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17979Fw: National Reparations Congress: Re: Around the Questions of "Theoreticians"

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  • Yusuf Nuruddin
    Jun 30, 2014
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      (3)  Marxist-Leninist theoreticians who have moved beyond doctrinaire formulations, for example those who are students of Gramsci, have recognized that in the post-industrial stage of late capitalism, that cultural hegemony is the main source of social control utilized by the ruling class.  Hence they have theorized that ownership and control of means of mass communication are just as important as ownership and control of the means of production, in order to combat ideological indoctrination via media manipulation.
      You speak of “seizing state power” as if we live in Czarist Russia and can storm the Winter Place, or as if we live in a Banana Republic where we can have a coup d’etat and capture the government administrative offices or live-in in war-torn Iraq and can capture oil wells and loot the central bank. And you characterize the Black Power Movement of the 60s and 70s as merely a militant reform movement for concessions.
      Precisely because we don’t live in Czarist Russia or a Third World dictatorship, where we can have a mass militarized insurrection, but instead live the so-called “belly of the beast,” empowerment is absolutely necessary to build any sustainable movement.
      For example, you cannot change the consciousness of the masses of the people with leaflets in an age of mass media communications. Ownership and control of newspapers, radio and tv channels are essential.  (This was symbolized in the scene in The Spook Who Sat by The Door) where a radio station was temporarily seized to broadcast revolutionary messages.  Of course that is just a movie and we are not talking about tying up deejays in a radio station with rope and playing revolutionary tapes that self-immolate).  What it means is that the black bourgeoisie have a revolutionary role to play in agitating and mobilizing the people through black-owned media.  No I am definitely not talking about The Oprah Channel or BET, Ebony or Essence (some of these which are no longer even black-owned).  This is of course the stereotypical black-owned media.
      But I have just read City Son: Andrew W. Cooper’s Impact on Modern Day Brooklyn which was a story of the City Sun newspaper, a black progressive weekly that was published for about 12 years from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. I am not saying that it was a revolutionary newspaper, nor am I stating that WLIB talk radio, part of black millionaire Percy Sutton’s Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, which was subsidized by the earnings of WBLS (an urban top 40 format channel) was revolutionary.  But both The City Sun and WLIB were counter-hegemonic, and they continuously brought substantive issues around racism and white supremacy to their reading or listening audience. Yes they both had to sell advertisements and therefore had to follow the dictates of market capitalism. Yet they raised the level of consciousness and political discourse among the people.  The same can be said for the black political magazines, Encore and Emerge, as well as the Johnson Publications Negro Digest/Black World, edited by Hoyt Fuller , and probably subsidized by the sales of other Johnson Publications such as Ebony and Jet.
      We can go on to list other important mass media institutions, the publishing houses, Black Classics Press, Third World Press, African World Press, etc. (And yes, smaller progressive houses such as Twenty-First Century Books and Publications).  We can also speak about the vital role that Black bookstores (who also supply black street vendors) play in keeping the black community informed.
      In an information age, none of this plays a “secondary” role in our struggle.  The consolidation of corporate media is such that about 4 major conglomerates own or operate most of the radio stations throughout the USA. Listener-sponsored networks such as Pacifica are struggling to survive.
      Power is exercised through institutions and institutional empowerment is essential for our development as a people even within the context of a world communist movement. As internationalists, what do we bring to the world socialist movement, do we come there with our hands stretched out asking for aid?
      We are responsible for developing our infrastructure if we are to be welcomed and respected as equal participants and partners in a world movement.

      On Monday, June 30, 2014 8:13 AM, "Yusuf Nuruddin yusufnuruddin@... [repconinfo]" <repconinfo@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      (2) Another point that I would have to make is that some people are playing fast and loose with language and definitions.  What I mean is that "Black liberation" has become a very watered-down term encompassing a variety of radical positions espoused by black spokespersons.
      To my understanding, however, the Black Liberation Movement was a shorthand term synonymous with the African American National Liberation Movement.
      And if we are talking about theory related to national liberation movements, it would seem to be self-defeating and counter-productive to leave nationalists out of the conversation.
      Marxist-Leninist theory has not advanced on the so-called Negro National Question beyond Lenin and Stalins works on national self-determination, Stalin’s definition of a nation (historically-constituted stable-community with common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up), Nelson Peery’s work on the Negro National Colonial Question, and the convoluted conclusion espoused by an early Comintern and the African Blood Brotherhood that black people in the Black Belt South constituted a nation, but in the North were only a national minority.

      Interestingly, since Abdul Alkalimat has not brought this to the forefront in his “black liberation theorists,” one of the best discussions of Left Nationalism was written by Manning Marable in his essay “Race, Class and Conflict: Intellectual Debates on Race Relations Research in the United States Since 1960, A Social Science Bibliographical Essay,” which appeared in Alkalimat’s 1990 edited volume Paradigms in Black Studies: Intellectual History, Cultural Meaning and Political Ideology.  It is doubly interesting that Marable who identified himself as a Left Nationalist in this essay, publicly repudiated Left Nationalism and declaring himself a “Socialist” (i.e., Marxist-Leninist) at the time that he moved from a relatively ordinary academic appointment at the University of Colorado at Boulder to a highly prominent prestigious post at Columbia.

