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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Black support for Israeli Apartheid?

Last month the Vanguard Leadership Group  (VLG), a group of self-proclaimed “African-American leaders,” paid for the full-page ad titled “Words Matter” targeting Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for their use of the term “apartheid” in labeling Israel.  The SJP is “a diverse group of students, faculty, staff and community members…organized on democratic principles to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the Palestinian people” which utilizes educational events, film screenings, discussion forums, and demonstrations to raise awareness and further the gowing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement from Israel.

What has become painfully clear is that the VLG ought to be ashamed of themselves. The stench of their propaganda is evident, as this “vanguard” of elite charlatans complain about the “offensiveness” of a word that those who have actually suffered under apartheid  use themselves to describe Israel. Perhaps the whines and moans of the VLG would be a bit more convincing if their utter ignorance was not revealed by the fact that Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Willie Madisha, and many other heroes in the anti-apartheid struggle openly label Israel an apartheid state, rebuking the vacuous claims of the VLG. 
Archbishop Demond Tutu proclaimed:
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.
Willie Mashonda, former president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, articulated the comparison openly:
As someone who lived in apartheid South Africa and who has visited Palestine, I say with confidence that Israel is an apartheid state. In fact, I believe that some of the atrocities committed against the South Africans by the erstwhile apartheid regime in South Africa pale in comparison to those committed against the Palestinians.
Over sixty church leaders and theologians in South Africa released a similar statement with no ambiguity and in no uncertain words:
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.
Although Nelson Mandela fell short of calling Israel an apartheid state, the purported letter to Thomas Friedman is not, contrary to popular belief (a mistake I previously made), written by him, he did maintain harsh criticism for Israel
[W]hat we know is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction. Nobody talks about that. Why should there be one standard for one country, especially because it is black, and another one for another country, Israel, that is white.
And in 1997, Mandela marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, (the official ANC website has, for whatever reason, removed this sourced speech) affirming his support for their struggle:
When in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine. In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.
Zionist organizations condemned Mandela for his relatively moderate, two-state solution approach:
We deplore Mandela’s outrageous and immoral attempt to portray the terrorist dictator Saddam Hussein as an innocent victim of American aggression, and to put Israel on the same level as Saddam. Israel is a beleaguered, peaceful, and responsible democracy surrounded by terrorists and tyrants who have launched four wars against it and murder its citizens daily. Israel, like America, has every legal and moral right to protect itself with whatever weapons at its disposal.
In the normal Orwellian language employed by the Zionist state, it turns out people wanting to return to their homes are, undoubtedly, "terrorists and tyrants."

It is not only major figures in
the anti-apartheid struggle, but also South African dockworkers, who had taken up the cause of anti-apartheid struggle by participating in the boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement. In 2009, members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) refused to unload a ship carrying Israeli cargo in response to Israel's three-week assault on Gaza, which saw the slaughter of over 1,300 Palestinians, a third of which were children, and injured 5,300 more. Workers followed suit in Sweden and Malaysia. A year later, after the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla, US activists successfully convinced International Longshore and Warehouse Local 10, not bereft of black members, in Oakland, California to refuse unloading Israeli cargo, marking the first time Israel was boycotted at a U.S. port. I think it is clear that the opinions of working people, especially working people who actually suffered under apartheid, are far more convincing than the vacuous assertions of the VLG, who lace their website with various references to AIPAC and Israel.


Perhaps, also, the VLG is ignorant of the historic connections between Israel and South Africa. For decades Israel propped up the white minority government under the apartheid regime, selling it weapons even while the rest of the world condemned it as a pariah state. The Jewish Defense League, a mouthpiece for Israeli propaganda, openly condemned Nelson Mandela and the ANC as a terrorist organization. Even by 1982, when apartheid comparisons were being made, Raphael Eitan, chief of staff of the Israeli Army during its brutal 1982 invasion of Lebanon, rejected the comparison, inverting the role of victim and victimizer, oppressed and oppressor:
I don’t understand this comparison between us and South Africa. What is similar here and there is that both they and us must prevent others from taking us over. Anyone who says that the blacks are oppressed in South Africa is a liar. The blacks there want to gain control of the white minority just like the Arabs here want to gain control over us. And we, too, like the white minority in South Africa, must act to prevent them from taking us over. I was in a gold mine there and I saw what excellent conditions the black workers have. So there is [sic] separate elevators for whites and blacks, so what? That’s the way they like it.
Perhaps the “African-American leaders” who hail from such haughty academic perches simply overlooked the historical facts? Doubtful. What is more likely is that they are spewing their propaganda to serve a political purpose.

