Thank you for sending me the essay titled Let's 'Gang-Up' on Oppression by Owusu Yaki Yakubu.(1) Having become a "reformed" gang member, this essay was extremely enlightening and solidified what I already knew: that the government fears the unification of gangs and their unified opposition against oppression. They also fear any gang member or other lumpen street elements developing a socially conscious, politicized, and revolutionary mentality.
I became politicized in the early 90s during my second year of captivity. I took a long and hard look at myself as a so-called "gang" member and I came to realize that I was being manipulated by the powers-that-be, through the process of psychology and socialization, to commit genocide against my own people. So I cut my gang ties and came to embrace Revolutionary New Afrikan Nationalism.
In his essay Owusu speaks about the New Afrikan Independence Movement. The article titled Terminology Debate: Black vs. New Afrikan, in No. 35 issue of Under Lock & Key, also speaks about New Afrikan Nationalism. I am in the process of starting an organization called My Brother's and Sister's Keeper (MBSK), which embraces Revolutionary New Afrikan Nationalism as its political mass line, or guiding principle. This ideology calls for the establishment of an independent socialist New Afrikan republic in the Southeast (USA), specifically in the Black-belt, the destruction of the North Amerikkkan imperialist state, the liberation and unification of Afrikan nations worldwide, the construction of a New Afrikan society, and the building of a new world order.
A New Afrikan is an Afrikan born in north Amerikkka. The name and concept "New Afrika" reflects our identity, purpose and direction. "New Afrikan" reflects our identity as a nation and a people - a nation and a people desiring self-determination. "New Afrikan" reflects our purpose as we desire freedom, self-determination and independence. By stating we are New Afrikans, we clarify we want to be independent from the Amerikkkan Empire. We want land and national liberation. We no longer want the ruling class of the amerikkkan Empire to determine our political, economic, socio-cultural affairs. MBSK sees that a people who do not control their own affairs is subject to genocide. When we control our own destiny we can determine our political, economic and socio-cultural affairs in the interest of our survival and development. "New Afrikan" also speaks to our identity because that's what we are. Our nation is primarily a racial, cultural, social fusion of various Afrikan ethnic and national groups - Iwe, Yoruba, Akan, Ashanti, Fante, Hausa, Ibo, Fulani, Congolese and several others - into a unique people. Even though our homeland was in Afrika, our people developed historical, economic, and spiritual ties to the New Afrikan National Territory, which consists of the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana. These states together are part of the historical Black belt birthplace, and the North Amerikkkan homeland of the New Afrikan nation. The struggle to free this land is called the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM). To state we are New Afrikan recognizes our continuing aspirations to "free the land." "Free the Land" is the battle cry of the NAIM. When we say "free the land," the New Afrikan national territory is the land we are talking about freeing.
"New Afrikan" also recognizes our direction to build a new society based on new values. We want to create a revolutionary, progressive, humane society where exploitation of humans by humans is eliminated and all can live in dignity, peace and respect. As conscious New Afrikans, we work now to transform ourselves and our nation from decadent death-style of oppression to lifestyles of liberation.
The essay Let's Gang-Up on Oppression re-affirms what we already knew: that we need to develop unity within and amongst lumpen street organization and re-direct their aggression and radicalism to wage the real war: revolution.
Again, I thank you for sending me your material. I made copies of the essay and the UFPP statement of principles and passed them out among the younger brothers here affiliated with lumpen street organizations.
Stand Up, Struggle Forward: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings On Nation, Class and Patriarchy by Sanyika Shakur Kersplebedeb, 2013
Available for $13.95 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
While we recommended his fictional T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E., and his autobiographical Monster is a good read on the reality of life in a Los Angeles lumpen organization, Shakur's third book is most interesting to us as it provides an outline of his political line as a New Afrikan communist.(1) Stand Up, Struggle Forward! is a collection of his recent essays on class, nation and gender. As such, this book gives us good insight into where MIM(Prisons) agrees and disagrees with those affiliated with the politics Shakur represents here.
At first glance we have strong unity with this camp of the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM). Our views on nation within the United $tates seem almost identical. One point Shakur focuses on is the importance of the term New Afrikan instead of Black today, a position we recently put a paper out on as well.(2) Agreeing on nation tends to lead to agreeing on class in this country. We both favorably promote the history of Amerika laid out by J. Sakai in his classic book Settlers: the Mythology of a White Proletariat. However, in the details we see some differences around class. We've already noted that we do not agree with Shakur's line that New Afrikans are a "permanent proletariat"(p.65), an odd term for any dialectician to use. But even within the New Afrikan nation, it seems our class analyses agree more than they disagree, which should translate to general agreement on practice.
Writings that were new to us in this book dealt with gender and patriarchy in a generally progressive and insightful way. Gender is one realm where the conservativeness of the lumpen really shows through, and as Shakur points out, the oppressors are often able to outdo the oppressed in combating homophobia, and to a lesser extent transphobia, these days. A sad state of affairs that must be addressed to improve our effectiveness.
Attacking Stalin and Mao has long been an important task for the intelligentsia of the West, and the United $tates in particular. This has filtered down through to the left wing of white nationalism in the various anarchist and Trotskyist sects in this country, who are some of the most virulent anti-Stalin and anti-Mao activists. It is a roadblock we don't face among the oppressed nations and the less institutionally educated in general. From the sparse clues provided in this text we can speculate that this line is coming from an anarchist tendency, a tendency that can be seen in the New Afrikan revolutionary nationalist formations that survived and arose from the demise of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Yet, Shakur takes up the Trotskyist line that the USSR was socialist up until Lenin's death, while accepting the Maoist position that China was socialist up until 1976.(p.162) He says all this while implying that Cuba might still be socialist today. A unique combination of assessments that we would be curious to know more about.
There is a difference between saying Mao had some good ideas and saying that socialist China was the furthest advancement of socialism in humyn history, as we do. Narrow nationalism uses identity politics to decide who is most correct rather than science. While we have no problem with Shakur quoting extensively from New Afrikan ideological leaders, a failure to study and learn from what the Chinese did is failing to incorporate all of the knowledge of humyn history, and 99% of our knowledge is based in history not our own experiences. The Chinese had the opportunity, due to their conditions, to do things that have never been seen in North America. Ignoring the lessons from that experience means we are more likely to repeat their mistakes (or make worse ones). This is where (narrow) nationalism can shoot you in the foot. Maoism promoted self-reliance and both ideological and operational independence for oppressed nations. To think that accepting Maoism means accepting that your conditions are the same as the Chinese in the 1950s is a dogmatic misunderstanding of what Maoism is all about.
For those who are influenced by Mao, rather than adherents of Maoism, Stalin often serves as a clearer figure to demarcate our differences. This proves true with Shakur who does not criticize Mao, but criticizes other New Afrikans for quoting him. For Stalin there is less ambiguity. To let Shakur speak for himself, he addresses both in this brief passage:
"While We do in fact revere Chairman Mao and have always studied the works of the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Revolution, We feel it best to use our own ideologues to make our own points. And We most certainly will not be using anything from old imperialist Stalin. He may be looked upon as a 'comrade' by the NABPP, but not by us."(p.54)
For MIM(Prisons), imperialist is probably the worst epithet we could use for someone. But this isn't about name-calling or individuals, this is about finding and upholding the ideas that are going to get us free the fastest. In response to a question about how to bring lumpen organizations in prison and the street together, Shakur states, "The most fundamental things are ideology, theory and philosophy. These are weaknesses that allowed for our enemies to get in on us last time."(p.17) So what are Shakur's ideological differences with Stalin?
Shakur's definition of nation differs little from Stalin's, though it does omit a reference to a common economy: "A nation is a cultural/custom/linguistic social development that is consolidated and evolves on a particular land mass and shares a definite collective awareness of itself."(p.21) In his response to Rashid, Shakur attempts to strip Stalin of any credit for supporting the Black Belt Thesis, while sharing Stalin's line on the importance of the national territory for New Afrika. Shakur opens his piece against Rashid, Get Up for the Down Stroke, with a quote from Atiba Shanna that concludes "the phrase 'national question' was coined by people trying to determine what position they would take regarding the struggle of colonized peoples — there was never a 'national question' for the colonized themselves." While this assessment may be accurate for contemporary organizations in imperialist countries, these organizations did not coin the term. This assessment is ahistorical in that the "national question" was posed by Lenin and Stalin in much different conditions than we are in today or when Shanna wrote this. In fact, reading the collection of Stalin's writings, Marxism and the National-Colonial Question, will give you an outline of how those conditions changed in just a couple decades in the early 1900s. It might be inferred from the context that Shakur would use the quote from Shanna to condemn "imperialist Stalin" for being so insensitive to the oppressed to use a term such as "the national question." Yet, if we read Stalin himself, before 1925 he had explicitly agreed with Shanna's point about the relevance of nationalism in the colonies:
"It would be ridiculous not to see that since then the international situation has radically changed, that the war, on the one hand, and the October Revolution in Russia, on the other, transformed the national question from a part of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into a part of the proletarian-socialist revolution."(4)
This point is also central to his essay, The Foundations of Leninism, where he stated, "The national question is part of the general question of the proletarian revolution, a part of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat."(5) So Shakur should not be offended by the word "question," which Stalin also used in reference to proletarian revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat. Clearly, "question" here should not be interpreted as questioning whether it exists, but rather how to handle it. So, in relation to Stalin at least, this whole point is a straw person argument.
