Featured Image: black radical Trinidadian thinker, CLR James
By BO Editorial Collective
CHAPTER 6 of the BLACK AGENDA on black socialism, which is inspired by the ideas of black consciousness, calls for a total overhaul of the anti-black system – while centralizing black interests, experiences and aspirations – and replacing it with a system that is fully responsive to black needs. Please read, analyze, internalize and engage. Send your questions, comments, feedback, etcetera to the following email address: [email protected]
One of the key objectives of the BLACK AGENDA is to strive towards a fully responsive decolonised, black first, socialist society that builds and maintains a revolutionary culture with an internationalist outlook, whilst centering black experiences and desires.
The basic program of the BLACK AGENDA is the destruction of white supremacy and its guardians (‘black colonialism’) via any means necessary and the installation of a socialist system that responds to the total needs of blacks. To this end the BLACK AGENDA links all other people’s struggles to the land struggle. The return of the land which will translate into the seizure of power by the black majority is the first step towards ending racism. A new political dispensation must, out of necessity, be directed at returning power to the people through their direct participation in decision making and the economy. Not as workers but as real owners and agents of change.
This is an idea that can be expressed as Black Socialism, taken from the ideas of Black Consciousness which centralise the interests of blacks and undermines the oppressive and exploitative logic of capitalism at the same time. There are, incidentally, examples in the contemporary era of how natural resources can be used to benefit the poor of a country, not as workers but as shareholders in the wealth generated. Where the government doesn’t become the “boss” on behalf of the masses. Right now we know that the ANC government is a bad boss. Workers in the public sector are badly paid and badly treated. We can expect worse for those who work in state owned mines. We also already know that State Owned Enterprises do not serve the people, and any nationalisation under the ANC would lead to a disaster for the poor. So it must be said; YES, to nationalisaiton and socialisation of the means of production, but not under the ANC’s anti-black rule.
Some of the most successful examples of economic democracy are found in countries where the wealth of the nation is in public, but accountable hands. Saliem Fakier shows how in Alaska, which may be a little unlike SA due to its size, the principle of using national wealth for the benefit of the people has been implemented.
In Alaska there is a public fund that democratically controls the nation’s wealth; after all the key social goods are allocated, residents are also paid a dividend in cash. South Africa is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of mineral resources. We could solve our poverty challenges overnight under a people’s democracy that maximizes people’s participation and the democratisation of the economy.
These insights point to Black Socialism. The citizens of the country need to benefit directly from the economic wealth. Participation should not be restricted to elections but there must be democracy in all areas of life. With technological advancements, mass popular participation should be possible at a reduced cost. All major decisions of the nation must be subject to such popular plebiscite.
Through Black Socialism BLACK AGENDA envisions the eradication of racism ultimately. The dictatorship of blacks, as the new revolutionary state form, must do all it can to effectively eradicate racism which in turn cannot be abolished at one go. In this regard in order to eradicate racism it is necessary:
– Firstly, to overthrow the entire neo-liberal system (including its guardians, the ANC). This part of our task is still to be accomplished, but it is only a part, and moreover, not the most difficult part.
– Secondly, to understand that neo-liberalism is a function of white supremacy and by extension sees no class or gender distinctions in the black people. It engages all blacks on the level of slavery. This task of overthrowing the neo-liberal system is not an easy one and will, out of, necessity take a long time. It can only be solved by the reconstruction of the whole social, political, cultural and economic being of society. To this end it must occur by a transition from individual, disunited, petty commodity production and organization of society to a large-scale, collective ownership production and reorganization of society. This transition must, out of necessity, be extremely protracted. In this regard harsh administrative and legislative measures must be guarded against. Acceleration of the process should only be allowed via granting such assistance to the people, such as in the case of farming, that will enable them to reform or advance radically the whole farming method(s).
