left conservatism, BRC, entrenched identities

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at jhu.edu
Wed Jun 24 06:27:19 PDT 1998

This is a response to Lou Proyect, Yoshie Furuhashi, and Joshua2.

At 11:41 AM 6/23/98 -0400, Louis Proyect wrote:
>Africa? Yugoslavia? These are poor examples for understanding the problem
>we face. Africa is dealing with a problem that was inflicted upon it a
>century ago when colonialists established arbitrary geographical borders at
>best, or, at worst, borders that would aggravate tensions. The precolonial
>linguistic and cultural and economic differences were submerged into faux
>colonial states. When African nationalists tried to appropriate the
>prexisting political-geographical frameworks, naturally there was tension
>and eventually violence as economic conditions deteriorated. Of course,
>Yugoslavia had the same problem. I recommend Basil Davidson's latest book
>"The Black Man's Burden : Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State" for a
>good discussion of this. He even draws an analogy between Yugoslavia and

I reply (WS):

With all due respect, what is natural about any state- or nation-hood? Is the US a 'naturls nation"? Is Russia, UK or Mexico? All countries are essentially a direct product of imperialism, large or small.

>What Wojtek is not grasping is that nationalities oppressed by imperialism
>have a right to organize independently and press for their own demands.

I reply (WS):

I'm sorry but there is not such a thing as a nationality oppressed by imperialism. The normal modus operandi of imperialism is to divide and rule. The British practised the so-called 'indirect colonial rule' which took advantage of class divisions in colonised societies. The Indian of African aristocrats became agents of th eBritish colonial rule, oppersseing the peasnat and working class masses intheir societies for the benefits of the colonial masters and their own.

The same holds for Latin America. It is not the Salvadorean or Guatemalan 'nation' that is oppressed by the Us imperialism. In fact, it is Salavadorean or Guatemalan peasants and workers who are oppressed by their own national oligarchies, suppoeted by the US imperialists.

I am well aware of the fact that nationalism has been a succesful mobilisation device against colonial domination. I also belive it would be foolish, back in the 1950s or 1960s, to reject the tremendous mobilising potential nationalism offered in the name of doctrinal purity.

But these are the struggles of the past. Today we face a different problem - international capital with a much gerater mobility than ever before, and ready to use that mobility to impose its own rule. An what was an advantage in the 1950s or 1960s is becoming a disadvantage in 1990s as a part of the divide and conquer strategy played by the ruling classes - that is the ABC of dialectics, no?

>the US, black, Chicano and American Indian nationalism were key components
>of the 1960s radicalization. To seek an alternative form of radicalism, as
>the Trotskyite sects did, on the basis of multiracial unity is to ignore
>the specific features of American history. It is interesting to note that
>the small socialist sects put two tasks in front of them in this period and
>failed miserably. One, was to attract industrial workers, and the other was
>to become truly multinational. Except for the occasional Maoist sect, most
>groups remained lily-white and middle-class.

With all due respect, I think it is utterly naive to expect that the American working class, black, white or else, sectarian or not, will overthrow world capitalist. US is about 6% of the world population and most of "its" working class does not even live in the US - they toil in the sweatshops of Asia and Latin America. Thinking that what happend in the US has much impact on overthrowing capitalism is thinking of the tail wagging the dog. The best the US working class can do is to _respectfully_ join the working class elsewhere. That means renouncing US nationalism, while, black or whatever. How can the issue of black/white nationalism in the US be anything but 'gringo arrogance' (pardon the term) for a worker in Mexico or Korea?

>The reason the Black Radical Congress is important is that it strengthens
>the Marxist wing of the black liberation movement.

I reply (WS):

If that is the case, all power to them. All I was objecting to is the politics of exclusion, of which nationalism is an example.

>It is absolutely guaranteed that if the Black Radical Congress can provide
>a framework for new intiatives in the black liberation movement that all
>the other movements will be strengthened. The student movement of the 1960s
>was a direct result of initiatives taken by the civil rights movement.
>Frankly, I find this to be pretty good news all in all.

I reply (WS): Well, I take your word for it, but let's not forget that this is but your article of faith. Where I stand the only two things that are absolutely guaranteed are death and taxes :), everything elese is a maybe.

At 05:11 AM 6/23/98 -0700, Joshua2 wrote:
>On Tue, 23 Jun 1998, Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
>> In my conception of communism, there won't be any such things as whiteness,
>> maleness, heterosexuality, etc., nor will there be 'identities' that have
>> been subordinated to the above, _after_ the successful abolition of
>> capitalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc., for there won't be any
>> social relations and ideology that would give rise to either.
---snip ---

>IMHO, stopping Corporate Capitalism is vastly more important than Black, Gay,
>Women's, or other real or ideological "struggles" at this point in time
>we will all achieve freedom and equality after the biosphere can no longer
>sustain us.

I reply (WS): The main issue is not diversity among people but using those diversities as a vehicle for oppression. But that means getting to the root cause of opression. hence, I agree with your statement that Corporate Capitalism, being the root cause of the discrimination faced by Blacks, Gays, etc., needs to be eliminated to prevent the discrimination. It is like a tooth ache - taking palliatives and antibiotics will give you only a temporary relief, but the decay will continue. You have to clean you root canal to get rid of the problem, even if that causes more pain and inflammation on the surface.

This, BTW, does NOT mean that racism or homophobia are a product of capitalism. It means that capitalists merely use them to maintain their hegemony. Nor does it mean that racism and homophobia are less important issues, or as my friend Max Sawicky said the other day, issues of lower priorities. They are very important, top priority issues - but addresing them requires getting to the root of the problem - the concentration of wealth and power - rather than using the palliatives of id politics and superficial changes.

Best regards

Wojtek Sokolowski

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