Protestors in Manhattan. Photo credit: tetiana.photographer / Shutterstock.com
I believe this extraordinary nationwide mobilization is the best answer possible to the Democrats who engineered the destruction of the Sanders primary campaign — I mean Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, James Carville, James Clyburn, Pete Buttigieg, and the innumerable reporters and media “experts” who from the beginning insisted “The American people don’t want a revolution, they want competent, calm management” — not to mention those who found Biden the most “electable.” State-organized murder of African Americans — taken along with mass incarceration and de facto culling of African Americans by virtue of inadequate or non-existent medical care; constant stress; poor, often-dangerous housing; and the like — is cause for massive structural change, whether or not one calls it a revolution. I could expand this list further to include immigrants, Hispanics, and the white working class, along with the long-term erosion of universities, cultural institutions, public schools, and so on. Any political party that claims to be progressive, as the Democrats do, and then organizes its public discourse and organizational practices so as to rule out socialism and social democracy has to be considered bankrupt. I am at one with the demonstrators.
— Eli Zaretsky
May 31, 2020, 2:50 pm
Eli Zaretsky is a professor of history at The New School for Social Research.
America is exploding, and I am a distanced observer. My interactive connection with the outside world is two-dimensional, while social struggle still operates in three dimensions. It’s hard to think clearly, even harder to figure out ways to act politically, with the enduring legacies of white supremacy erupting, as we are confronting viruses of Covid-19 and global right wing populism
This is the intolerable situation in which we find ourselves: The ugly face of racism and the suffering it inflicts on the bodies of the descendants of slaves are graphically visible, thanks to our phones. Also graphically apparent are the inner workings of the mind of our right-wing populist leader, in his tweets and public statements.
There is rage among the people in the streets, but also among those of us who are isolating. Sheltering in place is not a good place for political activists. It’s just where the authoritarians of the world want us to be. And on the streets, peripheral self-defeating actions threaten to undermine the righteousness of the rage, providing the “white supremacist in chief” with the material he needs to escalate repression.
I believe there are ways to channel our rage and work together to address the diseases of racism, authoritarianism, and the coronavirus. I have ideas, but right now I am desperately seeking three-dimensional understanding, and want to listen to those who are variously engaged.
— Jeffrey Goldfarb
June 2, 2020, 5:00 pm
Jeffrey C. Goldfarb is Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology at The New School for Social Research and publisher of Public Seminar.
Once you see the video of the killing of George Floyd you cannot help but understand the massive protests: We are here on the streets for you to see us, blacks and whites together. We are on the streets to compel you to talk with us. We are here, as we are people in mourning. Our pain and anger are real.
We all know that we urgently need to acknowledge a turning point, and to debate our best hopes for constructive change.
Here on our side of the Atlantic, we have allowed ourselves to believe that the liberal democratic system we live in is the best that there is — and that it had better not be tampered with, as the slightest course correction might trigger its demise. But are the protests we are now engaged in — let’s call it democracy with a human face, to paraphrase the agenda of the 1968 Prague Spring — such a danger? Are demands for racial justice and universal human rights too radical for a democracy as old as ours?
“We are a nation in mourning. Our pain and anger are real,” said Nelson Mandela, no longer a prisoner in South Africa, but not yet his nation’s President, after Chris Hani, beloved hero of the South African townships and deeply admired by many whites, was murdered in 1993.
The assassination, committed by a Polish immigrant, was designed by a right-wing party to torpedo the negotiations to end apartheid. “Tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin.” Mandela’s measured televised address, and another one held in a huge soccer stadium, helped to prevent major unrest in the country, allowed the negotiations to resume, and gave people hope.
Given the ignorant, self-absorbed, destructive posturing of our President, who incites violence while presenting himself like a Bible salesman, who is there in our country who can address the mask-wearing marchers gathering in the country’s squares? Who might be the best person to address our nation at this time of crisis?
Last night, Barack Obama, no longer president nor seeking re-election, made a start. But who will be this moment’s true voice, a leader who can help us all find a way out of this quagmire of inequality, racial injustice, and violence?
— Elzbieta Matynia
June 4, 2020, 11:00 am
Elzbieta Matynia is professor of sociology at The New School for Social Research and director of Transregional Center for Democratic Studies.