Angela Davis on Protest, 1968, and Her Old Teacher, Herbert Marcuse


“As I write in May 2018, in the city of Paris, French students and workers are conducting demonstrations, sit-ins, and occupations with the aim of challenging the Macron government’s harsh attacks on labor and its announced efforts to restrict access to higher education. These protests reflect a growing consciousness of deepening structural inequalities in the Global North—especially for people of color, immigrants from the South, and more generally, poor and working class communities suffering the effects of global capitalism. As if to accentuate the significance of the publication this year of the graphic biography, Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of Utopia, these demonstrations in Paris coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1968 student/worker uprisings, with which his utopian ideas have been historically associated. But serendipitously, Marcuse was in fact in Paris during the 1968 protests, attending, along with Lucien Goldmann and others, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference on Marx. Students who had occupied the École des Beaux Arts recognized him as he walked back to his hotel from the conference and invited him to speak to the assembly. When he addressed them, he brought greetings from the developing movement in the United States and, according to Andrew Feenberg, who accompanied him, praised the students for their critiques of capitalist consumerism. In 1968, I was one of Herbert Marcuse’s graduate students at UC San Diego, and we all benefited both from his deep knowledge of European philosophical traditions and from the fearless way he manifested his solidarity with movements challenging military aggression, academic repression, and pervasive racism. Marcuse counseled us always to acknowledge the important differences between the realms of philosophy and political activism, as well as the complex relation between theory and radical social transformation. At the same time, he never failed to remind us that the most meaningful dimension of philosophy was its utopian element. ‘When truth cannot be realized within the established social order, it always appears to the latter as mere utopia.’ As new generations of scholars and activists ponder the role of intellectuals in shaping radical movements of this era, I believe that Marcuse’s ideas can be as valuable today as they were 50 years ago. …”
LitHub
W – Herbert Marcuse

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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