      It is interesting also that historical materialists interested in the black radical tradition would only compile a list of living “black liberation theorists’ –but if we go with only the living , then where are Clarence Munford, especially his Race and Civilization: The Rebirth of Black Centrality or for that matter even Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism: The Making of a black Radical Tradition  (which some M-L dogmatists have attacked as revisionist)?
      What nationalists would bring to the table is the fact that “We are an African People.”  Yes, sure, just another slogan, but one which recognizes the multi-class character of oppressed black nation. When the children and grandchildren of the black poor or black working class obtain higher education, they do not become the class enemies of the forbearers, nor do they betray their foreparent’s struggle, nor do they become irrelevant or secondary to the cause of “black liberation.”
      With your concern about taking state power, it should be patently evident that it will take a highly- educated and highly-skilled professional class to perform the functions of governance.  Statecraft in a multinational world is no joke, and it is all the more serious and precarious with a fledgling socialist state.  Because I haven’t heard you talk about the “withering away of the state,” so as long as you are dealing with the nation-state then you are going to need skilled and able statesmen --I didn’t say politicians—at the helm.
      (1) I hesitate to respond because first of all the notion of “black liberation theory” is dubious as there is no unified corpus of ideological thought that we could term as “black liberationism,” rather there was a  Black liberation movement which was fractured and continues to be fractured along two main ideological lines: leftwing nationalism and Marxism-Leninism.  Left Unity is not achieved by pushing Marxism-Leninism at the expense of and through the suppression of left nationalism. African American left nationalism has as its theoretical basis, domestic or internal colonialism, which differs in key respects from doctrinaire Marxist-Leninism, since as Mao has pointed out; “The first great question of the revolution is “Who are our friends and who are our enemies?”
      Basing their analysis on models of class antagonisms and tribal/ ethnic antagonisms that developed within emerging independent African nation-states, the Marxist-Leninist have identified antagonistic contradictions in the African American terrain where such contradictions are not that sharp or decisive.  In short in its rhetoric, the so-called African American marginal middle class is seen by Marxist-Leninists , at worse, as an enemy of the working class, or at best as simply irrelevant and unable to play a significant role in the struggle.   Drawing also on outmoded notions of “committing class suicide” the middle class or petite bourgeois intellectuals who see themselves as the vanguard of the black working class movement, think of themselves as somehow distinct or different in a qualitative degree from the rest of the African American marginal middle class.
      The reality of the African American intellectual is better captured by Gramsci, who speaks of “organic intellectuals” rather than intellectuals who “commit class suicide.”  Every class has intelectausl which are organic to its own class, and the working class indeed has such intellectuals.  Indeed education as both a means for social mobility and a means for liberation has long been valued in the African American community and it began in slavery with our quest for literacy or “book-learning.”  From the onset an indigenous African American organic intelligentsia began to produce, disseminate and read revolutionary literature such as David Walkers 1829 ”Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World” and Henry Highland Garnet’s 1843 “Address to the Slaves.”
      When the modern Freedom Struggle resulted in desegregation institutions of higher learning, large numbers of African Americans enrolled in previously all-white colleges and universities, as well as in HBCU’s.  Those from the inner cities of the north who enrolled in such institutions were not the sons and daughters of the black bourgeoisie, but rather the sons and daughters of the working class. With the skills and knowledge acquired through higher education, many became the organic intellectuals of the working class and the poor (which is not to negate the importance of organic intellectuals who did not attend institutions of higher learning but received their education within the movement).
      When you speak of “activists of social escape to our ancient kingdom of Africa” you are speaking of the contemporary organic intelligentsia composed of college students and relatively recent college graduates who are opposed to the white supremacist miseducation which they have been brainwashed with in these institutions of higher learning, and whom should be the real target of any organizing effort by those who advocate black liberation.  This is, however, where the blinders of Marxist-Leninist ideology make it impossible for many to see “Who are our friends and who are our enemies?” Instead these young people with skills who can offer much to the black liberation movement are being falsely considered as part of the black bourgeoisie.  At best they become part of a marginal middle class which has such a tenuous "foothold" on economic security that the members are always one paycheck away from homelessness.
      Part of the problem is the inability to escape from the prison of jargon which makes the Marxist Leninist left unable to communicate with the young people who have been exposed to Afrocentric discourse.
      While it is said that the Black Studies movement was supposed to be the intellectual or theoretical wing of the Black Liberation Movement, those in the Black Studies field who are  imprisoned by the strait-jacket of Marxist rhetoric have been unable or unwilling to radicalize the Afrocentric discourse. Which is insanity as the progenitor of Afrocentric discourse, the person responsible for the modern interest in the Ancient Egypt as an African Civilization, was Cheik Anta Diop, who was a Marxist.
      But let me move on to another aspect of your post
      While you castigate others for sloganeering, you should be ever mindful of your own sloganeering.
      Revolutionary rhetoric in the absence of the concrete conditions for transformative societal change as well as in the absence of the collective will of the organized masses of the people, is at best empty sloganeering without real meaning or at worst a dangerously self-deceptive over-repeated mantra.
      Taking state power at this juncture in history is not a realizable goal simply a fantasy.  The state has a well-established high-tech military.  You and what army is going to go up against the military might of the state?  The Panther Party used to repeat the mantra that “The spirit of the people is stronger than ‘the man’s’ technology.”  Even if were true then (and history has proven that it was not) it certainly is not relevant today because while there may be pockets of resistance (and usually around single issues) there is no so-called “spirit of the people,” no collective “will of the people.”  Another mantra was “The people united will never be defeated.”  Again even if it were true the reality is that the people are NOT united.  Therefore the subjective conditions for revolution do not exist.  Furthermore is capitalist state is not crumbling YET, so the objective conditions do not exist either. Not saying that the economic system is not in crisis and that the bubble of the stock market could not burst, but that hasn’t happened, and even if it did there are mechanisms in place to prevent another 1929.
      Rather than being romantic revolutionaries romanticizing about seizing state power we must take on the most difficult task of building bases of power within the communities where we live, workplaces where we labor and schools were we are miseducated.  That is the revolutionary task of our time.  All else is empty rhetoric.
      There have to be long-term, intermediate and short-term goals.  Transitional programs. Building bases of support among our people means that we have to meet the people where they are (which does not mean tailing the masses, but also certainly negates ultra-leftism). We have to slowly build a movement again and this can best be accomplished by building institutions in our communities, alternative institutions where study and work, theory and practice, can be co-joined. Community centers. Meet the people where they are –yes lets read and discuss the Afrocentric literature, but then let’s intersperse that with socialist literature.  People have to go through the same process of growth and development that we went through in the sixties. And that is hard work indeed in the absence of a movement and Zeitgeist.  But unless people undertake serious study, and that can be based on multimedia –video-tapes, audio-tapes as well as old-fashioned book-learning, then you will not develop the organic intelligentsia of the next generation and you will be continually bemoaning the fact that all of the radicals are over 60 or approaching 60.
      On Sunday, June 29, 2014 11:44 AM, Sekou Osei <sekouche@...> wrote:

