Beethoven For Some: The Universality of Beethoven’s Music, Or Its Reflection of Europe’s Violent Division of the World?

BeethovenEssay

Daniel Barenboim, my favorite classical musician, once said about my favorite classical composer: “Beethoven’s music is universal… no matter where in the world— it speaks to all people.”  Usually, it’s not my habit to disagree with Daniel Barenboim when it comes to the subject of music.  But this notion of Beethoven’s “universal” greatness seems to be an idea that needs to be challenged.

This argument of mine won’t go into the possibility that Ludwig van Beethoven was Black or African, a speculation which is sometimes (unnecessarily) brought up.  “Ancestry.com” didn’t exist back then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, and probably shouldn’t exist now.  But, in terms of culture, and politics and history (out of which grow the first two), nationality is not a question of “race.”  If you identify with the history, politics and culture of a people— not as an individual, but as a social being, or as a member of your community— then you are part of that community, regardless of which percentage of African or Indigenous DNA you have.  So if you identify with “America” and “whiteness”– its history, its politics and its culture (or the lack thereof), it doesn’t matter that you are 1/16th Cherokee or Black.  You’re still white.

Also, this argument here won’t be that classical music is a European or white thing.  Such an argument seems to be based on the white supremacist belief that a people– or a nation, a community– cannot absorb and further develop the culture and ideas of the larger global community.  This argument is similar to the belief that Marxism– or dialectical materialism– is a European or white thing, and therefore isn’t meant for the revolutionary movements of Indigenous peoples or Africans.  That’s like saying only a white person can recognize the existence of gravity.  What we know is: Karl Marx, as a German cisgender man in the 19th century, was limited by or to his particular view of the world, which was European and which was, in fact, racist.  However, this contradictory view– based on Marx’s identity as part of his class and his national history– didn’t invalidate his theories of socialist revolution, because the Marxist argument states that the totality of truth contains its negation.  If this were not the dialectical and material reality, then societies wouldn’t be able to grow and develop; and nature itself could not change, thereby changing humans who are part of nature and are, therefore, engaged in a constant struggle within and against nature, both transforming and transformed by a shared environment.

This reality– of struggle, change, transformation– is universal to all the peoples of the globe; yet the cultures, histories and national identities which grow out of this natural process (according to the objective laws of nature) are far from universal.  So it’s a white supremacist view to believe that Beethoven’s music “speaks to all people.”

What that argument (that Beethoven’s appeal is universal) seems to imply is: if Beethoven music doesn’t speak to you, then you must not be a person— you must not be “cultured” or “advanced” enough to enjoy this universally great expression of humanity.  And that’s white supremacy.  But we also want to avoid (that is, if we are politically progressive) the white supremacist argument that Beethoven’s music is only for white people or Europeans.  It’s quite possible for a person outside Europe to love Beethoven– even more than the European, who may hate him– and to understand and play his music far better than the European person, or the white in one of Europe’s settler colonies, such as the United States.  In this sense, Daniel Barenboim is right: after Beethoven finished composing a symphony, this music immediately belonged to everybody, and not just to Beethoven, or Germany, or Europe.

However, Beethoven’s music also doesn’t exist in isolation from the material and historical circumstances which produced it, and which have allowed it to be performed throughout the world since its composition.  And these circumstances involve a divided reality which is anything but universally experienced.  Beethoven’s music reflects tremendous divisiveness, or extremely violent antagonisms within the global economy.  Does this mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) enjoy Beethoven’s Ninth, or any of his symphonies and works?  Of course not.  But before we argue that Beethoven’s music is universal, it seems we ought to recognize that it was composed, performed and (most of all) commodified in greatly divisive conditions of genocide, colonization, slavery and capitalist exploitation.

At the time Beethoven was alive (from December 16, 1770 to March 26, 1827), the world was violently divided into two parts: Europe (especially western Europe, including Germany) and the rest of the world, in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, Australia, Asia and the islands of the Pacific.  The resources of Africa and the Americas were flowing in one direction– toward Europe and toward the political category of “whiteness.”

Of course, the young Ludwig in Bonn, Germany was not a white colonizer, like the “American” occupiers of North America (and then Hawaii).  Ludwig would grow up to compose music that– for all its global appeal— was German, or European, not “white.”  There’s no such thing as “white culture.”  Whiteness depends on the parasitic theft of culture, or the genocidal and capitalist erasure of one’s past (their cultural or historical personality) for both the colonizer (European) and the colonized (African, Indigenous).  The political category of whiteness means only one thing: unequal power, acquired through extreme violence by Europeans against the populations of the world outside Europe.

Yet, at the time of Beethoven’s birth 247 years ago, Ludwig was born into conditions in Germany which were still dependent on this unequal relationship of global power.  Either directly or indirectly, the resources (and the lands and work) of Africans, and Indigenous peoples of the Americas, and the global majority (“people of color”), sustained Ludwig van Beethoven’s ability to compose his works.  Were they culturally authentic works and valuable as art?  Sure– and they still are.  But to argue that Beethoven’s music is universal is to ignore the violently divisive conditions of the globe, on account of the imperialist and capitalist system of power, which led to their creation.  And, no, we’re not saying Beethoven was some kind of horrible racist.  What we’re saying is: if a white supremacist system– global capitalism– is the material and historical basis for your works of art (as a European), then it’s difficult to argue that these works are universal.  Fela Kuti’s people didn’t invade Europe, thereby allowing him to create beautiful, life-affirming music.  And, for that matter, Leontyne Price is not complicit in genocide against Indigenous peoples or the ongoing oppression of her people, the Black community.  That complicity belongs to Europeans– or to whites.  And while capitalism still remains in place, on a global scale, culture alone won’t bring “us” together.  For there is no “us”– there is the colonizer and the colonized.

So if you look at the performance of Beethoven’s music anywhere in the world today (since listening to Beethoven, if you are able to do this, could sway your judgment) you might ask: does this performance reflect universal “human” values, or does it, in fact, reveal just how divided the world is under the capitalist system of power?  Because, if you want to go and listen to Beethoven’s music in a concert hall today, in the United States at least, you’ll find this performance is only “for all” when “all” means “all people who can afford an expensive ticket to the Beethoven concert.”  If you don’t have the dough for a ticket, you’ll be thrown out on your ear– some kind of “universal”!  And who tends to have the most money on this stolen continent?  European colonizers.  Whites.  So you probably can’t even get into the concert hall unless you benefit from a history of genocide, capitalist exploitation and colonization waged against Africans and Indigenous peoples.

However, let’s say you have the money for a ticket and you make it inside the concert hall, and you try to find your seat (up front: rich people; way in the back row, second balcony: you).  Now you settle in, ready to enjoy some of Beethoven’s great music.  And you open the program– suddenly a hostile army of sponsors marches into your face, Delta, Wells Fargo, US Bank, Exxon Mobil, United Airlines, JP Morgan Chase.  In other words, airlines and airports that attack Black trans women, grabbing all in their hair, with TSA employees’ violent hands on their bodies; airlines who throw Muslim women off their flights for silently reciting dhikr; banks and bankers (front row) who invest in pipelines on occupied Native territory, and whose wealth was built on slavery and genocide; and, finally, giant oil corporations that support the murder of women and children in Africa and the Middle East.  Tell me, how is this great music we’re about to hear so universal, you may ask.

But, hold up a sec, someone says, and then they argue: that’s not the music itself; for that, you need to look at Beethoven’s score, not the ticket prices, or the seating arrangement, or the sponsors in the program, or the cost of beverages in the lobby during intermission.  Yet Beethoven’s music doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Not only was the score written in specific historical conditions– conditions of global terror imposed by Europe’s system of capitalism– but it is performed, and consumed as a commodity, in conditions shaped by these same antagonistic forces of class.  So, even if you buy a CD of Karajan conducting Beethoven’s Third Symphony (which version?!), or you stream this symphony on Spotify, then your behavior is still empowered by a political, economic and social system which primarily benefits Europeans, or whites … and not just if we’re rich, cisgender, heterosexual and Christian.

This is not an indictment of the individual (Beethoven or the white Beethoven fan), but the class– the political category– of white people and whiteness, as part of a global system of power which violently divides the world, empowering the white minority to exist, to feel, to think, to speak, and (consequently) to state our belief that Beethoven’s music is universal.  The very act of making this statement of our belief is a reflection of violently acquired, unequal power– a belief based in white supremacy.

