The Revolutionary Politics of Angela Davis-Naima Omar.Bookmarks Publication-£3.00-2020

This pamphlet is based on a series of articles written by Naima Omar. It includes a speech by Angela Davis after her release from prison in 1972 and an interview from June 2020 on the Black Lives Matter uprising. From a political standpoint, the Socialist Workers Party member Omar largely whitewashes the reactionary Stalinist politics of Angela Davis.

Davis was a political activist and writer from an early age, joining the Communist Party USA when she was fifteen. Her writings ranged from the struggle against racism and for prison abolition, for women’s liberation to campaigning against imperialist war, and in support of Palestinian rights.

According to an article by Helen Halyard “ Davis has joined with other academics, such as Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, to promote the theory that blacks in America remain the victims of a caste system epitomized by the disproportionate number of African Americans in the US prison system. Davis and a section of the pseudo-left have latched on to the massive growth of America’s prisons as a rationale for promoting racial politics to divert attention away from the more fundamental class issues. While referring to the capitalist economic system, Davis described the prisons largely in racial terms, at one point saying, “it was a way to manage black bodies in the aftermath of slavery.”[1]

Her most famous work was: Women, Race, and Class, published in 1981. While useful from the standpoint of a historical study of female oppression, its heavy concentration on race over class stemmed from her philosophical outlook. Davis’s central premise is that race, not class, is the fundamental division in American society.

From an early age, she was influenced by philosophers such as Herbert Marcuse and Michel Foucault. Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was a leading representative of the Frankfurt School. After fleeing the Nazis, Marcuse came to the United States, where he became a university professor and wrote several books, including One Dimensional Man, that influenced the 1960s student movement. Marcuse, as is well known, worked for the OSS, the predecessor of the CIA, during World War II.

Marcuse’s anti-working-class politics led him to believe a “proto-fascist syndrome in the working class” existed. He thought the “revolution” would not be made by the working class but by the young intelligentsia, small fringe groups or guerrilla movements. Its driving force was not the class contradictions of capitalist society but critical thinking and the actions of an enlightened elite. Davis’s promotion of racial politics has absolutely nothing to do with Marxism. Her racial politics are the product of a strain of anti-Marxist thought going back decades, including postmodernism and neo-anarchism.

Suffice it to say the SWP mentions nothing of her reactionary political evolution. The pamphlet presents her as a radical activist still on the side of the oppressed. While mistakenly still seen as a figure of the left, she smoothly transitioned from left icon to “left” academia, securing a position at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has recently retired.

[1] At University of Michigan symposium Angela Davis offers political cover for Obama-

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