By Tom Watts 12/25/2017

The Emergence of Neoliberalism

Even before the collapse of the “Socialist Camp,” a new ideological-political line was taking shape in the West in contradiction to both socialism and “Cold War” liberalism called “neoliberalism.” The definition and usage of the term has changed over time. It was originally an economic philosophy that emerged among European liberal scholars in the 1930s in an attempt to trace a so-called ‘Third’ or ‘Middle Way’ between the conflicting philosophies of classical liberalism and socialist planning. In 1947 a conference was convened in Switzerland to discuss: “The problem of the creation of an international order conducive to the safeguarding of peace and liberty and permitting the establishment of harmonious international economic relations.” It was attended by various bourgeois economists, philosophers, historians and business and political figures, who formed the Mont Pelerin Society.

During the “Cold War,” Keynesian economics, developed by the British economist John Maynard Keynes during the 1930s in an attempt to understand and get out of the Great Depression, dominated the West. Keynes advocated progressive taxation and increased government spending to stimulate the economy, as well as concessions to organized labor and the growth of a large middle class. Initiated as “New Deal” liberalism, this morphed into “Cold War” liberalism after World War II, driven by fear of the “Socialist Camp” and the potential for the spread of working class revolution.

“Cold War” liberals were fiercely anti-communist but reform minded. In the words of John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” But this philosophy did not sit very well with the oligarchy of the super-rich.

Backed by super-wealthy patrons, neoliberalism found a home in academia and intellectual “think tanks.” Amended to suit the ambitions and prejudices of its sponsors, neoliberalism emerged as doctrine under the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher in the 1970’s. Milton Friedman, the chair of the Chicago School of Economics, was an advisor to them both. He also traveled to China and Eastern Europe to advise those government on how to apply neoliberal polices. Chile and the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet was an early testing ground for Friedman’s theories. It has since then become the ruling rationale of the capitalist empire, and represents the final stage of capitalist-imperialism. In essence it is a matter of “war upon the poor” and unbridled dictatorship of the rich.

Everything has its beginning and its end and its stages of development and decline. As Mao pointed out, capitalism had it beginning with the enslavement of Black people and it will surely have its end with their complete emancipation. Electing a Black man President of the United States did not do it, nor could it have. Separation could not do it, or else Haiti would be a paradise instead of a pest hole, which it certainly is. No, the only solution is to play the role of leadership of the world revolution Huey Newton envisioned. Pantherism alone holds forth the prospect of Black liberation for those who would dare to seize it.

As Sun Tzu, the ancient sage of the Art of War pointed out: “What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.” He also taught: “The secret to success is having a strategy and knowing when to move, and when to be patient and wait for the perfect time to make your move. If you know your enemy, and then plan your strategy around that knowledge, you can easily attack where he is not prepared and move when he does not expect you to move.” To defeat the strategy of capitalist-imperialism we must turn theirs on them with our own. They have the strategy of mass incarceration of the poor and the youth, particularly poor Black, Brown and White youth from the oppressed communities. We must adopt the strategy of transforming their prisons into our “schools of liberation.”

They have the strategy of cutting back on social services and programs to assist the poor, the needy, the children and the elderly. We must counter this with the initiation of “Serve the People” survival programs centered in the oppressed communities and illuminated by revolutionary agitation, education and organization of community-based people’s power. We must fill the vacuums they create with Panther Power. They promote subjective idealism, we must counter by teaching dialectical materialism. They glorify individualism, we must counter with teaching communalism. They promote racial hate and narrow nationalism we must counter with intercommunal solidarity and Panther Love! The more they spread lies, the more scrupulously we must tell the truth.

The Negation of the Negation of the National Question

Contrary to what some may think, Marxism has never held the right of self-determination to be an absolute right. As Lenin explained: “The various demands of democracy,” writes Lenin, “including self-determination, are not an absolute, but a small part of the general democratic (now: general socialist) world movement. In individual concrete cases, the part may contradict the whole, if so, it must be rejected” (see Vol. XIX, pp.257-58). The duty of communists is to advocate for communism; global, stateless, classless society. The question is “how do we get from here to there,” and if advocating for self-determination for a particular country helps us get to there from here, we are for it.

Further, Lenin points out that:

“Developing capitalism, knows two historical tendencies in the national question. First: the awakening of national life and national movements, struggle against all national oppression, creation of national states. Second: development and acceleration of all kinds of intercourse between nations, breakdown of national barriers, creation of the international unity of capital, of economic life in general, of politics, science, etc.

“Both tendencies are a world-wide law of capitalism. The first predominates at the beginning of its development, the second characterises mature capitalism that is moving towards its transformation into socialist society” (see Vol. XVII, pp. 139-40).