On page 86, also in the response to Rashid, Shakur poses another straw person attack on Stalin in criticizing Rashid's promotion of "a multi-ethnic multi-racial socialist amerika." Shakur counter-poses that the internal semi-colonies struggle to free their land and break up the U.$. empire, and implies that Stalin would oppose such a strategy. Now this point is a little more involved, but again exposes Shakur's shallow reading of Stalin and the history of the Soviet Union. Promoting unity at the highest level possible is a principle that all communists should uphold, and this was a challenge that Stalin put much energy and attention into in the Soviet Union. He was dealing with a situation where great Russian chauvinism was a barrier to the union of the many nationalities, and that chauvinism was founded in the (weak) imperialist position of Russia before the revolution. Russia was still a predominantly peasant country in a time when people had much less material wealth and comforts. While one could argue in hindsight that it would have been better for the Russian-speaking territories to organize socialism separately from the rest of the USSR, all nationalities involved were mostly peasant, and secondarily proletarian in their class status.(6) The path that Lenin and Stalin took was reasonable, and possibly preferable in terms of promoting class unity. Thanks to the Soviet experiment we can look at that approach and see the advantages and disadvantages of it. We can also see that the national contradiction has sharply increased since the October Revolution, as Stalin himself stressed repeatedly. And finally, to compare a settler state like the United $tates that committed genocide, land grab, and slavery to the predominately peasant nation of Russia in 1917... well, perhaps Shakur should remember his own advice that we must not impose interpretations from our own conditions onto the conditions of others. Similarly, just because Stalin clearly called for a multinational party in 1917, does not mean we should do so in the United $tates in 2014.(7)
While Stalin generally promoted class unity over national independence, he measured the national question on what it's impact would be on imperialism.
"...side by side with the tendency towards union, there arose a tendency to destroy the forcible forms of such union, a struggle for the liberation of the oppressed colonies and dependent nationalities from the imperialist yoke. Since the latter tendency signified a revolt of the oppressed masses against imperialist forms of union, since it demanded the union of nations on the basis of co-operation and voluntary union, it was and is a progressive tendency, for it is creating the spiritual prerequisites for the future world socialist economy."(8)
In conclusion, it is hard to see where Shakur and Stalin disagree on the national question. While upholding very similar lines, Shakur denies that New Afrika's ideology has been influenced by Stalin. While we agree that New Afrika does not need a Georgian from the 1920s to tell them that they are an oppressed nation, Stalin played an important role in history because of the struggles of the Soviet people. He got to see and understand things in his conditions, and he was a leader in the early development of a scientific analysis of nation in the era of imperialism. His role allowed him to have great influence on the settler Communist Party - USA when he backed Harry Haywood's Blackbelt Thesis. And while we won't attempt to lay out the history of the land question in New Afrikan thought, certainly that thesis had an influence. We suspect that Shakur's reading of Stalin is strongly influenced by the lines of the NABB-PC and Communist Party - USA that he critiques. But to throw out the baby with the bath water is an idealist approach. The Soviet Union and China both made unprecedented improvements in the conditions of vast populations of formerly oppressed and exploited peoples, without imposing the burden to do so on other peoples as the imperialist nations have. This is a model that we uphold, and hope to emulate and build upon in the future.
Having spent the majority of his adult life in a Security Housing Unit, much of this book discusses the prison movement and the recent struggle for humyn rights in California prisons. His discussion of the lumpen class in the United $tates parallels ours, though he explicitly states they are "a non-revolutionary class."(p.139) His belief in a revolutionary class within New Afrika presumably is based in his assessment of a large New Afrikan proletariat, a point where he seems to agree with the NABPP-PC. In contrast, we see New Afrika dominated by a privileged labor aristocracy whose economic interests ally more with imperialism than against it. For us, to declare the First World lumpen a non-revolutionary class is to declare the New Afrikan revolution impotent. Ironically, Shakur himself embodies the transformation of lumpen criminal into revolutionary communist. While he is certainly the exception to the rule at this time, his biography serves as a powerful tool to reach those we think can be reached, both on a subjective level and due to the objective insights he has to offer.
One of the points Shakur tries to hit home with this book is that the oppressors have more faith in the oppressed nations ability to pose a threat to imperialism than the oppressed have in themselves. And we agree. We see it everyday, the very conscious political repression that is enacted on those in the U.$. koncentration kamps for fear that they might start to think they deserve basic humyn rights, dignity, or even worse, liberation. We think this book can be a useful educational tool, thereby building the confidence in the oppressed to be self-reliant, keeping in mind the critiques we pose above.
Recently the small town of SeaTac, Washington passed a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Across the United $tates the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) labor union has led an effort to demand $15 per hour for all fast food workers. For a 28 November 2013 strike, organizers said that there were demonstrations in over 100 cities.(1)
In 2014 the minimum wage will be going up in many states. Leading the way are Washington($9.32) and Oregon($9.10), with New York making the biggest jump to $8.00 per hour. New York City was center to the recent fast food strikes. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have plans for a bill this year that would raise the federal minimum from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.(2)
Another place that minimum wage struggles made a lot of noise in 2013 was the garment industry in Bangladesh. As we mentioned in the last issue of Under Lock & Key, those workers had a recent victory in the minimum wage being raised from $38 to $68 per month. In Cambodia, garment workers have been promised a raise in the minimum wage from $80 to $95 per month. Unsatisfied, the workers have joined recent protests against the current regime to demand $160 per month.(3)
With 48-hour work weeks, garment workers are making around $0.35 per hour in Bangladesh, and $0.42 in Cambodia. Believe it or not, these are the privileged workers who have special protections because they are in important export industries. The common Bangladeshi has a minimum wage of $19 per month, which is less than 10 cents an hour.
