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Baltimore Rebellion Prompts Nationwide Protests

State of Emergency for the Ruling Class While African American Youth Draw the Line in Baltimore City

Thousands in the streets taking control of communities and driving out authorities


By Abayomi Azikiwe
Libya 360°

Baltimore youth raised the stakes in the struggle against police brutality on April 27 when they set off the largest urban rebellion in the recent period. Since Aug. 9, 2014, with the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the mood of militancy and mass action has accelerated throughout the United States.In response to the demonstrations and rebellion, Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has declared a “state of emergency” announcing the deployment of National Guard troops ostensibly to restore order. A curfew between 10:00pm and 5:00am was slated to go into effect on the evening of April 28.

Gov. Hogan in a press conference during the evening of April 27 in Baltimore said that he was moving his office and cabinet to the city to deal with the crisis and that he should have been called earlier by African American Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Such a statement and move was tantamount to a state takeover of local operations involving the crisis in the city.

The Gov. emphasized a militarized approach to “restoring order.” The mayor came under criticism for not taking harsh actions beginning on Sat. April 25 when the initial eruptions occurred in Camden Yards.

However, the mayor was aware that if hundreds of cops were sent in to the crowds of African American youth on the afternoon of April 27 a more violent and deadly situation could have occurred. Obviously the degree of anger and discontent among African Americans has reached a fever pitch in the city.

In an attempt to derail further youth protests, schools in Baltimore were closed on April 28.

Federal government offices and many businesses did not open while the Baltimore Orioles baseball game was cancelled. Some 5,000 cops from throughout the region and 1,500 National Guard troops called out by Gov. Hogan were being deployed establishing a police state in the city.

The use of lethal force, the launching of teargas canisters, sound grenades, LRAD and pepper spray could have created a situation where dozens may have died and suffered serious injury, many of whom would be African American youth. Such an immediate outcome from police repression of the rebellion would have broadened resistance and posed an even deeper political problem for Washington.

With this rebellion erupting less than fifty miles from the White House exposes even further the political bankruptcy of the administration of President Barack Obama. The so-called post-racial president has systematically refused to address the ongoing problems of national oppression and institutional racism in the U.S.

At a presidential press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan on April 28, Obama attempted to avoid the issues surrounding African American national oppression, answering a question directed at Abe on the much-dreaded Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and his support for further globalization and predatory world capitalism. Later Obama said his thoughts were with both the family of Freddie Gray and the police who were injured.

Obama then went on to denounce the rebellion saying there was no excuse for violence. That the mass actions of the African American youth were counter-productive and that looting was not protesting but stealing.

The president went as far as to proclaim that attacking private property undermined the opportunities in the African American communities. He called for the stop of “this senseless violence.”

Then the president began to enunciate trivial efforts to address the problem of police-community relations. No initiatives were discussed to provide and guarantee jobs, housing, education, healthcare, utility services, access to water and other essentials of life.

The Obama administration has supported the undemocratic policies of forced removals of African Americans and the privatization of public assets. In Detroit, the administration issued a pseudo-legal rationale for the imposition of emergency management and bankruptcy that looted billions in pension funds, healthcare programs and public resources from a majority African American city.

Death in Detention of Freddie Gray Raises Level of Intolerance to Racism

It would take the death in police detention of 25-year-old Freddie Gray leading to anti-racist demonstrations in Baltimore that would set the stage for a rapid escalation in social defiance and political consciousness. However, the death of Gray was just the spark that ignited a long-simmering fire of anger and intolerance for injustice.

Baltimore has been a notorious center of police violence against the African American community. This factor is coupled with large-scale foreclosures of homes by the banks and the impending water shut-offs of tens of thousands of households in the city.

A demonstration on April 25 in downtown Baltimore at the Camden Yards, illustrated the changing character of the protests and rebellions, popularly characterized as “Black Lives Matter.” These mass actions stemming from police misconduct but reflecting a much deeper level of national oppression and institutional racism have been both nonviolent and violent.

On April 27 high school students left schools and began to demonstrate against the police killing of Gray. Subsequently clashes erupted between the police and the youth resulting in the smashing of windows, the pelting of police and the destruction on law-enforcement vehicles.

Accounts from the news reports said of some of the actions on April 27 that:

–“Baltimore police issued a press release saying they had received a ‘credible threat’ against their officers. According to the release ‘various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, and Crips have entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers.’”

–“Police say that they have received reports that ‘several people are inside Mondawmin Mall looting and destroying property.’ Television images showed a group of people streaming into the mall.”

–“Just hours after Freddie Gray’s funeral, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets, burning police cars, looting stores and facing off with police. Television images showed those demonstrators throwing rocks, bricks and bottles at a line of police officers in riot gear.”

–“Images from a television helicopter showed some demonstrators destroying a police vehicle. They showed others looting a CVS pharmacy, a Rite-Aid and small shops. What started as a confrontation between hundreds of protesters and riot police quickly turned into a melee covering multiple neighborhoods. Baltimore police said that 15 officers had been hurt in the clashes. Some suffered broken bones and two of them are still hospitalized.”

–“A huge fire has consumed a senior citizen center that was under construction in East Baltimore, but police have been unable to connect it to the riots thus far, the Baltimore Sun reports. At least 10 firefighting companies were attempting to control the blaze, at the corner of North Chester and East Lanvale streets, and keep it from spreading to nearby houses, firefighters said.”

Counter-insurgency and Psychological Operations

Corporate and government media commentators seek to divide the resistance movement between those who engage in what is considered “legally protected” forms of dissent as opposed to acts of property destruction and attacks on law-enforcement. These apparent two forms of action often overlap, where it will only take provocations by the police to turn a peaceful demonstration into a mass rebellion.

Blocking access to highways, major thoroughfares, shopping malls, major sports venues, entertainment and financial districts, cuts into the profit-making system. Images of African American youth throwing missiles at the cops, smashing police vehicles and liberating consumer goods from businesses, the setting of fires in strategic locations to block access by the authorities into areas that have been taken over by the those in rebellion, illustrates the growing sense of outrage not only against law-enforcement but challenging the structures of racial capitalism.

Cable news television stations and their local counterparts are quick to put a spin on the events seeking to ignore the fundamental class and national oppression so prevalent in the U.S. Showing youth attacking private property is explained as criminal activity while the police are portrayed as victims of youth gangs out to commits acts of burglary and arson.

At the same time highlighting scenes of people coming to clean up after the destruction of stores and police property focusing on the volunteer nature of the community and refusing to point out that the municipal administrations are absent. That the mayor’s office which calls for calm and the restoration of order is never questioned about why these same youth and their communities have been ignored for decades.

Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake says that the rebellion is destroying progress made over the years. Media pundits portray low-wage employee chain stores as “assets to the community.”

