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(en) The Utopian #2 - Anarchism and African - By WAYNE PRICE II. (2/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.utopianmag.com/)
Date Mon, 14 Oct 2002 04:51:41 -0400 (EDT)


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After the war, the White bloc was solidified, this time with-
out the Communists, by Cold War anti-Communism.
Communists and other leftists were driven from the
unions, from universities, and from government employ-
ment. Support for Black rights (and peace, unionism, gen-
der equality, etc.) became identified with Communism, the
enemy of "Americanism," and driven out of political dis-
cussion for most of the fifties.

What broke the White bloc next was the world-wide
movement against imperialism. This included the
Chinese revolution, the Indian struggle for independence,
the Korean war, the nationalist revolts in Africa against
the British and French colonialists, the Cuban revolution,
and the Vietnamese national liberation war against
France and then against the U.S. The U.S. power elite was
replacing the British as the leading capitalist state and
therefore opposed the old British and French colonialism
in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. The U.S. sought to reor-
ganize these colonies as officially independent states.

Their economies would be dominated by U.S. capitalism
through its control of the world market (that is, neo-
colonialism, or imperialism without outright ownership
of colonies). This is how the U.S. had long ruled Latin
America. Meanwhile the (weaker) Russian imperialists
sought to increase their international influence by sup-
porting anti-U.S. nationalists. (At the same time, the
Russians maintained an empire of non-Russian countries
within the Soviet Union and among their satellite "allies"
in Eastern Europe.) The Communists kept on pointing
out U.S. racism and Jim Crow segregation. This seriously
weakened U.S. claims for democracy and its attempts to
compete ideologically with the Communists and radical
nationalists.

The world-wide anti-colonial revolt shook up the U.S.
power structure. It especially inspired the U.S. Black popu-
lation. Black nationalists were deeply impressed and
attracted. Inside the U.S., African-Americans were a
minority. But they were, it could be seen, part of a big
international majority which was in revolt against Western
imperialism and White racism!

The integrationist wing was also impressed by the world
revolt. The integrationists' nonviolence was consciously
based on the methods Gandhi used to win Indian inde-
pendence from Britain. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., attend-
ed the independence ceremony of Ghana, in Africa. Under
the leadership of Nkrumah, the Ghanaians had also won
their freedom from Britain by a Gandhian-type of nonvio-
lent campaign. This served as a model for Dr. King and
other integrationists.

Black people of all political points of view knew that the
U.S. rulers were hypocritically claiming to be for freedom
and democracy around the world while maintaining a
repressive, racist, one-party system in half the U.S. This
hypocrisy made the U.S. power elite vulnerable to an anti-
racist struggle. At the same time, the post-war boom
meant that the U.S. rulers, as a whole, could afford to
make concessions to the Black population, and the poor in
general--provided the rulers were put under enough pres-
sure by mass demonstrations and popular unrest. The
Southern White power structure did not want to make any
concessions to Blacks. Neither did the most conservative of
the national leadership. But the national, liberal, and even
conservative U.S. rulers were willing to. They had no direct
investment in maintaining the Jim Crow-legal segregation
form of racism. If necessary, they could let this embarrass-
ment go. Some mild anti-discrimination laws could be
passed even for the North. And they could provide an
increase in social welfare benefits (the "Great Society" of
Johnson), to further calm the Black and White poor.

The White bloc split from top to bottom. Part of the U.S.
White working population--especially but not only in the
South--became rabidly, even hysterically, racist. They sup-
ported the right wing of the U.S. rulers and participated in
extra-legal violence. But other European-American work-
ers became more sympathetic to Blacks and embarrassed
at their own racism. They supported the liberal wing of
the bourgeoisie. The U.S. population as a whole was dras-
tically shaken by both the Civil Rights/Black liberation
struggle and the anti-imperialist struggle. This appeared as
the Vietnam war: the resistance of the Vietnamese to U.S.
imperialism and the growing movement against the war
within the U.S. Inspired by both U.S. Blacks and the
Vietnamese, European-American young people (on and off
college campuses) became increasingly oppositional, radi-
cal, idealistic, and even revolutionary. People started to be
aware of oppression in other areas: the oppression of
women, of youth, of Gay men and Lesbians, and so on,
and to be conscious of environmental degradation.

