The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

AV tech, streaming experience? We're searching for someone to manage the behind the scenes of an anti-imperialist podcast. help out
[Theory] [National Oppression] [New Afrikan Black Panther Party] [New Afrikan Maoist Party] [ULK Issue 26]
expand

A Critique of Rashid's Black Liberation in the 21st Century

Black Belt Aztlan First Nations
Concentrations of oppressed nations overlap with the Black Belt, Aztlán, First Nation reservations and urban centers.

This is a response to an article titled "Black Liberation in the 21st Century: A Revolutionary Reassessment of Black Nationalism," by the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter's Minister of Defense, Rashid. Rashid's article has been published in a number of places.

My writing will not analyze Black Nationalism per se, rather it aims to address the "national question" itself. My position comes from a Chicano perspective, which I hope adds to the theoretical sauce surrounding the idea of national liberation and the development of the oppressed nations ideologically, whether they be from the Brown, Black or Red Nations here in the United $tates. In the contemporary prisoner, one sees an awakening to truth and meaning amidst a state offensive to deprive millions of humyn dignity and freedom. The roundups, ICE raids and fascist laws (reinforced with putting the data of millions of oppressed across the U.$. into the state intelligence files preparing for future revolt and repression) has added to the swirl of these times for people to become politicized, and prisoners are no exception.

The struggle in the ideological arena is just as vital as that with the rifle, and perhaps more difficult. Out in society — where people have more social influences — ideas, experiences and thought can bring more diverse views into the sphere of theory. Often times the prison environment, in its concentrated form and social makeup, has more limited ideological influences. This is a trap that prisoners should guard against in developing a political line. There will always be ideological "yes people" in prisons, especially amongst one's own circle of friends or comrades. This could also be said of the limited contacts in the outside world that most prisoners have.

The "national question" is one that is not exclusive to the Black Nation; it is something that Raza and others are wrangling with as well. My critiques here are related to the national question in the United $tates in general, and not specific to the Black Belt Thesis (BBT) that Rashid addresses in his article.

In the section titled "The Black Belt Thesis and the New Class Configuration of the New Afrikan Nation," Rashid describes comrade J.V. Stalin on the national question as follows:

The [Black Belt Thesis] was based on comrade J.V. Stalin's analysis of the national question as essentially a peasant question. Unlike the analysis put forward by Lenin, and more fully developed by Mao, Stalin's analysis limited the national question to essentially a peasantry's struggle for the land they labored on geographically defined by their having a common language, history, culture and economic life together. Hence the slogan "Free the Land!" and "Land to the Tiller!"

Just to be clear, J.V. Stalin defined a "nation" as follows:

A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture."(1)

This definition continues to stand as what defines a nation today and to deny this is simply a deviation. Comrade Lenin was not alive to see the development of the anti-colonial struggles and thus in his view oppressed nations could not be victorious on their own accord, but Stalin taught us differently. At the same time Stalin also stated that should a people no longer meet any of these criteria of a nation then they are no longer a nation.

In this section, Rashid refers to a "Great Migration" of Blacks out of the rural south and across the United $tates, which he uses, or seems to use, as justification for not having "need of pursuing a struggle to achieve a New Afrikan nation state, we have achieved the historical results of bourgeois democracy..." Just because a people migrate across the continent does not negate a national territory so long as a large concentration remains in the national territory. For example, if the Mohawk nation continues to reside in the northeast but a significant portion of their population spread out "across America" and become urban dwellers, their nation remains in the Northeast no matter how much they wish to be Oregonians or Alaskans. But what really seemed grating in this section was the last paragraph, which reads:

To complete the liberal democratic revolution and move forward to socialist reconstruction the proletariat must lead the struggle which is stifled by the increasingly anti-democratic, fascistic and reactionary bourgeoisie. The bourgeois are no longer capable of playing a progressive role in history.

First, the proletariat in its original sense for the most part does not exist in the United $tates. In addition, the Trotskyite approach of relying on the Amerikan "working class" is a waste of time. Amerikan workers are not a revolutionary vehicle - they are not exploited when they are amongst the highest paid workers in the world. How can those seeking higher pay for more or bigger plasma TVs and SUVs be relied upon to give all that up for "socialist construction"? And my view does not come unsupported by the ideological framework that Rashid claims to represent. Engels wrote to Marx in 1858:

The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable.(2)

So even back in Marx and Engels's day the English proletariat was already bourgeoisified. Imperialism has developed far more since 1858, further concentrating the wealth disparity between the oppressor and oppressed nations globally.

In the section titled "The Revolutionary Advantages of Our Proletarian National Character," the idea is put forth of "building a multi-ethnic, multi-racial socialist America." Although I am not opposed to multi-ethnic organizing, I also don't negate the usefulness of single-nation parties. One has to analyze the concrete conditions in the United $tates. The historical development of the social forces may not agree with this approach, and just because it may have worked in some countries it may not apply to this country. It obviously didn't apply to South Africa, another settler state. In Azania the Pan Africanist Congress seemed to forward the struggle more than other groups, in particular the integrationist African National Congress that took power and changed little for Azanians. Huey Newton himself understood this, thus the Black Panther Party was a single nationality party, with internationalist politics. Of course, at some point things will change, but the advancement of imperialism and a long lineage of white supremacy and privilege remains a hurdle still too huge for real multi-ethnic organizing advancements at this time in the United $tates.

