|The Leading Civilization in "Segregation" (1954)|
|Myths About American Democracy Crumble (1964)|
|Blacks’ Wrath Had the Rotten Pillars of the Bourgeois and Democratic "Civilization" Crumbling (1965)|
|Glory to the Rioting Black Proletarians (1967)|
|Need for Revolutionary Theory and the Marxist Party in America (1967)|
|The True Way of the Black Proletariat (1968)|
|Short Notes on the Conditions of the Resurgence of the Proletarian Movement in the U.S. (1970)|
|The Black Panther Movement (1971)|
|Black Proletarians Rioting in Florida (1980)|
|Los Angeles, Revolt of Despair in the Tragic Absence of the Organized Working Class (1992)|
Whenever European powers have had to deal with rebel subjects in their colonies and ended up taking arms and pitchforks, Puritan America has routinely intervened to dissociate itself from any culpability for the repressive actions of those otherwise allied states.
We know real well that the non‑interference of the US in colonial uprisings and wars, which has been meticulously reaffirmed by the Congress and the Government, aims exclusively at encouraging, without seeming so, the progressive erosion of the existing colonial empires and undermining what matters the most which is their commercial and financial areas.
For dollar’s greater glory, the Wall Street imperialists are altruistically willing to lose every possession of the European colonialists until the very last.
But from an ideological standpoint, where the coarse interests of profiteering become “ideal”, the programmatic anti‑colonialism of the American bourgeoisie is covered in noble, theoretical mantles.
It lies on the lying principle that the US, the “land of the free” praised by Prezzolini, is, organically, an enemy of the domination of a country over another country, of a race over another race deemed inferior.
The American social reality proves that the worst colonial domination that exists today in the world is practiced inside the borders of the State that is the leader of the “free world”, the most civilized country on the planet.
Undoubtedly, the vile subjugation millions of black Americans are held in – it goes without saying that we were alluding to them – exceeds the overtly colonial regimes in harshness and vehement brutality.
For sure, the conditions of inferiority of black Americans are more severe than the ones enforced to the most primitive among those colonial populations still living in wild or barbaric conditions, that of the capitalist civilization only know the painful yoke of economic exploitation.
The Dayaks of the Borneo, the Pygmies of Congo’s forests, the Kanaks of the Oceanic archipelagos that to this day live on the edge of civilization have to intensively fight against the physical world in order to survive, given the very conditions of their own existence.
But they are too distant from the “civilization” of the whites to know its infamies.
Black workers in the US, on the other end, that are born and grow up in the middle of civilization – built on the sweat of slaves – not only have to go through the suffering that the repugnant form of oppression and social exploitation that is wage labour causes – therefore, the living conditions of workers are on their own worse than the ones of the savages in the virgin forests – but they also have to withstand the not less reprehensible persecution that is “segregation”.
“Segregation” is the American equivalent to Hitler’s racism.
What are we saying!?
The racists of the exasperated German bourgeoisie, the Hitlerian theorists such as Rosenberg, the nauseating preachers of racial hatred such as Streicher and the very instigators of the anti‑jewish “pogroms” that caused bloodsheds in the the ghettos of the zarist Russia up to forty years ago were all, at their times, nothing but bumbling imitators of American racists.
Let’s hand to Americans, namely the American bourgeois, their rightful records.
The Ku Klux Klan, the secret society whose rituals are as imbecile as brutal, that started to terrorize blacks right after the end of the Civil War and to this day conducts a semi‑legal existence, is not second to any similar organization both in age and fanatic inflexibility.
While the Hitlerian S.S. hung jews by their throat on iron hooks, that was still a less excruciating death than the tar and feathers torture to which the KKK’s henchmen subjected those blacks who rebelled against white supremacy.
In the US, racial discrimination against black people is indeed called segregation.
American racism doesn’t go as far as confining fifteen millions blacks in obligatory houses in the likes of the medieval ghettos but black neighborhoods in New York and Chicago have honorably preserved those features of overpopulation and filthiness.
But American racism goes even further to an extent as it negates blacks the access to public places, transportation, theatres attended by whites.
It imprisons black people in one huge ghetto with invisible bars.
Those who try to escape end up in jail as that is indeed what happens in the Southern States where racial discrimination, the “segregation”, is decreed in law.
Without a doubt, out of all the living conditions that capitalism forces upon the populations of colour, black Americans have it the hardest.
In the equatorial forest, a savage has to fear the bite of venomous snakes or the claws of felines but he ignores the abuses of segregation.
To live that experience he should apply and then obtain the American citizenship.
In a globe dominated by capitalism, the areas of abuse and oppression actually coincide with the lavish, “civilized” metropolises.
Some weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the US, that is composed of nine members one of which was affiliated with the KKK in his youth, at the request of a group of black people, has decided to declare segregation in schools as unconstitutional.
The American constitution grants black people the right to school education but political prejudice and social custom do not allow white and black students to sit behind the same school desk.
The Supreme Court’s ruling puts to end, in principle, social discrimination in schools.
But in order for that ruling, granted by the higher powers, to be applied years upon years will pass and that is assuming that the ruling itself won’t be just left in the limbo of ideological enunciations.
And even if segregation in schools would cease to exist today, that won’t cancel the infamies of the American capitalist bourgeoisie that wants to rule the entire world in the name of the “undying principles” of freedom and equality while treating black people the way the most ferocious colonialists of old Europe never dared to.
The burst of racist hatred (or, as pressmen pitifully like to put it, of “black revolts”) in the North of the US dramatically exposed the inconsistency of those myths the fictional integrity of the “American system” stood upon.
In US historical mythology, the Civil War was fought between the North, which incarnated civilization, and the South, embodiment of barbarity. Culture against obscurantism, philanthropy against the sinister domination of slave traders.
The industrializing capitalism of Northern States did not go to war against the underdeveloped, agricultural economy of the South in order to defend its freedom to exploit that massive reserve of labour power bound to a clod of earth, but took arms to defend and affirm the undying principles of freedom, equality and brotherhood instead.
Blacks fled in part to the North, attracted by that illusion of freedom and brotherly equality both reward and consequence of the Civil War.
They were indeed free but only to sell their defenceless labour power. Free to be on their own and not under the protection assured by the habit of slave traders to use their lash against slaves, of course, but to also feed, dress and keep alive the flogged for as long as possible.
They were not tied to the patriarchal farm of their master anymore but they became slaves of the contractors of cheap labour force, the promoters of strikebreaking and competition among workers, the owners of horrific hovels in frightful, overpopulated neighborhoods.
The illuminated bourgeoisie was touched by the Jewish ghetto (and for good reasons if the former had been honest) while it was just building its black ghetto, its Harlem, to make it a paradise for swindling shop owners, usurers, trafficants of male and female flesh, dealers of religious pills and marijuana.
They were not flogged anymore but they were slowly grinded and worn out as the subtle mechanism restated the old chains by their feet.
Blacks were mere labourers but if the non qualified whites were able to cross the job barrier, they could not.
The marginalization of their ghetto and its houses compared well to the marginalization of their professional qualifications and because new black immigrants were unarmed, defenceless, distrusted, lost in a world both indifferent and hostile, black labourers discovered that, on equal terms, their wage was less than half the wage of their non black brothers (today, after so much progress, it increased to… 57%!).
The marginalization of salaries joined the marginalization of jobs.
In the North, brotherhood applied.
But only on condition that black “brothers” did not violate the sacred fence of white supremacy, that they travelled in separate wagons, ate on different tables, “learned” in their own schools – the most miserable and ill‑equipped – and lived inside the paddock of horrific slums.
Blacks were equal only inside that prison that is factories, in the sense that they were the most exploited among the exploited. But even in that case an invisible barrier made them more miserable, more mistreated and in conclusion more enslaved.
According to that very mythology, the towering bourgeois “civilization”, product of the capitalist industrialization, recognized equal rights to all American citizens. Possessing these rights was enough to make blacks equal to whites in reality.
Today it is acknowledged that, a century after the Civil War and the victory of “civilization” over “barbarity”, equal civil rights are not even ensured on paper. At the same time, the state of affairs proves that, in reality, in order to own the missing part of equality that the new laws “pledge” to blacks, they have to use brute force against those very law enforcement that should shield them against the violence every American institution is soaked in.
Myth pretended that the racial barrier was not a product of social reasons but of moral and intellectual ones, born out of the lack of “enlightenment” and “moralization” in white skinned citizens due to secular prejudices and inherited deficiencies.
