This editorial first appeared on workers.org on May 18, 2018.
We celebrate on May 19 the birthdays of two world-bending revolutionaries, Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X.
Born in 1890 in central Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh was the Marxist-Leninist communist who forged and led a people’s movement and army that defeated the invading imperialist might of both France and the United States and ultimately liberated Vietnam from colonialism.
Born in 1925 in the U.S., Malcolm X was the African-American leader who raised to global attention the concepts of Black nationalism, Black self-defense and the right of self-determination of Black peoples. Malcolm X also made a major contribution to the global movement for Pan-Africanism.
Neither met the other, yet their deeds and words intertwine, and together they continue to inspire us toward revolution.
At this moment, as the U.S. ruling class fans the deadly fires of racist hatred, Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh unite to give a profound lesson in building international solidarity with oppressed people and nations.
In 1924 — the year before Malcolm X was born — at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International in Moscow, Ho Chi Minh made a presentation during a session on the “National and colonial question.” He emphasized the importance of support for the Black liberation struggle in the U.S., saying in part: “It is well-known that the Black race is the most oppressed and the most exploited of the human family. It is well-known that the spread of capitalism and the discovery of the New World had as an immediate result the rebirth of slavery. … What everyone does not perhaps know is that after sixty-five years of so-called emancipation, [Black people in the U.S.] still endure atrocious moral and material sufferings.” (tinyurl.com/n5nlck6)
Forty years later, in 1964, Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, put the Black liberation struggle in a worldwide context, saying: “It is incorrect to classify the revolt of [Black people] as simply a racial conflict of Black against white, or as a purely [U.S.] American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter.” (Malcolm X Speaks)
And he acknowledged the centrality of the national liberation war led by Ho Chi Minh to that global rebellion, saying: ”Viet Nam is the struggle of all third-world nations — the struggle against imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.” (1972 interview with Yuri Kochiyama, tinyurl.com/k93cq2n)
The voices of both these revolutionaries ring out with the clarion call of SOLIDARITY as the path to a future of justice and liberation.
They remind us that we of the multinational, multigendered, global working class have a common oppressor in imperialist capitalism.
We can resist its racism, its anti-woman and anti-LGBTQ bigotry, its anti-immigrant hatred.
“Black Is Beautiful”-The Original Black Panther Party
“Follow in the footsteps of your ancestors, for the mind is trained through knowledge. Behold, their words endure in books. Open and read them and follow their wise counsel. For one who is taught becomes skilled.”
-Selections From The Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt (Selected and Retranslated by Dr. Maulana Karenga page 50)
James Baldwin, the great Afrikan American writer once said, “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” This statement is very true. If you are Black and conscious, White supremacy and the system of racism keeps your blackness in a constant state of rage. You become more and more angered with White domination and with Black oppression. Whiteness constantly and consistently challenges Afrikan people on their blackness through the neocolonialism in Afrika; Eurocentric education; police brutality (i.e. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, etc); Black to Black violence (i.e. Dariun Albert, Hadiya Penalton, Dawn Riddick, Nakeisha Allen, etc); the denial of reparations; the negation of a Black agenda by elected officials; White racial violence (i.e. James Byrd, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbey, etc); Europeanization; Arabism; the controlling and concoction of Black leadership; the validity of Black unity; the validity of Afrocentricity; the validity of the Black Libration Flag; the validity of Afrikan History; the validity of Afrikan culture; the validity of Afrikan spirituality; the validity of independent Black schools; the validity of Black liberation organizations (i.e. the Moorish Science Temples of America, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the Nation of Islam under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Us organization, the New Black Panther Party, the Original Black Panther Party, the Republic of New Afrika, the Black is Back Coalition, Black Lives Matter, etc); the validity of Black nationalism; the validity of Pan- Afrikanism; the validity of Black Power; the validity of Black revolutionary struggle; the importance of Black marriages to Black people; the emasculation of Black manhood; the high incarceration of rates of Black people; and Black self hatred. However, as you age with time you learn how to keep your rage in the spirit of Ma’at (Kemetic for balance). Kemet is the original Afrikan name for Egypt. Ma’at is an ancient Afrikan ethical and moral philosophy for truth, righteous, reciprocity, and balance originated in Kemetic (Egyptian) spirituality. It is very hard thing to do in a world controlled by white hegemony. White supremacists and racists will work to destroy your blackness. Some of your own people will attack you on your blackness. And even some of your own family members will attack you on your blackness. White supremacy and the system of racism are so interwoven into our world that many people embrace whiteness (light, bright, and anything and everything close to Europeans) over blacknes. For some Black people, being Black is too hard for us to live in this world. White hegemony dictates and defines Whiteness as the only thing that matters in the world. In response, some Black people develop issues of self-hatred. A huge part of Black liberation struggle is freeing ourselves from Black self-hatred with a love for our blackness.
Oppression regulates a people down to lowest realms of society. White supremacy and the system of racism have made Black people an oppressed group in America. Mixed between the march and movements against White supremacy, and the system of racism, is the struggle against Black self-hatred. This oppressive mentality of anti-blackness rears its ugly head in our community socially everyday (i.e. movies, reality shows, t.v talk shows, radio talk shows, social media, music videos, rap music, etc), and even amongst many family members.
Culturally, to rid ourselves from our blackness, some of us desperately try to find the one ounce of white blood in our veins. This, we believe, will help us justify us not being Black. We will say, “oh I am not Black, I am German.” Or we say, “oh I am not Black, I am French.” Or we say, “oh I am not Black, I am Spanish.” And some of us say, “I am not Black, I am bi-racial.” We try to be everything else except what God intended us to be-Black. If you are Black and proud, this really hurts our Afrikan centered Black conscious soul. However, this is the struggle for blackness. Unfortunately, without a national movement for Black liberation, White hegemony has beaten some us Black folk down in this new millennium. Some of us have given up on blackness. They, many White people and some Black people, do not want to accept the fact that Black self-hatred is a consequence of White supremacy and the system of racism.
Consequently, the purpose of White domination is to reduce Black people down into oppressive conditions in America, and in the world, to be exploited as group of people. Black self-hatred has been a tool used by our White oppressors to keep Black people from being Afrikan centered in their Blacknesss. If Black self-hatred is pervasive in the Afrikan American community, then Black people will never seize power for ourselves to be on equal footing with everyone’s culture in America and in this world.
However, there are many us that have not given up on blackness. I happened to be one of many Blackmen that have not given up on blackness. Afrika has been in my spirit, heart, and mind since 1990. That is the year I became conscious of my blackness. Prior to 1990, I knew nothing about the value and the importance of my blackness. I, like many Black youth growing up in the post Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the late 1970s, and the 1980s, were not taught on our blackness. Most leaders and organizations of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements had vanished, or became irrelevant, due to US government co-optation and repression. The schools in our neighborhoods, religious institutions, and many family circles did not teach us our Afrikan History, Afrikan culture, and Afrikan spirituality to help us develop an Afrikan centered Black conscious love for our blackness.
In this new millennium, young people call your awareness to blackness being “woke.” These type Black people are just conscious of their blackness. However, the “woke” Black person has not reach the level of consciousness to apply their blackness to Black liberation struggles.
Prior to the millennium, when you embraced your blackness, it was called Black consciousness. These type of Black people are conscious of their blackness. They work to help empower Black people in government, non-profits, community-based organizations, schools, colleges, universities, the business sector, and in religions institutions.
However, in Afrocentricity, there is deeper level of blackness. It is called-Afrikan centered Black consciousness. These type of Black people used Afrikan centered Black consciousness as a pathway for independent Afrikan centered education, nation-building, self-determination, independent politics, independent businesses, and Black liberation.
When I was a college student, my path to Afrikan centered Black consciousness started with Afrocentricity through the Nation of Islam. Both movements were very popular in my community of Newark and East Orange, NJ in the early 1990s. They both survived the onslaught of government co-optation and repression.
