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Rosa and Lorde

  • Published at 05:06 pm March 9th, 2019
Rosa and Lorde

Tribute

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

futures

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

of indigestion

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

nor welcomed

but when we are silent

we are still afraid


So it is better to speak

remembering

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.