October 28, 2007

Grace Lee Boggs Speaking In Corvallis

The Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture on World Peace Committee is delighted to announce that our Distinguished Lecturer for 2007 will be Dr. Grace Lee Boggs. As you may know, Dr. Boggs is a Chinese-American, whose husband of forty years was James “Jimmy” Boggs, the noted Afro-American labor and civil rights advocate. As activists, singly and together, they played a prominent role in the Labor, Feminist, and Civil Rights Movements for the greater part of the past century. As intellectuals, again both individually and in concert, they authored countless articles and essays as well as such important books as Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (1974), Women and the Movement to Build a New America (1977), and Conversations in Maine: Exploring Our Nation’s Future (1978).

It is entirely possible, however, that you might never have heard of Dr. Boggs (unless you are from Michigan), for she has personified Rene Dubos’s useful dictum: “Think globally, act locally.”

Dr. Boggs, who received her B.A. from Barnard College in 1935 and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr in 1940, celebrated her 92nd birthday this June. In her interview on Bill Moyers Journal that month, she was a paragon of acuity, wisdom, tranquility, and loving-kindness. As a tireless champion of equal rights for women, racial minorities, and workers, she has repeatedly demonstrated the depth of her commitment to justice, nonviolence, and human rights. Understandably, she declines most invitations to speak that involve traveling, but her friendship with Linus Pauling compelled her to accept ours.

The Pauling Lecture Committee is gratified to be sponsoring Grace Lee Boggs’s presence on our campus (on November 1, 2007, at 7:30 p.m. at the LaSells Stewart Center), but we are concerned that too few of her potential audience will know of her or have any idea of how remarkable an opportunity it is to hear her speak. We are hoping that you will help us publicize her lecture and mobilize students to attend what is certain to be an exceptionally informative and inspiring event.

Please let us know if we can count on you in this effort and if you have any novel ideas about how to ensure the widest possible turn-out for her talk.

Thank you, Richard L. ClintonChair

To review an interview Dr. Boggs had with Bill Moyers in June, please visit:

October 26, 2007

What is a communist? (continued)

Continuing on with the questions:

What does one need to believe politically to be a communist? and/or
What is socialism/communism?

Another comrade wrote this:

What seems fundamental to me is that a person believe in the desirability, the necessity, and above all, the *possibility* of socialism. Part and parcel of this, on a more personal, ethical level, is holding in the highest esteem the essential dignity of every human being, without exception, and maintaining a profound and unshakeable belief in our fundamental capacity -- and deepest wish -- to live our lives together harmoniously and joyously.

My first claim raises the perennial question: What is socialism? The question is highly controversial even among socialists -- hence its interminable currency. The controversies reflect deep ideological fault lines within the left, foremost among which, in my view, is the division between proponents of socialism-from-above and proponents of socialism-from-below. The classic statement of the difference between these "two souls" of socialism is the 1966 pamphlet by Hal Draper, aptly titled "The Two Souls of Socialism". Aside from the Communist Manifesto, there is no other work that I could recommend more highly for someone who is trying to capture the essence of socialism. Here is a link to the pamphlet:http://www.marxists.org/archive/draper/1966/twosouls/index.htm.

For now, I could cite another worthwhile -- because disputed -- characterization of socialism, namely, the "from below" definition offered by Max Shachtman in the early part of his argument during the 1950 Brooklyn College debate against Earl Browder. Shachtman states:

"The best way to begin is by defining socialism. Socialism is based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and exchange; upon production for use as against production for profit; upon the abolition of all classes, all class divisions, class privilege, and class rule; upon the production of such abundance that the struggle for material needs is completely eliminated, so that humanity, at last freed from economic exploitation, from oppression, from any form of coercion by a state machine, can devote itself to its fullest intellectual and cultural development. Much can perhaps be added to this definition, but anything less you can call whatever you wish, but it will not be socialism."

This definition becomes the yardstick that Shachtman proceeds to use in order to measure Stalin's Soviet Union; he finds it lacking to an overwhelming degree, and concludes that it cannot meaningfully be characterized as socialist. The debate makes for fascinating and engaging reading, in part because the disputants generally do not mince their words. The complete verbatim transcript of the debate may be found here:

Highly recommended!

October 25, 2007

A question and some responses from Salem Oregon Communists

A question was asked by an early-30's person - What are key things that people need to fully believe in politically to make them a potential communist?

What follows are some answers from Oregon socialists and communists:

*** I think of socialism as the legal and cultural extension of democracy into every sphere of life and the socialization-—putting wealth and administration under the legal and popular control of the democratic majority--of the means of production and distribution and decision-making.

I think of communism as the abolition of coercion, the free association of labor and people and the end of commodity production; and, therefore, the end of alienation in all of its forms on the basis of all that socialism has accomplished.

***Communism means the end of the profit motive. Workers will decide what to produce, ordinary people will decide how society is structured. The end of profits will work toward the end of national hostilities - perhaps the end of nations/national borders - and war, which are currently fueled by the pursuit of wealth. There will be global cooperation in all regards and an end to exploitation of people and the environment. There will be peace, a healthy environment, respect for our earth and nature and all people and life. What does a person have to believe? That this world is truly possible. How do we get there? There are strong debates on tactics and strategies; one is that the field in which we work should be as hospitable as possible to working to achieve socialism; some think that we get there by defeating the right through election of democrats who are left leaning; others think that this strategy is self-defeating, reformist, and only serves to dilute our work. Others remind us that we must alleviate immediate suffering wherever possible. Regardless of whether our tactics involve working for the defeat of the far right or whether we work for election of socialist or communist candidates, we always keep in mind our vision ... and live that vision and its values as much as possible every day...