These days, even the most conservative Italian newspaper acknowledges that black Americans’ condition is the way it is because they are and have to constitute the reserveless army available to the exploitation of the productive machine. It is acknowledged that racial hatred is indeed class hatred, racial violence is violence that is inseparable from the economic base and the general fabric of present society. It is acknowledged that blacks are rioting because their wages are immensely below the national averages and they are squashed inside filthy neighborhoods that emanate misery, depravation and sickness. Moreover, they are defenceless prey of looters such as buyers of human flesh, traffickers of alcohol and narcotics (or prayers), usurers and tax and rent collectors all while being sentenced to the hardest, filthiest and most vile jobs. In conclusion, they are the most proletarian out of all the proletarians of the star‑spangled republic. They are the southerners of that country and they get the treatment that here, in the highly evolved Northern Italy, southerners, without reservations, have the “honor” to get.
These days, even a catholic and social reformist social worker such as Harrington has to acknowledge that even in the case in which the most perfect among all laws wipes out the racial restrictions that have blacks disheartened and subdued, their condition of disheartenment and submission would persist as racism is gangrened inside the very mechanism of the bourgeois society.
According to American mythology the US was not and is not imperialist, has not colonized nor colonizes anyone and doesn’t fear colonial revolts.
In reality, American capitalism has colonized its own underdeveloped areas and did to its own citizens of proletarian class what the old imperialisms did to black peoples that were subjugated with iron and fire.
The black revolt is both an episode of proletarian class struggle against the capitalist exploitation and colonial uprising against the bourgeois colonizers.
Let the moralists spill tears!
Our hope for the revolt is to catch fire, and to blend, beyond the secular prejudices, with white proletarians’ class struggle. We hope the latter comprehend that one is the enemy, the very same one that split the proletariat in the past and still does!
As the racket of the “black revolt” in California waned, before international conformism buried that “unfortunate” event under a thick blanket of silence and the “enlightened” bourgeois anxiously tried to identify the “mysterious” causes that made the “peaceful and regular” functioning of the democratic mechanism jam, few observers from both sides of the Atlantic found solace in remembering that after all explosions of collective violence were no news in the US. For example, one just as serious happened – with no follow‑up – in 1943 in Detroit.
But the new, blazing episode of not just vaguely popular but proletarian wrath carries something that is profoundly new to those following with passion and hope and not just cold objectivity.
That is what has us saying: "The black revolt has been oppressed; long live the black revolt!"
The change – for the history of the struggles for the emancipation of black wage and under wage workers and certainly not for the history of class struggles in general – is the right on time concurrence between the pompous and rhetoric presidential promulgation of civil and political rights and the break out of the impersonal, collective, “uncivilized” undermining wrath of the “recipients” of such “magnanimous” gesture. Between the latest try to entice the tortured slave with a miserable, cheap carrot and the immediate refusal of that very slave to get blindfolded and bend to the old master.
Brutally and under no instruction – not from their leaders, in great part more Gandhist than Gandhi himself nor from the “communism” of URSS stamp as “l’Unità” [l’Unità was the official newspaper of the stalinist Partito Comunista Italiano] zealously reminded the readers of its rejection and disapproval of violence – but tamed by the hard lesson imparted by the ways of social life, blacks in California shouted to the world the simple and atrocious truth on political and civil equality amounting to nothing as long as economic disequality is effective. They did so with energy and action, without possessing theoretical consciousness of it and with no need for articulate language. They expressed that economic disequality is overcomed by overturning with force the bases of a society divided in classes and not through laws, decrees, sermons and homilies.
It is this brutal laceration of the fabric of legal pretenses and democratic hypocrisies that has discombobulated – and it could not be otherwise – the bourgeoisie while it has filled and could have not but filled us marxists with enthusiasm. And it is this very laceration that must make those proletarians – historically white skinned – that are slumbering in the false luxury of the metropolises of capitalism meditate.
* * *
When the North, already on the track of full capitalism, launched its crusade for the emancipation of slavery that reigned in the South, it was not for humanitarian grounds or to honor the undying principles of 1789. It was because breaking the chains of a patriarchal precapitalist economy was necessary in order to “free” labour power, a massive resource to be offered to the hungry monstrosity of Capital.
Before the Civil War, the North was already encouraging slaves to run from southern plantations.
The North was too attracted by the fantasy of having at its disposal a labour force that would have offered itself to the market at the lowest prices. Besides this direct benefit, it would have also ensured a reduction of the wages of those wage workers that were already employed, or at least ensured that their wages would have not further increased.
During and after the war, that process picked up speed fast, coming to be universal.
It was a necessary step in history to get out the limits of an extremely underdeveloped economy. Marxism saluted that very step and not because it ignored the fact that black labour force, “liberated” in the South, would find in the North an already prepared mechanism of exploitation, under certain aspects, even more cruel.
In the words of Capital, blacks would have been free only to bring their black skin to the labour market to have it tanned.
Blacks were freed from the chains of the Southerner slavery but also from the protective shield of an economy and society based on personal and human relations instead of impersonal and dishuman ones. They were free meaning they were on their own, vulnerable, defenceless.
In truth, the slave that fled to the North realized he was not less inferior than before and that is because he was less paid, lacked professional qualifications, was confined inside new ghettos as a soldier of the reserve army of labour and a potential menace breaking apart the connective tissue of private property’s regime and private appropriation. He was segregated and discriminated against as someone who shouldn’t look at himself as a man but as nothing more than a working animal – therefore selling himself short without asking for more or for better.
Now, a century after his supposed “emancipation”, he has been granted “full” civil rights in the very age his average income is incredibly inferior compared to the one of his white fellow citizen, his wage is half of what his white brother’s wage is and his companion’s wage is a third of what the wage of a white worker’s companion is.
In the very age the golden metropolises of business confine him in ghettos that are terrifying for their misery, sickness and vice, segregating him behind the invisible walls of prejudices, traditions and police regulations.
In the very age unemployment that the bourgeois hypocrisy classifies as “technologic” (meaning that is “inescapable”, a price that has to be paid in order to make progress, a fault that is not on the present society) claims the most victims among black ranks as they are the ones of the basic labourers and lumpen responsible for filthy and strenuous task.
In the very age that while he is equal to his white fellow soldier in the eyes of death on the battlefields, he has been made completely unequal to the eyes of policemen, judges, IRS agents, factory owners, union bonzes and his hovel’s owners.
It is also true – and inconceivable for zealots – that the burst of the black revolt caught fire in California where the average black wage earner makes more than on the East coast. But it is indeed in those lands of booming capitalism and fictitious proletarian “wealth” that unequal treatment between people of different skin is stronger. It is right there that the ghetto, already defined on the Atlantic coasts, is precipitously tightening in front of the ruling class – which is white!
It is the hypocrisy of an egalitarianism jesuitically written on paper but negated in practice in a society carved by very deep class furrows that infuriated black people manfully bursted against. It was no different from the outbreak of anger of the white proletarians dizzily drawn and then dumped in new industrial centers of advanced capitalism, squashed in bidonvilles, shanty towns, in the neighborhoods of the very Christian bourgeois society where they are “free” to sell their labour power in order to... avoid starvation. It will be no different every time the sacrosanct fury of the dominated, exploited and if it was not enough, scorned classes will outbreak!
McIntyre, cardinal of Holy Mother Church, exclaimed: «A premeditated revolt against the law, the rights of the neighbor and the maintenance of order!» as if the novel slave with no chains at his feet had reasons to respect the very law that bends him to the ground and keeps him on his knees. As if blacks, “neighbors” of the whites, knew that they had “rights” or they could have ever detected in a society based upon the lying trinomial of freedom, equality and brotherhood something different than disorder elevated to a principle.
«Rights are not conquered with violence», shouted Johnson.
That is a lie.
Black people remember, even if it is just by hearsay, that white people secured the rights they were denied in the English metropolis in a long lasting war. They know that whites and blacks, temporarily unified, seized, in an even longer war, a ragged fragment of “emancipation” to this day imperceptible and distant.
Everyday, they see and hear the chauvinistic rhetoric glorifying the slaughter of the Native Americans that were opposing the march of the Founding Fathers towards new lands and “rights”. They see (and hear about) the crude brutality of the pioneers of the West “redeemed” from the civilization of the Bible and Alcohol.
What was that, if not violence?
They obscurely understood that there is no crux in American, or every other country, history that has not been settled through force, and there’s no “right” that is not the resultant of the clash, often bloody and always violent, between the forces of the past and the ones of the future.
What has peacefully waiting for a hundred years for some magnanimous concessions from whites achieved for blacks besides the little that the occasional outburst of anger has been able to rip from the stingy and cowardly hands of the owners even if just out of fear?
And how has the governator Brown, defender of the rights whites felt were being threatened by the revolt, answered if not with the democratic violence of assault rifles, nightsticks, tanks and the declaration of martial law?
What is this if not the experience of the oppressed classes under any sky, of any skin color and “racial” origin?
