Nationalism is alive and well in the current Amerikan political scene. Both variants: 1) its reactionary, porkchop forms propagated by groups like the Proud Boys and the Hotep movement, and its 2) revolutionary form on the lips of those like the “Republic of New Afrika” and various Panafrikanist groups are in the popular science again in some capacity. What exactly are these latter groups calling for? Are they calling for the so-called “pure” ethno-states of their reactionary counterparts? Is the notion of “national landbase for staging revolution” actually a cover for the “replacement” of the “white” majority? Obviously not, to the ones putting forward and defending the thesis. But, if the answer is no, then why am I writing this article? Well, because those on the “Left” are still skeptical about what they see as the “identity politics”guiding the New Revolutionary Nationalist movement. In this write-up, I hope to assuage some of that fear and skepticism by pointing out what revolutionary (Black) nationalism is, and why socialism in Amerika (and abroad) cannot be achieved for oppressed peoples without it.
Revolutionary Nationalism Defined
Nationalism, national self-determination, liberation and similar terms all point to one particular political aspiration: the ability of a people to have the freedom of choice regarding their destiny. At a glance, because of its broadness, Nationalism seems justified in both its revolutionary and reactionary forms. For example, those of the latter stripe will argue that they are just maintaining their people’s autonomy and protecting themselves from domination. There’s the kicker: the White ethnonationalist, unlike the New Afrikan or the Afrikan in England, is under no threat of domination nor are they responding to over 400 years of settler-colonial oppression. Nay, they are responding to the proclamation (in words and action) of the dark world to get from under the boot of “Whiteness” and all its consequences. What they fear is that the revolutionary nationalist will engage in the same savagery that has marked the European’s “national conquest”. They fear a reverse “Manifest Destiny” or the brown-black version of the “White Man’s Burden”.
Enough of what revolutionary nationalism is not. What is, positively, the ideology of revolutionary nationalism? In his article, “The Basic Tenets of Revolutionary Black Nationalism”, Muhammad Ahmad defines revolutionary black nationalism as:
“[T]he ideology of Black National Liberation Revolution; the scientific and historical process of transforming from domestic colonialized [sic] nation serving the interest of U.S. imperialism (as a source of cheap labor and major market for its commodities) into a National Liberation Movement consciously representing its own interest as a nation struggling for national independence and state power.”
What does transforming a colonized nation into a liberation movement mean? On my view, it means recognizing that Blacks in Amerika have the right to establish a national land-base by which to proclaim and defend their interests while fostering an environment that cultivates collective well-being. Some may ask: how is it that Black people have achieved nationhood? To them, we answer with the materialist (Marxist) definition of a nation provided by comrade Stalin: “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture” (Marxism and the National Question, 1913). It is obvious that the New Afrikan nation in Amerika checks off all these boxes. To this analysis, however, I add the trait of a shared struggle for existence and self-definition in response to the attempted erasure from the White world.
What makes revolutionary nationalism, well, revolutionary? It is the desire to overthrow rather than reform the current political economic system. In the same way that Kwame Ture remarks that a house is not transformed unless all of the pieces of the old structure are replaced, the revolutionary nationalist desires that the capitalist system be completely abolished and replaced by something else. We do not want black capitalism or a so-called “autonomous economy” unless that economy involves the establishment of a worker’s state and the control of the means of production by the New Afrikan working masses. The cultivation of well-being entails having a structure that abolishes all barriers to obtain the materials necessary for that cultivation. Capitalism, a system where there is a class who controls the productive forces and benefit from the accumulation of wealth through the appropriation of surplus-value, makes it so that there will always be a battle between the haves and have-nots. Revolutionary nationalism calls for an end to domination of man by man, and it doesn’t matter if this domination is by the White man or the Black.
The Necessity of Organizations and Vanguards
As stated above, to achieve the end of well-being cultivation, the nationalist movement calls for the social arrangement of scientific socialism. In keeping with scientific socialist principles, it is the working and student masses that will initiate the revolution. “What of the vanguard party?” “What is its relationship to the people?” Comrade Huey P. Newton exposited the role of the party succinctly when he said, “The main purpose of the vanguard group should be to raise the consciousness of the masses through educational programs and other activities.