No serious analysis is done by the corporate media over the nature of this so-called “progress” in Baltimore. These putative “development policies” serve to remove African American poor and working class communities while empowering a white-dominated ruling and middle class buffered by a comprador African American bureaucratic bourgeoisie which works on behalf of the banks and corporations in subservience to the law-enforcement agencies and the state government.

All of sudden the people are portrayed as destroying their own communities. The communities become theirs when they rise up in rebellion but not when capital seeks to seize people’s homes and turn off their water resources.

During this period when the state and corporate entities want to enforce the supremacy of the ruling class, there is generally no discussion about the people’s ownership of where they live and work. The narrative is centered on the imperative that the oppressed and working people must pay their predatory loans and inflated utility bills.

Appeals for personal responsibility and parental assertion of control, only applies during the urban rebellion. Whether these same youth and adults have decent jobs and economic opportunities never enter into the discussion because the one percent has nothing to offer beyond minimum wage employment, state repression, mass incarceration and economic exploitation.

It is the mayor who is responsible for actions of the police. The city administration approves the changes in zoning laws, allowing corporate financial interests to engage in large-scale removals of African Americans and other oppressed neighborhoods for the benefit of the profit system.

Mass Demonstrations and Rebellions Points to Need for Fundamental Change

The escalation in the liberation struggle of African Americans since last summer represents the worsening social conditions in urban areas throughout the U.S. These problems cannot be solved under the existing system of racial capitalism.

Wealth created by the majority of the working class and oppressed must be distributed equitably in the U.S. in order for social peace to take hold. What we are witnessing in various cities from Ferguson to Oakland and Baltimore portends much for the rest of the country where the same issues remain unresolved since the era of Civil Rights and Black political empowerment of the 1960s and 1970s.

To ensure a fundamental advancement in the national liberation movement, the youth and workers must be organized into revolutionary formations which provide the political education and long-term planning aimed at addressing the crisis at its base. It is the banks and corporations who have systematically disenfranchised and impoverished the masses of people in the U.S. Any solution to the crisis must hold the ruling interests accountable for the monumental crimes committed against the people.

There should be a halt to all foreclosures and evictions in Baltimore. The water shut-offs must be immediately stopped.

All youth and adults seeking meaningful employment, economic opportunities and quality education must be provided with these resources. National Guard troops and police should be withdrawn from the African American communities. The people must be empowered to both define and pursue their fundamental human, political and economic rights to peace, living wages, quality housing and schools leading to total community control and self-determination.


Abayomi Azikiwe has written extensively on African affairs with specific reference to historical studies and political economy. He has done research on the origins and political ideology of the African National Congress, its leaders as well as other national liberation movements and regional organizations  in Southern Africa.



Black Community Control of the Police Conference


Police are the Terrorist to Africans

Omali Yeshitela at Black Community Control of Police Conference

Glen Ford of the Black is Back Coalition & the Black Agenda Report presents on the origin of the police & their purpose according to the state, which controls them.

Lawrence Hamm of the Black is Back Coalition & People Organizing for Progress, stirs the crowd in revolutionary fashion in his call for Black Community Control of Police.

Omali Yeshitela calls out white media…

Glen Ford Interviewed on the Real News Network

3 Moms Who Lost Sons to Police Terror African Internationalist Conference on African Women

Black Panther Leader, Aaron Dixon: My People Are Rising

Aaron-Dixon-042012-by-Joe-Mabel1Aaron Dixon was co-founder and Captain of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party. As a college student at the University of Washington, Dixon played a key role in the formation of the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Seattle Chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) along with Larry Gossett and others. Through the BSU, Dixon also helped organize protests and black student unions at local high schools. In the spring of 1968, at the funeral of Bobby Hutton in Oakland, California, Dixon met Bobby Seale and later was appointed Captain of Seattle’s Black Panther Party, the first chapter outside of Oakland. He was 19 years old. Dixon led the chapter through its first four years, then moved to Party national headquarters in Oakland in 1972. There he worked with Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and served for a time as bodyguard to Elaine Brown.

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Advanced Detachment: The Revolutionary Party of the African Working Class

Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party
Published Mar 29, 2013
BurningSpear3.29.13

Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from an article that first appeared in the pages of The Burning Spear 28 years ago under the title, “The History and Role of the Proletarian Party of the Black Working Class.”

At the time, evidence of the crisis of imperialism that defines today’s reality was coming into sharp focus. The U.S. presidency of Ronald Wilson Reagan was the white ruling class’s war-mongering repressive response to that crisis.

                  The response of the African People’s Socialist Party was to help the African working class recognize its historical mission as the primary agent of revolutionary transformation and to help the class achieve its full capacity to carry out its mission.

                  Today we are faced with the same task. It more important now than ever to mobilize the African working class in its own selfish interests and to equip the class to lead the international struggle for the liberation and unification of Africa and African people under its leadership as the new ruling class.

                  The U.S. presidency of Barack Hussein Obama and the success of the white ruling class in removing most evidence of the Black Revolution of the Sixties make it incumbent upon our Party to help African people and especially the working class, to become engaged in independent, self-serving political life.

                  We are printing this excerpt as one of the steps we will be taking to win African people and workers to independent revolutionary organization that is guided by advanced revolutionary theory.

                  An error in this piece is the reference of our philosophy as Pan Africanism developed to its higher stage. As the referenced quote in this piece clearly shows, we have never been Pan Africanists. The reader should be aware that it was the lingering ideological influence of the African petty bourgeoisie that made that error possible.

Political parties are organizations of the most advanced representatives of a particular class. The tasks of political parties are directly tied to the material interests of the classes they represent.

Sometimes elements of a particular class are not aware of their own class interests. There are people from the white ruling class, for example, who are drunks or drug addicts, or even insane. Sometimes elements of the ruling class are wife beaters, bed wetters, or lazy ignoramuses who are unconcerned and disdainful of the overall interests of the capitalist-colonialist ruling class.

Nevertheless, some members and representatives of the white ruling class take it upon themselves to organize into political parties, which represent and look out for the interests of the entire class, including the drunks, wife beaters, etc. We call these people the advanced or activist elements of their class.

What are the interests of the U.S. capitalist-colonialist class? The most fundamental interest of the capitalist-colonialist ruling class is the perpetuation of the capitalist system and itself as the ruling class. This fundamental interest gives rise to other interests:

Economically, there is the interest to eliminate all economic competition, both domestically and internationally. The interest of the capitalist-colonialist ruling class is in dominating the natural resources and markets of the entire world.

Politically, there is the interest in restricting the political liberties of the peoples of the entire world. This is an interest in crushing any political liberties that do not facilitate the economic domination of the U.S. capitalists. It is an interest in restricting the development of any independent political expression that would challenge the hegemony of U.S. capitalism.

Ideologically, the interests of the white ruling class are served by idealism and obscurantism, which covers over reality. This keeps the oppressed and exploited peoples, especially the African working class, separated from an understanding of their own material interests. It keeps oppressed and exploited peoples ignorant of science and a scientific approach to an examination of the nature of class exploitation and national oppression. Ideologically, the interests of the white ruling class give rise to ideological imperialism, the imperialist imposition of its worldview, aims and ideology onto oppressed peoples. Imperialist domination of ideology is consistent with the economic domination of the capitalist system.

During the sixties, black political parties began to emerge from within the colonized African population in the U.S. as a result of the internal pressures of class contradictions. As these contradictions began to crystallize, they revealed a colonial society that was much more complex than before.

Before the movement won our legal democratic rights, it was all of “us” (blacks) against “them” (whites). The U.S. government was not generally recognized as an agent of a particular class and social system. Our movement, under the leadership of the black petty bourgeoisie, courted the various U.S. presidents assiduously, hoping to find a “good” president who was sympathetic to the general democratic aims and demands of the movement.

By 1965, after a decade of most intense struggle, our movement won the vote and our legal democratic rights. In the process, the black petty bourgeoisie was growing as a result of the effectiveness of the movement and the intervention of the liberal white bourgeoisie. With the vote and legal rights, the basic aspirations of the black middle class were, in effect, realized. For them the movement had reached its goal.

For the new generation of fully mobilized African workers that was thrust onto the scene as the main social factor in the U.S. political life, its aspirations were far from being met by gaining legal democratic rights. The attempts by the petty bourgeoisie to moderate the Black Liberation Movement, to decelerate it and direct it toward liberal bourgeois democratic sops, were met with the cries of “Burn, baby burn,” in Los Angeles and “Black Power” in Mississippi.

At this point the independent aspirations of the African working class became clear. This new clarity fueled efforts to build independent political parties by and for the colonially oppressed African population. Nevertheless, our inexperience frustrated our efforts at party-building. More often than not, we were unable to build parties that clearly identified the class interests they served. Generally we were not able to show that the African working class had an interest in overthrowing the colonial oppression of our whole people.

The party-building movement was successful, however, in creating party formations that raised principles of unity going beyond the limitations of the liberal black petty bourgeoisie. Those who could unite with militant anti-colonial principles that clearly distinguished African workers from the black petty bourgeoisie joined the party and were able to characterize themselves ambiguously as revolutionaries and black nationalists. Such parties began to characterize sectors of the movement that were trapped inside the limitations of reform as Uncle Toms and sometimes as the black bourgeoisie.

None of these parties was capable of raising up the interests of the black working class as the hegemonic interests of the party. Although it was the pressure of the black working class resistance and struggle that pushed this party-building process forward, it was essentially petty bourgeois nationalists—often revolutionary—who were leading this effort. The black working class was yet to seize leadership of its own revolutionary movement, even as history was pushing events in that direction with growing urgency.

Black Panthers, first black worker’s party

The Black Panther Party, which emerged in 1966–67, came closest to being the party of the African working class. 6 For the first time in the history of our movement, an independent black political party had identified itself as a socialist or communist organization, with socialist or communist revolutionary objectives. 7

Inherent in this identification was the assumption of a worldview with the interests of the African working class at its center. Certainly the vast bulk of the membership of the Black Panther Party was working class, and its Ten Point Program and Platform raised fundamentally working class demands.

The Black Panther Party (BPP) gave the colonially oppressed African working class more experience in leading its own struggle than any organization before it. Nevertheless, it muddled its own effectiveness with an ideology that mystified the character of the black working class under colonialism. Instead of elevating its membership to the highest stance of the African working class, the Black Panther Party idealized the traits of the lumpen proletariat, a non-working class element of unstable and unemployable people, as the leadership of the Revolution. In this process, the BPP mistakenly identified colonized unemployed black workers, who sometimes have lumpen tendencies, as the lumpen proletariat. 8

Nevertheless, the Black Panther Party provided the closest thing to a revolutionary center that our movement had ever experienced. Although incorrect on some essentials, the BPP introduced the question of class struggle to our movement, a question that was briefly taken up within a large sector of the African working class itself.

Bourgeois democracy and the parties of the white ruling class

The parties of the white ruling class inside the U.S. are the Democratic and Republican parties. The objective of the Democratic and Republican parties is the perpetuation of the capitalist social system, which rests on the foundation of African oppression. Although both of these parties are capable of prattle about democracy, the democracy they talk about is only a description of the form of the U.S. State, which exercises capitalist rule with its organs of coercion such as the police, army, the courts, etc. Besides being “democratic,” the capitalist State can take the form of dictatorship or monarchy, among others.

Neither the Democratic or Republican party is capable of talking about overthrowing the capitalist social system. Neither party will ever be able to bring about democratic self-determination for the broad mass of African people. This is because the capitalist social system within the boundaries of the U.S., perhaps more than any place else, rests on the foundation of African oppression going back to the days of what is called slavery.

The Democratic and Republican parties have been excellent tools of the white ruling class precisely because they appear to give African workers, oppressed peoples and even the general white population a choice in the U.S. They give the illusion of providing alternatives and freedom of democratic participation in American political life.

The Republican and Democratic parties make it possible for the white ruling class to monopolize political, economic and ideological power while obscuring the class interests that they represent. Since oppressed peoples, like sectors of the bourgeoisie, are often ignorant of their class interests, African workers generally attempt to pursue their class interests within the parties of the white ruling class, especially the Democratic party in this period.

Within the U.S. and most capitalist countries there is generally, but not always, more than one capitalist party. This allows the bourgeoisie to wear two hats, a kind of “good cop, bad cop” routine. In this way, the bourgeois social system protects itself by passing political power to one bourgeois party when the other has come into disrepute with the people.

The fact that the people can vote for one or the other bourgeois party gives the impression of political free will by the masses and acts as a social pressure release valve, blunting the development of class struggle. This is what is called bourgeois democracy.

Actually the people have not exercised free will, which presupposes information and science. Freedom is the recognition of necessity, which is prerequisite to exercising free will. Within the U.S. and other places where more than one capitalist party dominates political life, elections are means of nonviolent struggle by different sectors of the ruling class for control of the State.

The various social forces are not organized into their own independent class parties and engaged in conscious class struggle, one against the other. Instead, the American two-party system mobilizes African and other oppressed workers into the service of a sector of the white ruling class as it engages in intra-class struggle with another sector. The two-party system obscures the class interests of the exploited workers and oppressed peoples, reducing them to reserve forces for one sector of the bourgeoisie or another.

The question of class struggle within the U.S. has always been difficult enough even without the two-party duplicity of the bourgeoisie. This has to do with the parasitic nature of the capitalist system. Within the U.S., this parasitism stems from a social system built on stolen land, the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Native people and the enslavement of African people.

The entire white population—workers and bourgeoisie alike—and all social forces and classes that benefit from the development of the “New World,” find their happiness and freedom from political oppression and material want at the expense of the life, liberty and development of Indigenous and African peoples.