Now, the first cry of our chauvinist critics will be "cost of living, you forgot about cost of living." Our proposal for a global minimum wage would tie this wage to a basket of goods. That means the worker in the United $tates and the worker in Bangladesh can afford comparable lifestyles with their pay. Maybe the Amerikan gets wheat where the Bangladeshi gets rice, for example. But the Amerikan does not get a persynal SUV with unlimited gasoline, while the Bangladeshi gets bus fare to and from work. To maintain such inequality the Bangladeshi is subsidizing a higher standard of living for the Amerikan.
It happens that the World Bank has taken a stab at this calculation with their Purchasing Power Parity. Using this calculation, the minimum wage in Bangladesh, which appears to be $0.09 per hour, is really a whopping $0.19 per hour.(4) So, we must apologize to our critics. The proposed minimum wage of $10 per hour would only put the lowest paid Amerikans at 50 times the pay of the lowest paid Bangladeshi if we account for cost of living.
Recently the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) accused our movement of dismissing the possibility of revolutionary organzing in the United $tates because we acknowledge the facts above. Just because struggles for higher wages, and other economic demands, are generally pro-imperialist in this country does not mean that we cannot organize here. But revolutionary organizing must not rally the petty bourgeoisie for more money at the expense of the global proletariat. Besides, even in the earliest days of the Russian proletariat Lenin had criticisms of struggles for higher wages.
While we expressed doubts about Chokwe Lumumba's electoral strategy in Jackson, Mississippi, we remain optimistic about the New Afrikan Liberation Movement's efforts to mobilize the masses there. Organizing for cooperative economics and self-sufficiency is a more neutral approach to mobilizing the lower segments of New Afrika than the SEIU clamoring for more wages for unproductive service work. While our concerns rested in their ability to organize in a way that was really independent of the existing system, creating dual power, the SEIU's begging for more spoils from the imperialists does not even offer such a possibility. To really address the inequalities in the world though, we must ultimately come into conflict with the capitalist system that creates and requires those inequalities.
One agitational point of the fast food protests has been that 52 percent of the families of front-line fast food workers need to rely on public assistance programs.(1) One reason this is true is that most fast food workers do not get to work 48 or even 40 hours a week. Throw children and other dependents in the mix and you have a small, but significant, underclass in the United $tates that struggles with things like food, rent and utility bills. Most are single parents, mostly single mothers. Collective living and economic structures could (and do) serve this class and can offer a means of political mobilization. The Black Panthers' Serve the People programs and Black houses (collective living) are one model for such organizing. But state-sponsored programs and the general increase in wealth since the 1960s makes distinguishing such work from working with imperialism a more daunting task.
The campaign for a global minimum wage has little traction among the lower paid workers in the United $tates, because they do not stand to benefit from this. This is a campaign to be led by the Third World and pushed through international bodies such as the World Trade Organization. We support it for agitational reasons, but don't expect mass support in this country. It allows us to draw a line between those who are true internationalists and those who are not.(5)
Any campaign working for economic interests of people in the imperialist countries is going to be problematic because the best economic deal for them will require teaming up with the imperialists, at least for the forseeable future.
The Butler portrays the life of Cecil Gaines, a butler in the White House for 34 years, starting in 1957. The movie is a fictionalized version of the story of Gene Allen's life. MIM(Prisons) sums up this movie as propaganda to quell the just anger of the oppressed nation masses, encouraging them to work within the system for small changes.
The focus of the movie is on the oppression of New Afrikans from the 1950s to the year 2008, dividing its focus between the White House and the successive Presidents, and the activists in the streets. In the streets the movie gives special focus to the Freedom Riders and Martin Luther King Jr. The movie derides the most important political leaders of the time, barely mentioning Malcolm X, and attempting to portray the Black Panther Party (BPP) as a brutally violent movement out to kill whites, just using the community service programs like free breakfast for school children as a cover.
The heroes of the movie include Gaines's son, Louis, who participates in the civil rights and activist movements over the years and eventually "learns" that the best way forward is to push for change from within, and runs for Congress. We see his dedication as a Freedom Rider, and fierce commitment to freedom and justice, as Louis literally puts his life on the line, enduring brutal beatings, repeated imprisonments, and constant threat of death. Louis moves on to work with Martin Luther King Jr. in a highly praised non-violent movement, and then joins the BPP after King is killed. Louis turns from an articulate and brave youth into a kid spouting revolutionary platitudes that he doesn't seem to understand, making the BPP into a mockery of what it really represented.
The other heroes of the movie are the U.$. Presidents. With the exception of Nixon, who is portrayed as a drunk, all the other Presidents are humanized and made to appear appropriately sympathetic with the civil rights movement. While they all are shown saying things clearly offensive, racist, and in favor of national oppression, each President has a moment of redemption. John F. Kennedy tells Gaines that it is Gaines's persynal history and the story of his son's activism that changed his mind on the need for the civil rights movement. Even Ronald Reagan is shown secretly sending cash to people who write to him about their financial problems, and telling Gaines that he's sometimes worried that he's on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. On a positive note, all of the Presidents were shown as reticent to take any positive action towards change until the popular movement forced them to act. This is the reality of any oppressor class.
