The University of the Poor is now publishing an online journal.

The mission of the University of the Poor is to unite and develop leaders committed to the unity of the poor and dispossessed across all lines of division so as to build a broad-based and powerful movement to end poverty. The role the University of the Poor Journal is to develop collaborative research, robust debate, and resources to advance that mission.

The Journal will include articles on theoretical and political questions presenting themselves as the revolutionary movement develops under new conditions. It will consider the strategic questions facing our class and carry articles analyzing current political developments in the U.S. and internationally. The Journal hopes to become a center for discussion of various strategic projections in the revolutionary movement.

We invite all who agree with the general principles in the University of the Poor concept paper to contact us and consider contributing to the Journal.

Power Not Pity: Organizing the Poor to Abolish Poverty (Part 3)

By Willie Baptist and Kristin Colangelo

Today, the world is undergoing an unprecedented technological change from the industrial age to the information age. This transformation has given the capitalist economy its globalized character, while at the same time turning it against itself in chronic and systemic crises. In his 1998 essay “Rethinking Globalization”, researcher and analyst Jim Davis gives a brief synopsis of some of the major technical and historical aspects of this new epochal boomerang:

“The development of the microprocessor was the culmination of a long line of advances in everything from philosophy to electronics. The selection of the microprocessor as a pivot point is not entirely arbitrary, because it’s cheapness, lightness and versatility has made possible practical robotics, and has made possible breakthroughs in other fields by cheapening and extending the tools of scientific production. It, like other critical breakthroughs in biology, materials science, computing, and electronics, is a product of a widening understanding of the workings of the universe.

Read more “Power Not Pity: Organizing the Poor to Abolish Poverty (Part 3)”

Power Not Pity: The Poor Organizing the Poor to Abolish Poverty (Part 2)

By Willie Baptist and Kristin Colangelo

“Power never takes a step back except in the face of more power.”  

   – Malcolm X, Message to the Grassroots (1963)

“One unfortunate thing about [the slogan] Black Power is that it gives priority to race precisely at a time when the impact of automation and other forces have made the economic question fundamental for blacks and whites alike. In this context, a slogan “Power for Poor People’ would be much more appropriate than the slogan “Black Power.”                    

   – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)

Organizing to build the unity of the poor and dispossessed should not be understood as just one among many items on the agenda. It has to be the agenda if we are going to give actual effect to our deepest aspirations for society. Building that unity is a question of power. Read more “Power Not Pity: The Poor Organizing the Poor to Abolish Poverty (Part 2)”

Power, Not Pity: The Poor Organizing the Poor to Abolish Poverty (Part 1)

By Willie Baptist and Kristin Colangelo

“We are homeless but not helpless…freedom is not free. We only get what we are organized to take!”  

Chris Sprowal, Lead Organizer and First President, National Union of the Homeless                                                                                              

“Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers.”

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto

This digital series is an edited version of a draft booklet written to address the question of power, not pity, for the poor. It is dedicated to the many beloved warriors and leaders who gave their lives to the struggle of the class of the propertyless, that is, the poor and dispossessed, to abolish all poverty and human indignity. 

This serious and sacred struggle of the poor and dispossessed is a fight for our lives and self-emancipation; for economic, social, and cultural justice for all. Read more “Power, Not Pity: The Poor Organizing the Poor to Abolish Poverty (Part 1)”

Growing Inequality

by Bruce Parry

During the first year of the pandemic, the number of billionaires across the world grew by nearly a third, to 2,755 people. Here in the U.S., Jeff Bezos, former head of Amazon — which ruthlessly crushed a union effort at its warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama last week — leads the list at $177 billion according to Forbes. Just over a year ago, his net worth was estimated at $113 billion, meaning that as COVID-19 proliferated across the globe he grew his personal wealth by $64 billion. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, is second on the list with $151 billion. Again, in March, 2020, Musk was worth an estimated $24.6 billion, meaning that he saw a single year gain of $126.4 billion. 

How? How could these two men alone gain so much wealth in one year while millions are in poverty in this country alone? There are three broad answers.  Read more “Growing Inequality”

Changing Minds: Waging Campaigns-Their Educational and Political Impact (Part 6 of 6)

By Willie Baptist, Charon Hribar, and John Wessel-McCoy

Having an accurate estimate of your enemy and yourself is the first basic principle of the art and science of strategy and tactics. This estimate involves a continuous assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your forces, as well as those of the forces arrayed against you. This assessment necessarily includes knowledge of how these strengths and weaknesses are reflected in the mental terrain. The weaknesses or the points of vulnerability are also called the ‘Achilles’ Heel.’ From this basic principle is derived another principle of strategy and tactics; that is, to concentrate your strengths against the weak points, the ‘Achilles’ Heel,’ of your enemy. History teaches us that to win one must concentrate your strength against your enemy’s weak points. Ongoing campaigns, which are coordinated series of interconnected, repeated, protracted, and multifaceted forms of actions, must be thrown at those points of vulnerability when and where they are discerned and located. Read more “Changing Minds: Waging Campaigns-Their Educational and Political Impact (Part 6 of 6)”

Review – Sachs, Jeffrey D. The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions

By Tim W. Shenk

Ages of Globalization book cover

Jeffrey D. Sachs’s latest book, The Ages of Globalization (Columbia University Press, 2020) sets out to draw lessons from seven eras of human history, from the Paleolithic to the digital era.

Sachs has styled himself as a progressive in debates on global poverty, the environment and foreign and domestic policy. He has been an adviser to governments, foundations and the United Nations. He is often presented as a “savior” of national economies and a leading crusader against global poverty. This new book attempts to broaden that scope even further to present a telling of the forward march of 70,000 years of human history as a framework for the need for global cooperation to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

In order to evaluate this text, we must first go beyond the level of appearances to discuss Sachs himself, including the projects that brought him to global prominence and his current affiliations. Read more “Review – Sachs, Jeffrey D. The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions”

Changing Minds: Role of Symbols, Arts, and Cultural forms (Part 5 of 6)

By Willie Baptist, Charon Hribar, and John Wessel-McCoy

This is part five of a six-part series published by The Journal of the University of the Poor. Read Part 4.

The many uses of symbols, the arts, and other cultural forms have become more prominent, penetrating, and powerful weapons of struggle in this new era of netwar. They have become indispensable components of political strategy. Cultural, religious, and patriotic symbols, songs, and slogans continue even more so to play a major role of either maintaining or defeating the critical ideological fortresses on the mental terrain of the masses of people. Political leaders, teachers, and organizers disregard this factor at their peril.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a city of major importance in US history and traditions. It is one of the homes of the origins of the basic symbols of the American Personality. For instance, the Liberty Bell wasn’t called the “Liberty Bell” until the abolitionist movement took it up. On Read more “Changing Minds: Role of Symbols, Arts, and Cultural forms (Part 5 of 6)”

Changing Minds: Mental Fortresses and the 6 Rs (Part 4 of 6)

By Willie Baptist, Charon Hribar, and John Wessel-McCoy

This is part 4 of a six-part series published by The Journal of the University of the Poor. Read Part 3.

The mind is a politically contested terrain. It is the main theatre or battlefield of every form of social conflict, military and non-military. At the same time, it is the most powerful weapon out of which all other weapons or means of struggle are formed and wielded. In this conflict and with this weapon, knowing your enemy and knowing yourself so as to outfight by outsmarting the enemy means as Sun Tzu says, among other things, avoiding his strengths and attacking his weaknesses. The major source of strength of the ruling class enemy is the long established and constantly appealed to mental fortresses of ignorance and prejudices in the minds of the masses of the people. These mental fortresses are deeply held values and views established largely through people’s upbringing, past and present experiences, and the country’s educational institutions, media systems, and other cultural outlets. Read more “Changing Minds: Mental Fortresses and the 6 Rs (Part 4 of 6)”

Revolutionary Work vs. Alienated Labor

By Nijmie Dzurinko and Iaan Reynolds

Organizing to fundamentally change society is a monumental task. It requires a lot of us as individuals—in particular because it is a collective project.

In order to do this collective work we must be able to do our individual tasks as well as combine our efforts to design and implement processes—determining the order of operations and solving problems along the way. We must coordinate others and be coordinated; keep our eyes on the whole as well as the individual parts; check in with, support, and hold people accountable. We have to be willing to work independently, develop internal motivation, and follow through.  

We are going to run into situations that we are unfamiliar with. We are going to take on tasks we’ve never done. We’ll need to learn how to communicate with other people, deal with conflict and sometimes with people being mad at us. Read more “Revolutionary Work vs. Alienated Labor”

Changing Minds: The Role of Ruling Ideas in World History (Part 3 of 6)

By Willie Baptist, Charon Hribar and John Wessel-McCoy

This is part 3 of a six-part series published by The Journal of the University of the Poor. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Historically, beginning with their inception, economic class-based societies have been defined and pervaded by major and minor, open and hidden conflicts. Even in prehistoric times, conflicts have often interrupted primitive tribal societies. They have assumed many forms of struggle and organization—military, economic (i.e., commercial competition, speculation, trade wars, economic blockades, boycotts, lockouts and strikes), and political (electoral campaigns, protests at every level of government, pre-war diplomatic maneuvers, revolutions) or of any combinations of these forms. Whatever forms these conflicts have taken, they have all been mediated through the mental terrain of the human brain upon which the old ideas, belief systems, public opinions, and political wills have been established.

Today the unprecedented micro-electronics technological revolution in general and the information revolution in particular have brought us into a new era of “many-to-many” multi-media, which, at least as far as the internet is concerned, is now more accessible to all, including the poor secured collectively through their organization. Read more “Changing Minds: The Role of Ruling Ideas in World History (Part 3 of 6)”