Fred Hamption, chairman of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party and a revolutionary who attacked the myth of Black capitalism

There is No Such Thing as Black Capitalism

51 years ago on 4th Dec 1969, Fredrick Allen Hampton Sr then chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and deputy chairman of the national BPP was assassinated by the Chicago County police in an unlawful raid. Hampton was only 21 years old when he was killed alongside Marl Clark another BPP member who was 22 years old.

The anniversary to remember the life of Fred Hampton was quiet in 2021 without much celebration and recognition, obviously the mainstream media for known reasons do not have a history of celebrating radical revolutionaries. Although, maybe mistakenly one would have been optimistic that The Judas and the Black Messiah a bestselling movie– the American biographical drama film about the betrayal of Fred Hampton (2021) would have set the precedent for celebrating his life and enduring ideological legacy. While a great movie introducing Fred Hampton to the world doesn’t seem to have deepened Fred Hampton’s ideological stance and ethos to the people worth celebrating and remembering. Fred Hampton is best remembered for his speech among other things, in 1969 “Power anywhere Where There are People! in Chicago, and specifically for his words:

“We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no Black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.

Fred Hampton

It is a popular quote within social movements, left organizations, and human rights organizations. However, for the most part, there are taken out of context or partly quoted for populist rhetoric and empty sloganeering. We have a cluster of people, especially among Black people who cunningly misquote Hampton’s words to fit their interests and political agendas, for instance; there is the tendency to never mention or acknowledge Hampton’s final words at the end of the quote, where he declares that you can only fight any form of capitalism with socialism. This form of revisionism aims at sanitizing the radical legacy of Fred Hampton and decontextualizing his words to erase his ideological struggles while masking the failures and the historical promises of Black capitalism an idealist veneration whenever it has been preached. The thought that Fred Hampton was a communist and a Marxist-Leninist who subscribed to many of the theories laid out by the German philosopher Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, the father of the Russian Revolution, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Trotsky, and other communist theories is uncomfortable for liberals and opportunists to hold on to.

The outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic exposed capitalism as an irredeemable system with no future to talk about. Increased sharp inequalities globally, mass unemployment, privatization of health care, and commodification of education all under the capitalist system. Yet there exists denial of the reality that capitalism cannot resolve the crisis it has created, so we avoid the question of socialism out of the realization that to replace a capitalist society you will need to replace the whole system and all of its institutions. In class struggle information is not neutral and the misuse of Fred Hampton’s words to suit interests is mainly based on class interest among the petty-bourgeois in Africa and the U.S.A.

The middle class and the educated cluster in Africa support Black capitalism knowing the privilege-class position they hold in society while pointing out the lack of good leadership as the main reason for the political and economic crisis in the continent. Somehow there is a distorted belief that Pan-Africanism rooted in capitalism is different from western forms of capitalism and colonialism. The same analogy was used to betray the aspirations of the masses in Africa during the independence era by African leaders who proved to be opportunists in Africanizing a capitalist system by just replacing white colonizers. In Kenya after achieving independence in 1963, there were two camps that emerged during the cold war era, one leaning towards Socialism led by Oginga Odinga and Pio Gama Pinto while the capitalist side was led by president Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya. The ideological confrontation between the two camps led the latter to devise a plan in 1965 in form of a document known as the Sessional Paper Number 10 on African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya. African Socialism which wasn’t clearly defined and was a capitalist blueprint in disguise formulated to control the growing agitation against capitalism, under it the independent government formulated privatization policies and rejected nationalization of key sectors and equal distribution of land, consequently rejecting the aspirations of the Kenyan people.

Socialism as an alternative system has long terrified capitalists and their appendages wherever they are. In the 80s Kenya, President Daniel Arap Moi led a major crackdown on socialist movements such as the Mwakenya-December twelve a Marxist-Leninist movement in Kenya. Marxists’ literature and books like Black skins, white masks by Frantz Fanon were removed from public universities while radical scholars such as Professor Maina wa Kinyatti a lecturer at Kenyatta University, and Ngugi wa Thiongo then teaching at the University of Nairobi were detained for exposing the evils of capitalism in Kenya. 

Fred Hampton’s words haunted revisionists and opportunists of that era and have continued to do so in the 21st century. The impact of Hampton’s words goes beyond him, after his death another generation has embraced his ideas. Social movements and activists in Kenya are now engaging in ideological politics and insisting on political education as one way of forging political clarity. There are ideological confrontations too between different ideologies and liberation theories such as Afrocentrism, Pan-Africanism, social democracy, mysticism, and Astrology within social movements.

In the United States at one point it was the activists in the civil rights era fronting the idea of keeping the dollar circulating within the Black community taking examples of what the Jewish and the white community did. These days it’s preached by Black celebrities, like rapper Puff Daddy and Jay-Z through their “Black excellence philosophy.” a misleading philosophy used by Black capitalists who equate it with liberation, while portraying individual wealth as a collective success for the Black community. A belief deprived of any ideological clarity which Fred Hampton was against and warned years ago that such a blueprint was meant to fail as inequality, poverty, and racism are products of the capitalist system. 

It’s not an attempt to downplay the realities of white supremacy and white privilege but to replace white oppression with Black oppression was and is still oppression as seen historically. James Boggs interrogated the illusions of Black capitalism years ago in his analysis of the myth of Black capitalism and categorically put that the Black community’s underdevelopment was a product of capitalist development. Just as Africa is underdeveloped out of colonial capitalism and imperialism, scientifically speaking there is no such thing as Black capitalism which is different from white capitalism or capitalism of any other color. Capitalism, regardless of its color, is a system of exploitation of one set of people by another set of people. The very laws of capitalism require that some forces have to be exploited. In reality, Black capitalism is a dream and a delusion. Black capitalism exploits the Black labor force which is already at the bottom of the ladder.