Archive for the 'United States' Category

Challenges With Building a Leftist City

In his classic book, Left Coast City, Richard Edward DeLeon wrote about the challenges that left-winged “progressives” would have in being able to take control of the San Francisco government apparatus while still holding onto their progressive politics under a capitalist regime:

A…reality progressives must face is that a small business economy by itself is inadequate to support a progressive regime…[T]he city’s small businesses are not always beautiful, and its petty bourgeoisie will never be the economic vanguard of radicalism.  Leftist arguments that romanticize small business and demonize big business fail to capture the diversity and complexity of San Francisco’s business community.  In the city’s service economy, what most small service firms serve are big businesses.  To discount the economic importance of large corporations or to view them simply as objects of expropriation is to validate claims that progressives are unable to think strategically about the city as a whole…

Yet the progressives are onto something in their love affair with small business.  Their emphasis on preserving and promoting small firms and neighborhood shops follows logically from a slow-growth perspective on land use and physical development…(172-3, bolded words are mine).

Reference

DeLeon, Richard Edward.  1992.  Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975-1991.  Lawrence, Kansas: University Press Kansas.

Black Working Class Radicalism in Oakland

Black Panther Party members outside of a Safeway, in the East Bay, during the Safeway boycott (photo by Stephen Shames).

Historian Robert O. Self, in his book on geography, capitalism, and its affects on the Black population in the San Francisco East Bay, wrote:

In the workplaces and communities of midcentury West Oakland, African American residents forged a distinct laborite culture that blended class politics with civil rights.  Based in the Brotherhod of Sleeping Car Porters and other black railroad unions, as well as the left wing of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) on the docks and the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union (MCSU) on the ships, this culture extended its influence broadly through the East Bay…This culture extended its reach across time.  Black longshoremen, veterans of the brutal class wars on the docks in the 1930s, articulated an internationalism that would, by the 1960s, influence Oaklanders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale as they founded the Black Panther Party.  Black leaders from the railroad unions established political strategies in the 1940s that would guide a generation of activists in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  From one decade to the next across the second half of the century, these neighborhoods were home to a rich range of laborite, community, civil rights, and eventually black liberation politics.

Oakland provides an excellent vantage from which to launch an inquiry into this history.  Best known as the birthplace of the Black Panther Party in 1966 and as a national fulcrum of black radicalism throughout the late 1960s, Oakland was also a major seat of African American influence in California politics beginning in the late 1940s and the home of an extensive tradition of black social advocacy and organizing.  Indeed, the generation of black activists before the Panthers developed strategies, alliances, and sources of power that profoundly shaped the political terrain of race in both the East Bay and California as a whole.  Recovering the story of that generation, men and women who achieved none of the national media exposure and fame of the Panthers and faced little of the state-sponsored harassment and investigations, allows us to appreciate both the surprising continuities as well as the jarring divergences between the activists of the 1940s and 1950s and those of the 1960s and 1970s…The long postwar black liberation movement in the East Bay featured a fluid political environment in which philosophies and strategies competed with and interpenetrated one another.  Above all, in the decades after World War II, civil rights in Oakland stood less for civil rights than for economic rights, the foundation on which black American political demands had rested since the 1930s (5-6, 12).

Reference

Self, Robert O.  2003.  American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland.  Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

West’s Prophetic Pragmatism

Photography by Stephen Charles (click for photographers Flickr page).

In a book analyzing Cornel West‘s (1953– ) philosophy and politics Mark David Wood writes:

Prophetic pragmatism, one of the most fully elaborated and progressive expressions of post-Marxist politics in the present era, appeals to academicians, politicians, and business leaders precisely because it poses no serious threat to the class of individuals who control and appropriate the lion’s hare of the Earth’s resources and humanity’s collectively generated wealth.

[I]t seeks to implement a reform agenda that attempts to address the needs of both rulers and ruled by establishing cross-class alliances on the grounds of shared moral, parental, or national identity…and…it seeks to solve human problems without challenging the moral legitimacy and social consequences of privatized control of production and planning of social development (185-6).

Reference

Wood, Mark David.  2000.  Cornel West and the Politics of Prophetic Pragmatism.  Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

Book Review of “Pinoy Capital”

I have Part I of a two part book review of Benito M. Vergara’s book Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City at my blog The Mustard Seed:

BenitoSunny” M. Vergara’s ethnographic study of Filipinos in Daly City is a very welcomed and much needed academic work centering on one of the more predominate Filipino communities within the United States, Daly City (which lies on the southern border of San Francisco).  When one looks at the back cover one sees a quote by Martin Manalansan who states that “Pinoy Capital is a colorful and nuanced ethnographic foray into the social institutions and quotidian lives of Filipino Americans living in Daly City.”

