No Reforming the Capitalist State: The Fight for Genuine Socialism

A Scribe Called Quess
Nov 12 · 24 min read

What’s Capitalism?

Capitalism has the power to eclipse our vision, to remove our eyes and replace them with dollar signs if for nothing else, by repeating the same lie a million times until the whole world believes it.

So first we need an understanding of capitalism, what it is and how it functions in order to properly diagnose why words like socialist and democrats will never mix with it. Let’s start with an etymological breakdown of the word capitalism. The root word capital means money that is accumulated to be used to invest to exploit the labor of workers to accrue profits. The suffix ism means philosophy or belief system. So capitalism can loosely be understood as the belief in capital, aka money used to invest to exploit labor. Now you would think that any body could see that a society set up on the belief in accumulated money instead of the actual human beings that the society is designed by and for is doomed to fail. But god forbid we see what’s right in front of us. Capitalism has the power to eclipse our vision, to remove our eyes and replace them with dollar signs if for nothing else, by repeating the same lie a million times until the whole world believes it. And if not the world at least enough people to dominate everyone else with their propaganda. And who are these purveyors of propaganda you might ask? Well that would be those empowered by capitalism, the rich ruling class, and those who want to be empowered by it, the petty bourgeoisie.

So what gives the rich their power to dominate the rest of humanity? That requires a deeper analysis of Capitalism. Because we’re talking about a system here, which is a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism, we need to look at those parts in order to understand the machine that is capitalism. Capitalism is literally defined as an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit.

We’ve come to normalize and internalize our belief in private property and profit so much, that we often disconnect its criminal beginnings of slavery and genocide from the wage slavery and imperialist war that it has evolved into today.

The Key words in that definition are the parts of the capitalistic machine we need to break down. And the Key words to focus on are economic, political, private ownersand profit. Economy deals with wealth, resources, goods and services, trade, industry — business at large. And of course politics deals with the governance of a country. This means that all of business and government is inevitably controlled by the beliefs that define capitalism. And what are those beliefs? Well for that we can look to the last two keywords: private owners and profit. The first is self-explanatory. America is a society based on the belief in private ownership. The constitution itself promised life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — but only to land owning white men. Of course the land, the resources on it and the people that farmed that land (the first human resources) were all stolen by brute, genocidal force and warfare. And it was all done for the sake of that last key part of capitalism, profit, or financial gain.

Now we’ve come to normalize and internalize our belief in private property and profit so much, that we often disconnect its criminal beginnings of slavery and genocide from the wage slavery and imperialist war that it has evolved into today. But it’s the same system operating on the same principles whether we see or acknowledge it or not. Yesterday’s slavery based capitalism masked its evils in global trade of commodities like rubber, sugar and cotton, not to mention debutante balls, masquerades and mandingo fights. Today’s wage slavery masks itself in the stock trade, entertainment industry, Hollywood and professional sports.

But to really understand how capitalism functions as a diabolical system designed to destroy the impoverished majority for the sake of the enriched minority, let’s look deeper into the fundamentals of how profit is made. This is what 19th century German philoshopher Karl Marx called surplus value by way of labor exploitation. Which is to say, even if the labor isn’t absolutely stolen by the masters through slavery, there are other ways the modern day masters, the bosses, take so much work from the worker that their contributions are bound to enrich the bosses and keep the majority of workers bound to wage slavery for the rest of their lives.

