An Evening of Marxist Indoctrination with Angela Davis
The Seattle suburb of Lynnwood, WA held it’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. observance on Thursday, January 17. The keynote speaker for the event was Angela Davis, a one-time ally of the Black Panthers and one of the people behind the “prisoners rights” movement, along with a one-time leader of the American Communist Party. Davis, who has some standing with the University of California – Santa Cruz (the event made it seem as though she’s still an active professor, though the Wikipedia page dedicated to her indicates she’s retired), gave a rambling 40 minute speech for the Lynnwood MLK event. Oddly enough, even though the night was supposed to be dedicated to honoring Dr. King and his message, Davis essentially gave a marxist-inspired lecture about pretty much everything. It should be noted that students from both a local community college and high school were present for Davis’ drivel.
A full transcript of her comments is below:
(I have a video of her speaking, and am working on trying to get it posted in some form or another. For whatever reason, YouTube refuses to cooperate with me, and the gods of technology seem to be unhappy with me, so I am doing this transcription as a fill-in until that time I can get the video figured out).
First of all, thank you, so much for inviting me. Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in your celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, this year.
Before I say anything else, I would like to acknowledge, the original inhabitants of the land on which we gather this evening.
And let me thank Shirley Sutton and all of the other people involved in organizing this event. The president of Edmonds Community College and Seattle University, is it Central Seattle University?
So thank you very much.
And let me say that the music and poetry and dance has been so beautiful and inspiring. When we come together in community it is, always, important to, make music and to engage in movement.
I always think about the African proverb “the spirit will not descend without song”. The spirit will not descend without song.
This is a special year. We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
And I would like us all to, ponder, why we have not been asked to engage in more explicit celebrations this year? This should be a year of of of, engaging and discussions on slavery and the sediment of slavery, the ghost of slavery.
As a matter of fact when we celebrate Dr Martin Luther King, we are actually celebrating the Freedom Movement with which he was associated. And that mid-20th century Freedom Movement was attempting, in effect to, abolish the vestiges of slavery.
Had slavery been dismantled by the legal measures with which we are familiar? The Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment, which we assume ended slavery in the 19th century… Had that happened, we would not have had to challenge Jim Crow and second class citizenship in the 20th century. We would not be dealing with the legacy of slavery in the 21st century. The continued poverty, the two and a half million people behind bars…
As a matter of fact, here in Washington, you are confronting efforts to build more prisons, and I heard about a movement that is called Washington Incarceration Stops Here, is that right?
They’re in the house!
And I understand that people are opposing a plan, in King County, to tear down the current youth jail. And that would be good, to tear down the current youth jail, right?
*cheers from crowd*
And why not replace it with a school?
*more cheers from crowd*
But, as I understand, the plan is to spend over 250 million dollars, uh, rebuilding this jail, and rebranding it as a youth and family center. And so if you wan’t to get involved in this campaign, there are people sitting right here, who made a lot of noise… Ask them about Washington Incarceration Stops Here.
We are observing the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. And it is true, that the Emancipation Proclamation was more an element of a military strategy, then it was a measure to free human beings from an oppressive, racist, immoral institution.
As a matter of fact, Eric Foner, the historian, has written a book on Abraham Lincoln called “The Fiery Trial : Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery”. It would be good if you saw the film “Lincoln”, to also read the other book.
If you’ve seen the film, you would know the film focuses on the last months of Lincoln’s life. And I must say that Daniel Day Lewis is an amazing actor. How many have you seen the film?
It focused on the last months of his life and Lincoln’s effort to get the 13th amendment passed. But there is a backstory to Lincoln’s strong support for the amendment that putatively abolished slavery.
Foner points out that only months before Lincoln gave the emancipation proclamation, he was still talking about the strategy of colonization. That is to say, black people who were freed from slavery were not supposed to remain within the US. They were supposed to go back to Africa, though, all of the slaves, had been born in the US, and many of them had no knowledge of what part of Africa they were actually taken from, their ancestors were actually taken from.