Often led by Black people, there was an upsurge of union-
ization, particularly in government employment and in the
hospitals. (Dr. King was shot while helping the mostly-
Black Memphis sanitation workers fight for union rights.)
There was also a wave of wildcat strikes (unauthorized by
union officials) in heavy industry and the post office.

There was a great upheaval in the miners' union which
threw out the entrenched bureaucracy and began massive
strikes. This worker mobilization of the sixties and seven-
ties was not as wide as in the thirties, but many workers
became radicalized for awhile. (This labor upsurge is often
overlooked in reviewing the period.)

The Black movement as a whole became more radicalized.
The liberal wing of the movement had won its great victo-
ry in defeating Jim Crow, but had no idea how to fight
Northern-style racism, unemployment, and poverty (now
the norm North and South). Liberal integrationism
became discredited as irrelevant in dealing with the misery
of the urban ghetto. Much of Black militancy turned into a
nationalist direction, especially with the rise of the Black
Panthers (who were willing to work in coalitions with
White radicals).

But the nationalists also had no program for changing the
conditions of U.S. Blacks. They did not know how to con-
cretely turn the international anti-colonial revolt with
which they identified into an effective revolution against
the U.S. racism. Some nationalists, the Panthers included,
were also attracted to revolutionary Marxism. Like most
White radicals, this took the form of attraction to Stalinist
governments (China, Vietnam, or Cuba). Aside from being
morally bankrupt, this gave little guidance to making a
revolution in the U.S. Unfortunately, the struggle among
the White majority of workers was still at too low a level to
pull most radicals toward a working class socialism
(Marxist or anarchist).

In the mid-sixties, Malcolm X had developed his own Black
liberationist position which rejected both integrationism
and nationalism and moved in a pro-socialist direction. He
parted with the Nation of Islam, mainly because he became
increasingly rebellious at its lack of participation in the
Black struggle for rights. (Actually he was expelled for say-
ing at a news conference that he was not "sad" about
Kennedy's assassination.) His Autobiography, as heavily edit-
ed by Alex Haley, gives the impression that Malcolm X was
then so impressed by the racial equality of orthodox Islam
that he became an integrationist liberal. This is a distortion.

As can be seen by his speeches from his last year (Malcolm
X, 1965), he remained as militant and radical as ever. And
while influenced by orthodox Muslims, he was also
impressed by "Third World" revolutionaries of various
nationalities and races.

For example, when he was in Ghana he was impressed by
the ambassador from Algeria. Malcolm X respected this
man as a genuine African revolutionary who had fought
French colonialism, but "...to all appearances he was a
White man"(1965, p. 212). How did such people fit into
Black nationalism? "...I had to do a lot of thinking and
reappraising.... Can we sum up the solution to the prob-
lems confronting our people as Black nationalism? And if
you notice, I haven't been using the expression for several
months" (1965, pp. 212-213). In the same period, he aban-
doned his call for a separate Black state. He--and the
small group around him--rejected both integrationism
and nationalism in favor of "equality" and "human rights."
Malcolm X was struck by the fact that the anti-imperialist
revolutionaries he observed in Africa and the Middle East
almost all regarded themselves as some sort of "socialists"
(in fact, state socialists). As his last speeches indicate, he
became, at least, pro-socialist as well as internationalist.

How he would have evolved cannot be known, since he
was gunned down as his thinking was still in process. In
many ways, the Black movement--even the Panthers--
never again reached the level of theoretical clarity that
Malcolm X achieved, in his internationalist rejection of
both nationalism and integrationism.
THE REVOLUTIONARY PROGRAM AND WHITE
RACISM
This brief, encapsulated, version of U.S. Black-White histo-
ry has several implications. The African-American struggle
constantly presses on the cracks in the White bloc. It pres-
ents an alternative to the acceptance, by White people, of
the rule of the corporate rich and the patriarchal state. In
turn, advances in the Black struggle require splits in the
White bloc, to give Blacks the leverage they need. The
White oppressed need to ally with Blacks, not only for
moral reasons, as important as these are, but in order to
oppose capitalist exploitation, patriarchal sexism, war, and
ecological destruction. As developed programs, neither lib-
eral integrationism nor various forms of Black nationalism
are adequate for Black or White.