Under neo-liberalism and neo-colonialism (and by extension white supremacy) blacks are the oppressed majority – a majority that is deprived of the means of production of which land is central. A majority who stands directly opposed to this racist capitalist system, and therefore the only ones capable of bringing about the necessary encounter between white racism and black oppression. Upon overthrowing the white supremacist state and seizing political power, the dictatorship of blacks will become the new state form. In this regard it will wield state power; it will administer control over the means of production which, in the first place, must be socialised; it will engage and guide the vacillating and backward elements of society towards a revolutionary end, and; it will employ the necessary pressure on the exploiters so that they will not emerge again as an aggressive force so as to liquidate the gains of the revolution and prepare the road for racist capitalist restoration. These are specific crucial tasks of the race struggle – tasks which the black majority could previously not have set for themselves.
The entire white supremacist system, cannot disappear all at once under the dictatorship of blacks. While they may be smashed nationally, the struggle in this regard will still have to be linked up to the struggle to destroy international capital. To this end, their international base (of which the neo-liberal system is a branch) in the form of international capital will also have to be liquidated. For some unspecified period of time they will still retain certain means of production in part, they will still have money, they will still have layers and networks of political connections. Once defeated, their resolve for resistance against the victorious vanguard of the black majority is likely to grow aggressively.
The neo-liberal state administration gives the oppressors and exploiters an advantage and a very great superiority during the pre-revolutionary stage so that their excessive benefits and huge stakes are disproportionate to their small numerical proportion of the entire population. This is likely to continue for some time during the dictatorship of blacks via a Black First State. To think otherwise is to belabor under reformist delusions.
In relation to the vacillating and backward elements and sections of society – the dictatorship of blacks must strive to establish its influence over it so as to guide and develop it. Such is the task of the dictatorship of blacks – giving the necessary leadership to the vacillating and the backward!
The liberal idea that the transition to socialism is realisable “by means of democracy” in general has clear anti-black outcomes as it suggests the capitalist lie that “democracy” is absolute and above white racism. It must be pointed out that democracy is historically destined to transition into an entirely new phase under the dictatorship of blacks and to this end the race struggle rises to a higher level of redress. In this context the dictatorship of blacks will employ itself politically as follows: it will apply a democracy over the oppressed black majority and a dictatorship over the exploitative white minority until a state of equilibrium is attained.
To talk of transitioning to socialism via democracy in general thrusts the struggle in a trajectory that shapes notions of freedom, equality etcetera in racist capitalist relations. Consequently, to attempt to address the concrete problems of the dictatorship of blacks by such democratic generalities which is devoid of the dictatorship function is tantamount to accepting the politics of racial capitalism.
The concept of equality or freedom becomes a fiction if it does not translate into the eradication of racism. There is a clear distinction between the concepts of bourgeois-democracy and equality as a socialist concept. To this end it follows that by overthrowing the neo-liberal system the dictatorship of blacks takes the most significant step towards the destruction of racism. To bring the process to finality the dictatorship of blacks must continue the struggle by employing state power to exercise democracy and dictatorship as the context may require, until racism is no more and true black socialism prevails!
On the most basic level, BLACK AGENDA sees black socialism as a society dedicated to putting the interests of the black majority first. The basic means by which white society produces its wealth under racial capitalism – black bodies, land, factories, mines and farms – are transferred via a revolutionary state from private to black first public ownership, and exploitation is in the main thus eliminated. Black socialism unleashes the fury and innovation of the black majority, who are capable of great development when not gripped by the stranglehold of an oppressive, exploitative anti-black system.
On The Question of Taking Power so as to Build Society Along Black Socialist Lines:
The question now becomes how do we get to this new societal transformation where politics serve the people and not private interests? These same questions have confronted all revolutionaries over the ages. Some people even now hold the view that it is better to disregard politics totally, to simply engage in community development programs, to offer extra classes to assist matriculants, to start food gardens, collect money for school shoes or to use stokvels to try answer some of the problems of society. The idea of not confronting the state and trying to find solutions outside of this structure is noble but could never solve the societal developmental challenges at the scale needed in SA. There is no known example in history where charity, NGOs and community development projects outside state initiatives have ever solved societal problems. But even if they did, our country is endowed with massive natural resources which, if used in the interest of the people, could wipe poverty out overnight. But the current model of politics and economics favoured by the ANC alliance is not designed to serve the people or end capitalist exploitation.