And we could take this argument just one step farther: the score of a symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, and the arrangement of the musicians in the orchestra, with a leader– a conductor– in front (usually a white, cisgender man like Karajan) is a reflection of European values imposed on people and planet, or on this invented ideal of humanity.  The players, like an army, must follow the leader (no, not Rakim, not this time), and play in exact unison, the same way over and over, as his magic wand, or baton, controls and shapes the performance– and the performers?– according to his dominant image.  Yes, the results are beautiful.  Beethoven’s Seventh: the immense power, the rhythmic intensity.  I’m here for it.  But this whole arrangement– this hierarchy of power– just oozes patriarchy, and a Western obsession with objective (or “objective”) precision, “perfection,” and uniformity … or universality.  The underlying claim (that is, the threat) seems to be: since Beethoven’s music is universal, you better play it exactly the way it is written, over and over again; otherwise the white cisgender conductor named Herbert or Karl or George is going to tear you to pieces with his dreaded glare; and, otherwise, some British critic at Gramophone Magazine will say the performance is muddled and rah-there a mess, or some snob on Amazon.com (who may or may not play an instrument) will call Daniel Barenboim a lousy conductor (or mediocre pianist).

In other words, this judgment that Beethoven’s music is universal is part of a larger belief that the white person– at the center of the universe– is empowered to make that judgment, and many others, in the first place.  As in: at the top of the heap, a heap of imperialist spoils.  “Rap isn’t real music– it all sounds the same and has too many violent lyrics.”  Have you listened to the Coriolan Overture lately?  Now that’s violent.

But Beethoven’s music is universal only if you need it to be.  And why do you need it to be universal, instead of merely enjoying it like Miriam Makeba, or John Coltrane, or the Marvelettes?  You need to say “Beethoven is for all,” because you are a giant multimedia corporation that owns Decca, or EMI, or Deutsche Grammophon, or (soon) all three, and one of your recording stars flies around the world with his orchestra– from Vienna, to London, to New York, to Los Angeles, to Tokyo– creating greater wealth for your investors.  Very convenient.  Meanwhile, if there’s a Berliner Philharmoniker that’s a “world-class symphony,” and there is not a “world-class symphony” in an African city, this must indicate that the latter (the orchestra, and the city, and Africa) is not quite up-to-par, “culture”-wise (or white-supremacy-wise).  And, even if the Accra Symphony Orchestra surpassed the Berlin Philharmonic– in its precision, its discipline, its donors and its season ticket holders– who is still in control, and who sets the standard?  Europeans.  Whites.

So it’s a little game we like to play– a sideshow to the larger scheme of global domination– because, in “America” at any rate, this ability to judge who is good, better, best … and worst (James Levine, to be honest) … is a nice replacement for, well, actual culture.  For that, we need another Elvis to steal the spotlight from Big Mama Thornton.  Actually, that’s not culture either.  If whites want to create culture, we need to destroy whiteness.  That means, our mass struggle to destroy global capitalism– which created the political category of whiteness– will lead to the creation of a culture.  Not a universal culture– just a culture which isn’t stolen on account of the violently genocidal (and vile) power of imperialism, capitalism, “America,” and whiteness.

“Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!”

 

 

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Beethoven For Some: The Universality of Beethoven’s Music, Or Its Reflection of Europe’s Violent Division of the World?

Gratitude to Black Women™ : Between Commercials for Sonic and Home Depot, During “MLB Tonight” or “Anderson Cooper 360”

ESSAYTHING

Would whites be just as grateful if– rather than saving this white supremacist, transphobic, misogynistic, and capitalist settler colony of Europe called “America”– oppressed people put the United States to rest (for good) in the graveyard of history?

What would the population of European colonizers say (and white women in particular say) if African women– meaning, Black women– saved themselves, and if their communities were to save themselves, from us?  (Although, this is what Black women actually might have been doing last night in Alabama when they defeated Roy Moore.)

Are we grateful for Nanny of the Maroons, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Claudia Jones, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Ella Baker, Gloria Richardson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Assata Shakur, Marsha P. Johnson, Elaine Brown, the Combahee River Collective and the masses of African women who have organized and struggled not just so their oppressor could survive, but so they could survive (and gain power) in spite of “America”?

Or does it always have to be about us, and about preserving this system of power (capitalism), because it benefits whites— at the expense of colonized and exploited peoples?

That’s a lot of questions to ask.  But, before we attempt to answer these questions, perhaps we ought to look at the situation that encompasses them and us, or the conditions we are all part of– as the colonizers and the colonized.

It may be hard to understand this situation that we are part of because one of the main tasks of capitalism is to confuse us about how and where we’re situated in a society under its control– that is, it’s the job of capitalism to repress all revolutionary class consciousness.

Of course, the primary objective of the capitalist ruling class is to make greater and greater profits for itself.  But, in order to achieve this aim, the ideologies and interests of the ruling class must have the support of the masses– the people who are the majority.  Without our support, capitalism couldn’t go about its business of gaining more wealth for the few at the top, through violence.  Therefore, capitalism seeks to confuse– or thoroughly mystify– the situation under its control, and us, otherwise the people might rise up and overthrow the ruling class.

As a result, the wealthy capitalists are able to force the majority of the people in this shared situation– this colonial context– to identify with their ideologies, their interests and, well, their identity as a class.

So if you have two parties who represent the interests of rich, cisgender whites– which is the situation in the United States with its Democrats and Republicans– then the masses of voters are supposed to worry about which of these two parties, representing the interests of white-controlled property, wins.

When they celebrate, we celebrate; when they lose, we lose– depending on which of the two parties of white nationalist power we support.  If we are “working class” whites, or we are that violently created “middle class” of (violent) white colonizers, or we are rich whites, we give our loyalty to this party or to that, and– in return– we hope we can enjoy some of the spoils of colonial oppression stolen by the ruling class of capitalism.  Because that’s what these contests called “elections”– these scrambles for African and Indigenous land, labor, culture and resources– are about: dividing up the loot of white supremacist, capitalist empire.

At no point during any election will any candidate in the Republican Party or the Democratic Party talk about restoring occupied territories to Indigenous peoples, or allowing New Afrikans to create their own nation in the South of this continent.  And you won’t hear from any “mainstream” candidate– that is, any candidate who has gained the approval of the ruling class– that “America” must end its theft of Africa’s land, resources, labor and lives.  You’ll just hear– if you’re able– that “America” must provide more jobs, better schools, better retirement plans and more access to healthcare for some homogenized group of “American voters,” or “kind, decent hardworking families” (apparently everyone else should be bombed, deported or imprisoned).

And where exactly does “America” gain the wealth to provide these benefits, most of which goes to the “white majority” who have only become the majority through our genocide against Indigenous peoples?  By committing genocide against Indigenous peoples, and by occupying their lands, stealing their resources, and forcing Africans– forcing Black women— to build an empire for us, for the white population who have given our full support to the ruling class to carry out its racist objectives.

Again, without our support, or our identification with “America” and its system of power, the ruling class wouldn’t be able to stay in business.  We must support capitalism, and its political candidates, or … it’s the end of the world for white people, here in our comfortable little world of whiteness and the bourgeois “American” identity.  And, if all else fails to save us from ourselves (so we can commit more violence against the larger world) we call on Black women in the United States (previously erased from our view) to save us.  Then we possibly express our gratitude to them (or not) and we return to our regularly scheduled program of colonial subjugation.

So, even (or especially) if we’re “progressive” whites, the ruling class of “America” and the system of capitalism gets us to identify with its aims and its ideals.  We spend all our time trying to elect an individual who might be slightly influenced to send a few more stolen resources in our direction.  Or at least the other guy (the greater of “these two evils”) won’t be taking more resources away from us, meaning the white population (including whites who want to be thought of as progressive).

Under the current arrangement of power, the battle lines of class– or the historical divide between the haves and the have-nots— are drawn according to the interests of the system’s ruling class, which has gained its power to rule only through genocide, slavery, colonization and capitalist oppression.

We (white colonizers) allow the rich few– who control CNN, MSNBC and all the networks, and both parties, and Wall Street, and the universities, and Facebook and Twitter, and most of the institutions and structures in this society– to tell us what we want and what we believe, and even who we are.  The terms of class struggle are determined from the outset by the class that engages in brutal violence against Indigenous peoples, and Africans and the global majority– and thus it wins our support, no matter who wins one of these “free and fair” elections.

