The Organic Intellectual

If our greatest task is to liberate humanity, as Paulo Freire asserts, then it is absolutely essential that we create a culture of resistance from below that is able not only to counter, but transcend the limitations of the ruling culture imposed by above. Hopefully, The Organic Intellectual will help serve this purpose.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Announcing The Hampton Institute!

I'm updating here at OI to announced that I am part of an exciting, new project called The Hampton Institute. Future writing I do will be sent there, so everyone check it out!

http://www.hamptoninstitution.org/


About the Hampton Institute:


In the late 1920's, while imprisoned under Benito Mussolini's fascist government in Italy, Antonio Gramsci compiled 32 notebooks containing roughly 3,000 pages of work, touching on everything from Italian politics and history to social, economic, and political theory and analysis. During this time, Gramsci coined the term "organic intellectual" to describe conscious members of the working class whom he felt must be developed in contradistinction to the traditional intellectual "clergy," composed of "men of letters, philosophers and professors" who were intimately tied to the dominant culture, and therefore compromised and limited in their own capacity. "All men (and women, we might add) are intellectuals," wrote Gramsci, "but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals." As a Marxist, it was no secret that Gramsci's ideas were centered on the need for revolutionary opposition to the oppressive social relations perpetuated by the capitalist structure - whether represented in the private sphere through property and labor exploitation, or the public sphere through state-backed repression. And while traditional intellectuals certainly played, and continue to play, an important role in this struggle, Gramsci saw the development of the organic intellectual as a crucial component in the ongoing battle for consciousness which exists within the daily lives of the mass of people. "There is no human activity from which every form of intellectual participation can be excluded," explained Gramsci. "Everyone carries on some form of intellectual activity, participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought." The organic intellectual possesses the unique ability to touch those who exist within their own social grouping: the working class.


In the late 1920's, while imprisoned under Benito Mussolini's fascist government in Italy, Antonio Gramsci compiled 32 notebooks containing roughly 3,000 pages of work, touching on everything from Italian politics and history to social, economic, and political theory and analysis. During this time, Gramsci coined the term "organic intellectual" to describe conscious members of the working class whom he felt must be developed in contradistinction to the traditional intellectual "clergy," composed of "men of letters, philosophers and professors" who were intimately tied to the dominant culture, and therefore compromised and limited in their own capacity. "All men (and women, we might add) are intellectuals," wrote Gramsci, "but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals." As a Marxist, it was no secret that Gramsci's ideas were centered on the need for revolutionary opposition to the oppressive social relations perpetuated by the capitalist structure - whether represented in the private sphere through property and labor exploitation, or the public sphere through state-backed repression. And while traditional intellectuals certainly played, and continue to play, an important role in this struggle, Gramsci saw the development of the organic intellectual as a crucial component in the ongoing battle for consciousness which exists within the daily lives of the mass of people. "There is no human activity from which every form of intellectual participation can be excluded," explained Gramsci. "Everyone carries on some form of intellectual activity, participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought." The organic intellectual possesses the unique ability to touch those who exist within their own social grouping: the working class.