So, we see that nations and nationalism belongs to a distinct historical period—that of capitalism—and it exists as a unity of opposites. Nations are formed in the rising stage of capitalism and become anachronistic in late capitalism. A lot of ink has been put to paper on the Black National Question in the U.S. Clearly, Black people did not belong to any nation when they were brought here under slavery. They did not even belong to a single tribe, they came from different tribes, from different regions and spoke different languages, had different customs and so forth. Under the conditions of slavery, they were stripped of these identities, taught a common language and so forth, but they did not become a part of the White American Nation. Some effort was made to integrate them under Reconstruction, but this was reversed under “Jim Crow” segregation. After giving it some consideration, the 3rd Communist International (Comintern) concluded that they met the criterion of a separate nation in the “Black Belt” South, with the right to self-determination, and constituted a national minority elsewhere in the U.S. But even as this determination was being made in 1928, the process of dissolution was underway due to the “Great Migration.” Hannah Foster writes in The Black Past:

“The Black Belt Republic was a proposed black autonomous state in the American Deep South proposed by African American communists and for a time endorsed by the Soviet Union and the international communist community. The Black Belt itself is a crescent shaped band of predominately African American counties stretching from eastern Virginia to eastern Texas. The term was also used to describe the rich, almost black soil prevalent across the region.

“Initially, the American communist party did not have any sort of special relationship with or policy towards African Americans. In 1921 however, Soviet leader V.I. Lenin criticized American communists for not recognizing the importance of ‘Negro work’ and not actively recruiting blacks, who he saw as the most oppressed of the proletariat and a group with potential to spearhead a radical new American labor movement. Soon afterwards the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), which was the first black group to be incorporated into the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA), began urging it to develop a cohesive and decisive policy on racial issues.

“A handful of black communists, including ABB member Harry Haywood, studied at the International Lenin School in Moscow in the mid-1920s and explored ways in which the African American experience of oppression fit in with the larger framework of class struggle against imperialism. In Moscow, Haywood drew parallels between the struggle of blacks in the United States and anti-colonial movements elsewhere, declaring the oppressed black population in the South to be a ‘nation within a nation.’ He further developed the thesis on the Black Belt Republic and called for the establishment of the Republic in a detailed ‘Resolution on the Negro Question,’ which he submitted to the Sixth Congress of Communist International (COMINTERN) of 1928. The resolution condemned racism within the Communist Party of America, acknowledged that many whites would live as citizens in the Black Belt Republic, and pointed out the unionizing needed in the Black Belt would be primarily of agricultural workers, who made up 75% of the black population in the south.

“Soviet leader Josef Stalin embraced the Black Belt Republic as a viable and promising solution to the ‘Negro Question.’ He declared black self-determination to be a priority of the international communist community, and commanded the American Communist Party to eliminate those perceived as racist from their ranks.

“Stalin’s official endorsement of the idea of Black Belt Republic and black self-determination was extremely controversial within communist ranks. Many black leaders and communists were skeptical about the practicality and benefits of the Black Belt Republic especially when thousands of African Americans were leaving the region for Northern cities and industrial jobs.

“Nonetheless the recognition of black struggle from an international organization was significant. Although the Black Belt Republic never came to be as an autonomous republic, and the CPUSA abandoned the idea by 1934, the concept of African Americans being in the vanguard of the coming Communist revolution, continued to hold sway long after the 1930s.”

The Black Belt Thesis was a point of contention between the original BPP and Robert William’s Republic of New Africa (RNA).

Huey was willing to go as far as to say he would agree to abide by a referendum of Black People in the U.S., held by the United Nations, as to whether or not the majority wanted to form a separate nation in the Black Belt South. It was also later a point of contention between different forces in the New Communist Movement of the 1970’s and 80’s, such as the October (M-L) League and the Revolutionary Union–which would later become the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist (USA) and the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA). In a letter welcoming Robert Williams back to the U.S. in 1969, Huey summed up the Panthers’ position as:

“The Black Panther Party’s position is that the Black people in the country are definitely colonized, and suffer from the colonial plight more than any ethnic group in the country. Perhaps with the exception of the Indian, but surely as much even as the Indian population. We too, realize that the American people in general are colonized. And they’re colonized simply because they’re under a capitalist society, with a small clique of rulers who are the owners of the means of production in control of decision making. They’re the decision making body, therefore, that takes the freedom from the American people in general, and they simply work for the enrichment of this ruling class. As far as Blacks are concerned, of course, we’re at the very bottom of this ladder, we’re exploited not only by the small group of ruling class, we’re oppressed, and repressed by even the working class Whites in the country. And this is simply because the ruling class, the White ruling class uses the old Roman policy of divide and conquer. In other words the White working class is used as pawns or tools of the ruling class, but they too are enslaved. So it’s with that historical policy of dividing and ruling, that the ruling class can effectively and successfully keep the majority of the people in an oppressed position; because they’re divided in certain interest groups, even though these interests that the lower class groups carry doesn’t necessarily serve as beneficial to them.

“As far as our stand on separation, we’ve demanded, as you very well know, a plebiscite of the U.N. to supervise, so that Blacks can decide whether they want to secede the union, or what position they’ll take on it. As far as the Black Panther Party is concerned we’re subject to the will of the people, but we feel that the Republic of New Africa is perfectly justified in demanding and declaring the right to secede the union. So we don’t have any contradiction between the Black Panther Party’s position and the Republic of New Africa’s position it’s simply a matter of timing. We feel that certain conditions will have to exist before we’re even given the right to make that choice. We also take into consideration the fact that if Blacks at this very minute were able to secede the union, and say have five states, or six states, it would be almost impossible to function in freedom side by side with a capitalist imperialist country. We all know that mother Africa is not free simply because of imperialism, because of Western domination. And there’s no indication that it would be any different if we were to have a separate country here in North America. As a matter of fact, by all logics we would suffer imperialism and colonialism even more so than the Third World is suffering it now. They are geographically better located, thousands of miles away, but yet they are not able to be free simply because of high technological developments, the highest technological developments that the West has that makes the world so much smaller, one small neighborhood.

