Monthly Archives: April 2013

When Martin Luther King Came to Cambridge: An Historic Conversation about an Historic Moment


There can be no freedom without peace and no peace without justice.

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 22nd, 1967

Monday, May 20th   7:00PM

Christ Church Cambridge, Zero Garden Street, Cambridge

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, an anniversary that is going to be marked by celebrations and commemorations nationwide this summer.

But four years after he gave that speech, Rev. King came here to Cambridge, to Harvard Square, with a different message for America: one not about a dream of equality of rights but the dangers of war. The war in Vietnam was killing and maiming young Americans at an astonishing rate and the casualty rates for black soldiers were far higher than for whites. At home, President Johnson and the Congress were cutting precious funding for the War on Poverty in favor of the War in Vietnam.

America, King feared, was being both wounded and corrupted by what was happening 9,000 miles away; so he came to Cambridge to issue a new call, one as important in some ways as his “I Have a Dream” speech, one that would link the civil rights and antiwar and antipoverty workers across the nation in a new common crusade for justice, equality, and peace.

But why Cambridge? And what did King say? What did he hope to achieve?

On Monday, May 20th, at 7PM, join Harvard professor Lani Guinier, co-founder of Vietnam Summer Gar Alperovitz, and State Representative Byron Rushing, a legendary civil rights and antiwar legislator here in Massachusetts in an intimate conversation as they discuss “When Martin Luther King Came to Cambridge….”

Forty years after Dr. King spoke, part of his dream was met: America elected its first African-American President.  But what else remains to be realized? And what of Dr. King’s challenge in Cambridge has been taken up by Barack Obama, and what not? What linked civil rights, antiwar, and antipoverty efforts into a common cause in Dr. King’s mind that day in Cambridge and how are each of them faring today?

By special arrangement, the conversation among Lani Guinier, Gar Alperovitz, and Byron Rushing takes place in the very room at Christ Church Cambridge where Rev. King issued his challenge. Join them as they reflect on his legacy and its importance today.

 Seats are limited for this historic event, but it is free and open to the public.

Street parking available. Harvard Square Red Line T stop one block away.

Parish Hall doors open at 6:45PM.

 More information about Vietnam Summer: Vietnam Summer Evolves From Phone Call To Nation-Wide Organizing Project

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The Question of Socialism (and Beyond!) Is About to Open Up in These United States

Little noticed by most Americans, Merriam Webster, one of the world’s most important dictionaries, announced a few months ago that the two most looked-up words in 2012 were “socialism” and “capitalism.”

Traffic for the pair on the company’s website roughly doubled from the year before. The choice was a “kind of no-brainer,” observed editor at large, Peter Sokolowski. “They’re words that sort of encapsulate the zeitgeist.”

Leading polling organizations have found converging results among younger Americans. Two recent Rasmussen surveys, for instance, discovered that Americans younger than 30 are almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found those aged 18 to 29 have a more favorable reaction to the term “socialism” by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.

Note carefully: These are the people who will inevitably be creating the next American politics and the next American system.

As economic failure continues to create massive social and economic pain and a stalemated Washington dickers, search for some alternative to the current “system” is likely to continue to grow. It is clearly time to get serious about a different vision for the future. Critically, we need to be far more sophisticated about what a meaningful “systemic design” that might undergird a new direction (whether called “socialism” or whatever) would entail.

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Kind words from Monthly Review on my work and new book

From the editor’s introduction to the April 2013 issue (

One of the most notable left intellectuals in the United States is Gar Alperovitz, professor of political economy at the University of Maryland. As an undergraduate Alperovitz studied at the University of Wisconsin under the great revisionist historian William Appleman Williams (a frequent contributor at the time to Monthly Review). He went on to pursue a PhD in economics at Cambridge University under Joan Robinson (also an MR contributor). Alperovitz’s doctoral dissertation, which was eventually published as the book Atomic Diplomacy, constituted a revisionist historical account of the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He demonstrated that Truman’s decision to use the bomb on civilian populations was opposed by U.S. military leaders—and was not so much the last act in the Second World War as the first act in the Cold War. (Truman’s objective in dropping the bomb was to force an immediate unconditional surrender—Japan had offered to surrender but the security of the emperor remained a sticking point—in order to preempt the further advance of Soviet troops into Asia and the expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence.) Alperovitz’s latest initiative is represented by his brand new book,What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution. He describes the systemic crisis in which the United States is trapped as one of “punctuated stagnation”: The nature of our current economic predicament, he writes, “is not [one of] collapse, but rather an odd form of painful stagnation—the hallmark of which is economic decay, with occasional significant downturns and (at best) modest and temporary upticks around a sickening, uncertain and debilitating norm” (126). […] We strongly agree with Alperovitz that a “punctuated stagnation,” in the sense he has described it, is the most accurate reading of contemporary economic reality and sets the stage for what could be “the next American revolution.” His book can be obtained from Chelsea Green Publishing at


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Video: Keynote of Boone New Economy Summit

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Laura Flanders talks to Gar Alperovitz about What Then Must We Do?

Welcome to the spring of sequester and discontent. Just ahead, whatever happens in the world of politics, a world of people are going to experience yet more cuts to education, housing, healthcare, and there’s no solution to poverty in sight.  Even for those who were  flushed with excitement last November, the new term is already feeling like a pretty glum place. What real change is likely to come? Probably not much. By how much are real wages going to grow?  Probably less.  “If you counted poverty the way every other nation in the world counts it, a quarter of our society is in poverty,” says political economist Gar Alperovitz.

So why is it then, that Alperovitz also says we may be witnessing the prehistory of the next American Revolution? What’s up?

Alperovitz believes that the storm of failure we’re witnessing creates crisis but also possibility. When states and cities have “no answers,” new ideas and new experiences have a chance to insert themselves into the mix.  Indeed, look a little deeper than the money media tend to, and the US economy is pretty heterodox. Far from one “economy” we live in a “checkerboard” of systems, some of which look a whole lot like socialism.

What’s “hotel socialism”? Find out in this conversation about Alperovitz’s latest book What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, which comes out later this month from Chelsea Green. Alperovitz teaches at the University of Maryland. We talked for GRITtv.


Laura Flanders: Am I describing this moment correctly? Post-election enthusiasm followed by gathering gloom?

Gar Alperovitz: I think that’s about right and rightly so. The president is committed to  $1.5 trillion in cuts for the next decade and at the same time he is talking about boosting the economy. I suspect we’ll get very little change in the unemployment rate [that is] the real unemployment rate, which is probably 15% if you count the people who just don’t show up anymore.

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