Cracks in the Gray Concrete: The White Transgender Identity Leveraged Against Whiteness

 

Concrete

One of Karl Marx’s main contributions to social science was his demonstration that societies (because they are part of nature) evolve in much the same way as the rest of nature does– that is, on account of their internal contradictions.

In the natural world, contradictions– between two struggling and opposing forces– hold an object together, allowing it to move and to develop, either transforming it into a new object or causing it to disintegrate.  But how is society similar?  Marx demonstrated that the forces of progress in society are not based on ideas but on the extraction of materials from nature and their use in the production of resources necessary for sustaining life, which, in turn, leads to the development of ideas, culture, and everything else in society.

In other words: the development of society is based on work … and workers.  At the foundation of a society’s growth and development is the contradiction between those who produce life’s necessities (the workers) and those who control the means by which these necessities are produced (the owners).  The latter have power yet they are dependent upon the work of the former in order to gain greater power and to keep the existing structure of society in place.  As the strength of the workers’ productive force increases, through increasing oppression by the owners, the producers become conscious of their power to transform society; and then they move to overthrow the political, economic and social basis of their oppression, and, in the process, they transform the system of power.  This is called revolution: a qualitative change in society, as it leaps forward to the next stage of history.

So, now a question may arise: is there any reason a working class, cisgender, heterosexual white man in today’s society would be less revolutionary than a working class Black or Brown person, particularly if they are transgender or queer or a woman (or all the above)?  My answer is: yes and no.

First the “no” answer: there isn’t any law in the natural or material world which states that a working class person will be more politically conscious on account of their identity, if they are Black, trans, queer, or a woman (or, again, all the above).  In fact, there isn’t any requirement by nature that such a person would possess revolutionary consciousness even on account of their status as a worker.

Revolutionary consciousness isn’t guaranteed by systemic oppression, whether it’s based on strictly economic terms (which are, actually, never just about economics) or it’s based on one’s identity as a woman, a gay person, a “person of color,” a transgender person or some intersection of these identities.

It isn’t an automatic thing that people will become revolutionary, because people are not automatons.  Nearly all of us absorb on a daily basis the ideologies of the ruling class through the institutions that it controls.  We buy into the values, beliefs, and the views of the wealthy class, based on how much money and power we have, and also based on our ability to climb higher up within the existing structure, an ability which we may use no matter who we need to step on during our ascent.  The contradictions of the larger society are present in each class level and, furthermore, in each individual who is part of their class.  The ideological force of the ruling class works upon our many lives, and our internal contradictions, because– if we wish to survive, and gain access to resources– we must go along with its dominant force.  However, some people must continually resist these ideologies in order to survive, because this stronger force is mostly seeking to exploit them, and prey upon their weakened condition, a condition which has come about because the ruling class has stolen their power and is now out to destroy them: they become useless to the system, utterly unnecessary for its purposes of more power and control.

And this is why the answer is also “yes”– a working class, cisgender heterosexual white man may be less revolutionary than a transgender woman of color, although their political analysis is the same, and although their income and “net worth” are fairly close.  This may be true, in fact, even when a Black trans woman, trans Latina, or trans Indigenous woman has more money than the working class cis-het white man (or woman).

Marxist theory demonstrates that societies evolve and move– or what we might call “make progress”– on account of the antagonistic relationship between the ruling class and those whom it rules.  This dialectical struggle, in Marxian terms, is between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  However, since we’re talking about capitalist society, and a global economic system that has existed for over five hundred years (ever since Europe began its invasion of Africa and the Americas), we’re also talking about the political category of “whiteness” and the power of this identity over those who are not identified by capitalism as “white”: African, Indigenous, Latinx, Arab and (generally speaking) “people of color.”  This too is a dialectical struggle, just as patriarchy is a key class factor in the political, economic and social arrangement of capitalism.

So far we have been trying to speak in objective terms.  Objects are held together by their contradictions.  Societies change in much the same way: increasing class antagonisms between the owners of production and the actual producers eventually lead to revolution, or a complete transformation of systems.  However, people aren’t objects.  People are subjects.  They may be objectified by a system of power and its ruling class, yet their humanity itself struggles to remain intact.  Members of objectified classes remain subjects just by surviving and living, as a people, as a community, and as an individual inside their community.  And when a people becomes conscious of their oppression, they do so not as objects that are launched forward as the engines of social change, but as humans who think, feel, hurt, love, hate– and who create an identity.

And this is why cisgender heterosexual white men– and, to some extent, all whites in general, are not forces for revolutionary change.  Revolution requires a subject– a revolutionist.  If you’re European, you’ve already had your revolution; especially if you’re a white settler in the United States: a monarchy was overthrown, and an old system of power was tossed out, and then you seized control of the colonies, not as the colonized and the enslaved, but as the colonizer and the slaveholder.  This was a bourgeois democratic revolution, which meant progress for the white population, but which also came at the expense of Indigenous peoples on their occupied lands, and at the expense of Africans stolen from Africa who have been forced to produce the riches and power of the growing “American” empire across these occupied lands.  This was our revolution.  And this struggle of the ascendant white, bourgeois settler class is still going on.  Because revolutions don’t end when the war is over, or even when the new constitution has been written– this is where revolutions truly begin, and the real work of preserving the existing social structure.

For this reason, working class whites are among the most reactionary people on the planet.  And if they are cisgender, heterosexual, Christian (or atheist/agnostic) “able-bodied” men, their status as a reactionary subject of social changes grows and grows with each layer of identity or political category.

But white people in general– regardless of economic status, sexuality or gender identity– are a reactionary force within nature because we seek to preserve and expand an existing system: this capitalist democracy on occupied land which was created through violence and can only survive through greater violence, not only against kings and “tyrants,” but against potentially revolutionary forces from below.  And the potential forces of revolution in this global economic system are Africans, Indigenous peoples, and Latinxs– the actual producers of white wealth and power.  Without their work, and the resources extracted on their land, capitalism could not exist, and neither could the political identity of white people.

It’s not that a cisgender heterosexual white man can’t be revolutionary; it’s just that it’s typically not in his interest to be a subject of struggle and resistance.  This patriarchal, racist, capitalist system has been created for his benefit, and for the benefit of all whites.  As a result, we might ask: what’s he struggling against anyway?  The cisgender heterosexual white man in the United States is struggling against King George III, and against rebellious Africans and Native peoples who may threaten to overthrow his system, his power: which is capitalism.  Again, this is our revolution: a capitalist democracy, a great leap forward from feudalism and the “Dark Ages” of Europe.  It’s the revolution that created the United States, not the socialist state which may threaten our own wealth and power.  Our subjective struggle, as part of the white identity, is to escape the oppressive forces of an earlier age.  How?  By stretching across a continent, and by extracting the labor, resources and culture of the global proletariat, either through chattel slavery or through wage-slavery, while these productive forces (the working masses whom we oppress) create progress for “America,” or what we call “upward mobility” and “peace and prosperity.”  Why should a cis-het white guy fight against a system created and expanded for his benefit?  Why would whites overall gain a revolutionary consciousness when we are the main beneficiaries of capitalist rule?

And we can take this analysis one step further: as subjects for revolutionary change, a cisgender heterosexual white man can only be who or what he is.  The same is true for any white person: transgender, gay, disabled, a woman.  Even if we support Africans who are struggling for freedom from this system of oppression, a white person (no matter how revolutionary) cannot be the subject of an African struggle.  This seems to be an obvious point.  Yet it’s not so obvious to European or white revolutionaries who believe that– just by learning the right theory, or aligning with oppressed people in the right way– we can join forces with African or Black revolutionaries and be part of their fight.  No, we are simply taking up additional space.  The only people who can liberate Africans are Africans: “We Are Our Own Liberators” (to quote the title of Jalil Muntaqim’s book).

Whites can align with Black Power by paying back some of the wealth we’ve stolen (in the form of reparations and material solidarity).  But our identity as white people dictates– whether we’re conscious of this fact or not– that our interests will be aligned with our own empowerment.  And it’s not even that white socialists will have the wrong theory.  Or the wrong identity which (to some extent) can’t be “wrong.”  We just can’t be the subjects of a struggle against a system of power built for the benefit of our identity: whiteness.  Mostly, cisgender heterosexual white men must get out of the way.  Whites must get out of the way, and it doesn’t matter (very much) how right we are.  Right or wrong, we have more power, as part of the political identity of whiteness, because our elevated status has come at the expense of oppressed identities.

In fact, many individuals in oppressed classes and communities also have the wrong ideas.  Capitalism has taught them to exploit, hurt and even kill people who belong to marginalized identities within their own class or community, so that they can climb over the bodies of their victims on the way toward the enjoyment of more wealth and power (for themselves, not their communities).  And how could such a thing as “African power” or “Indigenous power” teach individuals in oppressed communities these violent ideologies?  European power destroyed their societies, for the benefit of whites– including “liberal” or “progressive” whites who support gays, and trans people, and are “anti-racist.”

The progress of capitalist democracy, with its greater wealth and its increasing recognition of human rights, has created poverty and chaos for the rest of the world.  This is one of the internal contradictions of bourgeois society: as our consciousness of humanity grows, and we begin to recognize the inherent worth of each person in this society (through schools, media, nonprofit organizations, and other institutions controlled by capitalism), the distance between our progressive values and the objective status of whiteness (which is based on colonial genocide) also grows.  Then we rush to join forces with colonized communities in their movements against white supremacy and patriarchy, while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of a racist, sexist, transphobic system of capitalist exploitation.

In effect, anti-racist and revolutionary whites often try to be a self-negating force, yet revolution is about gaining more power because you have less.  Revolution is about struggling to reach our highest potential as a person, through the growing consciousness that self-fulfillment and development can only happen under a system which empowers and encourages the identity of the subject to flower– that is, through mass movement and revolution (positive action for a positive identity).

I spent most of my life– as a transgender woman– self-negating my identity.  I don’t need or want to practice any more self-negation.  Whites who align with Black liberation by (apparently) sacrificing the self out of their wish to contribute to the greater empowerment of Africans and Black people may be more successful in this endeavor if they haven’t struggled just to live as their authentic self: the subject, and the contradictions that hold it together, may have been resolved to the point where the fight for their own success is no longer primary.  It may be easier for such an individual to be a generic white person (if that’s even possible), and just to bury their resolved and apparently solid self beneath a selfless role as an ally or accomplice in the cause of African revolution.  What goes on beneath the surface of this white person is their business, but my business is to find soil that allows my identity to blossom and flower.  Self-negation is not an option when the subject is a transgender woman who never felt she could grow in this poisoned ground of capitalist “America.”

