Black Liberation in the 21st Century: A Revolutionary Reassessment of Black Nationalism
First appeared in Right On! #19
“[T]rue revolutionary leaders must not only be good at correcting their ideas, theories, plans or programs, when errors are discovered… but when a certain objective process has already progressed and changed from one stage of development to another, they must also be good at making themselves and all their fellow revolutionaries progress and change in their subjective knowledge along with it….” -Mao Tse-tung, On Contradiction
Some time ago comrades of the New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) expressed a desire to reconcile contradictions between their line and the line of our New Afrikan Black Panther Party—Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) on the question of Black National Liberation in the 21st Century. On this question, NAMP along with several other organizations—including the New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO), the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, the Maoist International Movement (MIM) and others promote the Black Belt Thesis (BBT) as it was set out by the Comintern (Third Communist International) in the 1920s.
The NAMP comrades are correct in pointing out that our respective organizations have a major line contradiction on this question. We have as yet not publicly fleshed out our line on this, in contrast to that of NAMP and others, so it is time we did so in a formal position paper.
In developing our line on the Black National Question in the U.S. we have applied the method of historical dialectical materialism and deepened the analysis put forward by Huey P. Newton of the original Black Panther Party (BPP). This means we do not hold dogmatically and idealistically to outmoded ideas and formulations that no longer fit the current situation. Instead we base our analysis on the study of concrete conditions in the context of their actual historical development, realizing that everything is in a state of motion and development from a lower to a higher level, and that correct ideas develop in struggle and contradiction with incorrect ones.
The Black Belt Thesis and the New Class Configuration of the New Afrikan Nation
The BBT was developed by the U.S. “Black Bolshevik,” Harry Haywood, in his 1928 and 1930 “Comintern Resolution on the Negro Question,” which was adopted by the Comintern and the U.S. Communist Party with support from V.1. Lenin. It holds that Blacks in Amerika (New Afrikans) constitute a nation within the territorial U.S. and that we should establish our own sovereign national territory in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina (the “Black Belt” also known as the “Cotton Belt”). The states were chosen because we slaved there and developed and evolved as a national group and “internal colony” where Blacks made up the majority. The principle factors which supported the BBT were economic and demographic that existed in the 1920s but no longer exist today.
No one can sensibly deny that Black people were forged into a “nation within a nation” because of their loss of Afrikan national identity under slavery and exclusion from the white Amerikan nation under conditions of “Jim Crow” segregation. Nor can one deny that this nation is bound to its Afrikan origin and defined by the imposed value that a drop of Afrikan blood sets one outside of the “melting pot” of white Amerikan society.
But where the BBT breaks down is that our present situation doesn’t fit into the neat definition used by the Comintern in the 1920s. The reality is more complex today.
At the time the BBT was developed, Blacks in the “Black Belt” were a predominantly peasant (sharecropper) nation tied to cotton production. This condition was also shared by many poor whites and some Indians and mixed bloods. The BBT was based on Comrade J.V. Stalin’s analysis of the National Question as essentially a peasant question. Unlike the analysis put forward by Lenin, and more fully developed by Mao, Stalin’s analysis limited the National Question to essentially a peasantry’s struggle for the land they labored on geographically defined by their having a common language, history, culture and economic life together. Hence the slogans “Free the Land!” and “Land to the Tiller!”
Indeed, ALL the national liberation struggles of the 20th Century occurred in peasant-based societies in opposition to colonial or neo-colonial domination and feudal or semi-feudal class oppression. Today, however, the Black population within the U.S. is no longer a rural peasantry. It is overwhelmingly a proletarian nation (wage slaves) dispersed across the U.S. and concentrated in and around urban centers in predominantly Black or multi-ethnic oppressed communities.
The trend since World War I has been towards migration away from the “Black Belt” South and from the rural to the urban setting (even within the South). Check this out from “1001 Facts” on Black History:
“African Americans continued to move northward and cityward after World War I in 1918. In fact, the migration increased during the 1920s as another million southern African Americans picked up their bags and left southern living conditions. The migration expanded in the 1930s as the New Deal Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 forced many more to migrate once the AAA paid white southern farmers not to produce crops and made it profitable to dispense with Black sharecroppers. Technological advances such as the cotton picker machine made large numbers of unskilled agricultural laborers obsolete in southern agriculture. Then, as World War II began, Black mass migration exploded and nearly 5 million African Americans left the South for the North from 1940 to 1960… [This] Second Migration created huge ghettos in all the major American cities. Whereas in 1890 close to 90 percent of African Americans lived in the South, by 1960 only 50 percent of African Americans still resided there. Moreover, the movement north was also a movement toward urban rather than rural living. By 1990 over 84 percent of African Americans lived in urban areas, making ‘African American’ and ‘urban’ almost synonymous in modem America.”
Therefore, without need of pursuing a struggle to achieve a New Afrikan nation state, we have achieved the historical results of bourgeois democracy, at least as far as transforming ourselves from a peasant to a predominantly proletarian national grouping through the “Great Migration.”
Of course the Amerikan liberal democratic revolution begun in 1776, which was continued by the Civil War (1861-1865), remains unfinished—in particular as far as Black people are affected. Pre-capitalist forms of exploitation continue to exist, such as the “slave status” of U.S. prisoners, institutionalized torture, legalized “lynching” as embodied in the racist death penalty, and all manifestations of racism, sexism and discrimination that prevent all from enjoying the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” promised by liberal democracy.
To complete the liberal democratic revolution and move forward to socialist reconstruction the proletariat must lead the struggle which is stifled by the increasingly antidemocratic, fascistic and reactionary bourgeoisie. The bourgeois are no longer capable of playing a progressive role in history.
The Revolutionary Advantages of Our Proletarian National Character
That we New Afrikans are now a predominantly proletarian nation—and one without a national territory—is an advantage to the cause of building a multi-ethnic, multiracial socialist Amerika. Indeed, it thrusts us into playing a vanguard role in leading the whole working class and the broad masses in pulling down the capitalist-imperialist system and achieving social justice for all.
This conception of our historical role corresponds with Lenin’s and Mao’s lines on the National Question which we contrast with Stalin’s and dogmatic continuation of the BBT. Lenin and Mao saw the national question primarily as a matter of building the ranks of the proletarian revolution to pull down the system of imperialism. In fact, in all of his writings on Black liberation in the U.S. Mao consistently talks about merging the Black liberation struggle with the proletarian revolutionary struggle in the U.S. He doesn’t mention the land issue once. In A New Storm Against Imperialism, (April 16, 1968), he stated:
“Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for.
“Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.”
In his August 8, 1963 article, Oppose Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism, Mao’s emphasis is on racial discrimination, not “Free The Land!” He sees Black liberation as driving forward the United Front Against Capitalist-Imperialism and pulling white workers and other strata towards socialist revolution in the U.S. The issue is not integration versus separation but revolution.
Even Malcolm X came to embrace this position. In fact, every popular, independent Black leader who came to hold this view and actively advanced it was promptly assassinated. Why? Because neither separation nor integration threatens the imperialist system—socialist revolution does!
Separation, Integration or Revolution?
Take Brother Malcolm; in his early stages of political development, he promoted Black separatism. Based upon his observation of independence struggles across the predominantly peasant-based Third World of the 1950s and early 1960s, he adopted the view that revolution was about land, and he embraced the slogan “Free The Land!”, which he elaborated on in his Message to the Grassroots speech given in 1963. However, in an April 6, 1964 speech given in Harlem, he expressly rejected both Black separatism and integration, in favor of revolutionary change of Amerika as a whole. He stated:
“We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for integration, nor are we fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition… for the right to live as free humans in this society” [my emphasis]
Malcolm increasingly came to identify capitalism and imperialism as the ultimate enemy—embracing the need of Afrikan people everywhere to consolidate their struggles into a united Pan-Afrikan movement, and for Blacks in Amerika to unite in a common struggle with all the “have-nots”, regardless of their skin color, against the common exploiters who try to divide everyone and play us against each other. It was at this crucial stage of his development as a revolutionary that he was silenced with a bullet.
A few months before his assassination, Malcolm X criticized his earlier views on separatist Black Nationalism, finding that:
“I was alienating people who were true revolutionaries dedicated to overturning the system of exploitation that exists on this earth by any means necessary…. I had to do a lot of thinking and reappraising of my definition of Black Nationalism. Can we sum up the solution to the problems confronting our people as Black Nationalism? And if you notice, I haven’t been using the expression for several months. But I would still be hard pressed to give a specific definition of the overall philosophy which I think is necessary for the liberation of Black people in this country.”