In the section "Separation, Integration or Revolution," what is put forward for liberation is to overthrow "imperialism and play a leading role in the global proletarian revolution and socialist reconstruction." This, Rashid states, is "our path to liberation." This smacks of First World chauvinism. The International Communist Movement (ICM) will always be led by the Third World proletariat. The ICM is dominated by the Third World and our voice in the First World is just that, a voice, that will help advance the global struggle, not lead. The idea of First World leadership of the ICM is classic Trotskyism.

In the section "Reassessing the National Liberation Question," in speaking of past national liberation struggles, Rashid points to them having an "unattainable" goal. Yet countries like Vietnam, northern Korea, as well as Cuba come to mind as being successful in their national liberation struggles. [China is the prime example of liberating itself from imperialism and capitalism through socialist revolution. Of course, Huey Newton himself eventually dismissed China's achieving of true national liberation in his theory of "intercommunalism" that the NABPP-PC upholds - Editor]

Rashid goes on to say, "Even if we did manage to reconstitute ourselves as a territorial nation in the "Black Belt," we would only join the ranks of imperialist dominated Third World nations — and with the imperialist U.S. right on our border." Here it seems the idealist proposition is being put forward that an oppressed nation could possibly liberate itself to the point of secession while U.$. imperialism is still breathing. So long as U.$. imperialism is still in power, no internal oppressed nation will emancipate itself. So the thought of the imperialists being on one's border will not be a problem as at that point in the struggle for national liberation imperialism will be on no one's border.

In this same section, Rashid quotes Amilcar Cabral, who posed the question of whether national liberation was an imperialist creation in many African countries. Now we should understand that the imperialists will use any country, ideology or leader if allowed (Ghadaffi found this out the hard way most recently) but we should not believe that the people are not smart enough to free themselves when oppressed. The white supremacists put forward a line that Jews are in an international conspiracy creating revolution and communism. These conspiracy theorists look for any reason to suggest that the people cannot come to the conclusion to decolonize themselves.

Later in this section the question is asked if the "proponents of the BBT expect whites in the 'Black Belt' to passively concede the territory and leave?"

I'm not a proponent of the Black Belt Thesis, but speaking in regard to national liberation I can answer this question quite clearly. As this writer alludes to, there may be a "white backlash." But in any national liberation struggle anywhere on the planet there is always a backlash from those whose interests are threatened. When the oppressed nations decide to liberate themselves in the United $tates the objective position of the reactionaries will be to fight to uphold their white privilege. This privilege relies heavily on the state and the culture of white supremacy in Amerika. So their choice will be to support the national liberation struggles, as real white revolutionaries will do, or to side with imperialism. But there will be no sympathy for oppressors in any national liberation struggle.

Asking the question of what do we expect whites to do is akin to asking the revolutionary post-Civil War, when many were cut off from parasitism, "well do you expect the people to stop exploiting 'their' field workers?" Do you expect Amerikan workers to stop being paid high wages gained through the exploitation of the Third World? Do you expect the pimp to stop pimping the prostitute? Do you expect the oppressor nation to give up their national privilege? To all of the above I say if it's what the people decide, then YES!

Real white comrades not only will support the oppressed to obtain liberation in a future revolution, but most do so in their work today, even though they are a small minority compared to the larger Amerikan population. By that time in the distant future hopefully more people will have been educated and converted.

It is the task of conscious prisoners to develop a political line that propels the imprisoned masses forward via concrete analysis, not just of prison conditions, but of conditions outside these concentration camps as well. Oppression in imperialism is a three-legged stool that includes class, nation and gender. Thus we must develop our political line according to these concrete conditions. Our line should be grounded in reality. Our society is still very much segregated along class and national lines, particularly in the fields of housing, education and freedom.

Indeed, over half the people living within two miles of a hazardous waste facility are Brown, Black or First Nations.(3) In many high schools in the inner city Brown and Black youth are forced to share one textbook for 3 or 4 students, while their parents are jailed when they attempt to enroll their children in "better off" schools which unsurprisingly are predominantly white.(4) The prisons are no different, nor the "justice system." Of the 700,000 who were reported to have been stopped and frisked in New York City last year, 87% were Latinos and Blacks even though whites make up 44% of New York City's population.

When we develop a political line we must challenge it on a materialist foundation in order to sharpen things up in a positive way, but it must not be detached from reality. Only in this way will we identify what is palpable in the realm of national liberation.

As Lenin said, "it is fine, it is necessary and important, to dream of another or radically different and better world — while at the same time we must infuse and inform our dreams with the most consistent, systematic and comprehensive scientific outlook and method, communism, and on that basis fight to bring those dreams into reality."


MIM(Prisons) adds: The original article by Rashid is in response to the New Afrikan Maoist Party and cites the Maoist Internationalist Movement as another party promoting the Black Belt Thesis. While MIM certainly never denounced the Black Belt Thesis, they recognized the crumbling material basis for seeing it through in the post-Comintern years that Rashid points to in his article. It is worth noting that more recent statistics show the New Afrikan population since 1990 has increased most in the South, where 55% of New Afrikans live today and that in the Black Belt states a much higher percentage of the population is New Afrikan than in the rest of the country.(5) MIM did publish an interesting discussion of the land question for New Afrika as an example of a two line struggle in 2004. Ultimately the land question must be determined by two conditions which we do not currently have: 1) a Black nation that has liberated itself from imperialism, and 2) a forum for negotiating land division in North America with other internal semi-colonies free from imperialist intervention.

