On Afro-American Nationhood

Haywood

Because there is apparently presently a question of which position some Marxist-Leninists in the process of organisational construction should take on the question of Afro-American/New Afrikan nationhood, and I take the position, in common with the US ICOR affiliate ROL, as well as the FRSO, that there is such a national question and it is a dividing line between us and the revisionists who we approach this question when organising, what follows is a brief review of Stalin’s criteria for nationhood in “Marxism and the National Question”, how I feel they do correctly apply to the Afro-American people, as well as some notes on what I feel are the shortcomings even of many self-described Marxist-Leninists in the United States who agree, on paper, that Afro-Americans are a nation, collective victims of national oppression, and best organised on the basis of national liberation in the first instance.

“A nation is primarily a community, a definite community of people.”

Nobody except the most committed opponents of defining humans as members of social groups will deny that Afro-Americans represent a definite “community” of some sort. I will therefore continue directly to:

“a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically constituted community of people.”

I mention this because some people have assumed the Black Belt Nation hypothesis rests on skin colour alone. I assume most Marxist-Leninist readers know this is not the case, but I will nonetheless emphasise that the historical constitution of the Afro-American nation and people has to do with the culture formed around the descendents of slaves in the US south, who happen to be on average of significantly higher Sub-Saharan African ancestry than the rest of the population of the United States, but this fact, and the resultant intense racism in the United States, does not make the Afro-American nation more a “race nation” than any other, as victims of national oppression and chauvinism in every country are subjected to insane racist theories by the oppressor nation, whose exploiter classes emphasise pseudo-scientific essentialism based on purported genetic differences as a means of creating a visceral hatred of the oppressed nation, thus dividing the toiling masses of various nations.

“a nation is not a casual or ephemeral conglomeration, but a stable community of people.”

Here we begin to reach points of controversy, as dialectics teaches us that things are always changing and always in motion, and thus no social construction is completely stable. Indeed, as Stalin goes on to say:

“It goes without saying that a nation, like every historical phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its beginning and end.”

The Afro-American national formation began at the very earliest with the failure of reconstruction after the US Civil War, and has roots which go before this important historical moment. Whatever the twists and turns in cultural development, it is generally agreed that Afro-Americans have a distinctive culture, which is stable in terms of the population still roughly constituting the descendants of slaves from the US south, as well as those elements which have been assimilated to that culture through marriage and cohabitation, resulting in acceptance by the community itself.

“a common language is one of the characteristic features of a nation.”

As everyone who comes to the US notices almost immediately, Afro-Americans generally speak a very distinctive variety of English, both in their homeland and in exile.

a common territory is one of the characteristic features of a nation.”

As is known, Marxist-Leninists defending the national character of Afro-Americans hold that the Black Belt South is the historical common territory of this nation, and that those Afro-Americans living outside of it are victims of exile imposed by a reign of KKK terror (tacitly supported by the political elite of the south associated with the aristocracy which historically owned the Afro-American people as slaves).

“an internal economic bond to weld the various parts of the nation into a single whole.”

What’s very interesting about the economic basis of any nation, and the administrative necessities it present to the bourgeois state of the oppressor nation when dealing with the territory of an oppressed nation, is that we can find evidence for it with a critical reading of the state’s own documents, even when the state does everything possible to claim national unity between oppressor and oppressed.

While the state does not formally recognise Afro-Americans as a nation as they do for indigenous nations such as the Navajo, it is to be noted that the Black Belt is economically distinct as a geographical location in terms of the US state’s own economic considerations.

More to the point, as Marxists, we all know that this region, which roughly corresponds to the slave-dominated regions of the early US, was distinguished primarily by the economic relationship between the white landed aristocracy and the African slaves and their descendants. We can only explain the failure of reconstruction with reference to this economic reality, and we can further only explain the subordinate place of the Afro-American masses (inside and outside of that territory) with reference to this distinct economic formation compared to the North of the United States. The KKK reign of terror, the betrayal of the left of the Republican Party, the Great Migration, almost every significant point in the history of the Afro-American people in the south is explainable by their status as the descendants of slaves. The political landscape of the south was accordingly shaped by the struggle of the ruling elite to suppress Afro-American civil rights (to this day), predicated primarily on an economic balance of power which, while based fundamentally on the struggle between impoverished slave descendants on the one hand and the descendants of the slave-owning aristocracy on the other, has also shaped the social dynamics of proletarian whites and bourgoies Afro-Americans in the south as well. As Afro-Americans were driven to the north by KKK terror (with the tacit support of the state), many of these dynamics were replicated in the north, but it is worth noting that despite the mutual penetration of the social and economic realities of north and south, the two are still economically and socially distinct, in the minds of local whites and Afro-Americans, principally with reference to this history!

Granted, considering a common economic life, economic cohesion […] one of the characteristic features of a nation”, we have to be clear that a large chunk of the Afro-American people in the United States presently live outside of their historical homeland. What success has been seen from the reverse migration has not yet nullified the initial exodus. But it is widely acknowledged that Afro-Americans inside and outside the Black Belt are subject to a tiered economic existence, whether as a weaker national bourgeoisie relative to the oppressor nation bourgeoisie, or as a super-exploited section of the labour pool of US citizens. The greater significance of this pattern within their historical homeland, which itself constitutes a distinct economic reality for that region, is well known.

