Grace Lee Boggs: 1915 – 2015

October 12, 2015 at 4:56 pm (Uncategorized)

The passing last week of Grace Lee Boggs brought an era to a close. Boggs was one of the leaders of the Johnson-Forest tendency, but who was neither Johnson (CLR James) nor Forest (Raya Dunaveyska). The fourth member of the unofficial leadership was Martin Glaberman who died in 2001. I met her only once, at Marty’s memorial meeting in 2001.

Boggs was born in Rhode Island and became in politics in Chicago where she joined Max Shachtman’s Workers Party. She met CLR James while in Chicago, but later moved to New York. Boggs was one of the translators of Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and also wrote the philosophical essay in the Johnson-Forest pamphlet The American Worker. 

Boggs and her husband James Boggs eventually moved to Detroit where they broke with James in 1962 (Dunayevskaya had split several years earlier). The most common terms applied to her life after this point is to say she became a community activity – a term that narrows considerably her work.  A review I wrote of her book Living for Change can be found here.

When I moved away from Trotskyism two decades ago, it was initially to Socialisme ou Barbarie and Solidarity, Anton Pannekoek, and the Johnson-Forest tendency I turned for a sense of understanding. Despite the fact, she had long moved away from those ideas, Boggs’ early contributions were a part of that important clarification for me.


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