Back to the World: Safety Pin Box and White Socialism

CurtisEssay

There is a kind of socialism that perceives itself to be pure, untainted, and somehow above and apart from the contradictory elements of capitalist society.  This is the socialism of the philosophical idealist, and it can be called “white socialism.”

White socialist beliefs are rooted in the assertion: “I think, therefore I am.”  In other words, white socialists believe that a thing is brought into existence simply by thinking it (what Kwame Nkrumah called “a god-complex”).  Meanwhile, white socialists do not recognize the work that has brought about the conditions which led to their ability to think and to assert this belief, or to do anything else.  But it is on this airy and detached foundation– free from the soil or the toil of nature’s contradictions– that the ideologies of the white power structure have also been built, as expressed by the white supremacist system of bourgeois democracy in the United States.

The exploited labor, land, resources, and culture of colonized Africans and Indigenous peoples are the material basis for democratic bourgeois or capitalist society in the United States.  And it is on Black bodies– on the lives of Black women in particular — that the altar of White Idealism has been constructed in reverence to Freedom, Justice … and (in reaction to capitalist ideals) White Socialism.  White socialists, like all whites, are empowered to hold our viewpoints only on account of the exploited labor of Black and Brown people– that is, only through the systemic oppression of Black women.

It’s not very difficult for us to illustrate this reality.  We can do it with the following example, which can be applied to nearly all whites in capitalist society: let’s say there is one white individual who holds a certain political view (it could be conservative, liberal, libertarian, socialist, anarchist, whatever), and there is another white who holds a very different political view.  They disagree– this is a contradiction.  But their antagonistic relationship exists mainly (if not entirely) at the level of their ideas.  We haven’t gone into the details of their status within the colonizing white population in the United States: they may be wealthy, middle-class, or poor.  In any case, we can relate their views– and their status– to the colonized population of Africans/Black people, and specifically to Black women who have experienced material and historical factors of systemic oppression: racism, sexism, misogynoir, economic exploitation, and possibly transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and Islamophobia as well.  So, taking their specific situation, and relating it back to the two white people in question (who, like all whites, have enjoyed– albeit at unequal levels– the benefits of these oppressive forces), we can now recognize that their ideas– while antagonistic to each other– do nothing to change the situation of Black women.  And, again, we’re keeping mind that the capitalist and colonialist subjugation of Black women, specifically, is largely responsible for uplifting these two whites who happen to be in disagreement.  They are able to disagree, or agree, or do anything else in their lives, only on account of a system of power which elevates them at the expense of Black women and all colonized peoples.

So this is hopefully a useful illustration of the reality that encompasses white socialists, and all whites.  While we’re sitting here, theorizing, we’re doing nothing to change– in material or measurable ways– the conditions of people whose exploited labor allows us to sit here, post comments on Facebook, or do anything else.

Nevertheless, white socialists– from the elevated position which all whites enjoy in capitalist society– often theorize that Safety Pin Box promotes capitalism, and so they say that they are against this organization, and then they refuse to join or pay.  The problem isn’t only that they refuse to become a subscriber to Safety Pin Box; because they could do this (that is, refuse to recognize their revolutionary obligation to uplift the work, lives and well-being of Black women) without saying anything.  If a white individual wants to avoid the responsibility of addressing our historical and material elevation at the expense of Black and African women, we can do this without any critique against an organization which has given us a means of taking “effective, measurable” actions as “white allies.”

The problem is that white socialists, as part of the colonizing class of all whites on this continent, attempt to rationalize their opposition to Safety Pin Box by capitalizing on the unequal amount of power that all whites have in our political, economic and social relationship to Black women.  This unequal relationship of power exists even if we aren’t wealthy or middle-class, and even if a Black woman is wealthy or middle-class, because capitalist oppression goes beyond economic status.  Capitalism is a global arrangement of power– a European imperialist system– which was built to benefit all whites.  So, while we may not be rich, or middle-class, we are still incentivized by this system to capitalize on the unequal power which we hold within the context of colonialism.  This incentive to control Black women may be economic, but it may be political and social as well.  In any case, our attempt to keep Black women, and colonized people, “in their place”– while it may not directly affect our individual economic status– still contributes to the power of a system where the white capitalist class can then grow wealthier, and gain even more profits, off its continuing oppression of Black women.  And then some of these benefits eventually reach us too, because the capitalist power structure in the United States remains intact, and is able to inflict greater harm on Black women and on all the oppressed communities of the world.

Thus the idealist approach of the white socialist, which not only refuses to pay reparations to Black women but also insists on criticizing organizations which are created and led by Black women, actually reinforces the power of the very system it claims to be against.  But this reaction isn’t hard to understand: whites are looking at material conditions from the level of the colonizer, and this class status shapes our view.  The white “left” is basically speaking on the same plane of colonial society as the white “right” and as an entire political “spectrum” built on the capitalist subjugation of Africans, as well as Indigenous peoples and the global majority (“people of color”).

If you produce the wealth of society through your labor– and your resources, culture and land– then this work will shape your perspective of the conditions in society.  And, if your work is exploited, and you belong to a class category which has been historically subjugated by a system of power on account of “race,” gender, sexuality, nationality, etc., then it becomes the responsibility of your self-defined identity to move against the source of your exploitation and gain power for your group (or class, community, nation).  This definition, and the organized movement that it defines, cannot come from the outside– from the exploiter, the oppressor.

However, capitalist society in the United States has taught the white population to distrust oppressed people and their movements for control over their own lives.  We often feel that Black women– particularly working class transgender Black women– do not have the capacity to know their own interests, and then define their political, economic, social and cultural movements (based on these interests) for themselves.  White feminists try to define all women in terms of cisgender white womanhood (usually middle-class or wealthy).  Similarly, white socialists try to define the revolutionary movements of colonized peoples by testing them for “purity” and determining whether they are “socialist enough.”

For example, when the FBI and the entire capitalist system of the U.S. were hunting down Robert F. Williams and Mabel Williams, and they sought refuge in Cuba (at the invitation of Fidel Castro), the white led-Communist Party USA (CP-USA) tried to convince the Cuban government to reject this invitation because the two who were fleeing capitalist violence were Black nationalists, and not true socialists (according to their white gaze).  White led socialist organizations– or whites who aren’t part of any organization– often criticize Black and African revolutionary organizations for being “too violent” or “racist” (impossible) or “not socialist enough.”  Meanwhile, we don’t move against the number one enemy of every socialist movement on the globe: U.S. capitalism.

If white socialists were paying attention to Black revolutionaries– and paying money to Black and African women– we would possibly recognize how we could contribute to the global movement to dismantle the power of this world economic system.  Because we would be engaged in the actual dialectical process of revolution, rather than criticizing it from some imaginary and elitist position.  White socialists might then be able to put into action what Huey P. Newton wrote in his article regarding Black capitalism: “What we must do then is increase the positive qualities until they dominate the negative and therefore transform the situation.”

That is, returning to material reality, or back to the world, we would “make a truly dialectical analysis of the situation.”  Rather than just focusing on some ideal of socialist struggle, by paying Black women through Safety Pin Box we could recognize the revolutionary aspects of “merging your theory with your practices.”

Huey P. Newton also said, “Revolution is a process, not a conclusion.”  And part of this process is raising the consciousness of the people, gradually moving from one stage of the process to a higher stage.  But this process is not limited to teaching people more and more theory.  It means “merging theory with practice” and– back to the world and its material conditions– engaging in struggle with our immediate environment.  For white people in the United States, this immediate environment may be our checking account– our money.  That’s not a glamorous approach if we’re talking about socialist struggle.  But if we want to get together– as European colonizers– and wage some other kind of movement against capitalism, on our own terms, no one is stopping us.  What we cannot do, unless we wish to leverage our advantage of power within this racist system, thereby capitalizing on our whiteness, is go around telling Black women and colonized peoples how they ought to organize for their liberation.  As Kwame Ture said, we cannot have the oppressors telling the oppressed how to rid themselves of the oppressor.

So, back in the material world, having safely landed, you will no longer conclude– as a white socialist– that the revolutionary theories regarding our shared conditions should somehow be free from contradictory elements.  Huey P. Newton talked about “a concrete analysis of concrete conditions.”  Elaine Brown, who was Chair of the Black Panther Party from 1974-1977 and, later on, wrote A Taste of Power, has talked about having “a correct analysis.”  She talked about the time that she was organizing to free comrades who were locked up in the California prison system, and how she was urging people to go to the legislature and try to get certain laws passed.  When she was criticized for taking a bourgeois or capitalist approach, Elaine Brown said (in essence): OK, then let’s go and get a tank and knock down the prison walls right now … but if we aren’t willing to do that, then we need to work, to struggle day and night, in order to change the situation and gradually move toward the same goal.  Professor Brittney Cooper recently wrote, “Black feminist theorists beginning with Professor Stanlie James have long talked about what they call the ‘visionary pragmatism’ of Black women.”  That may be one example (it’s not for me to say).

However, white socialists– like whites in general– tend to distrust the “visionary pragmatism” of Black women: rather than funding their own organized vision for changing a racist, misogynistic and capitalist society, we choose to criticize them– and then we find we are willing to move against Black women.  We become what Huey P. Newton called the “revolutionary cultist” (although he used this term in a different context).  Huey Newton said, “Revolutionaries recognize the difference between what the people can do and what they will do.”  If white socialists believe we can organize the white masses for armed struggle right now, why aren’t we doing it?  Instead of becoming politically conscious of our conditions– back in the world of material reality– we make the idealist leap toward some position of imagined socialist purity (otherwise known as “white supremacy”) which differs little from the elitism and racism of white capitalists.

Getting back to this world, we ought to recognize, as whites who are socialists, that, if we wish to move phenomena in the direction of our choice, we must consciously engage in struggle with our environment, and gradually change our own position inside capitalist society.  This isn’t the same thing as wishing to change capitalism incrementally, reforming it in order to preserve it.  We wish to increase capitalism’s contradictions in order to destroy capitalism.  And this begins by engaging with our own elevated status of wealth and power.

Whiteness means power.  So any challenge to our power– to our whiteness– can be used for revolutionary purposes.  If a white socialist wants to tell a Black woman, “You can’t do that, that’s too capitalist, or too rude, or … whatever” then they are leveraging their power– capitalizing on it, the same as any bank, or bourgeois politician or racist police officer in a blue uniform.  They are policing the lives of Black women.  We know, as part of conditions today, that whites are unwilling to move against capitalism in the United States, because you can’t find any effective white revolutionary organization that is doing this on a consistent and principled basis.  What you can find, on “the right” and on “the left” of the colonizing white population, is plenty of criticism aimed at Black women.

All white people– socialist or otherwise– enjoy the benefits of capitalist oppression, even if we experience some of its exploitation.  And all people depend on capitalist power in order to gain access to the resources necessary for survival; because there is just one economic system that dominates the globe, and that’s capitalism.  So, our very ability to live as white people depends on capitalist violence.  Our obligation is to move against capitalism, bit by bit, by contributing materially to the ability of Black women, in their own oppressed communities, to survive (as well as thrive) inside this system.