After the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad departed in 1975, his seventh son, Warith Deen Mohammad (former named Wallace Muhammad) took over the leadership of the mighty Nation of Islam. In three years, the Nation of Islam, the largest Islamic organization in America was dismantled. There was no more Nation of Islam. It was replaced by Sunni Al-Islam. All of the Nation of Islam’s Mosques were closed for public meetings that were at one timeused as a platform for organizing Muslims and Black people for liberation struggle. They were turned into a masjid (Arabic for mosque) now just used for salaat (Arabic for prayer). The Fruit of Islam (F.O.I) and Muslim Girls Training-General Civilization Class(MGT-GCC), the weekly military training of Muslims, Blackmen and Blackwomen,were abolished. Its’ Black liberation theology on Al-Islam was replaced by a moremoderate American, and some aspects Arabic centered theology. After three years,the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, who join the Nation of Islam under the most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, could not take the destruction of Nation of Islam moving forward. He left Imam Warth Deen Mohammad’s leadership. He saw how the fall of the Nation of Islam, help set the Black community back deeper under the yoke of oppressionin America. Therefore, he went on to rebuild the work of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam to fight against White domination and Black oppression. He reestablished the F.O.I and MGT-GCC for the training of Muslims, Blackmen, and Blackwomen to help empower Muslims, Blackmen, and Blackwomen.
I joined the local Nation of Islam Mosque called-Muhammad Mosque #25. I was a committed member of the Nation of Islam. But after given a knowledge of my Black self through the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, I became a exposed to Afrocentricity.
The movement of Afrocentricity is an Afrikan centered intellectual and cultural movement challenging White supremacist and racist notions about Black people, Afrika, Afrikan History, Afrikan culture, Afrikan spirituality, Black people, World History, Caribbean History, western religions, and American History.
I started studying the great master teachers of our culture to cultivate my Afrikan centered Black consciousness, such as Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr. John Henrick Clarke, Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. Asa Hilliard, Professor Jacob Carruthers, Professor Ashra Kwesi, Tony Browder, Professor Dr. Runoko Rashidi, Professor James Smalls, Dr. Naim Akbar, Dr. Lenard Jeffries, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Dr. Marimba Ani, Dr. Charshee McIntyre, Dr. Amos Wilson, Dr. Maulana Karenga, and Dr. Molefe Kete Asante.
I went from being born Carlos Cortez to being reborn as brother Carlos X. I went from not knowing who I was in this world culturally to knowing my Afrikan roots.
In turn, my Afrikan centered Black consciousness help me develop my love for my blackness. And I wanted a name that reflected my new blackness in me. I did not want to go to the egunguun (ancestors realm) with the name of a European conqueror. Names like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Jackson, O’Tool, Hudson, Marquette, La Salle, Cavelier, Albuquerque, Pizarro, Leon, Soto, Nunez, Vasquez, Velazquez, Lopez, and Cortez were given to Black people by our slave masters and European conquerors.
After a few years pondering over an Afrikan name, I chose Bashir Muhammad Akinyele in 1995. Bashir Muhammad Akinyele has been my legal name since 1996. That was the same year I left the Nation of Islam.
However, it was Islam as taught by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad that help me develop my Afrikan centered Black consciousness love for blackness. Therefore, I accepted the name Muhammad. It is Arabic. It means one worthy of praise or who praises much in english. My middle name is Muhammad. The name Muhammad is Islamic in origin. And if you qualify yourself as a good Muslim, Muhammad is the name the Nation of Islam member earns. With my sojourn in the Nation of Islam, I had earned the name Muhammad.
The name Bashir, my first name, means one who brings good news. It is also Islamic in origin. However, I choose my first name after the name of an Original Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army political prisoner named Bashir Hammed. I came to know brother Bashir Hammed after being inspired to write letters and visits to community activists in prison through political prisoner community activists Baba Zayid Muhammad, Tayari Onege, and T.J. Witicker. Original Black Panther Bashir and I became good friends. He became my primary source history teacher on the revolutionary struggles of oppressed people in the world. Bashir Hameed was framed by the US government’s racist counter intelligence program called, COINTELPRO, to neutralized the Black liberation Movements in the Afrikan American community. In the 1950’s, 1960s, and early 1970s, the US began a secret campaign to destroy all Black leaders, Black Power organizations, and discredit all Black nationalist ideologies in the Afrikan American community that threatened White domination. Original Black Panther Party member Bashir Hameed became one of its many victims. Unfortunately, Bashir Hameed went to the egunguun (Yoruba for ancestor’s realm). He died on August 30, 2008 at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, NY. As a Muslim, Bashir Hameed had his Janazah rights at Masjid Dar Salaam in Elizabeth, NJ.
The name Akinyele is Afrikan. It is my last name. Akinyele comes from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It means a strong one befits the house, or one of valor is in the house. Although my first and middle names are Islamic, I specifically chose Akinyele to connect me culturally to mother Afrika.
Eventually, community activist Baba Zayid Muhammad had organized an Afrikan community naming ceremony for me in Newark, NJ at the W.S.O.M.M.M (the Women In Support of the Million Man March) community center. It was there that my name, Bashir Muhammad Akinyele became official in the Afrikan centered conscious community.
During American slavery (the Maafa), the slave masters legally and violently forced Black people to accept bondage. The politicians and White slaver masters in America made it illegal for us to bear our Afrikan names. But the slave masters did not stop at just taking away our Afrikan names. They made it illegal for Black people to speak our own Afrikan languages, practice our own Afrikan religions, follow our own versions of western religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Al-Islam), to know our own Afrikan History, and to practice our own Afrikan cultural traditions (i.e Yoruba, Kemetic spirituality, etc). But most importantly, the American slave system (the Maafa) made sure that Afrikan people hated blackness.
Ultimately, US slave masters did this to disconnect us culturally from everything Afrikan to turn us into an negro people. The concept of negro is an European concept that disconnects a people to their history, culture, or a language.
We had to bear the names and cultures of our White slave masters. To this day, this is why many Afrikan Americans do not have Afrikan names and cannot speak our own Afrikan mother tongue.
American slavery (the Maafa) lasted for 250 years in America. It accumulated billions of dollars in wealth for America and White people for generations. American slavery made the United States the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. When American slavery ended in 1865, Black people never received an apology, nor a penny in reparations to repair the psychological, cultural, social, and economic damages done in the Afrikan American community for hundreds of years.
But the European Slave-Trade (Maafa) lasted for 400 years. It was international. White slave masters from all over Europe were importing Afrikan people from Afrika to many parts of their colonialized new world in the Western Hemisphere, such as Canada, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, the Bahamas, and Granada. To this day, this is why there are millions of Black people in the North and South America. The Maafa, or the European Slave -Trade, uprooted and displaced Black people to the new world. However, Black people transported our Afrikan cultural traditions, such as cornrows, soul music, and the drum. The word Maafa is Kiswahili for great disaster, which forced Black people from Afrika to the world. Kiswahili is an Pan Afrikan language spoken in many parts of Afrika. It is the language of the Afrikan / Afrikan American holiday called-Kwanzaa.
In certain parts of the Western Hemisphere, new people of Afrikan descent emerged, such as Jamaican Haitians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Latinos, and Afrikan Americans.
Struggling to liberate one self from the vestiges of American slavery (the Maafa) to embrace blackness is dangerous. Many of us know White supremacy and the system of racism will work to discredit and attack Afrikan centered Black consciousness. But we also know that some of our own Black people, our co-workers, and family members will work to discredit and attack our Afrikan centered Black consciousness as well in America and in the world. In our world, blackness is viewed as a threat to White domination. Personally, I have been attacked by some White people, some Black people, some education colleagues, and some family members because of my strong embrace of my blackness in this world. Dr. John Henrick Clark, the great Pan-Afrikanist and historian, taught us that one of the most powerful thing the European (Whites) did to Afrikan people (Blacks) was colonialize our minds.” Unfortunately, some people have developed a disrespect for blackness.
However, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught the Blackman and Black woman to be proud of being Black. He, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, said that the original man and woman of the planet earth are Black people. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, said this in his Lessons to the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in North America, “we are the maker, the owner, the cream of the planet earth, and God of the universe. If that is too ‘religious’ for you to accept as actual facts, then study the humanities and science of the secular world. Many histories and sciences reflect the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad by showing us that we as Black people fathered and mothered all people (humanity) on the planet earth (i.e. Afrikans, White people, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, etc), created civilizations, inspired the world’s religions, and established standards of beauty.
If you read Dr. Ivan Van Sertima’s book, They Came Before Columbus, it documents Black people from Afrika traveling to foreign lands to help build civilizations in places that the Whiteman calls North and South America, such as the United States, Mexico, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Chile’, Honduras, Bolivia, and Peru.
