Wednesday, August 18, 2010

White Supremacy from Bacon to Obama: Are We Finally at the Moment of Reckoning?

A few months ago, I got into a debate online with a white woman I did not know. She was "scared to death" about the direction of this country and felt Obama and his policies were going to ruin the United States. She was worried about the "new world order" and saw Obama as the face of it. While acknowledging "problems" starting under Bush, she believed things were much worse now under Obama.

Her reasoning epitomized white privilege so I asked her one last question which i had a feeling she would not, or could not answer: When were things "better" in this country? Name one time.

as i suspected, I never heard from her again...

maybe she thought she was being set up for a history lesson...and she was. I wanted to ask her if things were better when the indigenous' lost their land and lives? or Africans and African Americans were enslaved for hundreds of years? Or maybe during the rule of jim crow domestic terrorism? lynching? the great depression? segregation? crack? 50% youth unemployment in cities in the 80s? For her, today's "sky is falling doomsday" is for many "just another day in the U.S.A.".
I'm not sure she learned anything that day....but i know i did. James Baldwin's Fire Next Time may be upon us.


“But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent.
It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.” – James Baldwin


Before Obama won the election, I knew his presidency would be the opportunity for reckoning. I wrote and said many times that this country was not ready for even the symbolism of a black man as head of state. White supremacists would revolt..and in many ways have (politically, rhetorically, and even in some cases, violently).

While Obama has no real power (or desire) to threaten white supremacy, the symbolism of him being the president is more than many in this country can bare. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have decided to employ the same strategy that has been utilized throughout this country's existence to protect white supremacy and the status quo power structure: stroke white fears.


Bacon's Rebellion: The Writing on the Wall

Early slavery was "indentured servitude" for many Africans and Europeans that were brought in bondage (some kidnapped). Many worked for years and then earned freedom. That is why there were free Africans in VA and other areas from early on (some of which even went on to own slaves themselves (but that's another story). Chattel slavery "for life" as it came to be was a result of this fear of the poorer masses (white and black) coming together and threatening the planter class (elite). Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 was a symbol of their greatest fear and THAT led to "African" based "slave for life" system, and white supremacy as an ideology to keep poor whites supporting a system that never benefited them...they were taught one thing: "at least you are not black".

And the pattern has been used ever since...Birth of a Nation was the visualization of white fear post Civil-War. Reconstruction time was a very progressive time for the African American community, including land ownership (some of which was seized from confederate former slave owners) education, & political representation (to the point we have not seen since - why you often here preface "first Black _____ since Reconstruction...etc.). Black progress was real and Black wallstreet (Tulsa OK) and Mound Bayou (Mississippi) were models of it ... but white America was NOT ready and domestic terrorism as a strategy was implemented (KKK, lynching, white mobs and finally Jim Crow by law for a century). Trust me, history does repeat itself when we do not learn the REAL lesson... these days, I hear talk of repealing the 14th amendment?! exactly...


Obama's presidency has been about nothing BUT the ongoing racial struggle in this country...it is the latest chapter if you will. I want to take a minute to give the historical context...i will use black history but this can also be done with Native Ameican History, Chicano history, and so on...

With progress made, there is always backlash...

TO secure our freedom:
1. David Walker's Appeal (calling for enslaved Africans to secure freedom by any means)
2. Bacon's Rebellion (class based revolt)

BACKLASH:
1. racialization of slavery (from indentured servitude to slave for life)
2. black codes for non-enslaved African Americans

THEN WE:
1. Abolition movement to end slavery (from reform tactics like pressure though press and courts to radical revolts to moral religious tactics)..led to whole free state/slave state - congressional politics of representation 3/5 clause etc.

BACKLASH:
SECESSION

THEN to secure freedom we:
POST Civil War - RECONSTRUCTION ERA
1. Federal FREEDMAN'S Bureau
2. gains in education, land, and political representation

BACKLASH:
1. Domestic Terrorism, birth of KKK
2. Legalization of Jim Crow


THEN WE TRIED:
1. Booker T. - building institutions but not fighting racism,
2. DuBois - NAACP, tried reforming system, holding to its ideals,
3. Garvey - actually inspired by Booker T., self determination, building black institutions and economic empowerment with black money not white donors like Booker T. had

BACKLASH:
1. J Edgar Hoover hired first black agent to infiltrate UNIA.
2. Black leaders pitted against each other as tactic (Washington v. DuBOis, Garvey v. DuBois)
3. Internal strife (movements brought down from within/tactic used in revolts earlier too)

THEN we HAD:
1. CRM - Emmitt Till, montgomery bus boycott - masses organizing, SNCC, BPP, etc


BACKLASH:
1. COINTELPRO
2. MLK v. MALCOLM,take sides (tactic divide and conquer which Malcolm X later rejected)


THEN:
hip hop - voice for youth coming of post-CR era

BACKLASH:
commodfied - frame one dimensional and sell for profit while reinforcing stereotypes..see BAMBOOZLED

THEN:
OBAMA

BACKLASH:
1. tea party
2. "liberal" squabbling on politics instead of organizing actions (which i argue is very purposeful and again refer to Malcolm X speech on foxes and wolves..liberals and conservatives)
3. the fear of a brown planet (immigration debate, 14th amendment, etc.)



I write all this to basically point out that we have to make sure we know not only what we are fighting for (freedom, justice, sustenance)...but WHO we are fighting for (people's class), and who we are fighting against (elite)...because there have been many times in history we have been pitted against each other as a tactic when we could have united and been a powerful force for our own freedom...we can either learn lessons of history, or continue to repeat them...

Ms. Sherrod breaks it down plainly on why understanding and dealing with white supremacy is critical to building class consciousness...it has not only been A strategy but it has been THE strategy of the owning class since before this country formed...back to colonial days...





We cannot be free until they are free
- James Baldwin


For working people to come together (again - see Bacon) they must first recognize the humanity they share...and white supremacy is the roadblock denying that truth. That is what the white middle class has done for this system...people will continue to support a system that only benefits 1% until they recognize that they are not a part of that 1%...they are a part of the 99% masses across the globe of all hues...

so i say all that to say this:

If you really study the struggle of black history and the use of white supremacy to keep iniquity alive, as i have said many times before...even the symbolic aspect of a "black" man being the president of this racist empire and how it is driving white supremacists crazy was change enough for me to believe in...lol.

Obama's presidency is an opportunity for this country if we seize it..Before Obama rattled white supremacists awake, they were able to hide behind institutional racism and now they have to come from behind the Bushes (pun intended), show their true color (pun intended) and let the fall out begin (AZ, tea party, 14th amendment now etc)...which will FORCE US to do what we have to do to ...FIGHT FOR OUR FREEDOM...and THAT is what i've been waiting for...The Fire Next Time... it's time and i've been ready..

as my son would say...LET'S GO!!

