What is Ontological Oppression by Merricat 

Ontology is the study of the nature of being, becoming, and existence.
How do you see in the mirror? What do you see? Who do you see? Why?

When you were born, you had no self-awareness. You had to experiment— feel, touch, smell, learn, and most importantly, live pain and pleasure.
Eventually you came to know the ecology of your senses, as your self; your fingers, your body odor, your voice, or lack thereof. Your identity is born.
And once you begin to utilize and recognize these tools of living, you recognize those same traits in others.

Others.

The contrast is made immediately. There was never an escape, and there was never a pretense. This contrast extrapolates into every situation you experience with Others (and other Things) until your death, even with a weak sense of self.

Whether you exist or not was never a question, and may never become one for many, even through decades of experimentation.
Nevertheless, Others have often already decided for you:

“Are a boy, or a girl?”
“Are you a human?”

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Spanish Renaissancehumanist, philosopher, theologian, and proponent of colonial slavery.

Many individuals have decided that Others are less than human: from ancient Grecian speciations of Georgian peoples by Hippocrates, to Amerika’s withholding of humanist ethics from African peoples by founder Thomas Jefferson, to Nazi Germany’s mimicry of Amerikan pogroms— this time aimed at both Blacks, Jews, and Afrikan Jews.

Whenever this individual has enough social clout by ancient standards, those views were adopted and enforced by the populous. In effect, they embody a passive form of the pogrom, ready to marginalize, exile, or kill.

The recurring theme from an international perspective is a hierarchy created in which Europeans were viewed as most human, or to be exempt from slavery upon some pseudoscientific natural right. These Europeans, who would continue to develop these theories into the ideology of white supremacy, would eventually refer to themselves as collectively white. This hierarchy, not materially different from its predecessor as much as it is rhetorical, would be reproduced throughout the world as Europeans raced to colonize every non-European society they could. In time, colorism becomes a function of colonies as an ideological characteristic of European imperialism, not so different from Confuscian ideological tenets being forcefully injected into Vietnam by the Han Chinese. In turn, global anti-blackness becomes the impetus of all ontological hierarchy.

But who were Africans by the time Europeans had sunk their fingers in the World?

Chattel. Property. Colonized.

More like apes than human. More like a fixed capital, than human. In summary, non-human.

The effects of European ideology “white supremacy” and their invasive imperialism became apparent in all aspects of life, from sugar cane fields in Waitikubuli (Dominica) to Eastern perspective on Africa.

This was all enforced without consent of any of the mothers, fathers, agendered adults and children, grandparents, who would permanently lose their cultures and connections to home, and in the future, the idea of what a home could mean in a society you are allowed to know.

The aforementioned process of losing one’s humanity is known as social death, a horrendous process that has permanently affected Black peoples more than any population of people on Earth; at the precise moment Africans began being dragged through the Middle Passage, or even earlier during the Arab slave trade (≈500 AD) as subhumans across continents, to India and to China, they were never allowed to return to their ethnicities, or to be Africans. They became Blacks. They became a subhuman Other, or subaltern. This is the unique case of Blackness, one that has never been addressed by any of the participants of chattel slavery— including the Church.

In the process, of becoming chattel and Blacks, Africans were stripped of their families, permanently separated from people who they could continue speaking to using their tribe’s language, or relate to spiritually. This continued on, and on, and on, millions forced to adapt to their new surroundings, new families, only to lose them again. This happened for centuries upon centuries, ten fold.

Eventually, most had no choice but to be Black, to forget or abandon most if not all of their identities, and to adopt the identity imposed on them. No longer could they reject this identity, for there was no other to claim.

“The ontology of slavery is the [extent] of the Black.” — Frank B. Wilderson III

The pre-Columbian period, the late Middle Ages, reveals no archive of debate on the questions of what to do with the ontologocal effects of slavery, as they might be related to that massive group of black-skinned people south of the Sahara.

Elmina Castle; oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara; ne of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade

No one asked: Should they have social death forced on them, as opposed to physical death (i.e. executions)? Should this form of chattel slavery be imposed on the internal poor, en masse? Should the scale of White slavery become industrial? Should the children of the White slave be enslaved as well?

This chattel slavery became unique to Black people in that we were offered no conditionals whatsoever, and neither was any progeny of ours. Suddenly, children were born Black, and had to be told they were slaves by any slave who had a modicum of dignity. Even with dignity, slaves existed without knowing what slavery meant. Black became synonynous with slavery and social death, an existence soon recognized and exploited by white Humans and non-Blacks with greater Human proximity (eg even Seminoles natives exclaimed they would not be made Black) . It was a genetic and ontological remaking of an entire population of peoples resulting in conditions such as permanent placelessness and cultural appropriation — in which Afrikan indigenous cultures that are still maintained by the Afrikan diaspora can be accused of appropriation of non-Black culture by those who use ideas such as sovereignty to further Black ontological genocide. And of course, the effect these accusations have is always of greater, more “positive” response than any accusations of cultural appropriation by Black peoples, which is always questioned and critiqued and given a less authentic merit.