Of course, Africa must be free.  Black people must have power.  And, as the subjects of their own struggle, as their own liberators, Africans and Black people will be free.  And they will be free not just on account of having the correct theory, or even through the correct practice of this theory, but on account of the fact that they are Black, they are African– that is their identity.  Freedom and power are always predicated on the existence of some liberated subject, some identity who has been empowered.  The concept of “freedom” doesn’t exist outside history and nature, and neither does “race” or identity.  A subject conceives the idea of freedom, just like identity conceives everything else, including itself.  So the only question is: who is the subject?  Black people conceive Black liberation, because Black people conceive Blackness.

One might argue that Black people aren’t even “black”– that is, they are not the “race” that has been conceived by this racist, patriarchal global economic system: capitalism.  Prior to Europe’s invasion of Africa more than five hundred years ago, Africans defined the African identity.  European power violently disrupted and qualitatively changed the ability of Africans to define their own identity.  Europe did this by stealing their resources and labor– the basis of the ability to self-define.  So, Africans were objectified by white colonizers as “black”– and were called many other names as well, all but their own.

However, Africans have resisted, survived, and blossomed into their own self-defined identities: Africans became Black, which is absolutely not the same as the white definition of “black.”  Blackness, like the transgender identity, began as a negation of identity, a definition of the subject which was imposed on an entire community by an objectifying outside power.  Blackness is a process of becoming.  Any time a Black person or an African resists, struggles, survives, succeeds, or is destroyed– and any time they express joy, anger, pain, sorrow, or experience anything as a Black person– they are contributing to the identity of Blackness, which belongs solely to Black people.  The good thing about being Black– in a global economic system that is violently anti-Black– is anything you choose to be is Black.

However, even if we support the empowerment of Africans everywhere in the world, whites and “non-Black people of color” (“NBPoC”) will never be Black.  This may seem to be an obvious point, even when we don’t hold the mistaken (and racist) wish to be “black.”  But it doesn’t seem so obvious to the legions of white saviors, white allies, white accomplices and all non-Black people who appropriate “blackness,” and “black” revolutionary consciousness, not realizing that authentic Black identity and empowerment can only come from Black people/Africans.

The correct theory can educate us about objective reality.  Yet it doesn’t change the subject who has been educated.  It doesn’t change their history and their political identity, and how these have been shaped by the capitalist system of power.  As long as capitalism is still allowed to exist, whiteness will exist, as well as white supremacy.  And what is the source of white supremacy, or whiteness (since both are the same thing)?  White people.  Whites can only be white, according to historical and material factors beyond our control.  This is particularly true of white people in the United States.

Revolution is a process, a series of quantitative changes, as the subjects of this struggle move toward a qualitative change to the system of power: and this also makes revolution a process of becoming the very subjects who can wage this struggle.  This is why Black culture and the Black identity– embracing Blackness– are so important to resistance against a racist system– by Black people.  Capitalism not only negates Black power; it negates Black people, and Blackness.  At the same time, capitalism not only creates power and wealth for white people; it creates white people and affirms our identity.  We’re everywhere.

But once the question of identity is resolved or settled, then the racist system, as well as the white people created by this system, can settle on a continent– as settlers.  Due to the superior power of capitalism, white “Americans” believe identity is static, to the point where it becomes irrelevant to the empowered subject: “I’m just a person.  An American.  We’re all the same.”  This static irrelevance of identity is one of the benefits enjoyed by the white settler in the U.S., although their ability to enjoy “generic” personhood may be considerably less if they are transgender or belong to some other marginalized identity within the colonizing population.  The very system that benefits the European (or white) transgender woman also moves to negate them, because their exchange value to capitalism is worth less than the “default” identity of the cisgender white woman or cisgender white man above her.  This creates a contradiction.

Revolutionary consciousness for a white transgender woman may lead to the recognition that her identity is also a process of becoming.  A crack has appeared in the solid grayish white structure of the bourgeois colonial class.  This weakness can be exploited and leveraged against the larger structure of capitalist society.  Such a division can be gradually increased by any member of the colonial class in this society whose own identity runs against the ideological force of the ruling class.

Nothing guarantees that the struggling subject will ever reach this point of consciousness.  But they may be more likely to reach some level of revolutionary consciousness than the colonizer whose identity is in closer alignment with patriarchy.  The unresolved subject who is the transgender woman, and whose identity is in the process of becoming, rather than in some perceived state of being (legitimatized by the State), may choose to leverage this division within the white identity against itself, and struggle to resolve their identity on terms outside the existing system of power.

There’s no rule or law of nature that says enslaved Africans– once robbed of their culture and identity– were required to become Black at any point, as opposed to the “black” identity that a white supremacist system forced on them.  In terms of an objectifying force of colonial oppression, being defined as “black” was not a choice.  By definition, this identity was imposed on Africans by the white capitalist power.  However, Blackness (also, by definition) became a choice of the subject who is resisting a racist power which attempts to lock them into a static, negative role for all time.  Historical and material realities have compelled each oppressed people either to give up their identity (and their very existence), or to resist as subjects of their own struggle and thereby create their own self-defined identity– in essence, to engage in the revolutionary process of becoming their fullest selves.

European transgender women– who are part of the oppressor white nation or class– have the responsibility to resolve the contradictions of our identity (that is, to become our fullest selves) by moving against the existing system of power, even as we simultaneously benefit from it.  That is, if we value human rights, European trans women must exploit those cracks that have opened up in the grayish white edifice of capitalist society as it attempts to negate our identity.

Of course, this struggle is a choice for European or white transgender women.  And it seems most European transgender women will choose to side with capitalism and its dehumanizing force, especially if this means enjoying greater wealth and power for ourselves.  Even so, our negated identities have put our humanity at odds with capitalism in such a way that, if we choose, we could engage in the process of becoming subjects for revolution by using our identity to move against the system (just as it is moving against us) as we aim to resolve our own being or personhood outside its existing class structure.

Can a cisgender heterosexual white man engage in this same process of revolutionary struggle?  Sure.  But as a solid being whose identity has been resolved within the capitalist class structure, what exactly is he resisting?  He may have the correct theory and he may confirm this theory with correct practice.  Yet people are not empty vessels simply moving from Point “A” to Point “B.”  And if our struggle consists mainly of going around and showing solidarity with this identity and that, then we might ask: what is inside our own identity which needs to be resolved– through revolution– and is also in the process of becoming?  We can’t be solidly attached to that solid gray concrete block and just show up in solidarity with various identities, participating in their struggles to resolve the contradictions of society on their own terms, as revolutionary subjects.  Or maybe we can.  But, whatever their theory or their practice may be, it seems such an individual would just be taking up additional space.  Identity matters because Black people– who have chosen to become Black on their own terms, rather than just being “black” on the terms of their objectifying oppressor– are the only people who can be Black, and therefore be free and Black.

Marxist theory may lead us to believe– at least if we are white– that there are generic workers and generic capitalists, and it is only the class antagonisms between these two soulless forms that can determine revolutionary change in society.  Yet capitalism has never involved generic participants on either side of the dialectic: it has always been about the oppression of Africans by Europeans, women by men, transgender women by cisgender people, as well as the exploitation of impoverished workers by the wealthy, exploiting owners.  This is true of Marxist theory even if Marx didn’t say it himself.

The conclusions of Marx himself are less important than the method of argumentation by which he reached these fluid, ever-changing conclusions: the dialectical and historical method, with material or objective reality as its basis, applied to each identity and circumstance and defined according to their subjective goals.  If we look at Marxist theory through this lens, perhaps we can locate the fissures in the current society, the cracks in the gray concrete block of capitalism, and then choose to leverage our contradictory identities against this larger structure, in order to bring the whole thing down.

And if we are transgender, our identity should allow us to recognize these cracks in the grayish concrete: but how to organize our identity, and how to use this mass force as a tool for qualitative change … that is an another question, and one that is far more difficult for the white trans woman to answer.

 

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Cracks in the Gray Concrete: The White Transgender Identity Leveraged Against Whiteness

At Long Last Love … or Power?

SinatraEssay

A person’s humanity shouldn’t be a puzzle that we try to solve.  Who you are, how you feel, and what you experience is your own business … to share or not to share, according to your wishes.

This is especially true when we consider the condition of a person who has been subjected to systemic oppression.  The subject’s story is their own.   Why?  Because the alternative to this approach would be something like stealing a person’s wallet and then checking in on them every five minutes to see how they feel about it.  Does it hurt?  Are you angry?  Instead of figuring out how to give the wallet back, we go about trying to solve the puzzle of what it’s like to be a person who has been robbed.  Or perhaps we’re only worried that the subject’s anger will be directed at us, and so we’re merely monitoring the situation.  Is their rage growing?  Has it reached a boiling point yet?  Next, we explore our own feelings in reaction to the perceived situation (because they may not be as angry as we believe, or their rage may be greater than we could ever imagine).  But we continue to ask ourselves: Do I feel angry too?   Do I feel fragile?  Do I feel threatened?  Guilty?  Nothing at all?  Nothing … then perhaps nothing is wrong.  Thus we go back and forth, checking in on how they feel, checking in on how we feel about their feelings, and mostly ignoring the larger, objective context of the situation that encircles both of us, and all of our subjective responses to it.

Feelings are not a problem to be solved.  Anything related to a person’s identity is not a problem.  It’s not like fixing a car.

For example, “race” is not a problem, as far as the way it relates to the individual who is part of that “race.”  How they feel, what they experience, even how they identify is their own business.  The same is true for a person’s gender identity, sexuality and religious beliefs, as well as a person’s disabilities, or what they have experienced performing sex work, or how it feels to be economically exploited (and, of course, these last two frequently go together).

While their feelings are of the utmost importance, there’s no need for us to check in on what it’s like to be an oppressed Black person, especially if they are a Black woman, a Black transgender woman, a queer transgender working class Black woman.  As the subject of her own narrative, the oppressed person here shouldn’t be required to explain her story, identity, feelings and every detail of her life … to anyone, and, particularly, not to her objectifier: the white person who belongs to the oppressor class in this colonial situation.  Because this is the context which encircles these two: two subjects, two people, but one who has been objectified and one who is the (typically) unconscious objectifier.  This is the context of colonialism.

A dialectical relationship exists between the oppressed and the oppressor, and while our feelings are of the greatest importance, the struggle between the two is about objective class antagonisms, not just feelings or personal truths.  The former (that is: the oppressed) may be fully conscious of their experience of oppression (or they may not be) but the latter is typically unaware– politically unconscious— of the violence they create, and from which they benefit.  This, in fact, makes them even more dangerous, and more likely to commit violent mistakes.

The first error committed by the oppressor happens when they approach this colonial relationship as a problem that will only be solved if they can examine, untangle, and figure out exactly what the other-ed person is going through: how it feels to be oppressed, violated, robbed … as if understanding them will make the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

The oppressor can never understand the oppressed.  The one with more power– power which has come at the expense of the one who has been deprived of power– cannot know how it feels to experience powerlessness.  It doesn’t matter how many times they tell us (under the threat that, if they refuse, they may “alienate potential allies”), the oppressor will never “see eye to eye” with one who has been objectified for their benefit.