As a youth organizer for the NAACP and eventual leader of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), Fred Hampton was the embodiment of Gramsci's "organic intellectual." Born to working class parents, Hampton became a pre-law major in college and deployed his knowledge to combat police brutality and unfair law enforcement practices that targeted impoverished black youth in the greater Chicago area. Hampton's realization of the inherent connection between institutional racism and class politics led him to negotiate a "class-conscious, multi-racial alliance" between politicized organizations (the BPP and Students for a Democratic Society) and Chicago's major street gangs (Young Patriots, Young Lords, Blackstone Rangers, Brown Berets and Red Guard Party). As BPP's local leader, Hampton organized rallies, assisted with maintaining a local medical clinic, taught weekly political education classes, and operated a Free Breakfast Program for underprivileged children. As both an organic intellectual and de facto educator, Hampton's brilliant oratory skills were not used to place himself above the oppressed, but rather to immerse himself within the oppressed community of which he was a member. His words, and the linguistic style in which his analysis was advanced, were a shining example of the simultaneous process of education and dialogue that must take place with the oppressed. Ultimately, Hampton was the praxis to Gramsci's theory. By combining an effective class analysis with a stage-based social application that included "real world" solutions, he was the quintessential revolutionary. "That's what the Breakfast for Children Program is," explained Hampton. "A lot of people think it's simply charity, but what does it do? It takes people from a stage to a stage to another stage. Any program that's revolutionary is an advancing program. Revolution is change." In addition to praxis, he and the BPP fortified and transcended the struggle against racial oppression by effectively tying it to the international class struggle, much like Dr. King was doing with a critical assessment of war and poverty. "We're not gonna fight fire with fire, we're gonna fight fire with water," cried Hampton. "We're not gonna fight racism with racism, we're gonna fight racism with (working class) solidarity!" His untimely and tragic murder at the hands of Chicago police would ultimately stifle the revolutionary momentum of the time. However, as Hampton once proclaimed, "You can kill the revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution!"As a youth organizer for the NAACP and eventual leader of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), Fred Hampton was the embodiment of Gramsci's "organic intellectual." Born to working class parents, Hampton became a pre-law major in college and deployed his knowledge to combat police brutality and unfair law enforcement practices that targeted impoverished black youth in the greater Chicago area. Hampton's realization of the inherent connection between institutional racism and class politics led him to negotiate a "class-conscious, multi-racial alliance" between politicized organizations (the BPP and Students for a Democratic Society) and Chicago's major street gangs (Young Patriots, Young Lords, Blackstone Rangers, Brown Berets and Red Guard Party). As BPP's local leader, Hampton organized rallies, assisted with maintaining a local medical clinic, taught weekly political education classes, and operated a Free Breakfast Program for underprivileged children. As both an organic intellectual and de facto educator, Hampton's brilliant oratory skills were not used to place himself above the oppressed, but rather to immerse himself within the oppressed community of which he was a member. His words, and the linguistic style in which his analysis was advanced, were a shining example of the simultaneous process of education and dialogue that must take place with the oppressed. Ultimately, Hampton was the praxis to Gramsci's theory. By combining an effective class analysis with a stage-based social application that included "real world" solutions, he was the quintessential revolutionary. "That's what the Breakfast for Children Program is," explained Hampton. "A lot of people think it's simply charity, but what does it do? It takes people from a stage to a stage to another stage. Any program that's revolutionary is an advancing program. Revolution is change." In addition to praxis, he and the BPP fortified and transcended the struggle against racial oppression by effectively tying it to the international class struggle, much like Dr. King was doing with a critical assessment of war and poverty. "We're not gonna fight fire with fire, we're gonna fight fire with water," cried Hampton. "We're not gonna fight racism with racism, we're gonna fight racism with (working class) solidarity!" His untimely and tragic murder at the hands of Chicago police would ultimately stifle the revolutionary momentum of the time. However, as Hampton once proclaimed, "You can kill the revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution!"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Debate on UT's Campus over Israeli Apartheid Week

Last semester the University of Toledo Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) held the first ever Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) on UT's campus. It was a huge success, bringing together a wide array of diverse student activists and organizations. For the first time in many, many years Palestine was at the forefront of the political struggle at UT. Almost immediately, SJP was condemned for organizing the IAW event by Zionist organizations and leaders on campus. Below is the debate held in the pages of the Independent Collegian, the most widely circulated media outlet on UT's campus. The first article is the "Cheap" political attack on SJP and the use of the word apartheid, the second is our rebuttal:

Letter to the Editor
Israel Apartheid Week
Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Next week the University of Toledo and campuses nationwide will take part in the nationally recognized "Israel Apartheid Week," sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Using the very term "apartheid" by SJP in its characterization of Israel is patently false and deeply offensive to all who feel a connection to the state of Israel. This spreading of misinformation by SJP chapters both locally and nationally is creating a bias against Israel in the media and jeopardizing a timely resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Using the term "apartheid" is a very deliberate attempt to associate the current Israeli Government with the racist South African regime of the 20th century. This offensive claim is highly objectionable to anyone who knows the truth about Israel's record on human rights, and is a stark contrast to that of South Africa.

Under apartheid, Black South Africans could not vote and had no rights in a country in which they were the overwhelming majority of the population.

This analogy is not credible, as SJP chapters have chosen to manipulate rather than inform on this issue. Therefore, we request that SJP immediately stop referring to Israel as an apartheid society, and acknowledges that the Arab minority in Israel enjoys full citizenship with voting rights and even representation in the government. SJP should acknowledge that there are 14 Arab members in the Israeli Knesset, an Arab member of the Israeli governing Cabinet, an Arab member of the Israeli Supreme Court, and Israeli Arabs involved in Israeli businesses, universities and the cultural life of Israel.

