Editors Note: In recent months, mainstream media has flooded our screens and timelines with breaking news reporting about the misgivings of Patrisse Cullors and the Black Lives Matter national organization. The reporting is salacious and sensational, appealing to our desires to take down the three we “always” knew were “traitors to our movement.” But in what is becoming a mass hysteria among the US African left, are we learning any lessons? By only focusing on the money and the scandal, and not the ideological contradictions that produced all the individualism, opportunism and dead-end strategy of the past decade, we ensure that this will happen again. In fact, it definitely already is. The only way to kill this cancer in our movement is through a commitment to study, rigorous criticism/self-cricism within our organizational structures, and a willingness to constantly re-evaluate our tactics. Therefore, we offer this contribution from our BAP comrade, Rafiki Morris, which was generated as part of an organizational struggle on the topic.
“Revolution is like a train, people get on and off at every stop.”
Because of this reality, we focus on who comes and who goes, but we do not have time to be overly concerned with those we leave on the platform as the train pulls from the station. Of course, we feel it when we lose a comrade who for whatever reason abandons the struggle or simply steps aside. But we have come to understand the depth of opportunism inside our movement. This opportunism is the face of the enemy within our movement in general and in our organizations in particular. How many betrayals must we experience before we identify selling out as a permanent aspect of what we do? Revolution breeds counter-revolution. Sometimes this counter-revolution is clear and obvious (they receive millions of dollars from reactionary sources) and sometimes it goes undetected for decades waiting for an opportunity to seize power or murder our genuine leaders (both Sankara and Bishop were killed by people in their inner circle.) But at all times there are reactionaries among us making mischief causing confusion and undermining our delicately constructed unity of thought and action.
What is most important is to maintain our unity of thought and action. We have to make the reactionaries work for the revolution. This is done by advancing a constraining ethic and by building organizations that require disciplined adherence to the line of march. Such discipline is difficult to develop and maintain in loosely organized movements and coalitions. The errors made by Patrisse Cullors and others is really a testament to the form and structure of the BLM organizational model. They were content with a leadership that was not and is not accountable to the people. This is the nature of movements with broad general objectives and composed of a membership that can be mobilized but never organized. The contradiction between organization and mobilization has always been an aspect of BLM that played out in the relationship between the national org and its local affiliates (leaders and people in the streets).
We should point out corruption wherever we find it. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. But this vigilance should not be reserved for the prominent individuals and self-styled leaders. We must be examples of the ethics we promote, we must hold everyone accountable at all times, and at the same time nurture the solidarity and cooperation that is our most important characteristic. The revolutionary struggle is incorruptible even though it is composed of flawed individuals, sectors, and self-seeking opportunists. Those who attack Patrisse today may turn their backs on us tomorrow. Those who are corrupt servants of capital today may give us guidance and direction tomorrow. This is how it is. We must go on without sentimentality. While we appreciate all who make a contribution like Patrisse, we can only place confidence in unchanging principles and the masses of people organized. Everything else is temporary, momentary, and subject to corruption. The corruption in our ranks should not only be called out when someone decides to do an interview or make a splash in the mass media. We should fight corruption everywhere and at all times and we should start with the corruption that lives in our own hearts and minds. Funny thing is that we never know who will sell us out until the enemy makes them an offer that is exposed. Bribes, deals, and treachery happen when no one is looking. Enemy agents, informants, and sources are recruited behind closed doors, under the table, and in the dark. Our job is to open the doors, turn over the tables, and subject the darkness to the blinding light of truth and justice. This is why we call the movement a struggle. We wage this struggle against external enemies (capitalist and imperialist), and internal enemies (opportunists, sell-outs, and self-serving reactionaries). Most importantly we struggle against our own backward ideas and practices, organizational deficiencies, and ethical foundations.