Each person in this colonial relationship is the subject of their own experience, with valid feelings, and humanity that is equal and self-evident.  Yet the oppressor and the oppressed exist on two separate planes within the colonized territory, as the weight of white supremacy, patriarchy, and class exploitation pushes down on the subject below and the subject above enjoys the material benefits of this objectifying class dynamic.

It is not a static situation: as this circle of the colonized territory undergoes numerous quantitative changes, the classes (and those within each layer of class) similarly react to these shifts (these class antagonisms), and, therefore, all individuals who are subjected to this force experience many changes day after day.

So the question is: how could we possibly ever measure and record each subject’s feelings– painful or joyful– as they go through countless quantitative changes in reaction to the antagonistic elements of a violent, class-based world economic system?   What would even be the point?  A teacup falls off a shelf, crashing to the floor, after the shift of massive tectonic plates.  How did the object feel as it shattered on the ground, following yet another crisis of global capitalism?  “Was it an earthquake, or simply a shock?”  “Or is what I feel the real McCoy?”

The problem of race (and racism) is not the problem of the victim whose humanity has been objectified by this racist system– the system of capitalism that invented race and racism for the purpose of colonial control.  The problem for the victim of racist violence is that they have been robbed.  And they shouldn’t be required to tell the thief how it feels to be robbed.  The people who benefit from this theft shouldn’t ask the person who has been violated to describe– in “heartbreaking,” “tragic” detail– what it feels like to be subjected to racism.  That’s their own business.  Our business– if we belong to the colonizing class– is to solve the problem of white supremacist, capitalist violence, not at the level of feelings (as important as these are), but at the level of mathematics: addition and subtraction.  The colonizer has added to our objective power by subtracting objects from the colonized.

White supremacy is a myth (obviously).  But our mistake is that we attempt to solve the problem of white supremacy on its own mythological terms, by checking in on how the person subjected to racism feels about their situation, and then how we feel in reaction to their response.  I imagine they feel awful.  But if the point is to end racist violence, and not simply to bathe in an ocean of subjective reality (is the water too cold?  too warm?  or just right?) then the one who benefits from white supremacy ought to admit, at the outset, that it’s more enjoyable to have power than not to have it.

It’s far easier for the objectifier if we only talk about our racist feelings, or their absence, and then about the objectified person’s experience of pain and trauma, or its absence (whew, what a relief!  I thought they were mad at me).

The same is true of misogyny, transphobia and all forms of systemic oppression.  It’s not very difficult to argue that “#TransRightsAreHumanRights.”  We can say that we oppose transphobia, misogyny and racism, and also say (because we are good people) that we support equality, freedom, peace and justice.  But what happens when white people find out that Africans/Black people (cis and trans) want power?  And want control of their own resources and lives?  And what if this means that we need to end up with less, because we have been stealing their wealth, land, resources, culture and lives?  All the sudden we say, “Well, no, that sounds like too much.  That’s a different story.  More violence won’t solve anything” … except to make “our” neighborhood “safer” tonight when we call the cops.

White supremacy is based on the mythology that Europeans are superior to Africans and everyone else in the world outside Europe.  But the solution to ending white supremacy isn’t to be found in unraveling the complicated mysteries of its mythology– it is simply a question of mathematics.  One wallet (or world) stolen: thus, Europeans have added one, and Africans have none.

Do you want to end racism?  Solve “the race problem”?  Then give the wallet (or the world) back.  When that happens, everyone will be on an equal plane, because a socialist system will enforce these egalitarian principles– or whichever system that the people of each decolonized territory chooses for itself.  A decolonized globe means the wealth and power of Europeans (whites) would no longer be based on subtracting wealth and power from Africa, as well as the Americas, Asia, Australia, and the islands of the world: that is, all of the territories outside Europe (including its settler colony, the United States).

The struggle to end systemic violence isn’t just a constant search to plumb the mysterious depths of each oppressed subject’s feelings, taking their temperature, and recording their daily reactions to this violent system in order to learn how tragically awful it must be to live as an African, an African woman, a Black transgender woman.

“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you”: that won’t work.  That’s also violent.  Because (for goodness’ sake!) oppressed people are sometimes our children, our partners, our parents, “some of our best friends.”  Simply getting to know the oppressed subject better won’t end oppression.  Intimate knowledge can actually lead to more opportunities for the oppressor to inflict pain.

But the oppression of person by person doesn’t exist at the individual level, teacup next to teacup on the shelf.  The violence of capitalist oppression occurs through massive shifts at the class level, as part of a dynamic (not static) colonial situation which, inside its all-encompassing system of rewards and punishments, elevates the white self while threatening greater violence against each colonized subject– each person, because people are not teacups, or objects, even as capitalism treats them as if they are.

If we wish to end systemic violence, and white supremacy, the colonizer shouldn’t try to figure out “race” and racism by treating the identity of the racialized person as if they are the problem.  The problem is colonial capitalism, which has objectified their identity.  If we merely want to learn how this violent objectification feels, believing that being more neighborly with our victims will improve the situation, and learning about them will make us more empathetic, we may be committing extra violence, as we further objectify them: examining, probing, poking around, with a lovingly concerned look on the colonizer’s face.  That’s not love, that’s violence.  And it’s violent for the colonizer to expect the colonizer to love us: that’s just the same as using a person, breaking them, discarding them, then asking someone we’ve treated like a teacup (or an object) to love us.

But if we are truly motivated by feelings of love to put an end to the oppression and exploitation which has caused so much pain (or any feelings the oppressed may be experiencing), then we must overturn this system, and return these stolen resources.  We must support the global struggle of all colonized peoples to gain– not acceptance and understanding from us but– power for themselves.  Perhaps at that point we will be able to say, this is the real McCoy: at long last power.  And maybe love too.

At Long Last Love … or Power?

Obama: “Trans People Can Be Mercenaries for U.S. Imperialism Too”; Trump: “No You Can’t! Death to Imperialism!”

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Unidentified white trans mercenary for imperialism

The current occupant of the White House– that orange-hued, cisgender spokesdude for U.S. imperialism– is telling trans people that we can’t serve in the military, which is just about the same thing as saying we can’t be serial killers.  “The U.S. Empire is ‘fraying and collapsing‘”– according to the U.S. empire itself, as reported by Telesur– so if you think you can keep winning these wars (“smart” and “dumb”) without hiring trans people to be mercenaries who kill and are killed on behalf of a racist, transphobic ruling class, then knock yourself out.  My reaction: hope you lose soon, ameriKKKa.

However, it’s even a colonial privilege for whites (transgender or cisgender) to say we oppose the “United Snakes” and its murderous armed forces.  Because, the fact is, the U.S. military (like your local police department) is a major employer of colonized Black and Brown people (trans, cis and gender nonconforming).

All white people enjoy the benefits of empire (more or less– usually less), but Black and Brown people might need the wages of the U.S. military just to survive.  We know capitalism isn’t going to be creating jobs for their benefit any time in the foreseeable future.  So a paycheck from an institution that is responsible for robbing and murdering people who look like them (at “home” and “abroad”) can be a necessary means of survival.  It’s a luxury for a white person to say “[forget] the military, and [forget] ameriKKKa.”  Why?  Because where does our paycheck come from?  A private university?  (lol).  It’s all the same murderous system.  Whatever our apparent source of wealth and income might be (even if it’s a welfare check), in reality, white people gain everything from the colonial subjugation of Africans and Indigenous peoples (trans, cis and gender nonconforming).

So this becomes one of those “contradictions of capitalism.”  Today there is massive outrage that the white (not orange) Tweeter-in-Chief won’t let transgender people serve in the U.S. military.  To me, he might as well have said that the Nazis are no longer taking applications from the very people they are moving against.  If an enemy says “Drop dead,” my response is: “Right back at you.”

But it’s probably a good thing that so many people are mad right now at that congealed form of white mediocrity who occupies the Oval Office twisting his own oval orifice to ooze pig-like sounds that vaguely approximate language.  His dignified predecessor was smart enough to recognize that this failing empire needed to resolve its contradictions– at least “incrementally”– if it wanted to live to see another day (or to bomb another country), so trans mercenaries were welcomed (somewhat) into the death squads of capitalism.

Just like in the example of the Affordable Care Act, the President who actually did his job was trying to save capitalism for our ungrateful white asses.  But that grotesque thing behind the desk today says, “Oh no, you can’t.  Let’s kick transgender people out of the military and kick people off their healthcare plan, even if it was so profitable to the insurance companies.”

It seems nobody wants revolution more than the Republicans.  They are practically forcing people– even white colonizers– to rebel.  The contradictions are widening, the lie that is “America” is being exposed, and nobody is doing more to increase these class antagonisms of bourgeois society than the racist, sexist, transphobic, and greedy reactionaries on the right-wing of the white oppressor nation or class.

Today, there is one less reason to love white nationalism– meaning, the United States, this racist settler colony of Europe– and to give our loyalty to its flag, its military, and its veterans (its “great heroes”) who fly to Washington to cast a “Yes” vote for death.  There’s no need to love its ugly uniforms (like the Mets and Padres sometimes wear), its White Nationalist Anthem, and its graveyards and monuments honoring “the ultimate sacrifice”: which is, to die in the name of imperialist exploitation.

But if you insist on loving this country, or you need that paycheck from the U.S. military, then it’s the same thing either way, for those who love or hate the monster.  AmeriKKKa hates you in any case.  Actually, it’s not even about whether capitalism loves or hates you.  It just can’t exist without oppressing the world.  And if some of this violence against the world gets on trans people in the military– “even” white trans people– “so be it,” says capitalism.  “We’re looking for a few good (as in, dead) cis men … or women.  Got the right genitalia?  Join the Marines.”  But it’s like Bertrand Russell said: “War does not determine who is right–  only who is left.”  Your cisgender penis or vagina won’t save you when capitalism destroys your ass too.  You may have a freeway called “Veterans Memorial Highway” paved over your decaying cis bones after this heartless empire buries you, but that’s about all. 

The machine will just keep lurching forward, exchanging human suffering for more profits.  Capitalism can’t do anything else but what it was designed to do: exploit, rob and kill people.  Every institution and every job that capitalism creates has this sole purpose– exchanging life for profit– and the means by which we gain resources to live are also the cause of suffering for our neighbor: human against human, community against community, while the ruling class enjoys more power and wealth.  Except today– like it or not– capitalism just moved to lay off some of the security guards of its stolen property.

 

Obama: “Trans People Can Be Mercenaries for U.S. Imperialism Too”; Trump: “No You Can’t! Death to Imperialism!”