A true hope for justice, peace and reconciliation in the Middle East compel us to demand an immediate cessation to the deliberate mischaracterizations of Israel. SJP's compliance with this request will be viewed as a responsible and appropriate first step toward raising the level of discourse.

— Casey Cheap
Christians United for Israel (CUFI-Toledo)
Chairman

— Matt Rubin
UT Student Government
President
— Patrick Richardson
UT College Republicans
Chairman
— Brent Teal
UT College Democrats
President
— Maxwell Gold
Former UT Hillel President
2008-2011



Our response:
Letter to the Editor
In response to "Israel Apartheid Week"
Sunday, February 26, 2012  

Last week five UT students condemned in the pages of the IC the group UT Students for Justice in Palestine over its application of the term apartheid to Israel. The United Nations defines the crime of apartheid as "inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them."

In 2010 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, historically a valiant fighter against apartheid in South Africa, proclaimed in a Huffington Post article that with "great joy" he embraced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel because the system of apartheid there was so reminiscent to that of South Africa. His words are far more percussive than our own:

"I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government."

In the same year, a group of over sixty church leaders and theologians from South Africa released a statement condemning Israeli apartheid:

"From our own experience of apartheid, we can clearly and without equivocation say that your situation is in essence the same as apartheid and in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid."

One year prior to that, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa published an extensive report which concluded that "Israel has introduced a system of apartheid in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], in violation of a peremptory norm of international law." Likewise, South African dockworkers took up the cause of anti-apartheid struggle by refusing to unload ships carrying Israeli cargo in response to Israel's three-week assault on Gaza, a massacre which stole the lives of 1,300 Palestinians, a third of which were children, and injured 5,300 more.

In 2011, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel published a report documenting that "more than 30 main laws discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Palestinian citizens of Israel" and "Inequalities between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel span all fields of public life and have persisted over time."

Thus, it is with feigned ignorance that UTSJP be condemned for employing the term apartheid despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to the existence of an apartheid system in Israel. Such condemnation attempts to mask reality with tactless glittering generalities and is representative of an agenda that has nothing to do with civil discourse or peace. The peace so often spoken of in "higher levels of discourse" is one without justice, the peace of the oppressor, and it should be challenged by not only all UT students but all people who identify with the pursuit of social justice. We do not reject dialogue, but our dialogue must revolve around how best to end apartheid, not how to give it a human face, and certainly not to avoid the paradigmatic unease some words may illicit in the defenders of a position, which proven with the evidence above, is antithetical to not only human rights but to peace and justice as well. We can safely assume that the various South Africans quoted above know far better what constitutes apartheid than those who deny its existence, and nothing is more offensive then the attempt to disguise the current system of apartheid in Israel.

The undersigned,

UT Students for Justice in Palestine

(Disclaimer: The views of these student leaders are their own and may or may not reflect the views of their respective student organizations collectively.)

 Demetrios Kasamias
President, Orthodox Christian Fellowship

Kenneth Sharp
President, Libertarian Party of UT

 Victoria Delly
President, Black Student Union

 Christopher Scott
President, Student African American Brotherhood

 Ghassan Chokr
President, Arab Student Union

 Omar Subei
President, Muslim Students Association

 Jihad Dakkak
President, Middle Eastern Law Students Association

 Ali ElMokdad
President, Lourdes Arab American Student Association

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fateful Triangle: Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, and Shaima Alawadi



“Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; and if he cannot, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of Iman [faith]." Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, sall Allahu 'alayhi wa salam.

I have been sitting on this particular piece for some six months now. I wrote it the night of September 21st, 2011, the same night Troy Davis was murdered by the state of Georgia, and not long after the uprisings in London, sparked by the racist police murder of Mark Duggen, in case the Tottenham reference is lost on anyone. I did not know then whether or not I wanted to publish it, and did not share it widely, with the exception of one remarkable individual who subsequently introduced me for the first time to the hadith quoted above, a hadith which impacted me far more than I knew at the time.

Perhaps publishing this six months late is impertinent, but I cannot help but be painfully reminded of Troy Davis, and his racist murder by the legal institutions of our glorious civilization, as I watch the less institutional, but equally reprehensible acts of pernicious bigotry and malicious violence brought upon innocent victims by neo-lynch mob vigilantes, such as the oh-so-brave man who shot 17 year old Trayvon Martin or the contemptible coward who death Shaima Alawadi, a mother of five, to death in her home. The former was murdered because he was walking while black, the latter because she was an Iraqi Muslim woman who donned a hijab. It is, of course, not 17 year old Trayvon who was a threat, nor Shaima who was a terrorist. Instead, Zimmerman and the unidentified killer of Shaima are the murderous bigots who perpetrate wanton criminality and terror. 

