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October, 2006

The Future is Up to Us!

Literature of Rebellion

Editor's note: Speakers for a New America is reprinting a speech by Nelson Peery delivered at a panel discussion in 1994 following publication of his memoir, "Black Fire: The Making of an American Revolutionary." We think it is relevant for today.

Nelson Peery I started writing "Black Fire" right after the war when the McCarthy period was just setting in. It is a chronicle of the development of a Black young man's consciousness. I discovered that there were stages of development of a person becoming a real revolutionary.

That journey essentially is from social consciousness -- to really understanding what the relations within society are. For me, that was a race consciousness, understanding the position of Blacks in the United States. Then came class consciousness -- political consciousness -- understanding the mechanism that holds us in the positions we are in. This includes the understanding that human beings are not the enemy.

When I finally liberated myself I was able to wake-up and say, "The white folks aren't the enemy. It's the relationship between me and them that is the enemy," I became a serious revolutionary. I remain one since. The final thing was self-consciousness -- when I understood the responsibility that I had as a thinking individual to attack and change this thing. Nobody who is self-conscious can ever lay down their sword and shield, whether they are a bricklayer, as I was, or a writer. I began to understand that society, in its evolution, goes through these stages. But it can't do it without literature of rebellion.

Literature in general is somewhat like a concave mirror. It takes in all these impressions and senses; concentrates them and reflects them back to the people so that they understand what they are going through. Literature of rebellion goes beyond this. Literature of rebellion has to pose a solution to problems. It cannot simply say that you're being exploited, your political situation is intolerable, or America is becoming a police state. It says what you propose to do about it. Such literature becomes a social weapon.

As the almost spontaneous rise of literature that points the way out becomes clear -- the other side moves. Why are they building a police state in America? It is because literature of the revolution is growing. It is bringing a certain consciousness to the people, a social consciousness, an understanding of what our society is and the relationship between people and classes.

Those of us who write, organize and distribute literature have to accept this tremendous responsibility of creating and distributing literature that reflects the realities of the life we live.

I have picked up so many books lately that don't have anything to do with how are we are going to guarantee that not one more child dies of malnutrition, that not one more woman freezes to death in an empty building. That is the responsibility of any serious human being, especially those of us who are the propagandists of society. We cannot accept this responsibility if we don't grasp the content of our time.

The fundamental thing that shapes all aspects of our life is the tremendous economic revolution -- the transformation from human labor to robotics; to production through electronics. That brings, on the one hand, the wretched poverty. On the other hand, we have to be visionaries to realize that this robotic production can produce an economic paradise on earth. Work becomes writing books, reading poetry, dancing and playing with babies. That is possible today.

That idea will not arise spontaneously among the masses. It must be given to them. That, to me, is the responsibility of the author, the distributor and the bookseller. It is an awesome responsibility. The well-being of the world hangs in balance -- in the hands of those who have assumed the responsibility of being the propagandists for humanity.

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