But Lincoln took this proposal to black America, and as Foner pointed out, in an editorial he wrote for the New York Times on January 1. In August of 1862 Lincoln met with a group of black leaders in Washington. And he said a number of really interesting things.
He said that “but for your race among us, there would be no war”. And even though he issued, according to Foner, a very powerful indictment of slavery, he added that because of racism, black people would never achieve equality in the United States. And, this is a quote : “It is better for us both, therefore, to be separate”.
(In case you’re keeping score. This is an MLK Day celebration event. So far, the keynote speaker has spent time bashing the Emancipation Proclamation and Abraham Lincoln. Seems legit!)
But most of the black people present at that meeting refused to contemplate immigration as a solution.
Foner points out that the Emancipation Proclamation is probably the most misunderstood document in the history of this country. We often think about the Emancipation Proclamation as a kind of instantaneous freeing of slaves, right? This is what we’re told. Um…First of all, Lincoln did not free all the slaves, or it was not his intent to free all the slaves.
In fact, no bearing on slaves on the four border states. Because they were not in rebellion. The Emancipation Proclamation was part of a military strategy. A strategy to win the war. It exempted certain parts of the Confederacy.
As a matter of fact, if you look at the actual document…How many of you have read the Emancipation Proclamation?
*few hands in crowd go up*
There’s a long section in which he lists, Arkansas, Texas,Louisiana. And there are these exceptions. In Louisiana, he says, “except for the parish of St Bernard”. St Jefferson, St Charles, St James, etc etc. Except for the city of New Orleans.
So all of these places were allowed to retain their slaves, as long as you were loyal to the Union, you could keep your slaves.
And of course he says, “and by the virtue of the power and for the purpose that forsaid (?), I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated states and parts of states, are, and henceforward, shall be free. that the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.”
Now, um, it’s…it’s interesting, um, Frederick Douglass, pointed out, that, the North wanted to keep slavery within the Union, the South wanted to take slavery out of the Union, but both North and South were in favor of retaining slavery. And actually, the Emancipation Proclamation, being a military strategy, it was actually quite brilliant.
Because it was the Emancipation Proclamation that was responsible for the Union winning the war. Why? Because vast numbers of black people left the plantations and the farms and they went into the Union armies, and they fought bravely. They were responsible, actually, for winning decisive battles that led to the Union victory.
W.E.B DuBois, and as a matter of fact, in the 150th anniversary year of the Emancipation Proclamation, every student, every advanced high school student and college student, should read “Black Reconstruction” by W.E.B. DuBois.
(No, no, no, college professors aren’t indoctrinators, WE SWEAR!)
And DuBois points out in his masterpiece that was written in the 1930s… “Strangely enough, not much has been said of what freedom meant to the freed. Of the Southern wave of glory that rose and burst above four million people. And the echoing shout that brought joy to 400,000 fellows of African blood in the North. Can we imagine this spectacular revolution? Not of course unless we think of these people as human beings, like ourselves. Not unless, assuming this common humanity”…which was the theme of the wonderful poem we heard…
“Not unless, assuming this common humanity, we can see ourselves in a position where we are chattels and real estate. And then suddenly, in a night, become henceforward, and forever free.”
DuBois argues that the Emancipation Proclamation led to what he called the General Strike. As a matter of fact, in chapter four of Black Reconstruction, which is entitled “The General Strike”, it follows, how the Civil War meant emancipation, and how the black worker, won the war by a general strike, which transferred his labor from the Confederate planter to the Northern invader, in who’s Army lines, workers began to be organized as a new labor force.
(“general strike”, “labor”, “labor force”… naw, not communist at all)
So DuBois called the slaves, who were freed as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation…this army of striking and labor, and eventually, at least 200,000 soldiers emerged from that group, quote “who’s evident ability to fight decided the war”.
