From Signalfire: A Maoist Response to the Ten Theses of Ba Jin
The following article is a response from Maoist Amerikan website Signalfire to the Ten Theses on the US Racial Order by the Fire Next Time Collective based in the eastern United States. This article by the comrades at Signalfire gets a lot right, in particular the emphasis that (New) Afrikan people, along with other “minorities” in fact face national oppression/colonialism inside the United States, and not some kind of amorphous “racial oppression”. It also correctly calls out the FNT’s notion of a “Brown” middle-layer placed between (New) Afrikans and Whites within the supposed Amerikan racial hierarchy. The Speed of Dreams also commends the comrades at Signalfire for emphasising the utter lack of attention paid to First Nations’ (so-called “Indians”) national oppression in the United States by the FNC. Finally, the Signalfire article is refreshing in that it unusual to see North American Marxist-Leninists and Maoists with a (more or less) correct orientation on the settler-colonial origins of the US.
However, there are a number of things that Signalfire does get wrong. Among other things, on the question of national liberation, while the article does correctly call out the FNT’s failure to address seriously the question of the national oppression of First Nations – the original national oppression project carried out by imperialist White power in the Americas – the comrades at Signalfire then themselves completely failed to make the call for national liberation for First Nations. Instead of following their own analysis to its logical conclusion, they end the article with only a call for self-determination for the (New) Afrikan and the indigenous nations of Aztlán, Hawai’i and Borikén- which is disappointing to say the least. There is no recognition that the land of the so-called United States today is still by right that of the various Indian nations, who still exist despite our facing down 500 years of violent genocidal aggression by this now Globe-spanning Settler Empire. The reasons why Signalfire would leave out this call and recognition is not something. That Signalfire would either not comment on this, or not even recognize it perhaps, is greatly disappointing.
Secondly, the article attempts to apologize for historical and ongoing White reaction by placing it primarily on the shoulders of the White petty bourgeoisie and lumpen-type elements. While it admits to the existence of a White “labour aristocracy” it considers it only to be the top layer of the White working class. This is not historical materialism though. Rather it is wishful thinking of a type experienced by the overwhelming majority of what passes for the left inside the United States. The fact is that it has been the general trend of the White working class throughout history to bloc with its own imperialist ruling class against the interests of (New) Afrikans, Indians and other oppressed peoples, both in the US and all around the world. It wasn’t the White petty bourgeoisie or lumpen elements that were the primary foot soldiers of manifest destiny. It wasn’t the White petty bourgeoisie or lumpen elements the made lynching (New) Afrikans an opportunity for a picnic. It was White workers pure and simple. Authors and researchers such as J. Sakai have shown this history in detail.
With that said, the posting of this article does not imply endorsement or affiliation, though it is out hope that it and our additional comments above will help spark discussion.
A Maoist Response to the Ten Theses of Ba Jin
Recently there appeared a piece by Ba Jin of the Fire Next Time Collective, a group which works close to mass activity in the Bronx and a newly emerging radical formation. While we respect the work of these comrades and are encouraged by their existence and activity as fellow travelers in struggle, this piece displays a few positions which are quite disappointing from the perspective of a materialist assessment of the basis for the existing white supremacist system’s class distortions.
To sum up our stance with regard to the ten theses provided by Ba Jin, it is sufficient to say one step forward, two steps back. In attempting to deal with the real problematic of the “people of color” discourse and identity politics, it seeks to establish an analysis of race coupled with an analysis of class. In doing so rather than producing an adequate critique and substantive class analysis, the author simply gives us generalities which interrogated at a basic level are superficial and useless in satisfying the need for a real class analysis of the United States.
Rather than seeking truth from facts, it telescopes the particularity of experiences into universalities,and simply doesn’t have an analysis of class that actually corresponds with the existing class structure. It has rather engaged in another sort of “identity politics” of a Brown/Yellow guilt type in relationship to Black oppression, centering it as a fulcrum for the articulation of white supremacist ideology and class structure.