However, it’s not just during bourgeois elections that the racist wealthy ruling class gets us to identify with its objectives for maintaining and growing the colonial power of “America.”  This need to confuse and mislead the masses permeates our daily lives in every institution we depend on in order to gain access to resources, or merely to cope with capitalist exploitation, which the white colonizing population also experiences even as we enjoy the benefits of its violence.  For example, this confusion enters our daily lives whenever we turn on the TV and watch– what else?– a commercial.

And let’s say one of these two or three million commercials we watch each day is the commercial for Sonic Drive-In featuring those two amusing cisgender white guys who sit in a car joking about burgers, soft drinks and other overpriced commodities.  Don’t get me wrong: they’re alright.  Kind of edgy, yet agreeably bland, and probably more entertaining than the actual program we’re watching, especially if it’s on CNN (or maybe the commercial for Sonic is the actual program).

But, OK, so these two guys are joking in a car (someone tell me to get to the point).  And if the viewers, or the voters, or whoever we are as “Americans” (another mystery) think these guys in the commercials are just mildly enjoyable to watch, that’s not the problem, as far as class struggle is concerned.   The problem is: capitalism gets us to identify— through the humor of these two guys– with the interests of rich investors, or owners, or whoever they are.  It doesn’t even matter if we know who we are supporting– what matters is that now we think we need to spend some of our money on fast food that is cranked out by exploited workers on occupied land in a world economic system which primarily benefits the white or European population.  The capitalists use the humor of these two cisgender white guys– just like they use the incisive, edgy political analysis of Rachel Maddow (whatever that means)– to win us over to their objectives, or greater profits for the few.  Cheeseburgers or white progressive politics– it’s all the same, profit-wise, to the owners of prime time television.

It would be different if there were two people sitting in a car talking like, well, the people, and one of them were to say: “You know, these onion rings are gross and this chili dog isn’t making my life any better at all.  It might be a good idea to organize against Sonic, and Burger King, and McDonald’s, until they pay their exploited workers a decent wage.  But, anyway … how’s your milkshake?”  And the other person would say, “Actually, I’m enjoying it, and these greasy fries are wonderful too.  But you’re right– let’s organize the people for power … after I finish devouring this sundae.  Yum.”

Or something along those lines.  Writing dialogue isn’t my strength.  The idea is: you don’t hear out of the mouths of T. J. Jagodowski or Peter Grosz (had to look those names up, obviously), or out of the mouth of Anderson Cooper, or anyone else on prime time TV anything that might threaten the status quo of capitalist power.  And the question is: how can there be actual equality, justice, peace and freedom in this society unless we challenge the status quo?  As long as these institutions keep feeding us nonthreatening ideas, images, noises and junk food that only reinforce our loyalty to the programming on CNN or ESPN at 8 p.m. Eastern, then the people won’t move to change this unjust society.

Here’s another example: Major League Baseball’s “Winter Meetings” in Orlando (Disney, what else?) as shown on MLB Network.  So, OK, we like baseball.  We like sports.  But the objective of the capitalist system is to make us identify with all these wealthy owners and “front offices” (management) as they spend millions of dollars on “commodities” that have “good value” (meaning, humans who play baseball for a living).  If Giancarlo Stanton gets $26 million per year (or whatever it is) from the New York Yankees, that’s a “good bargain.”  Or maybe the Miami Marlins could “ship” Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis, and Christian Yelich to the Giants, since Derek Jeter’s ownership group really needs to dump a few more contracts and “stabilize the financial health of their organization” (you should be very concerned about that, you dumb baseball fan who can’t even afford a ticket to a game).  In other words, the capitalists will have us talking and thinking like the capitalists, and identifying with their problems and their concerns, between commercials.

And, of course, it’s time for another commercial break, because it always is.  So now Home Depot is telling us that they “give Santa some serious competition.”  I get it– it’s just a commercial.  But imagine using a fictitious character (Santa) in a fictitious system of competition (capitalism) in a mythical country (“America”) to take nonexistent money from “consumers” (although you can use Visa or MasterCard) as part of a holiday season that is supposed to be about love, peace and worshiping a Higher Being.  The only way Home Depot can “compete” with “Santa” is to grow wealthier off people who spend money (even money they don’t have), so they can put Santa’s name on a box under the tree– while capitalism goes off to exploit more workers, more Black women.  But the point of the commercial, and its attempt at cleverness, is to get the “consumer” (or the “viewer/voter”) to identify with Home Depot’s interests in stealing– like the Grinch, another fictional character– greater profits for themselves.

That’s only one commercial, but the people in “America” are flooded with these messages all day long, while driving in rush hour traffic to our workplaces (if we can find a job), and while we are in the office, and when we’re burning up more gas in our car as we slowly creep back home on I-5.  The result?  A total repression of revolutionary class consciousness.

In this situation, we don’t consider how to seize power for ourselves, or power that isn’t based on the oppression of Black women and so-called people of color.  Because we identify with capitalism and “America.”  What it wants, we want– even when we don’t want it, but can only hope things will change for the better … when a Democrat wins.  Yet many people don’t survive until the “next election cycle” when the “pendulum swings” back in the other direction.  This system will eat people up, and grind them down, and then convince us that this is “progress.”  For whom?  Only for those who are empowered to survive, or opportunistically climb up on the destroyed lives of the masses who– by design– aren’t meant to survive capitalist exploitation and oppression.

Therefore, instead of telling Black and African women to identify with our interests and our problems, and then thanking them (or not) whenever they apparently save us from ourselves, perhaps white or European colonizers ought to identify who we are, what we want and what we believe in terms that don’t depend on the continuing oppression of Black women.  That is, it’s time for whites to organize against whiteness, and against capitalism, colonialism and “America,” and then reshape our collective political identity according to goals and beliefs that aren’t parasitically attached to violence against Black women and against all the oppressed peoples of the world.

 

Gratitude to Black Women™ : Between Commercials for Sonic and Home Depot, During “MLB Tonight” or “Anderson Cooper 360”

“I Am the People, I Am Not the Pigs” (Fred Hampton) … Or, The Dialectics of Organizing White Colonizers for Socialist Revolution

AAAEssay

One of the benefits of being a white liberal in the United States is believing that you are smarter and morally better than conservatives, particularly those “uneducated” whites in the South who vote for Republican candidates like Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

Of course, white liberals (like all whites) enjoy the same benefits from this white supremacist system of capitalist and colonial exploitation as their conservative neighbors do.  So, it just becomes a question of how you use the material benefits granted to you– the white colonizer– by capitalism within its global arrangement of unequal wealth and power: do you hold liberal ideals, or do you hold conservative ideals?  These are the “rights” guaranteed– to the white colonizing population, that is– by the U.S. Constitution.  What you do with all these rights is your business– as the white individual who is liberal or conservative or libertarian or even socialist– but the business of committing imperialist violence, mainly for the benefit of the wealthy few in the ruling class, is the business of the capitalist nation-state (or “America”).

And when it comes to “handling their business,” or recognizing their class interests, most people are fairly smart.  Even if they may not be able to articulate their view, they know what’s good for them.  These racist white people– whose kids sometimes get “bullied” because they’re being raised to be racist adults who then have racist kids (that’s a lot of racists)– aren’t merely being fooled by wealthy powerful whites like Trump.  They know deep down– or not so deep down– that “America” and its flag (never mind the Confederacy and its flag) were built on racist violence against Africans and Indigenous peoples: on white supremacist, capitalist genocide.  In fact, they know this historical reality better than the white liberal in the middle-class neighborhood in Oregon, which is also essentially segregated in 2017 (never mind the South fifty years ago).  Yet it doesn’t really matter if we’re poor, or middle-class, “working class,” or rich, and whether we live in the South or we live in the Pacific Northwest, or in 1967 or 2017, the colonial context is the same for all whites in the United States: we all benefit from racist violence against Africans, Indigenous peoples and so-called people of color (not “minorities,” but the global majority).

This recognition of class interests by “poor, racist whites” complicates the situation when white leftists, “SJWs” (“social justice warriors”) and other assorted “white allies” or “accomplices” feel it’s our task to “go into the white community” or into our white neighborhoods and “organize our uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, mothers, coworkers and schoolmates.”  That sounds good on paper, and also sometimes in practice, and– after all– we did ask [uncompensated] Black people, “What should we do?!”