In his article, Rashid responds to our critique of his liquidating the nationalist struggle in the book Defying the Tomb. In doing so he speaks of a Pan-Afrikan Nation, which is an oxymoron completely liquidating the meaning of both terms. Pan-Afrikanism is a recognition of the common interests of the various oppressed nations of Africa, often extended to the African diaspora. You cannot apply the Stalin quote given above to New Afrika and Pan Afrikanism and consistently call both a nation.

But ultimately, as the USW comrade criticizes above, the liquidationism is strongest in the NABPP-PC line on the progressive nature of the Amerikan nation. It is this dividing line that makes it impossible for our camps to see eye-to-eye and carry out a real two line struggle on the question of New Afrikan land.


1. JV Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913 in Marxism and the National-Colonial Quesiton, Proletarian Publishers: San Francisco, p. 22. Available from MIM Distributors for $7.
2. VI Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, John Riddell ed., Lenin's Struggle for a Revolutionary International, Monad Press: New York, 1984, p.498.
3. Rebekah Cowell, "In Their Backyard", The Sun May 2012.
4. CNN January 26 2011 "Mom jailed for enrolling kids in wrong school district"
5. http://www.blackdemographics.com/population.html
chain
[Economics] [Theory] [New Afrikan Maoist Party]
expand

NAMP response to MIM(Prisons) criticism

Resolution on Criticisms of NAMP's Line Related to UFD

This resolution is being passed by Our Party to publicly announce what Our line is on a few questions raised by MIM(Prisons) and members of their study group, and to address their criticisms on what they think Our line is. We challenge MIM(Prisons) to print this resolution in their Under Lock & Key newsletter to let the people decide for themselves what Our line really is, instead of blasting Us in a one-sided debate.

UFD is an outgrowth of various affiliated mass organizations Our Party has attempted to jump start. Initially, UFD was a subdivision of the New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty, as one will learn from reading the original edition of Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty. Since MIM(Prisons) abruptly withdrew their financial and administrative support of Our efforts to jump start UFD as a mass organization, the revised edition of Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty was unable to be completed on schedule. So, the public isn't aware that the New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty has been absorbed by UFD, which now stands for the Ujamaa Fraternal Dynasty. UFD is now a New Afrikan nationalist fraternity and the vanguard of the Movement for Ujamaa Dynasty, and it's divided into a General Nduguship (primarily for progressive elements of the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie) and a Field Division (primarily for ex-lumpens who haven't necessarily reached a revolutionary phase in their political development, but have given up their criminal lifestyle).

"Without revolutionary practice, revolutionary theory means shit!" Our Party hasn't liquidated itself at all into UFD, nor have We watered down Our politics. We are Maoists. But We are New Afrikan Maoists. And We uphold the three cardinal questions of MIM(Prisons) [editor's note: NAMP was not aware of MIM(Prisons)'s new cardinal points adopted around the same time as this resolution], going so far as to recognizing that the New Afrikan worker is a labor aristocracy and that most New Afrikans, including the lumpen, are bourgeois. No, Our class analysis hasn't changed either. So, what's all this criticism about over Our line? Well, part of it is Our fault for not being very clear Ourselves to articulate what amounts to a new strategic positioning. We admit, We knew where We wanted to go but didn't really know how to get there. The vision was clear but painting it was murky. We wanted to remain true to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but the context We are operating in isn't compatible to what We know to be true. We can't force square pegs into round holes. Revolutionaries must make revolution, but We must do so within concrete, objective reality.

Marx provided Us with the theoretical foundation, but he didn't bring about revolution. Does this mean his theoretical work wasn't correct? Absolutely not. He advanced human knowledge in relations to Our theoretical understanding of the development of things, including human history in Our struggle for economic, social, and political freedom. Lenin came along and applied Marxism to formulate even more advanced revolutionary theory according to the concrete conditions he was faced with. So too did Mao. But each were in a unique position. They had Marxism and the lessons of failed revolutionary struggles to work from. And they grew to political maturity during a revolutionary period within their respective countries. So, the concrete conditions gave their theory basis to advance the concrete revolutionary struggle of the time to socialist victory.

What are the concrete conditions We are faced with? There's no question We have available to Us the most advanced theory of revolution paid for in the blood and failure of many hundreds of thousands of Marxist revolutionaries. Our problem is that imperialism is winning worldwide not only in terms of economic and political dominance, but also in the conversation of what is and what is not a valid economic and political paradigm. Currently, Islamic Fundamentalism, in all its warped ideas and distortions is, nevertheless, doing more against imperialism than the Maoist camp worldwide. To that extent, We applaud Islamic Fundamentalists for fighting the imperialist snake that cloaks itself in the rhetoric of democracy and freedom. But We prefer Marxism.

Yet the concrete conditions We face as New Afrikan Maoists in imperialist America — indeed, as Maoists period — gives Our theory very little basis to advance the concrete revolutionary struggle of the proletarian camp. We are surrounded by enemies. Even the lumpen, as MIM(Prisons) admits, are parasites. But they argue that the lumpen "benefit less from imperialism, and more importantly face extreme oppression under imperialism." Well, they would be repressed under socialism too if they refused to give up their criminal ways. Lumpens are outlaws antagonistic to any system. Granted, imperialism is less amicable to reforming the lumpen than socialism would be. Under socialism, the lumpen would be given greater opportunities to reform themselves. But We're not living under socialism but imperialism, so lumpenism, like bourgeois subjectivism among the petty bourgeoisie, will be a great impediment to advancing Maoism in this country. With the lumpen, however, lumpenism plus bourgeois subjectivism are a double wammy.