Chattel slavery did not only completely recreate the existence of Africans, itself. It also created a current definition of what it means to be Human.

At all walks life, working class or bourgeoisie, Black people continue to face this ontologocal erosion that allows them to be discriminated against regardless of how much money they claim, or land they “own”.

Author David Eltis asserts in his book (Europeans and the Rise and Fall of African Slavery) that European society’s decision to not capture slaves from Europe’s own territory was a “bad business idea.” Eltis writes:

“No Western European power after the Middle Ages crosses the basic divide separating European workers from chattel slavery. And while serfdom fell and rose in different parts of early modern Europe and shared characteristics with slavery, serfs were not outsiders either before or after enserfment. The phrase ‘long distance serf trade’ is an oxymoron.”

According to Eltis, population growth patterns in Europe during the 1300s, 1400s, and 1500s heavily outpaced growth patterns on the continent of Africa, demonstrating chattel slavery’s devastating effects on Africa’s growth patterns. In fact, Europe was heavily populated enough to easily provide 50,000 White slaves a year to the “New World” without serious disruption of either international peace or existing social institutions that supervised potential European victims, even stating that class warfare could have been been unlikely due to lower labor costs, a faster development of the Americas, and higher exports and income levels on both sides of the Atlantic. He explains in great detail how the costs of enslavement would have been driven way down if Europeans had taken White slaves to America instead of Black slaves from Africa, noting

“shipping costs… comprised by far the greater part of the price of any form of imported bonded labor in the Americas. I we take into account the time spent collecting a slave cargo on the African coast as well, then the case for sailing directly from Europe with a cargo of [Whites] appears stronger again.”

To Eltis, the decision to capture slaves from Africa was nothing more than symbolic. White chattel slavery would have destroyed the value of consent and social contract amongst those of the “white race” that were strictly reserved for the convict, beggar, indentured servant, or child. Even under heavy coercion during the Middle Ages and late modern period, “the power of the state over [convicts in the Old World] and the power of the master over [convicts of the New World] was more [defined] than that of the slave owner over the slave.” (Eltis) Karl Marx also takes note of the unnecessary political costs to civil society, had Europeans been willing to enslave Whites (Capital, 895–896), implying there must have been more to the decision.

However, according to afro-pessimist theorist Frank B. Wilderson III (Red, White, and Black) claims slavery is symbolic by refuting two misunderstandings:

He states that work, or alienation and exploitation, is not a constituent element of slavery, and that profits are not the most important motivations in slavery .

If slavery is “the permanent, violent domination of… alienated and generally dishonored persons,” (Orlando Patterson), then the basic characteristics of slavery “are accumulation and fungibility.” (Wilderson)

This is a much more accurate definition, as it still describes all the elements necessary to create a slave, regardless of race or ethnicity. But it also implies that Black people, at least in Amerika, are still slaves.

“The ontology of slavery is the [extent] of the Black.” — Frank B. Wilderson III

Ontological oppression is sad, and it is also materially oppressive.

Plantation Layout Slave Quarters

Even with the whips, the manual plantations, and Harriet Tubman out of the picture, there still exists a fungibility in Black existence that maintains an ontological hold over Blackness; Black people are still moved around and generally treated as fixed capital itself:

— through gentrification and natural disaster, not allowed to move back home until the individual or group of individuals has already forgotten that it is their home but lost.

— through constant cultural appropriating with little to no respect for Black consent, as if the culture is being produced for all to rape and distort until it is Black culture no more

— through mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex that capitalizes on low to no-wage labor of prisoners who, much of the time, are in jail for crimes that are no longer criminal (eg possession of marijuana)

—through underdevelopment which leads to widespread illness (mental and physical), famine, and the magnification of damage done by natural disasters that leas to further privatization of underdeveloped lands by its neocolonial predators

etcetera, because all these forms of exploitation are only possible in Amerika and Europe due to the chattel slavery of Afrikan Blacks. The same social death that inspired Amerika through all its stages of development and earlier would become the same to use against Jews in Nazi Germany, albeit without lasting ontological social death post World War II. We are left to our plantations and social death as a sort of anti-Human antimatter.

Wismin Wright carries her belongings out of her damaged home on September 23, 2017 Wesley Village, Dominica

Even now, as “post-racial”, or “post-human”, views of political society take hold over the minds of so called “people of color”, anti-blackness reproduces itself why ignoring the critiques of Black society left without an ontology that can be their own. No longer is it possible for us to go back to a Africa, for even there we are viewed as cultureless. And it ia humanly impossible to existwithout such an identity. And while cultures we produce are constantly raped and pillaged by non-Black people, in spite of our collective desire for that culture to not be warped into what is essentially a mess, we end up again as a chattel of culture or caricatures for what is essentially Amerikan imperialism, where eventually rappers can exist everywhere and suddenly everyone can say “nigga”. The word is no longer coded, because our ontology never existed — because our consent, as Blacks, never existed:

What are we other than Blacks?

