The difference between Bernie Sanders, presidential candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination, and Donald Trump, presidential candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination, is the difference between two extreme opposites: “liberal” and “conservative.” Obviously, Bernie Sanders is on the left (and farther to the left than Hillary Clinton and most Democrats) and Donald Trump is on the right (farther to the right than some Republicans, although not necessarily Ted Cruz and other leading candidates). So there is a huge difference between Sanders and Trump if we look at their political ideologies on this level. It seems Bernie and Trump couldn’t be any more different.
The level on which Bernie and Trump are situated as candidates is the plane or the line that separates bourgeois politics from the ideologies, interests and lives of the proletariat of the world. Horizontally, Bernie and Trump are opposites, just as liberalism and conservatism are opposites. Vertically, Bernie and Trump, and their white liberal and white conservative supporters, are situated together on the same plane, which sits on top of the oppressed working class in the United States and around the world. This vertical line is the difference between the colonizer nation (the oppressor) and the colonized nation (the oppressed). It’s the difference between white power (European imperialist capitalism) and Black Power (self-determination for colonized Africans wherever they live, and all colonized peoples). On this line– up and down– Bernie and Trump are the same. They are both running bourgeois campaigns to manage the material benefits of white-controlled capitalism’s exploitation of colonized Africans, Indigenous peoples and the majority of people on the planet.
But what’s at stake for the supporters of Bernie and Trump, if either of them wins or loses? One cannot say that if either candidate wins, Africans who are colonized in the U.S., in Africa and throughout the world, will gain control of the material resources, labor and land that have been stolen from them for over five hundred years. Neither can one say that the outcome of this presidential election will determine whether or not Indigenous peoples of the Americas will have their stolen lands restored to them (at least in some significant way).
You might say that it’s ridiculous to argue that Indigenous peoples ought to get their lands back, but whatever their demands are, that is what white people should be listening to– if we value justice, freedom, equality, and peace. It is the duty of the oppressor to do whatever the oppressed demands of us. If we can’t do that, then we negotiate, or do as much as we can. But this isn’t the issue in the campaigns of Sanders and Trump, because it’s not in the interests of white people– the European nation that colonizes Indigenous land. Therefore, no matter who wins, colonized Indigenous peoples won’t be free, and colonized Africans won’t be free.
What’s at stake in the 2016 election is the material interests of whites, as white voters seek to resolve the contradictions of capitalism on the terms of white people. In contrast, if the African People’s Socialist Party achieves its objectives as a movement (not a bourgeois campaign), then all African people everywhere will be totally liberated and totally unified under a system of African-led socialism. If the African People’s Socialist Party loses in the long run (and it won’t, because the people are stronger than the machine), then Africans will remain controlled and dominated by European imperialist capitalism.
The African People’s Socialist Party has a long-term vision and a long-term goal based on a materialist analysis of history and the world (African Internationalism). The African People’s Socialist Party recognizes that the United States is a settler colony with an illegitimate system of power. The United States sits on stolen Indigenous land, and benefits from the colonial domination of exploited Africans and all other oppressed peoples. The only resolution to the contradictions of colonial capitalism– from the viewpoint of the working class of the world– is a complete transformation of society through revolution. So the Uhuru Movement, led by the African People’s Socialist Party, centers the material interests of the colonized nations of the world (including Africans trapped in the United States), rather than centering the material interests of the white ruling class and all white people who– as members of the bourgeois oppressor nation– benefit from this colonial relationship.
A vote for Bernie Sanders doesn’t necessarily mean that this voter fails to support the struggles of colonized people to gain self-determination and freedom from the system of white-controlled capitalism. I won’t argue that here. I only hope that white readers– who are the people I’m trying to reach here– will consider the purpose of their vote and ask (as Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party often says) “to what end?” What is the goal or the end game for their support of Bernie Sanders? Because they may have the goal of overturning a system of colonial oppression– capitalism– and see Bernie Sanders as part of this revolutionary process. They may see Bernie as part of this process, even though Bernie is not a revolutionary– not according to a philosophical materialist analysis. Bernie– like Trump, and like “America” itself– is a philosophical idealist.
It takes a philosophical idealist to run a campaign where the lives and interests of “Americans” are more valuable than colonized Palestinians, and are more valuable than colonized and exploited Africans in Africa who work for a little more than a dollar per day (if that) so that Europeans (white people) can have coltan for our cellphones, or can eat chocolate or can wear diamonds, or can gain many of the material advantages that we enjoy at their expense. The problems of “America” are centered in all the presidential campaigns because capitalism requires that the voters view the world in idealist terms, and that they believe their problems can be resolved at the expense of people who are murdered, robbed and terrorized by this imperialist system.
In philosophical materialist terms, we recognize that whoever controls the finite resources of the world, or the means of production, has power. Either the producers, who extract materials from nature for the benefit of society, control production and therefore have power, or the wealthy few, who profit from the stolen labor, resources, and lives of the many, are on top in this dialectical relationship.
The dialectic is colonizer/colonized. Oppressor/oppressed. The dialectic is European imperialist capitalism’s control of the oppressed nations of the world. This is parasitic relationship that began with Europe’s attack on Africa and the Americas more than five hundred years ago. Out of this attack on Africans and the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, parasitic capitalism was born, and it is through this ongoing genocide and colonial exploitation that white people enjoy the material necessities of life– the very basis of our existence. Without the stolen wealth and labor of Africa and the world, Europeans could not exist. We certainly could not exist in the United States without the ongoing murder and theft of Indigenous peoples, and genocide against colonized Africans who are locked away in prisons (concentration camps), and are gunned down by the police– just as the military drops bombs on Arabs and other colonized peoples in other parts of the world. Whether this power is guarded by the police or by the military, it’s the same power– white power.
There is no material difference between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump when it comes to the maintenance of white power and the expansion of this power. Capitalism only keeps its power through violence against colonized peoples– the power that comes from the barrel of a gun. People do not choose to be “poor.” People don’t choose to live in “ghettos.” They must be kept down– oppressed. And that’s the system that both Bernie and Trump are trying to be the boss of– the system of European imperialist capitalism, or white power. A win by either candidate doesn’t change the material basis of this relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, and the oppressor and the oppressed.
If Bernie wins, this won’t mean that colonized Africans in the U.S. will be paid reparations (at least $14.1 trillion) for centuries of genocide. If Bernie wins, Indigenous peoples will not gain control of their own lives and resources.
Malcolm X said, “Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.” European imperialist capitalism stole Africans from their land– stole their land– and stole the land of Indigenous peoples in the United States. Without land, and control of the resources of the land, the people can’t be free. And if Bernie wins, Africans and other oppressed people won’t suddenly gain control of these resources, and the fruits of their labor. These fruits of the proletariat’s labor will still go to the capitalist ruling class. It doesn’t matter how much the capitalists are taxed, they’re still rich and they still have the power. As long as the capitalist system has the power to give jobs to oppressed Africans and other colonized peoples, it has the power to take these jobs away. The demand of the African People’s Socialist Party is for Africans to have power: Black Power. Control of their own lives, labor, and resources, and the ability to determine their own destiny.
A win by Bernie Sanders doesn’t mean that African political prisoners locked down in the concentration camps of “America” will be freed. An unjust, illegitimate system of power will never provide true justice to African people. Bernie and Trump believe the same thing. Neither candidate is saying Mumia Abu-Jamal should be freed immediately, along with Leonard Peltier, Jalil Muntaqim, and all political prisoners. A system that locks up people, not for what they did, but for what they believe, is a system that no one who wants justice would support. But the support of this system is in the interests of the majority– white people, who are the same majority that would have allowed slavery to continue forever, and who supported “Manifest Destiny,” or the slaughter of Indigenous peoples. Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 was locked in solitary confinement for 43 years, only to be released this week– after 43 years! Yet the interests of the white majority are not to free political prisoners, who in fact, stand in the way of white people because they seek to replace a system that requires the few to live off the oppression of the many.
So the contest between Sanders and Trump is a bourgeois contest over the interests of white people within the system of European imperialist capitalism. And white liberals are hoping to influence the system of power by electing a left-leaning president, not recognizing the difference between influence and power (as Kwame Ture talked about in “The Pitfalls of Liberalism.”)
The system is not designed to do anything else but colonize and exploit the majority of humanity for the material enjoyment of the white ruling class. Bernie Sanders’s candidacy does not represent the struggle of the working class masses for real power, but rather the hopes and fantasies of the white bourgeoisie and white petit bourgeoisie to influence a system whose very existence is based on the parasitic relationship it has as the colonizer to the colonized peoples of the world.
Bernie Sanders doesn’t represent a movement to seize control of the means of production, but only to influence the capitalist ruling class to bring more benefits to the primary beneficiaries of colonial domination: white people. As capitalism fails to provide the same lifestyle that “Americans” want, the supporters of both Trump and Sanders look for more drastic measures to reform this system.
Bernie and Trump couldn’t be more different according to the philosophical idealist terms of liberalism and conservatism. Yet Bernie and Trump are both on the same sinking ship: European imperialist capitalism.
White power is going down. In materialist terms, European colonizers in the U.S. and around the globe will not always be able to benefit from the violent domination of Africans and all other colonized nations. Half of the world’s poverty is in what bourgeois economists call “sub-Saharan Africa.” And the more that colonized peoples are oppressed, the more they will push back. This is Black Power. Black Power is the revolutionary force against the reactionary force of capitalism. And as Africans in the U.S., in Africa, in Sweden, and the Caribbean, and everywhere else in the world, rise up, and push back, becoming subjects of their own struggle against capitalist domination, the power of the colonizer will be challenged more and more. So the candidates of bourgeois white power will sound more and more different from the run-of-the-mill candidates who could only use the same old tired lines back when the U.S. had greater control over colonized peoples. As Black people push back, in the U.S. and abroad, the contradictions of the system will be exposed, and the reformist solutions to save the system will become more drastic.
But if the goal– or the end game, the ultimate purpose– is freedom, equality, peace and justice, then European colonizers will jump off the sinking ship of white power, and raise reparations for Black Power and the African revolution by joining the Uhuru Solidarity Movement.