Content Versus Container: The White Subject Struggling Against Objective Whiteness

EssayThing

A person’s ability to hold two contradictory views at the same time, without compromising over principle, is an indicator of their revolutionary consciousness.  Of course, this is not the only indicator of revolutionary consciousness; nor is it the most powerful.  The most powerful revolutionary thinking occurs at the mass level, for it is only at this level, when it is organized, that societies and systems of power can be transformed through struggle.  However, this aforementioned ability is still revolutionary because it indicates that a person is striving to be objective.  They aren’t attempting to be objective about their interests or their values, because such an aim would be both impossible and undesirable.  A person struggles to be objective so that they can understand the world as it is, and not merely as a reflection of their own desires.  This goal allows them to take control of phenomena in the natural world and then make these move in the direction of their own choosing, according to who they are (their identity), and what they want and what they believe.

When we argue that objective reality exists, this isn’t the same thing as arguing that people are objective about reality.  What we’re saying is that reality exists independent of human will.  There are objective laws of the natural universe which still apply with or without our permission.  Our desires, interests and values, as well as our ideas, are not the basis of these natural forces.

We can contrast this materialist view of reality with one that judges a thing to be true based entirely on how this thing makes the subject feel.  According to this view, the subject believes that they are at the center of the universe– in a manner of speaking– because the validity of everything is measured against how they feel about it.  Is it good or evil?  Does it make me happy or sad?  The subject is constantly judging phenomena, and struggling to gain control over the situation, based solely on reactions to certain characteristics of these phenomena as they pass through the filter of their identity, or the medium of their desires and values.  And then they form their ideas based on these reactions.  This is called subjective idealism, and it is an indicator of reactionary thinking– or political unconsciousness.  It cannot lead to a mass movement which will transform societies and systems, because, according to this subjective idealist view, each individual is isolated in a universe of their own creation.  The individual lives and dies inside their own head, and, therefore, they can’t get together as an organized political force: the objects to be controlled and transformed do not exist outside the sphere of their own existence.

This subjective idealist view of the universe leads to dogmatism, which is the antithesis of revolutionary analysis.  Revolutionary analysis recognizes that matter is constantly going through change: objects are not static, but fluid, and they are held together by their internal contradictions.  So truth is not a singular viewpoint– it is the object itself, which is constantly evolving and moving.  Likewise, there may be infinite viewpoints of this object, and each can be valid, because they are all observations of the same object from different angles– and even the observer is going through changes.  So if an individual claims to be objective and to have all the answers, they are probably engaging in dogmatic behavior: the thing that they claim to know has already changed, and they have changed too, and (in any case) their view of this thing was always just directed on one path– from “eye” to object– toward its truth.

Kwame Nkrumah said, “Any compromise over principle is the same as an abandonment of it.”  So if an individual or an organization– or a system of power like capitalism– tells us we can only be objective if we compromise our principles, and then they try to confuse us about being “open-minded” and “progressive,” we can recognize (if we are revolutionaries) the falsehood of their argument right away.

Capitalism lies all the time about the difference between objective reality and subjective reality (and it lies about everything else, as Kwame Ture said).   Capitalism deliberately confuses these two types of reality, because it is in the interests of the racist and patriarchal ruling class to do so (interests which, of course, are not objective).

Capitalism says: you are free to do whatever you want to do, and especially to buy whatever you want to buy, and to pursue your individualistic dreams of a better life.  Then capitalism says: the only way you can achieve these dreams, and buy more stuff, is if you compromise over principles.  You have to play by capitalism’s rules: the exploitation of people by people, using violence against the majority so the few can enjoy the fruits of their labor.  But what if you refuse to go along?  Then you’re closed-minded.  You don’t believe in freedom and democracy.  You’re judgmental.  You just want tyranny.  And you must support one of those oppressive, authoritarian regimes and “dictators” like Fidel Castro or Sékou Touré, in countries where people are forced to drive old cars.

Capitalism is a backward system, and so– it (un)naturally follows– that this system will promote backwards thinking.  Capitalism will tell you that objective reality is subjective and subjective reality is objective– well, no; actually, it will just tell you to buy a new car, while shouting at you in a TV commercial, right after shouting at you to buy a new TV.  And that’s the whole point: buy more and more stuff, no matter who you have to step on to accumulate it (particularly if they are Black or Brown).  Go after your own individual desires, because this means greater profits for the ruling class.

But what do we know about the objective reality of human existence?  For everybody?  We know that we all die.  And, contrary to what those annoying beer commercials may tell us, we will get old– if we don’t die first.  Gloomy thought.  But this gloom doesn’t make it any less true.  We can avoid facing this reality of death or old age within the natural process, and that’s also natural.  But capitalism tells us (especially if we’re a middle-class or wealthy white person in the United States): “Your life matters more than the life of the African worker in the mine, or the life of the African/Black person in the prison, or the life of the Indigenous person on the reservation.”  Of course, capitalism doesn’t tell us these subjective truths in such words, but instead cloaks them (like a white sheet) in what it says is the objective reality that there are universal human rights which must be protected (through bombs and continually larger defense budgets), and that it’s absolutely necessary for “law and order” to be enforced (through police departments, prisons and the U.S. Constitution).  Yet these truths are just reflections of the interests, values, and ideologies of the capitalist ruling class, who wish to fool people into thinking they are the objective necessities for life itself: no, they are only necessary for elevating white lives, so that we can enjoy a higher “standard of living,” at the expense of oppressed and exploited African and Indigenous lives.  As Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party, has stated: capitalist “law is the opinion of the ruling class.”  So what this white supremacist system of capitalism has convinced us is an objective necessity is, in reality, a value judgment of the colonial class, and is merely an expression of our will to power.

However, if our principle is that no person exists to be exploited for the benefit of someone else– just as no nation exists to be oppressed for the development of an oppressor nation– then our judgment of the situation will be: capitalism is the enemy of humanity.  And there can be “no compromise over principle” when it comes to this judgment.  Capitalism says: “Well, sometimes it’s okay to exploit and oppress people; especially, if you are the one who benefits.  Don’t be a purist.  There’s good and bad in every system of power.  Suppose there’s a violent revolution, and it doesn’t turn out the way we planned?  All that fighting for nothing.  So don’t be dogmatic or hardheaded about it.”

Yet this dogmatism about reality doesn’t come at the level of our principles or our system of belief.  We are only being hardheaded if we refuse to recognize objective reality, and, instead, judge the truth of every observation through the filter of our own desires.

Our arguments about what we want and what we believe, and who we are, and where we wish to go, aren’t the problem (at least to ourselves).  When it comes to how we feel in our heart– “it just feels right”– these truths are never up for debate … unless we have had a change of heart and now want to revise our entire value system.  Revolutionary dialogue– or the dialectical process of argumentation by which thesis and antithesis are transformed into a synthesis– is a debate at the level of objective truths: facts.  And the goal isn’t merely to change minds, or systems of belief– it’s to change a system of power.  This means, we already know where we want to go– toward a society based on egalitarian principles– but the debate is: how do we get there?  And, in this dialectical process, we are not just debating about the ideas in our head, as we react to each opposing argument by saying we agree or disagree.

Maybe we do have a significant disagreement about something the other person has said, but the question is: is it about principles and ideas or is it about facts?  If the disagreement is about principles, then the person has done us a favor by identifying themselves as an opponent of who we are and what we believe.  If the disagreement is about ideas, then we can proceed to argue, but– as materialists– we will be examining the objective basis for this disagreement.  We aren’t just reacting to what they said by immediately moving against it.

And this is where the ability to hold two contradictory views at the same time– without compromising over principle– can indicate revolutionary consciousness.  Our values are still important (to us anyway).  Our feelings are valid.  But can we move beyond behavior which simply reacts to an opposing point of view, if this comes from someone who shares our values (at least in this specific area), and who recognizes the validity of not only our feelings but our entire being?

If we can’t do this, capitalism will win (again).  Because capitalism wants to boil everything down to a question of an individual’s desires and values, and then it empowers some individuals to fulfill their desires, and impose their values, based on a tiered class system of overlapping political categories.  So, if an individual is a white, heterosexual, Christian, “able-bodied, ” cisgender man, the freedom or ability they enjoy to express their personal values, and experience self-fulfillment, is based on the empowerment of their entire class.  Even if they don’t believe that their feelings and values– and their very lives– matter more than the person in the oppressed class, capitalism will still recognize the validity of who they are, and promote their interests, at the expense of those whom the ideology of the ruling class is moving against (because it has the power to do so).

In this context– the context of colonialism– it’s not the thought that matters so much as the thinker, or what the receptacle of these ideas is, and where this container for holding subjective reality is situated in the objectively stratified class system.  We may believe it’s the content of our brain (within our body) that shapes the world, or at least our own little cozy corner of it (our dream home in the suburbs); but the body itself is protected or violated, and uplifted or oppressed, based on class factors that are beyond our control, and are independent of our will.  Whiteness is going to be elevated, whether we like it or not (and if we say we don’t, we’re still saying it as a white person whose thoughts, beliefs and wishes always have greater value under capitalism than the thoughts, beliefs, wishes and the very lives of Black people– so take that with a grain of salt too).

This objective reality of class even applies if the subject is a white socialist revolutionary.  Whiteness carries its own weight.  Whiteness is weight.  As the outward container for an individual– holding the content of their ideas, values, dreams– whiteness will be protected and elevated, and this will continue to be an objective reality (a fact) while a white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist system still has power and while the United States is allowed to exist.

If we are white, and we wish to change this system of power, it seems necessary that we show the ability to hold contradictory views, even (or especially) when these views go against our own class category.  And one contradiction we immediately confront is: a white person is always just a white person, no matter what ideas we hold in our head (an objective reality); at the same time, the white political identity is not all that we have to be, and there is more to our being than this class category (whiteness).  Although, if our identity is entirely aligned with whiteness, and particularly “American” whiteness, we will react to any threat to this essence of our being as an attack on the subject, on me.  On the other hand, if we recognize that, while we are objectively white, there is the possibility of gaining a new, transformed identity and finding our humanity through some radically different course, then we– the subject– will no longer be loyal to whiteness itself.  Then we can attack whiteness even if it means moving against the objective truth of who we are.  But until we have tackled this contradiction– which is: right now, we’re white (we have no choice), but we don’t have to be (if we overthrow racist capitalism)– it seems that our ideas will always begin and end at the boundaries of an identity (a body) isolated by its category of class, and elevated through the colonial exploitation of Black and Brown bodies.