MIM(Prisons) and its study group members aren't seeing the forest through the trees. Taken as a whole, We must conclude that the lumpen is not only more reactionary than the petty bourgeoisie but are manifestly less able to contribute to concrete revolutionary struggle against real oppression. For one, they're either locked down or under some form of law enforcement supervisions. Most are under-educated and lack discipline, and the prison system under imperialism isn't conducive to their rehabilitation, much less their politicization. This is why 7 out of 10 lumpens released from prison come back, and that not one who is released, in Our experience, stays active in revolutionary work or can be effective doing so. The imperialists are too powerful, and We're trying to fight them through propaganda and theoretical work. Are We serious?!

No, this is NOT to say We can't win against them nor that all lumpens are worthless. Firstly, Our Party was founded by ex-lumpens who MIM helped reach political maturity. Secondly, no enemy is undefeatable when you have the power of truth on your side. But having truth on your side won't guarantee people will recognize it just because you say so.

MIM(Prisons) and its study group members are caught up in ultra-leftism of another brand. Wake up and smell the coffee. This isn't 1917 nor 1949 in underdeveloped countries with weak capitalist governments. This is 2010 and capitalism has reached its highest stage of imperialism, which has strong imperialist governments worldwide. We better do as Lenin and Mao, both of whom were sharply criticized for moving away from what was considered the 'right doctrine' by developing new, practical approaches to apply revolutionary theory to their unique circumstances.

One thing MIM(Prisons) ignores about New Afrikans is that 1) We are an oppressed domestic colony of the United States, and 2) Our benefit from the super-profits flowing into this country is incidental to Our domestic neo-colonial status (the operative word being "domestic"). Just being in this country gives Us incidental access to its stolen wealth. MIM(Prisons) acts like the Catholic Church which tries to make people feel guilty about being human with sexual urges. This may not be the best analogy, but the point is that MIM(Prisons) makes it seem like everything is gravy between white Americans and New Afrikans. This smacks of the mainstream conservative argument that race doesn't matter anymore or isn't such a big deal like before. See, this is an ultra-leftist position trying to fit the square peg of the New Afrikan labor aristocracy into the round hole of the white labor aristocracy. Because MIM(Prisons), in its dogmatic adherence to the now defunct MIM's line on the labor aristocracy as straight up enemies of the international proletariat, can't strategically cope with an oppressed New Afrikan labor aristocracy vis-a-vis a dominant white labor aristocracy. It's easier for MIM(Prisons), the only active Maoist cell We know of coming out of MIM, and which only concerns itself with the prison movement, to write off any possible struggle to mobilize the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie against U.S. imperialism.

It's really sad MIM(Prisons) would so shamelessly distort the fact that New Afrikan people in this country, from lumpen to national bourgeoisie, as a whole still must contend with white supremacy and racist discrimination, both institutionally and blatantly. Everything from housing, employment, health care, government assistance, mental health, incarceration, education, sports, entertainment, etc. New Afrikan people face white supremacist/ racial discriminatory factors. And We know this. Call this identity politics, if you like, but racism is still very real in this country and will lead, during an economic and political breakdown, to full blown fascism. Just look how Muslims and migrant workers are treated.

We never said the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie is a revolutionary class within the context of socialist revolution — We're not too sure We can say the lumpen is. What We did say, and repeat here publicly and clearly, We hold the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie to be the most revolutionary class within the context of the bourgeois nationalist phase of the New Afrikan revolution. And We think this bourgeois nationalist phase strategically will heighten the contradiction between white America and New Afrikans while negating Our bourgeoisification.

Let's be real here. New Afrikans as a whole, due to white supremacy and racist discrimination manifested in neo-colonial practices, are locked out of major control over their own economic wealth by white America — albeit a part of super-profits. The point is, there's no way for white America to increase the New Afrikan share of the "pie" without weakening their own economic and political hegemony. There can be no increased super-exploitation of the Third World to "include" New Afrikans fully into the labor aristocracy elite. For one, other imperialist countries won't allow it. And two, the Third World would hate America more. The inevitable consequence of any New Afrikan bourgeois nationalist revolution would be 1) the heightening of the contradiction between white America and New Afrikans (clearly this is in accord with the principal contradiction in the world today being between oppressor and oppressed nations, unless MIM(Prisons) can conclusively prove how New Afrikans are no longer an oppressed nationality); 2) negate the bourgeoisification of New Afrikans as they become more radicalized as a whole; and 3) give Our Party the concrete basis to advance Our revolutionary line among a more receptive, radicalized nation of New Afrikan people.

We want to make revolution, not sit around doing propaganda and theoretical work until somehow a revolutionary period suddenly occurs. We must realize the imperialists apply their own science in theory and in practice to prevent revolutionary crises and maintain their dominance. We can't counter this through propaganda and theoretical work alone. We must figure out concrete, practical ways to heighten the principal contradiction. In this day and age, the role of the vanguard isn't just to thrash out line questions, do political agitation, and develop cadres, because We're not faced with the same concrete conditions Lenin and Mao, even Marx, were faced with that justified and enhanced their need to do this type of work. Right now We're preaching to the choir. This isn't about pragmatism, right opportunism, nor revisionism. This is about making revolution and not allowing Our bigger enemy to keep dictating the terms of Our fight.