Finally, we come to the issue of “a common psychological make-up, which manifests itself in a common culture, is one of the characteristic features of a nation”. Acknowledging the distinctive culture of Afro-Americans is something that more or less everyone is willing to do, but the psychology of Afro-Americans is worth emphasising here: there is a strong conception of a distinct Afro-American history, with Afro-American leaders, a memory of expulsion from the Black Belt, the geographical source of “down home” culture, and indeed, most Afro-Americans, except those most enamoured with the leadership of the imperialist US and their politico-cultural dictats, will almost invariably refer to the Afro-American people when referring to “our people” and “us”.

Are Afro-Americans a nation, and so what if they are?

I think as the above text has made clear, I believe the idea that Afro-Americans are an oppressed nation is fairly easy to demonstrate. However, formal commitment to this categorisation of this particular social conflict in the United States is far from my goal. The Party for Socialism and Liberation and Worker’s World Party will both formally commit to this description of Afro-Americans, but downplay the question of national liberation as a specific struggle with a geographic basis in favour of using the idea of “nation” as a stand-in for what is in fact a rather garden-variety anti-racism of the type many Trotskyite groups could (and do) embrace. The national question is employed as a recruiting method to assure non-white recruits that their problems will be solved in socialism. The RCP can make the same claims, as can the various “MLM”s who reject the cult of Bob Avakian; but without concrete, material commitment to aiding the raising up of the struggle for the immediate liberation of the Afro-American people, these declarations are of no consequence.

The only thing that should matter to us, as Marxist-Leninists, and to the Afro-American people, as an oppressed people, is what we are doing right now to actually aid in their liberation, to put them in control of their own lives and destinies, and to bring low their oppressors and exploiters. And “there won’t be racism after our party launches the revolution”, or “we’ll count you as a nation if we come to power” are not good enough. They are equally abstract and meaningless from a concrete perspective regardless of the difference in tone with regard to the specific formal idealist commitment to describing the source of Afro-American oppression and exploitation today (“racism” or “national oppression).

If organisations that are being formed or built are debating whether or not to include in their points of unity that Afro-Americans are a nation, and that they have a national territory, and it is the land on which they were slaves and which is still ruled by their ancestors’ slavemasters’ descendants, I would tell them that they should do this. But whether or not groups do this, my question is: what are you practically doing to unite in struggle and struggle in unity with the Afro-American left which already exists, primarily in the south, where it has a long history? Failure to acknowledge Afro-Americans as a nation is no reason not to work with groups like the NAPO, MXGM, etc. Projects like Cooperation Jackson are progressive even if Afro-Americans are not a nation, just as the Green Party can run good campaigns even if their theoretical approach is totally eclectic.

If your reason for not following and supporting the quite advanced struggle (relative to almost all other struggles self-described Marxists in the United States are engaged in) of Afro-American revolutionaries active within groups like Cooperation Jackson (and while I encourage all individuals to financially support this organisation’s work, as organisations one should go even further, rendering whatever practical solidarity one is able) is that “Afro-Americans are not a nation”, my objection wouldn’t be so much the theoretical difference between us on this question, but rather a chauvinistic attitude towards Afro-Americans (if one would render active solidarity to similar struggles carried out without red, black, and green flags) or ultra-leftism and sectarianism (if one simply opposes all practical solidarity with other groups).

But, if one were to investigate the historical, economic, and social conditions underlying the relative success of groups like Cooperation Jackson, it is also my personal belief that one would come to agree a formation that we would call “nation” stands at the heart of it.

Atlanta

I went to Atlanta recently for a conference, which was not altogether successful for me in an academic sense. I’m not as successful as I might be in academia, I’m told by some US colleagues, because I put all my energy into politics. My invariable response is that by the standards of what needs to be done in the current context, I don’t put enough effort into politics.

I wasn’t sure exactly what I expected from Atlanta. I was told by white people in the north to expect it to be very racist, whereas I was expecting it to have a very “New Afrikan” character.

In either case, I spent a lot of time in very white or mixed areas, and did not sense a huge difference to the north. I was hosted by a relative of a friend from Scotland, who responded to this impression by saying “Don’t be fooled, mate. If you had more time here, I could show you, this is Apartheid South Africa”.

Segregation in Atlanta is noticeable, although in central areas it does not feel altogether different to the segregation in the north of the US. I was assured that if I were to return and go further north or south from the central areas of Atlanta, I would see just how bad it gets. I had been protected from the real Georgia, I was told. If I were to take a short trip beyond, I would see. Atlanta is not representative, Atlanta is not really the Deep South.

Upon returning, I saw the film “I Am Not Your Negro”, about James Baldwin, in which Baldwin claimed that there was no difference for Afro-Americans between the north and south of the US. In vulgar economic, cultural, legal, and historical terms, this is plainly false, and it is that difference which underlies the largest, most strategically important, and least recognised national question in the US (where leftists rarely mention national questions, unfortunately).

However, I don’t think Baldwin, wherever I disagreed with his assessment of the US’s present and potential future, would have claimed they were the same because none of those differences matter at all; I suppose what he meant is that capitalist centres where various (national) communities inevitably meet are the same in terms of their dynamics, and the intolerance of “white people” (the oppressor Yankee nation) does not stem from the laws in the south, but the laws in the south came about because of the dynamics between the oppressor and oppressed nations there.

In short, if Massachusetts were as full of Afro-Americans as Georgia, Boston might maintain some of its cosmopolitan charm (itself constantly tested by oppressor nation chauvinism), but the KKK would “have to” emerge in comparable numbers there.