At the same time– since the totality of the truth always contains its negation– we should recognize that “poor, racist whites” aren’t dumb.  Typically, as socialists we recognize that “poor, racist” white people (who are part of the same colonizing population of Europeans on this continent as we are) have the ability to learn the meaning of their true class interests, but only after they’ve been educated– by us— about the many ways the capitalists are tricking or miseducating them.  And then, having been educated, these “ignorant” Europeans will fight against capitalism and for socialism.  That seems to be the usual belief of white socialist organizers.  But here’s the problem: what’s a (typically) middle-class colonizer, who also benefits from capitalist violence, doing instructing a “poor, racist” Confederate-flag waving white how to go about their business?

It seems that “poor, racist whites” in the United States will have attained a revolutionary class consciousness– instead of a reactionary class (un)consciousness– as soon as they go to (middle-class) white progressives, and educate us that we need to become traitors to our class, and that we need to organize according to what they want and what they believe … or else.  Because, if “poor, racist whites” aren’t struggling in that direction, for their own survival and development, and neither are we (as “white progressives”), then there won’t be any socialist revolution coming from the white population.  And– to take this argument one step further– there will very likely not be any mass movement of anti-colonialist, socialist struggle among Europeans until we are forced to move in this direction by the revolutionary struggles of Africans everywhere on the globe.

Does this mean “white leftists” ought to give up and just go home?  No– unless by “give up” we mean giving up all our stolen resources in the form of reparations to Black and Indigenous people, and by “go home” we mean taking the next boat back to Europe.  What this means is that the political category of whiteness will never be sufficient grounds for organizing a mass movement to overthrow the capitalist system of power.  Yes, we share the same “grounds,” on occupied Native lands, but– if we’re truly materialists, or communists– we aren’t fighting for control of their lands.  You can’t fight for the liberation of someone else: Indigenous peoples and Africans must be their own liberators (to echo the title of the book by the longtime prisoner of war Jalil Muntaqim).

Then what, in fact, is the history, or the land, or the culture that the European colonizer is fighting to reclaim?  Whiteness and our “American” identity (or our anti-culture) are a negation of that history, and that common ground, and that culture, whatever it might be.

Europeans in this settler colony (rich, poor, or otherwise) have groundless claims to any power, and to any identity, which isn’t connected to “America” and to the global system of white supremacist capitalism.  Europeans, unlike Black people/Africans and Indigenous/Native peoples, lack any legitimate claim to class interests which could be leveraged against the current system of power, in order to gain power for our class or classes.

However, it’s also true that whites– no matter how progressive we believe we are– need to own our whiteness, and to take ownership of our history of white violence and white oppression.  Yes, “ownership” is an ugly word, especially when one considers the history of our white nationalist, bourgeois ownership of Indigenous land (private property), and our ownership of African lives (slavery), and even the ownership of the very meaning of personhood and humanity (white, cisgender, “able-bodied,” “Christian”).

But this is the objective reality of capitalist oppression: the colonizer in “America” owns, and therefore benefits from, our whiteness, even as each of us is owned by its undeniable and historical reality, and the fact of its power.  So it doesn’t matter if a white cisgender man suddenly feels some “spiritual connection” with Filipino culture and people, and now identifies as a Filipino.  (And we can forget about Rachel Dolezal and her violent leveraging of the white woman’s colonial privilege– or her class power as a white colonizer– against Black women.)  Because, objectively, the context of colonialism treats the white person (cisgender or transgender) as white, and the Black person as Black, and the Filipino as Filipino, regardless of how the individual feels inside.  The situation of the social being in society– a society stratified by class– determines their identity, even as they may struggle to transform their situation, as part of a community, or a class, who are organized and united around shared interests and beliefs.

Now, we may consider something crucial that the former Black Panther and prisoner of war Dhoruba Bin-Wahad once said: “The only way for a European or any white person to understand racism is through the interaction with people of color in a principled way, through dealing with people of color in the struggle against white-skin privilege.”  But, recognizing (again) the negative totality of the truth, we can also say that whites need to “handle our own business,” and go into our own neighborhoods, and schools, and workplaces, in order to organize for justice and equality, rather than requiring colonized or exploited “people of color” to help us understand the “privilege” (the colonial power) that we enjoy at their expense.  In other words, while the “only way for a European or any white person to understand racism is through the interaction with people of color in a principled way,” we also know that this “interaction” must be on their terms, not on ours, otherwise it is unprincipled.

Whenever we’re looking around for white people who might want to join a revolutionary struggle against “white-skin privilege,” or against “American” capitalist violence and exploitation, it seems we often think about going into some rural area (“getting out of our comfort zone”), or arguing with “racist relatives” at Thanksgiving (as they angrily wave a turkey leg at us).  And, certainly, if we can stop Uncle Bruce or that “nice, polite” white cisgender boy in our school from being the next colonizer to engage in (additional) terrorist violence against Africans, Indigenous people, Arabs or Latinxs, then that’s a good thing.  But this belief that, because we’re all white, and therefore all benefit from colonial exploitation and genocide, we are all part of the same community, seems to buy into the white supremacist idea that whiteness is a legitimate basis for mass political struggle.

Just as there were Russians one hundred years ago who were enemies of the Russian revolution, and then there were Chinese imperialists who were enemies of the Chinese revolution, and then there were Cuban landowners (supported by “America”) who were enemies of the Cuban revolution, today, there are white “Americans” (the vast majority, we might argue) who are enemies of our revolutionary struggle– European revolutionary struggle.  Whiteness alone cannot be the basis of mass political struggle.  Yes, European colonizers must “take ownership” of our whiteness, and we ought to recognize our violent history (including the present).  But if we want to engage in principled struggle, the Europeans who are already part of this struggle are the people who need to be educated, who need to support each other and learn to build together, rather than saying we ought to go into some mythological “white community” and convince racists to join, merely because they’re white.

Of course, we want to avoid elitism and also avoid becoming what Huey P. Newton called “the revolutionary cultist.”  But perhaps we ought to focus on moving against those racist whites, not convincing them.  After all, they are smart enough about their own investment in “white supremacy” and in “America” to view us as enemies.  Why try to tell them otherwise?  Yes, we’re all white, and none of us belongs here in North America (or Hawaii), but the condescension shows through whenever we act as if reactionary whites only need to be educated out of their racism by our socialist organizing.  I doubt you can sell socialism to people who don’t want it, and who have made their opposition clear.  Let’s organize ourselves, in principled interaction with so-called people of color who are organizing for socialism.

It seems more useful for Europeans to approach socialist organizing as a way of providing for our own needs– as we depend more and more on our organization to meet our needs– rather than rushing to be “allies” to Black people, or going to white reactionaries and acting like we have all the answers for creating a better system.  Let’s heighten or increase this divide between white reactionaries and white revolutionaries (while recognizing that much of white socialist behavior is also reactionary).  Let’s move against them, by moving for ourselves.  Because reactionaries who are part of the population of European colonizers hate that: they’re very sensitive about using the correct gender pronouns, and letting Muslims worship according to our own beliefs (or Christians for that matter, or believers in any religion, or none, if these beliefs do not include controlling the bodies of women and femmes).

White reactionaries see this movement by the so-called “white left” (ineffective as we are) as “authoritarian” and “repressive,” and so they wring their hands, worrying about the approaching reign of terror by the “PC thought police.”  Since white reactionaries (rich, poor, or in-between) are already worried about a loss of power, let’s really give them something to worry about.

You can’t organize that mass of reaction, you can only move against it.  And– in dialectical terms– one of the most effective ways to move against the forces of reaction is to build something for your own community, taking positive action.  Because the enemy will always react to that, and attempt to negate it.  And then you defend what you’ve built, because now you have something to defend– and not just whiteness and “America” and a history of genocidal violence.

I want us to create a beautiful, life-affirming movement– in other words, a movement that totally rejects capitalism, whiteness, ameriKKKa and its ugly flag.  And then the divisions of this violent colonial context, which we are all part of, will be further exposed by our positive action, revealing who, among us, are the people (supporting African and Indigenous liberation) and who, in fact, are the pigs (to echo that great Black Panther and socialist revolutionary, Fred Hampton, who was murdered by the forces of reaction that we should be moving against).

