Electoral politics and the African vote: Zaki Baruti’s run for St. Louis County executive

 
 
        None of us had any illusions that Zaki Baruti could win the November 4, 2014 election as a write-in candidate for St. Louis County Executive.
 
A long-time community activist, Baruti’s decision to run for County Executive came out of the tenacious resistance of African people following the August 9 police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis predominately African suburb of Ferguson.
       
Baruti’s decision to run made at the very last moment, less than a month out from the election and his coffers literally empty.
 
Baruti was going against all the odds running as an Independent against the establishment parties that most people, Africans included, see as the real legitimate vehicle through which most of their political activities are concentrated.
     
   In addition, running as a write-in candidate to win an election for a constituency whose electoral participation rests on a shaky foundation in the best of circumstances, did more than cast a shadow of doubt on the likelihood of a successful campaign.
       
Nevertheless, Baruti’s candidacy was one of the few things to lend any legitimacy to African electoral participation during these midterm elections upon which the legacy of U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama and the imperialist Democratic party rely on for success.
      
  We say this because although Baruti has his own history of political work in St. Louis, his stature was achieved of late by his work in Ferguson, which is in St. Louis County, thus and which inspired his run for County Executive.
    
    Baruti was among the first to go to Canfield Drive where 18-year-old Mike Brown’s corpse lay face down, decomposing in 100 degree plus heat for four and a half hours after being gunned down by colonial police Darren Wilson.
       
Unlike many other “responsible” leaders who condemned the young African workers whose uprising brought world attention to the colonial conditions of Africans in the U.S., Baruti was unsparing in his many public acknowledgments of their heroism and tenacity.
 
Baruti also worked to build the Justice for Mike Brown Leadership Coalition in an attempt to give some coherence to the struggle emanating from Ferguson.
       
The African People’s Socialist Party is a part of that coalition, at least nominally.
 
This is despite the fact that coalitions by their very nature are comprised of  a host of various political and ideological tendencies.
 
Our participation is intended to provide influence from the African working class that is usually too unorganized and inexperienced to be self-represented in such formations.
      
  We were there in Ferguson when Al Sharpton, chief among opportunist hustlers, rode in to town to give leadership to the various sell-outs, local and afar, who would condemn the militant resistance of the people.
 
Sharpton strove to convince everyone that our political salvation lies in prayer and voting, both the province of the African petty bourgeoisie.
     
   The Justice for Mike Brown Coalition is not pure and without contradictions.
 
In fact, although we participated in the coalition decision to hold the first national march in Ferguson on August 30th – 21 days after the assassination of Brown – I was literally bum-rushed off the speakers’ platform the moment I uttered the word “revolution” less than two minutes into my presentation.
       
Nevertheless, we are not going to easily be pushed out of the coalition and silenced in our fight to give representation to the African working class.
      
  One of the ways we sought to do this was through attempting to influence the platform of Baruti, to endorse him and to get his message out to the world.
 
We saw this as an example of what we could advance through the electoral process that is designed as an instrument for nonviolent struggle between contending sectors of the capitalist-colonialist ruling class for control of the capitalist-colonialist State.
       
We saw Baruti’s campaign as an instrument of the sustained resistance that has been occurring in Ferguson since Brown was martyred by the occupying colonial forces.
    
    It was also the means by which we had the opportunity to use the electoral process to extend the struggle beyond its narrow and restricting parameters.
 
For example, Baruti’s platform called for community control of police.
      
  This goes beyond the liberal fix of having the killer occupiers wear cameras or take sensitivity training.
 
This also goes beyond the notion that bringing more Africans onto the Ferguson police department would do anything more that obscure the colonial nature of the police in our colonized communities.
    
    Community control of police is not THE answer, but it does contribute to the process of deconstructing the colonial State apparatus as part of a meaningful reform, one that “legitimizes” the anti-colonial struggle for black power by victims of white colonial violence within the U.S.
      
  We are told that participation in the midterm elections upon which liberals and Democrats pinned their hopes only represented around 34 percent of the registered voters.
 
We are being lectured about the responsibility of the people for our own oppression and exploitation because of lack of participation in the elections.
     