With the end of the Civil Rights movement, there has been
a continual attack on the gains of African-Americans. The
assault on affirmative action has targeted the new Black
middle class. "Welfare reform" (the abolition of most of
the welfare safety net) has attacked the Black poor. The
"war on drugs" and prison expansion has attacked the
Black poor as well as youth. Meanwhile there has been an
ideological offensive against Blacks (exemplified by The
Bell Curve; Herrnstein & Murray, 1994), portraying
African-Americans as innately stupid, lazy, and criminal.

The aim of these attacks has been to recement the White
bloc against the Black population. But it has also been an
attack on the White workers and oppressed. It has been an
effort to "soften them up" and to `'set them up" for greater
attacks. By bringing the befuddled Whites further under
the domination of the White rich, the White workers are
made increasingly vulnerable to anti-labor, anti-women,
and anti-ecological attacks. The very years that saw the rise
of the Republican right by racist appeals also saw a drastic
decline in the percentage of workers covered by union pro-
tection, attacks on abortion rights, and decreases in envi-
ronmental protection--all parts of the same program. The
attacks on affirmative action for Blacks also weakens the
affirmative action opportunities of women of all races.

This is to be expected. There is not that much money to be
saved for the ruling class by cutbacks on welfare spending
on Blacks. A serious improvement in the profitability of
the rich requires these other attacks--on White workers,
White women, and the environment. Racism is not good
for the Whites, besides not being good. The real interests
of the White majority run with those of the Black popula-
tion--if the Whites can see it.

The racism of European-Americans can be of different kinds,
which is sometimes confusing. There is the hot, hysterical,
active hatred of the extremists. Especially with the end of Jim
Crow, this has become fairly marginalized. Only a few Whites
really feel strong antipathy toward Black people. These strong
haters are there, occasionally going out to kill someone, but
mostly they are on the fringe. As society falls apart, they will,
no doubt, grow and be mobilized as fascist forces. So they
must be taken seriously in the long run. But right now, even
the incipient fascists of the Christian right make a point of
denying that they are anti-Black.

More widespread is a cold liberal racism, of Whites who
turn their faces away, who ignore Black people. They act
like Whites are not so much superior to Blacks as that
Whites are the only people around. They treat Blacks as
nonexistent. Their dislike of Black people is mostly class
prejudice: they imagine that all Blacks are poor people and
then they express their dislike of poor people (lazy, irre-
sponsible, too many children, etc.). They have little dislike
of middle class or upper working class Blacks, who can be
imagined as people like them (the Whites). They ignore
their Blackness.

This is sometimes difficult for African-Americans to realize.
After all, the effects of racism on them is something they are
quite conscious of. It can be hard to realize how much
European-Americans can be unaware of the evil they may
be doing. When something happens to Blacks, such as the
flooding of their communities by drugs, some Blacks may
see this as a White conspiracy to harm the Black people.
Actually the Mafia or contra businesspeople are callously
looking for a market among oppressed people, just as do the
legal tobacco and liquor businesses, which also focus on the
Black market. The rest of the White community just does
not care. They don't give a damn.

Especially among nationalists, this misperception has lead
to charges of "genocide" against African-Americans. The
word "genocide" was invented after World War II to cover
a specific crime: the attempted extermination of a people.
Throughout history this has been rare. Usually masters
have sought to keep the oppressed alive. But occasionally
there have been efforts to utterly wipe out a people. This
includes, of course, the Nazi attack on the European Jews,
as well as the Turkish assault on the Armenian people and
the U.S. destruction of the Native Americans. More recent-
ly have been the Hutu attacks on the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Genocide does not include the way the White rich brought
Africans here to work as slaves. The Whites did not want
to destroy the Blacks but to increase a Black population.