“So taking all these things into consideration, we conclude that the only way that we’re going to be free is to wipe out once and for all the oppressive structure of America. We realize we can’t do this without a popular struggle, without many alliances and coalitions, and this is the reason that we’re moving in the direction that we are, to get as many alliances as possible of people that are equally dissatisfied with the system. And also we’re carrying on, or attempting to carry on a political education campaign so that the people will be aware of the conditions and therefore perhaps they will be able to take steps to controlling these conditions. We think that the most important thing at this time, is to be able to organize in some fashion so that we’ll have a formidable force to challenge the structure of the American empire. So we invite the Republic of New Africa to struggle with us, because we know from people I’ve talked to, (I’ve talked to May Mallory, and other people who are familiar with the philosophy of the Republic of New Africa), they seem to be very aware that the whole structure of America will have to be changed in order for the people of America to be free. And this again is with the full knowledge and full view of the end goal of the Republic of New Africa to secede. In other words, we’re not really handling this question at this time because we feel that for us that is somewhat premature, that I realize the psychological value of fighting for a territory. But at this time the Black Panther Party feels that we don’t want to be in an enclave type situation where we would be more isolated than we already are now. We’re isolated in the ghetto areas, concentrated in the north, in the metropolitan areas, in the industrial areas, and we think that this is a very good location as far as strategy is concerned, as far as waging a strong battle against the established order. And again I think that it would be perfectly justified if Blacks decided that they wanted to secede the union, but I think the question should be left up to the popular masses, the popular majority. So this is it in a nutshell.”

– (The Letter Huey P Newton Black Panther Party/BPP to Robert F Williams & Republic of New Afrika/RNA 1969)

Later, in Huey’s speech at Boston College in 1970, he would take the matter to another level, stating that:

“The United States, or what I like to call North America, was transformed at the hands of the ruling circle from a nation to an empire. This caused a total change in the world, because no part of an interrelated thing can change and leave everything else the same. So when the United States, or North America, became an empire it changed the whole composition of the world. There were other nations in the world. But “empire” means that the ruling circle who lives in the empire (the imperialists) control other nations. Now some time ago there existed a phenomenon we called-well, I call – primitive empire. An example of that would be the Roman Empire because the Romans controlled all of what was thought to be the known world. In fact they did not know all of the world, therefore some nations still existed independent of it. Now, probably all of the world is known. The United States as an empire necessarily controls the whole world either directly or indirectly.

“If we understand dialectics we know that every determination brings about a limitation and every limitation brings about a determination. In other words, while one force may give rise to one thing it might crush other things, including itself. We might call this concept “the negation of the negation.” So, while in 1917 the ruling circle created an industrial base and used the system of capitalism they were also creating the necessary conditions for socialism. They were doing this because in a socialist society it is necessary to have some centralization of the wealth, some equal distribution of the wealth, and some harmony among the people.

“Now, I will give you roughly some characteristics that any people who call themselves a nation should have. These are economic independence, cultural determination, control of the political institutions, territorial integrity, and safety.

“In 1966 we called our Party a Black Nationalist Party. We called ourselves Black Nationalists because we thought that nationhood was the answer. Shortly after that we decided that what was really needed was revolutionary nationalism, that is, nationalism plus socialism. After analyzing conditions a little more, we found that it was impractical and even contradictory. Therefore, we went to a higher level of consciousness. We saw that in order to be free we had to crush the ruling circle and therefore we had to unite with the peoples of the world. So we called ourselves Internationalists. We sought solidarity with the peoples of the world. We sought solidarity with what we thought were the nations of the world. But then what happened? We found that because everything is in a constant state of transformation, because of the development of technology, because of the development of the mass media, because of the fire power of the imperialist, and because of the fact that the United States is no longer a nation but an empire, nations could not exist, for they did not have the criteria for nationhood. Their self-determination, economic determination, and cultural determination has been transformed by the imperialists and the ruling circle. They were no longer nations. We found that in order to be Internationalists we had to be also Nationalists, or at least acknowledge nationhood. Internationalism, if I understand the word, means the interrelationship among a group of nations. But since no nation exists, and since the United States is in fact an empire, it is impossible for us to be Internationalists. These transformations and phenomena require us to call ourselves “intercommunalists” because nations have been transformed into communities of the world. The Black Panther Party now disclaims internationalism and supports intercommunalism.

“Marx and Lenin felt, with the information they had, that when the non-state finally came to be a reality, it would be caused or ushered in by the people and by communism. A strange thing happened. The ruling reactionary circle, through the consequence of being imperialists, transformed the world into what we call “Reactionary Intercommunalism.” They laid siege upon all the communities of the world, dominating the institutions to such an extent that the people were not served by the institutions in their own land. The Black Panther Party would like to reverse that trend and lead the people of the world into the age of “Revolutionary Intercommunalism.” This would be the time when the people seize the means of production and distribute the wealth and the technology in an egalitarian way to the many communities of the world.”