At the opposite pole, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—who was initially pro-integration and pro-capitalist—also came to identify capitalism and imperialism as the ultimate enemy, expressly rejecting integration and privately promoting socialist revolution in Amerika as the way forward. He stated in November 1967: “Something is wrong with capitalism as it stands here in the U.S. We are not interested in being integrated into this value structure.” During later 1967 and 1968, shortly before his assassination, King repeatedly promoted socialism to his inside circle, but he refused to make this stand publicly for fear of government assassination. But his private statements, public opposition to U.S. imperialist wars abroad, and support for the rights of the poor and workers’ strikes were enough for the imperialist ruling class to mark him for death.
George Jackson, pursuing the same path and arriving at the same conclusions in a more developed way, was likewise cut down by an assassin’s bullet. He observed:
“It’s no coincidence that Malcolm X and M.L. King died when they did. Malcolm X had just put it together…. You remember what was on his lips when he died, Vietnam and economic, political economy. The professional killers could have murdered him long before they did. They let Malcolm rage on Muslim nationalism for a number of years because they knew it was an empty ideal, but the second he got his feet on the ground, they murdered him.”
Despite Malcolm X’s and even King’s clearly-stated revolutionary positions that New Afrikan liberation lies neither in assimilation (accommodation) nor separation (running away), but in fundamentally changing Amerikan society as a whole, so that we can live as a free people right here, the Black Movement, and those purporting to lead it, have remained deadlocked between these two less than revolutionary positions. The original Black Panther Party has been the notable exception.
The Panthers recognized that the New Afrikan Nation can neither effectively separate from nor integrate into capitalist imperialist and white supremist Amerika. Neo-colonialism precludes the former and racist national oppression precludes the later. Our path to liberation—which even the Panthers found a bit difficult to consistently articulate—is to overthrow U.S. imperialism and play a leading role in the global proletarian revolution and socialist reconstruction. We must be the tip of the spear and rally everyone who has contradictions with imperialism to unite with us.
Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, who were greatly influenced by Malcolm X, were organizing in this direction, in implementing the BPP’s 10 Point Program and Serve The People (STP), survival programs while carrying out revolutionary agitation, education and political organizing to build community-based people’s power. Huey saw that Blacks were an oppressed nation inside Amerika, but his ideas on charting our path to liberation took a quantum leap forward when he visited and toured Mao’s revolutionary China. There he found that numerous racial and ethnic minorities had attained genuine liberation within China’s socialist state, without separating or integrating in the classic sense.
What Huey observed in China gave him a blueprint for organizing Black folks to become self-reliant in the very urban communities where they were concentrated in preparation for revolution in the U.S. The BPP’s implementation of these ideas quickly earned it the label of the “greatest threat to imperialism’s security, and the U.S. government concentrated its forces in an all-out campaign to destroy the Panthers. Here’s what Huey found in People’s China that inspired the BPP’s STP survival programs and illuminated his ideas about Black liberation in Amerika:
“I saw, crystal clear, how we can start to reduce the kinds of conflicts that we’re having in [Amerika]. I saw an example of that in China… what I saw was this: when I went there, I was very unenlightened and I thought I knew something about China. I thought, as it has been said so often, that China would be a homogeneous kind of racial/ethnic territory. Then I found that 50 percent of the Chinese territory is occupied by a 54 percent population of national minorities, large ethnic minorities. They speak different languages, they look very different, and they eat different foods. Yet there is no conflict. I observed one day that each region—we call them cities—is actually controlled by those ethnic minorities, yet they’re still Chinese…. I’m talking about a general condition in China where ethnic minorities I’ve observed control their whole regions. They have a right to have representation in the Chinese Communist Party. At the same time they have their own principles…. The cities in this country could be organized like that, with community control. At the same time, not Black control so that no whites can come in, no Chinese can come in. I’m saying there would be democracy in the inner city. The administration should reflect the people who live there.”
While Huey proved less than adept at linking together, organizing and leading a multi-racial anti-imperialist united front in Amerika, Fred Hampton, the leader of the BPP in Chicago, successfully pulled together a revolutionary coalition of poor whites (Rising Up Angry and The Young Patriot Party), Puerto Ricans (the Young Lords Organization), Mexicans (the Brown Berets) and various student groups known as the “Rainbow Coalition.” He was being considered for promotion to national leadership when he as killed in his bed by FBI and Chicago police in a planned assassination.