As far as the evidence to support the apartheid assertion, I will rely upon what the evidence that one commentator has already posited:
One might point the VLG student leaders to The Inequality Report, a freshly-minted report by Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel,  which found that “Inequalities between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel span all fields of public life and have persisted over time. Direct and indirect discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel is ingrained in the legal system and in governmental practice,” and that “More than 30 main laws discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the current government coalition has proposed a flood of new racist and discriminatory bills which are at various stages in the legislative process.” One might also point the 16 VLG members to the State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories, which in 2004, in a rare instance of candor, reported that Israel had done “little to reduce institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country’s Arab citizens. The State Department’s most recent report, published April 8, 2011, confirmed that 7-year-old finding, that “Principal human rights problems [in Israel] were institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arab citizens.” (It should go without saying that racism in Israel is not limited to the anti-Arab variety.)
Furthermore, a 2009 report by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa concluded "On the basis of the evidence presented, this study concludes that Israel has introduced a system of apartheid in the OPT, in violation of a peremptory norm of international law."

All of these studies are worth extensive reads, and show more clearly than ever that Israel is, by all accounts, and apartheid state. Perhaps, as some activists have pointed out, the fundamental difference rests in the fact that the dominance of the white minority in South Africa rested upon the exploitation of the Black majority’s labor, whereas this dynamic is slightly different in Israel, which opts instead for separation and segregation to further its colonial settler goals. Yet, the pillars of apartheid are evident.

Perhaps even more shamefully, the VLG is not only ignoring the words and disfiguring the legacy of anti-apartheid activists who resist all oppression, but it is undoubtedly a shame to the historic legacy of black struggle and black liberation in the US against oppression.

Did the Zionists have the legal or moral right to invade Arab Palestine, uproot its Arab citizens from their homes and seize all Arab property for themselves just based on the "religious" claim that their forefathers lived there thousands of years ago? Only a thousand years ago the Moors lived in Spain. Would this give the Moors of today the legal and moral right to invade the Iberian Peninsula, drive out its Spanish citizens, and then set up a new Moroccan nation ... where Spain used to be, as the European zionists have done to our Arab brothers and sisters in Palestine?
Huey Newton, of the Black Panther Party, articulated the organization’s vociferous support for Palestinian liberation:
We realize that some people who happen to be Jewish and who support Israel will use the Black Panther Party’s position that is against imperialism and against the agents of the imperialist as an attack of anti-Semitism. We think that is a backbiting racist underhanded tactic and we will treat it as such. We have respect for all people, and we have respect for the right of any people to exist. So we want the Palestinian people and the Jewish people to live in harmony together. We support the Palestinian’s just struggle for liberation one hundred percent. We will go on doing this, and we would like for all of the progressive people of the world to join our ranks in order to make a world in which all people can live.
This was a position which the copycat Black Panther Party in Israel, originally created to challenge the anti-black racism in the country, also supported. Even Martin Luther King Jr., whose face the VLG shamefully plasters all over their website, was no ardent supporter of Zionism as the VLG would have you imagine.

The evidence is clear. How shameful, how repugnant, how utterly disgraceful, then, that the "top African-American leaders," self-proclaimed, have consciously placed themselves on the wrong side of history, on the side of oppression, of colonization, and injustice. How shameful indeed that they have attempted, from the comforts of their ivory tower, to pit the oppressed against the oppressed, to construct a fa├žade of black support for Israeli apartheid against the Palestinians. But no matter, for those struggling for justice in Palestine stand on the shoulders of black intellectuals and giants that the VLG, the self-proclaimed "African-American leaders," could only wish to stand on.
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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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