Exploring Our Nation's Future
James and Grace Lee Boggs
Freddy and Lyman Paine
South End Press
This book was designed, typeset and pasted up by the South
End Press collective. We organize our work so that we all develop
the various skills involved in book production.
Conversations In Maine was printed by the workers at
Maple Vail Press, in York, Pa. They are represented by the Allied
Printing Trades Council.
Finally, we would like to thank all the people in Detroit for
their part in making the making of this book a process exemplary
of the work relations that we are trying to create in this country.
South End Press Collective
March 17, 1978
Copyright © 1978 James and Grace Lee Boggs
Cover Design by John Willems.
Printed in the U.S.A. Copyrights are still required for
book production in the United States. However, in
our case it is a disliked necessity. Thus, any properly
footnoted quotation of up to 500 sequential words
may be used without permission, so long as the total
number of words quoted doesn't exceed 2,000. For
longer quotations or for a greater volume of total
words quoted, written permission from the publisher
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 78-55014
South End Press, Box 68, Astor Station
Boston, Ma. 02123
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TOWARD A NEW MAN 2
Time Dimensions ? ?.Reform and Revolution- ?.Contradictions ? ?
Crime and Chaos...Bandwagon Thinking of Radicals...New
Philosophy...What is Integrity!...From Marx to Lenin to Mao
to "I Will"...Black Panthers: A National Experience..A Cul-
CHANGINC OURSELVES 16
1. What Politics Has Been
The Challenge We Now Face...What Is Politics!...Economics
and Politics...Politics and Ethics...New Politics!
2. Terming The Vision: The Politician As Artist 27
What Is Vision?
3. Changing Basic Notions:
Truth, Equality, Personality, Freedom 34
2500 Years of Platonism...No Thought Is "Mere"...Equality.?
Personality...Concepts of Freedom...Smashing Old Idols
4. Ideas Shape Man's Becoming 52
Why Change Ourselves?...Ideas Matter...The Unity of Diver-
sity...Women...Only in America...Accumulation of Cultural
QUESTIONS FOR AN AMERICAN REVOLUTION So
I. Turning Point in History 80
Since the Rebellions.. ."Things Fall Apart"...The Technological
Revolution...Getting Rid of Determinism...Language...The
Dynamic Role of Man...Man Created the Gods
2. Man's Continuing Search for Self 93
Abstract or Concrete...A Better Way to Live!...Ideas Move
People...Americans and the War in Vietnam
3. The Triple Revolution 100
4. The Word "Man" 102
5. Confronting Ourselves 104
"Choosing"...For One's Own Sake...Towards a New Work
Ethic...Why Philosophy!...The Nature of Work...The Welfare
6. Methods 116
Not "Problem Solving~~...Rights versus Roles..."Chiding...
Self-Developing Movement...Unions Today
7. A Too Hasty Attempt to Come Up With Answers 123
The New Duality...Getting Rid of Liberalism
8. What Do People Really Want! 130
Why Are We So Frustrated!...The Questions Women Ask...
Towards Female Self-Determination...New Self-Concepts__
Illegitimate Reasons...Philosophy For Everyone...Relating to
Real People...Whom Do We Approach !...Not Faceless Masses...
Every Revolution Is Unique...Getting People to Think...We
Are Not Humpty Dumpty
9? What Democracy Really Is 149
Not Rights...A Means or Process...Americans and Democ-
racy...In the American Tradition...Redefining Democracy...
As American As Apple Pie
10. Today's Search For Human Identity 156
A New World...Towards New Unities...The Need For One-
ness...Socialism Isn't A "Thing"...Another Way...Why Man/
Woman Created the Gods...From Necessity to Freedom...
