Is Kamala Harris progressive?

Editor’s Note: This is a transcription from Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s Address to the African Nation on August 19, 2020.

Today, we want to talk about the question of Kamala Harris.

As many of you know, it has been declared that Joe Biden—the former senator of Delaware and former vice president under Barack Hussein Obama—is now officially the standard bearer for the democratic party in the contest to become president of the United States.

He has chosen as his vice president Kamala Harris. She has come to some notoriety over the process of the democratic presidential campaign, and as could be expected, putting forth Kamala Harris as his vice presidential choice has led to a lot of discussion.

Some people are ecstatic. Kamala Harris is characterized as the first black woman to have achieved the designation as the vice presidential candidate of a major political party.

Some people see that as a fantastic victory. That’s how it’s being promoted, not only by the democratic party, but even by forces who are opposed to the democratic party and Joe Biden being elected.

There is this idea that Kamala Harris represents a form of progress for African people.

We’ve seen some women from our community who have shown their celebratory expectation of this nomination and how much it should mean.

Even an iconic figure from our struggle in the ‘60s, Angela Davis, has made statements to the effect that—although we don’t like what Kamala Harris did when she was the district attorney in San Francisco and the assistant DA in Oakland, California and we don’t like what she did when she was the attorney general—some feminist assumptions make it possible for us to overlook those contradictions.

Of course, the contradictions that she is talking about are those that have resulted in hundreds of African people being locked up in prison.

On one occasion, at least, even after DNA and other evidence indicated that he was innocent, she has pushed for a black man’s execution because he didn’t get his paperwork in on time.

This is what we’re talking about when we look at Kamala Harris.

Joe Biden, of course, is the guy who put forth the 1994 crime bill and made all the deals that had to be made in order to get it passed.

The 1994 crime bill resulted in 100,000 policemen being put in the streets throughout this country, and perhaps, one of them killed George Floyd. Perhaps, one of them is responsible for the murder of Mike Brown.

That crime bill created more than 60 new offenses that could demand the death penalty in federal courts. So, this is Biden.

He has a horrible anti-African, colonial attitude. He is the one who, when Barack Hussein Obama was nominated by the democratic party, said that the good thing about Obama is that he’s clean, and he is a black person who speaks good English when he wants to.

This is the same Biden who fought against what was supposed to be, in the minds of many liberals, the ingredient that would desegregate schools.

He fought against the busing of African people, and of course, we know that wouldn’t have made a dime’s worth a difference in terms of the real relationship we have to the system.

But the fact is that he worked very closely with the reactionary Jim Crow, Ku Klux Klan politicians in the U.S. congress.

Biden clearly is no friend of African people.

So here we have Biden, who’s put 100,000 policemen in the streets of this country on the one hand, and then we have Kamala Harris as prosecutor, who’s using those police to lock black people up throughout California.

This is who they are. This is not something that many people are unaware of.

The fact is that we hear some of the same things about Kamala Harris that we heard about Barack Hussein Obama when he ran for office.

That despite his record—despite the vacuous and empty platform that made no mention of serving the interests of African people nor of serving the interests of others in this country and the oppressed peoples around the world—it’s a good symbol.

This is what they say about Kamala Harris, too—that this is symbolic victory.

There are many forces who call themselves leftists and revolutionaries who work with Bernie Sanders who is now talking about what a good job that Harris is going to do.

Many of the people who thought that Bernie Sanders’ presence in the electoral process was going to push the democratic party to the left—to make it something that looks more revolutionary, more progressive, if you will—are now putting forth Kamala Harris and Joe Biden as this great new force that’s going to be able to unseat Trump and make a lot of difference for the people in this country.

People are afraid of Trump rather than for Biden’s program

People are frightened, and I understand that. A lot of working class people in the African community, and a lot of people who call themselves progressives and leftists, are especially frightened. They are terrified by the idea of another term for Donald Trump.

That is a terrifying prospect for many people who will not come out and say up front that Kamala Harris is not representative of our people and that there’s no basis why anybody should organize to vote for and support Kamala Harris.

The only reason it’s necessary to have that discussion with anybody is because we’re at a place today where opportunism reigns supreme in what used to be a revolutionary movement in this country and around the world by African people.