Here’s how surplus value works. A worker works one hour and makes ten pairs of sneakers for Nike. It costs the company $3 per shoe and then they pay the worker, $5 for their time. They turn around and sell each one of those shoes for $100 a piece. That’s ten shoes at $100 a piece which equals $1,000 Nike just made in one hour off one worker and it only cost them $8.That’s $992 profit. But that worker did that for more than an hour. She worked for 8 hours, probably 10 in some sweatshop in China. So at ten hours she goes home with $50, Nike made 100 shoes off her at $3 a pop and it all cost them, between labor and materials, $350. But they sold the 100 shoes for $100 a piece which made them $10,000. In one day. Off one worker. But they have more than worker. There’s 100 of them in that little dank, stank ass sweatshop. So add 2 more zeroes. Nike just made $1M. Meanwhile all the workers go home with $50 a piece and the whole operation doesn’t slice more than $35,000 out of Nike’s million dollar pie. Add some overhead in there for factory expenses and mailing them shoes out all over the world and Nike still made nearly a million off one day. Off one factory. And they’ve got hundreds. Any questions about the wealth gap? That’s surplus value. All the extra money given over to the bosses. That’s capitalism.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor becomes so expansive that the people being used to make the products can’t afford them. And eventually neither can the less impoverished people — us — that the products are targeted for. This reflects a dynamic called anarchy of production, which is a Marxist term which basically means making more than anyone needs or can afford even if they did need it, which ultimately leads to recessions, economic depressions, etc. In the last century alone there have been at least 11 major recessions or depressions under global capitalism which averages more than one a decade. That alone should let us know that this is a dysfunctional system. But the dysfunction only negatively impacts the masses while the rich ruling class just uses it as opportunities to horde more resources and get richer. So capitalism is clearly working for some while failing the majority of us. This is not by accident. It’s by design.

What’s Socialism?

No billionaire bosses serving as the middle man just to exploit the labor. No collapses of a market leading to recessions and depressions. Just people making what people need for other people.

So if that’s capitalism, what’s socialism? Well a layperson like me who just discovered it might assume it’s just the opposite of capitalism or give a lame definition like, “it’s a society where everyone shares resources equally.” But again, since we’re talking about a system here, a machine, it’s necessary we look closely at the definition and break down all the moving parts. Socialism is defined as a political and economic theory of social organization, which advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. Again, let’s start with key words. We already know that politics and economy deal with government and business, so let’s focus on this new term: means of production.

But before we even do that, a quick message from our sponsors, the words “owned’ and “community.” Yes, socialism is brought to you by the words “owned… by the community.” Because where capitalism is rooted in a belief in property being owned for profit, socialism posits that the community should claim ownership of property so that all of its member’s needs are met. That has huge implications for what happens in business and government. For one, it allows for the people to truly take ownership of the businesses where they work and the governments that claim to represent them. Which is to say that yes, democracy would have far more possibility of existing under a socialist system than it ever could in a capitalist one. More later about why democracy is actually impossible under capitalism and why socialism makes democracy much more possible. But first let’s focus on how and why democracy could work under socialism, which takes us to the means of production.

The means of production are very simply the raw materials, facilities, machinery and tools used in producing goods and services. Socialism simply says that all of this should belong to the people, to the workers actually creating the products instead of the capitalist bosses exploiting their labor. So if we go back to that whole Nike example, we could imagine a factory with no boss, that makes 1,000 shoes a day, that go out to a community of folks that actually need them, who in turn would compensate the workers with a livable wage (or barter goods) in exchange for services they need. No billionaire bosses serving as the middle man just to exploit the labor. No surplus creation leading to an anarchy of production leading to collapses of a market leading to recessions and depressions. Just people making what people need for other people.

The true measure of a real socialist society is the people’s ownership of the base — the means, mode and relations of production. Until that’s been achieved, socialism has not.

Socialism also analyzes two other facets related to the means of production and those are the mode of production and the relations of production. The mode of production is very simply the system defining the type of labor being used. Those types of labor are based on different time periods so we’re talking either “primitive,” (or prehistoric according to Marx & Engels’ Eurocentric patriarchal worldview), slavery, feudalism, capitalism as we’re in now, or socialism (as some countries are trying to be under difficult circumstances). Lastly there’s the relations of production which simply refers to the relationship between those who own the means of production and those who do not. In feudalism that would be landlord to serf, during slavery that would be master to slave, during capitalism that’s boss/capitalist/rich ruling class to worker or wage slave. Which clearly establishes a divide between owner and owned, rich and poor, or in those old socialist terms, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. But that divide does not go without the very necessary buffer of the petty bourgeoisie to serve as gatekeepers between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. They are to the proletariat what the overseer was to the slave but more on that later.

For now, suffice it to say that all I’ve just described, the mode, means and relations of production, constitutes the base of any society, no matter what the system. The reason the uninformed, unorganized masses become so easy to manipulate is that while the base of economic activity — how we gather resources and reproduce them to eat and provide shelter and other goods and services necessary for survival — serves as the foundation that governs the most important and fundamental aspects of our entire lives, we get caught up in all the stuff on the surface. That stuff is what Marx described as the superstructure. And it’s comprised of all the superficial ideologies that govern us from Religion, Education, Culture (which is to include music and entertainment) and last but anything but least, the State. When we talk about the State we’re talking about the government, the legal system, the courts, cops, jails, army — the political organization of the economically dominant class designed to defend its existing order. Or to paraphrase Lenin, all the parts of the “machine to maintain the dominance of one class over another.”

The true measure of a real socialist society is the people’s ownership of the base — the means, mode and relations of production. Until that’s been achieved, socialism has not. Any politician or public figure claiming to be calling for socialism who’s not calling for a seizure of the means of production and a change in the mode of production from a private owner vs. controlled laborer mode to a collective ownership by all of the workers mode isn’t talking about socialism. They may be talking about small, possibly socialist reforms if that, but not socialism.

What’s Democracy and why can’t it work under Capitalism?

The bosses that exploit and abuse us for low pay have amassed so much wealth that they have the financial power to buy the candidates that they sell right back to us in the polls

Which grants us with a great opportunity to look more critically at this myth of democracy that we’ve been told all our lives. Because if we’ve just established that all the governing ideologies of the superstructure are only as good as the economic base beneath them, then democracy can only function in the government if it functions in the economy. Which is to say, if we go to the polls and vote for our favorite corporate sponsored, state sanctioned candidates for federal and local elections, what difference does it make if we go back to jobs where we have no say in how much we get paid, how much of the surplus value profit we take home, whether such a thing as surplus value or profit should exist in the first place, when we go to work, when we get to go home, who gets fired, who gets hired, when we get to eat and pee and ask questions, and so on and so on. Meanwhile the bosses that exploit and abuse us for low pay have amassed so much wealth that they have the financial power to buy the candidates that they sell right back to us in the polls, candidates that defend their agendas and steal our tax dollars to support their banks, their businesses and ultimately uphold the corporate oligarchy disguised as a government by and for the people.

So what is a democracy again? It’s defined as a system of government by the whole population or at least all its eligible members. It’s for the people by the people. That’s simply not possible in the capitalist system I just described. If the bosses control you and they control all the candidates of the two manufactured parties, then where’s the democracy? So yes to socialism. Yes to Democracy. But the people need real socialism and real democracy, not the false brand of Democratic Socialism being pandered about by the Democratic Party today. A Democratic Party controlled by corporate lobbyists can never give you real Socialism. One or two Democratic politicians using socialism as a sexy buzzword to co-opt the groundswell of grassroots organizers calling for socialist reform does not an authentic socialist make.

A racist white liberal calling for the brand of socialism in white countries like Sweden and Canada willingly fails to understand what the original purveyors of socialism, Marx, Engels and Lenin, understood: which is that all workers of the world are connected because all facets of the economy are connected. And if workers in Chile, Haiti, Ecuador, Lebanon, Sudan, France are oppressed by capitalism then all workers stand to feel the brunt of that oppression. A young congresswoman of color who fights for socialist or anti-fascist reforms like the elimination of immigrant detention camps or a new Green Deal to address climate change may appear to be a socialist or at least an ally on some level, but when she votes to support the U.S. military budget she negates both of those reforms. Because the US Military is the number one polluter of the planet and they’re also responsible for assisting in the decimation of foreign nations and economies (all in the name of multi-national corporate profits) that lead to immigration crises in the first place.

But in order to place all that in context and get a full understanding of who’s who and what’s what, to know the difference between the rich ruling class and its interests, the oppressed masses and our interests, and the petty bourgeoisie in the middle and their interests, we should understand a bit more about the history of socialism and where it comes from, what the real version looks like, what the fake version looks like and how to distinguish the difference. So enter two case studies. The first one is the foundation of socialism by way of Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution that freed Russia from the domination of the Tsar Empire in 1917. And the second one is the Black Power movement of the 1960s.

Case Study #1: The Bolshevik Revolution

There’s an important lesson here on the nature of how the rich ruling class successfully pits the petty bourgeoisie middle class against the working class proletariat.

We’ll start with the Bolshevik Revolution. The Russian Revolution of 1917 breaks down into two main parts and two main factions. First there’s the February Revolution where the Tsar Nicholas II was expelled from the throne. And then it takes another 8 months for the October Revolution, where the people seized the means of production and changed the economic system to a Socialist one. The February Revolution was co-opted by the Mensheviks. Mensheviks translates to minority in Russian. The October Revolution was spearheaded by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Bolsheviks translates to majority in Russian. The Menshevik Party, though revolutionary, represented the middle to upper middle class or what we Marxist-Leninists refer to as the petty bourgeoisie. They chose to collaborate with the ruling class. The Bolshevik Party, the majority, represented the masses, the working class, the proletariat and the peasant farmers. They chose to eliminate the ruling class.

There’s an important lesson here on the nature of how the rich ruling class successfully pits the petty bourgeoisie middle class against the working class proletariat. Or better yet, how the middle class allows itself to be complicit with the status quo in their oppression of the working class. Because after the February Revolution, the first thing the Mensheviks did was try to align themselves with monarchical government that the Tsar left behind and get next to all that wealth and privilege while they sold the masses propaganda about a slow transition towards Socialism. Lenin indicted this deception citing that “It is quite easy to revert from a parliamentary bourgeois republic to a monarchy, for all the machinery of oppression — the army, the police, and the bureaucracy — is left intact.” Which is similar to how it’s quite easy to revert from a “Hope” filled Democratic president, to a blatantly white supremacist fascist president because all the machinery of oppression — the imperialist US military, the bloodthirsty police, and the corporate sponsored bureaucracy — is left intact. Lenin’s solution: “smash that machinery and do away with it.”

Which proved quite necessary. Because as the Bolshevik Revolution took place, there was a war afoot. And we all know nothing rallies the masses to blind patriotism and nationalism like a good old-fashioned war. Despite the fact that war serves no one but the rich ruling class. Now imagine what that looks like when the war is World War I. The Mensheviks and the monarchical government used a war of literally global proportions to blind the masses in nationalist fervor while they spewed empty words about change for the working class. Change that was never delivered. Until Lenin and the Bolsheviks took matters into their own hands. Lenin directly addressed bourgeois deception saying that since the masses were “being deceived by the bourgeoisie, it [was] necessary with particular thoroughness, persistence and patience to explain their error to them and prove that without overthrowing capital it is impossible to end the war.” There’s a lesson in that for all revolutionary and even progressive minded peoples of today. Which is that there’s no aligning ourselves with nationalist, imperialist warfare and voting in favor of military budgets that benefit no one but the rich if we claim to be about the business of liberating ourselves and our fellow working class people.

But back to Lenin. He published essays and political pamphlets that called for the establishment of a true socialist state. He fearlessly debated petty bourgeois politicians that misinformed the masses while organizing the Soviets to prepare for an armed takeover of the state. He remained true to the tenets of Marxism stating clearly that a “Marxist must not abandon the ground of careful analysis of class relations… The bourgeoisie maintains itself in power not only by force but also by virtue of the lack of class-consciousness and organization, the routinism and downtrodden state of the masses.”

