Nations Want Liberation: The Black Belt Nation in the 21st Century

(By Return to the Source)

Thousands rally for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL.

In the past year, the United States has experienced an upsurge in black political consciousness as hundreds of thousands of organizations and people poured into the streets to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, the 17 year-old African-American youth brutally murdered in Sanford, FL. Martin’s case has drawn enormous attention to the daily terrorism inflicted on African-Americans by both the US government and vigilante terrorists, like George Zimmerman, who uphold and enforce a vicious system of white supremacy.

As the movement against police brutality and racist oppression continues to grow, Marxist-Leninists must grapple with the burning question of how to build a revolutionary national liberation struggle capable of ending white supremacy and imperialism in the United States.

Seeking to capitalize on the growing struggle against racism, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) has republished a series of articles from the 1980s reflecting their understanding of “The History of Black America” in its newspaper, Socialist Worker. Complete with all of the errors endemic to their bizarre Trotskyite understanding of revolutionary history, these articles are a flaccid attempt for a mostly white organization – an organization that expelled several activists of color from its Washington DC branch in 2010, no less – to make itself relevant to the struggle of African-Americans against white supremacy.

However, one article in particular, republished on Saturday, June 16, stands above the rest in its historical revisionism, its fallacious analysis, and its generally poor syntactical construction. Lee Sustar’s piece, “Self-determination and the Black Belt” is a hit piece on the Marxist-Leninist demand for African-American self-determination, the entire concept of the Black Belt nation, and black nationalism in general.

Rife with historical errors, strawman characterizations, and misspellings, Sustar’s piece itself is barely worth a response. Never missing an opportunity to denounce and slander Josef Stalin, Sustar makes the totally absurd claim that “The Black Belt theory was part of a sharp “left” turn by the Communist International (Comintern) used by Joseph Stalin to mask his bureaucracy’s attack on the workers’ state,” arguing that somehow upholding the demand for African-American self-determination allowed Josef Stalin to better consolidate his so-called “state capitalist regime in Russia.” (1) The relationship between the struggle for black nationalism and the USSR is never explained or warranted by Sustar.

Neither is his claim that the demand for black self-determination was based “on the works of a Swedish professor who aimed to theoretically justify the political turns of the bureaucracy which was coming to control Russia.” (2) Sustar never names this Swedish professor, supposedly the progenitor of the demand for black self-determination, nor does he offer any evidence that such a professor had any impact on the development of the black national question adopted and implemented by the Communist International (Comintern). But a lack of evidence never stands in the way of the ISO’s vicious slander of Marxism-Leninism so the omission of key facts is both unsurprising and expected.

However, the continued relevance and renewed importance of the black national question in the 21st century demands serious consideration by Marxist-Leninists. It is important to respond to these unprincipled criticisms and slander of the experiences of black nationalist organizations and the CPUSA. The ISO may have published this piece nearly 30 years ago, but the same theoretical bankruptcy demonstrated in this re-published essay continues to inform their strange blend of Cliffite-Trotskyism today.

Instead, Marxist-Leninists must put forward a principled and materialist evaluation of the successes and failures of these various groups struggling for black liberation that appropriately contextualizes their specific struggles. Continue reading

Reflections on Amiri Baraka

(By David Hungerford)

Newark, NJ – He was a poet, playwright and political activist. He was my mentor and guide for almost a quarter of a century.

He was of a literary generation with James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and others who were intensely aware and confrontational of the injustices of U.S. society. Early on he was associated with the ‘beat’ writers, like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He went in other directions but maintained a friendship with Ginsberg until the end of the latter’s life. His best known play is Dutchman. It was made into a film with Shirley Knight and Al Freeman, Jr.

When I was in college, at a social gathering that was part of an arts festival, somebody passed by in the crowd. I recognized him as LeRoi Jones, a poet whose picture I had seen in Time magazine. He was the first famous person I had ever seen up close so it stuck in my memory. But that was that.

