HC RADIO: Marxism and the Black Caribbean

HC RADIO: Marxism and the Black Caribbean



Onye: The main impact of anti-communism and online left discourse has been serious strikes to principled anti imperialism, particularly in Western nations like the United Snakes. You get to the point where China, for example, or Cuba or Vietnam have clearly managed the pandemic much better: have prioritized the health and well-being of their populations, have engaged in acts of international medical solidarity that have helped other countries fight the pandemic, while capitalist countries attack them and make it worse. And people can’t even admit that’s happening. China has very, very low COVID deaths and people are like,”That’s a lie!” With no evidence whatsoever. Just a sense that these Chinese people are tricksy because Joe Biden said so, or the New York Times said so.

We also have this situation where so-called “principled criticism” or a “nuanced criticism” of nations resisting imperialism always aligns with the US news cycle and with US ruling class attempts to attack those nations. So say the US has a hair up its ass about Belarus, all of a sudden you’re going to see liberals, anarchists ultra leftists, talking about how Belarus is a dictatorship. If the US wants to antagonize Iran the online left is going to criticize Iran. If the US wants to antagonize Cuba, the online left is gonna hop in and criticize Cuba. It lines up exactly with the mass media news cycle in the United Snakes, which itself lines up with the US war machine.

And there’s no awareness of this phenomenon happening and it has a drastic impact on the kind of like anti-imperialist organizing that can happen in the west because people are like afraid to tell the truth about these nations resisting imperialism, these nations that are actually like the front line for all of humanity fighting against this beast. We can’t even tell the truth. We can’t even talk about them because the online left is so in lockstep with the logic of imperialism and anti-communism.

Salifu: So in this episode of Hood Communist Radio, Erica is going to sit down with our comrade Kim to discuss anti-communism and how it impacts the left in the US. You know, how, when everybody always does the whole, “listen to Black women” thing, they’re never talking about Black women who identify as Marxist-Leninist.

So we really hope you enjoyed this. Let’s get into it.

Kim: Okay. Hello, my name is Kim. I’m a PhD researcher in Miami, at Florida International University. I study ecotourism in Dominica, I’m a Marxist Leninist, I’m a member of Black Alliance for Peace, and I’m really happy to be here with Hood Communist ‘cause I’m inspired by so much of the work you all do.

Erica:  Thank you so much. I’m really, really excited about this because when we “met” (we met on Twitter), it was the tailend of the Trayvon Martin case and I remember that because I had just started reading Assata and that was the peak of my interest in communism.

And I remember her critiques of liberalism, saying that, “liberals are the most meaningless word in the dictionary.” And  I remember you distinctly being like the most vocal Black communist on Twitter at a time where that was just not happening. That was 2012, I want to say. 2011, 2012. Like, Mike Brown [murder] and all that hadn’t even started happening yet. And at that time you were a Maoist, I believe. I don’t think you were a Marxist-Leninist. So I do want to talk a little bit about your process to Marxism-Leninism because you did introduce yourself as Marxist-Leninist. 

What has been your process and what has landed you on Marxism-Leninism?

Kim: Well, I think like many comrades, we all went through different phases in our ideological and political development. Usually moving from a place of liberalism to a more concrete set of analyses and frameworks. And I think for me,  it was going from being excited about Obama in 2008 and buying into a lot of the liberal sloganeering and identity reductionism of what his presidency was supposed to mean for Black progress, as well as global peace, you know, after the traumatic neoconservative years of the Bush administration and the unrelenting warfare. But I can specifically point to 2011, which was Occupy Wall Street that kind of initially sparked my interest in the role of finance capitalism and how it necessitated inequality and the baseline “profit over people.”

But I think what advanced my politics from this kind of nebulously defined anti-capitalism simplified as, “eat the rich,” to Marxism was really gaining a deeper internationalist and anti-colonial, anti-imperialist perspective. You know, I was outraged by the continuation of and expansion of warfare under the Obama administration. And that was what kind of stopped a lot of the prior romanticizing I had of him. And, you know, I was fascinated by the Black Panthers like you, and like the global alliances as well as theoretical orientations that they drew from Mao Zedong  and other revolutionary communist anti-colonial struggles and movements

So by that time, I was a Maoist because, you know, for me, it kind of represented and symbolized a less Eurocentric vision of Marxism that resonated with me. But as time progressed and my politics furthered, I started to move away from some of the dogmatism and orthodoxy that I kind of think plagues Maoism.

Anyway, so I was kind of adopting more of an anti-imperialist lens, especially around geopolitical conflicts as US imperialism intensified. And I found myself more at odds with the Maoists in my circle. So I was like, “I feel like I agree more with the MLs,” you know, so it was Marxism-Leninism that I think allowed for a more dialectical and nuanced understanding of historical change in processes.

And I’ve been there ever since. So that was 10 years. So I’m excited about that. So I feel very fulfilled.

Erica: And I feel like at that point in time when you were a Maoist, I was just starting to engage in anti-capitalism. I think Libya had just happened. I started getting into Black Agenda Report and was still —- the veil of Obama was being released.

And so seeing you, and then being able to discuss ideas with you, I think was probably the most prominent thing that I remember, because you were leading me to all these things to read and these things to look at. And that sort of advanced my interest.  I didn’t quite make it to Maoism, but I did eventually, especially engaging more of the Black communists and engaging that work, I did eventually land on Marxism-Leninism, as well.

But I bring that up to say there’s this resurgence of, “Marx is white.”  So just that sort of blanket critique or criticism has not advanced collectively. And it shows that we have not advanced collectively on certain things, right? Because just as I noticed even with engaging Assata and all these other Black people on the left who identified as communists on all ends of the spectrum, people still land on that very blanketed “Marx is white.” They just, they just can’t move past there. So I just wanted to know, like, why do you find the works of Marx, Lenin and even Stalin,  who is extremely propagandized in the U S.—- Why do you find them important? 

Kim: Well, it’s funny because I actually put in my notes, “thank you for including Stalin”, because you know, this plagues even the Western left, like Western communists. They don’t even want to touch Stalin.  They don’t want to read anything by him. And I think that really is doing a disservice to their analysis.

But yeah, I think that the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao— they really provide, you know, a strong foundation for scientific socialism or, you know, dialectical and historical materialism, class analysis, class struggle. I’ve always felt that, you know, in my journey through Marxism, that is the strongest theoretical tool in the hands of the oppressed, because the problems that are being addressed have not fundamentally changed, which is capital, imperialism, and exploitation. 

And I love this quote by Walter Rodney, that I drew up where he says, “Marxism is a worldview which contemplates every conceivable phenomenon from protein to literature in terms of a methodology applicable to nature and society.”

And because Marxism is a social science, it’s dynamic and it’s built upon through, which is why many great theoretical contributions have been able to draw from these works as frameworks of reference for liberation within their own set of material conditions.

Erica: Rodney’s so dope. I feel like there’s a quote for everything  as far as— because when I say that we have not advanced on certain things, collectively there’s certain arguments that he has already, himself, put to bed because these criticisms have already appeared, right?  And then I mentioned Stalin primarily because even in my trajectory and my path towards wherever I am ideologically at this moment, one of the first things that I remember someone telling me about Stalin is, “Stalin is the litmus test”

You can tell or see how principled someone is depending on their criticisms of Stalin. The type of criticisms that Stalin is given is exactly how you can tell where people are principally  because he is so propagandized, right? So it’s very easy for people to just dismiss or say anything against Stalin.

And I do remember, in engaging Paul Robeson and then his thoughts and opinions on Stalin. Right? However, he felt about Stalin, he understood  there was a specific need for Stalin in  the sort of global fight for socialism/ communism. And [Robeson] wasn’t going to come back to the US and shit on Stalin  just because, you know, and I think that that’s the sort of principles that’s kind of lacking that we don’t see,  primarily in social media spaces. 

Kim: Yeah. I mean, he’s been trending for two days on twitter for a quote he never said.  So, yeah. He’s definitely propagandized.. 