We are fundamentally opposed to such a position because it does not correspond to the objectivity of the thing as it is and it substitutes programmatic positions which would come from such an analysis for a type of political ethics that “Brown” forces should express in relation to “Black” forces. We uphold the need for a materialist analysis of the class structure that must look at the particularity of relations of production as they exist within the white-supremacist settler-colonial formation we know as the United States, within broader modes of production which have the geographical feature of regionalization and relate to larger circuits of commodity exchange and capital flow as they exist in the imperialist world system in its totality. For this reason we see the necessity of an analysis of nationalities (i.e. a National Question in relation the distinct existing communities as blocs of classes that exist with the social formation).
The need for class analysis to have a national question in relation to those who are oppressed nationalities and national minorities in this formation which is and always has been a “prison house of nations” from the Black Belt South, to each reservation, to each internal colony is essential.
The Historical National Oppression of African-Americans
As we have described above, the piece by Ba Jin is content with an analysis which asserts the oppression of “blacks” as the fulcrum of the system in general. More than that it would lead us to believe various things about the class structure among African-Americans and in relation to the white supremacist system which are simply untrue. How to begin?
We must first note how sloppy Ba Jin is in his definition of terms – who in actuality are “black” people? The entire historical context is gone here and is presented to us subjectively. We only know that its history is tied up with the civil rights movement and Obama in a superficial way. Is Ba Jin referring to African-Americans? Or perhaps to a larger afro-diaspora that exists in this country – Africans, Afro-Latinos, West Indian people? It is entirely uncertain but since the article makes no reference to any of this and as the only history marked is that of the Civil Rights movement one must assume that Ba Jin is either solely referring to the oppression of African Americans or through the invisibility of these people in the text assimilating them into the category of African-Americans.
Perhaps he considers some of these people, perhaps Dominican or Guayanese people, “Brown.” But it seems while the discussion is around “Blacks” are dealing primarily and perhaps only with the oppression of African-Americans and the existing ideological structure of anti-Black racism from which (or perhaps not) it stems. Let us ignore for now what is the methodological issue here – one which marks this piece as an dealist assessment which asserts superstructure to determine structure. Let us get to the concrete question and assume (since other Afro Diasporic people are invisible) we are talking about the historicity of the the African-American people’s oppression as it relates to anti-black racism, or as the authors order is flipped, perhaps anti-black racism as it relates to the oppression of African-Americans. Let us first correct this order and state that anti-black racism is an ideology which complements the structural features of a mode of production and its specific class composition.
There is a material basis to the historical development of anti-black racism, as it is rooted in the oppression and exploitation of the African peoples throughout much of the recent history of the world system by outside social formations. At the point when European colonialists raced to the “New World” in the Americas, dependency in relations with the continent of Europe had been established through the trade networks of expanding merchant capital. In this situation of unevenness and dependency African despots integrated the communal and tributary systems of the continent primarily through the sale of its own labor into slavery.
European settler-colonial formations in the New World, wiping out the populations in these continents and unable to integrate those remaining indigenous people resisting integration into the export-oriented colonial formations which would have surely ground them into the dust as well, were desperate for raw labor. The reality was that those settlers from the European continents, especially in what would become the continental US, even those indentured, were promised their future in the lands of conquest.
Many European settler-colonial formations therefore sought their labor from the African continent, from this point on, labor would always be color-coded within the settler-colonial formations and take on new international dimensions as European continental colonialism would extend over the whole globe. Slave production became vital to the entire enterprise of accumulation and pivotal for the entire European colonial world system and emerging capitalist production in Europe itself.
Slave production and the property relations of chattel slavery were present throughout the 13 colonies; however such relations presented themselves as quite outmoded in those locations where capital as a social relation emerged to dominate in the north of the colonies. The emergence of capital as a hegemonic social block in the north helped eliminate chattel slavery through the mechanism of the state; however in the south of the US these relations thrived and expanded. The contradictions between Northern and Southern existing and differing blocks presented themselves within the conditions of the US as an explosive contradiction, but was more often then not until the civil war settled in favor of the Southern states. The question of expansion of slavery into the west was more or less a question of expansion of a block over another, expansion of one’s block property and social relations, its hegemony, over another.
