A week after the Women’s March, I caught up with Bruce Dixon while he was driving back home to Atlanta from the founding meeting of the Chatham County Green Party in Savannah. A new privatized immigrant Detention Center managed by Geo Group, is slated to open in hearby Folkston GA. He pulled over at a place called Sweet Onion Junction off I-16, so we could have this conversation.
Ann Garrison: Bruce Dixon, the Women’s March, at least as broadcast from the stage in DC, was all about protecting women and minorities, but not protecting them from war, Wall Street, or the #NSA. Do you think it had any more radical promise?
Bruce Dixon: Well, I’m sure that a lot of the people who did show up for it had far more radical intentions than the organizers. Sadly, they didn’t get a place on the podium or on screen for the broadcast coverage. The people who organized the event, as I understand it, are telling people that the next step is to write your Congressman, the next step is to write your thoughts down and rant on social media or prepare for the next march like this one. There were some people there who were pushing the “Russia did it” or maybe Cory Booker or Michele Obama as the next Democratic presidential candidate. These are all dead ends, and any progressive movement or left activists that are following the lead of the CIA really aren’t on the left at all.
You have to give big props to many of the people who were there because they were trying to defend themselves against what they think is coming with the Trump administration and registering their objections, but it’s the role of the Democratic Party and the non-profit sector, at this point in time, to masquerade as the left. They want to pretend that they are the left and that there is no left solution outside the universe of Democratic Party, where you write your Congressman, where you rant on social media, and where you wait for the next big permitted march.
AG: At the march, Gloria Steinem said that she would register as a Democrat if a Muslim registry is created. Now Madeline Albright has said the same thing. What do you think of that?
BD: Hahaha. Well, good luck to ‘em on that. Words are cheap and let’s see how that shakes out. Here in Georgia, we are actually mobilizing against the latest for profit immigrant detention center that’s being built here in southeast Georgia, in a place called Folkston. GEO Group has just signed the contract to run the place, and I just left a meeting of the Chatham County Green Party in Savannah, Georgia, and they’re reaching out to members of the immigrant communities and the surrounding areas here to make sure that there is a community united in its opposition to the presence of this immigrant detention center and to the policies which it represents, which are actually a continuation of the policies that we’ve seen under the Obama Administration. The immigration machinery, the surveillance machinery, and the policing machinery is all inherited from the Obama Administration.
AG: Tell us something about why you wrote “Who owns the Movement and Where Are They Taking It,” which was published in the Black Agenda Report on January 11?
BD: Well, for more than a generation, for maybe almost two generations, the standard American approach to tackling social problems has been, “Let’s go volunteer for a non-profit organization, let’s go work for a non-profit organization, or let’s go start a non-profit organization.” But the question we don’t ask ourselves often enough is, “How are non-profit organizations funded?”
Generally speaking, not always but generally speaking, they are funded by the donations of the one percent. And if you think that the one percent are going to finance their replacement with some other system of economy and control and dealing with the human and natural resources of the earth, then you’re fooling yourself. Depending on the one percent to chart the course of our movement, to hire all the paid organizers, and decide what we should be marching on, concentrating on, and how we should do all this stuff, that’s what got us where we are.
AG: With President Trump.
BD: Yes. So we’ve really got to be analyzing whether this model of allowing non-profit organizations and churches to own the social movements, where it’s got us, if this is any place we want to go and what else we can possibly do. In the Green Party, many of us in Georgia and other states, though not the Green Party’s national leadership — not yet — are convinced that we have to build a new kind of organization that has not existed in this country for at least 100 years since the days of the old Socialist Party in the early 20th century. We need to have movement organizations that are based on membership dues and membership subscriptions and where the officers of these organizations are not appointed by executive directors and boards dependent on foundation largesse and grants, but voted in by the members who pay the dues. And that way we can have organizers who are out here pursuing agendas that the non-profits won’t touch. And if some of the nonprofits are really on the up and up and square, we’ll be able to influence them to go further to the left than they otherwise would. And if not, we will be able to create a movement that will not be hijacked by Democrats and will not just be warming up the crowds for Cory Booker or whoever the Democratic sheepdog and corporate candidate is in 2020.
