A Correspondence About Transformation, Rebellion, Love, Citizenship, Lenin, Jefferson, Cities And Communities

Many thanks for your little book on Thomas Jefferson which arrived yesterday. I’ve only had time to read the introduction, but I couldn’t wait to let you know how much I appreciate your analysis and the succinctness and clarity with which you have conveyed these powerful ideas.

You are so right on in insisting that both Lenin and Jefferson believed that “humanity can and must be transformed.” That’s why Lenin opposed anarchism and Jefferson was so interested in education.

Both made a distinction between the “event” of insurrection or rebellion and the process of Being transformed Through Practice in self-rule after the “event ” (Lenin’s Workers and Peasants Inspection, Jefferson’s “wards” or “little republics “).

Both saw the end (or goal) of revolution as self-rule (Lenin’s “Every cook can govern”) and both were convinced that the means towards that end was the practice of self-rule.

Thinking back over the last 40 years, it also seems to me that we need to view the present patient efforts to rebuild, redefine and respirit our cities from the ground up, i.e. to begin anew (which began 20 years ago in Detroit) not as separate from but rather as flowing or following from the rebellions (i.e. the events) of the 1960s.

I’m delighted that you begin your introduction by pointing out the anti-revolutionary vocation of the U. S. government. Hence the importance of understanding and helping others understand “the vast gulf that separates his (Jefferson’s most radical) thinking from that of the current United States, its ideology, its constitution and its political system and culture.”

I have begun to think about what to include from your analysis in my introduction to the new edition of Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century, published by Monthly Review in 1974 and out of print for years. If I get the introduction to MR in June, they have agreed to have it out by the end of the year. I expect it to be used in the independent study groups which young people are now forming — instead of waiting until after the rebellions, as we did in the 60s and 70s. I will know better what to include after I read the rest of your book with the excerpts from Jefferson.

I am writing UofMN Press for a copy of Negri’s Insurgencies.

Again, many thanks.

In love and struggle, Grace


Thanks for sharing this wonderful introduction.
It is a must read and integral to the new introduction to Revolution and Evolution
The concept of participatory democracy, and a leadership/ network that engages with people to transform ourselves and create new concepts of citizenship, local and global is about putting politics in command of economcs. It is about putting human development above economic development. Culture, politics and economics are dissolved as categories.

Detroit- City of Hope (DCOH) , Creating self-governing cities (check out the vision in the Manifesto for an American Revolutionary Party, 1982) and building upon the concepts of the Beloved Communities Initiative provide a road to travel for revolutionary thinkers and revolutionists in the 21st century.

I think it might be worth while to create a list of suggested readings at the end of the R&E introduction, books, writers, articles, including MLK speeches in his last three years) that have been significant in the last few decades. It is a risky suggestion but it will provide a basis for people to pursue study, theory, vision etc.


As you know from my email a couple of days ago to Michael Hardt, I was very excited by the little book he sent me on Jefferson, i.e. connecting Lenin with Jefferson and viewing Democracy as a continuing Process of Transformation which human beings must undergo in order to achieve their full humanity, a process which only begins with Rebellion (an Event, as distinguished from a Process, which Jefferson believed should take place every nineteen years). Yesterday Julie found on Youtube a lecture on Love which Michael gave last year at European Graduate Studies.

part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioopkoppabI
part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2P0OU6GlelE
part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTTz8AZzLkM
part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndnkjnMxxLc
part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cjlxOGHZHw
part 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6ZvsQ_hAt0

[Watch this on Unending Conversations Post: Michael Hardt on Love]

Again I found it very exciting (1) because I can’t get out of my mind what MLK says about Love being somehow the key to ultimate reality, about the difference between Eros and Agape, and about global citizenship and (2) because in the last few weeks I have been wrestling with the counter-revolution or backlash that has been developing in this country in the form of the NeoCons since the 1980s and has come to fruition in the the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the trashing of the Constitution and the lifting of all legal restraints against surveillance, secrecy and lying of the Bush administration.

Hardt says that Love is a political concept of a relationship that creates the space for transformation. In the Love relationship, unlike the Friendship relationship, we become different, we transform.

Because he has a good sense of the history of philosophy (“Hope without history is reckless”), Hardt then describes the different ways in which Love has been viewed over the centuries, often in terms of an opposition between Eros and Agape or as Caritas (Augustine). St. Francis focused on Love of the poor. For Freud all Love is Eros or Libido. For the Pope it’s all Agape. Hardt mentions bell hooks in passing and is, I think, too dismissive of her as only a “feminist” struggling against patriarchy. I like hooks’ ALL ABOUT LOVE in which she emphasizes the Transformative power of Love, how it empowers the individual to go beyond his/her own Needs and Wants.*

Hardt is critical of ’idealists” like Hegel who he thinks don’t sufficiently appreciate diversity or Singularities and rush too quickly to divine unity. (I am not sure I agree. Schelling wanted to get to the absolute like a shot out of a pistol but not Hegel). He also refers to Che Guevara’s “the true revolutionary and love” and finds it too political. He then provides his own concept of Love as a productive act of creation..