Hence, there is a material, economic basis for the political unity that exists between the North American bourgeoisie and the general white population. This political unity is directed against the African, Indigenous and other colonized peoples here and around the world, in defense of the capitalist social system.

The parasitic nature of the capitalist system is the basis for the political and ideological leadership of the modern U.S.-based African proletariat. The African working class is the only social force that has the exact combination of qualities which makes it an absolute, volatile opponent of the capitalist social system.

Along with the Indigenous people, the oppression of the African people represents the foundation upon which the capitalist social system rests. The nineteenth century philosopher Karl Marx termed this economic relationship “primitive accumulation…an accumulation not the result of the capitalist mode of production but its starting point.” The African population exists as a domestic colony upon which the U.S. capitalist system was founded.

The African population is a colonial population within the belly of the U.S., a factor with explosive social connotations in and of itself. In addition, the African population is essentially made up of workers, with estimates ranging from eighty-eight to ninety-four percent of U.S.-based African people falling into the working class.

Racism or white nationalism, the ideological foundation of U.S. and world capitalism, has as its basis “primitive accumulation,” the material foundation of the U.S. and world capitalist social system that was born and maintained at the expense of African, Indigenous and other oppressed peoples.

Inside the U.S., the class struggle against the capitalist-colonialist social system is centered in the colonized African population, which constitutes the true proletariat. Through the Black Revolution of the Sixties, the African working class came to understand that the bourgeois parties are opposed to our genuine interests.

When the black working class was organized into its own party in the sixties with the Black Panther Party as its legitimate representative, the African working class became a formidable opponent to the U.S. capitalist system. The threat of organized African workers was so great that the chief of the U.S. secret political police declared the Black Panther Party the greatest threat to the internal security of the U.S. since the Civil War.

The war against the Black Revolution

When the black working class was organized into its own party, with its class and national interests summed up in the form of a political program opposed to colonial rule, the Democratic and Republican parties had to call into force the repressive arms of the State. These parties of the bourgeoisie were incapable of engaging in successful ideological and nonviolent political struggle with the black working class. It took an all out urban war against the black working class in the sixties for a return to imperialist class peace and the reinstatement of the facade of a two-party system supposedly representing the class interests of all the people.

This war saw African workers stand up alone not only against armed police organizations, but even armed military forces usually reserved for foreign U.S. intervention. In Detroit this included the Eighty-second Airborne Division. In urban areas throughout the U.S., military tanks and an assortment of other sophisticated armaments were deployed against the unarmed black working class communities.

The military offensive, directed by the Democratic and Republican parties, was faced with the immediate task of putting down a massive movement with insurrectionary characteristics similar to that presently occurring in Occupied Azania (South Africa). This military offensive, or counterinsurgency, was designed to destroy the will of the entire African working class to struggle by crushing their independent organizations, particularly the Black Panther Party.

The U.S. ruling class used its military power, its state power, to defeat the independent, revolutionary capacity of the African working class, the only internal social force that made it necessary to defend the capitalist social system. The African working class was the only social force inside the U.S. that was capable of challenging the bourgeoisie for power, the fundamental question for any revolution.

For all these years subsequent to the military defeat of the Black Revolution of the Sixties the bourgeoisie has expended a tremendous amount of energy and resources in keeping the African working class politically disoriented, disorganized and unable to come together organizationally in its own class interests.

The methods for this have ranged from open white ruling class bribery of nonproletarian social forces, to naked terror against the African working class itself. Evidence of the African working class in the popular culture has nearly disappeared. Michael Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Prince, and Lionel Ritchie have become the stereotypes of the acceptable African within the U.S. On the occasions when black working class elements are allowed to emerge as acceptable, it is as followers of Jesse Jackson into the Democratic party. Or it is as fictionalized pathetic, poor black working class children who manage to escape colonial poverty through being adopted by well-to-do white petty bourgeois families, as seen on television sit-coms.

A significant sector of the liberal black petty bourgeoisie accepted neocolonial roles in the bourgeois Democratic party. This is payoff in material resources and prestige for administrating the African working class in areas where white direct colonial rule would be unacceptable. The Jesse Jackson presidential campaign was a manifestation of this, along with the bombing of an African working class community in Philadelphia by a black mayor and a black city manager. 9

In the years since the sixties, the white women’s and homosexual movements have become virtual scabs on the Black Revolution. These movements are incapable of raising up and supporting the Black Liberation Movement which is the quintessence of the class struggle within the U.S.

The black petty bourgeois neocolonialist puppets and the women’s and homosexual movements are conscious opportunist movements. They offer up the battered carcass of the collective African working class to the altar of capitalism as offerings of class peace in exchange for privileges for themselves. They all attempt to mute and obscure class struggle and call on the people to join the Democratic party to achieve their aims.

With the defeat of the Black Revolution of the Sixties, our independent working class organizations were destroyed and the mass of black workers were disorganized and dispersed. A variety of petty bourgeois social forces, mostly tied to the Democratic party, united with the white ruling class in assuring class peace. Such unity means the muting of any class struggle that has the interests of the African working class at its center.

This is the context of the significance of the existence and struggle of the African People’s Socialist Party.

Strategy for revolutionary African working class party

Organized in 1972 from surviving black working class organizations of the sixties, the African People’s Socialist Party pulled together the best elements of the class subsequent to the defeat of our movement. While we are a revolutionary party, we understand that our task for this period is not to make the Revolution, but to build the capacity of the only consistently revolutionary social force within U.S. borders, the African working class. This means that our primary task is to build the African People’s Socialist Party.

We must address our strategy for building a truly revolutionary African working class party. This is necessary because at least one petty bourgeois, U.S.-based African organization claims party-building as its main task. This party does not distinguish its main task from its general aim, hence the “task” of party-building has for all practical purposes, become its general aim. This party uses the slogan of party-building to obscure class struggle, to maintain the class peace which is necessary for successful bourgeois colonialist rule.

For the African People’s Socialist Party, fundamental to the task of party-building is the need to smash the class peace. Otherwise, sectors of the black working class might remain ensconced within the Democratic party. Additionally, the millions of African workers who have rejected the false choice of the two white ruling class parties will be unable to see that we must do more than just turn our backs on this pitfall. We must join and support our own independent parties in order to achieve our own separate class interests.

For the African People’s Socialist Party, the task of party-building is always a process deeply rooted in solving the concrete, practical problems of the Revolution for the period. A key, fundamental problem today is the reorganization of the black working class into its own independent revolutionary party. We are not, however, talking about party-building for its own sake. For us the task of party-building is for the purpose of solving the most fundamental problems of the Revolution. We are informed of the practical problems of the Revolution by our ability to sum up the period in which we live and assume the task of party-building.

Our summation of this period informs us that objective conditions for revolution are ripe. The U.S. capitalist-colonialist class is engaged in several undeclared wars, a fact which currently divides the ruling class.