If you read Charles Darwin book, The Origin of Species, he discusses that Afrika most likely is the birth place of humanity. Darwin said these things back in the 1800s!!! With the discoveries of the oldest recorded human bones in world history in Afrika by anthropology Drs Louis S.B. Leaky in 1959, and Donald C. Johannson in 1974, science now says conclusively that humanity’s birth place is in Afrika.
If you read Dr. Yosef ben Jochannan’s book, Africa: The Mother of Western Civilization, he documents Afrika’s Kemet (Egypt), and many other Nile Valley civilizations, contributed to the development of western civilization and western religions. This is why when Egyptologist Count C.F. Volney went to Kemet (Egypt) with Napoleon Bonaparte’s team of European scholarly professionals in 1798, he jumped at the opportunity. At this this time Napoleon was the Emperor of France, but he had an interest in the ancient world. They discovered that Kemet was a great Black civilization in Afrika, and that she influenced the world. Volney writes in his book, Voyages on Syrie Et En Egypt on pages 74-77, “Just think that the race of Black men, today our slaves and the object of our scorn, is the very race to which we owe our arts, sciences, and even the use of speech. Just imagine, finally, that it is in the midst of peoples who call themselves the greatest friends [White people] of liberty and humanity that one has approved the most barbarous slavery and questions whether Blackmen have the same kind of intelligence as Whites!”
If you read Dr. Runoko Rashidi book, African Presence In Early Asia, he documents Black people leaving Afrika to spark civilization on the continent of Asia.
Afrika’s presence is all over this planet. We can try to run way from our blackness, but as the respected Black nationalist freedom fighter Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad once said, “you can’t run from your Black self Blackman and Blackwoman.”
In summation, blackness has made me an effective Afrikan centered history teacher (I graduated from Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ in 1993 with Bachelor of Arts degree in History), a committed community activist, a better human being, and a proud Blackman. However, when you stand on your blackness Black people prepare for battle. Blackness is a threat in America and in the world.
Asante sana (Kiswahili for thank you very much) for reading my commentary.
O Dabo (Yoruba for go with God until we meet again)!!!
-Bashir Muhammad Akinyele is a History Teacher, Black Studies Teacher, Community Activist, Chairperson of Weequahic High School’s Black History Month Committee in Newark, NJ, commentary writer, and Co-Producer and Co-Host of the All Politics Are Local, the number #1 political Hip Hip radio show in America.
Note: Spelling Afrika with a k is not a typo. Using the k in Afrika is the Kiswahili way of writing Africa. Kiswahili is a Pan -Afrikan language. It is spoken in many countries in Afrika. Kiswahili is the language used in Kwanzaa. The holiday of Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January
The Jamaica-birthed Rastafarian movement played a key role in the emergence of a global movement for African liberation, said Daive Dunkley, professor of Black Studies at the University of Missouri and author of a number of books on the subject. “This spirituality component of Rastafari was part of a package that was geared towards decolonizing Black space in the diaspora,” including the continent of Africa. Dunkley said there are now more Rastafari in South Africa than in Jamaica.
Rashid: Let me begin with a general outline of what I’m aiming for in this interview. My focus is less on just criticizing the capitalist imperialist system and the innumerable miseries, horrors and conflicts it causes the majority of the world’s people. Instead, I want to propose solutions, and with a particular focus on the role that the political organization I aspire to see develop will play in this struggle. That organization being an intercommunal Black Panther Party, which will include Brown and White Panther formations as arms of the Party, based within all concentrations – especially urbanized – of oppressed and marginalized people the world over.
To this end I’m going to also address some of the erroneous ideas, influences and efforts that I feel have led past and present efforts astray and have held sway, often as a result of our continuing to make accommodations with this oppressive and exploitative system and adopting its values, which has molded our ways of doing things.
In reality the ruling class’s main line of defense is not its police, military, prisons and courts but its ideological influences. It is all the more dangerous when these influences come to guide the movement from within. Independent of COINTELPRO-type countermeasures, those promoting such deviationism within the movement do the most damage; they sabotage and undermine the struggle – and intentions are quite irrelevant.
As Malcolm X observed, when you control the way people think, you control them. You don’t have to tell them to stay in a certain place or not to go beyond certain limits or not to engage with certain people or ideas; they’ll do it automatically. Similarly, Amilcar Cabral recognized that the most effective way to enslave or colonize a people is to infiltrate the enslaver’s values and ways of thinking into the cultural systems of the victimized peoples. Clearly, people across the world have been gripped by capitalist values, and these values have infected the thinking and struggles of those attempting to fight this very system. This needs to be repudiated, and without apology.
There have also been no shortage of critics of the system and those who excel at inciting mass disaffection and outrage, often provoking spontaneous outbursts which are short-lived and often contained and coopted by the enemy establishment. What’s been missing, and is most important, are strategic thinkers and ones with a broad view of the problem, its roots and how the pieces fit together. It goes back to Sun Tzu’s teachings that wars and battles are won or lost before they are even fought. Planning is key. And you’ve got to know who your enemy is and what his strengths and weaknesses are, as well as your own.
The next wave of revolutionary struggle must be organized and prepared. This is what I hope to contribute through this dialogue.
Pan Afrikanism and class struggle
JR Valrey: What is your definition of Pan Afrikanism and how do you deal with the class contradictions within Pan Afrikanism? Also, are you a disciple of W.E.B. DuBois and his talented tenth theory or do you follow the mass line of Marcus Garvey?
Rashid: My take on Pan Afrikanism (which is Revolutionary Pan Afrikanism) is that of a movement to unify Afrika’s people – those on the continent as well as throughout the Diaspora (and of all complexions). For me, this is a more concrete and practical movement than has been conceptualized by others. This Revolutionary Pan Afrikanism (RPA) has its roots, worldview and leadership based not in any elites (or any “Talented Tenth” concept), but rather in the world’s broad masses of exploited, marginalized and oppressed Afrikans – namely, the Afrikan proletariat, peasantry, lumpen, unemployables etc.
But RPA is not an end in itself, it’s a component part of a much larger struggle to not only break free of our living over a century under the yoke of imperialism, which has largely been imposed by Western Europe and Amerika (the “West”), but to completely eradicate this entire global system, which is a struggle that Afrika and her children cannot win alone.
This makes it a class struggle that must be rooted in the proletariat, which is the main exploited class and producer of social wealth under capitalism. The proletariat exists everywhere that capitalism thrives. As such, it has no nationality, no race, no gender etc., and is therefore truly global in its composition and worldview.
Everybody pretty much agrees that Black people were formed into a nation (a New Afrikan nation) in Amerika and that this nation is linked to its African origins. Where it breaks down is that it doesn’t fit the neat definitions on the national question of the past. The reality is more complex than orthodoxy will allow.
This is because New Afrikans are no longer principally a peasant nation tied to sharecropping cotton and are in fact a primarily proletarian nation centered in urban areas. This doesn’t necessarily “liquidate the national question in the U.S.,” but it does tie it more closely to the issue of proletarian revolution.
Instead of struggling to reconstitute the New Afrikan nation as a state in the Black Belt South, the original Black Panther Party correctly looked to New Afrikan self-determination in the communities where Black people were concentrated.
For many New Afrikan/Black nationalists the problem is how can Black people be a nation if they don’t have a significant land base.
As I’ve written in “Black Liberation in the 21st Century” in “Panther Vision: Essential Party Writings and Art of Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson” (Montreal, Quebec: Kersplebedeb, 2015, pp. 200-201): “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. In revolutionary socialist struggle, the principal class alliance has traditionally been that between the proletariat and the peasantry – the two major laboring classes – which is the meaning behind the symbol of the hammer and sickle.”
In the RPA context, the proletariat is largely concentrated in the Diaspora – in the West – where capitalism is most advanced and, not coincidentally, the very societies that have achieved the greatest concentrations of wealth and power exactly because of exploiting and robbing Afrika’s people and resources. On the other hand, the Afrikan peasantry, the least technologically developed class, is largely concentrated on the continent and “underdeveloped” Third World regions. Although there are substantial proletarian pockets across these areas, on account of pockets of developed industries – particularly those relocated from the imperialist centers to take advantage of cheaper labor, fewer environmental regulations, and lack of workers’ unions, protections and benefits. But the proletariat in these regions is a relatively “new” class.
