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The Next American Revolution Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

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The Next American Revolution
Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

Grace Lee Boggs, book website, UC Press

The Next American Revolution
Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

by Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige; Danny Glover (Foreword)
Hardcover, 224 pages
ISBN: 9780520269248
April 2011

A world dominated by America and driven by cheap oil, easy credit, and conspicuous consumption is unraveling before our eyes. In this powerful, deeply humanistic book, Grace Lee Boggs, a legendary figure in the struggle for justice in America, shrewdly assesses the current crisis—political, economical, and environmental—and shows how to create the radical social change we need to confront new realities. A vibrant, inspirational force, Boggs has participated in all of the twentieth century’s major social movements—for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and more. She draws from seven decades of activist experience, and a rigorous commitment to critical thinking, to redefine “revolution” for our times. From her home in Detroit, she reveals how hope and creativity are overcoming despair and decay within the most devastated urban communities. Her book is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction that will collectively constitute the next American Revolution.

Grace Lee Boggs, the recipient of many human rights and lifetime achievement awards, is an activist, writer, and speaker. She is celebrated in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Boggs is the coauthor, with James Boggs, of Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century and the author of Living for Change: An Autobiography. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is 95 years old.

Scott Kurashige is Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and author of The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles.

(The 1st chapter is available at the site)
(April 2011)




A Personal Open Letter to the Author

Molly Lawrence, Western Washington University - eJournal
... This book review, then, is written as a letter of gratitude to Grace Lee Boggs. I write it as a woman committed to connecting head, heart, body and soul; committed to new forms of education that increase connection, personal power, freedom, and love; committed to speaking truth, co-creating and learning with others, and living in alignment in each moment and every context. I write it with a belief in the value of human and planetary diversity, while living on the edge of courage and fear, clarity and confusion.

... Dearest Grace,

I would like to share my deepest gratitude for your commitment to humanity and the planet. I found your stories and insights in The Next American Revolution powerful and inspiring. In particular, I resonated with your conviction that our traditional methods of working for change are no longer transformative enough for the space and place in which we find ourselves at this moment in history. I agree that the time has come to relate differently to the world on all levels, including our own processes of working to transform it. These words from The Next American Revolution, in particular, struck me:

It becomes clearer every day that organizing or joining massive protests and demanding new policies fail to sufficiently address the crisis we face. They may demonstrate that we are on the right side politically, but they are not transformative enough. (p. 36)

Normally it would take decades for a people to transform themselves from the hyperindividualist, hypermaterialist, damaged human beings that Americans in all walks of life are today to the loving, caring people we need in the deepening crises. But these are not normal times. That is why linking Love and Revolution, is an idea whose time has come. (p. 47)

... Regardless of the context in which I find myself, I am in agreement that staying connected and present helps transform the greater universal fabric. This is change. The words of Margaret Wheatley (2006) that you share speak to the tremendous ripple effect generated by transforming ourselves in every instance:

‘Acting locally allows us to be inside the movement and flow of the system, participating in all those complex events occurring simultaneously. We are more likely to be sensitive to the dynamics of this system, and thus more effective. However, changes in small places also affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness…Because of these unseen connections, there is potential value in working anywhere in the system. We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness.’ In what Wheatley calls ‘this exquisitely connected world,’ the real engine of change is never ‘critical mass’; dramatic and systemic change always begins with ‘critical connections.’ (p. 50)

I celebrate the vision of leadership that stems from the interconnected vision you, Margaret Wheatley, and many others share and live. It invites us to move beyond a managerial, mechanistic view that has limited our visions of leadership to top-down, hierarchical, and somewhat static structures. Your view of leadership brings us one step closer to engaging with one another in life-giving ways that increase our humanity, make it easier to connect head and heart, to connect with one another, and make space for all of us to engage without structure restricting when and how we contribute. This model of leadership is self-organizing, with a free flow of giving and receiving. Because of this, I feel encouraged to step more fully into my own power, the capacity to act meaningfully in the world (Lappe, 2007). I see space for this, where before I saw none. Here are your words regarding leadership that have started this series of connections for me:

