The electoral arena
is one of the arenas of struggle for political democracy.
Unfortunately, it is too often viewed by the Black and general masses
as the only arena of struggle for democracy.
right wing demanded that Obama fire Shirley Sherrod and Van Jones, but
the Black and general left have not demanded that Obama fire anyone
from his administration dealing with education, finances, housing, etc.There seems to be little historical
memory about the power of the Black masses organized as a social
movement in the 1950s and 60s to force the enactment of democratic
legislation in the form of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts
and policies on Affirmative Action when there few Blacks in
government at all levels and that were even signed by Southern
Dixiecrats like Lyndon B. Johnson.
These social movements, Civil Rights
and Black Power were national in scope and international in
outlook. Today, there is no single Black left and liberation
organization able to organize at the national level and depth of
those social movements. As a result, for example, there was no
national social movement response challenging the governments failed
and oppressive responses to the Katrina triggered natural a
capitalist made disaster in the Gulf Coast region impacting the Black
and working class majority, including a form of ethnic cleansing to
reduce the Black majority.
The sad part, is that in a situation
when the state and forces of capital have so clearly violated Black
human rights, and of the character that reflects almost every stage
of the Black experience of national oppression inside the U.S., was
that many Black left forces refused to make serious efforts to unite
to build a politically focused national movement challenge against
the state and forces of capital to address the needs of the masses of people.
demand for Reconstruction in the Gulf Coast should have been a major
national demand and mandate by the Black masses going into the 2008
presidential election. This would have been a demand that the
Obama candidacy and administration could not have so easily side
stepped, especially if there was a national movement with actions
across the country in cities where thousands of Black people from the
Gulf Coast are still dispersed.
These have been the conditions and
state of the Black left and national Black liberation movement, as we
debate with each other over how to challenge capitalism and the role
of the state in protecting the interests of capital over the interest
of the masses of people under the Presidency of Obama.
Since the 2008 Democratic Party
primaries, members of the Black Left Unity Network (BLUN)
have been arguing that the question of support or non-support for
Obama should not be used as a line of demarcation for building Black
left unity. The BLUN never came out in support of Obama.However some
BLUN members have engaged in criticisms over the email and others at
the base in their mass work.
A comrade recently sent me a very
insightful emailed pointing out a danger of "opposing criticisms
of Obama", even days before the election. He stated that
“Criticism of Obama and the Democrats is in danger of being
censored as not support for Obama.”
This was an important and comradely,
as it was communicated with a tone and clarity aimed at getting me to
look deep into the question of criticisms of Obama, and not mainly
reacting to the negative features of name calling that the “two
line struggle” between some Black left forces around the question
of support or non-support of Obama often takes.
While I strongly agree with the
comrades point about being censored; I think there is a wrong
perception by some, that because the manner and tone of criticizing
Obama is not using negative sound bites like “bootlicker” and
“lackey”, that there is no serious criticism being made of Obama,
and especially where it counts, among the masses in their struggles
against the impacts of the policies of the Obama administration.
Thus, the differences in the form and
method of the criticisms of Obama between various Black left forces
may reflected the main audience that our criticisms are being
addressed to; and the main tasks we see for the Black left in this
One of the problems of the Black left
over the past 30 years has been a level of fragmentation that stopped
us from having real discussions with each other about assessing the
conditions and consciousness of the Black masses and possible points
and areas of unity for our various organizations to create a real
national capacity to mobilize our people as a social movement.
is a wrong perception by some, that because the manner and tone of
criticizing Obama is not using negative sound bites like “bootlicker”
and “lackey”, that there is no serious criticism being made of Obama.For those concentrating on boring
into the mass struggles, there has been sensitivity about how we wage
criticisms of Obama. This is a tactical question related to how
one understands the impact of the tone of the criticisms on Black
people’s feelings about voting for Obama as a continuation of our
struggle for democracy. If the criticisms make the Black masses
feel like they were fools for voting for Obama, they will become
alienated and not educate and convince the masses about the real
politics of Obama.
We must recognize when our movement
is not prepared to deal with particular contradictions without
suffering consequences that may have serious impacts for our ability
to move forward in a given period. This is why particular
tactics must be considered in how we make challenges. Otherwise, we
are dealing with principles without regard to the state of our
movement and the balance of forces.
I think a major question for the
Black left is how to effectively apply the Mass Line in our
criticisms; one that seeks to expose the role and decisions of Obama
in order to win over the masses to embrace the criticisms and to
mobilize against the Obama administration.
The right wing demanded that Obama
fire Shirley Sherrod and Van Jones, but the Black and general left
have not demanded that Obama fire anyone from his administration
dealing with education, finances, housing, etc., issues that greatly
impact our people. These could have been forceful demands made
on the Obama administration that would have clearly gotten mass
support. The impeachment and firing of Chaney and Rumsfeld were major
demands by the left on the Bush administration.
We must take heed in the comrade’s
point about censoring the criticisms of Obama being a major danger.
However, we also must better apply the Mass Line and challenging the
Obama administration and not the personality, so that our people can
see and feel more clearly that they are not being called fools for
voting for Obama.
Criticism of Obama and the Democrats is in danger of being censored as not support for Obama.I feel that the major danger related
to the methods of criticism of Obama and his campaign, is it further
dividing the Black left and alienating us from the Black
masses. However, speaking for myself, this view is not now, nor
has it been during the 2008 democratic primaries and period of
Obama's presidency that the Black left should be out campaigning for
the support of Obama. On the other hand, we also must be concerned
that the emphasis, frequency and sharp tones of some Black left
criticisms of Obama are not coming across to the Black masses as the
Black left having no criticisms of Romney's program, including his
campaign's efforts to use voter ID and other measures to reduce and
eliminate the impact of the Black and Latino vote in this election.
The fight to win and defend Black voting rights has been an
uncompromising demand and struggle of the Black masses,
We must struggle to find points of
unity, first around issues and conditions that impact our people like
the various forms of state repression that many Black organizations
and activists are organizing around. In this period of deep
capitalist crisis where state repression will only increase,
including white supremacist attacks, why can’t the Black left begin
discussing and working for unity around a campaign under the slogan
of Stop the War on Black America?
If there is no conscious effort to
push for areas of unity, there will be nothing pulling against the
long period of fragmentation and tensions. We cannot rely on
spontaneity to unite the Black left.
The BLUN continues to call for a
national dialogue on identifying issues, opportunities and challenges
in building Black left unity.
Thanks to the comrade for sending his
Guest Commentator, Saladin Muhammad, is a member of Black
Workers for Justice and Black
Left Unity Network (BLUN). Click here
to contact Mr. Muhammad.