Celebrating 13 Years of BAR’s Contribution to the Struggle for Peace, Justice, and Liberation
BAR will never stop linking the conditions of apartheid America with the imperialist wars waged against the people of Libya, Syria, or anywhere else.
“Black Agenda Report exposes the crimes of the Black misleadership class.”
These are edited remarks given at Black Agenda Report’s 13th anniversary event and tribute to Bruce Dixon held at The People’s Forum in New York City on October 26th.
One of the biggest problems with the media landscape in the United States is that journalists are now bred to expect grand rewards and returns for their work. The corporate media rewards service to the rich by granting access to U.S. military, intelligence, and political officials. Without access, there is no career, and without a career, there is no journalism. That is the logic of the corporate media’s role as the ideological arm of the imperial state. Journalists who dare challenge that logic are ostracized from the corporate media, as Ed Schultz was for merely covering the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. Black Agenda Report has never sought rewards from the powerful elites who call Black left voices “dupes” of Russia. Instead, Black Agenda Report dares to ask the questions that many avoid in order to curry favor with imperial rule.
“Black Agenda Report has never sought rewards from the powerful elites.”
I came across Black Agenda Report (BAR) during Barack Obama’s first term. I was living in New York City at the time interning for a labor union. Occupy Wall Street was still in its infant stages of growth. The Obama Administration had just announced that it was going to wage a full-scale intervention in Libya alongside its NATO allies. I was taken aback by the news of Obama’s plans to invade the African country. I voted for Barack Obama at 18 years of age believing that he would bring an end to Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. By 2011, I was only beginning to understand that Obama worked for the very same imperialist masters as George W. Bush.
Black Agenda Report became my guide for the U.S.-NATO invasion of Libya. At BAR, I learned about the extensive cover that even the so-called “left” media provided to jihadists committing massacres of the Black Libyan population. I learned about the massive seven month NATO bombing campaign which decimated Libya’s infrastructure, killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and assassinated Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi. Libya’s demise was led and directed by the first Black president of the United States. Half of the Congressional Black Caucus followed Obama’s lead in Libya. BAR not only elevated the voices of anti-war movement activists and journalists but also kept the politics of Black liberation alive despite the crass accommodation of Black political leadership.
“Half of the Congressional Black Caucus followed Obama’s lead in Libya.”
Black Agenda Report is the only media outlet that I know of which has maintained the foresight and leadership to expose the crimes of the Black misleadership class led by the likes of Obama. This has been a great service to the entire global working class, but especially Black Americans living in the belly of the imperialist beast. Obama’s two terms facilitated a massive retreat in political consciousness. The Congressional Black Caucus was right there alongside Obama as he continued Bush’s policies and went even further than his predecessor to militarize the police, militarily invade the African continent through AFRICOM, bailout the banks, and assassinate civilians by way of drone strike. If not for BAR, Black misleaders and the oligarchs they serve would have carried out their crimes in the Obama era with near total impunity from much of what calls itself “the left” in the United States.
However, Black Agenda Report’s service to the people cannot be confined to exposing Obama or the CBC’s crimes. For thirteen years, Glen Ford, Margaret Kimberly, and the late Bruce Dixon have offered a vision for a positive peace and a positive social revolution in the mainland of U.S. imperialism. Editors and contributors to BAR are not afraid of the word socialism. Self-determination and internationalism have always been at the forefront of the publication’s work. BAR follows in the steps of the Black liberation movement and the centuries of anti-colonial struggle waged by the dispossessed across the planet. One of the biggest lessons found in the work of BAR is that socialism without self-determination is a concession to imperialism and weakens our movements at home—giving the U.S. military apparatus the free reign to rake in super profits at the expense of most of humanity.
Socialism without self-determination is a concession to imperialism and weakens our movements at home.”
Strict and disciplined adherence to self-determination is why one will never see Black Agenda Report condemn Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping or any other leader of a nation that the U.S. is seeking to destroy. Politics is not a philosophy, it’s a science. Abstract ideas of social justice alone do nothing to arm the working class or anyone else with tools powerful enough to be rid of an oligarchic empire armed with weapons of mass destruction and deception. Black Agenda Report’s ability to hold movements to account and offer disciplinary tools to activists is far from common in this period of imperial decline and reaction. Without a political party of the left, one encounters few if any independent media institutions addressing the most urgent theoretical, strategic, and organizational questions concerning the oppressed all in one place.