“I Am the People, I Am Not the Pigs” (Fred Hampton) … Or, The Dialectics of Organizing White Colonizers for Socialist Revolution

Al Franken, Now That You Are Going Away, Take the Entire U.S. Senate– and Capitalist System– With You When You Go Out the Door

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If you look at any problem in the world today that is related to systemic violence, you can be fairly certain that it’s the fault of Europeans, or white people.  And, yes, that includes “black-on-black crime” (another one of capitalism’s countless lies).  And that definitely includes the problem of misogyny, sexual harassment, r*pe and other predatory behavior, mainly coming from cisgender men with power and wealth.  Because, where does their wealth and power come from?  Capitalism.

Capitalism is a global economic system.  This system of power couldn’t function at all unless it remained in power on a global level.  That’s why, whenever the people of a small, impoverished country in the so-called Third World have democratically chosen socialism as their government, the United States, Europe and other “white” nations have attempted to destroy this system which was the choice of the masses whose labor, resources and land support the wealth and power of the “West.”  Thus, nations which have been impoverished by Europeans (wherever we happen to live in the world, or wherever we violently occupy its spaces) cannot resolve historical contradictions in their own societies on their own terms.  In fact, these “host” nations of the world often lack the resources of the richer and more powerful “parasite” nations, like the United States, which would allow them to address sexism, transphobia, homophobia and other forms of systemic violence.  Capitalism, a system built for the benefit of whites (the global minority), creates chaos in the political, economic, and social structures for everyone else outside Europe, or the global majority.

If one of these countries wants “to do business,” they are forced to go to the IMF, the World Bank, and the centers of international finance based in the West, in order to get a loan, leading to a situation of economic powerlessness which will determine the pace of their development as well as their priorities.  In other words, these countries no longer have self-determination.

The same is true for oppressed communities in the United States.  You might be a Black or Indigenous small business owner, and, yes, this position in society can help your community as far as providing jobs and building charitable organizations which enable their survival of capitalist violence.  But you are still forced to go to the same system of banking and finance that is funding the rest of society, with most of this wealth concentrated in the hands of those who are trying to rob and kill your people.  It’s all connected.  And this larger capitalist system, which has been at war against Africans and Indigenous peoples for hundreds of years, actually benefits the most whenever an individual from an opposed community in the United States gains wealth and power within this system.  Again, the central forces of reaction and oligarchy are now able to determine the priorities of oppressed or colonized peoples, robbing them of self-determination– of power.  In other words, killing them, and committing every form of violence against women who make up more than half their communities.

Before you can do anything, first you need to be able to do it– that is, you need power.  Of course, the whole idea of “ability” in this society is a Western conception, causing it to be inherently ableist.  The phrase “to be able” mostly means “survival of the fittest” in a “dog eat dog” world.  Power, under capitalism, is predatory behavior.  Those with a larger amount of power take advantage of this unequal arrangement in order to get ahead, climbing up on the backs of those with less power.  That simple mechanism– that opportunistic leveraging of greater power by an individual in a parasitic class in a parasitic nation, which is required by capitalism in order for it to function at all– leads to many forms of systemic violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and other predatory behavior.  Since capitalism is a global system of power, this behavior occurs on a global scale.

But you might ask (quite naturally): “Didn’t sexual violence and other predatory behavior take place for thousands of years prior to the rise of capitalism, and in many areas of the world outside Europe?”  Absolutely.  However, in historical terms, societies have moved from smaller units to larger units: from the family, to the village, to the nation, to the continent.  And this movement is due to the internal contradictions of society: a people can only move, grow, develop, or disintegrate because there are antagonistic forces or struggles for power within their society.  These contradictory elements are usually called “class antagonisms.”  So if you push down on a certain political category of people– let’s say, women– we will push back.  We will resist.

As a society grows bigger, wealthier and more powerful, the demands of repressed identities inside that society also grow.  It’s a white supremacist view that the advancements made by women in “Western nations” (cisgender white women in particular), and by homosexuals (again, mostly gay white cis people) are due to superior ideas that we just dreamed up one day.  The political, economic and social advancements enjoyed by marginalized groups within the white parasitic nations are directly due to the expansion of the exploitative power of these nations as they have increased their violence against the globe, and its women.

Huey P. Newton said at Yale University in 1971 that “imperialism lays a foundation for world communism.  It is necessary for imperialism to exist, even though we don’t like it: that’s the internal contradiction, you see.  … I’m not happy about it, but that is the dialectics of the situation.”  The system of imperialist capitalism created more than five centuries ago by Europe– for the benefit of its “white” populations— has led to this global dialectic.  We are all part of one world economy.  Huey P. Newton called it “reactionary intercommunalism.”  Some political theorists have talked about this dialectical reality– this unity of opposites– in terms of the division between “the town” and “the country,” and perhaps also refer to the latter as “the Global South.”

But whatever you want to call it, the reality is the same: the development of the “white world” or the “West” is based on the underdevelopment of nations outside Europe (and “people of color” in Europe and its settler colonies).  And this material development on our part– as whites– also means the development of our ideas: ideas of progress, or progressive politics, as we move against sexism, homophobia, and (at some point) transphobia and economic exploitation.  These political advances in “America” are often framed in the terms of the U.S. Constitution and its “Bill of Rights,” the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower courts, and the U.S. Senate— documents and institutions whose very existence would be impossible without genocidal violence against Indigenous peoples (including, of course, Indigenous women), and Africans (specifically, Black transgender women), or– generally speaking– the global majority in this dialectical struggle for power.

However, we should avoid the suggestion that whites have taught the world the best way to struggle against misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, sexual violence and economic exploitation.  If anything, colonized peoples– through their mass struggles against a white supremacist system– have taught us (Europeans) what it means to resist … us.  After all, a Black woman, Tarana Burke, created the hashtag “#MeToo” and the organized movement it represents.  At the same time, Europeans– or whites in the “Western world”– have been great teachers to the oppressed people of the globe about what not to be, or the way not to behave.

Our racist, violent behavior has set up the white population as an ideal example of the worst way to confront systemic violence, because we create it and we benefit from it.  As part of this global dialectic, whites seem eager to play the role of the enemy: the enemy of progress, or socialist revolution, as the whole world struggles to reach the next stage of history.  And this eagerness of ours is understandable– if not pardonable– when we consider that the resources, the comfort, the security, and the very rights enjoyed by Europeans in this global dialectic are based on the negation of these benefits for those communities whom we continue to exploit, rob, murder or otherwise oppress.  Whiteness– which set itself up as the standard for enlightenment, morality, scientific progress, “universal” rights, and the very idea of “humanity”– has become, during the growth of this global economic system, the terrorized world’s main obstacle in their movement toward these goals.

As a result, most of the problems of the world can– in fact– be blamed on white people.  Take, for example, “black-and-black crime.”  If you steal the power of a people, and their resources, their social structures and their consciousness of identity, their culture and, well, basically everything, and then force them to live in the worst conditions, as “Americans,” then of course there will be crime in their community.  Yet even the creation of this political category of “crime” (because that’s what it is– “crime” is a choice that is made when the people we elect make the laws and create this legal category), even this choice that we make for oppressed communities, imposing it on them, is a form of oppression.  A terribly violent form.

There couldn’t be any conception of “law and order” or “rule of law” in this country– this violent settler colony of Europe– without the white repression of African people, and the theft of not only their wealth, but their ability– or their power— to make laws for themselves … laws which would reflect their own cultural personality, their own history.  The reason any “crime” exists in the United States– and, yes, whites do commit most of this “crime”– is because the white or European settler population allows the category of crime to exist, by empowering its antithesis: law and order.  Take away the guns of the police, and all their power to create legalized violence, take away the courts that enshrine property in law, take away the U.S. Senate, and redistribute the resources necessary for the existence of these institutions among the people whom they terrorize, and you will wipe out the problem of white-on-white crime (which is to say, every type of crime) practically overnight.  Well, realistically, at least within a decade or two.

And if you want to eliminate the predatory behavior of these criminal cisgender men (most of whom are white, wealthy and powerful), then don’t remove them from their institutions (in capitalist media, or in the U.S. Senate, or in the White House); instead, remove the institutions from the white cisgender men.  That is, take away their institutional power.  And make them work for their survival, according to their ability, just like everyone else in the world.

Let’s say (hypothetically) that there are fifty people– trans, cis, gender nonconforming, agender– working side by side all day long, because that’s the only way they will have access to the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, housing, etc.); then it’s hard to imagine in that situation a Matt Lauer lurking like a monster in his huge office with a special button to lock unsuspecting victims inside it.  As satisfying as it might be to destroy every Donald Trump-type of rich cisgender white man in the world, it still wouldn’t do much good if the system which empowered their racist, misogynistic and evil behavior remained in place.  Destroy the system which empowers Trump, and Trump will have to evolve or die– the same as all living beings.

However, this question of blaming whites for all the systemic violence in the world is not really a question of morality.  Morally, yes, Europeans are to blame.  But– like anybody else– we will continue to construct our morality around the system of power which enables us to do this, or do anything else.  The supporters of Roy Moore– a predator, a pedophile, a monster– actually believe they are the forces of morality.

Of course, there are whites who– out of arrogance, or backward capitalist education, or just plain boredom– sometimes do want to play the part of the villain, and enjoy acting evil.  Let’s not overlook that sad reality.  But most of the white supremacists actually believe they are trying to do good.  Most of the transphobic radical feminists actually believe they support progress for women– white cis women, that is, since whiteness is essential to their conception of womanhood.  So this isn’t a moral fight.  It’s a struggle for power.  Once white people have less power to behave in a manner that is violent, and racist, and unjust, then perhaps we will have a greater capacity to do and to be good.  Otherwise, we truly aren’t human, or capable of change and progress.

I believe Europeans have the capacity to stop our violence against the oppressed peoples of the globe.  We don’t have to be the number one enemy of humanity any longer.  Whites don’t have to make “humanity” itself an almost meaningless invention of inhumane white supremacy (as well as transphobia, misogyny, misogynoir, and transmisogynoir– terms which do mean something).  If we can recognize the dialectics of this struggle for power, and how global communism will grow out of this backward system of racist, patriarchal and imperialist capitalism, then Europeans can begin to undermine our systemic capacity for violence against Africa and the world … from within.  We can heighten the contradictions, the crisis of imperialism.  We wouldn’t only want Al Franken to leave the U.S. Senate— we’d want the entire violent institution that is the U.S. Senate to go away with him, and the entire United States, and global capitalism.  And we’d struggle to make this happen.  But first we need to develop a mass consciousness of this dialectical relationship of power that exists between whiteness and the oppressed peoples of the world.  That shouldn’t be terribly difficult for us to do, if we want to do it.

Al Franken, Now That You Are Going Away, Take the Entire U.S. Senate– and Capitalist System– With You When You Go Out the Door

“Look Down That Lonesome Road”: How Our Correct(ed) Behavior Requires the Correct Politics

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When it comes to individual behavior, yes, we do have a choice about whether to go in this direction (in a manner of speaking) or to turn and go down “that lonesome road” in the other direction.  Yet the road itself is a product of a mass effort: an accumulation of knowledge, material, experience, work and millions of impersonal choices made at the level of a class or a nation.  Should we encourage individuals to “take responsibility for their own behavior”?  Sure.  But this society will continue to crank out people who behave in negative ways if we don’t struggle– as a society– to build roads leading to good behavior, and rip up the old roads leading to predatory, individualistic behavior.

But what is “good behavior”?  Libertarians and other reactionaries don’t want the government to decide what “good behavior” is for us– or, rather, what it is for them, as individuals.  Of course, the “American” government– as well as the entire system of capitalism in the United States– already decides what is good behavior and what is bad, and incentivizes our personal choices accordingly.  It’s a form of arrogance– using your brain as wall constructed of thick gray bricks– to believe a person can simply make the choice to be good or to do good without systemic forces shaping their behavior.  This behavior is something we learn.  We are educated by a system of power.  And this system of power reflects the will of the people– the masses– who allow the system to stay in power.  If we wish to avoid harmful behavior, gradually correcting our violence against marginalized identities, then our systematized education must reflect this choice on our part, because good and bad actions don’t just fall out of the sky.

This is why the aversion to “political correctness” by libertarians and other reactionaries is so misguided.  But one of the aims of the oppressive ruling class in “America” is to make the language regarding our ideals practically meaningless.  For example, “justice,” “peace,” “equality” and “liberty” are meaningless within a system of genocide, slavery, colonialism and global terror, where the wealthy few enjoy the benefits of their exploitation of the masses– in other words, within the system of capitalism in the United States, a settler colony of Europe.

So we might ask the question: how can you talk about “liberty” while stealing land from Native peoples and stealing Africans from their land, forcing them to build an empire for the white minority who want all this “freedom” (for ourselves)?  Under capitalism, the words “liberty” and “freedom” disintegrate into meaningless slogans meant to sell hamburgers and beer.  And reactionaries have rendered the term “politically correct” meaningless as well.  Or (more to the point) they have weaponized this term for their own use, to warn us that the “P.C. thought police” are coming to get you, like the commies of yesteryears (or yester-decades) who apparently threatened to invade “us” (but somehow never made it to these occupied territories where the police kill you or send you to prison for being Black).

The argument against “political correctness” seems to be that “authoritarian” control of ideas and speech will lead to some sort of “repressive regime”– so we should just “agree to disagree.”  You go your way and … as for mine, it’s still your way, because this road– in a system built on transphobia, misogyny and economic exploitation– has already limited my choices about which way to turn.

The struggle to create a system based on egalitarian principles is not merely about using a wide (or white) variety of ideas and speech within the one container of capitalism; it’s about destroying that container, that entire structure which educates us how to behave and, perhaps, even how– or who– to be.  We can explore every nook and cranny of the colonial self, but at the end of the day, a white colonizer is still just a white colonizer, and therefore still part of this homogenized mush of whiteness and capitalist violence.  If the greatest “tyranny” that we fear is losing access to the “unique” individuality of the colonial self, then it’s highly unlikely we have lost– because it has been stolen from us by the colonizer– mass political control of our own land, and our own resources, labor, culture … our very ability to determine or define our being.

The problem with white liberal “political correctness” (whatever that might mean) is its lack of institutional force, or the actual political structure required to incentivize behavior which is correct.  Liberals still make politically correct behavior an individual thing, as if we can take the initiative to “unlearn racism,” “check our privilege,” and put an end to our microaggressions against individuals in minoritized communities (who are part of the true global majority).  And maybe we can change our negative behavior, to a degree.  But this doesn’t mean the communities who experience our mass white violence will have power: for the whole question of behavior is still left up to individuals who benefit the most from a system based on unequal power.

So it seems cruel to tell an individual to become a better person and then force them to do so under a system (capitalism) which incentivizes the exact opposite behavior.  If we want people to behave more and more correctly, and struggle toward goodness, then it seems we ought to empower them to behave this way– not merely on an individual level, but on a mass level.  White people still wouldn’t unlearn our racism overnight, but if we haven’t learned– under capitalism– that it’s wrong to be a racist, after all these centuries, perhaps we need to be taught in the most effective way possible: take away our power to be racist.

And this means correct behavior will have to be transformed into an institutional thing– the road leading to racism (as well as transphobia and sexism) will have to be torn up and replaced.  But in order to do this, what is required is, not exactly the same, but a similar political force as that which created white supremacy: the power of the masses, only (this time) a force moving against oligarchy, and against individualism and predatory or reactionary ideas, and moving toward egalitarian principles based on the belief that the development of each person to their highest potential as a member of society (as a social being) should become the goal of every institution and structure in this society.

“Look Down That Lonesome Road”: How Our Correct(ed) Behavior Requires the Correct Politics

“Socialism Is The People. If You’re Afraid of Socialism, You’re Afraid of Yourself.”

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Democrats in the U.S. Senate, and many of their supporters, act like one of the worst things about the Republicans’ legalized theft of the masses– in the form of their recently passed tax cuts for the wealthy– is that these Senators didn’t get a chance to read the bill prior to voting against it.  As if, after reading it, Democrats would have voted for it.  And as if, after reading it, Republicans would have voted against it.  If you believe this is the reason it was an awful bill, then you must also believe that the processes of capitalist government in the United States can be anything other than awful, and that justice and peace can actually be guaranteed by this system.  In other words, you must have been dangerously misled by capitalism to hold the belief that any legislation passed by Congress has come about on account of the power that you wield as an individual “citizen” of “America.”

If we don’t have power over something we create, then we can’t trust it.  In fact, “representative democracy” under capitalism teaches the people to distrust ourselves and our own power, as the masses, as the people.  Capitalism teaches you to be afraid of yourself.  Fred Hampton, who was murdered by the Chicago Police Department and the FBI on this date forty-eight years ago, famously said: “Socialism is the people. If you’re afraid of socialism, you’re afraid of yourself.”

It’s incorrect to argue– like Alice— that higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy by the government is socialism.  That’s called state capitalism.  Under socialism, the people control the wealth, because the people control the means for producing this wealth.

Of course, by “the people” we mean the masses whose labor, land, resources, and culture are responsible for the creation of a society’s wealth.  Under the capitalist system in this settler colony of Europe called the United States, “We the People” has mostly meant white cisgender property-owners.  Their land– which the capitalists claim to “own” because they are white supremacists– is actually Indigenous territory, and without this land the wealth of capitalism would be impossible, not only on this continent but around the world.  The labor which produced the riches of “American” society, and much of its culture, has been stolen from Africa, whose lands have also been invaded by Europeans for over five hundred years.  In the United States, reparations have yet to be paid to Black people by a system of power built on their backs.  The wealth of “America” (and Canada), and the very existence of white colonizers on the North American continent and Hawaii, would also not be possible without the ongoing oppression of Africans everywhere in the world.

Bernie Sanders, whose protest against the Republicans’ tax bill is as loud as it is powerless, opposes reparations to Black people.  In fact, this totally incorrect analysis– that socialism means the government should raise taxes on private corporations and the wealthy few– has a very good friend in Bernie and his “revolution.”  But that’s not socialism.  Socialism means Africans and Native peoples, and all the oppressed communities of the globe, gaining power over their own land, and resources, and the productions of their labor.  Meanwhile, white colonizers will have to figure out how to work and how to produce our own resources for our survival and development, rather than relying on capitalism’s violent and racist theft of the globe.

But this is why so-called white leftists in the United States continue to be confused about the meaning of political power.  Fifty years ago, Kwame Ture– then known as Stokely Carmichael– tried to educate us about the difference between power and influence.  The reason the Republicans were able to pass another huge tax cut for the rich is that the people who produce these riches don’t have power.  What we have instead is “the sacred vote”: we get to choose which representatives of the property-owning class (we hope) will not sell out our interests in order to appease the corporations and wealthy individuals who actually control the U.S. government.  So we go back and forth between the Republicans and Democrats, “throwing the bums out” every two to four years, and crossing our fingers that the current batch of bums won’t make it more difficult to pay our bills and survive another month.  We keep hoping that the “lesser of two evils” (lesser, that is, in their “evil” against white people) will somehow fix things … for us (apparently the rest of the world, or so-called people of color, can drop dead).

If you don’t control it, or have power over it, then it probably won’t benefit you– it will benefit those who do control it.  The workers on this occupied Indigenous territory called the United States don’t control the wealth which they produce.  The rich (most of whom are white and cisgender) do.  So any benefits that happen to come in the direction of so-called working class white people– temporarily making our lives a bit easier, in the form of jobs, education, healthcare, affordable housing, and the recognition of individual rights– will be just that: temporary.

Nothing is permanent in this world, because conditions are constantly changing and evolving, but if you want progress that you can depend on, then you have to control the process by which you create the resources necessary for this progress.  In the United States, the poor and the middle-class don’t control the means of production.  Therefore, we are entirely dependent on the whims of the rich few at the top.  And if we raise taxes on them today, then tomorrow they can simply pass new laws to erase these taxes.  Because capital has the power, not the people.  “Socialism is the people.”  Capitalism is profits.  And, by definition, profits can only go to the few.  Meaning: the majority of the people under capitalism (or under the dictatorship of property) are powerless.

And the Democrats who are elected to serve capitalism’s government often fail by design.  For the most part, their life doesn’t depend on victory or failure.  If it did depend on victory (for the masses), a bullet in the head of a capitalist would be the surest way to keep the people alive.  Instead, the other day Bernie referred to one of the Republican Senators as a “friend.”  The Democrats and Republicans get together on the floor of the U.S. Senate to do one thing: rob and kill the global proletariat.  And if your land hasn’t been stolen, or you haven’t been packed away in a prison for your political beliefs (or for being Black), or your life expectancy isn’t 35 years like a trans woman of color, or you aren’t dying in some field, or mine or factory in Africa, so that white “workers” can demand the U.S. government to give us more benefits from capitalism’s violence against the globe, then OK, maybe the Republicans in Congress (and the Democrats too) are your friends.

But “working class” whites and middle-class whites in the United States are so misled by capitalism, we treat our rulers like they are our friends, while they treat us like we are their enemies.  They couldn’t care less if we die in the streets.  And it’s because the people don’t rule– certainly not the workers.  Property rules, and the classes or identities who benefit the most from this oligarchical power.  Materialist theory demonstrates that we can only make progress toward a truly egalitarian society when there is rule by the workers– a dictatorship of the proletariat.  But we’re afraid of this power– the power of the people.  Instead, we allow smug, comfortable millionaires to sit around arguing about whether we can struggle to live another month while they get richer, and more comfortable.

I’m against violence, obviously– otherwise, the organized violence of this world economic system, capitalism, would have my support.  But the capitalists should be afraid of the people, and our potential violence, not the other way around.  Socialism is when the people have power over our own lives.  Under socialism, a small group of cisgender white men– who look like the villains in an old black-and-white gangster picture at Warner Brothers– couldn’t decide our future in the middle of the night by voting for a bill that means the rich will get richer and everyone will just have to struggle to make ends meet, or die.

Bu suppose we vote for the Democrats again– who are controlled by the same ruling class interests as Republicans– and they raise taxes on the wealthy yet again.  Well, a few years later Republicans could get rid of those taxes.  Then we’re back to square one.  Why do we settle for this kind of mess?  Under socialism, there is no wealthy class.  Their stolen wealth will be redistributed to the workers who created this wealth.  Not only that, it’s kind of hard to use white people’s undying hatred of Black people as a way to elect Republicans (or the Clintons) when Africans, under socialism, have power over their own labor, resources, land and culture.  Under socialism, whites will be forced to work through our own contradictions, and not blame Black people (and Black women in particular) for our problems.

Capitalism is when there are ten people, and nine of them work so one of them can enjoy the benefits of their exploited labor.  So if the nine produce 10 units of x then the one at the top keeps all 10, and the nine have zero.  Of course, this one capitalist pays the nine people wages, and now they can buy the products of their own labor– that is, if they can afford them.  But if you raise taxes on the amount that the one capitalist puts in his pocket– or the difference between the cost of producing the 10 units and how much he gets when he sells the 10 units back to the producers– he is still making a profit off the 10 units which he didn’t produce.

Socialism is when there are ten people, and each one of the ten works to produce one unit of x, and– guess what– each one gets to keep one unit: from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.  Of course, that’s simplifying the process, only as an illustration.  We want to avoid ableism.  But the point is that, under socialism, the wealth created by the people is distributed among the people who created it.  Does this mean everyone is poor?  No.  We still have the incentive to produce 20 units, then 30.  But the incentive isn’t profits.  So we don’t waste a lot of time, energy (and, most important, because we are socialists) human lives, trying to drive the other capitalist out of business so we can monopolize his market.  Under socialism, our lives wouldn’t depend on stocks on Wall Street going up and down.  White people won’t have to terrorize the globe so that we can feel safe and comfortable while everyone else struggles to survive.

But now the reactionaries rush in, because they are not only ignorant, but they are proud to be ignorant, and they say: “What about Stalin?!  What about the human rights abuses of Fidel Castro?  What about the repression of ‘free speech’ in those ‘authoritarian’ regimes?”  Slow down, Dr. Jordan.  Nobody is arguing that socialist leaders have been perfect.  For one thing, only Allah is perfect.  But here in the dunya— that is, in the material universe which is governed by its contradictions– what we can recognize is that life for humans on this planet has often been short, brutal and unfair.  But we struggle to make it better.  And, as we struggle at the mass level, we make progress.  If you disagree, then forget everything you’ve ever learned, go spend a year in the woods or the desert (preferably on land not yet colonized by Europeans) and then come back and see if you’re better off than you are now.  The struggle for political, economic, and social advancement has always been at the level of the people.  In fact, struggling with libertarians to get over themselves is one of the challenges for bringing about a peaceful world where we can take care of each other, and not just them.