Blacks in Los Angeles, no matter if pure proletarians or lumpenproletarians, that declared “Our war is here, not in Vietnam” conveyed a conception not different from the one of those men that “climbed to the sky” in the Paris Commune or in Petrograd, destroyers of the myths of order, national interest, civilizing wars and announcers of a humane civilization at last.
* * *
Bourgeois, don’t be comforted by the thought that this distant event does not concern you, that the racial issue does not arise in Italy.
The racial issue is a social issue which is increasingly evident these days.
Make that the unemployed and underemployed of our tattered South do not locate the valve of emigration anymore. Make that they cannot rush to get flayed beyond the sacred borders any longer.
Or to get killed in tragedies not caused by bad luck, unpredictable atmospheric oddities or, who knows, evil eye even but caused by the thirst for profit of Capital. Its apprehension to cut the costs of materials, housing, transports, safety equipment just to secure higher margins of unpaid labour and maybe even profit off the rebuilding process following those tragedies that are inevitable and anything but unexpected – and always hypocritically wept.
Make the bidonvilles of our manufacturing cities and moral capitals (!!) flooded – more than they already are these days – with pariahs with no jobs, food and reserves and there will you have an italian “racism”, already blatant in the complaints of the Northerners against the “barbaric” and “uncivilized” Southerners.
It’s the social structure we are damned to live in today that raises those abominations and it is under its ruins that they will cease to exist.
That is what the Californian “black revolt” warns and reminds those that are oblivious and sleeping in the apparent slumber of wellness, drugged by the democratic and reformist opium. A revolt that is not distant and exotic but very present among us. Premature and defeated but herald of victory nonetheless!
Whatever the developments of the heroic revolt of black proletarians in the US will end up being (we are writing this the 27th of July as the typography is about to go into summer break), it marks a turn in history for dark skinned exploited. While the revolt sparks enthusiasm in revolutionaries, it has to act as a vigorous incitement and a useful stroke to all Capital’s slaves all over the world, white ones to begin with.
Between the shouts of disdain coming from the “right-thinkings” – not least those “progressive” bourgeois that could not believe that they were applauding innocuous and peaceful marches for peace or “civil rights” and that are now protesting against the “illegality” and the “horrors” of an open revolt verging to leap over all boundaries – the revolt speaks the kind of language the very organs of the exploiting class, stunned, are forced to record and, against their will, broadcast.
No more silent and almost imploring demands of formal “rights” and legal equality.
This revolt represents the furious outbreak of those who understood, through extensive experience, that laws and rights are means of the ruling and exploiting class and not weapons for the exploited one. In the light of economic and social inequality, unemployment, low wages, the frenetic pace of work forced upon every worker, blacks especially, prayers and petition for equality accomplish nothing besides adding insult to injury. They are as ineffective now as they were against the whiplashs of slave traders during times in which blacks were not “free” to sell their own labour power to whichever owner.
It is no more about the students erupting in some university town in the “patriarchal” and “underdeveloped” South, this time it’s about the burst of flame of the infuriated proletarians squeezed in the biggest and most modern industrial city of the North, pride of the american automotive industry.
This revolt is not an isolated event as it is part of the fire spreading not only from city to city but, more importantly, from black proletarians to white proletarians that are siding with them.
The revolt is a page from the book of class struggle, as proud as it is violent, as bold as it is implacable.
It’s the warning sign of what will happen the day in which proletarians, regardless of the color of their skin, will surge in the golden citadels of “capitalist progress” and break, not through prayers but strength, their own chains.
Immediately, bourgeois started to kick a fuss denouncing the horrors of raids, fires and shootings.
How is any of that a crime and the martyrdom inflicted upon black workers, who for a century sought refuge in the very civil North, is not? The same martyrdom that sentenced black workers to less than a half of the wages of white workers while being defenselessly subjected to recurrent unemployment?
How is looting, starting fires or shooting a crime in the light of the very Christian bourgeois society closing its “freed” slaves inside ghettos in the big industrial metropolises?
How is the violence of black proletarians rioting “irresponsible” while that of white capitalists extorting black workers is considered “legitimate”?
To us, the impersonal violence employed during the revolt is as sacred as the one of roman slaves, french sans‑culottes, russian workers and mugik was.
Let the “progressives” à la Luther King or Bob Kennedy scream that this is how the results of patient reform work are destroyed!
Black proletarians CANNOT be patient ANYMORE, even if they wanted to. A hundred years of reforms haven’t achieved a thousandth part of what – and it was not much – the Civil War between the North and the South, just a century ago, achieved not through speeches or petitions but through the language of conflict.
In a long suffering, those at the time important conquests have been proved to be insufficient. It has also been proved that democracy is for the exploited nothing but a deceit and those said conquests cannot be overcomed – overcomed by being negated in new superior conquests – without a new round of civil warfare, this time different being a class, proletarian one.
This is the language that black proletarians are speaking to their rulers.
They are speaking the same language to their proletarian non‑black brothers so they can remember that the enemy is one, and only by breaking the yoke, heavy on the neck of the exploited, the latter are freed. They are speaking to remind that, de facto, black proletarians will only be liberated to the extent that proletarians of every other race, united with the former, will liberate themselves by ripping from the surly hands of the masters, who are the very same for all, the tools of their dictatorial power. The latter being today defended by the paratroopers unleashed to arrest, injure and kill, in the name of property and Capital, those whose horrific guilt is hunger!
All the order’s defenders, secular and ecclesiastic, are today railing against black proletarians in revolt.
That is natural, as the former have something, namely a lot, to lose while the latter have nothing to lose but their chains.
To them goes the solidarity of the communist revolutionaries of every country. We are proud of fighting the common enemy of all the exploited to the immortal cry of “Workers of the world (therefore of every country and race), unite!”
In the last issue, we tried to briefly indicate the «historical limits» of the heroic battle of black workers of Newark and Detroit, distinguished in the first place not by the lack of an instinctive solidarity of the exploited of white skin (that, more or less in an extended form, it happened), but by a corresponding position taken by the political and trade union organisations that collect the enormous majority – white, of course – of wage workers.
Our denunciation of these organisms, that is by the way the denunciation of a long story of cowardice following the sunset of the impetuous revolutionary wave of the I.W.W., finds new overwhelming confirmation, at this very time, in the striking in the same Detroit of the 160 thousand Ford employees – in these days, after the «fearful black» outburst is gone; and did not back then, when the two movements could merge into a single gigantic one, capable of shaking the foundations of the golden building of the star-spangled capitalist «prosperity» – and it must be reiterated with force, because any limitation, deviation, insufficiency and even involution, shown by the theorizings that «black leaders» gave or give on the blaze of July and August, responsibilities of these fall entirely on trade unions and workers’ political parties in US and in the whole world, before anywhere and more than ever in Europe: on these organisms sold to the ruling class, which in the United States, reproduce in their structure and in their ideology the same discriminations against the black minority from which the entire american society is furrowed.
From this observation, that should make the supposedly evolved «not- black» proletariat blush, we must be inspired to answer the question we asked ourselves.
Was the black proletariat able to express a political power able to say the word that the white laboring political forces neither could, nor did want to, nor could say for a filthy tradition in the days of iron and fire in Detroit?
An early positive observation, obvious because documented by all press, as well as easily predictable for marxists, is that in front of the imperious cry of those days the heterogeneous block of the «black population» was broken into its class components – providing additional evidence of the vigorously social base of the «rivolt».
On the one hand, the black bourgeoisie, that gently entered the system and is in favour of the «disadvantaged» confreres, does not dare to ask for nothing more than miserable «rights» pursued with the unwarlike methods of the marches and the renounce of violence, revealing itself as the champion of the established order, «if the police shot soon and a lot – as the “black-friendly” paper «Michigan Chronicle» felt it was its duty to scream, – the riots would have stopped» – clear call to the government, if it happens again, to beat sooner and harder! – while the usual parade of the «leaders», more or less religious, calls for reforms, committees of inquiry, increase in the political representation of the black people, some more black contingent in the civic guard, the end of the discrimination in cafes and in the buses, etc., all between pleasantries to the executive power and the “impartiality” of the legislators and judges.
The bourgeois scoundrels know no «colour line» – it has one tint only, the one of the cops.