We may not be able to transcend whiteness today, but we don’t have to give in to the capitalist lie that whatever you say and want as a white individual is universally valid– mainly because whiteness alone is valid to capitalism.  The point is to struggle against the contradictions of the objective white identity by leveraging those areas of the subject– who we are, what we want, what we believe– that run counter to the power of a system (capitalism) that elevates this white body containing our beliefs, wishes and very being.  Thus transformed, we can then transform society, even as its objective transformation is necessary to change us.  Holding contradictory views, without compromising over principles, may be one effective way to achieve this goal.

Content Versus Container: The White Subject Struggling Against Objective Whiteness

Why Don’t More (White) People Want Socialism?

MauriceBishop

If socialism is so wonderful, why don’t more people want it?

Short answer: whiteness.  The longer answer (because that’s my style) goes a little something like this:

According to Marxism, socialist revolution was supposed to happen first in an advanced industrial nation of the West.  This isn’t just because American, English and French people think they (or we) are the center of the universe (although we do).  And, of course, Karl Marx– a German– was going to focus on Europe.  But Marx and Engels believed that socialist revolution was supposed to happen in England, because its political economy had already undergone such a quantitative advance in the socialization of labor.  The class antagonisms that exist between the exploited workers and the industrialists had already reached the point of such tension in England that something had to give.  Soon the English proletariat would rise up, seize the means of production from the bourgeoisie, and then the workers of the world (or, at least, of Europe) would unite to lose their chains: a global revolution.  But that didn’t happen, not yet.  Does this indicate that Karl Marx was wrong?  Not necessarily.

Because along came Lenin in Russia, except, he was living in Germany.  Germany was behind England in terms of its process of industrialization, but its conditions for revolution seemed to be ripening and growing ready to be made to fall (which is a stolen line from Che Guevara).  Russia was decades, if not centuries, behind Western Europe.  It was feudalistic, backward– far from the stage of bourgeois democracy which is supposed to precede socialist revolution.  And, speaking of Che Guevara, Cuba was another territory that hadn’t been significantly industrialized, according to Western standards: it was a puppet state with many peasants whose brutal dictator was controlled by a great empire just to the north of this small island (great in its capacity for genocidal violence, not civilization).  But that was a bit later.

In 1917, a century ago (my skills in math are remarkable), Lenin was still in Germany when factory workers in Russia had the nerve to skip that whole “capitalist democracy stage” and went ahead and suddenly rebelled against the czar and started forming soviets.  So Lenin jumped on a train and rushed to where all the action was.  C.L.R. James gave some amazing lectures on these events.  I’m basically stealing these observations from him.  At any rate, the workers in Russia obviously admired Lenin a great deal– he had dedicated his life to revolutionary struggle and socialist theory– so they thought he would tell them to do something different.  But he said, “No, keep doing what you’re doing.”  (Not his exact words, of course– they were in Russian, and brilliant).  And then Russia became the first socialist state (it was never communist, by the way, because actual communism has never existed in this world).

We could look next at socialist revolutions in China, Vietnam and (finally) get around to Africa.  But one thing is clear: Germany hasn’t had that revolution.  England most certainly hasn’t had it.  And the United States, the most “advanced” and industrialized capitalist nation (or empire) in the history of the world, seems to be a couple thousand years away from socialism.  So what happened?  Again: whiteness.

What has emerged over the course of the past century, since 1917, is a global dialectic that is divided in two different ways, both of which contradict each other.  The first unity of opposites is the Marxian concept of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat– the capitalists and the working class– and these are the class antagonisms that exist in almost every nation of the Western world, and also in many areas of the so-called Third World.  This is the struggle of the oppressed masses against the oppressive few at the top: the 99% versus the 1%.

However, cookie-wise (or globe-wise), there is another unity of opposites– or dialectic– holding together the world economy today, while also threatening to make it crumble.  But this dialectical struggle isn’t just one hundred years old: it started at least five centuries ago when Europe invaded Africa and the Americas and eventually the entire globe, an imperialist attack which led to the creation of a world economic system: capitalism.  And within this global economic system, the class contradictions of capitalist society are not simply the wealthy industrialists versus the workers, or the rich versus the poor.  It is the white world parasitically existing at the expense of its host: Africa, as well as the rest of the world outside Europe.  So Frantz Fanon wrote: “Europe is literally the creation of the Third World.”

Frantz Fanon was an African socialist revolutionary and philosopher who was born in Martinique, a colony of France.  He contributed to the revolution in Algeria, a colony of France.  C.L.R. James was an African socialist revolutionary and scholar from Trinidad– the same as Claudia Jones and Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael).  Another great African scholar and revolutionary who contributed to socialist struggle was Walter Rodney, from Guyana.

On the African continent, one of the most important contributors to socialist struggle was Amílcar Cabral, who organized revolutionary forces in the small, impoverished colonies of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde that had been terrorized for decades by the vicious Portuguese.  Portugal gave this same racist, capitalist treatment to the African people of Mozambique and Angola.  But these “poor little countries” in Africa are hardly worth mentioning; that is, if we believe in that white supremacist notion that only scale matters: large good, small bad (or at least too insignificant to notice).  Our focus is forever on white nations, or just one, the United States.  But if a nation in Scandinavia, or another European nation like Germany, is doing something that sounds “socialist,” we’re all ears.

Whites think we have no use for Africa and her impoverished former colonies in Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Congo, and Burkina Faso.  We can be forgiven if we can’t find these African countries on a map, because capitalism wants to erase them from our racist education in the bourgeois schools that it controls.  What is less forgivable, so it seems, is the belief that whites in the U.S. have no use for these “poor little countries” in Africa.  This belief is not only inhumane, it is also just not true; because, the reality is, these countries in Africa are small and poor, while the U.S. is large and rich, precisely due to the fact that we are using them“Europe [including its settler colony the United States] is literally the creation of the Third World.”  By which we mean: Africa.  That’s the dialectic.

Furthermore, some of the most important revolutionary scholars and contributors to socialist struggle have come from these territories of Africa, leaders such as Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso, Patrice Lumumba in Congo, Ahmed Sékou Touré in Guinea-Conakry and (perhaps the greatest scholar and revolutionary leader of all time) Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.

Scale does not determine importance.  And this is especially the case when we talk about justice and equality.  These principles are the antithesis of the notion that only those who are the largest, the loudest, the most powerful deserve our attention.  This is why Maurice Bishop, an important socialist revolutionary on the small Caribbean island of Grenada, wrote that “we are not in anybody’s backyard” (namely the backyard of the U.S. under the Reagan regime).  To quote Maurice Bishop at length:

“We are a small country, we are a poor country, with a population of largely African descent, we are a part of the exploited Third World, and we definitely have a stake in seeking the creation of a new international economic order which would assist in ensuring economic justice for the oppressed and exploited peoples of the world, and in ensuring that the resources of the sea are used for the benefit of all the people of the world and not for a tiny minority of profiteers. Our aim, therefore, is to join all organizations and work with all countries that will help us to become more independent and more in control of our own resources. In this regard, nobody who understands present day realities can seriously challenge our right to develop working relations with a variety of countries. Grenada is a sovereign and independent country, although a tiny speck on the world map, and we expect all countries to strictly respect our independence just as we will respect theirs. No country has the right to tell us what to do or how to run our country or who to be friendly with. We certainly would not attempt to tell any other country what to do. We are not in anybody’s backyard, and we are definitely not for sale. Anybody who thinks they can bully us or threaten us clearly has no understanding, idea, or clue as to what material we are made of. They clearly have no idea of the tremendous struggles which our people have fought over the past seven years. Though small and poor, we are proud and determined. We would sooner give up our lives before we compromise, sell out, or betray our sovereignty, our independence, our integrity, our manhood [sic], and the right of our people to national self-determination and social progress.  Long live the revolution!”

If socialism is so great, why does a “small” and “poor” country like Grenada want it, while people in a large and rich country like the United States do not want it?  It is precisely because we are large, wealthy– and white.

The reason why colonizers in the United States (which is to say, white people) don’t want socialism is that, whenever this wealthy capitalist empire experiences yet another inevitable crisis, it can simply rob the people of Africa, Latin America and Asia, as well as “people of color” within its illegitimate borders, and [snaps fingers] just like that the white “working class” once again has jobs, has “upward mobility,” “Morning in America,” “peace and prosperity,” and has a quaint fixer-upper home in Northeast Portland next to a Whole Foods and a Starbucks, across from another Starbucks.  In other words, as long as the white population (with all its classes: wealthy, middle-class, working class, poor) can sit on top of the oppressed classes of the world, we won’t need socialist revolution, and (therefore) we don’t want socialism.  Well, except the brand of socialism marketed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders– we yearn and burn to have a piece of that pie.

But that pie (which is to say, the world economy) has been divided in two contradictory ways: one is the usual division between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots.  The other is the divide between Europe and Africa, the colonizer and the colonized.

As long as the capitalists of the Western world can keep robbing the people of Africa, Latin America, and Asia (as well as various islands from Puerto Rico to Hawaii to the Philippines), the contradictions of capitalist empire will be held in check: and the white working class will continue to get our check.  We may not get the raise we wanted, and our healthcare benefits may be slashed, and it may be harder to go to college (or pay off our debt), and it may appear that those “Golden Years” of retirement will have to come after age eighty, but we’re still getting paid, regularly– because Africa is getting robbed, regularly.  And the more restless or anxious the white population in the U.S. grows– stewing in the white supremacist juices of our subjective idealism (or patriotism)– the more the U.S. (and Canada, Australia, Western Europe and Israel) needs to rob and murder the brown people of the world– to keep us happy.  Or at least not so unhappy that we begin to think socialism is a good idea.

Malcolm X recognized this reality more than fifty years ago when he talked about the Bandung Conference that had been held in the mid-1950s.  In 1963  Malcolm X said:

“In Bandung back in, I think, 1954, was the first unity meeting in centuries of Black people. And once you study what happened at the Bandung conference, and the results of the Bandung conference, it actually serves as a model for the same procedure you and I can use to get our problems solved. At Bandung all the nations came together … from Africa and Asia. Some of them were Buddhists, some of them were Muslims, some of them were Christians, some were Confucianists, some were atheists. Despite their religious differences, they came together. Some were communists, some were socialists, some were capitalists– despite their economic and political differences, they came together. All of them were Black, brown, red or yellow

“The number-one thing that was not allowed to attend the Bandung conference was the white man. He couldn’t come. Once they excluded the white man, they found that they could get together. Once they kept him out, everybody else fell right in and fell in line. This is the thing that you and I have to understand. And these people who came together didn’t have nuclear weapons, they didn’t have jet planes, they didn’t have all of the heavy armaments that the white man has. But they had unity.

“They were able to submerge their little petty differences and agree on one thing: That though one African came from Kenya and was being colonized by the Englishman, and another African came from the Congo and was being colonized by the Belgian, and another African came from Guinea and was being colonized by the French, and another came from Angola and was being colonized by the Portuguese– when they came to the Bandung conference, they looked at the Portuguese, and at the Frenchman, and at the Englishman, and at the Dutchman, and learned or realized the one thing that all of them had in common–they were all from Europe, they were all Europeans, blond, blue-eyed and white skins.

