National Consciousness and Why Black Lives Matter
The recurrence of police brutality and racial prejudice against U.$. oppressed nation groups that has captured widespread attention has also heightened the national question. More and more, oppressed nation communities and groups are expressing their discontent with a system of oppression that dehumanizes and marginalizes them. Mass protests have taken place, unrest has gripped cities, and organized movements have arisen all in direct response to these injustices. In other words, the demand for change by U.$. oppressed nations is beginning to define the national question.
These events signal a realization among U.$. oppressed nations that the prevailing system does not represent their interests, and that in fact, it functions at a disadvantage to them. While socioeconomic indicators reveal inequalities in communities of oppressed nations, they cannot communicate the dimensions of humyn misery and suffering that result from institutionalized racism and discrimination. Just as class consciousness begins to take root and grow within exploited workers as they question and share their experiences with each other, resulting in organizations and movements expressly designed to overcome their plight, so too does national consciousness follow this process as oppressed nations deal with the reality of national oppression.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is indicative of this process. It is not the recent sanctioned murders of oppressed nation youth alone that is responsible for this renewed activism, but the accumulation of years of national oppression. The quantitative development of the national question as it relates to U.$. imperialist society has reached a critical point. Either U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations are going to vie for liberation, or seek the path of reform and further integration. Thus, the question becomes how are we, as Maoists, going to nurture this emerging seed of awareness with revolutionary nationalism.
Ultimately national oppression informs the consciousness of oppressed nations within the unique conditions of U.$. imperialist society and there are implications from the BLM movement that are relevant to the larger national liberation movement. It is important to note that the BLM movement is not a revolutionary organization. Yet, BLM is instructive to our cause because it demonstrates the potential among U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations to be organized around issues of national oppression.
National Oppression and a Nation's Right to Self-Determination
For U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations the national question should be about realizing their right to self-determination. Oppressed nations are subject to semi-colonialism and thus have no control or power over their destiny. Because white supremacy dominates every aspect of the oppressed nation, their material existence merely functions as an afterthought to the white power structure.
Moreover, the white-setter nation-state has created mechanisms of social control to maintain dominance over oppressed nations. Mass incarceration, family and community dysfunction, the culture of stereotypes and stigmas, etc. are just a few means used to keep oppressed nations in check. To elaborate more on this point, the systematic restriction of access to meaningful education undermines access to meaningful job opportunities. No jobs means poverty and the social ills that accompanies it. In addition, institutionalized racism and discrimination inform attitudes and behavior that further creates a culture of inequality within communities of oppressed nations. As a result, some members of oppressed nations are compelled to pursue criminal lifestyles, opening themselves up to the repressive criminal injustice system.
While the above scenario is not representative of the entire oppressed nation it does speak to the need for national liberation and the exercise of a nation's right to self-determination. Granted, U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations enjoy living standards and privileges that their Third World counterparts would die for. Nevertheless, the reality of national oppression is no less detrimental to the U.$. oppressed nation. The hurt and pain associated with injustices of semi-colonialism is no less real.
These social experiences of national oppression take a mental toll on oppressed nations. Every day and every instance of national oppression that members of oppressed nations go through makes an impression upon their consciousness. Eventually, they begin to connect the dots and recognize the injustice of their situation in U.$. society.
What is National Consciousness?
Oppressed nations within U.$. borders develop an awareness due to enduring national oppression. This awareness is not revolutionary nor is it substantive. To be clear, any material situation that humyns inhabit conditions a corresponding awareness that reflects their living state. Marx and Engels developed the theory of materialist dialectics, which dictates that consciousness is a product of matter, the exterior world. The prison-house that is U.$. imperialist society is the physical world and the social, political, and economic relations and interactions that comprise it involve actual activity that is outside of our minds.
In this sense, the oppressed nations are subject to this dialectical process as these relations and interactions condition their consciousness. The activity of daily life within U.$. imperialist society makes an impression upon mental capacity. And as shown above, national oppression is a fundamental part of the daily life of these oppressed nations.
Furthermore, national consciousness is similar to class consciousness in that during the grind of daily life people exchange and engage ideas about their material situation, their living conditions. They begin to seek ways to resolve the issues that they face. Intellectuals gather to discuss, theorize, and come up with solutions to common problems. More importantly, institutions and organizations are founded to help push their agendas. All of these actions take place because somewhere down the line people got together after recognizing a problem.
Thus, when Marxists of old talked about building and deepening class consciousness among exploited workers, they were referring to a process in which people began to realize their predicament, but in a revolutionary manner. For us, as Maoists, our job at this hystorical point is to push forward national liberation struggles within oppressed nations with revolutionary nationalism. We must build national consciousness among oppressed nations so that these groups understand that concepts such as race are false and Amerika is not representative of their interests. These groups must come to understand that nations exist and that their respective nation is entitled to exercise its right to self-determination.
Why Black Lives Matter
The BLM movement is no different from the Chican@ movement that demanded repeal of the chauvinist, racist, tough-on-immigrant legislation in Arizona a few years back.
In the Chican@ communities, immigration is an extremely decisive issue. Obama's chauvinist policies have broken families apart, the mistreatment of migrant workers in the workplace has become all too frequent, and in general, under-served and under resourced Chican@ communities continue to suffer from inequalities and poverty. The fact that Arizona was trying to pass - and eventually passed - even more extreme anti-immigrant laws was just the straw that broke the camel's back, mobilizing the Chican@ community.
Similarly, national oppression has wreaked havoc on the New Afrikan community, as the New Afrikan is the face of inequality and injustice in the United $tates. New Afrikans, particularly the youth, are tired of the overt mistreatment. The BLM movement, while it arose in response to police brutality, embodies the anger and angst of the New Afrikan nation at the marginalization and repression they have suffered for years. Movements like these must be used to our advantage as they demonstrate that oppressed people are not just fed up with the system, they are willing to commit themselves to actually changing it.
One key implication that arises from this is the recourse for oppressed nations to overcome national oppression. Will U.$. oppressed nations vie for liberation or will they settle for reform, and by extension, assimilation and partial integration?
Mainstream media provide coverage on these events to control a group that might otherwise threaten the status quo. Therefore, they act as a supervisor rather than objective reporter all in an attempt to shape public opinion and undermine revolutionary organizing. This has serious consequences for the national liberation movement in the United $tates as a whole. This is why the BLM movement is critical, because we cannot allow the same outcome as took place at the end of the radical era of the 1960s.
The impact of national oppression on U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations has begun to push the national question forward. We are starting to see a realization emerge among oppressed nations that recognizes U.$. imperialist society is rife with inequalities and injustices. Only revolutionary nationalism can nurture and grow this seed of awareness. And if our goal is the liberation of oppressed nations within the United $tates then we must build their national consciousness in preparation. Movements like BLM illustrate the potential and activism that is alive within oppressed nations. The duty falls upon us to revolutionize it.