37 comments:

Andony Melathopoulos said...

When were things better? To say they are better now is to somehow mistake Obama as the ratcheting up of either radical Reconstruction or the Civil Rights movement. His Presidency is neither and you ignores that nowhere are there equivalent mass political possibilities comparable to these two periods. Obama is nothing more than the playing-out of the failure to meet the challenges presented by both these movements. His Presidency should be met with a lot more opposition from the *Left* than it does (and it should be a bigger problem that the only populist critiques of Obama come from the Right).

Yes, you are correct, the Obama victory is only symbolic, because to see it as otherwise would be to suggest that he could not be an 'elite' on account of his skin colour (a racist assertion, no?). Yet, by casting this history as simply the struggle to overcome racism, it cannot see how it ultimately does much more than "symbolically" support Obama; it affirms his Presidency's attempt to reorganize the system of the "elite" to their benefit.

It also misses how the politics of "racism", in the wake of the real successes of Civil Rights movement, were tragically domesticated to the ends of reproducing the rotten US political system, which Gore Vidal pithy described as consisting of "only one party in the United States, the Property Party...and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat". The anti-racist politics of Obama ultimately serves the ends of reinventing the idea that the Democratic Party is somehow the party of the "black cause". Once as tragedy, twice as farce.

If you follow this line, don't you at some level believe that a successful Obama Presidency will translate into the overcoming oppression more generally in the US (if only the Tea Partiers would move aside that is (as if they are the real obstacle to this being realized))? Doesn't this ultimately translate into working hard to defend Democrats against Republicans? Doesn't this end up sapping valuable of energy from the difficult and necessary work of building an independent Left.

We should want no part in this charade.

Tina said...

@Andony - first let me say i appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment and continue the dialogue...with that said, i think your focus on Obama misses the much bigger picture. you ask at the end:
"If you follow this line, don't you at some level believe that a successful Obama Presidency will translate into the overcoming oppression more generally in the US (if only the Tea Partiers would move aside that is (as if they are the real obstacle to this being realized))?"

and to that I would say NOT AT ALL...even if Obama was "successful" in progressive policies that would not be progress in this country's development because a mass of this country would not recognize it as such...THAT is what i am speaking about...dealing with that underlying issue. The reason Reconstruction and Civil Rights movements failed to meet challenges is not from their efforts, but from what i am trying to argue here - counter-efforts...backlash... PUSH/PULL...

REAL progress would be taking the opportunity to finally awaken the innocent of their crime (Baldwin)...

Real progress would be recognizing common humanity and struggle as I argue in the other essay posted: Powerful People v. People Power: The 21st Century Edition.

Obama and his role in "re-positioning of the elite" would be of no importance if we do not "buy-in" to the system as set up by those it favors. To me, believing his presidency should be met with much more opposition than it does from the "left", is to believe that oppsing it fiercely would end in some payoff...not recognizing that it is not only the elite that are protecting the system, bt a large majority of the masses as well, who have yet to realize that the system is not for them. They only recognize it as a problem in black face. And those masses are much more of a problem than a few overseers....always have been. As Chuck D of PE put it: it takes a nation of millions to hold us back.

I have no interest in supporting political parties and if you read that other essay you will understand where I stand on solutions ...

Andony Melathopoulos said...

"... an exclusive focus on such external factors diverts attention from possible sources of failure within the opposition, thus paving the way for the reproduction of the pattern of failure. The opposition must investigate its own complicity".
- Adolph Reed, Black Peculiarity Reconsidered

The problem is that anti-racist opposition often fails to recognize the ways in which it is readily domesticated. By posing the problem as coming from the outside it creates a situation where internal reflection becomes difficult, making these politics so easy to rechannel into political activities that pose no threat at all.

As the Civil Rights movement reached its peak (when it was truly becoming a mass movement) it left the task of organizing black and white labour undone. People like Bayard Rustin attempted to move the Civil Rights movement into a broader challenge to the foundations of the US economy. Recall he was opposed by a Black Power militancy that essentially demobilized the theatrically movement in the service of anti-racism.

To chalk this dynamic up as being driven exclusively by a racist backlash is to not take seriously the *content* of anti-racist politics. It is to erase the significant differences (and historical context) of Obama, MLK, Malcolm X, The Panthers, Reed, CLR James, Rustin, Garvey, Booker T. Washington and DuBois and recast them as some kind of a equivalent "push".

This approach will be blind to learning the lessons of history and overcoming past failures. By placing all the blame on the "backlash", it is unable to learn how these "pushes" may have been problematic... it threatens to repeat failure in more profound ways.

false1 said...

Excellent article which highlights the real problem with the Obama presidency. Black folk saw his election as the prize itself. We never took the time to strategize an AGENDA for ourselves or to contemplate the inevitable backlash and reconfiguring of America's racist policies.

Rest assured that in 2012 we'll be doing the same thing all over again.

Tina said...

@false1 - thank you for reading; i appreciate your comment and believe as you, we will be doing the same thing all over again until we learn this lesson of history well and set the agenda and strategy based on it.

@Andony - your point is taken, but again it also is not going to explain lack of progress in THIS COUNTRY. Woodson does much of the self reflection you outline in Miseducation and highlights how internal strife is also driven by external influence; the miseducation many hold to look "outside" for validation. While African American approaches to progress have been varied and even contentious in some cases, they were not necessarily mutually-exclusive..they could co-exist (DuBois v. Washington or CRM v. BPM for examples)...but external forces purposely created tensions between and within to undermine them.

Now, let's say we did this internal reflection and soul search and got out of our own way...like in the example you give, how the CRM was moving towards a Poor People's Rights Campaign...the problem I highlight still remains...if the BPM said nothing, you would still have a MASS of America not on board with Dr. King and Rustin because they did not recognize their shared humanity, experience and position in society. They (mass white majority) support the status quo system although it does not benefit them. and the reason they do, is because they buy into white supremacy...

At the end of this clip, James Baldwin outlines the stakes for this country:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwx6kcILoVw

Andony Melathopoulos said...

Tina. Thanks for the response.

Rustin himself did not perceive such backlashes coming exclusively from the outside, but also, and most significant to him, as a *product* of the internal incoherence *within* black politics itself. He understood how the supposed militancy of "black power" fed directly into reproducing the very system it opposed... this is why he understood it as a conservative.

Is Rustin an agent of the white backlash, or one whose critical perspective outlined the only real possibility for the wheels staying on the Civil Rights movement after 1965? Isn't it possible that the failure to intensify the Civil Rights movement at this critical juncture *explains* why there remains "no progress" in US politics more generally since (rather than the other way around)?

I cannot understand what purpose it serves to construct a crutch whereby all political difference is merely the product of an elite driving wedges into. To me it only shrouds the critical tasks that need to be accomplished politically.