Erica: Yeah but even the growing hostility towards anti-imperialism —-when we see it online, it’s  collapsed any principled line on anti-imperialism as being overtly Marxism-Leninism, right?

So anybody who says anything that’s seen as anti-imperialism is now a tankie. So, so it’s like, regardless if you’re a Nkrumah-Toureist, regardless if you’re a trot.  you know?  

Kim: Yea

Erica: what are your thoughts on the current attitudes towards tankies on social media and like, what are the difficulties you had conveying your politics as a Black woman with a scientific socialist ideology?

Kim: Well, it’s definitely been frustrating to say the least, you know, I tried to reclaim the term, but you know, ultimately, I think it stems from anti-communism and of course anti-communist propaganda and I won’t get into the deep etymology of the term, but it’s thrown around far more loosely than anything having to do with the Soviet Union in Hungary in 1956. So for me, you know, many also feel it’s racialized and that it’s kind of lodged a lot of times at Black and indigenous communists, those in support of global south struggles, historic global south struggles for liberation, as well as just current socialists states. You know, if it’s not in the west, if you will. And I think it’s a way to dismiss, like you’re saying, an analysis that’s principled in critique and rejection of us imperialism and Western neo-colonial hegemony. 

And I was going to say that, you know, with the rise of Bernie Sanders. While some could argue that it did some good in de-stigmatizing the word “socialist” to a generation of people who I hope it moved, you know, further left since it also kind of reaffirmed this otherization of Marxism and scientific socialism through these kinds of like dog whistles, like “authoritarianism”, “totalitarianism”, and of course, kind of redefined socialism to mean very U.S centered, slightly left of the Neoliberal democratic party policies or Nordic country models which of course mystifies its dependence on imperialist exploitation.

So I think, you know, for me, you know, as a Black woman Marxist, some of the biggest hurdles like we talked about earlier in this interview is just kind of like seeing and confronting ideas that Marxism is just a dead European old white man ideology and that dialectical and historical materialism aren’t applicable tools for Black women or our  liberation given our, you know, multi-oppressed subjectivities. 

And basically anti-communism is so institutionalized in the US and the US academy that we aren’t taught Black communist history and many Black historical icons, like you was just saying, you know, freedom fighters, like Assata Shakur, are depoliticized. So I always try to situate these figures within their radical theoretical groundings. And I think that’s the best way to combat it. 

Erica: Right, right. No, I appreciate that. And then also dialectical and historical materialism is ours. It’s not a European thing.  So yeah… So one of the things that I’ve always respected about you has been your clear and consistent analysis on China and a lot of what you credited historical materialism for. As such, you really helped me understand  the vitriol towards China in this current moment. So I would like for you to sort of define sinophobia and how this affects the left analysis on China.

Kim: Well, that’s a great question. I really liked how you tied it toward the left and how it’s even kind of pervasive in the left and how that shapes, you know, actual analysis of China.

So Sinophobia is the fear or hatred of China or Chinese people, and it has been magnified in our current social-political climate, given the geopolitical kind of challenge that China poses to Western hegemony. And, you know, there is a long historical precedent of Sinophobia in the United States, yellow peril xenophobia, really since the 19th century with various limitations on Chinese immigration.

And in fact, I found out recently that the first restrictive federal immigration law in the United States was to prohibit entry of Chinese women in 1875 called the Page Act. And that actually came a few years before the Chinese Exclusion Act. So Sinophobia basically reinforces stereotypes of China and Chinese people as inherently deceptive, greedy, unsanitary, uncivilized, encroaching or a threat. And it can also take the opposite forms of viewing Chinese people as submissive, docile, easily manipulated. And that’s really the kind of duality of racial tropes. But many times the Western left, I feel, doesn’t participate in overt forms of these kinds of caricatures. But I do think it subconsciously shapes some of the analysis and the kind of assumptions when it pertains to China as a nation-state and the People’s Republic of China’s governance.