The conditions of existence for the black working class are reaching new and greater levels of desperation, and the use of overt police terror against the colonially oppressed African workers is becoming more blatant every day.

These conditions are evidence of the general crisis of imperialism. Although the election of Ronald Wilson Reagan as U.S. president was designed to confront this crisis, it continues unabated, nationally and internationally. Clearly, the objective conditions for the African Revolution are very strong.

However, currently there are key weaknesses that we face in the subjective factors for revolution. These include the general state of disorganization of the African working class. This disorganization is facilitated by opportunism on every level. For example, there are the so-called revolutionary black parties that are fearful of class struggle and black working class hegemony over our own movement.

There are the silver-tongued, bourgeois-sponsored, neocolonialist black petty bourgeois stooges, whose prestige, appearance of power and material resources are dependent upon their ability to speak for the masses of unorganized black workers. There are the “communists,” “socialists” and “leftists” of all stripes, who can wear such appellations only so long as the African working class is voiceless and unable to impress our own version of class truth on the political life of the U.S. There are the women’s and homosexual movements and every other social force that faithfully serves the U.S. bourgeoisie, and who remember with fear and trepidation the undiluted power of the Black Revolution of the Sixties.

In practical terms party-building today means, first and foremost, concrete work designed to activate the best of the class into political motion around concrete programs. Our immediate aim is to achieve absolute political hegemony over our movement and class in the process. Party-building means providing leadership for the class even when the party is small and has not yet fully achieved its desired capacity.

For example, although small, the African People’s Socialist Party has been able to ignite a social movement in Oakland, California. The Party has successfully mobilized elements of the African working class. With the Party at its center, this movement has been able to mobilize social forces of various nationalities into the service of the African working class and away from absolute unity with the bourgeois colonialists.

Although most of the African workers in Oakland are not Party members, the leadership of the Party in the city has made it possible for African workers as a whole to experience an organized fighting capacity around real, concrete, social needs. The Party-led Uhuru Movement in Oakland has led a campaign to successfully challenge the basic assumptions of bourgeois property relations. For the first time since the sixties, the Party has put the bourgeoisie on the political defensive in a struggle with African workers.

In 1984, the African People’s Socialist Party put an initiative on the electoral ballot in Oakland calling for community control of housing. Known as Measure O, the initiative called for residential rents to be set no higher than twenty-five percent of the average income of a neighborhood. Measure O also called for abandoned houses to be turned over to homeless people. Essentially a land reform measure, the initiative won twenty-five thousand votes, a quarter of the votes cast, despite a half million dollars spent to defeat it by Oakland landlords and realtors. 10

Thus, our small Party, in the process of party-building, was able to provide leadership for African and other working class elements in a fashion greatly disproportionate to our physical size. More than this, the voters who were won to a working class stand in that election stood against the leadership of the bourgeois parties with whom they are registered.

The party-building process must awaken the black working class to practical participation in its own political life. This is why party-building is not an abstract process. Real political struggle must be coupled with real, practical leadership of the class when building the party. The party must be capable of mobilizing and leading the African working class and various social forces of various nationalities if it is to be worthy of the name “party.”

Today we are confronted with a period when the last significant political lesson to be summed up by the black working class is military defeat. Still reeling from the U.S. military assault against our movement of the sixties, the masses of African workers today are restless. They have not yet, however, again concluded that their own interests are summed up in the African working class party, or that joining the party is worth the risk to life and liberty that may be suggested by party membership. Nevertheless, African workers must still have the leadership of the party available to them and be able to claim the party as their own.

For the African People’s Socialist Party, the party-building process is an open one. We believe the African working class and our allies should have some idea of what parties are and what their functions are. We think our supporters should have a better grip on what it is they support and whether their support is what it needs to be.

The African People’s Socialist Party is a revolutionary African working class party, the only such party in the U.S. We are organized around a common General Program and policies that were ratified during our First Party Congress, the highest body of the Party, comprised of representatives of the entire membership.

Our General Program and our policies are the practical, concrete manifestations of our revolutionary theory of African Internationalism. African Internationalism is Pan-Africanism developed to its highest stage, Pan-Africanism during the age of imperialism.11 African Internationalism unites the African people of the world in a revolutionary process to liberate Africa under the leadership of African workers and poor peasants.

The theory of African Internationalism is ever-developing with the new experiences of the international working class, African and otherwise. It is based on a scientific method of investigating and analyzing social life. It recognizes that the current oppressive circumstances of African people have their base in the slave trade, the fundamental feature in the development of world capitalism.

The scientific method of investigating social life employed by the African People’s Socialist Party is called dialectical and historical materialism.

By dialectical we mean that our approach to the investigation of all phenomena is all-sided, taking into consideration the past and present. Dialectical means that we take into account the relationship of a phenomenon in motion to all other phenomena, even as phenomena come into being and die away.

By materialism we mean that our analysis of phenomena is based on an investigation of a phenomenon itself, not requiring an explanation of phenomena outside of it.

By historical materialism we mean the application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the investigation and interpretation of society and social life.

The opposition of the African People’s Socialist Party to the U.S. government and the capitalist social system, which rests on our colonial oppression, is total and absolute. There are no circumstances under which we would ever find the foreign domination of our people or the economic exploitation of our class acceptable. We are convinced that capitalism, the social system, was built off the slave trade and the theft of life, liberty, and resources of African people and the non-European peoples of the world. We understand that the world’s stolen resources are concentrated in Europe and the U.S., and are owned and controlled by a tiny minority of the people on the planet. Moreover, we are convinced that this capitalist system is on its deathbed.

We believe that the future belongs to the dispossessed colonized workers of the world. When armed with a revolutionary theory and led by a revolutionary party, African and other oppressed workers represent the conscious, subjective forces of history necessary for the overthrow of capitalism. This is the only way to bring about the advent of a new social system organized under the leadership of the working masses, the real producers of all material wealth.

This new social system will end production for profit and rule by a nonworking minority who maintain private ownership of our resources and control of the means of production.

We believe that the new social system that will follow capitalism is communism, a just social system based on labor according to ability and guaranteeing to each person the material resources of life and its reproduction according to need. Communism is the system that the white ruling class and all its hangers-on are attempting to suppress with the oppression of the African working class

Thus we recognize that the African People’s Socialist Party, the advanced, conscious detachment of the African working class, is, like the class itself, locked in a life-and-death battle with the U.S. capitalist system. Hence, the members of our Party represent the advanced sector of the African working class. They must constantly strive for a self-motivated discipline that is steeled by conviction.

As the advanced detachment of the African working class, the African People’s Socialist Party assumes the responsibility for advancing the cause of the whole class, which at any given time may be battered by ignorance, drug addiction, alcoholism, demoralization or other contradictions. The members of the African People’s Socialist Party must become professional revolutionaries, individuals whose real profession is revolution with the Party as their vehicle.

