Category: Angela Davis
Angela Davis 6/7/1984
worker | September 17, 2020 | 8:06 pm | Angela Davis | Comments closed

Angela Davis Talks Black Liberation, History and the Contemporary Vision

02/17/2016 01:31 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2016


By: Sheryl Huggins Salomon

Fifty years after the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the agenda and style of the legendary Black revolutionary organization remains relevant in today’s public discourse. An end to “police brutality and the murder of Black people,” central to the Black Lives Matter movement, was laid out in the Black Panthers’ 10-Point Platform five decades ago. Both acclaim and condemnation erupted when their iconic black berets made an appearance recently in Beyoncé’s half-time show performance during the Super Bowl.

It’s telling that America is still grappling with many of the same racial inequities and injustices that it did 50 years ago – and that Black pride remains a controversial topic. Not so to renowned scholar, activist and feminist icon and close associate of the Black Panthers Angela Y. Davis.

“If one looks at the 10-point program of the Black Panther Party, one sees that the very same issues that were raised in the aftermath of slavery are at the center of a program that was formulated in 1966,” said Davis, now a professor emeritus at University of California, Santa Cruz. “In 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, those issues had not been sufficiently addressed, certainly not yet solved, so therefore the election of one person to political office was not going to automatically reverse a history of a racist inspired economic oppression, which isn’t to say that it wasn’t important that we elected Barack Obama, but those struggles continue.”

While in Spain last week advocating for the release of imprisoned Basque separatist politician Arnaldo Otegi, Davis took a few moments with to discuss contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and details from her latest book, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (Haymarket Books, 2016), edited by human rights activist Frank Barat.

“I’ve been involved in the Palestine Solidarity movement for a very long time,” explained Davis. “When the Ferguson uprising happened a year and a half ago activists on the ground in occupied Palestine were the first to tweet support and advice to protesters in Ferguson. Out of that has come a very interesting, a very rich development of connections across the ocean. A delegation from Palestine visited Ferguson. Black Lives Matter and Ferguson activists, [as well as members of] Dream Defenders, Black Youth Project 100 made a trip to Palestine over about a year ago to express their solidarity.”

More highlights of what Davis said are in the Q&A below.

EBONY.COM: What’s the message of your new book?

Angela Davis: I am particularly interested in [having] activists associated with the Black freedom movement to realize that our struggles never would have achieved this universality that they have achieved without solidarity that has come from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia. Our struggles are global, therefore, it is important for us to incorporate this global vision into our on the ground battles against police crimes and the prison industrial complex. Since I was very young I have been involved in organizations– the Communist Party, the Black Panther Party– that have had this global perspective.

EBONY.COM: As you note in your book, events in Ferguson after the police shooting of Michael Brown exposed the militarization of police forces. Where is this push toward militarization headed and how can it be stopped?

Davis: If one looks at the history of policing, especially over the last 15 years in the aftermath of 9/11, one can see the emphasis on the shifting of resources from the military to the police. This actually has a much longer history if one looks at the way in which the Vietnam War resulted in an impact on local police. The S.W.A.T. squads emerged as a result of using techniques and technology that were used by the Green Berets in the Vietnam War. The Los Angeles Police Department was the first to use such tactics against the Black Panther Party. We have also seen the emergence of privatized policing corporations. In the book, I refer to G4S (Group 4 Security), which is a private security corporation that has spread policing and prisons all over the world. It’s important not only to look at the ways in which these moments of inflicting terror have been taken up by police departments, but it’s also essential to look at the economic dimension by such processes. G4S, of course, is the third largest corporation in the world, and it is the largest employer on the continent of Africa. It is connected, historically, with the privatization of prisons in the U.S. and in other places.

I would like to point out that corporations such as G4S have already recognized what feminists call intersectionality. G4S spans from private policing to the transportation of immigrants to private prisons to the deportation of people from Mexico in the U.S. to the Mexican border, the deportation of Africans from Europe to countries in Africa. I think [G4S has] also taken up the question of sexual abuse of women and so they have these agencies that address women at risk and women who have suffered from sexual assault.

