Black Power. Malcolm’s response was that we should go ahead while he served the movement as an “evangelist.” However, after Malcolm discovered during his pilgrimage to Mecca that revolutionaries come in all races, he realized that he had to go back to square one to do the hard theoretical work necessary to develop a new body of ideas. As he told Jan Carew in a conversation in London:
I’m a Muslim and a revolutionary, and I’m learning more and more about political theories as the months go by. The only Marxist group in America that offered me a platform was the Socialist Workers Party. I respect them and they respect me. The Communists have nixed me, gone out of the way to attack me, that is, with the exception of the Cuban Communists. If a mixture of nationalism and Marxism makes the Cubans fight the way they do and make the Vietnamese stand up so resolutely to the might of America and its European and other lapdogs, then there must be something to it. But my Organization of African American Unity is based in Harlem and we’ve got to creep before we walk and walk before we run.... But the chances are that they will get me the way they got Lumumba before he reached the running stage.
Jan Carew Ghosts in our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England, and the Caribbean, p. 36. Lawrence Hill Books 1994.

This kind of introspection, questioning and transformation, which were so characteristic of Malcolm, has been mostly ignored by black nationalists and Black Power militants.

xx Vincent wrote the first draft of MLK’s April 4, 1967 historic anti-Vietnam war speech, “Time to Break the Silence.” Years later, the ideas in the 1984 pamphlet were expanded and published by him in Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero: Orbis, 1996; revised 2007.

xxi For example, We Shall Overcome: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Freedom Movement, ed. Peter J. Albert and Ronald Hoffman, DaCapo Press, 1993, is a compilation of papers presented by an impressive group of scholars and activists at an October 1986 symposium convened in Washington, D.C. to reflect on King’s life and work following the decision to make King’s birthday an annual holiday.

xxii See my “Thoughts on the Black Radical Congress,” Michigan Citizen, May 10-16, 1998. Bob Lucas, to whom my letter is addressed, led the 1966 march into Cicero, Illinois.

xxiii The Phenomenology of Mind by G.W.F. Hegel, translated with an Introduction and Notes by J. B. Baillie, p.81. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 1931.

xxiv See for these and other speeches by me.

xxv “A Time to Break Silence,” reprinted in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. ed. James M. Washington, p. 231. Harper Collins, 1991.

xxvi The Trumpet of Conscience, reprinted in A Testament of Hope, ibid. p. 641.

xxvii King’s concept of love recalls Che Guevara’s: "Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love.” Exploring King’s concept can help us understand why Che’s statement has been so puzzling to traditional radicals and why Che lives on in the hearts of young revolutionaries.

For example, in a thought-provoking article, “King, the Constitution and the Courts,” theologians and lawyers Barbara A. Holmes and Susan Winfield Holmes challenge us to think more expansively about King’s concept of love. King’s,
agape love is a foundational principle for social change.... For King, love is synonymous with ethics. It is a moral principle that provides context, norms, rules of engagement, and a vision of moral flourishing.... The strength of King’s belief in the law, his abiding faith in love as praxis, and the force of his performative acts forged crosscultural alliances and inspired even the courts to interpret the laws in a manner that for a time changed the face of the nation,,,,

King’s higher-law values also challenge the theory articulated by W.E.B. DuBois that double consciousness separated the public and private lives of black people.... One cannot claim to be operating with higher-law values unless a constant self-critique is part of the process.... King knew that love crucified, but not broken, was the only model that could redeem the dignity of those who sought freedom and those who conspired to deny it....

When we are confronted by the infrastructures of malignant social systems, love seems frail at best and irrelevant at worst. Yet, the lessons of history teach just the opposite. In defiance of our logic, love has sustained whole communities. With nothing more than love, besieged people confront radical evil, endure losses, bury their dead, and console each other during and after the bereavement.... King believed that the future is love....He also believed that peaceful demonstrations were, in fact, love speaking to the nation....Using love’s untapped potential, he awakened a nation to its shortcomings and African Americans to the fullness of their humanity.
The Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Boundaries of Law, Politics, and Religion. Edited by Lewis V. Baldwin. Rufus Burrow, Jr., Barbara A. Holmes, and Susan Holmes Winfield, contributors. University of Notre Dame Press, 2002.

Jimmy Boggs 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.” “ Jimmy taught me,” Shea Howell recalls,
that revolutions are made out of love for people and for place. 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 whomever 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. And he taught me that love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today and tomorrow and tomorrow.

In All about Love, bell hooks refers readers to self-help psychiatrist M. Scott Peck who defines love as ‘the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” New Visions, 2000. See Mitchel Cohen: “Revolution Guided by Feelings of Great Love, Learning from Che Guevara,” CounterPunch, January 3 / 4; also Michael Hardt on Love,

xxviii See “Seeing Detroit with your heart” by Grace Lee Boggs, Michigan Citizen, June 15-21. 2008.

xxix The Trumpet of Conscience, p. 645, see note xxv.

xxx The historian I have found to be most insightful about the 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 Sixteenth Century. Academic Press, 1974.