At any rate, during the course of these various connected struggles, the global economy reached the point– a century ago–where Russia had a revolution.  But socialism in Russia wasn’t isolated from the capitalist system and its exploitation of the world’s proletariat.  The people of Russia were forced to react to the reactions of capitalism, which have always been horribly violent.  For example, due to our horrible anti-Semitism, the West allowed the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, just as we allowed genocide by Belgium’s King Leopold against Africans in the Congo, and (on an even greater scale) genocide against the Native peoples of North America by its white settler population and our white supremacist government.  So life on this planet continued to be short, brutal and unfair.  And, out of these conditions (or in reaction to them), Stalin rose to power.  Russia was also not isolated from its own violent past.  Socialism isn’t utopian.  But neither is socialism fatalistic or defeatist, like capitalism is.  The socialism of the twentieth century, a few centuries from now, could resemble our earliest attempts at flying– but at least socialism attempts to fly.  Capitalism will always behave according to the irrational logic of “might makes right” and the few (cisgender, white, wealthy) leveraging the power they have over the many, for more profits.

Today, we could be working on overthrowing capitalism and really getting down to the fun part– the part where we have the power to do good for ourselves and for those among us who have the greatest needs.  I’d love to take all that wealth– just from Trump’s parasitic accumulation of the world’s productive forces– and pay that back to the people of Puerto Rico, and to Black people and Africans in New York City, and Africans in Somalia, and Native peoples in North Dakota and New Mexico.

The wealth stolen by whiteness, and capitalism and “America” belongs to the workers of the colonized and oppressed communities of the world.  We wouldn’t have to tax this wealth, or “invest” it– we’d just take it.  But first that requires power.  And European colonizers (whites) in the U.S. would rather have our unequal share of capitalism’s ongoing theft of the world than trust in our own power, under a socialist government.

“Socialism Is The People. If You’re Afraid of Socialism, You’re Afraid of Yourself.”

Impeaching Trump: A Good Thing … If It’s a Negative Thing For “America”

EssayAmeriKKKa

Some days it looks like the United States is going to fall apart.  On other days, things don’t look so good.  Today, it seems more possible (than it did yesterday at any rate) that Donald Trump could be impeached, based on Michael Flynn’s guilty plea to the charge of making false statements to the FBI as the National Security Advisor under Trump.

Now, you might argue– if you are progressive, or you actually care about people– that it would be a bad thing if Trump were impeached because Pence is even more dangerous than he is.  Or you might argue– also as a progressive and a socialist revolutionary– that it doesn’t make much difference who is in the White House because the whole capitalist system has to be brought down.  And those are both valid arguments.

However, revolution is a process.  As part of this process, the antagonisms or contradictory forces that hold a nation-state together are constantly adjusting through a series of reactions, and thus the oppressive situation moves toward its boiling point, and, at some critical moment, a massive change occurs.  But what does this mean in concrete terms?  Anything that weakens the United States is good– according to the view of anyone who supports progress for humanity and planet– because a stronger “America” means greater strength to inflict harm on the world.  Anything that makes “America” stronger, or allows it to resolve contradictions on its own terms of capitalist power, is bad.  So we might ask: would the impeachment of Trump indicate that “America” is getting stronger or getting weaker?

According to the liberal view (as opposed to the view held by socialist revolutionaries), the impeachment of Trump might indicate that “America” is getting stronger because a dangerous Republican would have just been dumped.  But the liberal view– like the conservative view or the libertarian view– doesn’t recognize the totality of the truth in any given situation, which contains its opposite.  Liberals idealistically believe that we are gradually moving toward some imaginary target where, under the same system of capitalism, the forces of misogyny, transphobia, racism and greed have been entirely eliminated.  However, in the struggle for power, each reaction creates an equal and opposite reaction.  So if you move against the forces who hold power– white, cisgender, wealthy– then any gains you make will lead their forces to grow stronger as they react to this movement.

Liberals insist there must be nonviolence (which is not the same as peace), in a system built on violence, as well as reforms, like more regulations, and more taxes on the rich (which is not the same thing as socialism, Alice); and liberals insist on greater inclusion of individuals belonging to marginalized communities into this violent system.  In other words, liberals seek to resolve any threats to the power of the existing system on terms which strengthen the system, and so they probably think that impeaching Trump would restore order in “America.”  If it did, this would not be a good thing for the future of people and planet.  The point isn’t to save capitalism, it’s to destroy it, and to overthrow the current political and economic order in the United States and the world.

The impeachment of Trump would contribute to the ongoing struggle of those without power to gain control over their own resources, labor, land and culture, as they move to take back the power– and the wealth– which has been stolen from them by the ruling classes of Europe.  If it benefits Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the people indigenous to the Americas, the Caribbean, Australia and the islands of the Pacific, it’s a good thing– in revolutionary terms– because it means the white population of colonizers is losing some of our power to occupy their territories, stealing the fruits of their work.  Anything that introduces elements of chaos, or disrupts the smooth functioning of the capitalist machine, may allow the powerless to jump in and take what is theirs.  If Trump is impeached, or otherwise forced to leave office, this reaction within the gears of the imperialist nation-state (the United States) would set off alarms that business-as-usual isn’t so good for business anymore, and that the wealthy, white cisgender few at the top aren’t able to rob the world so easily as they have in the past.

In fact, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States already represents a serious malfunction to the capitalist machine.  While Trump is really just your typical cisgender white man– only with more power and more wealth than your average Joe or Chad– he is extra volatile, and unpredictable, and thus is harder for the ruling class to control.  Wall Street and the military-industrial complex, and the generals who constantly have murder and empire on their fascist little minds, would greatly prefer to shove in front of the cameras an incurious Ronald Reagan-type to be their amicably vicious spokesman, as he imagines he’s the hero of a Warner Brothers film where Errol (not Mike) Flynn, or James Cagney, or Jeffrey Lynn, or any other talented star wasn’t available.  Reactionaries want a U.S. President who’s just glad to get the part.  Donald Trump isn’t glad– or at least isn’t grateful– for anything, because he has always been handed everything, in spite of his towering mediocrity as both a person and as a capitalist.

So the ruling class is stuck with Trump and– predictably– they can’t get anything done but bomb, deport, and kick poor people and women of color in the face, which is about the same as the last forty-four presidents accomplished.  Democrats might like to see Donald Trump gone because this would allow them to “Make America Great Again” in their own fashion– that is, also through democratic (small “d”) fascism.  They also want those votes from “working class” whites who (like all whites) are racist.  Democrats aren’t attempting to eliminate racists and racism– they want the support that these “kind, decent, hardworking” whites are giving to Trump.  But the bad news for Democrats (and the good news for progressive forces) is that you can no longer demoralize “working class” racist whites in the U.S. into switching parties– that is, to the other party representing the interests of rich property-owners.  Like Trump, nothing will make this homogeneous lump of pale mediocrity called whiteness glad, unless you can somehow get rid of all the brown people who are “taking over” … even if the Democrats might have some gently-worded plan of “benign neglect” to do just that.

The forces of reaction may eventually believe that the impeachment of Trump will be a positive thing for them because they can get back to the usual methods of robbing and murdering that made the United States “great” in the past.  But the impeachment of Trump would be a positive thing for the people of the world who are suffering under all this “greatness” of imperialist capitalism, because it would further disrupt capitalism’s reactionary processes of theft, violence and exploitation.  Capitalism needs a U.S. President who enjoys hitting golf balls or clearing brush on his ranch in Texas while the police are rounding up young Africans/Black people in schools and neighborhoods that look like war zones (because they are), and the courts are packing them away in profitable human storage facilities called prisons.  If Trump could just shut up and follow the usual blueprint for capitalist success– (1) oppress Africans everywhere they live in the world and (2) oppress them some more– then both liberal whites and conservative whites would be happy.  But we’re talking about a man– an admittedly rather ordinary white man– who hates to see people happy.

So, if Trump goes, that’s just one more crack in the giant gray wall of ameriKKKan capitalism.  And if the people keep swinging at that wall, moving as a unified force, at some point it will break down.  One day it may be Trump who crumbles under its force, the next day it may be Pence, or ExxonMobil, or Amazon, and the day after that– we may destroy this entire white supremacist system of violent exploitation.  We only need to be conscious of what (or who) we are moving for, and what (or who) we are moving against.  If we want to bring down not only Trump, but whiteness, capitalism, and ameriKKKa, in order to restore these lands to Indigenous peoples and support a totally unified and liberated Africa under socialist government, then getting rid of one U.S. President will be recognized as just one step in the revolutionary process, which is an unending struggle.

Impeaching Trump: A Good Thing … If It’s a Negative Thing For “America”