I mention this because there’s a lesson to us that the feminist notion of intersectionality is one that should be incorporated into our work as well. I like to talk about the intersectionality of struggles, and how important it is to link the struggle against gender violence with the struggle against state violence, police crimes, and crimes against women’s bodies.

EBONY.COM: You talk about how the foundations that have already been laid can enable today’s mass movements to be effective. However, many of today’s millennial-led activist groups actually reject traditional organization structures, so how can those foundations enable them to create effective change?

Davis: Young people are searching for forums through which they can express an urgent need for radical change. They are questioning the assumption that leadership has to be individual or that leadership has to be male. They are working with new collective models of leadership.

One has seen the rise of many women in leadership. Of course, there are the three women who created Black Lives Matter– Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza– who have raised many interesting questions about what it means to build leadership. In Black Youth Project 100 there is Charlene Carruthers who is a powerful spokesperson but she always makes it clear that she is a spokesperson for a collective. In the Dream Defenders, they are challenging hetero-patriarchal forms. They are questioning the impact of sexism and homophobia and all of these ideologies on their generation.

To people of my generation, their processes often seem unfamiliar, but of course, the Civil Rights Movement developed differently from movements before that. The movements of the 1930s that were led largely by Black communists (the history of which has been erased precisely because of anti-Communism) challenged the leadership that had come before it, so this is a process that happens. It’s very exciting to witness what may come of this current moment.

EBONY.COM: What do you think of Campaign Zero activist Deray McKesson running for mayor of Baltimore?

Davis: [The aforementioned groups] have had an impact on the way the national elections are conducted and evoked criticisms about how the candidates have not addressed questions of racism and the way in which the police continue to brutalize people and communities of color. Activism has to happen in all arenas including the electoral arena. It is not productive to assume that everything points in the direction of electoral politics. But certainly, it is important to have individuals who have progressive experiences or experience within radical movements to be elected.

EBONY.COM: Is there a particular candidate you’re supporting in this presidential election?

Davis: My approach has always been to emphasize independent, more radical politics, but I do think that it is important that Bernie Sanders has been raising issues that otherwise never would have been taken up within the context of the campaign between the two major parties.

It’s absolutely essential to raise the issues of decommodification of education and [the need for] free education. And of course, he is calling for tuition-free education at our public universities, which incidentally have a history of no tuition. [They] are now as privatized as the private universities. The history for the call for public education in relation to the Black freedom struggle holds important lessons. Former slaves called for free public education in the South, thus creating the context for poor, White students to get an education.

Of course, there is the healthcare question. I absolutely agree that we need free, single-payer healthcare. Then there are larger questions about the prison industrial complex that have not been sufficiently raised. We not only need to bring about an end to mass incarceration, we need to question the racism that is embedded in the whole history of punishment in this country.

Sheryl Huggins Salomon is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer, editor and digital media consultant. Follow her on Twitter @sherylhugg


worker | January 31, 2016 | 11:18 am | About the CPUSA, Analysis, Angela Davis, Bernie Sanders, class struggle, political struggle, socialism, USSR, WFTU | Comments closed

(A response to Sue Webb opinion in People’s World on January 4, 2016)

Dear Editor:

In Sue Webb’s opinion piece which appeared in the January 4, 2016 edition she implies that all that is needed in the USA is for us to change the word “capitalism” to “socialism” and everything will fall into place. Of course, this is pure fantasy, the words of a person who is satisfied with the capitalist system of greed and corporate control, what we used to refer to as the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”. Ms. Webb is, indeed, bourgeois and her oversimplifications show that.

