Black Liberation Army Study Guide (First Two Sections)
- These are the first two (of eleven) sections in the Black Liberation Army study guide, covering the Black Nation and the Revolutionary Black Lumpen Proletariat.
- Black Nation
- Part I: The Nature Of Black Revolution
- Part II: Whither New Africa?
- Part III: Strategy
- Nation Building — The Black (New African) Communes
- The Nature Of Alienation
- Voluntary Poverty
- The Black Commune
- Voluntary Povery And The Black Guerrilla
- Part IV: Proletariat Revolution — No!
- The Revolutionary Black Lumpen Proletariat
Part I: The Nature Of Black Revolution
As Black Revolutionaries we recognize the existence of the Black Nation in diaspora. That is to say we hold that the tens of millions of Black people scattered throughout the amerikkkan industrial centers constitute an oppressed nation, a colony. We seek the liberation of that colony — as a nation, and not as a mere class or racial minority. In other words, we reject Proletarian Revolution in the generally accepted sense of the term, and opt for Black Revolution.
For the Black Nation we boldly seek a land base in which our people can live in peace, brother/sisterhood, and human dignity. Upon this land we would cut ourselves aloose, in so far as it is possible, from all ties with capitalism, and establish a human society, a system of socialism in which the means of production are owned by the whole people; where there is equitable distribution of wealth, and the spiritual and intellectual development of no person suffers because of economic want or deprivation of human rights.
We identify the enemies of the Black Nation — not as white people per se, but as the Monopoly capitalist class and its agents — be they black or white. While we fully acknowledge the uniqueness of the black soul, and are aware of its beauty and latent power, and are convinced that its creativity has only barely been scratched — and to some extent we concede that many of us harbor a certain amount of black chauvinism, yet we are not reverse racist. We do not seek to deny the essential humanity of other races, nor seek to exploit or oppress, or necessarily exclude other races. if there are those among other races, such as John Brown, the S.L.A., the Weather people, Chicanos or whomsoever, who can grasp our vision of a human nation with human principles, and who are willing to pay the blood sacrifices required, and suffer along with us the agonies and ecstacies of Nation building — then we hold they should/shall be welcomed into the Black Nation with open arms: with full citizenship, and equal rights in every respect. The Black Nation to be — shall be founded on human principles. We have suffered, and the world has suffered enough inhumanities of man against man and race against race. We will have none of it.
Not so with our class enemy. The differences between the black masses and the bourgeois class has an economic base that is wholly irreconcilable. It is the greed and unscrupulous drive for profits of this class in one or another of its several forms (chattel slavery, wage slavery, etc.) which lies behind our three centuries of travail. At their hands we have suffered brutal and harsh oppression beyond the ken of civilized imagination. Stripped utterly of human status, we were reduced to the level of animals with no more rights than a draft horse. At the whim of our bourgeois masters we were whipped, raped, maimed, murdered, denied family ties and all human development. Similar oppression continues even today in direct and indirect forms. Behind the guise of white chauvinism infested in an entire nation of 200 million white workers the dehumanizing conditions yet exist — in the form of denial of opportunity and democratic rights. The social conditions imposed upon us yet heap untold misery upon our people. Genocide, spiritually and physically, continues systematically and premeditatedly — black on black crime, killer cops, last hired and first fired. All this and more can be traced ultimately to the imperatives of the bourgeois systems of money-making. These contradictions are irreconcilable and insoluble within the context of the system. We shall break aloose from the system, nor allow bourgeosidom to infest and infiltrate the black ranks; for it is a humanly alien creed, exploitative, deceitful, selfish, devisive. We shall persecute the class enemy ruthlessly, within and without... root and branch.
We clearly perceive that to tear the Black Nation away from bourgeois-racist amerikkka entails a war and blood letting of such magnitude the likes of which these shores have not witnessed for more than a hundred years. But such a war is inevitable considering our only other alternative is continued oppression and slavery. It is as the righteous comrade John Brown once stated: "This guilty land shall not repent except by blood." Undoubtedly, much of the blood will be black blood. Thousands of us shall die. Perhaps tens of thousands. Millions of us will be imprisoned, incarcerated, interned. Families will be dislocated, torn away from loved ones, we will be tortured, raped and murdered. But we will fight on and we will win.
We will win because, among other things, we have a unique advantage which no other enemy of the amerikkkan ruling class has ever had. Although the amerikkkan ruling class sent armies and murder to whatever peoples and nations that have opposed their greedy aspirations, none of these nations and peoples have been able to send troops and murder back to the amerikkkan ruling class. Hence being scattered throughout the belly of the beast, oppressive as it is has this one advantage — we have access to his entrails, his vital organs. And we shall take full advantage of this access. We shall strike boldly, ruthlessly, relentlessly. For it is War! War without terms!
There will be no honorable terms in this war, no "international rules." We will not be honored with the recognition of soldiers of a nation recognized and accepted in the world community of nations. We can be assured they will use everything in their considerable power to block such international recognition. They will label us as criminals and terrorists — outside the well of protection of humane rules. Nor shall we ask them for any quarter, though from time to time we may put on a show of demanding they abide by their own lofty proclamations of justice, due process, etc. But such shows will be tactics to exuose their true beastly nature. We know what to expect before hand. These are the same people who murder our babies in church. KKK, CIA, they're all the same. Just like the CIA went through the mafia to strike at the Premier of Cuba, likewise they used KKK contacts to hit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. CIA, KKK, Cosa Nostra, Fascism, all these kindred creeds have exploitation and oppression of peoples at their core and they're all interlocked. Hence, if there perchance are those who are yet blinded by bourgeois propaganda and think the monopoly capitalist oligarchy is somehow a nobler breed of pit viper — throw it out of your minds. But again we reiterate that the enemy is the bourgeois ruling class and its agents and lackeys — and not the white workers. We must take great care in establishing this point, and in doing so contribute to the isolation of the enemy and possibly cut him off from his base of support among the white working class. Hopefully, we may cause a nation-wide division among them on a par with the division which occurred during the Vietnam War. We can only do this by consistently and clearly avoiding brushes with the white working class, and heighten the contrast by delivering devastating blows to the bourgeoisie. Anything we do to the bourgeoisie will be fair.
Our strategy in winning independence and separation is, simply stated, the strategy of Moses. To so plague and afflict the capitalist pharoah class — that they will be glad to let our people go. Black revolution is a colonial question which seeks not the destruction of the bourgeoisie as a class, nor to establish socialism in amerikkka, but has the limited objective of securing liberation of the black colony through convincing the capitalist oligarchy that, although the loss of the colony is a fundamental set-back, that with the demands for massive reparations and all, it would yet be to their greater advantage to surrender this part of their empire. that hopefully they may salvage the remainder.
That being the case we have the strategic advantage of not advocating the destruction of amerlkkka or the overthrow of the government thereby incensing the blind patriotism of 200 million apolitical, apathetic white workkkers. The bourgeois leaders will not be able to raise the cry that they are fighting to "save democracy," restore "liberty," and "equality," etc. They can only raise the tired old cry of "law 'n order."
