Reconsidering “Some Possible Dangers of White-Only ‘Racial Justice’ Organizing Spaces”


I’ve been thinking about how El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. on March 12, 1964– just four days after his split with the Nation of Islam, an organization he had helped to build for over a decade.  And Malcolm X founded another organization in June of 1964– the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).  When Malcolm X, my role model, left one organization he immediately became part of another organization.

I’ve also been thinking about Elaine Brown’s recent criticisms of Black Lives Matter.  Elaine Brown is the CEO of Oakland & The World Enterprises, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to launch for-profit businesses for ownership by formally incarcerated people and other people facing extreme barriers to employment and economic survival.”  And, of course, Elaine Brown was the Chair of the Black Panther Party from 1974 to 1977.  She had been a member of the Black Panther Party since the late 1960s.  More recently, she ran for President as a member of the Green Party.  Today, Elaine Brown is a 73 year-old revolutionary Black woman who has more than earned the right to criticize other organizations.  Not that it’s for me to say … but it’s still for her to say, as part of an organization.

Malcolm X famously said, “I’m for truth no matter who tells it.”  But the “who” telling this truth is still coming from a certain perspective– their class, their “race,” their experience.  And the most effective revolutionary theorists have been those who have spoken and written from actual experience in revolutionary work– as part of a revolutionary organization.  This was the case with Che Guevara, Kwame Nkrumah, Huey P. Newton, Assata Shakur, Amílcar Cabral, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Angela Davis, Steve Biko, Thomas Sankara, George Jackson, Chairman Mao, Lenin, Omali Yeshitela, Ho Chi Minh, and many, many more revolutionaries, past and present, whose theories were and are put into practice within organizations.

My recent essay “Some Possible Dangers in White-Only ‘Racial Justice’ Organizing Spaces” has been getting more views than expected.  Hopefully it has been of some use to European (white) organizers and has helped rather than hurt their efforts.  But there are many holes in the arguments presented there, the main deficiency being that it was written from an individualistic perspective.

It’s much better to criticize organizing work as a member of an organization– either within that organization, or coming from another organization.  I guess the simplest way to state it is to say that my arguments were “Monday Morning Quarterback-ing.”  We don’t know how organizing will turn out unless we’re actually putting our ideas into practice.  They may be great ideas.  But they only become useful to the movement when we engage in dialogue– a word that is related to “dialectics”– and the process of argument, counterargument, and resolution (thesis, antithesis, synthesis).  It takes a group setting to do this– to engage in constant “struggles” over theories, strategies and tactics.

Some people just enjoy a good argument.  I don’t.  I share my viewpoints in writing basically as a way of working things out in my mind.  I love the line (learned from the political prisoner Jaan Laaman): Communicate to Educate – Educate to Liberate.  That line probably came from the Black Panthers.

But argumentation and self-criticism in an organizational setting are necessary parts of the revolutionary struggle.  Communication can’t move in only one direction: me preaching at you.  Language, ideas, and energy live, grow, diminish and die in the individual– isolated– unless we are constantly discovering new ways to communicate or share these things with people: grappling over misunderstandings, asking questions, challenging one another.  That’s how we move beyond the individual– me or you– and start to build a revolution, and real change.  This movement has to take place in a group.  It can’t be a monologue.

I’m no Malcolm X or Elaine Brown– obviously.  But if we are going to admire people it seems we ought to try to emulate them as much as possible.  And, in order for any person to be like Malcolm X or Elaine Brown, it seems they must be in an organization.


Reconsidering “Some Possible Dangers of White-Only ‘Racial Justice’ Organizing Spaces”

Some Possible Dangers of White-Only “Racial Justice” Organizing Spaces


Fifty years ago– on October 29, 1966– Kwame Ture (then known as Stokely Carmichael) gave his famous “Black Power Speech” to a mostly white audience in “the white intellectual ghetto of the West”— that is, at UC Berkeley in California.

Kwame Ture had recently been elected the Chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  SNCC had told its white members to leave and to organize other whites in order to make us stop our violence against Black people.  So this was the context for Kwame Ture’s speech at UC Berkeley, and for his question to white people in the audience:

“Can the white activist not try to be a Pepsi generation who comes alive in the black community, but can he be a man [sic] who’s willing to move into the white community and start organizing where the organization is needed?”