The sleeping masses must be bombarded with the correct approach to struggle and the party must use all means available to get this information across to the masses” (The Correct Handling of a Revolution, 1967). Like the surrounding landmass that creates a stream and eventual river by focusing the movement of the water, the vanguard party provides structure to the energy of the masses and “revolutionizes” their ideas through the principle of the mass-line. For those who don’t know what the mass-line is, it can be summed up in the statement: from the masses to the masses. This means that the party must go to the masses to understand their needs and desires; depending on the context and its elements, the party must apply dialectical analysis so that the needs can be met properly. The mass-line isn’t an appeal to tailism for it recognizes the leading role of the party, but it also understands that the revolutionary struggle must involve working with the people for, in the end, it is their movement for their emancipation. Newton again puts it simply: “The people make revolution; the oppressors, by their brutal actions, cause resistance by the people. The vanguard party only teaches the correct methods of resistance” (The Correct Handling of Revolution, 1967).
By what means will the masses initiate their revolution? Through the medium of an organization. The people must get organized! In the same way the body is nothing without the head, the head is nothing with a body. You cannot have revolutionary mobilization without organization. Why? You will be easy to disperse and conquer. When asked about your principles, you will be left lacking. When asked to think about who has your back, you will be unable to name anyone. How will you get the training that you need and critical feedback if one is not in the midst of revolutionary organizing? Revolutionary requires commitment to something bigger than yourself, and the best way to demonstrate that commitment is to join something that goes further than yourself. So as comrade Wolfgang tells us, “Get Organized” (Get Organized My People!, 2022).
The organization can’t be just any ole “Communist Party” or so-called “Revolutionary Socialist” organization. Nay, these organizations need to be our organizations because they are for our people. The question of revolutionary nationalism and the methods to achieve it is, while able to use ideas from various allies, an intracommunal debate. This means that it’s a debate by black people, between black people, for black people! This should not be taken as a call for “segregation”; it rather points to the fact that the topic of national liberation is specifically for that nation’s people.
Dare to Struggle!
In this article, I have advocated for and slightly defended a revolutionary solution to the problem facing Afrikans in the US and abroad. Why is the need for revolution so paramount? Because the ruling class isn’t going to peacefully grant us our freedom and self-definition. The history and current activity of the White ruling class can be summed up in two relatively long statements from comrade Robert F. Williams:
“The dominant class in racist America is one of the most hypocritical the world has ever seen. It captured the African in Africa, enslaved him, ripped his culture from him, raped him, reproduced from him, completely dehumanized him, and reduced him to the level of beast of burden and stamped him with the name Negro as a tribute to the white man’s creation and invention of a new implement of agriculture and an instrument of labour. And all the while, he promoted this brutal slavery, he proclaimed himself architect of democracy and a Christian society. All the while, he brutally and savagely exterminated the American Indian and piously proclaimed Thanksgiving to his white god for being so generous in blessing him with the bounty of the Indian’s rich land and paradise. He built a brutal imperialist prison wall around the peoples of Latin America and piously named it the protective Monroe Doctrine. He stretched his bloody hand to Asia and arrogantly called it an “Open Door Policy.” (Speech in Beijing, 1966).
The second statement says:
“What is the nature of his democracy? What does such a beastly, imperialist, racist savage know about democracy? Should not democracy, like charity, start first at home, and then spread abroad? What is the democracy of the Black American captives in the miserable ghettoes, in the cotton fields of Mississippi, battered by the savage policeman’s club [guns in 21st-century Amerika] in Washington, D.C.? What is the democracy of the Puerto Ricans, of the Mexicans, and of the American Indians in racist America? Only the most nave can believe the empty words and promise of such a morally bankrupt charlatan.” (Speech in Beijing, (1966).
Comrade Williams’s words remain true today! The white ruling class democracy is bourgeois, racist, settler-colonial democracy. No matter how much tap-dancing we do for this unjust, backwards, quasi-barbaric society, we always remain where we are. Because of that fact, I say again until I am out of breath and hoarse of voice: Opt for change through revolutionary struggle, and work to achieve the liberation of all Afrikan people!