The question then is how much pain must be inflicted or — will the ruling oligarchy ever surrender the black colony: will they hold on to it at all cost? In our estimation the black liberation, skillfully fought, can inflict such strategic losses so us to threaten the loss of the entire empire. We pose no direct threat to the multi-multi-billion dollar international holdings of the bourgeoisie; the copper holdings in Chile, the oil holdings in the Middle East, the rubber, gold, diamonds, uranium, lead, dianomite, throium, tungsten, and endless other multi-billion dollar holdings which make up their African and Third World imperialist empire. But should we inflict strategic blows at the various key power and industrial centers, blow up Wall Street, the Pentagon, defense plants? The capitalist ruling class cannot fight a war at home and at the same time maintain their overseas empire. Things would become pretty much out of joint for the pigs. The contradictions would all sharpen and accelerate their pace of development. Bourgeois priorities would become a jumble, their judgment distorted, their impulses erratic, and confusion would reign. Should we sustain such a struggle for just a few years the beast would be so crippled that the struggles of the Third World nations to liberate themselves would be almost assured victory, and the whole international system would collapse in upon them. The rise of the black amerikan in serious and sustained warfare with the capitalist oppressor would signal the rise of the world's masses in revolution — The spark that would set the world on fire.
Urban guerrilla warfare may not have been successful as it has been applied in South America in attempts to destroy bourgeois regimes and establish socialism. It is uniquely suited, however, for our own unique colonial situation, i.e., a colony in the belly of the beast. If mere riots and social disorder will gain significant concessions, indications are that skillfully applied urban guerilla warfare on the same scale has a high chance of succeeding.
Part II: Whither New Africa?
If during the course of our struggle we serve as a catalyst that will arouse the white workers into putting an end to the rule of monopoly capital, and establishing a socialist America, our problem may be somewhat simplified. Under socialism integration into America becomes a viable alternative. We can possibly accept the definition of "black proletariat," and be assured that the plight of our people will be qualitatively changed within the context of a socialist America. Self-determination in the form of community control of political, economical, and social institutions will have meaning.
But should our struggle fail to ignite the proletariat revolution in amerikkka — yet succeed in winning independence for the Black Colony; that is to say, force assent of the bourgeois oligarchy to separate and set-up our nation, the question remains — where to locate the new Black Nation?
The black-belt south (the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, S.Carolina. So-called black-belt because of the color of the fertile soil, not because of the color of the people), has currently been the subject of much controversy on the left concerning the existence of the Black Nation. [See Part IV of this paper, "Proletariat Revolution — No!"]
The Republic of New Africa has already initiated a program to reclaim these lands which at one time contained a majority black population. They have done considerable research in the legitimizing of this claim: have begun cooperative land development projects, and have called for a national black plebiscite to gain the approval and recognition of the black colony. Indications are that the black masses would do wall to get behind this movement with the full weight of our revolutionary thrust.
On the other hand, these lands do not hold any particular nostalgia for us as a "national homeland." Also to make the imperialist surrender these lands may be too much for the imperialist themselves to handle. While they substantially control the institutions of power, and the opinion shaping machinery, yet if we make it sufficiently hot for them to seek a solution in keeping with our demands, the masses of white workers who live in this area, and those who necessarily have to be "dispossessed" are likely to raise such strenuous and violent objections that the oligarchy may not be able to persuade them to comply, or overcome their opposition. In spite of this possibility we should not relinquish our claim to these lands because it is a starting point with considerable legitimacy and moral justification.
It may be that we have other more viable alternatives, however. Marcus Garvey, in his "back-to-Africa" movement of the 20's, had planned to petition the League of Nations to turn over one of the forcer Germany colonies, either Tanzania, or Southwest Africa (Namibia) to the National Negro Improvement Association for the relocation of the Black Colony. Such an alternative presents its own set of problems, and may not be at all practical today, yet we submit it deserves careful and detailed consideration. Tanzania, of course, has become an independent nation on its own so it is therefore out of the question. Namibia is another matter.
Namibia has an-area of 317,817 square miles. That is a land area 60 thousand square miles larger than Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and S. Carolina combined. Yet it has a population total of less than a million people. It is currently under the bootheel of South Afrikkka which claims it as a "protectorate." But the United Nations has ordered South Afrikkka out of Namibia, and South Afrikkka has refused to comply. Hence the Namibians are waging armed struggle under the leadership of the Southwest African People's Organization (SWAPO).
Perhaps investigation will reveal that for some reason or another Namibia may not be able to economically accomodate 20 or 25 million black americanized people. And certainly we would have to seek an agreement with SWAPO and other black political/military organs which are waging the struggle there. Such an act must necessarily include some type of "affirmative action" guarantees in respect to the indigenous people to insure that another class system does not arise on their backs such as occurred in Liberia.
The South Afrikkkans, on the other hand, with their amerikkkan imperialist allies, Gulf Oil, et al., underwriting investments and enterprises in Namibia — they are likely to have heart palpitations at the thought of 25 million angry, highly sophisticated blacks being deposited at their doorstep. But if we win an agreement with SWAPO, and approval of the U.N., and present sufficient threat to the amerikkkan empire, then opposition or not — South Afrikkka is in trouble.
But, and again, the fact remains that whether we choose the black-belt south, Namibia, or wherever, very little will be accomplished until we have soundly rebuked the monopoly capitalist class.
Part III: Strategy
Nation Building — The Black (New African) Communes
The Black Nation must first be built in diaspora. That is, through social practice convert the hearts and minds of the fractured and scattered Black colony into one heart and one mind.
This is a major task of the Black Liberation Movement. It involves the questions of unity, re-education, and winning mass committment to the one aim of nation building. The key is to overcome alienation. General human alienation and black-self alienation. General human alienation is expressed in the dog-eat-dog, individualistic and selfish creeds that have been imbued in us. Black-self alienation is expressed in the lack of national confidence, or faith in black ability. There are, in fact, a great many of our people who yet question whether black people are capable of high and noble motivation in their relations with one another. Other than the imperialist guns, it is mass alienation that stands as the major obstacle to Black Liberation.
We must overcome the alienation and apathy of the 25-30 million black people, and mere preaching, propagandizing, and singing hit tunes about unity will not do it. Such things are valuable and certainly have their place, but it was not mere preaching and propagandizing that imbued us with black-self alienation, but rather it was social practice in racist amerikkka. Therefore, it is in the area of actual social practice that the solution must be sought. We must put forth a program of action that will involve the black masses directly and consistently, man, woman and child and older people in unalienated relations with one-another. To establish black communes each under the single banner of The New Black Nation, or "New Africa" or whatever we choose to name it. Selfless love is the essence of unalienated relations. Each enclave, each commune a brick in the edifice of the new nation. Black love, selfless love, love without contradiction — revolutionary love is the rock upon which we found our house — and the gates of hell shall not prevail.
Though in establishing the black commune, and along with it the black cultural strategy, we must be careful we move forward and not backward. Adopting African names, and wearing African garb is well and good in that it denotes a new consciousness, re-claims the black identity, and symbolises a rejection of the oppressors culture. But we should keep in mind that culture is established in the process of revolution also. The heroes/heroines that arise during this period, Become national heroes/heroine, for all the time. The dates of memorable occurrences become holidays; the acts and practices which are taken up by the people during the course of struggle are later instituted as ritual or national custom. In short, there is no need to go back in African history to import a culture, but rather our cultural revolution need only follow the course outlined by the imperatives of our struggle.