Her slanders of the USSR and socialism are particularly disturbing. She writes “[socialism] – has been tainted by much of what happened in the Soviet Union and some other countries. But there’s nothing in socialism that equates to dictatorship, political repression, bureaucracy, over-centralization and commandism, and so on. Those features of Soviet society arose out of particular circumstances and personalities. But they were not “socialist.”

Ms. Webb never objected the to the USSR when, in an act of great proletarian internationalism, the Soviet Union and the socialist community of nations led an international movement to save the life of Angela Y. Davis. Now that there is no more USSR thanks to the counter-revolutionary activities of Mikhail Gorbachev and those around him that promoted the concept of socialist “markets” and private enterprise, Ms. Webb all of a sudden finds fault with the socialism of the 20th Century, calling it dictatorial, politically repressive, bureaucratic, and over-centralized, with a command style structure. And what dare I ask, was the USSR when they supported the CPUSA and its fight against racism and its political anti-monopoly program? So soon she forgets! Ms. Webb never objected when the Soviet Union supported the Cuban economy and the development of Cuba. She never objected when the USSR supported the national liberation movements in Angola, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and the Congo. All during the existence of the Soviet Union, the world witnessed the greatest fighter for world peace and socialism. Real socialism. To deny that is the worst kind of right opportunism.

As her alternative to scientifically planned economic socialism, Ms. Webb describes how we in the USA have many publicly owned electric utilities. That’s nice. We also have private utilities Sempra Energy, Pacific Gas, and Electric (PG&E), and Edison International for example, that endanger our environment and public health, cause great disasters like the natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California, the natural gas leak in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles, and the financial manipulation of energy prices by companies like Enron. What is the plan of the social-democrats to deal with these privately owned conglomerates in a socialist economy?

Ms. Webb says that Bernie Sanders is a democratic socialist because he rejects the idea of a planned economy. Great! So we should continue living with the chaos we live in now, where material goods are produced not for the benefit of the people, but to continue the system of private profits and exploitation at any cost? She speaks like a typical believer in American exceptionalism. As long as we have markets for goods everything will be OK. She even says it would be OK to operate private businesses that continue to exploit workers, a kind of touchy, feeley, nice capitalism!

Gus Hall, the great American Communist leader, said many times that there is no “socialist model but that there are general concepts and economic laws of socialism that cannot be ignored. When they are cast aside as Sue Webb suggests we should, the result is counter-revolution and an increase in anti-worker activity. As long as there is a bourgeois class and that class holds the levers of power, it makes no difference who is President of the United States. We have two Americas. A capitalist America, and a working class America. The class war intensifies more every day. We will never have socialism unless and until the workers themselves take power and own the means of production and write their own ticket. They don’t need a Democratic Party messiah to do that. They need a real trade union federation like the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), another contribution to humanity from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.

So what is socialism? In any country, in any language, socialism is the intermediary step toward a communist society. Socialism is defined as follows: *“The social order which, through revolutionary action by the working class and its allies, replaces capitalism. It is “the first phase of Communist society, as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society” (Marx). It is the social order in which the exploitation of man by man has ended because the toiling masses own the means of production. In contrast with the higher phase of Communist society, where “each gives according to his need,” in Socialist society “each gives according to his ability, and receives according to the amount of work performed”.

Contrast this with Democratic Socialism, *which is the general term for reformist and opportunist parties in their “theory” and practice in the Labor Movement [in sharp contrast with class conscious, anti-imperialist trade unionism of the WFTU]. Social-Democracy’s history is marked by timidity, legalism, “respectability,” capitulation to the influence of the capitalists, and consistent betrayal, of the working class.

Time to ask yourselves, which side are you on?

*Marxist Glossary, L. Harry Gould, Sydney. Australia 1948

Joe Hancock

PCUSA, Los Angeles

Radio interview with Angela Davis 6/7/1984
worker | March 30, 2015 | 12:16 am | Angela Davis | Comments closed

Happy Birthday Angela Davis
worker | January 27, 2015 | 9:34 pm | Angela Davis | Comments closed