The Whites were, however, willing to kill some of the
Blacks--the more assertive ones--in order to terrorize the
rest into submission. This is an old pattern. And if many
Africans died on the Middle Passage ships, the Whites did
not really care. So today, the White capitalist state sup-
presses Black people, sends military-like cops against their
homes, and jails their youth in a so-called War on Drugs.
This is to control the Black population, but it is not to
wipe it out. The Blacks still serve useful purposes for the
capitalists and the state, nor would most Whites accept an
actual extermination policy (that is, death camps).

It is important to make this distinction between a vicious
racial hatred, with its possible policy of genocide, and the
cold indifference of most European-Americans. Without
such a distinction, Blacks will not be prepared to fight
against the real danger of a fascist movement if it develops
(as if the fascists and liberal democrats are the same). It is
also easier to imagine a break in the White bloc, and a pos-
sible Black-White alliance, if we realize that most Whites,
for all their blindness, do not burn with hatred for Blacks.

BLACK ORGANIZATION

To fight for their needs, African-Americans will--and
should--use all sorts of organizations. All-black organiza-
tions will be useful. Black communities will be organized
by Black organizations, just as steelworkers are organized
in a steelworkers' union. Black people have special interests
as Blacks and therefore have a need to organize themselves.
All-Black organizations are not the equivalent of all-White
organizations. Black organizations are organizations of the
oppressed, while White organizations--when organized as
Whites--are organizations of the oppressors. (This is not
the same thing as a club of Estonian-Americans or a union
local of teachers in an all-White town in the Mid-West;
these are not organized as Whites.) Nor do all-Black
organizations necessarily contradict the goal of equality.

Historically, Blacks have often used their community
organizations to spearhead struggles for racial equality.
There is also the likelihood of Black organizations within
broader, multi-racial, organizations, such as unions or
political organizations. Black caucuses are self-organiza-
tions within broader organizations. They have a certain
ambivalence about them. On the one hand, they may aim
at including all the Blacks within the organization, repre-
senting their interests. On the other, they may (as "caucus-
es") be based on a specific program, with which all the
Blacks in the union (or whatever) may not agree. How
much of a contradiction exists depends on several factors
(how detailed is the program, or how much disagreement,
if any, exists among the Black members). It is also possible
for an organization to set up an official Black "depart-
ment," an office or committee representing the organiza-
tion in its work with Black members or outside contacts.
Often the needs of Black within-organization organiza-
tions can be met by periodic conferences with little or no
on-going structure between meetings.

Yet there is also a need for multi-racial, multi-national organi-
zations. I have already mentioned cross-racial interest groups,
such as unions or women's organizations, or community
organizations in multi-ethnic neighborhoods. But also there
will be political organizations of minorities voluntarily associ-
ated around common political programs (ultimately these are
also interest groups, since their programs will benefit one sec-
tion of society or another). One such minority is those
who believe in anarchism and anti-authoritarian socialism.

These people, Black and White and of other racial and
national backgrounds, need to unite--not to become the
new rulers but to struggle against the parties and group-
ings who stand in for new or existing rulers. The libertari-
an socialists/anarchists must pool their resources in order
to advocate the most popular self-organization possible.

Believing in an internationalist, pluralistic society, they
themselves must build an internationalist, pluralist revolu-
tionary organization. A revolution in North America will
only happen if it includes every oppressed grouping in the
country, including people of every race and nationality.
Building towards this is only possible with a revolutionary
organization committed to this goal. We need each other.

A revolutionary movement will need European-Americans
from many walks of life, but especially from oppressed sec-
tions of society. They are not oppressed as "White" people
but are as workers, as women, as youth, as Gays and
Lesbians, as people who need a safe, clean ecology and a
world without war. Rebelling includes breaking their
White bloc with the ruling corporate rich and allying
instead with oppressed people of color.

A revolutionary movement and organization will also need
those regarded as "people of color," or as "oppressed nation-
alities" or "peoples" or "minorities." In the U.S., this includes
African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native
Americans; in Canada it also includes Quebeçois; in Mexico,
Native American communities. These peoples show enor-
mous national and racial differences among themselves as
well as differences within each people. But overall they are
defined as different from the white/Anglo mainstream. The
majority of U.S. people of color are at the bottom of socie-
ty--from the Black ghettos to the barrios. All together,
oppressed peoples are a large minority of the population,
concentrated in strategic parts of society. Overall they have
fewer privileges to lose than the European-American popula-
tion. While most are not yet revolutionaries, they have the
fewest illusions in the system.

Others have advocated a multi-racial/multi-national move-
ment. A few elections ago, for example, Jesse Jackson ran for
the Democratic Party's presidential nomination while calling
for a "Rainbow Coalition." This idea was enormously popu-
lar among African-Americans (so popular that most nation-
alist organizations supported Jackson), as well as among
other oppressed groupings--including some White farmers
and unionized workers. But the Rainbow Coalition died as
an organization when Jackson's campaign ended. Its purpose
had been to elect someone to office, so he could do politics
for the people. It had been tied to the liberal, pro-capitalist
and pro-statist, politics of the dying liberal wing of the
Democratic Party.

It is not, then, enough to be for "unity"--the question is,
"unity on what program?" The only firm, lasting basis for
multi-racial/multi-national unity is on an internationalist
socialist and anarchist program: the overthrow of capital-
ism, the state, patriarchy, and white supremacy--and their
replacement by a self-organized, radically democratic and
decentralized, cooperative society. That is why there needs
to be a multi-national anarchist organization to fight for
this program.

This society will face economic crisis and decay; its stability
will crack. The mainstream politics of conservatism and liber-
alism will be discredited. Millions of people from all sections
of society will be in motion. They will be interested in new,
"extremist," ideas. Many deluded European-Americans will lis-
ten to those who blame the crisis on African-Americans,
Hispanics, Asians, as well as Jews, blindly unaware of their real
corporate enemies. Many deluded African-Americans and
others will listen to pro-capitalist/pro-statist crackpots like
Farrakhan or his successors, who blame their problems on
Asians and Jews and an undifferentiated "White" society, also
ignoring their real corporate enemies. A reformist socialist
movement is likely to arise, calling for a multi-racial/multi-
national movement, based on the fragile program of reform-
ing capitalism and the state.

To compete with these forces, there will need to be an
organization trying to persuade people of anarchist ideas.
It cannot be assumed that anarchism will automatically
win out. That has never happened. Freedom must be
fought for, argued for, and organized for. Wherever possible,
anarchists should find ways to work together on common
issues with other organizations (liberal, social democratic,
Leninist, nationalist, etc.). Socialist anarchists do not have all
the answers and must be willing to learn from others--with-
out abandoning their goal.

At first, any North American anarchist organization will probably
be mostly White and middle class, with a few exceptions. To turn
itself into a multi-racial, multi-national organization, where
African-Americans of working class background can feel comfort-
able will not be easy. It will require work and political commit-
ment. It will be made a little easier by the growth of anarchist
groups in several African countries.

Anti-authoritarians are rightly concerned with any signs of con-
descension or elitism, of anyone "telling" others "what to do,"
especially of Whites lecturing to Blacks. It has been argued that
White anarchists (such as myself) have no right to "tell" Black
people "what to do," and therefore should keep quiet.

Unfortunately, the Black community is already politically organ-
ized, and by Black people with ties to various White-dominated
institutions. In particular, the dominant political organization is
the Democratic Party, which is an agency of the White capitalist
power structure. The most influential institutions are the church-
es (often affiliated with White church federations). Whatever their
virtues, they usually preach submissiveness and acceptance of the
status quo. Then there are the various nationalists (who would
create a Black colony of White America) and the Marxist-
Leninists (who would create a new Black and White ruling class, if
they could). And so on. Are all these agencies of oppression to
speak freely among Blacks but anarchist revolutionaries should
keep quiet? The issue is not the need for tact or a willingness to
work with churches, etc., but the need to win over Black people to
anti-authoritarian socialism--for everyone's sake.

For references, contact Wayne Price at drwdprice@aol.com
Wayne Price has recently written a book about anarchism, enti-
tled Visions of Liberation. He is presently working on a book
about William Morris.


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