And so the imperative of our struggle is to overcome human and black-self alienation. Therefore, to obtain a clearer idea of what direction our cultural thrust must take let us briefly examine the nature of alienation.
The Nature Of Alienation
In the first place, mass social alienation or human alienation of any historical epoch, be it slave, feudal, or capitalist society stems from alienated labor. When in the process of production the product of labor is taken from the laborer and turned against him in that it goes to pay for the very machinery and organs of state and society which are oppressing him. Such organs include prisons, police, education (indoctrination) and media (propaganda) systems and so forth. The alienation of labor does not stop at these objective manifestations but is further transfoimed subjectively into alienation of human self, i.e., human consciousness and qualities become stunted and/or warped. Instead of mass intelligence and reason we have mass ignorance. Instead of discipline we have mass apathy which stems from essential powerlessness. Instead of love, we have hatred and resentment, instead of consideration of one's fellows — selfishness, instead of collectivism, individualism.
Karl Marx in analysing the effects of alienated labor upon the masses states thusly:
As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions — eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.— Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, edited by Dirk J. Struik (Int. Pub.) p. 111
On the other hand, capitalist commodity production, in addition to all the classic forms of alienation mentioned above, also has its own peculiarly developed variety of alienation — rabid, vicious, predatory consumerism! Again Marx:
The increase in the quantity of objects is accompanied by an extention of the realm of the alien powers to which man is subjected, and every new product represents a new possibility of mutual swindling and mutual plundering. Man becomes ever poorer as man, his need for money becomes ever greater if he wants to overpower hostile being....— Ibid., p. 147
In its greed and unbridled drive for profits the bourgeoisie has created a world in which, unless they receive their profits there will be no rewarding human relations, no art, no education, no edification of the human personality. Unles the capitalist gets his off the top the individual is destined to live a grim, insecure, emasculated existence, rift with heartbreak, misery and destitution.
Yet, in its unceasing increase "in the quantity of objects," capitalism has at least generated a contradiction that we may take advantage of. In its unbridled drive for markets and profits capitalist production has far outstripped the simple needs of an unalienated selfless people. It has created in the consciousness of the masses a vast array of artificial wants and needs — consumerism! To be greedy, avaricious, selfish, wasteful people programmed like restless animals, to translate all nervous energy into insatiable appetite. To consume — consume — consume. A people who would devour the earth, and failing that turn to devour each other. The contradiction is this: in a land of plenty — this is a false consciousness, a "grafted mentality" as it is said.
Socialist revolution is diametrically opposed to this type of gross, animalistic materialism (not to be confused with philosophic materialism); and embraces a humanism so moral that it borders on the religious. Nor can this tendency in world socialism be attributed to either a quirk of prudency on the part of revolutionary leaders, nor to the claimed inability of socialist economies to produce. Cuba, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, and certainly the Peoples Republic of China — all recognize that truly human human relations is what the revolution is about in the first place. The aim is not only to tale over capitalist political and economic power, but to destroy in its entirety the whole vicious anti-people, money oriented culture. Socialist revolution recognizes the priority economic relations has on all other human relations, hence great pains are taken to establish that every individual in socialist society is secure in material necessities. Then it goes further and frees human relations of the soul-warping influences of the profit motive by ordering a social super-structure/culture in which love, consideration of others may flourish; where one's human dignity is respected regardless of one's lack of material resources. Similarly, we in the Black Liberation Movement must begin to take cognizance of this aspect of the struggle. To do so is not premature, but is of the most pressing historical imperatives:
... we are faced with two choices: to continue as we have done for forty years fanning our pamphlets against the hurricane, or starting to build a new revolutionary culture that we will be able to turn on the old culture."— George Jackson, Blood In My Eye
And those last half dozen words are highly important: a revolutionary culture that we will be able to turn on the old culture. Hitherto Black Cultural Nationalists, perceiving the need of a new culture, have for the most part only succeeded in transplanting and transforming bourgeois values into a black mode. The wearing of the latest African fashions, Afro cosmetics, and artifacts, lavish African style weddings and so forth, did little more than take the same malignant consumerism and paint it in black face. The system quickly absorbed Black cultural nationalism and found a niche for it within the mainstream of predatory bourgeois economics. Black Cultural Nationalism, rather than a counter-culture, became another sub-culture where all the viciousness of the profit motive held full sway.
What is needed is a revolutionary Black Cultural movement which reverses the values rather than paints over them. Such a revolutionary culture must necessarily be rooted in voluntary poverty and collectivism.
The system depends upon a rapid turnover in commodities and consumer goods. They build automobiles, and like items designed to come apart within a specific number of years, it bombards the public psyche with commercials, and parades "middle class affluence" all to promote and develop artificial needs in the people. It changes style rapidly in everything from cars and clothes, to furniture and appliances; inducing people to buy long long before the goods they own have lost their utility. It promotes a "keep-up-with-the-jones'," "rat-race" mentality, with the reward of status for those who keep up and the punishment of ridicule and lost of fact for those who fall behind. One of our first jobs then, is to induce the tens of millions of black partisans to fall behind — and glory in it!
The cynic reads what we propose here and doubtless will say its against "human nature." When what he will most nearly mean is that it is against animal nature; and what he will actually be doing is considering us as niggers rather than black men/women. For what we propose here is a human nature at its highest. Certainly there will be suffering, certainly there will be confusion, chaos, even death; for after all this is war. A just, uncompromising, nation-building peoples war.
Voluntary poverty! It is our task to create an atmosphere where a person need not have a dime in order to participate in society as a human being. An atmosphere where a person need not feel ashamed of his/her lack, nor feel she/he is offending his/her peers by not keeping up with the jones'; a society where there is no status associated with gaudy dress and shiny gadgets. Such psychology should be reversed and the more stitches on one's clothes should be held in the highest esteem.
People must be liberated from their lust for material goods. This is not to say, however, that a person should seek to live bare austere lives, but rather, with all the knowledge and skill at the finger tips of modern society, and all the technology and gadgets already in existence, it would appear that an individual can make with her/his own hands, from pieces of scraps if necessary, just about any luxury item one desires. Nor should any material thing be so valued that a person cannot simply give it away — without a qualm. For there must be a sharing on a vast scale, a sharing, not only of material things, but of knowledge, skills, and time itself. Christmas, for example, if it must be celebrated it should be done in such a way so as not to promote the aggrandizement of the exploiter.
Voluntary poverty immediately relieves tremendous pressure off the ghettos, where the young bloods, seeking to compensate their lack with a crow-bar and a pistol, incur a ceaseless war with the police and upon their neighbors. We must create a new spiritual world in the Black colonies in which people may have fulfilling and rewarding relationships, and develop their human potentials without money being the overriding factor.
The Black Commune
What is called for in this instance is a National Black Cadre along Marxist-Leninist lines, i.e., professional revolutionaries whose whole occupation is organizing people and articulating the contradictions of class society. Dedicated black men and black women who perceive the essential humanity of every victim; every wino, every prostitute, every so-called criminal, and seek to involve every black soul. Men and women who with skill, confidence, and unswerving dedication will "cast down their nets where they are, for the harvest is plenteous, but the laborers indeed are few."