He was born in Newark, New Jersey, where he lived all his life, as Everett Leroy Jones. He changed his name to LeRoi – “the king.” Later still he changed LeRoi to “Amiri,” which means pretty much the same thing in Swahili. Thus, Amiri Baraka – “Prince Blessedness.”

He came of age with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and early 1960s and became a crucial force in its transformation into the Black power movement of the middle and later 1960s. The same period saw the defeat of the aggressive and wrongful U.S. wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The world’s largest country was led by Mao Zedong with an impact that is scarcely imaginable today. Africa was a hotbed of national liberation movements, giving rise to outstanding leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Robert Sobukwe, Sekou Toure and Nelson Mandela, among many others.

The status quo of U.S. society was on the defensive as at no other point in living memory. Amiri Baraka was ideally suited to the times, gregarious, energetic, mercurial, uncompromising, insightful, in the middle of everything, fighting all the time—un poet mo’ dit, perhaps. When it came to who was hooked up to who and how and why he could practically see through walls. His activities of the time were too many to mention completely.

He was a key organizer of the 1967 Newark Black Power Conference that laid out a comprehensive political and economic agenda for the advancement of Black people. He founded the Congress of African People (CAP), a nationwide alliance of forces in the Black liberation movement. He also founded and led the associated Committed for a Unified Newark (CFUN) to define and implement a program of community-based economic development. Continue reading

Can Police Brutality be Stopped?

(By the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Liberation News)

An updated study by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement revealed that every 28 hours, on average, law enforcement officers in the United States killed a Black person in 2012. The pandemic of police violence is largely concentrated against Black communities, but the increase in aggressive, militarized policing has spilled over into other communities as well, resulting in scores of deaths of Latino, Asian and white people.

The levels of police abuse and violence are deeply connected to the current stage of monopoly capitalism, which has delivered higher levels of vulnerability and economic insecurity to increasing sections of the population, alongside record profits to the corporate rulers.

In this sort of society, where the disparities are so enormous—particularly in relation to oppressed Black and Latino communities—the ruling class has preserved their rule with increased militarization of the police, mass incarceration, surveillance and other tactics designed to intimidate those most likely to resist and rebel.

For those that are confronted by the U.S. police on a regular basis, they know they are facing a truly lawless organization—a gang of a certain type—which has the authority and the will to use force at a moment’s notice.

This reality has spawned growing resistance, as people all over the country have been brought into struggle seeking a way out of the daily and often grotesque abuses carried out by the police.

For the PSL, our tactical orientation in any struggle is to unite with those in motion, to help develop demands that crystallize the needs and desires of the working class, while raising consciousness about the concrete struggle as a symptom of class oppression. We aim to consistently widen these struggles and advance their demands, through higher stages of combativeness and political consciousness, and ultimately to revolution for a new system, built on a new class power. Continue reading

The 22nd International Communist Seminar, Brussels: 31 May – 2 June 2013.

(Published by Lalkar) 

Theme of the seminar: “The attacks on democratic rights and freedom in the world capitalist crisis. Strategies and actions in response”

The above seminar was held near Brussels, Belgium, on the above dates. Fifty-two communist and workers’ parties from 43 countries participated in its deliberations. The CPGB-ML was represented by Harpal Brar and Ella Rule. After considerable discussion, General Conclusions on the seminar theme were agreed upon and have been signed by the majority of the parties that participated in the seminar. The delegates also passed resolutions expressing solidarity with Cuba, on the developments in Latin America, on the attacks on democratic rights in the European Union and on the war in Syria.

The fourth paragraph of the resolution on Syria read: ” We … support the absolute right of the Syrian people, who suffer from subversive attacks and terrorist actions supported by imperialism and the reactionary regimes of the region, to determine their political path and leadership without any foreign interference. We declare complete and unreserved solidarity with the people of Syria.” The CPGB-ML proposed an amendment to add at the end of this resolution the words “led by the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad“, but this amendment was not accepted. The reports, resolutions and general conclusions of this seminar can be accessed at its website http://www.icseminar.org.

Harpal Brar made a presentation on behalf of the CPGB-ML which is as follows:

Dear Comrades

On behalf of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), I express my sincere thanks to the organisers of the Seminar, the PTB, for inviting us to present our views to this important gathering. I would also like to thank the interpreters for their hard work and the kitchen staff who have served us tirelessly during the past 3 days. While greeting the delegates assembled here on behalf of my Party, I wish the Seminar great success.

Dear comrades, we are in the midst of the deepest crisis of capitalism since the late 1920s. Like all capitalist crises, this is a crisis of overproduction, notwithstanding the fact that it had made itself most forcefully felt in the financial sphere. This is to be expected since the feverish speculation in stock markets, bonds, derivatives etc is merely a reflection of the lack of profitable opportunities in the productive sphere. Continue reading

Mrs. Thatcher’s Demise: Two Classes, Two Attitudes

(Published in Lalkar)

On Monday, 8 April 2013, Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Britain for more than eleven years (4 May 1979 to 27 November 1990), died of a stroke at the Ritz Hotel, which had been her home for a few months prior to her demise. She was eighty seven.

Why the ruling class honours Thatcher

Writing in the Financial Times of 9 April, 2013, Jonathan Guthrie, summed up Mrs Thatcher’s services to British finance capital in the following words: “… there is no individual to whom British business and the City of London owes a greater debt of gratitude” than to her, adding that she “…privatised 40 businesses employing 600,000 people, readied the City for European dominance in financial services and emasculated the trade union …. the ‘Big Bang’ city reforms of 1986 ” resulted in “… an influx of capital and talent from North America and Japan“, ensuring London’s pre-eminence as a financial sector, which accounts for over ten per cent of the British economy. Mr Guthrie goes on to say that in the 1980s, the “high summer of sell-offs“, businesses worth £16bn were “spun off by be-mulleted City boys” (‘Mrs T’s vim proved by the irreversibility of her reforms’)

As during her lifetime, so after her death, the British ruling class has returned the complement by recalling parliament on 10 April at a cost of £2 million and giving her a state funeral on the sly at a cost of £10 million to the taxpayer. Members of Parliament were offered the bribe of £3,750 each to fly back from their holiday to be in time for the special session of Parliament convened for paying tribute to Mrs Thatcher, when it could have been done free of any expenditure the following Monday (15 April); and this at a time of austerity and plummeting living standards for the working people, many of whom are told to subsist on £53 a week.

Repulsive though are our MPs, 150 of them, be it said to their credit, spurned the bribe and stayed away from what was sure, and actually did turn out, to be a session of nauseating politeness and competitive fawning.

During this seven-and-a-half marathon, the leaders of the three main bourgeois parties – Tories, Lib-Dems and Labour – as well as dozens of MPs tripped over each other in showering praises on Mrs T. “She made our country great again“, and ” I believe she will go down as the greatest peace-time prime minister“, said Prime Minister David Cameron. His deputy and Coalition partner, Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg, stated that Mrs Thatcher “drew lines on a political map that we are still navigating today“. Continue reading

The Trade Unions & Actually Existing Socialism: A Point of Comparison for the American Worker

(By Return to the Source)

In 1934, the [Soviet Union] government abolished the existing national department of labor and turned its functions over to the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, it being taken for granted in a socialist regime that no group in the country is more competent or trustworthy to administer the nation’s labor laws than those persons most directly concerned, the workers themselves.

But imagine what a wild outcry such a proposal in the United States would wring from the reactionaries. The Soviet trade unions, in protecting the rights and welfare of the workers in the industries, have the power to issue regulations having the binding force of law, and for whose infraction careless or bureaucratic factory managers may be punished. To supervise the country’s great labor protective service the trade union movement has its own system of factory inspectors. Each factory council has a commission to attend to problems of local enforcement in the plant, mine, office, or railroad.

This is a concept utterly unthinkable in any capitalist system.

