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Helen Keller: Socialist, Pacifist, Women’s & Workers’ Rights Advocate July 1, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Socialism, Uncategorized, War, Women.
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Roger’s note: last week we celebrated Helen Keller Day, celebrating the 136th anniversary of her birth.  Like Albert Einstein, perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century, Keller’s disavowal of capitalist economic relations and her commitment to socialism and pacifism are virtually absent when her life and achievements are discussed.  These are inconvenient truths that corporate media and educational establishments love to ignore.  It is a phenomenon similar to the expunging of Martin Luther King’s biting anti-war and economic justice critiques and the beatification of Muhammad Ali absent any analysis of his anti-Vietnam war heroism as relative to today’s permanent wars and military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the globe.

Virtually all my adult life it has been evident to me that capitalist economic relations are unsustainable and responsible for massive economic and social injustice, immeasurable suffering and murderous warfare; and that the survival of the human race and the planet we inhabit depends upon nothing less than the creation of a New Society based upon communal values, once cancerous and voracious world capitalism is uprooted.

These are not new ideas, and it is comforting to know that they were held by some of our greatest humanitarians.

 

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Keller was celebrated as a miracle, but her intelligent and articulate views and opinions were denounced as irrational, misguided thinking that came as the result of her afflictions. Keller railed against these charges. Responding to one attack in the Brooklyn Eagle, she wrote:

“At [one] time the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the years since I met him. … Oh, ridiculous Brooklyn Eagle! Socially blind and deaf, it defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause of much of the physical blindness and deafness which we are trying to prevent.”

Keller was highly adept at connecting the dots between the issues, understanding the relationship of war and militarism to economic injustice and the abuse of women, workers, children, and others. She also understood the power of nonviolent struggle, noncooperation, and organized direct action.

In her famous 1916 “Strike Against War” speech, Keller said to the workers of the nation, “It is in your power to refuse to carry the artillery and the dread-noughts and to shake off some of the burdens, too, such as limousines, steam yachts, and country estates. You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms.”

Helen Keller Day commemorates her birth on June 27,1880. On this day, one way to honor her life and legacy is to share the story of her commitment to pacifism, ending war, equality, women’s rights, labor and workers’ rights, suffrage, and more. Remember her as a woman who understood the relationship between systems of injustice, and the challenges of being deaf, blind, or mute. Keller clearly saw that while she had lost sight and hearing through illness, many people were becoming deaf or blind through workplace injuries, poverty-related sicknesses, and lack of access to affordable healthcare. To honor and commemorate her life, find a way to work for social justice in your community, and tell her story wherever you go.

Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.

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