The answer lies in bringing revolutionary Communist ideology to Afrika through a RPA movement. The Nation of Afrikans in Amerika and the West – New Afrikans, being predominantly proletarian in composition – must become the base of proletarian ideology and practice and an inspiration to the Afrikan peasantry.
At the same time New Afrikans must draw from Afrikans the conscious spiritual orientation of the tribal societies that is the source of communal values and Pan Afrikanism. We in the Diaspora must “return to the source” while those on the continent must learn the revolutionary science and the intercommunal and international outlook of the proletariat. The method of revolutionary China under Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s leadership and its peasant movement and struggle for socialism can be applied in an adaptive way.
We need to concentrate and blend the various strains of the Afrikan experience and our adaptations to the Diaspora and cross-cultural and economic exchange into a Pan Afrikan culture and consciousness and productive relations that are rooted in proletarian intercommunalism, internationalism and humanism.
Globally, the fastest growing sub-class is the lumpen proletariat, also the unemployable strata of the proletariat, who are concentrated in and around urban centers: ghettoes, barrios, favelas, shantytowns, refugee camps, tent cities and also prisons. Many of them are peasants displaced by poverty, capital intensive agribusiness, imperialist instigated violence, land theft and so on. These people have fled or been driven into these areas of mass concentration in search of work, safety and survival, much as we New Afrikans/Blacks in Amerika were driven and fled into the U.S. urban centers by racist violence and rural poverty.
These concentrations need revolutionary political organization and resources the most. They are the most desperate, resource deprived, marginalized and insecure.
They are also the least conscious and aware of the cause and nature of their conditions and are prone to the most reactionary and predacious social practices and methods of survival, and to enemy corruption. As such they are the social base of the Intercommunal BPP and United Panther Movement (UPM), which we aim to build everywhere that such people are concentrated, with the aim of politically organizing them, educating them, helping them to meet their own basic needs, and uniting them into a larger United Front Against Imperialism, Racism and Oppression.
We need RPA and Black Panther consciousness to provide Afrika a common language. Afrika needs to be united as a revolutionary socialist republic in order to summon her strength to develop her vast resources and hold her own against imperialist pirates.
A big problem and obstacle has been the “Balkanization” of Afrika and other Third World regions, or the establishment of “national” borders along the very same borders that were set up by the prior European colonizers that divided the continent and Third World into arbitrary zones without regard for the national communities they contained or cut across, and which prevented the unification and consolidation of Afrika’s people, land and resources. This has also been the case with all previously colonized people and is what RPA and building other Pan-blocs (for example, Pan Asian, Pan Amerikan, Pan European etc.) must counter.
One practical step in this direction would be to create a Pan Afrikan passport and get different countries to recognize it. Free travel between states would help break this down and stimulate a sense of unity. For New Afrikans in Europe and the U.S., a Pan Afrikan passport would strengthen our identification with Afrika and sense of independence from Western rule. It would inspire a cultural awakening similar to the era of Afrika’s anti-colonial struggles, which inspired our own liberation struggles in the West during that time.
The imperialist ruling class and its minions moved decisively to destroy that identification, using dual tactics. On the one hand they used repression (outright violence and prisons), and on the other hand they expanded the Black middle – or elite – class (the petty bourgeoisie), and promoted Black capitalism (using a handful of “success” cases) and the “Democratic coalition” as the pretended solution to our suffering – which has still not met our needs nor solved any of our problems, yet we continue to fall for their false promises.
Under proletarian leadership, this RPA and broader struggles aim to unite as many other strata as possible against the imperialist bourgeoisie, while remaining conscious that the interests of these various strata will at certain stages clash. Also, full agreement will often be impossible to achieve. Our aim is to organize the masses stage by stage around their common interests and needs.
Also, as Mao Tse-tung taught us, a matter of first importance is at each stage of revolutionary struggle to make a correct analysis of the class orientation and interests of each strata, to the end of determining who are the real friends and who are the real enemies of the revolutionary forces.
Of particular importance to this unity is our work to build revolutionary bases amongst the urban concentrations, because as Frantz Fanon and Comrade Huey P. Newton recognized, if this strata is not won over to the revolutionary camp, the imperialists will co-opt and use them as a weapon of violent reaction against the revolutionary forces.
But so long as we base ourselves within the masses and remain true to the revolutionary proletarian line, the class struggle will always favor the forces of revolution. This holds no less true in the RPA context.
In fact, Amilcar Cabral, who was a Pan Afrikanist and Afrika’s foremost revolutionary nationalist theorist and leader, pointedly observed that disunity among Afrikans is really a reflection of divisions engendered by their elites. So the error has always been permitting the elite classes and their interests to lead society and social movements.
In Cabral’s own words: “There are no real conflicts between the peoples of Africa. There are only conflicts between their elites. When the people take power into their own hands, as they will with the march of events in this continent, there will remain no great obstacles to effective African solidarity.”
And he wasn’t speaking based on mere speculation or theory, but instead from the experience of leading one of Afrika’s most successful liberation struggles, in Guinea Bissau, where he was able to unite previously divided tribes (Foulas, Mandjaks, Balantes and others) into Afrika’s most formidable revolutionary nationalist struggle. Furthermore, he was able to turn the population and officers of his people’s own colonizers in Portugal against their own ruling class, which nearly caused a popular revolution there as well.
But Cabral was assassinated by Portuguese agents much too early in the stages of the budding Revolutionary Pan Afrikanism (RPA) struggle, which he was part of leading. And lack of a broad proletarian party leadership allowed the elites to seize power from the masses and reverse the course of all-Afrikan unity that Cabral aspired to set in motion.
I don’t think anyone has ever connected the idea that the Afrikan peasantry is there and the proletariat is here in the West, and therefore this is where the ideological center is. We have the resources to pull RPA together. And there’s no shortage of oppressed Black people. In fact our greatest strength is in numbers. We just lack a unifying vision.
According to recent UN tallies, of 43 “least developed” countries, 33 are in Afrika, with most of the rest in Asia and the Pacific. In 29 Afrikan countries, the percentage of people living on less than $2 per day increased from 82 percent in the late 1960s to 87.5 percent during the latter ‘90s. And the numbers living on less than $1 per day rose from 89.6 million to 235.5 million. More recently the figures have been around 300 million desperate poor Black Afrikans and another 200 million or so poor Blacks in the Diaspora.
We can develop a social base of dozens of millions of people. We can build a party of tens of thousands of active members and, if we spread it out, hundreds of thousands.
With a party and base this large, and linked together, RPA will become a living reality and we can effectively conquer divisive elitist class lines. In fact the Panther approach to organizing the masses to meet their own needs and develop revolutionary base areas right where they are – by means of Serve the People programs, where we live amongst them, learn from and teach them, and show them how to solve their own problems collectively – differs fundamentally from the elitist bourgeois approach of merely handing down crumbs as “charity” or “aid,” which only fosters dependence.
We’ve learned from the experience of the original BPP with its Serve the People (STP) programs, that when the pigs tried to turn the people against the Party and its STP programs, it backfired, and ended in fueling their disaffection and disillusionment with the establishment. So the system ended in having to make concessions to the people by implementing free school meals and expanding welfare – which they did in specific response to the BPP’s STP programs – and other free service programs. All of which have been substantially rolled back, making conditions ripe for a resurgence and expansion of STP programs within all the oppressed communities, especially across the impoverished Third World and Afrika.
Pan Afrikanism – successes and failures
JR: After the Afrikan independence movements, what have some of the highlights of the Pan Afrikan movement been?
Rashid: When viewed dispassionately, I think we cannot but agree with Comrade Huey P. Newton that Afrika’s national “independence” movements failed. Not a single one of Afrika’s previously colonized countries gained genuine liberation. Many are more exploited and destabilized now than when they were under colonial rule.
Not only did they form along the same old colonial borders, but every one of them continues to have their resources, land, labor power and overall productive forces dominated and robbed by the West, and now China and Russia are angling for a cut of the wealth. Not one Afrikan country controls its own economy, and the West has a free hand in “intervening” in their internal affairs on every level, especially militarily (which is what U.S. AFRICOM is doing in the interest of giving Amerika the imperialist advantage over the entire continent).
In a 1966 speech he delivered in Havana, Cuba, titled, “The Weapon of Theory,” Amilcar Cabral pointed out that when a people’s productive forces remain dominated by foreign powers, they have not achieved national liberation. That having a flag, an anthem and an administration that merely looks like the native people does not make them a free nation.
The ability to develop their own productive forces free of foreign control is the determining factor of a people’s freedom. Again, none of the previous colonized peoples have won this. Yet, die hard nationalists today refuse to recognize this and that the world’s economies have now been so completely interwoven that no country can exist independently economically; they therefore cling dogmatically to a proven failed strategy.
In fact, these failures of the national liberation struggles, especially the continued Balkanization of Afrika under neo-colonial regimes, has fed the failures of Pan Afrikanism as a strategy. So in light of the nationalist failures, I certainly don’t see any real “highlights” in the Pan Afrikan movement. As said, during the era of those nationalist struggles, there was a strong subjective sense of Afrikan identification. But this passed, in particular because of the success of neo-colonialism, which undermined “liberation” by substituting the European colonizers with dark native faces, who continued to carry out the policies of the West as against their “own” people for a cut of the profits.
Often these were “dark faces in high places” that had been tutored by the West, so you ended up, as I pointed out early on, with folks who think like and share the values of their people’s enemy controlling their struggle. The same occurred here with more Blacks integrated into the middle class and established system, who were then used as proxies of the system to mislead and control the Black masses and “guide” their resistance against oppression into the system’s empty protest channels (the courts, marches, voting and so on), which continues today. Also, the corrupt and incompetent rule that has prevailed in Afrika by the puppet and opportunist regimes propped up by the West, which has left their societies torn by strife, destabilized and impoverished, prompted our loss of pride in Afrika and a general sense of dissociation from anything Afrikan.
The genuine revolutionary lines and forces were also isolated, eliminated and replaced by various revisionist lines and puppets. So the West remained the controlling force across the continent, through the medium of native faces in power.
The OAU and a United States of Afrika
JR: Do you think it was a mistake for Kwame Nkrumah, Haile Selassie and the other fathers of the Organization of African Unity to create the transitional organization versus just creating the United States of Africa immediately? And what do you think of the year-long presidency of Robert Mugabe over the African Union?
Rashid: As for the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), both served as tools of the imperialists and their Afrikan puppets and opportunists to undermine genuine Afrikan liberation.
Through the UN, Amerika posed as an anti-colonial ally of the Afrikan people, calling on the Europeans to voluntarily give up their colonies. But it was a trick aimed to allow power to be handed over “peacefully” to Afrikan puppets and friendly assets who would continue to allow the West, especially Amerika, preferential access to Afrika’s wealth and resources.
In turn, these puppet regimes were allowed to join the UN – in purely nominal roles – as the “recognized” and “legitimate” rulers of the new neo-colonial Afrikan states. But all the while Amerika backed and supplied the Europeans and racist apartheid South Afrika in violently repressing the revolutionary struggles that refused to sell out to them, such as in Guinea Bissau, Angola and Mozambique.
This was why Frantz Fanon recognized that no regime that “accepted” a peaceful transition of power would be allowed to exercise genuine freedom and warned Kwame Nkrumah to not allow the British to “give” Ghana independence, but to “seize it.” But Nkrumah, who literally wrote the book exposing neo-colonialism, didn’t follow this sound advice; instead, he allowed Britain to give political power over to his own regime which had no mass base in Ghana.
The OAU was dominated by Afrikan puppets and opportunists who the West could continue to do business with. In fact, as a counter to all-Afrikan unity, they enacted into the OAU’s founding charter to maintain the old colonial borders as “inviolable” national borders. Nkrumah protested that those borders should be disregarded and that the OAU should be organized as an all-Afrikan organization, but he was outvoted. The OAU was a den of aspiring capitalists and degenerate bureaucrats prompted by self-interest at the expense of Afrika’s suffering masses. The African Union (AU) represents the same class interests today, and Mugabe was a bureaucratic bourgeois nationalist whose class interests as such coincide with the function of the OAU and now the AU.
Before he was overthrown as president of Ghana, in a CIA-orchestrated coup, Nkrumah exposed that the OAU’s so-called “liberation committee” had allocated more money to feather the nests of its staffers than it had given to the national liberation movements it was supposed to be helping to obtain arms and supplies with which to fight the colonial powers.
Like the cultural nationalism of the Panther era, which they called “pork chop nationalism” and which the pigs actively promoted against the revolutionary line of the BPP, and still promote today (then in the form of groups like Ron Karenga’s US organization and today in groups like the so-called New Black Panther Party), Pan Afrikanism as it exists within the advanced capitalist countries where it’s largely based is largely a cultural phenomenon. It principally takes the form of Afrikan “studies,” adopting, glorifying or imitating Afrikan-styled art forms (dance, dress, visual art, theater, names etc.), which contributes in no material way to our struggles to overcome our oppressed conditions, communalize our social relations, or unite Afrikans across lines of tribe, nation, religion, or between the Motherland and Diaspora.
In fact, there’s no real work to unite our terribly divided peoples here. This cultural identification with Afrikan art forms and symbology must be attended by a proletarian culture that will give us a truly global outlook.
The success of neo-colonialism in Afrika was and is also largely due to the failures of the liberation struggles to advance along the socialist path under proletarian leadership following the expulsion of the former colonial powers. The lack of a strong revolutionary proletariat, attended by a weak national bourgeoisie, made it easy to play on tribal divisions and corruptibility of the new regimes and political parties.
The revolutionary movements were besieged, isolated and forced to focus the limited resources of the new states inward to try and develop their economies to meet the basic needs of the society, while surrounded by puppet states and targeted by reactionaries and imperialist agents at every turn. Key revolutionary leaders were assassinated and replaced by their opposites.
The formation of the OAU, a den of aspiring bourgeois opportunists, facilitated this, which only could have been thwarted by uniting the revolutionary forces across the continent into an all-Afrikan Revolutionary Party and People’s Army, as Nkrumah proposed, but failed utterly to apply. Instead he joined the OAU.
Your question on forming the OAU versus immediately creating a United States of Afrika, I think must be looked at differently.
With what Nkrumah understood about neo-colonialism (as noted, he wrote the definitive breakdown of it, which prompted U.S. protest of the publication of his book in 1965 titled, “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,” and a CIA-orchestrated coup that overthrew him the next year), and his call for a Pan Afrikan Revolutionary Communist Party and People’s Army, the major mistake was he did the exact opposite of much of what he knew and promoted.
Only after it was too late did he seem to recognize the gravity of his errors. Amilcar Cabral delivered a eulogy at his funeral, in which he told of Nkrumah’s confession to him that he’d made major mistakes and, if he had another chance, he would go about Afrikan liberation differently.
And it wasn’t a mere United States of Afrika that he envisioned but a socialist (not capitalist) continental republic, which I see as still the way forward. Indeed, it would be a Union of Soviet Afrikan Republics (USAR), which we in the Diaspora would also belong to. A Pan Afrikan nation. And it’s quite practical.
In fact, Afrikans in general should see the communities of Afrikans in the Diaspora – and especially in the imperialist countries – as their own, and their great ally in the struggle for Afrikan socialism and unity. Let me add that the West would be only too glad to see a United States of Afrika ruled over by a neo-colonial Afrikan bourgeoisie. This is what we see growing out of AFRICOM, which is deployed in most Afrikan countries and new bases are sprouting like weeds.
Amerika has coopted the concept of a United States of Afrika and is integrating it into its own “new world order.” As a comrade recently shared with me, there’s a U.S. of Afrika public group on Facebook with 38,000 members, right next to the U.S. Afrikan Development Foundation, a government agency created by Barack Obama that matches up U.S. investors with Afrikan entrepreneurs with ideas. Then there are two closed groups called United States of Africa, one with 75,377 members and the other with 15,401 members, and a Lovers of the African Union and the United States of Africa (13,278 members) and Yes We Can: United States of Africa (7,893 members).
The assassination of Qaddafi
JR: What do you think about the recent assassination of African Union leader and founder Muammar Qaddafi of Libya? How did the Pan Afrikan world respond? What do you think about the Pan Afrikan response to Qaddafi’s assassination?
