Afro Pessimism an introduction

One of the central tenets of Afro-pessimism, which expands upon the erudite work of Orlando Patterson,2 is a reoriented understanding of the composition of slavery: instead of being defined as a relation of (forced) labor, it is more accurately thought of as a relation of property. The slave is objectified in such a way that they are legally made an object (a commodity) to be used and exchanged. It is not just their labor-power that is commodified—as with the worker—but their very being. As such, they are not recognized as a social subject and are thus precluded from the category of “human”—inclusion in humanity being predicated on social recognition, volition, subject hood, and the valuation of life. The slave, as an object, is socially dead, which means they are:
1) open to gratuitous violence, as opposed to violence contingent upon some transgression or crime;  2) natally alienated, their ties of birth not recognized and familial structures intentionally broken apart; and 3) generally dishonored, or disgraced before any thought or action is considered. The social death of the slave goes to the very level of their being, defining their ontology. Thus, according to Afro-pessimism, the slave experiences their “slaveness” ontologically, as a “being for the captor,”3 not as an oppressed subject, who experiences exploitation and alienation, but as an object of accumulation and fungibility (exchangeability). After the “nonevent of emancipation,”4 slavery did not simply give way to freedom. Instead, the legal disavowal of ownership reorganized domination and the former slave became the radicalized Black “subject,” whose position was marked epidermally, per Frantz Fanon.5 What followed was a profound entrenchment of the concept of race, both psychically and juridically. Formally, the Black subject was no longer a slave, but the same formative relation of structural violence that maintained slavery remained—upheld explicitly by the police (former slave catchers) and white supremacy generally—hence preserving the equation that Black equals socially dead. Just as wanton violence was a constituent element of slavery, so it is to Blackness. Given the ongoing accumulation of Black death at the hands of the police—even despite increased visibility in recent years—it becomes apparent that a Black person on the street today faces open vulnerability to violence just as the slave did on the plantation. That there has recently been such an increase in media coverage and yet little decrease in murder reveals the ease with which anti-Black violence can be ignored by white society; at the same time this reveals that when one is Black one needn’t do anything to be targeted, as Blackness itself is criminalized. With this understanding of slavery and Blackness, Afro-pessimism makes a critical shift in focus by moving away from the Black/ white binary and reframing it as Black/non-Black, in order to de-emphasize the status of whiteness and to center analysis, rather, on the anti-Black foundations of race and modern society. In other words, “it is racial blackness as a necessary condition for enslavement that matters most, rather than whiteness as a sufficient condition for freedom.”6 As a result, it is Blackness, and more specifically anti-Blackness, that gives coherence to categories of non-Black—white, worker, gay, i.e., “human.” Categories of non-Black must establish their boundaries for inclusion in a group (humanity) by having a recognizable self within. There must also, consequently, be an outside to each group, and, as with the concept of humanity, it is Blackness that
is without; it is Blackness that is the dark matter surrounding and holding together the categories of non-Black. Experientially, subjects, even Black ones, can obviously find themselves with any myriad identities, but ontologically Blackness is still violently excluded from even the meager scraps given when recognized. The distinction that Afro-pessimism makes is important because it problematizes any positive affirmation of identity7—as non-Black categories are defined against the Blackness they are not, this relation of race indirectly (and directly, e.g., white teens’ racist snapchats) sustains anti-Blackness by producing and sustaining racialized categories. Stated otherwise, “the violence of antiblackness produces black existence; there is no prior positive
blackness that could be potentially appropriated. Black existence is simultaneously produced and negated by racial domination, both as presupposition and consequence. Affirmation of blackness proves to be impossible without simultaneously affirming the violence that structures black subjectivity itself.”8 Afro-pessimism departs with this understanding and illuminates the limits and failures of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, such as their reformist ideologies concerning progress and their disastrous integration with bureaucratic machinery. If, as Afro-pessimism shows, it is not possible to affirm Blackness itself without at the same time affirming anti-Black violence, then
the attempts at recognition and inclusion in society will only ever result in further social and real death. Individuals can of course achieve some status in society through “structural adjustment”9 (i.e., a kind of “whitening” effect), as has been superficially confirmed, but Blackness as a racialized category remains the object of gratuitous, constituent violence—as demonstrated by police murders, mass incarceration, urban planning, and surveillance (from cointelpro to special security codes at stores to indicate when Black customers enter). As Blackness is negated by the relations and structures of society, Afro-pessimism posits that the only way out is to negate that negation. The challenges Afro-pessimism poses to the affirmation of Blackness extend to other identities as well and problematize identity-based politics. The efforts, on the part of such apolitics, to produce a coherent subject (and movement), and the reduction of antagonisms to a representable position, is not only the total circumscription of liberatory potential, but it is an extinguishment of rage with reform—which is to stake a claim in the state and society, and thus anti-Blackness. Against this, we choose, following Afro-pessimism, to understand Black liberation as a negative dialectic, a politics of refusal, and a refusal to affirm; as an embrace of disorder and incoherence;10 and as an act of political apostasy.11 This is not to categorically reject every
project of reform—for decreased suffering will surely make life momentarily easier—but rather to take to task any movement invested in the preservation of society. Were they not to decry every action that didn’t fit within their rigid framework, then they might not fortify anti-Blackness as fully as they do. It is in the effort to garner legitimacy (an appeal to whiteness) that reformism requires a representable identity and code of actions, which excludes, and actually endangers, those who would reject such pandering. This also places undo faith in politicians and police to do something other than maintain, as they always have and will, the institutions—schools, courts, prisons, projects, voting booths, neighborhood associations—sustaining anti-Blackness. Afro-pessimism can also be used to critique prevalent liberal discourses around community, accountability, innocence, and justice. Such notions sit upon anti-Black foundations and only go so far as to reconfigure, rather than abolish, the institutions that produce, control, and murder Black subjects.12 Take for example the appeal to innocence and demand for accountability, too frequently launched when someone Black is killed by police. The discourse of innocence operates within a binary of innocent/ guilty, which is founded on the belief that there is an ultimate fairness to the system and presumes the state to be the protector of all. This fails to understand the state’s fundamental investment in self-preservation, which is indivisible from white supremacy and the interests of capital. The discourse goes that if someone innocent is killed, an individual (the villainous cop) must be held accountable as a solution to this so-called injustice. The structural reality of anti-Black violence is completely obfuscated and justice is mistook as a concept independent from anti-Blackness. Discrimination is indeed tragic, but systematic dispossession and murder is designedly more—it is the justice system—and no amount of imprisoned cops, body cameras or citizen review boards will eliminate this. Furthermore, Afro-pessimist analysis exposes the often unacknowledged ways that radical movements perpetuate anti-Black racism. One such way is in the rhetoric repeatedly used that takes an assumed (historically oppressed) subject at its center—e.g., workers or women.13 This conflates experience with existence and fails to acknowledge the incommensurate ontologies between, for instance, white women and Black women. To speak in generalities, of simply workers or women, is to speak from a position of anti-Blackness, for the non-racialized subject is the white, or at least non-Black, subject. For this reason, movements against capitalism, patriarchy, or gender mean unfortunately little if they don’t elucidate ontological disparities within a given site of oppression; and if they don’t unqualifiedly seek to abolish the totality of race and anti-Blackness. This is not to privilege anti- Black racism on a hierarchy of oppression, but to assert—against the disparaging lack of analysis—the unlivability of life for Blacks over centuries of social death and physical murder, perpetuated (at varying times) by all non-Black subjects in society.

Black faces in high places, by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

A right-wing Republican angrily wrote me a letter last week, something to the effect like: “why don’t you Blacks just give it up about charges of fraud [?]… your man [Gore] just lost, and hey Bush has now appointed Black people to high positions in this administration, which shows he is not a racist.” Well, yes, the Grinch (aka as George W. Bush) has now appointed a number of Black and Brown faces to his Presidential Cabinet, and we are supposed to believed that this “diversity” means something to moderate our views of him for the theft of the election and installation of a racist government. It is supposed to show Black people how “compassionate” this conservative is, just as his father, George Sr., introduced the line about “a kinder, gentler America”. Well, we ain’t impressed, and you haven’t done nothing!

Because Blacks like Colin Powell, the new Secretary of State, and Condolezza Rice, the new National Security Advisor, are in fresh political positions in a Bush Presidential administration does not mean that the government is a progressive one, or bodes well for our community. They are Black right-wingers and political hacks, who will do nothing but carry out the strategy of Bush and the most reactionary elements on Wall Street who back him. They are puppets, mere window-dressing to somehow pacify critics in the Black community. It won’t work.

This election exposed the government (and its electoral system) to the masses of Black people (and even many White progressives) in a way that nothing has since the Vietnam war. People are beginning to understand that the popular vote really does not count, and that Soouthern racists will stoop to anything to deprive Black people of the right to vote. Hey it’s only been since 1964 that Black people could vote in the South at all. They used to subject Black people to all manner of treachery, even murder, to prevent the Black community from using the vote to change the status quo. Therefore, it was a key objective of the civil rights movement, led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other organizations in the 1950’s and 60’s. It was an important objective for a people suppressed for centuries, but it will not free us, and now millions understand this for the first time. It is simply too easy to take away the right to vote, and the same corrupt economic and political forces will remain in power anyway. Sure they may use a Liberal government this time, or a Conservative government the next time, but the Wall Street capitalists are still in power.

As an aside, it is my understanding that it was Wall Street that told Jessie Jackson to shut his mouth about talk of a “velvet legal coup” by the Supreme Court, and leading demonstrations which would paralyze the country. Almost immediately after getting his edict from his Wall Street bosses, he shut his mouth, and even went so far as to “congratulate” Bush on his “win.” Such a person is treacherous, and cannot be trusted. He cannot provide strong leadership when it is needed in the fight against racism or fascism, and he should be denounced in no uncertain terms. SNCC used to have a saying: “Move on over, or we’ll move over you!”

The “Negro” leaders, whether conservative or liberal, need to be exposed and supreceded. The masses themselves have to spring into action, and not wait for any self-appointed leaders. We are the ones who will be starved by budget cuts, tortured in prison, shot down in the streets by racist cops, and forced to live lives of quiet desperation. Perhaps the demonstration in Washington, D.C. on January 20th, Bush’s inaguration day, will be the beginning of a mass protest campaign to last throught the dark years of his reign.

Chapter 3: Law and Government by Alexander Berkman from “The ABC’s of communist anarchism

Yes, you are right: the law forbids theft.

If I should steal something from you, you can call a policeman and have me arrested. The law will punish the thief, and the government will return to you the stolen property, if possible, because the law forbids stealing. It says that no one has a right to take anything from you without your consent.

But your employer takes from you what you produce. The whole wealth produced by labor is taken by the capitalists and kept by them as their property.

The law says that your employer does not steal anything from you, because it is done with your consent. You have agreed to work for your boss for certain pay, he to have all that you produce. Because you consented to it, the law says that he does not steal anything from you.

But did you really consent?

When the highwayman holds his gun to your head, you turn your valuables over to him. You ‘consent’ all right, but you do so because you cannot help yourself, because you are compelled by his gun.

Are you not compelled to work for an employer? Your need compels you, just as the highwayman’s gun. You must live, and so must your wife and children. You can’t work for yourself, under the capitalist industrial system you must work for an employer. The factories, machinery, and tools belong to the employing class, so you must hire yourself out to that class in order to work and live. Whatever you work at, whoever your employer may be, it always comes to the same: you must work for him. You can’t help yourself You are compelled.

In this way the whole working class is compelled to work for the capitalist class. In this manner the workers are compelled to give up all the wealth they produce. The employers keep that wealth as their profit, while the worker gets only a wage, just enough to live on, so he can go on producing more wealth for his employer. Is that not cheating, robbery?

The law says it is a ‘free agreement’. Just as well might the highwayman say that you ‘agreed’ to give up your valuables. The only difference is that the highwayman’s way is called stealing and robbery, and is forbidden by law. While the capitalist way is called business, industry, profit making, and is protected by law.

But whether it is done in the highwayman’s way or in the capitalist way, you know that you are robbed.

The whole capitalist system rests on such robbery.

The whole system of law and government upholds and justifies this robbery.

That’s the order of things called capitalism, and law and government are there to protect this order of things.

Do you wonder that the capitalist and employer, and all those who profit by this order of things, are strong for ‘law and order’?

But where do you come in? What benefit have you from that kind of ‘law and order’? Don’t you see that this ‘law and order’ only robs you, fools you, and just enslaves you?

‘Enslave me?’ you wonder. ‘Why, I am a free citizen!’

Are you free, really? Free to do what? To live as you please? To do what you please?

Let’s see. How do you live? What does your freedom amount to?

You depend on your employer for your wages or your salary, don’t you? And your wages determine your way of living, don’t they? The conditions of your life, even what you eat and drink, where you go and with whom you associate, — all of it depends on your wages.

No, you are not a free man. You are dependent on your employer and on your wages. You are really a wage slave.

The whole working class, under the capitalist system, is dependent on the capitalist class. The workers are wage slaves.

So, what becomes of your freedom? What can you do with it? Can you do more with it than your wages permit?

Can’t you see that your wage — your salary or income — is all the freedom that you have? Your freedom, your liberty, don’t go a step further than the wages you get.

The freedom that is given you on paper, that is written down in law books and constitutions, does not do you a bit of good. Such freedom only means that you have the right to do a certain thing. But it doesn’t mean that you can do it. To be able to do it, you must have the chance, the opportunity. You have a right to eat three fine meals a day, but if you haven’t the means, the opportunity to get those meals, then what good is that right to you?

So freedom really means opportunity to satisfy your needs and wants. If your freedom does not give you that opportunity, than it does you no good. Real freedom means opportunity and well being. If it does not mean that, it means nothing.

You see, then, that the whole situation comes to this: Capitalism robs you and makes a wage slave of you. The law upholds and protects that robbery.

The government fools you into believing that you are independent and free.

In this way you are fooled and duped every day of your life. But how does it happen that you didn’t think of it before? How is it that most other people don’t see it, either?

It is because you and every one else are lied to about this all the time, from your earliest childhood.

You are told to be honest, while you are being robbed all your life.

You are commanded to respect the law, while the law protects the capitalist who is robbing you.

You are taught that killing is wrong, while the government hangs and electrocutes people and slaughters them in war.

You are told to obey the law and government, though law and government stand for robbery and murder.

Thus all through life you are lied to, fooled, and deceived, so that it will be easier to make profits out of you, to exploit you.

Because it is not only the employer and the capitalist who make profits out of you. The government, the church, and the school — they all live on your labor. You support them all. That is why all of them teach you to be content with your lot and behave yourself.

‘Is it really true that I support them all?’ you ask in amazement.

Let us see. They eat and drink and are clothed, not to speak of the luxuries they enjoy. Do they make the things they use and consume, do they do the planting and sowing and building and so on?

‘But they pay for those things,’ your friend objects.

Yes, they pay. Suppose a fellow stole fifty dollars from you and then went and bought with it a suit of clothes for himself. Is that suit by right his? Didn’t he pay for it? Well, just so the people who don’t produce anything or do no useful work pay for things. Their money is the profits they or their parents before them squeezed out of you, out of the workers.

‘Then it is not my boss who supports me, but I him?’

Of course. He gives you a job; that is, permission to work in the factory or mill which was not built by him but by other workers like yourself. And for that permission you help to support him for the rest of your life or as long as you work for him. You support him so generously that he can afford a mansion in the city and a home in the country, even several of them, and servants to attend to his wants and those of his family, and for the entertainment of his friends, and for horse races and for boat races, and for a hundred other things. But it is not only to him that you are so generous. Out of your labor, by direct and indirect taxation, are supported the entire government, local, state, and national, the schools and the churches, and all the other institutions whose business it is to protect profits and keep you fooled. You and your fellow workers, labor as a whole, support them all. Do you wonder that they all tell you that everything is all right and that you should be good and keep quiet?

It is good for them that you should keep quiet, because they could not keep on duping and robbing you once you open your eyes and see what’s happening to you.

That’s why they are all strong for this capitalist system, for ‘law and order’.

But is that system good for you? Do you think it right and just? If not, then why do you put up with it? Why do you support it? ‘What can I do?’ you say; ‘I’m only one.’

Are you really only one? Are you not rather one out of many thousands, out of millions, all of them exploited and enslaved the same as you are? Only they don’t know it. If they knew it, they wouldn’t stand for it. That’s sure. So the thing is to make them know it.

Every workingman in your city, every toiler in your country, in every country, in the whole world, is exploited and enslaved the same as you are.

And not only the workingmen. The farmers are duped and robbed in the same manner.

Just like the workingmen, the farmer is dependent on the capitalist class. He toils hard all his life, but most of his labor goes to the trusts and monopolies of the land which by right is no more theirs than the moon is.

The farmer produces the food of the world. He feeds all of us. But before he can get his goods to us, he is made to pay tribute to the class that lives by the work of others, the profit-making, capitalist class. The farmer is mulcted out of the greater part of his product just as the worker is. He is mulcted by the land owner and by the mortgage holder; by the steel trust and the railroad. The banker, the commission merchant, the retailer, and a score of other middlemen squeeze their profits out of the farmer before he is allowed to get his food to you.

Law and government permit and help this robbery by ruling that the land, which no man created, belongs to the landlord; the railroads, which the workers built, belong to the railroad magnates; the warehouses, grain elevators, and storehouses, erected by the workers, belong to the capitalists; all those monopolists and capitalists have a right to get profits from the farmer for using the railroads and other facilities before he can get his food to you.

You can see then, how the farmer is robbed by big capital and business, and how the law helps in that robbery, just as with the workingman.

But it is not only the worker and the farmer who are exploited and forced to give up the greater part of their product to the capitalists, to those who have monopolized the land, the railroads, the factories, the machinery, and all natural resources. The entire country, the whole world is made to pay tribute to the kings of finance and industry.

The small business man depends on the wholesaler; the wholesaler on the manufacturer; the manufacturer on the trust magnates of his industry; and all of them on the money lords and banks for their credit. The big bankers and financiers can put any man out of business by just withdrawing their credit from him. They do so whenever they want to squeeze any one out of business. The business man is entirely at their mercy. If he does not play the game as they want it, to suit their interests, then they simply drive him out of the game.

Thus the whole of mankind is dependent upon and enslaved by just a handful of men who have monopolized almost the entire wealth of the world, but who have themselves never created anything.

‘But those men work hard,’ you say.

Well, some of them don’t work at all. Some of them are just idlers, whose business is managed by others. Some of them do work. But what kind of work do they do? Do they produce anything, as the worker and the farmer do? No, they produce nothing, though they may work. They work to mulct people, to get profits out of them. Does their work benefit you? The highwayman also works hard and takes great risks to boot. His ‘work’, like the capitalist’s, gives employment to lawyers, jailers, and a host of other retainers, all of whom your toil supports.

It seems indeed ridiculous that the whole world should slave for the benefit of a handful of monopolists, and that all should have to depend upon them for their right and opportunity to live. But the fact is just that. And it is the more ridiculous when you consider that the workers and farmers, who alone create all wealth, should be the most dependent and the poorest of all the other classes in society.

It is really monstrous, and it is very sad. Surely your common sense must tell you that such a situation is nothing short of madness. If the great masses of people, the millions throughout the world, could see how they are fooled, exploited and enslaved, as you see it now, would they stand for such goings on? Surely they would not!

The capitalists know they wouldn’t. That is why they need the government to legalize their methods of robbery, to protect the capitalist system.

And that is why the government needs laws, police and soldiers, courts and prisons to protect capitalism.

But who are the police and the soldiers who protect the capitalists against you, against the people?

If they were capitalists themselves, then it would stand to reason why they want to protect the wealth they have stolen, and why they try to keep up, even by force, the system that gives them the privilege of robbing the people.

But the police and the soldiers, the defenders of ‘law and order’, are not of the capitalist class. They are men from the ranks of the people, poor men who for pay protect the very system that keeps them poor. It is unbelievable, is it not? Yet it is true. It just comes down to this: some of the slaves protect their masters in keeping them and the rest of the people in slavery. In the same way Great Britain, for instance, keeps the Hindoos in India in subjection by a police force of the natives, of the Hindoos themselves. Or as Belgium does with the black men in the Congo. Or as any government does with a subjugated people. It is the same system. Here is what it amounts to: Capitalism robs and exploits the whole of the people; the laws legalize and uphold this capitalist robbery; the government uses one part of the people to aid and protect the capitalists in robbing the whole of the people. The entire thing is kept up by educating the people to believe that capitalism is night, that the law is just, and that the government must be obeyed. Do you see through this game now?

Chapter 1: What Do You Want Out Of Life? by Alexander Berkmans book ” The ABC’s of communist anarchism”

What is it that every one wants most in life? What do you want most?

After all, we are all the same under our skins. Whoever you be — man or woman, rich or poor, aristocrat or tramp, white, yellow, red or black, of whatever land, nationality, or religion — we are all alike in feeling cold and hunger, love and hate; we all fear disaster and disease, and try to keep away from harm and death.

What you most want out of life, what you fear most, that also is true, in the main, of your neighbor.

Learned men have written big books, many of them, on sociology, psychology, and many other ‘ologies’, to tell you what you want, but no two of those books ever agree. And yet I think that you know very well without them what you want.

They have studied and written and speculated so much about this, for them so difficult a question, that you, the individual, have become entirely lost in their philosophies. And they have at last come to the conclusion that you, my friend, don’t count at all. What’s important, they say, is not you, but ‘the whole’, all the people together. This ‘whole’ they call ‘society’, ‘the commonwealth’, or ‘the State’, and the wiseacres have actually decided that it makes no difference if you, the individual, are miserable so long as ‘society’ is all right. Somehow they forget to explain how ‘society’ or ‘the whole’ can be all right if the single members of it are wretched.

So they go on spinning their philosophic webs and producing thick volumes to find out where you really enter in the scheme of things called life, and what you really want.

But you yourself know very well what you want, and so does your neighbor.

You want to be well and healthy; you want to be free, to serve no master, to crawl and humiliate yourself before no man; you want to have well-being for yourself, your family, and those near and dear to you. And not to be harassed and worried by the fear of to-morrow.

You may feel sure that every one else wants the same. So the whole matter seems to stand this way:

You want health, liberty, and well-being. Every one is like yourself in this respect.

Therefore we all seek the same thing in life.

Then why should we not all seek it together, by joint effort, helping each other in it?

Why should we cheat and rob, kill and murder each other, if we all seek the same thing? Aren’t you entitled to the things you want as well as the next man?

Or is it that we can secure our health, liberty, and well-being better by fighting and slaughtering each other?

Or because there is no other way?

Let us look into this.

Does it not stand to reason that if we all want the same thing in life, if we have the same aim, then our interests must also be the same? In that case we should live like brothers, in peace and friendship; we should be good to each other, and help each other all we can.

But you know that it is not at all that way in life. You know that we do not live like brothers. You know that the world is full of strife and war, of misery, injustice, and wrong, of crime, poverty, and oppression.

Why is it that way then?

It is because, though we all have the same aim in life, our interests are different. It is this that makes all the trouble in the world.

Just think it over yourself.

Suppose you want to get a pair of shoes or a hat. You go into the store and you try to buy what you need as reasonably and cheaply as you can. That is your interest. But the store-keeper’s interest is to sell it to you as dearly as he can, because then his profit will be greater. That is because everything in the life we live is built on making a profit, one way or another. We live in a system of profit-making.

Now, it is plain that if we have to make profits out of each other, then our interests cannot be the same. They must be different and often even opposed to each other.

In every country you will find people who live by making a profit out of others. Those who make the biggest profits are rich. Those who cannot make profits are poor. The only people who cannot make any profits are the workers. You can therefore understand that the interests of the workers cannot be the same as the interests of the other people. That is why you will find in every country several classes of people with entirely different interests.

Everywhere you will find:

a comparatively small class of persons who make big profits and who are very rich, such as bankers, great manufacturers and land owners — people who have much capital and who are therefore called capitalists. These belong to the capitalist class;
a class of more or less well-to-do people, consisting of business men and their agents, real estate men, speculators, and professional men, such as doctors, lawyers, inventors, and so on. This is the middle class or the bourgeoisie.
great numbers of workingmen employed in various industries — in mills and mines, in factories and shops, in transport and on the land. This is the working class, also called the proletariat.
The bourgeoisie and the capitalists really belong to the same capitalistic class, because they have about the same interests, and therefore the people of the bourgeoisie also generally side with the capitalist class as against the working class.

You will find that the working class is always the poorest class, in every country. Maybe you yourself belong to the workers, to the proletariat. Then you know that your wages will never make you rich.

Why are the workers the poorest class? Surely they labor more than the other classes, and harder. Is it because the workers are not very important in the life of society? Perhaps we can even do without them?

Let us see. What do we need to live? We need food, clothing, and shelter; schools for our children; street cars and trains for travel, and a thousand and one other things.

Can you look about you and point out a single thing that was made without labor? Why, the shoes you stand in, and the streets you walk on, are the result of labor. Without labor there would be nothing but the bare earth, and human life would be entirely impossible.

So it means that labor has created everything we have — all the wealth of the world. It is all the product of labor applied to the earth and its natural resources.

But if all the wealth is the product of labor, then why does it not belong to labor? That is, to those who have worked with their hands or with their heads to create it — the manual worker and the brain worker.

Everybody agrees that a person has a right to own the thing that he himself has made.

But no one person has made or can make anything all by himself. It takes many men, of different trades and professions, to create something. The carpenter, for instance, cannot make a simple chair or bench all by himself; not even if he should cut down a tree and prepare the lumber himself. He needs a saw and a hammer, nails and tools, which he cannot make himself. And even if he should make these himself, he would first have to have the raw materials — steel and iron — which other men would have to supply.

Or take another example — let us say a civil engineer. He could do nothing without paper and pencil and measuring tools, and these things other people have to make for him. Not to mention that first he has to learn his profession and spend many years in study, while others enable him to live in the meantime. This applies to every human being in the world to-day.

You can see then that no person can by his own efforts alone make the things he needs to exist. In early times the primitive man who lived in a cave could hammer a hatchet out of stone or make himself a bow and arrow, and live by that. But those days are gone. To-day no man can live by his own work: he must be helped by the labor of others. Therefore all that we have, all wealth, is the product of the labor of many people, even of many generations. That is to say: all labor and the products of labor are social, made by society as a whole.

But if all the wealth we have is social, then it stands to reason that it should belong to society, to the people as a whole. How does it happen, then, that the wealth of the world is owned by some individuals and not by the people? Why does it not belong to those who have toiled to create it — the masses who work with hand or brain, the working class as a whole?

You know very well that it is the capitalistic class which owns the greatest part of the world’s wealth. Must we therefore not conclude that the working people have lost the wealth they created, or that somehow it was taken away from them?

They did not lose it, for they never owned it. Then it must be that it was taken away from them.

This is beginning to look serious. Because if you say that the wealth they created has been taken away from the people who created it, then it means that it has been stolen from them, that they have been robbed, for surely no one has ever willingly consented to have his wealth taken away from him.

It is a terrible charge, but it is true. The wealth the workers have created, as a class, has indeed been stolen from them. And they are being robbed in the same way every day of their lives, even at this very moment. That is why one of the greatest thinkers, the French philosopher Proudhon, said that the possessions of the rich are stolen property.

You can readily understand how important it is that every honest man should know about this. And you may be sure that if the workers knew about it, they would not stand for it.

Let us see then how they are robbed and by whom.

Forward and Introduction

I consider anarchism the most rational and practical conception of a social life in freedom and harmony. I am convinced that its realization is a certainty in the course of human development.

The time of that realization will depend on two factors: first, on how soon existing conditions will grow spiritually and physically unbearable to considerable portions of mankind, particularly to the laboring classes; and, secondly, on the degree in which Anarchist views will become understood and accepted.

Our social institutions are founded on certain ideas; as long as the latter are generally believed, the institutions built on them are safe. Government remains strong because people think political authority and legal compulsion necessary. Capitalism will continue as long as such an economic system is considered adequate and just. The weakening of the ideas which support the evil and oppressive present-day conditions means the ultimate breakdown of government and capitalism. Progress consists in abolishing what man has outlived and substituting in its place a more suitable environment.

It must be evident even to the casual observer that society is undergoing a radical change in its fundamental conceptions. The World War and the Russian Revolution are the main causes of it. The war has unmasked the vicious character of capitalist competition and the murderous incompetency of governments to settle quarrels among radons, or rather among the ruling financial cliques. It is because the people are losing faith in the old methods that the Great Powers are now compelled to discuss limitation of armaments and even the outlawing of war. It is not so long ago that the very suggestion of such a possibility met with utmost scorn and ridicule.

Similarly is breaking down the belief in other established institutions. Capitalism still ‘works’, but doubt about its expediency and justice is gnawing at the heart of ever-widening social circles. The Russian Revolution has broadcasted ideas and feelings that are undermining capitalist society, particularly its economic bases and the sanctity of private ownership of the means of social existence. For not only in Russia did the October change take place: it has influenced the masses throughout the world. The cherished superstition that what exists is permanent has been shaken beyond recovery.

The war, the Russian Revolution, and the post-war developments have combined also to disillusion vast numbers about Socialism. It is literally true that, like Christianity, Socialism has conquered the world by defeating itself. The Socialist parties now run or help to run most of the European governments, but the people do not believe any more that they are different from other bourgeois regimes. They feel that Socialism has failed and is bankrupt.

In like manner have the Bolsheviks proven that Marxian dogma and Leninist principles can lead only to dictatorship and reaction.

To the Anarchists there is nothing surprising in all this. They have always claimed that the State is destructive to individual liberty and social harmony, and that only the abolition of coercive authority and material inequality can solve our political, economic and national problems. But their arguments, though based on the age-long experience of man, seemed mere theory to the present generation, until the events of the last two decades have demonstrated in actual life the truth of the Anarchist position.

The breakdown of Socialism and of Bolshevism has cleared the way for Anarchism.

There is considerable literature on Anarchism, but most of its larger works were written before the World War. The experience of the recent past has been vital and has made certain revisions necessary in the Anarchist attitude and argumentation. Though the basic propositions remain the same, some modifications of practical application are dictated by the facts of current history. The lessons of the Russian Revolution in particular call for a new approach to various important problems, chief among them the character and activities of the social revolution.

Furthermore, Anarchist books, with few exceptions, are not accessible to the understanding of the average reader. It is the common failing of most works dealing with social questions that they are written on the assumption that the reader is already familiar to a considerable extent with the subject, which is generally not the case at all. As a result there are very few books treating of social problems in a sufficiently simple and intelligible manner.

For the above reason I consider a restatement of the Anarchist position very much needed at this time — a restatement in the plainest and clearest terms which can be understood by every one. That is, an ABC of Anarchism.

With that object in view the following pages have been written.


I want to tell you about Anarchism.

I want to tell you what Anarchism is, because I think it is well you should know it. Also because so little is known about it, and what is known is generally hearsay and mostly false.

I want to tell you about it, because I believe that Anarchism is the finest and biggest thing man has ever thought of; the only thing that can give you liberty and well-being, and bring peace and joy to the world.

I want to tell you about it in such plain and simple language that there will be no misunderstanding it. Big words and high sounding phrases serve only to confuse. Straight thinking means plain speaking.

But before I tell you what Anarchism is, I want to tell you what it is not.

That is necessary because so much falsehood has been spread about Anarchism. Even intelligent persons often have entirely wrong notions about it. Some people talk about Anarchism without knowing a thing about it. And some lie about Anarchism, because they don’t want you to know the truth about it.

Anarchism has many enemies; they won’t tell you the truth about it. Why Anarchism has enemies and who they are, you will see later, in the course of this story. Just now I can tell you that neither your political boss nor your employer, neither the capitalist nor the policeman will speak to you honestly about Anarchism. Most of them know nothing about it, and all of them hate it. Their newspapers and publications — the capitalistic press — are also against it.

Even most Socialists and Bolsheviks misrepresent Anarchism. True, the majority of them don’t know any better. But those who do know better also often lie about Anarchism and speak of it as ‘disorder and chaos’. You can see for yourself how dishonest they are in this: the greatest teachers of Socialism — Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels — had taught that Anarchism would come from Socialism. They said that we must first have Socialism, but that after Socialism there will be Anarchism, and that it would be a freer and more beautiful condition of society to live in than Socialism. Yet the Socialists, who swear by Marx and Engels, insist on calling Anarchism ‘chaos and disorder’, which shows you how ignorant or dishonest they are.

The Bolsheviks do the same, although their greatest teacher, Lenin, had said that Anarchism would follow Bolshevism, and that then it will be better and freer to live.

Therefore I must tell you, first of all, what Anarchism is not.

It is not bombs, disorder, or chaos.

It is not robbery and murder.

It is not a war of each against all.

It is not a return to barbarism or to the wild state of man.

Anarchism is the very opposite of all that.

Anarchism means that you should be free; that no one should enslave you, boss you, rob you, or impose upon you.

It means that you should be free to do the things you want to do; and that you should not be compelled to do what you don’t want to do.

It means that you should have a chance to choose the kind of a life you want to live, and live it without anybody interfering.

It means that the next fellow should have the same freedom as you, that every one should have the same rights and liberties.

It means that all men are brothers, and that they should live like brothers, in peace and harmony.

That is to say, that there should be no war, no violence used by one set of men against another, no monopoly and no poverty, no oppression, no taking advantage of your fellow-man.

In short, Anarchism means a condition or society where all men and women are free, and where all enjoy equally the benefits of an ordered and sensible life.

‘Can that be?’ you ask; ‘and how?’

‘Not before we all become angels,’ your friend remarks.

Well, let us talk it over. Maybe I can show you that we can be decent and live as decent folks even without growing wings.

The struggling against fascism begins with the struggling against Bolshevism (section VII) by Alfredo Bonnano

If one looks with critical eyes at the picture of Bolshevism provided by Lenin’s pamphlet, the following main points may be recognized as characteristics of Bolshevism:

1. Bolshevism is a nationalistic doctrine. Originally and essentially conceived to solve a national problem, it was later elevated to a theory and practice of international scope and to a general doctrine. Its nationalistic character comes to light also in its position on the struggle for national independence of suppressed nations.

2. Bolshevism is an authoritarian system. The peak of the social pyramid is the most important and determining point. Authority is realized in the all-powerful person. In the leader myth the bourgeois personality ideal celebrates its highest triumphs.

3. Organizationally, bolshevism is highly centralistic. The central committee has responsibility for all initiative, leadership, instruction, commands. As in the bourgeois State, the leading members of the organization play the role of the bourgeoisie; the sole role of the workers is to obey orders.

4. Bolshevism represents a militant power policy. Exclusively interested in political power, it is no different from the forms of rule in the traditional bourgeois sense. Even in the organization proper there is no self-determination by the members. The army serves the party as the great example of organization.

5. Bolshevism is dictatorship. Working with brute force and terroristic measures, it directs all its functions toward the suppression of all non-Bolshevik institutions and opinions. Its ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is the dictatorship of a bureaucracy or a single person.

6. Bolshevism is a mechanistic method. It aspires to automatic coordination, technically secured conformity and the most efficient totalitarianism as a goal of social order. The centralistically ‘planned’ economy consciously confuses technical-organizational problems with socioeconomic questions.

7. The social structure of bolshevism is of a bourgeois nature. It does not abolish the wage system and refuses proletarian self-determination over the products of labour. It remains therewith fundamentally within the class frame of the bourgeois social order. Capitalism is perpetuated.

8. Bolshevism is a revolutionary element only in the frame of the bourgeois revolution. Unable to realize the soviet system, it is thereby unable to transform essentially the structure of bourgeois society and its economy. It establishes not socialism but State capitalism.

9. Bolshevism is not a bridge leading eventually into the socialist society. Without the soviet system, without the total radical revolution of men and things, it cannot fulfill the most essential of all socialistic demands, which is to end the capitalist human-self alienation. It represents the last stage of bourgeois society and not the first step towards a new society.

These nine points represent an unbridgeable opposition between bolshevism and socialism. They demonstrate with all necessary clarity the bourgeois character of the Bolshevist movement and its close relationship to fascism. Nationalism, authoritarianism, centralism, leader dictatorship, power policies, terror-rule, mechanistic dynamics, and inability to socialize—all these essential characteristics of fascism existed in bolshevism and still do. Fascism is merely a copy of bolshevism. For this reason the struggle against the one must begin with the struggle against the other.

​Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of imperialism by Kwame Nkrumah 1956


THE neo-colonialism of today represents imperialism in its final and perhaps its most dangerous stage. In the past it was possible to convert a country upon which a neo-colonial regime had been imposed — Egypt in the nineteenth century is an example — into a colonial territory. Today this process is no longer feasible. Old-fashioned colonialism is by no means entirely abolished. It still constitutes an African problem, but it is everywhere on the retreat. Once a territory has become nominally independent it is no longer possible, as it was in the last century, to reverse the process. Existing colonies may linger on, but no new colonies will be created. In place of colonialism as the main instrument of imperialism we have today neo-colonialism.

The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.

The methods and form of this direction can take various shapes. For example, in an extreme case the troops of the imperial power may garrison the territory of the neo-colonial State and control the government of it. More often, however, neo-colonialist control is exercised through economic or monetary means. The neo-colonial State may be obliged to take the manufactured products of the imperialist power to the exclusion of competing products from elsewhere. Control over government policy in the neo-colonial State may be secured by payments towards the cost of running the State, by the provision of civil servants in positions where they can dictate policy, and by monetary control over foreign exchange through the imposition of a banking system controlled by the imperial power.

Where neo-colonialism exists the power exercising control is often the State which formerly ruled the territory in question, but this is not necessarily so. For example, in the case of South Vietnam the former imperial power was France, but neo-colonial control of the State has now gone to the United States. It is possible that neo-colonial control may be exercised by a consortium of financial interests which are not specifically identifiable with any particular State. The control of the Congo by great international financial concerns is a case in point.

The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment under neo-colonialism increases rather than decreases the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world.

The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.

Non-alignment, as practised by Ghana and many other countries, is based on co-operation with all States whether they be capitalist, socialist or have a mixed economy. Such a policy, therefore, involves foreign investment from capitalist countries, but it must be invested in accordance with a national plan drawn up by the government of the non-aligned State with its own interests in mind. The issue is not what return the foreign investor receives on his investments. He may, in fact, do better for himself if he invests in a non-aligned country than if he invests in a neo-colonial one. The question is one of power. A State in the grip of neo-colonialism is not master of its own destiny. It is this factor which makes neo-colonialism such a serious threat to world peace. The growth of nuclear weapons has made out of date the old-fashioned balance of power which rested upon the ultimate sanction of a major war. Certainty of mutual mass destruction effectively prevents either of the great power blocs from threatening the other with the possibility of a world-wide war, and military conflict has thus become confined to ‘limited wars’. For these neo-colonialism is the breeding ground.

Such wars can, of course, take place in countries which are not neo-colonialist controlled. Indeed their object may be to establish in a small but independent country a neo-colonialist regime. The evil of neo-colonialism is that it prevents the formation of those large units which would make impossible ‘limited war’. To give one example: if Africa was united, no major power bloc would attempt to subdue it by limited war because from the very nature of limited war, what can be achieved by it is itself limited. It is, only where small States exist that it is possible, by landing a few thousand marines or by financing a mercenary force, to secure a decisive result.

The restriction of military action of ‘limited wars’ is, however, no guarantee of world peace and is likely to be the factor which will ultimately involve the great power blocs in a world war, however much both are determined to avoid it.

Limited war, once embarked upon, achieves a momentum of its own. Of this, the war in South Vietnam is only one example. It escalates despite the desire of the great power blocs to keep it limited. While this particular war may be prevented from leading to a world conflict, the multiplication of similar limited wars can only have one end-world war and the terrible consequences of nuclear conflict.

Neo-colonialism is also the worst form of imperialism. For those who practise it, it means power without responsibility and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress. In the days of old-fashioned colonialism, the imperial power had at least to explain and justify at home the actions it was taking abroad. In the colony those who served the ruling imperial power could at least look to its protection against any violent move by their opponents. With neo-colonialism neither is the case.

Above all, neo-colonialism, like colonialism before it, postpones the facing of the social issues which will have to be faced by the fully developed sector of the world before the danger of world war can be eliminated or the problem of world poverty resolved.

Neo-colonialism, like colonialism, is an attempt to export the social conflicts of the capitalist countries. The temporary success of this policy can be seen in the ever widening gap between the richer and the poorer nations of the world. But the internal contradictions and conflicts of neo-colonialism make it certain that it cannot endure as a permanent world policy. How it should be brought to an end is a problem that should be studied, above all, by the developed nations of the world, because it is they who will feel the full impact of the ultimate failure. The longer it continues the more certain it is that its inevitable collapse will destroy the social system of which they have made it a foundation.

The reason for its development in the post-war period can be briefly summarised. The problem which faced the wealthy nations of the world at the end of the second world war was the impossibility of returning to the pre-war situation in which there was a great gulf between the few rich and the many poor. Irrespective of what particular political party was in power, the internal pressures in the rich countries of the world were such that no post-war capitalist country could survive unless it became a ‘Welfare State’. There might be differences in degree in the extent of the social benefits given to the industrial and agricultural workers, but what was everywhere impossible was a return to the mass unemployment and to the low level of living of the pre-war years.

From the end of the nineteenth century onwards, colonies had been regarded as a source of wealth which could be used to mitigate the class conflicts in the capitalist States and, as will be explained later, this policy had some success. But it failed in ‘its ultimate object because the pre-war capitalist States were so organised internally that the bulk of the profit made from colonial possessions found its way into the pockets of the capitalist class and not into those of the workers. Far from achieving the object intended, the working-class parties at times tended to identify their interests with those of the colonial peoples and the imperialist powers found themselves engaged upon a conflict on two fronts, at home with their own workers and abroad against the growing forces of colonial liberation.

The post-war period inaugurated a very different colonial policy. A deliberate attempt was made to divert colonial earnings from the wealthy class and use them instead generally to finance the ‘Welfare State’. As will be seen from the examples given later, this was the method consciously adopted even by those working-class leaders who had before the war regarded the colonial peoples as their natural allies against their capitalist enemies at home.

At first it was presumed that this object could be achieved by maintaining the pre-war colonial system. Experience soon proved that attempts to do so would be disastrous and would only provoke colonial wars, thus dissipating the anticipated gains from the continuance of the colonial regime. Britain, in particular, realised this at an early stage and the correctness of the British judgement at the time has subsequently been demonstrated by the defeat of French colonialism in the Far East and Algeria and the failure of the Dutch to retain any of their former colonial empire.

The system of neo-colonialism was therefore instituted and in the short run it has served the developed powers admirably. It is in the long run that its consequences are likely to be catastrophic for them.

Neo-colonialism is based upon the principle of breaking up former large united colonial territories into a number of small non-viable States which are incapable of independent development and must rely upon the former imperial power for defence and even internal security. Their economic and financial systems are linked, as in colonial days, with those of the former colonial ruler.

At first sight the scheme would appear to have many advantages for the developed countries of the world. All the profits of neo-colonialism can be secured if, in any given area, a reasonable proportion of the States have a neo-colonialist system. It is not necessary that they all should have one. Unless small States can combine they must be compelled to sell their primary products at prices dictated by the developed nations and buy their manufactured goods at the prices fixed by them. So long as neo-colonialism can prevent political and economic conditions for optimum development, the developing countries, whether they are under neo-colonialist control or not, will be unable to create a large enough market to support industrialisation. In the same way they will lack the financial strength to force the developed countries to accept their primary products at a fair price.

In the neo-colonialist territories, since the former colonial power has in theory relinquished political control, if the social conditions occasioned by neo-colonialism cause a revolt the local neo-colonialist government can be sacrificed and another equally subservient one substituted in its place. On the other hand, in any continent where neo-colonialism exists on a wide scale the same social pressures which can produce revolts in neo-colonial territories will also affect those States which have refused to accept the system and therefore neo-colonialist nations have a ready-made weapon with which they can threaten their opponents if they appear successfully to be challenging the system.

These advantages, which seem at first sight so obvious, are, however, on examination, illusory because they fail to take into consideration the facts of the world today.

The introduction of neo-colonialism increases the rivalry between the great powers which was provoked by the old-style colonialism. However little real power the government of a neo-colonialist State may possess, it must have, from the very fact of its nominal independence, a certain area of manoeuvre. It may not be able to exist without a neo-colonialist master but it may still have the ability to change masters.

The ideal neo-colonialist State would be one which was wholly subservient to neo-colonialist interests but the existence of the socialist nations makes it impossible to enforce the full rigour of the neo-colonialist system. The existence of an alternative system is itself a challenge to the neo-colonialist regime. Warnings about ‘the dangers of Communist subversion are likely to be two-edged since they bring to the notice of those living under a neo-colonialist system the possibility of a change of regime. In fact neo-colonialism is the victim of its own contradictions. In order to make it attractive to those upon whom it is practised it must be shown as capable of raising their living standards, but the economic object of neo-colonialism is to keep those standards depressed in the interest of the developed countries. It is only when this contradiction is understood that the failure of innumerable ‘aid’ programmes, many of them well intentioned, can be explained.

In the first place, the rulers of neo-colonial States derive their authority to govern, not from the will of the people, but from the support which they obtain from their neo-colonialist masters. They have therefore little interest in developing education, strengthening the bargaining power of their workers employed by expatriate firms, or indeed of taking any step which would challenge the colonial pattern of commerce and industry, which it is the object of neo-colonialism to preserve. ‘Aid’, therefore, to a neo-colonial State is merely a revolving credit, paid by the neo-colonial master, passing through the neo-colonial State and returning to the neo-colonial master in the form of increased profits.

Secondly, it is in the field of ‘aid’ that the rivalry of individual developed States first manifests itself. So long as neo-colonialism persists so long will spheres of interest persist, and this makes multilateral aid — which is in fact the only effective form of aid — impossible.

Once multilateral aid begins the neo-colonialist masters are f aced by the hostility of the vested interests in their own country. Their manufacturers naturally object to any attempt to raise the price of the raw materials which they obtain from the neo-colonialist territory in question, or to the establishment there of manufacturing industries which might compete directly or indirectly with their own exports to the territory. Even education is suspect as likely to produce a student movement and it is, of course, true that in many less developed countries the students have been in the vanguard of the fight against neo-colonialism.

In the end the situation arises that the only type of aid which the neo-colonialist masters consider as safe is ‘military aid’.

Once a neo-colonialist territory is brought to such a state of economic chaos and misery that revolt actually breaks out then, and only then, is there no limit to the generosity of the neo-colonial overlord, provided, of course, that the funds supplied are utilised exclusively for military purposes.

Military aid in fact marks the last stage of neo-colonialism and its effect is self-destructive. Sooner or later the weapons supplied pass into the hands of the opponents of the neo-colonialist regime and the war itself increases the social misery which originally provoked it.

Neo-colonialism is a mill-stone around the necks of the developed countries which practise it. Unless they can rid themselves of it, it will drown them. Previously the developed powers could escape from the contradictions of neo-colonialism by substituting for it direct colonialism. Such a solution is no longer possible and the reasons for it have been well explained by Mr Owen Lattimore, the United States Far Eastern expert and adviser to Chiang Kai-shek in the immediate post-war period. He wrote:

‘Asia, which was so easily and swiftly subjugated by conquerors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, displayed an amazing ability stubbornly to resist modern armies equipped with aeroplanes, tanks, motor vehicles and mobile artillery.

‘Formerly big territories were conquered in Asia with small forces. Income, first of all from plunder, then from direct taxes and lastly from trade, capital investments and long-term exploitation, covered with incredible speed the expenditure for military operations. This arithmetic represented a great temptation to strong countries. Now they have run up against another arithmetic, and it discourages them.’

The same arithmetic is likely to apply throughout the less developed world.

This book is therefore an attempt to examine neo-colonialism not only in its African context and its relation to African unity, but in world perspective. Neo-colonialism is by no means exclusively an African question. Long before it was practised on any large scale in Africa it was an established system in other parts of the world. Nowhere has it proved successful, either in raising living standards or in ultimately benefiting countries which have indulged in it.

Marx predicted that the growing gap between the wealth of the possessing classes and the workers it employs would ultimately produce a conflict fatal to capitalism in each individual capitalist State.

This conflict between the rich and the poor has now been transferred on to the international scene, but for proof of what is acknowledged to be happening it is no longer necessary to consult the classical Marxist writers. The situation is set out with the utmost clarity in the leading organs of capitalist opinion. Take for example the following extracts from The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper which perhaps best reflects United States capitalist thinking.

In its issue of 12 May 1965, under the headline of ‘Poor Nations’ Plight’, the paper first analyses ‘which countries are considered industrial and which backward’. There is, it explains, ‘no rigid method of classification’. Nevertheless, it points out:

‘A generally used breakdown, however, has recently been maintained by the International Monetary Fund because, in the words of an IMF official, “the economic demarcation in the world is getting increasingly apparent.”’ The break-down, the official says, “is based on simple common sense.”’

In the IMF’s view, the industrial countries are the United States, the United Kingdom, most West European nations, Canada and Japan. A special category called “other developed areas” includes such other European lands as Finland, Greece and Ireland, plus Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The IMF’s “less developed” category embraces all of Latin America and nearly all of the Middle East, non-Communist Asia and Africa.’

In other words the ‘backward’ countries are those situated in the neo-colonial areas.

After quoting figures to support its argument, The Wall Street Journalcomments on this situation:

‘The industrial nations have added nearly $2 billion to their reserves, which now approximate $52 billion. At the same time, the reserves of the less-developed group not only have stopped rising, but have declined some $200 million. To analysts such as Britain’s Miss Ward, the significance of such statistics is clear: the economic gap is rapidly widening “between a white, complacent, highly bourgeois, very wealthy, very small North Atlantic elite and everybody else, and this is not a very comfortable heritage to leave to one’s children.”

“Everybody else” includes approximately two-thirds of the population of the earth, spread through about 100 nations.’

This is no new problem. In the opening paragraph of his book, The War on World Poverty, written in 1953, the present British Labour leader, Mr Harold Wilson, summarised the major problem of the world as he then saw it:

‘For the vast majority of mankind the most urgent problem is not war, or Communism, or the cost of living, or taxation. It is hunger. Over 1,500,000,000 people, some-thing like two-thirds of the world’s population, are living in conditions of acute hunger, defined in terms of identifiable nutritional disease. This hunger is at the same time the effect and the cause of the poverty, squalor and misery in which they live.’

Its consequences are likewise understood. The correspondent of The Wall Street Journal previously quoted, underlines them:

‘… many diplomats and economists view the implications as overwhelmingly — and dangerously — political. Unless the present decline can be reversed, these analysts fear, the United States and other wealthy industrial powers of the West face the distinct possibility, in the words of British economist Barbara Ward, “of a sort of international class war”.’

What is lacking are any positive proposals for dealing with the situation. All that The Wall Street Journal’s correspondent can do is to point out that the traditional methods recommended for curing the evils are only likely to make the situation worse.

It has been argued that the developed nations should effectively assist the poorer parts of the world, and that the whole world should be turned into a Welfare State. However, there seems little prospect that anything of this sort could be achieved. The so-called ‘aid’ programmes to help backward economies represent, according to a rough U.N. estimate, only one half of one per cent of the total income of industrial countries. But when it comes to the prospect of increasing such aid the mood is one of pessimism:

‘A large school of thought holds that expanded share-the-wealth schemes are idealistic and impractical. This school contends climate, undeveloped human skills, lack of natural resources and other factors — not just lack of money — retard economic progress in many of these lands, and that the countries lack personnel with the training or will to use vastly expanded aid effectively. Share-the-wealth schemes, according to this view, would be like pouring money down a bottomless well, weakening the donor nations without effectively curing the ills of the recipients.’

The absurdity of this argument is demonstrated by the fact that every one of the reasons quoted to prove why the less developed parts of the world cannot be developed applied equally strongly to the present developed countries in the period prior to their development. The argument is only true in this sense. The less developed world will not become developed through the goodwill or generosity of the developed powers. It can only become developed through a struggle against the external forces which have a vested interest in keeping it undeveloped.

Of these forces, neo-colonialism is, at this stage of history, the principal.

I propose to analyse neo-colonialism, first, by examining the state of the African continent and showing how neo-colonialism at the moment keeps it artificially poor. Next, I propose to show how in practice African Unity, which in itself can only be established by the defeat of neo-colonialism, could immensely raise African living standards. From this beginning, I propose to examine neo-colonialism generally, first historically and then by a consideration of the great international monopolies whose continued stranglehold on the neo-colonial sectors of the world ensures the continuation of the system.

The progressive plantation by Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

I first started writing about internal or institutional racism in radical social change movement circles when I wrote the second edition of my book, “Anarchism and the Black Revolution” in 1994. That book reflected my frustrations in dealing with an almost all-white Anarchist social movement that l have been identified with for over 40 years now. I have never accepted this internal racism as the way it has to be, and have always been a critic and thorn in the side of the Anarchist movement. Yet, they have never attempted to bring Peoples of Color into full participation or give them an equal voice in the movement, nor raise the issues affecting them and their peoples, which is drastically different from the white middle class agenda, or of white radicals generally. Since racism has to be overthrown, instead of voluntarily changed by the white leadership, there is no chance to reform these movements in most instances. They are corrupt, as well as racist, but they are stronger than other groups because they have corporate grant money at their disposal.

Even so, it is important for anti-racist/anti-colonial activists to continue trying to dismantle racism inside these movements or organizations, and failing that, to dismantle the groups themselves entirely. If allowed to continue, they do more harm than good. Activists must recognize the damage of internal racism, the politics which support it, and how to deal with it, and then act swiftly and forcefully, sometimes even ruthlessly.

The truth is that most anti-racist white radicals cannot bring themselves to bring the needed cold—blooded efficiency and commitment to the task. They are lured away from their task by friendships with other white people in the group, their fear of being excluded or shunned, lack of commitment to the struggle, lack of consistent support of peoples of color, and compromising or selling out to their own deep-seated racism and political opportunism. Somewhere in the back of their minds are self-doubts: “things can’t be this bad [!]”, “we do try to help some people”, “these are good people I know here, who could not possibly be racist”, or “they just need a little sensitivity training”. I have devoted a chapter to that last thought about “anti-racist sensitivity and consciousness raising”, which I consider a total fraud that never challenges white racism inside these organizations or in society at large.

I cannot honestly say that white radicals will make changes in their organizations or themselves, but I can say that if they do not, peoples of color will soon rise up in a mass rebellion or revolution against the oppressive conditions they live under, and overthrow not only the capitalist state, but all of their collaborators, including the white-led nonprofit organizations and radical reform movements that receive corporate money and uphold the entire system of white wealth.

I give white radicals the tools to work with, a theoretical framework, and some analysis of racial oppression. I cannot, however, make them take the steps to actually use in dismantling racism inside radical movements. I just tell them that their lip service and feeble attempts to this point are unacceptable, and one day it will all be taken out of their hands. So they had better act now, or they will find themselves on the wrong side, when these decisive battles take place.

Anarchism is probably the largest white radical tendency on the Left today, owing to its ties to punk rock music, and other white youth cultural trends, so it serves as a perfect example of internal racism in the radical social change movements generally, but I point out that this variations of this same kind of racism happens inside all white Left tendencies. As I have stated, I have been a member of the Anarchist movement for over 40 years, but even so, there are some doctrinaire groups on the Anarchist scene, who actually refuse to accept myself and other Anarchists of color as being “legitimate.” It is as if there is an Anarchist “membership card” and since we can’t produce such a “card,” we should be barred at the door to the “club.” There are apparently Anarchist groups still doing this type of racial exclusion, demanding prospective members denounce Black, Chicano or Asian nationalism to such an extent that they meet the group ideological litmus test. Now, it’s important to point out they don’t demand incoming women members denounce feminism or gay members denounce the Queer Liberation Movement, nor whites to even denounce racism, but they want to lay that burden on people of color sympathetic to Anarchism. It is as though they feel we are untrustworthy or politically unclean. Why else?

These people want to demand ideological conformity, to make those incoming people of color toe the line. I believe they are threatened by the idea of possibly large numbers of people of color joining the Anarchist movement and especially by the idea they might create autonomous tendencies that would challenge white hegemony of the overall movement. Predictably, there will those among them who will rise up in mock alarm at the very notion… “how dare you say this?” “See there, he’s making trouble again!” But I have seen it happen numerous times over the years and am frankly sick of it. There is no use pretending there is no racism in the Anarchist scene, or trying to discredit me for raising the issue. I have both seen and experienced it myself.

Fortunately, this white reaction is not the totality of the issue. It is not all about backward elements among the Anarchists and their feeble attempts to control People of Color by barring the door with a political literacy test or even barring our right to speak at meetings. People of color will be a part of the Anarchist movement and are in the process of building their own tendency. I do want to state my criticisms though, in this version of the book.

I have been accused of “worker-ism” in some of my writing and this has been projected as “old school”. Well, most folks still do work for a living, in contrast to the bohemian Anarchists, although I acknowledge structural unemployment that has made millions of persons as a surplus labor force. However, this does not mean they do not belong to a working class. Further, even if it is weak numerically and its leadership is corrupt, most folks consider it a good thing to join a union, especially at a bad worksite. I realize that the nature of the poor and working people have changed and capitalism has gone on to new modes of production, some call this a “capitalist transformation.” from industrialism to high-tech and I agree, but this has not obliterated class difference or done away with work itself. Class contradictions between rich and poor, order-givers and order-takers, workers and bosses remain. So, I continue to talk about a labor movement, workers and poor people in the present tense. They are real people, not figments of my imagination.

Clearly, there will not be any future labor or community victories that do not include Black and other non-white workers as a strategic force. Yet, the white Left, including regrettably some groups of Anarcho-Syndicalists and “Platformists,” still think that the white industrial workers are the vanguard for the revolution and that workers of color should just wait on them to move from their privileged positions. Now this is not just a matter of semantics, I have actually had them very distinctly tell me this. Yet, it is clear to me that they do not really understand how capitalism and white supremacy operate in America.

Their theories were made for a time when white male workers dominated industry and the work force. The face of the American working class has changed however. For one thing there are more women working, along with more racial minorities and foreign-born workers than ever before. These workers of color are all subjected to oppression and exploitation on the dual grounds of race and class and thus have to fight the extra battles against racism and discrimination. They are in labor unions, but also constitute the largest number of unemployed, homeless and underemployed and they are the largest number of unorganized workers.

I remember some years ago having a critical discussion with some white South African Anarchists, who put forth a political line of white radical domination of the social change movement and the question crossed my mind whether these people had even taken part in the anti-apartheid struggle there, or just appeared as a tendency after the struggle was over. Clearly they were part of the white settler class, at least ideologically. Now they project themselves as revolutionary “leaders” and lecturers after Black people there have shed blood to overturn a system of racial oppression which benefited a large segment of the white population.

This is similar to the situation in the United States; where on the scale of things, white radicals and progressives played a miniscule role in the Black civil rights movement. Yet these white radical groups have revised history as though they had been a part of everything, were in fact leaders and can now lecture everyone on their political failings.

There is something very wrong here. These white middle-class so-called “radicals,” who have never suffered, been oppressed, or been forced to risk life and limb, need to learn to listen to those who have. They need to recognize that they do not have all the answers and it is only because of their white skin privilege that they can even articulate the political dimensions of these social problems. They have analysis with paralysis.

This structure of concentrated poverty and poverty in communities of color is clearly racism, but the white radicals are mostly silent or missing in action of the campaigns against it. We must demand that they stand up and join with the peoples of color. We say that this class collaborationism with the state and the boss class must be overcome before a successful campaign against capitalism can be made a reality. Accordingly, we must end the system of white skin privilege on the job and in society. We cannot leave it to another day, or see it as a minor thing to be addressed later. History has shown “later” never comes.

The white radicals claim it’s all about a mere division of Black and POC away from them, as if working with white people is the linchpin of ending racism. Yes, the bosses use this racial division to split the working class and maintain control of the workforce, not just between Black and white, but between women and men, foreign born and citizens and so on. But white workers, especially those in the Western world, generally accept this employment/ societal racism and must resist the attempt to use one section of the working class to help them advance, while holding back the gains of another segment based or race or nationality.

This is how the capitalists subject workers of color to super-exploitation; they work under the worst conditions for unequal pay. This kind of class opportunism and capitulationism on the part of white labor has historically prevented development of a united movement — not the demands of workers of color, as many white radicals like to claim. White racism must be directly confronted. There can be no defeat of the capitalist system until the system of super-exploitation and world white supremacy is brought to an end.

Of course, I still believe that the unity of Black/POC and white workers is indispensable to combat and overthrow the system of Capitalism. But where white workers are now privileged and Black workers are penalized in this society, Black and Latino unity and struggle must precede and prepare the ground for any possible unity with white workers on a broad scale. Further, a movement has to be built to fight racism and capitalism now and not be afraid to challenge racism in the working class communities themselves. Not some romantic white-led movement that refuses to deal with these issues.

Many white radicals just foolishly think that Black people are eager to work with whites, even after years of sellouts and racism. Well, some of us believe that these white activists must atone for their misdeeds in such past coalitions and prove that they are a reliable force that won’t sell out when white workers’ interests are threatened. History does not record many instances of white workers fighting to preserve the civil rights or the jobs of workers of color; I don’t know of many strikes by white dominated unions to stop the racist policy of “last hired and first fired.”

Even though “white racism hurts all workers” as they always cry in their placards, the fact is that most white workers believe that they currently have a better deal fighting for “white rights” and their higher quality of life, than they do united with workers of color. So any movement or broad social change, whether labor union, community group, or whatever else, has to be ultimately a movement against racism and internal colonialism, not just blind calls for “class unity”. Unity and autonomy have to be the watchwords.

The very means of class control by the rich is the least understood. White supremacy is more than just a set of ideas or prejudices. It is national oppression. Yet to most white people, the term conjures up images of the Nazis or Ku Klux Klan rather than the system of white skin privileges that really undergird the Capitalist system in the U.S. Most white people, Anarchists and other radicals included, believe, in essence, Black people are “the same” as whites and we should just fight around “common issues” rather than deal with “racial matters,” if they see any urgency in dealing with the matter at all.

Some will not raise it in such a blunt fashion. They will say that “class issues should take precedence,” but it means the same thing. They believe it’s possible to put off the struggle against white supremacy until after the revolution, when in fact there will be no revolution if white supremacy is not attacked and defeated first. They won’t win a revolution in the U.S. until they fight to improve the lot of Blacks and oppressed people who are being deprived of their democratic rights, as well as being super-exploited as workers, and enslaved as a people.

Almost from the very inception of the North American socialist movement, the simple-minded economist position that all Black and white workers have to do to wage a revolution is to engage in a “common (economic) struggle” has been used to avoid struggle against white supremacy. In fact, the white left has always taken the chauvinist position that since the white working class is the revolutionary vanguard anyway, why worry about an issue that will “divide the class”? Historically Anarchists have not even brought up the matter of “race politics,” as one Anarchist referred to it the first time this pamphlet was published. This is a total evasion of the issue.

The Capitalist bourgeoisie creates inequality as a way to divide and rule over the entire working class. White skin privilege is a form of domination by Capital over white labor as well as oppressed nationality labor, not just providing material incentives to “buy off” white workers and set them against Black and other oppressed workers. This explains the obedience of white labor to Capitalism and the State.

The white working class does not see their better off condition as part of the system of exploitation. After centuries of political and social indoctrination, they feel their privileged position is both just and proper and what is more, has been “earned.” They feel threatened by the social gains of non-white workers, which is why they so vehemently opposed affirmative action plans to benefit minorities in jobs and hiring and to redress years of discrimination against them in employment settings. It is also why white workers have opposed most civil rights legislation for democratic rights.

Yet, it is the day-to-day workings of white supremacy that we must fight most vigorously. We cannot remain ignorant or indifferent to the workings of race and class under this system, so that oppressed workers remain victimized. For years, Black people have been “last hired, first fired” by Capitalist industry. Further, seniority systems have engaged in open racial discrimination, and are little more than white job trusts. Blacks have even been driven out of whole industries, such as coal mining. White labor bosses have never objected or intervened for their class brothers, nor will they if not pressed up against the wall by white workers themselves.

As pointed out, there are material incentives to this white worker opportunism: better jobs, higher pay, improved living conditions in white communities, etc., in short what has come to be known as the “white middle class lifestyle.” This is what labor and the left have always fought to maintain, not class solidarity, which would require a struggle against white supremacy. This lifestyle is based on the super-exploitation of the non-white sector of the domestic working class as well as countries exploited by imperialism around the world.

In America, class antagonism had always included racial hatred as an essential component, but it is structural rather than just ideological. The culture and the socioeconomic system of U.S. Capitalism are based on white supremacy; how then is it possible to truly fight the rule of Capital without being forced to defeat white supremacy?

The dual-tier economy of whites on top and Blacks on the bottom (even with all the class differences among whites) has successfully resisted every attempt by radical social movements. These reluctant reformers have danced around the issue however. While winning reforms, in many cases primarily for white workers only, these white radicals have yet to topple the system and open the road to social revolution. They won’t do it now.

The fight against white skin privilege also requires the rejection of the vicious identification of North Americans as “white” people, rather than as Welsh, German, Irish, etc. as their national origin. This “white race” designation is a contrived super-nationality designed to inflate the social importance of European ethnics and to enlist them as tools in the Capitalist system of exploitation. In North America, white skin has always implied freedom and privilege: freedom to gain employment, to travel, to obtain social mobility out of one’s born class standing and a whole world of Eurocentric privileges. Therefore, before a social revolution can take place, there must be an abolition of the social category of the “white race.” (with few exceptions in this essay, I will begin referring to them as “North Americans”)

These “white” people must engage in class suicide and race treachery before they can truly be accepted as allies of Black and nationally oppressed workers; the whole idea behind a “white race” is conformity and making them accomplices to mass murder and exploitation. If white people do not want to be saddled with the historical legacy of colonialism, slavery and genocide themselves, then they must rebel against it. So the “whites” must denounce the white identity and its system of privilege and they must struggle to redefine themselves and their relationship with others. As long as white society, (through the State which says it is acting in the name of white people), continues to oppress and dominate all the institutions of the Black community, racial tension will continue to exist and whites generally will continue to be seen as the enemy.

So what do North Americans start to do to defeat racial opportunism, white skin privileges and other forms of white supremacy? First they must break down the walls separating them from their non-white allies. Then together they must wage a fight against inequality in the workplace, communities and in the social order. Yet it is not just the democratic rights of African people we are referring to when we are talking about “national oppression.” If that were the whole issue, then maybe more reforms could obtain racial and social equality in this society. But no, that is not what we are talking about.

Blacks (or Africans in America) are colonized. America is a mother country with an internal colony, made up of Black people how have been enslaved and oppressed for centuries. For Africans in America, our situation is one of total oppression. No people are truly free until they can determine their own destiny. Ours is a captive, oppressed colonial status that must be overthrown, not just smashing ideological racism or denial of civil rights. In fact, without smashing the internal colony first means the likelihood of a continuance of this oppression in another form. We must destroy the social dynamic of a very real existence of America being made up of an oppressor white nation and an oppressed Black nation, (in fact there are several captive nations).

This requires the Black Liberation movement to liberate themselves from a colonial existence, based on capitalism and this is why it is not just a simple matter of Blacks just joining with white Anarchists to fight the same type of battle against the State. That is also why Anarchists cannot take a rigid position against all forms of Black Nationalism (especially revolutionary groups like the original Black Panther Party, which was both radical and Socialist) even if there are ideological differences about the way some of them are formed and operate.

I am not asking white people to join with certain backward nationalists who think that whites are inherently evil or do not want their support, but North Americans must support the objectives of racially oppressed liberation movements and they must directly challenge and reject white skin privilege in the broader society. There is no other way, and there is no shortcut to support for resistance against racism; white supremacy is a huge obstacle to revolutionary social change in North America.

The Black revolution and other national liberation movements in North America are indispensable parts of the overall social revolution. North American workers must join with Africans, Latinos and others to reject racial injustice, Capitalist exploitation and national oppression. North American workers certainly have an important role in helping those struggles to triumph. Material aid alone, which can be assembled by white workers for the Black revolution, could dictate the victory or defeat of that struggle at a particular stage.

I am taking time to explain all this, because predictably some Anarchist purists or white progressives will try to argue me down that having a white movement is a good thing, “why we’re active among white youth”, “we’re fighting Wall Street capitalists”, or so on. Further they feel Blacks and other oppressed nationalities just need to follow them and this argument is just “Marxist national liberation nonsense.”

Well, we know part of the reason for my calling for an anti-racist movement inside the Left itself is to challenge this chauvinist perspective right in the middle of our own movement. An Anti-Racist Liberation Support Movement would not exist just to fight Nazis. It would directly support the movements of color with material aid, and support the needs the movements of color to challenge and correct racist and doctrinaire positions on race and class within the Anarchist and Left radical movements. The fact is if white radicals cannot do that, then they cannot help to organize any wing of the working class, Black, POC, or white, and are of no use to anyone. In fact, most white radical movements are enemies of the poor, peoples of color, and working peoples.

This is what must be recognized right now, when Occupy Wall Street and its solidarity movements have surfaced, making just these “white rights” arguments and more, and are choking on the worst politics and internal racist dynamics. I will talk more about this later.

For years now, it has been made apparent to me that the idea of white people creating and leading anti-racist movements of other whites is total nonsense. I have had to learn this through bitter experience from dealings with groups like the Anti-Racist Action (ARA), Love and Rage, and others in the Left that white people have no real clue how to fight racism and, if they do, they certainly are refusing to demonstrate it in any real fashion.

The apparent strategies of these groups is to chase after neo—Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, the Church of the Creator and others to upstage them and disrupt their racist events. Although, I fully understand that we must confront fascist paramilitary movements, this alone is a flawed strategy however and no more eliminates racism than dancing in the streets, but it makes white people feel they are accomplishing something and it certainly helps with recruitment. But as a person of color, I do not feel this movement in any way ensures my safety from violence by right-wing paramilitaries or the police, the latter of which kill upwards of 1,000 people each year. Yes, I acknowledge the Klan is dangerous, but this is not the 1920s when they had millions of members.

The truth is these white radical groups deal with racism from a totally white perspective. They generally have no ties or accountability to the Black/POC communities and do not work with activists of color except in a strictly token and manipulative fashion. This leads to serious isolation from the communities of color and dangerously backward ideals about racism, which they feel are academic anyway.

Some years ago, I attended an ARA convention in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is the home of Oho State University and at least a third of the city’s population is Black, but there were hardly any other Black people in attendance, except one guy who called himself a “Black skinhead,” a middle aged Black woman and a few other people of color, maybe 20 in all. It was clear to me that there had been no attempt to bring in folks from the Black communities in Columbus and other Ohio communities with substantial Black populations like Cleveland or Cincinnati. They did not even attempt to bring Black students off the OSU university campus.

Thus, you had this weird spectacle of hundreds of white people in a huge auditorium arguing and giving sanctimonious speeches about racism, from which most Blacks/POC were excluded. In attendance was every “alphabet soup” leftist sect you can (or can’t) think of: SWP, ISO, IWW, SL, SLP, Love and Rage and so on, under the banner of Anti-Racist Action.

At some point during the Plenary Session, to which I was hurriedly added, while an older Black woman was speaking about her experiences with racism, a white radical jumped out of the crowd, rushed up to one of the microphones and blurted out: “you shut up, we know what racism is!” This crystallized for me in instant what is wrong with such white-led “anti-racist” groups and with mother country radicals generally. They have arrogantly convinced themselves because of academic study and reflection that they know what racism is, even better than the people who experience it daily. How they know that and what it is they claim to know is really an open question.

Racism is a lived experience by peoples of color, not something easily given to textbook study. To be an outcast, an object of derision and violence merely because of pigment, race, or custom is not something that most white people can grasp. White radicals may claim to understand it intellectually, but it is not the same. Yet to me the very idea that white people profess to know more about racism than peoples of color themselves is a really a peculiar type of arrogance. It is why white radicals are so disliked and distrusted in the Black community. Many times, they disrespect you, all while claiming to be allied with you or opposed to racial chauvinism. That is unacceptable.

It is interesting that almost none of the white people in attendance in the conference contradicted the disrupters or defended the Black woman’s right to speak. I can only remember myself and the other people of color shouting them down, along with one white guy, Michael Novick, who was on stage with us. We afterwards became friends, but I recall coming away with a very bitter feeling overall. The next day, I pulled all the people of color together to issue a statement denouncing the incident, and calling for them to do the same. Because they were caught off-guard, the leaders of the conference agreed with our criticisms at the meeting, but then some weeks later they barred me from all subsequent ARA meetings for my “racial disruption.” For years, I was an outcast. In fact, it has just been recently, since the old Columbus leadership has been discredited, that any ARA people would even speak to me, and then only the folks in Los Angeles, where Michael Novick is situated. I consider Novick one of the few anti-racist whites who “gets it”, and whom I genuinely respect. While not everyone agrees with me now in ARA, at least because of Novick, they might listen and would not demonize me in his presence. Maybe we can even build a new movement in different principles and including peoples of color, instead of white radicals in command. Certainly, the L.A. ARA chapter is doing this already, with its alliance with the Black Riders Liberation Party, and other POC radicals.

For those of you reading this, please do not take these criticisms to mean that I think everyone in groups like ARA are enemies, or as “bad as the Klan,” as some of my past critics in the group claimed. Someone even tried to claim that I just did not “like” white people, which is so absurd that it does not require a response. I do not at all believe that; never have believed it for that matter. But because of such experiences that I have observed or been victimized by, I now think it is useless to believe that white-led antiracist organizations can build a mass movement of just white peoples to end racism, or even for radical social change for that matter. The whole movement must change.

If it is not accountable to peoples of color, such a anti-racist movement is a detriment. These arrogant white-led movements I have been speaking of serve as proof positive that if the victims of racism are not at the front ranks of these anti-racist movements, it will merely serve white interests and not be an ally of the Black and other oppressed peoples. Now that is as clear as I can make it.

The most effective anti-racist movement this country has ever seen, the Southern civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, was led by activists from the Black community and the fact that it had deep ties to poor and working class Black peoples in the community, (in spite of its middle class leadership) allowed it to really conduct campaigns that altered the socio-economic and political face of the country and win major gains for Blacks and poor people.

It is little known by most, but true, that the Black working class community was in fact the backbone of the movement, even though the mass media has always concentrated on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the major figure in that movement. It was a movement of oppressed victims of racism, not white liberal or radicals who played a minor role.

This is contrary to today’s movement, made up of primarily white middle class activists. Because of this situation, we can say this ensures today’s anti-racist movement can only speak for white middle class people, not victims of racism, poverty, or police brutality. I feel there is definite lesson here for anyone who wants to see it. The question must be asked: is this an anti-racist movement at all, but in fact an example of a white rights movement?

Although I am clear white people cannot lead an anti-racist movement, without being accountable to peoples of color; I also feel they must confront their own racism and that of white people generally within the movement for social change, through internal seminars, study groups and other forms of political education, but mainly through serious struggle internally. This should take place in every progressive and radical organization, but especially within Anarchist and anti-racist organizations, which have serious problems with diversity and racial exclusion. The questions of whiteness, white supremacy and white privilege must be ruthlessly dealt with among white people themselves and then they must be made accountable to peoples of color, instead of posturing as “anti- racists above racism” themselves.

The truth is that I have not known many white political activists willing to deal with internal racism inside their movements, instead they prefer to posture as being without any racist ideology and practice and then allege themselves to be a serious force to organize against external racist right-wing movements. This is a gross error, which they must resolve before they really constitute a force against racism. But looking within is a hard, serious task most white male-dominated radical groups avoid like the plague, preferring to feel in their arrogance and superiority that they have the answers to all of society’s problems and that everyone else should just listen and follow them blindly. This is dishonest and opportunist.

It is important to recognize that no movement like this can be successful and truly liberating to all. But we must be honest and admit that such a movement is in line with the prevailing beliefs of this country that feels it can free white people, while leaving people of color in slavery. The first American Revolution was based on that belief, so it should be no surprise that many white radicals also believe that the coming revolution will be based on their white privileged concepts of revolutionary change.

They see themselves at the center of things and nothing can happen unless they lead it, but they refuse to challenge their own racism and privilege. Can white people be reeducated? Yes, but they must be willing to change and follow the leadership of folks who have suffered historically from racism and internal colonialism. The fact is what routinely happens to peoples of color, the murders, beatings by police, mass unemployment, community wide poverty, mass imprisonment, and record infant mortality, and so many other effects of structural racism and internal colonialism, rarely happen to white people, and that is why when it does to any degree, it is called fascism. Yet, since the 1960’s, white radicals have focused on right-wing paramilitary movements, rather the rise of the corporate state, the mass imprisonment of peoples of color, and paramilitary policing in communities of color.

The Wage system; Chapter 3 of Alexander Berkman’s “Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism”

Did you ever stop to ask yourself this question: why were you born from your parents and not from some others?

You understand, of course, what I am driving at. I mean that your consent was not asked. You were simply born; you did not have a chance to select the place of your birth or to choose your parents. It was just chance.

So it happened that you were not born rich. Maybe your people are of the middle class; more likely, though, they belong to the workers, and so you are one of those millions, the masses, who have to work for a living.

The man who has money can put it into some business or industry. He invests it and lives on the profits. But you have no money. You have only your ability to work, your labor power.

There was a time when every workingman worked for himself. There were no factories then and no big industries. The laborer had his own tools and his own little workshop, and he even bought himself the raw materials he needed. He worked for himself, and he was called an artisan or craftsman.

Then came the factory and the large workshop. Little by little they crowded out the independent workman, the artisan, because he could not make things as cheaply as the factory — he could not compete with the big manufacturer. So the artisan had to give up his little workshop and go to the factory to work.

In the factories and large plants things are produced on a big scale. Such big-scale production is called industrialism. It has made the employers and manufacturers very rich, so that the lords of industry and commerce have accumulated much money, much capital. Therefore that system is called capitalism. We all live to-day in the capitalist system.

In the capitalist system the workingman cannot work for himself, as in the old days. He cannot compete with the big manufacturers. So, if you are a workman, you must find an employer. You work for him; that is, you give him your labor for so and so many hours a day or week, and he pays you for it. You sell him your labor power and he pays you wages.

In the capitalist system the whole working class sells its labor power to the employing class. The workers build factories, make machinery and tools, and produce goods. The employers keep the factories, the machinery, tools and goods for themselves as their profit. The workers get only wages.

This arrangement is called the wage system.

Learned men have figured out that the worker receives as his wage only about one-tenthof what he produces. The other nine-tenths are divided among the landlord, the manufacturer, the railroad company, the wholesaler, the jobber, and other middlemen.

It means this:

Though the workers, as a class, have built the factories, a slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the privilege of using those factories.That’s the landlord’s profit.

Though the workers have made the tools and the machinery, another slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the privilege of using those tools and machinery. That’s the manufacturer’s profit.

Though the workers built the railroads and are running them, another slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the transportation of the goods they make. That’s the railroad’s profit.

And so on, including the banker who lends the manufacturer other people’s money, the wholesaler, the jobber, and other middlemen, all of whom get their slice of the worker’s toil.

What is left then — one-tenth of the real worth of the worker’s labor-is his share, his wage.

Can you guess now why the wise Proudhon said that the possessions of the rich are stolen property? Stolen from the producer, the worker.

It seems strange, doesn’t it, that such a thing should be permitted?

Yes, indeed, it is very strange; and the strangest thing of all is that the whole world looks on and doesn’t do a thing about it. Worse yet, the workers themselves don’t do anything about it. Why, most of them think that everything is all right, and that the capitalist system is good.

It is because the workers don’t see what is happening to them. They don’t understand that they are being robbed. The rest of the world also understands very little about it, and when some honest man tries to tell them, they shout ‘anarchist!’ at him, and they shut him up or put him in prison.

Of course, the capitalists are very much satisfied with the capitalist system. Why shouldn’t they be? They get rich by it. So you can’t expect them to say it’s no good.

The middle classes are the helpers of the capitalists and they also live off the labor of the working class, so why should they object? Of course, here and there you will find some man or woman of the middle class stand up and speak the truth about the whole matter. But such persons are quickly silenced and cried down as “enemies of the people”, as crazy disturbers and anarchists.

But you would think that the workers should be the first to object to the capitalist system, for it is they who are robbed and who suffer most from it.

Yes, so it should be. But it isn’t so, which is very sad.

The workers know that the shoe pinches somewhere. They know that they toil hard all their lives and that they get just enough to exist on, and sometimes not even enough. They see that their employers can ride about in fine automobiles and live in the greatest luxury, with their wives decked out in expensive clothes and diamonds, while the worker’s wife can hardly afford a new calico dress. So the workers seek to improve their condition by trying to get better wages. It is the same as if I woke up at night in my house and found that a burglar had collected all my things and is about to get away with them. Suppose that instead of stopping him, I should say to him: ‘Please, Mr. Burglar, leave me at least one suit of clothes so I can have something to put on’, and then thank him if he gives me back a tenth part of the things he has stolen from me.

But I am getting ahead of my story. We shall return to the worker and see how he tries to improve his condition and how little he succeeds. Just now I want to tell you why the worker does not take the burglar by the neck and kick him out; that is, why he begs the capitalist for a little more bread or wages, and why he does not throw him off his back, altogether.

It is because the worker, like the rest of the world, has been made to believe that everything is all right and must remain as it is; and that if a few things are not quite as they should be, then it is because ‘people are bad’, and everything will right itself in the end, anyhow.

Just see if that is not true of yourself. At home, when you were a child, and when you asked so many questions, you were told that ‘it is right so,’ that ‘it must be so,’ that ‘God made it so,’ and that everything was all right.

And you believed your father and mother, as they had believed their fathers and mothers, and that is why you now think just as your grandfather did.

Later, in school, you were told the same things. You were taught that God had made the world and that all is well; that there must be rich and poor, and that you should respect the rich and be content with your lot. You were told that your country stands for justice, and that you must obey the law. The teacher, the priest, and the preacher all impressed it upon you that your life is ordained by God and that ‘His will be done.’ And when you saw a poor man dragged off to prison, they told you that he was bad because he had stolen something, and that it was a great crime.

But neither at home, nor in school, nor anywhere else were you ever told that it is a crime for the rich man to steal the product of the worker’s labor, or that the capitalists are rich because they have possessed themselves of the wealth which labor created.

No, you were never told that, nor did any one else ever hear it in school or church. How can you then expect the workers to know it?

On the contrary, your mind — when you were a child and later on, too — has been stuffed so full of false ideas that when you hear the plain truth you wonder if it is really possible.

Perhaps you can see now why the workers do not understand that the wealth they have created has been stolen from them and is being stolen every day.

‘But the law,’ you ask, ‘the government — does it permit such robbery? Is not theft forbidden by law?’

Time for action

Its time for the people to start rising up and breaking their chains. We must start taking direct action against the threats that face us. From the climate disasters that we face, inequality of economic and political power, to a disillusioned youth and the rebirth of fascism. There are many more threats, and these threats are here. They have been building up and it’s only a few drops away until they spill over. 

We know reform will never do anything. Tale a look at the civil rights movement. Whites may think otherwise but black people know that very little has changed. Blackness is still criminalised and considered inhuman, most of our family line has been in poverty ever since the passing of the thirteenth amendment, and even still it allowed slavery in prisons. 

A lot of blacks have been virtually inslaved dued to laws that target petty drug offense from a drug that does almost no harm to you. Also from another drug that has been distributed throughout black neighborhoods by the US from cartels that were pro US rebels against Soviet satellites. Our history is white washed and this white washed history is fed to our children every day we put them in school.

We have more than an excuse to uprise and rebel. We have more than the needed argument for action against the systematic violence that the state throws at us. We all know that nothing will happen as long as we sit down and remain complacent to the status quo. It doesn’t matter who we vote into office. We all know nothing will change.