Now, even though, the document itself did not produce freedom, and a lot of us, of course, around the country celebrate Juneteenth, because we know that people didn’t even find out about it until many months later. But then there were those who were not legally freed by the document because they were slaves in states that remained loyal to the Union…
Now even though the Emancipation Proclamation did not accomplish what we imagine it having accomplished…as a matter of fact, what can a proclamation do? A proclamation has no agency, it can’t do anything by itself. The law isn’t capable of doing anything by itself. It was human beings who seized upon the occasion, asserted their agency, and fought for the right to be free.
And this is the message that we should be spreading during this 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. But isn’t it bizarre that we have heard virtually nothing, about it? How many of you have read Obama’s proclamation?
One, two, three… I find that really strange, don’t you?
And especially because we have a black president in the White House. It would seem that on January 1, there would have been massive ceremonies all across the country. But somehow there was this silence.
Perhaps there’s a reason for the reluctance to engage with slavery. Which is similar to the reasons for the reluctance to engage with colonization. And this time, I mean the genocidal colonization of indigenous people, the first nations people of this land.
Now, let me fast forward from the 1860s, or from the 1930s, when DuBois wrote “Black Reconstruction” to the 21st century. Um, earlier this afternoon, this is the second time I’ve spoken in Lynnwood…
But earlier this afternoon I spoke about the wonderful serendipity of Martin Luther King’s birthday falling on the same day as the second inauguration of the first black president.
And you know that, when Obama was elected many people were recalling that Robert Kennedy said, in 1968, that it would take 40 years to elect a black president. But what people didn’t acknowledge was that Dr. King had said, “No, it won’t take that long. We should have a black president in 20 years.” Turns out Kennedy was right.
(again, MLK Day Celebration, and here she is knocking him for his optimism and idealism. Sweet!)
But the first victory was the result of unprecedented mobilizations of labor, of young people, communities of color, women, LGBTQ communities, anti-war communities… and this mobilization achieved what many people thought was impossible. The election of a black man to the presidency of the United States.
And of course, when Obama was elected the first time, so many people said they never expected to witness the election of a black president in their lifetimes. But later, I suppose, many of them began to think that it was impossible for a black man to ACT like a president of the United States.
But, that after all, is what he is. The country did not change as a result of the election of a black president. And I think many people forgot they were electing a president of the same old Imperialist militarist racist anti-union, United States of America.
(Must be why you’re a tenured professor with 8 books under her belt…damn that racist America!)
But nonetheless, what was achieved was extremely important. Do not forget that, even if the last four years have not been what they hoped they would be. When the economy crashed, many people expected Obama to be the 21st century FDR. Right? With new economic and social programs that would pull us out of this recession/depression.
However, those who were waiting for Obama to serve as a our new FDR, had a very warped view of history.
(Revisionist history alert!)
Was it FDR who gave us, on his own individual initiative, unemployment insurance or social security? It wasn’t. As a matter of fact it was masses of people all over the country who went out in the streets by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands, and demanded those programs.
There were hunger marches all over the country. There were unemployed councils preventing evictions. If we believe that was Franklin Delanor Roosevelt who was responsible, as an individual for those programs, we are dead wrong.
As a matter of fact, there were a lot of COMMUNISTS, who were involved in the organizing and mobilizing in the masses of people.
(What’s that? Universities ARENT communist indoctrination centers? STFU and GTFOH)
And this is why there’s been such silence about that. Because people don’t want to hear that communists may be responsible for the fact that we get Social Security today.
*crowd laughs and claps*
It’s true! It’s true. But I say this, because I want you to imagine what might have been possible had we taken to the streets four years ago, the day after inauguration. By the 1000s and hundreds of thousands, to celebrate Obama’s election, but to pressure him , to pressure him to move on the issues we were concerned about.
He said he was going to shut down Guantanamo. Guantanamo is still functioning. We should have called for the immediate closure of Guantanamo.
And let me say, that we can never expect to elect a president who will lead us to the promised land.
Not even the most powerful leader can do that. We have to do it for ourselves. We have to do it for ourselves.