If we want to move against capitalism as Europeans, in our own socialist organizations, that’s our business.  But what Black women do with their money, their time, or anything else, is their business.  Our job– if we recognize the dialectics of the situation, and how the capitalist arrangement of power benefits us at the expense of Black women– is to move some of our power (or wealth) out of the oppressor class and into the oppressed class: to pay Black women.  What they do with all these payments is then out of our control; and this loss of control means loss of power, and that means moving in a revolutionary direction against a system which empowers white people (rich or poor) by moving to keep oppressed communities powerless through its colonial control.

And it probably hurts and gets us really upset to give up so much control– but that’s part of the struggle.  In some ideal world, whites would move against capitalism without feeling any pain; but even white socialists– who are idealists at heart, mind (and soul?)– recognize this is impossible.  So that pain you are feeling (or that progress) is the hit to your checkbook, to your monthly budget, to your planned trip for a vacation in the Caribbean on some colonized beach.  If white progressives want to bring down a whole system of exploitative, racist, sexist, transphobic oppression, but we can’t even change our vacation plans, or go without some of the luxuries of empire, then how socialist or revolutionary are we anyway?

In some ideal world, it may be enough to “Feel The Bern” and let a wealthy, white cisgender U.S. Senator lead us to the promised land, as we continue our (very white) struggle to resolve our own economic exploitation through more racist imperialism disguised in the ideals of “socialism.”  However, back to the material world, back in this world, we may recognize that funding the well-being of Black women may be all that we are willing to do at this point– which is actually a lot, a whole lot.  How do we know this is true?  We know, because it pains so many whites– including white socialists– to pay Black women.  That means loss of power.  And that means revolution.

 

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Back to the World: Safety Pin Box and White Socialism

“While We Are the Same, We Are Not the Same”: Kwame Ture and the Contradictions of the White, “American” Identity

KwameTureEssay

Kwame Ture said, “In life, everything is the same and, at the same time, not the same.”  He continued by saying that “this may sound confusing if one doesn’t properly understand life’s contradictions.”  For example, (as Kwame Ture noted) all of us are the same, because we’re human beings.  But some of us are men, and some of us are women [and, we may add today: some are nonbinary genders].  “While we are the same, we are not the same.”  Using another example, Kwame Ture said, “While every human being in the world has fingerprints, every fingerprint is different.”

Anyone who wants to learn about life and revolutionary theory and many other interesting matters can learn a great deal from Kwame Ture, but– at the same time– it’s important to recognize that he was an African speaking to Africans as an organizer in the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP).  This means, while Pan-African socialist theories and perspectives are generally applicable to the life of every person who wants to learn about these things, they are also unique to the African liberation struggle, which is a global struggle shared only by Africans.

In order to illustrate this contradiction we could use the example of a person who tosses a rock up into the air.  Any person who does this can expect the rock to come back down, on account of the objective laws of gravity, which apply to any person any place in the world– no matter the gender, or “race,” of the one who tossed the rock up into the air.  But what we can also recognize about the person in question is that they are part of a specific people with a specific history and a specific culture.  They may be wealthy or poor.  They may be middle-class.  Yet their struggle to survive, as well as develop and grow as an individual, is related to some identity which has a past, and which is connected to a certain territory with that past.

This act of tossing a rock up into the air does not occur in a vacuum, detached from the space around it.  Furthermore, such an act requires a subject.  But this individual subject is also not isolated from the conditions or the people inside these conditions who gave them life and allowed them to grow.  Each action, thought, and feeling experienced by the person in question– no matter how unique they believe they may be as an individual– is the product of a specific history and a specific people who are connected to a specific area of land.

Now we can talk about white people in the United States.  We’re “white” because we came from Europe in order to settle on these territories outside Europe: to occupy Indigenous lands.  We can call ourselves “American” all we want, but that’s our history: genocide and colonization.  We can even go to Ancestry.com and find out that we are some percentage of Indigenous, and some percentage of African and yet another percentage of European– and also learn the specific area that our “ancestors” came from in North America, Africa and Europe.  A Black “American” could go to Ancestry.com and do the same thing, and also find that they are “part” Indigenous, or “part” European, or have connections to areas of Asia or some other place outside Africa.  And, at the end of the day, we would all still be humans, and still inhabit the same world, and our DNA would still be 99.6% the same.

Yet white people in the United States and Black people in the United States– Africans in “America”– are, at the same time, not the same.  Why?  Well, the white supremacists will tell you it’s on account of their belief that whites are superior and all other “races” are inferior.  While this claim is not only ridiculous but is extremely dangerous, the idea of white supremacy is not limited to a small percentage of the white population in the United States– or, for that matter, worldwide– who belong to the KKK and are listed by the SPLC as a “hate group.”  On the material level, this white supremacist behavior encompasses nearly all white people, regardless of our individual attitudes toward Black people and “other minorities.”  If we go back to the image of the person tossing a rock up into the air, we may not know the thoughts that are in their head, or the feelings that are in their heart.  We just recognize that a person– a subject– has tossed a rock up into the air, and we know that the rock must come back down, on account of the laws of gravity.

But if all humans are the same– and, specifically, our DNA is 99.6% identical– then why is it that the objective laws of nature have led to conditions in “America” where the median wealth of Black “Americans” will fall to zero by 2053, and the median wealth for Latinx “Americans” will fall to zero approximately two decades after that?  If all people are the same– we’re all human– then how is it then that, just three years from now, whites in the United States “are projected to own 86 times more wealth than [B]lack households, and 68 times more wealth” than the Latinx population?

If you take the same rock and toss it into the air in the same part of the world (“America”), and you’re doing this as a European, or an African, or an Indigenous or Latinx person, then the objective laws of nature will tell you that it will fall at the same rate.  Yet, under the system of capitalism, its laws do not apply the same to every person, regardless of their “race”– and this is because the laws of “America” and the “Western world” are based on the inhumane, unnatural belief in white supremacy, a belief which is limited to just a small percentage of the white population, but is perpetuated by an entire political identity, or all those who belong to the capitalist category of “whiteness.”

By 2044, whites will be a “racial” minority in the United States.  Yet whites are projected to control the overwhelming majority of this nation’s wealth.  If you listen to the white supremacists, including the racist President, you may be led to believe that “America” is being taken over by Mexican “rapists,” Black “thugs,” Muslim “terrorists” and other assorted villains– and that “America” needs to be made “great again.”  And it’s no accident that Trump and his white supremacist supporters are trying to place the focus on an “American” identity whose default is whiteness.  Where they are confused– or where they’re trying to confuse you– is by arguing that a white minority in the United States won’t enjoy the same benefits as when we were the majority.  In fact, we’ll enjoy more benefits.  Meanwhile, the typical reaction on “the left” to this white supremacist violence is to argue that Black people are “Americans” too, and so are Muslims of color (many of whom are Black as well), and so are Latinxs and Indigenous peoples.  “We’re all just Americans”– right?

Not so fast.  Although it’s hard to use the word “fast” when we’re talking about a process that has been going for the last five hundred years are so, ever since Europe began its attack on Africa, the “Americas” and, eventually, the rest of the world.  If we take in the entire scope or range of this history of European imperialism, and consider all the territories involved, we might hope that, after so many centuries, there would be greater equality among the so-called races.  And yet, we could ask these questions: why is it, when Africans have lived on this territory longer than most whites (most of us having not descended from the original colonial population who formed the United States) that even the most basic human rights of “Black Americans” aren’t recognized or enforced?  Why is the wealth gap between the “races” actually increasing?   Why did “America” just elect a blatantly racist President?  Why is it that, after “America” elected the “first” Black President, so many whites believed he still wasn’t an “American”?  Why is it that, when whites borrow (or steal) so much Black culture in the United States– as the basis for our favorite music, language, clothing, and so forth– we continue to treat Black people with such hatred, even whites of younger generations?

It’s 2017, and Black people in the United States– whatever they may believe about themselves, or want to call themselves– are still treated like foreigners, like the despised Other, by the white population.  And, even if we don’t feel this way, whites and Black people/Africans, in spite of the fact we are all human beings living under the same power of the same economic system, nevertheless, enjoy extremely different levels of material benefits from capitalism.  While 99% of the population is exploited by the capitalist system, it’s still the case that the same rock, having been tossed up in the air, seems to be coming down at different rates for whites in the U.S. than for Black people (Africans).  Why?

You may call yourself an “American,” or anything else you like, but the historical reality is that Europeans (whites) and Africans/Black people in the United States have totally different identities because we have totally different histories.  The space we are sharing on Indigenous lands is the same– while still largely segregated– and the objective laws of nature within our shared space are still the same (what goes up must come down).  And we are all people.  We’re all the same because– as Kwame Ture said– we’re human beings.  Yet, after hundreds of years on this shared space, Europeans and Africans, as well as Indigenous peoples and the global majority (“people of color”), are not the same.

The job of the enemy– capitalism– is to confuse you, not only about the economic and political oppression around you, but also to confuse you in your thought processes regarding how to deal with such an oppressive history (to echo again the words of Kwame Ture).  If we look at the way Africans in America are organizing their people to be free (which can only come about as soon as a people have gained power), we can see that they are not confused about who they are: they are Africans.  However, whites are confused about who we are, and what we believe Africans to be as well, because capitalism has successfully misled us about who we are.

In order for this system of imperialist exploitation to function, it needs the loyalty of Europeans.  In fact, we don’t even identify as “Europeans” at this point.  We say we are “Americans.”  We identify with the enemy of humanity: a backward system that requires the few to grow wealthier and wealthier at the expense of the many.  Capitalism is a global arrangement of power where the resources, labor, land, and culture of the world go in one direction, toward the European population, who can then enjoy these material benefits at unequal levels.  But, for us to tolerate our own exploitation, and to support the systemic oppression and genocidal violence against the majority of the global population, Europeans must now identify with each imperialist nation-state, and (in this occupied territory) the United States, and its “American” flag.  Now we are “Americans.”  And then we argue that Africans (Black people) must bow down to this flag, or stand up for it, and give their loyalty to “America” too, because they are also “Americans”– and should be grateful for all these “freedoms.”  The problem is, when capitalism is going out and robbing the world, and is destroying communities, this system and this imperialist nation-state– and its racist President– don’t treat Africans like “Americans.”  The entire capitalist system of power– and not just Donald Trump or his white supremacist friends– treats Africans the way “America” has always treated anyone it doesn’t identify as “white”: like colonized subjects, as Europeans continue to engage in an imperialist war against peoples and lands outside Europe.

So, because we are confused about who we are, whites in “America” try to confuse Africans and Indigenous communities, and all colonized peoples, about who they are.  Either way, they will end up with zero wealth in less than fifty years, even as whites will no longer be the majority (which Europeans have never been on a global scale).