“They began to recognize who their enemy was. The same man that was colonizing our people in Kenya was colonizing our people in the Congo. The same one in the Congo was colonizing our people in South Africa, and in Southern Rhodesia, and in Burma, and in India, and in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan. They realized all over the world where the dark man was being oppressed, he was being oppressed by the white man; where the dark man was being exploited, he was being exploited by the white man. So they got together on this basis–that they had a common enemy.

“And when you and I here in Detroit and in Michigan and in America who have been awakened today look around us, we too realize here in America we all have a common enemy, whether he’s in Georgia or Michigan, whether he’s in California or New York. He’s the same man– blue eyes and blond hair and pale skin– the same man.”

Later on in 1964, as a Sunni Muslim, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz’s views of the white man changed somewhat (although not as much as the attempted liberal whitewashing of his legacy might want us to believe).  But Malcolm X not only made the religious pilgrimage to Makkah as a Sunni Muslim.  He also met with President Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana: the greatest Pan-African socialist revolutionary and philosopher of all time.  And even prior to that meeting, back when “the chickens [of imperialism?] had come home to roost,” Malcolm X had begun to recognize that whiteness is equated with capitalism.  He would say, right before the capitalist system of the United States murdered him: “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”

So Malcolm X, as an African in America, had a view of this racist, imperialist and capitalist situation which allowed him to recognize how the global dialectic was divided: by whiteness and by capitalist oppression.  And Africans in America are situated (trapped?) today in such a manner that a wealthy, privileged white colonial population remains a massive weight upon them, supported by their (still unpaid) labor, resources, culture and humanity, as well as the stolen land, labor and resources of Indigenous peoples, and (beyond the illegitimate borders of the United States) the land, labor and resources of the world.

If white colonizers don’t want a better healthcare system (even just some reforms to the existing system of bloodsucking insurance companies), then colonized African people are forced to go along with our racist attitude that anything associated with a Black President (or anything that might benefit Black people) can’t be good.  If white colonizers don’t want funding for Planned Parenthood, then African women can just … die.  If white colonizers want (yet another) mediocre rapist and white supremacist as our President, then Trump is our man; and Black people and “people of color” are stuck with all the negative consequences: deportations, an outlandish wall, travel bans on Muslims, cuts to programs, and, well, the same war on Africa that President Obama was waging, just on a greater scale (so, at last, “worthy” of criticism from liberals).

In this oppressive colonial situation, the main contributors to socialist struggle in the United States have been African/Black revolutionaries, going back to Claudia Jones, and the African Blood Brotherhood, and moving forward to W.E.B. Du Bois (particularly after he married Shirley Graham Du Bois) and then the Black Power movement in 1966 and the Marxist-Leninist organization founded the same year in Oakland, California by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale: the Black Panther Party.

Now, it seems to me, that the unique positioning of African people in the U.S. would lead white progressives to pay more attention to the contributions of Black revolutionaries and scholars in this settler colony, if not the contributions of Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon and Africans around the world.  Yet we keep getting caught up again in that whole problem of scale.

Compared to a bourgeois “socialist” campaign led by a U.S. Senator, a couple of young Africans in Oakland, California forming an organization for self-defense called the Black Panther Party may not seem like much– at least, to the white population that made the creation of such an organization necessary.

Compared to a bourgeois “feminist” campaign led by an ex-Senator and ex-Secretary of State– a white woman in the ruling class responsible for the murders of countless Libyans, Haitians, and at least one activist in Honduras, Berta Cáceres– it would appear that the Combahee River Collective of Black feminists, gathering forty years ago to write their (not so) famous Statement, is a fairly insignificant movement, not worth (white) attention.  Of course, any white woman (trans or cis, queer or straight) who identifies as “intersectional” in their Twitter bio (next to “I”m With Her”) probably owes far more to the Combahee River Collective than to the Democratic Party.

But the aim of capitalism is to mislead us and to make us think that socialism is “pretty good, I guess” … just not the kind of “repressive” socialism in Cuba (“Wasn’t Castro a dictator?!” ), and just not the kind that requires a violent overthrow of systems and regimes– you know, like the way the United States came into existence.  Maybe we want the kind of socialism that Sweden has (Sweden doesn’t have socialism) but our main focus is on “taking America back from” … well, the party that just told their base that they were taking America back.  Back and forth.  “Things go in cycles.”  “Things will get better.”  And so, for now, let’s go to Starbucks.  Which one?

Capitalism wants us to believe that our individual happiness lies (“lies” being the operative word) in changes to our mindset, and by rearranging our mental furniture as we hoard the materials of the world through the brutal exploitation of Africans: brown people.

Capitalism wants us to believe that success in our personal lives is simply an individual choice– just be yourself, work harder, dream harder, read my self-help book (that is, buy my self-help book).  Anything but radical changes to the overall system.  Because white people can literally afford to buy into this subjective idealist belief, and claim to support nonviolence while still benefiting from imperialist violence against Africa and the globe.  We don’t want socialism because– materially and historically– white people are situated in a racist system of colonialism and capitalist exploitation which allows us to avoid this objective reality, and pursue instead some lazy-hazy ideal that is sold to us on our widescreen high-definition TVs.  Except now we need a TV with a wider screen, because– according to this racist bourgeois view– scale is everything.  Bigger is better.  Wider is better.  Whiter is better.

If you want a new TV, you go to Walmart (provided you’re wealthy enough to buy it).  If you want the rewards of the Hereafter … well, “for you is your religion and for me is my religion.”  But if you want to find treatment for your broken arm, you go to a doctor who has the medical knowledge to treat it (again, if you can afford to, while we’re struggling to survive under this inhumane system of capitalism).  And if you want to put an end to systemic oppression, and replace capitalism with a system based on humane and egalitarian principles– which is socialism— then you need the scientific theories of dialectical and historical materialism, as demonstrated (not invented) by Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin.

Africans in America have been situated in such a manner– both materially and historically– that they are far more likely to recognize the necessity for scientific socialism and revolutionary struggle than white people are.  One thing Africans and people of color don’t want– because nobody in history has ever wanted it– is to be oppressed.  And that’s probably why it’s far more likely that Africans in America, and in Africa, and everywhere in the world, along with all colonized people, would want socialism, while white people are voting for Trump (or Clinton or Sanders).

Socialism is recognized by oppressed people as one realistic way to end their oppression.  Simple as that.  White people don’t want socialism because, for the most part, we aren’t oppressed.  Socialism is a way to get white people off the backs of oppressed people.  It’s a way to get power.  And the oppressed people of the globe recognize that, once we get Europe and white people off our backs, and have power, we don’t want the people who look like us to continue oppressing us the same as the colonizers did.  So socialism is a system that can prevent that.  Of course, this system will not work all that effectively while there is still neocolonialism.  And while there is Western imperialism, there will be neocolonialism.  So the oppressed people of the globe recognize: we need to get rid of the whole world economic system.  We need a global revolution.

White people don’t think in these terms.  We say, “I want a better job– just for me.”  “I want a bigger house– just for me (and my family, because my [cisgender] kids are mine too).”  “If I can have a long and happy retirement, then let the bombs fall on Somalia.  Go ahead, deport a few more ‘illegal aliens,’ if it helps me.”

For whites, it’s all about the individual, or personal property, because that’s how we are taught in the capitalist institutions of the United States.  And socialist revolution means that you might have to give up some of those individual rights that allow you to express your unique personality, and explore your infinite appetites, fears and dreams– at the expense of an African worker in a mine, a field, a factory, or a prison.  So let the multinational giant corporation G4S gather up the brown people of the globe and erase them– out of sight, out of mind, the same as in our gentrified neighborhood– because in the United States, if something hasn’t happened to you, or me, then it hasn’t happened at all (or at least it doesn’t matter).

Socialism sounds pretty good, as long as we– the parasitic, colonizing white population of the United States– don’t need to give up anything for it, and don’t need to struggle or organize, and, instead, can simply sit back and wait until the next presidential election.

 

Why Don’t More (White) People Want Socialism?

Going Beyond Just Innocence: Supporting the Victory of Oppressed People in the War Waged Against Them by U.S. Imperialism

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Whenever Europeans express our support for political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Sundiata Acoli, Imam Jamil Al-Amin and Jalil Muntaqim, as well as Assata Shakur (who lives in exile in Cuba, with a price placed on her head by the United States government), it seems crucial that we base our support not merely on the fact that they are innocent, but that they are prisoners in a war against Africans/Black people and Indigenous peoples that Western imperialism began over five hundred years ago.

It is, in fact, yet another expression of belief in white supremacy if, in our support for political prisoners– or, rather, prisoners of war who have been captured by a genocidal colonial power– and in our organized efforts to free them, we require that they be innocent, according to the terms of this violent system’s courts and entire legal structure.  The problem isn’t simply that their rights have been violated, or that there were “serious issues” in the trial process, which we can then dig up and expose.  If such digging and exposing leads to their freedom (at least from prison or exile), that’s great.  For this is also a strategy that can be used to shine a light on the contradictions within the colonial power’s system of “law and order.”

Yet it seems important to remember, at the same time, that the U.S. Constitution– as well as the entire criminal “justice” system built on the U.S. Constitution– is the very opposite of true justice: its legislation, courts, juries, prisons, parole officers, and even (or especially) its law schools are all part of the same violent thrust of colonial injustice: the whole thing is illegitimate.

And the scope of this injustice is far larger than civil rights and fair trials.  The core issue is that amerika is at war against African people.  This system of colonial violence and control, or capitalism, is the key problem, and is the main enemy of oppressed people all around the globe.  And so, if we support political prisoners, and we support humanity (rather than profits), it seems we would oppose the very existence of this inhumane, oppressive empire: the United States of America.

Likewise, it is one thing for the European (or white) progressive to oppose war, claiming that we support nonviolence, while materially benefiting from violence against Africa and the world.  And it’s quite another thing to say we support the defeat of a violent system and state, and its supporters.

Even if we are too young to have taken part in the various connected struggles of the 1960s, we may be content to say (retroactively) that we oppose the war in Vietnam.  That is, we oppose the United States government’s involvement in that war, as well as the endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else on the globe.  However, do we support the victory of the Vietnamese people over the imperialist forces of the West?  Is it enough to say (inactively) that we want “America” to stay out of these “dumb wars,” or do we want the victims of amerikan imperialism to win?  That is an entirely different story.

And yet, that is the story of the various struggles around the globe during the 1960s, including the so-called Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Once we place the Civil Rights Movement in the historical context of colonialism, neocolonialism and imperialism, and we decenter “America” and whiteness, then a much larger picture of revolutionary resistance emerges.