The Civil War itself finally settled this contradiction in favor for the hegemony of Northern capital. In the transitional post-Civil War period Northern capital through the radical Republican Party attempted to settle this through cooperation with freed slaves and the assertion of real dictatorship over the Southern states. This transitional period contained many thematically important elements of the existing Black Liberation Movement’s struggle – particularly the struggle for the land itself. The promise of political power, self-determination, and economic self-sufficiency was all there and has always been retained in the national consciousness of African-American people with differing emphasis by various movements.
The betrayal of Reconstruction in the end of 1877 by the Federal government to compromise with the returning power of the former planter class and the social base of much of the rest of the euro-Amerikan settlers set the condition for not only the economic exploitation and oppression of African-American people, which was already beginning to develop with freed labor resettling into agricultural work in relation to the former planters through the family as a work unit (all this would eventually become the sharecropping system as the dependency of these families on the former planter class was induced by lack of instruments of production and capital which was owned by the planter class and the necessity for cash-crop production), and it also developed the political forms of national oppression legislated by the force of state power and the informal power of the reactionary white masses of the South through the silent terror of the KKK and other such groups.
African-Americans were in essence forced from the political system by a new alignment, a new hegemony of capitalism. Such political oppression and divorce of the black masses from any integral role in the system was the base of formation of the African-American people into their own nation. While dependency was always maintained within the Euro-Amerikan formation, and a certain economic integration of African-Americans was utterly vital for the capitalist system, the political separation did effectively cut ties between African-Americans and Euro-Amerikans in basic civil society and prompted the necessity for internal development of African-Americans, on a consistent uneven and deformed basis in relation to the rest of the body politic of US Imperialism.
Such development prompted various political movements among the African-American masses in the United States, whether it was striving compradorism which attempted to find salvation in the skilling of the labor force and submission to the dominance of white supremacy, or the integrationism of a radical petty-bourgeoisie and its corresponding utopian separatism. Only well into the early part of the 20th century would the Black working class find its bearings after persistent racial exclusion by white labor. Black labor played a secondary role in relationship to the developing movement of African-Americans, as the isubjectivity of the people represented a nation of a new type, a nation formed through centuries of toil, oppression, and now freed but excluded from the body politics of the country.
While throughout the 20th century, migration from the South had produced new internal colonies in the North, the South was still the epicenter for the struggle of African-American people. It was there that the Communist Party would organize sharecroppers, it was there it would build solidarity around the Scottboro boys, it was there that much of the Civil Rights struggle in its height was waged.
Still till this day – while New York may have as a city more African-Americans than anywhere else, or Detroit has a larger percentage of African-Americans in its city demographics, the Black Belt south remains the epicenter today of African-American national oppression to which the internal colonies of the North retain a deep relationship. In fact in 19 of the 30 cities in the North with large concentrations of African-Americans, the population of African-Americans has been decreasing which remains a cross-class pattern.
Both middle class people and the lowest and deepest sections of the African-American people are heading to the South because of the inability of the Black middle-class to integrate with the white middle class, where housing discrimination is fundamental to their integral tightness to the dynamics of the urban population and the lack of work for the lowest and deepest sections of the working class.  As we have pointed out in a previous paper entitled We Are Treyvon Martin, and We Are Dangerous, national oppression has certainly transformed in many ways.
Today the leading class among the African-American people in their struggle against white supremacy, a struggle which still takes multi-class dimensions, is the proletariat itself. Whereas Jim Crow attempted to tie the African-American people tightly to the semi-feudal sharecropping system in the South, the New Jim Crow focuses on disciplining the “freed” labor of African-Americans through the the prison industrial complex, it seeks to deal with the whole of what is a dangerous and explosive population by criminalizing it, crippling its participation in the polity of representative government, taking away its right to be legally armed, and more importantly be forced from the formal sector of economy.
The prisons are themselves centers for training and brewing a stronger lumpen proletariat, to breed more violent and fascist criminal syndicates, it has little to do with any rehabilitation or punishment. Its punishment is towards the entire people by first capturing and ushering into confinement a strata of labor, to destroy the basis for real family units and stable communities, and then letting back into the world deformed dangerous peoples who through the violence of the carceral system have been turned into parasitic, fascistic, and often comprador elements who prey on their own communities.
The gang in this epoch has been transformed into a criminal business syndicate. As we have written before:
The New Jim Crow is in essence the unofficial designation (given to it in by a growing mass movement) to a set of laws, measures, and practices of the state in relationship to New Afrikan people. The precise basis and conscious logic of them is to criminalize New Afrikan people in such a manner as to push them altogether and effectively away from any means of production, to push them to precarious existence as real subaltern class under the kingpinship of lumpen lords and poverty pimps. The danger of the New Afrikan people at the point of production, as newly emerged proletarian subjects gave for the first time in the United States a real viable political subject to lead the struggle to eliminate capitalist organization of the mode of production and to bring forward socialism.
The Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements presented this real threat to US Imperialism. African-Americans at the center of production carried forward the profound and unique ability to center and unite a working class movement and a movement against white supremacist national oppression. The African-American working class presented itself as a vanguard of the multinational working class, it presented itself simultaneously as a vanguard of a multiclass alignment against white supremacist national oppression. This is why the New Jim Crow was instituted, precisely to reinvigorate the focus of national oppression, aimed directly at the African-American working class.
However contradictions are now present as such leadership is currently compromised. Ba Jin has only half-way pictured the issue. When he writes that the black working class is securely located in the public sector, what does this mean political and strategically about the location of the black working class? It means in all honesty that this class has been swindled into tight proximity with the comprador political bourgeoisie of their community, that in essence their relationship with this political force has become vital to their basis in this sphere of production/reproduction. Clear class analysis reveals that in fact it is not the national-bourgeoisie or petty-bourgeoisie which have become more integrated into the white supremacist system, in fact empirically its demonstrable that quite clearly the national bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie of the African American people are tightly connected to the whole of the nation.
The inability as of yet to see the production of a militant black working class subject, especially in work around the public sector is precisely because of the tight links of this section of the class to the political comprador bourgeoisie. Whether “explosive” resentment exists has yet to be demonstrated in reality. Lastly – the ideological production of anti-black racism is a secondary aspect to the contradiction of white supremacist national oppression.
That is to say the primary aspect of the contradiction is the structure of national oppression, not its super-structural phenomenon. We of course do not view this statically, there are of course moments when ideology can be the primary aspect in the contradiction – for instance the struggle against racism in mass media. However ideology is produced from the conditions of material relations and a component of the over determination which reproduces the system in its totality. So what can be said about anti-black racism in and of itself? Little at the moment besides this.
On Brown Middle-Men
One of the more troublesome positions in the ten theses of Ba Jin is its proposition on the existence of a section of Brown middle men. In essence the argument made here is an extrapolation of an argument that sees the white supremacist order as marked by the creation of race through whiteness (as in the work of Ted Allen and Noel Ignatiev). It is argued that the European immigrant populations were swarthy people before entering into whiteness, that they were defined as middle forces between themselves and black labor.
So it is presumed by Ba Jin that this is precisely what is at stake with the racial order today, but that it has been “longer lasting,” that in essence US Imperialism has been unable to absorb this section of people into Whiteness. This is through and through an incorrect generalization indicative of a myopic understanding of history concerned only with the superficial appearances and phenomenon of struggle as they appear today, perhaps in NYC specifically (and even in that context inaccurate).
Ultimately there is no “brown middle man”, and their appearance isn’t recent. US Imperialism has been unable to integrate Chicanos for over a century. It has been unable to deal with its colonial subjects in Puerto Rico for a century and Puerto Ricans on the island have suffered tremendous poverty, and in NYC these people who are often much lighter than other Afro-Latino people suffer the same poverty rates and incarceration rates as African-Americans. What is a “brown middle men” after all? Again this analysis has become so general as not to refer to things empirically, not to seek truth from facts, but rather articulate itself so as to create its own autonomized ideological construction of race. But we insist on a class analysis and orientation to the national question to understand the real dynamics going on here.