   We know better than this. However, it must be said that the U.S. front of the African Revolution is without clarity on how to address the issue of electoral participation.
       
In addition to Baruti’s valiant losing effort in St. Louis, Chokwe Lumumba, former mayor of Jackson, Mississippi who died shortly after election, went into office with a formidable history of organized anti-colonial political work prior to ever entering the electoral arena. As mayor, Lumumba had begun impressive reforms.
       
Likewise, Charles Barron of New York, formerly City council representative for the 42nd District of Brooklyn and now newly elected to the New York State Assembly from District 60, is notorious for his progressive stances on every issue from Israel to reparations.
 
As council member, Barron has delivered heretofore unheard of services to his impoverished colonized constituencies.
     
   But these are mere inspirations that do not have the power of U.S.-wide organization and influence.
 
This means that the electoral arena is usually left to the influence of the African petty bourgeoisie. It means that elections continue to provide the primary, legitimate vehicle for elevation of the African petty bourgeoisie to neocolonial status.
       
There will come a time when participation in elections will serve as a validation of a system that has come into disrepute among the conscious, politically engaged African population.
 
However, that time has not arrived and we are convinced that we cannot abandon any arena of democratic space to the hegemony of the African petty bourgeoisie.
       
The U.S. front of the African revolution, like the dispersed African nation worldwide, is engaged in a struggle for national liberation.
 
It is the job of the African People’s Socialist Party to represent the interests of the African working class within the struggle for national liberation, just as the Party has done in Ferguson.
       
We believe it is possible to forge a progressive Party of national liberation that can function under the leadership of a revolutionary national democratic program for black power within the electoral arena.
 
Such a party will help us to raise the highest aspirations of our people for freedom from colonial white power in a way that is represented in the efforts of the Barutis, Lumumbas and Barrons[o1] .
 
At the same time such a national liberation party can advance the revolutionary consciousness and organization of the working class masses to the responsibility to seize power over our lives by any means necessary.
     
   In August 2012 the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations held its annual conference in Newark, New Jersey.
 
The theme of the conference was: “Obama, the Elections and the Struggle for Justice, Peace, a Better Life and Black Power.”
      
  One significant result of that 2012 Black is Back Coalition conference, which included the participation of a variety of ideologies, organizations and personalities, was the adoption by vote of a position on electoral participation that included these words:
 
“… [I]t would be a mistake at this point in our struggle to dismiss the use of the electoral process altogether.
 
“The fact is that the electoral process does offer us the democratic space to educate the masses of our people, who for the most part participate in political life primarily through ruling class organized elections and political parties.
 
“We must never voluntarily accede this democratic space to our oppressors.
 
“One exception to this rule would be when the system has fallen in such disfavor among the masses and the crisis of imperialism has become so pervasive that our participation would serve primarily to validate a system that cannot otherwise claim legitimacy.
 
“Generally speaking we are open to some use of the electoral process as well because this is the method by which neocolonialists and others who claim to represent our interests win authenticity from within and without our community.
 
“We cannot allow hostile politics and ideologies to monopolize this important political space without a fierce fight back. We must take the resistance up into the electoral process itself.
 
“To fight against imperialist ideologies and programs, to fight against neocolonialism within the electoral process itself—a process that is generally recognized by the masses as legitimate—gives legitimacy to our revolutionary, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist politics and, over a period of time can educate the masses of our people while exposing imperialism and forcing it to move openly in ways that will bring discredit to the system among our people.
 
“However, this must not be seen as an individual endeavor, as mostelectoral politics are.
 
“We must be truly representative of our people and the agenda we present must be one that is crafted from our relationship with the people whose popular participation is central to its creation.
“Moreover, we must not promote the electoral process as the only or even the primary way for the people to achieve power.
 
“We cannot say that if the colonial system will not accede to black power by the electoral process we do not have any other options.
 
“In fact, we must create the options, destroying the proverbial claptrap from some ‘leftists’ and ‘revolutionaries’ that ask, ‘If not Obama and the Democrats, then what?’
 