Importance of Self-Concept...A Review
PROJECTIONS NOT REJECTIONS 172
I. Rejecting Cynicism 174
2. The Search For Community in Music 177
From Yesterday to Tomorrow...Our Unique Freedom to
3. What Is the Human Spirit 183
Literature, History, Politics...The Myth of Equality...Class and
4. Psychic Hunger 192
Redefining Revolution...When Are People Free?...Psyches
Don't Live On Bread
5. Community 198
The Limits of the City...How Do Communities Start?...Net-
works and Communities...Why Community Is a Revolution-
ary Idea...Can Everybody Have Everything...Putting Down
Roots...How Does One Struggle...On Practice...Past Steps
in Search of Community...The Need for Continuity...The
Need for Values...Was the U.S. Ever a Community?...Institu-
tions Are the Death of Communities
6. Enlarging the Concept of the Family 227
Social Relationships Are Human Relationships...Economics
Should Be a Branch of Wisdom...Freeing Our Minds...Not
Class-Anglers...Human Needs Go Beyond Material Needs...
The Family and Politics...Bringing Society into the Family...
What Shall We Tell Our Children7
7. In Search of American Identity 246
Usable Past...What Do You Miss in Life...For Your Own
Sake...Self-Concept...Complaining...It Starts With What "I"
Miss...What Does It Mean To Caret...What Is Promiscuity7...
Oppenheimer and the Bomb...Learning From the Past...The
Spiritual Atom Bomb...What Is Self-Defense...Today"s Lion's
Dens...History As Struggle..."Soul", ..Walking into the Lion's
Den...Projections Not Rejections...One Small Step Forward
The drawings at the beginning of each year's discussion are
not intended as specific illustrations for this book, rather they are
independent expressions of the main ideas in the conversations:
humanity has reached a crisis in its development(l970); as human
beings we have the capacity to confront and work through this
critical period(l971); this will require a struggle to develop
ourselves(l972); and we must have a vision of the society we want
We were introduced to these Conversations shortly after
having read the book Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century
by James and Grace Lee Boggs. That book for both of us had repre-
sented a leap forward. Suddenly a lot of old questions, like how to
apply Marx, Lenin and Mao to America, came into perspective.
Many new questions surfaced: What was the American revolu-
tion to be about! Who was the class or group that would make that
revolution! What were we and other Americans missing in our
lives! What was needed to transform ourselves and our country!
The Conversations helped us to deepen our understanding of
the complex process we would have to go through in developing a
theory of revolution for America. When the opportunity arose to
have the Conversations made into a book, we agreed to edit it.
Neither of us are "editors." Rather we are activists--veterans
of the anti-war and women's movements.
In editing we have tried to retain the flavor of the Converss-
tions. Although the actual dialogue between participants has been
eliminated, the differences in style of speech are evident. We did
not try to tone down the statements made during these conversa-
tions. We feel that the boldness of the generalizations, drawn
from over 40 years spent in struggle as well as in thought, compel
US all to rethink our assumptions about revolutionary social
Change and our own lives.
XX Editor's Preface
The Conversations began during a summer vacation in 1968.
The first taped discussion in 1970 was only partially recorded and
transcribed, and this made for a somewhat compressed section.
The discussions in years following (except for 1973) were more
fully recorded and transcribed. The book ends with the 1974
conversations, although the conversations have been and still are
We had a hard time deciding how to handle the references
made to "man" and "mankind" which are so central to the Conver-
sations. It was obvious that the participants' awareness of sexism
in language developed over the four years. We wanted the book to
reflect that development. The language was therefore left as
spoken until the latter part of the book; after their discussion of
language and sexism in 1972, we edited to eliminate any
remaining sexist references.
Throughout the Conversations particular books, music,
artists, and writers are mentioned. -The variety of sources used by
the participants is a lesson in and of itself. They have not bypassed
thinkers and observers because they are not socialists or revolu-
tionaries. A list of the books referred to can be found at the end of
Transforming the dittoed copies of the Conversations into
this book took energy and hard work. We would like to thank the
following people for their assistance: Andi Barchas, Ruth
Gladstone, David Maki, Betty Thomas Mayen, Laura Siller, Pat
Walker, John Willems, and Susan Zero.
The Conversations in Maine are not a finished product; they
are not a blueprint for what we must do. For us they were a
beginning; they stimulated us to reflect and re-examine the
philosophy and positions we had developed. We hope they will
stimulate new thinking in everyone about the future of America
and the meaning of revolution, that they will be the impetus for
thousands of other conversations throughout the country,
conversations that will help us all do what we can to make our
country a more human place to live.