The African People’s Socialist Party recognizes that the colonially oppressed African workers are the most consistently revolutionary social force within the U.S. The African working class will not achieve revolutionary consciousness on its own, however. It is the task of the African People’s Socialist Party, even as it is being built to full capacity, to intervene in the day-to-day struggles of the African working class, to forge deep lines in struggle and to lead the class to an ever higher, ever more precise understanding of African Internationalism, the science of black workers’ revolution.

The African People’s Socialist Party, a revolutionary African Internationalist Party based on a revolutionary African working class theory, is a party of professional revolutionaries. All distinctions between workers and intellectuals, laborers and “professionals,” lose their significance. We are welded into one by the common cause of a proletarian future that is being advanced by the party of the colonially oppressed African working class.

On one side stand the bourgeoisie and all the institutions which serve to preserve its rule. On the other side stands the oppressed African working class, represented by the African People’s Socialist Party.

Together, these two social forces represent the great contest of our time. Separately, they represent the past and the future. The conscious representatives of these two great social forces are choosing sides. Every day makes the choice by the African working class and our allies more critical.

For us the question is clear. The future will prevail. It is urgent for all those who are taking a neutral seat as spectators in this contest, to take up the call. Take the Great Leap Forward and grab the future in your hands to help shape and mold it in our lifetime, for this generation.

Those who can, must join the African People’s Socialist Party; those who cannot, must support us.

Build the revolutionary Party of the African working class!

Build the African People’s Socialist Party!

White Power Asserts Terrorist Authority in Mali

Luwezi Kinshasa, Secretary-General of the African Socialist International

LONDON — The African Socialist International demands the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of French troops from Mali.

The murderous invasion of Mali by French military forces, was done, the imperialist media say, at the invitation of the neocolonialist puppet Mali President, Dioncounda Traoré.

Since the invasion, the white imperialist media have painted a narrative showing the African population in Mali exuberant that a white occupying army is on African soil, ostensibly to save us from invaders. In other words, to save us from ourselves.

They showed a staged crowd of Africans cheering French Socialist Party President, Francois Hollande.

It is true that there are many places in the world that, given free reign, the imperialists with their immense resources can mobilize hundreds of people to any cause they choose, at any given time.

However, support among the Malian people dictates that the French and their U.S. allies use a ground and air military effort in the counterinsurgency war they are waging against our people in Mali.

Otherwise, the French colonialists would not need all the resources of world-wide white power to put down this anti-imperialist movement.

The white ruling class media would have us believe the masses of African people in Africa and the peoples of the world are unaware of the history of French imperialism and the crimes it has committed in its hundreds of years of oppression and exploitation of Our Africa and the genocide of the indigenous people throughout the Caribbean Islands and in the Americas.

In addition, since the initial French invasion, the neocolonialist presidents of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou and Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso has given the Obama regime “authorization” to place U.S. drone bases on their respective territories as part of the imperialist counterinsurgency.

The traitor, Blase Compaoré, led the assassination of martyred Burkina Faso President, Thomas Sankara in 1987.

This is a war enjoying the participation of all major European imperialist powers to the war effort; the U.S. providing in-flight refueling capacity and with spying and armed murderous drones; the British providing military training to troops from Niger, Algeria, and other West African imperialist controlled armies; the Germans sending ammunition, etc.

Also, thousands of African soldiers from Nigeria, Togo, Niger, Senegal, Benin, Guinea (Conakry), Chad and Ghana will serve in Mali under European commanders.

They were ordered there by their neocolonialist governments to forward the imperialist agenda in Mali.

The French economy is in crisis!

The French president is unable to compete with capitalist competitors or to impose his country’s view of how to solve the crisis of the European Union.

A desperate France has chosen the theft of resources from Africa with naked aggression in Mali, disguised as a war on terrorism and drug trafficking, as a means of finding its way out of this crisis.

The economic crisis

In simple terms, it is called colonial occupation.

Hollande and his socialist party are imperialists practicing colonial socialism, or national socialism, as Hitler would put it, when he tried to catch up with Churchill and others, through a war of looting in Europe to build Germany.

Hollande is also waging a war of looting in Africa to build and develop France.

France responsible for the worst terror attacks in Mali and Africa: economic terrorism

Mali is not poor.

It has been impoverished by imperialism, and Mali has more resources than France.

France is now in Mali to claim for itself a large chunk of African resources from Mali, where they intend to get paid by militarily reinforcing their access and control of African resources in Mali at the expense of Africa and her people.

This is how France would be able to pay more than 50 percent of its GDP for social services for white people despite the decline of the French economy and its industries.

U.S., UK and France are the biggest drug and gun trafficking kidnappers the world has ever seen

The imperialist media has saturated the airwaves with lies, claiming that this intervention is to stop Mali from becoming the center for drug and weapons-trafficking and hostage-taking in North Africa.

But the trillion dollar world drug economy is run by the U.S. and its allies: France, Britain and the UK’s HSBC bank that has recently been exposed as one of the leading drug money laundering banks in the world.

The African petty bourgeoisie is a traitor and illegitimate social force! Its surrender to imperialism has compromised Africa’s future

Dioncounda Traoré is the Malian interim president, the chief negro collaborator who “invited” the French imperialists to intervene to rescue them from the so-called “alliance of Jihadists” composed of the Ansar Dine, AMQI, MUJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) and Tuareg nationalists of the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad).

In Mali, as in virtually the entire African continent, the African petty bourgeoisie has no legitimacy among the people. They rule by brute military force with the help of their imperialist masters.

More than fifty years ago following “flag independence,” they surrendered their allegiance to Africa and cast their lot with the European imperialists.

Their program is now one with the program of the French.

Whatever represents the economic interest of the French and white imperialism is their program.

The so-called Islamist and Tuareg crisis in Mali is a direct result of the imperialist partition of Africa, which introduced divisions known as borders that split the Tuareg people and introduced a colonial economy with the result being the marginalizing and the reduction to poverty of the Tuareg population in Mali and throughout the region.

It is they who have united with the lie that the main problem we are confronting in Mali and in the region is “Islamist Jihadist terrorism.”

They are prepared to surrender all of Mali’s resources to imperialism, which include gold (3rd largest producer in Africa), phosphate, uranium, and gas and oil, which recent reports indicate may be present in Mali.

U.S. imperialism’s role in Mali and in the French invasion of Mali

Many factors indicate that the coup was carried out in the interests of the U.S.

First, the coup that sparked the Malian crisis was the work of a U.S.-trained officer, Amadou Haya Sanogo.

Since the coup, Captain Sanogo has been the key power broker in the country.

The U.S. has been training the Malian army for 10 years in the so called Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), the principal framework for U.S. engagement in Mali since 2005.