Voluntary poverty is inseparable from commune building. A vast number of black people are locked into poverty in any regard. And people individualized and locked into poverty trying to eke out a living in an alienated world, often find him/herself sinking deeper and deeper into a lonely embittering existential existence. Voluntary poverty, however, as a way of life embraced and shared by a group of people, has proven itself a fulfilling life. Here the wants and needs of the individual are not sought in a private desperation but is the shared concern of all, and the force which exudes from such a collective polarization is of such a nature as to solve the individual needs of all.
The communes should be set up on these three principles: 1) economic self-reliance/survival programs; 2) to humanize relations among the people; and 3) as a political base. In the Marxist-Leninist tradition commune building in this manner would be considered "base-building among the people." But in our application it is "Nation Building," for it is from the Black Communes that we may anticipate New Africa to spring.
The Black cadre, in an intense door to door campaign throughout the scattered colonies, organize groups of families, groups of cooperatives, farms, repair shops become a premium; auto repair, appliance repair, small motor repair, etc., tailor shops, carpenter shops, and the whole range of services required for the well being of the people — set up by the people themselves, and not by the cadre or some agency.
It is not in our best interest to set up profit making enterprises. We should avoid at all cost the money-dog priorities and keep "politics in command." The investment of commune funds into capitalist enterprise (stocks and bonds) should be wholly forbidden. Our communalism and survival programs are not the end we seek, but the means to an end. The setting up of petty commodity production should not be forbidden. Commune petty commodity production while distributed either at cost, free, or at minimal charge (though donations above price is fair), may not show a profit in the capitalist sense. But we can expect the surplus value created to far exceed that in a capitalist enterprise. That is because labor will be provided by volunteers, or wages paid at subsistence level only. In other words, the surplus value created in this manner, which in capitalist enterprise would be translated into profit for the owners, instead we again place at the disposal of the people. Periodic checks and audits should be made to be certain that no person is in position to take advantage of the largess or the commune or has slipped back into his/her degenerate bourgeois consciousness and is raking off the best of everything for him/herself and clique of favorites. While we cannot expect to carve out complete, or even partial economic independence with these measures, we can become sufficiently self-reliant to have a perceptible undermining affect upon the system of "free enterprise."
[part of the transcript is missing, including part 1) of the next list]
2) Establishing human human relations
Aside from its economic function, the New African Commune should serve as a base by which a whole counter-social-superstructure is erected. In this area we can achieve not only self-reliance but a large measure of independence as well. lt should be the business of the commune wherever possible to set up schools where real learning takes place; to promote street theaters, and peoples' art; to publish newsletters and otherwise keep the commune informed and up to date about current issues and events concerning New Africa. Legal services and medical services should be made available to its members. The communes tied together in a federation of neighborhood communes with a centralized office to coordinate barter between communes, and to implement other services of a joint nature should be undertaken. Government "poverty money" should not be accepted except on an individual level. For that matter each commune should have its expert in the field of welfare, unemployment, aid for dependent children, and so forth, and see that each person so qualified receives full benefits. Government grants to fund our collective programs, economic or social, has a corrupting effect, and "poverty pimping" should be avoided.
3) Political Base
Finally, of course, the New African Communes should serve as a political base where the issues and candidates are known, discussed, endorsed, criticized, and/or exposed. The cadre should organize political study classes in each commune if possible. On the local level, especially the political clout of the communes, will be a power to reckon with. And of course the communes are to serve as a launching pad for strikes, demonstrations, boycotts, and other left activism.
It is by such strategy we involve the whole people in the revolutionary process. By initiating a counter-culture revolution centered around the communes of New Africa we create a nationalist consciousness in concrete terms. At the same time our armed struggle will have definite aims, and wide support, and will not be conducted in an isolated, rootless way. We create the "new" man/woman, i.e., the New African. To paraphrase a remark once made by Karl Marx, we say — The Black Commune is the riddle of Black Liberation solved, and it knows itself to be that solution.
But a word of caution is due here. Various pacifist and activist sects have embraced the concept of voluntary poverty, and there is much to be learned from them. But for the most part they are small insignificant enclaves with moral persuasions and lacks revolutionary impact. Also many vanguard people unconsciously, and occasionally consciously, practice the basic principles of voluntary poverty to some extent, by automatically sharing their material wealth with other members of their organizations, or treating their organizations as communes. But in order for voluntary poverty to be a revolutionary factor it must be elevated to a mass level and be part of a whole liberation process and ongoing struggle; a process that includes mobilization of the masses, violence, political, underground, and above ground activities. The Black Nation in motion.
As a nation, once we win independence we can expect there will be a period wherein we must live austere and make great sacrifices. A period where we will be required to live frugally and labor hard. No matter how much reparations we may win, our greatest national resource will ever remain the labor power of our people. Hence we must expect to labor as an inspired people, and nor must we allow our frugality and austerity destroy or undermind our humanity. Our human relations and human dignity is enhanced by hard work as long as it is not alienated labor; as long as we eliminate class division and maintain people control of institutions of power.
Voluntary Povery And The Black Guerrilla
One last word. We as guerrillas are the warriors of the Black Nation. We are not ordinary black partisans. We are angry men/women — totally displeased... a hundred percent dissatisfied. We will not be bought off. There is not sufficient money in the world to buy us. We do not seek personal aggrandizement, though we expropriate a thousand banks. We are not satisfied with $600 dollar per month apartments. We have no desire for a wife, children, two cars, and a home in the suburbs. As long as black people are under the yoke of capitalist oppression, as long as black people lack control of the determining factors of their lives, we will not be satisfied with anything less than war. Comrade George speaks for us:
So, my friends, the terms have been established. That is the only way I will accept any more time in this life. I don't want to live any other way. I want to hide, run, and look over my shoulder. The only woman that I could ever accept is one who would be willing to live out of a flight bag, sleep in a coal car, eat milkweed, bloodroot, wild greens, dandelions, a rabbit, a handful of rice. She would have to be willing to run and work all night and watch all day. She would bathe when we could, change clothes when we could. She would own nothing, not solely because she loved me but because she loved the principle, the revolution, the people.— George Jackson, Soledad Brother
In practical terms we treat our individual cells as a commune (we tend to do this as an unconscious principle anyway), where the rades share their meager possessions. But the fact that we will be making innumerable expropriations against the system means hundreds of thousands of dollars will pass through our hands individually. This money is to support the struggle, and while we must use a portion of it to meet our own minimal daily needs, we must all consciously commit ourselves to the principles of voluntary poverty... lest some rade forget his calling. And of course if we, armed to the teeth and strapped like "Mexican bandits," have embraced voluntary poverty and are supplying the above ground movement with funds, it may possibly serve as a deterent to some bourgeois minded individual who might otherwise risk diverting the peoples' funds to his own selfish purpose.