"In fact it is the program of the labour movement that represents a genuine means for reducing racial competition and hostility. Not out of a great tenderness of feeling for black suffering - but that is just the point. Unions organize workers on the basis of common economic interests, not by virtue of racial affinity. Labour's legislative program for full employment, housing, urban reconstruction, tax reform, improve health care, and expand educational opportunities is designed specifically to aid both whites and blacks in the lower and lower-middle classes where the potential for racial polarization is most severe. And only a program of this kind can deal simultaneously and creatively with the interrelated problems of black rage and white fear. It does not placate black rage and the expense of whites, thereby increasing white fear and political reaction. Nor does it exploit white fear by repressing blacks. Either of these courses strengthens the demagogues among both races who prey upon frustration and racial antagonism. Both of them help to strengthen conservative forces - the forces stand to benefit from the fact that hostility between black and white workers keep them from uniting effectively around issues of common economic interest".
- Bayard Rustin, The Failures of Black Separatism, 1971

Anonymous said...

Tina, this is one of the best analysis EVER and I am from the pre- 60's periods. Thanks. I love that you have redefined the problem from race to class and from mainly "the Black struggle" to a struggle for justice and a more equitable distribution of assets and resources among ALL the people who have labored for them. The truth is that race is now and has always been A LIE. Although we can't ignore it all together (nor should we), The more we buy into it, the more our attention will be diverted from organizing to rescue our resources/future and those from "developing" nations from the siphoning elite.

IMO, we should stop thinking of President Obama as a "Black Man" but as a brilliant, pragmatic and diplomatic deal maker who is rapidly cracking open doors and creating opportunities that a smarter and more organized population would quickly optimize. His leadership style is that of an organizer and consensus builder but he is being co-opted, trivialized and his power chipped away by the political pawns of the business/banking/investment sector. This malevolent, lying, conniving, greedy sector owns the unenlightened "radical right" and was set on wiping Obama out and making him the scapegoat when he was deluded into running for President -- no doubt to "save the country." And WE liberal/progressives are helping them out...leaving Obama standing alone and unprotected. Whose fault it that?

I keep wondering when people will wake up and more communities will organize and realize that "Yes We Can" Renovate our community's housing, grow our own gardens, educate our own children, make our own clothes and improve our own wellness to better prevent illness. But NOOOO, we bitch and voice our disappointment in Obama for not doing it FOR us.

Same with The Gays. The door has been cracked open [by Obama too]for them to marry by hundreds BY CLERGYMEN WITH CERTIFICATES. Why don't they just organize mass marriages on City Hall steps and THEN, fight for legal privilege with even more leverage. But no, they beg the very enemy who has created the barriers.
Beverly

Anonymous said...

Tina, this is one of the best analysis EVER and I am from the pre- 60's periods. Thanks. I love that you have redefined the problem from race to class and from mainly "the Black struggle" to a struggle for justice and a more equitable distribution of assets and resources among ALL the people who have labored for them. The truth is that race is now and has always been A LIE. Although we can't ignore it all together (nor should we), The more we buy into it, the more our attention will be diverted from organizing to rescue our resources/future and those from "developing" nations from the siphoning elite.

IMO, we should stop thinking of President Obama as a "Black Man" but as a brilliant, pragmatic and diplomatic deal maker who is rapidly cracking open doors and creating opportunities that a smarter and more organized population would quickly optimize. His leadership style is that of an organizer and consensus builder but he is being co-opted, trivialized and his power chipped away by the political pawns of the business/banking/investment sector. This malevolent, lying, conniving, greedy sector owns the unenlightened "radical right" and was set on wiping Obama out and making him the scapegoat when he was deluded into running for President -- no doubt to "save the country." And WE liberal/progressives are helping them out...leaving Obama standing alone and unprotected. Whose fault it that?

I keep wondering when people will wake up and more communities will organize and realize that "Yes We Can" Renovate our community's housing, grow our own gardens, educate our own children, make our own clothes and improve our own wellness to better prevent illness. But NOOOO, we bitch and voice our disappointment in Obama for not doing it FOR us.

Beverly

Ultimate Bill said...

Tina, I've read your article and the responses. All provide an interesting perspective and I appreciate the views. That said, I agree Andony missed the mark a bit, but I also posit your position does too. The problem with ascribing racial suppression and then the elite power structure to the ultimate deilemna facing the working class (or the 99% of us, as you say) is that it ignores a certain truth about humanity. It ignores a trait that is the same among people of any color.

That truth us this: once a person recognizes that he or she, and only he or she, is truly responsible for his or her well being, then that person has the foundation in place to succeed. And, whether he meant it or not, this quote you shared by Baldwin supports what I am recognizing:

"REAL progress would be taking the opportunity to finally awaken the innocent of their crime (Baldwin)..."

The crime here isn't complacency in the face of suppressive Government rule or elite power. The crime is dependence on others.

Once one recognizes the general selfishness of human nature, one can then strategize, plan, plot, etc. a path for success. Parents that recognize that no one cares about their children mroe than they, can teach this at a very young age. "The only person that is truly going to look out for you is you."

I write this not to ignore the sad history in the United States of race relations. To dismiss how we got here would be foolish, but to present the solution as some sort of uprising of the working class against the elite (at least in a revolutionary manner) is impractical. Teaching the working class to control their own lives and fortunes is a far more powerful appraoch than any other. That alone is what removes the
"power" of the working class. This can be exercised in many ways: not adopting a life of total consumerism, reducing the power of government by making representative accountable for what they do, returning to the core family as the most reliable and strong foundation for any child (where independence is taught and learned), the list goes on.

Class envy is a white flag. I've never cared much for it. That is not to dismiss that yes, there is a power elite in this country that wields incredible power. That power is witnessed primarily in influence over Government (and that includes the Obama administration as well as many administration that preceeded it). But again, to call the working class to rise against it en masse isn't going to work if the bulk of that working class doesn't see that, as individuals, they have the right and responsibility to control their own lives. And, I believe, if that message is truly delivered and received, those individuals, as humans do, are going to go off and do their own thing, so to speak. And that, in my humble opinion, would be a tremendous success.

Andony Melathopoulos said...

Bill. Wilhelem Reich saw the problem as the opposite to the one you describe when we tried to make sense of why the German working class chose fascism over socialism in the 1930s... his point is that it was precisely the socialists inability to understand the ideological basis of fascism (the "subjective factor") that made any simple analysis of interests worthless:

"... the question is exactly the reverse: what is to be explained is not why the starving individual steals or why the exploited individual strikes, but why the majority of starving individuals do *not* steal and the majority of exploited individuals do *not* strike. Socio-economics, then, can satisfactorily explain a social phenomenon when human thinking and acting serve a rational purpose... It fails, however, when human thinking and acting *contradict* the economic situation, when in other words, they are *irrational*".
- Ideology as Material Power, 1945

Today the question is why a working black person sees his/her interests more in line with Obama, than a similar person working alongside them who does not share similar skin colour (or the opposite, why a white person might find racism more "logical" than seeing his/her interests in conflict with people of the same skin colour who screw them in vicious ways on a daily basis)? Why view Obama as some kind of victory when their ability to make wage demands would be strengthened by forming association with the latter, and substantially weakened by forming association with the former (whatever happened to Obama's support of the already anemic Employee Free Choice Act anyway)?

