“The Least of These”

And most importantly of all, how do we keep the faith for a lifetime of committed organizing, however long we are given on this earth, not get sidetracked or deflected by the system’s seeming power or seductive lures?

But it’s also due to some recent, disturbing, email correspondence with a long-time socialist activist who essentially supports the Bush Administration’s war in Afghanistan.

He holds to this view even though, in the words of an Associated Press article on December 24th, “the [United Nations] World Food Program estimates that as many as 4 million people could starve” in Afghanistan.

A war which puts millions of people at serious risk of starvation is not a war we on the Left should be supporting, especially when there were alternatives, roads not taken by the Bush-ites.

One of my new best friends and political comrades, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, talks more about “the least of these” than anyone I’ve ever known. He uses this phrase when giving fiery and eloquent speeches, and he uses it on conference calls of five or six people. In both cases he is challenging those listening to him to make “the least of these” our top priority as we determine how best to move forward towards a new world.

There is truth to their critique. If a concern for “the least of these,” for the homeless, the hungry, the refugees, the starving, is ALL that one is motivated by, well, to paraphrase something Jesus is alleged to have said, then “the poor will always be with us.”

At the same time, it is an historic fact that both revolutionary individuals and organizations, once exemplary in their willingness to sacrifice for a better world, can change and become hollow shells, or worse, as they grapple with the complexities and difficulties of fundamental social change.

The views of Karl Marx and many socialists who came after him contributed to this problem. Marx was a hard-liner when it came to those who held high the necessity of individual moral reform in the society of that time.

“The communists do not preach morality at all. . . They do not put to people the moral demand: love one another, do not be egoists, etc.; on the contrary, they are very well aware that egoism, just as much as selflessness, is in definite circumstances a necessary form of the self-assertion of individuals.”

Although this criticism was sound, as far as it went, Marx and too many socialist revolutionaries since him have had a real blindspot when it comes to the connection between societal change and the need for individual revolutionaries to take seriously morality, ethics and the needs of the least of these.

Debs is also famous for these words: “While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison I am not free.”

Like Che, let us “strive every day so that (our) love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.”

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