Above all we must eschew the principles of the money-dog. Neither we nor the revolution need money so bad that we compromise our revolutionary principles. There are some so-called black nationalist sects, who, in pursuing a bourgeois ethic have gotten themselves in such a financial bind that they allow themselves to be utilized to funnel heroin into the black community. Such a practice is in direct opposition to everything they are supposed to stand for, and it displays a contempt for black people. Nothing intensifies and multiplies the contradictions of the colony like dope and they know it. Some day we may have to bring such so-called nationalist to a reckoning. Meanwhile, let us avoid such pitfalls ourselves.
Part IV: Proletariat Revolution — No!
We reject proletariat revolution, but not because, as some have proferred that a proletariat movement with a majority white proletariat in the forefront would be inherently racist. This is not valid grounds for rejection. Granted that a white proletariat may indeed harbor significant remnants of racism. But even so should the proletariat movement be successful and a socialist America established, then the material basis for race discrimination would be substantially removed. People ownership of the means of production means there would be full employment, hence the competition between black and white workers for available jobs would be removed. There would be fairer and wider distribution of wealth, the quality of life for the black masses would be raised qualitatively overnight — even with proletariat racism. But again we raise the question of proletariat racism only for the sake of argument and rebuttal. There is no certainty that proletariat racism, a remnant of degenerate bourgeois consciousness, could survive or be effective against the sharp and scientific dialectics of class struggle, particularly with black Marxist-Leninist awareness being what it is today.
No. We reject proletariat revolution on other grounds. And those other grounds are essentially this: that in the final analysis it is not revolutionary — but counter-revolutionary.
In the first place proletariat revolution seeks a complete defeat of the monopoly capitalist class, and to establish a socialist America. And it lacks a most fundamental ingredient — a radical proletariat.
...The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie."— Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto
The black worker, which comprises only about 10% of the amerikkkan proletariat class, it is true, is as radical as it can be (without necessarily being class conscious),
[part of the transcript is missing]
In other words seizing proletariat power in amerikkka is not the job of the black worker, and the Black Liberation Movement has no business trying.
Therefore, the orthodox Marxist-Leninist, i.e. the proletariatist lack a proletariat movement. if the proletariatists are going to become involved in an indepth peoples' movement that strikes at basic bourgeois institutions, it most necessarily must be a movement other than the "proletariat", i.e. white workers' movement. The Black Liberation movement is the most likely replacement. Here they find a people's struggle that is daily, hourly, and nationally embroiled in the embittering contradictions that lie at the base of the system.
That being the case, one would think they would concentrate their energies toward supporting — even joining the Black Liberation Movement; but no, instead we find a tremendous effort on the part of many proletariatists to convert the black revolution into the proletariat revolution. To that end, they must destroy/defeat Black Liberation as a colonial question, and keep it within the context framework of a native proletariat issue. To this end, we find the left engaged in a wide ranging and heated debate on Black Liberation and "The National Question." Or more specifically whether a Black Nation exists in the five southern states termed "the black-belt south," (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and S. Carolina). And if not, is there scientific validity to any such claim in the conceivably near future.
Every proletariat organization of note, black or white, has proferred position papers on the subject. Reams of paper and tons of rhetoric have been expended. Every paper uses as a starting point Stalin's definition of a nation, to wit:
A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people formed on the basis of common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.— Stalin, Marxism and the National Question
From there they generally go on to comment on the assessment of the Communist international in which they analyzed the situation of the black people in the south during the era which extends from the Civil War until about 1930, and in the light of that definition conferred upon these people, the status of "an oppressed nation." Since that time the trend of black migration to the urban industrial centers has taken its toll, and black people, it is acknowledged by all concerned, no longer constitute a majority in this area (except in a few counties in Mississippi); also the development of capitalist method of farming, and the breakdown of the sharecropper feudal system, dispossessed the people from the land, and they lost what little "economic cohesion" that existed for them. Hence some take the position that a Black Nation no longer exist in this area, while others attempt to cling in some fashion or another to the old Comintern concept. All of this argument is terribly enlightening as these Marxist-Leninists are at their scientific best, and the information and historical data they develop in the course of their arguments is invaluable — and recommended reading. But for all its absorbing interest, we must at the same time point out that it is an altogether false issue.
It was kind of funky at the onset. When the Communist International in 1928 first gauged the black question in the light of Stalin's definition and proclaimed a Black Nation — they did not do it with the thought in mind to promote Black Revolution, but rather to promote proletariat revolution. 1928, it may be recalled, was a period when the Marcus Garvey Black Nationalist movement was in its heyday, with phenomenal success of mobilizing the black masses. The communist party sought to undercut this movement. They sought to unite the Black Liberation Movement of that era with the proletariat revolution by co-opting the claim of Black Nationhood. It was somewhat on the order of a campaign promise that, should the BLM join them, they would guarantee beforehand that when the proletariat revolution succeeded blacks would have the right to this land, to set up an independent nation, or as a state within Socialist America with self-determination.
By this we do not intend to pass too severe a judgment on the Comintern. All in all it was appropriate for the time. For the black movement of that era was indeed in need of an ally as sophisticated, powerful and tenacious as the international proletariat. Indeed, whether the glorious Comrade Garvey knew it or not, black liberation, whether back-to-Africa, or whatever, could not be won without a struggle against imperialism. Nor do we intend to imply that the Comintern was working a deceit. They were not. Everything we've said here, they said it in front. What makes it funky was that up until that time the proletariat movement had virtually ignored the oppression of blacks, and had made no serious efforts to organize, integrate, or take up issues which affected blacks. When they finally did make a move it was after the Black people had begun organizing themselves — then it was co-optive in intent. But at least during this period there existed a virile and forward striding proletariat movement in amerikkka: the era of "the Palmer raids", and Haymarket riots, the "IWW", Big Bill Haywood, and the "dynamite revolution," etc.
But not so today. Today the intention is the same, to divert the BLM into proletariat revolution, but in order to do this they find it more feasible to destroy all consideration of Black Liberation as a national question. Hence they take the same definition which the Comintern utilized to justify the Black Nation — they use it to challenge the Black Nation. Look you, they say, no black majority currently exists in the south, the all important common economic activity is missing, you have no nation at this time.
The truth is, of course, that we've had no nation there at any time, but a prison, and a concentration-work camp. Technically speaking, even within the framework of Stalin's definition, although we had a majority black population, a common language, culture, etc., we lack an economically interwoven activity. The sharecropper — feudal system tied us economically to the bourgeois planter class, or to the capitalist banks. The markets and retail purchases of that black majority was dominated overwhelmingly by white ownership and bourgeois system of commodity production. Historically, we have never exercised sovereignty there, or self-determination over our lives. The black-belt south has been about as much of a nation to black people as this penitentiary with its black majority population.
No, while the Comintern was a little bit funky with its offer, today's proletariat revolutionaries are indulging in rank hypocrisy. Because as long as capitalism is not kicked soundly in the ass, it makes little difference whether our claims to this land or any land can be scientifically "demonstrated." And if the proletariat revolution were successful — again it would make little difference whether we had any scientifically valid claim; we could "re-locate" or otherwise correct any deficiency that would legitimize our "morally" justified claim for self-determination. In other words, at the least the Communist International's offer should still hold.
And so the question is why? Why are the orthodox Marxist so intent upon challenging Black Nationalism that they risk compromising the integrity of the Marxian science? Is it because Black Nationalism is "narrow" and racist? We doubt it. Black so-called racism does not have the underpinnings of vested interest and can be changed to perceive the class enemy relatively easy (relative to white consciousness changing).
