Moving Against the System

Moving Against the System:
The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness
With editor and author David Austin

In 1968, as protests shook France and war raged in Vietnam, the giants of Black radical politics descended on Montreal to discuss the unique challenges and struggles facing their Black brothers and sisters. For the first time since 1968, David Austin brings alive the speeches and debates of the most important international gathering of Black radicals of the era.

Against a backdrop of widespread racism in the West, and colonialism and imperialism in the ‘Third World’, this group of activists, writers and political figures gathered to discuss the history and struggles of people of African descent and the meaning of Black Power.

With never-before-seen texts from Stokely Carmichael, Walter Rodney and C.L.R. James, these documents will prove invaluable to anyone interested in Black radical thought, as well as capturing a crucial moment of the political activity around 1968.

David Austin is the author of the Casa de las Americas Prize-winning Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal, Moving Against the System: The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness, and Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution. He is also the editor of You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James.

 

Tickets are sliding scale / No one is turned away for inability to pay

 

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Prague Spring: 50 Years Later

with Pete Dolack

Histories of the 1968 Prague Spring tend to focus exclusively on the drama inside the leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and the personality of reformer Alexander Dubček. The fuller story of the Prague Spring is the grassroots movement for workers’ control of industry and economic democracy.

Although reformers within the Communist Party sought significant reforms to the overly centralized system copied from the Soviet Union, including advocacy of workers’ councils, there were significant differences between the more modest reforms put forth by Czechoslovak economists and the more thorough-going concepts of activists and workers themselves.

This was a true grassroots effort, mostly organized by trade union officials and rank-and-file Communist Party members. One interesting wrinkle is that unions, representing members as individuals and freed from state control, would continue to exist alongside the workers’ councils. All this was to happen in a socialized economy in which formal ownership would continue to reside with the state but in which state and party control would be drastically curtailed.

In this conception, which began to be implemented in some of the country’s biggest enterprises, the workforce as a whole would meet in assemblies to decide broad policies and freely elect a council from their ranks that would coordinate management. Each worker would be a part of the enterprise assembly and be members of independent unions that would represent workers as individuals in disputes with the collective or with higher administrative bodies. Thus each half of the duality would be represented through separate institutions.

Statutes had been developed in several factories across the country, and a national conference that sought to codify a system of workers’ control took place in which approximately one-sixth of the country’s workers were represented, before the experiment began to be shut down. Naturally, such a well-developed movement did not spring into being spontaneously, but rather was the product of earlier experiments, years of debate, and memories of councils established in the 1940s. In part, it was also an attempt at reversing several years of economic stagnation, a stagnation that signaled that the model imposed by the Soviet Union had reached its limits.

Pete Dolack is the author of It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, a study of the 20th century’s attempts to transcend capitalism that includes a chapter analyzing the Prague Spring and the workers’ control movement. He is at work on his second book, focused on economic democracy, and writes the Systemic Disorder blog, which discusses the ongoing economic crisis of capitalism and the environmental and political issues connected to it. His writings also appear in popular outlets including CounterPunch and ZNet.

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Revolutionary Columbia University Struggle of 1968

THE BATTLE FOR HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION WITH LESSONS FOR TODAY’S MOVEMENT

A word from Eric and Channing of the Labor/Community Strategy Center:

Dear New York Friends of the Strategy Center.

We are excited to be coming to New York on April 23 for Eric Mann’s talk on the Columbia Strike of 1968 in which he played an active role as a national organizer for SDS. Channing Martinez and Komozi Woodard will be part of the conversation. Today, 50 years later, we are in South L.A. still fighting the U.S. government. In 1968 Columbia University was a slumlord and gentrifier in Harlem—building a racist gym, that the movement called Gym Crow. Columbia faculty were making weapons to be used against the people of Vietnam in a Defense Department Institute for Defense Analyses. The movement of the Black community, the Student Afro-American Society and Students for a Democratic Society forced Columbia to stop construction of the gym and withdraw from the IDA.

Today the Strategy Center is charging the Democratic Party ruling elite with a genocidal gentrification in South LA. We are fighting for Free Public Transportation, No Police on the trains and buses, and end to MTA attacks on Black Passengers. We call on the U.S. government to stop drone attacks and close down its 800 military bases all over the world. Columbia was a great workshop where The Movement challenged U.S. ruling circles and won a major struggle. We believe today’s movement needs to teach, learn, and make history. Please join us and purchase tickets below and please forward this to friends in New York. And please email us to let us know you can help! Our great appreciation to Michael Lardner of the Marxist Education Project for organizing this event.

Eric and Channing

How the Black Movement in Harlem, Student Afro-American Society and Students for a Democratic Society took on the Columbia ruling class representatives, Mayor Lindsay, The New York Times and the New York Police Department and Won.
Eric Mann, Director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, Veteran of the Congress of Racial Equality, Newark Community Union Project, Students for a Democratic Society, the Columbia University Struggle and the United Auto Workers, author of Playbook for Progressives: The 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer
In Conversation with
Komozi Woodard, author of Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka and Black Power Politics
and
Channing Martinez, lead organizer, Labor/Community Strategy Center, and Manager, Strategy and Soul Movement Center

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May Made Me

An oral history of the 1968 uprising in France
With author Mitch Abidor
at New Perspectives Studio
456-458 West 37th Street (near 10th Avenue)/Manhattan

The mass protests that shook France in May 1968 were exciting, dangerous, creative and influential, changing European politics to this day. Students demonstrated, workers went on general strike, factories and universities were occupied. At the height of its momentum, the protests brought the entire national economy to a halt. The protests reached such a point that the French and international bourgeoisie feared civil war or revolution.

Fifty years later, here are the eye-opening oral testimonies of those young rebels. By listening to the voices of students and workers, as opposed to those of their leaders, May ’68 appears not just as a mass event, but rather as an event driven by millions of individuals, creating a mosaic human portrait of France at the time.

Published on the 50th anniversary of those days in the spring of 68, May Made Me presents the legacy of the uprising: how those explosive experiences changed the individuals who participated and their lives as lived since then.

Mitch Abidor is a translator from Brooklyn whose many translations include A Socialist History of the French Revolution by Jean Jaurès and Anarchists Never Surrender and other works by Victor Serge.

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