I wrote an article last year titled “Metaphysics, Materialism, and the Struggle for Black liberation”, and its sole purpose was to uplift materialism and communism in the Black Liberation struggle, talk about how anti communism benefits white supremacy, and to express that a solely metaphysical and individualist approach can not be, and historically has not been the vehicle for collective liberation.
It got pretty popular, and with popularity comes criticism. Some criticisms were weak, some were absolute bullshit, but there were some that were valid, and I've been reflecting on how to re-frame my analysis in a way that is more refined.
Because of the tone of this particular excerpt, my article was largely misinterpreted as more antagonistic than my intentions, and therefore the point made was missed by a lot of readers.
“It is absolutely 100% necessary for Black people in the US to abandon metaphysics and adopt dialectical and historical materialism if we ever plan on achieving total liberation from the systems of White supremacy. We must also understand that capitalism in itself is a tool of White supremacy and the social hierarchies it promotes are the justification for our oppression. “Third Eyes” don’t exist, you can’t “charge” crystals in the moonlight, and a diet without pork won’t bring you closer to God, and even if it did, none of these things will help us overcome the systemic oppression we face at the hands of White supremacy. Metaphysics, Hotepism, and the works of writers like Frances Cress and the like, are obstacles in the movement for Black liberation, meant only to be trampled and exposed as the reactionary nonsense they are. They are weapons forged against the people. Our oppression is material, and only a materialist approach will liberate us.”
I stand by the formulation that the road to Black liberation is a materialist road informed by Marxism-Leninism, a formulation popular among the Black Panther Party, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Thomas Sankara, Walter Rodney, and many other Black revolutionaries. But through social practice and criticism-self criticism I've decided it is necessary to revisit the piece and expound on my position.
I hope yall analyze it and study it as thoroughly as yall did my other piece, so that we can continue to contribute to our revolutionary theory and practice.
Being Determines Consciousness
Consciousness is informed by social being. History, and the material world exists outside of, and independent of our perception or consciousness. The oppression of Black people, and the class struggle are material realities that are rooted in a material, recordable, and tangible history, and therefore must be combated through a materialist, and tangible approach rooted in an understanding of the historical conditions that created the current conditions for our oppression.
In March 2017, I wrote an article titled “Metaphysics, Materialism and The Struggle For Black Liberation”. In the article i expressed a deep contempt for those elements and scholars who I felt blinded and confused Black people with metaphysics, mysticism, and blatant intellectual dishonesty as the primary vehicle of Black liberation. I also uplifted the names of Black communists who used a materialist analysis to inform their fight for liberation. The primary reason I wrote the piece was to essentially uplift materialism as a historic tool of Black liberation, and illustrate why the metaphysical approach to Black liberation can not be the primary vehicle for moving our liberation struggle forward.
Although I stand by the formulation that a solely or even primarily metaphysical and idealist approach cannot be the vehicle for Black liberation, I feel it is necessary to reflect, and sharpen my analysis now that it is influenced by more social practice (where do correct ideas come from, after all!).
Dialectical Materialism and Metaphysics
Dialectical Materialism is the lens in which Marxist-Leninists analyze the world. Historical Materialism is the extension of the dialectical method to the study of social life, society, and history. The dialectical method holds that no phenomenon in nature (or society) can be understood if taken by itself, in isolation from other surrounding phenomena or material conditions. This means that every social phenomenon is informed or influenced by objective conditions, material things, and that these phenomena cannot be fully understood without understanding the conditions that create or influence them. It is very difficult to solve a problem we do not understand in its entirety. Most complex math equations require knowledge of a formula before one can even begin to solve it. Metaphysics may offer a look at a material problem, (like basic algebra may offer the values of unknown variables), but can not offer a material solution (like trying to solve a complex math equation with no formula), at least not to the problems of capitalist society and exploitation.
Racism and Historical Materialism
Racism is a social phenomenon. It is a system of domination created by white colonizers to justify the oppression of Black, and other non-white/colonized communities. It is necessary to differentiate between “fighting racism” and “fighting racists”. One can fight racists without fighting racism at its root. It is easy (and good!) to punch nazis, and to call out white folks who say racist things, but this individualist approach on its own is not enough to tackle the systemic and societal issue of racism. In order to fight racism, a material reality and societal institution, one must understand its material history, its relationship to state power, and the conditions that paved the way for its creation.
Racism is not something innate, it is a taught behavior that served a historic purpose of domination. Any subsequent attitudes toward colonized people were informed by the creation of a race based hierarchy, but racism itself is not an all powerful, spiritual, or invisible thing. There was an intentional formula for its creation, and there is a formula for its dismantlement.
The metaphysical, psychological aspect of racism and race politics paint an incomplete, and often subjective picture of racism. What is the benefit of analyzing racism and race politics in this way? What purpose does it serve other than to create a hopeless and pessimistic view of the possibility of liberation? Without a historical materialist understanding of racism and the structures and systems that uphold it, it doesn’t matter that we know what white supremacy is, because we don’t have the tools to fight it or the conditions that create it.
It is also important to note that the metaphysical approach to liberation, because of its tendency to isolate social phenomena from material conditions, leads to a subjective and individualistic view of liberation. Black liberation is not a state of being for an individual, or a group of isolated individuals, but a social upheaval of Black people destroying the material conditions of our oppressors. Oppression is about a social relation to power, therefore liberation, its opposite, is a different social relationship to power. As stated in the above mentioned article, there is a reason why this particular view of “liberation” has been allowed to develop relatively unchallenged by the state:
the reason concepts like class consciousness and dialectical materialism are not as accessible in Black communities is that equipped with these tools we pose a direct threat to White supremacy. If Black people collectively understood that every economic system served a historic purpose, and that it was inevitable that each system proceed the last when its historic mission is completed, and that capitalism is in its final stages and a proletarian revolution that will do away with oppressive white supremacist social hierarchies is inevitable, we would be the most powerful people in this country. Which is why Black leaders who understood these concepts were assassinated, and or white washed, and systematically erased from history and school curriculum. These groups and individuals include W.E.B. Dubois, Huey P. Newton, Assata Shakur, The Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, Thomas Sankara, and Nelson Mandela, who were all communists or socialists. In their place sprang up this pro-capitalist, bourgeois Hotep nonsense, and since it poses no threat to white supremacy, it was able to develop relatively unchallenged.
I understand thoroughly the importance and cultural practices to the development of a community or individual spiritual well-being however, maintaining one belief system or another does nothing for Black liberation if it does not address and confront head on the objective conditions of our oppression that is slavery, colonialism, racism and other special oppressions, capitalism, and imperialism.
So sure, for an individual to be free, both the mind and body, material and “spiritual/metaphysical” must be free. However, for one to be liberated, all must be liberated, and for all to be liberated, we must see clearly, with our own eyes, the chains that hold us down. Liberation is the physical transfer of power from the oppressor to the oppressed, the destruction of oppressive hierarchies, and the creation of structures to guarantee the sustainability of the new social relationships, and nothing less.