On Tuesday, March 5, 2013 two events happened of diametrically opposed moral and historical significance—the end of the life of the great world leader Hugo Chavez and the death of the Los Angeles mayoral elections.
In between yawns and "oh, was there some kind of election in the news that I missed?" 8 candidates ran in the "fight for the soul-less city" mayor race. The results: City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Council member Eric Garcetti will run in another soul-less run-off on Tuesday May 21 to see who will carry out the bidding of Eli Broad, the downtown business elite, the transnational capitalists, and the LAPD for the next four years—the job officially called "Mayor of Los Angeles." This election was met with such a yawn that even the "voting class" -- the group of middle-class people with no power and the illusion that they have some, forgot to vote. ("Hey, did you know that my brother-in-law knows Wendy's nanny who knows Eric Garcetti's mechanic and they said...blah blah blah.") L.A. like most urban center is a city of color—of the 4 million residents 12 percent are Black and 46 percent Latino. But you wouldn't know it by listening to the candidates. Police brutality, low-wage and no wage jobs, choking air pollution, police and ICE suppression of immigrants, deteriorating social services, were not on the agenda—but all the candidates, including Jan Perry, a Black city councilperson, debated how many more police they wanted. These are the "free elections" that are so free that nobody gives a damn, only 16 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls and the rest just stayed home and debated whether Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, or Rihanna should be number one.
My work on the Lincoln Film has been transformative. I have gone back to read W.E. B DuBois Black Reconstruction in America, Doris Kearns Goodman Band of Rivals, and Fawn Brodie's Thaddeus Stevens: Scourge of the South, about one of the true, anti-racist warriors. I have been studying and learning from Black teachers and Black history since I was 17, and yet the process of knowledge is perpetual. Prompted by my anger at and strong disagreement with the writing of Tony Kushner in the Lincoln screenplay, I have been studying, studying, and studying more and more about the civil war and Reconstruction and the treachery of white imperialism and how it works, and the profound beyond-words amazing role of Black people in their struggle not just for their own liberation but for the liberation of all oppressed people. In this review, I was clearly influenced by my conversation with Mumia Abu Jamal on my radio show, Voices from the Frontlines about what he called "menticide" inflicted on Black youth by the system's systematic campaign to eradice and deny them their people's revolutionary History. I am continuing the interrogation of the film Lincoln to teach how many elements of white chauvinism permeated the entire film to raise awareness of the profound racism of white liberal thought and how we can learn categories to identify and expose them—beginning in our own minds. I wrote the book, Katrina's Legacy: White Racism and Black Reconstruction in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as another weapon in this struggle. It would mean a lot if you would circulate this review to friends as we await the "spectacle" of the White Oscars in which Black People, great historical actors, are treated as invisible women and men. I hope we can use this review as a small contribution to the ongoing struggle to elevate Black revolutionary political thought and denigrate white chauvinist ideology.
Long Distance Revolutionary: a Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal, is a compelling documentary about a riveting historical figure—a passionate, partisan, and persuasive intervention in the not at all "free marketplace of ideas." Mumia Abu Jamal is the most famous political prisoner in the United States--Black revolutionary, author, philosopher, speaker, radio personality, and superhero for a lost generation that urgently needs to see one in the flesh.
As I write, Barack Obama is in constant negotiations with John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives to discuss “the fiscal cliff” that we are about to be thrown over regardless of what deal they cut. He is not meeting with the Progressive Caucus of the Democrats--he has shown great disdain for their politics and their very existence, and anyway, he has their votes. It is essential that Democratic “progressives” vote down the deal that will cut social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and urgent social programs that the president is proposing—but they risk further isolation inside the Democratic Party and great punishment from the Democratic leadership. It will take a real profile in courage for any Congressperson or Senator to reject the Obama/Boehner deal that is in the works but that is what the Movement needs to demand. Let’s be clear. There is virtually no debate going on. The president is proposing that 90% of the alleged “deficit reduction plan” that is artificially created in the first place, would come from cuts in social programs, and 10% or so would come from “raising revenues” what he calls, “just a little bit more taxes” on the wealthy, specifically raising the maximum tax rate from 35% to 39% for the highest tax bracket. This is so little that with all their fraudulent and legal deductions they will not even notice the difference. By contrast, during World War II under Franklin Delano Roosevelt the top tax rate was 94% and stayed above 90% during the Republican Eisenhower administration from 1952-1960. Raising the maximum tax rate to the proposed 39 per cent is a joke, and in typical Beltway logic, Democratic insiders are talking about a compromise on the compromise to 37 percent.
We are glad to be posting Eric Mann's piece as part of the ongoing conversation on Self and Community Care on Organizing Upgrade. Mann's book Playbook for Progressives: 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer has 2 chapters on taking care of self and taking care of others. In this piece he highlights how many people do community care so well and sometimes at the expense of caring for themselves and what that means for the movement. —Ed.
The discussion in Organizing Upgrade on the relationship of self-care to movement-building, initiated by B. Loewe, has been very exciting. Props to B for putting out a clear point of view and encouraging this level of engagement.
Let me explain how I see the integration of "self-care" and "collective care." In the quote B uses, Yashna Maya Padamsee says, "Talking only about self-care when talking about healing justice is like only talking about recycling and composting when speaking of environment justice." But no one I know is only or even mainly talking about "self-care" isolated from the collective struggle—and in fact, way too often it is "self-care" that is urgently needed to keep comrades in the movement.