As a matter of fact, Obama himself used to say… remember that inspiring campaign? Everybody projected their hopes and their dreams, after all the themes were hope, and change. And Obama himself used to say quoting June Jordan, although I don’t think he ever mentioned her name, he always used to say “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
And that is a quote from a poem that June Jordan wrote on South African Women. Song for South African Women.
But I do want to say that this last election was really important. Because many people assumed that… young people had fallen back into their apathy. I don’t know… We were talking about this earlier today. I don’t know why everybody calls young people apathetic. It seems to be a generational thing. As soon as you get to a certain age, then you get to call young people apathetic.
Young people are the ones who bring all of the enthusiasm and the excitement…so, and what we learned… we learned something this last election. When people refused to allow the voter suppression strategies to stop them and people stood in line for hours and for hours and hours and would not go home until they voted.
(SMH. Our civic duty might be kind of painful? And standing in line is “suppression”? Oh nooooeeeessss!)
And this is why we won the election this last time. The gender gap played an important role as well. Woman voted for him 55-45 percent. Obama got, 96 percent of black women’s vote.
96 percent. And 87 percent of black men. We have more conservative black men.
But women… 76 percent of latino women. The point I’m trying to make is, that we have to DO something about the fact that the majority of white men voted for the Republicans. That is… that’s not right.
(What’s that? You mean the white guys who tend towards Republican, voted Republican? Well I’ll be damned!)
Racism is very much a part of this country. And I’m not only speaking of the racism that’s taken up residence in the psyches of so many people, but about the racism that is lodged in the structures of our institutions.
(Damn you Derrick Bell and Cornel West. Brilliant on your part because you’ll always have something to rail against and have a job because of it, but damn you nonetheless).
The fact that all we need to do is open our eyes, and we see that even as we celebrate the ascendancy of people of color to high places in our political and economic hierarchies, their positions cannot compensate for the fact, for example, more black men under the control of the criminal justice system, then there were enslaved in 1850.
This is one of the points that Michelle Alexander makes, in what she calls the New Jim Crow. So many people at the bottom of the hierarchy have been relegated to oblivion. They are not even recognized in the current political discourse. And of course this is a class strategy.
(Class strategy? ORLY? Seems like I remember some guy named Marx who was obsessed with class…)
The term poor isnt hardly ever used. There are more poor people in this country than ever before, and who do we hear, talking about poverty and poor people in this country? In fact, the term working class is not even used!
And, this is, what you might call a discursive assault on the labor movement. Only the *middle* class achieves visibility in current political discourse.
But what working class issues have to embrace what are often considered, narrowly, women’s issues. That is to say, reproductive rights, violence against women.. Working class struggles have to embrace a whole range of issues, including LGBTQ issues.
I know I’m running out of time…
*crowd groans/pleads for her to finish*
Because I did want to point out that the immigrant rights movement is central for any struggle for democracy.
If the campaign for black freedom, which continues, produced the most important civil rights movement of the 20th century, we can say that the immigrants right movement is the most important civil rights movement of the 21st century.
Last year, almost 500,000 immigrants were detained, the largest number EVER, under the Obama administration. And you may know, private prison corporations were in part responsible for writing repressive anti-immigrant legislation in states like Arizona, Georgia and Alabama.
(Interesting how she frames that, isn’t it?)
Last month I saw a story in the Boston Globe, about immigration issues. There was an image of a man standing at the grave of his wife. Who was 29 years old. From Africa, a citizen of France. And she was waiting for her resident papers to come through, and she overstayed her visa. So as her husband was driving her across the border to Canada, which she was planning to go back to France until she got the resident papers, she was arrested. And, she had congestive heart failure and they refused to give her medications, and she died.
And there are many, many tragic stories that we can tell. I often point out in our campaigns against police violence we generally think about young black men as the targets of police violence. But how many people have been killed by ICE, crossing the border? This is an issue we hardly ever talk about.
And I was going to talk about the campaign for immigrants rights, related to the campaign for labor rights. And you know what continues to go on in Wisconsin, right?And you know about Michigan, the effort to create a right-to-work state…And so, John Conyers who’s an amazing man…
I think we should invoke John Conyers who’s still in Congress, one of the most radical members of Congress and who’s been there for…when I was in my 20s and was active, he was in Congress. He’s been there a long time.
And as a matter of fact, he was responsible for introducing the legislation that eventually led to the proclamation of Martin Luther King day as a federal holiday. So he has introduced a bill called HR 4277, which will create a large scale tax on Wall Street securities transactions.
And he wants to use this to fund the creation of jobs. 2.5 million to 4 million jobs. And what Conyers says is “tax the rich, abolish imprisonment, rebuild education and jobs for all”.
*more cheers from crowd*
And, as I move towards my conclusion, let me say that the overarching message conveyed by the figure of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and remember that we are… celebrating the movement, celebrating all of those people who’s names we do not know, who made it possible for us to be hear today. We’re not focusing on the individual.
(O.o Errrr… nice collectivist sentiment there, Ms Davis)
And the overarching message conveyed by the figure of Dr Martin Luther King, is that only collective struggle for peace, justice and equality will help us to restructure our social worlds. In the last presidential address Dr King delivered to his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, this was on Aug 16, 1967, and he was assassinated the following spring.
So he asked the question : Where do we go from here? And his answer was this, and I’m quoting from that: We must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society.
But we have those that think that Dr King simply wanted black people and other people of color to assimilate into the existing structures.
But he said, no, we have to restructure the whole of American society.
He said, there are 40 million poor people and one day we must ask the question why are there 40 million poor people in America? And he said, when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.
When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy.
And, by simply saying that, that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice that produces beggars, needs restructuring. It needs that questions must be asked, and you see, my friend, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, who owns the oil? You begin to ask the question who owns the iron ore? And you begin to ask the question, why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is 2/3 water?
(not sure if these last few sentences are still Dr King’s words. As for the last question, because most of that damn water is saltwater and unfit for human consumption. Anyways)
These are words that must be said. Dr King went on to point out that he was not simply talking about replacing capitalism with communism, but he said, he said “communism forgets that life is individual, but capitalism forgets that life is social”. Rather he was referring to a new order that would draw from the best of both systems.
King was extremely courageous to say what he did, when he did, when he said that, given that he was continually targeted by anti-Communists, including J Edgar Hoover. J Edgar Hoover. It has taken us many decades to recognize the truth of what Dr King confronted in the last year of his life.
He recognized that it would never be possible to end racism without ending economic exploitation. And without ending war. He considered racism, exploitation and militarism , what he called a “dangerous triumvirate” that was responsible for so many problems in the world.
And as I conclude, I would ask you to think about the world. And not just about Lynnwood, and Washington and the US. But to think about the planet. And to think about Palestinians challenging settler colonialism.
And to think about indigenous and Afro-descended Colombians who are challenging the government policy of deterritorialization which push them off their own land and into crowded slums and cities like Cali.
And then of course the prison-industrial complex is there to build the prisons who will catch those who are robbed of their ability to produce the means of their own survival. And, Australia, aboriginal people and their allies have challenged some of the world’s most virulent expressions of racism.
And I think, by virtue of coming together in this community this evening, you here in Lynnwood are standing up to racism. All around the world people are saying we need to struggle together as a global communities to create a world free of xenophobia and racism. a world from which poverty has been expunged, and a world where the availability of food is not subject to the demands of capitalist profit.
A world without homophobia and transphobia. And a world that has dismembered the prison-industrial complex. A world in which everyone learns how to respect the environment and all of the creatures human, and non-human that inhabit our world.
A world where equality and justice and peace, prevails.
Thank you very much.
This entry was posted on January 18, 2013 at 10:30 pm and is filed under America, Current Events, Election 2012, Fiction, government, Obama, Politics, Progressives, The United States, The World with tags Angela Davis, communism, indoctrination, Martin Luther King Jr, MLK Day, socialism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.