This situation cannot be readily addressed on the basis of 'human nature' but rather, in how, if anything, they are maintained *in spite* of self interest.

If I have issues with this piece it is on the level that it ignores important theoretical questions *within* black politics itself, and it naturalizes the racist nature of the "backlash". It serves an ideological function which has strong affinities to what it critiques; it reinforces divisions where they need to be politically overcome (between white and black workers) and it liquidates divisions where they could productively reveal the underlying problems (critiques of black politics *from* within black politics). My point has been that it actually works to maintain ideologies that allow "racism" to be opportunistically preyed upon by adroit Democratic politicians since the 1960s.

"In the place of a matured social vision there will always be those who will gladly substitute the catastrophic and glorious act of martyrdom and self-immolation for a cause".
- Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, 1967

Constructive Feedback said...

Tina:

Your "name one other point in history" question lacks the structure to be answered transparently.

For me (as a Black man - who is not a supporter of the Black Establishment theories/policies and thus a critic of Obama) I choose to evaluate Obama and the rest of the elements of the political machine that purport to be interested in our permanent interests by actually DEFINING our permanent interests as the foundation of my evaluation:

* Safe Streets
* Quality Education
* Thriving Local Economies
* Healthy Lifestyles and Relationships
* Comprehensive and Enduring Solutions
* Organically leveraging the Human Resources of our community in order to develop competencies within

Where as "False1" talks about an AGENDA in truth the Black Progressive have a set of METHODOLOGIES that they INTEND to help Black people.

The challenge for our community is to set up measurements to PROVE that these policies are advancing our interests accordingly. At this point all we can conclude is that they are popular.

Tina - today the main "advancement" (Speaking as a person living in Metro-Atlanta) is that we now have more Black people running the key institutions that Black people receive our civic services from. Unfortunately instead of a revelation we see that now we have a portion of incompetent Black people that have replaced the portion of incompetent Whites.

I don't believe that "pick a better time" is a valid question. I believe that the measure of:

* MATERIAL ADVANCEMENT
indexed by
* COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIC COMPETENCY to deliver this standard of living is a far better measure.

(Organic = Delivered from the productivity of the community. The Health Care Bill did NOT ask the Black community to

+ Produce More Doctors from the public schools that we now control

+ Practice more effective cooperative economics to insure more people are covered

thus it fails in this measure)

Tina said...

@all - good morning :)

again, i appreciate all of your comments and the ongoing dialogue. I do want to respond to points made in each comment.

@Andony - while i support the labor/union model of organizing around common economic interests, to imply as this quotation does that it has been the history of the labor movement is intellectually dishonest at best, agregious at worst...lol. yes, that is where the possibilities are, and there has been progress from it, but it has also been as racialized as any other program in this country. There would have been no need for one of the great AFAM leaders, A. Philip Randolph, if that were not the case. And it is not even a fact of history. Labor today still struggles with overcoming the ideology of white supremacy, hence Obama and his "white male blue collar problem". there is qualitative data out there that shows the difficulties labor has had organizing white ethics in Pennsylvania and Ohio..and it is not because they are choosing a more progressive green McKinney..they may support Kucinich in Ohio, but had a hard time supporting Obama...although some did report they were going to "vote for the nigger" lol.

I can not say i agree with the assertion that the most significant factor in undermining progress was the internal incoherence of black politics. again i would argue that while not the solution, black militancy was also not the problem. to ignore mass apathy to the struggle along with purposeful resistance (southern strategy of hoses, nat'l guards, dogs) as well as targeted gov't resistance (Hoover targeting to silence King for example) is to basically scapegoat BPM as being loud and making it difficult to join hands across class lines with whites because of fear of offending...again, it is the innocence that constitutes the crime. Even Booker T found that while he had broader "support" from white america, they did not see their plight as the same and did not want to join hands...as he put it, in all things social, they preferred to be as separate as the fingers on the hand.

Tina said...

@Beverly- i greatly appreciate your comment. I have made the point as well that what progressives often do is scapegoat politicans (Obama) in order to skirt their responsibilities to ORGANIZE and ACT. and then want to be surprised when things don't change...i've accused some of my comrades of being more idealistic than they will admit, still believing in a system that is deeply flawed and actually was never for us. My realism is rooted in knowing that we MUST do for ourselves and if we did, we are all we would need. and to his credit, Obama knows that and his background as organizer is why.

Tina said...

@Ultimate Bill - i also appreciate your comment and have some serious agreements. I've thought about this "human nature" question a lot (which is a bit of a task for a sociologist..lol) and have also concluded that self preservation is at the heart of it..maybe not selfishness, but we are self-absorbed...i looked at it this way..we organize our lives around what is important to us...so we may feel bad when we hear thousands have died in floods in Pakistan, but that "bad feeling" does not compare to the loss we feel when our mother or child dies...so that is what i see as the human nature aspect...experience if you will. and so yes, my take home message in my class is always the same: they don't care about you..care about yourselves and your community. for me, it has to be a much smaller, community based approach.
that being said, i think we still are working against macro forces that manipulate and in order to "take care of ourselves" we have to nurture class consciousness (Marx)...because Baldwin has another line...“Take no one’s word for anything, including mine – but trust your experience.” and if people actually followed that, we would all be alright, but as Andony points out, people do not...they often do things that go against their interest and experiences...that is because of manipulations in power struggles...and that is why class consciousness is critical.

Tina said...

@Constructive Feedback - thank you for your comment. In the context i posed the question, it was in a conversation where she obviously thought there were "better times". I do not take any issue with your criteria for progress. My only disagreement is that I don't think it comes from leadership (Obama, elected officials etc) ESPECIALLY in our corporate system...I follow Woodson's model outlined in Miseducation - Service over leadership...so i think Obama will be scapegoated for lack of progress WE must make. i think when we look "outside" for solutions, even to officials we "elect" we check ourselves out of the equation and give oursleves an out when things don't change. please also see my previous comments and essay on people power.

Andony Melathopoulos said...

Tina. You misunderstand me. I do not believe there is any inherent authenticity in labour, just as I do not see any inherent authenticity in race. To be perfectly clear, problems within the labour movement must be ruthlessly critiqued to the same extent that I would advocate taking up the historic critiques of specific dead-end tendencies within anti-racism.

When I say that the only way through racism in the US is through organizing labour this should not be interpreted as me absolving the existing labour movement in the US for considerable responsibility in the current mess. This includes what should be the evident dead-end strategy of committing union organizers and members to turn out and campaign for Obama with shockingly little promised in return.

When I insist on the importance of class, it is only to point out, as Rustin and Randolph do, that the only strategy that could overcome racism in the 1960s was through a strategy for labour (and one that did not dabble in the infintilism of the Revolutionary Union Movements in Michigan). It is here that their critique of the tacit support of black power towards black business or black leaders was aimed, specifically because such strategies would only undermine a labour strategy. Both these leaders knew that only such a strategy (at a historical junction when labour could still conceivably do something; it is debatable whether such a strategy has any meaning today) could stand up and undermine the basis of the significant and brutal oppression that you describe.

I must insist that looking for the sources of mass apathy from the outside conveniently ignores the historical facts. As Adolph Reed correctly notes: "from the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott to the 1972 African Liberation Day demonstration, there was almost constant political motion among blacks. Since the early 1970s there has been a thorough pacification; or these antagonisms have been so depoliticized that they can surface only in alienated forms. Moreover, few attempts have been made to explain the atrophy of opposition within the black community. Theoretical reflexiveness is as rare behind Dubois' veil as on the other side!"

Ultimate Bill said...

@ Tina and Andony, Very interesting reading and thank you for the responses! (Tina, this is Bill Sorenson by the way! - Ultimate Bill is my college football pool name - I didn't realize that was my google profile Haha!)

I love how you pulled together the terrific example of the reaction to the flooding as compared to a personal loss. Very well demonstrated. I also like the term self-preservation over selfishness.

I took great interest in your use of Andony's analysis in regards to individual behavior that is counter to what one would expect. Very good point indeed. The question becomes, why do people accept the substandard? Very good question indeed.

I've not thought of it in the sense that an education regarding class dynamics might help people understand that they are, in fact, compliant to macro forces that create a substandard life in the effort to control. It makes sense, but I still struggle with it. To me, it complicates the message.

I think we all agree that ultimately the individual is responsible for his or her self. I possess the motivation to do what is best for me, or my self-preservation. I agree it is important to recognize class structure and its impact but I am wary of focusing too much on it. I reason that it injects too much emotion into a dilemna that requires a logical, tactical solution. If I'm counseling a young person, I'm hoping to tell that person, "Don't worry about what others have and what others do. Worry about what you can do." If I emphasize the class structure to that person, I feel the motivation gets lost.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is strictly anecdotal. I don't have evidence to the contrary. :)

Andony Melathopoulos said...

One last quote from Rustin's The Failures of Black Separatism before I leave the discussion to others... the point is that Rustin was aware of racial problems within unions, but nonetheless, saw it as the only viable strategy to intensify the Civil Rights Movement (as opposed to the actual subsequent history of depoliticization)... further he points out that efforts among not only "moderate" and "radical" black and white liberal actors actively undermined this strategy, and hence could only ever be considered as conservative:

"It is here that ignorance of the economic dimension of racial injustice is most dangerous, for a Negro, whether he be labeled a moderate or a militant, has but two alternatives open to him. If he defines the problem as primarily one of race, he will inevitably find himself the ally of the white capitalist against the white worker. But if, though always conscious of the play of racial discrimination, he defines the problem as one of poverty, he will be aligned with the white worker against management. If he chooses the former alternative, he will become no more than a pawn in the game of divide-and-conquer played by, and for the benefit of, management – the result of which will hardly be self-determination but rather the depression of wages for all workers. This path was followed by the ‘moderate’ Booker T. Washington who disliked unions because they were “founded on a sort of enmity to the man by whom he (the Negro) is employed” and by the “militant” Marcus Garvey…

… I must confess I find it difficult to understand the prejudice against the labour movement among so many liberals. These people, somehow, for reasons of their own, seem to believe that white workers are affluent members of the Establishment… and are now trying to keep the Negroes down. The only grain of truth here is that there *is* competition between black and white workers which derives from a scarcity of jobs and resources. But rather than propose an expansion of those resources, our stylish liberals underwrite that competition by endorsing the myth that the unions are the worst enemy of the Negro”.

Tina said...

Hey Bill! had no idea...lol thanks so much for checking out my blog and really appreciate your comments :-)

just wanted to add a couple final thoughts in terms of this class v. race and focus on black militancy v. white supremacy.

@Andony - we have no disagreements that the focus needs to be in organizing labor...again, i think the people power post makes that point. here is the last paragraph from it:

OUR FOCUS: Marx was Right


For working people to come together, we must first recognize the humanity we share (see essay From Bacon to Obama). In this world order, white supremacy is the roadblock denying that truth. People will continue to support a system that only benefits 1% until they recognize that they are not a part of that 1%; they are a part of the 99% masses across the globe of all hues...the People's class.

Not only must we fight alienation and learned powerlessness, we must fight fragmentation. It will take class consciousness to sustain People Power! It is difficult to unite when we are so fragmented ideologically, regionally, politically, and religiously...but again, Marx was right. The masses of the world are united in their material needs and that is where our focus should remain....MATERIAL SUSTAINABILITY FOR ALL.

where i think we part paths is how we get there and how much of a roadblock i see white supremacy has been to getting us there vs. how much you see focus on race as the roadblock...but in the social-historical context of a post-colonial world where class has been racialized and white supremacy has organized all power, you must deal with that first. That is not just here in the U.S. but worldwide..I can go to Jamaica, and white supremacy rules...or Mexico...or Cuba even...this is the legacy of colonialism. Those in power and of affluence are usually lighter, those of labor class are usually darker and poor. I show this documentary titled "Race: the power of an illusion" and the ending quotation basically says to get past race you must first take a full account of it. we will not be able to organize labor with the elephant in the room...that is why it has not happened...again denial...innocence constituting the crime...so that is why James Baldwin while in no way a black militant understood white america had to own why they needed RACE so much.

must see video! link = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HOS5sBAMxo

Tina said...

now to a more broader point made by Bill...this is not about class warfare, envy or even power struggles, although i do think class consciousness is critical to get folks to "take care of themselves" as i stated in my previous reply. The power dynamics of mass struggle are historical and did not develop overnight or in a vacuum. that does not mean i believe there is an "evil class" trying to oppress the masses...what it does mean for me is that we live on a finite planet with finite resources that are unequally distributed...and one's advantages or extra resources come at the direct expense of others. we have been taught a lie when we are told we can have all we want with no consequence to others...to me it is a two-sided coin...corporations have big bottom lines because they choose those over paying workers more..Japanese corporations have much less income inequality between mgt and worker. i say that to say this: the quotation from Frederick Douglass about power (see people power post) is spot on on all levels. Once folks have more, sacrifice becomes much more difficult to expect...it is like you drive a luxury car with a great sound system..and then you got to go back to driving a bucket..lol. most will try to keep the luxury car by any means...even if that means your neighbor will have nothing to drive and will have to ride the bus...two sided coin.

and it is THIS reason why class consciousness is critical...those that have (the 6% that control 60% of the world's wealth) are not going to give it up...even though they have no need for such a large piece of the pie leaving 94% of the world to split the rest. again, finite resources...

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]My only disagreement is that I don't think it comes from leadership (Obama, elected officials etc) [/quote]

Tina:

Here is my criticism based upon my observations of the antics of those who are supposed to be "protecting the family jewels" of the Black community:

When it comes to elected Black political leadership in place and yet our interests remaining unfulfilled THEY are the one's who stand before the podium and tell Black people to be more

* Realistic
* Patient
* That "they" (the politicians) can't do it all by themselves.

Fair enough.

HOWEVER - if we scroll back a little bit and look at the campaign in which the promises that were made to get these people elected and thus we see the SOURCE of where the Black rank & file had their hopes built - NOWHERE do we see these "Guardians of the Black Family Jewels" regulating these politicians, telling them to not string our people along with promises that are unlikely to come.

In fact many of them are complicit, running their "Get the Black folks out to Vote......for the Democrats" campaign. The fact is that these entities are complicit in their actions.

I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM WITH BLACK PEOPLE VOTING FOR DEMOCRATS.

I have a problem with the MOTIVATIONS & AND ASSUMPTIONS that are ginned up behind this vote.

Inevitably the Democratic Party benefits wildly and grows strong. The Black community, having failed to focus upon "competency development and community consciousness" are played. We are happy at the victory party, having beaten the popular ideological adversary. It is when this power is aggregated and we are ALL BY OURSELVES (see Detroit, Southside of Chicago) that the evidence shows that this leadership has failed us, using us as political pawns.

We cannot allow those who have dual roles operate unchecked inside of our community consciousness domain. They are always going to seek the advantage of their sponsors.

Tina said...

@Constructive Feedback - good morning. you are correct and black leaders are complicit...they deliver the community for the democratic party and do not hold the party accountable for any results...and Woodson in Miseducation highlighted this well and showed us why servant leadership (teachers, mentors, community business people etc) are much more important to the community than these political type "leaders".

the one reason i do encourage participation is what you mention in the ideological battle.

I will encourage students to vote. Whether the system works or doesn’t; whether elections are stolen or not. Too many of our forefather and foremothers died to give us the right to vote, and for no other reason than that, we need to honor that right. Voting is easy and doesn’t cost to do, but it might cost greatly when we do not. I do not buy into the idea that two evils are the same. There is no more striking example than the Iraq war to disprove this belief. I know if the 2000 election resulted in President Gore instead of Bush, we would not have hundred of thousands of dead Iraqis and thousands of dead and wounded service people. As well, global warming, and science in general, would be taken much more seriously. Voting may not directly affect our community but not voting could. To directly affect our community, i believe it takes activism by community members...

Travis G said...

Anhh, Black Pinocchio?

I’m reminded of the first episode of Season 3 of Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks cartoon: “It’s A black president, Huey Freeman.” When asked about the meaning of Obama’s presidency, Huey—unfazed by the Obamania sweeping the country—can only shrug his shoulders and say “anhh” (like, who cares). This of course, sets of riot of black people who see Obama as the black savior, the end of the black liberation struggle, or an opportunity to hawk cheap Obama t-shirts and plates and mixtapes. Of course, only the latter has borne fruit. Obama has had very little impact the material, educational, psychological, or spiritual trajectory of black/brown/poor people in this country, or abroad. And, I suspect that instead of using Obama as the starting point for discussions of race, we might do better by discussing the 50% of black kids in the Detroit Public school system who arrive at school with lead exposure (from lead paint).

We need more Huey.

We also need to hear Immortal Technique, if we’re going to keep talking about Obama. Too many hip-hoppers have been d*ck-ridding Obama (I’m looking at you Jay-Z, Will-I-Am, P-Diddy and other capitalist rappers). Stop name-dropping Obama to increase the revenue of your brand, I’m not buying Ciroc or Armadake vodka ‘cause you text message Obama (yeah, right Negroes). I will say nothing of black public intellectuals that have been d-ridding Obama to boost the sales of their books and bank lecture fees… If I go to one more talk entitled “…in the Age of Obama,” I’m going to pull a Shyne in the party.

The Peruvian Emcee Immortal Technique has spit the rawest verse about Obama, and pretty much sums up everything we need to know about Obama, race, and the saliency of white supremacy:

They treat niiggas and spics like tigers and lions,
Cute little babies but when they grow; put them behind iron,
Let them join the military, fight for the country hard
Throw in some college money, get em’ a green card,
Get a black Pinocchio president to lead,
But controlled by an old white Geppetto on Wall Street

(Krs One and Buckshot – “Runnin Away” Ft. Immortal Technique )

Andony Melathopoulos said...

Tina.

"Baldwin, while desiring only to be accepted as a writer (and not necessarily a Negro writer at that), takes himself seriously as a Negro spokesperson. But a Negro writer cannot, today, make declarations about the need for a 'radical reconstruction' of American society while, at the same time, scoffing at "sociology and economics jazz" as not being worth the time of serious study by writers such as himself. Debates on morals and ethics, emotional appeals to conscience, the literary explorations of the American psychic malaise, the cult of chic belles-lettres fortified with the current phraseology of the protest movement, sprinkled with personal ironies and social witticisms, make fascinating reading for aesthetes. But *that* - by itself - becomes a rather superficial literary mode of involvement when pitted against the ideas of the ranking exponents of social reform, liberal, radical or otherwise".
- Harold Cruise, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, 1967

Of course Baldwin wanted whites to own up to their guilt... this is because Baldwin's understanding of the political problems in the US only ever went skin deep.

When Baldwin did go up against white liberals the outcomes were not exactly damning. Cruse recounts Baldwin's complete inability to effectively counter the following question in a debate with Gunnar Myrdal and Sidney Hook:

"Mr. Baldwin, since you said that there is no role for the liberal, could I ask you how this radical reconstruction of American society that you insist is necessary can take place? Are the White conservatives going to do it?"

Here is the clear limit of Baldwin and why he was just as incapable of dealing with the 'elephant'; by focusing on making white liberals feel down about themselves, Baldwin forgets that this is not the task. It is, rather, to locate the levers that would generate the independent movement that would render white liberals *irrelevant*. Paradoxically, he ends up posing for what he opposes:

"On the face of it, it would appear that now would be the time for Negro intellectuals to start thinking for themselves as truly independent and original radicals. This is what the entire Negro movement demands today, not the radical-gadfly pose of flailing liberals".

Herein lies the issue. Marx was interested in much more than just 'people power' in some abstract sense(after all, what is a sweatshop but people power). His interests lay in concretely overcoming capital (and hence all classes) through conscious activity of the proletariat.