Around the country the Black Panthers did inspire and forge alliances with many different ethnically-based groups including the White Panther Party, I Wor Kuen (Chinese), Ang Katipunan (Filipino), the American Indian Movement (AIM) and many others. This was paving the way for a revolutionary united front against imperialism rooted in the oppressed communities.
The NABPP-PC also finds relevance in Huey’s theoretical concept of “Revolutionary Intercommunalism”, which recognized that the U.S. no longer fits the classical definition of a nation state nor do the countries under its neo-colonial domination. Using “Dollar Diplomacy”, along with covert operations and outright invasions, the U.S. has successfully imposed itself upon all of the former European colonies and overthrown the socialist-oriented governments brought to power by national liberation struggles in the 3ed World. This paved the way for the U.S. becoming the world’s sole imperialist superpower. Amerika’s consolidation of global power since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the increasingly globalized economic interdependence gives greater credibility to Comrade Newton’s theory of “Intercommunalism,” but we embrace this theory conditionally, recognizing that nation states still exist in the geo-political sense under various political and military set ups of “reactionary intercommunalism,” although they exist within a system of relative dominant and subservient positions with the U.S. in the position of “Top Dawg.” The shackles of bourgeois nationalism still bind the productive forces of the various nations to some degree, from which world proletarian socialist revolution will liberate them, creating the conditions for “revolutionary intercommunalism.’
Reassessing the National Liberation Question
As every national liberation struggle in the 20th Century has demonstrated, genuine national liberation and self determination have been unattainable. In each case the capitalist-imperialists have created and appealed to aspiring native bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements within the oppressed national groups and used these puppets to derail their own people’s liberation struggles. They have used “Dollar Diplomacy” to forge neo-colonial bonds upon these new republics.
Through their neo-colonial designs, the budding socialist and non-aligned Third World blocs were undermined and overthrown (sweeping the tillers off the land) and their natural resources and productive forces were brought under U.S. imperialist domination (with other imperialist powers getting a share). In this world of U.S. imperialist hegemony, any New Afrikan struggle for independence and separation from the U.S.—along the lines of the BBT—would suffer the same fate in spades. Even if we did manage to reconstitute ourselves as a territorial nation in the “Black Belt,” we would only join the ranks of imperialist dominated Third world nations—and with the imperialist U.S. right on our border.
At a time when few within the Third World national liberation struggles foresaw the danger of U.S. neo-colonialism, Amilcar Cabral sounded a warning to other leaders of anti-colonial national liberation movements in the Third World. He questioned whether the national liberation movements were altogether born of the colonial peoples’ determination to be free or if they were also to some degree instigated by imperialism to create and “liberate” Third World bourgeois and aspiring petty bourgeois forces to serve as imperialist agents and “front men” to impede and counter the growth of world socialism and create global U.S. imperialist hegemony. Few took heed to his words—then or now. Here is Cabral:
“In Guinea, as in other countries, the implementation of imperialism by force and the presence of the colonial system considerably altered the historical conditions and aroused a response—the national liberation struggle—which is generally considered a revolutionary trend; but this is something which I think needs further examination. I should like to formulate this question: is the national liberation movement something which has simply emerged from within our country, is it a result of the internal contradictions created by the presence of colonialism, or are there external factors which have determined it? In fact I would even go so far as to ask whether, given the advance of socialism in the world, the national liberation movement is not an imperialist initiative. Is the juridical institution which serves as a reference for the right of all peoples to struggle to free themselves a product of the peoples who are trying to liberate themselves? Was it created by the socialist countries who are our historical associates? Let us not forget that it was the imperialist countries who recognized the right of all people to national independence.”
Cabral went on to point out the inherent contradiction in the imperialists “promoting” Third World national independence if indeed such struggles were a threat to imperialism:
“This is where we think there is something wrong with the simple interpretation of the national liberation movement as a revolutionary trend. The objective of the imperialist countries was to prevent the enlargement of the Socialist Camp, to liberate the reactionary forces in our countries which were stifled by colonialism, and to enable these forces to ally themselves with the international bourgeoisie. The fundamental objective was to create a bourgeoisie where one did not exist, in order specifically to strengthen the imperialist and the capitalist camp.”—Amilcar Cabral. The Politics of Struggle, (1964)
Cabral found that “what really interests us here is neocolonialism,” which he observed was a new phase of imperialism devised after World War II to replace the old colonial system, by “grant[ing] independence to the occupied countries plus ‘aid.”