Is there a “brown middle man?” Yes and no. There are indeed brown middle men, but who are they? Are they the Mexican people from Puebla coming into El Barrio? No. In fact they are quite literally the super-exploited, new slave labor in New York City. The hidden source that moves the machine. Is it the Yemeni owner of the hood deli? Yes. But how did this come to be? How did one “brown” man come to be super-exploited labor and the other come to be a petty shop owner? The ten theses of Ba Jin here are so superficial as to lead us to the obvious truth, that this “brown middle man” is a construction on the part of those activists resulting from their inability to synthesize their experiences with a scientific class analysis.
The Mexicano from Puebla is a proletarianized subject, they play little to no role in any sense in the oppression of African-American people. In fact in New York City with the spate of violence against Mexicanos and other working class immigrants who are “Latino”, many incidents were committed by African-Americans. Is the African-American subject a “middle” agent of nativist violence against undocumented people? It can be argued as such. It can also be argued that the entirety of the US citizenry are agents of US imperialism in relation to the war on Islamic people across the world? Yes this can be said as well. The fallacy of this conception of middlemen here is thus revealed, that such thinking in fact is simply a general simplistic cover for the inability to deal with concrete and qualitatively distinct forms of US imperialist oppression against distinct units and blocs of peoples in a scientific way.
When one ideologically begins to construct things from such a “layer” one actually constructs a fictitious system itself, an order which does not in fact exist. Let us begin with a few simple theses of our own in regards to Ba Jin’s “Brown Middle Men” hypothesis.
1) There is no “brown” race, caste, or middlemen. The national minorities under this label are qualitatively distinct from each other, they hold distinct relations to the means of production as social blocs in the US Empire which relate to the conditions of the relationship of US Imperialism to their home countries.
2) Distinct qualities in relations to the means of production produces distinct experiences in relation to the state. There is no commonality among “brown” people at all, not even among those racialized similarly (for instance there is a gulf of difference between Ecuadorians and Peruvians in the same geographical space).
3) The production of racial ideology that gives subjectivity to these people is often quite weak in narration precisely because of the “otherness” of many sections of them, and therefore do not carry the same strong subjectivization that anti-black racist ideology carries historically.
4)Among the so-called “brown” people there exists nationally oppressed people under US imperialism.
Let us begin with our own first theses. There exists no brown middle-men,their problem of origin is the ideological production by the activist themselves through an empiricist method that does not seek truth in facts. There is no order besides the one constructed by Ba Jin themselves. There exists no middle men.
There exists various social blocs in relation to national minorities, communities, etc. that have a relationship in the United States to the means of production as social blocs with a multiclass content. There exists more than the worker, but the contractor, the landlords, the petty-bourgeoisie which meet demands of the social bloc in their consumption, etc. There exists community, not simply super-exploited workers; however many such communities are still built upon the facilitation of super-exploited labor.
For example there are Filipino communities all over the world, that source their labor in many occasions as domestic workers, nurses, lower-level technicians, and this is the case in the United States; but there is also other sections that tag along to build communities. Without the Filipino worker, there is no Filipino community. The basis of the community is the Filipino worker as part of an American multinational working class, which still shares a relationship to the Philippines economically – this is the case for many people including Mexicanos, Ecuadorians, etc.
There exists other communities which are determined primarily by other classes, that have the power to set up shops with a national character and ownership over production and bring in labor from their countries as more cost effective – this is central to Korean or Chinese operations, where for example in Chinatown the Fujianese worker is dominated by their Cantonese employer. These people’s fundamentally distinct condition, internal contradictions, are in no way a product of their racial subjectivation by a white supremacist national oppression, but is rather determined by the development of productive forces, the global relations of production, that they are emerging from. Racial ideology has yet to play a role. Their condition is therefore in correspondence to the world system’s relations.
The production of racial oppression becomes secondary to national oppression, the base determines superstructure in the last instance. Where there does exist a “brown middle man” – lets say the Yemeni on the corner deli – what is the basis for his “middle man” status? As a distributor of commodities in the hood? Or what has turned the Dominican male and perhaps a few partners of his into Livery cab drivers as opposed to laborers? How did they in the end get the TLC licenses? How did the Yemeni set himself up with the capital and distribution scheme for a successful business? Or better how did Pakistanis come to dominate the Yellow Taxi game? The answer is quite simple, it wasn’t deliberately set up in the dynamic of a racial order that this would be the structure of economy.