What are Blacks, other than…

The Black has become a bleak reality, because it is now our ontology — the Black state of being. Like the blues, it will always carry with it the weight of ancestral trauma growing heavy in time under capitalism and the ideology of white supremacy that made mules of Blackness for all, but Blacks, to benefit from in any way they see fit in the future.

What this means is that anti-Blackness can now flourish proper within any economic system, Left or Right. Ontological oppression, then, is a tool used to create a sort of platform that all societies, except the utopian, can thrive on — a widely untouched hegemonyoutside of the Black community.

“Without this gratuitous violence, the so-called great emancipatory discourses of modernity— Marxism, feminism, postcolonialism, sexual liberation, and the ecology movement— political discourses [relying on modes/grammars of suffering], and their [theories] of exploitation and alienation, might not have developed.” — Frank B. Wilderson III

The implications of this truth only mean that the complete destruction of what the European Human deems “civilization”, ideologically and materially, is the only way to end an anti-Blackness that even the dichotomous Left versus Right is built on (by white people who benefitted frlm white supremacy and continue to today).

Until this hegemony is rendered obsolete and replaced with a true New Humanism or Humanism is done away with completely, it will continue to be so.

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What is anarchist communism part one (the contradictory meaning of communism)

There was a vision, called “communism,” which was held by Kropotkin and other anarchist-communists in the 19th and early 20th century. Marx and Engels shared essentially the same goal. In the stateless, classless, society of communism, the means of production would be held in common (by the community), work would be carried out due to social motives rather than for wages, and consumer goods would be available to all according to their needs.

But during the Cold War, “communism” came to mean something entirely different. Great nations were ruled by self-named Communist Parties. Their economies were managed by totalitarian states, their powerless workers produced commodities sold on the internal and international market, and they worked for wages (that is, they sold their labor power as commodities to their bosses).

In that era, “Communists” were mostly people who supported those types of state-capitalist tyrannies. They included pro-Moscow Communist Parties, Maoists, other Stalinists, and most Trotskyists. They called themselves “Communists,” and so did most of their opponents. On the other hand, “anti-Communists” were not simply those who opposed such regimes but those who supported Western imperialism — a group ranging from liberals to deranged fascists. At the same time, the pro-Moscow types denounced libertarian socialists as “anti-Communist” as well as “anti-Soviet.” Some people took to calling themselves “anti-anti-Communists,” as a way of saying that they did not endorse the Communists but were against the McCarthyite witchhunt.

Now we are in a new period. The Soviet Union has collapsed, with its ruling Communist Party. True, such states still exist, with modifications, in China, Cuba, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, they inspire many people. But overall, the number and weight of Communist Parties have diminished.. In contrast, there has been an upswing in the number of people who identify with anarchism, with its mainstream in the anarchist-communist tradition. Other people remain impressed by Marx, but look to libertarian and humanistic interpretations of his work. How then shall we use the term “communism” today? Is its meaning the same as in earlier periods? I will review the history of the term and of its meanings.

While calling themselves “socialists,” the founders of the anarchist movement, Proudhon and Bakunin, denounced “communism.” A typical statement by Proudhon is that communism is a “dictatorial, authoritarian, doctrinaire system [which] starts from the axiom that the individual is subordinate…to the collectivity; the citizen belongs to the State …” (quoted in Buber, 1958; pp. 30–31). Bakunin wrote, “I detest communism because it is the negation of liberty….I am not a communist because communism… necessarily ends with the concentration of property in the hands of the state” (quoted in Leier, 2006; p. 191). Proudhon called himself a “mutualist;” Bakunin, a “collectivist.”

If we think of a monastery, or of an army (where the soldiers are all given their food, clothing, and shelter), it is easy to see how “communism” (of a sort) can be imagined as inconsistent with democracy, freedom, and equality. In his early writings, Marx denounced the program of “crude communism” in which “the community is only a community of work and of equality of wages paid out by…the community as universal capitalist” (Marx, 1961; pp. 125–126). However, Marx and Engels did call themselves communists, a term they preferred to the vaguer “socialist,” although they used this also. (They especially disliked the term “social democratic,” used by the German Marxists.)

Marx’s concept of communism is most clearly explained in his “Critique of the Gotha Program.” Communism would be “the cooperative society based on common ownership of the means of production…” (Marx, 1974; p. 345). In “the first phase of communist society,” (p. 347) there will remain scarcity and the need for labor. “We are dealing here with a communist society…as it emerges from capitalist society…still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society…” (p. 346). In this lower phase of communism, Marx speculated, individuals would get certificates stating how much labor they had contributed (minus an amount taken for the common fund). Using their certificates, they can take means of consumption which used up the same amount of labor; this is not money because it cannot be accumulated. However, it is still a system of bourgeois rights and equality, in which equal units of labor are exchanged. Given that people have unequal abilities and unequal needs, this equality still results in a certain degree of inequality.

Marx trumpeted, “In a more advanced stage of communist society, when the enslaving subjugation of individuals to the division of labor, and thereby the antithesis between intellectual and physical labor, have disappeared; when labor is no longer just a means of keeping alive but has itself become a vital need; when the all-around development of individuals has also increased their productive powers and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly — only then can society wholly cross the narrow horizon of bourgeois right and inscribe on its banner: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs!” (p. 347)

(For reasons known only to himself, Lenin re-labeled Marx’s “first phase of communist society” as socialism, and the “more advanced stage of communist society” as communism. Most of the left has followed this confusing usage.)

Despite his rejection of the term communism, Bakunin also advocated a two-phase development of the post-revolution economy, according to his close friend James Guillame. Guillame wrote an essay in 1874, summarizing Bakunin’s views. “We should…be guided by the principle, From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. When, thanks to the progress of scientific industry and agriculture, production comes to outstrip consumption, and this will be attained some years after the Revolution, it will no longer be necessary to stingily dole out each worker’s share of goods. Everyone will draw what he needs from the abundant social reserve of commodities….In the meantime, each community will decide for itself during the transition period the method they deem best for the distribution of the products of associated labor.” (in Bakunin, 1980; p. 361–362) He mentions various alternate systems of remuneration for the transitional period; “…systems will be experimented with to see how they work out” (p. 361).

Today’s proposals for Parecon (“participatory economics”), in which workers are rewarded for the intensity and duration of their labor in a cooperative economy, would fit into Bakunin’s or Marx’s concept of a transitory, beginning, phase, of a free society. But unlike the Pareconists, Marx and Bakunin recognized that this was still limited. For both Marx and Bakunin, then, full communism requires a very high level of productivity and potential prosperity, a post-scarcity economy, when there is plenty of leisure time for people to participate in decision-making, at work and in the community, ending the distinction between order-givers and order-takers. However, neither Marx nor Bakunin described a social mechanism for moving from one phase to the other.

Kropotkin rejected the two-phase approach of the Marxists and the anarchist-collectivists. Instead he proposed that a revolutionary society should “transform itself immediately into a communist society,” (1975; p. 98), that is, should go immediately into what Marx had regarded as the “more advanced,” completed, phase of communism. Kropotkin and those who agreed with him called themselves “anarchist-communists” (or “communist anarchists”), although they continued to regard themselves as a part of the broader socialist movement.

It was not possible, Kropotkin argued, to organize an economy partially on capitalist principles and partly on communist principles. To award producers differentially by how much training they have had, or even by how hard they work, would recreate class divisions and the need for a state to oversee everything. Nor is it really possible to decide how much individuals have contributed to a complex, cooperative, system of production, in order to reward them according to their labor.

Instead, Kropotkin proposed that a large city, during a revolution, “could organize itself on the lines of free communism; the city guaranteeing to every inhabitant dwelling, food, and clothing…in exchange for…five hour’s work; and…all those things which would be considered as luxuries might be obtained by everyone if he joins for the other half of the day all sorts of free associations….” (p.p. 118–119) This would require the integration of agricultural with industrial work, and physical with mental labor. There remained an element of coercion in Kropotkin’s proposal. Presumably able-bodied adults who would not contribute five hours of work would not get the “guaranteed” minimum.

Anarchist-communism came to predominate among anarchists, so that it became rare to find an anarchist (except for the individualist anarchists) who did not accept communism, whatever other disagreements they may have had among themselves. Meanwhile the Marxists had long been calling themselves social-democrats. When World War I broke out, the main social democratic parties endorsed their capitalists’ war. Lenin called on the revolutionary wing of international social democracy to split from the traitors to socialism. As part of this, he advocated that his Bolshevik Party and similar parties call themselves Communist Parties, going back to Marx. Some of his followers complained that this would confuse the workers, making the Bolsheviks sound like the anarchist-communists. Lenin declared that it was more important to not be confused with the reformist social democrats. Lenin got his way (as he usually did in his party). The term “communist” had been taken back by the Marxists. With the example of the Russian revolution, most revolutionary-minded people turned to the Leninists; the anarchists became increasingly marginalized. The term “communist” became mostly the label for Leninists.