Rashid: Muammar Qaddafi’s assassination was an important element of Amerika’s renewed designs to monopolize Afrika’s vast natural resources – its oil wealth in particular. Libya had Afrika’s only advanced and developed oil producing industry and it sits on an important strategic hub – right on the Mediterranean Sea where three continents join – from which Afrika’s raw wealth can be readily exported abroad to European and Asian markets, which is a key component of AFRICOM. As the late Robert Moeller, then deputy commander of AFRICOM, admitted in 2008, “Protecting the free flow of Africa’s natural resources to the global market is one of AFRICOM’s guiding principles.” Sometimes the imperialist forces are forthright about their aims.
Libya also gives the imperialists access to the whole interior region of Afrika – especially a whole swath of territory dividing North Afrika from Sub Saharan Afrika, which was early on designated by AFRICOM as “the terrorist zone” and includes large portions of Algeria and Libya, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad.
They claim the local governments can’t protect these areas well enough to enforce the law – a common pretext for imperialist intervention or occupation. Through AFRICOM, however, they plan to use Afrikans to fight their wars and police their areas of interest. So of course there will be plenty of terrorist activity to justify this involvement.
Targeted are the nomadic Blacks and others trying to survive on barren land. And, of course, there is oil beneath the sand. Libya gives them access to this whole interior region for oil extraction on a massive scale. Qaddafi was an obstacle that had to be removed, and a destabilized Libya gives them the perfect pretext for their “counter-terrorist” presence and activity.
Now Qaddafi wasn’t exactly a liberator. He was a bourgeois nationalist who vacillated between pandering to the West, including by giving Italy, Libya’s old colonial ruler, increasing control over Libya’s oil industry – while spouting anti-Western rhetoric and posturing as opposed to the West – and granting some concessions to the Libyan people using the country’s oil wealth. Because he couldn’t outright betray the Libyan people and retain power and his anti-Western credentials, he was an obstacle to Western designs to completely dominate the region.
Qaddafi knew his days were numbered and toned down his anti-Western rhetoric considerably, especially under the George W. Bush years during which AFRICOM was first proposed, and he made considerable concessions to the West. He gave donations to the London School of Economics. He even adopted policies to repress Black Afrikans, contracting in 2010 with Italy to block their unwanted migration through Italy to Europe.
Remember, under George W. Bush, Libya went from a “terrorist state” to U.S. ally in its so-called war on terror, which opened the door for new contracts with U.S. oil corporations. And Qaddafi turned over part of the oil industry to private interests, changes for which he received praise from the imperialist International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2011.
But he wasn’t compliant enough, so he had to go. So the West stirred up internal unrest and disaffection in Libya and entreated Nouri Mesmari, Qaddafi’s chief of protocol, to defect to France in 2010. This same Mesmari gave up all Qaddafi’s military secrets and masterminded the Western airstrikes on Libya, which France led.
The Western media and politicians gloated over his savage murder, which was broadcast around the globe – he was shot point blank in the head and had a dagger shoved into his rectum. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Libya and pronounced to the media with a grin, “We came, we saw, he died.”
As far as any Pan Afrikan response, I’ve read of a range of criticisms and expressions of outrage, but that’s about it. I’m sure other Afrikan and Third World leaders and rulers saw themselves as potentially in Qaddafi’s shoes. No Afrikan country has resisted AFRICOM’s tentacles spreading across the continent following Qaddafi’s assassination and Libya’s literal destruction and descent into violent chaos. Everyone knew Amerika’s intentions in Libya, as Obama persistently announced that Qaddafi “must go.”
So I know of no substantial “response” of the Pan Afrikan world to either Qaddafi’s murder nor AFRICOM.
On what we can see in the development of AFRICOM, I should share comments shared by a comrade about a good YouTube documentary on Sierra Leone that started with the 1980s and followed the history of protest, civil war and imperialist (European) intervention right up until they lured the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leadership into the government and then massacred them.
Meanwhile, the masses were butchered, maimed and left homeless and starving while their rich natural resources are still being exploited by the U.S.-European capitalist-imperialists. A horrible tragedy from beginning to end, as horrible as colonialism.
You could see the seeds of the AFRICOM strategy germinating in the Sierra Leone civil war and intervention, he said. You could also see the need for an All-Afrikan People’s Liberation Army to counter this strategy and for a United Panther Movement based in the urban oppressed communities.
The mass poverty and dire needs of the oppressed masses in Afrika call for basic survival programs.
Pan Afrikan contributors
JR: We must always remember our ancestors and we must contribute to the Pan Afrikanist struggle for self-determination today. Who are some of the modern-day practitioners and theoreticians of Pan Afrikanism that you respect? Why do you respect them? What Pan Afrikanist organizations do you support and why?
Rashid: As far as those Pan Afrikan theorists and practitioners who’ve made an impression on me, most were historical figures. Comrades like W.E.B. DuBois, Nkrumah, Hubert Harrison, Patrice Lumumba, Robert Sobukwe, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, Cabral and others. These were not people who only elaborated a Pan Afrikan line, but they also struggled in more than nominal ways to unite Afrikan people, although all made errors.
Today I know of no Pan Afrikan theorists with any real plan of action, although some may have some good educational and agitational work. One group I can name is the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), led by Chair Omali Yeshitela. I believe the Dead Prez rap group follow him. But I take issue with his Pan Afrikan theory. I see a major ideological flaw in this party’s line.
They’ve expressed: “As opposed to Marxism, our party adheres to the philosophy of Yeshitelism, also called African Internationalism, which recognizes that the fundamental contradiction in the world is not between white workers and bosses, but between oppressed and oppressor nations. It is colonialism not capitalism. We understand that the destruction of imperialism will come, not from white workers overthrowing their capitalist bosses, but from the national liberation of Africans and all other colonized peoples whose oppression makes up the pedestal that the whole capitalist edifice – including the relationship between white workers and white bosses – rests upon.”
This is a case of “right church wrong pew.” First of all, the fundamental contradiction is between the socialized nature of production and the private ownership of the means of production. That’s basic socialist theory.
Who ever said it was between white workers and white bosses? Certainly not Marx. And what is colonialism but capitalism?
If capitalism isn’t overthrown in the imperialist countries, how will their colonies break free of neo-colonialism? In fact, this whole line of argument tends to support neo-colonialism as “independence.” As if putting Black faces in high places is the solution. I can see how this might have sounded credible decades ago, before we’d seen the effects and designs of neo-colonialism. But today we can clearly see it is supportive of imperialism and catastrophic for Afrikan peoples.
I think Omali Yeshitela is stuck with having put his name on a half-baked theory. The idea of Pan Afrikan unity is good, but the other half of the equation is revolution in the imperialist countries and alas, dealing with them white workers – and Black, Asian and Arab capitalists too. Uh oh! Back to Marxism again!
I think the APSP has done some good work in bringing Pan Afrikan awareness to their social base in St. Petersburg, Florida, where their organization is based. But, like other Pan Afrikanists I know of, they have no strategy for making revolution, which reduces the role of Black revolutionaries to being a cheering section for Third World revolutionaries.
In other places, South Afrika for example, I like some of what I’ve heard about efforts to revive Pan Afrikanism of the earlier mode. Like the Pan African Congress-New Road faction. Originally the PAC was founded in the late 1950s by Robert Sobukwe, as a split from the African National Congress. Sobukwe was a Pan Afrikanist who later embraced Maoism while in prison. While the present leadership is opportunist and revisionist, the New Road faction is trying to take the PAC back to its roots.
JR: What do you think about the Pan Afrikan struggle in the Caribbean unifying for the cause of reparations?
Rashid: As for Caribbeans uniting for reparations, I find any appeal to the imperialists for reparations to be erroneous.
As already noted, Frantz Fanon warned not to allow them to give you anything, and Nkrumah realized his own error in not heeding this advice, but far too late. Likewise, Sun Tzu warned that anything your enemy gives you will be used against you and to never take what he offers you. He didn’t even mention begging your enemy for reparations. It’s too ridiculous to merit contemplation really. The BPP took Fanon’s and Sun Tzu’s teachings to heart and stood out for its emphasis on self-reliance and building people’s power through its Serve the People Community Survival programs – and not as a bargaining chip but to prepare for revolution.
