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Culture

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Angela Davis toujours indomptable

by Michel Muller

Angela Davis is Still Untameable

Translated Friday 16 December 2005, by Henry Crapo

Angela Davis is interviewed by Michel Muller, concerning her visit to Paris to launch her new book, and in general concerning the fascist climate developing in the United States, with the imposition of the Patriot Act, and the need to develop international solidarity.

The militant American progressive announces the publication of her next book. She is expected to visit our country this week.

Huma: Congress is ready to approve this week the extension of the "Patriot Act". What reasons lie at the origin of this set of ultra-securative measures?

Angela Davis: The Patriot Act was passed immediately following the 11th of September 2001. The Bush administration seized the opportunity provided by the attack to exploit the fear of terrorism as the basis of their overall policy of worldwide war. The Patriot Act establishes new forms of McCarthyism and racism. The building of the new police state founded on the creation of fear constitutes a new erosion of the vestiges of democracy remaining in our country. We are now entering the most conservative era in our history, far more conservative than in the McCarthy era.

The Patriot Act was adopted by a near unanimous vote. Even the most progressive factions (for instance, the Black caucus) refused at that time to take position against Bush’s decisions. In fact, only one person (the representative from my district in California) had the force and courage to say no! A combination of racism, particularly directed against those of the Moslem religion, and of knowingly manipulated fear, created a situation in which what remained of democracy rapidly eroded. Witness, for example, the use of the death penalty. We recently witnessed the 1000th execution, and, the same day, the 1001st. Here in California we are trying to stop the killing of Stanley Tookie Williams. This veritable routine of death, rendered commonplace, follows the same logic as the war in Iraq, the planetary war against terrorism, and the creation of a state based largely on erroneous concepts of security.

Huma: The Patriot Act gave the FBI exorbitant powers, such as the use of National Security Letter ...

Angela Davis: The FBI now has the right, by a simple letter, without judicial permission, to demand information about any citizen supposedly suspected of terrorist activities from organizations or from people having files of clients or users. The recipients of these letters are obliged to maintain complete secrecy. One can therefore, without ever having been informed, be the object of a police inquiry concerning your bank account, your purchases, your cultural activities, including the titles of the books that you have borrowed from the library!

Huma: The Patriot Act authorizes imprisonment without the order or incrimination by a judge, without access to a lawyer, and without notification of the reason for the arrest?


Angela Davis:
These procedures are used under the pretext that there exists a specific security problem inherent in the fact that the actors in this so-called terrorist war have no particular link with any given country. This said, all current discussion concentrates on the aptitude of the government to violate rights of both nationals and foreigners. One of the essential points concerns torture, carried out in detention centers in the US and in countries that are destinations of the "extraordinary renditions". It appears ever more clear that the Bush-Cheney administration, with its program of war against Iraq and the planetary war against terrorism, is pushing the country in the direction of the extreme right wing.

The main question, in my mind, is to know how to develop a movement capable of contesting this process. The revelation, in plain daylight, of absolute and abject poverty in New Orleans, mainly among the Blacks, has shown the incapacity of the deral government to react in the face of a particular crisis arising from the conjunction of a natural disaster, racism, and poverty. Since then, the popularity of Bush has suffered a serious decline. For this reason we hope that there is opening up a possibility of wide-spread popular opposition to the Bush administration.

Huma: The mid-term elections in the Senate and House will take place at the end of next year. Do you see any viable alternative to the rigid bipartisan system?

Angela Davis: That is the main problem. Sure, the best approach would be to start a campaign to impeach Bush, which would make it possible to exert a certain form of pressure on the choice of an eventual Democratic candidate, in order to get out of the present rut. The problem is that the Democrats, in the same measure as the Republicans, were engaged for the war and for what happened in internal politics.

Huma: In your next book, you define the US detention system as a prison industrial complex. What is its political and social function?