Witnessing the failed promises of ‘national liberation’ Cabral recognized that to be genuinely revolutionary and ‘liberating’ the struggles for national independence had to be joined with the struggle of the international proletariat. He concluded:
“… that imperialism is quite prepared to change both its men and its tactics in order to perpetuate itself. it will make and destroy states and. as we have already seen, it will kill its own puppets when they no longer serve its purposes. If need be, it will even create a kind of socialism, which people may soon start calling ‘neo-socialism.’ if there has been any doubts about the close relations between our struggle [for national liberation] and the struggle of the international working class movement. neo-colonialism has proved that there need not be any.” -Ibid.
Even the U.S. imperialists admitted using such “new tactics” of neo-colonialism as Cabral observed in supporting Afrika and Asia’s various national liberation movements. In the words of Vice President Richard Nixon on his return from a 1957 tour of Afrika:
“American interests in the future are so great as to justify us in not hesitating even to assist the departure of the colonial powers from Africa. If we can win native opinion in this process, the future of America in Africa will be assured.” Quoted in Dirty Works 2: The CIA in Africa, edited by Ellen Ray, et al. (Seacaucus; Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1979, p. 58)
Accord this statement of the U.S. National Security Council:
“We must recognize, although we cannot say it publicly, that we need the strong men of Africa on our side. It is important to understand that most of Africa will soon be independent…. Since we must have the strong men of Africa on our side, perhaps we should in some cases develop military strong men as an offset to Communist development of the labor unions.” Quoted verbatim from the record of a January 14, 1960 meeting of the NSC
So clearly the U.S. government favored pushing its European rivals and their colonial governments out of Afrika by supporting the Afrikan national liberation struggles, by backing or placing native puppets at the head of those anti-colonial movements. In doing so:
‘The stage was set for the transition to neo-colonialism: formal political independence for the African countries, but continued economic domination by imperialism, with imperialist political control exerted indirectly through bureaucratic African governments more or less subservient to imperialism, and military control exerted indirectly through covert links between imperialist powers and African military/police hierarchies” Daniel Fogel, Africa in Struggle: National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution, (ISM Press: CA, 1982, p.116).
National ‘Liberation’ has therefore proved empty of substance to oppressed Third World peoples, absent the defeat of imperialism, just as it would be in a struggle for New Afrikan national ‘liberation’ in the southern U.S. territory absent the defeat of imperialism.
Moreover, any such struggle would almost certainly degenerate into an imperialist-sponsored race war, similar to what went down in the Kosovo conflict (1998-1999), and present day Sudan. In any such struggle, Blacks would be at a decided disadvantage—witness our helplessness in the face of the Hurricane Katrina Crisis and attendant martial law in Louisiana and Mississippi (both “Black Belt states). And in that crisis we didn’t have to contend with angry and desperate whites fighting to keep their land and homes. Or do our proponents of the BBT expect whites in the “Black Belt” to passively concede the territory and leave? Or do they think we will just grab the imperialists by the throat and demand that they give us five states, make all the arrangements, and then let us run the show there without interference?
And what about the white proletarians who live in the “Black Belt?” What stake would they have in this? Or would we want to just push them into the arms of the reactionaries opposing us? Such a plan would only divide the proletarians along racial lines, set them against each other and give the imperialists a free hand to play the “Divide and Rule” game ‘Willie Lynch” style.
Furthermore, our migration back to the “Black Belt” would be “a leap from the frying pan into the fire” for how would we survive in the already poor economy of the rural South? “Returning to the Land” may sound romantic, but trying to bust a living out of the depleted soil of the Deep South was a dead end that caused the “Great Migration” in the first place.
And what a loss it would be to the international proletariat for us to give up our strategic positions within the urban centers across Amerika. Of course revolutionary work should be done among the people of the “Black Belt” South (including the poor whites and others) as well, as part of building the revolutionary movement to overthrow capitalist-imperialism.
The BPP did not promote a mass exodus of New Afrikans back to the “Black Belt; rather they correctly looked to New Afrikan self-determination right in the oppressed urban communities where Black people are concentrated. It really wasn’t until Harry Haywood’s book Black Bolshevik was published in 1978 that the BBT was revived among the New Communist Movement in the U.S. The name New Afrikan was adopted by a convention of 500 Black Nationalist leaders in Detroit in March of 1968 at a Black government conference.