Kwame Ture continued:

“Can white people move inside their own community and start tearing down racism where in fact it does exist?”

Fifty years later, African revolutionaries are still directing Europeans (white people) to organize other Europeans in the struggle against racism, capitalism and colonialism (which, of course, are very much connected).  For instance, the African People’s Socialist Party, under the leadership of former SNCC organizer Omali Yeshitela, is directing Europeans to pay reparations by joining the Uhuru Solidarity Movement.  These payments (not charity) support the programs of the larger Uhuru– or “Freedom”– Movement.

What’s true, beyond any debate, is that Europeans (whites) who support African/Black liberation should not interfere in the organizing efforts of colonized and oppressed peoples (specifically, the Black community in the U.S. settler colony, and African people everywhere in the world).

To go one step further, Europeans can take on the task of educating other Europeans and stopping our own violence against Africans.  This task not only helps us to avoid interfering in Black-only organizations, it may also benefit Black-only organizations in other ways.  By doing this part of the work, Africans don’t have to, and this frees up Africans to do more organizing in their community– something they can and should do themselves.  By joining white-only organizations for “white allies” or “white accomplices” who are struggling for “racial justice,” Europeans are not only avoiding any sort of bossy meddling in the organizing work of oppressed peoples, but we are also talking to other Europeans who are racist like us, so Africans won’t have to– and we know these racists are more likely to listen to a white person anyway.

What does seem to be debatable (to me) is the existence of a “white community.”  It seems that whites don’t have a community— we have a system.  Whites have capitalism– a system built by whites for whites.  We don’t need a community because we have a system.  Actually, white people do not have a community because we do have the dehumanizing system of capitalism.

We might ask if poor whites, who are harmed by capitalist oppression, are the exception.  There have always been poor (or impoverished) whites under the capitalist system of power, because that’s how this system is supposed to work– the wealthy few enjoy the material advantages (or profits) of capitalism through their exploitation of the many.  Yet capitalism has always sought to resolve these class antagonisms through the further oppression of people outside Europe.  The European serf in feudal society was elevated to the status of the worker (in the proletariat) of the new bourgeois society.  And this qualitative change– this great leap forward within white society that created capitalism– came about only through Europe’s attack on Africans, indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity.  (What has just been described is called “African Internationalism,” which is the political theory of the African People’s Socialist Party.)

White people have already been getting together on this continent for centuries to share (albeit unequally) the stolen land, labor and resources of indigenous peoples and Africans (generally speaking, people of color, who are not “minorities,” but rather the majority population on the planet).  That’s why there are so many white people in Oregon.  The material basis for the existence of so many European colonizers (whites) in Oregon is our genocidal colonization of indigenous peoples, and the brutal exclusion of Black people from the benefits of the imperialist expansion of the United States– an empire built on the unpaid, forced labor of enslaved Africans (which is just another form of colonial genocide).

In material conditions such as these, based on murder and theft, it seems that it’s impossible for whites to create a true community.  Instead of a community, whites have the American flag, patriotism, and the class status that comes from grabbing the biggest share of the loot taken from colonized peoples.

“Whiteness” is a reactionary political identity created by European imperialist capitalism as both a justification for its genocidal oppression of the world, and a means for dividing up the stolen resources of those who are not identified (by whites) as “white.”  So one might argue that “whiteness” cannot be the basis for a true community, much less for organizing.

Capitalism has already provided for the basic needs of white people.  When it hasn’t, we have organized to reform the system so it will work better– that is, better for us, by making things worse for everyone else.  The current bourgeois election is one example of this type of organizing.

White people haven’t struggled to survive in spite of capitalism, or to have our humanity recognized in spite of capitalism.  The struggle of the European serf or the white worker in the United States has been to grab a larger share of the power and wealth stolen by the white ruling class, upon whom we depend for our material necessities.  And since the power and wealth of the white ruling class exist only through its ongoing attack on Africa– and the Americas and the rest of the world– the very existence of white people is based on our parasitic dependence on the stolen land, labor, resources and lives of Africans and people of color.  White people have no system to resist, no system to organize against, because we have always been seeking to improve capitalism (sometimes through our love for “America”)– at the expense of colonized peoples (specifically, Africans or Black people).