The movements of the 1960s culminated in what Wallerstein 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 activity is most effective if channeled through one party. The labor-capital conflict is not the only fundamental conflict in capitalism; there is also gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. Democracy is not a bourgeois concept but a profoundly revolutionary, anti-capitalist idea. An increase in productivity is not an essential goal of socialism. We need to consider its ecological and human consequences, including consumerism and the commodification of everything. We also need to reassess our faith in science in favor of a ‘willingness to think in terms of a more complex relationship between determinism and free will, order and chaos.’ After Liberalism, The New Press, 1995, chapter 11.

Next, in his little 1998 book, Utopistics: The 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. After 1968, people the world over, including Africa and Asia, no longer believed in the ability of state structures to improve the commonweal. This “resulted in a kind of widespread and amorphous antistatism of a kind totally unknown in the long period between 1789 and 1968. It was debilitating and aroused fear as well as uncertainty.” The New Press. 1998, p. 29-32.

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. University of Minnesota Press, 1999. Also see Ilya Prigogine: The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos and the New Laws of Nature. The Free Press, 1996.

In 2001, I had an interesting discussion with Wallerstein at Binghamton University. When I turned ninety in 2005, he emailed me that he was coming to Detroit for my hundredth birthday.

xxxi Starhawk: “The Burning Times: Notes on a Critical Period in History," Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics. Beacon 1982. Eco-Feminism by Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies, Zed 1993. The Subsistence Alternative by Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen and Maria Mies, Zed 2000, includes a section on Detroit Summer. Working Inside Out by Margo Adair, who was a member of the Bay Area NOAR local, provides both historical background and practical advice for bringing our hearts and minds together. Sourcebooks 2003.

See also The Re-Invention of Work, A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time by Matthew Fox, Harper San Francisco, 1994. Fox has also written “95 Theses” that begin with the statements that “God is both Mother and Father,” and, “At this time in history, God is more Mother than Father because the feminine is most missing and it is important to bring gender balance back.” YES! Magazine, Winter 2006.

xxxii I caught a glimpse of this new kind of organizing at the Allied Media Conference (AMC08), which met in Detroit over the weekend of June 20-22, 2008. The theme was “Evolution Beyond Survival.” For three days, seven hundred activists from all over the U.S. and Canada, representing twenty-two youth organizations as well as intergenerational ones, consisting mostly of women and people of color, shared experiences and strategies and laughed, danced and sang together. The evolutionary/revolutionary energy of this gathering, I recognized, came primarily from the way that most of these young people are actively engaged in rebuilding local communities, nurturing each other, patiently transforming themselves and their communities from the ground up. Unlike our gatherings in the 1960s, they are led mostly by women and are not primarily adversarial or focused on power. One of the most moving AMC08 presentations was by the SistaiiSista collective of “working-class young and adult Black and Latina women building together to model a society based on liberation and love.” See

See also my column on “Another Amazing Allied Media Conference,” Michigan Citizen, June 29-July 5, 2008, and my closing remarks at the conference.

xxxiii In Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming, Viking 2007, environmentalist Paul Hawken estimates that there may be more than a million of these self-healing civic groups in every country around the world, most of them small and barely visible but together creating the largest movement the world has ever known. This movement has no central leadership and is not bound together by any “ism.” Its very diverse and widely scattered individuals and groups are connected mainly by the Internet and other information technologies. But they are joined at the heart by their commitment to social justice, to caring for each other and for the earth, and to creating new forms of more democratic governance; and by their indomitable faith in our ability to create the world anew.

In two widely-read books on globalization (Empire and Multitude), Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri emphasize the historical uniqueness of these groups. These “singularities” do not fuse into some unity like “the people” or “the workers of the world.” They are not connected in centralized organizations like the Second or Third Internationals, as in the Marxist-Leninist era. Instead they connect through networks. What they have in common is that they are each imagining and creating new social identities and new political subjects that will take the place of the cogs and consumers to which global capitalism is seeking to reduce us. Therefore they have “the potential to create a new, alternative society.“ p. 159, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, Penguin 2005.

Organizational consultant Margaret Wheatley explains the impact of these small groups in the light of modern science:
In a web the potential impact of local actions bears no relationship to their size. When we choose to act locally, we may be wanting to influence the entire system. But we work where we are, with the system that we know, the one we can get our arms around. From a Newtonian perspective, our efforts often seem too small, and we doubt that our actions will contribute incrementally to large-scale change. Step by step, system by system we aspire to develop enough mass or force to alter the larger system.