In conclusion, Our Party hasn't forgotten our duty. MIM(Prisons) and its study group members should refrain from ad hominem arguments and demagoguery, and trying to pigeonhole Us by misrepresenting Our position on the questions We've addressed. Our support of UFD has nothing to do with any bourgeois subjectivism. The size of Our cadre or the resources available to Us is only part of the equation. The biggest is whether We can do something like what We're doing with UFD to advance both the concrete and theoretical revolutionary struggle of New Afrikan Maoism without losing Our way. We see no manifest danger that Our Party will degenerate into revisionism, right opportunism, or pragmatism. UFD isn't under Our Party leadership, so We're very much able to promote Our line and to criticize UFD if it deviates from the path of challenging U.S. imperialism via New Afrikan bourgeois nationalist revolution without "scaring" people from it.

And so that it is clear, We encourage Our cadre to join the ranks of UFD on its terms, not to secretly radicalize it. Again, We support its aim and purpose to the extent it challenges U.S. imperialism and can more effectively build independent institutions that serve the oppressed. Being that membership in Our Party is anonymous for security reasons, We see very little conflict in Our cadre joining the ranks of UFD. This is a strategic question, not a line question. There are practical benefits to Our cadre joining UFD as there are in them getting a job working for a bourgeois business. Besides being devoted to advocating New Afrikan nationalism and struggling against gang violence, drugs, sexism, criminality, poor education, unfair criminal justice practices, lack of prison reform, etc., UFD is devoted to building a financial and business network by which 1) business minded members of UFD can receive financial, technical, and marketing support from every other member of UFD who benefit from their investments; and 2) these businesses and investors can partner up, using their collective leveraging power to set up larger, corporate ventures on a distributive and productive scale to compete for hundreds of billions of dollars. Our cadre who are members of UFD will benefit from UFD's economic success, thereby allowing them to contribute more to the work of Our full-time Party workers. Everyone in Our Party has a purpose, and WE all can fulfill Our vanguard role, too.

For the record, We support MIM(Prisons)'s work and believe We were wrong to expect them to neglect their work to support Our strategy. That was right opportunism. And We no longer seek their aid in anything other than debating with Us publicly and privately to help Us further thrash out Our own line. We must develop Our own self-sufficiency, which We are slowly doing. MIM(Prisons)'s withdrawal of their support wasn't necessarily a set back, but rather a needed lesson. You can't hold a child's hand forever and expect them to blossom on their own. We owe MIM(Prisons) much and publicly pledge to repay them. And We encourage Our incarcerated cadre and supporters to participate in MIM(Prisons)'s study groups.

Let this not be Our final word on the matters discussed herein. We invite further criticisms, questions, comments and suggestions. But let Us all be objective here.

NAMP Central Committee
September 2010


MIM(Prisons) responds: We welcome the response from NAMP on our criticisms, as we don't like one-sided debates either. As we pointed out, we had no official documents from NAMP to refer to in regard to their political line as it has developed in recent years. The fact that this is the first public document we've seen from NAMP in years we'll leave as evidence of our position that NAMP liquidated the vanguard to develop a petty bourgeois mass organization.

For the most part, this response substantiates the points made in our original self-criticism. While accepting the labor aristocracy thesis, NAMP attacks the lumpen from a petty bourgeois position, then turns around and supports outright organizing on behalf of the economic interests of an exploiter nation. Organizing New Afrika around economic nationalism certainly offers historical advantages to organizing a European nation against U.$. imperialism, as MIM opposed in their opening piece in MIM Theory 14: United Front. Still, we would rather organize New Afrika as an oppressed nation around issues of oppression that are very real, life and death questions for the New Afrikan lumpen, or those facing even worse conditions in Africa.

In their discussion of racism, NAMP argues vehemently that the New Afrikan nation has interests opposed to imperialism because it is oppressed. Yet, when it comes to the lumpen, NAMP gives us the tautology that could be summarized as, "the lumpen can't be effective revolutionaries because they face oppression" such as high recidivism rates, poor educational opportunities, state supervision and prison. Of course, that very oppression is behind our position that the lumpen are potential allies of the proletariat.

To better demonstrate our differences, let's first understand what the lumpen class is. They are an excess population, something that Marx said was unique to the capitalist mode of production. They have no role to play in reproducing society; they are forbidden from playing a productive role in society. To talk about the lumpen as being criminal-minded first, rather than recognizing the origins of their class and therefore their class consciousness is backwards. The lumpen were not born as anti-social individuals, they were attacked first, usually because of national oppression from the white power structure. They turn around and fight the system in self-defense. So it's not just that the lumpen will be given more opportunities under socialism, the lumpen will cease to exist once the mode of production changes to meet humyn need. Those individuals who refuse to reform of course will be repressed.

We agree that the lumpen are bourgeoisified in the United $tates, just like everyone else is. And in China it was the lumpen who were often the hardest to reform, because their whole attitude is based on blatant parasitism — getting something for nothing. It is important to note that the lumpen in imperialist countries are not the same as the lumpen Marx, Lenin and Mao talked about. We can't just mechanically apply definitions about the lumpen, just like we can't mechanically assume that the workers in imperialist countries are the same proletariat they were back in Marx's day. For Marx, the lumpen were living among the proletariat, but were not of the proletariat class. That led to a different consciousness that made them tough allies, and they were a small minority. In the U$ we're talking about whole communities, ghettos, that are lumpen/petty bourgeois. There is a group consciousness there that is tied to national oppression. In imperialist countries there are many other attitudes among the lumpen in addition to parasitism, most importantly among the oppressed nations, that differentiate them from the petty bourgeoisie in progressive ways. We disagree with NAMP's assertion that lumpenism compounds bourgeois subjectivism, and say that in imperialist countries it actually plays a role in combating it.

