Assata, Anti-Communism, & Identity Politics
Some of these theoretical dead ends of the 20th century were solved and taken up by revolutionaries who were mainly all non-white. To imply that socialism, contemporary or even historically is some “white phenomenon” is an act of grand erasure that only helps the modern day slavemasters. I never got into scientific socialism, revolutionary Marxism, because of “some white man” but because of Huey, Assata, DuBois, Claudia, Safiya, Celia, and living as a subject of an oppressed nation in the world’s foremost imperialist power. The words of Huey ring true for me “It was my life plus independent reading that made me a socialist — nothing else.”
The strange reality that the residue of the “new social movements” and “New Left” politics is one of neoliberal fragmentation and not of proletarian and oppressed unity, which the latter would actually be much more approximate in terms of politics. The history of socialism, being built under siege by a global capitalist imperialist system, happened under the most non-ideal circumstances. As elaborated by Marx “what we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”
We built the best with what history gave us and enriched the science of making revolution and governing and creatively applying theory to meet the realities of concrete social practice in attempting to build revolutionary organization. One can easily join join the ranks of the white supremacist enemies in attempting to name the history of communism as a white man’s affair that is an act of erasure and burying one’s sharpest weapons against the rule of capital.
As #AssataTaughtWe “i viewed it suspiciously, as some kind of white man’s concoction, until i read works by African revolutionaries and studied the African liberation movements.” It was the discovery of our own historical revolutionary struggles while wielding the “weapon of theory” Cabral calls it that deepened sister Assata’s understanding of not just her life or Black life, but life of the oppressed all over the world.
The re-introduction of Assata’s likeness should not be a one sided symbolic return but a full return that is a rupture with the problematics of the perpetual divisionary logic of the “new social movements” theory and its subsequent identitarian approach. When class analysis is made out to be some “economic determinism” or the populist non-scientific “income” one makes, we take steps backwards in realizing it’s functional use as a method of analysis specifically on the side of the working and oppressed masses.. Sister Assata made this distinction based on the Panther’s updated analysis of the Black historical experience in the US through Marxism-Leninism; she states “I got into heated arguments with sisters or brothers who claimed that the oppression of Black people was only a question of race. I argued that there were Black oppressors as well as white ones. That’s why you’ve got Blacks who support Nixon or Reagan or other conservatives. Black folks with money have always tended to support candidates who they believed would protect their financial interests. As far as i was concerned, it didn’t take too much brains to figure out that Black people are oppressed because of class as well as race, because we are poor and because we are Black.”
The starting point of an emancipatory politics cannot start from a subjectivist one sided empiricist politics of identity. The idea of the modern, a concept often claimed by Europe, must be challenged. The history of modernity does not belong to the Europeans, but to the colonized who were the subjects of revolutionary struggle in the 20th century. The revolutionary centers were always in the Global South. In rejecting the project of building a modern civilized world we must not forget who it was that actually civilized this world: it was the colonized the oppressed, exploited toilers, and their allies. Ending of slavery, liberating nations from colonialism, and defeating fascism. To in one stroke mark this truly world historic movement towards socialism as a “white man’s concotion” or property is to bury one’s head in the sand of white supremacist anti-communist dribble.
Moreover, to the disbelief of many a liberal white and non-white, it is particularly ahistorical and belittling to posit that the only way people of color can come to socialism, or even just anti-capitalism, is to be “brainwashed.” Was Assata “brainwashed” was DuBois “brainwashed” what about Langston Hughes? The list goes on. Some of these folks could be described as what the BLA said being “too emotionally hung up on white people to the point of ideological blindness.” In a time of much chaos and the confusion — when Hillary Clinton is tweeting about “intersectionality” and al-reich fascist Richard Spencer uses identity politics in the forwarding of a white nationalist fascist project saying he wants to make the US a “safe space for people of European descent — a return to what lightened the horizons of the global oppressed not too long ago could bring us out of this ideological stupor.