The opposite of Love, he says, is not Hatred. It is Evil or “Love gone bad.” That is when a light bulb went on in my head and I felt he had given a name to the counter-revolution that has been developing in the U.S. in reaction to the movements of the 1960s, which were in a sense about Love.

Just as there are different ways of viewing Love, Hardt says, there are different ways of viewing Evil. (1) There is the metaphysical way of viewing it as a Cancer which just has to be cut out. This is how Nietzche views Evil and how journalists write about it.

(2) There is also the Leftist way (e.g. Chomsky) which explains Evil only by external causes: poverty, U.S imperialism.

(3) Or there is the recognition that Evil is what Spinoza called a “miracle, ” i.e. an event that it takes time to understand and to combat or resist,just as it takes time and practice to acquire the qualities of consciousness and self-consciousness, political and social responsibility necessary to govern ourselves, i.e. for revolution as distinguished from Rebellion.

Love, he says, is a Joy, a process of creation and transformation with a recognition of external causes.

Like Democracy, it is an increase in our power to think and act and relate to others, a training ground for our potential to practice Democracy. It gives primacy to Love of the Poor. It loves Difference (or Singularities) and is both Eros and Agape.

Hardt doesn’t say anything about Patriotism or Love of country which I think is important to talk about in this period. In NOAR we used to say, “Love America enough to change it.” Jimmy distanced himself publicly from what he called the narrowness of radicals who hated this country. For example, in our nationally televised conversation in1983“WITH OSSIE AND RUBY,” he said, “I love this country not only because my ancestors’ blood is in the soil but because of its potential, what I believe it can become.” Imbued with this love and this faith, he was convinced that together we could transform our country into a new, more human and more socially and ecologically responsible nation that all of us, whatever our class, race, ethnicity, gender, creed or national origin, would be proud to call our own. King had this love for the U.S and I believe Obama also has it because any struggle to transform our country has to begin with this love and faith. That is why he had to denounce Jeremiah Wright and why he has retained the support of so many Americans despite the furore over Jeremiah Wright. People recognize that he is not “pandering” the way that Hillary is.


In ALL ABOUT LOVE, published in 2002, bell hooks writes “I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word ‘love’ and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’s classic self-help book THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, Echoing the work of Erich Fromm, he defines love as ‘the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.’”

Eight years ago, after hearing bell hooks speak on “What’s Love got to do with it?” I wrote an article about her talk which included these two paragraphs. “ Despite the homage everyone pays to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. . few people understand how much his leadership of the civil rights movement was rooted in his faith in the transforming power of love. Without an ethic of love the struggle against repression and exploitation can become a struggle only in the self-interest of your particular group. Love takes us beyond resistance to transformation. She particularly recommended King’s writings in the last two years of his life when he was struggling to arrive at a concept of revolution that would involve a transformation both in values and in structures.

“Attachment to power cripples us in our capacity to love. Thus even though the black Power movement made positive contributions in its time, it equated freedom with the willingness to coerce and use the weapons of domination. So blacks ended up concentrating on the wrongs done them by whites, giving whites no space to grow. The result was that after the death of King and Malcolm, black people began to experience tremendous feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness.”


I’ve just re-listened to the March 28 Detroit Today interview with Michael Hardt which Zak sent me.. After grappling with the question of a New Concept of Citizenship for so many years (see our 1976 pamphlet with that title), it’s wonderful to meet someone who has come to similar conclusions by his/her own journey. Through his studies of Jefferson and TJ’s conviction that every nation needs a rebellion every 19-20 years (or every generation), Hardt helps us to see Rebellion not only as righteous but as an act of citizenship. In a globalized world when it is no longer clear who is in control, where the center of power is located, and when voting every two or four years has become meaningless because the national govt has become dysfunctional,—-forming NGOs and waging the 1999 “Battle of Seattle”become Acts of Citizenship.

Towards the end of his life, MLK was driven by the Vietnam War AND the black rebellions to pose the challenge of global citizenship.

A lot of Americans today are hungry for a new concept of citizenship. I suspect that this is in part the reason for the warm response to my interview with Bill Moyers, my
Cooper Union speech and also for the excitement over the Democratic primaries and Obama.


I just listened to the 3/28 interview with Hardt and it is tremendous. His understanding of the movement from imperialism to globalism, from the nation state to new centers of power, from protest to self-governing or to protest and self-governing simultatneously is very familiar and powerful. When he asked the question or made the statement: “We do not know where the center of global power is? Who do we petition?,Who do we protest? I thought that’s one reason the anti-war movement has not been more engaging and powerful.

It was revealing that he made no comments in relationship to MLK and global citizenship. I think that it is the relationships between global citizenship and local citizenship, local economy building and global economics that we need to engage.in creating. A new form of local politics will emerge as we become convinced that community building. DCOH, creating sister cities, beloved communities and local economics all become joined in the political struggle-

Globally, your concept of United Cities is truly profound.

1 Comment

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    December 20, 2016

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