From the opposite end, voices of a very different tone have been raised, that not only called the black proletariat to break free from the supine acceptation of the sordid paternalism of the white bosses (the so called «uncletomism»), to boycott the infamous black bourgeoisie sided on the same front of the white bourgeois, to shame the hypocritical statements of the only black senator, Brooks, and to accept with the appropriate raspberries the black congressman Conyers rushed among the demonstrators in an attempt to distract them from the acts of «thuggery», but did not hesitate to revenge the resort to violence as the only weapon from which the use without moralist preconceptions the super exploited black workers can expect an overthrow of the situation they have been rotting for a hundred years. different in form but perhaps even tougher in substance than the one that the slaves of the South have tried (only partially succeeding) to shake off: the same voices that, shortly after the «events» in Newark, encouraged the black proletariat to refuse to wear the military coat to go kill and get killed in Vietnam so that the coffers of the most arrogant capitalist bosses of the world could be defended and, if possible, strengthened.
These voices have raised, it must be recognized, from the party that prides itself on the title of «black power» and to which leaders belong, yet they are not the most significant, Stokely Carmichael and, latecomer, Rap Brown, strange wrecks of a «committee of coordination of the non violent students» now converted to violence.
Now like the historical significance of the elementary explosion of anger of the black proletariat does not detract its organic weakness on the political level, so the credit for taking the responsibility to defend it in the name of armed violence takes nothing away from what is smoky, contradictory, negative, and even, in some respects truly reactionary; that is inevitable in the devastation of the world produced by the stalinism, twice murderer of the Communist International.
As in any mystique of the violence for its own sake, this is a sack in which everyone, therefore every exponent of different classes and doctrines too, can take what they like more and what suits them best.
Talking of «refusal of the system» is meaningless, as long as one does not specify the meaning of «refusal» nor the concept of «system»; as indeed it is meaningless to swear in the «revolution» until one substantiate this generic profession of faith giving it a content, a direction and a class goal (siding the positions of «Che» Guevara and Castro, doesn’t Carmichael give to the invoked «revolution» the bourgeois meaning of «national» liberation struggle?); just like preaching the refusal of serving in war against the Vietnamese – that may mean a return to the concept that capitalism breaks down on the home front, not «creating two, three, four Vietnams» at the suburb – risks of disgorging into the individualistic and passive invocation of the conscientious objection, if it is not translated into the formula: Transform the imperialistic war in civil war, for the abatement of the bourgeois state and the instauration of the proletarian dictatorship!
But it is the same sign of the black power that allows the most diverse programs to gather under a single umbrella and prevent those who start from the root of a class interpretation of the «black problem» to carry out every implicit consequence in its initial complaint.
Not coincidentally it has been said, indeed in the name of that sign, by some of the need for the super exploited black proletariat to organize in a party independent from the same black bourgeoisie, vilely integrated in the dominant class and in its State, that juxtaposes to the bleating pacifism, democratism and reformism of the latter the manly proclaimed usage of armed violence (but, once again, to claim with other methods the wastepaper of the «civil rights», or to overthrow the «system»?); by others to create a third power that is inserted between the two traditional american parties acting like dynamic «group of pression» in favor and in general interest of the «black population» (but this means slipping back into the petty bourgeois ideology, parliamentary and legalitarian, erasing every class line in the indistinct magma of the people, or of the «race»), or lastly and it is worse, claiming the famous «partition» between black and white people, the grouping of the two races under the authority of two states, goal as absurd and unattainable as reactionary because it destroys the same social root of the problem and transfers on the level of a conflict between States what should be a struggle carried out to the extreme consequences of the armed conflict, between social classes.
The same Carmichael, claiming at the conference of the organization for the latin american solidarity in Cuba, in the previous august:
«cuban revolution is ours too», and applauding at the cry of Castro:
«The battle of the black people for the assertion of their rights is comparable to that conducted by the Vietnamese and at the time, by Cubans», it confirms a direction that would resolve in transplanting in America the national guerrilla (against the army, not against the american bourgeoisie and its State!), for goals compatible with the principle enshrined by the same US constitution of the «resistance to oppression» and for an ultimate goal that is not the destruction of the mechanism that generates the extortion of the surplus value from proletarian sweat and blood, but the «equal» distribution of the profit (or rather the crumbs of the national and world profit, since american capitalism extorts surplus value from proletarians of the whole world) between the classes or, even (as for Castro and Guevara), between the nations, the States, the «races».
Here, the woolly and counterrevolutionary mystique of the violence for the violence, of «black power» devoid of any historical and social foundation, and in the end of an inverted racism, is reborn.
This is what it means to distort, violate and flip the sense of class of the days of Detroit.
But we said that a class interpretation exists yet in the indistinct block and behind the smokescreen of the «black power», and it is possible to recognize the voice in the words and writings of James Broggs.
The concept here is that the black proletariat in America is the extreme expression of capitalistic exploitation, «the image of the contradictions that the american society [just american?] cannot be resolved neither in national nor international terms»: so the super exploited par excellence, must raise the flag of the social revolution that the white workers dropped; it cannot wait for the white workers, bastardized by the pacifism of their false prophets, to make this revolution and eventually decide to move.
Strong words, but that self-destruct, because, from this awareness to represent, in a way, the working class «at its purest», should arise the proud proclamation: «We, as victims of the unworthy exploitation by the Capital, raise the flag of the communist dictatorship in the name of all the exploited, whatever the color of their skin».
When Broggs says: «Yesterday the concept of workers’ power expressed the revolutionary social force of the working class organized within the process of capitalist production. Today the concept of black power expresses the new revolutionary social force of the black population … a revolutionary social force that must struggle against workers and the middle classes who support and benefit from the system based on oppression and exploitation of black people», he is right in that he rails against the labour aristocracy and the vile middle classes; but when he deduces:
«Expecting the struggle for the black power to include the white workers (everyone, even the super-exploited, the manual workers, the dispossessed of all origins?) in the black struggle means expecting the revolution to welcome the enemy in its field», he transforms what could be the spearhead of a classist revolutionary renaissance in the rearguard of a movement that is national, racial and obscurantist, this happens again when, starting from the good point that a very high percentage of the black people of the States have been sent to work hard and kill other workers in Vietnam, he does not care to raise the cry: «Comrades in military dress, white as we are black, follow us in the revolt against the common enemy, capitalist imperialism! Let’s fraternize with those we are forced to consider enemies!»
Bitter as it may be, the statement must be made: Not in the practical action, but in the political direction and its translation into doctrine and programme, not even from the heroic black proletariat has raised the only cry capable of opening the doors of the future (and it is our fault, of us militants of the proud advanced capitalist countries): «Proletarians of all countries, of all “races” of the world, unite for the overthrow of the capitalist regime and for the establishment of your dictatorship! Not “black power”, but “workers power”.»
Thus, once more, the urgent need for revolutionary marxist theory and the class party, who is its bearer and its organ of struggle, is evident in the U.S. – and in the rest of the world – in light of the terrible events in New York and Detroit.
The mandatory attitude of opportunist parties, the American Communist Party in particular, towards black uprisings is to mystify their class nature to the eyes of American white proletarians (but also black ones) and all proletarians all over the world.
These are racial uprisings, it is explained, and that is what it is told to proletarians in any way, shape or form.
It is told that the liberation of blacks, uncompleted during Lincoln and the Civil War’s times, is what should be accomplished today. The task of the black movement should therefore be to achieve that much celebrated integration, which should tear down barriers between races and guarantee to all citizens the same rights.
«America has never been able to become a true community», opportunists scream, as if Italy, for example, or any other of the modern State is a «true community».
But what has to appear unclear to the exploited, as it could represent a contagious example, is the fact that the struggle front is not the one of race, but class. American proletariat’s lower strata are acting for the same goals that had and have Italian, German or French workers acting in Europe. Those strata are acting against starvation wages, increasing unemployment, the Vietnam War’s carnage et cetera.
The putrid envelope of stalinist stamp which is the P.C.A. was willing to ask white workers for nothing more than just a few work “stoppages” to take place, in order to discuss «the consequences of black riots» right when Washington DC was burning and in all of the US major cities blacks in revolt were getting shot.
Already during the American Secession War Marx explained that the primary objective of the Northern industrial big bourgeoisie was not to “liberate” blacks in a generic sense but to take down instead the monopoly on land ownership of the big Southern owners. That “liberation” (where “to liberate” is meant in the same way the bourgeoisie “liberated” peasants in Europe) would have resulted in an abundance of low cost labour force, turning blacks into proletarians.
The newer form of slavery that is wage labour replaced the older one.
Known to all proletarians, this new form of slavery is particularly burdensome for blacks as they are set to permanently constitute the reserve army of the unemployed, because of the very situation that had them initiated to labour.
At the end of the war, Marx’s foresight promptly came to realization as blacks began to migrate from plantations to work in the factories located in the North. Disconnected from any job opportunity, if a part of the black population winds up staying in the South it will necessarily turn into the lumpenproletariat camping in the slums.
From this moment going forward, the issue of black people in the United States ceases to be a racial issue becoming now a social issue.