As these contradictions in “American” society are exposed to a greater and greater extent, whites– no longer the majority– will be required to defend more and more aggressively the basis for our material inequity (in a country that promotes the ideals of equality and democracy).  And thus we will have to turn to the ideological basis of the “American” identity– which is white supremacy– or risk giving up our superior comforts and superior security as part of the white colonizing identity.

Since all people are the same, and since “America” promotes equality and democracy, why is it that the white minority is projected to gain an even larger share of capitalism’s wealth in the coming decades, even as many of us will likely experience more exploitation and discrimination by a system built for our benefit?  At some point, whites may be forced to wake up, and face the reality of this situation which we all share, as we discover that “America”– on account of its fundamental contradictions– is indefensible.

Rather than reacting to the racist reality of “America” and the white identity in a manner which is defensive– including reactions of guilt and anger– what can we do to address our own history as colonizers?  How can we overcome our confusion about who we are the way Pan-African organizers have moved against the same capitalist forces which seek to confuse Africans?  Europeans can do this by following the same scientific methods as African revolutionaries, except– at the same time– a very different method, because it would have to match our own history and identity.

The theories for African liberation– while they are universally socialist and feminist– are not applicable to white people or Europeans, because Pan-African socialism and Black feminism (or intersectional feminism) do not reflect our culture and our political identity, an identity which is based on our history as a people.  And part of the difficulty for Europeans in the United States (whites) who wish to be progressive or revolutionary is that, historically, we have not identified with anything other than the “American” identity.

White colonizers are so thoroughly confused about who we are that we identify with the enemy of human progress: “America.”  And then we turn to Africans and “people of color” and tell them to show us what humanity means– we say, teach us (without pay) what it means to be a decent human being, even as we are benefiting from the capitalist theft of their land, resources, labor, culture and lives.

But you can’t teach or show Europeans how to be decent human beings, although we are people just like everyone else … at least, not while we still benefit from colonial genocide against Africans and “people of color” (the global majority).  We may believe we understand progressive politics and revolutionary theories, but the “house” that we are constructing out of these ideas has a foundation that is rotten.  If we still identify as “Americans,” then the very basis of our identity will be the ideology of capitalism and white supremacy (which are inseparable).  And so, no matter how hard we struggle to “smash the patriarchy” or to “dismantle white supremacy,” whites who engage in this revolutionary process as “Americans” will still lack any positive basis for our struggle.

Many white people on the “left” call ourselves “allies,” and carry signs that say “Black Lives Matter,” and contribute to anti-racist organizations, and study political theory– and that’s all well and good.  But deep down it seems that we still believe this isn’t our fight, that our own lives– and the basis for our own wealth and power– don’t depend on the total transformation of systems: on revolution.  And why should we believe otherwise when the actual basis for who we are, and what we want (our class interests), is the “American” identity and the interests of racist, imperialist capitalism?

Even as socialists, whites tend to uphold the white identity– often as “Americans”– and also the interests of capitalist empire, in relation to the rest of the people on the planet.  And this is because we are completely detached– at the level of our class or political (un)consciousness– from any history that is not part of the white supremacist, bourgeois “American” identity, and its history.

How do we overcome this obstacle to revolutionary consciousness?  Black people or Africans in “America” have looked to Africa, and have organized around their positive identity of Africa and Blackness, based on their culture and history (as opposed to the bourgeois and colonialist belief that the history of Black people began with slavery).  But whites in “America” really cannot look to Europe as a source for a positive basis to our identity, because even the European identity is, in many ways, a product of capitalism and imperialism.  In fact, this is why you see white supremacists– in Europe and in the United States– focused on the European identity: it’s because “Europe” upholds many of the same values as “America,” or any other white nationalist culture and history.

The struggle for European colonizers who wish to be progressive is to transcend these negative identities– these reactions to our violent past, and the violent present which grew out of that past– yet create an identity that is not disconnected from our history and culture.  Basically (very basically), Europe and whiteness are inseparable from systemic violence: imperialism and genocidal erasure, including the “Christian” religion in its imperialist context.  White culture is violence.  Even the act of attaching Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latinx creations to our isolated selves is part of this cultural violence which has become who we are, and is what we want.  The basic drive of the European identity is to acquire, and then to acquire more, through unequal power.

Therefore, in order to transcend these cultural and historical aspects of the European (and then white) identity, it seems that we have to struggle even harder to overcome our reactionary behavior.  This violence is so deeply ingrained into who we are that Europeans barely recognize it, much less move against it.  And, the sad thing is, we often treat people who have developed a higher sense of who they are– their culture, their community– as if they are at our level of development, and as if being the “first” white anything is such an outstanding accomplishment, or being in one of our spaces (which we probably stole) is the ultimate measure of success.  Meanwhile, capitalism is right there to promote this white supremacist behavior, by telling people to chase money, to buy their way into a higher level of humanity, and to make the white standard of goodness or beauty their main goal.  And then they may believe (like us) that just being able to enjoy a higher level of wealth is enough to escape capitalist exploitation.  But it’s only enough if you are willing to sell out to this evil and inhumane system, and totally identify your self-empowerment with its oppressive power– with “America.”

Wealth without power is worthless.  And that’s what white people have: power.  We may not have money, but that’s why white people (including 53% of white women) voted for the white supremacist Donald Trump.  We actually do know what’s in our interests, rich or poor, just as long as we identify with the power of a white supremacist system and “America.”

Africans and the Indigenous peoples of the Americas were wealthy too before Europeans showed up, with our greater capacity for violence and our greater willingness to commit this violence.  And then we constructed the white “American” identity on this foundation of imperialist genocide against Africa and the Indigenous peoples of North America and Hawaii.  So, even if we’re progressive today, and we want to move against the ideological constructs of “racism” and misogyny and other forms of systemic oppression, white people (on the “left,” the “right” or anywhere else) rarely move to exert a greater force of violence against the foundation of these oppressive ideologies than the system itself is exerting.  We just pick away at the edges of a racist, misogynistic, transphobic “American” society, rather than getting to its rotten foundation, which is imperialist violence.

We could argue that these contradictions of whiteness and the “American” identity require that Europeans in the U.S. (or whites) use violence– which is basic to who we are– to dismantle a capitalist system which has shaped the basis for our identity, and thereby quantitatively change not only system but subject.  But the very thing which ought to compel us to move in such a direction against the status quo– that being a desire to attain an equal level of humanity as the people whom we attempt to dehumanize for the purpose of greater profit– is the thing which is holding us back: a lack of humanity on our part.  This is not to argue we are something other than human.  We’re human beings, as Kwame Ture said.

But if we think about what Kwame Ture told a room of African people– not whites– when he said all humans are the same but are not the same, then we could ask ourselves: what would we do in a similar situation that they are in?  That is, if we– as white people, as Europeans– were stolen from our land, enslaved, colonized, and subjected to every atrocity imaginable for hundreds of years, what might we do to our oppressors?  And this, again, is where Europeans and Africans are not the same, even as we attempt to whitewash our identities and our differences by lumping us all together as “Americans.”  We would rise up and kill our oppressors, there is no doubt about it.  Well, there is some doubt: because of the difference between Europeans and Africans, we may not rise up unless it turned out to be profitable, or unless we could gain greater wealth on an individual level from this uprising.  Nevertheless, white people must have something in our identity where we hardly need the slightest excuse and we go on a killing spree.  Like it or not, it’s part of our identity.  All we needed was the incentive of capitalist exploitation, and it was off to the races.  Otherwise, Europeans had already been engaged in white-on-white crime for hundreds of years, destroying each other.  Whites just found it was more profitable to control and kill people outside Europe, and occupy their lands, and then send in the military and the police to keep them from doing to us what we have been doing to them– even if their attitude toward us has been far more generous and forgiving.

Of course, any peace-leaving progressive white person in “America” is going to say they oppose such violence and they just want people to coexist in all our wonderful diversity.  However, what they (or we) may not recognize is the way this racist, misogynistic, transphobic and capitalist ideology– this “American” ideology– has so thoroughly penetrated our thought processes and our patterns of behavior that it allows us to say we’re against such violence while, at the same time, we’re for it.

We support capitalist violence– as white colonizers in the United States– because we do nothing, or very little, to change the accumulated basis for our power.  After hundreds of years of colonial genocide, we look at the thin layer of “racial tension” at the top of this accumulation of violence and say, “Well, I don’t like that– I’m against that,” but then we ignore the massive amount of systemic oppression below it, all of which, when taken together, has created the “American” identity whose default is whiteness.  In fact, we barely look beyond our own neighborhood, at the systemic factors– the forces of extreme violence and colonial exploitation– which allow us to enjoy not only the liberal values of “inclusiveness” and individual goodness, but the material benefits which support our ability to develop and grow according to these ideals.

And so, by 2053– when the median wealth of Africans in “America” will be zero– whites may have a very “tolerant” attitude toward our Black and Brown neighbors, at least those who are left in “our” neighborhoods.  And we will probably be especially welcoming to the “respectable” Black or Latinx couple down the street who have worked so hard to survive in this system, and– at the same time– haven’t shown too many signs of disrupting its basic structure, which creates greater profits for the (already rich) white ruling class, no matter who is working hard to create these profits.  That is, capitalism won’t care very much who benefits on an individual level in the United States– they can always be used to point out that racism is no longer a problem– just as long as the overall arrangement can remain intact, one in which Black wealth is projected to be zero by 2053.  Why?  Because Black people– no matter how successful they may be on an individual level– will still lack power, as long as their survival and wealth is pursued in the context of the “American” (or white supremacist) identity.  By 2053, whites may be the minority in “America,” but the “American” identity will still mean what it has always meant: white nationalist, or white supremacist, power.

In 2053 “America” will mean what it meant in 1776: white power.  And that’s how an imperialist nation-state whose majority population is Black and Brown can still be forcing them to work hard in order to create wealth for the enjoyment of the white minority, even as the former are experiencing increasing levels of capitalist exploitation.

Right now, it’s exceedingly crucial– if we are white people who consider ourselves to be progressive– that we put our heads together and organize for … for what?  That’s what we need to figure out on a collective level.  But it’s the collective itself– the identity– that creates the basis for political leverage against the racist, misogynistic and capitalist state.  Essentially, we must organize for power, but not white power, and not “American” power.  How we go about this can only be determined inside an organization through the process of revolutionary struggle.  We cannot say what we are organizing for, until we– as a community– find out what that is, and who we are.

Kwame Ture taught that “while we are the same, we are not the same.”  All people are the same, but history, culture, identity and material factors of colonialism and capitalist oppression have also caused Europeans and Africans to be very different.  And since the United States and its class-based system of power have already imposed these divisions that exist between the colonizer and the colonized, we know that all white people are the same in the sense that we are all under the same system.  And yet we are not the same either.  Europeans are not the same as Africans, but Europeans– or whites– are not all alike either.  And that’s why we can use these differences as leverage points to organize against capitalism and the imperialist state.

While all whites are alike– we’re all racist, as the main benefactors of white supremacist and capitalist exploitation– we are different too.  Our skin color may be the same, and the colonial privileges– that we are granted by a backward system of power on account of this political categorization of “race”– may be the same.  But our identities– which are essentially political as well– contain ideological forces which, as soon as we discover their contradictory power, can then be used to move against the power of capitalism and the United States.

Instead of allowing this racist state– this imperialist power– to unite us as “Americans,” we (the revolutionary European colonizer) can beat the enemy to the punch, and say that, while we are not the same (as “Americans”), we are unified around some other organization of thought and matter, some critical difference, and we are the same as part of this new antagonistic identity.  Then we can say that we want “America” to be in crisis, splitting apart, because we are now something else altogether, moving against “America” too.  We may look alike, and often behave in the same racist, inhumane manner, but some white people (not those whites over there, those “Americans,” those counterrevolutionaries) are redirecting the elements of our identity and are coalescing around … what?  That’s what we need to figure out.

What is it about us that can make us different– from whiteness and from “America”– even as we remain white, objectively so?  And then– once we take this difference and organize it– what will allow us to create some new, transformed sameness (mass power), to be leveraged as part of a revolutionary process– stage by stage– against whiteness and against U.S. capitalism?

 

 

“While We Are the Same, We Are Not the Same”: Kwame Ture and the Contradictions of the White, “American” Identity

The Dialectics of Violence Within the White Population of the United States

CirclesEssay

You may have seen posts on Facebook and tweets from individuals on the so-called left who are arguing that socialists or progressives should not resort to violence, or start punching Nazis and so forth, because, if we do this, and we begin to act violently, then we would only become the same as the very right-wingers and white supremacist groups that we claim to be against.

But two of the greatest confusions that capitalism tries to force onto our political consciousness are (1) the confusion regarding violence and (2) the confusion regarding idealism– which, of course, are very much related.

By “idealism” we mean the view or philosophy that argues ideas are primary and matter is secondary.  In contrast, the political theories of socialist revolution are based on philosophical materialism, which argues that matter is primary and ideas are dependent on matter, or grow out of our material conditions.  And not only is revolutionary theory materialist, it is dialectical.  Revolutionaries recognize that all matter is held together by a unity of opposites, or by its internal contradictions, which allow a thing to move, develop and be transformed into something else, or disintegrate.

Why is it important to talk about dialectical materialism when we talk about violence?  It’s important to progressives– or it’s my belief that it should be important to us– because it means we recognize that the material basis for violence is always contradictory.  But what do we mean by “contradictory”?  Whenever we talk about the contradictions– or the dialectics– of violence, what is meant is that any situation can be both peaceful and violent at the same time.  There is a violence within peace, and a peace within violence: each contains its opposite.

For example [and a trigger warning is necessary here], if someone has entered your home and is attempting to murder your family, they are obviously acting in a manner that is violent.  But if you let them proceed to commit this violent act against your family, this “nonviolence” on your part does not make you peaceful.  So, instead, if you love your family (as well as yourself), you will use any violence that is necessary in order to stop the intruder’s violence, and kill them, so that peace can be restored in your home.  Violence may be necessary in order to create peace.  It is like Chairman Mao Tse-tung said: “We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.”

But, as another example, let’s say you are a white person in the United States and you claim to be peace-loving and progressive: you are against war– all war– and you just want people to get along, no violence.  This is the ideal you hold in your mind: a warm, comforting image of peace.  So, holding this thought, you go home to your little apartment in Oregon, and you make yourself a cup of tea (or, better yet, a cup of coffee), and you sit down in your pink chair wearing your favorite pink pajamas and you begin to read your favorite book of poetry, while sipping this tea or coffee.

It’s all very peaceful, right?  Yes and no.  It is peaceful to you, or from where you– the subject– are situated in these conditions.  But it is not a peaceful situation for the Indigenous or Native people (the Kalapuya) whose land in Oregon is occupied through the genocidal violence of the U.S. government and its capitalist system and its main benefactors, among whom is you (or me).  This situation is not peaceful to colonized Africans– to Black people– who have been violently prevented from living in this occupied territory in Oregon.  This situation is not peaceful to the exploited workers in Bangladesh who labored in a factory to make your comfortable pink pajamas.  And, finally, it is not a peaceful situation to the exploited workers in Africa or Latin America, or somewhere else in the world, who produced the coffee that you are enjoying, as you sit on this occupied land called “the United States.”  In fact, what was once perceived to be the coziest and most harmless scene imaginable, may now be viewed as the direct result of some of the greatest crimes against humanity in the history of the world: genocide, imperialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism.

Whether a person holds this particular view of the situation, or they do not, will depend largely on their identity as the subject involved in the situation.  Are they wealthy, or middle-class or impoverished?  Are they an African, a person of color, or a white individual?  Are they transgender or cisgender?  Perhaps they are incarcerated in the Oregon State Prison just a few miles away from the scene above.  Perhaps they are undocumented or a Muslim of color, or both.  All these class factors (and more) give shape to their specific view of the situation, even as the situation itself– which encompasses each identity– is the same for everyone.

So if we call a particular situation peaceful, it’s most likely on account of the fact that we benefit from this situation.  And if we call it violent, it’s most likely on account of the fact that the situation which is beneficial to some subjects involved– to some identities– is dangerous to us, as their security comes through our insecurity.

Our view of whether a situation is peaceful or violent is largely based on how much violence we experience in that situation.  If the military, police, immigration agents, local and state government (as well as the U.S. government), and the white-controlled businesses and the overall white population have moved to bring about safety for our identity, then we may say it’s a peaceful situation.  But if we have experienced firsthand the violence growing out of the very same situation– the same material conditions– then our view of these capitalist institutions and structures will likely be the exact opposite, and we will recognize this peaceful situation as an extremely violent situation.

A person, no matter how progressive or politically conscious they are, can never be entirely objective about the conditions that we all share under one global system of power (capitalism).  But the more a person is able to shift their focus from the subjective idealism in their own mind to the material reality (outside their mind)– to the conditions which have made these ideals possible– the more they can bring these conditions and ideals into alignment … that is, if they are willing to struggle to achieve this goal.  And, at any rate, they should be able to gain some consciousness of the reality that violence is going on all the time, and that there are many types of violence, not simply terrorism (as defined by the biggest terrorist, “America”), and crime (as defined by the thieves in the capitalist class), and wars (that are only considered “bad” when “American troops” are killed).

Violence is basically anything that prevents you from doing what you want to do, including breathing and living– which means that preventing the continuation of life is one of the most extreme forms of violence.  But the entire capitalist system is based on violence: under capitalism, in order to live, to survive, a worker must sell their labor to the owner of the means of production.

White colonizers in the United States experience capitalist violence every day.   For most of us, we have to get up early and go to work five days each week just to have money to buy groceries, and to pay rent (allowing us to sip coffee in our room and read our favorite poetry).  We need the “benefits” at our job in case we get sick; and, even then, we avoid going to the doctor or filling a prescription because the “health” insurance plan at this job isn’t very good.  If we’re in school, we don’t study simply to learn, or to develop our knowledge of the world, but to “earn” good grades, so we will be accepted by the college of our choice, and be able to use our degree to find a job that will help us pay off our school loans.  This fear or threat of falling through the cracks of society– being sick, being unemployed, being homeless, being imprisoned– is a form of violence too, very much so.  And white colonizers in the United States– like the people in colonized or oppressed communities– experience the violence of this capitalist exploitation every day.

Yet, whites still support this violent system of power.  Why?  Why do we call it “peace and prosperity” or “upward mobility,” and yearn for the good ol’ days in those decades and years after World War II all the way until the mid-1970s?  It ought to be clear to us why we do this: it is because it was that imperialist war (World War II) which gave us access to greater wealth, and improved our own lives as white people in the middle-class or the “working class.”  But we were on the other end of the gun– the one that was pointed away from us, and pointed at Africa, Latin America, Asia, and at “people of color” in the United States.  Whites (“peaceful” or otherwise) are used to being on the other end of this gun, or the violence of this “great country,” the United States, which is a genocidal settler colony of Europe occupying Indigenous land: an empire whose wealth, power and sovereignty were made possible by enslaved Africans.

So, again, this violence in the white population of the United States is dialectical: whites enjoy the benefits that we gain from the capitalist system of power, but we also experience some of its violent exploitation.  This white supremacist, imperialist arrangement of power uplifts us even as it is moving against us too.  And as long as white people have this patriotic or idealist image in our mind of some country that promotes peace, freedom, equality, and justice, we will keep saying that we are for these ideals– and against their opposites– regardless of their violent basis in our material conditions, and we won’t move to bring these objective conditions into greater alignment with our ideals of democracy and peace.

Thus, capitalism confuses us.  Capitalism leads us to believe that it’s enough to say we are for peace (or nonviolence, which is not the same thing) and we are against violence.  While the individual white colonizer can hold these ideals in their mind, and not face the violent consequences of the material reality (a world that is violently disrupted by capitalist violence), then they won’t move to change objective conditions.  We sit at home, smugly believing that everything is peaceful, because the killer has not entered our home, oh no– in fact, the killer stole this home for us, and capitalist “America” is still robbing and killing people so we can sit here, all wrapped up in our dreams of peace.

Then how do you force white people in the United States to recognize the violence that both benefits us and moves against us?  How do you force us to move in the opposite direction in order to stop this violence?  Through violence.  That’s what force means.  This force doesn’t necessarily mean violence with guns, bombs and missiles– the sort of violence the United States uses against everyone else.  By using violence in order to stop violence, we recognize that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And, if we have studied the history of the United States, right up until the present day, we know “America”– which claims to promote freedom, democracy, and justice– is an extremely violent, misogynistic, white supremacist empire, an empire built on slavery, genocide and capitalist exploitation.  So, once we see how violent “America” is, we know that there must be some equal and opposite reaction to this violence.  But where is it?  We look around for this reaction, for some powerful force of resistance, some opposition to the forces of capitalism that have destroyed so many lives, and it seems very hard to find such an organized movement of resistance coming from the opposite direction.

And that is precisely the evidence of capitalism’s violence: the almost total destruction of any armed resistance to its violence.  Of course, the people who have been the victims of all this “freedom, justice and democracy” promoted by “America” have been resisting it for centuries: Africans, Indigenous peoples, oppressed people all over the globe.  Just because white people don’t “see” them (in ableist language), doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  Just because we haven’t studied their history– because we were too busy learning about George Washington, Abe Lincoln, FDR, and JFK– doesn’t mean the people experiencing the terror and extreme violence of “America” have not been organizing for resistance, and moving against the capitalist system of power.  If we think oppressed people don’t exist, and aren’t resisting their oppression, this is just another example of our subjective idealism, which says, if white people can’t recognize movements of African and Indigenous revolutionary struggle in our own imaginations, then they simply don’t exist, right?

Wrong.  However, there’s no question that the capitalist system– moving in the opposite direction, as a counterrevolutionary force– has sought to destroy all revolutionary consciousness, all resistance to its violent power.  And so, as a result, we are part of a situation today where, even though there is a tremendous amount of violence in this country and around the globe, the capitalist system has insinuated itself into our lives and into our thought processes, our very beings, with such thoroughness, and in such totality, that we often fail to recognize its violence.

Whenever we do recognize capitalism’s extreme violence, we tolerate it.  That is, we don’t move (using extreme measures) to stop the violence of capitalism.  And this tolerance of systemic violence is violence.  The equal and opposite reaction to the counterrevolutionary forces of capitalist oppression is our reactionary indifference to this violence, or our continuing willingness to allow the racist, sexist and imperialist ruling class to inflict more and more violence on people and planet.

Frequently, this reactionary violence bubbles through the placid, undisturbed surface of our politically unconscious world, and then the white population in the United States wonders what happened: “Why is there so much senseless violence?  What caused all this terrorism?”  By not examining our history, and nurturing a revolutionary consciousness of the material conditions around us– and of which we are a part– we not only enable a violent system to expand its violence, incorporating its oppressive behavior into our daily lives, but we act as if we are totally helpless and incapable of understanding the political basis of our behavior.  Capitalist society rushes toward ever greater expressions of violence– even as some of these violent expressions grow more subtle and intimate in our lives– and yet the white population simultaneously believes that we are utterly incapable of stopping our own destructive (and self-destructive) behavior.

What will be the result of this near-total repression of revolutionary consciousness among white people in the United States?  It’s hard to say at this point.  But one thing we do know about the history of societies– which are also part of nature, and are subject to the laws of the material universe– is that changes to a society do not happen at evenly spaced intervals.  There are long periods where very little seems to be changing in our conditions, and yet– through the process of actions then equal and opposite reactions– there is still an accumulation of quantitative changes, which we may or may not perceive.  And then, all the sudden, there is some massive change to society, a great upheaval in conditions, which leads to a complete transformation of political, economic and social systems.  What seemed to be permanent and static– the status quo– was, in reality, a brittle reaction to fluid processes boiling beneath the surface, a massive pressure building up day after day, until– one day– the lid is blown off the pot and the old system is destroyed and a new system takes its place.

When this revolution breaks out– or the revolution that is already going on begins to show itself in forms that even politically unconscious white people can perceive– it will most likely be violent … it may be extremely violent.  When the violence created by capitalism causes the pot to boil over, it won’t simply be a matter of choice on our part whether to be violent or nonviolent.  Although, even at this point of history, white people are choosing violence over peace– that is, right now the white population in the United States is choosing to support the type of violence that benefits us at the expense of oppressed (or violated) communities.  We may not be aware of our choice, but every day that we choose to give our loyalty to “America” and its violent capitalist system, whites are bringing global conditions closer to violent revolution.  Our support for capitalist violence will bring about anti-capitalist violence; only– as soon as the socialist revolution explodes– we may not have much to say one way or the other when it comes to how this violence is carried out.

So revolutionary consciousness means recognizing conditions for what they are– not just as we want them to be, according to our subjective idealism– and then organizing to move natural phenomena in the direction of our own choice.  Either the white population can choose to move our society in the direction that goes against capitalism, and thereby destroy the basis of U.S. and European power, or the white population can make the choice to move conditions in the current direction– until the oppressed people of the globe, who are no longer able to breathe, create a more powerful, more organized force of violence (to stop our violence), and use this stronger power to transform the entire situation that encompasses both oppressor and oppressed, and both the politically unconscious and the politically conscious.

We do have a choice today about which direction we want to take, based on our values, principles, beliefs and how we identify as a people.  But through our unconscious, reactionary behavior, and through our loyalty to an imperialist nation-state and its capitalist system that empowers this behavior, the white population has allowed the ruling class to make this choice for us, and to make us complicit in its violence against the oppressed communities of the globe.  If we cannot recognize the violence that is already there, and move together to end it– using any amount of violence necessary– then at some point the choice will be taken out of our hands, and placed into the hands of those who must move against their oppressor (against us), or perish.

The Dialectics of Violence Within the White Population of the United States

Throwing Out the Capitalist System of Power With the Trash (Mark Halperin)

Halperin

I never liked Mark Halperin … just to provide my initial gut reaction to the news that he too has engaged in abusive or predatory sexual behavior against women.  He has always given me the creeps.  So it doesn’t surprise me– not in the least– that Mark Halperin has joined the long (or endless?) list of cisgender men– quite often wealthy, white and powerful– who have committed gender-based violence, a list that includes U.S. Presidents from Thomas Jefferson to George H.W. Bush and (of course) Donald Trump.  Some words that could be used to describe the behavior of Mark Halperin, and white cisgender men like him, are: scum, evil, gross, monstrous, disgusting, or just plain bad.

These moral judgments– when shared by millions of people– can have a positive impact on a system of power; that is, if they can shame some individuals into behaving like decent human beings.  However, for the most part, such judgments of good and evil are a reflection of who we are– as we are reacting to a particular situation and the individuals involved in this situation– more than these judgments are an effective tool to stop their behavior.  It’s one thing to judge a person’s behavior as bad; it’s quite another to knock the systemic basis that empowers their bad behavior out from under them, thereby progressing toward a society whose power structure reflects our own values and beliefs (which, obviously, we judge to be positive), rather than theirs (which we judge to be negative).

In capitalist society, we are usually encouraged (if not forced) to look at behavior in terms of individuals: “good guys” and “bad guys,” or “heroes” and “villains.”  If someone is regarded as trash, or scum, then they are rejected by society– discarded, thrown out with the garbage.  If someone is wonderful, courageous, and charismatic (in a good way), they are elevated, promoted at their job, or handed an award, and then probably given an opportunity to cash in on their goodness.

Capitalism encourages opportunism (or, rather, it shoves it down our throats) because this individualistic behavior is profitable to the overall system, as each person (based on the power of their class) attempts to take advantage of these unequal amounts of power within the existing class structure.  As a result, we end up believing that exploited people somehow deserve to be in their situation of less power— because goodness, hard work, imagination, and genius are always rewarded, right?– whereas the people who display these qualities deserve to enjoy the benefits of exploitation within the unequal arrangement of power.  Such an unbalanced arrangement of power is difficult to explain in moral terms, unless we truly believe that Indigenous peoples deserve to have genocide committed against them (which is still going on), and that their “evil” (“savage,” “lazy”) behavior is the reason their lands have been occupied by the imperialist United States and by its population of white colonizers.  It seems Ayn Rand, John Wayne, and at least a few “American” Presidents have believed as much.

But if we take the revolutionary view of the United States and the world, and of the violently misogynistic behavior shown by cisgender men, then we can move beyond the reaction that “men are just trash” (which maybe they are), and try to understand the political basis for their violent actions and attitudes.  This approach doesn’t mean that we need to give up our values or principles, or attempt to understand global systems of power in amoral terms– quite the opposite.  By examining the violent or reactionary behavior of individuals according to its systemic basis of power, we may gain the tools to move against the existing system in the direction of our choice: progressing away from unequal, oppressive power (imperialist, patriarchal capitalist exploitation) and toward the self-empowerment of marginalized and oppressed communities, particularly the women (transgender and cisgender) in these communities.

Capitalism empowers certain types of behavior– misogynistic, predatory, opportunistic– because such behavior is profitable.  It’s as if there is a grid which is already in place, a hierarchy possessing so many open spots in each category or box within the dominant structure of unequal wealth and power; and then the capitalist system goes to work on the contradictions of each individual in the society under its control, and sticks them into this box or that box based on how successfully they serve the main purpose of this system (greater and greater profits).

But why (you may ask) is it profitable for a cisgender white man such as Mark Halperin to behave like scum?  Again, if we go back to the observation that systemic power is not based on judgments of “good” and “evil,” especially as these apply to individual behavior, then we can recognize that “being nice”– being a kind, decent, person– isn’t the issue here, at least when we’re talking about power.  Capitalism wants us to make it the issue.  Capitalism leads us to believe that if men stopped acting like trash, then this existing world economic system would go on functioning more or less the same– except it would be “good,” or “better.”  Capitalism gets us to take the view that “bad” individuals just need to “shape up or ship out,” because any radical change to the fundamental basis for its power (which is inherently violent) would mean huge cuts to its profits.

It would be a very unprofitable thing to root out gender violence, white supremacy and other systemic forms of oppression from the global capitalist society– in fact, it might even bring an end to the profit-motive altogether.  So capitalism needs those boxes, those openings in its structure of power, to remain in place, regardless of who fills them.  Even if they gave Mark Halperin the boot, and tossed his butt out on the street, the overall hierarchy of power, which historically has favored white cisgender men, would be unchanged.  In order to eliminate the incentives to engage in predatory, violent behavior against women, capitalism would have to be entirely restructured– no, more than restructured, this system would have to be completely torn down.

Simply throwing out Mark Halperin, or Harvey Weinstein, or Donald Trump, from the existing power structure is no threat to its power– there are thousands, if not millions, of white cisgender men (and white cisgender women) ready to fill the same role within that structure.  If you want to challenge the systemic basis for misogyny– and misogynoir and transmisogynoir– and if you want to move against the racist behavior of those with more power and wealth, then you have to take away their power and redistribute their wealth.

Whenever the struggle against racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia is only about changing places with white cisgender men, there are plenty of individuals who wouldn’t mind grabbing those open spots– as capitalism goes to work on their own contradictions, and encourages their own opportunistic behavior.  If you want to promote equality, and safety, then you need to take away the unequal power stolen by an entire class– an entire group of individuals who share the same class interests– and now that they have less power, they will have less opportunity to endanger the people (who now have more power to protect themselves).

This is true of the white population in general.  In order to stop our racism and sexism and other forms of systemic violence, whites must have our unequal amount of power taken from us– without our permission.  Racists and sexual predators and abusers rarely admit that they are engaged in this dangerous behavior, and may not even be conscious of it– at least until the victims, the oppressed communities, have moved against them and taken away this power to inflict harm.  In fact, it’s at that point– when they recognize that their own survival depends on acting like a decent human being– that the white supremacists, rapists and other segments of the colonizing population may gain true political consciousness of their behavior.

Power tends to have a deluding effect, on both the powerful and the powerless.  The powerless may believe that the individuals who are victimizing them must be monsters, larger-than-life villains like you see on television, and not just human beings like the rest of us.  And the powerful are so drunk on this power, so arrogant and smug when it comes to their unequal and elevated position inside the status quo, they begin to think they are innately superior as individuals, and that they earned everything through their own hard work, vision and ambition.

However, the only difference between the powerful and the powerless is power itself.  Take away the power of a class, and take away the power of an imperialist nation-state (the United States), and suddenly the individuals in this class or this empire will find that we need to struggle for our survival and for our development the same as everyone else on the globe.  When men, women and people of all genders are struggling– or working– at an equal level of power, and aren’t using members of some subjugated class as a means toward greater power for themselves, there is less opportunity for sexual violence, or any predatory behavior.

So, it’s not just about Mark Halperin.  To some extent, it’s not even about cisgender white men with power and wealth.  It’s about a world economic system (capitalism) that, historically, has favored cisgender white men like Halperin and has placed them in positions of power where they have had the opportunity to inflict violence.  And the reason capitalism– an exploitative, patriarchal and white supremacist system– still has power, and the United States still exists, is that the white population remains loyal to this violent system and the genocidal empire of “America,” as white women (cisgender and transgender) also hope to climb up and join the existing structure, moving into one of those open spots of individual wealth and power, rather than destroying the entire hierarchy and replacing it with a system that encourages decent, moral and humane behavior.

There’s no point in throwing out the trash (Mark Halperin), when you are still going to sit right in the middle of a stinking heap of misogynistic, transphobic, white supremacist, imperialist garbage: capitalism and the United States.

Throwing Out the Capitalist System of Power With the Trash (Mark Halperin)

“To Be, or Not to Organize Against the Capitalist System’s Status Quo?”– That Is the Question

ToBeEssay

Identity is not arbitrary, or random, but it is also not predetermined (except by the one Creator, Allah).  People are who they say they are because of their history– because of some historical record that can be examined and studied, as well as defined, for their own purposes.  A history of a people that has not been self-determined is one that belongs to some other people, to some other identity.  Identity is rooted in the ability itself (the power) to shape or develop that identity.  So all identity is essentially political.  It’s about power.

Revolutions are also about power.  They are about gaining political power.  And all revolutions are a process of struggle.  For there to be any struggle, there must be two objects that come into conflict with each other, or two objects which occupy the same space at the same time.  In revolutionary terms, what are these two objects?  They could be anything that we say they are: any fissure in society which creates a struggle for power, as two objective forces move against each other and collide, thereby transforming that society.

Identity is one thing that can be used in the revolutionary process.  Through this thing called “our identity” (who we are), a fissure or a crack begins to appear in the social structure of a space, and this thing can then be leveraged against the identity in that space which has more power.  The reason for this revolutionary process of leveraged identity is so the contradictory force coming from below may gain power for itself: or the ability to self-determine its future shape, based on a self-determined history.  As a result of this process, the newly defined historical identity is now in rebellion against forces of unequal power which seek to negate their ability to be, and (consequently) their actual identity, their very being.

So, as soon as you say who you are, and this identity– this being— has come into contradiction with the status quo, and with all the identities who shape the status quo, then a fissure has been created in society which can then be used for revolutionary struggle: the struggle for power.  This is why identity– which is always political– is useful to revolution.  If identity existed in a vacuum, without a history of its own, it would be useless to revolution.  But revolutionaries, or the makers of revolution who are the people, can look to their history, and then anything they find in that history which contradicts the current power structure can be leveraged against that structure– and now revolutionary struggle can be waged against the status quo.

We might argue that, while identity is not predetermined, it can be predefined by some outside force which has the power to do this– to define.  And so the process of looking into one’s history, as a people, may require the makers of revolutionary struggle to redefine who they are, based on the language of their own choosing.  As soon as they have made this choice– which is an expression of power in itself– they have immediately created an antagonistic relationship within the shared space or territory, as one object defines itself– or, rather, one revolutionary subject defines themselves– separately from the existing definitions (or power) of the other object (the objectifier) involved.

A Marxist theorist might argue instead that socialist revolution is only a struggle between two classes: between the bourgeoisie, or the capitalist class, and the class of exploited workers, or the proletariat.  Yet a worker does not rebel simply because they have been forced to work by the owners of the means of production.  After all, a machine is also forced to work and– unless it is programmed to rebel, or something goes haywire– a machine won’t rebel, no matter how badly it is treated or mistreated.  This is because a machine is an object, and people are not objects– we are humans.  We are complex subjects.  So, whenever a people– as workers– rebel, it’s not merely on account of the fact that they are performing work, or that their work is exploited by the bosses; people rebel because, at some point, they choose to beto exist— rather than to perish, or to die.  Of course, we may say there isn’t much choice involved when it comes to assuring our own survival, or gaining access to the necessities of life.  However, revolutionary struggle may be motivated by a number of factors– the choice not to be treated badly, and not to be exploited by our bosses, and not to be forced to live in wretched conditions (and then die).  These are some of our potential motivations to rebel, but they are as numerous as there are individual people (or hours of the individual’s day).

So, a revolutionary struggle that is carried out by the proletariat– or the class of workers– is not based only on the fact that they work, but that they identify as workers.  The job of the enemy is to make you identify with who they are, and to want the things that they want, even if your objective conditions prevent you from having these things.

The identity who has power always wants the powerless to accept their definitions, and not only accept their language for the conditions that involve both identities (the powerful and the powerless) but their language for identity itself.  According to the capitalists, there is no proletariat, and there are no exploited workers, and there are no marginalized communities.  People just need to work harder, toughen up, and stop whining, or get lucky, or receive some blessing from above … and then they too will be wealthy individual “success stories.”

If you identify with the ruling class– with a racist, imperialist, patriarchal, and capitalist system– then, no matter how exploited you are, and no matter how powerless you are, you will still go on using the language of the powerful exploiter: pledging allegiance to their flag, saying you are an “American,” talking about the “American Dream” and patriotically arguing there is “liberty and justice for all.”

Yet, as soon as you have become conscious of some split, some divide, between your identity and the identity of the powerful, then you have already created a conflict in society– one that is not only social, but is political and economic as well.  At this point, you may not be conscious that this is a political struggle.  You may say, “I’m exploited as a worker, I’m part of ‘the 99%,'” and at the same time you still identify with the institutions and structures of your exploiter.  So you say, “I’m an ‘American’ and I love this country and want to make it better.”  Right now, you may be conscious of your economic exploitation by the wealthy class (“the 1%”) within this imperialist and capitalist nation-state– the United States– but you still give your loyalty to the existing power structure, as expressed in its patriotic, [white] nationalist form called “America”: its flag, and the uniforms of its military and police, and its image as a beacon of freedom, justice and democracy.

Or, let’s say you identify as transgender, or pansexual, or bisexual.  Immediately your identity comes into conflict with the existing power structure of the United States and its system of homophobic and transphobic capitalism.  However, you may not be conscious that this social division or fissure that has opened up, between you– your (redefined) self– and the forces that once predefined you, is also political and economic.  At this point, you may simply wish to express your identity as an individual, using your own language to define who you are, as you go about enjoying your life on your own terms.

You may believe that any contradiction between your identity and the existing power structure can be resolved within the political status quo.  But you already know there is a social contradiction.  Your own experience teaches you that anti-queer or anti-trans forces in society are moving against you.  You can’t ignore them now because they directly affect your own contradictory identity– or your ability to be.  However, at this stage of the process, you may not be politically conscious that your struggle just to beto exist as a transgender woman, to live as a bisexual or pansexual woman, as any woman–  is connected to a system of power, the capitalist system which provides (or prevents) the ability of any individual to be or do anything, based on their class status.

If you are a white person who is transgender or bisexual (or both) you may not recognize at this point– even as an exploited worker, and as a woman– that there is a specific history for whiteness and for European colonizers who occupy this continent through genocide against Indigenous peoples, as well as genocide against Africans/Black people (slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, police brutality and other forms of colonial violence are genocide too).  What you may not recognize, although you are transgender or bisexual, is that the historical record for white people on this continent (plus Hawaii) is the basis for why we are able to live here at all, on occupied Indigenous land.  This is because you still identify with “America” and with the system of capitalism in the United States, a settler colony of Europe.  Therefore, while you recognize that there are transphobic and homophobic people in this society whose values, beliefs, attitudes and (at times) violent actions come into conflict with your own identity, nevertheless, you will struggle to resolve this conflict– this social contradiction– on the terms of the existing power structure.  Since the existing power structure favors whiteness and white people at the expense of Africans, Indigenous peoples and the global majority of “non-white” people, then your own individual struggle to express your true identity doesn’t seem to contradict the status quo, and its institutions and structures, even as you are somewhat aware of the inequality and injustice in the conditions around you.

However, the capitalist system is quite aware– constantly aware– of these cracks that have formed in the white population whose power is the basis for its power.  And so capitalism will seek to resolve these contradictions, through reforms to its existing structure.  Capitalism moves to unify the dissonant forces within the society under its control, and absorb any contradictory elements (particularly those of the white population) into the dominant object that occupies this space: wealthy, white, cisgender, heterosexual, and secular or Christian (in the imperialist sense of “secular” and “Christian”).  Such a movement on the part of the ruling class– the status quo– does not address the structural inequities of society, but simply allows the powerful to grow even stronger.  Since the purpose of the capitalist power structure is to create profits, it follows that the ruling class of this system– having resolved on its own terms any threats to its power– is now able to expand its exploitation of those identities who have the least power (or have been weakened the most by capitalist, imperialist and patriarchal exploitation): working class, African, Indigenous, transgender, queer, undocumented, sex worker, incarcerated, disabled, Muslim.

Therefore, it’s important to remember as white colonizers that, unless we are moving against the existing power structure, in our struggle to resolve the contradictions between who we are— our identity— and its negating forces, then we are just moving to strengthen capitalism’s power to oppress the marginalized identities around us.  It becomes crucial that we not only identify who we are, in terms that are political and economic as well as social– and according to the collective definitions of a community— but that we also identify and define the enemy.

If more and more people– including white colonizers in the U.S.– can identify capitalism and “America” as the enemy of our self-defined identities, then we can create unity through these differences, and bring together a mass force that moves against one common threat to our many identities.  And thus we can get power not just for ourselves– which would come at the expense of marginalized and oppressed peoples– but power for every identity that contradicts a racist, patriarchal and capitalist system of imperialist genocide.

By moving together against one enemy, we can take power for ourselves, but not any power based on the selfish, racist, patriarchal and liberal ideologies of capitalism which (by definition) promote power over others.  This self-determined power which we struggle to gain, as part of the revolutionary process, can be based on a reclaimed historical identity which has rejected whiteness and the “American” identity, and any identity which has only been shaped by some oppressive belief in a predefined superiority of one class, “race” or nationality.

“To Be, or Not to Organize Against the Capitalist System’s Status Quo?”– That Is the Question

Running For Votes … Or Running From Voters? Identifying With Racist, Capitalist Opportunism, Or With the Oppressed Peoples of the World

LolitaEssay

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee says Donald Trump’s “debasement of our nation” is what he will be remembered for as President.  Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona announced that he is not running for reelection because, he says “there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican Party.”  Former President George W. Bush says “bigotry seems emboldened” in the United States today (even as he fails to equate the rejection of “white supremacy” with the defeat of capitalist “globalization”).

