"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." -MLK

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Van Jones: Radical Ends

Forgoing the radical pose
I have often said it is better to have an honest enemy than a dishonest friend.  Not because I'm desirous of having enemies but because I'm tired of being sold out behind closed doors by those claiming to represent my values.  "Honest people don't hide their deeds", as Emily Bronte so eloquently put it.  Often it is possible to determine what someone is thinking by listening to what they say.  And if you want to know what they believe, watch what they do.  But if you really want to know where an individual's headed, take a look at where they came from, who they've been with, and who their associations are.  Trajectory can be a powerful thing.  Thankfully not as powerful as an informed citizenry.

[Recap Van Jones: The Radical Pose.]

In 2000 Jones campaigned aggressively against California Proposition 21, a ballot initiative that established harsher penalties for a variety of violent crimes and called for more juvenile offenders to be tried as adults. Jones' efforts incorporated a hip-hop soundtrack that aimed to attract young black men clad in such gang-style garb as puffy jackets and baggy pants, who would call attention to the alleged injustices of the so-called "prison-industrial complex." But infighting and jealousies between various factions of Jones' movement caused it ultimately to fall apart. "I saw our little movement destroyed over a lot of sh**-talking and bullsh**," said Jones.[1]

Mumia Abu Jamal
The year prior to this Jones had helped organize a rally in Oakland, California, calling for a retrial on behalf of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal. Around 2002 Jones produced (for the Ella Baker Center) and appeared [3:50 mark] on an album that starred Abu Jamal. That album featured lyrics depicting America not only as a place where "terrorists are made," but also as "a piece of stolen land led by right-wing, war-hungry, oil-thirsty ... mother f***ers" who "got people of color playing servant to do that sh** for them."

After the demise of his anti-Prop 21 movement, Jones decided to change his political tactics. Specifically, he toned down the overt hostility and defiant rage that previously had animated his activism. "Before, we would fight anybody, any time," he said. "No concession was good enough; we never said 'Thank you.' Now, I put the issues and constituencies first. I'll work with anybody, I'll fight anybody if it will push our issues forward.... I'm willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends."'[2]

His new approach was modeled after the tactics outlined by the famed radical organizer Saul Alinsky, who stressed the need for revolutionaries to mask the extremism of their objectives and to present themselves as moderates until they could gain some control over the machinery of political power.[3] In a 2005 interview, Jones stated that he still considered himself a revolutionary, but a more effective one thanks to his revised tactics.

That same year Jones co-founded Color of Change.  By organizing "black folks from every economic class" he could "
strengthen Black America's political voice".
Our goal is to empower our members—Black Americans and our allies—to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone.
In 2007, Jones shifted his focus slightly to the creation of jobs for poor people to revamp energy infrastructures with wind a solar power[4] and launched Green For All, a non-governmental organization "dedicated to building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty." A major funder of Green for All was George Soros's Open Society Institute.[5]  This prompted Jones to write his first book: The Green Collar Economy.

The Green Collar Economy was released on October 7, 2008 and focused on environmental and economic issues.  These issues served as the vehicle for Jones to transport his radical kernel and one day transform the "whole of society".  By 2008 Jone's ideologies were no longer being communicated by a “rowdy black nationalist" "wearing combat boots and carrying a Black Panther bookbag”. They were spoken clearly by a respectable African-American wearing a suit and tie with a charismatic smile.

In a January interview Jones asserted that America was 
plagued by "eco-apartheid," where low-income people typically live in more polluted environments than wealthy people.  He described the vision of a green-redistribution the following way:
"The white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people-of-color communities because they don’t have a racial justice framework... Let's take money away from the incarceraters and polluters and start giving money to the community base...  The gulag economy is overbuilt and the green economy is under built."[6]
In order for this redistribution to take place Jones knew he needed to target the middle class.  As taught by Saul Alinsky, the middle class would need to be impregnated with a sense of guilt and shame. In order to take over institutions and get power, the middle class had to be convinced that they were somehow lucky winners in "life's lottery".  Alinsky advised his followers that the poor have no power. "Organization for action will now and in the decade ahead center upon America's white middle class. That is where the power is. [7]

Modernizing Alinsky's approach Jones' came up with what he called the "four wheels of the ecological u-turn".  These four wheels consist of  labor (union workers), progressive (far-left) business, environmentalists (anit-capitalists), and racial justice coming together to transform the system [9:13 mark].  [These are the same groups currently involved in and coordinating the Occupy movement.]

Carl Davidson, former staff writer for the Maoist publication The Guardian and invo
lved with the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) and League for Revolutionary Struggle,[8] promoted Vans' vision for a Green Economy at the Democratic Socialists of America run in April 2009:
"we had to unite a militant minority around socialist tasks, so I offered the solidarity economy movement and its projects as practical examples of cooperative forms that could, within the capitalist present, point to a socialist future.[9]
This was three months after Jones himself made clear his desire to incrementally socialize, by stealth, the U.S. economy:
"Right now we say we want to move from suicidal gray capitalism to something eco-capitalism where at least we're not fast-tracking the destruction of the whole planet. Will that be enough? No, it won't be enough. We want to go beyond the systems of exploitation and oppression altogether ... until [the green economy] becomes the engine for transforming the whole society."[10]
Language is key to understanding the nature of this movement.  By clothing a radical Maoist/Leninist ideology in Capitalist Free-Market language Jones was able to say one thing while working towards achieving something much different.  This would be particularly important for co-opting America's middle class.  

Up until this point Van Jones had functioned primarily under the mainstream radar. That is until he teamed up with another Saul Alinsky proponent looking to fundamentally transform the United States of America.  No longer would he be stationed in Oakland Ca. Now he'd be working out of Washington D.C., 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to be exact.  What started out as a Radical Pose and re branded to achieve Radical Ends was now organizing to set up an entirely new system:
This movement is deeper than a solar panel ... don’t stop there! We’re gonna change the whole system! We’re gonna change the whole thing ... we want a new system![11]

Coming soon: The Fundamental Transformation


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