Forty five years ago, then-governor Ronald Reagan made it a cause to get young UCLA professor Angela Davis fired by the UC Board of Regents. She was a member of the Communist Party, a participant in the militant Black Panthers, and was prosecuted (and acquitted) for murder and conspiracy for a courthouse shootout. She went on to a long academic career at UC Santa Cruz -- she is retired with the title of Distinguished Professor Emerita — and at age 70 is back at UCLA as a regent's lecturer. In advance of an address today at UCLA's Royce Hall, she spoke to Patt Morrison of the LA Times op-ed page about being a radical in 1970 versus now. Excerpt:
You are back this semester at UCLA, the campus from which Gov. Ronald Reagan had you fired.
This was an offer I could not refuse. The students are very different from the students of 1969, 1970. They're so much more sophisticated, in the sense of having more complicated questions....
You ran for vice president on the Communist Party ticket in 1980 and 1984; was that about faith in the democratic process?
It was about suggesting that there are alternatives. No one believed it was possible to win, but the '80s [saw] the rise of the globalization of capital, the prison-industrial complex, and it was important to provide some alternative political analyses.
What's your thinking on communism now?
I still have a relationship, [but] I'm not a member. I left the party because I didn't feel it was open to the kind of democratization that we needed. I still believe that capitalism is the most dangerous kind of future we can imagine.
Why did communism fail where it did?
That would require a long conversation. There may have been economic democracy, which we lack in the West, but without political and social democracy, it just doesn't work. I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater; it would be important to look at what really worked and what didn't.
Like no free speech?