– (Huey Newton’s Speech at Boston College 18th November 1970)

The same logic would naturally be applied to Aztlán in the U.S. Southwest and to the indigenous nations within the U.S. This does not rule out the creation of autonomous regions and communities, quite the contrary. The very idea of intercommunalism implies separate communities working together in solidarity. Huey’s visit to People’s China in 1971 further illuminated his understanding, as Comrade Rashid pointed out in: “Black Liberation in the 21st Century: A Revolutionary Reassessment of Black Nationalism” (2010):

“Huey saw that Blacks were an oppressed nation inside Amerika, but his ideas on charting our path to liberation took a quantum leap forward when he visited and toured Mao’s revolutionary China. There he found that numerous racial and ethnic minorities had attained genuine liberation within China’s socialist state, without separating or integrating in the classic sense.

“What Huey observed in China gave him a blueprint for organizing Black folks to become self-reliant in the very urban communities where they were concentrated in preparation for revolution in the U.S. The BPP’s implementation of these ideas quickly earned it the label of the “greatest threat to imperialism’s security, and the U.S. government concentrated its forces in an all-out campaign to destroy the Panthers. Here’s what Huey found in People’s China that inspired the BPP’s STP survival programs and illuminated his ideas about Black liberation in Amerika:

“I saw, crystal clear, how we can start to reduce the kinds of conflicts that we’re having in [Amerika]. I saw an example of that in China… what I saw was this: when I went there, I was very unenlightened and I thought I knew something about China. I thought, as it has been said so often, that China would be a homogeneous kind of racial/ethnic territory. Then I found that 50 percent of the Chinese territory is occupied by a 54 percent population of national minorities, large ethnic minorities. They speak different languages, they look very different, and they eat different foods. Yet there is no conflict. I observed one day that each region—we call them cities—is actually controlled by those ethnic minorities, yet they’re still Chinese…. I’m talking about a general condition in China where ethnic minorities I’ve observed control their whole regions. They have a right to have representation in the Chinese Communist Party. At the same time they have their own principles…. The cities in this country could be organized like that, with community control. At the same time, not Black control so that no whites can come in, no Chinese can come in. I’m saying there would be democracy in the inner city. The administration should reflect the people who live there.”

The Chinese recognize 55 distinct ethnic minority groups comprising 8.49% of the population of mainland China. Some minority autonomous regions are very large though sparsely populated. In addition to these there are unrecognized ethnic minorities who have distinct cultural differences, such as religion, but without autonomous territory. There are subgroups within the dominant Han ethnic group with various distinguishing features such as dialect, dress and customs, and within the recognized ethnic minority groups there are subgroups with very different languages and other cultural differences sharing a common region. Great effort is made to give special representation to minority ethnic groups in political decision making and to preserve their cultural traditions and languages while allowing them full access to education and employment opportunities in the mainstream Chinese society.

In the course of revolutionary struggle, there may be various stages and steps in political configuration that will be necessary or expedient to achieve global revolutionary intercommunalism and set the stage for global, borderless, stateless, classless community society. We may, for example, support dismemberment of the existing United States or the reconfiguration of a Socialist States of North America including the present territories of Canada and Mexico. It will depend upon circumstances and the will of the people. What is clear is that nationalism is in contradiction with the trend of history leading to the end of class divisions and exploitation.

Revolutionary nationalism can never be more than a ‘stepping stone,’ a transitional stage between bourgeois nationalism and ‘all-the-way revolutionary’ consciousness. A child learns to crawl before he or she can walk and to walk before he or she can run. It would be idealist to expect an infant to get up and run with you to the park. If you want to take them along, you must carry them. That doesn’t mean they will never walk, or never run, or even that they might not end up being able to outrun you. It also doesn’t mean that we should discourage an infant from struggling to get up and walk or a toddler from trying to run, just because they are apt to fall down a lot. It is through struggle we learn and develop our strength and coordination.

We all start out self-centered and learn to consider others as we mature. If we never learn to have empathy and consideration for those who are different from ourselves, who look different, speak a different language or have a different culture than ours, we suffer from arrested development. Black, Brown or White, if we can say “I love my people” but cannot love others as well, we have a problem with our human development. Maybe yesterday we could not even say “I love myself.” That is what alienation can do to you, and capitalism produces alienation. How can you love others if you are filled with self-hate? How can you love yourself and hate others who are different from you? We must struggle to be fully human and overcome alienation and self-centeredness. If we can’t feel Panther Love how can we give it to the people?

In the final analysis proletarian consciousness is human consciousness because the proletariat must become the human race to end class division and oppression. It is the last class in history. It is the only “all-the-way revolutionary” class.

White Nationalism is Inherently Racist and Reactionary
White nationalism is bound up with the history of European colonialism, slavery and genocide and dispossession of the indigenous American peoples. It is important to realize that the Europeans were not “white people” until they crossed the Atlantic. Even then they were too caught up with their rivalry as Frenchmen, Englishmen, Dutchmen or Spaniards and representatives of competing colonial empires to recognize any overriding ethnic kinship, and the legacy of hundreds of years of religious wars between Protestants and Catholics fueled deep religious, and dehumanizing prejudices and hatreds. The first conception of “separate races” the English conceived was between themselves and the Irish, whom they considered an inferior and “wild race” unfit for self-government, lazy, dishonest and violent. It was through this lens that they came to see other “non-white” peoples.

As Theodore Allen pointed out in his seminal work, The Invention of the White Race (2012):

“In 1607 the first permanent English settlement in America was founded at Jamestown, Virginia. By the end of the first third of the century four more permanent Anglo-American colonies had been established, Somers Islands (the Bermudas), 1612; Plymouth (Massachusetts), 1620; Barbados, 1627; and Maryland, 1634. The English were confronted with the common twofold problem crucial to success in the Americas: (1) how to secure an adequate supply of labor; and (2) how to establish and maintain the degree of social control necessary to assure the rapid and continuous expansion of their capital by the exploitation of that labor, in each of these respects, however, the English case differed from those of other European colonizing powers in the Americas, in ways that have a decisive bearing on the origin of the ‘peculiar institution’ – white racial oppression, most particularly racial slavery – in continental Anglo-America.”

In Vol. 1, Allen asserts: “However one may choose to define the term ‘racial’– it concerns the historian only as it relates to a pattern of oppression (subordination, subjugation, exploitation) of one group of human beings by another.” Racism cannot be separated from the economic system that called it into being. While all legitimate scientists agree that “race” is a purely “social construct,” Allen argues that we must recognize it “not simply as a social construct, but as a ruling class social control formation.” This is exactly the point Mao was making when he stated: “In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world.” [“Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism” (August 8, 1963)]
It can only serve to help perpetuate racism to erroneously ascribe its source to be “human nature” or “genetics” or any other source but the capitalist ruling class, as many advocates of black capitalism do. Apologists for and advocates of white supremacy likewise seek to camouflage the true source of their racism by pseudo-science or Biblical interpretation or some other device. All racialist-based theories have this in common, they are incapable of defeating racism, and in fact nurture and perpetuate it. Pantherism has always opposed cultural nationalism for this reason, as its program is to end racism and capitalism.

In his summary Allen delineates the basics of class society:

“The essential social structure in class societies is this: First, there is the ruling class, that part of society which, having established its control of the organs of state power, and having maintained domination of the national economy through successive generations and social crises, is able to limit the options of social policy in such a way as to perpetuate its hegemony over the society as a whole. Being itself economically non-productive, it is at the optimum a small numerical proportion of the society.

“Secondly, there is the intermediate buffer social control stratum, classically composed of self-employed small land-owners or leaseholders, self-employed artisans, and members of the professions, who live in relative economic security, in social subordination to the ruling class and normally in day-to-day contact with their social inferiors.

“Finally, there are those devoid of productive wealth (except their ability to work), who constitute the majority of the population, and whose condition is generally one of extreme dependency and insecurity.”

In the case of the American colonies, the ruling class was far away in England calling the shots and relying on an intermediate class of colonial administrators, colonists and dependent lackeys to represent their interests. As Allen points out: “The hallmark, the informing principle, of racial oppression in its colonial origins and as it has persisted in subsequent historical contexts, is the reduction of all members of the oppressed group to one undifferentiated social status, beneath that of any member of the oppressor group.”

Comparing the colonial system applied in English occupied Ireland to the American colonies, “demonstrates that racial oppression is not dependent upon differences of ‘phenotype,’ i.e., of physical appearance of the oppressor and the oppressed.” However, by drawing the distinction between African and European bonded labor and reducing the African to lifetime chattel slavery, it effectively divided the exploited class and empowered the ruling class.

The lesson of Bacon’s Rebellion (1676) was that the united force of European and African bonded and free labor could easily overpower the colonial administration and loyal middle class colonists. It was to prevent a reoccurrence of such rebellion that the “peculiar institution” was conceived. It took a few decades, but step by step the “undifferentiated social status” of the Negro was evolved in colonial legislation and societal norms.

The distinction between the “white” colonists and brown-skinned “Indians” was also a process of social construction. Initially few in number and desirous of trade, the English colonists sought to create alliances with at least some of the indigenous peoples. The spark of Bacon’s Rebellion lay in the colonial governor’s refusing to allow Bacon to be a part of his fur trade with the Indians, and the hunger of the freed white bond servants to settle on Indian lands, which provoked retaliation and Indian raids on the frontier settlements. The reluctance of the governor to take punitive actions against the Indians angered the colonists on the frontier and gave Bacon a platform to challenge the governor’s authority. A similar rebellion also broke out in the Maryland colony around the same time.

In contrast to the history of conflicts between the colonists and Indians of the New England and Southern colonies, Pennsylvania colony had a unique beginning with more than 50 years of coexistence without a single case of colonists murdering Indians or vice versa. Indeed, Pennsylvania became a haven for Indians fleeing conflicts with settlers in the other colonies. The colonial proprietor, William Penn, had a vision of creating a peaceful haven for all victims of intolerance and came to the Indians unarmed and without a militia. He insisted on fair treatment and honest trading, and arranged all land purchases with the Indians personally.

Eventually, the honeymoon ended when his heirs took over, but for some time the relationship between the Quakers and Moravians and the Lenape Indians continued even as the Indian settlements were pushed west by successive colonial wars.

While Penn and some other wealthy Pennsylvania colonists kept Black slaves as servants, slavery played a minor role in the Pennsylvania colony, and Philadelphia became the seat of the first anti-slavery society in America. One of the first “bones of contention” between the Penn heirs and the Lenape was their insistence on giving sanctuary to runaway slaves. Numerous Blacks as well as runaway white bondservants and others were adopted into the Lenape nation and other Indian tribes along the frontier. The practice of adopting captives in war and of intermarriage downplayed the development of sharp racial distinctions that would develop with continued westward expansion.

White nationalism developed over time fueled by both the institution of slavery and “Manifest Destiny.” It became most pronounced in the South in the period of “Jim Crow” segregation and in the West with the annexation of northern Mexico, the “Indian Wars” and the oppression of Chinese “coolie” laborers.

Slavery and White Racism are Essential Components to the Rise of Capitalism

Ken Lawrence pointed out in “Karl Marx on Slavery” (1976):

“Throughout Karl Marx’s long career as philosopher, historian, social critic, and revolutionary, he considered the enslavement of African people in America to be a fundamental aspect of rising capitalism, not only in the New World, but in Europe as well. As early as 1847, Marx made the following forceful observation: ‘Direct slavery is just as much the pivot of bourgeois industry as machinery, credits, etc. Without slavery you have no cotton; without cotton you have no modern industry. It is slavery that has given the colonies their value; it is the colonies that have created world trade, and it is world trade that is the pre-condition of large-scale industry. Thus slavery is an economic category of the greatest importance. Without slavery North America, the roost progressive of countries, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipe out North America from the map of the world, and you will have anarchy — the complete decay of modern commerce and civilisation. Cause slavery to disappear and you will have wiped America off the map of nations. Thus slavery, because it is an economic category, has always existed among the institutions of the peoples. Modern nations have been able only to disguise slavery in their own countries, but they have imposed it without disguise upon the New World.’ Marx’s view of slavery was not static. Like all other exploitative social systems, Marx viewed modern slavery as a system with a dynamic rise as productive forces developed, followed by stagnation, decline and overthrow. Most importantly, it was a society which created the seeds of its own destruction — the contending classes which stood in constant opposition to one another.”

Marx distinguished between the chattel slavery of antiquity and the slavery imposed on Africans in America, recognizing that the later were essentially proletarians because of their integration into the global capitalist system. Likewise the Chinese “Coolies” forced to work building the railroads alongside Black slaves, convicts and immigrants. As Marx noted in Capital:

“Whilst the cotton industry introduced child-slavery in England, it gave in the United States a stimulus to the transformation of the earlier, more or less patriarchal slavery, into a system of commercial exploitation. In fact, the veiled slavery of the wage-earners in Europe needed, for its pedestal, slavery pure and simple in the New World.” (Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, Chicago, Charles Kerr & Co., 1906, page 833)

Marx goes on to explain:

“….as soon as people, whose production still moves within the lower forms of slave-labor, courvee labor, etc., are drawn into the whirlpool of an international market dominated by the capitalistic mode of production, the sale of their products for export becoming their principal interest, the civilized horrors of over-work are grafted on the barbaric horrors of slavery, serfdom, etc. Hence the Negro labor in the Southern States of the American Union preserved something of a patriarchal character, so long as production was chiefly directed to immediate local consumption. But in proportion, as the export of cotton became of vital interest to these states, the overworking of the Negro and sometimes the using up of his life in 7 years’ of labor became a factor in a calculated and calculating system. It was no longer a question of obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products. It was now a question of production of surplus-labor itself.” (Capital I, page 260.)

After the Civil War, instead being integrated into the proletarian work force or becoming small scale farmers with their promised “40 acres and a mule,” the majority of freed slaves were forced into a semi-feudal relationship of “share cropping” with their former slave-masters and other landlords. This relationship was enforced by the terror of groups like the KKK and local law enforcement (who were often the same people). The system of “Jim Crow” segregation was built up to maintain this exploitative relationship. It was particularly important to keep the poor whites, many of whom were in the same semi-feudal condition of “share cropping,” from uniting with their Black neighbors. This in fact occurred in Oklahoma in the “Green Corn Rebellion” in August of 1917, when thousands of poor white, Black and Native American share croppers took up arms against the imposition of the military draft.

At the core of the rebellion was a radical tenant farmers’ organization called the “Working Class Union (WCU)” which claimed a membership of as much as 20,000 in Eastern Oklahoma alone. Influenced by socialism and the militant Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which declined to organize tenant farmers, these semi-proletarians planned to march across Appalachia to Washington D.C. to confront Woodrow Wilson who had run for reelection on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War,” even though he had secretly committed the U.S. to enter World War I on the English side after he was reelected. Although a quarter of the votes in the region had been for the Socialist Party, the sharecroppers felt they had been betrayed by “Slick Willy” and rallied around the sentiment: “Now is the time to rebel against this war with Germany, boys. Boys, get together and don’t go. Rich man’s war. Poor man’s fight. The war is over with Germany if you don’t go and J.P. Morgan & Co. is lost. Their great speculation is the only cause of the war.”

The “Green Corn Boys” were gathered on Roasting Ear Ridge on the Muscogee Creek Nation reservation awaiting contingents from western Oklahoma when they were confronted by an armed sheriff’s posse that had been brought by an informer. After exchanging a few scattered shots, the rebels dispersed. In the following days, many were hunted down, whipped with ropes and arrested. Three rebels were killed, one of whom was Clifford Clark, an African American tenant farmer. Some 450 were rounded up, about half of whom were released without charges. 150 were tried, convicted and sentenced to jail terms of from 90 days to 10 years in prison. One can but wonder what the effect might have been had they carried out their planned march. They had already been joined by a contingent of Oklahoma coalminers.

Both the Socialist Party and the IWW were suppressed by the government because of their opposition to the war, although neither had taken part in the “Green Corn Rebellion.” As reported by Wikipedia:

“During World War I the U.S. government moved strongly against the IWW. On September 5, 1917, U.S. Department of Justice agents made simultaneous raids on dozens of IWW meeting halls across the country. Minutes books, correspondence, mailing lists, and publications were seized, with the U.S. Department of Justice removing five tons of material from the IWW’s General Office in Chicago alone. This seized material was scoured for possible violations of the Espionage Act of 1917 and other laws, with a view to future prosecution of the organization’s leaders, organizers, and key activists.

“Based in large measure on the documents seized September 5, one hundred and sixty-six IWW leaders were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Chicago for conspiring to hinder the draft, encourage desertion, and intimidate others in connection with labor disputes, under the new Espionage Act One hundred and one went on trial en masse before Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis in 1918. Their lawyer was George Vanderveer of Seattle. They were all convicted — including those who had not been members of the union for years — and given prison terms of up to twenty years. Sentenced to prison by Judge Landis and released on bail, Haywood fled to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic where he remained until his death.

“In 1917, during an incident known as the Tulsa Outrage, a group of black-robed Knights of Liberty, a short-lived faction of the Ku Klux Klan, tarred and feathered seventeen members of the IWW in Oklahoma. The IWW members had been turned over to the Knights of Liberty by local authorities after they were convicted of the crime of not owning war bonds. Five other men who testified in defense of the Wobblies were also fined by the court and subjected to the same torture and humiliations at the hands of the Knights of Liberty.”

Other Wobblies were subjected to attacks around the country, including Frank Little, a leading member, who boasted of being “half white, half Indian and all IWW.” He was lynched in Butte, Montana in August of 1917. In Brisbee, Arizona, where the IWW was organizing among white and Mexican-American miners, “hundreds of armed vigilantes rounded up nearly 1,200 men, whom they forced into 24 cattle cars of a train, shipped them to New Mexico, and abandoned them in a remote area. The deportees were without shelter for weeks until U.S. troops escorted them to facilities where many were held for months.” Such actions were applauded by the bourgeois press as “patriotic” and “necessary for the security of the country.” The specter of Bolshevik revolution was alluded to as an imminent threat. Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs was arrested for sedition after giving a speech urging resistance to the military draft in 1918. Debs ran for President in 1920 while imprisoned in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary and received slightly less than a million votes.

The White Nationalist in the White House

The administration of Woodrow Wilson saw the greatest upsurge in White Nationalism in U.S. history. While the original Ku Klux Klan had been effectively suppressed by federal law enforcement in the 1870s, the KKK saw a mass revival following the 1915 release of the first full-length motion picture The Birth of a Nation. Originally released as The Clansman, it was repackaged with an endorsement from President Wilson in the opening credits:

“The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation …. Until at last there had sprung into existence, a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.” – Woodrow Wilson

The Birth of a Nation was the first film to be screened at the White House. PBS reported that:

“On the evening of March 21, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson attended a special screening at the White House of The Birth of a Nation, a film directed by D.W. Griffith and based on The Clansman, a novel written by Wilson’s good friend Thomas Dixon. The film presented a distorted portrait of the South after the Civil War, glorifying the Ku Klux Klan and denigrating blacks. It falsified the period of Reconstruction by presenting blacks as dominating Southern whites (almost all of whom are noble in the film) and sexually forcing themselves upon white women. The Klan was portrayed as the South’s saviour from this alleged tyranny. Not only was this portrayal untrue, it was the opposite of what actually happened. During Reconstruction, whites dominated blacks and assaulted black women. The Klan was primarily a white terrorist organization that carried out hundreds of murders. After seeing the film, an enthusiastic Wilson reportedly remarked: ‘It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.’”

The film introduced what would become the official uniform of the KKK and the idea of burning crosses. Attempts to ban the film by the NAACP were ineffective, and with Wilson’s enthusiastic support it was the original “box office success.” The second Ku Klux Klan was established in Atlanta in 1915 as a mass fraternal organization, with professional recruiters and marketing techniques, making profit from the sale of KKK uniforms and literature. It spread like wild fire across the South and the Midwest particularly. By 1925, the Klan had as many as 4 million members and was able to muster 30 thousand uniformed Klansmen to march down Pennsylvania Ave in Washington, DC.

During the “Red Summer of 1919” there were hundreds killed in white riots in over three dozen cities as a wave of reactionary white racist violence swept over the country. Returning veterans had found that formerly white working class neighborhoods had been rezoned as Negro ghettos to accommodate the influx of Black migrants from the South answering the call to meet the demands for labor in the war industries. Now these factories were laying off, and there were no provisions for employing the returning soldiers. Returning Black soldiers carried themselves with a new found pride that was seen as arrogance and defiance. It was a time of labor unrest, and not infrequently the capitalists employed Blacks as strikebreakers. Fascism was on the rise in Italy and fear of Socialist revolution was being stoked in the press as well as anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-immigrant and anti-Negro paranoia. The KKK and other White Nationalist groups were having a field day.

The Burning of Black Wall Street

On May 31, 1921, all Hell broke loose in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It all started when a young Black male tripped getting on an elevator and fell onto a young white girl who was the elevator operator and she screamed. He said he was sorry and ran away, she understood, and that would have been the end of it, but then the newspapers got ahold of the story and it read that a Negro had assaulted a young white girl in an elevator and something should be done about it. So the police picked up the young man “for his own protection.” Then an armed white mob, incited by the KKK assembled outside the police station calling for a lynching. A group of armed Black men arrived on the scene to see that the young man was not lynched. One of the white men tried to snatch a gun from a Black man and it went off. That was all it took.

Throughout the night and into the next day the battle raged around the Black community of Greenwood, a prosperous community known as the “Black Wall Street.” Tulsa was an oil “boom town” and the Black-owned banks handled the accounts of the Indians who owned the land where the oil was discovered. Black merchants were raking in the dough as the town “boomed” into a city. This prosperity incited the jealousy of the poor white “rough necks” and other new arrivals to the city. For once “Jim Crow” segregation was working in the Negroes’ favor as the brown-skinned Indians shopped in Black-owned stores. But now their stores and banks were being set on fire as white-piloted airplanes flew overhead dropping incendiary bombs. Others on the ground threw fire bombs and torches. Looters set fires after grabbing all they could carry. More than 35 city blocks went up in flames.
The Black defenders of Greenwood put up a good fight as long as their ammunition held out, which enabled many residents to flee. But eventually, the white mob surged forward and overran the district, raping and killing and stealing what they could carry. The next day reinforcements arrived by special train to augment the National Guard. The white mob went home and some 6,000 of the surviving residents of Greenwood were rounded up and put in detention camps by the guardsmen. The Red Cross estimated there were 800 hospitalized and some 300 dead, and in the wake of the Tulsa Riot, the KKK boasted they had made 3,200 new recruits in Tulsa. Another group was brought to world attention, and that was the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), a Harlem-based secret society that advocated armed self-defense and socialist revolution. They were credited with organizing the defense of Greenwood.

The ABB Crosses the Color Line

Like the original BPP, the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB) went through a transformation the more the studied and applied revolutionary science to their practice. Founded in 1919 as a response to the “Red Summer,” the ABB was the inspiration of a young West Indian journalist named Cyril Briggs. His original orientation was towards Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. Inspired by the oratory of fellow West Indian Marcus Garvey, his original intention was to build the ABB as a fraction within Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Briggs was editor and publisher of The Crusader, a monthly publication financed by George Wells Parker, a Black businessman in Omaha, Nebraska, who was the founder of the Hamitic League of the World, a pan-African nationalist group.

Briggs was also influenced by another fellow West Indian named Hubert Harrison, who had been the leading Black spokesman of the Socialist Party of America, but had quit over the issue of entrenched white chauvinism within the Socialist Party. In 1917 he founded the Liberty League and The Voice, the first organization and the first newspaper of the race-conscious “New Negro” movement. Briggs and Harrison became good friends. Like Briggs, Harrison was a strong advocate for armed self-defense for the Black community. Wikipedia notes that:

“In January 1920 Harrison became principal editor of the Negro World, the newspaper of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Over the next eight months, he developed it into the leading race-conscious, radical and literary publication of the day. By the August 1920 UNIA convention, Harrison had grown increasingly critical of Garvey. Harrison criticized Garvey for exaggerations, financial schemes, and desire for empire. In contrast to Garvey, Harrison emphasized that African Americans’ principal struggle was in the United States, not in Africa. Harrison did however contribute to the UNIA’s 1920 “Declaration of the Negro Peoples of the World”. Though Harrison continued to write for the Negro World into 1922, he looked to develop political alternatives to Garvey.”

Briggs also became strongly critical of Garvey’s opportunism, and in particular his cozying up to the KKK to support his “Back to Africa” movement. In June of 1921, The Crusader announced that it had become the official organ of the African Blood Brotherhood. In August, Briggs and the ABB delegates were expelled from the UNIA’s International Convention for openly criticizing Garvey, who denounced them as “traitors and Bolshevist agents.” Briggs and Garvey became bitter enemies, and Briggs took Garvey to court for “ethnic insult” for repeatedly calling him a “white man” publicly because of his light skin. Briggs won the case, and Garvey retaliated by giving the judge secret correspondence from Briggs where he advocated training guerrilla fighters to infiltrate into European colonies in Africa to foment national liberation struggles.
Harrison introduced Briggs to his white radical friends he had maintained in the IWW, who were strong supporters of organizing Black as well as white workers, and who were now aligned with the newly formed, and still underground, Communist Party of America.

Briggs became one of the first Blacks to join the Party in 1921. In 1925 the African Blood Brotherhood was dissolved into the new Communist Party-sponsored organization, the American Negro Labor Congress, which Briggs became the National Secretary of. In 1929, he was elected to the Communist Party’s Central Committee. The core of Black leadership that came over from the ABB were successful in bringing tens of thousands of Black people into the Party or ANLC, and in winning the Party to undertake organizing in the South and to combat white chauvinism within its own ranks.

[Continued in Part Three]

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