Surely, for a long time civil rights were not recognized to black people. Surely, games were played in relation to race and the racial sentiments of the petit‑bourgeoisie and the white proletariat and lumpenproletariat of the cities and countrysides in the South. For a century, this hatred has nourished also among the masses that are not less exploited than blacks such as Puerto Ricans, Italians, Chinese. Any of that does not take away the fact that the exploitation of black people is a capitalistic one and therefore it’s a class issue and not a racial one.
The bourgeoisie has always had the need to divide the exploited by all means in order to maintain its class domination. To achieve the goal, it is open to any possibility, instigating nationalism, racism, antisemitism et cetera...
In the case of blacks, discriminating against them was easy, it being facilitated by the fact that they were suddenly “thrown” into the labour market with no reserve and industrial work’s experience, forced to change their secular habits in a very short span of time. Therefore, blacks were very well suited to the low wage policy of the worst and most humble jobs on the market which are also the worst paid and the least safe.
Immediate consequence of that was the creation of the infamous and much talked about ghettos which surely are the worst, most unhealthy and battered – and therefore the cheapest – suburban areas where the working class and the lumpenproletariat strata group all over the world.
To take a look at «black ghettos» there is no need to be in the United States as the suburban areas of Turin or Milan, the shacks in which Italian emigrants live in Switzerland or Belgium or Algerian workers live in France show us.
The bourgeoisie also carries out a policy that incites discord among those aforementioned workers with non black skin that find themselves working in the same condition of black Americans. The bourgeoisie benefits from the less paid Italian worker being despised by the specialized Swiss worker, that the Algerian worker is despised and slurred by the French one just as yesterday, in Germany as all over the world, the German, American or Russian workers were instigated to smear the jewish proletariat.
That these are the true basics of the question is proven by the fact that black people themselves are fiercely divided in classes.
Even if the vast majority is constituted of proletarians and semi‑proletarians, it also exists a petite bourgeoisie composed by shop owners or those dedicated to liberal professions. This very petite bourgeoisie exploits the proletariat of the ghettos down to the bone and it was the rightful recipient of the anger of black proletarians.
There also is a black big bourgeoisie that is interested as much as the white one in exploiting low cost labour force whatever its skin color is.
In fact, all these non proletarian strata constitute the specific basis of the movement for civil rights and racial integration.
It’s logical that a black capitalist would ask to have the same rights as a white one and to be accepted, with the same titles, at the table where the non paid labour, extorted to white and black workers, gets consumed.
We affirm that it is clear that black riots express the movement of the most exploited strata of the American proletariat, lighting the fire of class conflict in the most equipped fortress of global capitalism. The maoist theories on the “people’s war”, countrysides encircling cities, revolutionary and non revolutionary populations et cetera fall to the very fact that this very movement soared indeed. These theories show their true nature of petit bourgeois utopias and are founded, on one end, on the theorization of anti‑colonial revolutions and, on the other, on the scepticism over the possibility of a proletarian revolution.
Once again, it seems that history wanted to make fun and ridicule the nonsense that is coming from these so‑called “great personalities”. While history made the “non violent” Luther King a victim of violence as his “non violent” followers pronounce and execute threats of violent retaliations, it contradicted the “greatest marxist of all time” as a violent class movement blew up where he would have never expected.
It blew up in cities that, according to him, needed to be encircled and bombarded by the surrounding countryside, within that same population that the great Chinese leader hopelessly stamped as “reactionary”.
Calling for North Vietnam to continue its fight, the Chinese furtherly affirmed that the United States wanted to negotiate a peace with Hanoi because their internal contradictions and social tensions caused by the black revolts are preventing Americans from continuing the war. That means that if the celebrated Russian and Chinese “help” failed to defeat imperialism and stop the carnage, a simple hike of the American proletarian fights could achieve just that by blowing up the same foundation of the aggression to Vietnam.
This confirms our thesis that only the connection between the proletarian class struggle and the fight of colonized peoples against the global domination of the very same master – Capital itself – would give colonized peoples their only chance of victory. Those who are screaming “long live Vietnam!” are betraying thousands of times the cause of the Vietcong and are actively sabotaging the struggle of the European and American proletariat while preventing its use of class violence, the only one that can stop the war.
If the black movement is a class movement and not a racial one, the leaders of the so‑called Black Power badly conform to it.
In fact, the vector the movement is directed to is perfectly opposite to the class interests of the American and in particular black proletariat. It denies the proletariat any real chance of victory as it shapes the movement into perpetuos and inconcludent revolts.
Last summer’s riots made black proletarians acquainted to violence and first handedly convinced them that it was needed to respond with fire and sword to the dishuman capitalistic exploitment, continuous cause of carnages and wars in which those who are sacrificed for the sake of the country’s glory are always proletarians.
The pacifist and non violent leaders, the supporters of pacific integration were sent away by the enraged crowd and called «Uncle Sams». Luther King himself, leader of the non violent and whose death caused the ongoing riots – not because blacks followed his directives, rather because they witnessed one of them getting hit –, was resoundingly boo’d up and put aside since last summer. Even the garbage men’s pacifist march in Memphis, which Luther King wanted to champion peaceful struggle with, turned into the very violent ongoing riot.
As the non violent leaders were wiped out by the riots themselves, members of Black Power, whose name spoils its entire program, replaced them.
These leaders claim that violence is required to combat the oppression the black community is subjected to, but they are unable to recognize the class aspect of the movement nor the origin of the aforementioned oppression.
Therefore, they claim that the exploitation black Americans are subjected to is of the colonial type and that the American society is soaked in racism. While the last statement stands true, that is just a consequence of the fact that the American society (as the Italian, French, German or Russian ones, mister opportunist!) is capitalistic and as such, it uses every tool, racism included, to better exploit human labour.
The definition of blacks’ condition in the United States that Carmichael and company offered has important consequences for the direction of the struggle moving forward, starting from the unitary and monolithic conception of the black community.
Class divisions within the community that split the latter into opposing sides are ignored as they tend to be overcomed in the name of the creation of a greater black front that is against whites and “white society”, as the leaders of Black Power affirm.
Naturally, if blacks’ exploitation is a colonial exploitation, the issue of conquering national independence is also posed or better yet, as achieving so is quite impossible in the States, the issue of “contesting” “white society”.
That is to be intended in the most reformist and democratic way that nothing has to do with revolution.
Black Power’s objective is to gain power inside the American society and State by the formation of an autonomous black party whose victory coincides with its electoral affirmation.
In the field of economics, the objective is to «let blacks handle blacks’ business» by granting them some “administrative” independence on, for example, social funds made available by the State.
It is pretty clear from what we have written that the direction of the black movement is in the hands of the petite bourgeoisie which, in its reformist confusion, can only lead the movement into a vicious cycle without any possibility of success. As Harrington said «a black man sure is poor because he’s black but, more importantly, he’s black because he’s poor».
In this apparent paradox is contained the class essence of the exploitation black American proletariat is subjected to.
There is a lot more to write on this subject which has prime value being the first violent movement breaking out inside the most terrific fortress of global capitalism.
These notes are nothing but the beginning of a body of work whose organization is of value.
We will take a closer look on various aspects about this subject in a future article.
The bourgeois journals seem to ignore, in their reports – or they just hardly consider it at all – one of the most pressing issues that is tearing apart the american society. That is the “black problem”.
When the resonance of the events forces them to portray the riots in which black people are the protagonists, bourgeois journals punctually distort those riots’ true meaning, the motives that inspired them and the goals they reach out for.
After all, impartial information surely is not a virtue of bourgeois journalism!
African Americans are about 10% of the US population. In the beginning, they were almost exclusively amassed in Southern States such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Virginia. Here, they started working in cotton, tobacco and sugar cane plantations but after the Civil War (1861‑65) they migrated towards the big cities in the North.
The following chart (source: Department of Commerce, Census Bureau) illustrates how the percentage of black inhabitants in three Southern States (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi) follows a descendent curve. On the other end, the percentage of black inhabitants in the remaining areas of the US is slowly increasing. The latter number would be even bigger if the chart referred to just some Northern States rather than the entire US.
In big Northern metropolises blacks found a capitalism starving for wage labour but unwilling to pay wages that would guarantee a decent life standard.
In fact, the condition of black workers didn’t change from that of black slaves as they went from plantation slavery to a new form of slavery in the Northern factories.
Moreover, their condition as lumpen was aggravated by the oppressive racial prejudices of the dominant ideology which excluded them (and often still does) from white schools, hangouts, bars et cetera.
For a long time, this condition was accepted by black people as a logical consequence of their “biological inferiority” to whites. Otherwise, they tried to overcome that said condition through legislative, educational, juridical ways. In conclusion, through pacific unrest leading to pacific reforms.