No, rather each of these people themselves ended up creating space for themselves and brought forward on the basis of kinship and tight national bonds others into these zones of production. Can US imperialism really have the foresight to create these relations to production for each community in the world city? Is such a “racial order” so reactive that it can transform relations to production very quickly, despite historically the process of joining “whiteness” itself being decades in the making for various sections of Euro-amerikan people? We believe not.
While racialized interpolation can play a determining role in the formation of class structure, it can’t do so in a fundamentally determining way. For instance – West African immigrants are certainly racially oppressed in the context of US body politic, they will face the attack of the state as it stops and frisks youth on the street. However the West African immigrants will also have a different set of kinships, they will have higher levels of education, they will find themselves structurally embedded in different places than African-American people. So some will indeed, community wise and through kinship relations mantain petty-bourgeois positions within the urban setting, and isn’t this the cause of contradiction between African-Americans and West Africans that we have seen in the past?
But are they simply “middle-men” the racial order has not accounted for? In relation to our own second thesis; distinct relations to production by distinct communities produces distinct relations to the state. and the entire mode of production Even in the dynamics where subjects are interpolated by the State similarly – for instance Peruvians and Ecuadorians – they in fact have qualitatively different positions within the social totality. We utilize this example because it is very easy to render the truth in its palpable specificity. In New York City Ecuadorians are the fourth largest community of Latinos and the third largest concentration in Queens.
Peruvians are likewise concentrated in the metropolitan area, but mostly in northern New Jersey. They are both similarly interpolated by the state as Latinos of the indigenous variety, both in the setting of ignorant nativist reaction are likely to be seen as “Mexicans.” However their conditions are fundamentally different – while Ecuadorians are predominantly working class, involved in construction, Peruvians are more upwardly mobile, significantly more middle class and earn above the median income of the average American family.
If we look at racialized groups in their particular communities we will find such important class and political markers throughout – Cubans and Puerto Ricans, Bangladeshis and Punjabis, etc. Our third thesis: we assert that the very weakness in the development of a cohesive systematic racist ideology to the “brown” middle-layer as it where is a product itself from the lack of historical systematization of national-oppression of these communities that over four centuries was cultivated against kidnapped Afrikan people. Hence the broad general fear of swarthiness is so vague, and general, that often that particularity is not easily understood – for the white or nativist racist, the sikh is a muslim, Japanese and Chinese alike speak ching chong, the Ecuadorian is a Mexican.
Only in those places where density of people and historical relations are cemented do the particularities become apparent for more and more broad sections of the people. The otherized subjects come to light in the practice of social relations, and the racist interpolation carries forward a secondary feature to the general structural relations of economy. It is of course likewise true that in those places where there exists none of these dimensions in their fullness, the racialized subject (lets say in Oklahoma) will primarily face the white supremacist reaction in the main rather than national oppression.
But let us ask very briefly what is involved in the “ignorance” of this white supremacist racist ideology how does it transform all indigenous Latinos to Mexicans? How do all Afro-Diasporic people become transformed into blacks? Desi people become Arabs, and each East Asian is the yellow horde in the Western imagination? Because these racist ideologies are constructed centrally in relation to definite national oppression and political projects of US Imperialism.
Lastly our fourth theses is that among these so-called “Brown” middle-men exist nationally oppressed people with the right of self-determination in relation to US Imperialism, self-determination to break from the US imperialist administration. Chicano, Mexicanos, and other indigneous-centric Latinos in Aztlan. The Pacific-Islanders throughout the colonially administered territories in the pacific including Hawaii, Guam, and others. The 5 million Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico who have been a colonial outpost of US imperialism. Thus the middle-men theses here fails precisely because the very lands of these people, the very control over their ability to reproduce the nation under their own basis has been cut from them.
Invisibility of Red Skin; a Hallmark of Settlerist Ideology
Throughout the whole piece by Ba Jin, there is no examination of the role of settlerism in the development of the white supremacist “racial order” and Native Americans themselves are mentioned only once in passing in the same thesis. It would seem that the proposal of the author, rather than looking at First Nations people in their own unique relationship to the settler-colonial project of the US, a history which stretches the entirety of this social formation, a history which has meant their obliteration and genocide, has rather sought the easier conclusion that these people are a “darkened” middle layer in relation to the black fulcrum proposed.
