Living by the Clock of the World: Grace Lee Boggs' Call for Visionary Organizing
Publisher: Left Turn
Date Written: 17/04/2012
Year Published: 2012
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX14586
Grace Lee Boggs recently argued that activists should spend less time on protest organizing because it "leads you more and more to defensive operations" and "Do visionary organizing" because it "gives you the opportunity to encourage the creative capacity in people and its very fulfilling."
In response to a question regarding advice for young activists, 96 year old movement veteran Grace Lee Boggs recently told Hyphen Magazine that activists should turn our backs on protest organizing because it "leads you more and more to defensive operations" and "Do visionary organizing" because it "gives you the opportunity to encourage the creative capacity in people and it's very fulfilling."
For Grace-as well as for her late husband James Boggs-the present is the culmination of thousands of years of human responses to structural conditions. These responses include consent to state policies, rebellion against them, and revolutions. In the development of human history, the Boggses believed rebellions were important because, contrary to consent, they represented moments when oppressed people stood up to assert their humanity by protesting what society has done to them. They argued that rebelling masses "see themselves as victims and call on others to see them as victims and the other side as villains. They do not yet see themselves responsible for reorganizing society, which is what revolutionary social forces must do." While rebellions disrupt society-questioning the legitimacy of existing institutions-they cannot lead to the reorganization of society.
In contrast to rebellions, revolutions create new societies because they begin with "projecting the notion of a more human human being" whose development has been limited by structural conditions. Revolutions are not significant simply because they involve seizing state power but because they create societies more conducive to human development. A revolution is not for the purpose of resolving past injustice. Rather, "the only justification for revolution is that it advances the evolution of man/woman." Understanding revolution as "a phase in the long evolutionary process of man/woman," that "initiates a new plateau, a new threshold on which human beings can develop," the Boggses saw revolution as a period when human beings rapidly advanced.
In 1974's Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century, Grace and James asked, "What time is it on the clock of the world?" They answered by visualizing 3,000 years of human history on a clock where every minute represented fifty years and argued that the age of revolutions was only four or five minutes old. Scientific revolutionary thinking, as represented by Marx and Engels, was just two minutes old, and the epoch of global revolution represented by the anticolonial struggles of the 1950s-60s was a mere thirty seconds old. In 1974, the US Civil Rights Movement began merely 15 seconds ago.
The Boggses stressed this long view of history because it's necessary for thinking dialectically-understanding that things are always changing.