Societal development, maximizing of liberties of individuals and building happy secured communities are only possible when the state is forced to stop acting in the interest of the elite. In other words, when the state is made non-statal so that it serves the people. The question we should expect is this, where has this ever happened? Ironically, the apartheid state served white people splendidly! State power was directed totally to the service of white interests. The current South African landscape of wealth distribution is a direct outcome of the apartheid state process. We are not suggesting impoverishing or oppressing anyone, but to merely point out the potential within the state. Today there are very promising examples of people’s democracies such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Nepal. These countries are showing us that state power can be used to advance the interests of the people. Perhaps two great examples for us would be Haiti under Jean Aristide and Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara. The contemporary examples of Iceland (kicking out politicians from the constitution making process and going against monetary policy orthodoxies) and Estonia (using cell phone technology for voting) also come to mind as instances of people taking power and using it in their interests. There is a need to demystify the state.
The great Russian thinker and revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was confronted with the same questions and his advice to his comrades was that the “real task” of a revolutionary movement or party was NOT to, “set up projects for the transformations of society [community development], not to preach sermons to the capitalists and their admirers about improving the position of the workers, not the instigation of conspiracies, but the organization of class struggle and the carrying on of this struggle, the final aim of which is the seizure of political power”.
We have already said power has to be seized first from the current political and economic elite. How? By any means necessary. By “ballot or by bullet”, as Malcolm X said. The people’s democracies mentioned above were won on the streets first and the electoral process was only a confirmation of the power already in the people’s hands. In power, the organs of the people continued the battle and didn’t stop to become politicians and steal from the people.
The veteran radical thinker C. R. L James, lamented how many revolutionary moments where squandered by blacks historically because of a lack of understanding the question of power. He lamented for instance how Walter Rodney was easily killed at a crucial moment in the Caribbean revolution. We could say the same about Malcolm X and Steve Biko. Speaking to an audience at the first commemoration of the assassination of Walter Rodney, C.L.R. James told his audience that;
“Now I come to something more difficult. What did Walter not know? Walter had not studied the taking of power. I am going to emphasize that because you have to do that. The taking of power has to become the common discussion among the Caribbean people and intellectuals so that all will know it; so that, as young people grow up and develop and begin to look at history, they begin to see not only what has been done to us, but what we have done, what we have achieved, and what we have to do. You begin to talk and to think about the taking of power, because that is what faces you now. I am serious about it. Some of you may think I am too serious about it. Let that be. History will decide.”
When we talk about taking power today we must necessarily factor in the question of its immediate alternation so that it serves the people. It’s no longer a matter of taking power and managing affairs as before. The ANC took power but only to preserve power and thereby gave apartheid a new legitimacy under new management. Power has to be taken and subverted almost at the same time. This is the invitation of forcing the state to operate in a non-statal fashion. There is no other route to massive, historical transformation of society which is not driven at the level of a new constituted power. This is the same warning CRL James made in the 80s and, this question remains today. Take power! But we must always ask for who? And how are the people going to partake in its exercise as a new power for the people!
This is important because a moment like the Egyptian uprising could present itself to us at any time. But would we, like the beautiful children of Egypt, shake the great tree of liberty only to abandon its healthy fruits to the same who stole them from the people in the first place? The Egyptian revolution was lost the moment Mubarak left and the forces of change didn’t advance immediately to announce a new society themselves. They were not ready, not schooled in the art of revolution and power and most importantly didn’t know that “revolution comes like a thief in the night”, as Karl Marx once said. This means we must be organized, disciplined and ready to take command of the hand of history. Such good fortunes come once in 100 years.
The two million combatants at Freedom Square in Cairo should have immediately instituted a people’s democracy in Egypt and not left power to the so-called experts and the army. They should have arrested Mubarak and his cronies, released all political prisoners, declared that the wealth belongs to the people and set up people’s assemblies for people’s democracy and democratic management of the wealth of the country. They should have ended the oppression of women and denounced religious and cultural justifications of the oppression of women. Two million people at that square should have been the people’s assembly and encouraged similar assemblies throughout society to institute a popular democracy!
But we must also expect that maybe no big bang will occur. It will not be like Egypt but more normal drama-less yet profound change. Our people are already abandoning the ruling party in search of an alternative. It’s a crying shame that so many of them have resorted to voting for the racist Democratic Alliance (DA) and the ANC outside the ANC the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).