AG: I think we should probably make it clear that there are some nonprofits that don’t take foundation or corporate money.
BD: There’s a fellow named Warren Mar who’s been an activist in the Bay Area since forever. And Warren wrote a lovely piece that we reprinted in Black Agenda Report last year called “Why NonProfits Cannot Lead the 99 Percent.” And he breaks it down like I haven’t seen it broken down elsewhere about how nonprofits, if they depend on the largesse of foundations or if they depend on grants from the government, how their controlling bodies are simply not responsible to members, and not responsible to the ordinary people, to the constituencies that they supposedly serve.
I know a couple of non-profits here in the Atlanta area, who are in part funded by membership subscriptions and to the degree that they are funded in this way, they are actually independent of the desires of the one percent, and they’re among the best folks out here, but they’re in the minority. But most of our nonprofit sector is indeed funded by one percenters, and they, and local churches and big churches are the ones who own our movement. We’ve got to take that movement back or build a new one, and this is our time to do that because if we don’t do it now, then people will be convinced that the movement against Trump is going to be owned by these nonprofits and they’re going to steer it right back into the old channels where they steered it before — just as the antiwar movement went to sleep as soon as Obama became the Democratic candidate in waiting, and now that Obama is out of the White House, all this stuff wakes up again. Come on, are we that stupid? I hope not.
AG: Now tell us something about why you wrote “Mocking, Marching, Stopping the Hate and Dumping Trump Are Not Enough,” published in the Black Agenda Report on January 17.
BG: Well, hey, ridicule is wonderful and I like a Big Cheeto joke as much as the next person, and Trump is going to furnish us with the material for a lot of laughs. But I remember storms of ridicule against Reagan and against both Bushes, but those storms of ridicule did not drive any of them out of office. We mocked them to death and they still got to do almost everything that they wanted to do. So makin’ fun of them is not enough and definitely #NotMyPresident is not enough because we really need to focus on the fact that we’re dealing with a replaceable system, not just a replaceable person.
Some of the #NotMyPresident energy is being fueled and funded and even led, if you are to believe the stuff that you see on TV, by people who believe that the Russians control Donald Trump, and that Trump is a bad guy not because he’s gonna privatize the schools, because of course Obama privatized more public schools than any president in history, but that’s the kind of thing that Republicans and Democrats agree on. There are many people in the #NotMyPresident school who don’t have any problems with privatization as long as a Democrat is doing it.
There are many people who don’t have any problems with unleashing the oil industry as long as a Democrat does it.
There are many people who are aghast at Trump and his advocacy of torture, but where were they when the Obama Administration refused to prosecute torturers? Obama said, in the very first days of his presidency, that he was going to stop torture, and they say he stopped it, but because he refused to prosecute any of the torturers, Trump can just bring it back.
So #NotMyPresident is not enough. We’ve gotta be against the things that these presidents do. We’ve gotta be against the system that these presidents serve, not just focused on the personality of one, or the orange hair of another, or the handful of things like misogyny and the anti-gay stuff that separate them.
Misogyny is evil and the oppression of people of different sexual orientation is also unspeakably evil, but those cannot be the only things that we focus upon. They cannot be because, if they are, then all we’re going to do is warm up the crowd for another corporate hooker like Corey Booker.
AG: Lewis Lapham, the author of Lapham’s Quarterly, said that making fun of Trump is not satire because Trump satirizes himself every time he opens his mouth. If you want to do real satire, you have to satirize someone like Obama who charms instead of satirizing himself as Trump does. Do you agree?
BD: Well, it would seem like that takes more talent. It is hard to make fun of Trump because he does make fun of himself and we’ve got to make fun of, and we’ve got to object to the evil things that both parties do, not just the evil things that Republicans do. That’s why #NotMyPresident ain’t enough.
AG: OK, anything else you’d like to say?
BD: That’s it for me, except the catfish sandwiches down here in Sweet Onion Junction are pretty good.