While I was obviously happy to be spared any encounters with KKK culture, Atlanta disappointed me by not having a very “local” culture in any sense, again owing largely to where I spent most of my time, within an academic and petty bourgeois milieu, in areas with less Afro-Americans, but enough new transplants (not only white, but Asian, etc.) to give it an apparent social structure similar to those cities in the heart of Yankeedom.

As I said, when others tell me I don’t spend enough time developing my academic career, I regret not spending more time on political work, research, and connections. I wish that I could’ve spent some time venturing into the southern environs of Atlanta to bear witness to my host’s observations. I have taken a small number of road trips in the US with other people’s cars, all firmly within “Yankee” territory. Having recently procured a car of my own, I do intend to go on “fact-finding missions” in North American regions with a “local” character so as to be better versed in the local national questions.

As long as I’m here, I have to figure out how to help out the movement here, and to do this, I need to spend more time outside of academia’s preferred geographies.

Commie Dad: Marxism, Identity Politics, and Worker’s Power

Commie Dad, a popular personality on communist Twitter, recently wrote a piece entitled Marxism, Identity Politics, and Worker’s Power, in which he set out to rebut the charges, common as Marxism reemerges as a recognised intellectual trend in the English-speaking world, that Marxism fails to account for anything except class. This is admirable and important work, and, for reasons aforementioned, part of a growing genre by Marxists of varying stripes to defend Marks Baba from charges of “brocialism”.

It should go without saying that I more or less endorse the contents of the piece. Indeed, taken as a “universal” there is relatively little to criticise, but what little there is to criticise is much more important given its positioning within the particular context of the US left, which has been robbed of a sturdy theoretical backbone for some time.

Let us begin then with a point of agreement and then launch into where I think the piece could stand to improve. Dad Commie writes that “Proponents of identity politics often see the working class as exclusively white and male, but this is far from the case.” Having spoken to a great many progressives in the US, I can say that this is indeed the preoccupation. In the shadow of the Trump victory, there is a pressure which even I feel to discuss US politics in a dichotomy between understanding “the working class” that voted for Trump, and “identity politics”, practically implying that Black America is more elite than white America in class terms! Scarcely any visitor to the United States can hold this illusion for even a moment, but the rhetoric at present is indeed such among those born here that one would think the toilers of the United States were mostly white men.

But as I said, it is obvious they are not. During a conversation with another Turkish friend doing her PhD here recently, the subject of my revolutionary politics came up. She is a self-described bourgeois and not predisposed to sympathy for revolutionaries, although we are nonetheless very close, and the circumstances back in the memleket have a strong unifying effect. She was saying, only partially ironically, that circumstances in the US are rapidly beginning to resemble those in Turkey, and that I had better “make a revolution somewhere fast”, lest we remain caught between multiple countries rapidly descending towards the “state of nature”. I responded that I remained hopeful for Turkey for various reasons, but that “there’s no reason to have any hope for the US”. She responded that any communist revolution in the US would have to rely entirely on Black people, as “there aren’t any white workers anyway”.

My friend was obviously not speaking in a literal sense, but there is some truth behind this. No matter how the rhetoric among US citizens might be, it is a fairly obvious fact that the deeper one descends into the proletarian masses in the US, the blacker the faces one sees are. Naturally, we should ask ourselves why this is. The easy answer, which is not entirely untrue, is that the bourgeoisie in the United States has been effective in “dividing” the workers. But as Dad Commie himself responds: “Marxists would not be arguing that workers must be united if we did not think there was anything dividing them in the first place.”

But what is this division? Is it merely one of “race”? Certainly this is the term to which Commie Dad returns again and again in discussing the most salient contradiction of US society, that between “Black and White America”, dating back to slavery. But as slavery ended decades ago, why is this gap, both in social treatment and in economic class, still so real? Are people in the US simply that racist? Readers want to say “yes”, instinctively, but this does not really account for the really massive amounts of integration which do exist among many groups which were historically second-tier toilers in the United States, such as the Chinese. Further, in many countries in the Americas one finds historical racial-caste systems similar to the one in the US, by which the further up the social ladder one climbs the whiter the faces one sees are. But in countries like Mexico or Brazil, the sharp division between black and white has at least been blurred with a large “mixed” middle section of the society, a phenomenon which is conspicuously absent in the US (see my forthcoming thoughts on my time in Atlanta).

The real explanation for this sharp division, and what links “Black America” to other oppressed peoples, mostly “of colour”, in the United States, is their relationship to US imperialism. What seems missing in Commie Dad’s piece, which correctly understands the proletariat as divided into many identities which are themselves part of the proletarian struggle and not opposed to it, is mention of nation.

Now to be fair, Commie Dad does mention national liberation as one of the reasons we find Lenin to be an exemplary figure of 20th century history. Commie Dad does not explicitly deny the existence of nations in the US, and indeed mentions in passing the Black Liberation Movement (although as is perhaps the norm in the US, mentions the BPP to the exclusion of the BLA). But it is important we not merely allow for the existence of nations, but put national questions at the centre of our practice, particularly in an imperialist country like the United States.

So when Commie Dad goes on to say that racist ideology helps reinforce divisions between two groups, I don’t disagree. But the fact that Afro-Americans and Yankees are able to be so effectively divided does lead one to believe the problem is more than “skin deep”. As he himself mentions, there is a long history starting from the slave trade that accounts for the divisions. But the point is that over the course of this history, the divisions became real not only in terms of their material basis in privileges or relationship to the means of production, but also in terms of territory, language, levels of bourgeois exploitation (i.e., the existence of a separate black bourgeoisie), in short, the political, cultural, historical, and economic building blocks of a nation. It is not merely that racism is ideologically strong, but that in the US context, the racialised division is strong enough to have actually passed over from quantity into quality and become something else entirely: national oppression, wherein more or less the entire Afro-American nation, including much of the Afro-American bourgeoisie, is oppressed and exploited by the imperialist Yankee bourgeoisie.