It is often the case that settlerist ideology on the left can be spotted by the lack of attention payed to the historical development of the white supremacist system in relation to its history of settlerism itself. It can taken for granted that First Nations’ people were in reality the main aim of this entire formation for centuries. Teddy Roosevelt once remarked “The settler and pioneer have at bottom had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages.” The entire enterprise of what is US Empire would not be without the obliteration of these peoples. While one can remark that the role of First Nations people is now very peripheral to the system, there is still active State attacks on the whole of these people.
They present still in their existence a present danger to the legitimation of the settler-colonial formation, a lingering remnant of its crimes. First Nations people are not simply a “darkened middle layer,” they are the most severely oppressed people in this country. Everywhere First Nations people are, they have higher unemployment figures and incarceration rates. Moreover to speak of “racial order” and not speak about the settlerist ideology, that which gave the legitimation throughout the history of this social formation to conquer the land, is revealing. Settlerism is what turned the Irish white, but forced the Chinese coolie to never bring their women. Its what uprooted landed Chicanos even of European origins and replaced them with Euro-Amerikans. Settlerism was always in the logic, how to create a population that safely existed in contentment with the entirety of the social formation and did not upset it.
On White Supremacy, Settlerism, and its Relation to Euro-Amerikans
Ba Jin gives us some picture of how this racial order affects the white masses themselves. He writes
“Whites remain a privileged stratum in the U.S. by definition, though the “wages” of whiteness have shrunk in absolute terms for 30 years, and have grown more porous with the adoption of colorblind public policy…Proletarian whites have responded with bewilderment and outrage to these developments, giving rise to contradictory political trends. On one side, they have engaged in fascist militia-ism and the Tea Party movement; on the other, they have predominated in the ranks of the Occupy movement and trade union battles, which the unions must now embrace for their very survival even as they work to limit their potentials.”
There are many issues here, and it boils down to a wrong class analysis. The Tea Party is not a movement of the white proletariat, it is a movement constituted and led by the white petty-bourgeoisie and financed by the most reactionary sections of big monopoly capital. The entirety of the politics of the Tea Party is antithetical to much of the interests of the white proletariat and even the labor aristocracy. The most dangerous elements of white supremacist reaction and settlerism are the white petty-bourgeoisie and the white lumpen, both being the most dangerous and reactionary elements of any society.
The white working class for a long time has been led by the labor aristocratic section, it has been tied to nativist trade union ideology, but never was the force which enthusiastically led white supremacist reaction. It was certainly a component part through the labor aristocracy, by exclusion of African-Americans from the organized labor forces, etc. Predominated the Occupy movement? That was never the case, throughout the Occupy movement the white labor movement played fundamentally a role of passive observation with some relations through organized labor. But never predominated.
The predominating force was the petty-bourgeois liberal and radical youth who were facing proletarianizing dynamics but were never proletarian subjects. At most the white working class – lower, middle, and labor aristocracy – were mobilized through trade-union struggle with much of the rest of the multinational working class in struggles in Wisconsin, Chicago, and elsewhere. But lets move forward – the roots of white supremacy are settler-colonialism, it is rooted in a material class basis. The promise to this land, the promise to control over the nation and privilege within it.
While the white labor aristocracy and white labor in general was certainly pivotal in white reactionary dynamics, their role was often one which oscillated, between momentary alliance with white supremacist national oppression to tactical and strategic relationship with the struggle of oppressed nationality people on the basis of their class interests. The main base of white supremacist national oppression is among the white petty-bourgeoisie, especially the lower petty-bourgeoisie, and the white lumpen proletariat. The political ideology of the Tea Party is opposed to labor in general.
The rising trend of young semi-intellectual white men adopting Libertarianism, Ron Paul, etc. is part of a general polarization in which the euro-Amerikan white nation has begun to reject what it sees as the erosion of its privileges in regards to Empire. Obama represents, in many respects, an attempt by a section of capital within Empire to settle accounts with a growing demographic shift in the country which is beginning to render obsolete the settler basis of the US.
