Examples of these contradictions can be found everywhere. Here in Sacramento, the city itself has always been politically influenced by the dominance of state government politics along with the two military bases that contributed, along with employment with the state, to bringing much of the early African population to this city. The politics promoted from these entities have always been dominantly "conservative", or what we would actually call reactionary, meaning always accommodating to the capitalist white power structure. Evidence of this was displayed at the event yesterday where speaker after speaker spoke to the necessity of African people getting out to vote in November, 2018. Of us doing everything we can to attempt to stop the Trump administration. And, as always, these electoral politics are couched within a U.S. framework as if the African community in the U.S. operates in a way that has no impact, responsibilities, or consequences for African people outside of the U.S.
Both of these political tendencies - a 100% focus on electoral politics, and an absence of any analysis that includes Africa - are reflections of class struggle within the African community and it is this class struggle where the contradictions between African politics within the U.S. and the broader Pan-African and African liberation struggle take place. At yesterday's event, it wasn't until the last panel of the day, the one I participated in, that anyone even articulated a perspective that wasn't advocating electoral politics and until my turn, absolutely no one spoke of Africa in any concrete way. And, of course, as soon as I presented and dared suggest that we take even five seconds to consider a revolutionary Pan-African reality that exists outside the confines of the U.S. electoral process, several people spoke up to reaffirm that if we talk about revolution, we still need to vote and endorse U.S. electoral politics as our primary strategy. As our "practical" struggle. The reason this is always the approach is because of those class contradictions. Capitalism trains everyone, particularly African people in the U.S., that we have absolutely no options, no possible way to exist, no chance in hell, to exist on any level unless we figure out how to do so within the confines of U.S. capitalism. In other words, any suggestion that we even spend five minutes talking about anything that includes something outside of the capitalist system and/or the U.S. is without question insane. What this approach automatically does is validate only petti bourgeois thought and action as viable and legitimate while criminalizing revolutionary struggle. By petti bourgeois we mean adopting a position where people see their role as protecting and advancing the values and institutions of U.S. capitalism. By doing so, we become the middle managers of capitalism, ensuring its interests are protected. Serving as the on the ground managers for the ruling class elites. That's where the class struggle comes in. By accepting these positions we inadvertently turn ourselves against the interests of African people everywhere, including working class Africans within the U.S., but particularly our people outside of the U.S. This is true because the U.S. capitalist economy was built and is sustained on exploiting African human and material resources on a daily basis. Every chocolate bar we eat is being consumed based on the exploitation of our people in Africa. Every time we look at our cell phones we are able to do so based on the exploitation of our people. When we browse the internet, we are doing so because the device we are using is available to us based on the exploitation of our people. Even, when we want to escape all of that and just unwind with a Netflix movie, the flat screen we are watching the movie on is there because of the savage way in which our people are being brutalized. So, any efforts any of us make to uphold the U.S. political system - which upholds the capitalist system - serves towards the exploitation of our people. Even reform efforts our people make with their electoral work in the U.S. cannot stop our suffering. For example, there are efforts underway to reform bail systems in the U.S. There are efforts to challenge oppression against house-less people - more and more who are African people. There are efforts to challenge how educational systems are run in this country. The problem is the issue isn't just bail, its the entire so-called criminal justice system. From the police on the streets to the prisons that entire system has been built on oppressing Africans and other marginalized people so that entire system must be destroyed. The same is true for the educational system in this country and certainly, homelessness is one of the main indicators that capitalism must be destroyed because that problem exposes the conflict that the richest country in human history also has the most house-less people in human history.
The other issue is although many of the people who support this petti bourgeois approach, they do so out of a lack of understanding. Those people sincerely believe these efforts are the absolute best ways to solve the problems we face. To understand that, look at the situation like this. If you only existed within one room your entire life, you would not have the information and/or perspective to know what exists outside that room. In fact, you would believe that everything you ever needed was in that room because you would not know of anything outside of that context. Just based on survival, you would have to convince yourself that your only options were in that room. This is the reality a large percentage of our people face in the U.S. This capitalist system within the U.S. is presented to us as the only available option so we try to do the best we can working with that, but at the end of the day, we are only working to uphold the very system that oppresses us.