But a quantum view explains the success of small efforts quite differently. Acting locally allows us to be inside the movement and flow of the system, participating in all those complex events occurring simultaneously. We are more likely to be sensitive to the dynamics of this system, and thus more effective. However, changes in small places also affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness. Activities in one part of the whole create effects that appear in distant places. Because of these unseen connections, there is potential value in working anywhere in the system. We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. I have learned that in this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.
Leadership and the New Science, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1999, pp. 44-5.

xxxiv See Rebecca Solnit: “Revolution of the Snails: Encounters with the Zapatistas,” Z Magazine, January 16, 2008. This kind of transformational revolution obviously requires enormous patience. In The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, Vijay Prashad tells the story of how Tanzania President Julius Nyerere began with a policy of “transformation” but resorted to “commandism” and bureaucracy because, like other Third World leaders, he was under pressure to develop the economy and in “too much of a hurry.” The Free Press, 2007, p.196.

xxxv The Beloved Communities Initiative was inspired by a panel discussion on the significance of the last three years of MLK’s life during a Spirituality and Activists Retreat at the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in October 2004. Besides myself, the panelists were John Maguire, a friend of MLK’s since they roomed together as students in the 1950s, and my old friend Vincent Harding. Vincent and John both helped craft MLK’s historic April 4, 1967 speech. See Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws that changed America by Nick Kotz, Houghton Mifflin Company 2005. p. 373. Also “These are the times to grow our souls/ Call to the Beloved Community,”

xxxvi From Racism to Counter-Revolution, NOAR statement, January 1981.

xxxvii The collapse of the Soviet Union also provided an opportunity for fresh thinking about the Soviet dictatorship. Instead of viewing this dictatorship as the result of communist ideology or of the personalities of Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin, it can be viewed dialectically as the contradiction that emerges when revolutionaries seize state power without having previously transformed the people. This means that instead of making a priority of the assault on power structures, as Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin had done, revolutionaries need to shift our focus to constructing power from below by empowering the people and creating dual power structures.

Michael Hardt has written a fascinating little book (Michael Hardt presents Thomas Jefferson the Declaration of Independence, Verso 2007), in which he establishes a link between Lenin, the much vilified Bolshevik, and Thomas Jefferson, the icon of American democracy. Both saw selfrule (Lenin's "every cook can govern") as the goal of revolution and human evolution. Both were convinced that the means towards that goal was practice in self-rule. Both believed that "humanity can and must be transformed" through practice in self-rule after the event of rebellion, which lasts only a few days, and the historical process of transformation, requiring many decades and generations. (Lenin's Workers and Peasants Inspection, Jefferson's "wards" or "little republics "). That’s why Lenin opposed anarchism and Jefferson was so interested in education.

xxxviii One of the reasons Lenin gave for the Bolsheviks seizing power in the fall of 1917 was the need to forestall another counterrevolutionary attempt by General Kornilov to overthrow the Menshevik government because it was wavering in the war against Germany.

xxxix Published in the Michigan Citizen, March 23-28. 2008. The speech has also been broadcast on the KPFA program, Against the Grain.

xl It was in the Great Hall of Cooper Union that Abraham Lincoln concluded his February 1860 speech with these words that anticipate MLK: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

xli As I write this introduction, it is the Fourth of July weekend, and I have written the following for my next column in the Michigan Citizen:
...decades from now, if the human race survives, this year’s Fourth of July may be remembered as the one when holiday celebrations went beyond beer and barbecuing to include stories of the steps that we and others are taking and can take to change the way we are living to stop global warming; the year we realized that we are the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls. Instead of viewing ourselves as subjects who can’t stop driving SUVs, we began viewing ourselves as citizens with the right and responsibility to care for our planet and our posterity.

Decades from now, as our grandchildren and great grandchildren gather in backyards with friends, families and neighbors to celebrate their Fourth of July, I can imagine them toasting each other as Sons and Daughters of the Second American Revolution. Once upon a time, they’ll be boasting, it was our grandparents and great-grandparents who began biking or taking the bus to work. It was our grandparents and great-grandparents who urged others to do the same instead of just griping. It was our grandparents and great-grandparents who brought about a historic decline in the number of floods, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires by changing their own gas-guzzling way of life. It was our grandparents and great-grandparents who organized the demonstrations which persuaded city governments to create one or two carfree days every month and provide completely free public transportation to discourage people from driving cars.

I have little patience with the prophets of Doom and Gloom. I know as well as they do that our whole climate is changing, that water shortages, crop failures, increasing damages from extreme weather events, etc. threaten a breakdown in infrastructures and democratic processes.

But doomsayers breed and deepen despair. They apparently believe that the only way to avoid total collapse is by changing the whole system with one stroke - as if human beings were like a school of fish who all change direction at the same time or as if changing the whole system was as simple as rubbing out some misspelled words on a blackboard.
“Independence day, 2008,” Michigan Citizen, July 13-19, 2008.


xliii See “Revolution as a New Beginning,” interview with Grace Lee Boggs, Upping the Anti,” no. 1 & 2, Project of the Autonomy & Solidarity Network, at

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