One result of their exclusion and oppression is that the lumpen exists on the periphery of bourgeois society. It is on the periphery where there is room to move. We see advantages in freedom and security among the lumpen that don't exist among the petty bourgeoisie. Yes, prisoners are under extreme state control, limiting their ability to organize. But so are the proletariat of the Third World. In fact, this argument from NAMP is nothing new. "The oppressed are too uneducated and face too much repression to rise up in arms," has been the petty bourgeois line since Marx's day.

The strength of the state, in a country where spies far outnumber communists, is a daunting barrier that we acknowledge as much as anyone. But the Amerikkkan prison system has laid the ground work for building schools for developing revolutionary theory. The intelligentsia among the lumpen, which is concentrated behind steel and concrete, is one unique aspect of the lumpen in the United $tates that is in our favor. It is this group that is the basis of MIM(Prisons)'s existence and work.

It is curious that NAMP claims we ignore that New Afrikans are an oppressed domestic colony, as we have always pushed that line regarding all internal semi-colonies to the point of being accused of racism by many white prisoners. We counter NAMP's economic organizing strategy, with a strategy of organizing against oppression. On their second point in that paragraph we do think there is a difference in positions. In our minds it is highly debatable to claim that New Afrikans benefit from super-profits only incidentally to their oppression. Our general line is that integration was about 50% successful since the time of the Black Power movement. We hope to refine this analysis in future publications and welcome any contributions to this research from NAMP. We recognize the neo-colonial significance of Barack Obama to New Afrikans, and criticized those who thought this was somehow changing things for oppressed people inside or outside the United $tates.

We have never argued that the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie cannot be an ally in the anti-imperialist struggle, and here we challenge NAMP for misrepresenting our line. We do make two criticisms of them on this issue, one is regarding what points we should organize New Afrikans around, and the second is the relationship of the proletarian vanguard to other classes in the New Afrikan nationalist movement. NAMP's mistakes lie in organizing the petty bourgeoisie in an imperialist country around their economic interests, and doing so in the name of a supposed proletarian party, or its mass organization.

NAMP praises the anti-imperialism of the national bourgeoisie in the Muslim world, but would do well to compare the situation here to there. New Afrika has no land, nor natural resources, nor influence over currency markets. And despite having over 1 million citizens who are legally slaves, there is little exploitation of New Afrika to fight over. In other words, economically speaking, New Afrika has little to lose and much to gain from imperialism. Imperialism provides the petty bourgeoisie in the United $tates with their current income levels and living standards far above most of the world. We fail to see any bubbling of a revolutionary situation there. And certainly, if there was, it would not be based on economism, but on questions like voting rights, state repression and mass imprisonment.

In the original self-criticism we clarified our position on New Democracy for the internal semi-colonies. When NAMP actually addresses the question of New Afrika as an exploiter nation, the crux of their argument in favor of organizing the petty bourgeoisie is that the United $tates cannot buy off New Afrikans. As was demonstrated in our Case Study on the U.$. Housing Market Decline, more than half of New Afrikans are already bought off (at least materially speaking) with super-profits. What NAMP needs to address to be consistent is how New Afrika went from proletarian to petty bourgeois in recent generations, and their line that now it is impossible for the economic gap between New Afrikan and white Amerika to be closed.

If we assume for a minute that NAMP's economics are correct though, then we ask what application of United Front theory calls for the abandonment of proletarian politics to organize other classes? NAMP wants to claim that they still exist as a vanguard upholding Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and that there is no danger of revisionism in their strategy. They propose that it is okay to secretly join mass organizations and hide one's politics. Yet for all their stress on the importance of practice, where is NAMP's practice as a vanguard? Where is NAMP's practice independent of their organizing of the petty bourgeoisie to build economic independence? How is this not liquidationism?

NAMP's "we're preaching to the choir" line is typical of liquidationists and those who put numbers in command. They think we need to reach as many people as we can and get them on the streets first, then we can work out the details of what it is that we're doing. Reaching new people is great, but as MIM often said, "Revolutionary practice without the right theory is worse than shit." It should be clear to anyone reading this debate that not even the choir is clearly on the side of the preacher in either of our cases and there is much ideological struggle and development to be done before there will be any question of making revolution in the United $tates.

chain
[Theory] [Organizing] [New Afrikan Maoist Party] [ULK Issue 16]
expand

Self-Criticism on Relations with New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty

[Editor's Note: Before the public version of this self-criticism was published, the NAMP comrade mentioned below denied most of the political lines attributed to h herein. Since NAMP has made no official political statements either way on these issues, the question of NAMP's real line is a mystery for now. We hope that they will print documents that clarify their positions for future struggle.]

This self-criticism comes following the rectification of the relations between MIM(Prisons) and the New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) and its associated organizations. After being assigned the role as the primary contact for relations between MIM(Prisons) and other organizations, i failed to correctly apply the Maoist theory of United Front in this position. Here i will outline my mistakes and demonstrate why they should not have happened.

Historical Background

NAMP predates MIM(Prisons), and both organizations came out of circles working closely with the Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika before its disintegration. We were both focused on lumpen organizing within a Maoist framework. Soon after forming, MIM(Prisons) took over "MIM Distributors" and continued this institution by distributing MIM literature through the Free Political Books to Prisoners Program that MIM had led for many years. At the same time that we were developing this transition of responsibilities, our comrades were in dialogue with NAMP to help with the distribution of their journal that had been launched earlier that year.

MIM Distributors became the main source of the NAMP's Party Bulletin. MIM(Prisons) dedicated its own resources to producing and distributing these materials as a fraternal Maoist organization with NAMP. On the whole, we uphold the Party Bulletin as correct and an excellent starting point for a New Afrikan vanguard party. The Party Bulletin even premiered some new political line on the lumpen in the United $tates that MIM(Prisons) and others also uphold to this day.

As NAMP had established itself as a fraternal organization with a correct line and practice, the responsibility of coordinating our work together on behalf of MIM(Prisons) was put into my hands. By the time the last issue of the Party Bulletin (issue 6) was put out, NAMP had already launched a new mass organization called the New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty. This organization was explicitly less radical than other groups NAMP had attempted to launch under its umbrella, with a focus on their strategy of developing ujamaa or "cooperative economics." While we had already struggled with NAMP over this strategy in the past, i did not see this difference as a dividing line question.

The Party Bulletin ceased and after a period of "reorganization" NAMP's leadership came back to MIM(Prisons) with the Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty asking for help with production and distribution. This was part of a plan to expand and fund the work of NAMP and the New Afrikan Liberation Movement in general. But it was more than a fund-raising tactic, it was a strategic orientation that saw pushing the contradictions between the New Afrikan national bourgeoisie and the imperialists as principal. It is at this point where my practice began to violate the Maoist line on United Front, not to mention our line on the cell structure.

Fundraising: Strategy or Tactics?

Throughout our relationship with NAMP, i expressed disagreements with their strategy based on building New Afrikan-owned businesses, but did not want to impose unrealistic fundraising techniques on a fraternal organization struggling to get going.

In 2002, MIM's PIRAO Chief had already dismissed the strategy of developing bourgeois businesses with proletarian politics, using lumpen and labor aristocrats from the imperialist countries, as being an ultra-left strategy. A counter argument would apply if comrades are unemployable. Having one's own business would be a good way to employ comrades with prison records, for example. Generally though, we should be opportunistic in our fundraising and not get sucked into life projects nor into risky get-rich-with-little-work schemes. The Amerikan dream is an easy resource that we can tap for the movement with minimal work and preparation.

Most New Afrikans are legally employed and are therefore labor aristocracy/petty bourgeoisie. Compared to starting their own businesses, they could do more for the struggle by being part-time cogs in the imperialist country mall economy to raise funds for anti-imperialist work. Ironically, NAMP lost the hypothetical unemployable argument for building businesses when they more recently switched their recruitment focus from the lumpen to the petty bourgeoisie.

Strategy should stem from one's political line. Therefore, when NAMP and i (as representative of MIM(Prisons) ) agreed that we should not split over strategic orientation i should have been pushing some of those disagreements harder. To an extent they were correct to say we should not split on strategy, particularly in a stage when we do not have a centralized party as is currently the case. Different cells and organizations will vary in their tasks and therefore in the strategies to achieve those tasks. So the question should have been, do we agree that the tasks that each other is taking on are worthwhile? Now it is clear that we do not. If we had dug into these issues deeper at the time, we could have avoided the confusion we have now created and the setbacks we have caused both organizations.

No Neo-Colonialism

Part of this self-criticism is a criticism of the NAMP leader putting forth a liquidationist line. In short, NAMP abandoned their focus on the lumpen in favor of the petty bourgeoisie, who they said had the most revolutionary potential. This was justified by an inappropriate application of aspects of the theory of New Democracy to New Afrika. While Mao used his theory of New Democracy to demonstrate the impotence of the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary force in a semi-feudal exploited country and the need for proletarian and peasant organizing, NAMP used it to justify organizing primarily the petty/national bourgeoisie for their own economic interests as a necessary precursor to a socialist revolution. This is backwards, because even the impotent Chinese bourgeoisie were economically hampered and oppressed to a degree that New Afrika has not seen for at least 50 years, and Mao showed that they could not be depended on as a progressive force due to imperialism's influence.

NAMP's New Democracy line is an example of something that i didn't investigate enough and struggle with thoroughly. Others in MIM(Prisons) have also been self-critical for not thoroughly investigating the line of this material we distributed to the masses, due to laziness. To approve these items for distribution by MIM Distributors, we should have been as thorough as we are with an issue of Under Lock & Key. Ultimately, it is not practical for one of us to serve as the distributor for the other because NAMP and MIM(Prisons) are not in democratic centralism with each other. With the movement decentralized in a cell structure, we must each study and understand each others' work before distributing it. Being forced to do this, and the subsequent learning process for all leaders that will occur, is a benefit of the cell structure in a period where theory is a big focus.

At MIM's 1998 Congress they defined the "No Neo-Colonialism" point of their United Front policy by saying, "Always keep the perspective of the international proletariat and do not use the United Front as an occasion to cut 'a special deal' for one oppressed nation." Siphoning resources from MIM(Prisons) to NAMP effectively cut short the internationalist struggle in favor of one nation's struggle under a leadership that was openly organizing for the economic interests of those benefiting from the super-profits from Third World nations around the world! The open focus on the petty bourgeoisie happened late in the game, but it was the logical conclusion of the "cooperative economics" strategy and "New Democratic" struggle with no proletarian leadership.