But this widened perspective of history requires that we discard the idealistic and optimistic belief that “America is good.”  And by the way, why is “America good”?  Because it must be good.  After all, our identity is attached to it.  Without “America,” we’re nothing.  So we assume that “America” must be the good guy in all those “smart wars”– the “Revolutionary War,” the Civil War, the two World Wars, the Cold War, the “War on Terror.”

White progressives may be opposed to the genocide waged against Indigenous peoples, and the enslavement of Africans, and yet still be comforted by the mythical belief that “America” is marching toward some good ideal, based on the principles of the U.S. Constitution, and on liberal reforms to the legal system, such as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s, as well as the New Deal and the Great Society.  We feel comfortable praising FDR and JFK, and RFK, even LBJ, alongside MLK and (maybe) Malcolm X– the good guys of history.  Never mind your chicken soup, this alphabet soup of charismatic leadership by cisgender men (most of them white) is good for the soul of the white progressive.

However, if we set aside our subjective idealism, and the white supremacist belief that “America” is (if not great) exceptionally good, and we focus instead on the chickens coming home to roost– in Malcolm X’s (in)famous words– now we can actually begin to understand the material basis for the things we claim to believe.

But there is one major drawback to this investigation of history, this process by which we widen the scope of our understanding beyond the United States, beyond whiteness, and beyond our bourgeois values: it’s very difficult, and we could also be factually wrong.  And that’s just embarrassing.  But the objective approach to history is very hard to carry out when we are stuck at our day job, or we are stuck in traffic, or we’re just too tired at the end of the day to do anything.  And capitalism knows this.  It’s far easier to say: “America good.  Everybody else bad (or at least not as good).”  And then we can turn to the coping mechanisms of capitalism (that is, if we can afford them), rather than the study of history and conditions in the world today that are connected by history.

Even so, if we can study history and begin to discover the root causes of systemic oppression, and inequality, violence and injustice, then we can have a stronger basis for our beliefs in the values that contradict these negative forces, and, finally, begin to move against the ideological thrust of the reactionaries as part of an organized struggle.

Of course, we then confront another problem (that is, if we are white and “American”): our entire existence on this continent comes at the expense of Africa and all oppressed peoples.  That is a sad fact that could be more than we can handle.  Nevertheless, our growing consciousness of this reality– pessimistic as it sounds– will (hopefully) lead to positive action.

At the outset, it may be helpful to examine history on a very broad scale, rather than getting bogged down by this detail or that.  The point isn’t to demonstrate how smart we are, because any education we are blessed with is only the result of mass struggle, and particularly the blood of Africans and Indigenous peoples whose labor, resources, land, humanity, and knowledge or experience of revolutionary resistance, have taught white people what it means to engage in struggle as educated human beings.  Whites are empowered to enjoy any level of revolutionary consciousness we’ve arrived at only on account of African resistance to colonialism.  And resistance to colonialism is work.

This is one of the first things we can learn as European colonizers in the United States, and it is a lesson that is especially important if we consider ourselves to be “working class” or part of the “99%” who “Feel the Bern.”  The Black liberation struggle is the labor movement on this continent (or in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America).  As Kwame Ture taught, The first labor strike in this country was a slave revolt– that is a labor strike!”

Kwame Ture and Charles V. Hamilton wrote in their 1967 book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation: “Yesterday, Africans burned agricultural plantations in slave revolts; today they burn industrial cities.”  It’s one thing to “Feel the Bern” as part of the bourgeois electoral process, while voting for a white U.S. Senator from Vermont.  But is the European left on this continent prepared to support the labor movement of the workers whose exploited and (still unpaid) labor built all the wealth and power that we enjoy (whether we’re rich, poor, or somewhere in between)?  That’s the major problem for the entire white settler class to confront: the problem of colonial violence waged against the working class of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and the world, by which we mean the masses outside Europe (not us).

So, obviously, we’re talking about a working class movement on a global scale— the widest scale imaginable (rather than the whitest).  But this shouldn’t be too difficult to grasp, because we often talk about “World War I” and “World War II.”  The Black revolutionary Claudia Jones (born in Trinidad, like Kwame Ture) called World War II “the Second Imperialist War.”  Claudia Jones was a member of the Communist Party USA when, right before the entry of the United States into the Second Imperialist War, she wrote:

” … it is a war that is imperialist in nature, which means both England and Germany are out to get more territory, out to gain more influence in international affairs, are out to have a showdown as to who can exploit and enslave more peoples, small nations as well.”

Claudia Jones said:

“Only through organization, education and struggle against reaction, against war-profits, against reaction’s drive on civil liberties, under the guise of war emergencies, can this new threat to the ultimate freedom of the colonial peoples be met. Only the abolition of imperialism, of the whole system of the war makers, will guarantee peace and security for the peoples.”

She argued:

“That the New Deal has become a war-deal, is an ever-conscious growing fact on the minds of everybody. …

“The demagogic slogan of ‘national unity’ means that Roosevelt has been promoted to full leadership of the rulers of America and they are nationally united against the people, to make more profits, by starvation, by clamping down on the civil rights of the people, on the basis of war. … The President has never once raised his voice in support of the Anti-Lynching Bill.”

These arguments by a Black woman, a Communist organizer, Claudia Jones (who also became a political prisoner– or prisoner of war– and was deported by the United States in 1955) should clearly demonstrate to white leftists that the struggles of the 1960s were far greater than a fight for legal inclusion into a class structure based on imperialism and capitalist exploitation, or the right of the working class to join forces with “the whole system of the war makers.”

By 1967 (a year after Kwame Ture famously proclaimed the need for Black Power), the masses of African people in the United States were joining forces with a global revolution, a struggle by the workers of the world in Cuba, Vietnam, and in the many occupied territories of Africa which were still under European colonial and neocolonial rule: Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, Congo, and (in essence) the entire African continent.

White leftists tend to connect “the Civil Rights era” of the 1960s to the white-centered youth movement in the United States, and the white-centered gay rights movement, the anti-war movement, the white-centered feminist movement, the Beatles, and “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”  Our idealistic view emphasizes a sort of nonviolent rebellion by “the good guys” leading to more recognition of individual rights and more ability to express our unique personality.  In fact, this byproduct of revolutionary struggle in the 1960s has been a continuing benefit, particularly for whites (as pointed out by Kwame Ture).  Today, cisgender men can enjoy wearing long hair without discrimination, and the U.S. population in general experiences a sense of freedom from conventions and stifling rules.  We have discarded traditions and values that we believe are no longer useful to the expression of individual personality.

Sadly, this subjective idealism which encourages each individual in the U.S. to “just be yourself” also creates a boundary– a high concrete wall– in our consciousness of the self in relation to society.  If the only “unique” and “authentic” expression of the personality is a kind of endless exploration of the individual, going deeper and deeper into the singular and isolated self, we may simply be splashing around in the shallowness of an identity whose material basis is riches and power stolen from our neighbor (particularly if they are African, and they live across town, or across an ocean).  This uniqueness of self-expression enjoyed by the European colonizer may simply be freedom from the consciousness of our negative actions, a ticket to a fantasy world built on the labor of working class people who struggle under our colonial weight, then die, in the real world.

And one of the destinations within this fantasy world of the colonizer is white support for “innocent” political prisoners (if we ever notice them at all).  After all, our support for them (and their innocence) can make us feel good about our own (innocent?) selves: thus, our isolated personality is further indulged and augmented.  As long as we can enjoy this enhanced expression of individual personality, we will tolerate the larger forces of colonial violence and exploitation which have led to the unjust incarceration of political prisoners.  Our support, in this colonial context, is merely evidence that we have not been touched by the colonizer’s violence, not much.  We are the colonizer.

Yet, suppose we could align ourselves with a national personality, an expression of identity that goes beyond the idealized, individualistic “good progressive” liberal or socialist in the United States?  Then we wouldn’t oppose the war in Vietnam just because we believe all violence is “created equal” (as in, bad).  We would actively support the victory of the Vietnamese people and the defeat of the United States and the West, whose imperialist power is based on the violent subjugation of Vietnam and the entire “Third World” (including “people of color” in this country).

We wouldn’t simply view the 1960s as a pleasant potpourri of activism and youth culture, but an escalation in the global war against Africans and all colonized peoples– an inevitable growth in the volatile contradictions of capitalist society.  The struggles of Africans in America during the 1960s would be connected to a long history of war against Africa by Europe, a war that has been simultaneously waged against Indigenous peoples, Asia and the rest of the world.

According to this nationalist and internationalist view of history, World War II would become– in the words of Claudia Jones– the Second Imperialist War.  Because, as “FDR” and the ruling class were drafting young men to fight in a war for greater control of the world’s resources, claiming that “we” were preserving “freedom and democracy,” the United States was lynching African people on its own (stolen) soil.  And the “President never once raised his voice” to support anti-lynching legislation.  In fact, FDR’s Social Security Act of 1935, as part of the New Deal (which would become, in Claudia Jones’ words, “a war-deal”) purposely excluded most African workers in the South.

White progressives– that is, white liberals, and even white socialists– need these “good guys of American history” to prop up our own material advantage today and to create an image of “progress” in our collective mind which (paradoxically) then confirms our individual goodness.  It tells us: “You are enough, on your own, because a handful of selected heroes preserved that individualistic way of life.”

There are very few (if any) white individuals in the history of this settler colony who deserve our praise, at least as far as their “political activism” is concerned.  Once we broaden the scope of struggle in our view, moving beyond the white nationalism of the United States, creating a different framework for our nationalism, and connecting this framework to international struggles, then we can recognize how necessary it is to discard these “American heroes”– from the “Founding Fathers” (all of them, and the “mothers” too) to the Clintons, and Sanders, and Warrens.

Even if we temporarily move our focus beyond this “American exceptionalism” (that is, white supremacy) which frames “the Civil Rights Era” as a sort of “All Lives Matter” movement toward more goodness and decency, we can still enjoy the benefit of understanding why this movement took place at that particular point in history.  Otherwise, we are stuck in the elitist and distorted bourgeois view that people who have been murdered, enslaved, beaten, raped, sterilized, deported and denied access to resources just suddenly woke up one morning and decided to march on Washington.

Nobody in history– ever– has wished to be oppressed.  So they can only be oppressed through extreme violence from a system of power, and by its threats of additional violence (which is the same thing).  So, why did oppressed Africans rise up, organize or rebel– burning cities as they had once burned plantations– at that specific point of history, during the 1960s?

At the beginning of the Second Imperialist War, England and Germany were “out to have a showdown as to who [could] exploit and enslave more peoples.”  But, again, why?  The United States, a settler colony of Europe, had carved out an empire on Indigenous lands (as part of that strange ideological concoction of “the Monroe Doctrine” and “Manifest Destiny”).  So Europe was forced to keep up with the Joneses (not Claudia, of course, but Jefferson, Lincoln and the Dow Jones on Wall Street). 