The TSCTP was preceded by another U.S. government scheme, known as the Pan Sahel Initiative, which lasted from 2002 to 2004 (Peter Tinti, World Politics Review, November 30, 2012).

In another example of U.S. involvement in the lead-up to the invasion, American special forces led the first of what have now become annual Operation Flintlock counterinsurgency exercises.

Everyone deplores the fact that it was the U.S.-trained soldiers who were the first to defect.

The Malian army typifies African petty bourgeois armies, veritable continuations of colonial armies created by white imperialists to maintain the colonial status quo.

They excel in repressing unarmed and disorganized masses of African people or in fighting in imperialist wars.

Let’s solve the main contradiction, let’s defeat white imperialism

Every contradiction in Mali must be resolved in the context of building a new African state, which can only be born as a revolutionary state, born against European imperialism and the sell-out leadership of the Malian African petty bourgeoisie.

Only an all African revolution and revolutionary state can carry a national development program that will address the democratic demands of the Tuareg population; only an African revolutionary state can also deal with a borderless Africa, which will end the fragmentation of the African economy and repair the division of all ethnicities and cultures imposed on us by imperialism.

French imperialism must be driven out of Africa at all costs

The capitalist press keep saying that Tuareg fighters who served under Kaddafi returned home to Northern Mali with their arsenal from the defeated Libyan army.

“Tuaregs are Africans, and the Revolutionary National Democratic Program must also forward the legitimate grievances for freedom and economic development of the Tuareg Africans.

“Since the advent of Mali’s nominal independence, the Tuareg have been demanding better integration and economic development for their region.

“The Tuareg population, like the rest of the African population, has been divided by arbitrary colonial borders, which is why they are fragmented across the Sahara/Sahel Desert; they now live in Mali, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Burkina Faso, Niger and Tunisia.” http://uhurunews.com/story?resource_name=coup-in-mali-exposes-all-opportunists-which-feed-off-african-resources

Tuareg people will only enjoy economic development and genuine freedom as a result of a revolution in Mali and in Africa.

The African Socialist International is calling on all African people and our allies, from Mali to Algeria and from Paris to Abidjan, to join us.

We are calling on African soldiers not to join the French, but to turn their guns against French imperialist soldiers and officers.

Long live the resistance struggle against French imperialism in Mali!
Long live the African liberation struggle in Mali and in Algeria!
Build the African Socialist International!
Touch One! Touch All!

From Black Power to Black Consciousness

cover

The Comparative Imagination

On the History of Racism, Nationalism, and Social Movements

George M. Fredrickson

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS
Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1997 The Regents of the University of California


Preferred Citation: Fredrickson, George M. The Comparative Imagination: On the History of Racism, Nationalism, and Social Movements. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997.

Source

INTRODUCTION

PART ONE HISTORIOGRAPHICAL EXPLORATIONS
Chapter One The Status of Comparative History (1980)
Chapter Two The Frontier in South African and American History
Chapter Three From Exceptionalism to Variability
Chapter Four Planters, Junkers, andPomeschiki

PART TWO RACE AND RACISM IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE
Chapter Five Understanding Racism
Chapter Six Race and Empire in Liberal Thought
Chapter Seven Black-White Relations since Emancipation

PART THREE  TWENTIETH-CENTURY FREEDOM STRUGGLES
Chapter Eight Reform and Revolution in American and South African Freedom Struggles
Chapter Nine Prophets of Black Liberation
Chapter Ten Nonviolent Resistance to White Supremacy
Chapter Eleven From Black Power to Black Consciousness

INDEX

The Hidden History of Black Soldiers’ Resistance

A courageous anti-imperialist tradition

Breaking the Chains: Revolutionary Black History


An anti-war GI during the Vietnam War

Throughout U.S. history, Black people have called out the contradiction of being sent to kill and die in the U.S. military supposedly for “freedom” and “human rights,” while being denied them at home.

Legendary boxer Muhammed Ali famously explained his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war: “No Viet Cong ever called me n—–.”

Ali joined in a long tradition of Black anti-war sentiment, which found expression inside the military itself, as Black service members have repeatedly come to identify more with those targeted by U.S. imperialism than the racist politicians ordering them into war.

A long tradition of resistance

Gullah slaves fled South Carolina and Georgia to join Seminole communities in Spanish Florida. They fought for freedom in long guerrilla wars against the United States, before being forced along the Trail of Tears into Oklahoma. Seminoles of African descent later escaped Oklahoma Indian Territory in large numbers and went into Mexico. Establishing communities along the border with Texas territory, they were a forward front against U.S. forces after the Mexican American War, frequently fighting off Texas slave traders.

In 1899, after U.S. forces invaded and occupied the Philippines to capture it as a colony, Black soldier David Fagen defected to Emilio Aguinaldo’s guerrilla army along with several other Black service members. Fagen was so successful in combating the U.S. units that he rose to the rank of captain in the guerrilla army and became known as “General Fagen” among Filipino freedom fighters. His defection became international news, and U.S. commanders made his capture an obsession, putting a bounty on his head of $600. The military executed two other Black defectors to set an example for others.

In 1953, after the Korean War, Corporal Clarence Adams and two other Black soldiers were part of 21 U.S. troops who chose to live in China instead of participating in a prisoners-of-war swap. Adams in particular cited racism in the United States for his commitment to communist China. He broadcasted for Radio Hanoi during the Vietnam War from China, calling on other Black soldiers to throw down their weapons and go back to fight inequality at home. The Vietnamese liberation fighters frequently sent the same message to U.S. troops on the ground in flyers and billboards.

The 1944-45 ‘Battle of the Bulge’ was the first fully desegregated battle in U.S. history, which took place only out of necessity to defend against Hitler’s advance. Around 2,000 Black soldiers were enlisted for combat. After the war, however, many Black troops decided to stay in France where segregation did not exist. Other World War II veterans returned and became emboldened proponents of the Civil Rights Movement, including leaders like Medger Evers. A member of the White Citizens Council assassinated Evers in his driveway 18 years later.

Vietnam war and racism

The early part of the Vietnam War revealed that the U.S. government and military saw Black troops as cannon fodder. Blacks made up about 12 percent of the total U.S. civilian population but about 22 percent of casualties for the first several years of the conflict. These numbers only began to change when the disproportionate assignment of Black soldiers to firing teams and patrol became a big issue in the Civil Rights Movement, Black power movement and inside the military itself.

Black service members often led the way in acts of resistance and refusals to serve among soldiers. Because of these actions, coupled with the systemic racism of the U.S. military, the notorious Long Binh Jail, a military prison, was disproportionately Black. Over 700 incarcerated soldiers were crammed in a space made for about 400 people, with some put in shipping containers because of a lack of space.