Yet, one can never separate these individual acts of brutality from the larger injustices embedded within our legal, economic, and political system, a system which is predicated upon the dehumanization, exploitation, and murder of so many who share similar physical characteristics as Trayvon and Shaima. Already the racists are coming out of the woodwork, exposing themselves by trying to justify Trayvon's murder through the most shameful and despicable means, notably the character assassination of a 17 year old boy, just days after his real assassination. Surely the callous disregard for Shaima's story, especially in comparison to what we could have expected as a response had the assailant been Muslim and the victim a white woman, is a pertinent example of the way in which not only the legal system, but the entire ideological superstructure of our society perpetuates racism at every level.

Thus, Troy Davis, thus now, for no case embodies the criminal nature of our legal system, and the racism which leaks into every facet of our society, as blatantly and brazenly as his. With that, I'll leave you with the original text, unedited, which I penned the night of his murder.

------------------------------

This will not be an analysis of the death penalty, of the criminal injustice system, of racism, or of capitalism. This will not be an expose of our nation’s history of brutalization, dehumanization, destruction, and death. This will not be an article which urges you to sign an online petition, write your congressmen, to call the Supreme Court, to vote out the bad politicians, or to host an event.

This will be a post, a short one, a furious one, a post of frustration, anguish, despair, and anger. It will be a post full of unadulterated rage, because if you are not full of rage, if you are not full of hate, hate for a system which will inject poison into an innocent man’s veins, hate for a society which will allow a man to be murdered in front of the eyes of millions, then you will never be able to change it.

I am also full of shame. I sit here now, reminiscing on the choices I made, the things I did, the petitions I signed, the calls I made, the words that I spread. Could I have done more? Could we have done more?

I contemplate my choices. I write, I do not know what else to do. All I know is that a man was murdered tonight, and millions of people watched. We chanted, we marched, we demonstrated, we held up our fists, we held events and conferences and went on television and lodged complaints and filed appeals. We went through the “democratic” process. We listened to the NAACP, to Amnesty International, to all the human rights organizations and groups, we heard their leaders speak, we heard them at 10:45, talking about how they would “double, triple, quadruple” their efforts. What more can be done? What more can we do? What was not done in the case of Troy Davis this could have?

Troy’s parting words may have been for God to forgive those who would murder him, but let us not forget that he also told us that “this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.”

But Troy Davis was murdered tonight. We did not save him. We failed. And I will not for a moment hear the “we built a movement, we brought the death penalty to the national dialogue” justification. We failed, we didn’t stop the execution, the murder, the legal lynching of Troy Anthony Davis. And the realization we must make is that we will not save anyone else by shamelessly signing the same petitions, writing the same letters, exposing the same hypocrisy, or calling the same Congressmen.  

The only conclusion, the only conceivable action left untested, the only possible route that was not pursued was one in which no one wants to acknowledge: self-defense. We did not just watch, we passionately argued against, we made the most compelling case, we fought with our words and our pens and our hearts against the machine of death known as the state of Georgia, but the only thing we did not fight with was our hands. We did not advance on the prison any further than the police would allow, we did not break down barricades, we did not fight the police, we did not dare challenge the organized power of the state, nor its sacred monopoly on violence. We did not turn Chatham County into Tottenham. Savannah did not burn…

Maybe, just maybe, if Savannah was burning tonight they'd have thought twice about murdering Troy Davis. Maybe if we had the bravery of Jonathan Jackson tonight, if thousands of us had displayed even a fraction of his courage, maybe Troy Davis would still be alive. Maybe if Savannah burned tonight, they'd think twice about murdering anyone again. No one can say for sure, maybe I’m wrong, but what we can say is that what we did, the same thing we did for Stanley Williams in 2005, did not work. How long will we continue doing the same thing, with the same result? How many more will die?

Maybe if Savannah had burned tonight… 
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This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact Derek Ide (ruminyauee@hotmail.com). Anything on this blog may be used, circulated, disseminated, by readers in any setting except where profit it to be made from it. Feel free to use the work presented here in educational settings, activist work, etc. All I ask is that the blog be cited. I write for my own purposes. This writings presented here will be influenced by my background, occupation, and political affiliation or other experiences.

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Derek Ide 2011

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