By the late 1800s, capitalism, as an international system of exploitation, was creaking and gasping under the great strain of its contradictions.  So Europe attempted to stabilize this crisis of imperialism in its “Scramble for Africa” at the Berlin Conference in 1884 and 1885– carving up Africa in much the same way as the U.S. has carved up Indigenous land, except dividing it among competing white powers, rather than one (Lincoln had violently “preserved the Union”).  But the U.S. joined the race for control of the Pacific and Asia, believing then (as now) that whoever has power over this region and its resources has power over the world.  Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were slaughtered by the United States.  Yet once again, global capitalism became destabilized– and the Great War (“The War to End All Wars”) broke out.

After the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, England and France divided the territories of the conquered Ottoman Empire, leading to the eventual creation of the racist settler colony called “Israel,” and also leading to the endlessly profitable war that is the “War on Terror.”  Next, the Germans were thoroughly humiliated and their colonial territories taken away.  They would have their revenge (of sorts) when Hitler and the Nazis rose to power, as the ruling class of Wall Street turned its back on Jews in Europe (preoccupied as it was by carrying out the lynching of Africans in America).

While “the storm clouds of war gathered on the horizon,” the U.S. and Europe were being crushed under the weight of the Great Depression, an economic crisis which became so oppressive that, in 1932, President Hoover had ordered colonial forces (the police and military) to open fire on war veterans encamped in Washington who (as “the Bonus Army”) were protesting these horrible conditions.  But overnight (specifically the morning of December 7, 1941), the U.S. was able to “enjoy” full employment– a workforce entirely mobilized for the “war effort.”  White-controlled labor unions promised to back the war effort, and also to turn over any Communists in their ranks (never mind that socialist Russia was supposedly an ally of the U.S.).

By 1945, Europe had been reduced to a heap of smoking, gray rubble, while the United States had inherited a global empire that it had no intention of administering through old style-colonialism– and thus began the era of neocolonialism.  Although, if we wish to be accurate (because something always comes before the apparent beginning) the meaning of neocolonialism could be best summed up by the words of that liberal “good guy” and triliteral “hero” FDR, who said of the (in)famously brutal dictator in Nicaragua: “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” 

So, by the 1950s, the United States (with its BFFs England and France at its side) was becoming more and more willing to grant “flag independence” to the former colonies of Europe (remember: “America” was now calling the shots, in NATO, the UN, in its section of Berlin, on its airfield in the UK).  “Flag independence” meant that the people of the former colonies could hold “fair and free elections” for politicians who looked liked them, but also looked to the U.S. and the UK for business deals that would continue their oppression under a new name.  France fought to hold on to Algeria, the Portuguese fought to hold on to its colonies in Africa (from Guinea-Bissau to Angola), and the British waged a particularly nasty war against Kenya.  The U.S. with its usual hypocrisy (not democracy) was only marginally involved: Eisenhower backed the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in Congo, then LBJ and the CIA (so many alphabet soups!) backed the 1966 military coup against the first President of Ghana, the Pan-African socialist revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah, who was abroad at the time– doing what?  Providing his support for the Vietnamese people.  These were the nationalist struggles against the white nationalist rule of the U.S. and Europe, and they were also connected by an internationalist struggle against imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism.

In 1954, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party organized an action against the U.S. Congress in which Lolita Lebrón was a key participant (she would become a political prisoner until 1979, and, during this period, she met another political prisoner, Assata Shakur).  The liberation of Puerto Rico was– and still is– one of the connected working class struggles, or labor struggles, in the internationalist struggle against the ruling class in Congress and on Wall Street (who, of course, are also intimately connected).

The same year (in 1954), the U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles capitalized on his connections to the United Fruit Company (el pulpo or “the octopus,” because of its long tentacles extending into South America) and orchestrated a covert CIA operation against the democratically elected President of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz.  President Eisenhower, universally “liked” as “Ike” by the white people of Clydesville USA, was probably on a golf course at the time, but the theme is the same: a violent imperialist power at war against the oppressed peoples of the world, from Vietnam, to Guatemala, to Congo.

“American history” is described as a march toward some lofty ideal of goodness (“liberty and justice for all”); but the more accurate history of white nationalism broadens the scope to show a racist capitalist system that has been at war against Africans, Indigenous peoples and so-called people of color for hundreds of years.

Also that same year, in the United States, the Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education was supposed to begin the process of integration, with special emphasis on desegregating the South (because whites in the North had “won” that war and could literally afford to take the spotlight off our own racist, segregating practices).  The next year, civil rights leaders in Montgomery, Alabama chose a Black woman, Rosa Parks, to be the face of a much larger movement of domestic workers— proletarian Black women– in an organized effort not merely to sit down on a bus, but to be able to work.  This was a labor movement— a working class movement of proletarian Black women.  It wasn’t just a struggle to sit on the bus next to whitey, any more than the desegregation of lunch rooms was an effort to sit at a table eating a flavorless meal angrily shoved at them by some racist cracker on the other side of the counter.  These were the struggles of working class Africans in America to gain access to resources, and their struggles were connected to the larger global movement to seize control of the means of production.  The ability to use your wages to buy a cup of coffee today, or to ride the bus on the way to clean the house of a middle-class white woman today, could become a quantitative step in the lengthy process toward the “abolition of imperialism” and wage-slavery tomorrow: a qualitative change of systems resulting in Black Power.  All that was required was a mass revolutionary consciousness of this process: the same consciousness that existed in Cuba, in Vietnam, and in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.  And this political education of the masses came about through the organized struggles of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC (created by Ella Baker), the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party led by Fannie Lou Hamer, and the eventual creation of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in 1966, which took as its symbol the Black Panther.

Once we broaden the scope of our idealistic support for “liberty and justice”– beyond the documents of this genocidal empire that is the United States, and outside its master narratives of eternally optimistic goodness– then we can recognize how the principled struggles that institute these ideals in the form of a government or a system have been struggles against white nationalism waged by the various connected national identities of the globe.  They have nothing to do with “America”– other than to defeat it.

“America” is only “exceptional” as far as being exceptionally violent, and exceptionally oppressive.  The scope of any struggle for liberation is a struggle for power, not for ideals as already defined by those who are in power; because the existing power structure cannot allow historically oppressed peoples– Africans, Indigenous peoples, Puerto Ricans, Palestinians– to be free.  White nationalism requires that Europe and the West continue to gain its power by taking it from colonized nations, as part of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916, or the CIA’s covert operation in Guatemala in 1954, or “Ike” ordering the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in Congo in 1960.

“Liberty and justice” for the United States, and its white population, means oppression and injustice toward Africa and the world.  And, once we broaden the scope of our understanding of history, then we can recognize that Pennsylvania’s incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the price that the murderous FBI has put on Assata Shakur’s head, is not just a question of their innocence (even if they didn’t commit those crimes)– it’s about an ongoing war against African people in every part of the globe.

 

 

 

Going Beyond Just Innocence: Supporting the Victory of Oppressed People in the War Waged Against Them by U.S. Imperialism

Jake Tapper Tweets “Shakur is [BLOCKED]

Assata

Calling a man a “mansplainer” or a white a “whitesplainer” shuts down dialogue with our opponents, turns off many people in power, alienates a lot of would-be (or wanna-be) allies and probably accomplishes a lot of other good things as well.

Whenever a man (especially a white cis man) begins to ‘splain something– anything– what he really wants is people to care about all the stuff he’s saying, whether they agree or disagree with him.  In fact, he might enjoy having an argument.  So the point of calling him a “mansplainer” is: we don’t care what he has to say.  At all.  We don’t want to argue with him, have a dialogue, or have anything to do with him.  At all.  We just want him to go away.

Jake Tapper is that kind of guy.  I couldn’t care less what Jake Tapper has to say about anything.  And what he has to say about Assata Shakur ranks somewhere below what Skip Bayless has to say about, well, anything– and that’s as low as it gets.

The problem with white people (myself included) isn’t that we have the right opinions or the wrong opinions– we simply take up too much space telling the world what we believe they ought to know.  CNN had a whole show based on this premise– “Crossfire.”  As beneficiaries of capitalist empire, and the exploitation of the global proletariat, white people enjoy nothing more than sitting on top of this globe, spinning and arguing the hours away.  It beats work.  Back and forth, back and forth.  But as long as we have the microphone, and the stage, we don’t care.  Just give us the chance to share our indispensable views with everyone.

It doesn’t matter that 99% of the time the words coming out of our mouths are simply regurgitated capitalist education, reinforced by the workplace, media, politicians, maybe the church, and a thing that some other white guy (Thomas Jefferson?) said last week.  Originality and empire don’t go together.  A white man critiquing Assata Shakur is not the most predictable thing that white people could do– that would be trying to murder a Black woman, then charging her with a crime she didn’t commit, then throwing her in prison after multiple trials and, finally, putting a price on her head after she escaped.  That’s the history of whiteness right there.  A history that makes it very predicable for a white man to attack her on Twitter.  Jake Tapper probably didn’t even need to formulate a coherent, rational thought in advance– he just felt that itch that a white man with too much wealth and power sometimes gets, and the fingers did the rest: tap, tap, tap.

A thoughtful response would say that Jake Tapper is an apologist for white supremacist, colonial capitalism.  But Jake would very likely enjoy debating that point, at length.  So, in short, he’s a mansplainer.  I blocked him years ago, because his very presence on TV and the internet is a source of annoyance.  He irritates me simply by not being a void.  There’s an outline where his vacated presence is that could be filled with a million more deserving people, but white guys like him are always getting in the way.  So the best thing is to get him out of the way, and focus on the real enemy: capitalism.

Of course capitalism hates Assata Shakur.  Assata Shakur has more humanity in her left thumbnail than capitalism has in its entire history.  She loves her people.  Capitalism hates Africans.  Capitalism is built on the murder and theft of Africans.  Everything she is, capitalism is not, because Assata Shakur represents the true meaning of “We the People” in a society that demands we only think in terms of “me,” and forget the people.  Capitalism will never forgive Assata Shakur for being a free Black woman who has chosen to align her own freedom with African liberation– the freedom of Black people.  As long as she remains out of its clutches, capitalism and all the mindless mansplainers and whitesplainers who choose the side of capitalist oppression will be miserable.  And then will try to make everyone else miserable too– which is also a key part of the history of whiteness.

So the question is: why should we– even if we are white– forgive capitalism for making us complicit in the murder and theft of Assata Shakur’s people, and all oppressed communities around the globe?  Hands off Assata– yes!  And hands off the world, white people.

Jake Tapper Tweets “Shakur is [BLOCKED]