Monday, July 2, 2012

A Defense of the Black Belt and Black National Liberation

The question of the black nation, the black belt, and national liberation has become a topic of fierce debate among many groups especially online. I certainly would not claim to have the definitive “answer” on line to the question of black liberation and the black belt, but I hope to provide several compelling arguments that the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) supports black liberation and that the argument in defense of the Black Belt as a distinct Afrikan nation within North America.

Members of the original Black Panthers
I'd like to provide a bit of background to the various polemics flying around. Three main articles starting this firestorm arise mainly from three different organizations. The first article came from the International Socialist Organization (ISO) which denounced the Black Belt theory as little more than a Stalinist litmus test. It argues against the existence of a black nation and national liberation for such a nation. This provoked a strong response and an FRSO comrade and others published that response addressing the ISO article with great arguments with a strong emphasis on the history of Communist organizing around the Black Belt. I feel that article entirely addresses the positions of the ISO and doesn't need me to revisit it. However, a third article posted by amember of Uhuru and written by their chairman I feel does need addressing. The Return 2 Source argument definitely deals with the ISO objectives, but the APSP raises objections that the R2S didn't aim to address. I'd like to address them now. However, I'd like to thank Speed of Dreams for posting their articles in a non-sectarian fashion. I hope that we can have a serious comradely debate over these issues, and I'd ask that members of all parties remember that we all struggle for Black Liberation even if we disagree on the methods.
First, I'd like to present the FRSO position on black liberation. One can find the FRSO position on Black liberation in our unity documents and within our documents on oppressed nationalities. Our unity lays out our general line,

The course of struggle in the US forged a new nation among African-Americans based in the Black Belt agricultural region of the US South. Since before the Civil War, African-American fighters for liberation have asserted the demand for land and justice, as well as the demand for complete equality throughout the United States. We stand in that tradition. We support self-determination for the African-American nation. As this struggle gains momentum, this may eventually include the establishment of an independent African-American nation based in the South. We defend the right to independent African-American organization necessary to achieve this liberation, including the right to separate African-American revolutionary parties.

Our position should be clear. We throughly support national liberation. The defense of national liberation without the right to separate is absolutely empty. We also support the right to independent Afrikan organizations. We do not pretend to have a crystal ball. We do not pretend to know how revolution will unfold in the United States. The liberation of the Afrikan nation will come at the hands of Afrikans. Our members represent a revolutionary, socialist, and working class section of the Afrikan nation, but by no means embody the entirety of the Afrikan Nation. Those members who claim this or that position for national liberation do so as part of their own individual opinions, not our organizations line.
Our official line also includes our statement on oppressed nationalities and a support for national liberation. That includes an explicit support for the right to independence. We analyze the situation as the system of imperialism against internally oppressed nations.

U.S. imperialism brought peoples from Africa, Asia and Latin America to the United States. They have worked as slave and semi-slave labor, their lands and homes stolen, their communities terrorized and their culture degraded. The oppressed nationalities of the United States, including African Americans, Chicanos and other Latinos, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, urbanized Native Americans and Pacific Islanders in the continental United States, are fighting national oppression and for full equality economically, politically and socially.

The fight against national oppression and for full equality must include the right to self-determination, up to and including independence from the United States for the oppressed nations. African Americans in the South, Chicanos in the Southwest, and the peoples of Hawai’i have been forged through national oppression and brutal exploitation into distinct nations, each with a common history, language, territory, economy and culture. National oppression is at the heart of U.S. economic, political and ideological traditions and has been central to the U.S. class struggle. In this country, national oppression takes a specific form: more than simply the domination of several nations and nationalities by an oppressor nation, in the U.S. it entails the subjugation of all oppressed nations by the oppressor nation headed by the white imperialist bourgeoisie.

We can see that the statement is not ambiguous, it's not hidden or secret. We do not speak out one side of our mouth to attempt to recruit members of oppressed nationalities while undercutting the foundation for national liberation. We throughly support national liberation in a clear and unambiguous way. It's clear that we essentially uphold the “Stalinist” line of national liberation. A nation constitutes a common history, language, territory, economy, and culture. Obviously, we can have a serious discussion about how these five key components apply among any given situation, but we're clearly in support of national liberation. Yet, that still remains the specific question of the Black Belt within the United States.