The unmasking of this mystifying ideology led to the formation of a
political organization that had the goal of liberating the black community
from the dual slavery it was subjected to. That is:
1. racial slavery (racism);
2. economic slavery (exploitation).
In the ‘50s, Black Power was born.
The first nine years of its existence were characterized by non violence.
During this time, Black Power did not affirm itself as a revolutionary movement. In fact, its general tendency was to push whites into accepting blacks and not to violently transform the existing relations of production.
White people’s racial intransigence and the worsening of blacks’ life conditions caused by the increasing separation in wages, occupation, education et cetera convinced the black avantgarde that the path to follow was a different one.
The emancipation of economic slavery is at the base of the emancipation of black people, therefore the path had to be the revolutionary transformation of the dominant forms of production in American society.
This new level of comprehension led the movement to a change of slogan which became: «The violence of the reaction is fought with the violence of the revolution».
Today, blacks represent a significant portion of the American working class of which they constitute the subversive apex. It is just the division between whites and blacks that exist inside the working class that explains why struggles haven’t reached revolutionary magnitude.
In true, the black proletariat constitutes today the major element from
which the transformation of the dominant relations of production can
originate. For that to happen, it is necessary to overcome and resolve the
1. Connecting the black and white proletarian movements.
2. White proletariat revolutionizing traditional unions.
3. Overcoming of the ideological barriers (racism) inside the working class movement itself.
About the first point, there were numerous occasions in which the two movements fought with unity of action.
In 1967, the striking workers of the Newport News shipbuilding in Virginia beat scabs up, fended off policemen to ultimately go down the city breaking windows and ransacking shops.
It was white and black strikers beating white and black scabs and policemen up.
Despite that, the connection between the two movements only takes place during periods of open struggle, quite slowly and not everywhere.
The American ruling class is aware of the threat that the alliance of black and white proletarians would represent to it and for this reason puts numerous discriminatory mechanisms in place, both economically and socially. Those mechanisms guarantee the white proletariat a privileged position compared to the black one.
During the 1962‑1967 span, the unemployment rate for white people was generally 5%, according to official sources. In real terms, around 10%.
For non‑whites and for blacks primarily (Native Americans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans constitute a small minority) the unemployment rate was three times higher.
For black ghettos in thirteen big industrial cities underemployment varied from 28% to 48%.
Most of the retirement benefits go to specialized workers and therefore to non‑blacks. Lower wages and most menial jobs are almost exclusively reserved to non‑whites.
Adding on top of that are the profound inequalities existing in the education field.
About the second point it has to be said that American unions have become more and more a means of mediation between capital and labour. Their policy is founded on wage development exclusively and, in addition, is purely corporate.
There have been numerous cases in which black workers refused the unions’ policy placing themselves in the field of general and direct political struggle. Another symptom of the unions’ declining influence, as presently constructed, on white working class is wildcat strikes.
Tested for the first time in 1955 during the big and non authorized strikes in the automotive sector, since then they have consistently increased in number.
Purely spontaneous events at first, wildcat strikes began to assume a more organized structure from which adventism and spontenism became excluded.
The third point refers to black and white proletariat overcoming the ideological barrier that divides them, which is racism.
Inherited from a society characterized by slavery, racism has permeated the American society to a point that it has become the most valuable element of the dominant ideology. It also represents the biggest obstacle to the merger between the two working class movements. It is ultimately responsible for actions and reactions that push the two into diverging rather than merging.
The division between white and black people is the central problem of the American society and we can’t expect it to go away in the short term.
But the fact that white and black workers are both victims of the same social and economic force that is the capital is objective.
While it is true that the black proletariat represents the most revolutionary element in the American society given its status as the most exploited, it is also true that a revolutionary transformation of society will only be possible if black and white proletarians will be able to overcome the contrived divisions created by their enemy by ultimately recognizing that is capitalism the adversary to defeat.
Just over a century ago Marx wrote that white proletariat can’t emancipate itself if the black one doesn’t and that, obviously, stands equally true the other way around!
As part of our reports on class movements in the US – to which we intend giving a continuing nature – we will refer in short to the Black Panthers first, the movement that best represents the aspiration for emancipation of the black community. The latter is involved in a daily fight against the violence of the police, which retaliates back by persecuting a social stratum with no economic weight and completely left to itself such as the lumpenproletariat.
The “Black Panther Newspaper” is the consistent echo of those clashes and the issues that they imply in terms of defending and organizing the community.
Its photos are the ones of murdered or imprisoned militants, demonstrations, clashes against the police and the destruction the cops themselves carry out, battlefields and also the enemies, meaning the pigs – policemen, that is – murdered during the skirmishes.
This fight against an enemy that always and only has the face of the “pigs”, beyond which Black Panthers are unable to see class and political determination, represents the true soul of the movement and also the cause of its progressive exsanguination in a struggle that cannot be tackled at the roots.
Black Panthers’ leaders have been deliberately and repeatedly hit by police. In fact the latter is looking for any pretext to engage in battle in order to liquidate dangerous members of the movement – something police has succeeded at many times already.
Such an episode was the attack in which Bunchy Carter (member of the “Ministry of Defense”) and John Huggins (member of the “Ministry of Information”) were killed and Elridge Cleaver (that later found refuge in Algeria) was injured.
Arrest and trial, of course with a class verdict, represent the other method. “Minister of Defense” Huey P. Newton, who is the theorist of the group, Bobby Seale and Angela Davis are among the most well‑known names that ran into raids.
Currently, it appears that US prisons are "hosting" at least 400 members of the Black Panthers. Police does also attack the party’s headquarters, as occurred during the preparations for the plenary session in Philadelphia for the "Constitutional Convention of the Revolutionary People". Moreover, it engages in those clashes that are triggered by individual incidents, such as the mistreatment of a child or a drunkard, which soon all members of the neighborhood participate in.
All‑out war is the normal state of living of a community that sees itself as a unit in contrast with the rest of society.
Above any distinction, members of the community are unified by actual solidarity and Black Panthers have the unity of their racial group in the foreground.
They take the lead even in the most insignificant fights, without quitting for moral and legal qualms – and that is a point of honor of theirs.
They do not hesitate to defend "the criminal element" as they see it as the result of a situation of desperate oppression. In effect, the Black Panthers pose as the representatives of blacks opposed to whites.
There is definitely a theoretical limit here, but what "Marxist" party today has the courage to defend an ordinary "delinquent", a "thug"? Or the courage to show the social connections and the aberrant class relations that produce these "asocial" elements and the individual rebellions that can only find salvation by merging into the push of an organized social revolt?
The defense of action – even the individual one – of their community’s members represents both the strength and the theoretical weakness of a movement that transcends class boundaries to reach those of racial community.
The Black Panther party does not fight for blacks as the oppressed, beaten up, thrown into a corner or impoverished proletarians – therefore more responsive to the propaganda of social revolution – they are in every way, shape or form. The Black Panther party fights for blacks in general, for the purpose of liberating black people from white oppression in general. Thus, it attributes a greater role to ethnic differences rather than class ones.
Class struggle is deemed as existing only in individual communities, almost as an internal affair of them. Black Panthers openly refer to the black lumpenproletariat, as its spirit for tenacious struggle they claim.
That is because Black Panthers see the condition of the black lumpenproletariat as the condition of black people in general, turning the former into the means of the emancipation of the black community beyond the emancipation of the working class from capital – which is the only condition for the emancipation of all oppressed strata as well as the overcoming of any "racial question".
Without a doubt, the black community, along with several other racial minorities, is the element of the American society whose members are the most exploited and worst treated.
Among those are laborers with no attribute other than their raw labour power, the unemployed that the "technological progress" produces and reproduces continuously, those that are only occasionally employed, the "godless and amorals", the "unsociable" and the "thugs", those with the "wrong genes" "crime-prone", et cetera.
But this community cannot be looked at as a community of its own, an independent group, by any means. It cannot be separated from society as a whole, otherwise we fall into utopia on one hand and into a reactionary picture on the other.
Black proletarians and lumpen are left alone in a struggle that only now and then receives support from other workers in a country where having white skin equals receiving favorable treatment in workplaces and in society.
During a certain phase (the one of the disintegration of class, political and economic organizations) that privilege is also defending itself from the competition represented by those “brothers” of the same skin, in the application of the inhuman law that dominates the capitalist world of man on man struggle.
It is thoroughly understandable then that black proletarians and lumpen do not see their white class comrades as their brothers. That is all the more so because the bourgeois State has long figured out that by fomenting racial hatred it wards off any class solidarity capable of shaking that said State to its foundations.
In such a situation, it is only fair that should collect the greatest contempt those who under the guise of the political absence of white wage workers come to the conclusion that black workers must sit and "wait".