Perhaps it is because Black Nationalism is "bourgeois," i.e. the thrust of the black bourgeois to create a national market; "to provide a market for black owned manufacture and services." According to the Philadelphia Worker's Organizing Committee (PWOC), a multi-national Marxist-Leninist group states that this is indeed the intent behind the rise of Black Nationalism. Yet by their own statistics, 89.5% of black people are working class, and only 10.5% are members of the black bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class. And of this 10.5% bourgeois/petty bourgeois, 9.3% are tied to the system in the capacity of "public administrators, salaried managers (manufacture, retail, etc.); professionals (lawyers, doctors, college professors. etc.), sales managers, insurance brokers, realtors, etc., foremen, police, firemen and security guards.
And that leaves 1.2% who could benefit from a monopoly of black markets. And that 1.2% divides evenly into .6% "self-employed managers (manufacturers, contractors, retailers) and .6% farmers. So how could it be claimed that this miniscule black bourgeois faction provides the base for a black nationalist political movement? Certainly those tied to the system can be expected to remain loyal to the system in most instances; and the thirst for a monopoly of the black market by the miniscule self-employed managers, contractors and retailers does not spill over into the area of armed struggle. And upon mentioning armed struggle we hit upon the gist of the problem.
We submit at this point, that the current Marxist proletariat seek to channel black liberation into proletariat revolution because black liberation posed as a colonial question inherently entails armed struggle.
"Colonialism is not a thinking machine nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence."— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
And this is the root of the problem. There is no place in the vision of amerikkkan proletariat revolution for violence. They perceive confrontation and struggle alright. They perceive parliamentary contest, general strikes, demonstrations, hopefully mass social disorder, at worse a scattered handful of jail terms, maybe riots, and some head busting; a few deaths — but armed struggle? "... the streets being cordoned off. Armoured pig carriers everywhere, the smell of cordite..." Forget it. Let there be no mistake about it, no amount of provocateuring, no amount of criticizing or exhortation will "trick" then into a violent posture. No, we hate to admit it about fellow Marxist-Leninists, but we are afraid it is much as that indominable Comrade Malcolm X said when speaking of Comrade King and the brothers in the early 1960's, he said (rather loudly):
IF THESE SO-CALLED REVOLUTIONARIES KNEW WHAT REVOLUTION WAS REALLY ABOUT, THEY WOULD SHUT UP AND GET ON OUT OF THE WAY!
Similarly, it may be stated about the proletariatist. They seek to channel Black Revolution into a piece-meal reformist wheel-spinning racial struggle.
Let us take for example again the words of the PWOC. They contend that for many of this "boundless attachment" to the idea of the Black Nation is a moral aspiration, and that black people do not want revolution, but freedom where they are at:
Is it not clear that the Black People want not an artificial union but an end to discrimination and the achievement of full democracy... the right to self-determination is at best abstract to them and is more often perceived as a demand injurious to their interests.— PWOC, Against Dogmatism on the National Question, p. 47
In other words, they see as we see, that Black Revolution and establishing a Black Nation involves preparing 21 million black people to perceive their interest anew, and migrate — flock to a particular area. In other words, an operation upon Black consciousness. To many this may indeed seem to be the truly farfetched aspect of the whole proposition. But consider this: when the PWOC begins to speak of proletariat revolution they end up saying we must operate on white consciousness (did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say different?).
To merge the struggle of Black people with the American workers Movement is the strategic aim — the path to Black Liberation and Socialist Revolution — the key to 'ending the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly class.
The most powerful obstacle is the promotion of the ideology of white supremacy, which not only serves to divide the class and split the white workers away from the Black freedom struggle, but actually enables the bourgeoisie to recruit sections of the white workers into its camp. The powerful grip of white chauvinist ideology over the masses of white workers turns them against the struggle for democratic rights on the part of the Black people. This ideology is the single most divisive weapon in the hands of the class enemy, splitting the working class, disorienting it politically and preventing it from gauging true friends and its real enemies.
... we must direct our main blow against white chauvinism.
.... The class struggle, including the fight against discrimination all its forms, is the school in which the white workers learn that their real interests lie with the Black workers. It is the active struggle of the white workers against racism that will generate confidence in the power of the united proletartat on the part of the Black workers.
And so we ask — now who is the utopian? In the first place they base their whole strategy on a fiction. There is no "American workers movement." A handful of left organizations with thinly national cadres in no way constitutes a movement of amerikkkan workers. In essence what they're saying is that the primary job of proletarian revolution is altering the consciousness of the white working class.
We submit that changing the consciousness of black people in accepting a Black Nation and committing themselves to struggle for it shall be qualitatively easier than attempting to change the consciousness of white workers. The material conditions support and protect white racism. The competition for jobs promotes racial antagonism. The differences in social/cultural conditions which result from denied vital areas of development: lumpen sub-culture etc., set further to broaden differences and reinforce century-long notions of white supremacy. Finally, white supremacy is actively promoted by the ruling class. This means millions of dollars are spent, and the power of established institutions are brought into play to mainline the white worker in a national conspiracy of racism.
To significantly change white consciousness, whether it be toward a more amenable position on the race question, or to out-and-out radicalism, it would be necessary first to remove the material underpinnings. It is theorized that as the international contradictions sharpen, that is to say the growing Socialist competition for world markets, the recovery of other capitalist countries from the devastation wrought by World War II, Britain, France and especially Germany and Japan, competing on the world markets further proscribe and limit the amerikkkan imperialist access to markets and raw materials; the thrust of the Third World for a greater share in its own resources (The Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries, for example), the nationalization of industry by other Third World countries, and of course the wars of liberation being won by the Third World (Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique), and so forth all add up to perceptible constriction of the amerikkkan empire. Amerikkkan capitalism is no longer the virile expanding giant; it can no longer grant concessions without it affecting their profit index; a few more blows and it is believed (hoped) by the theorists, that the amerikkkan ruling class will no longer be able to protect the white working class from bearing the contradictions of exploitation. This, it is hoped, will radicalize them, will compel them to seek a socialist solution.
Others prophesize that "Soviet Social Imperialism" in its expansion must inevitably clash with amerikkkan capitalist imperialism, and in the ensuing world war usher in the proletariat revolution.
All this sort of thing is like waiting on an act of providence (especially the latest bit about "Soviet Social Imperialism"). While it is true that the amerikkkan empire is constricting rather than expanding, there is no indication that it will bear well for race relations. But rather to the contrary. The imperialists are more likely to be successful in aiming white workkker disaffection into racist channels. That, in fact, is precisely the problem. If capitalism were yet expanding, could yet grant concessions without it affecting adversely their profit margins, then the race issue in amerikkka would be considerably more amenable. As it stands, white worker consciousness is immutable within the context of the system.
