The older I grow, the more I realize how lucky I am to have lived so long and been part of so many historic changes.
When I became a radical nearly seventy years ago, you ran the risk of seeming ridiculous, as Che Guevara put it, if you thought Love had anything to do with Revolution.
Being revolutionary meant being tough as nails, committed to agitating and mobilizing angry and oppressed masses to overthrow the government and seize state power by any means necessary in order to reconstruct society from the top down.
In the last 50 years, this topdown view of revolution has been discredited by the demise of the Soviet Union. At the same time, our approach to revolution has been humanized by:
The modern women’s movement which informed us that the political is personal.
The ecology movement which emphasized loving Mother Earth and the places where we live.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for a radical revolution in our values and his concept of “beloved community.”
In the last 15 years tens of thousands of very diverse community groups have sprung all over the world to resist the commodifying by global corporations of our relationships to one another. On January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA took effect, the Zapatistas dramatized this new movement by first taking over six Mexican cities militarily, and then retiring to Chiapas and other indigenous communities to engage the people at the grassroots in non-violent struggles to create new forms of participatory democracy.
Nearly six years later, in the November 1999 “Battle of Seattle,” 50,000 members of labor, women’s youth and peace groups closed down the World Trade Organization, to inform the world that the time has come to create alternatives to corporate globalization.
In 2001, a series of “Another World is Possible” World Social Forums began in Porte Allegre, Brazil, to help movement activists around the world recognize that it is futile to keep calling on elected officials to create a more just, caring and sustainable world, and that we ourselves must begin practicing in the social realm the capacity to care for each other, to grow and share food, skills, time, ideas, that up to now most of us have practiced only in our most cherished personal relationships.
As part and parcel of this new approach to revolution, the first United States Social Forum (USSF) was held in Atlanta, Ga., in 2007. The second forum will convene in Detroit in June 2010.
Detroit was chosen for the second USSF because, having suffered de-industrialization decades ago, Detroiters are now engaged in a City of Hope campaign, infused with new values of local sustainable economics, useful work and participatory democracy, to rebuild, redefine and respirit our city from the ground up.
Increasingly being viewed as a North American Chiapas, Detroit has become the mecca for young people, journalists and scholars who wonder if our efforts can help other cities address the increasingly urgent problems of homelessness and hunger created by the economic meltdown and the increasingly dangerous climate crisis caused by our consumerism and materialism.
That is why I hope thousands of Detroiters will join in planning and preparing next June’s second USSF.
Normally it would take decades for a people to transform themselves from the hyper-individualist, hyper-materialist damaged human beings that Americans in all walks of life are today, to the loving, caring Americans we need in today’s deepening crises.
But these are not normal times. If we don’t speed up this transformation, the likelihood is that, armed with AK47s, we will soon be at each other’s throats.
That is why linking Love and Revolution is an idea whose time has come.
We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, create for and with each other that up to now we have practiced only in our personal relationships. We urgently need to bring the neighbor back into our hoods, not only in our inner cities but in our suburbs, our gated communities, on Main St and Wall Street and on Ivy League campuses.
Beginning tonight we can begin forging a new link between Love and Revolution so that when we gather next June in Detroit we will have already begun the revolution of the 21st century.
This column originally appeared in Living For Change, the weekly e-newsletter of the Boggs Center.
In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?
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