Combative proletarians, even in a small vanguard and regardless of the color of their skin, must act in order to drag behind the undecided strata. They must show the latter the necessity of organizing in order to obstruct the very development of capitalism, its crushing pressure upon the class that is selling its labor power and to ultimately break down capitalism’s domination itself.
The fact that the majority of such an organization, due to a number of circumstances, is temporarily made of black wage workers must not change the non‑racial character of the organization itself.
However, the American working class has stayed for too long without its political leadership to be able to overcome the enormous difficulties opposing the development of such a process. It has stayed for too long without having to face the very hard struggle that is not only against capital itself but the one of also deciphering its own class interests while enduring painful sacrifices and attempts destined to failure.
The price that the American working class will inevitably have to pay will be that of momentarily walking in the footsteps of improper ideologies, not appropriate for the proletarian class struggle. The Black Panther movement suffers in a decisive way from this tragic isolation and its mistake is to consider that isolation definitive.
Unable to come to an analysis of the current situation on its own – a result of that counter-revolution’s victory that involves a period of several decades and an area of worldwide extension – the Black Panther party sought an agreement with the official Communist Party of the United States, totally anchored on the positions of Stalinism and worse. Inevitably, the agreement then came to a breaking point because of the very different attitude towards the use of violence between the two.
The search for a contact with more combative forces has therefore led the Black Panthers to meet the so‑called "Marxist-Leninists" led by China on one side and the "Third World’’ in general on the other. Finding themselves in the same condition of oppression by the same imperialism apparently, all of them are waging a national war against the United States.
It is with this hybrid contribution – which mistakes the struggle for independence (more or less real) from the bond of imperialism with that of class emancipation – that Black Panthers have "enriched" their previous positions.
Here, the theory that puts on the same level the struggle of the black lumpenproletariat and the one of the colonial peoples is born. That said theory establishes a link between the home country and the colony on one hand and between the white metropolis and the black colony within the same state on the other, concluding that there is «a "Mother Country’ Working Class" and a "Working Class from the Black Colony"», with its own and divergent interests.
Therefore, it is stated the need for distinct and even opposing organizations, to the point of postulating actual solidarity between white workers and their ruling, bourgeois class on one hand, and between the different black strata on the other.
* * *
In short, against the class struggle the Black Panthers propose struggles of “communities of color.”
To tell the truth, the cause for such attitudes is placed upon white proletarians, «a parasite upon the heritage of mankind». In part, such a responsibility exists, however it is seen from a wrong perspective and analysis.
On the other hand, it appears that Black Panthers have never considered class solidarity if not for their own community’s interests, not considering to merge the latter with the general interests of the working class.
As we have seen, the Black Panthers’ appeal is also not to the working class but to the lumpenproletariat in general and the black one in particular.
Cleaver proudly states in ”On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party”: “We are Lumpen. Right on. The Lumpenproletariat are all those who have no secure relationship or vested interest in the means of production and the institutions of capitalist society.
That part of the ‘Industrial Reserve Army’ held perpetually in reserve; who have never worked and never will” et cetera.
The attempt is to adapt a theory and a tactic fitting this social category, seeking in the very historical and social reasons of the political impotence of the lumpenproletariat a way and an energy that are both new and pristine. The lumpenproletariat does not have the possibility of boycotting production with strikes and being forced to struggle in the streets it should therefore be more revolutionary and it should have «no immediate oppressor except perhaps the Pig Police with which it is confronted daily». It is not understood that also implicates its fatal defeat.
The colony-metropolis relation is quite different. The colony is also in certain relation of dependence from the imperialist country, but at the same time it is a producer and a supplier of specific products, usually raw materials, and in some cases is able to conduct real blackmail. Often, it is well disposed to reach agreements with imperialism for the exploitation of its own proletariat.
Therefore, the colony does not have the characteristic, described by Cleaver for the lumpenproletariat, of being «locked out of the economy».
Far from it! Colonies complain of being cut off from global trade, which is quite another matter.
Furthemore, it can also be noted that equally erroneous is the application of guerrilla struggle as a form of armed struggle.
For the colony, guerrilla struggle finds its origin in the fact that the struggle cannot be pushed to the point of destroying bourgeois relations but is only a way of exerting certain pressure and changing those relations’ direction.
On the contrary, we know very well that the class movement has nothing to lose but its chains and therefore organizes itself in a real war that must lead to the total control of political power (therefore it does not admit any local autonomy within it).
Black Panthers’ weakness is definitely theory and that jumps out when their programmatic points are taken in consideration.
Their program is not even a political one, it is just an array of points that should serve for the mobilization of the masses.
Their "platform and program" – that is from the October of 1966 but whose demands have stayed the same up to this day – deserves the definition, in the most benign of cases, of traditional reformism that is backed by a form of guerrilla struggle.
The ten points of the “platform and program” demand, for the black community, freedom, full employment, decent housing, education appropriate to its history and race (a particularly retrograde point), exemption from military service, cessation of police persecution, freedom for black prisoners, courts with black juries, a plebiscite under the supervision of the United Nations (sic!) to establish the will of the black community.
Finally, the end of the capitalist plunder is demanded and the fulfillment of the promise of a hundred years ago that is the payment of “40 acres and 2 mules” as compensation for slave labor and mass suppression (a payment also accepted in currency!).
What Black Panthers are missing is the minimum political and economic analysis of the way to achieve emancipation (and what is a program if not the formulation of theses conveying such analyses?).
Theirs are just a series of demands to the ruling state, conceived as the latter’s duties. Those demands might mobilitize and push groups of exploited towards the use of violence, but cannot change the essence of class relations except on paper.
Indicative, in this regard, is that Black Panthers went as far as writing petitions to the United Nations that should, “on the basis of simple justice” conduct “universal action, including political and economic sanctions, against the U.S.”, guilty of the crime of genocide as defined by the United Nations in the General Assembly of December 9, 1948.
One could think of those petitions as a pure, simple but very naive maneuver to make the black question "public", but the conclusion of the platform-program above summarized adds the appropriate "theoretical" background to it: «all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness».
Rights that call for the usual, corrective interventions from the more or less sovereign "people" when, as in classic bourgeois-democratic thinking, a tyrant arises or said rights are in any case trampled.
The intention of the movement that opposes open violence to the mystified violence of the democratic and racist state of the United States is indeed to act within the very framework of this society, limiting its demands to just a certain autonomy for its own people.
Admirable for its open‑faced battle, nevertheless the movement proceeds on ambiguous and essentially ahistorical foundations.
That very last aspect, one that sees a tie to the experiences of the "heroic" North Korean and Vietnamese peoples, is the retrograde part of the movement.
A part that breaks down, entering into inherent contradiction, as class struggle develops and regains its real content by placing the proletariat (no matter what skin!) as the true protagonist of class struggle. The proletariat is the class suppressing any pretense of autonomy in all areas, from school, "justice", "military service”, family to political and economic state organization because everything is merged in a single unstoppable movement. That is the movement of the exploited class as a whole and led by a single party.
Black proletarians and lumpenproletarians are hindered by a racial struggle whose way to a real enfranchisement in given economic and social conditions is shut before its very eyes. However, there is no doubt that their painful experience will be able to contribute with its continuous and generous sacrifices, the murders committed by the defenders of "order" and the resulting outrageously repressive trials.
And the growth of reverse racism itself (all of these things may well lead to a slow bleeding of proletarian energies) will contribute to open the eyes of white and non‑white proletariat and generate a political vanguard capable of unifying in its ranks all proletarians without discrimination of race. That is the wish and also the tribute that we express for the sake of blacks in their courageous struggle and for the sake of the whites in torpid slumber as well!
All the political commentators agreed in describing the riots that shocked the US last May as the most serious demonstration of proletarian wrath since the late ‘60s.
In Liberty City, a black ghetto in Miami, Florida, the escalating clashes between blacks and policemen caused 15 deaths and 400 injured as about 300 blacks were ultimately arrested.
Riots in Liberty City – a very fitting name for a ghetto! – are nothing but a link of the lengthy chain of racial violence that has periodically shocked the country this century. The most important were in St. Louis in 1919, Detroit in 1945 and, during the second half of the ‘60s, in most of American cities.
It was the ‘60s riots that had the pseudo‑left debating the African American question, as it was called at the time.
Floods of words were written as the publishing industry turned it into a big business. Multitudes of solutions resulted from the strenuous efforts of multitudes of debaters. The resolution of the issue came thanks to President Johnson, promoter extraordinaire of the Indochina’s bloodbaths. His laws ultimately appointed equal civil rights to black and white citizens as every sincere democratic in the world breathed a sigh of relief. A couple of slaps on America’s wrist, deemed a bit imperialist and racist but still sincerely democratic, were just enough as there was to be pleased with the ability peculiar to any democracy to improve the living condition of the communities momentarily excluded from benefiting from «national welfare».
Reforms, that is the true solution of the problem!
Today, ten years later, even the most eccentric sociologist can tell that the living and working conditions for most African Americans haven’t improved in the slightest and, in fact, we claim that they have gotten even worse.
A claim that is comforted by statistics that are shedding a light on the huge mass of unemployed workers in the US. And by the certainty that, whenever labour power is expelled from the production process, it is always the weakest part of the proletariat that gets the boot. In the US, it is certainly black people that are the least protected by the political and union apparatus.
We don’t need to remind the conditions of extreme poverty and brutalization ghetto inhabitants are subjected to as rats run around freely in their rundown accommodations and gangs of young unemployed and lumpen hunt each other.
Whether they are mystified by using appellatives such as “race wars” or not, the riots that took place in American ghettos are authentic outbreaks of class struggle.
In any case, American sociologists and Italian “marxologists” are masters at echoing those who trace every event that is unsettling the social order back to a clash between ethnicities or groups of people identified, for the lack of a better word, as “deviants” out of society’s control. Then, they proceed to demonstrate how the democratic game is ultimately able to correct said frictions. Howerer, it is always the National Guard that suppresses the riots by shooting blacks on sight.
Politicians, learning the lesson from sociologists and from the events, hastily push for law reforms as soon as waters calm down. It has to be kept in mind that these are surely not meant to improve the existing conditions of the black proletariat but only to appease the legal status of the petite and middle black bourgeoisie. At the same time, they are meant to reward the hard hat behaviour of black executives that did their best to cool the feistiest tempers down or, even better, that identified riots’ leaders to police.
By the old but effective “divide et impera” tactic the American bourgeoisie has and always will have a field day against the black proletariat as long as the metropolitan proletariat, without any race distinction, won’t be able to lead the way so that any proletarian riot can actually have productive results for the cause of the international proletariat.
Unfortunately, given the current state of affairs, the domination of bourgeois society is such and so that capital was not only able to make two workers of the same factory compete against each other but it also made the black proletarian compete against the white one by using wage differentials policies.
That is why American capitalism, with all of its economical problems such as the monetary (productive crisis and unemployment) and political crises (such as the Iranian and Afghan ones), has always been able at first to contain any riot that has broken out, proceeding then to extinguish the fire of class struggle. Therefore, its domination over the metropolitan proletariat remains intact.
The mistakes of the so called “black movement” ideologists originate from said disunity. These mistakes come from their inability to free themselves from the perspective of black nationalism which, in some cases, assumes the features of actual inverted racism.
There are mistakes tied to localism caused by the inability of the perspective of the movement to move past the walls of the ghetto. At the same time, there is the incapacity to go past the barrier of the concept of democracy and integration in the bourgeois society.
Are all of these mistakes attributable to the black proletariat or are they caused by the historical retardation of the western and generally light skinned proletariat?
Since the times of the Third International, has some other voice been raised outside of ours, unfortunately so distant and feeble, to show the right perspective to all the American proletariat?
It has been said a lot about a better collaboration between the white and black proletariat but ultimately blacks are generally even excluded from any union that is not “black”.
Revolutionaries know that only in the Communist Party it is possible to break the barriers of race, gender and social class that are at the same time products and manufacturers of the capitalist mode of production.
But this conclusion cannot be reached spontaneously by the class but only as the result of prolonged and often harsh class struggles as long as the Communist Party is able to employ its decisive influence on the process.
We are rejoiced by the bursting fury of the young and defenseless black proletariat but we need to work, even obscurely and from distance, so that the future riots that are to be expected can solder with the resurgence of the international proletarian movement. That is in the perspective, peculiar to all communists, of overthrowing the capitalist regime to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat whose regime is the only one able to correct any contradiction between nationality and race on a global scale.
More than 50 people died, hundreds were wounded, and several thousand were arrested in the ferocious repression that has seen the use of 13 thousand people between Police, National Guard and Army along with heavy weapons, armoured vehicles and aircraft.
Soldiers returning from Panama and the Middle East found themselves guarding their homes and an English newspaper, the Observer, wrote on its front page “The superpower reoccupies a gutted city”.
Trigger of the revolt was the brazen acquittal of the policemen who had beaten a black worker to death a few months earlier, but the real causes of the explosion of anger, as the scandalized bourgeois press has also acknowledged, are to be found in the misery and desperation in which the ghetto population lives.
When, almost thirty years earlier, the Watts black revolt broke out, unemployment in that neighborhood was 15%. Today all of South Central Los Angeles – an area of about 90 square kilometers where a million blacks and Latin Americans crowd – it reaches 40%.
Of the 9 million people living in Los Angeles, as many as 1,336,000 are on the destitution lists, one in seven has an income below poverty level.
Los Angeles is no exception in the US, where 85% of the population now lives in large conurbations.
According to official statistics as many as 36 million Americans, 14.7% of the population – thus one in seven – of the country that dominates the world are poor.
Poverty is not a matter of race, in fact if it is true that in percentage it is Blacks that die more often of hunger (32%), it is also true that 10.7% of whites are also poor. In absolute numbers, poor blacks are 9 million against 21 million whites and 6 million among Hispanics and others.
All the statistics on poverty agree that the latter is growing and with it the gap between the rich, who are richer and richer, and the poor, who are poorer and poorer and more and more numerous. The sociological analysis cannot help much more, it instead helps an analysis of the relations between classes.
The "poor" do not constitute a class and they are often identified with the lumpenproletariat.
There are bourgeois that are poorer than proletarians.
The bourgeoisie knows that poverty uprisings cannot lead to any outlet and, in times of crisis, it solves the issue by repression.
The question changes if the poor are also proletarians who work but whose wages are not enough to live on. It changes if the poor are unemployed but still tied to their fellow workers and therefore can still organize themselves on union and political level.
Since 1898, in the United States almost three million jobs in the manufacturing sector have disappeared. A sector paying good wages and requiring modest professional and intellectual training that employed a general labour force often consisting of Blacks or Hispanics.
During the 1980s there was a spectacular growth of minimum wage workers: "In 1964 there were 11.2 million Americans in this category but in the following years they had fallen to 6.6 million and had stabilized around that figure. That was until Reagan’s time when men and women with compensation of only 12,000 dollars a year increased continuously until they reached 14.4 million" (Il Sole 24 ore, May 20).
On the other hand, minimum wage was not raised once between 1981 and 1989 and today it represents "only 25% of the average wage in industry compared to 50% thirty years ago" (from Le Monde Diplomatique, June 1992).
The real weekly wage has also been continuously, although slowly, falling since 1973.
In 1973 it was 327.45 (in 1982‑84 dollars), in 1982 it fell to 276.95 and in 1990 it reached 274.76 with a decrease of 19.1% compared to 1973.
Therefore, if the problem of a growing poverty affecting not only the United States but all capitalist countries exists, it is becoming increasingly clear that in recent years there has been a direct attack on the living and working conditions of the working class in all these countries. An attack that has been more massive in those countries that have been hit the hardest by the economic crisis.
It has been the workers so far who have paid for the crisis of the US capitalist system and for them "the American dream" has been over since 1973.
Until then, they had enjoyed all the privileges of being slaves of the most powerful bourgeoisie in the world and they constituted that "working class aristocracy" that supported the regime and even its imperialist wars. Now, however, the decline of their living conditions, which began slowly twenty years ago, is getting faster and faster and privileges are disappearing as every day unemployment is increasing and wages are decreasing as exploitation rises. In fact, if up until a few years ago the bourgeoisie was able to unload the burden of the crisis mainly on blacks, Latinos and immigrants trying to disguise the class problem under the racial one, now this game is no longer possible and the conditions of all proletarians are increasingly unifying at the worst level.
After all, in just a few years, the achievement of civil rights by the black minority made possible for what was hidden under the racial question to show itself.
The black bourgeoisie was able to get rich taking its place next to the white one while the black proletariat was left to carry out the worst, – and worst paid – jobs and live in ghettos.
On these material bases we build our hope and our wish that from the revolts of hunger and despair that ran out without leaving a trace we will finally move on to the ORGANIZATION of the struggle for the destruction of the capitalist regime and its State.
We hope that the most conscious working-class minorities will start a methodical, constant work of reorganization of the proletariat into economic organisms for the defense of its living and working conditions, regardless of its race, religion and skin color.
We hope that from the hatred for an increasingly unjust, increasingly violent and oppressive society will reborn the first nucleuses of the Party on the basis of the classic revolutionary communist program, open to all individuals who want to dedicate their existence to the stimulating purpose of the proletarian dictatorship and of communism.