This question of Kamala Harris and the electoral process is not something that’s peculiar to African people or people in the U.S.

This question of the electoral process and how it is to be treated is something that revolutionaries and the peoples around the world are grappling with.

Just the other day, the military overthrew the government in Mali. It’s a reactionary neocolonial government—a puppet of French and U.S. imperialism who occupied Mali and starved, exploited and oppressed our people.

What we’ve seen subsequent to the military coup is people dancing in the streets, but we’ve seen them dance in the streets in other places around the world when these thugs have been overthrown only to find themselves back in the same situation they were in prior to the removal of those faces of white power.

The fact is that many of the people feel like they’re trapped: if we don’t vote for Biden and Harris, then what the hell is going to happen to us?

That’s the assumption that many people are moving with, and they’re too afraid not to support Harris. They are more afraid of Trump than they are for any kind of program that Biden and Harris might be bringing.

Biden and Harris cannot bring forth a program that will speak to the interests of Africans and oppressed and working class people here and around the world.

People are saying, let your fears make the decision for you on the one hand, and on the other hand, many people—Africans in particular—are being duped in by the fact that Kamala Harris is a woman.

So this historic event of a black woman being on the ticket of a major political party is overcoming any kind of examination of who she is, what her politics are and what that means in terms of forwarding the movement of black people—whether it progresses us or whether it sets us back.

Kamala Harris being black is not enough

It doesn’t matter that Kamala Harris is an African woman.

We’ve seen if being black was enough to satisfy what it is that we’re looking for. All we have to do is look all over the continent of Africa, where puppets have been put in power by either France, the United States or other imperialist powers.

They bleed the people. They steal resources from Africa and from the people and send them to these major corporations, just like Obama gave trillions of dollars to the corporations here inside the United States.

So being black is not enough. If that was the solution, then there would be nothing but freedom and joy all over the continent of Africa, but Africa is suffering more now than it was before these puppets were put in power.

And they were put in power because they need to be able to disguise the reality that imperial white power is the dominating force. It cannot operate in its own face anymore because the masses of people have become conscious of this white colonial domination.

So they come looking like us.

They eat fufu like we eat fufu. They go to the same clubs that we go to. They know the same dances and handshakes, but they’re not us.

She’s not one of us, and I’m not saying that because she’s supposed to be of some mixed heritage. I never condemned Barack Hussein Obama because he’s supposed to be some mixed person.

I’m saying they’re not one of us because they represent imperialist white power. It’s white power in black face, and this is the basis of the opposition.

So, the reason we’re having this discussion, in part, is because we have a revolutionary movement. It didn’t start off as a revolutionary movement.

It’s the movement that grew out of what people refer to as the Civil Rights Movement that gained more and more clarity and momentum, and it challenged this whole social system to its foundation.

It developed into an anti-colonial movement that we characterized as the Black Power Movement. We saw the emergence of the Black Panther Party, and as this occurred, we also saw a diminishing of the significance of the democratic party.

If you want to hold up an African woman that you need to look at, look at Fannie Lou Hamer. Look at Ella Baker.

These were people who actually fought for the liberation of our people.

Fannie Lou Hamer once said in 1964, “I fought like hell to get into the nice democratic national convention.”

By 1968, she said, “I fought to get the hell out” because she came to understand exactly what she was dealing with in that social system.

So look at Fannie Lou Hamer. Look at Ella Baker. Look at other women who actually stood up to fight against this social system.

They never repudiated the revolution and never, ever compromised the fact that we have to stand up for the freedom and liberation of our people and peoples around the world.

That ain’t Kamala Harris.

Democratic party doesn’t have a revolutionary program

So, here we have this incredible movement that blew up—a movement of thousands of poor, starving people facing water hoses and cattle prods.

You’ve heard the line “our people have died so that we have the right to vote.” People fought because they wanted freedom.

They didn’t fight just to vote. The vote is empty if it doesn’t produce the freedom that the people fought for.

So, you had the people struggling, changing the ground in this country and affecting struggle all around the world.

And the people, in the process of changing the world, changed themselves from these passive entities that could be used by the democratic party and manipulated to go here and there.

The voting rights act was passed in 1965, but the movement didn’t stop then. It escalated.

Then in 1966, the demand was for Black Power. We said it’s not enough just to have rights to vote. We have to have power over our own lives.

That was an anti-colonial demand, and it led to this escalating struggle of our people and a war against our movement.

We’re talking about political prisoners stuffed in the prisons in this country right now who came from that period.

We’re talking about Malcolm X being assassinated by the United States government; King being assassinated by the United States government.

More than 30 members of the Black Panther Party in 1968 alone were wiped out by the U.S. government and more than 300 thrown in prison. Fred Hampton in 1969 was killed to stop a revolutionary movement.

At this time, we weren’t looking for the democratic party to solve our problems.

We were looking to solve our own problems. We built our own revolutionary organization and had our own programs.

The democratic party does not have a revolutionary program. It does not have a program that speaks to the interests of African people.

Some are saying, “well you know, you can’t have everything. So, we just have to take whatever is offered to us.”

I say we don’t have to settle for that.

We don’t have to assume responsibility for the election of Trump no more than we were responsible when he was elected before.

People have tried to say that the reason he was elected was because not enough black people came out to vote against Trump; to vote for lying, reactionary Hillary Clinton.

That’s not true.

We have to build a movement

So, what is it then that we have to do? We have to build a movement.

There is no easy way out of this. There’s no “okay, let’s get this white person or that Negro person and just vote for them.”

The fact of the matter is that the power of our movement was stronger before we got the right to vote. It was the movement that got the right to vote, it was not the vote that got the movement.

It was a struggle of the people—a struggle that bears at least some minimal resemblance to the fact that millions of people throughout this country have been protesting and engaged in struggle. It even almost included insurrection in this country.

Millions of people that had never been involved in political life before—and they damn sure were not trying to get a Kamala Harris there. They damn sure were not mobilizing because of a Joe Biden.

In fact, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the people who will put them in jail. I guarantee you right now Biden couldn’t even support simple-minded stuff like “defund the police.”

Neither could Bernie Sanders because the police is the State. The State is the organization of coercion and repression. It is the military occupation of our communities that we call the police department throughout this country.

None of them want to get rid of that.

They can’t stop it because they didn’t start it

So, the revolution was crushed and defeated along with the agenda that was coming out of that revolution. Even Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign—the one that Malcolm X talked about.

Malcolm talked about how these Negroes threatened to shut down Washington. He said that was the Black Revolution.

He said Kennedy and the other liberal democrats called in the Big Six. Those were the big shot Negroes at the time, representing the big shot civil rights organizations.

He said, “Call it off!” Then Malcolm said they said, “I’m sorry boss. We can’t stop it because we didn’t start it.”

That’s what you have in the streets today.

The ruling class cannot stop it because they didn’t start it. The petty bourgeoisie cannot stop it. Kamala Harris and Joe Biden cannot stop it.

What has to happen is that we have to give it direction. When I say “we,” I’m talking about revolutionaries.

I’m talking about the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP). I’m talking about the Uhuru Movement.

That’s our responsibility—to give it direction, to give it ideological content and to raise the confidence of the people in their own capacity to change things.

The APSP has participated in building the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations (BIBC), and one of the things that this coalition has done is to provide leadership based on the fact that our revolution was crushed.

Our program for Black Power was crushed by the U.S. government.

I want to read for you the National Black Political Agenda for Self-determination that came from the Coalition, and this National Black Political Agenda is our agenda.

The democratic party’s agenda is not our agenda. You can fight for this agenda.

I’m going to call on you because just three days after this election, the Black is Back Coalition is calling on African people from throughout this country to march on Washington D.C. where we will host the 11th consecutive March on the White House rally.

That’s around the question of Black Power Matters! It says Black Community Control of Police! It says Death to Colonialism! Those are the slogans that are coming up from the people.

This National Black Political Agenda for Self-determination was something that we put together before we heard of Kamala Harris running for office.

It was before we knew that Joe Biden was going to be the presidential nominee of the democratic party because our people need this. Not the democratic party—our people need this. 

So, you don’t have to wait for the democratic party. You have a program.


At the end of this presentation, Chairman Omali presented the National Black Political Agenda for Self-determination. Read the full document at


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