Crimes against humanity by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin from “Anarchism and the black revolution”

It is the rich who decide what is or is not a crime; it is not a neutral designation. The laws are written to protect the rich and those who act as agents of the State. But most personal crimes art not committed against the rich, they are usually inaccessible. It is poor and working class Black people who are the major victims of violent crime. The Black female is the primary victim of rape and abuse by the Black male in this country. The Black male himself is the leading homicide victim in the U.S. by another Black man like himself, and sadly our children are among the leading victims of child abuse, many times by his or her own parents. We do not like to think of these things in the Black community, but we are battering and killing ourselves at an alarming rate. This is not to deny that the Capitalist social system has created frustrating, degrading conditions of life that contribute to this brutality and fratricide, but we would be lax in our humane and revolutionary duty if we did not try to correct this problem on the short-term, and also make Black people assume responsibility for our actions. I am not talking some Black conservative or “law and order” garbage here, but rather recognition of fact that we have a problem.

We have an external and an internal crisis situation facing us in our community. The external crisis is racism and colonialism, which works to systematically oppress us and is responsible for whatever internal crisis there is. The internal crisis is the result of an environment where drugs and violence (both social and physical) are rampant, and life is sometimes considered cheap. Black-on-Black crimes and internal violence are destroying our community. It is undoubtedly self-hatred and the desperate economic and social conditions we live under which makes us prey on each other. Drugs, frustrated rage, prostitution and other vices are symptoms of oppression.

We kill, beat, rape and brutalize each other because we are in pain ourselves. Thus we are acting out anti-social roles defined for us by someone else, not ourselves. In our pain and confusion we strike out at convenient and familiar victims; those like ourselves Them are ordinary Black people who steal and rob just to survive under this system, because of that unequal distribution of wealth. Further, for same of us, in our desire to “make it” in Capitalist society we will stop at nothing, including murder. And finally, there are those who do whatever they do because of drug addiction or mental sickness.

Whatever the reasons, we have a serious problem that we must remedy because it is tearing away at the moral and social fabric of our community. It will be impassible to unite Black people if they are in fear and hatred of one another. It is also obvious that the police and government rectify this problem and that only the Black community can do so. The courts and prison prevent the situation from recurring. Therefore what can we do?

It is the community, through its own organizations of concern, which will have to deal with this problem. Community self-managed programs to work with Black youth gang members, (a source of much violence in the community), rather than the military approach of calling in the cops, empower the community rather than the racist prison bureaucracy and the cops. Also, the community-run drug rehabilitation groups, therapy and counseling groups, and other neighborhood organizing help us to effectively deal with the problem of internal violence and hopefully defuse it. Most importantly it involves the community in the effort.

But we cannot totally depend upon counseling or rehabilitation techniques, especially where them is an immediate threat of violence or where it has occurred. So, to insure peace and public security, a Black community guard service would be organized for this purpose, as well as to protect against the white Power structure. This security force would be elected by local residents, and would work with the help of people in neighborhoods. This is the only way it would work. It would not be an auxiliary of the current colonial occupation army in our community, and would not threaten or intimidate the community with violence against our youth. Nor would such a community guard protect vice and organized crime. This community guard would only represent the community that elected it, instead of city hall. Similar such units would be organized all over the city on a block-by-block basis.

Yet the Anarchists go further, and say that after a municipal commune is set up, the existing courts must be replaced by voluntary community tribunals of arbitration, and in cases of grave crimes, connected with murder, or offenses against liberty and equality, a special communal court of a non-permanent nature would be set up. Anarchists believe that antisocial crime, meaning anything that oppresses, robs, or does violence to the working class must be vigorously opposed. We cannot wait until after the revolution to oppose such dangerous enemies of the people. But since such antisocial crimes are a direct expression of Capitalism, there would be a real attempt to socialize, politically educate and rehabilitate offenders. Not by throwing them into the white Capitalist prisons to suffer like animals and where, because of their torture and humiliation, they will declare war on all society, but by involving them in the life of the community and giving them social and vocational training. Since all the “criminology experts” agree that crime is a social problem, and since we know that 88 percent of all crimes are against property and are committed in order to survive in an economically unjust society, we must recognize that only full employment, equal economic opportunity, decent housing and other aspects of social justice will ensure an end to crime. In short, we must have radical social change to eradicate the social conditions that cause crime. An unequal unfair society like Capitalism creates its own criminal class. The real thieves and murderers, businessmen and politicians, are protected under today’s legal system, while the poor are punished. That is class justice, and that is what Social revolution would abolish.

But understandably, many persons want to end the rape, murder, and violence in our communities today, and wind up strengthening the hands of the State and its police agents. They will not get rid of crime, but the cops will militarily patrol our communities, and further turn us against one another. We must stay away from that trap. Frustrated and confused, Black people may attack one another, but instead of condemning them to a slow death in prison or shooting them down in the streets for revenge, we must deal with the underlying social causes behind the act.

Anarchists should begin to have community forums on the cause and manifestations of crime in the Black community. We have to seriously examine the social institutions: family, schools, prisons, jobs, etc. that cause us to fuss, fight, rob and kill each other, rather than the enemy who is causing all our misery. While we should mobilize to restrain offenders, we must begin to realize that only the community will effectively deal with the mater. Not the racist Capitalist system, with its repressive police, courts and prisons. Only we have psychology and understanding to deal with it; now we must develop the will. No one else cares.

Instead of eye-for-eye punishment, there should be restitution to the victims, their families or society. No revenge, such as the death penalty will bring a murder victim back, nor will long-term imprisonment serve either justice or the protection of society. After all, prisons are only human trashcans for those that society has discarded as worthless. No sane and just society would adopt such a course. Society makes criminals and must be responsible for their treatment. White capitalist society is itself a crime, and is the greatest teacher of corruption and violence.

In an Anarchist society, prisons would be done away with, along with courts and police (except for the exceptions I have alluded to), and be replaced with community-run programs and centers interested solely with human regeneration and social training, rather than custodial supervision in a inhuman lockup. The fact is that if a person is so violent or dangerous, he is probably mentally warped or has some physical defect anyway, which causes him to commit violent acts after social justice has been won. If such people are mentally defective, then they should be placed in a mental health facility, rather than a prison. Human rights should never be stripped and he should not be punished. Schools, hospitals, doctors and above all social equality, public welfare and liberty might prove the safest means to get rid of crimes and criminals together. If a special category such as “criminal” or “enemy” is created, then these persons may forever feel an outcast and never change. Even if he or she is a class enemy, they should retain all civil and human rights in society, even though they of course would be restrained if they led a counter-revolution; the difference is we want to defeat them ideologically, not militarily or by consigning them to a so-called reeducation camp or to be shot like the Bolsheviks did when assuming power in Russia in 1917.

There are two major reasons why activists in the Black community as we move to change society, its values and conditions, must immediately take a serious look and act to change the political debate around crime, prisons and the so-called criminal justice system. Those two reasons hit right home! One is because during any given year, one out of four Black men in this country is in prison, in jail on parole, or probation, compared to just one of every fifteen white men. In fact Blacks make up 50–85 percent of most prison populations around the U.S., making a truism of the radical phraseology that “Prisons are concentration camp for the Black and poor.” It may be your brother, sister, husband, wife, daughter or son in prison, but I guarantee you we all know someone in prison at this very minute! The other primary reason Blacks have a vested interest in crime and penal institutions is because by far, most Blacks and other non-whites are in prison for committing offenses against their own community.

Prisons are compact duplicates of the Black community, in that many of the same negative and destructive elements that are allowed to exist in our community and cause crime, especially drugs, are in poison in a more blatant and concentrated form To call such places ‘correctional” or “rehabilitative” institutions is a gross misnomer. Death camps are more like it. These prisons do not exist to punish everyone equally, but to protect the existing Capitalist system from you and I, the poor and working class.

The high rate or recidivism proves, and the so-called authorities all agree, that the prison system is a total failure. About 70 percent of those entering prison are repeat offenders who commit increasingly serious crimes. The brutality or prison experience and the “ex-con” stigma when they are finally released make them worse. Basic to solving these crucial problems is organization. The Black community and the Black Liberation movement must support the prisoners in their fight for prisoners human rights They should fight far the release of political prisoners and victims of racial injustice. They should also form coalitions of groups in the Black community to fight against the racist penal and judicial system, and especially the unequal application of the death penalty, which is just another form of genocide against the Black race. And finally, and maybe most importantly, local community groups must begin programs of re-education with brothers and sisters in prison because only through planned, regular, and constant contact can we begin to resolve this problem that so directly touches our lives. Abolish prisons.

Chapter 4: 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.

Introduction

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 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.

A very short intro to afro-pessimism

This reader is intended to be an introduction to the theory called Afro-pessimism. Collected in this volume are articles spanning three decades of thought, with topics ranging from police violence, the labor of Black women, and the slave’s transformation following emancipation, to the struggles of the Black Liberation Army and elements of anti-Blackness in Indigenous struggles for sovereignty. Although the authors use differing methods of analysis, they all approach them with a shared theoretical understanding of slavery, race, and the totality of anti-Blackness; it is this shared understanding that has been called Afro-pessimism. Importantly though, rather than a fixed ideology, Afro-pessimism is better thought of as a theoretical lens for situating relations of power, at the level of the political and the libidinal.[1] Afro-pessimism, in many ways, picks up the critiques started by Black revolutionaries in the 1960s and 70s, elaborating their short-comings and addressing their failures. While we don’t intend to explicate at great length the theory of Afro-pessimism here—this will be done by the articles—it may be helpful to start with a brief overview to give those readers without a context some footing with which to go forward.

*

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, subjecthood, 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 racialized 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 deemphasize 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 identity[7]—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 anti-blackness 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 realdeath. 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 a politics, 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 isthe 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.

*

Finally, we should add that alongside the valuable theoretical offerings of Afro-pessimism, this reader was also motivated by a desire to contribute to the efforts of bringing these writings out of the ivory towers of the­ academy, the place from which all these writings originated. We wish to remove the materials from this stifling place and see them proliferate among those in the streets and prisons. The topics discussed here may have origins in a place of lofty theory, but they deal with the constant realities of millions of people. We therefore find it imperative that these theories directly inform the practices of everyone desiring a life other than this one—while not simply resorting to the empty gesture of empathy.[14]

We must acknowledge the fact that non-Blacks have a complicity in perpetuating anti-Blackness and face the necessity of abolishing all notions of the self and identity, practicing an anti-racism with a view toward the total abolition of the state, and developing an anti-capitalism aimed at the destitution of race. We take heed of the following statement: “If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit that the ‘Negro’ has been inviting whites, as well as civil society’s junior partners, to the dance of social death for hundreds of years, but few have wanted to learn the steps.”[15] Consider this project an opening sashay.

[1] Libidinal economy – the economy, or distribution and arrangement, of desire and identification, of energies, concerns, points of attention, anxieties, pleasures, appetites, revulsions, and phobias—the whole structure of psychic and emotional life—that are unconscious and invisible but that have a visible effect on the world, including the money economy. See Wilderson, Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms and Chico, cosmic hoboes in “Further Reading.” [All further references here will be listed in “Further Reading” unless otherwise noted.]

[2] Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study.

[3] See in this volume Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe.”

[4] See in this volume Hartman, “The Burdened Individuality of Freedom.”

[5] Black Skin, White Masks.

[6] Sexton, “People-of-Color-Blindness: Notes on the Afterlife of Slavery.”

[7] This doesn’t altogether eliminate the possibilities for organizing around identities. There are very real reasons why this is often necessary and groups are experimenting with ways of building autonomy that are also anti-essentialist and recognize the heterogeneity of supposedly static categories. One example is a negative affirmation of identity (the exclusion of cis men) in order to prevent any positive affirmation of another (a static notion of “womanhood”). See LIES, especially Vol. II.

[8] R.L., “Wanderings of the Slave: Black Life and Social Death.”

[9] Wilderson, Red, White & Black.

[10] See in this volume Wilderson, “The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal.”

[11] Apostasy – the total abandonment of one’s belief in a religion, party, or cause; Warren, “Black Nihilism and the Politics of Hope.”

[12] Needless to say, these institutions are also, in general, meant to create productive, governable subjects and, therefore, all those deemed non-normative are either assimilated—via their identity being formally recognized and incorporated into culture and society—or they are met with a similar murderous violence. This violence, however, is contingent upon a refusal, transgression, or crime, which is to say it results from some action or identity, rather than a constituent element as it is with Blackness.

[13] While not strictly in the purview of Afro-pessimism, it’s important to note the ways that subject-oriented movements have included/excluded various identities over time—e.g., both discursively and explicitly, worker’s movements mostly omitted women, and women’s movements mostly omitted trans people. The point is not to decry exclusion, but to encourage moving destructively through and out of all such gross limitations to being.

[14] “[T]he effort to counteract the commonplace callousness to black suffering requires that the white body be positioned in the place of the black body in order to make this suffering visible and intelligible. Yet if this violence can become palpable and indignation can be fully aroused only through the masochistic fantasy, then it becomes clear that empathy is double-edged, for in making the other’s suffering one’s own, this suffering is occluded by the other’s obliteration” (Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America).

What is communism

Communism is a stateless, classless, moneyless society where all oppresment has been all destroyed. Communism in it self is the end goal of all communist, but some the way of achieving communism differs from ideology. Libertarians want to use non statist methods to achieve their ends while authoritarians want to use statist methods to achieve their ends. (This is a simplified contrast between the two so I’ll explain this further later). 

So where does socialism fit into communism. To put it simply socialism is the economics of communism. Socialism is the economics of a wide amount of ideologies, but lets just focus on communism. You may have heard the phrase “communism is anarchist is socialism”. This phrase is usually shouted by anarcho communist and there is true to it. Communism is a type of anarchism and anarchism is a type of socialism. 

“Wait a minute!!” You exclaim. “Then what government is the USSR, china and other countries that call themselves communist”. Well, simply put, just authoritarian state capitalist regimes (I will go more in depth in a later blog post). Just because a country calls itself something, doesn’t mean that it is. Was china ruled by its people, or is America really home of the free, or is the DRC really Democratic. The USSR called itself socialist/communist (even though not having any qualities of both) for the same/opposite reason the US called them socialist/communist. 

No one will save you comrade. By Dr.Bones

No one is coming to save you, Comrade.

Nobody.

There is no revolution on the horizon, there is no party, there is no grand idea that will finally awaken humanity to its potential and free us from our chains.

There is no vanguard, no purpose, no secret method we can all use to magically make the powerful resign themselves to the fate of ordinary existence.

There have been pretenders. There are priests and pimps and false gods that call on you to worship them. They will give you immortal “sciences” and identities, they will assure you if just enough people donned the uniform or spoke the right words everything would be okay.

There are those of course who would deny you even that, who refuse any action without every detail planned out. Who will run the schools, who will build the roads, how will tire fires and blockades raise our carbon footprint?

They will call your plans starry-eyed, impractical, an Insurrecionist fantasy.

They say this half-asleep.

They, so wise, snore and say they will “wait for the people to rise.” The people have risen and been crushed. Occupy failed, Standing Rock failed. All that’s left is you and me.

They, so strong, snore and say they wait for their rights to be taken, the right to assembly or the right to vote an invisible line they shan’t abide. Where where they for the Patriot Act, the NDAA? They petitioned, they moaned, they lost.

They say they are waiting for some grand event in a universe with millions of them everyday. Each day the criteria changes, each day they grow more stagnant and old.

Everybody is waiting and nobody wants to start, everybody wants to join and nobody wants to build. Everybody is waiting for a grand and general revolt, yet steal an apple or burn a cop car and they’ll call you an “adventurist.”

Everybody is sure change is right around the corner, that divine powers will steer us the right way. Everybody is sure time is on our side, that the good gals will always win and that things can’t hold out much longer. Everybody says a revolution is very possible with no bloodshed and no heart feelings, that everyone will be heard and cared for.

Everybody is sure that the revolution will come like an amazon package: quick, clean, and ready to be enjoyed right at their doorstep. They have children you see, and must put them first, but will gladly step over your body after you’ve built the road for them to walk on.

Everybody is waiting. Waiting for something. Waiting for somebody, somebody to save them.

They aren’t coming to save you, Comrade.

Nobody is.

Those people are going to die just as they lived. They are going to stay right where they are, on the couch, and play pretend online because it costs them nothing. Like a ball gag slipped on for “special nights,” politics is the kink that makes them feel different.

They always talk alot about feelings, how much “solidarity” they give and need. Every time a black child lies in a pool of his own blood they really feel bad. Truly. But they have jobs you see, and families, and shows to watch and cars to maintain.

They will hurt for you comrade when you lose your job. Why, they’ll call for a General Strike and make posters, badges, and pins! Provided it’s a weekend and not a holiday of course, and with enough advance notice to ask for it off.

They are growing to grow old, these people, happy with the knowledge that if they had the chance they would have done something spectacular. They will have fun little funerals, not sad ones, where mediocre lives will be celebrated by talking about how “brave” they were and how “hard” they fought for freedom.

Who’s is never mentioned, how and where politely not discussed.

There are millions of them, Comrade. Always have been. Always will be. They are going to be born, squirm around for a bit, and go right back into the hole they crawled out of.

They look to be led, watch to see what they can join, and wait patiently for someone to shove food into their mouths and help them chew.

Will you wait for them, Comrade?

Will you wait for the same people who prefer for YOU to suffer and YOU to die so that they can play risk free?

Will you wait for the people who will not lift a finger to aid you until they can’t get in trouble and all the hiccups have been worked out?

Will you wait and draw up plans to convince those who need convincing, who won’t move an inch until we’re sure how many trees will be planted at every school that is suddenly free for the deaf and the blind?

Will you wait for the people who call your actions a sin as they pray in front of police batons?

Will you wait for the entire planet to agree to an idea, a monumental event that would be the first in our history?

Are you prepared, dear comrade, to die just as they will, surrounded by cheap party favors and even cheaper music as your friends sing hymns to a banal existence?

Or will you act?

Don’t mistake me for a fool comrade, I hope you aren’t one either. I don’t want to die and I don’t want to go to jail. I have no use for being a martyr because I want to be free, just like you do.

But if you are prepared to act, to put aside the arguments and to truly build, then perhaps we have a chance. You and I. I’m done talking about them.

What if we focused on getting free? What if we built the structures we needed to do so? What if instead of arguing about hairstyles or flag colors we argued about crops to plant or stores to rob? What if we made a union, a gang, devoted to getting free? What if we stopped arguing online and set about becoming real comrades, the kind that can hide each other from the police and offer a safe place to stay?

What if we could rely on one another so well that I knew I was safe wherever I went because an injury to one really was an injury to all? What if we didn’t wait for an apocalyptic war and instead waged OUR war everyday, a war against everything that enslaved us?

What if we did that? What if we put away the theories and focused on that? Why not? Why wait?

Nobody is coming to save us, Comrade.

Nobody.

So it’s up to you and me.