Legendary activist Angela Davis and filmmaker Astra Taylor talk about economic democracy, criminal justice, and why we need a socialist internationalism.
In mid-October, renowned filmmaker and writer Astra Taylor spoke with legendary thinker and radical Angela Davis in a livestream event cosponsored by Jacobin and Haymarket Books. The subject: “Their Democracy and Ours.” In their wide-ranging conversation, the two spoke about the relationship between democracy and socialism, the historic role of radicals in democratic struggles, the need for a revived internationalism, and much more.
Their conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
AT: I want to talk about the democracy of the Founding Fathers and about how the political system we’re operating in was founded on so many exclusions: the exclusion of enslaved people, women, and men without property. They wanted to protect the rights of a minority of the opulent, of landlords and slaveholders. The structures they devised are still with us.
I also want to speak toward the horizon of abolition, but I think we need to be aware of the fact that progress that has been made can be rolled back. That’s what Reconstruction teaches us. Or look at the voter suppression happening now in North Carolina. In Florida, felons with debts will not be allowed to vote. How can we operate while keeping these levels of oppression in mind?
AD: If we simply look at democracy as a form of political rule, we exclude a whole range of issues that ought to be attended to in discussions about democracy. Why is it that this myth of the United States as the first democracy continues to command so much attention? As you said, it was actually a democracy of the minority, which ought to be oxymoronic.
It would be interesting to talk about the economic applications of democracy. What would an economic democracy entail? What about the social dimensions of democracy? And how is democracy changed in relation to the particular economic system which constitutes the foundation for that democracy?
What would it be like to imagine a democracy in which everyone got to participate on the basis of economic, cultural, social, and political equality? If we argue that everyone, by virtue of living in a particular region, should be considered a citizen and should be able to participate in governing and the economy, what would that mean?