How can racial oppression and white supremacy be defeated? Is it through a nationalist struggle against a colonial enemy? Are these paradigms of struggle accurate and strategic enough in 2009? As far back as 1969 Fred Hampton saw the struggle against racism as being rooted within the struggle against capitalism:
“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you do’nt fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”
Usually the Black Panther Party is described as a “Revolutionary Nationalist” organization, but militants like Fred Hampton demonstrate clearly that some of the most important Panthers had more of a multiracial marxist consciousness.
Fred Hampton summed his politics up clearly:
“We ain’t gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run up and down the street being reactionary; we’re gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and we’re gonna fight reactionary pigs with INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. That’s what it has to be. The people have to have the power: it belongs to the people.
We have to understand very clearly that there’s a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes he’s black and sometimes he’s white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don’t care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun. It flows from the barrel of a gun! “
These politics represent a movement beyond simply nationalism into a complicated, race-conscious proletarian internationalism. Hampton’s words inspired militancy and advanced struggles in 1969, and are still refreshing today.
An important task of marxists today is making a fresh analysis of racial/national oppression which avoids mechanically applying Lenin’s “Self-Determination” theses, while also avoiding simplistic and equally mechanical “class is more important than race” logic.
For an important contribution towards this analysis, refer to the work of Adolph Reed Jr. found here on the A/S blog
Read Fred Hampton’s speech “Power Anywhere Where There’s People” in full: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/fhamptonspeech.html