This movement has no central leadership and is not bound together by any isms. Its very diverse and widely scattered individuals and groups are connected mainly by the Internet and other information technologies. But they are joined at the heart by their commitment to achieving social justice, establishing new forms of more democratic governance, and creating new ways of living at the local level that will reconnect us with the Earth and with one another. Above all, they are linked by their indomitable faith in our ability to create the world anew . . . we try to make our living in ways that are in harmony with our convictions. (p. 42)

(Accessed 7 July 2012)
From the same site, another review of the book.



Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis
(audio)
Womens Magazine, KPFA
On today's show, we hear the words and wisdom of veteran activists, Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis. In the first half of the show, Grace Lee Boggs reflects on her life, revolution, and her new book - The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism in the 21st Century. In the second half of the show, we hear a conversation between Angela Davis about the work they have committed their lives to, and what revolution could look like.
(19 March 2012)


The reactionary politics of Grace Lee Boggs

Shannon Jones, World Socialist Website (4th International, Trotskyist)
... One of the better know figures in official “left” circles in Detroit is Grace Lee Boggs, founder of the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. Boggs, a long time Detroit resident, in collaboration with Scott Kurashige, an associate professor of American culture and history at the University of Michigan, has published The Next American Revolution, Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century.

Boggs and Kurashige use Detroit as a focus to advance a right-wing agenda, justifying the impoverishment of the working class and opposing any collective struggle against capitalism.

One is struck in reading The New American Revolution by the authors’ utter indifference to the conditions facing the working class. Poverty, homelessness and unemployment are barely mentioned. The problem, assert the authors, is not the capitalist system and the conditions of mass misery that it is creating, but the American people themselves, who are denounced as “self-centered and overly materialistic.”

... Boggs advances the retrograde view that technology itself, not its misuse under capitalism, is the cause of the problems facing society. She writes, “It has also been my good fortune to live long enough to witness the death blow dealt to the illusion that unceasing technological innovations and economic growth can guarantee happiness and security to the citizens of the planet’s only superpower.... At this point in the continuing evolution of our country and of the human race, we urgently need to stop thinking of ourselves as victims and to recognize that we must each become a part of the solution because we are a part of the problem.” (p. 29)

... What Boggs proposes is that the working class accept a huge lowering of its living standards. From this standpoint, the impoverishment of the working class is not an evil to be opposed, but a welcome development that should serve as a model. To call this right wing does not do it full justice.

... One of the major activities of the Boggs Center has been the promotion of urban gardening. The urban farming movement is based on the reactionary and utopian idea that the mass impoverishment facing working people in Detroit and other major cities brought about by the collapse of manufacturing can be overcome through individual efforts. The idea that small gardens on abandoned lots can provide food self-sufficiency for hundreds of thousands of people in Detroit is absurd on its face. Further, it is a diversion from the burning need for the building of an independent movement of the working class to attack the roots of poverty and social inequality, the capitalist profit system.
(2 July 2012)
This repugnant review inspired me to research the book and post on it. -BA

From Marxmail comes this reaction by Angelus Novus:

"I'd like to think if Trotsky were alive today, he'd be thinking about how to relate to the field of possibility opened up by Wisconsin, Occupy, Greece, and the Arab Spring, rather than engaging in these religious denunciation rituals."

Editorial Notes: It strikes me how many different political currents are beginning to agree on the same themes. Grace Lee Boggs and Monthly Review are coming from a Marxist left wordview. Rob Hopkins and the Transition Movement have a a permaculture, community-resilience background. Front Porch Republic and Joel Salatin are examples of conservatives. If one goes back through the EB archives, one can find former heads of the CIA, bio-regionalists, New Left activists and investment advisors. It doesn't mean that everybody agrees on everything. But we are in same mental universe, we can discuss things, form alliances and get things done. -BA

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