Black Agenda Report’s contribution to the organized mass movement was on full display during the Black uprising against police brutality otherwise known as Black Lives Matter. As police militarily occupied the streets of Ferguson, another struggle emerged from the broad array of forces struggling for leadership of the movement. On one side stood young Black Americans, their families, and their allies demanding that the entire police state, including its enablers such as Jessie Jackson, be held to account for protecting killer cops. On the other, non-profit careerists such as DeRay Mckesson and the leadership of the Black Lives Matter network sought to use resources from the Ford Foundation and other funders to steer the uprising in an electoral direction. The 2016 election season saw Black Lives Matter activists disrupt Bernie Sanders several times while taking part in a pleasant conversation with Hillary Clinton at a New Hampshire event during the primary season.
“One will never see Black Agenda Report condemn any leader of a nation that the U.S. is seeking to destroy.”
Clinton lectured BLM activists about movement strategy without disruption or condemnation for her role in the explosion of the Mass Black Incarceration state. The disastrous action indicated that specific leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement were willing to strategically align themselves with the DNC’s neoliberal and imperialist agenda. Black Agenda Report placed a spotlight on this development, urging the movement to publicly discuss and debate its relationship to the more effective evil of the two-party duopoly. This intervention didn’t win BAR any friends among Black Lives Matter leadership. However, it did succeed in pressuring the network organization to release a statement that rejected the DNC’s endorsement of the movement in the 2016 election.
BAR’s analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement was but one example that demonstrates how too few on the left are willing to discuss let alone analyze concretely the many sharpening contradictions of U.S. imperialism. Fear, petit bourgeois reaction, and subservience to empire on the part of the left has correlated with growing levels of economic desperation and state repression leveled on the oppressed by the lords of capital. Black Agenda Report has been slandered by the lords of capital and their minions as a dupe and apologist for so-called “authoritarian regimes” such as China and Russia. More recently, BAR has been called an apologist for the Bernie Sanders campaign. These accusations are as baseless as they are devoid of any usefulness to the development of a left worthy of the support of Black America and the entire working class.
“Specific leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement were willing to strategically align themselves with the DNC’s neoliberal and imperialist agenda.”
Much of the U.S. left has abandoned the ideological struggle. The truth, however, is that the left will continue to drown in the contradictions of imperialism if the people remain without a historical and political compass from which to build a new, socialist world. Black Agenda Report offers the beginnings of that compass. BAR’s commitment to dialectical materialism, the revolutionary philosophy that all ideas spring from material reality which is always changing and interconnected through opposing forces, is one of the most critical contributions any of us can make to this struggle. Movements die in stagnant waters. And U.S. imperial dogmatism is the water that drowns them.
BAR adapts to ever changing conditions. Bernie Sanders is a social imperialist, but the principle contradiction in the 2020 election is the need to splinter the Democratic Party. The DNC is speeding up the process by continuing its war of suppression of Sanders and his legion of supporters, many of whom come from the working class. The principle contradiction in the global context is between U.S. imperialism and the lot of humanity. When these principle contradictions become the motive forces of our movements, we can finally let go of the imperial dogmatism which tells us that the Syrian government is just as reactionary as the U.S.’ military state, that Russia and China are equally as criminal as the West, or that we must run a hit piece on Sanders each week just to show our leftist credentials. These are fruitless endeavors that belie the truth.
“The principle contradiction in the 2020 election is the need to splinter the Democratic Party.”
Black Agenda Report is more interested in teaching new generations of activists everyday to combat the arrogance, racism and individualism that plagues our consciousness in order to foster a deepening popular commitment to the self-determination of the oppressed. Black Agenda Report’s steadfast opposition to imperial dogmatism is why its contributors will never stop linking the conditions of apartheid America with the imperialist wars waged against the people of Libya, Syria, or anywhere else. It is for these contributions and many more that the immortal legacy of Bruce Dixon and the founders of Black Agenda Report should be honored, popularized, and emulated as we continue to combat the fake news of the corporate media and fight to bring real power into the hands of the people.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News--From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected], on Instagram at danny_haiphong, and on Youtube at The Left Lens with Danny Haiphong.
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