In 1968, some white sailors responded to Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination by donning Ku Klux Klan hoods, burning crosses and raising a Confederate flag. Dr. King had come out strongly against the war a year earlier, risking alienation from his powerful Democratic “friends.” In response to these racist incidents, their inhumane conditions, and assaults from white guards, a handful of Black prisoners at Long Binh Jail led an uprising that began on August 29, 1968 and lasted over a week, evolving into a full-blown revolt against the Army. One white prisoner was killed, and dozens were injured before the end of the rebellion, which destroyed the camp.

At home, Black soldiers played a key role in the dynamic and large GI resistance movement, which joined anti-war marches, refused to fight, confronted the officer corps and revolted in the barracks.

The National Black Anti-War Anti-Draft Union was formed in 1968, associated with the Black Panther Party and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. At their first national conference they laid out a simple program to fight the draft and Vietnam War that called for, among other things, mass refusal to register with selective service, Black lawyers to defend war resisters, members of local draft boards and Black civil servants to disrupt the selective service process and Black service members to apply for Conscientious Objector status and organize against ROTC. In 1969, 15 members of NBAWADU broke into the Selective Service office and burned draft eligible files.

During Black History Month, few commemorations will contain these episodes of radical and revolutionary struggle. While fighting at home against the hypocrisy of the U.S. government, generations of Black service members have stood and fought against U.S. imperialism abroad.

In the present day, March Forward! is dedicated to the struggle against racism inside and outside of the military. It informs service members of their rights to refuse deployment to Afghanistan, and says to them: “We have more in common with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan than we do with the millionaires who tell us we must fight them.”


This article was published in the ‘Breaking the Chains: Revolutionary Black History’ Edition of Liberation.

1963 Mass Struggles Advanced the Cause of Civil Rights

From Birmingham to Detroit and Washington, D.C., the people set the world stage

Abayomi Azikiwe
Libya 360°

African American History Month Series 2013

In 1963, despite the tremendous campaigns aimed at breaking down legalized segregation and national oppression for eight years, the demand for federal civil rights legislation remained stalled due to southern segregationist influence, northern indifference and political avoidance by the John F. Kennedy administration. Nonetheless, by the spring of this momentous year, things would begin to rapidly shift in favor of the African American people and their movement allies.

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court declared that “separate but equal” public schools systems were unconstitutional. However, by 1963, compliance with this ruling was hardly felt among the majority of the African American population most of whom remained in the South.

Between 1955 and 1962, African Americans were in motion determined to end apartheid in the U.S. A Civil Rights Bill passed in 1957 which empowered the Justice Department to take action against county governments which refused to allow universal suffrage led in part to the outbreak of the movement in Fayette County, Tennessee in 1959-1960.

The Fayette County Civic and Welfare League was organized by local activists in 1959 under the direction of Viola and John McFerren. In 1960 they set out to register African Americans to vote in the upcoming presidential elections.

However, the white landowners in this southwest Tennessee County put hundreds of African American tenant farmers off their land for daring to register. The movement established a “Tent City”, the first of its kind during this period which drew national support.

1960 witnessed the beginning of the student sit-in movement where thousands protested Jim Crow segregation resulting in hundreds of arrests. In April of that year the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed becoming the most militant organization within the civil rights movement.

After the Freedom Rides of 1961, where scores were arrested and beaten, the abolition of segregation in interstate travel was overturned in practice. Nevertheless, key centers of intransigence such as Birmingham, Alabama were fiercely resistant to desegregation.

Birmingham Sparks Nationwide Resistance

It was the eruption of the movement in Birmingham in the spring of 1963 that captured the attention of the nation and the world. Both SNCC and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been organizing in the city, one of the most industrialized in the South.

Several thousand people, mainly children were arrested by the police and jailed. Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth were all arrested and beaten by the racist police.

The struggle would come to a head on May 5, when thousands of mostly youth marched through the African American community to the downtown area. Police chief Bull Connor ordered fire hoses turned on the people.

In response to the repression on May 5, the first significant urban rebellion of the 1960s occurred. James Forman, executive secretary of SNCC, described the events that day saying that “The police had cordoned off the intersections leading to downtown and started shooting water on people. Bricks and rocks started flying back at the police and the firemen. “(The Making of Black Revolutionaries, 1972, p. 315)

Forman went on to point out that “For over forty-five minutes, there was a chase in and out of alleys and streets. Other Black people joined in the fight against the police. The ‘riots’ that day in Birmingham received wide public attention—they were a prelude to Harlem ’64, Watts ’65, Newark and Detroit ’67.”

Large demonstrations took place throughout the South that spring and summer. In Danville, Virginia, African Americans marched against racism and police brutality meeting violent repression on June 10.

President Kennedy delivered a speech on civil rights on the evening of June 11 saying at its conclusion that he would introduce federal civil rights legislation. Just a few hours later in Jackson, Mississippi, Medgar Evers, state field secretary of the NAACP, was gunned down in his driveway by white racist Byron De la Beckwith who avoided conviction for this crime for over three decades.

In response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and other issues, the Detroit Council for Human Rights, headed by Rev. C.L. Franklin, organized the largest march to that date for civil rights on June 23. Hundreds of thousands marched down Woodward Avenue led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the support of the-then UAW President Walter Reuther.

King would deliver his first “I Have a Dream” speech at Cobo Hall in the aftermath of the Detroit march. It was the success of this demonstration which fueled the plans for the “March on Washington” that was held on August 28.

Repression Continues

Despite this outpouring of mass sentiment in favor of civil rights, the racists would strike back on September 15 when the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, a center of the movement, was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. Four African American girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair were killed.

It would take until 1977 for the first of the Klansmen associated with the crime to be convicted. Two other Klansmen, Thomas E. Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry, were later convicted in 2001 and 2002 respectively for the bombing and murders.

Two months after the church bombing, on November 22, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The murder was reflective of the atmosphere of violence and intolerance in the U.S. at the time.

On December 1, Malcolm X during the question and answer period after a speech at the Manhattan Center in New York City described the assassination of Kennedy as a case of the “chickens coming home to roost,” meaning that the violence inflicted upon African Americans and other oppressed people throughout the world was now impacting the leaders of the U.S.

His comments, which received wide press coverage, led to his suspension and subsequent departure from the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X would form the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) the following year and tour the Middle East and Africa.

These developments in 1963 would result in more militant actions in the following years of the decade. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were not enough to stave off the urban rebellions which occurred in hundreds of cities throughout the country.

Some five decades later the struggles of 1963 provide lessons on the role of mass mobilization and the need for militant direction against oppression and state repression.


Abayomi Azikiwe
is the editor of Pan-African News Wire , an international electronic press service designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world. The press agency was founded in January of 1998 and has published thousands of articles and dispatches in newspapers, magazines, journals, research reports, blogs and websites throughout the world. The PANW represents the only daily international news source on pan-african and global affairs. To contact him, click on this link >> Email

W.E.B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois: Pioneers in the Struggle for Civil Rights, Pan-Africanism and Socialism

10th Annual MLK Day Focuses on Labor and Repression

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