by Danny Haiphong
The ills of capitalism – a system ruled by the rich – can only be cured by appropriating the wealth and power of the rich, through socialism. In Black America, an opportunistic class emerged that seeks “to attach the Black masses to capitalist rule.” Yet, this class – which includes Barack Obama – “has brought no material benefit to the Black working class.” The way forward is socialism: the seizure of power and resources for self-determination.
Self-Determination and Socialism: The Fight for Socialism is Now!
by Danny Haiphong
“A successful struggle for self-determination of people oppressed by white supremacy and capitalism cannot be waged unless it possesses a socialist character.”
President Xi Jinping has coined the term "Chinese Dream" to describe the extensive project the Communist Party has for future growth, development, and prosperity in China. The plan is a combination of market and socialist mechanisms meant to lift all of China out of poverty. In the US, an opposite dream exists. Actually, the dream is more akin to Malcolm X's "American nightmare." The American Dream has long died with the emergence of the worldwide capitalist crisis. The question now is whether the US will remain plagued by a fictional American Dream or move closer to a socialist reality.
The American Dream has always been a fallacy for the majority of the exploited residing inside of the US. However, post-World War II economic conditions allowed a section of the working class to achieve upward mobility from the wealth derived from imperialist wars. Such upward mobility was replaced in the mid 1970's with a steep descent into mass poverty. In 2016, most people in the US are so burdened by exploitation that they cannot afford a $500 emergency. Homelessness, debt, gentrification, and low wage work dominate the lives of the working class. The capitalist class has taken back what it gave, and it never gave much.
The US, however comfortably a worker may have lived, never had universal healthcare. It never had universal education or full employment. The US has always been a society controlled by a capitalist class. This class of exploiters has always kept a significant section of the working class unemployed in order to keep wages down and maintain a reserve army of potential workers to exploit. Furthermore, the US has always been a society founded upon racism. Black workers and workers of color have been subjected to the cruelest forms of exploitation. Racism has been the historic obstacle to a unified class consciousness among the oppressed.
“Homelessness, debt, gentrification, and low wage work dominate the lives of the working class.”
Racism functions to keep White America satisfied with a lesser form of exploitation. In contrast, Black workers and workers of color are forced to struggle against racist state violence in the form of police terrorism, mass incarceration, and widespread discrimination. The struggle against racism and capitalism together is a struggle for survival. It complicates the slogan "workers of the world, unite and fight." Racism serves as the great capitalist stabilizer by varying levels of exploitation among the people and creating colonial antagonisms that can only be reconciled through self-determination and revolution.
Self-determination must possess a socialist character if it is to be truly revolutionary. That is, self-determination of oppressed peoples is impossible without the expropriation of land, property, and power from the capitalist class. The means of production must belong to the toiling and impoverished masses and be redistributed for their benefit. Only this can develop the productive forces of society in a truly egalitarian way. Movements that have succumbed to the pressures of neo-colonialism and capitalism have been mired in backwardness, underdevelopment, and de facto imperial domination.
There are many examples in recent history that reveal the necessity of socialist consciousness in the struggle for self-determination. In South Africa, formal apartheid rule was heroically defeated by the ANC and its allies. Yet the ANC's victory in the national liberation struggle included the suppression of its socialist character. South Africa was transitioned to neo-colonialism by forces such as multi-millionaire Cyril Ramaphosa. Under his type of leadership, Black South Africans have become increasingly impoverished as the nation's resources have remained firmly in the hands of Western capitalism.
In the US, a similar development has reared its ugly head. A class of Black collaborators has emerged from the dust and ashes of the Black revolutionary movement of the 1960s and 70s. This class, which includes the likes of Barack Obama and his supporters in political and corporate offices, has sought for decades to attach the Black masses to capitalist rule. Yet the emergence of this class has brought no material benefit to the Black working class. Black America as a whole has lost economic ground since the mid-1960s. And ills such as police terrorism and mass incarceration have significantly grown under the weight of mass poverty and racist oppression.
“A class of Black collaborators has emerged from the dust and ashes of the Black revolutionary movement of the 1960s and 70s.”
These conditions require the fight for socialism to occur now, not later. Socialism must be popularized and understood as a global movement that has lifted millions out of capitalist misery and empowered entire nations to build a new world free of private property. There exists a tendency in the US and the West to characterize socialism as a "white" ideology or one that failed in the 20th century. The "21st century socialism" movement has committed this critical error by vanquishing the achievements of past and present socialist countries.
One of the greatest tasks of this period is to educate the masses on how the victorious socialist revolutions in places such as present-day Cuba or Russia during the Soviet period eradicated homelessness, illiteracy, and unemployment. It is also critical to note that African liberation struggles such as the one led by Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana laid the basis for prosperity and redistribution on the continent. While Ghana's example was repressed by a brutal CIA-backed coup, Nkrumah's socialist leadership produced gains which were ultimately abandoned by the reactionary neo-colonial class that replaced his movement’s rule. Today, much of Ghana's modern development that still exists is a product of the Nkrumah-period.
History is the most reliable guide for the masses in any struggle for emancipation. If history is our guide, then a successful struggle for self-determination of people oppressed by white supremacy and capitalism cannot be waged unless it possesses a socialist character. Socialism is the revolutionary seizure state power and the replacement of the rule of capital over the state with a dictatorship of the oppressed. Once such a dictatorship has successfully repressed the enemy class and addressed the contradictions of the existing world situation, steps can be taken to move toward a truly classless society. However, this cannot occur without the support of the world's people and their victorious struggle against imperialism.
The 2016 elections and the Black Lives Matter movement have raised interesting questions about socialism and self-determination in recent years. Yet the primary question remains unanswered. What does socialism look like in the context of the US? What is the connection between self-determination and socialism? The answers to these questions hold the key to how movement organizers and activists will chart a path forward. What is clear, however, is that the time to fight for socialism is now.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected].