Outfoxing the Destruction of Wisdom

Rich Gibson, San Diego State University

Presentation Notes 

Perpetual War or Social Justice

Kearney Nebraska March 10 2002 (1)

Why Have School: Fascism or Social Revolution? 

I used to work in the Dearborn Michigan Ford Rouge Plant, in the iron foundry. I worked nights, and dreaded my approach to the bridge over the road that took me into the plant. I could see flames spewing from the silo that was my work place, the molten iron casting down long troughs into freight cars below. I could smell the sulphur, feel the jarring clangs of huge presses, barely hear the shouts of workers straining for presence over their machines. I hated the Rouge, and I learned to hate the fascist history of the family who own it: Fords. It was like walking into hell. 

When I worked at the Rouge, more than 100,000 people worked there. We made everything that went into a car right there, nearly from scratch. We did import rubber for tires, but otherwise we made the glass for the windows, the iron to be the steel, molded the doors, fashioned and installed the door handles, polished the exterior and wrested the engine under the hood. Our plant was the size of a town, as big as Kalamazoo. My UAW local was the largest and most militant in the union. The union engaged in massive pitched battles with the Fords and their goons; one fight, at the Battle of the Overpass (where I used to cross to enter work) led to massive outpouring of Detroit citizenry in support of the communists who formed the union. Today, the Rouge employs just around 9,000 people, most of them working for a foreign iron manufacturer who bought the section of the plant where I used to work, the iron foundry. The largest local in the UAW now is one I helped found, the local representing Michigan state employees. The state workers' UAW local has never been on strike, has no rights to bargain collectively with the employer--and no plan for struggle except steady organized retreat. The fastest growing sector of the state work force is prison guards and police. 

When I was in the fifth grade in Michigan, I had a wonderful teacher, Hope Linstruth. I was probably a difficult boy. I had my own plans, I fought a lot, was full of arrogance and fear. Ms Linstruth gave me freedom and direction. She let me read what I wanted, urged me to write and criticized my writing, offered me a long but tight rein, in a class that probably had 35 kids in it. Perhaps because of her, I did well on a high-stakes exam and won a scholarship to a prestigious private boys school outside my hometown, Detroit. Cranbrook is a huge rolling estate, acres of beautiful rolling green mowed fields, tall pines, an observatory, an art and science institute, architecture by the finest of moderns, and the most traditional of Brits, a series of swimming pools, "Jonahs,"one pouring down into the next via pristine natural waterfalls-the largest Big Jonah the size of a football field. 

The boys school, perhaps a mile from the Kingswood girls school, looks a little like a miniature Cambridge; classroom buildings of solid stone, a chapel and dining hall with stained glass windows, a basement rifle range, a library with a fireplace and leather chairs.

On one of my first days at the school, the boys were arranged by age, marched into a chapel lined with two stories of stained glass. We sat on old wood pews, faces forward. waiting. Down the center aisle came the Headmaster coiffed and suited, not in the manner of Chips, but Brooks Brothers. Harry Hoey took the podium, picked up a globe next to him, and said, "Gentlemen, this is ours--and during your tenure at Cranbrook we will learn how we make it act." 

The idea that we can understand our world, and overcome the conditions we are born into has vanished from schooling. I think that is related to the death of the Rouge and the social developments that trail capital's hunger for cheaper labor, easier access to raw materials like oil and water, markets; at each stage diminishing all that it touches, reaching its zenith in capital simply seeking more capital, producing nothing of value but violence and irrationalism--a full assault on everything living, at war to enslave every body, every mind, in a capsule of fear and false contentment. 

The rich society in the history of the world that offers its children perpetual war is likely to make peculiar demands on schooling. 

The jobs at the Rouge have evaporated in North America, and then were lost again. The Mexican maquilladoa plants across the boder from San Diego laid off 250,000 workers from 2000 to 2002. Capital moves quickly these days, not tied to physical plants and only tied to nations in its demands for earnest military recruits who will salute capital's varied flags--and die for a process that they neither understand nor control. 

In this context, we can ask a reasonable question, and try to answer it: Why have school? 

There are some transparent answers. We have school so people will learn skills, reading, writing, math, and more. We have school so people will develop ideas, at least in general ways, perhaps to learn to socialize with one another. The standard myth is that school will move you up on the social scale. It might, but the odds against that are terrific. Very, very few people ever escape their birth-class; not the rich and not the poor and not those shrinking numbers in-between. 

What most people miss is that schools are huge markets. Consider the costs of the busses, the salaries, the architectural costs, the two billion per year testing industry, coke sales, and textbooks. 

From time to time, schools are exposed as focal points of corruption. In Florida, one of the major fruit juice manufacturers was caught selling sugar water as apple juice and slapped with a fine. In Detroit, construction companies made hundreds of thousands of dollars from no-bid school contracts. School administrators rarely have backgrounds in the accounting world and may be especially vulnerable to scams. Or they may just be crooked.

People send their children to schools because schools are centers for hope, hope about all kinds of things. Hope that the kids will come away better able to survive in a harsh world, hope that their kids might have some fun, hope that they will get some food and medical care, hope that they will someday help out the parents, hope that they will be away from home for extended periods so care-givers can have some peace. 

Once, not so long ago, it was widely understood, part of the popular conversation, that hope in school had some deeper substance. Now, that substance, like the jobs at the Rouge and the notion of education to comprehend and transform the world, is silenced. Once it was hope that school could make us all more free, not free in the sense of being more isolated, seperated, greedier; but hope in the sense of being more free by being more connected with others in friendly ways, more rational, more reasonable, more able to play one instrument very well, but to also hear and enjoy the whole orchestra.

With the audience, decode, "Why have school?" 

1. In the interim, as they think: "We made sure we all got it, then we moved on," Evaluation in a country school. Cranbrook, Rouge Stories

You can understand and transform the world. Shift in society away from the power of the industrial working class, away from the industrial plants in North America, to schools as the central organizing point of life, making schools ever more than before, contested terrain. 

Demonstrate on the one hand the outlook that can offer us ways to create the tangible equality that will be necessary to transform what on the other hand is the crisis of the organized decay of an inequitable and unjust society which is, primarily, out of control. That hopeful outlook is not unfounded, but rooted in the processes that transformed the Rouge Plant, the remarkable ability of capital to bring people together through systems of production, exchange, communication, transportation,; yet to simultaneously divide people through inequality, hyper-nationalism, racism, religious irrationalism, and sexism. This unifying and disunifying process is one of many contradictions that I hope to highlight today. 

On Friday, March 8th, the US Senate voted unanimously to support the perpetual war that George Bush and Al Gore have offered to the people of the world. People in the U.S. and around the world are offered an untenable choice: Tyranny or Terror--or both. 

Not one year before, the same people were wondering where the peace dividend might be spent next. 

But, we in the Rouge Forum were writing three years ago that middle school teachers were looking at students who would probably be the soldiers in the next oil war. We were a two years off. 

It was easy to see this coming, but it was not easy to see this specific series of events coming. 

2. What was the social context before September 11? 

*Booming Inequality within the US, and between the US and the world 

*Segregation within communities and schools Harvard

*Irrationalism--religious fundamentalism in school and out

*Regimentation of society via spectacles, surveillance, and the suspension of common civil liberties.

*Rising authoritarianism on the job and off, as the vertical discipline of society sharpened. This was especially easy to see in schools. 

*Militarization of the schools and society. 

*Technology leading to massive unemployment and overproduction

*A mystical economy built on Ponzi schemes like Enron, and economy that was unraveling with the nasdaq collapse

*A deepening divide of town and country, with masses of people being driven off the land and arriving in cities, homeless and hopeless. 

*A cultural attack in North American, designed to re-heorize the military and to eradicate memories of Vietnam. 

*Government less and less as a neutral arbitor of disputes, more and more a weapon in the hands of the powerful.

But September 11, the despicable terrorist attack and what followed , was both a qualitative shift in our social context, and a bright light illuminating what was already going on that went often unnoticed.

September 11 and the events that followed corroborated at least these other contradictions:

The contradiction between global capital and the national base of capitals personifications, the people who seek to ride the process. 

In Oil, which is central to understanding these events, this plays out with the battles between Unocal, Chevron, Bridas from Argentina, Russia, the countries of the Middle East oil fields, the new central asian nations, Columbia and Venezuela, Japan, and China, among many others. 

It appears that the US now seeks to resolve that contradiction by invading the world, everywhere from the Phillipines to Central Asia, Iraq, and Columbia and unannounced more to come. So, the U.S. seeks to resolve the national/global contradiction by extending its global rule, by invading the world, with permanent bases everywhere, under its national base. 

That will create another contradiction, the deepening inequality that the war costs will create will lead to intensified suffering among the poorest section of U.S. society.

But that leads yet to another key contradiction: The fact that global capital did not globalize civilization, though its technological and intellectual advances certainly did make it possible. Instead, capital moved to enclaves of the relatively prosperous whose lives were comfortable if empty (and even they were beginning to realize that--after three SUV's and an RV, what is there?). Still, while capital is a totalizing system, unearthing the most dedicated hermits, while the people of Tora Bora or the Falklands would testify that there is no where to run from capital, it remains that the gaps capital has left in modernization must be considered gaping gaps in capital itself. 

Capital also created enclaves which can today be consider Talibanized, fountainheads of impoverishment, despair, mysticism, ignorance, intolerance, and brutality. Everywhere, the abused abuse. Yet, at the same time, we must recognize that it has always been the wisdom of the slaves, whose daily lives offer not only the horrible details of enslavement, but whose social practice offers better understandings of the complex routes to freedom. 

This points to another contradiction illuminated by September 11 is that of the shifting development of capital itself, from a revolutionary scientific system that developed and changed the world, to a system that created the possibility of destroying the world, a system which is no longer so much concerned with productive development, but which is solely interested in recreating capital itself. After he demanded, and won, millions of dollars of concessions from his work force, with the cooperation of the United Steelworkers Union, the president of US Steel purchased a Canadian liquor company, Hublein, and says, "I am not in business to make steel, I am in business to make money." 

September 11 deepens the question of the relationship of government to the private sector, as does, certainly the collapse of Enron and subsequent exposures of the seamless connections of the political world with the world of wealth. Research following September 11 shows, for example, that US oil company officials were directing the activities of the US military in Central Asia for at least three years before the twin tower explosions. Or, consider that the the political leaders in the House popped up from hiding after September 11and passed a bill that includes : 

$1.4 billion for IBM

$833 million for General Motors

$671 million for General Electric

$572 million for Chevron Texaco

$254 million for Enron

The bill also includes a rider that says the salaries of airline executives, who had laid off more than 20,000 workers before receiving their own multi-billion dollar bailout. could not be capped. Little companies, like Dallas Power and Light, with about 15, 000 employees (compared to GM's 350,000) got a healthy chunk too, about $699 million, perhaps as a hope offering to entrepreneurs. 

In the cultural arena, the interests of capital went public when the top radio stations in the US banned, seemingly for good, hundreds of songs, like John Lennon's Imagine, and even the Jerry Lee Lewis classic Great Balls of Fire. Hollywood immediately swore devotion, and just as it demonized communists in an earlier era, so did it turn its eyes on terrorists--of all stripes, but the US stripe. 

September 11 makes clear that the second tier representatives of imperial capital, like their predecessors in Vietnam, often become convinced that they are not puppets, but players, and their actions reverberate onto the Big Nation that initially brought them to being. This is the likely fate of the bogus "National Alliance," the coalition of war lords and drug dealers that the US is using as a front group in Afghanistan now. 

Last, post September 11 it became fairly clear that the target that US interests fear most, see as a likely foe in the future, is China. Michael Ledeen, formerly of the State Department and probablly the CIA, now with the American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, calling China Fascist, and a dangerous state ready to go rogue. China is the latest straw man to be set up and beaten down, while the rulers of China themselves use the false veil of the "communist party" to attack the Chinese working class and the millions of homeless peasants, forced off the land, now pouring into the cities. 

But despite the realities of company vs company and nation vs nation, the real context of all of this, that which makes it possible to understand all the rest, is the fact that this is an international war of the rich on the poor, for resources, markets, raw materials, cheaper labor: The full mix of maximizing profits. 

3. As I noted at the outset, in North America and in the deindustrialized nations, schools are central now. The contest over the terrain in schools is severe. Every social tension is a tension in schools. 

4. More than ever what teachers do counts. Educators can teach for justice and equality, or we can show kids they cannot comprehend and transform their world, tamp down their hopes and expectations. 

One of the key trends in schools now, perhaps following the British example, is the standardization of the curricula and the high-stakes standardized exams that necessarily follow. The line is not, "Leave No Child Behind" nor even the better, "Leave no family behind," but "Leave No Child Left Untested." 

These exams do more than fluff the pillow of intellectual laziness, tho they surely do that. They create a false and low horizon that serves to block a greater vision.

The business of big tests in the k12 schools, which sets up the SAT and related exams, is a ONE Billion Dollar business in direct costs alone. At issue, beyond the commodification of school, however, is tyranny and segregation, or equality and democracy. 

High school teachers are now leading classes of students who are expected to willingly, enthusiastically, march in the endless war over resources, raw materials, cheap labor, and markets that the US leadership promises as a future--promising more body bags, a permanent commitment to necromancy.

5. Standards and Standardized tests are born in this context. They are part of a multi pronged attack designed to regiment and regulate social life. Along with school takeovers, and vouchers and charters-each adding a new form of social division and social control. 

Detroit Public Schools Test scores and takeover

San Diego City Schools and INS Bersin

SDSU doc program

.6. The Big Tests are not just weapons of tyranny. They are imbued with the processes of tyranny. Let us look at what they are designed to do.

A. Assault the key relationship of schooling--the triangle of teacher/student/community, each unique, with a circle, a paradigm open to critique around it, ----to replace the mind of the teacher with the mind of the standard and test writer-to turn teachers into missionaries for privilege.

B. To make invisible the first two barriers to the tests: affect and literacy

C. To Steal our Time with kids

D. To divide, segment, segregate kids, under the guise of science...to measure a child's relationship with power, declare that intelligence, and solidify the razor thin sorting of society by class and race

The first hit are disabled kids, and kids with little power

As kids are divided so are their parents, teachers and communities

E. Notions of integrity are inverted, by standard and charges of cheating

Detroit principal, Michigan Cheating Scandal, The Real Cheats go Free--like Bill Gates and his monopolist Microsoft bribe to San Diego.

What is in the Exams???

1. Intellectual Bias-these are partisan exams, truth is settled within the test. Sadly, the tests were not only written by upper-middle class white suburbanites, they were written by upper-middle-class white suburbanites who were racists, mediocre scholars, and who openly wanted to replace teaching with standards. Note the California take on the war in Vietnam, posed as a war of north and south, in which the US intervened in the South. 

2. Irrationalism, a series of irrelevant and bogus facts, each disconnected from the next. Bad students forget the answers before the exams. Good students forget the exams and the answers, after the exams. 

3. Racism...look at the results. The test scores routinely demonstrate racial bias, since they are in fact designed to segment kids by race and class, under the banner of science. 

4. Fatuous anticommunism. In California, teaching about Marx and Lenin in anything other than the most crude and propagandistic way is illegal in the k12 schools. 

5. Witless patriotism --core democratic values are denied, particularly the international critique of tyranny which has propelled every democratic movement in history. 

6. Pure selfishness, what Conrad suggested was the origin of the Heart of Darkness. Me First. 

7. An abiding fear of sexuality

8. A justification of the way things are, as if the way things are did not exist. 

What is the Greater Impact of the Tests??

1. Subservience--kids learn to be sullen objects of others designs

2. Intensified surveillance and quantification of kids, the exams move discipline from mind to body, making external discipline internal-maybe I really am no good. Kids learn to fear freedom, guessing, risk taking, and become, instead, whiners, line cutters, tattlers.....And I have seen that at work in San Diego.

3. Teaching is shifted from provocation to imposition

4. The creation of an author less spectacle with a life of its own--makes careers and pumps real estate values......

5. Powerlessness, incoherence, the message of the tests is--What you do Does NOT Count, the world cannot be understood, and the struggle to understanding it is obliterated by the bullshit that underlies the employee, boss relationship the test creates and represents.

6. Counter-agency----indifference, submission, diminution, is anchored in personalities. 

What is NOT on the Tests?

1, Honest Human Relationships.......every exam-based relationship is built on distrust, a casino consciousness that looks at others and thinks: sucker. The sham of the exam counts, honest struggle for the truth does not. 

2. Critique of tyranny-tyranny is hidden. The whole idea that people must sell their labor, be exploited to create surplus value for the masters, be alienated from each other and their work, and finally they are urged to join in the destruction of reason itself.

3. Sexuality, especially as a matter of sensual pleasure. The body is taken out of the test, except as a site of pain. 

4. Negation--change. Nothing changes. But this is NOT the highest stage of human development. We can be certain this will change. But how? 

4. Wisdom--knowing the relationship of yourself, and others, to the social totality. Knowing yourself and the social relationships of all people. The test myth is that a few parts should dominate the whole, as if the whole had vanished. Note Lunacharsky, each person should be able to play one instrument very well, yet understand the whole orchestra as well as their part in it, and be able to enjoy all the sounds it makes.....

What to do? 

Well, first, what have we learned NOT to do? 

1. Accepting the logic of the tests, segregation, the idea that the tests and society have no connection, as some dishonest testistos do (Alvarado), failing to draw the direct line from testing to the processes of capital, that is a serious misstep. Stopping the destruction of wisdom requires a grasp of the source of the attack. 

2. To create spectacles of resistance, just as the tests create spectacles of knowledge, that is a serious mistake--as in the recent motion that passed the NEA, or the more recent NEA action that criticizes yet promotes the tests. 

3. To rely on the unions or related organizations, that will not work. None of the traditional structures of redress are ready to meet this challenge, which relates not just to isolated pockets of the work force, but to all of society. 

4. To rely on the state, as in plans for lobbying, etc. ........We will not vote this away. 

5. What we must do is build close one to one personal ties across all the boundaries that divide us, race, job, sex, language, etc, all of the boundaries but one: Class. 

6. Civil strife--Oakland, Ontario, Detroit, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Minnesota

We can and we will overcome. What is our aim? A mass conscious movement of poor and working people, young and old, an integrated inclusive movement of people who will never forget what they have suffered under capitalism, for that after all is the crux of the matter, but who also know as specifically as possible what capitalism is, in its whole, and who know that it is not hatred and bitterness that will overcome, transform, capital and the people who pretend they run it, but a mass of people who know, as Dr Martin Luther King said, "the answer to injustice is not justice, but love." 

The Rouge Forum and the WSC, seek to build communities of care and resistance where people can authentically discover how to love one another within a society that declares as its founding principle the "war of all on all." while at the same time those people take action against tyranny, building a mass conscious base of people who can understand and see beyond the limits of capital. 

We can grasp and change the world

We can do this in the time of war.....Steel strike of 1943.......Civil strife everywhere is on the rise. In March 2002 more than 2000 citizens and school workers stormed the school board meeting of the city of Detroit and shut it down. The Argentine people are on the rise. Mass labor struggles are erupting in China. Philadelphia citizens shut down their expressways in response to a school privatization move. In many cases, it is clear that closed schools are better than open schools, training children to be prisoners or slaves. 

This is not just reason meeting reason but reason meeting power, or so it must be. For it is not enough to simply shut down the factories of irrationalism. We must at the same time create Freedom Schools, as Grace Boggs and many others are doing with the Detroit Summer project, an effort that unites young and old in urban gardening and schooling programs, a radical effort that truly goes to the roots of things. This project, in social practice, is demonstrating how we can live in new ways, understanding and changing our world.

Everything is now in place for a mostly equitable, inclusive, democratic world. Abundance exists--along side inequality. We must overcome the domination of inequality, and the system that demands it as a prerequisite. At issue is a mass change of mind, coupled with social action, a change of mind that can envision what people have never yet lived. This, then, is a most hopeful view, but one that simply occupies terrain that for the most part already exists. We must recognize that the ceiling of capital is not far above us, that it can no longer grow without massive destruction and human suffering, that we can change our world through reason.....built on action. 

At issue is: What must people know and how must they come to know it--in order to stop being instruments of their own oppression?

We asked at the outset: Why have school? We noted many good reasons: to do skill training for jobs, to do intellectual work, to provide markets and to warehouse kids, to create real or false hope. But I wish to add one more thing: to create a society where people can wittingly choose to be free and creative not only in private life, but at work as well, where freedom is constructed not as something in opposition with others, but as a form of connection with other people in a truly social, equitable, democratic society--our recognition of the meaning of love for one another.....of the meaning of Acts 4:4 which says, essentially: From each according to their commitment to each according to their need. 

Should there be time

Where does the power of school workers come from

What value do we create

How do we do that--collectively.......

We can and we will win. The table is already set for us. All of the last thousands of years have led us to this point, when with a change of mind and determined action, when we couple wisdom with social practice, reason and action, this is the time when we can truly build a society rooted in love for our neighbors, and our world community. At issue is not whether we will win, but when, and how much humanity we lose in the interim.....

Related Notes

Marx on School

The only worker who is productive is one who produces surplus value for the capitalist, or in other words contributes to the self-valorization of capital. If we may take an example from outside the sphere of material production, a schoolmaster is a productive worker when, in addition to belaboring the heads of his pupils, he works himself into the ground to enrich the owner of the school. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory, makes no difference to the relation. The concept of a productive worker therefore implies, not merely a relation between the activity of work and its useful effect, between the worker and the product of the work, but also a specific social relation of production, a relation with a means of valorization. To be a productive worker is therefore not a piece of luck, but a misfortune. 

Marx 1977, Capital, Vol 1, translator, B. Fowkes, New York, Vintage

p 644

6. From the National Council for the Social Studies (US) this triumphalist nonsense issued in August 2001: 

"Our nation has fought and won many important battles against tyranny around the world. The promise that democracy holds for

people of every walk of life is being spread around the globe. It is a time of triumph. The values identified in our founding

documents are providing the platform from which people everywhere are asserting their voices as the right of the governed. For

Americans, this is a proud moment." (NCSS Web page 2001).

Justice as fairness- byValerie Ooka Pang

>Justice as fairness must first be looked at from the agreed upon system of

>rules and practices that have been adopted by the members. These practices

>have been in place for many years and our teaching schedules reflect those

>mutual understandings. In addition, we as a group have been using as our

>premises the importance of decisions made by the Knowledge Base Group. In

>addition, we adhere to a system of cooperation along with rules as defined

>by the university to provide stability and mutual expectations in our

>relationships as faculty members. 


>In our decisions we have followed the wisdom of Aristotle that justice does

>not arise when someone is seeking advantage for oneself by coveting what

>belongs to another, or by showing disrespect to another, or by taking the

>fulfillment of an agreement already in place. In addition, justice as

>fairness as defined by John Rawls indicates that one is not to gain from

>the cooperative labors of others without doing their fair share. 


>When social arrangements in our department are changed without cooperative

>decision making, hostility and suspicion arises. Our social equilibrium is

>destroyed. Therefore changes to our teaching schedules and assignments

>without our agreement, threatens the stability of our department.

Living for change: Legacy of MLK Jr. (Part 2)

The Michigan Citizen News Forum: Old News: 2002: February: Living for change: Legacy of MLK Jr. (Part 2) 

By webmaster (Webmaster) on Thursday, January 24, 2002 - 02:13 pm:

Living for change: Legacy of MLK jr. (Part 1)

The Michigan Citizen News Forum: Old News: 2002: January: 01.20.02: Living for change: Legacy of MLK jr. (Part 1) 

By webmaster (Webmaster) on Thursday, January 17, 2002 - 03:12 pm:

Living for change 

By Grace Lee Boggs 

The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (Part I) 

In the 60s I didn't pay much attention to King's vision of the beloved community or his concepts of non-violence. Like most Black

Power activists, I viewed them as somewhat naive. 

But as I reflect on the time and energy that we have spent in struggles to free our communities of crime and violence over the

last thirty years, I can't help wondering whether we might be better off today if we had found a way to infuse our struggle for

Black Power with King's philosophy and ideology. 

I was also not involved in the 15-year campaign, launched by Congressman Conyers in 1968, to declare King's birthday a national

holiday. I held back because I thought it would turn King into an icon, obscure the role of grassroots activists and reinforce the

tendency to rely on charismatic leaders. 

Some of that is undoubtedly taking place. But what I didn't foresee (because I was stuck in either/or thinking) was the wonderful

opportunity that celebrating King's birthday every year provides for concerned citizens, regardless of age, race, class or gender,

to revisit King's writings and speeches and discover their enormous power for movement-building. 

In the process of doing this myself, I have come to believe that just as the works of Marx and Lenin provided ideas and

strategies for 19th and early 20th century radicals (including myself), King's works are now the indispensable starting point for

21st century revolutionaries. 

Marx and Lenin's ideas and strategies were developed during the industrial era when we were mainly concerned with extending

our material powers. People's lives were determined by economic necessities. So our strategies for radical change centered

around struggles in the economic arena. 

The goal of revolutionaries was to help workers understand that they were victims of the economic system and that the only

solution was to get rid of it. That is why we struggled for political power, to get rid of the economic system. 

That is still the revolutionary scenario for most radicals, including Blacks. 

What they haven't recognized is the great divide created by the dropping of the atom bomb that ended World War II. 

The splitting of the atom brought human beings face to face with the reality that we had expanded our material powers to the

point where we could destroy our planet. 

Therefore we could no longer act as if everything that happened to us was determined by external or economic circumstances.

Freedom now included the responsibility for making choices. As Robert Oppenheimer, the "Father of the Bomb" put it, "physicists

have known sin." Or in the words of Einstein, "the release of atomic power has changed everything but our way of thinking. The

solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind." 