It tends to presume that the Chinese government is lying, trying to hide something from the world. Whether it be the origins of COVID or the way even fresh markets were kind of stigmatized and Chinese diet was scrutinized or even like to this day, you know, there’s a lot of people in the “US Left”  that don’t even think that the Chinese government is telling the truth about the death toll from COVID because they’ve effectively managed the pandemic quite well, but yet they still think that the Chinese government is lying in their geopolitical maneuvering. Like with myths like debt-trap diplomacy, which presumes that China is not upfront, has ulterior motives in their financial trade dealings and infrastructure projects in the global south, which is what gets kind of the, “China is colonizing Africa and the Caribbean” narratives. And you know, of course, fake news about China seizing assets, which is firmly rooted in, in my opinion, Western projection, especially when you understand that these Western financial institutions are the predominant holder of these debts and predominant military presence on these lands.

Yet China is presented as an equally exploitive force. And I think that fails to then consider the age of neocolonialism. And I want to draw on Nkrumah’s Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism building on Lenin’s Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism was really helpful in getting me to understand these nuances and how Western trade and aid functions in a fundamentally different way.

And I think it’s more fruitful —- this gets kind of complicated cause you asked about imperialism —- but  I think it gets more fruitful to have an understanding that imperialism isn’t merely when countries export capital, but when countries export capital in a way that completely drains resources through violent neo-colonial hegemony.

And that while I think we can understand China’s rise in productivity led to a desire to find export markets for goods, this doesn’t automatically necessitate the type of core periphery surplus drain that we would normally associate with imperialism as we see by the Western powers in the global south.

Erica: Right.

And while there is definitely room for critique of China’s foreign policy and actions of Chinese capitalists, Chinese business firms, I think the baseless conflations of the west and IMF make the principled criticism less of a priority because you first have to debunk so much of the propaganda.

So that’s my spiel. 

Erica: No, cause I mean, I’m glad that you answered the next question because. Because, you know, that is the big question. That’s the big conversation that’s happening because there’s a lot of confusion around whether or not China is capital– excuse me, imperialist.  If we are going to charge China as imperialist then we have to understand, well, what is imperialism? And then what makes a nation imperialist?  So I’m very happy that you at least attempted to break that down with some clarity, because that needs to be understood.  Because there are critiques to be made about China. There is critiques to be made about any nation that is having relationships with Africa, right? Because we understand, especially as Pan-Africanists, if Africa is not free, then none of us are free. So we do need to have a more critical eye on these relationships, but it should not be conflated with imperialism. It should not be conflated with colonialism because those things, you know, they are defined in a specific way.

So I do appreciate that because that is something that is making people raise eyebrows, especially with, not only Africa, but in the Caribbean. And I do know that you are doing a lot of work pertaining to that region. 

So I do want to say last year I read about 19 or 20 books with a specific focus on the Caribbean and this ranged from Caribbean authors to Caribbean left history to fiction— anything set in the Caribbean—- because I am Trinidadian, but then also I listened to Dr. Margaret Stevens on IMIXWHATILIKE. I was like, ”oh my God, there is so much that I do not know about just that labor history.” I mean, I know a few like individual labor histories, like the Butler riots in Trinidad and such. I do know about the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad, but I don’t have any specifics. I wanted to engage that specifically. Much of that has just been inspired by our conversations around contemporary politics in the region in countries like Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago. 

So you’re in academia, in Florida, which hosts whole schools of counterinsurgency tactics specifically for that region. So I just wanted to know what made you decide to focus on the Caribbean?

Kim: Well, what got me interested specifically researching the Caribbean is like my interest in tourism and being from South Florida, living in Miami, it’s a tourism dependent city. So it’s interesting that you see a lot of the overlap and the discourse and narrative around romanticized constructions of tropical paradise and processes of displacement that kind of stem from the tourism industry in Miami as you might see in Caribbean islands that are tourist dependent. 

So I originally wanted to do a comparative model on transnational tourist continuity’s between Miami and The Bahamas, which has so many amazing Caribbean scholars, who problematize the Paradise Construction and whose work I draw a lot, like Angelic V. Nixon.

