P Diddy, Jay Z, and TI
P Diddy, Jay Z, and TI

The African (Black) Petti-Bourgeoisie has Always Been a Problem

The narrative consistently advanced by the capitalist system for quite some time has been designed to condition us to believe that the working poor and the lumpen-proletariat (criminal class) are unacceptable elements within the African world (and every other world).  The system has worked overtime to develop theories that criminalize those two classes of African people and there are more than enough people inside and outside of those class elements who thrive to advance these backward concepts.  These theories are always advanced using a limited analysis that superficially analyzes the problem without including the capitalist system in that analysis.  In other words, as it relates to the African working class, the theory advanced is that poor Africans are that way because we don’t have a strong work ethic.  They maintain that we are lazy and wanting nothing more than to collect crumbs that fall off the table from the capitalist system.  For the African criminal classes, perennial prison time folks, street organizations, or gangs, etc., the theory advanced is that these folks are pure evil, plain and simple.

You needn’t travel more than inches from your present location to find someone willingly advancing those backward notions about our people.  Now, we fully acknowledge that no element of our people is without responsibility for this problem.  The criminal class of African people are determined to prey off of our people instead of becoming a part of our communities to help solve the challenges that keep them outside and exploited.  Working class Africans are not class conscious.  More of them desire to integrate into the capitalist system on some level instead of fighting against it to build something better.  Still, these contradictions are understandable because as the lead in sentence indicated, the masses of people in the world today are held hostage to capitalist propaganda regarding how the world looks and functions.  The primary objective of this propaganda is always to prevent us from realizing the truth about this system.

What that truth tells us is the masses of working class Africans, and even the criminal lumpen African classes, are not the primary problems adversely impacting our people.  The masses of all working people are slaves to the capitalist system.  As long as they stay disorganized as a mass, they aren’t in a position to do much of anything besides work for the master and accept the oppression meted out against them on all levels from the system.  And, the criminal class only exists because having such a predator class is an intrinsic part of the capitalist system’s workable apparatus.  The lumpen class serves to keep our communities off beat and disorganized.  This serves our enemies.  So, the criminal class exists to keep us off balance and that’s why every police and judicial apparatus in operation today everywhere is set up to ensure criminal activity among the African masses continues.  For example, the mass infusion of drugs throughout African communities everywhere from New York City to Rio De Janero, Brazil, has played a vital role in squashing political militancy and movement building.

Its clear that those class elements are not the reasons African people are held back.  The true culprit is the African petti-bourgeoisie class.  This is the class of people who rose up into positions of prominence on the backs of the African masses (those working class and criminal class Africans).  It was our social movements for justice that pushed the ruling capitalist classes to concede and create programs that would generate an African petti-bourgeoisie that would serve as the shock troops to protect the capitalist system.  Most of the people who represent the African petti-bourgeoisie class today i.e. those working in politics, the judicial system, business, entertainment, sports, etc., were never on the front lines fighting for anything.  They just benefitted from the sacrifices of those who did fight.  People like Ice Cube, 50 Cent, and Charles Barkley cannot for one second be confused with Roberto Clemente, Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, or Nina Simone.  The capitalist system is all about creating protections for the elite who make up the benefactor classes on top of this system.  The entire purpose of propaganda like the U.S. is the world’s leading democracy and place for freedom is created, designed, and promoted by the bourgeoisie class through every educational, faith based, and business institution in these capitalist societies.  The role of the African petti-bourgeoisie is to take those messages and use their positioning to advance those concepts so that they take hold among the masses.  The petti bourgeoisie do this because again, the way the system works, exploiting the masses for those on top, benefits them in their new found class position.  The more stable the capitalist system, the more stable their individual existences.  None of this means we should not pursue university educations and the things the petti-bourgeoisie have exploited.  The masses of African people are not stupid.  They sacrificed for these positions because they understand we need the skills and education.  They expected that those who occupied the positions would use those positions to advance the masses.  And, history demonstrates they have the correct interpretation.  People like Kwame Nkrumah, Assata Shakur, Franz Fanon, Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Kwame Ture, Huey P. Newton, etc., were all on the path to becoming (college) educated and representatives of the African petti-bourgeoisie.  Those warriors committed class suicide and rejected the invitation into the petti-bourgeoisie class.  This is exactly what makes them so different from the petti-bourgeoisie who are actively holding positions within the system and speaking from a standpoint of working with and supporting the capitalist system.

Its critical that we as African people understand that the African petti-bourgeoisie will always choose their class interests, which are in line with the interests of the national bourgeoisie and the capitalist classes, over the interests of the masses of African people.  Regardless of what people look like, the petti-bourgeoisie has as its primary function the responsibility of protecting the capitalist system.  The African petti-bourgeoisie, as primarily a portion of the liberal capitalist elite, understands (better than the other bourgeoisie/petti-bourgeoisie class elements) how important it is to talk about, and even create policy, around widening the petti-bourgeoisie among the African masses.  A few of us will get admissions to college.  A few will get business capital.  A few will get petti-bourgeoisie jobs.  This is their strategy and it works consistently because the lack of class consciousness among the African masses makes it easier for our people to accept the most limited level of crumbs available.  In fact, for most African people, the allure of someone like 50 Cent or Kanye is the chance that one day we can be in the same position they are in.  At least financially.  The most egregious element of the African petti-bourgeoisie is that these people have consciously made decisions to elevate themselves above the interests of the masses of African people. 

What more and more Africans are realizing now is that individual access to positions within the capitalist system has never translated to progress for the masses of people.  The only way the masses will ever progress is by collective organization against this system.  This requires the masses of people getting involved and playing a part in building movements for their liberation.  No one else will ever do this for us,  Especially the petti-bourgeoisie who shamelessly accept the positions we won for them while turning around and instantly betraying our collective interests for their own individual advancements.

When the African petti-bourgeoisie was much smaller, this was probably much easier to identify.  Today, there is a growing African petti bourgeoisie and with people like Barack Obama and Akili Dangote leading the way, an emerging presence of Africans within the bourgeoisie classes as well.  The role of genuine African revolutionaries who can never betray the African masses is always to state clearly that the African petti-bourgeoisie act against the African masses.  Their positions within this system result from the struggles of our people and therefore, those positions, whether as a pro basketball player, or governor, corporate CEO, etc., those positions do not belong to the individuals who occupy them.  For collective progress, we shouldn’t even want those positions.  Instead, we should want a mass movement that challenges the core of this exploitative system.  The work is necessary for African revolutionaries and all revolutionaries and serious activists to engage the important work of advancing class, nation (race), and gender struggles to make crystal clear who are our friends, who are our enemies, and what steps we need to make to ensure real progress that we control is taking place.  For us as revolutionary Pan-Africanists we point back to the discussion raised earlier in this piece about our revolutionaries who rejected becoming a part of the petti-bourgeoisie class.  This process of class suicide needs to become institutionalized.  This can happen through a mass political education program such as the one utilized within the All African People’s Revolutionary Party and other organizations.  Mass political education designed to convince our people to use our skills, and knowledge for collective advancement and not individual rewards.  The position doesn’t belong to us individually.  The petti-bourgeoisie, no matter how much we wish to be inspired by their symbolism, like their music, their game, or the way they talk, they don’t speak for you.  They never have and they never will.

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Ahjamu Umi is revolutionary organizer with the All African People's Revolutionary Party, adviser, and liberation literature author.