The limited size and influence of our organizations makes the claim of neo-colonialism seem a little disproportionate to reality. But that just shows how narrow my view was to take resources for the internationalist struggle and funnel them into this very small operation, on the premise that it represented the New Afrikan struggle for self-determination.

No Pimping

"The most backward masses should be able to see what the difference is between us and our allies, except for fraternal parties on issues that are not the third cardinal [the labor aristocracy question —ed.]." - MIM's 1998 Congress resolution on policy for building the United Front

One thing that NAMP's work demonstrated was the appeal of nation-based organizing. While NAMP was pushing essentially the same political line in the Party Bulletin as MIM had put forth, often printing MIM articles, they attracted recruits that MIM did not. This small confirmation of the correctness of single-nation parties reinforced the importance of building NAMP to me.

It was a combination of attempting non-interference and of trusting a long-time comrade that led me to support Ujamaa as we had supported NAMP. While MIM(Prisons) did not officially run the Ujamaa, it was associated with MIM(Prisons) in a way that i saw as validating our correctness to the masses. Here was another mass organization coming from the lumpen that was part of the MIM camp. Like NAMP, the Ujamaa recruited people who then read MIM literature, which was also a material benefit of keeping the Ujamaa around. This was opportunism, linked to sectarianism, or putting the organization first as opposed to the struggle and the correct line to push the struggle further. As a result we confused the masses about what the best line and practice was.

For a Maoist organization to provide resources for a mass organization that it leads, particularly in its early stages, is completely legitimate according to Maoist theory. For NAMP to fund Ujamaa work is one thing, since NAMP controlled Ujamaa. For MIM(Prisons) to provide labor, supplies and funds to promote the Ujamaa was incorrect.

A correct practice was to print an interview with the Ujamaa in Under Lock & Key, i.e. within the context of our own Maoist newsletter. To co-publish materials with other mass organizations is completely within the realm of United Front work as long as we are able to assert our political line and criticize our comrades when necessary.

Hard Bargains

Another lesson to take from this is that any material/financial exchange for work should be strictly accounted for between the parties as well as with the central leadership. It is ultra-left to assume relationships under capitalism can exist in an amorphous mutually beneficial way. Acquiring material wealth is THE goal under capitalism, and it will take many generations of socialism before this will cease to be true. That's not to say that people can't act outside their material interests under capitalism, but instead to put a realistic standard on how relationships should be structured at this time to avoid problems.

As NAMP effectively liquidated itself into the Ujamaa, they went as far as to imply that MIM(Prisons) should do the same. But it was only after MIM(Prisons) work continued to expand and a long period of conflict between my efforts to support the Ujamaa and our own work that i seriously considered breaking our relationship with NAMP. Harder bargaining wouldn't have corrected the situation, but it would have reduced the setbacks to MIM(Prisons) work and the false expectations developed within the Ujamaa of our relationship.

It was a liberal approach that led me to continue siphoning MIM(Prisons)'s resources to NAMP/Ujamaa for so long. I saw our relationship as a binding contract, and i saw breaking it as going back on my word. This was an incorrect view of the situation, since MIM Distributors agreed to distribute NAMP material only by virtue of it being fraternal, Maoist literature. Because NAMP was leading the Ujamaa work does not mean that we should honor that relationship; that is a bourgeois approach. This was my biggest error: that i didn't say 'no' to working on the Ujamaa because it is not a Maoist organization.

Another way i looked at it is that NAMP was working hard and in the middle of a lot of things that i could sabotage if i just cut the rug from under them. But again, neither of us should have gotten in this position in the first place. NAMP cannot be an independent organization if MIM(Prisons) has the ability to do that to them. This is important to realize in a time when the movement is made of many small, independent groups who are trying to figure out how we can support each others' work.

No Liquidationism

When the Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty came out, a couple of comrades within MIM(Prisons) brought significant criticisms of the line presented in it and asked why we were distributing it. I justified it by saying it was only a mass organization and need not be held to the same standards. While i was privately criticizing and debating NAMP, i essentially silenced the Maoist critiques of the Ujamaa with my line that these criticisms were too harsh for a mass organization that we were effectively bankrolling.

There is one simple rule that should have prevented my errors and it is not new to me. That rule is that Maoists do not distribute materials that we do not agree with without criticizing it or providing our own line in conjunction with it. Reading MIM Theory 14 on United Front helped me fully realize the mistakes that i made, and i recommend that it be studied thoroughly by all revolutionaries as a crucial component of building an effective anti-imperialist movement. I don't think i will make the same mistake again, but there is no excuse for making it this time, when i had already studied United Front theory.

In the end, both MIM(Prisons) and NAMP have suffered from my mistakes and the mistakes of others in both organizations. The masses have suffered because an organization they look to for leadership has confused things for them. This is not to condemn mass organizations like the Ujamaa, or even the Ujamaa itself, which has taken aim at many of the pressing problems of New Afrikans. But we are seriously criticizing its leadership to the extent that it overlaps with NAMP. For those who see the system for what it is and hold no illusions or attachments to it, we should expect much more than petty bourgeois business development built on super-profits from the Third World. For me to treat work for Ujamaa as equal to work for MIM(Prisons) was a disservice to the pushing forward of the struggle and promoting the most correct line needed to do that. This is the same error that NAMP has made (to a greater degree) by liquidating itself into the Ujamaa.

chain
Go to Page 1
Index of Articles