      Today at 11:27 AM
      Good Morning,
            I will try to keep discipline and keep this morning letter as short as I can. However in my experience in our movement or movements never had an internal division of labor or actual goals, where we never had the theoretician and the experience of the organizer trying to synthesis a level of clarity around tangible goals and a line of march. So at this point the “struggle” was to achieve a radical “populism” without a program. So the notion of “theoretician” quickly became the notion charismatic leadership of a vacant populism.
           This is because still since our transition of the late 60 and early 70s the movement never had an unsuccessful transition to an actual movement for “Black Power.” Black Power only became a militant reform movement for concessions. And this would transform theory and the theoretician into someone of a sloganeering showman-as-spokesman behind the microphone.
           While we have a too long of a list of these spokesmen, who would only give abstract and intellectual sloganeering as revolutionary theory.
            Nonetheless, this only led to not relying on spontaneity, but actually calling for it as the character of our emerging militancy. And the role of the theoretician has not and was not to give clarity on how do we create the conditions of seizing the power of the “State.”
            The fallacy that the movement never addressed, how did the American status quo crush the Black radical movement is a simple four year period, and what was the objective and subjective condition for this defeat?  
      Thus, our revolutionary movement never achieves its focus and a grander clarity of achieving “state power” and the conditions to achieve this goal and building to that “objective.” While one what I’ve seen among “nationalist” is lack of cadre development among nationalist formations (I say “nationalist,” as meaning building and creating a Black political motion and building a Black base, while a lot of these formations were just militant opportunist) were just to become militant protest formations or worst still would become activist of social escape to our ancient kingdom of Africa. Thus the larger movements never had the discipline of cadre only unsettle zealots as loud protesters.
            The thing that must be address is the question of the necessities’ of the conditions for party building, for this would lead to a higher level of clarity and theory around the question of organization. But I say this is a profound level of uncomfortableness, because it’s more important to have actual institutions of revolution rather than a fleeting populism. In my mind it like arguing the notion of the shooting our last flair of our rubber life boat, while we should be creating steel for our vessel (I mean metaphorically).     
             While the question of seizing the state and understanding state power is not a question of the silly zealots, but must be approach with the utmost sobriety and rigor and cannot be open to mass discussions and cannot also be open to abstract intellectual discussions of people we don’t know their history.
             What is called a Black movement has become a form of symbolic militant entertainment and this is why we have seen this eclectic list of theoreticians who as entertainers may have sung songs of American injustice, but they have never advocated “socialism” or any other form of political and economic transformation through motion of the “power” of the state.
      While I have written to the brother of why he is mailing this list to everyone, and I never received a systematic reply or any real reply at all.     
             For what seems to have been forgotten or never understood that revolution is a science and not an event. For history is on our side, but not time… Struggle…
               Yours in Struggle
               Malik Sekou Osei

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