Boston Socialist Unity Project Conference

DSCN4905

As chair of the Communist Party USA Boston, I represented the Communist Party USA on this conference panel sponsored by BSUP to discuss the Party. During Q & A, a young white male from my home state of Alabama asked about our movements and why we have ignored a state in dire need of mass organization. I assured him that Alabama is on my mind and that I have not abandoned it. I do hope to return home as a teacher, mentor, and leader of social movements. Oh, and to spend more time with Mom and Dad.

18056045_10209994322747681_8637939163142204085_o copy

The Church and Radical Jesus

In a very early draft, I noted the church — both the Negro church and the white church cannot fully reconcile their racial differences because at the heart of their differences exist capitalism. It was capitalism that transformed the Negro church after 1970 from an agent seeking radical change to one procuring materialism. And because churches love capitalism, they continue to fall short of being revolutionary change agents. Capitalism promotes racism and divides the black and white working class from an achievable world. The white church fails at transforming the weak, poor, and oppressed in their space. While “some” provide food and shelter, they have yet to challenge the status of oppression that keeps the soup lines open. Others have conformed to blaming those who struggle, giving in to the solution of liberalism, as a measure in which capitalism favors them and their paternalism.

The 21st century church must disavow its complacency and promulgate equality through radical preachers who love people more than capitalism, and who will subscribe to what Psalm 82: 3-4 notes: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Black academic and radical organizer Melvin Tolson once noted, “Jesus didn’t believe in economic, racial, and social distinctions…. You talk about Karl Marx, the Communist! Why, don’t you know Jesus was preaching about leveling society 1,800 years before the Jewish Red was born?”

Melvin Tolson above discussing Jesus as a radical.

Boston Women’s March

I love you Boston — and the Mass area. This is true for many cities that showed solidarity in protest. With more mass organizing meetings to come — today was beautiful. Really. There is hope and love. We marched in solidarity with family, comrades, women, whites, people of color, and students. We marched with lesbians, transgender, gay, queer, straight, and children who were being taught love and acceptance. We cheered for women’s rights and their reproductive rights. We marched against white supremacy, pay inequality, rape, and mass incarcerations. We marched because the state nor religion can tell a woman about her reproductive system. We marched because Black Lives Matter. We marched because love trumps hate. 125,000 marched and protested because we do not respect the least popularly elected president in history. We marched because no means no. Sexual assault is what weak men do.

The Divided American Left

 

solidarity-divided3A Marxist analysis is a shared methodology aimed at unifying the working class in the continual fight against capitalism; it offers a sense of solidarity among its exploited members, but in the United States, such analysis has failed at mending the color line. The 21st century challenge, of course, is moving white working class people to a place of understanding the complexities of intersectionality and its importance to Marxism and the potential bonds shared with people of color, which would ultimately offset the racial tension that precludes interracial solidarity.

Much like black activists of the past, who called for unity within the Negro race, and who aimed to walk side-by-side with white people, many white workers continue to resist such solidarity, as they support their own privileges. The potential election of Republican Donald Trump best explains this notion. The American left will continue to struggle for unity, as it has throughout its history, unless workers can draw upon their class solidarity and grasp the need for intersectional understanding. The American left has historically been highly disorganized and, at times, struggled to find a unifying position.

I was moved toward leftist thinking in high school due to an emerging interest in the activism and writings of W.E.B. Du Bois. I would later read the works of Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright, whom made efforts in the left –only to grow frustrated. Then, I was a growing liberal and self-proclaimed Democrat. This was true during my college years — as the president of the Young Democrats; however, by the end of college and into graduate school, I read more about the struggles of black people. And thus grew interested in black Marxism. Though at the time I did not fully grasp Wright’s frustration with the left, I would later come to understand his distrust. This was proclaimed in his essay, I Tried to be A Communist. He noted:

It was not the economics of Communism, nor the great power of trade unions, nor the excitement of underground politics that claimed me; my attention was caught by the similarity of the experiences of workers in other lands, by the possibility of uniting scattered but kindred peoples into a whole. It seemed to me that here at last, in the realm of revolutionary expression, Negro experience could find a home, a functioning value and role.  Out of the magazines I read came a passionate call for the experiences of the disinherited, and there were none of the lame lispings of the missionary in it. It did not say: “Be like us and we like you, maybe.” It said: “If you possess enough courage to speak out what you are, you will find that you are not alone.” It urged life to believe in life.

Today I fault individuals with the internal struggles of the left. There are race matters among the left, as there are those who lack the skills to bring about solidarity. Both Ellison and Wright, I suspect, would say those to the left failed to meet them. This is a continual issue today. However, unlike the days of the aforementioned black literary folk, there are those seeking change and who are willing to do so by meeting folks where they are. As that population grows, and the other population dissipates, unity will be achieved.

Jim Crow, Minstrels, and Black Resistance

CME Talk copy

My lecture at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge titled, The Gospel of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Radical Savior of His People, extended the narrative of class and racial alienation by offering examples of continual forces that have morphed color line tension. If you look at the screen beside me, you will notice an image of JJ from Good Times, as well as an image of  Jim Crow, which was a fixture of the minstrel shows that toured the South; a white man, made up as a black man, sang and mimicked stereotypical behavior in the name of comedy. This behavioral norm continued into the 20th century. The mammy and sambo depictions were felt throughout the television run of Good Times, a popular 1970s sitcom. Though the intent was to showcase black folks in a positive and less stereotypical fashion, it quickly turned into a modern-day minstrel show. One of the main characters, JJ, often depicted the stereotypical buffoon often symbolized in a world driven by white supremacy. There were some good things about this show, as it depicted a hardworking black family working to maintain their unity, even in a world where there were struggles.

jimcrow While speaking at the Center for Marxist Education on May 17th, I noted that W.E.B. Du  Bois addressed the centrality of evil, which was pervasive in an American society fueled with both class and racial divisions. He believed that capitalism was the culprit for such centrality. Du Bois articulated how little has changed in America. Being black and American is a measure in conflict with the ideals espoused by white America. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America 1860 -1880, pointed to three common themes presented to whites about blacks: All Negros were ignorant; all Negros were lazy, dishonest, and extravagant; All Negros created elements of bad governments. This attitude continued as society advanced into the 20th century; it was here that Du Bois pointed to “the problem of the 20th century is that of the color line.”

1343329785_dynomite Thus, the presentation of black folks to white society continued to illustrate such a problem. Good Times took off when JJ’s actions became reflective of the Jim Crow perceptions and writings found in Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction. White supremacy claimed, as Du Bois noted, that negroes were responsible for bad government during Reconstruction. There are those who further that line of thought today, articulating black dependency on the welfare state. Recent events in Baltimore points to such a message. It is the fault of black people for their suffering and urban condition. Yet, the willingness to link modern problems to the ancien regime of Jim Crow is absent. The progressive notion of American liberalism is cloudy. Although assumptions have been made about racial matters of the past, those past matters continue to look us in the face today. They are present on TV shows that remind us of America’s dark history. They are a reflective reality. So when riots take off, I am not sure why folks are surprised. I have been impressed by those who have sat down to look at the extent of deep cyclical pattens and imbedded racism that has remained a constant predator to the color line. Du Bois shared his thoughts here on the just and need for riots.

Talking about Du Bois

Janette and I enjoyed spending time at the Center for Marxist Education. I was able to discuss my passion for Du Bois and African-American Studies in relation to racism, radicalism, classism, and religion. That is a bit for one talk, but expansive as I think about the recent work I have started on Du Bois. CME Talk II Here is just the intro to my lecture:

“Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in my own house?” W.E.B Du Bois exclaimed in his essay, Of Our Spiritual Strivings, as he pondered being a problem: a seventh son after other civilizations. The Negro watched Indians, Romans, Greeks, and Mongolians take a position of authority over the simple Negro. This white world reminded Negros of their inferiority, yet promised them a place with God if they behaved. Du Bois, the prodigy of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was set to challenge the constructs put in place by WASPs. As a child in the Berkshires, he was reminded of his identity, particularly when it came to his encounters on the schoolyard with white females. Interracial companionship has always been one of the first casualties of puberty, as noted by historian David Lewis of Du Bois. And though early playground rejections would impact his later pathology toward Negro radicalism, it was his sense of understanding that equality in America could be achieved, though by his death Du Bois concluded America was not ready for the Negro. In Of Our Spiritual Strivings, Du Bois wrote…

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, —an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.”

Du Bois shaped this double-consciousness as a sense of racial awareness regarding the veil; it was within this metaphorical Veil that black people faced oppression. In order to deal with oppression and themselves as a race, Negros must become aware of the Veil. This point seems silly in that who would be unaware of their oppression; however, Du Bois speaks to years of Jim Crow, sharecropping, and tenant farming in which the Negro’s labor and welfare were exploited. Du Bois’s Veil was expressed in the literary piece, Invisible Man; here, Ralph Ellison introduces the American conscious to a Negro mind that becomes aware of why he is oppressed. Ellison wrote,

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.”