Again, there’s a lesson in this for the working class people of today. We remain oppressed not only because of daily killings of black and brown folks by the police, and displacement from housing crises and gentrification and environmental racist fiascos like Mossville, Gordon Plaza, St. James Parish, Norco and Cancer Alley (and that’s just Louisiana), but because amidst every level of oppression that we experience at the hands of the rich ruling class, we fail to connect the dots to class consciousness and organize in a way that links the struggles of working class black folks in Cancer Alley to indigenous folks fighting the Bayou Pipeline all the way up to the Dakota Access Pipeline at the top of the Mississippi to the Flint Water crisis next door to the school privatization a few towns over in Detroit that looks like the privatization in Chicago that looks like what’s happening in Oakland in Jacksonville and been happening here in New Orleans for over a decade now all in impoverished food desert laden neighborhoods that create an environment conducive to working class folks doing that they got to do to survive which is only met with police violence as an imperialist bandaid atop the bloodletting of primarily poor black and brown bodies.

Amidst similar circumstances over a century ago, Lenin reminded us that “the proletariat party strives to create as large a state as possible [because] this is to the advantage of the working people; it strives to draw nations closer together, and bring about their further fusion; but it desires to achieve this aim not by violence, but exclusively through a free fraternal union of the workers and the working people of all nations.” That said, when the bourgeoisie wouldn’t get out of the way and violence became necessary, Lenin and the Bolsheviks was bout that life too. As any revolutionary must be. It’s also crucial to note that, speaking of nations, the first Soviet gov’t established a Congress of Nationalities that gave representation to all of the minority nations of Russia at the time. In one of his most important essays, The April Theses, Lenin rolled out a ten-point platform that called for the establishment of the true tenets of socialism. Take note of how these ten align with some of the very principles of Marxism.

  1. Educate the masses on the fraudulent nature of capitalist war
  2. Adapt ourselves to the special conditions of the deceived (politically miseducated) masses
  3. Expose the fraudulence of transitional false leadership
  4. Transfer state power to the workers
  5. Abolish police, army and bureaucracy and make elected officials’ wages equal to workers
  6. Confiscate the Land. Nationalize the Land. Return the land to the people.
  7. Consolidate all the banks into one bank and give control to the Workers (the Soviet Workers’ Deputies).
  8. Seize the means of production
  9. Tend to party affairs (take a stance on imperialist war, on the state vs. the commune state, & other affairs
  10. Establish a new International

Finally, with the October Revolution and the ousting of the transitional government for a true Socialist government, the Bolshevik Party established true socialism in Russia.

Moral of the story: The petty bourgeoisie is to the proletariat as the overseer is to the slave, as the house negro is to the field negro, as the manager is to the wage slave employee, as the middle and upper middle class is far too often to the working class. But with persistent, patient and thorough planning and organizing rooted in accurate Marxist theory, the proletariat can and will overcome the ruling class once theory becomes praxis, once words becomes action, then revolutionary ideas become reality.

Cast Study #2: The Black Power Outage

Much of the Civil Rights movement’s shortcomings can be traced to this moment, where the middle class lead movement failed to meet the needs of the more impoverished working class.

Now, if that’s an example of what victory looks like when precise revolutionary theory aligns with persistent application, then the next example is an unfortunate example of what happens when the theory is never clearly delineated, much less the actions to follow. Enter: The Black Power movement. Disclaimer: before I go into a critique of the great work of my ancestors I want to first acknowledge the amazingly powerful contributions they made, flawed though they may have been, in the efforts to liberate themselves from the long held chains of slavery as a colonized nation on a foreign land. By extension, I think it’s more than fair to acknowledge that if it was difficult for the Bolsheviks to free themselves from imperialism on their own homeland, it’s been that and then some for a people who have been kidnapped from our homes and enslaved on foreign land, only to be further suppressed by racialized capitalism, discrimination and terrorism thereafter. That said, if we do not learn from the mistakes of our ancestors, we will never achieve the liberation they gave their lives for. So let’s look at it: the Black Power movement. Who was who, what was what, what we got right and where we went wrong.