Since white people lack a material basis for our struggles against capitalism, our organizing as a “white ally” or a “white accomplice” runs the risk of becoming the work of the “do-gooder.”  We aren’t fighting for ourselves.  We’re fighting for someone else.  This becomes a philosophical idealist fight, a struggle based on ideas in our head: the values, and beliefs we hold in our mind as– materially– we live off the stolen resources of capitalist oppression.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about a philosophical idealist struggle against systemic oppression.  Muslims are commanded to fight against oppression wherever it exists.  So the basis for this struggle is religion.  And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about a “revolution of values.

It’s not a question of abandoning any type of struggle against capitalism just because we are white.  But it seems we ought to recognize the dangers of making this the fight of the “do-gooder”: the white person who gives (or pays) $10 to a “worthy cause” but whose monthly salary of $4,000 is based on the imperialist looting of Africans, indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity; the white person who smugly believes they are “woke” because they’ve read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, but who hasn’t lived the New Jim Crow (except on the side that benefits from this caste system); the white person who talks tough about a bloody revolution, and then walks safely past a cop, while the Black person (no matter what they’ve been talking about) is stopped, beaten, and murdered.

Whiteness is a shield to the white revolutionary, no matter how we talk, or what thoughts are in our head.  We may say all the right things, even think most of the right things, but we’re still taking up space, and we’re still benefiting from whiteness– we still exist on account of the unequal and inhumane power of colonial capitalism.

A philosophical idealist fight against racism, capitalism and colonialism runs the danger of ignoring this material reality: it will require a severe loss of wealth and power by white people in order to change the ideas in our heads and how we view the world. 

An individual’s ideas are based on where this individual is situated within society– that is, their class.  As long as white people are materially elevated through the systemic oppression of Africans and most of humanity, our ideas and perspectives will be shaped by this position within the class hierarchy of a society that is simultaneously racist, transphobic, sexist, homophobic, ableist and capitalist.

White people bring these reactionary attitudes to organizing spaces that are anti-racist whether we are aware of them or not.  This is because whiteness is inseparable from racism, transphobia, sexism, homophobia, ableism and capitalism.  So we run the risk of displaying arrogance by believing we are somehow above these attitudes.  Since whiteness is a reactionary political identity created by capitalism, white-only organizing spaces that are anti-racist will tend to reinforce the hierarchy of transphobia, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and capitalist elitism– as well as racism.  And such behavior can often go unchecked in these white-only organizing spaces because our class status prevents us from recognizing its existence.

In a revolutionary struggle, either the vanguard party or the mass movement which is organizing for this revolution is typically the blueprint and nucleus for the entire government once independence has been won.  The organizing principles of this party (or collective) are reflected in the ruling principles of the socialist government once it has taken power.

So we might ask ourselves: how can white people organize for revolution in white-only spaces when the future society– if it has truly eliminated systemic oppression– cannot, by definition, be white-only?  This seems to be a contradiction of white-only revolutionary spaces that cannot be resolved within the current structure of power– colonial capitalism– which was created only by whites, only to benefit whites.

Clearly, there should be African-only or Black-only organizing spaces– because Africans/Black people, who are oppressed by white-controlled capitalism, want these spaces.  And the oppressor cannot tell the oppressed how they ought to go about organizing to gain power.  But if there are Africans/Black people and people of color who want to organize with whites, it seems this type of organization would be beneficial for the future communist society.

Of course, these types of “multi-racial” organizations have existed all along– for example, the NAACP.  But their politics have tended to be bourgeois.  It’s also true that All-African and all-Black revolutionary organizations often welcome Europeans to their events or work alongside Europeans.  So this approach isn’t new.  What may be new, in this era and in a revolutionary context, is whites learning how to organize with people of color in ways that are mutually beneficial.  Angela Davis has said, “Solidarity always implies a kind of mutuality.”  And such an arrangement of mutuality between whites and people of color could become a reflection of the egalitarian principles of the future communist society.

So the argument here is that whites– who are directed to go into this mythical “white community”– should not organize only around the reactionary white identity, but, instead, around other shared identities and interests that are potentially revolutionary.

It seems that whites must learn to love each other and to create a community for ourselves, rather than trying to find our humanity through proximity to the lives of the people whom we oppress.  In order to be part of the future society that will be free from systemic oppression, whites must learn to live in harmony with each other and with the rest of humanity.  But my argument is that we will never achieve this goal if our context for getting together is whiteness itself.  Somehow white people must learn how to contribute to the erasure of whiteness as a political identity.  By highlighting our whiteness in organizing spaces — as “white allies,” “white accomplices,” “rednecks,” or whatever– we are simply reinforcing the genocidal and colonial context that was the original basis for our getting together.

The white identity won’t be transformed into something else until whites have suffered a severe loss of wealth and power.  This wealth and power must be taken from us by the true proletariat of the world– without our permission.  Until then, whites in white-only anti-racist or “racial justice” organizing spaces will tend to reflect and promote the reactionary ideologies of the dominant class, which is racist, transphobic, homophobic, sexist, ableist, and (of course) capitalist, all at the same time.

Whites in these “racial justice” or socialist organizing spaces will tend to express the same competitive behavior as the larger bourgeois society.  We will try to outdo each other with how “militant” we sound or how knowledgeable we are about the Black liberation movement (which isn’t even our own fight).

This excessive competitive behavior doesn’t have some mystical basis– whites don’t behave this way just because we’re “bad people.”  Whites do this because we’re not fighting for our survival.  We’re not organizing so we can be recognized as human beings (Black Lives Matter).  And even if the most impoverished among us are fighting for survival, we can be sure that capitalism will attempt to resolve these contradictions on terms that benefit whites, at the expense of everyone else, the way it always has– whether we like it or not.  That’s how the white supremacist system of capitalist power works.

By organizing with people of color who want to organize with us, Europeans (whites) perhaps may learn how to challenge the reactionary white identity, and then function in mutually beneficial ways with marginalized communities who learned (out of necessity) to revolutionize their identities a long time ago.

In these settings, whites may learn to be quiet and to sit down when asked (or before we’re asked).  We can take on the tasks of organizing that we may have thought were beneath us– duties such as setting up chairs before the event and washing dishes after the event.  We can leave the room, or not attend an event at all, when organizers of color need that space just for themselves.

Whites may be required to learn how to grapple with hurt feelings, jealousy, personal ambition, and physical exhaustion, and to do this in a setting that reflects the shared principles of the future communist society.  By attempting to resolve our contradictions in white-only groups (even groups that are dedicated to fighting racism, capitalism and colonialism), whites will only resolve these contradictions (if at all) on white terms.

In a world that is free from systemic oppression, the European– individually and collectively– will be required to resolve our internal contradictions through interactions with communities of color.  And, ultimately, no “white” or “European” identity will exist at all, because this future revolutionary society will have qualitatively changed our collective identity into something entirely new.

The task today for the European organizer seems to be that we work with anyone who wants us to work with them, with anyone who shares some of the same intersecting identities and interests that we have, and– together when necessary, or apart when necessary– struggle side by side, as true comrades, to dismantle a system that is racist, transphobic, sexist, homophobic, ableist, colonialist and capitalist.

Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly known as H. Rap Brown), a leader in SNCC during the 1960s and for many decades a political prisoner of the United States, has said:

“If you can get ten dudes who down, it don’t make no difference what the cause is. Then you got more people than most people got.”

And this powerful quotation seems to sum up, and, in fact, express– better than the 2,500+ words before it– the entire argument here.


Some Possible Dangers of White-Only “Racial Justice” Organizing Spaces

What Does Trans Liberation Mean to Me?

Marsha P. Johnson, cofounder of S.T.A.R.

What is the meaning of trans liberation to me?

We could say trans liberation means ending or dismantling the systemic oppression of all transgender and gender nonconforming people, regardless of “race” or any other differences in identity within the trans community.

But the word “race” is in quotation marks because race– like racism– is an invention of colonial capitalism (see Dr. Dorothy Roberts’ book Fatal Invention).  So my argument here, instead, will be that colonial capitalism, the basis of racism, is also the foundation of transphobia.

The political (not biological) identity of “whiteness” was created by Europe when we invaded Africa and the Americas more than five hundred years ago.  Since then, the ideology of white supremacy– like the “white” identity itself– has been used by Europeans as a justification for our colonial genocide against Africans, Indigenous peoples, and all communities who are not identified (by whites) as “white.”  And the dominant system of power on the planet for the past six hundred years has been capitalism.

So the systemic oppression of trans people comes from one source: capitalism.  In order to oppress a particular group, one must have power.  Power doesn’t come from the individual but from the political organization of a class or a nation around material and ideological interests that the members of this ruling class or nation have in common.  And a person isn’t oppressed just as an individual but as a member of an oppressed group— that is, as part of a class or a nation.  And this class or nation is oppressed because they don’t have power.

This means, if we want to end the systemic oppression of trans people, we will need to change the current relationship of power that is responsible for our oppression.  That is, in order to achieve freedom for transgender people, there must be a transformation of society that qualitatively changes the dialectical relationship of the oppressor to the oppressed.  So, if we believe all trans people should be freed from transphobia, we need to look at the source of power– the system– that makes it possible for one group to oppress another group.

There’s only one system in this country that has the power to oppress trans people: capitalism.  And capitalism is a global system of power.  This means that the systemic oppression of trans people gets its power from the same imperialist attack on Africa and the Americas that gave birth to capitalism.

Without Europe’s ongoing attack on Black people, Indigenous peoples, and the majority of people on the planet (as well as the planet itself), capitalism would not exist.  Certainly the United States would not exist.  White people would not exist on this continent.  And so we can begin to make the connection between (1) the systemic oppression of transgender people and (2) the white supremacist colonization of Africans, Indigenous peoples, and (in general terms) people of color (the majority of the world’s population).

Transphobia and white supremacy are connected to each other, and to capitalist oppression, on account of the power they have to oppress, which comes entirely from the system of capitalism.

While it’s true that racial prejudice, patriarchy and economic exploitation existed before capitalism, it’s just as true that the ability of societies outside Europe to evolve beyond these inhumane ideologies has been impeded by the grip that capitalism has had on the world for the past six hundred years.  We don’t know how these individual societies outside Europe, and Europe as well, would have evolved without the murder and theft of Africa, but we do know that human progress (or the lack thereof) has been locked into place by a global system of power– controlled by Europe– that is simultaneously racist, transphobic, sexist, homophobic, ableist and economically exploitative.  The progress of humanity has been blocked by capitalism.

If we only focus on the United States (which shouldn’t be too difficult for us to do), perhaps we will be able to recognize how the progress of Indigenous peoples, Africans/Black people, Latinxs and (generally speaking) people of color on this continent (and Hawaii and Puerto Rico) has been locked into a dialectical relationship with a system of power– capitalism– that was created by white people for white people.  Of course, the material benefits of capitalist exploitation aren’t distributed on an equal basis, and never have been.  The few at the top in the ruling class enjoy most of the benefits of capitalist oppression.  The rest of these benefits are distributed based on a political, economic and social hierarchy that is simultaneously racist, transphobic, sexist and every other intersecting form of oppression, all connected to a single source of power, capitalism.

By looking at the systemic oppression of trans people in this historical and material context, perhaps we can begin to recognize that trans liberation is not possible unless it is centered in organized struggles to overturn the capitalist system.

To me, trans liberation means the revolutionary struggle to replace a system that is anti-Black, anti-trans, and anti-women (all at the same time) with a system based on egalitarian principles.  Trans liberation means socialist revolution.  Yet this socialist revolution, in order to be truly materialist and historical in its objectives, must recognize the primary dialectic of Europe to Africa in this struggle for power.  To me, trans liberation must not only be anti-capitalist, it must be global in its scope, and it must center the struggle for power by Africans everywhere in the world.  In other words, trans liberation (to me) means Pan-African socialist revolution.

The system of power that is responsible for the oppression of trans people began with Europe’s attack on Africa more than five hundred years ago.  The Portuguese built Elmina Castle in Ghana in 1482– a house of horrors through which thousands of enslaved Africans would pass– and, of course, this was a decade prior to Christopher Columbus’s terrorist attack on the “New World” (an event that is still a national holiday in this European settler colony: the United States).  And the wealth and power of the United States, as well as Canada, Europe, Australia, Israel (Occupied Palestine), and South Africa (sometimes referred to as “Occupied Azania”), is based on the colonial and neocolonial domination of the African continent and Africans everywhere in the world.  Without our parasitic dependence on the land, labor, resources and lives of Africans, the wealth and power of the white world could not exist.  The same system of power that oppresses trans people only has power on account of its oppression of Africa and Africans.

To me, trans liberation means that the aim of every revolutionary should be “the total liberation and unification of Africa under an All-African socialist government” (Kwame Nkrumah).

When Africa is free from the colonial and neocolonial grip of the white world, capitalism will no longer have the power to oppress anyone.  Societies can then be reorganized around the principles of true justice, freedom, equality and peace, and can progress according to the unique but collective identities of each community.

Following the Pan-African socialist revolution, the political identity of “whiteness” will become irrelevant because the ideology of white supremacy (inseparable from whiteness itself) will be cut off from its source of power, which is capitalism.  So the primary objective of socialist revolutionaries should be to cut off capitalism’s source of power, which is the genocidal, colonial and neocolonial oppression of Africa, Africans and Black people everywhere.

Capitalism cannot exist– and, currently, white people cannot exist– without the parasitic relationship it has with Africa.  Europe’s theft of African resources, labor, land and lives is the material basis for the oppression of trans people in the United States and everywhere else in the world.  Once Africa has power, the white-controlled political, economic, and social structure of the U.S. will be thrown into chaos.

For 240 years, or more, the “law and order” of the U.S. has meant chaos for the world.  The stability of the capitalist system– which is responsible for white supremacy, patriarchy and economic exploitation– is the instability of world.  The white bourgeoisie and the white petit bourgeoisie in the U.S. (of which many white transgender people are a part), and even the white proletariat within the oppressor class/nation of Europe, enjoy the progress of our particular class only through the racist ruling class’s violent subjugation of the true global proletariat: people of color.  To me, the only way there can be liberation for all trans people is for this dialectic of Europe-whites/Africa-people of color to be entirely disrupted.  Then society can be reorganized to protect the most marginalized identities, communities such as working class queer and trans people of color (Q/TPOC), who are currently under the greatest attack by a capitalist system built and maintained by racist, sexist, transphobic, and homophobic violence.

In fact, in order for there to be any revolution at all, we must be totally invested in the lives, work, art, and organizing of Black trans women who are currently erased by a system that is anti-Black, anti-trans and anti-women.  We won’t wait until after Africa is free to protect and uplift trans people of color.  To me, trans liberation means this should be our first move: to stop the murders and all other systemic forms of violence directed at Black trans women.  If we don’t move now to protect Black trans women from capitalist violence, they won’t be around for the revolution– and how can it be called socialism, or trans liberation?   It wouldn’t be possible.  But this violence is global, just as anti-Blackness is global.  And capitalism– the source of this violence– only has the power to oppress on a global scale through its colonial and neocolonial domination of Africa.

To quote Kwame Nkrumah at length (from the Working Platform of the African People’s Socialist Party*):

“[T]he total liberation and unification of Africa under an All-African socialist government must be the primary objective of all Black revolutionaries throughout the world. It is an objective which, when achieved, will bring about the fulfillment of the aspirations of Africans and people of African descent everywhere. It will at the same time advance the triumph of the international socialist revolution, and the onward progress toward communism, under which every society is ordered on the principle of — from each according to his (her) [their] ability, to each according to his (her) [their] needs.”

* Note: Many of the ideas in this essay are based on the political theory “African Internationalism,” as taught by Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party.  European colonizers (whites) can pay reparations that support the programs of the African People’s Socialist Party by going to  Reparations can also be paid to the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC).

What Does Trans Liberation Mean to Me?

I’m With Her– Angela Davis (not Hillary)


Kirsten West Savali, an editor at the website The Root, has written a few excellent articles on Angela Davis’s semi-endorsement (or, in fact, non-endorsement) of Hillary Clinton:

Angela Davis: ‘I Am Not So Narcissistic to Say I Cannot Bring Myself to Vote for Hillary Clinton’

A Few Words on the Blatant Disrespect Being Shown To Angela Davis

Angela Davis: ‘Democratic Party Is Just as Linked to the Corporate Capitalist Structure as the Republican Party’

In her last article, Kirsten West Savali quotes Angela Davis at length:

“Now as a person who has been involved in radical politics all of my life, I have never seen the electoral arena as the place where I can express my radical revolutionary politics.

“And it’s kind of hard to imagine being revolutionary within the existing electoral system. Am I right?

“So I think we need a new party. I think we have to start imagining and building a political party that is not linked to the capitalist corporations; a party that is feminist; a party that is anti-racist; a party that is opposed to the occupation of Palestine by the state of Israel; a party that will represent the true needs of the people not only of this country but the people of the world.”

To me, Angela Davis seems to be showing a grasp of material reality at a level that white socialists sometimes do not.  It’s a little surprising– although, not entirely– that so many whites on the left suddenly believe that a vote for Jill Stein, or any other socialist candidate, would change conditions in any significant way.  After all, every one of the candidates is running to be President, or boss, of this system– capitalism.  The enemy.  If they won (and they won’t), they would be forced to work within the rules of the game determined by the bourgeois ruling class, as a lone or solitary figure in a sea of reactionaries.  I’m not sure how this can be considered a revolutionary view.

At the same time, we might consider the potential outcomes if Jill Stein were to receive a larger percentage of the vote than expected.  While it’s clear that the next President will be either Trump or Hillary, or at least a Republican or a Democrat (in the event one of them is replaced), a strong performance by Jill Stein at the polls might signal the beginning of a mass revolutionary movement– the building of a “new party,” like the one Angela Davis has described.

Capitalism will not be overthrown by socialist revolutionaries in November.  That’s safe to say.  Since revolution is a process, and a long process at that, a vote for Jill Stein might be considered just one necessary step in that process.  That seems realistic enough.

But the danger of voting for Jill Stein– from a revolutionary or materialist perspective– is that it will simply be the expression of individualistic, philosophical idealism: we are voting for Stein because it makes us feel good about ourselves.  Our vote is precious.  We love her views on the issues.  We’re sick of greedy, imperialistic Democrats like Hillary.  “I’m so mad I’m voting third party!”  That mindset seems to be taking us in a reactionary direction.  As socialist revolutionaries, it seems that our vote for Jill Stein would need to be strategic.

To me, Angela Davis is the person who is being strategic, as well as realistic and materialist, in her analysis.  And why not?  Unlike a white woman who is a physician with a bachelor of arts degree and a doctoral degree in medicine from Harvard University, Angela Davis is a Black woman who grew up in Birmingham (or “Bombingham”) and who was once hunted down by the entire capitalist system of the U.S.  Angela Davis was falsely charged and imprisoned, and was targeted for execution by a future President, Ronald Reagan.  Angela Davis worked with the Black Panther Party and has spent decades organizing, writing, speaking, teaching, and leading.  Her words come from that experience.

These biographical facts aren’t meant to diminish Jill Stein’s efforts, and, after all, Angela Davis also has a doctoral degree (from Humboldt University of Berlin).  Jill Stein has done more than most to advance the revolution.  I’ve done almost nothing in comparison.

But who we are matters when it comes to what we say.  I believe the revolution won’t be led by a white woman (trans or cis).  As white people, we can say the most revolutionary things, and have wonderful ideas, but still be part of the bourgeoisie or the petit bourgeoisie.  We are still shaped by the system.  Our ideas still come from where we are positioned within the overall hierarchy of capitalist society.

No matter what we say– and how good it sounds– the main question is: how does our political identity benefit from the current system of power?  Or are we, in fact, harmed and oppressed by this system?

A socialist revolution led by middle-class or wealthy white people is not possible in materialist terms (it’s even debatable whether impoverished whites can lead such a revolution).  We must experience firsthand systemic oppression before we can know what it means to move in a revolutionary direction against the source of our oppression.  As long as we are gaining the most from a white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist system, and living off the stolen resources, labor, and land of colonized communities (Black people, indigenous peoples, people of color– the majority of humanity), then our political identity (as opposed to our biological identity) will be inherently reactionary, no matter what ideas are in our heads.

Angela Davis is speaking from her experience as a Black woman, a Black feminist, and a Black revolutionary.  She is teaching us that “the electoral arena” is not where this transformative change will take place.  Angela Davis is encouraging us to “start imagining and building a political party that is not linked to the capitalist corporations; a party that is feminist; a party that is anti-racist; a party that is opposed to the occupation of Palestine by the state of Israel; a party that will represent the true needs of the people not only of this country but the people of the world.”

This imagined new party can be contrasted with the philosophical idealism of “voting third party.”  It seems to me, we don’t need a third party– or a fourth, or a fifth.  We need one party: one-party rule.  A dictatorship of the proletariat.

Kwame Nkrumah, the great Pan-African socialist revolutionary, and the first President of independent Ghana, wrote:

“A people’s parliamentary democracy, with a one-party system, is better able to express and satisfy the common aspirations of a nation as a whole, than a multi-party parliamentary system, which is in fact only a ruse for perpetuating and covering up the inherent struggle between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.”

A political party is the organized expression of class interests.  In the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties express the interests of the bourgeoisie– the capitalists, who are highly organized.

The petit bourgeoisie and the proletariat depend on the rule of the bourgeoisie.  We may influence how we are ruled, but we do not have real power.  In order to gain this power, the masses of oppressed people would have to organize a movement based on the principles of egalitarian rule, in opposition to the oligarchical rule of capitalism.

This one party would become an expression of the interests of the oppressed class.  And as long as the oppressor class had any hope of regaining power, it would seek to further divide and isolate the people of the oppressed class: the workers.  So a dictatorship of the working class is necessary in order to enforce the true majority interests of the proletarian masses.  Any additional parties would be counterproductive– that is, counterrevolutionary.

The emphasis on “voting third party” shows that the capitalist ruling class is still dividing us and isolating us.  Capitalism is compelling us to think in individualistic terms, as if choosing a favorite candidate is like picking out a favorite flavor of ice cream.

But this is not our fault.  Every structure and institution of the bourgeois society is permeated by the ideology of the ruling class, so it’s understandable that our reaction to the current election would be to choose an alternative, a personal favorite– from within the system.  The system is still making the rules.  It has the power to do this.  We’re still just going along by voting for anyone.

However, a vote for Jill Stein may bring us closer to one-party rule, as the global proletariat rises up to overthrow the current system of white supremacist, patriarchal colonial capitalism.  In that case, such a vote would be strategic.

It seems Angela Davis is also being strategic: stop Trump.  That makes sense.  But we may not like what she is saying because we’re so caught up in our own subjective reality of how distasteful it would be to vote for Hillary.  And then we don’t pay attention to the other half (or, actually, the largest part) of what Angela Davis is saying: “we need a new party.”

Additionally, white leftists may be arrogantly disregarding a lifetime of principled organizing by Angela Davis, a Black woman who embodies intersecting oppressed identities and whose ideas are reinforced by her experience as a Black woman in the United States.

Any Tom, Dick or Becky in the so-called white community can say all the right things.  But we will still be white.

Angela Davis– like Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, Fannie Lou Hamer, Marsha P. Johnson,  Amílcar Cabral, Ella Baker, George Jackson, Walter Rodney, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Thomas Sankara, Huey Newton, Steve Biko, Sékou Touré, and Kwame Nkrumah– not only speaks the revolution, but lives the revolution through her identity and experience.

Black Lives Matter.

I’m With Her– Angela Davis (not Hillary)