Angela Davis: The military-industrial complex was developed during the Vietnam War. The armament industry and the military institutions became the central actors of the economy and of American culture, linking businesses, the media, politicians, and the military brass. In this process, the prisons became an essential element of the national economy, and to an increasing degree, of internationalized economy. And when one sees that politicians, businesses, the media all have an interest in the expansion of the punishment industry, we see a great similarity between the prison industrial complex and the military-industrial complex

Huma: How many prisoners are presently in the US jails?

Angela Davis: There are two million persons in US prisons. If one adds in those convicted and on provisional liberty, the figure is nearer five million.

Huma: Can this be seen as a measure to control social tensions?

Angela Davis: Surely not! It brings with it an increase in social tension, together with a new phenomenon, the connection between the punitive system and the military institution. The latter practices torture, while at the same time it has become the only way in which the poorest people, often Black, can avoid going to prison. When one also notes that about 70% of the prison population in our country consists of colored people, we see a clear correlation between the destruction of the social state and the increasing use of racism, a direct result of mondialized capitalism.

Huma: On the eve of her arrival in Europe, Condoleezza Rice stated that Europeans should make some difficult decisions, because, she pretends, the war against terrorism is a new form of war, and, consequently, the rules from the past no longer apply. Is there a long term strategy visible in this process?

Angela Davis: Condoleezza Rice represents the most reactionary segment of the Bush administration. It is extremely dangerous to pretend that terrorism makes it necessary for the state to deprive its citizens of their rights, and that the United States should ignore whole volumes of international law. It is horrifying: I am not in the habit of using the term fascism when it is not necessary, but I believe that there are very clear fascist tendencies represented by Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Cheney.

Huma: Displayed in the preface to your book, you declare that the criteria of democracy are the existence, for the citizens, of explicit concrete rights. Can such rights be exercised in a world ruled by global capitalism, under the hegemony of the most powerful?

Angela Davis: The slide to the right in the United States and in Europe is a reflection of the present dominant tendency of capitalism. Thus, democracy, as formulated by the Bush administration, blends with capitalism ... When I speak of new forms of democracy, I speak of socialism, of a democracy not solely founded on formal rights, like the right to vote, but also on concrete rights like social rights: the right to be protected from violence, the right to a job, to lodging, to medical care and a quality education, the right freely to cross frontiers. If you look at the manner in which the United States has tried to solve the so-called race problem, it is evident that new solutions are necessary. I would cite Marx, who said that capitalism creates problems it is incapable of solving. Black nationalism is certainly not an answer, as we have learned in the United States. It is necessary to create new institutions with, for example, a better education system, which would in itself already be a big change, or a system of free health care, all things that are so dearly needed in our country.

Huma: Do you see signs of a new international solidarity?

Angela Davis: That’s an essential task. Particularly in the United States, which is not famous for internationalism. One of the most serious consequences of the policy of global war is the fact that it is easy to convince people that we need a multicultural nation, but hard to develop a sense of solidarity that applies outside our borders. Many are the colored people who were trained to fall back on a nationalist response, conceived of as the only possible response to an aggression coming from outside. In the same way, solidarity with the Afghan people, or the Iraq people, is not seen as being a true way to extract ourselves from the present situation. I emphasize that we need to explore and develop new roads of international solidarity. We must look to create new lines of communication, of solidarity, especially so after the collapse of the community of socialist countries, which,in fact, was a space that permitted the production of a new international solidarity.

Angela Davis in Paris
Tuesday:
She will be welcomed at the headquarters of the French Communist Party (PCF) by Marie-George Buffet, in the presence of representatives of women’s associations.
Friday: She will take part in a joint initiative with the CIDEFE and the Republican-Citizen-Communist group in the Senate: "Attacks on Human Rights and Liberties" and "Where does the United States stand now?", two themes for debates to be held at the Institute des Cordeliers, 15 rue de l’Ecole de Médecine in Paris 6, Metro St-Michel or Odéon


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