I wish to state again that I liked and agreed with Commie Dad’s piece, and I presume he won’t even disagree with much of what I say here. This is the most comradely of criticisms, intended to bring into sharper focus a central issue to US politics specifically because, as he put it: “Marxism must [fight all] oppressions on their own terms.”

Recommended reading: the works of Harry Haywood, “Settlers” by J. Sakai, “Free The Afro-American Nation” by the Afro-American Liberation League and the Amilcar Cabral/Paul Robeson Collective (M-L), 1982, and if you can read Turkish or have a friend who can translate for you: Trump’un seçim zaferi-1: Siyah Amerika ve Cumhuriyetçiler, by me.

Also, for those of you willing to write to Boxholder, 607 Boylston St., Lower Level Box 464, Boston, MA, 02116 to order a book, “Toward Victorious Afro-American National Liberation”, by Ray O. Light

1917-2017, ROL Newsletter #100

ROL

Comrades may find the 100th ROL Newsletter here (I am hosting it myself as a PDF here, however, there appears to be an ROL blog now), the publication of the only ICOR affiliate from a majority English-speaking country (unless one counts South Africa).

As part of ICOR’s year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Great October Revolution, and in recognising the threat of inter-imperialist war mirroring those on which the February Revolution was built, the ROL will be issuing October-themed newsletters all this year. The contents of this first newsletter are as follows:

The World-Historic Achievements and Historical Significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray Light

-Fidel: You Are the People, by Tito Meza

-Let’s Stand with the Standing Rock Sioux! Indigenous Protesters Get Police State Repression while Reactionary White Settlers Get State “Understanding” in the U.S. Countryside, by Pearl Haines

-ICOR Resolution on U.S. Presidential Election

-“U.S. Democracy” Exposed Again, by Ray Light

-The Ghoulish Legacy of Barack Obama, by Cindy Sheehan

 

Trump Elected CEO of the US, Part 2

I got very tired of writing and rewriting this piece with an eye to explaining the differences and similarities between Trump and Clinton, more or less addressing an audience of US citizens I know. There is no point to this. This is a Marxist-Leninist blog. There is a picture of Stalin at the top of my page. More or less anyone who can tolerate reading what I write here already assumes that the Democratic Party at large and Hillary Clinton in particular are strong proponents of US imperialism, and therefore the enemy. They understand that Trump being a fascist and head of a rapidly strengthening fascist movement does not make the US a fascist state yet (and if it did, the Democratic Party clearly “accepts” this fascism, as did the social democrats of Germany in their day, hence why Clinton was never a “popular front against fascism” candidate). Clinton is dead, Clinton-style politics is dead, and none of the Yankee worker aristocracy and petty bourgeoisie who are mourning it are reading this here.

On the other hand, however, we must be clear that the exposure of Hillary Clinton-style politics does not mean the end of the Democratic Party. Indeed, it is likely enough that the Democrats will embrace something akin to the social democrat Bernie Sanders to redeem themselves and be embraced as saviours. This is expected, as Bernie Sanders-style politics is the logical next step for the US at large. We must not, like the Trotskyites, simply “jump ahead” to a level of struggle for which the masses are not prepared. But neither can we patronisingly fall back on the assumption that the masses are not progressing. While there is much to criticise in Bernie Sanders, the fact that he is the point of reference for so many protesters shows that they are open to rather rapid development of their ideas about resistance: Sanders is popular while blaming the Democratic Party for its failure to mobilise the appropriate class politics against Trumpite fascism, and while encouraging the ongoing protests against it, just as he emphasised that even if he had won the presidency himself, progressive policies depended on mass mobilisation, for which he himself could only act as a cypher of sorts. This is extremely good and not to be looked down upon, even if his explicit desire is to institute a very normative social democratic order, his method involves (particularly by US standards) quite radical rethinking of the relationship of the masses to the state.

The shortcoming of all this, of course, is that Trump, and not Sanders, found himself as the cypher for opposition to the US’s imperialist foreign policy. Of course, Trump’s rhetoric on this point, like all other points, is empty. It is not tanks, but capital, which he worships, which creates imperialism. But it remains an important critique of Sanders that his foreign policy is effectively pro-imperialist. For this point, I am afraid all that can be said is to continually reemphaise to Sanders supporters that it is Sanders and Clinton and Obama who destroyed Libya, and who assist Saudi Arabia in destroying Yemen, and who have allowed Israel to continue to occupy Palestine. Given that, as I said, it is not the tanks which make imperialism but the capital which Trump stands for, the US’s foreign policy under Trump cannot be benevolent. Perhaps the (rightful) animosity towards Trump and all he represents will allow for a rearticulation of an anti-imperialist stance in the United States.

But the more general point, about class politics “internal” to the US being the answer to Trumpite fascism, while a decent “universal”, must be understood through various local particularities. Of course, “right deviationist” that I am [accused of being by EMEP and TÖPG comrades in Turkey], I refer to the national question.

countymap

The national question and Trump

One of the most repeated truisms about Trump’s victory is that “white supremacy” is responsible. Many respond to this by claiming that, since many non-whites voted for Trump (more than voted for non-fascist Republican candidates like Mitt Romney), this cannot be the case. Both are making a category error entirely expected in the US context of assuming the central issue to be “race”.