No, the struggle against racism is necessary to expose contradictions, and raise consciousness and educate blacks to the system, but as a primary strategy for liberation, however, it is a bankrupt line. In one sense it is the other side of "Narrow Nationalism" in that it makes race issues the main focus of struggle. It purports to hit at the root of the system, but actually engages the movement in endless piece-meal confrontations that, no sooner is resolved in one area re-appears in another. Today a busing issue in Boston, tomorrow the death penalty in Georgia, democratic rights in South Carolina, migrant farm workers in Florida, nazis in California, lynching in Mississippi, police brutality in Detroit, housing in Chicago, Kluxers in Cairo, Illinois, discrimination in the building trades, failure of affirmative action in industry, etc., ad infinitum. All this proves nothing if not that, in respect to race at least, white consciousness is immutable within the context of capitalism. If proletariat revolution is dependent upon altering this, then we can look to have bourgeoisedom with us until the year 2,000,000 A.D.
On the other hand, black consciousness is changing all the time. There is no consciousness in amerikkka which is growing and developing on a par with black consciousness. While today the black masses may appear to be caught up in the clutches of degenerate bourgeois consciousness, of rabid consumerism, opportunism, individualism, "getting over on the next man," and such other human alienation as generated by the galloping predatory capitalist economy, this is essentially a false consciousness without substantial material supports and against our "real interest." It is but another stage in the Black Nation's unending quest for its lost human identity. It is an integral part of the task of Black Socialist Revolution to recover this identity in the course of struggle. True the state of Black consciousness is a major issue to be contended with, but we hold that affecting black consciousness favorably holds infinitely greater promise than affecting white racism.
In conclusion, it should be pointed out that our rejection of proletariat revolution should not be construed in an absolute sense. Primarily we resist the attempts of certain Marxists to divert our struggle into non-productive channels. The proletariat methods of strike, demonstrations, boycotts, parliamentary maneuvers and so forth, shall certainly be an integral part of our peoples' struggle. But if Black Revolution is to be successful, we must maintain our perspective as an oppressed nation, a colonized people, and with the blood and sacrifice that entails.
Nor do we mean to entirely forsake proletariat revolution, such as it is, for we recognize a certain "... dialectical strengthening that occurs between the movement of liberations of the colonized peoples and the emancipatory struggles of the exploited working class of the imperialist countries." (Fanon) Particularly in that ours is a situation where both the "colonized peoples" and the "exploited working class of the imperialist country" occupy the same territory, the same industrial complexes, and the same economy. Certainly there is no way we can jerk the pillar of the Black Colony out of the very ribs of the beast without having a profound effect on the proletariat struggle. We anticipate that anything we can do to help further proletariat revolution, any way we can form united fronts, concerted action, or whatever, we will lock arms in unity. But there is no point in our attempting to submerge Black Liberation in proletariat struggle — or masquerading as proletariat revolution. Such attempts are false, confusing and in the final analysis leads head-long down a blind alley.
The Revolutionary Black Lumpen Proletariat
So the pimps, the hooligans, the unemployed and the petty criminals, urged on from behind, throw themselves into the struggle for liberation like stout working men.... The prostitutes too, and the maids who are paid two pounds a month, all the hopeless dregs of humanity, all who turn in circles between suicide and madness, will recover their balance, once more go forward, and march proudly in the great procession of the awakened nation.— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
The question has been debated throughout the preceding decade — what is the place of the black lumpen proletariat in the Black Liberation Movement? Is it in the vanguard? Is it reactionary? or are they merely dispossessed apolitical dregs who will be carried along in the black worker's struggle? Our answer to that question is it depends. It depends on whether we're going to intellectualize the Black Liberation Movement, whether we are going to win our freedom through democratic parlimentary processes, or whether it will require armed struggle, a national war of liberation.
Posed in this light the answer should appear obvious, but because of the considerable debate and discussion that yet rages on the left, we should perhaps deal with the question more in depth.
First of all it should be noted that the term "lumpen proletariat" is a European term which came into usage during the early days of capitalism when the peasants were driven from the land and had begun to congregate in the cities in large numbers, and without a means of livelihood. "Lumpen" literally means raggedy; the "raggedy proletariat," and refers to that class of dispossed individuals who live in urban areas, and would normally be among the working class (the proletariat) except that they are chronically without jobs, or are only marginally employed. As a result this class generally seeks to augment its miserly incomes with all sorts of illegal acts. Hence lumpen proletariat usually refers to petty criminals, pick-pockets, robbers, prostitutes, pimps, and so forth. In its broader context it refers to anyone who is a dispossed urban dweller without job skills, or means of livelihood.
Being lumpen also carries with it a certain mentality generated by such an unstable economic plight. A mentality characterized by a certain low level of cultural/educational developments and yet another sense, the lumpen mentality is characterized by "living by one's wits," by selfishness, and opportunism, holding nothing sacred, oweing allegiance to no one, and one's only interest is to make a buck — any way one can. In the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx refers to Louis Bonaparte, for example, in his adventurous, opportunistic thrust for power as a "lumpen proletariat".
But it is in the Communist Manifesto itself, however, that Marx expresses the line on the lumpen proletariat which succeeding generations of the left were to adopt as a matter of course, to wit:
The 'dangerous class', the social scum that passively rottening moss thrown off by the lowest layers of old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution, its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.— Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto
The lumpen proletariat has historically been disturbed and dismissed by the left. It was not until the 1960s that a phenomena occured which caused the left to reconsider the question of the lumpen class. That phenomena was the fight against colonialism/racism.
It appears that in the struggle against imperalism, that when the imperalist country also has a significant "settler" population within a colonized country, that it is sufficient catalyst to transform the lumpen element from a "bribed tool" of reaction to a revolutionary vanguard element. Frantz Fanon was the first to make this transformation:
It is within this mass of humanity, this people of the shanty towns, at the core of lumpenproletariat, that the rebellion will find its urban spearhead. For the lumpenproletariat, that horde of starving men, uprooted from their tribe and from their clan, constitutes one of the most spontaneous and the most radically revolutionary forces of a colonized people.— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
Fanon did not make any special note that this was a phenomena peculiar only to a colonized, racially divided people. It does appear true, however, that when a lumpen class develops among a relatively homogenous people, whether it be European, Asian, South American, or whatever, that the causes of oppression cannot be as clearly seen. The dispossed class developing in an uncultured, unlettered environment, directs its criminal activity at members of its own race, the tendency is to internalize and idealize the causes of oppression. That is, they seek the cause of one's status as due to one's personal flaws and shortcomings' one is inately evil, predatory, lazy, selfish, lustful, etc. or one is simply unfortunate (will of the gods) etc. Whatever the reason the fact remains that when the revolution takes place among a relatively homogenous people that the lumpen element is yet to be singled out as a class for any special revolutionary accolades, particularly so exaulted a positsion as "vanguard".
What gave added weight to Fanon's observation, and truly ignited debates was the role assumed by the black lumpen in the u.s.a. in the 1960s. The black workers struggled for a century after emancipation, under the leadership of first one black bourgeois liberal faction then another. Fredrick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, the NAACP, Dr. Martin Luther King, etc., and also under the guidance of left organizations, the communist party, etc. But it was not until violence broke out in the mid-sixties and the Black Panther Party, using as its social base the young angry, jobless, urban blacks, and with such a base assumed vanguard position in the Black Liberation Movement. The black lumpen proletariat and black lumpen proletariat leaders were propelled to the center stage of history, and debate raged on the left.