The militia movements, the most radical wing of the white euro-Amerikan entity, are ideologically based in a conception which is consistent with the settler process that gave basis to this social formation. Alex Jones, Ted Nugent, pontificate about the rights of private property, against Socialism, against Obama as someone who is bringing us to a race war. Their slogans are quite literally of the colonial era, their ideas from those times as well.
The Fundamental Question is the Relation of Structure and Super-structure; Principle and Secondary Aspect to a Contradiction
In the end we sum the main issue with the question of deriving a race analysis must be sought in a class analysis. There simply is none for Ba Jin in his Ten Theses and where there exists some elementary basis for them, they are simply wrong. What therefore occurs methodologically is a type of reverse engineering that takes a particular structuralization as given without any real placement of this structure in the economic base. Particular super-structural dynamics in the play of ideology of one subject, here a militant activist, is projected as the structure.
This method is fundamentally metaphysical in character. There exists no racial order as such, but there exists a racist ideological matrix which corresponds to the real oppression of distinct communities of people with qualitatively distinct relations to the means of production as social blocs. We therefore in relation to the structure and super-structure, privilege structure as fundamental in the production of ideology. While certainly ideology plays a role of reproduction, if ideology doesn’t correspond the structural features present, it will lose its basis. Ideology represents a narrative of things as they are, opposed to what they are in essence.
What is anti-black racism without the real national oppression which is not subjective but systematic and concrete to the lives of African-American people, and necessary to the persistence of a certain regime of capitalism? What is the reality of “middle-men” besides the hundreds of national minorities and other oppressed nationality people who have just arrived to the US? What is Islamophobia absent the real imperialist project of the US in the middle-east? What is the fear of yellow peril in the Western imagination absent the real contention of the blocs of capital formed historically in the world system? There is a primary aspect and a secondary aspect to a contradiction.
They don’t statically share the same relationship from now till forever, but in their overdetermination as a contradiction there remains the persistence of force which makes them not merely “flip-sides” of the same coin. Denial of this is denial of a materialist assessment of forces for a subjective whateverism of analysis. Without an understanding of national oppression, without an understanding of class analysis, without global picture of production relations, such attempts to articulate a racial order are fundamentally erroneous from the start. Ba Jin has not brought us forward from identity politics or People of Color discourse.
He has taken one step forward, and two steps back. There are points we certainly unite with here; however there would be from our perspective many more points we would unite to the most basic identity politics in this piece.
Self-Determination for the Black Belt,Aztlan, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico!
End the White Supremacist Settler Colonial Empire of the U$A!
SMASH THE STATE!
 In fact in total the whole of the African-American people, despite the superficial insistence of Ba Jin, face national oppression. There is not a gap growing between the middle class and the working class of the nation. Growth among the black middle class was only prompted within a short period of time by financial capital and the US state because capital expansion presented itself as a necessity (subprime mortgages, etc). Data shows the growth occurred through 20002 till 20007.
This petty-bourgeois were mostly of the lower petty-bourgeoisie employing in their majority less than 5 workers. Moreover the empirical data that has been collected doesn’t show post-crash trends, it would be hard to expect that the lower black petty-bourgeoisie faired out well without the very instruments which brought them quickly forward to begin with. The primary contradiction is not the black working class and lumpen with the petty-bourgeois sections, but it actually is found with the whole of the people in relation to the comprador political bourgeois class who have utilized their position to grasp and take as much as they can for themselves.
These poverty pimps and managers have fattened themselves historically through the state and have kept people tied to US imperialism. Obama is one of their last grabs at legitimacy. The truth is that 90% of the black petty-bourgeois businesses make less than 50,000 a year and are concentrated in the core of black communities themselves.
There has been no separation in reality of the black petty-bourgeoisie from the black working class, they have in fact not been integrated into the white supremacist capitalist structure, but are dependent outlets of the imperialist system.
Posted on December 7, 2012, in African Struggles, Indigenous Struggles, Revolutionary Theory, White Leftism & Neocolonialism, White Power and tagged Fire Next Time Collective, New Afrikanism, Signalfire, Ten Theses on the US Racial Order. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.