Gaines does, in the end, come to the realization that real change was not going to come from the White House, and quits his job to join his son in activism in the streets. But this action is played up to be as much an attempt to reconcile his relationship with his son, as a dedication to activism itself. And the activism seems to end with just one protest. In the end, both Cecil and Louis celebrate the "victory" of Obama in the 2008 election as a sign that their battle is finally over.
The Butler does a good job of portraying the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, but only as a minor part of the plot. And it ultimately suggests that New Afrikans should be satisfied with an imperialist lackey in the White House as a representation of their success and equality with whites. It fits into a group of recent movies that Hollywood has produced, such as Lincoln and 12 Years a Slave, to rewrite Amerikan history to quell the contradiction between the oppressor nation and the New Afrikan internal semi-colony.
The Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), has been actively involved in the ideological struggle with regard to the national identity (nationality) of descendant people of Afrikan slaves since our founding. We take this opportunity to once again contribute to this critical debate.
Our struggle in this country has always had two major political tendencies - one for independence and the other for integration. The nationality debate has been part and partial of this struggle.
When people refer to their nationality, they are informing you of what nation they belong to. Some of the characteristics that define a nation are: a common historical experience, common language, culture, territory (land) and economic life. Our Afrikan ancestors landed on these shores as Ashanti, Ibo, Fula, Moors, etc. We didn't have a collective identity, language, culture, tradition, etc. But thru our collective oppression and our collective resistance to that oppression, we developed a collective language, culture, and so on in the southern part of what is now known as the U$A. We had developed into a "new" Afrikan people. A people who are separate and distinct from all other people on planet Earth. Thus, we claim the national identity of New Afrikan and claim as our national territory the states Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Our national territory has been named the Republic of New Afrika.
BORO upholds the usage of New Afrikan as opposed to "Black" and "African-American." "Black" implies the fictitious categorization of the term "race." African-American implies that we have fully integrated into this country as full citizens.
We do not identify ourselves as "Amerikan" because "America" is the Euro-Amerikan (so-called white) nation. That is why we spell Amerika with a "K" instead of a "C," to signify that "America" is an illegitimate nation of European settlers. We use the "K" instead of a "C" in spelling "Afrika," to distinguish ourselves from the neo-colonial and petty-bourgeois elements within our own nation.
Nationalism is about ideology and politics, not "color" or "race." BORO upholds the Huey P. Newton line that "there are two kinds of nationalism: revolutionary nationalism and reactionary nationalism. Revolutionary nationalism is first dependent upon a people's revolution with the end result being the people in power. Therefore, to be a revolutionary nationalist you would by necessity have to be a socialist. If you are a reactionary nationalist you are not a socialist and your goal is the oppression of the people."
BORO recognizes that what you say and what you do is a reflection of who you are. So when we see political elements using the terms "Black" and "African-American," we see you as part of the reactionary-bourgeois elements within our nation. We see you as a wanna-be American who is misleading those of our people who have less political awareness and consciousness.
New Afrikan is a clear distinction from all other political trends within our nation, and must be upheld by all those who are a part of the struggle for land, independence and socialist development. Terminology is critical to identity. New Afrikan and the political ideology behind this term is revolutionary nationalist. Black and African-American is about integration and assimilation.
"Some people talk about a 'nation' but really don't wanna be one (independent), as evidenced by their efforts to crawl back on the plantation. How can we tell? You can identify those trying to crawl onto the plantation by the way they identify themselves. i.e. Blacks, Afro-Amerikans, Afrikan-Amerikans, ethnic group, minority nationality, national minority, under class - anything and everything except New Afrikans, an oppressed nation. Amerikkka is the plantation, and continuing to identify yourself within the Amerikkkan context is evidence of the colonial (slave) mentality. Ain't no two ways about it."(1)
New Afrikan is our national identity. New Afrika is our national territory which is currently held in colonial bondage by the United $nakes of Amerikkka. Ours is a struggle to free our land, independence and socialism.
MIM(Prisons) took up the debate over the use of the term "New Afrikan" at our January congress this year. We have historically used the term "Black" interchangeably with "New Afrikan," but had received a proposal from a comrade to use the term "New Afrikan" to the exclusion of "Black," only using "Black" like we would "Hispanic," when context requires.