Henceforth radical social change had to be viewed as a two-sided transformational process, of ourselves and of our institutions,

a process requiring protracted struggle and not just a D-day replacement of one set of rulers with another. We could no longer

view struggle simply in terms of us vs. them, of victims vs. villains, of good vs. evil or of transferring power from the top to the


Everyone raised in a society committed to material expansion has internalized its materialistic values. We can no longer afford a

separation between politics and ethics. 

Consciousness and self-consciousness, ideas and values, mere "superstructure" in the Marxist-Leninist paradigm, must become

integral, both as end and as means, to radical social change. 

(to be continued) 

Living for change

By Grace Lee Boggs 

The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (Part II) 

Last week I emphasized the great divide in the evolution of humanity created by the splitting of the atom and dropping of the

bomb during World War II. 

For the first time, I said, we were confronted with the reality that we had expanded our material powers to the point where we

could destroy our planet. 

This required a profound change in how we thought about everything, including revolutionary struggle. 

We could no longer act as if everything that happened to us was determined by circumstances beyond our control and/or that

our needs were only material. 

Henceforth we had to accept the responsibility for making choices, which requires redefining the meaning of Freedom. 

Consciousness and self-consciousness, ideas and values, mere "superstructure" in the Marxist-Leninist paradigm, now had to

become integral, both as end and as means, to our struggles. 

Revolutionary struggle now had to be viewed as a two-sided transformational process, of ourselves and of our institutions, a

process requiring time and not just a D-day replacement of one set of rulers with another. 

We could no longer view struggle simply in terms of us vs. them, of victims vs. villains, of good vs. evil or transferring power from

the top to the bottom. 

The civil rights movement, which was launched by the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, was the first struggle by an oppressed

people in Western society from this new perspective. 

Because American Blacks had developed a new confidence in their humanity as a result of their "Double V" struggles during World

War II, and also because, pragmatically, violent struggle in the fascist South would have been suicidal, tens of thousands of

Blacks in Montgomery, Alabama, were able to carry out a year-long non-violent, disciplined and, finally, successful struggle

against racism. 

Before the eyes of the whole world, a people who had been treated as less than human struggled against their dehumanization

not as angry victims or rebels but as new men and women, representative of a new more human society. 

Using methods, including the creation of their own system of transportation, that transformed themselves and increased the good

rather than the evil in the world, always bearing in mind that their goal was not only desegregation of the buses but the beloved

community, they inspired the human identity and ecological movements which over the last forty years have been creating a new

civil society in the United States. 

The speeches and writings of Martin Luther King Jr., produced in the heat of struggle, played a critical role in the success of the

Montgomery and later struggles. As a Black man living in racist America and as a philosopher, King was supremely conscious of

the contradiction between our technological overdevelopment and our human underdevelopment. 

We have "guided missiles and misguided men," he said. 

Constantly pointing out to activists that their refusal to respond in kind to the violence and terrorism of their opponents was

increasing their own strength and unity... 

Constantly reminding them and the world that their goal was not only the right to sit at the front of the bus or to vote but to

give birth to a new society based on more human values... 

King not only empowered those on the frontlines but in the process developed a new strategy for transforming a struggle for

rights into a struggle that advances the humanity of everyone in the society and thereby brings the beloved community closer. 

Boggs Living For Change on King Part 4 Grace Boggs Michigan Citizen march 2002

In the last two years of his life especially in Time to Break Silence and in "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" , King calls for a radical reconstruction of society and a radical revolution in values.. "The profit motice, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages a cutthroat competietion and selfish ambition that inspire men to be more I centered than thou centered,....the good and just society is a socially conscious democracy which reconciles the truths of individualism and collectivism.

" A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies and to see that an ediufice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation ut will look overseas and see individual capitalissts of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Latin America, and Africa only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say "this is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everyting to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will say of war, "this way of settling our differences is not just."

"Poverty, insecurity, and injustice are the fretile soil in which the seeds of discontent grow. 

1. In this I have drawn from work by Istvan Meszaros, especially his Beyond Capital and his Socialism or Barbarism, material by Raya Dunayevskaya, especially Philosophy and Revolution, Georg Lukacs' Ontology of Social Being, Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle, and my own piece, Outfoxing the Destruction of Wisdom, published in Theory and Research in Social Education and online at http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/Outfoxing.htm

Other related material is on my www page at http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/


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