A brief history: the mantra Black Power emerges in the Fall of 1966 on the heels of the Civil Rights movement. It’s introduced by legendary activist Kwame Toure who was known as Stokely Carmichael at the time, and leading the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC. SNCC split off from its parent organization, SCLC or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which MLK was president, due to SCLC’s strategies growing increasingly insufficient to address the racially hostile environment of the time. Young black and working class people nationwide didn’t want to sing “We Shall Overcome” anymore. They wanted power, and equal footing with white people and they wanted it NOW. There’s an important lesson here in class consciousness and struggle. Much of the Civil Rights movement’s shortcomings can be traced to this moment, where the middle class lead movement failed to meet the needs of the more impoverished working class. The mantra “Black Power” emerged as an expression for the need for exactly that. The only problem was that the movement never collectively decided what power was with unilateral, ideological solidarity. This lack of ideological clarity is the fragile ground that a movement stands or stumbles on, rises or falls. It ultimately forms the very concrete difference between the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie, between a Bolshevik and a Menshevik, between revolution and reform, between overthrowing your oppressor and merely replacing him with another just like him.

Just as Stokely Carmichael announced “Black Power” with no certain definition of its meaning, the Black Panthers formed in Oakland with a much more clear cut definition of what power meant to them. With their 10 point plan, they called for an end to occupation of Black communities by the police and the capitalist class, access to housing, jobs, education, clothing, justice, and with language that directly quoted Lenin and surely shook the rich ruling class and its United Snakes government to the core, they called for peace, land and bread. Indeed, the Panthers were the most prominent Black organization at the time to take a loud political stance founded on Marxist — Leninist principles of Socialism. Their call echoed worldwide and resonated in the minds and hearts of socialist revolutionaries and anti-colonialists worldwide, from Che and Fidel in Cuba to Mao in China, to Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. And these calls echo in the minds of revolutionary cries for true and total liberation to this day.

Meanwhile, the enemy did not sleep. The State’s response to the Black Power movement was a swift and brutal as a barrage of bullets, as deceptive and cunning as a snake. The US government listed the Panthers as the number one threat to national security — a true indication of the power of the people, when organized to shake this country’s foundation at its capitalist core. Meanwhile, for SCLC, SNCC, and CORE, the Congress on Racial Equality, as well as other progressive Civil Rights organizations, the State chose a different method. They descended on the movement with tricks and treats to lullaby the movement to sleep. And it’s been sleeping ever since. In the same Fall of 66 that Black Power was announced, the Ford Foundation deployed its own president, McGeorge Bundy, to set up meetings in several major cities around the country to meet with prominent Civil Rights leaders and get to the bottom of what this Black Power thing was really all about. Between the years of 1964 to 1968, there were a few hundred rebellions in the US, mostly in major cities like Watts, Detroit, Newark, New York, DC, not to mention the endless resistance in the American South costing major corporations millions of dollars with a lot more to lose. Some of their major factories were still located in these cities. By meeting with Civil Rights leaders, they hoped to rain some petty cash on the blazing fires of revolution, and lullaby the awakened giant of the Black proletariat back to sleep.

So here we were back in the same trap. Unwittingly selling ourselves back to the same oppressors that we had just demanded power from.

The Black progressives who called for power were mostly members of the Black middle class themselves, unequipped to fully articulate the needs and wants of the Black proletariat. When addressing what they actually meant by Black Power, people like Nathan Wright, chairman of the 1967 Black Power Conference advised Black people “to seek executive positions in corporations, superintendencies of schools, and high management positions in banks, stores, investment houses, legal firms, civic and government agencies and factories.” Meanwhile, activists like Carmichael said “black power means sharing of control. Politically it means… the coming together of black people to elect representatives and to force those representatives to speak to their needs.” That was it: jobs and political appointments. That must have brought a smirk to the mouths of the rich ruling class. Because it takes us right back to the business and government components of the capitalist machine. So here we were back in the same trap. Unwittingly selling ourselves back to the same oppressors that we had just demanded power from. Which is perhaps, the root of the problem, the fact that we cannot, as Audre Lorde once said, free ourselves from the master’s house with the master’s tools. Or like Fred Hampton once said, we can’t “free ourselves with Back capitalism.” We have to “free ourselves with Black socialism.” Unfortunately, that type of precise analysis of capitalist, racist oppression was rarely articulated and even more rarely applied.

The rich ruling class successfully coopted most of the leadership of the Civil Rights movement with a litany of corporate sponsored conferences brought to you by Xerox, Clairol, Ford and other captains of industry, and ultimately granted big job opportunities and government positions to the formerly rebellious Black middle class who’d spearheaded much of the movement. To the proletariat and lumpenproletariat, or the working class and the unemployed who often took to the streets in rebellion at the behest of Black middle class leadership, they were lulled into submission by their once leaders with low paying jobs and partnerships with nonprofit grant programs that used Black youth, for example, for their get out the vote campaigns and research projects and such. A pattern that still plays out to this day.

Again, much of this can be traced to the Ford Foundation who expanded from their original station in Michigan when they were founded in 1936 to occupying over 80 countries by the time they laid siege on the Black Power movement in the 60s. It should be clearly understood that what they were spearheading was the establishment of the non-profit industrial complex as a means to pacify revolutionary resistance the world over as they still do to this day. My Take Em Down NOLA comrades know it well as we’ve watched them descend on the city with $2 Million of grant money for alleged social justice work here in New Orleans, 10% of which went to a non-profit start up paid to co-opt the TEDN work to remove real monumentsto white supremacy, by trumping up a cockamamie art project designed to make paper monuments to past civil rights gains and distract from the present and future work remaining to be done. I digress…

I could go on and on but I’ll close with this last example because it probably bears the most significance for our present moment. There’s an infamous story about how the Feds deployed letters of dissension between the Black Panthers and the cultural nationalist camp of Ron (now known as Maulana) Karenga, the inventor of Kwanzaa, by exploiting their ideological divide. They knew that Karenga’s organization, the United Slaves, thought of cultural nationalism as the route towards revolution and ultimate liberation. For the United Slaves, as long as Black people were able to be more fully represented and speak in our original African tongue, wearing our original African garb, then liberation would have been achieved. On the other hand, the Panthers, with their Marxist-Leninist lens, understood the limitations of this strategy. They understood that the State will gladly grant the oppressed the superficial freedoms that culture affords. So long as they retain ownership of the means of production, music, culture, and even religion and education are all elements of the Marxist superstructure that the State can sell back to you… for profit. Worse yet, once a people can be lulled to sleep with the very necessary comforts of cultural representation, they can begin to forget all the oppression reigning above their heads and boiling beneath their feet. This is the same control mechanism that the original colonizers used when they let enslaved Black folks dance to our music and culture on Sundays in Congo Square while binding us in chains every other day of the week.

Which is to say the deceptive devices used in the 60s that ultimately turned the Black Power movement to a Black Power outage are the same tricks the oppressor has been using since slavery. They’re the same ones they use to this day when, after 40 years of post traumatic Black Power outage disorder, after 40 years of infestation of our communities with drugs and violence coupled with the biggest hike in the incarceration rate in the world’s history, we got “Hope” dangled in our face in the form of a self proclaimed capitalist imperialist in Blackface. Add to that the divisive double-talk of the Right wing, who misrepresented the 44th president as a socialist — one can only wish— when in fact, he was just as committed to upholding the State as any president before him if not more. And it’s on the heels of this massive deception of the working class of all races, that we were reduced to voting for a fascist on one end of the racial divide and an imperialist on the other.

The State will continue to produce exactly what it’s designed to until we smash it and recreate it in the people’s image. No corporate sponsored politician or State sanctioned reform will ever do that for us. Only a clearly politically informed mass with ideological solidarity and clear plans to take back what’s ours. A right to live and breathe clean air, drink free water and use our labor to provide for the well being of all humanity not the limited access of an oppressive few. The right to genuine socialism, and freedom from all its imposters.

The Ellisonian Basement is a collection of writings about blackness & visibility in the post-modern world, OR Duboisian double consciousness under surveillance.

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