What is “race”? It is a pseudo-scientific concept which posits the division of humanity into discrete biological types, usually determined by phenotype and “confirmed” by “ancestry”, and frequently posited as an explanation for sociological phenomena.

Race is not real. Now, “real” social divisions (that is, divisions based on socialisation) are certainly reified and interpreted through physiological traits. But this is akin to saying that “race” and “racism” are what lies beneath the treatment of the Catholic Irish in the British Isles, simply because many English thought and continue to think that there are important physical and genetic differences between themselves and the Irish, although it is perfectly obvious to everyone that the British Isles is a mad genetic mixture in all corners.

When Marxist-Leninists in the United States refer to Afro-Americans, they refer to a cultural group (the nation, in fact) who have their own history and culture going back centuries which must be accounted for, just as is the case with, say, the Québécois in Canada. This group is mostly “black”, and “black” people in the United States are so stigmatised in “white” society that they mostly end up identifying with and becoming socialised in this culture (just as recent European immigrants are quickly socialised into mainstream “Yankee” national culture). This is why we must emphasise that the division is simply one of skin colour and “stereotypes”. There is a cultural division which is as real as that between the English and the Irish, which happens to have been reified most saliently through “racial” identification. However, the implications for class politics are similar: The Yankee bourgeoisie wishes to hold down the Afro-American bourgeoisie and directly exploit Afro-American labour, thus maximising profits for the dominant nation bourgeoisie.

Thus, when we find Afro-Americans voting for Trump, we can understand that they identify not with “white supremacy” but with the “Great American” ideology, and thus resemble members of any oppressed national group who identify with the oppressor nation because they (falsely) believe their subservience will be rewarded. The same may be said for “Asians” (a very diverse “group”), who “shocked” post-modernist race-theorists at my school by not running in fear of Trump’s “white supremacy”: Trump’s ideology is Yankee supremacy, which has white undertones, but is, at the end of the day, a nationalist ideology which has to remake its “genetic” composition constantly, and can therefore appeal to many assimilated bourgeois “Asians”… or even non-assimilated bourgeois “Asians” if their own nationalism corresponds with elements of the Trumpite worldview. All of this was ignored by post-modernists around me, who assumed the eternal radical-ness of simply looking “non-white” in the United States, and assured me that all non-whites who voted for Trump have sold out their “real” culture (which is voting for Clinton?), have internalised racism (or perhaps they benefit from anti-“black” racism themselves?), or some other hand-waving gesture to avoid the reality of bourgeois “non-whites” who have right wing views based on their class and national interests.

In any event, it is necessary to break down all “minority” politics (including those of Afro-Americans) in terms of their class interests when doing analysis: Are there sharp contradictions between the bourgeoisie of the minority group in question and the Yankee bourgeoisie? Is the trend towards more or less contradiction as the crisis deepens? What is the strength of the proletariat of the minority in question? Do their numbers and territory make them a nation, or a mere national minority within the United States?

This is all very well and good, but what of the white majority vote? After all, a spike in minority votes for Republicans or not, it matters that many white workers did turn out for Trump, and we cannot mobilise purely on oppressed nations and minority nationalities (although in the US, it must be said that this is not done nearly enough on the radical left). While it is not the case (and has never truly been the case and will, as history moves forward, likely become less the case) that the oppressor “Yankee” nation is “pure white”, the majority of “white” English-speakers in North America do belong to this national formation. Do they too support Trump “naturally” for being white?

Yes and no. Like bourgeois “Asians”, bourgeois whites everywhere ought to be expected, as a general rule, to support reactionary and imperialist nationalism as an ideology against a revolutionary internationalism and national liberation movements. They would have done this covertly through Clinton and many will do it overtly through Trump. However, bourgeois whites (including landowners and urban bourgeois) in areas with a large presence of an oppressed nation will be more quick to fall in line behind fascism as demographic trends dictate that suppression of minorities be scaled back if the niceties of bourgeois democracy are to be preserved. That is to say, one should not be surprised that the Apartheid South Africa-like environment of urban Atlanta pushes the urban bourgeoisie towards Trump (who overtly antagonises Black Lives Matter) while their Manhattan equivalent, not immediately “threatened” by a local oppressed nation, was comfortable voting for Clinton (who simply ignores Black Lives Matter). This trend of course applies in Texas and portions of the southwest where Chicanos and Native American nations and nationalities make the local white bourgeoisie “uneasy”, and indeed it is not surprising that landowning whites living in all areas near the various Native American nationalities consistently vote as right-wing as possible, fearing that any move towards a conciliatory tone will open a space for the articulation of grievances by these groups, who are the victims of a Yankee genocide and who rightly demand the restoration of their rights, including their land.

A very different picture emerges in Appalachia and the so-called “Rust Belt”. In Appalachia, it is the local and culturally distinct white population which is consistently left behind, finding itself almost as impoverished as Black America is. Accordingly, the US ICOR affiliate ROL has theorised the existence of an oppressed Appalachian nation. This national formation behaves very much like the multi-nationality region of the Eastern Black Sea in Turkey, or the North of England (which may be a separate nation from the South of England), where their apparent “closeness” to the oppressor nation allowed them to be easily swayed to the right after progressive movements which were once particularly successful in these regions collapsed. Like the Black Sea, it is our hope that in the North of England or Appalachia a new progressive movement can work to expose and replace the fascist trends which run rampant in these areas, held up as they are only by empty demagoguery and obfuscationism, and not by the concrete interests of the majority.