In other words, for Marx it was not a matter of convincing the bourgeoisie of their false "innocence", this had already been historically established, but rather to locate the material and subjective basis for overcoming the bourgeoisie, and in turn, class society itself.

Tina said...

@Travis G - all true Travis...all true. Obama will NOT have any real impact on the "material, educational, psychological, or spiritual trajectory of black/brown/poor people in this country, or abroad."

The thing is folks GOTTA know this, but 1) focus on Obama for self benefit (hustle) or 2) focus on Obama as scapegoat (system all the while in tact).

In this 21st century round of denial, Obama is but the latest distraction.

Tina said...

@Andony - no argument can be made that realization of white privilege and the utilization of white supremacy as a strategy will end capitalism, but without that realization, you cannot get where you want to arrive. Baldwin's understanding was not about white guilt or denial alone...it was about hegemony..an entire understanding of the world. It is not the bourgeoisie that suffer from false innocence..it is the proletariat...the very people we need to end this system. The bourgeoisie use this false innocence to have the proletariat buy into the system that is not for them...HEGEMONY is what this is all about...not RACISM. You cannot get to a classless society if the masses (proletariat) not only survive it but will often protect it..by many means. This is what i am trying to get across.

have you seen the polls lately f folks moving even further right to anti-union, corporatist republican candidates...to the point where they are saying the Republicans will take power of the House? ...for example...

How do you get there without dealing with hegemony? i say you don't and that is why we haven't.

If you can, outline a route that gets us there that does not deal with this reality.

Andony Melathopoulos said...

Yes, but Cruise's point was that Baldwin's 'entire understanding of the world' was inadequate, as evinced by his inability to meet even the tepid challenges of white liberals.

To simply be anti-hegemonic does not necessarily translate into freedom in practice unless it can understand the historical potentials and be able to organize movements that can take hold of what is imminently possible. Anything else is idealism, and hence, a species of liberalism itself.

I mean, one could point to the Iranian Revolution and call it anti-hegemonic, as in fact many in the Western Left did, but any sober assessment would have to acknowledge it failed to bring about anything remotely resembling freedom.

Of course, one might blame US imperialism for this, but by doing so it leaves the politics in Iran off the table... all analysis becomes on the motions of the Right, never on the bad state of the Left.

How do you overcome capital Tina? I would say you do not overcome it by giving a free pass to all the bad politics that come under the rubric of anti-capitalism or anti-racism. Marx himself aimed a critique directly at the Left of his time in a attempt to clarify what actually was possible and necessary. You get beyond the present not by defending every anti-racist movement on the basis that it respond to a backlash, but rather you take their politics seriously and ruthlessly critique them. That's how.

This is why Reed insists that "the opposition must investigate its own complicity".

One last point, because you keep trying to paint me as someone with a workerist bent, which is not true. Just because someone works does not mean they are conscious of class; this is predicated on political movement from the Left, which really does not exist anymore in the US (which, in a sense, makes your white interlocutor correct; the possibilities in the past *were* better than they are now). In the absence of class consciousness all you have is bourgeois consciousness... even if you work in a steel mill or fold bedsheets in a hotel.

This raises a possibility that you never seem open to considering. What if the Right-ward shift is more about problems with the Left than anything else? What if the thought taboos against taking a critical examination of the Left is why most people do not take it seriously (and see more opportunities for freedom in a tax cut than in fossilized political organizations)? What if the Right actually expresses ideas of freedom better than the Left can due to its dementia?

This, I think was Cruise's point. What was absent in the 1960s was a truly independent black Left, one that did not blindly orient to Moscow or to the white Left, but one that could, independently, draw out class consciousness among black workers. He took this issue on critically, which I think we must insist on if freedom is the actual goal.

Tina said...

it is not that i do not understand the importance of telling the truth about the left; i have written about that as well. i do know, however, that your "solution" is actually not a solution but what not to do and will not get us to the answer to this question: how do we overcome capital?

your answer = "I would say you do not overcome it by giving a free pass to all the bad politics that come under the rubric of anti-capitalism or anti-racism....You get beyond the present not by defending every anti-racist movement on the basis that it respond to a backlash, but rather you take their politics seriously and ruthlessly critique them. That's how."

you add:

"What if the Right-ward shift is more about problems with the Left than anything else? What if the thought taboos against taking a critical examination of the Left is why most people do not take it seriously (and see more opportunities for freedom in a tax cut than in fossilized political organizations)? What if the Right actually expresses ideas of freedom better than the Left can due to its dementia?"

we do not need to what if...for some, yes, it may be about problems with the left more than anything else...but for many protectors of capitalism, the rightward shift is not about "problems with the left" or
expressing "freedom better" but is all about:

1. HEGEMONY - they buy into the system and believe in it whole heartedly as the way to prosperity...they have bought the lie that capitalism = freedom and socialism = govt oppression

OR

2. they are owners of capital and want to keep it.

it is really that simple.

Andony Melathopoulos said...

A simple equation, but yet not so simple that it is can be remotely challenged in the present... and that is the rub.

What you concede in this formula is that all movement is generated from from the Right, which is exactly what I am saying. It does so, of course, because there is no Left to interrupt this system in ways that might point beyond it.

I am not sure where the misunderstanding is here. We are saying the same thing. Things have become so bad that we take this formula for granted.

What is the Left for you? To me it is not a static social force and certainly cannot be reduced to a forumula or set of principles (eg Left = government, Right = no government). The Left is a fermenting force within society that has the capacity to shatter illusions and render the necessity of social revolution bare. It is to be contrasted with the Right, which holds on to "the accomplished fact".

One must recall that the bourgeoisie itself was revolutionary in a sense... that it was the growth of capital in the North that created the pressures which ultimately collapsed chattel slavery in the South. It is only when the victorious bourgeoisie failed to sustain reconstruction that really becomes evident of its conservative nature. In other words, it becomes the Right only historically.

And they can only become the Right, historically, by a Left that could consciously perceive the emerging possibility for a lasting reconstruction. In this sense, a Left would see the importance of understanding what had *changed* between the Bacon Rebellion and Obama, and how these changes create new potential and throw up new challenges in the struggle for freedom.

This is why to simply be anti-hegemonic does not cut the mustard. A Left must be able to understand the potential that lies latent in present conditions... otherwise the possible trajectories of actually existing movements go unnoticed and, more significantly, unrealized.

On this basis I refuse to collapse the politics of say Rustin, who saw the only opportunity to intensify the Civil Rights movement after 1964 was through a push to labour, and say SNCC, who could only posture but could not be said to be connected to a mass movement in a meaningful way. I place enough faith in these movements to think that *how* they oriented, and what decisions they made were significant.