But you know, I think what drew me to Dominica — ‘cause that project, unfortunately, it just was too difficult to actually make happen—- but I will say that Dominica is kind of unique because their tourism is kind of focused specifically on ecotourism. And they have like a different landscape that kind of subverts the traditional, white sand beach aesthetic that kind of pervades the tourism marketing and colonial imaginary of the Caribbean.

So that also fascinated me. And I’m also learning a lot more about like this specific kind of radical history of Dominica—  drew a lot from like Rodneyist types of like Black nationalism. And of course, like the Dominican government always supports the sovereignty of Venezuela and Cuba. And so I kind of do just like the country a lot. It’s very fascinating. And a lot of people think it’s the Dominican Republic. It’s not. It’s very much an interesting nation and I’m very proud and excited to explore further. 

So, um, I know you’d asked about specifically thinking about Miami as I call it, “the outpost of Latin American counter-revolution.” You know?  

And we’re still learning the depths of the role that Miami played in the assassination, right, of a Haitian head of state, Jovenel Moïse. So this is definitely fluid. I will say, you know, looking at Miami as kind of— this kind of outpost and understanding the ways in which the US empire and these ongoing attempts to sabotage Caribbean sovereignty, you feel it very close when you’re in Miami, I think. Especially with all the coup attempts that have been occurring in Latin America.

For instance, SOUTHCOM sponsoring these joint exercises with its partner nations and with the guise of combat criminal organizations and humanitarian relief and then they draw in soldiers from like Guyana, Brazil, Bahamas, Barbadoes, Belize, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, you know, Trinidad kind of participating in these regional wide military exercises with army personnel from the US from the UK, Canada, France, and the Netherlands, like all these colonial powers with long and deep legacie in the Caribbean. .

And this is, of course, a way for the US to reassert its own hegemony in the region against geopolitical rivals, against left governments like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua that have kind of sought a more self determinant and different path. So it definitely is used as leverage to kind of keep the Caribbean in their, like you said, “backyard,” and I think that’s what’s so frustrating about it all is.

Erica:  Right because SOUTHCOM is in Miami. That is the headquarters. And then, what happened in Guyana, that’s called Operation Tradewinds. And that’s like an annual thing. I’m just learning that that’s an annual thing and they just did that, especially —-not especially—  but I think it’s significant when you think about how their election processes— they were sanctioned under Trump in 2020 for their election processes. And then in 2021, they’re hosting SOUTHCOM operation. So, you know, it’s something to keep an eye on in the region. And I think that the historical and political aspects of the Caribbean is not touched upon enough. I mean, it’s so much, so much, so much rich history and so much interconnected history.

And like that’s what makes me a lot more interested in Marcus Garvey because I know currently there’s—, he’s getting shitted on currently, I know that. But I think that’s because people really do not, I mean, Garvey is a very dynamic person because Garvey is a complex person. But I think that it’s no small feat that there is no labor or revolutionary movement in the Americas that has not been affected by Garveyism or the UNIA. He has—-  since the beginning of the 20th century. So that’s not something that we can just easily just dismiss because he has affected so many movements. Regardless if they advanced beyond him or, you know, continued that trajectory, he’s there. And so I think that that’s one of the more significant things that I’ve found in reading all of these books that they all in some way or another mentioned Garvey.

But you did mention tourism and one book that I always, always, always tell people to get is Jamaica Kincaid’s  A Small Place because that opened my eyes to the effects of it.  So I look at traveling and tourism completely different since reading that book.

Kim: right right. and it’s only been magnified due to the pandemic 

Erica: Oh it’s disgusting under the pandemic! Disgusting under the pandemic. because, I mean, the argument for tourism is self-serving, right?  You know, it’s like, “well, we need to travel because these poor countries, they need our help.”  But it’s just like, you’re not really helping. You don’t leave your resort.You’re not actually helping these countries. 

Kim: Right. 

Erica: More importantly,  Cuba. I know that you did talk about your work in Miami and your interest in it. And I know that you wrote a piece for Hood Communist about not listening to Miami Cubans. So I did want to thank you for that piece because it was such a necessary piece that cleared up a lot.

I don’t know if you want to maybe talk about writing it/ the reaction since writing it a bit.

