The Intersectional Angela Davis
NY Times goes hagiographical on former Communist Party candidate and current Joe Biden supporter.
“Before the world knew what intersectionality was, the scholar, writer and activist was living it, arguing not just for Black liberation, but for the rights of women and queer and transgender people as well,” reads the sub-title of Nelson George’s New York Times Magazine profile of Angela Davis. In the article, which runs more than 5,000 words, readers learn that Davis is more than a mere “social activist.”
In the early going George mentions Davis’ “membership in the Communist Party,” which was not like other parties. The CPUSA was a construct of the Soviet Union, an all-male, all-white Stalinist dictatorship. George fails to recall that back in 1979, the USSR awarded Davis the International Lenin Peace Prize, and in a video of the ceremony Davis beams with joy, as though she just bagged an Oscar.
George does recall Davis’ involvement in the 1970 “takeover of a Marin County courthouse that left four people dead.” The fugitive Davis became “a symbol of the struggle for Black liberation, anticapitalism and feminism,” but never lost sight of her mentors.
As George explains, through the ’70s and ’80s, the CPUSA dwindled “and Communist regimes worldwide became increasingly totalitarian, Davis remained a staunch supporter of the party’s ideas.” This was long after black writers such as Richard Wright abandoned Communism. None of that for Davis, who as George notes, was twice the Communist candidate for vice president of the United States during the 1980s. As George fails to recall, the CPUSA presidential candidate in 1980 and 1984 was white Stalinist Gus Hall.
In 1991 Davis “stepped away” from the Party and now describes herself as a “small c” communist,” still “enthusiastic about the ideology but not beholden to any single organization.” In similar style, “Contemporary Black activism has also largely been informed by the concurrent agitation surrounding trans and queer rights.” Pushing back against “heteronormative values,” now dovetails with Davis her own self.
“A part of me is glad that we didn’t win the revolution we were fighting for back then, because there would still be male supremacy,” Davis explains. “There would still be hetero-patriarchy. There would be all of these things that we had not yet come to consciousness about.” For the critique of patriarchy and male supremacy, Davis points to Black Lives Matter.
George notes Davis’ support for former vice president Joe Biden and asks if the Democratic Party could be a vehicle for transforming America. “To be frank, no,” Davis said, but “I think it’s important to push the Democrats further to the left.” In that cause, Davis supports AOC, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that our work as activists is always to prepare the next generation,” Davis explains. “To create new terrains so that those who come after us will have a better opportunity to get up and engage in even more radical struggles. And I think we’re seeing this now.” Nelson George is down with it.
At the outset, George cited a “powerful portrait” of Davis with an expression at once “pensive, intelligent, challenging,” a Black icon for the woke generation. Now 76, Davis “is not just an image on a wall or a talking head in a documentary. She remains a vital presence in the world, lecturing at major universities and advising young activists.”
As George has it, “Davis is in a distinct position to connect the radical traditions of the ’60s to Trump-era activism.” Further, “as a bridge between the past and present eras of protest, Davis can explain both what went right and wrong while also helping to shape the future. Her face may be on a mural, but it is also out in the world.” Indeed, her face has been out there for decades.
Back in 1972, Regina Nadelson wrote Who is Angela Davis: Biography of a Revolutionary, and novelist Toni Morrison reviewed it in the New York Times. Morrison took Nadelson to task for implying that Angela’s “sublime militancy was spawned by white teachers, white boyfriends, white psychoanalysts,” and so forth. Like Nelson George, Toni may have missed a few things.
The African American Angela Davis followed the ideology of white European males Marx and Lenin. She joined the Communist Party, a wholly owned subsidiary of an all-white, all-male totalitarian dictatorship. When Soviet repressions were obvious to all but the willfully blind, Angela Davis remained a staunch supporter of the Communist Party.
In 1980 and 1984, not so long ago, Angela Davis ran for vice president on the Communist Party ticket under white male Stalinist Gus Hall. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, and full revelation of Soviet atrocities, she remained a “small c” communist. Angela Davis now encourages AOC and her squad to push the Democrat Party even farther left.
As Nelson George said, Angela Davis was living intersectionality before the world knew what it was.