Freedom is a Constant Struggle

Review

 

Rating: 3.5/5

Time to Read: A few hours

Level: Beginner

In her latest book, Angela Davis discusses intersectionality–overlapping trends–between movements, world events, and identities. This book is a compilation of some of her more recent speeches and interviews, all related to the topic of intersectionality.

The topics discussed in this book may not all overtly be Marxist, but they are definitely related to Marxism. Davis, a communist herself, ties back intersectionality to Marxism at various points throughout the book by employing a communist perspective to analyze historical and current situations. Still, regardless if Marxist or not, identifying the underlying connections between seemingly separate topics is a very interesting and useful way in both analyzing and understanding the world. For example, Davis draws attention to the intersections between state violence and domestic violence, and how the individual (whether consciously or unconsciously) replicates the actions of the state on a personal level. Understanding the wide applicability of this approach can help guide actions and movements to become broader and thus more effective.

However, as interesting as these topics were, the book itself was extremely repetitive. As mentioned earlier, the book was a compilation of some of Davis’s recent speeches and interviews, and thus, since she was speaking to different audiences each time, it mostly repeated the basic concepts laid out during each event. For this reason, you will find little change from chapter to chapter. Still, I would at the very least recommend reading the first two chapters, as from there one can get a basic understanding of the concepts presented throughout the rest of the book.

So, with a useful method of analysis presented, somewhat marred by its repetitiveness, I gave this book a rating of 3.5/5.


Overview

 

The primary focus of this book is the intersectionality between struggles. Intersectionality is the overlap and interrelationship between two or more entities, in which these entities are highly related and often occur alongside one another. For example, one of Davis’s older yet more famous books–titled Women, Race, and Class–discuss this concept as well. In that book, she analyzed how the three identities lend meaning to each other, and how all three are strongly interrelated. Race and class are highly correlated in that Black and Brown people have higher rates of poverty than white people. Women are oppressed in every country due to the capitalist patriarchal superstructure that dominates society. Thus, gender-, racial-, and class-based oppression are all interlinked and can be commonly found in every capitalist society across the world.

So, as Davis’s previous book focuses on intersectionality in identity, Freedom is a Constant Struggle emphasizes intersectionality between various struggles against capitalism. Her primary example focuses on the interconnectedness between the Palestinian fight against the oppressive israeli regime, and the fight of Black Americans–specifically in Ferguson, Missouri following the police murder of Michael Brown–against the amerikkkan police state. For example, she notes how the infamous israeli defense force (IDF)–which is responsible for the genocide and displacement of Palestinians–have trained countless police forces in amerikkka, including the  police force in Ferguson. Or, maybe more (in)famously, how the same type of tear gas canisters used against protesters in Ferguson are commonly used against Palestinians. These similarities in struggle have actually led to many Palestinians and activists in Ferguson to connect over social media, with Palestinian activists giving tips on how to deal with tear gas and police repression. For this reason, Davis focuses on how similar the fight against the overarching capitalist police state is between these two seemingly unrelated struggles. As she notes in her book, “think of things together that appear separate, and separate things that appear together.”

Related to this is the immense power of Group4Security (G4S), which is reiterated throughout the book. G4S is the largest security corporation in the world, as well as the one of the largest corporations in world. This corporation has built unimaginable profits by incarcerating people from Mexico to Palestine, Australia to South Africa, the u.s. and much of the rest of the world. Davis suggests that, by analyzing the actions of this corporation, one can grasp the importance of understanding the intersections between various entities. For example, by studying the long range of control and power G4S exerts around the world, you can understand the relationship between global capital and mass incarceration–that is, the global nature that capitalism has taken (in the form of imperialism) and how this drive for profit leads to mass incarceration as a means of profit. From here, it can be studied who is generally the target of incarceration: darker-skinned, impoverished people in the population. Thus, by understanding how all of these various topics intersect, it can be concluded that the fight against capitalism–the cause of this drive for profit–is also the fight against mass incarceration, racism, and classism.

So now you can understand the relationships between various struggles: how, for example, an anti-racism protest must simultaneously stand in opposition to mass incarceration and capitalism. Or, going back to the previous example, a fight for mass incarceration must also be a fight for Palestinian lives. Thus, when you have grasped the intersectionality between various entities–whether they be identities or struggles–you can be more effective in your organizing.


Notes

 

Facts & Statistics

  • G4S is the third largest private corporation in the world and the largest security corporation, as well as the number one employer in  the continent of Africa (5)
    • G4S is responsible for the apartheid wall in Israel, US-Mexico border, imprisonment in South Africa, etc. (5)
  • Mass incarceration and the rapidly increasing number of people incarcerated around the world is one example of the destructiveness of capitalism (7)
    • Since 1967, 800,000 Palestinians have been incarcerated by Israel–this amounts to about 40% of the Palestinian male population (10)
  • The “civil rights” movement was a movement for freedom; the idea behind the movement has been co-opted to make it appear to be solely about civil rights, when in fact it was about freedom (119)

Intersectionality in Organizing

  • Organize in a way that makes particular issues identifiable as the people’s issues (pg. 20)
  • When organizing, look for parallels as well as structural connections and make the issue relatable to as many people as possible (20)
  • Create a campaign that focuses on the intersectionality of the issue (e.g. people who want to fight against mass incarceration should also want to fight for Palestinian rights) (21)
  • How to bring movements together is relevant to the language you use and the consciousness you try to form (21)
  • Create a door for people in order to make activist spaces more open and inclusive to those with less knowledge (21)
  • We must change categories which only reflect normative society and create spaces inclusive to those who are not deemed as “normal” by society (101)
  • “We have to extricate ourselves from narrow identitarian thinking if we want to encourage progressive people to embrace these struggles as their own.” (27)
  • Always root your work in the intersectionality of various struggles so as people don’t forget that nothing happens in isolation (45)
  • Whenever you have a social justice movement, you must be able to see the people around whom you are struggling as equal partners in order to be victorious (26)
    • If you see those who you are organizing around as merely beneficiaries of charity, then you lose sight of the struggle, as you are deeming them as inferior (26)
    • Make serious connections with those whom you are organizing around (e.g. form ties with actual prisoners and see their needs etc.) (27)
  • Transform yourself in relationship with the movement; see things as collectives rather than individuals (118)
  • Collective consciousness emerges within the context of social struggles (67)

Intersectionality in Analysis

  • Feminism teaches us to think of things together that appear separate, and separate things that appear together (104)
  • Analyze how the institutional violence of the prison extends to familial and individual relationships (105)
    • Intimate violence is connected to state violence. Where else do perpetrators of violence learn and see acts of “justified” violence? (143)
  • By looking at incarcerated women, we learn more things about the prison system than we would learn solely looking at men (105)
  • “The political reproduces itself through the personal” (106)
    • This analysis understands the extension of state violence into personal relations (106)
  • Understand the connection between public violence and privatized violence  (106)
  • There are intersections between psychiatric institutions, pharmaceutical-industrial complex, and prison-industrial complex (106)
  • G4S, the largest security corporation in the world, also operates centers for abused women–they have grasped the intersection between the prison-industrial complex and rehab in order to make more profits (143)
    • Education and incarceration have also been linked by G4S for the increase of capitalist profit (57)

Analysis of Institutions, History, and Power

  • It is important to consider how the government defines “bad people” and how they justify why these people should receive punishment, while simultaneously analyzing what that punishment does in the long run (24)
  • The prison serves as a tool to consolidate the state’s lack of care towards certain groups in society and its refusal to address social problems (25)
    • The fastest growing incarceration rate is for women of color; in fact, trans people of color are more likely to be arrested and imprisoned than any other group (59)
  • We cannot understand why the death penalty continues to exist in the u.s. as it does without a proper understanding of the history of slavery in the u.s. (30)
  • The killings by police today represent the unbroken continuation of the murder of Black people in the u.s., from slave patrols to KKK to contemporary police and vigilantes (77)
  • Bombings happened against Black people all the time during the “civil rights” era; why has that era not been referred to as an era of terror? Political motivation behind the use of the term “terror” (141)
  • We often unconsciously continue the work of racism in our own communities and personal relations (89)
  • The inability to understand the complexity of racism results in misconceptions regarding it, such as an independent phenomena of “Black on Black crime” (89)
  • A deep and thorough understanding of racism protects us against deceptive solutions (90)
  • The very concept of freedom must have been first imagined by slaves (67)
  • Observances of revolutionary events by the state often serve as historical closures by portraying the struggle as something of the past rather than an ongoing fight (64)
  • The period of Radical Reconstruction following the civil war had Black people in political power in the south, who brought about free public education to the south (71)
  • People who create and guide social movements are often collectives of the most marginalized in society (118)
    • The alabama bus boycott was led by Black domestic women workers (67)
  • We must stand against the individualism central to neoliberalism that singles out individuals for the achievements of all the people (52)
    • It is a manifestation of liberalism to depict history as the work of a few heroic individuals as opposed to the collective action of the masses of people (2)
  • Education has become so commoditized that people cannot imagine getting an education without thoughts of monetary gain (120)
  • “Learn how to imagine the future in terms that are not restricted to our own lifetimes.” (117)
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