– William Z. Foster, American Trade Unionism, pg. 331

This essay is an expansion of a chapter in a recent post, Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam. The chapter, “Trade Unions & Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam,” was one of the most discussed parts of the essay by readers of Return to the Source. Although the chapter began to address the fundamental distinction between trade unions in socialist countries versus capitalist countries, the essay’s particular focus on Vietnam limited the scope of discussion. Thus, it is our hope to expand on many of the points made in the chapter. Fragments of this chapter appear in this piece uncited.

In the United States, organized labor is under outright assault from the imperialist class. Devastated by so-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation and no-strike clauses written into contracts by management and conservative union leaders alike, state and local governments across the US have sought to deal trade unions a finishing blow.

The onslaught of anti-union governors provoked a strong, militant upsurge in union activism, from Wisconsin to Ohio to Florida. Many of these measures were defeated using a variety of tactics: In Wisconsin, it took a state Supreme Court ruling to overturn the worst provisions of Governor Scott Walker’s law stripping public workers of the right to collectively bargain. In Ohio, the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, and other unions spent a staggering $24 million to successfully defeat Governor John Kasich’s Issue 2, which similarly attacked the collective bargaining rights of public workers. In Florida, the unions defeated some of Governor Rick Scott’s attacks on organized labor through direct lobbying a tentative coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature.

For all of the success stories, however, there are also revealing defeats that demonstrate the limits and failures of the reformist tactics embraced by most national and state trade union leaders. In Wisconsin, of course, the trade unions suffered a devastating blow when they lost the Scott Walker recall campaign, having spent $10.6 million on the effort. In Florida, the state Supreme Court upheld Governor Rick Scott’s wage-cut for state employees in a 5-4 decision that was tipped in the Governor’s favor by a justice that the unions endorsed in the 2012 general election!

These defeats have something in common, namely the reliance on purely reformist tactics by union leadership instead of resorting to more militant actions, particularly the strike. Criticizing this conservative trend in the trade unions in the US, however, is not the purpose of this piece. For the most up-to-date look at the American trade union movement, its flaws, and its potential for recovery, Return to the Source wholeheartedly recommends reading Joe Burns’ book, Reviving the Strike.

Instead, we briefly remind readers of the attacks and defeats suffered by American trade unions to make a point that should be obvious: Workers do not have even a semblance of ‘democracy’ or political power in a capitalist country. Relying on the democratic institutions in a capitalist country to affect change for workers proves fruitless time and time again, especially as conservative trade union leaders ‘bargain’ away the last vestiges of class-self-defense that workers have in the United States. Strikes, as Burns’ book points out, are the most effective weapon that workers have in capitalist relations of production, and abandoning that weapon in lieu of the ballot box is a poor trade, indeed. The proof, as it is said, is in the pudding. Continue reading

Cyberspace is Front and Center in the Struggle Against Censorship

This original article by Toilers’ Struggle’s author is being republished as part of the reorganization process. 

 In the wake of the introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) and their international equivalents, internet censorship has become the most popular of recent discourses. Everywhere, millions have voiced their indignation and frustration towards the introduction of these bills that have recently been rammed down people’s throats all in the name of profit for the capitalist 1%.

Popular phraseology on the part of the bosses and their political representatives explained the new acts as measures taken to ensure the well-being of those “just like us” who have to make a living. Producers, directors and media moguls, all of them have a so-called right to reap the benefits of established “intellectual-property” law and the protection of profit derived therefrom.

Yet despite the cynical manipulations of the truth advanced by the 1%, there are much larger issues at stake here. SOPA and PIPA are manifestations of efforts to suppress our democratic rights to enjoy the fruits of human culture and to protect ultimately the sacrosanct “right” of the rich and powerful to the appropriate of the wealth generated by, and stolen from, others. The capitalists seek, through acts like SOPA and PIPA, to secure greater and more extensive power to censor freedom of information and speech on the internet, prevent us from enjoying popular culture – that is, unless one can afford it – thus without first reaping more profit, and reassure the security of their property as unquestionably insoluble. Continue reading