Violence having subsided into the Black Liberation Movement for the time being, the old classic definition of the lumpen element as a "tool of reaction" attempts to reassert, and re-argue itself. But while such arguments tend to overlook the colonized/race factor, they cannot deny the history of the preceding decade; they cannot deny the new consciousness, the new statue, the existence of a new element — a revolutionary black lumpen proletariat. Our own position, therefore is this: if black liberation is to be won at the ballot box, if black liberation is to be won through demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, and other non-violent means, then indeed count the black lumpen proletariat out. For the black lumpen proletariat is violence personified.
The black lumpen proletariat more than any other class in amerikkka, including the black worker, has lived at ground zero, at the soul searing center of the most vicious "mainstream," persecuted by the state bureaucracy the black lumpen lives not only by his wits, but at wits end, hand to mouth, always one step away from disaster, one step from the gutter, or one step from prison. Everything from family disorganization, to self-alienation. and war upon his neighbor (crime), to pitched battles with the police; the hand of every man is turned against him. And the humanity of the lumpen suffers accordingly. The soul of the lumpen is a now active, now latent, but always smoltering bed of lava ready to erupt into violence at the slightest provocation.
Our contention is that as a class, it is only the black lumpen proletariat that possesses the deep desperate hatred — equal to the hatefulness and determination of the imperialist overlords to hang on.
Our contention is that the black workers lack the depth of determination to break the hold of capital on the black nation. The black worker has historically played it safe. The black worker has small experience with police relative to the lumpen, and are frightened of them and all it entails. The black worker has not lived his life on the "razor's edge," knows almost nothing of the tactic of "hit-n-run," has small experience in the elemental arts of kill or be killed; is not prepared to risk prison, death, torture, and all the things which are an integral, if not daily parts of the life of the lumpen; and of which shall be demanded of all black people before liberation shall ever be won.
The black lumpen proletariat is the warring class of the black colony — the cutting edge of the Black Nation.
We readily admit that in the final analysis the success of the revolution depends upon the worker. The lumpen knows nothing of the means of production. It is only the worker who ultimately can seize control of the factories, and bring capitalist production to a grinding halt. It is only the worker who can, by his/her support or lack of support, throw any system into disarray. The lumpen does not possess the "habits of organization and management", the knowledge and technical skill which enables a nation's economy to function, and unless the worker assumes this responsibility then no revolution can be a success. Hence the workers' position as the vanguard element is assured whether in socialist revolution or black revolution. But by temperament, inclination, and experience in unstable, fast-paced, heated action, no class is better fitted for its historically necessary role of urban guerilla than the black lumpen proletariat.
Karl Marx, in his scientific analysis, discerned that "violence is the midwife of an old society pregnant with a new one." Our contention is that america, the decadent old racist whore, is pregnant with a new nation, a Black nation, and the lumpen proletariat is who will produce the kicks and inflict the pain that will bring about the birth of that nation.
But in order to fulfill our historical role we must recognize that we as a class harbor degrained negative characteristics which may too easily place us in the classical category of being tools of reaction. Again Fanon recognized this trait in the lumpen proletariat:
... but if the rebellion's leaders think it will be able to develop without taking the masses into consideration, the lumpenproletariat will throw itself into the battle and will take part in the conflict but this time on the aide of the oppressor. And the oppressor, who never loses a chance of setting the niggers against each other, will be extremely skillful in using that ignorance and incomprehension which are the weaknesses of the luopenproletariat. If this available reserve of human effort is not immediately organized by the forces of rebellion, it will find itself fighting as hired soldiers side by side with the colonial troops. In Algeria, it is the lumpenproletariat which furnished the harkis and the massalists; in Angola it supplied the road openers who nowadays precede the Portuguese armed columns; in the Congo, we find once more the lumpenproletariat in regional manifestations in Kasai and Katanga, while at Leopoldville the Congo's enemies made use of it to organize 'spontaneous' mass meetings against Lumumba."— Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
The message is clear then if we are to benefit from the experiences of our brothers and sisters in Africa in this regard, then it is a vital part of our historical mission to take the black lumpen proletariat in hand, and encourage the development of its revolutionary potential — less it be used against us. It is no accident that "the niggers are against each other". It is no accident that the ghetto, economically depressed — is flooded with narcotics, keeping the whole community off balance and in turmoil. Let there be no mistake, black on black crime is the conscious design of the evil men who run this system. And for the black worker to cry for more and more police in the black neighborhoods, and for great penalties for "criminals" is only furtherance of the evil scheme.
But there are those among the lumpen proletariat who have come to see clearly the nature of black oppression, have come to discern the evil purpose we are serving, and have come to recognize our historical duty to our people, and have resolved to help break de chains. We perceive that for the black lumpen proletariat especially, black liberation is our personal salvation, and gives meaning to our otherwise meaningless lives. Through adhering to the high selfless principles of revolution, the lumpen re-joins the human race.
The men of our group have developed as a result of living under a ruthless system, a set of mannerisms that numb the soul, we have been made the floor mat of the world, but the world is yet to see what can be done by men of our nature. By men who have walked the path of regression, abortion, and yet come out whole. There will be a special page in the book of life for men who crawl back from the grave, this page will tell of utter defeat, of ruin and passivity in one breath, and in the next — overwhelming victory and fulfillment.— George Jackson, Prison Letters
We recognize that in order for black revolution to be successful that it requires a violence that is something other than sporadic and spontaneous, that it requires a sophisticated, organized, scientific, protracted guerrilla warfare. And again because it does require such discipline, organization, and consistency, there are those who claim the black lumpen proletariat cannot pull it off, that the black lumpen proletariat cannot produce men in significant numebrs who are capable of clear headed, sober, and consistent struggle. Only history will ultimately give us the answer. Meanwhile there are those of us who are willing to struggle without negative lumpen traits of petty individualism, lack of discipline, and training. There are some of us who are determined to take the hurt, pain, and violence that lies smoldering in our bossoms — and sophisticate it with patience and virtue, discipline it with knowledge and science, magnify it with collective action, and in so doing, elevate it to a level equal to the historical task before us.
Hence again we conclude with the words of that great spokesman for the Revolutionary Black Lumpen Proletariat, Comrade George Jackson, a true dragon:
This monster,— George Jackson, Prison Letters
The Monster they've engendered in me
Will return to torment its maker,
From the grave,
From the pit, the profoundest pit
— Hurl me!
Into the next existence.
The descent into hell wont turn me.
I'll crawl back and dog his trail forever!
They can't stop our revenge.
Never — never!
For we are part of a righteous people,
Who anger slowly,
But rage - undamned,
We'll gather at his door in such a number,
That the rumbling of our feet will make the earth tremble.
Were going to charge him for this,
For three hundred years without gratification,
We're going to charge him,
Reparations in blood.
We're going to charge,
Like a mad and wounded rogue male elephant,
Bullhorns blaring !!!
We'll do our dance in his chest.
This is one bunch of niggers thats positively displeased,
A hundred per cent dissatisfied.
He'll never see anything in our eyes
— But daggers to pierce his cruel heart
We'll never forgive,
We'll never forget,
And if we're guilty of anything at all,
Its for not leaning on him — hard enough.
— War without terms!