ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Workers have the additional burden, aside from their ‘patriotic’ duty to kill each other as citizens of nations, of supporting some of the most odious characters as leaders based on racial (skin color) affinity in the throes of a Sisyphean racial struggle.
The ABCs of Class Struggle
By Aduku Addae
Scientific Socialism is now just two dirty words. One dare not mention these words in polite circles. And, that is a grave pity, for, the organizations of the working class are in disarray and the struggle for social equity has stagnated because workers have foolishly abandoned five centuries of working peoples’ history. Discarded along with this history are a unique anti-philosophy, a system of critical thought, a methodology of struggle, and the tools for analyzing the contemporary social drama. Assuredly, the worker’s instinct will direct him/her to the rediscovery of Scientific Socialism. Working people have been so directed at other times in history. I am, however, impatient of the laborers’ natural inclination to return to studying history and shaping human destiny through self-conscious action. So, at the risk of being impolite, perhaps to the extent of being unpopular, I would like to initiate a discussion about Scientific Socialism and the working class struggle in the age of “global” Capitalism. I am not proposing here to revive some tedious debate over “Marxist” minutiae. I am talking about getting back to basics. Soviet tactical exigencies gave birth to a miserable doctrine that posited the nationalist struggle as essentially anti-capitalist and a necessary antecedent to the working class revolution. This doctrine which held currency for the better part of a century showed itself to be hopelessly and definitively bankrupt in and through the implosion and fragmentation of the Soviet Union into nation states within the borders of which the worst robber baron capitalism has taken root. This, to say the least, is the essence of irony, for, it is towards the preservation of this Stalinist monstrosity (the Soviet Union), perceived by millions as the Mecca of socialism, that the doctrine was aimed. But of course people get what they work for, and the socialists of the world worked for world capitalism, from 1917 to 1991 under the cold direction of pragmatic Russian politicians. One would expect that the demise of the Soviet experiment would have signaled the beginning of a critical assessment of the history of the Fourth International with a view to laying a foundation for formulating a practical program of struggle for the fifth international under 21st century conditions. It seems, however, that the Reagan-Gorbachev onslaught not only destroyed the crumbling edifice of the Russian Gulag, under which the working people of Eastern Europe stood, but it sapped the intellectual energy and destroyed the imagination of the socialists worldwide.
The silencing of the working class and the decade-old replacement of informed socialist discourse with the half-wit sound bites of liberalism in the world-sociopolitical debate is a natural consequence of generations of adherence to the “political line” which preached the gospel of “United Democratic Fronts” against “Imperialism.” This doctrine, as we have seen in practice, is capitalist ideology in essence, all nationalist struggles being ultimately directed at fortifying the capitalist order of society. It has yielded the most repressive and corrupt regimes in Angola, The Congo, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Somalia – – the list goes on ad infinitum. The most notable effect of this doctrine is that it sapped the energy of the working class in imaginary battles against a so-called imperialistic enemy. These were battles, however, which were in reality against the working class itself. This misguided doctrine of “anti-imperialist struggle” is at the foundation of historic errors made by the socialist worldwide. In Jamaica, for example, the workers movement with its strong grass-roots (genuinely proletarian) trade unionist structure was delivered over to the quasi-nationalist-brown-man-parties of Norman W. Manley and Alexander Bustamante. The genuine working class leaders such as G. S. Coombs were consigned to oblivion and a life of hardship and destitution. Socialist intellectuals Richard Hart and the Hill brothers were later expelled from the People’s National Party (circa 1951).
Thus the workers’ unions came to be placed at the beck and call of generations of ‘gangster’ politicians in the fractious parliamentary politics which essentially reinforced and preserved the capitalist order of things. (That this took place at a time when the workers were in a superb position to gain ascendancy is, of course, unbelievable). The same thing happened in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and the rest of the Caribbean region. Ultimately this gave rise to the tragicomedy that was unveiled in little Grenada and which ultimately led to an invasion by US forces in October of 1983 under the pretext of ‘saving’ a group of American medical students who were never in any danger. Lenin’s formulation that “Imperialism” was the highest stage of capitalism is of course what started the trouble. This misperception emanated as much from Lenin’s myopic preoccupation with Czarist Russia as from his long exilic isolation from the Russian working class and the broader struggle in Europe. (The European struggle of itself was an experience in isolation. The European working class having lost the universal perspective of the French revolutionaries, and imbibing all the bad habits of its racist imperialists masters, overlooked the history and experience of the most durable example of successful struggle against ‘global’ capitalism manifested in the Haitian revolution).
The record should long have been set straight on this score. So, I am going to ask the old doctrinaire socialist and the new anti-imperialists, especially the Pan-Africanists among them, to repeat after me thus: Capitalism is the bane of both Feudalism and Imperialism. Capitalism used Imperialism for 500 years and then discarded it. (The emergence of the USA as a world power after World War II, in place of Imperialistic Britain, France, Japan, Italy, and Germany, is a good indication of this. And now the imminent decline of the USA – as it yields to the final imperialistic and reactionary impulses of Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the Confederate South – is even this moment in the making.) Capitalism is the highest stage of Capitalism – no less, no more. The most enlightening thing that can be said about Capitalism is that it concentrates property in the hands of a few individuals – Capital runs to monopoly Capital – on a worldwide scale. Practical experience has shown that capital accumulation produces a global capitalist class united in its purpose, disdainful of national borders and its attendant politics, and scornful of the vestiges of nobility and religious convictions. (Thus as the world watches we are witnessing the death of the UN an organization rendered anachronistic by capital’s development).
The very embodiment of alienated labor, capitalists are not connected to the rest of society by filial, religious, tribal, cultural, or, as it turns out shockingly, legal bonds. The substantial nexus is profit. One could say, in Lenin’s reckless manner, that the highest stage of Capitalism is Monopoly Capitalism on a global scale – Globalism. (This, however, is not a particularly useful point of view since it is, in essence, ‘historical reductionism,’ which opens up to a repeat of Lenin’s error). In this state, globalism, capital stands over against human society as a morbid and alien force threatening the very existence of the planet. It becomes the enemy of humanity. Marx, by the way, had already delineated the course of Capital’s development, identifying its monopolistic (globalistic) nature long before Lenin began to labor under his fateful misconceptions. Lenin’s error cost the workers’ movement eight decades in the last century and is threatening to cost another two, or, three decades, in this the 21st century, if the movement does not unlearn these deeply entrenched Leninist teachings. Working people have been misled by this Bolshevism (a characteristic Russian misnomer) into abandoning the class struggle in the interest of the illusion of “democratic fronts” with petty capitalists throughout the world. (One of course can see why Lenin would advocate such a rapprochement with the most reprobate element in society. His perception is clearly regressive but from the confines of feudalistic Russia, the petit Bourgeoisie was a progressive class. Lenin himself, as a member of the so-called “Intelligentsia,” was a member of the petit Bourgeoisie). The workers’ movement must reawaken and urgently reassign itself a particular class agendum consistent with its interest. Throughout the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America, the working people were induced by ‘socialist’ wise men to render the working class agenda ancillary to that of varied groups of small time nationalists. The consequence of this is that while the capitalists are organized and united under the aegis of their new capitalists’ union – global capitalism – working people are unorganized, dis-united, and fragmented into clans supporting dysfunctional national groups of capitalists. (American workers are slaughtering Iraqi workers (men, women and children) in the interest of Bechtel, Halliburton, and the myriad oil companies, i.e., in the interest of the American Nation). Workers have the additional burden, aside from their ‘patriotic’ duty to kill each other as citizens of nations, of supporting some of the most odious characters as leaders based on racial (skin color) affinity in the throes of a sisyphean racial struggle. While workers are distracted in this manner the black leaders have closed ranks with their white counterparts in oppressing workers on the worldwide scale. We can break this down into more particular terms by selecting a few examples. In Jamaica the “black man government” of the P. J. Patterson and the Peoples National Party has maintained a program of austerity under the direction of the IMF and the World Bank. This program of austerity has produced the worst consequences for the welfare of the population of black working people. These consequences include: 65% unemployment (this being an unofficial, realistic, estimate put forward by sober Jamaican commentators); repeated draconian cuts in social services; and continually shrinking education and public health budgets in a society that has never, ever, adequately provided for these things. Meanwhile Dr. Omar Davies, minister of finance, the guru of Jamaican ‘trickonomics,’ uses public money to buy out failed private ventures, in essence taking from the poor to give to the rich. In South Africa the ANC and the emergent black elite have joined the assault against the black workers at the bidding of the local Boers of apartheid infamy and the global capitalist (concealed under the veil of the IMF and World Bank). The black government of South Africa has, over a decade of its rule, continued to dispossess an already excruciatingly brutalized and exploited people to an unprecedented degree in the service of global capitalism. And, yet, the black working people align themselves with these black leaders in a fictive struggle against the “white supremacist.” Astounding! In the USA black workers lend unconditional support to black pimps who keep them chasing the boogie man of “racism” while these so-called leaders ingratiate themselves with the practicing racist in Washington, and on Wall Street, betraying the interest of their black ‘constituents’ for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver. In the meantime US workers view each other as enemies across “black” and “white” barricades. The plot repeats itself in nations across the world. As capital develops in its global dimensions and the “bottom line” asserts itself “white labor” is becoming as dispensable as “black labor.” Perhaps even the unthinkable is emerging as truth: Colored labor, being cheaper, and every bit as skilled, and therefore more in harmony with the profit motive, is becoming more desirable than white labor. So, “white collar jobs” are reported by the media to be leaving (white) America for countries with very large “colored” populations. Now, who would have ‘thunk’ it! The lesson here, banal as it is, is that capital does not give a hoot about race except to the extent that it keeps the working class divided. Working people have a duty to reassert the primacy of the working class struggle over all others. The working class has no allies among the capitalist of any country irrespective of what their race, or, religion might be. The battle lines may not be clearly demarcated in this era of sound bites and systematic dis-information about “national security,” “democratic values,” and “war on terrorism” but there is no question that the real struggle is between capital and labor. Whatever the diversionary route taken society shall finally come face to face with this reality. That is the bottom line. It is time to return to basics.
Aduku Addae, born in 1959, is a Jamaican by birth and an internationalist freedom fighter by choice and conviction. As a young boy he roamed the hills of his rural village, Bohemia, located at the southwestern tip of the “Garden Parish,” St. Ann, dreaming about Maroons (the reputed ancestors of his paternal grandmother) and fighting many shadow (imaginary) battles against the British Army of colonial times. The ultimate “mental assassin” in his daydreams he never lost a single conflict to the enemy, the “Red Coats.” more bio
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By Mukoma wa Ngugi
Her womb pressed against the desert to bear the parasite
that eats her insides like termites drill into dry wood.
He is born into an empty bowl, fist choking umbilical cord.
She dies sighing, child son at last. He couldn’t have known,
instinct told him – always raise your arm in defense of your
own -Strike! Strike until they are all dead! Egg shells
in your hands milk bottle held between your toes,
you have been anointed twice, you strong enough to kill
at birth and survive. You will want to name the world
after yourself but you will have no name- a collage of dead
roots, tongues and other things. You will point your sword
to the center of the earth, duel the world to split into perfect
mirrors after your imperfect mutations but you will be
too weak having latched your self onto too many streams
straddling too many continents, pulling patches of a self
as one does fruits from an from an orchard, building a home
of planks with many faces. How does one look into a mirror
with a face that washes clean every rainy season?
He has an identity for every occasion – here he is Lenin
there Jesus and yesterday Marx – inflexible truths inherited
without roots. To be nothing to remain nothing, to kill
at birth – such love can only drink from our wrists. We
storming from our past to Jo’Burg eating wisdom of others
building homes made of our grandparent’s bones. We
gathering momentum that eats out of our earth, We standing
pens and bullets hurled at you, your enemies. Comrade, there
are many ways to die. A dog dies never having known
why it lived but a free death belongs to a life lived in roots,
roots not afraid of growing where they stand, roots tapped all over
the earth. Comrade, for a tree to grow, it must first own its earth.
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By Marcus Rediker
Marcus Rediker is professor of maritime history at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1987), The Many-Headed Hydra (2000), and Villains of All Nations (2005), books that explore seafaring, piracy, and the origins of globalization. In The Slave Ship, Rediker combines exhaustive research with an astute and highly readable synthesis of the material, balancing documentary snapshots with an ear for gripping narrative. Critics compare the impact of Redikers history, unique for its ship-deck perspective, to similarly compelling fictional accounts of slavery in Toni Morrisons Beloved and Charles Johnsons Middle Passage. Even scholars who have written on the subject defer to Redikers vast knowledge of the subject. Bottom line: The Slave Ship is sure to become a classic of its subject.
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Wild Women Dont Have the Blues
By Ida Cox
I hear these women raving ’bout their monkey men About their fighting husbands and their no good friends These poor women sit around all day and moan Wondering why their wandering papas don’t come home But wild women don’t worry, wild women don’t have the blues. Now when you’ve got a man, don’t ever be on the square ‘Cause if you do he’ll have a woman everywhere I never was known to treat no one man right I keep ’em working hard both day and night because wild women don’t worry, wild women don’t have no blues. I’ve got a disposition and a way of my own When my man starts kicking I let him find another home I get full of good liquor, walk the streets all night Go home and put my man out if he don’t act right Wild women don’t worry, wild women don’t have no blues You never get nothing by being an angel child You better change your ways and get real wild I wanna tell you something, I wouldn’t tell you no lie Wild women are the only kind that ever get by Wild women don’t worry, wild women don’t have no blues. Born Ida Prather,25 February 1896 in Toccoa, Habersham County, Georgia, United States. Died 10 November 1967 (aged 71) Genres Jazz, Blues Instruments Vocalist.
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The State of African Education (April 200)
Dr Asa Hilliard III speaks on the assault of academia on Africans writing and accounting for their own history.
Dr Hilliard is A teacher, psychologist, and historian.
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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updated 13 October 2007