I should make myself explicitly clear. The FRSO line is laid out above, what follows below represents my personal view and understanding of my organization's line. The question of the Black Belt is vital to the question of national liberation. We recognize that racism exists as an effect, not a cause. We face racism because internally colonized nations lie under the boot heel of imperialists. It's not enough simply to talk about freeing ourselves through history, language, culture, and a better level of economic equality. We certainly believe that it's vital for the democratic reforms occur. We obviously need cultural studies classes, the right to use our own languages, and plans to combat economic oppression by combating imperialism and racism. However, political power in the form of territory ultimately allows freedom from domination and imperialism. The demand for separation forms the ultimate check against imperialism. National liberation without a recourse to land ultimately proves empty. How then, does the black belt prove vital to national liberation for Afrikans in the United States?

File:USSR-1961-stamps-СНА.jpgBlack liberation requires the defeat of white supremacist imperialism where ever it may find itself. We certainly agree with APSP that Afrika needs national liberation from the vultures ransacking the continent. We support principled Afrikan liberation as the various Afrikan Nations see fit. It's not for those in imperialist nations to decide on the arbitrary national lines previously set by colonial powers in Afrika. Yet, all that being said, Afrikans continue to constitute oppressed nations (plural not singular). They continue to exist as oppressed nations in Latin America, the Caribbean, and within the United States. Certainly, every oppressed Afrikan should have the right of return if so chosen. However, many of the previous European colonies have become distinct Afrikan nations. We can (and must) argue whether or not the Black Belt, parts of Brazil, or areas in Colombia constitute an Afrikan Nation. However, it's not ambiguous that Jamaica, Haiti, and other Caribbean nations constitute independent nations sharing their own history, language, economy, culture, and territory linked to, but fundamentally separate from, those Afrikan nations within the borders of Afrika. We recognize and support a broad international character of all Afrikan national liberation struggles. Yet, we do not think it's appropriate to liquidate all of these into one struggle. I do not mean to imply that the APSP liquidates this struggle. Nevertheless, we think it's legitimate to support national liberation within these new nations formed through European imperialism and colonization. I don't need to rehash the arguments, but Return2Source provides a pretty compelling argument for black nationhood. Finally, we can address the question of the Black Belt itself.

The Black Belt provides the territorial ground for Black national liberation within the United States. Historically, the internally dominated areas of the Black Belt have historically been the locations of a Black Nation. These areas constituted not simply a location for a Black Nation, but historically revolutionary areas. The European Southerners carried forward a conscious plan to destroy these areas and destroy their revolutionary nationalist character. Essentially, the United States carried out an internal diaspora in the context of the broader external diaspora. That the Black Nation has faced further disintegration at the hands of the White European Settlers does not alter the fundamental right to nationhood any more than the genocide of Chicanos and American Indians denies them the right to nationhood. Yet that raises serious questions about form national liberation will take.

We must recognize many different historical forms of national liberation and the possibility of new forms of national liberation. I've addressed numerous forms of decolonization in my blog. The three main historical forms are full integration under the oppressed nations leadership, full separation with the forceful removal of the historical colonists, and a mix of national leadership as an independent republic. It's not for anyone but those within the oppressed nation to determine the character of their own liberation and the forms it will take. National liberation means freedom for the oppressed nation and the people living there regardless of what form of national liberation they choose.. It does not mean domination or revanchism. The character of national liberation frequently provides the only solution to historical imperialism, white supremacy, and racism. Those who worry about oppressive aspects of national liberation usually simply project their white settler fantasies on the national liberation movement. We do not hold that national liberation will simply move people “down to the bottom.” This leads us to the question of American Indian lands.

Black Seminole Leader
Historically this land belonged to the American Indian nations in the area known know as the United States and Canada. Any Afrikan nation on this soil would necessarily entail reaching an accommodation between the American Indian and Afrikan nations. That does not seem a particularly difficult or insurmountable problem. There has historically been a great deal of overlap and mutual support among American Indians and Afrikans in the United States. We face some fierce debates over issues like should the Cherokee nation have its foundation in the Black Belt, in Oklahoma, or some combination of the both. Still, I'm sure we'd all rather deal with the headaches of national liberation rather than the grinding oppression of imperialism.

1 comment:

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