The Popular Front and Feminism

Report on Congress of American Women (LexusNexus).

James R. Barrett writes about the Communist Party USA’s strategy of the Popular Front during the Great Depression and the Second World War:

[M]any of the roots of modern feminist movement are located in the Popular Front organizations of the postwar period. Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, as women poured into the Party, they organized national and state commissions on the status of women, raised the issue of women’s rights, and joined with liberal middle- and working-class women in consumer and feminist organizations. The creative thinking of Mary Inman, a theorist whom the feminists of the 1970s often invoked as a mother of the new movement, outlived her 1943 expulsion from the CPUSA. Communist women built on her ideas regarding the special exploitation of women, going beyond the Party’s usual language of class. By the late 1940s, such activity had pushed the CPUSA beyond its narrowly economic interpretation of women’s oppression and produced a campaign within the Party against what came to be called “male chauvinism.” The Party launched the Congress of American Women (CAW) in 1947, which was deeply influenced by Communists but also included many prominent and many anonymous early feminists. Born in the midst of political reaction, the organization was short-lived, but what survived of Popular Front-era women’s activism brought the issues of feminism into the labor movement and a variety of consumer and community groups. The Party’s activities also drew African American women to feminism, highlighting their tripple oppression, and laid the roots for Black feminist theory…The tragedy of these Popular Front women activists, as Landon Storrs (2003) has shown, was that while the Communist party provoked and to some degree nurtured this early feminism this same political link, in the context of postwar political repression and CPUSA sectarianism, helped to isolate them and limit their potential to create a mass feminist movement. The effect of such repression was severe enough that left-wing feminists covered up their close contacts with the CPUSA and their early feminist work in unions, consumer groups, and other Popular Front organizations even as they pioneered “second-wave feminism” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (Barrett, 544)

Source:

Barrett, James R. “Rethinking the Popular Front.”  Rethinking Marxism 21, no. 4 (Oct. 2009): 531-550.

White Evangelicals and their “Toolsets”

Sociologists Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith write about race relations and white evangelicals:

The racially important cultural tools in the white evangelical tool kit are “accountable freewill individualism,” “relationism” (attaching central importance to interpersonal relationships), and antistructuralism (inability to perceive or unwillingness to accept social structural influences).

Absent from their accounts is the idea that poor relationships might be shaped by social structures, such as laws, the ways institutions operate, or forms of segregation.  Again, understanding evangelicals’ cultural tools illuminates why this element is missing.  White evangelicals not only interpret race issues by using accountable freewill individualism and relationalism, but they often find structural explanations irrelevant or even wrongheaded…Evangelicals are thus also antistructural because they believe that invoking social structures shifts guild away from the root source—the accountable individual.  However, evangelicals are selectively aware of social institutions—they see those both impact them in their own social location and tend to undermine accountable freewill individualism.  For instance, they are aware of affirmative action because such programs can impact them in their social location, and they tend to oppose such programs because they go against evangelical understanding of accountable freewill individualism. (Emerson and Smith, 76, 78-79)

Source

Emerson, Michael O. and Christian Smith.  Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Mulitple Colonialism in Moroland

Mindanao

Julkipli Wadi, in the book The Moro Reader, writes:

It can be said thus that there are, at least, four major strings of control that operate in the Moroland; namely: (1) U.S. colonialism (historical, unclosed); (2) Philippine colonialism (direct; relative to Moros); (3) multilateral colonialism (geopolitical, strategic and economic interests; corporate globalization); and (4) current U.S. colonialism (war on international terrorism; “second coming”)…What can be generally stated this time is that when the Philippine Republic took over in 1946, the status of Moros became “neocolonial” with respect to the Philippines but “doubly colonial” in relation to the Philippines and the United States.  It is because when the United States absolved Moros’ sovereignty and transferred it arbitrarily to Filipinos in 1946 and even earlier, the Philippine Independence did not necessarily close American colonialism in Mindanao and Sulu.  What happened is that the mode of U.S. control was simply transfered to Filipinos and thence became indirect and continued to operate by proxy. (Wadi, 22)

Source

Wadi, Julkipli, “Multiple Colonialism in Moroland” in The Moro Reader: History and Contemporary Struggles of the Bangsamoro People.  Edited by Tuazon Bobby M and Oscar Evangelista.  Philippines: CenPEG Books, 2008.


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