MIM took up this question of the terms "Black" and "New African" back in 2001 in MIM Theory 14 when it published a letter from a RAIL comrade (RC) proposing use of "New African." In that letter, the RC proposed that "Use of the term New African is waging ideological struggle to establish a national identity." S/he goes on to explain that "New African implies the identity of a national territory - the Republic of New Africa" while the term "Black" "cannot and will not be distinguished from integrationist, assimilationist, and other petty bourgeois reactionary agendas." MIM responded to this pointing out that the term "African-American" has emerged to distinguish the petty bourgeois integrationists. MIM's main complaint with the term "New African" was cultural nationalism:
"What makes including the word 'African' in the term relevant? Culture. That is, it is not the land in Africa that makes Blacks in North America a nation, nor the economy, language, and so on. It is the cultural history that survived the genocidal purges of the Middle Passage and slavery that links Blacks to a historical African culture. This is completely true, and this connection is obviously important. However, for the definition of the nation it plays into cultural nationalism to give this aspect too prominent a role. In fact, as MIM has argued, this term has been used most often by people with cultural nationalist tendencies. All the arguments for stressing the African link are cultural, and therefore the tendency of this term is toward cultural nationalism, which is a serious danger from the petty bourgeoisie and comprador bourgeoisie as well."(2)
MIM(Prisons) has researched the use of the term "New Afrikan" and concluded that while there may be cultural nationalism associated historically with some who use the term, overall today it is being used by the most progressive elements of the revolutionary nationalist movement within the United $tates. While we have some reservations about the ties to Africa promoted by some, we have concluded that "New Afrikan" is a better term to represent the Black nation than "Black," which has strong racial connotations and is generally not associated with a nation. "New Afrikan" is a term specific to the historical context of African-descended people in North America and so better represents our line on this oppressed nation within U.$. borders.
Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP), New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), New Afrikan Collective Think Tank (NCTT) and the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) all use the term "New Afrikan." Except for NAIM, these are all prison-based organizations. NAIM was the progenitor of the term "New Afrikan."
NAIM has written: "to call oneself New Afrikan, at this early stage, is to be, by and large, about what We in the NAIM are about: Land, Independence and Socialism." They lay claim to the term: "We are the ones who led the ideological struggle for the usage of New Afrikan as our national identity (nationality) over 'black' as a racial identity."(1)
One argument NAIM uses for the term New Afrikan is: "...colonized Afrikans, who evolved into New Afrikans here, were stolen to be used as a permanent proletariat. The New Afrikan nation was born as a working-class nation of permanent proletarians. The fact that We weren't paid does not preclude the fact that We were workers. What do they think so-called 'slavery' (colonialism) entails if not work?"(1)
On this last point, MIM(Prisons) disagrees that New Afrikans are a permanent proletariat. As MIM laid out and we continue to expand on, the vast majority of U.$. citizens are part of the labor aristocracy, not the proletariat. This does not necessarily negate the use of the term "New Afrikan," but we want to be clear where we differ with NAIM on the class makeup of the nation today.
The NABPP promotes Pan-Afrikanism, promoting the common interests of the various oppressed nations of Africa and extending it to the so-called African diaspora of New Afrikans in the United $tates and other imperialist countries. This is one of the pitfalls of the term New Afrikan: it can lead people to associate imperialist-country Blacks with the oppressed nations of Africa. While most Blacks were originally brought over as slaves and certainly were strongly connected to their home continent at first, we see a very distinct oppressed nation that has developed within U.$. borders in the hundreds of years since the slaves were first forced to North America.
We do not use the term "New Afrikan" to promote pan-Africanism among U.$.-resident peoples. New Afrikans have historical ties to Africa, but today New Afrikans have far more in common with, and are more strongly connected to, other nations within U.$. borders. New Afrikans are closer to Amerikans in economic interests and national identity than they are to Egyptians or Somalis, and will certainly lead any pan-African movement astray and likely sell out the African oppressed nations.
We have not seen a clear rationale for the distinction between "New African" and "New Afrikan," but some use the letter "k" in "Afrika" to distinguish themselves from the colonial spelling. According to a writer in MIM Theory 14, the term "New Afrikan" originated in 1968 when the First New Afrikan government conference was held by the PGRNA (Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika).(3) We have adopted this spelling, as it is used by the progressive elements of the nation, but welcome input on the relevance of this spelling distinction.
The Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) recently stepped in(1) to defend Turning the Tide against our USW comrade's critiques.(2) We can appreciate the greater clarity and honesty in Rashid's piece compared to Michael Novick's, but still cannot forgive him for getting the first question of importance to communists wrong: who are our friends and who are our enemies? Like Jose Maria Sison and Bob Avakian, Rashid has long been exposed to MIM line and writing, and many attempts to struggle with him have been made. It does great damage to the International Communist Movement when these people become icons of "Maoism" in many peoples' eyes, while promoting chauvinistic lines on the role of the oppressor nations under imperialism.
Rashid opens his piece with the most common strawpersyn argument of the revisionists, that the MIM line is wrong because Marx and Lenin never abandoned organizing among Europeans and Amerikans. Rashid needs to be more specific if he's claiming there are groups that are refusing to work with white people or moving to the Third World to organize. While our work mostly targets prisoners, we target prisoners of all nationalities, and similarly our street work is not very nation-specific. The question we would ask instead of "should we organize Amerikans?", is, "what is going to achieve communism faster, organizing rich people around demands for more money, or organizing them around ideas of collective responsibility for equal distribution of humyn needs and ecological sustainability?"
Rashid's third paragraph includes some numbers and math and at first glance i thought it might have some concrete analysis. But alas, the numbers appear just for show as they are a) made up numbers, and b) reflecting the most simple calculation that Marx teaches us to define surplus value. To counter Rashid's empty numbers, let us repeat our most basic math example here. If Amerikans are exploited, then to end exploitation would mean they need to get paid more money. Dividing the global GDP by the number of full-time laborers gives an equitable distribution of income of around $10,000 per persyn per year.(3) To be fair, in Rashid's article he addresses this and quotes Marx to say that we cannot have an equitable distribution of income. In that quote from Wages, Price and Profit Marx was writing about capitalism, which is inherently exploitative. Our goal is communism, or "from each according to her ability, to each according to her need." But we're not there yet, Rashid might argue. OK fine, let's take Rashid's hypothetical McDonald's worker making $58 per 8 hour workday. If we assume 5 days a week and 50 weeks a year we get $14,500 per year. According to the World Bank, half of the world's people make less than $1,225 per year.(4) That report also showed that about 10% of Amerikans are in the world's richest 1% and that almost half of the richest 1% are Amerikans. So Rashid wants to argue that under capitalism it is just that the lowest paid Amerikans earn over 10 times more than half of the world's population because their labor is worth that much more? How is that? What Marx was talking about in Wages, Price and Profit was scientific: a strong persyn might be twice as productive as a weak one, or a specially trained persyn might add more value than an unskilled persyn. So Rashid wants to use this to justify paying anyone who was birthed as a U.$. citizen 10 to 25 times, or more, the average global rate of pay? We have no idea how Rashid justifies this disparity except through crass Amerikan chauvinism.
This empty rhetoric is not Marxism. It is ironic how today people will use this basic formulation for surplus value from Marx to claim people of such vastly different living conditions are in the same class. No one else in the world looks at the conditions in the United $tates and Haiti and thinks, "these countries should really unite to address their common plight." It is only pseudo-Marxists and anarchists who read a little Marx who can come up with such crap.
Rashid later establishes commonality across nations with the definition, "The proletariat simply is one who must sell her labor power to survive, which is as true for the Amerikan worker as it is for one in Haiti." We prefer Marx's definition that the proletariat are those who have nothing to lose but their chains. According to Rashid, we should determine whether someone is exploited based on different measuring sticks depending on what country they live in. Apparently, in the United $tates you must have a $20,000 car, a $200,000 home and hand-held computers for every family member over 5 in order "to survive." Whereas in other countries electricity and clean water are optional. More chauvinism.
Rashid continues discussing class definitions,
"For instance, if there's no [Euro-Amerikan] ('white') proletariat in the US, then there's also no New Afrikan/Black one. If a EA working in McDonalds isn't a proletarian, then neither is one of color. If there's no New Afrikan proletariat, then there's no New Afrikan lumpen proletariat either ("lumpen" literally means "broken"—if they were never of the proletariat, they could not become a 'broken' proletariat)."
Lumpen is usually translated as "rag." Even in the United $tates we have a population of people who live in rags, who have very little to lose. However, we completely agree with Rashid's logic here. And that is why MIM(Prisons) started using the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish from "lumpenproletariat." There is little connection between the lumpen in this country and a real proletariat, with the exceptions being within migrant populations and some second generation youth who form a bridge between Third World proletariat, First World semi-proletariat and First World lumpen classes. Rashid continues,
"Yet the VLA [vulgar labor aristocracy] proponents recognize New Afrikan prisoners as 'lumpen' who are potentially revolutionary. Which begs the question, why aren't they doing work within the oppressed New Afrikan communities where they're less apt to be censored, if indeed they compose a lumpen sector?"
This is directed at us, so we will answer: historical experience and limited resources. As our readers should know, we struggle to do the things we do to support prisoner education programs and organizing work. We do not have the resources right now to do any serious organizing outside of prisons. And we made the conscious decision of how we can best use our resources in no small part due to historical experience of our movement. In other words we go where there is interest in revolutionary politics. The margins, the weakest links in the system, that is where you focus your energy. Within the lumpen class, the imprisoned lumpen have a unique relationship to the system that results in a strong contradiction with that system. The imprisoned population could also be considered 100% lumpen, whereas less than 20% of the New Afrikan nation is lumpen, the rest being among various bourgeois classes, including the labor aristocracy.
"And if the lumpen can be redeemed, why not EA [Euro-Amerikan] workers?"
Again, look at history. Read J. Sakai's Settlers and read about the Black Panther Party. Today, look at the growing prison system and the regular murder of New Afrikan and other oppressed nation youth by the pigs. Look at where the contradictions and oppression are.
The only really interesting thing about this piece is that Rashid has further drawn a line between the MIM camp and the slew of anarchist and crypto-Trotskyist organizations who are still confused about where wealth comes from. They think people sitting at computers typing keys are exploited, and Rashid accuses our line of requiring "surplus value falling from the sky!" We already told you where the high wages in the imperialist countries came from, Rashid, the Third World proletariat! That is why the average Amerikan makes 25 times the average humyn, and why all Amerikans are in the top 13% in income globally. As the revisionists like to remind us, wealth disparity just keeps getting greater and greater under capitalism. The labor aristocracy today is like nothing that V.I. Lenin ever could have witnessed. We must learn from the methods of Marx and Lenin, not dogmatically repeat their analysis from previous eras to appease Amerikans.
Chokwe Lumumba — lawyer, activist, Vice President of the Republic of New Afrika, and cofounder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) — was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi on 4 June 2013 with 87% of the votes. Accounting for 80% of the population, Jackson is the second Blackest city in the United $tates. Mississippi is the Blackest state with 35% of its voters being New Afrikan.(1)
Even though the rate of white voter turnout was more than twice that of New Afrikans, and some 90% of whites supported the other guy, Lumumba came out victorious.(1) All of these facts support the decision of the MXGM to focus on building a base of power within New Afrika in Jackson, Mississippi. However, elections themselves cannot be a tool for liberation or independence, and the only cases where MIM(Prisons) might promote them would be for tactical victories. This election was part of a strategic plan that MXGM released almost a year ago.
This plan states:
"The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) firmly believes that at this stage in the struggle for Black Liberation that the movement must be firmly committed to building and exercising what we have come to regard as 'dual power' — building autonomous power outside of the realm of the state (i.e. the government) in the form of People's Assemblies and engaging electoral politics on a limited scale with the express intent of building radical voting blocks and electing candidates drawn from the ranks of the Assemblies themselves."(2)
The idea of the oppressed nations building organizations that are independent of and not funded by the state can be a controversial issue in this country. While there is nothing illegal or inherently threatening about organizing independent from the state, Amerikans rely on repression in order to prevent the self-determination of the oppressed nations. If the oppressed nations are to break free from imperialism's choke hold, it will threaten the luxurious lifestyles of the average Joe the plumber who lives off the wealth of oppressed nations abroad. We saw one example of this mentality among Amerikans when recent issues of Under Lock & Key were censored in North Carolina specifically citing as the justification the fifth point of the United Front for Peace in Prisons — Independence.
While "independence" is a fairly broad term used to define a thing in relation to another thing, "dual power" has a much more specific meaning to Marxists. Independence on its own does not constitute the establishment of "dual power." When MXGM uses the term "dual power" they appear to really be talking about parallel strategies of community organizing and electoral politics.
The condition of dual power actually exists when there is an emerging state coming up against an existent, and dying state. This, of course, is the product of class struggle, the motive force of history. In discussing Engels' ideas in defining what state power is, Lenin wrote:
"What does this power mainly consist of? It consists of special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc., at their command. ... A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power."(3)
Dual, of course meaning two, would imply that you would have two different political structures with their own police, army and prisons, etc. in order to have dual power. Such a situation would mean that a civil war had begun. When Lenin first coined the term in 1917 he was speaking of the emerging Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies that would seize state power later that same year.(4) Certainly this is not the condition in Mississippi today.
MXGM recognizes their electoral efforts are limited, and considers them one pillar of their strategy of building political power in the region that is separate from their work to build autonomous structures (People's Assemblies).(2) But these People's Assemblies are not parallel to the Soviets in 1917 or the liberated zones in China in 1948 or even the countless regions in the world today where power is held by emerging states (see Palestine, India, Colombia, the Philippines, etc).
Within the context of oppressed nation territory, there is an argument to be made for engaging in electoral politics as a step towards building one's base. While the Lumumba campaign has a clear connection to revolutionary nationalism, it is not based in proletarian ideology. Revolutionary nationalism can come in different class forms. The lack of proletarian ideology leads them to succumb to populism. Populism threatens New Afrikan independence because of the economic pull of U.$. imperialism. With "economic development" as part of his political platform, it seems hard for Lumumba to avoid playing the role of bribing his own people with superprofits won from imperialism. This is one reason it is hard to justify supporting electoral work except to make tactical gains.
The MXGM economic program, the "third pillar" of their Jackson Plan, focuses on cooperative economics and building green economies. Such a strategy does not confront the structure of capitalism, but is a concession to petty bourgeois idealism. As long as capitalism exists people are either exploited or exploiters, so all efforts should be on exposing the need to end that system rather than white-washing it with co-ops and eco-friendly operations. There is no example in history of building new economic systems that effectively challenged capitalism without first establishing true dual power. Therefore if dual power is not feasible in our conditions, these economic strategies become reformist at best. We are better off struggling to maintain our political independence at this stage.
While running for and being elected Mayor limits Chokwe Lumumba politically, the public release of the Jackson-Kush Plan a year prior means that his landslide victory represents a majority of New Afrikans in Jackson who are at least open to the idea that political independence from Amerika is in the interests of their nation. Establishing that fact in the eyes of the New Afrikan masses is one small victory on the road to New Afrikan liberation. But electoral politics are a feeble bridge. The more people rely on it to reach liberation, the sooner it will fall out beneath them. Unless the bridge is strengthened with correct revolutionary theory, it will be doomed to leave the New Afrikan masses on the wrong side of history.