Kim: Alright so that was during the July protest that had occurred. And I think that there was a lot of misinformation going around and I don’t think—  the social media and the role of Twitter was really, you know, magnifying these like false narratives.

And again, unfortunately, you know, a lot of academics were kind of repeating these Falsehoods, I would argue. I call it propaganda. And I was like, “I got to let people know,” because again, if you’re not in Miami, you don’t realize the kind of far right forces that are being emboldened. And I felt that it was very important that  a lot of  the rallies that were—- again, they had proud boy infiltration. I mean it was scary to see it was like a fascist kind of movement going on. And I just think that a lot of, you know, maybe US liberals/ left liberals, they weren’t attuned to that. So I really wrote that piece so they could just understand the complex economic hardships that Cuba is facing and that that should really be our focus.

And I think that it was ignited also by the Black Lives Matter statement that got so much backlash. So I kind of felt also that it is important to kind of be like, “no, they were correct in their focus on the embargo and not making a judgment on the government.” ‘Cause I just don’t think that’s the place of a real anti-imperialist critique. So yeah, I was happy to write it. 

Erica: In the beginning, you mentioned that you were a member of the Black Alliance for Peace, and this is a big deal for me, Kim, because like I said, I have been watching you and your trajectory and you have been a staunch advocate against organizations for such —-

You’ve been online saying, “no, they’re not a good thing to do…the dynamics of organizations…” And I know that you were not just screaming this into the void because it’s not something that you’ve actually tried to do. I know that you have your experiences, but I do want to know, why BAP? What made you decide to join a revolutionary organization in this point in time?

Kim: Well,  I will say, to put a little more nuance, is that I was moreso saying that I think that people should know what they might be getting into when they join an org. That’s all I was saying. I wasn’t against it fully, but I do think I—  part of me does feel, you know, somewhat like, “just join an org, but you make sure you know what you’re joining,” you know? You might join something and you’re like, “I don’t know if I’m into this.” You just gotta know— be knowledgeable.That’s what I advocate. 

Black Alliance for Peace—-well, I’ll tell you what made me so enamored is, again, the strong anti-imperialist and Pan-African focus. Just the real principled anti-imperialist stance. I kind of feel that the antiwar left is weak on anti-imperialism and they really don’t get the extent and the depths. And I think that that’s something that BAP gets really, really well. 

You know, AFRICOM, there really isn’t many that have put as much focus and attention on what is even happening with the US  militarism in Africa. And I think that, in a lot of ways, was really lacking in some of the US left liberal organizations and that’s something that’s unique. I just think that  the reach of US neo-colonial military hegemony and its threat to the peace and prosperity of other countries is something that just angers me to no end. So I’m just really inspired by BAP and that’s why I thought it was a good idea to join. 

Erica: No, I appreciate that. I appreciate you adding the nuance because you know, I was being facetious, but I do know that your criticisms, I did always try to directly address. Even if it wasn’t in conversation with you, it would be through my writing  because they were correct criticisms. I mean, people should know what they’re getting into and people should not just only join something for the sake of joining, right? Because you want to be active in your organization and you don’t want to be, you don’t want to feel marginalized within that space. And I do know that that is a thing. 

So to see that you found BAP and it didn’t even have to be BAP,, but to see that you did come around into joining an organization shows me that you saw value in [organizations]. And that was something that I was like,” yay!” Because you know, that is something that we push. “Joined a revolutionary organization fighting for  the freedom of your people ” because it is important.

And I think one of the things that I value about the Black Alliance For Peace is that it is that critical analysis  around anti-imperialism. It is that principled analysis that I think is sort of lacking. There’s a particular line that holds that you just really don’t see anywhere else.  Well, you see it in the AAPRP, but they’re BAP members. You see that in Community Movement Builders and you see it in Ujima but they’re also BAP members and I say that to say that, I’m very happy to see the growth of it. I’m very happy that you are a member of it. This was a dope ass interview.

All right. So that’s all I have for this interview. So I want to thank you so much, Kim, for chopping it up with me. And this was really great. 

Kim: Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you. 

Erica: All right. Peace. 

More from this Writer

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth