Tag Archives: autobiography

Lessons from Domitila’s Experience

The following is less of a book review and more of an interpretation of the lessons which Domitila Barrios De Chungara’s classic autobiography, Let Me Speak, can teach us as a new generation of revolutionaries.  It was written by a Bay Area comrade and we see it as an important testament to the knowledge and wisdom we can gain from engaging revolutionary autobiographies and applying these lessons within our class struggles today.

Lessons from Domitila’s Experience

I just finished reading Let Me Speak!, Testimony of Domitila, a Woman of the Bolivian Mines. The book is a personal narrative by Domitila Barrios, where she explains her life’s struggle against poverty, sexism, exploitation, hunger…and capitalism in general. Domitila Barrios was the wife of a Bolivian miner in a region of Bolivia called Siglo XX. She breaks down their situation, detailing how the lives of miners are cut short due to overwork, bad pay, and silicosis, a lung disease mining people are all too familiar with. It’s a personal story which reflects on the historical situation of Bolivia at the time.

But I’m not planning on writing a summary of the book, but rather point out some of the major lessons Domitila’s experiences offer us.

Theory & Practice

One thing that really struck at me was how critical, undogmatic, and radical she was without having done much theoretical study. Whereas many of us radicals in the belly of the beast understand these conditions through political study, Domitila learned the contradictions of capitalism because they were brutally enforced on her and her people. She didn’t need to read State and Revolution to understand that the Bolivian military and police served the foreign and domestic capitalists, made all too clear through the frequent massacres, arrests, and deportations of people in struggle. She didn’t need to read Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism to see how American imperialism sucked Bolivia’s mineral wealth dry in order to build up its own economy and how this put Bolivia in a state of extreme dependence and subservience to foreign interests. She didn’t need to read the Communist Manifesto to understand that the workers and peasants were in a life and death class struggle against their oppressors. In fact, simply to exist, to eat, to work and to educate themselves required great sacrifices and political commitment. I love how Domitila insisted that if intellectuals and university folks were to come to help guide working people as to the laws of capitalism and the world situation, they’d better speak in terms the people can understand and not in their theoretical jargon. The concepts of class struggle, capitalism, and revolution can  be grasped by the oppressed in resistance if it is done in a way that connects the dots between their personal experiences and the objective laws of our society and is not done in an elitist or condescending manner. Not that she didn’t do any political study; the repeated brutality of the military and police against her, the accusations her of being a communist and liaison to Che Guevara’s guerrillas, and the knowledge that socialism, an alternative to capitalism, existed in other parts of the world during her time, prompted her to study socialism and communism and see it as the only real path towards human liberation.

Women’s Liberation

Continue reading

Advertisements

A New Generation Engages with Angela Davis

This is a review of Angela Davis’ Autobiography, written by a friend of AS who does not consider herself a communist or a revolutionary but is learning about both as she organizes against budget cuts at a Bay Area community college. We are posting it because we like its raw feel and honest approach to issues that Angela Davis confronts throughout her life. These issues are political and personal, two dimensions to human existence that AS does not see as being separate.  We do not necessarily agree with all the conclusions our friend reaches in this, her first publicly posted writing. Nonetheless, we support the open-minded bAngela Davis Autobiographyut critical engagement with primary source materials that is crucial to the development of creative, scientific, non-dogmatic revolutionaries. We are excited to present her views to the blogosphere so that she may learn from the diverse perspectives that visit our blog, and so that you all might learn from a fresh new voice.

Angela Davis spent the majority of her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama. In the beginning of her autobiography she speaks of the intense racial tension between whites and blacks, the inferiority of her black elementary school in comparison to the whites, and the self hatred within the black community that she experienced growing up in the south. This part of the book was one of the most memorable parts for me. The bombing of houses with black families by racist white people was such a sad, traumatic experience for Davis but, even more sad, was her growing desensitization to the bombings. They happened so regularly that she grew to accept them as just another part of being black in the racist south. I felt so sick and angry reading this part of the book. I can’t imagine how this black community must have felt and I would think that many of them would have wanted to retaliate by bombing the houses that whites resided in.

Continue reading