AS DONALD Trump gets ready to take over as the US President even as the country stands deeply polarised, American political activist and scholar Angela Davis, currently in Mumbai, called his victory in the US elections as a failure in “organising” people.
Speaking to a small group of journalists here on Wednesday, Davis, a prominent figure in the civil rights movement and a leading feminist, said, “This organising was responsible in the election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States. Initially, even the Blacks didn’t believe Obama could win. But the young people said ‘Why not?’, and they created a movement around it that emerged as the electoral politics, which led to his victory. It was, essentially, an organising of people, which didn’t happen during the recent elections.”
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About the recent US elections, Davis said, “People believed (Democratic candidate) Hillary Clinton was inadequate and didn’t vote. Only 25 per cent voted, of which, let’s say, just 15 per cent are conservatives or racists. This means in the coming period it’s about how we organise the majority differently from the one that voted Trump in.”
The idea of organising people remains central in her approach in fighting for civil and human rights, and is the foundation stone of ‘Black Lives Matter’, the movement that emerged three years ago as a campaign against violence towards African-Americans in USA. “Without organising, no movement will be relevant. Just because movements are not always visible in the media, we cannot assume that the work isn’t being done,” said Davis, who will deliver the Anuradha Ghandhy Memorial Lecture at Mumbai’s at KC College Auditorium on Friday.
Citing as example the Dalit movement in India, perceived to have lost its steam in the 1980s, Davis said, “It’s important to look at all the ways Dalit organising has shifted in these years. In 2001, at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, the Dalit delegation gave a call to include the issue of caste in the UN. That was important for global recognition of what is happening in India. The work being done on ground is creating global consciousness, we cannot underestimate that. The visibility that comes at certain conjunctions is often the result of work that is being done without dramatic visibility.”
Calling the Obama presidency as one ridden with “deep inadequacy”, Davis said, “He did not shut down Guantanamo, did not speak openly about the influence of racism right until the end…there are plenty of issues. But the movement around it created a space for political discourse. For instance, if Romney (Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate against Obama in 2012) would have been elected, the Occupy movement would have been stopped before it reached the major cities. We came to talk about capitalism in a way we haven’t before.”
Although Davis believes that answer to the issues around gender inequality and marginalisation based on class, race and religion lie broadly within the framework of socialism, she also recognises that the Left needs to re-imagine itself, especially to acknowledge women.
“There are those on the Left who think they can operate with old notions of what the working class means, and that’s a notion of a male working class. That’s one example of how the Left has not adapted to a changed circumstances.”
She said, “If one looks at the transformation of the economy and the extent to which women are now the majority of workers of the world…, you cannot ignore the structural changes to the economy; you cannot ignore the rise of the care economy, and domestic work and reproductive labour.”