I think the book is quite an significant achievement, at two levels at least. One is that it manifests the collective ethos of everything that you’ve been doing at Midwestern Marx, which is quite an incredible undertaking. It is very impressive that a group of people can build on their own such a significant, collectively resourced institute that provides political education, brings people into the struggle, breaks down complex ideas, makes them accessible to a large audience, etc. You occupy a very significant position, and I think an important element of Carlos’s work has to do with the ways in which he’s been working with other people in this collective endeavor, not simply to fight intellectually against the purity fetish, but to build institutional power in order to struggle back against it.
Vijay Prashad (Calcutta, 1967) is above all a militant. His intellectual work is an attempt to understand and respond to some of the great challenges of our time. Of Indian origin, this Marxist historian has deployed an intense vital activity that has taken him to many countries, always in defense of the cause of humanity. He currently serves as executive director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, a task he alternates with his work as a teacher and researcher at several universities, as well as with a prolific body of work in which we can highlight texts such as The Darker Nations, The Poorer Nations and the most recent The Retreat, written in conjunction with Noam Chomsky.
Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci has been quoted quite a lot in recent years amid our various political catastrophes from Trump to Covid-19 to climate collapse and the political center’s seeming inability to resist any of the above. The most famous line from his Prison Notebooks, written between 1929 and 1935 while a political prisoner of the Mussolini regime, is probably: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” This is sometimes more loosely translated as “The old world is dying and the new cannot be born; now is the time of monsters.”
It has been one year since the death of Black Agenda Report Executive Editor, Glen Ford. The turbulence of the past year has been as intense as Glen Ford’s loss to the movement. President Joe Biden is facing a crisis of legitimacy. Inflation and recession loom over a flailing U.S. capitalist system. A U.S.-led imperialist war with Russia and China is closer than it has ever been and Black America is no better off with a Democrat controlling the White House. Such conditions demand that we remember and emulate Glen Ford’s tireless contributions to the Black liberation, peace, and socialist movement. Ford was a student of revolution. Every word written and spoken by Ford was done in the name of developing a movement capable of bringing about the end of the American Empire.
In the best sense of the word a journalist is someone who brings to the public sphere accurate, well sourced information, and rigorous analysis. Those individuals speak for the marginalized, who can’t speak for themselves, and they expose the privileged, who are always given opportunities for expression. They point out the faults of those deemed too authoritative to be questioned. If an outlet claims to write all the news that is fit to print or declares that democracy dies in darkness, their work should be given more scrutiny than credibility. The journalist should be truly independent and skeptical of official narratives. Glen Ford was such a person. His decades of work provide a blueprint for anyone who wants that word to have real meaning and integrity.
Let me indulge you with a Father’s Day story. Five years ago on June 10th, my father fell ill with a massive heart attack. He spent two weeks in the ICU before dying at the age of 69. That day changed my life forever. I was familiar with the commonness of death under U.S. imperialism, but never had it hit so close. The loss of a parent or caregiver compels us to revisit our roots. After all, there are few people more influential on the trajectory of our lives than those who raise us. I was twenty-seven when my father died and only possessed a cursory understanding at that time of how his life influenced my own. Five years later and I am still figuring it out. What I do know is that my father was raised with a keen awareness of suffering. He was raised in rural New Hampshire by parents who struggled with mental illness and addiction.
Three scientists associated with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are discouraged. New Zealanders Bruce C. Glavovic and Timothy F. Smith and Australian Iain White criticize governments for not doing enough about climate change. They are calling upon fellow IPCC scientists to no longer conduct research on climate change. “More scientific reports, another set of charts,” Glavovic exclaims; “I mean, seriously, what difference is that going to make?” Hundreds of IPCC scientists provide the United Nations periodically with reports on adverse impacts of climate change. The most recent report, issued in February, details rising seas, terrible droughts, atypical weather events, thawing permafrost, dying forests, and massive displacement of populations.
On 16 February 2015, Govind and Uma Pansare went for a morning walk near their home in Kolhapur, in the western state of Maharashtra, India. Two men on a motorcycle stopped them and asked for directions, but the Pansares could not help them. One of the men laughed, pulled out a gun, and shot the two Pansares. Uma Pansare was hit but survived the attack. Her husband, Govind Pansare, died in a hospital shortly thereafter on 20 February at age 82. Raised in poverty, Govind Pansare was fortunate to go to school, where he encountered Marxist ideas. In 1952, at the age of 19, Pansare joined the Communist Party of India (CPI). While in college in Kolhapur, Pansare could often be found at the Republic Book Stall, where he devoured Marxist classics and Soviet novels that came to India through the CPI’s People’s Publishing House.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) of the south Indian State of Kerala, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), came to power for the second consecutive time in April this year, securing 99 out of 140 seats in the State Legislative Assembly. This victory broke a 40-year-old trend of incumbents losing the elections. One of the key factors behind this victory was the successful response of the government to natural disasters, such as floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The highlight of this response was a community-centered approach with thorough people’s participation. People’s participation has been a feature of many other important initiatives in the State too. The ‘Public Library Movement’ helped set up reading rooms and little libraries while the ‘Literacy Movement’ contributed to Kerala becoming the most literate State in the country.
Today marks the centennial anniversary of the birth of Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire. Most widely known for his magisterial Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire’s work continues to be a lodestar for teachers working in poverty-stricken communities across the globe, and for just about anyone who’s searching for a sense of justice in an unjust world. Every critically-minded educator has at some point used Freire in their teaching ––either to gain some insight into the upside-down world of the oppressed, or as the inspiration that led them to view teaching as a way to overturn society’s asymmetries of power and privilege. Freire’s literacy programmes for empowering peasants are now used in countries all over the globe, and Pedagogy of the Oppressed is currently the third most cited work in the social sciences, and first in the field of education.
Lewontin always harked back to what being radical means: going back to fundamentals in deriving a viewpoint. As a Marxist and activist, Lewontin believed that we need to fight at both levels: to expose class, race and gender stereotypes as a reflection of power within society, and also at the level of radical science, meaning from the fundamentals of scientific theory and data.
When I first put forward “wages for housework” in March 1972, I was unsure of the implications. I knew that wages for housework was qualitatively different from wages for housewives, which I had been considering; it spoke about the work and didn’t identify necessarily with women, which I thought—and others did too—was crucial. I had recently studied volume one of Capital in a reading group—without a teacher. l realized that women reproduce labor power, the basic capitalist commodity, unwaged. That was a new idea then. A year later, I went on a lecture tour of North America with Mariarosa Dalla Costa and as I spoke with audiences (as an English speaker, I did most of the speaking), I began to understand that we were developing a new perspective that was international and far more comprehensive.