Then there are those who intentionally work to uphold U.S. capitalism because they function and operate with resources within this system. Maybe they occupy positions within the educational or (so-called) criminal justice systems which make the continued operation and existence of those systems vital to their personal stability and advancement. Understanding the difference between these two types of advocates for this system is important. Sekou Ture in his classic work on "The History of Class Struggle" argues that we must know the difference between reactionaries - people who uphold capitalism based on the single room concept - and counter-revolutionaries, people who actively and intentionally fight for capitalism because they know it protects their class interests, despite the fact they sabotage the interests of the African masses by doing so.
What ends up happening within cultures like that described at the event yesterday is petti bourgeois values become normalized. There were a significant number of young people present at the event yesterday and for the most part, those youth were shamed into voting and seeing that as their sole obligation to our people. The often stated lie that our people died for the right to vote was repeated when there is no question that our people died for freedom, while understanding that the vote was simply a tactic to achieve freedom, is always completely ignored by these people. Besides the obvious disrespect these tactics to advance petti bourgeois politics present to those courageous Africans who sacrificed for the vote, the argument about dying for the vote is just dishonest. Even a cursory history of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the three main groups on the ground getting their heads bashed in for voting rights, reveals that these organizers were not confused about their purpose for fighting for the vote. Most of the leadership for SNCC e.g. Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Ruby Doris Robinson, Jamal Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Mukassa Dada (Willie Ricks), etc. have been very public and vocal about the vote. And, these are people who were locked up, beaten up, and lots worse, in this fight. They made it clear that they viewed the vote as a vehicle for our freedom, not the sole purpose of our existence. For these people today to suggest that voting, and only voting, is the only way we can contribute to our people's forward progress completely discounts the outstanding contributions organizations like the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Black Panther, Party, Revolutionary Action Movement, Nation of Islam, etc., have made to our communities. None of those organizations did their work from electoral politics platforms, at least not the work they are known for. Regarding Africa, the intentional dismissal of Africa from our political discourse within the U.S. would be comical if it wasn't so tragic. Everywhere we turn, Africa is in our faces whether we intend for it to be or not. Most of our people would have no problem understanding that Africa should play a significant role in our future if there wasn't such a concerted effort to prevent them from even hearing that perspective.
What's important for those of us interested in honest and principled struggle for justice for Africans and others within the U.S. and around the world, first, we have to recognize this class struggle taking place. We have to move beyond the basic uncritical assessment that any group of African descent people getting together under a political agenda is enough and so we should avoid controversy (which is code for avoid class struggle). Revolutionary class consciousness requires a clear understanding that the people advancing petti bourgeois class values and actions are doing so for a reason, even if some of them are not conscious of those reasons. More of us need to call out this contradiction. We need to talk much, much, more about the unmistakable and undeniable reality that the U.S. capitalist economy sits directly on top of the masses of African people around the world. We have to talk about how this continued exploitation of Africa demands that our people within the U.S. make a choice - U.S. capitalism or the masses of African people (and the rest of humanity). We have to start framing these discussions within that specific context. We have to fight to make that the dominant discussion in our communities. Institutionalizing that struggle will do a lot to win over many of those people who are stuck within that one room concept. We have to start challenging this backward concept that we have to place every egg we ever had and will ever have within the basket of U.S. capitalism and its voting system. We have to challenge the often repeated refrain that those that didn't vote (for example) are the cause the U.S. Supreme Court is stacked in a way that overturned the Abood decision which drastically impacted public sector Unions. That threatens women's right to choose, etc. Yes, on the surface, not voting in democrats places those with even more backward credentials on bodies like the Supreme Court, but really what we should be talking about is how we can move past a system that forces us to entertain those backward politics in the first place? In yesterday's event, a discussion evolved around us making it a priority to prevent Trump from engaging in the constitutional process to permit him to become president for life. The position articulated within the room yesterday was that this to happen would spell the end for African people within the U.S. Here's why that type of perspective doesn't even line up with the history for African people within the U.S. Everything we have achieved in this country, from our right to vote, to where we can live, to where we can work, to how we worship, has been won through a fight by us for our human rights. We are a people within this country who could not even shop at a despicable department store because of our race. The fact we have even those most basic abilities today results only from our mass struggle for justice and dignity. And let it be shouted from the roof tops that this system battled and fought our ability to have those rights every step of the way and this system continues to fight to take whatever gains we have away from us. So, there is nothing about our history in this country that suggests we would be finished if Trump, or anyone else against us, became president for life. What we would certainly do is what we have always done, lead the fight here against that injustice. And, ironically, that fight wouldn't be waged primarily in the electoral ballot box. It would be waged in the streets as our struggles have always been waged. That's why its so disrespectful and dishonest for these people to pretend that voting is our only weapon when even that vote came from us being in the streets. Its also dishonest the way they suggest in subtle ways that there is absolutely no difference between revolution and spontaneous urban rebellion (or coups or fractional wars based on fighting for neo-colonial shares of resources in Africa). This confusion serves to frighten people away from wanting to know anything about revolution. We have to push to be able to present and explain what revolution looks like and how it will benefit the people. We have to be willing and able to wage that fight despite the fact they will pull out all stops to continue to try and make us look unbalanced and insane for suggesting that any life outside of the slave plantation is ever possible.
Finally, we have to make it plain that there is no future for us without Africa, period. How can we expect to be a freedom thinking people when we disrespect our mother - Africa? If we see her as a loser, how can we see ourselves as winners? There is no example of any people winning while being cut off completely from their homeland. The Palestinian people? The basis of their struggle is their land - Palestine. The Irish people? The Filipinos? The Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere? Don't you understand that the struggle over Standing Rock was all about land. During that struggle in 2016, a European reporter asked a young Indigenous man what the land meant to him and his answer was "the land means everything!" Meanwhile, we Africans in the U.S. are trying to say we are waging a struggle for our freedom without any contact, program, consciousness, and discussion about where our land is and what having it will do to enhance our struggle. Many of us are acting like we can have a successful struggle fighting with only the tools provided to us by our enemies. We ignore the obvious principle that no people are awarded the tools for freedom by the people oppressing them. No people in history. We don't challenge the obvious contradiction that there are 50 million Africans within the U.S. yet no one in the U.S., including the Africans here born and raised in Africa, know much of anything about Africa. We walk around like this is some sort of inconsequential accident or coincidence. Clearly, this is a coordinated effort by our enemies, who control this dysfunctional educational system, and the capitalist media that promotes this coordinated separation of the children of Africa from our mother. One participant yesterday who had great intentions, wanted to know more about Africa. This person admitted that their only knowledge of Africa was what they saw on the CNN show "Parts Unknown" or whatever the title of that show is/was (I just don't watch television shows for the most part, sorry). Not to throw shade at this person because none of this is their fault, but could you imagine any European saying the only knowledge about Europe they possess is what they saw on BET? That's the social equivalent of where our people are every single day. We have to change this by speaking out about the relationship of Africa to U.S. capitalism. How Africa provided the capital to fuel capitalism through the transatlantic slave trade. How the systems of colonialism that were set up from that period institutionalized the system that ensures the cocoa (chocolate), coltan, diamond, gold, uranium, bauxite, etc., industries were and are controlled by our enemies. We have to start talking about why Africa is the richest continent on Earth, yet houses the poorest people on Earth? Why is it that African people are at the bottom of the societies we live in everywhere on Earth? Why? Why? Why? We have to start raising these questions because when we do, it will become much clearer that the key to maintaining capitalism is keeping Africa disconnected from the African masses. Keeping us believing that our only salvation is going to be U.S. British, French, etc., capitalism. We have to start challenging all of that. Its shouldn't be such a powerful statement in 2018 to say to a group of Africans that no African will be free until Africa is free. That statement always generates a vivid reaction from Africans which tells us we are not making that statement enough.
I've said repeatedly what we need to be doing, but I understand there cannot be a revolution without revolutionaries so our work continues to be raising the consciousness of our people so we can have the shock troops to wage this struggle with our people. The fact so many of our organizing spaces within the U.S. are dominated today by these backward petti bourgeois ideas is a reflection of how weak our revolutionary Pan-African, and other revolutionary forces, are. That should signal us that instead of attacking each other, when we are all very weak, we should encourage the induction of all of our ideas into the discourse of our people because whatever any of us have to say is a step forward. And, our people are intelligent enough so that they can figure out in time what path is best for them. So, we should do all these things within the context of our missions for justice and liberation. Our people will decide how they wish to proceed and we will be creating the conditions to greatly weaken the dominance of these petti bourgeois ideas in our communities. I wonder how many of us are truly interested in engaging these questions this way?
Africa and U.S. capitalism are indeed a paradox. Both exist, and capitalism only exists because of Africa's exploitation, yet the dominant perspective is that one has very little to do with the other. And, we walk around here everyday ignoring the obvious realities. This is the objective of our class enemies and its time for those of us to disagree to stop playing along. We have to develop strategies to get our youth so we can provide them with access to revolutionary consciousness before the petti bourgeois ideas are accepted without question. Class is a bad word in the African community. Its far past time to change that.