These quotes would seem to indicate that the GOP (if not the United States) is on the verge of falling apart, and that Republicans are experiencing a period of increasing chaos under the leadership of Donald Trump.  And maybe they are.  But if liberals or Democrats see blood in the water on account of this chaos, and see the opportunity to win in the midterm elections and beyond, it’s because liberal politics are– like conservative politics– essentially opportunistic.

What do we mean by “opportunistic”?  Opportunistic behavior means putting the interests of the individual (or a class or a colonizing nation) ahead of the interests of the people.  Opportunism is a key aspect of capitalist oppression: it’s “dog eat dog,” “big fish eats little fish,” and other predatory behavior.  Bourgeois and imperialist opportunism is when one identity– perceived to be the weaker, because it has less power– has become the means to greater strength, and greater profits, for the identity above it, which is leveraging its own advantage of strength inside this unequal (dialectical) arrangement of power encompassing the two.

In politics, opportunistic behavior is reactionary because it indicates that a certain individual or class is reacting to some quantitative change in conditions that they can now exploit for their own benefit– typically to enjoy more wealth and more power for themselves and their identity.  We may contrast this reactionary behavior with revolutionary behavior, where the interests of both individual and class are placed beneath the interests of the larger society, and especially the most marginalized identities of the society.  That is, the revolutionary will recognize that, when the least powerful in society are empowered to climb up, then the entire society will benefit.  And this is called progressive politics.  It is like the Combahee River Collective Statement said forty years ago in 1977:

“If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”

So, if we consider the apparent chaos and division in the Republican Party today, with Republican Senators criticizing Trump, and the ex-President George W. Bush speaking out against “bigotry,” we might believe that the white supremacist right-wing is about to lose, and that liberals are about to jump in and take their place.  Yet such a belief would require the assumption that the United States– and its system of power– promotes any ideologies other than racist, misogynistic, transphobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, ableist and xenophobic capitalist oppression.  This is the idealist view of “history moving in cycles”– or “repeating itself”– and it’s the view that argues we will gradually make progress as soon as the bigots get old or die off, and as soon as the “hateful” ways of thinking are replaced by liberal ideas.  Meanwhile, Black people, or Africans in “America” (like Gazi Kodzo), are banned by Twitter, and are targeted as “Black Identity Extremists” by the FBI, and Richard Spencer, Donald Trump and the U.S. government, Amazon and G4S are doing just fine.  Far from going forward in cycles, we could argue– in the words of Philando Castile’s mother Valerie– “we’re devolving.

But, in contrast to the idealist view held by liberals, libertarians and conservatives, an analysis that is rooted in an understanding of our material conditions as these have developed throughout history will tell us that the two parties (Republican and Democrat) represent the interests of property and wealth, and that the two political wings (right and left) are made up of the class of white colonizers.  And these two parties– and their supporters on both wings of the colonizing class– are simply reacting to perceived threats to their power.  They are reacting out of the fear that they may lose power within the wealthy ruling class.  Bob Corker and Jeff Flake aren’t interested in the well-being of the masses of working class people around the world, or the people who are harmed the most by capitalist oppression– they are interested in their status inside the GOP, which is inside the ruling class of the United States, which sits on top of colonized, working class people.

If you think about it, the people who are criticizing Trump in the capitalist media (either on the right-wing or the left-wing), including the people who host shows on MSNBC and CNN, are almost never the people who are the most marginalized by capitalist oppression.  MSNBC isn’t going to hire a Black transgender woman or trans Latina to host a show in prime time– they probably won’t even invite her on as a guest, not if she is critical of a system that endangers her life, and that leads to a life expectancy of just 35 years.  But the capitalist media will continue to center the identities, ideas, and interests of cisgender white men– and cis white women— who are already in positions of power and who don’t really have a whole lot to lose whether Trump is President, or George Bush, or Bill Clinton.  What they are interested in– as cis whites who have plenty of wealth– is the opportunity to move the dial of “public opinion”– swaying voters this way or that– based on some scandal, some trending story or hashtag, or some ridiculously racist and ignorant thing Trump has said (every five minutes).  Such individuals aren’t organized for anything other than gaining more wealth and power for themselves, or for the U.S. Senate, CNN, The New York Times, and Huffington Post.

We might ask: “Is it a matter of life-and-death to these wealthy, white, cis individuals whether Trump and the Republicans are in power or out of power?”  If it’s not a matter of life-and-death, then why do they, of all people, have the microphone and the stage?  It’s because they are wealthy and white and cisgender, that’s why.  In other words, they represent white interests, the same as Trump does.  The only difference is that they want the opportunity to hold more influence within the same arrangement of power, within the same hierarchy of class, that benefits all whites (whether we’re wealthy, middle-class or poor).

Who knows what George Bush wants since his main focus seemed to be clearing brush on his ranch, and improving his golf game, and (as ex-President) watching the Rangers lose the World Series.  But Jeff Flake and Bob Corker want influence within the Republican Party, which is to say within the ruling class of rich, cisgender white men (and the cisgender white women who want more than 78% of the wealth and power that the men have).  The only difference between Trump’s critics in the ruling class and Trump’s supporters in the ruling class (including his most enthusiastic fan, himself) is the difference in influence.  The power structure is the same dialectic either way: the oppressor and the oppressed, the colonizer and the colonized.  But whenever Democrats see any kind of chaos and division among Republicans, they opportunistically want to rush in and grab some of the same power that Republicans have.

If Democrats truly represented the interests of the people– the oppressed populations within the United States and beyond– they would enter the halls of Congress in much the same manner as Lolita Lebrón did in 1954.  In other words, they’d go into the U.S. House of Representatives with guns, demanding an end to the occupation of Puerto Rico, and an end to the deportations and the terrorist acts of ICE, and the murders of Somalians by bombs from imperialist drones, and the attacks on Black and Brown people by the racist police and white vigilantes; and they would demand an all-out war to be waged against the KKK, the “alt-right” and any Nazi who dared to show their face in public.  If Democrats truly cared about equal rights and justice for marginalized people, they would do whatever is necessary to empower the people in this manner, including the movement to take up of arms in their defense.  Instead, Democrats and Republicans argue for a while (on TV or on the floor of Congress) and then safely retire to their neighborhoods.  Because both parties represent the interests of the violently oppressive ruling class, and have no fear of the masses of people whose interests they are supposed to represent.

And why don’t Republicans and Democrats– who both represent the interests of the patriarchal, capitalist and imperialist ruling class– fear the people whom they oppress?  It’s because whites in the United States have provided a buffer between the rich few at the top and everyone else in the world.  The ruling class can always count on the racism of the white population of the United States as the basis for our loyalty to a system that also exploits us.

We tolerate this economic exploitation by the ruling class, and give our loyalty to capitalism and “America” and its flag, because we don’t see the humanity of anyone who is not identified (by capitalism) as “white.”  We definitely don’t see their humanity unless they are “American,” and (on account of our racism) the default of “American” is always “white.”

Can we recognize the humanity of Africans in Niger, or do we just “honor the troops” because they were wearing the uniform of white nationalist interests when a few of them were killed?  Do we recognize that Mexican “immigrants” are actually on their own land when they are in the United States, and their value as people isn’t based on their willingness to do the jobs we don’t want to do?  No.  What we recognize as whites is that, no matter how exploited we are– during Republican and Democratic administrations– at least we have it “better off” then Africans in Africa, or Black and Brown people in the “bad part of town,” or the very people who are being robbed and murdered for our benefit.  If we felt united with Africans/Black people and with Indigenous/Native peoples and the global majority, and if we gave our allegiance to the principles of true justice and democracy instead of to the “American” flag, then the members of Congress wouldn’t be running for votes, they’d be running from voters!

So, U.S. Senators like Corker and Flake, and their timid “colleagues across the aisle” in Congress, are depending on the continuing opportunism of the white masses in order to keep their influence within the existing system intact– the same as MSNBC and CNN and Huffington Post are counting on racist white people to fall back on our “American exceptionalism” and give their ratings a boost (it’s the “patriotic” thing to do, you know).

The capitalist class wants the white population in the United States to view the world along the narrow strip of white interests that sits on top of everyone else.  If we start to worry that we are losing ground along this narrow strip that runs across a plane of colonial and white nationalist interests, then maybe we will swing our vote and “throw the bums out,” putting the Democrats back in power.  Then the pendulum may go in the other direction and we will throw them out too.  But what are the capitalist politicians worried about?  Not ending systemic oppression, but staying in power so they can manage these oppressive institutions– with softer or harsher language, with gradual reforms moving to the left or the right, with more deportations or even more deportations.

When our politics are opportunistic (liberal or conservative), changes to the system are just a question of degree, of quantity— not a question of quality.  While the capitalist politicians can still count on the European colonizing population to view our “American” and “white” identity as inherently superior to the masses who are murdered and robbed for our benefit, the rulers won’t fear us, and they won’t fear the masses– because they are confident that we identify with “America,” and not with the victims of “America.”

 

Running For Votes … Or Running From Voters? Identifying With Racist, Capitalist Opportunism, Or With the Oppressed Peoples of the World

An Object Labeled As Toxic Is Only Expected to Contain One Thing: A Dangerous Mixture

AmeriKKKaPoison

If you happen to look at a bottle that has the label “POISON” on it, then you may (rightly) assume that all the contents of that bottle are poisonous.

Some of the contents inside this bottle of poison may not be harmful, but, because they are mixed with substances that are poisonous, they too have become part of the mixture.

This means the whole bottle of whatever mixture is contained in the glass or plastic object is poisonous, even if some of the ingredients– before they were added– weren’t dangerous on their own.  And this means the bottle itself is a thing you want to stay away from, or replace, because the entire bottle contains a dangerous substance; and, no matter how much you may want to change some parts of the substance, you still recognize that, as long as they are inside the same glass or plastic container, they are toxic, just like the rest of the bottle.

Even if you have some other mixture in mind that you know is good for you– that has ingredients that aren’t harmful– you will still need a container to hold these good ingredients.  And you won’t want to take any chances by using the old container: it’s best just to get rid of it and use a new container, or many new containers, and change not only the contents of the bottle but the bottle itself.

If you look at a map of the United States then you can recognize the definite boundaries of a nation on the North American continent and Hawaii (as well as the territory of Puerto Rico and other “American” territories in the Caribbean and Pacific).

The label (of sorts) for this nation, or the symbol that flies over all these territories, is the “American” flag: the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Now, the people or the political system who defined these boundaries and who raised this flag over the territory in question will tell you that this object– the country itself as well as the flag which symbolizes it– represents good things, things such as freedom, justice, and equality, not to mention peace and democracy.  But what they want is to win over your loyalty to the ruling class and to the system of power (capitalism) that controls the people, land and resources inside these boundaries.  And, if you are identified as an “American,” particularly a white “American,” then you may have no problem giving your loyalty to this structure– this object– and pledging allegiance to its flag.  You may find it beneficial to be a citizen of the United States, and to call yourself an “American.”  And so the map– displaying the boundaries that surround this territory– becomes associated with good things; with security, wealth, the “American Dream,” and a nation that promotes justice and freedom both inside and beyond these borders, and throughout the globe.