For the NABPP-PC “New Afrikan” is more than the latest in a series of monikers given to Black people in Amerika. Afrika is our common heritage. It (not the “Black Belt) is our common historic homeland. When a Black person comes to Amerika from the Caribbean, Brazil or from Afrika they become a part of the New Afrikan Nation in Amerika—and suffer national oppression and discrimination—even though their ancestors never set foot in the “Black Belt.”
As proletarians, our relationship to production and the world economy makes us “New” and different from the peasantry of the Third World and our ancestors in the Old South. Even if we could go back it would be a retrogressive step—and we doubt this is what the Black masses want.
We Have Not Liquidated the National Question
By our pointing out that the shift from peasantry to proletarian and from rural to urban has fundamentally changed the National Question for New Afrikans, we expect some critics will accuse us of having “liquidated” the National Question. For those who dogmatically apply Stalin’s analysis, the problem is: “How can we be a nation without a land base?”
We reiterate that the issue is a bit bigger and more complex than that.
If we look at the New Afrikan Nation as being part of a greater Pan-Afrikan Nation, inclusive of the peoples of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora (as Malcolm X did, and this liberation struggle in the context of world proletarian socialist revolution, then we shall see the issue a bit differently. Then we can also see our struggle within the context of a future socialist Amerika that is multi-ethnic and a strong ally of the oppressed peoples internationally.
The proletariat fundamentally has no country and seeks to create a world without boundaries or nation states. So to the proletariat national liberation is not an end in itself but a stage to pass through on the road to World Communism. It is a stepping stone to greater unity and the ending of all oppression.
There are many white comrades (Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, Radicals and Progressives) who are committed to supporting Black liberation because it serves the cause of liberating all of humanity from imperialism and exploitation, and because it strengthens the workers’ movement. The cause of uniting the Black liberation struggle with the proletarian class struggle is a step towards the total liberation of humanity and the whole world becoming one people.
Just as the proletariat seeks to abolish itself as a class by abolishing all classes, we must seek to abolish ourselves as a nation by abolishing all nations—all national divisions and all national oppression. But this has to begin with liberating ourselves as nations from the grip of colonialism, neocolonialism and imperialism. Just as the proletariat must rise as a class and “pick up the gun to put down the gun” (what is the state but a special body of armed men and wimyn?), we create nation states only to render them obsolete and allow them to fade away when they are no longer necessary. The transitory nature of nation states under socialism is clear.
Comparing Racial and National Oppression
We can only speak of New Afrikan national liberation because we suffer from national oppression. National oppression is linked to but not the same as racist oppression. The people of Haiti don’t just suffer national oppression as citizens of a Third World nation but also racist oppression because they are black. Iceland is a small island nation too, but if an Icelander family emigrates to the U.S., they will be accepted as whites. If a Haitian family moves here they will face racial oppression. All people of color, to one degree or another, suffer racist oppression because of the institutionalization of the ideology of white supremacy.
The Haitian family will suffer oppression and discrimination in the U.S. because they are immigrants, because they are Black, and because they are not white. A Korean family will have to face the first and the last but not the specific oppression and discrimination leveled at Blacks (New Afrikans in Amerika). This oppression is rooted in the history of slavery (not just in the “Black Belt” South) and colonialism that spawned the white racist mentality.
Whereas in Amerika, the oppression of the indigenous people is a bit different. People with Indian features (“Skins”) suffer from national oppression and so do Indians with black or white-skinned features. Black Indians are also oppressed as New Afrikans. White-skinned Indians (if they are identifiable by their dress) may be subjected to racial slurs and discrimination, but this is really national oppression. There is a difference between “white Indians” and “white people” in Amerika, but the difference is national rather than racial.
Within the Indian nations there are divisions between “Bloods” and those who are perceived as “Black Indians” and “White (or mostly white) Indians.” These contradictions (which can be antagonistic) between “Red: “White” and “Black” members of the same oppressed indigenous nations are a reflection of the culture of racism that permeates Amerikan society (a colonial settler state) and projects throughout the world.
We do not (as many Black nationalists do) confuse race with nationality. Nationality is not confined by race. One can change their nationality. One can also have dual or multiple nationalities. One can be a Puerto Rican and a New Afrikan (and also a Taino Indian). One can be a Palestinian, an Arab and a New Yorker all at the same time. National identity is a complex issue.