In other words, I believe the potential for busting the formula you lay out is *possible* and this is why I find these differences interesting. Reading your essay I wondered if you actually believe in this possibility, or if you simply think that even the best conceived politics will ultimately be crushed by a backlash. I honestly could not tell where you could locate the basis for overcoming this.

The way I would define Left and Right is the actual basis where the fatalism of the simple two point world you describe could be burst.

"...the Left is the fermenting factor in even the most hardened mass of the historical present."

"The Right, as a conservative force, needs no utopia; its essence is the affirmation of existing conditions - a fact and not a utopia - or else the desire to revert to a state which was once an accomplished fact. The Right strives to idealise the actual conditions, not to change them. What it needs is a fraud, not a utopia".
- Leszek Kolakowski, The Concept of the Left, 1968

Tina said...

@Andony - i really understand your point in this last reply and I think we are in many ways, seeing the same thing. Like you said, i am not sure where the misunderstanding comes in. To be clear, I absolutely think we can overcome this politics of backlash by basically doing what in some way you've been arguing...not being reactionary (like the left tends to be: ex. anti-this or that) but by understanding upfront the dynamics and strategies encountered...that is why your example of SNCC i can completely cosign on. SNCC employed strategies and trained for present conditions they would encounter. They understood realities of the present but were proactive and not reactive...and for me, a solid understanding of history will sustain that type of movement because we will already have an understanding of the type of challenges that will undoubtedly have to be met.

Basically - I believe the left is idealistic (as i think you have also said) and believes "enlightenment" will win out...and i believe history teaches us a different lesson... we need to deal with what is, and not what ifs..

Andony Melathopoulos said...

I think we have pretty much gone as far as we can go with this, so I am going to sign off from here. Thanks for the discussion, particularly to Tina.

Here are my closing thoughts.

My point is *not* that SNCC understood the possibilities available to them, but rather the opposite; they misunderstood and could only subsequently posture. My point is that anybody who thinks SNCC was on the cusp of actual mass politics is missing something important.

It is the more conservative Rustin who better understood the historic possibilities, and who conceivably might have intensified the Civil Rights movement (but of course failed all the same). This should be shocking to the radical US Left!

I keep wondering what purpose it serves to simply roll all these positions into a common anti-hegemonic front? What happens when you erase the substance of these political and ideological difference? What gets lost when you paint a picture whereby the only substantive difference become the "simple" dynamic between hegemony and "people power"?

This is where our positions differ substantially.

I think that only by looking at this history critically can a strategy for the present be located. I *do not* think a strategy for the present exists. I think backing Obama because he is black is evidence of the legacy of not digesting this history properly. It reveals a barren political landscape which anyone on the Left should sniff out as punching well below the horizon of what is possible.

All I can honestly pull from your article is that by re-doubling the dichotomy between hegemony and anti-hegemony we can somehow inspire the resolve to finally break the back of the backlash. After all, in the article there is no discussion about political differences from Bacon to Obama. If the article is a critique, it is exclusively of white supremacists, and *not* about the inability to generate political forms to transform and overcome the mass movements from the Right.

While we agree that all moves today come from the Right, I insist this is a rotten state of affairs and look to the critiques SNCC and Baldwin by Rustin and Cruise to find a point to reignite an *independent black* politics from the Left (never once mistaking the Obama Presidency as somehow anything but the establishment). You never really address these critiques (and I have cited a number). You only point out that white supremacist build false oppositions and that Rustin and Cruise's strategies, if followed, would have failed. Clearly the former is not true (in the situations I am raising), and the latter is debatable. My point is that the debate *should take place* and not be expediently liquidated in the name of a dubious anti-racist solidarity. The possibilities for the present depend on it.

These are two different approaches.

Andony Melathopoulos said...

One last point on idealism = Left and reaction = Right. Left and Right cannot be characterized by this dichotomy. The Left should strive *to not be* idealistic. Rather it must push to uncover the ways to *actually* and *concretely* overcome existing conditions... or as C Wright Mills urged the 1960s New Left to be "realistic in our utopianism." It means reading the possibilities in existing society and realizing them through mass organization. It involves the imagination, but is not simply a product of it. It is a political judgement of possibilities.

Idealism that has no grounding in the present (essentially a moral position), cannot not see the possibilities for change so can only end up either posturing a revolution that is impossible (SNCC, Panthers, the Revolutionary Union Movement, all of who have largely been made irrelevant by subsequent history) or saying revolution is largely unnecessary.

In other words, it is the Right.

This is *precisely* Cruise's critique of Baldwin when he fails respond to the white liberal intellectuals challenge of where radical reconstruction would come from. Baldwin's inability to answer is what Cruise is trying to draw your attention to; it is idealism with only a tenuous connection to a political reality.

"The leap into the future, clean over the conditions of the present, lands in the past".
- T. Adorno, Imaginative Excesses, 1951

Thanks again for hosting this discussion.

Tina said...

I appreciated the dialogue as well Andony. while we can agree that we must be "reading the possibilities in existing society and realizing them through mass organization" and we must also not confuse Obama's presidency as anything but establishment (see my reply to Tavis G)...where i guess we will have to agree to disagree is the effectiveness of SNCC, BPP etc as models...as i believe that they were not as often framed (as romanticized visions of revolutionaries as they left tends to do at times), but were organizations firmly planted in reality and more importantly American law, which is why they were considered a great threat..they were actually not black separatists at all, but firmly rooted in "American political reality"...drawing heavily on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...thanks again for the dialogue :-)

the man said...

this article is awesome , and everybodys view from what i see is on point . must I say this to reckon is to understand what the real agenda is , in order to do that we must research and recreate better solutions for ourselves. As we look at Obama he is put in a situation the will have him feeling like JFk, and if he trys to press the issue will be respected in a coffin . please understand where im coming from . it is proven that the top elite is the power at hand , and alllll are white . most of them would love to have a race of nothing but blonde hair blue eye people. theres a book that shows that this new world order has been going on for hundreds of years , and learned how to move ahead of the world to counteract movements that would change the world .

Anonymous said...

We do undestand that our economic issues came from our previous president? The current president is trying to clean up and fix the issues that were created before he was elected. If our president was would he have to try as hard as President Obama, i dont think so. Come on people use common sense of ignorance.

jairo1992 said...

Is racial hostility increasing? I don’t think so. I believe that instead of racial hostility increasing, its just becoming more apparent how much it still exist in today’s world. Racial hostility has always existed but many people just accompany it with the days of slavery and lynching. And refuse to see how it present it still is today but in different forms such as uneven distribution of resources and unequal job opportunity.
Obama victory is mostly symbolic but it’s a step in the right direction. It has shown that this generation is more open to a change in the norm.

Tina said...

@jairo1992 - thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. You make a good point that racial hostility is not increasing, just maybe becoming more apparent. And I agree that Obama's victory was mostly symbolic but is still significant.