In explaining the concept of “revolutionary suicide,” BPP co-founder Huey P. Newton observed, in his autobiography of the same name, that poverty is not a vice, but a condition of denial caused by a reactionary system that would kill its victims. In this he drew a distinction between the beggar and the poor man.
The beggar (in this instance one who would plead for reparations) has lost his dignity and self-respect, having been reduced by fear and despair to self-murder, spiritual death – reactionary suicide. Whereas the poor man who has not given up his dignity, hope and desire to live can achieve the highest nobility by, instead of begging, rising up to take his rightful due (the right to be free, the right to live). So, while the disgraced beggar can be swept out with the broom, the poor man in fighting to change an intolerable condition must be driven out with a stick.
And any reparations money wouldn’t be free of course. Just as the money poured into the ghettoes after the uprisings of the 1960s and the BPP era wasn’t “free cheese.” Like the “aid” offered to the former colonies was dollar colonialism meant to enslave not liberate. Begging for reparations is simply volunteering for this subjugation. But of course, “progressive” minded people have always said, “We can do good things with this.” And they still come begging. If mice could talk, would they not ask for cheese. Slaves get food – but not for nothing.
How often have we heard progressive minded people condemn Mao for the period of belt-tightening during the Great Leap Forward, when all they had to do to get through the lean years and receive food aid was beg the U.S. or back off exposing Nikita Khrushchev as a capitalist turncoat?
But of all the former colonies, who made it to carry out socialist revolution? China did.
By the end of the Great Leap Forward, China was self-sufficient in food production and well on its way to industrializing and building socialism without Russian aid, U.S. aid or anybody’s aid. Mao was an ardent student of Sun Tzu, and it paid off. As Comrade Jalil Muntaqim said, “We must be our own liberators” – and each other’s.
What does “reparations” mean? Nothing more than to compensate, to make amends. How can any of the imperialist countries and their corporate controllers compensate or make amends with any oppressed peoples – Blacks in particular – for past crimes? Especially when those crimes continue today under more advanced and sophisticated but equally (often more) brutal forms, and on a global scale.
To accept compensation for past crimes in the form of wealth gained from those and continuing corporate crimes not only legitimizes today’s imperialism and its ongoing genocides, enslavements, marginalizations and impoverishments of masses of oppressed peoples, but it absolves the past that put imperialism in the saddle.
Our objective should be revolution, to overthrow this entire global criminal system, not make accommodations and amends with it by accepting its blood money. This is a duty we owe to those who suffered yesterday, to those enslaved and plundered of their land, lives and resources today and to tomorrow’s generations so they will not also suffer under racist imperialism.
Separating all ties to imperialism and destroying it will liberate the entire globe. The West defeated the independence struggles across Afrika and the Third World through training, organizing and advising counter-revolutionary Third World administrations and armies, using corporate blood money under the guise of economic aid.
So imperialism has already been paying off so-called “representatives” of the oppressed peoples on a global scale as part of its business as usual. That “aid” has led to no revolutions, rather it has served the goals of counter-revolution and preserving imperialism.
Take for example too the “reparations” paid by Germany to the Jews for its role in the Jewish Holocaust and the fact that Amerika pays out billions of dollars annually to the Jewish state. Those payments have not toppled German imperialism nor won revolutionary gains for the Jewish working class, dark skinned (Sephardic, Ethiopian and other) Jews and Arabs inside Israel against the neo-colonial Jewish bourgeoisie.
In fact, those concessions paid out in the name of “reparations” have created fascist Zionist hegemony in the Middle East, centered in a modern apartheid state that practices open racism against Arabs and Afrikans within Israel and genocide, displacement and land theft against those outside of Israel. A duplication of Amerika’s own historical and continuing policies against Native Americans.
The emphasis should be on Serve the People programs and self-sufficiency and not reparations and dependence, although the latter can be used as part of the argument for the people and charitable organizations (not the ruling classes, governments and corporations) of the imperialist countries to contribute to the Serve the People programs.
It is important that revolutionaries put forward a correct ideological and political line. On the issue of reparations, it is a wrong and backward line that runs counter to any suffering people’s liberation and must be repudiated.
JR: What is the role of Pan Afrikanism in the prison movement, and at what age do you think it is appropriate to introduce children to Pan Afrikanism?
Rashid: The prisons are like Malcolm X observed, “universities of the oppressed.” Typically, they teach one how to become professional criminals; this is their actual function under the system, not “rehabilitation.” We must conversely use them to teach the oppressed to become professional revolutionaries, which the Revolutionary Pan Afrikanism (RPA) teachings will facilitate. The prisons must become our schools of liberation.
And this so the ideology and strategy will flow onto the street and to the youth with nothing to lose and a world to win. Over 85 percent of those in prison will return to society at some point. Infused with RPA values, they can return to build, uplift and serve their communities instead of returning with criminal values and behaviors. It will also give them a sense of purpose, pride and confidence in themselves and their power to win and rebuild the world along the lines of Revolutionary Intercommunalism.
Nine-tenths of our problem is false conditioning – a psychological and an historically ingrained inferiority complex and self-hate caused by submission to slavery and colonialism – the destruction and substitution of culture. To shake this off is to awaken the Black Dragon.
The latent power of the Black masses and the rest of the world’s oppressed is truly awesome. This power needs direction, organization and leadership. This is what RPA will give and the role of the Panther. Afrikan people the world over can be powerful standard-bearers for world proletarian revolution and the overthrow of capitalist imperialism. We must reeducate them with these values.
The youth are the inheritors and builders of the future. As such it is imperative that they be taught from the earliest ages the values and lessons of RPA. It could be no other way. Again, quoting Malcolm X, “Only a fool would allow their enemy to teach their children.” The world’s condition is what it is, because of the lies we’ve been taught for generations under slavery and colonialism. We must not allow another generation to fall victim to imperialist lies.
To illuminate the path forward and give hope to the hopeless and courage to the slaves … that is our mission!
In the middle of the twentieth century, the civil rights, Black power, and Pan-Africanist movements forever altered the shape of human social existence as millions of people organized in a world-wide struggle for freedom that continues into the present day. In this approachable new volume, Modibo Kadalie reflects upon his nearly six decades of participation in social freedom movements, from Atlanta’s lunch counter sit-ins, to labor organizing in Detroit, to student protests for Black studies, to anticolonial support networks for African liberation and beyond. Through conversations and public speeches, Kadalie offers a new way to understand history by recasting these movements as remarkably leaderless revolutions and connecting Black freedom struggles to ecological activism in the era of climate change. Kadalie calls upon present and future generations of activists to reconnect with the spirit of past revolutions and our own intuitive capacities for cooperation and directly democratic self-governance.
“Modibo Kadalie is a storyteller—in the most honorable and powerful sense of the word—who opens up the possibilities of fundamental social transformation. … reminding us that power and truth always reside in the people, not their ‘leaders.’”
—Natsu Saito, author of Settler Colonialism, Race, and the Law
“Modibo Kadalie elaborates a vision of Pan-African social ecology rooted in the Black anarchist tradition, people’s power, ecofeminism, and lessons from global struggles. … Following C.L.R. James’s dictum that ‘any cook can govern,’ Kadalie lifts up—and acts in concert with—ordinary people who have fought to preserve their autonomy and re-make the world.”
— Jackie Wang, author of Carceral Capitalism
“This collection offers a gift of understanding and clarity in a way we shouldn’t take for granted and at a time when almost nothing feels certain.”
—William C. Anderson, co-author of As Black As Resistance
“Empowering and helpful to scholars and activists alike.”
—Eusi Kwayana, author of The Bauxite Strike and the Old Politics
Modibo Kadalie is a social ecologist, academic, and lifelong radical organizer. In the 1970s, he was a member of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the African Liberation Support Committee and a delegate to the Sixth Pan-African Congress. He is also the author of Internationalism, Pan-Africanism, and the Struggle of Social Classes.
“READY FOR revolution.” These words describe the core of the man. Brilliant, charismatic and driven, Kwame Ture was a Pan-Africanist and freedom fighter who “fundamentally altered the course of history.”
As with the other Pan-Africanists in this series, the fact that he was born and grew up in Trinidad remains a secret. This man advised Ghana’s president Kwame Nkrumah, walked with Dr Martin Luther King and was married to South African singer Miriam Makeba. This man, who inspired the formation of the Black Panther party, was incarcerated for protesting racism and injustice and coined the phrase “Black Power.”
He was born in 1941 as Stokely Carmichael. He grew up in Belmont, Port of Spain. His childhood was culturally rich, with steelpan, especially the Casablanca band, calypso and Carnival being integral to his understanding of home.
It was only later in life that he recognised how damaging the all-pervasive colonialism had been. In his autobiography Ready for Revolution, he recalls learning “about snow, daffodils and skylarks. I had no references by which to understand, identify, or analyse the culture that was all around me.”
His move to the US at 11 was the first step towards the monumental path that his life would follow. He had to adjust to the shock of life in the Bronx – cramped quarters, restriction of freedom and a completely different culture. His mother would root them through it all.
“Mabel Charles Carmichael would become – and remain – a major influence in the lives of me and my sisters. This little dynamo of a woman was the stable moral presence, the fixed centre around which the domestic life of this migrant African family revolved.”
Academically, he excelled at Howard University, graduating with honours. He began his political activism there, joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “snick”). In 1964 he was part of a SNCC campaign in Lowndes, Alabama, to register African-Americ.an voters. He helped form the political party the Lowndes County Freedom Organisation Its symbol? A black panther.
In March 1965, Dr King led his famous march, which was intended to go from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. However, the peaceful marchers were attacked by the police, forcing the abandonment of the planned action. Selma was a turning point for Stokely Carmichael.
In 1966, he became the chairman of SNCC. His relationship with activist Malcolm X grew deeper as the two bonded ideologically. Increasing race tensions in the US were further complicated by opposition to the Vietnam War. Many African Americans had a problem enrolling to fight overseas for a government that denied them basic rights at home.
In that same year, Stokely gave a wide-ranging and passionate speech in which he talks about Vietnam, expresses his frustration with non-violence and articulates the need for a Pan African approach to African freedom. And critically, he expands on the concept of Black Power:
“…whether they like it or not, we gonna use the word ‘Black Power’ and let them address themselves to that (applause);…we are not goin’ to wait for white people to sanction Black Power…every time black people move in this country, they’re forced to defend their position before they move. It’s time that the people who are supposed to be defending their position do that. That’s white people. They ought to start defending themselves as to why they have oppressed and exploited us…”
By 1968 his passport was confiscated. The following year, he and Miriam Makeba moved to Guinea, Africa. In 1970, he was banned from entering his beloved TT. He became involved in African politics and was inspired by presidents Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Sekou Toure of Guinea. He was integral to the formation of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, which was “dedicated to Pan-Africanism and the plight of Africans worldwide.” By 1978, Stokely Carmichael became Kwame Ture.
Ture did not return to TT until 1996, invited by the Emancipation Support Committee. He was honoured as a national hero and the State agreed to help with his medical expenses, as he had been diagnosed with cancer. He passed away two years later, in Guinea.
As African communities in TT continue to face challenges of crime, family and self-actualisation, now is the time to harness Ture’s legacy as a vehicle for transformation. As he said, “Black Power was more than a dream…It was a call to action, a call for organisation, for consciousness raising…”
Stokely Carmichael, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, speaks to reporters in Atlanta in May 1966. That year, his use of the phrase “black power” at a rally in Mississippi grabbed the nation’s attention.
Before he became famous — and infamous — for calling on black power for black people, Stokely Carmichael was better known as a rising young community organizer in the civil rights movement. The tall, handsome philosophy major from Howard University spent summers in the South, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, to get African-Americans in Alabama and Mississippi registered to vote in the face of tremendous, often violent resistance from segregationists.
Historian Peniel Joseph’s new biography of Carmichael, titled Stokely: A Life, shows that for a time, the Trinidad-born New Yorker was everywhere that counted in the South, a real-life Zelig: “He is an organizer who had his hand in every major demonstration and event that occurs between 1960-1965.”
Joseph, a professor at Tufts University, says Carmichael was ever-present in what he considers “the second half of the civil rights movement’s heroic period.” (After the Montgomery Bus Boycott and before the attempts to integrate the North.)
Photographs from the time show him walking down dusty highways with Martin Luther King Jr. in Mississippi, chatting easily with farmers in Lowndes County, Ala., listening to elderly black ladies who plied him with sweet tea on their front porches while he (often successfully) charmed them into joining him in organizing their neighbors. Joseph says Carmichael had “amazing charisma.”
A Call For Black Power
Carmichael spent the early ’60s firmly embracing nonviolent protest: sit-ins, marches, assemblies. But the soaring victories of the late ’50s and early ’60s seemed to bog down after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Joseph says Carmichael began to wonder if new methods needed to be considered.
In 1966, he used the phrase “black power” at a rally in Mississippi. It caught the nation’s attention, but it meant different things to different people.
Many whites who heard the phrase were uneasy, Joseph says. “They assumed that black power meant being anti-white and really sort of violent, foreboding.”
Black listeners, on the other hand, heard a call “for cultural political and economic self-determination,” Joseph says. The phrase, he adds, resonated powerfully for a people who’d long been measured by arbitrarily set white standards and aesthetics.
“We have to stop being ashamed of being black!” was the first point in a four-part manifesto he often used in his speeches. Black, Carmichael told his audiences, was survivor-strong. It was resourceful. And beautiful.
Tall and thin, with limpid eyes and a dazzling smile that contrasted with his deeply brown skin, Carmichael walked like he thought he was a good-looking guy — in an era when, for many blacks, lighter was better.
“That was really one of his most important legacies,” Joseph says. “He was really defiant in declaring ‘black is beautiful’ well before that became popular in the late ’60s.” In other words, Carmichael was black and proud years before James Brown turned the concept into a best-selling R&B hit.
‘The United States Has No Conscience’
He was also rethinking the practicality of nonviolence in an environment where black life was often viewed as disposable.
Martin Luther King Jr., shown here with Stokely Carmichael during a voter registration march in Mississippi in 1966, regarded the younger Carmichael as one of the civil rights movement’s most promising leaders.
The 1964 murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner in Neshoba County, Miss., the assassination of Malcolm X and the crushing government response to the unrest that had blazed through several cities by the late ’60s caused Carmichael to rethink his beliefs.
King (who regarded the younger Carmichael as one of the movement’s most promising leaders) believed in the concept of “redemptive suffering” and thought the sight of protesters accepting beatings, dog bites and fire-hosing would soften America’s heart and inspire the country to reject segregation. But after seeing so many of his comrades maimed and killed, Carmichael no longer shared that belief.
King had gotten a lot right, Carmichael said, but in betting on nonviolence, “he only made one fallacious assumption: In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent has to have a conscience. The United States has no conscience.”
And it was becoming increasingly hard for him to live in the United States. Hounded by the FBI at home, tracked by the CIA when he went abroad, Carmichael had had enough. He changed his name to Kwame Ture in homage to two African heroes — his friend Kwame Nkrumah (the first president of independent Ghana), and Sékou Touré, the president of Guinea, the country that had welcomed the former civil rights worker as an honored citizen.
Ture would live for another three decades, visiting the United States frequently as he traveled the globe preaching the merits of pan-Africanism and scientific socialism. People listened — but not in the same numbers as they had in the early days. Ture, with his modest lifestyle and reminders of communal responsibility seemed … quaint. “It’s interesting,” biographer Joseph notes: “Times changed, but Stokely didn’t.”
The former civil rights warrior died in Guinea in 1998 at age 57, of prostate cancer. And while he’s no longer a household name in most places, Peniel Joseph says, Stokely Carmichael’s legacy is the very notion of black power, “which was enormously successful in redefining the contours of African-American identity but also race relations in the United States — and globally.”
A press conference was held today by members of December 12th Movement announcing the forthcoming march and rally May 25, 2019 in Washington, D.C. to commemorate African Liberation Day. In particular, organizers focused on the continuing struggle for land and freedom in Zimbabwe as indicative of both the struggle facing Black/African people worldwide and of the course of resistance offered by the example of the people of Zimbabwe to that same African diaspora. Organizers said that Zimbabwe is representative of and connected to the struggles of Black people in the U.S. and everywhere and encouraged memory of pan-African struggles and their collective struggles symbolized and commemorated within the history of African Liberation Day itself.