LIVING FOR CHANGE
The Neighbor in the Hood
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Oct.3-9. 2010
As I rejoice at the news that more grassroots Detroiters are beginning to rebuild, redefine and respirit our city by turning Motown into Growtown, War Zones into Peace Zones, etc., I have been revisiting the chapter in the American Manifesto where Jimmy and I envision Neighborhood Responsibility Councils as the building blocks for a New Self- Governing America.
Nearly 30 years ago, in 1982, we wrote, "Our country was founded by a great revolution which inaugurated an age of revolutions all over the world because it gave men and women a new concept of themselves as self-governing human beings, as citizens rather than subjects. Instead of looking to kings or bishops to make the difficult decisions which are necessary to the functioning of any society, the men and women who made the first American revolution were convinced that ordinary people could and should think for themselves, could and should accept responsibility for making social, economic and political decisions. Instead of viewing history as made only by elites, they believed that they themselves could build the world anew."
"But our nation was also founded on the eve of the Industrial Revolution, in an age when capitalism was progressive in comparison with feudalism and on a continent which seemed to provide unlimited opportunities for the pursuit of private happiness. With plenty of land and a rapidly expanding economy, Americans were more interested in pursuing wealth than in citizenship. So we abdicated the responsibilities of self-government by adopting a Constitution which limited our political role to going to the polls periodically to vote for professional politicians….
"Benefiting from capitalist exploitation of blacks, Native Americans and Mexican Americans, of Nature and the environment, and especially from the freedom of movement made possible by a black slave labor force, the majority of white Americans made no demands on themselves or on government to make politically and socially responsible decisions. Instead Individual Freedom without Responsibility became the prevailing philosophy….As a result, private capital was able to develop rapidly into an independent power, while over the years American citizens became its accomplices in the destruction of other peoples, other races, other nations and our own humanity."
So "American capitalism has developed into multinational capitalism, investing capital … wherever it can make more profit,…. These multinational corporations have no loyalty to the United States or to any American community. They have no commitment to the reforms that Americans have won through hard struggle… they give robots who are nobodies the jobs of worker who are parents, neighbors, consumers, taxpayers…. They do not hesitate to shut down a plant that has been the heart of the economic life or a city or region….
"That is why as a people and as a nation we must now make a second American revolution to rid ourselves of the capitalist values and institutions which have brought us to this state of powerlessness - or suffer the sane mutilation, the same destruction of our families and our communities, the same loss of national independence as over the years we have visited upon other peoples and other nations.
" That is why we must now turn our backs on the direction which we believed was progress, recognizing that down through the years as we were making advances in the material sphere we were becoming backward and damaged people on the spiritual and human level. As citizens we must now begin the painful but self-fulfilling process of accepting responsibility for making political and economic decisions as the first step towards building a New Self- governing America."
By accepting responsibility in and for our neighborhoods, we begin the radical revolution of values, against racism, materialism and militarism that Dr. King called for in his watershed anti-Vietnam war speech.
It is the Next American Revolution, an idea whose time has come. ----------
For more about the writing of the American Manifesto, see my autobiography Living for Change, 180-182. The American Manifesto is available in English or Spanish. 60 pp, $5.00 + $1 SH., Boggs Center, 3061 Field St. Detroit 48214. ______
My USSF Conversation with Immanuel Wallerstein can be read at