Originally published as Facebook posts, Arts & Letters has picked them up as tributes to the revolutionary thinkers
Happy Birthday, Rosa Luxemburg!
March 05 marks the birth anniversary of Marxist revolutionary thinker Rosa Luxemburg, one whose words and works continue to be our weapons of criticism in our struggles for building a new world, and one whose formulation of "the dialectic of spontaneity and organization"—not distinctly separated activities but different moments of one political process—we might re-think in Bangladesh's current contexts. Also, given the murderous conjuncture in Bangladesh now, and given the kinds of moves the masses themselves made from time to time in the past in response to the fascist assaults of the national ruling classes—I recall the Luxemburg of these words in particular: "The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built."
Happy birthday, Audre Lorde
February 18 marks the 85th birth anniversary of my favorite poet-activist-theorist Audre Lorde ("black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," to use her own labels)—one whose works and words continue to serve as our weapons in our struggles against all forms and forces of oppression and injustice in the world; one whose poetry rubs words and images together such that they catch fire (to use Marx's words from another context), and one who offers not only theories but theories in the flesh, making the point that words—their tremendous power and magic notwithstanding—aren't enough on their own, but that they need to morph into action in the shape of a poem or a protest and so on. As she says about poetry, "Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought," while she also asserts, "The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken."
More Audre Lorde: "What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence."
And one of my favorite poems by Lorde is this one:
A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children's mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
Azfar Hussain is Vice-President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS) and GCAS Professor of English, World Literature, and Interdisciplinary Studies. He is also Associate Professor of Liberal Studies/ Interdisciplinary Studies at Grand Valley State University, Michigan. He writes in both Bangla and English.