As for the “Rust Belt”, it has now been said almost too many times that there are many urban workers in the region that voted for Obama before turning to Trump in 2016. Living in the heartland of Yankeedom, where national contradictions are much less than in the southern regions of the country, or even slightly west in the Dakotas, this is perhaps the “purest” white proletariat. Since the 2008 crisis, the benefits they were meant to reap from the exploitation of these other groups are being pulled back, and they desperately crave change. This is why they were inspired by Obama, and indeed why many of them were inspired by Sanders. Having been robbed of inspiration “from the left”, they have nowhere to turn but Trump.

So, what is to be done?

Everywhere, Trump and the fascist ideology which seeps into the mainstream through him must be vigorously opposed in the streets. If this flashy but premature turn to fascism is not stamped out quickly, the US as a whole runs the risk of rapidly descending into the mire into which US imperialism has plunged so many other countries over the course of the Cold War and beyond.

Everywhere, workers and students must draw closer together and learn from each other. Every form of extra-parliamentary resistance put forth by the masses should be embraced and supported.

Everywhere, it must be emphasised that whatever our criticisms of Sanders, it was his unique (for the US context) “left” populism which was the correct response for the current conditions in which fascists are thriving, not an appeal to the status quo which is what angers the people and delivers them into fascism’s waiting embrace.

Progressives from areas where Trumpite fascism is already very unpopular should seriously consider relocating to the colonised heartlands of oppressed nations and nationalities to concretely aid those oppressed nations and nationalities in their struggle against colonialism. We must support the national resistance of the Sioux people exemplified at Standing Rock, we must push forward the struggle of the Navajo, we must work together with Chicanos against the ICE Raids.

We absolutely must defend the resistance of Black America against police violence and work towards the strengthening of communal institutions for Afro-Americans, in the Black Belt South in particular. This means first and foremost working to reengage the disenfranchised Afro-American population with day to day politics. If Afro-Americans were not so weak and demoralised in their own homeland, thanks to years of neo-Jim Crow politics (which could very well get worse under Trump), there could be many more Chokwe Lumumbas preaching and actually leading in community control for this oppressed national minority in the US.

When dealing with “white” proletarians in such regions, we must emphasise their common interests with the minority “poor”, and how they are robbed by the Trumps of the world, who are the real ones taking their jobs away, when the resources exist to feed, clothe, house, educate, and employ everyone. If a new progressive movement in Appalachia can be forged, now is the time, especially when Trump fails to deliver to this impoverished region the change they so desperately need.

Among proletarians in general, the falsehood of Trump’s promises may soon be exposed: The renewal for ordinary people cannot be accomplished through the methods Trump and the Republicans are prepared to employ, so they will be reduced to empty demagoguery and scapegoating. However, these are the methods which have been tacitly accept for years under Obama, who himself has deported more people from the United States than Bush. The system may not be 100% behind Trump, but it has nothing against continuing the slide that led to him and will one day lead far past him. The broadest possible front against this slide is necessary: We must find a way to draw together the proletariat and the oppressed together with political trends which have been weakly struggling in parliamentary politics (inside or outside of the Democratic Party, in either case suppressed by the capital forces which stand behind it). This is no time for sectarianism: We must work with anyone who understands that the people, and not the system, is the means by which the fascist slide will be stopped.

Trump Elected CEO of the US, Part 1: What went wrong?

I am extremely busy at present, but politics always comes first. The entire world was taken aback by the Trump victory, and we must therefore discuss it.

In this first part, I will respond to those who seek to place the blame for the election of Donald Trump as CEO of the United States on the people and their stupidity. People’s War, as expected, has sought to blame Jill Stein for the victory. This is a tremendous exercise in missing the point: Firstly, in the states identified, votes “to the right” robbed Trump of more votes than Stein supposedly stole from Clinton. In other words, the trend of rebelling against the system’s binary choice of two unpopular candidates was far more pronounced in camps who appear to have helped Clinton than the camp which likely hurt her. If these people who rejected the choice between the status quo and a fascist answer could be convinced to embrace the binary option, Trump would likely still have won.

Now, it might be protested that we don’t need to single out Stein: Many people voted for Johnson who likely would have preferred a Clinton status quo to the more rapid acceleration of fascistic trends in the US represented by Trump. But even if this is true, how does it help? Either Trump was able to mobilise more than Clinton in spite of losing more votes to ALL “third parties”, in which case he plainly was the most inspiring candidate; or else Clinton was so uninspiring that she lost votes to various third parties of various ideological commitments who may or may not prefer her to Trump. Either way, it seems clear: Clinton was such a garbage status quo candidate that she threw away an election in which all the forces of Wall Street had conspired to hand her victory. She is a tremendous loser who deserved to lose. She is worse than Stein, who at least can protest that the system is rigged against her!

And why was Trump so inspiring? Few (and certainly not People’s War) would deny that Sanders could have won back those Stein votes, and many Johnson and Trump votes too. These votes reflect a lack of confidence in the system, the only thing which distinguishes Stein from the others such that People’s War blames her (and not Clinton!) for Clinton’s loss is that Stein’s dissatisfied voters came attached to some actual progressive policies, albeit clumsily cobbled together in a hippie fashion. People’s War assumes then that all of those Stein votes and none of those Johnson, Trump, or Castle (!) votes belonged to Clinton because… Clinton is a progressive? Far from it. Trump being a more dangerous reaction does not make Clinton a progressive!

What Clinton is is a candidate of the status quo. The people, lacking a progressive vanguard, will turn to dangerous voices of reaction and regression if it challenges a status quo that they find unacceptable. Ever since the 2008 crisis, the masses, “the 99%” in US parlance, are feeling the pressure of capitalism in a visceral way. Yes, even the oppressor nation in the US now feels that the status quo is unacceptable, and so Trump’s empty promises seem appealing, in a very similar way to how Sander’s more meaningful rhetoric seemed appealing months before, and to a very similar audience against the exact same enemy. How did Marx put it? “First as tragedy, then as farce”.

The farce applies to Trump as well as to Stein: If Stein was the farcical reflection of Sanders’s failure to defeat Clinton, then Trump was the farcical return of the mass rejection of Clinton in the Democratic primary. In this sense, if you blame Stein for costing Clinton the election, you can also blame Sanders for doing so, since he implicitly exposed her and the Democratic Party as frauds and elitists before the peoples of the United States, which Trump followed through on by explicitly finishing Clinton off!

The reason why we don’t blame Sanders for this is because of course, Trump and Sanders are right. Whether Stein, Trump, Sanders, or I say it, no one can deny that the Democrats are allow millions to go unemployed even among their own citizenry (because they believe it’s “impossible” to employ their people), the Democrats are waging the same wars as Bush did (and lying and deceiving the people about their foreign dealings), the Democrats do make deals with and protect the Trumps of the world (just as Trump pointed out when his corruption was brought up in the debate), the Democrats are willing to go to war with Russia for imperialist dominance (whether in Syria or Ukraine, can not the US be satisfied with its level of imperialist dominance, which extends over most of the globe? why must Russia be fought?).

Pointing this out is considered “unhelpful” and “nitpicking”, but it is not nitpicking for my Afghanistani comrades, who every day have to live with the consequences of the Bush-Obama-Clinton/Trump order. Trump’s answer is a false answer, but the question is not a false question: How can these Wall Street warmongering imperialists be gotten rid of?

Any way you slice it, this election reflected popular dissatisfaction with the status quo, even among the oppressor nation, and the left’s inability to seize control of that narrative (in the end even opposing it and cheering for Clinton and the status quo) left it wide open for the right. A classic victory for fascism: The left wastes it’s time intellectually explaining how much smarter it is to do whatever it is we want, and the masses follow whoever promises them answers.

On Choosing One’s Enemy

electionfatigue

As the entire English-speaking world can’t stop talking about Trump and Clinton, I suppose I’m going to keep talking about Trump and Clinton, despite my best efforts. Anyway, given current conditions “back home”, there is a very good chance I will be stuck here for longer than anticipated, and even if I should return to the UK I will be forced to put up with constant news from “across the pond”. Regardless, I am only too happy to intervene in the politics of the chief imperialist power on the planet in my own small way. So here we go:

All around me, even among the supposed professional “critical thinkers” in academia, US citizens have accepted the premise that the supreme evil in the world is Donald Trump. As anyone who has been reading me knows, I am not a fan of Donald Trump nor do I think there is some benefit in his candidacy for the left. My argument is that his candidacy is beneficial for the Clinton campaign and the forces which that campaign represents.

Clinton could not ask for a better enemy than Trump. He has thrown the Republican party into a panic, for one thing, which is the first reason why the DNC/Clinton campaign helped elevate his position within the Republican race. The Republican party could not do the same with Sanders even if they had wanted to, because, as the representatives of “the left” to the mainstream US audience (as laughable as that concept sounds to the rest of us), the Democratic party has built-in mechanisms to protect its favoured candidate, most overtly and legally the infamous super-delegates which handed Clinton her victory.

Following this victory, the same media which (by Obama’s own admission) gave undue emphasis to this orange clown so that he would seem viable pursued a reverse sensationalist line about how un-viable and embarrassing Trump is. Ranks have been closed, and now hardly a day goes by without the bulk of the media screaming to the high heavens what an embarrassment Trump is. Clinton’s victory is now all but assured, yes, even according to the Republican Party which itself has closed ranks around Clinton.

But as we all know, Clinton is herself the enemy of the left. Clinton represents the dominant order which promises more Trumps, Clinton represents a legacy of trampling on the rights of the Afro-American people. Clinton is Wall Street (one of the few points Trump raised during the debates which was at all reasonable, the others of course being Syria and Russia), which is why both Wall Street parties know she must win. And she will.

What is to be done now? As I have said before, the only apparently viable step is to rally the troops around the Green Party for a protest vote, to strengthen the organisation of the oppressed, and to raise higher the voice of resistance at home and abroad.

But is this what is happening in the media? Far from it! Sanders – who, despite his many flaws, represented a strong step forward for the Yankee proletariat in terms of articulating an attack on Wall Street rule – has tried to pose Clinton as the head of an anti-fascist front (just as the CPI(M) does in India with the Congress Party!). I dare not even mention the CPUSA, who make Sanders look like Lenin by comparison with their more or less uncritical support for the Democrats regardless of the local conditions!

But Sanders’s supporters would doubtless mention that Sanders still has potential: After all, he has to take part in electoral politics, and is continuing to try to work outside of the presidential election through his “Our Revolution” campaign. There is certainly still the very real possibility that Sanders will reemerge onto the Yankee national stage when (not if) Clinton drops all pretense of synthesising the Sanders campaign demands with her own (after her election). What we ought to do then is look to the “radicals” who do not have a political office to look after, and not put undue blame or faith in Sanders, who supposedly have an independent and critical role.