“When we observe how Africans were treated during and after Reconstruction in the U.S., and how the U.S. and other so-called democracies overthrew and murdered the duly elected Patrice Lumumba of Congo, and overthrew the elected governments of Guatemala and Iran in the 1950s, and most recently of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in 2002 and of Manual Zelaya of Honduras in 2009—it is clear that the imperialist ruling class respects the electoral process only when it serves its needs.
 
“The fact is that elections within the capitalist-colonialist system only serve as nonviolent contests between different sectors of the ruling class for control of the State, the primary organ of coercion through which the capitalists pursues their political and economic interests.
 
“Elections offer a form of systemic stability. All the vested, privileged beneficiaries of the system, especially the ruling class, need this nonviolent process to serve and be recognized as the only legitimate means through which political power is to be sought.
 
“Ultimately, although different individuals will win and lose and different sectors of the ruling class and other privileged social forces may win or lose, as long as the struggle is confined to the electoral process the system of exploitation and oppression is generally safe.
 
“In fact Africans have at times been encouraged to join ruling class political parties and to run for political office, functioning as pied pipers to draw African political activity into the safe embrace of the Democratic Party and the imperialist system during times of crises when African people might look outside the system for solutions.
 
“Our task is not to contribute to the stabilization of a system of global oppression and exploitation; it is not our task to rescue imperialism from the crisis that has it reeling desperately from one crime to another in attempts to stanch the wounds stemming from the peoples’ resistance.
 
“Yes, let us use the electoral process right now as one form of struggle.
 
“But let us, at the same time, recognize that it is only one form of struggle and that our future depends on our willingness to build a real capacity to utilize every form of struggle in the quest for our liberation.
 
“To concentrate our political efforts within the electoral system without building genuine independent revolutionary organization is to invite the disaster of the past and leave our future and our people at the mercy of the vicious white nationalist system that has enslaved, colonized and betrayed us time after time.
 
“Malcolm X once said we should win our freedom ‘by any means necessary.’ This statement was too ambiguous about our possibilities within the U.S.-led imperialist system.
 
“Today we must affirmatively declare that we will use all necessary means to wrench our freedom and future out of the grasp of a dying imperialist system that by its very nature is incapable of conferring freedom on Africans or any other oppressed people on this Earth.”
 
This is what the masses of Ferguson are attempting to articulate. It is within this context that the significance of Zaki Baruti’s campaign for County Executive is understood by our Party.
 
 
 
       
       

 [o1]Apostrophe is not used to form the plural of any noun or proper name.

spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img

Support African Working Class Media!

More articles from this author

“Anti-Semitism” – A weapon against African and Palestinian freedom struggles

In the Dec. 3, 2023 #OmaliTaughtMe Sunday Study, APSP Chairman Omali details how anti-Semitism is used as a weapon against the just liberation struggles...
00:02:04

Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people

Chairman Omali Yeshitela's statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people, posted by Lebanon-based news outlet قناة الميادين - Al Mayadeen Tv with subtitles in...

Call to Join the Hands Off Uhuru Fightback Coalition! Mobilize for the Black is Back Coalition’s 15th Annual Black People’s March on the White...

Uhuru, Comrades and friends: Uhuru means Freedom! Today we are facing a watershed moment in human history when our movements for freedom, liberation and democracy can...

Similar articles

The African People’s Socialist Party calls for unity with Russia’s defensive war in Ukraine against the world colonial powers

On March 17, 2022, the African People's Socialist Party conducted a press conference featuring Chairman Omali Yeshitela, who put forward the official position of...

Fresh La Vwadezil’s ‘Mande Yo Pou Mwen’ justly criticizes oppressive powers for Haiti’s mass displacement

    HAITI—On March 17, 2021, singer-songwriter Fresh La—whose birth name is Donald Joseph and who is the lead singer of his band called “Vwadezil”—released a...

Cops Assassinate African Youth in Broad Daylight

The day after St. Petersburg police brutally executed Dominique, the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), defenders of the African working class, called a news conference led by Director of Agitation and Propaganda (AgitProp) Akilé Anai.

spot_img