Do not some New Afrikans identify primarily as Amerikans? What is Obama trying to sell us? Yet look around any prison and what do you see? Look at the statistics on poverty, infant mortality, hunger, unemployment, and violent deaths. These tell a very different story—one of continued (and intensified) national and class oppression for the Black masses in the U.S.
I have written before that:
“As revolutionary New Afrikan nationalists, we realize that there is a contradiction between race and nationalism, and moreover, that there is no nation composed of a single race. All existing nations, like the Indian nations here in North Amerika, include whites and mixed bloods, even though there are contradictions. It was the policies of white colonialism created by the ruling class that produced these contradictions, and indeed the New Afrikan Nation. In this regard, we say all people of Afrikan heritage, regardless of skin tone, are part of a single New Afrikan Nation a Pan-Afrikan Nation. Indeed, most “Blacks” in Amerika are “mixed bloods; mixed with white and/or Indian bloodlines.
“We therefore move beyond black and white dogmatism Native Americans have always done this in adopting any “race” of people into their nations who embrace and respect their heritage and culture. All non-chauvinistic nations have done this. We also accept that nationalities can overlap and are not merely an either/or situation. People the world over embrace multiple nationalities, and so can New Afrikans. One can be a Venezuelan and a New Afrikan, or a Lenape and a New Afrikan, etc. This concept becomes practical revolutionary internationalism that has all nationalities struggling for both national self-determination and united multi-national, anti-imperialist cooperation…
“From our point of view, the key question is building alliances between the oppressed nations [and nationalities] within the U.S. and abroad and the multi-national proletariat.”—Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, On the Questions of Race and Racism, Revolutionary National Liberation, and Building the United Front Against Imperialism, 2007 U.S. Revolution as an Advance Towards Global Communism
The success of socialist revolution in the U.S. would “break the back” of global imperialism and create conditions for successful revolution in every other country. This eventuality will create the conditions for a global dictatorship of the proletariat and move the struggle decisively towards rendering nation states obsolete. What then will be the need for national boundaries or militaries?
Could we not then move forward towards classless society at an accelerated pace? Could we not, for example, create a single international currency and globalized planning of production and distribution of goods? Would it not be possible to have a World Health Organization that really provides for people’s health needs and a global commission with clout to address the issues of ecological preservation and balance? Could we not standardize wages and prices and ensure a decent standard of living for everyone on the planet—eradicating poverty?
Most theories on the National Question do not address the dialectical relationship between New Afrikans in the Diaspora and Afrikans in Afrika, the contradictions between Afrikans everywhere and imperialism in the Age of Neo-Colonialism and the Crisis of Capitalist-Imperialism, and between New Afrikans in the U.S. and the white-supremacist, imperialist U.S. ruling class. These questions demand a reanalysis of the BBT and our strategy for Black Liberation.
Kwame Nkrumah’s concept of an AII-Afrikan (Pan-Afrikan) Revolutionary Party (supported by a military arm) is the correct answer to neo-colonialism. We can take a lesson in this from the struggles going on in South Asia. India contains many nationalities with their own languages and regions, yet they are being led by a united Communist Party of India (Maoist). Likewise we can look to Nepal where the Maoists have won the support of many national minorities and have created autonomous regions. In Afrika, neo-colonialism had an advantage because it was able to play the various budding nation states and tribal groups against each other. Our strength is based on unity and common purpose.
Our concept of Afrika as a Pan-Afrikan nation departs from the Comintern’s definition of the National Question which confines the nation to the boundaries already in existence (even though these only reflect the imperialists’ carving up of Afrika). We don’t expect that the New Afrikan Nation will ever constitute itself again in the “Black Belt,” but we can play a significant role in the constitution of a Socialist Afrikan Union, and in the creation of a Socialist U.S.A.
We believe that it is the historic destiny of the nation of New Afrikans in Amerika to play a leading role among the oppressed peoples of the World in overthrowing capitalist imperialism and advancing humanity to a higher stage of political-economic organization based on the principles of social justice and equality.
Our unique history and position within the “Belly of the Beast” gives us the opportunity to deal the coup de grace to U.S. imperialism. Our long suffering at the hands of white supremacist Amerika gives us a bond with all who have suffered racist and national oppression and enables us to be truly internationalist in outlook.
As Mao predicted:
“The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.”
This is the mission of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter and our position on the National Question.
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win! All Power to the People!