Perhaps you are all familiar with England’s own Laurie Penny. This ex-student ex-radical represents the general trajectory of oppressor nation petty bourgeois “radicals”, whose own class interests make it more likely that they will sell themselves out to the status quo under the guise of “reformism”. Here she is gushing about Clinton as a “good enemy” (one would think the “good enemy” would be the enemy more likely to blunder and make mistakes which could be exploited by our side!):

A general election is about nothing more or less than choosing your enemy. Any government leader must be considered an enemy to those who believe in radical change. Hillary Clinton is not yet that enemy but by damn. I hope she gets to be. Hillary Clinton is the sort of enemy I’ve been dreaming of over ten years of political work. She’s the kind of enemy you can respect. I look forward to fighting her on her commitment to climate protection, on workers’ rights, on welfare, on foreign policy. Bring that shit on. That’s the sort of fight I relish. I want to argue over how the state can best serve the interests of women and minorities, not whether it should.

A fine rebuttal was penned by a dear comrade from Red London:

Ulrike Meinhof warned about Laurie Penny back in 1968 in her piece on the role of columnists: “The columnist’s fenced-in but independent thinking gives the whole paper the aura of independent thinking. The columnist’s outrageousness gives the paper the aura of outrageousness. The columnist’s occasional and courageous expression of unpopular ideas gives the paper the aura of courage to express unpopular ideas […] the columnist is the editor’s best lackey, the one who brings in the money and the prestige, and behaves as though it were possible to have an opinion on any topic in the world, expressed in a text that is always the same length, and all that. Columnists are the blacks of the State Department, the women in the federal government, the fig leaves, the tokens, the alibis, the excuses.”

Laurie Penny shamelessly capitalises on her ‘student radical’ label 5 years on to pretend that she is the voice of left-wing activism rather than liberal capitulation: “[Clinton]’s the kind of enemy you can respect. I look forward to fighting her on her commitment to climate protection, on workers’ rights, on welfare, on foreign policy. Bring that shit on. That’s the sort of fight I relish. I want to argue over how the state can best serve the interests of women and minorities, not whether it should. That’s the sort of fight that makes me better.”

So when Laurie Penny says this about Clinton, remember that she’s not the one who will be doing any fighting – at best she’ll write a few mildly critical columns for a lot of money. Something that Meinhof summed up so well: “It is opportunistic to claim to be struggling against the conditions that one is actually reproducing. It is opportunistic to use the methods that stabilise a system and claim to be seeking change.”

Indeed. This chorus of agreement that we must be “with her” against him reeks of silencing what little dissent was drummed up by the Sanders campaign (and to appease pplswar, let me reiterate that despite my disagreements with Sanders, he did more to radicalise the Yankee proletariat than anyone else since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis). The danger is that “when the dust settles” we will be back where we started under Obama.

Now, I would be no dialectician if I did not emphasise that we cannot literally return to 2008. Rather, it is “first as tragedy, then as farce”, with a US leadership with an even worse track record prior to assuming office, promising us even better conditions for the fascist forces which have rallied under Trump!

We see this with the coup attempt in Turkey. The entire media, even those supposedly critical of Erdoğan, have rallied behind the narrative of “FETÖ” and to a certain extent accepted the “heroism” of the protestors (who were actually backed by the dominant portion of the state forces) who “saved democracy” (as if Turkish “democracy” is even worth saving). When one utters such heresy in Turkey, one is asked if one supports “the coup” or “FETÖ”.

Nobody is more critical of the Gülen movement and anti-Erdoğan elements within the Turkish Armed Forces than I am. These are the forces which criticised Erdoğan because he was too soft (!!!) on the Kurdish people’s heroic liberation movement for years. These are not people who can be entrusted with our future at all.

…But then neither can the Turkish Armed Forces under Erdoğan, who are currently bombing West Kurdistan (Rojava) as they crack down on progressive forces across the country (in the name of mopping up the reactionary coup to which we had no connection)!

Now thankfully, in terms of the organised left in Turkey, only a few small “left” factions openly backed Erdoğan against “the coup” (the UK SWP-backed Trotskyite “party” DSİP, and the arch-revisionist Doğu Perinçek’s pseudo-socialist cult Vatan Partisi). Our general movement was to condemn the coup entirely and to resume our resistance to Erdoğan. So we still have some forces on the ground, and we must continue to march forward in spite of extremely adverse conditions (outside of Kurdistan, the anti-fascist movement is still relatively weak, one must be honest). But without an organised left in the US, can serious resistance to the incoming Clinton regime be expected?

As always, and as every foreign visitor to the United States immediately observes, the most revolutionary force is certainly the oppressed Afro-American people. Other oppressed nations and nationalities also present a relatively strong force which can be directed against the state and monopoly capital which it represents, but it seems there is still something to the old thesis that the Yankee oppressor nation’s “bourgeoisified” proletariat is too “bought off” to be the main focal point of organisation in the United States.

Of course, this is not to say that one should ever cease trying to organise people of diverse backgrounds. It is simply to say that, just as we should focus organisation on the proletariat of all nations (despite progressive elements of the bourgeoisie), we must assume that serious forces of resistance in the US will come from the oppressed nations first, who can relate to the victims of US imperialism around the world as Sanders and many of his supporters cannot, because they too are direct victims of US imperialism. The oppressor nation proletariat must itself be organised on the grounds of solidarity with these oppressed nations. Put another way:

Workers and oppressed peoples of the world, unite!