However, suppose you were to become conscious of the reality that the object– the map, the flag– that you’ve given your loyalty to is not beneficial, and that, in fact, it contains elements that are dangerous to humanity, that are poisonous?  At that point, you might wish to focus on promoting the good parts as you attempt to discard all the elements that are harmful.  But then, suppose you discover that, as long as the contours or boundaries of this territory called “America” remain intact, everything inside this physical shape is going to be negatively affected by the harmful ingredients.  Even the things– and, more importantly, the people– whom you hoped to be free from the toxic influence of the poisonous substances still absorb this poison because they too are contained in the same bottle (or imperialist nation-state).  It’s not only the ruling class– or the class of cisgender heterosexual white men who have property and wealth– that is poisoned with white supremacy, patriarchy, and the ideologies of capitalist exploitation and colonial genocide.  These capitalist and “American” ideologies of white supremacy and patriarchy are permeating all the institutions and structures under the control of the ruling class, and not just the rich, or the obviously racist and misogynistic; their poisons have invaded everything (and everyone) contained in the boundaries of the object: the “bottle,” or the imperialist nation-state which is the United States.

Once you have become conscious of this reality, then you no longer wonder why there is so much toxic behavior within the boundaries of the United States, or within the mixture of classes, identities and overlapping populations that make up “America.”  In fact, you even expect this sort of violent and oppressive behavior to continue, just as long as the objective situation that contains all these behaviors remains unchanged.

You know that even good people and good organizations are still part of the same poisonous mixture, and still absorb many of the harmful ideologies of the ruling class, even as whites in the colonizing population tend to absorb the largest amounts of these dangerous ingredients, because our identities are so thoroughly saturated with white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalist exploitation.  And thus we can see why it is the case that whites are probably most likely to give our loyalty to this bottle of poison and the label on the outside of the bottle: the “American” flag, which has now become a symbol (to the politically conscious), not of freedom, justice and democracy, but an extremely dangerous, poisonous substance.

The “American” identity represents poison to humanity.  “America” has destroyed Indigenous or Native communities, and also committed genocide against Black and African people, and Latinxs, and the majority of people around the globe.

“America” and its capitalist system of power are poison.  These boundaries– shown on the map on the wall– are toxic.  Whiteness means toxic power.  But, because everyone within these boundaries is exposed to the same dangerous elements of “American” patriotism (or white nationalism), and colonialism, patriarchy and capitalist exploitation, it’s not just the wealthy class of white cisgender men who are poisoned, or even just the white population that enjoys the most benefits from the systemic oppression of Africans, Indigenous peoples and the communities of the world.  The poison that is “America” permeates the entire nation-state– the entire empire of the United States– and everyone and everything contained in that bottle, or inside the boundaries on the map that is up there on the wall.

So, whenever our choice is to proceed in a manner that is logical, and humane, it seems we would recognize that, if we want to change the substance inside the bottle (or inside the boundaries of “America”), then we may need to get rid of the bottle itself– throw out “America.”

If we keep going back to the same bottle, and expecting its mixture to be less poisonous than it was before, and we continue to expect good people– usually the people who are harmed the most by these toxic substances– to overcome all these negative influences, as they struggle to avoid being overwhelmed by so much negativity, then we are just placing unreasonable (and inhumane) expectations on everyone inside the object.

Once you recognize that “America” means “POISON,” and that the “American” flag is really just an image of a skull and bones, then you can begin to ask some logical questions– some humane questions– about what is to be done about this poisonous situation.  Do you believe that a nation built on genocide, slavery, colonization and capitalist exploitation can ever be anything good, and can ever promote egalitarian principles of true democracy?  If your answer is “yes” (or is “maybe”) then you will keep going back to the same bottle, over and over, always expecting it to contain elements of goodness.

But if you look at the history of that bottle– even how it gained its shape and its size and why it exists at all– then you can begin to understand that the United States (its boundaries, its structures and its institutions, and its red-white-and-blue flag) is poison.  As long as the bottle of toxic substance is sitting on the shelf, you can only expect it to contain what it says it contains on the outside: “American” white supremacy, “American” patriarchy, and “American” imperialist exploitation.  “America” means “POISON.”

You don’t open the bottle, and examine its contents, smell them, and then tell yourself, “Well, maybe there are some healthy ingredients in here, so I will just focus on the parts that aren’t dangerous, and hope the other parts gradually change into something good, until all of the substances are transformed into one positive mixture.”  You know that even the positive parts are mixed in with all those negative parts, and can’t get away from them.  You know it’s not fair to the good parts for us to demand that they remain pure and untainted, believing they won’t engage in toxic or dangerous behavior, when– day after day– they too have been exposed to the same poisonous elements, all mixed together inside one bottle.

Therefore, as whites become more conscious of this reality of “American” inequality, we may reach the point where we say: it’s not enough that a few people in “America” are rich (“the 1%”) while most are poor, or are struggling to get by (“the 99%”), so let’s just tax the wealthy, and fund more government programs, such as free healthcare and better schools, and be more like the [“white”] countries in Scandinavia.  But that redistribution of wealth (primarily among the “white majority”) still wouldn’t change the quality of what’s inside the bottle, or the purpose of the bottle itself (“America”).  As long as the same bottle labeled “POISON” is sitting on the shelf, we can change the quantities or proportions of ingredients in the mixture all we want, but the toxic parts will still infuse even the good parts, the beneficial parts.  “America” will still have boundaries that surround occupied Indigenous lands– for the benefit of the European colonizing population– and “America” itself will still have the toxic shape of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalist exploitation.

It doesn’t matter how much we reform the existing system of power, and the existing boundaries of capitalist empire in the United States, it will still be the same bottle of poison.  Why?  Because the boundaries of the United States– the lines you see drawn on that map that is up there on the wall– are designed to contain the poisonous ideologies of European imperialist capitalism.

The very existence of this bottle– “America”– is an indication of its purpose.  The United States was not created to benefit Africans and Indigenous peoples, and certainly not women and femmes in African and Indigenous communities, and even less so when we consider the relationship between this object and Black and Brown women who are transgender.  Yet we are still expecting to promote ideals of equality and justice for marginalized communities within the same boundaries of imperialist domination?

The United States itself represents the violence and exploitation that it perpetuates.  That’s what this bottle is for.  “America” holds the poison that we would expect it to hold, when we consider that “America” is a genocidal project of the European identity, particularly of its ruling class of cisgender heterosexual men with money.

So, it seems the question isn’t how we shake up the bottle in order to bring some of the beneficial substances to the top, while the toxic parts are settling to the bottom.  The bottle itself needs to be destroyed.

Of course, this metaphor can only be carried so far.  We don’t wish to destroy the people who have absorbed the toxic contents of this bottle, or this poisonous material called “America.”  But, objectively speaking, we wish to change the negative consequences of our behaviors, regardless of the subject (identity) involved.

And, before we do anything, we must be able to do it– we must have the power to do this thing.  So, if you take a bottle that has a label marked “POISON”– or America”– and this substance represents the political power to do something, then it follows that your behavior is going to be poisonous, because your thought patterns are poisoned by the power structure– by the object or the bottle and what it contains.  Capitalism, as a system, is the one source of power– the dangerous, toxic source for all we do in this capitalist nation-state, the United States.

Even if some of the behaviors (or some of our power to act) inside this system aren’t negative, these positive elements are still required to react to the parts that are negative.  The positive movements spend most of their time just reacting to the poison that is working on their own makeup, or composition, and is trying to take advantage of any weaknesses in these revolutionary elements– until, finally, they are dissolved as well, and perhaps even changed into poisonous (or counterrevolutionary) substances.

Right now, socialist revolutionaries have almost no power, and whatever power we do have to act, to live, to think– and whatever forces are governing our behavior– these are also poisoned.  We are forced to make reactionary choices in our own struggle to survive that contradict our revolutionary principles.  This is because everyone is dependent on a system of violent exploitation in order to gain access to the resources that keep us alive.  So even when people try to move against the dominant system of power, they run into the same imperialist boundaries, and struggle inside the same toxic institutions and structures of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalist exploitation.

The poison of “America” permeates our existence.  Nevertheless, we can start to imagine or re-imagine a map– which is to say, many new bottles— where the Navajo nation is one bottle, and perhaps there is another bottle for New Afrikans in the Southeast, and then another larger bottle for Mexico (one that contains California and most of the Southwest).  The existence of these various bottles may come into contradiction with each other, but that conflict can be worked out if— if!— the largest bottle of poisonous “American” identity is first destroyed, and its toxic ideologies are poured down the drain of history.  Only white power– or the United States– stands in the way of progress for humanity, not the various national identities who are subjugated by this power.

The substance of white supremacy, like the substance of homophobia, or transphobia, or misogyny, or ableism, or Islamophobia, or anti-Semitism, requires an objective container, a power structure, in order to provide a material shape and contour for these ideas.  So if we identify the enemy, and move against the enemy, then it seems we must identify the thing that contains the poison (the mixture of oppressive ideologies) and not just the murky elements themselves.

The poison is either “America” or it’s the white body of the European colonizer– it’s our choice.  But, one way or the other, we need to identify the container, the objective basis, for white supremacy: is it ourselves (our European bodies) or is it the system and the imperialist nation-state that fills these bodies with its hateful ideologies?

It is not so hard to recognize the map of empire and the boundaries that are around its institutions and structures which create so much violence and chaos.  It’s harder to go after “white supremacy”– or even “a system of white supremacy”– because some of these destructive elements have permeated friendly substances, and the good parts inside the overall framework of poisonous “American” empire.  And it seems we too– “whites”– wish to be good.  So who or what is the enemy?  What is the source of white supremacy, except white people?  It’s either us, or it’s the toxic object that contains us– the United States, whose white supremacist ideologies permeate our identities as Europeans in “America.”

In order to struggle against the colonialist, neo-colonialist, and imperialist elements of whiteness and “America” (the so-called “Western world”), then it seems we need to smash the bottle of poison itself, and destroy the containers which hold this power.  The biggest container of white supremacist, capitalist imperialism, and the most dangerous and the most toxic, is the United States.

Since we don’t have power– right now– then we can at least begin to look at this old bottle of poison (as well as its flag) and recognize it for what it is: toxic, poisonous, dangerous.  And we can imagine new bottles in its place.  We can start to think about self-determination and nationhood for marginalized peoples, whose bottles (or boundaries) will be formed according to their own choices, because– at that point– they will have power.  And then our white subjects/bodies will have to adjust to new bottles/boundaries in order to survive.

An Object Labeled As Toxic Is Only Expected to Contain One Thing: A Dangerous Mixture