Joining the Uhuru Movement: A look back six months on

Enaemaehkiw Tupac Keshena is a Canada-based Indigenous comrade of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin and a member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement. Find more of his writings on his blog at bermudaradical.wordpress.com.

It’s been about six months now since I took the plunge and officially joined the Uhuru Movement. I am writing this post as a retrospective of why I joined the Uhuru Movement, and my feelings on it, now having several months of experience under my belt.

Why I joined

To begin, my joining the Uhuru Movement was the culmination of some major changes that my political thought has undergone since last summer. It was at that time that I left behind the two closely “radical” trends that I had been committed to for a number of years –  ”socialism from below” and “left regroupment/refoundation.” 

The catalyst of this political shift was a re-assessment of my views on the Chinese Revolution and the vanguard party. By this time last year I was talking quite extensively with two Maoist comrades (one in TO and the other in the US South) about such things as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, new democracy, people’s war and the like.

I even, for a very brief time last fall, declared myself to be a “critical Maoist” and flirted with joining the major Maoist organization in Canada – the Revolutionary Communist Party (for clarification, I now refer to myself as a Yeshitelaist, not a Maoist or even a “critical Maoist”). I used the phrase “critical Maoist” because while I did, and still do, agree with such concepts as people’s war, new democracy, cultural revolution and the Maoist conceptualization of the united front, there was always far too much ideological baggage for me to fully commit to Maoism.

One major piece of baggage was the whole history of the revisionist-anti-revisionist divide (which is not something unique to the Maoist movement, as there are other political trends that claim the title of “anti-revisionist” that in fact reject Maoism as itself being revisionist, such as Hoxhism and the grouping around the Workers Party of Belgium that also includes the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization-Fight Back!). While the whole idea of breaking with Soviet “revisionism” is centrally important to the development of Maoism, and I fully understand why the Chinese and their allies did it, and do accept it in principle, in reality what has developed over the last 35 years is that dozens of groups, all with different politics have all claimed to embody “anti-revisionist” politics and have labelled all those groups outside their particular trend as “revisionist” or perhaps “right opportunist” or “right deviationist.”

Functionally you cannot join an “anti-revisionist” organization (whether Maoist or any other) without more or less automatically cutting yourself off from supporting or working with organizations and movements from other trends that have been deemed “revisionist” or some other sectarian label. In my chief area of focus, which the Americas, this would mean I would be unable to work with or promote the heroic Cuban Revolution, or organizations that have managed to build important mass revolutionary movements such as the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (one of many important Hoxhist organizations in Latin America) or emergent radical social processes such as the Bolivarian experience in Venezuela.

Importantly though I also spoke about the need to “indigenize” Maoism. This meant adapting Maoism to the particular social conditions of our movement for liberation, and not just blindly adopting the deeply Eurocentric “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” that is passed around by the settler left. On this point I focused primarily on the role that our traditional cultures and spiritualities play in our resistance to imperialism, white power, colonialism and capitalism. This point was picked up on by a commenter who would later turn out to be a member of the Uhuru Movement and would become one of my first lines of contact within the organization.

Finally, around the time of the winter solstice last year I began reading J. Sakai’s Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, a text which is on the black list of not only the entire socialism from below and left refo trends, but also the vast majority of the Maoist movement. I previously had rejected Sakai’s thesis without even having read it because the previous organization I had been a member of had been the home of one of the most straw-personed reviews of it available. However, upon actually reading it the obvious reality of Sakai’s ideas struck me. This was centrally important in my eventual move shortly thereafter to join the Uhuru Movement because I recalled that the Uhuru Movement have a line that is superficially much like Sakai’s

However, while I still hold that Sakai’s book is an important one, and one of the truest histories of the United States, what I soon discovered after beginning to look at the analysis of the Uhuru Movement is that their line is actually much more highly developed than Sakai’s. It is an analysis of all of the white world, not just the settler colonies of Sakai’s focus, and it does, in my opinion, a far superior job at locating the actual material source of white power and white left opportunism.

So as I began to seriously read the writings of Chairman Omali Yeshitela and listened to more and more from them on the theory of African Internationalism, the more and more I came to see the correctness of their views. I also came to see how they apply not just to the international struggles for self-determination of the dispersed African nation, but also the struggles of all colonially oppressed peoples, including my own people’s struggles here in the heart of the North American settler empire. In fact, Chairman Omali’s line has always been constructed with a deep and unwavering solidarity with the struggles of all oppressed peoples, especially the indigenous people of the Americas.

Ultimately, even before I officially joined, I came to be quite influenced by African Internationalism, or Yeshitelaism, especially with regards to the questions of the nature of the national question in the North American Empire, the nature and composition of the labour aristocracy in the so-called “First World,” and the role to be played by progressive North Americans and Europeans (whites) in the worldwide struggles for African and indigenous liberation.

So with these political developments in hand I set off to join the Uhuru Movement.

The actual experience of joining

Having finished Settlers and beginning to seriously engage with the thought of Chairman Omali, I got to talking with my main contact within the movement, and soon found myself talking to other members as well, about joining. The first question I had was with regards to what organization within the movement I should join. I was told that there were a number that I could join, but I decided, after discussion with my new comrades, that the Uhuru Solidarity Movement would be the best fit. While the USM is primarily an organization of North Americans (white people) working in solidarity with the struggle of African Liberation, in reality it is a organization for anyone who wishes to work to build solidarity for the African revolution.

It’s also quite clearly understood by the rest of the membership and the movement that my chief personal mission within it is the development of African-Native revolutionary unity. While the Uhuru Movement has long standing ties with the indigenous-Raza revolutionary organization Union del Barrio, which grew out of the Chicano Power Movement, serious contacts and organizational cooperation needs to be developed with the American Indian population. So this is what I am doing as my own personal project in the Uhuru Movement, and the rest of the membership has been nothing but supportive of this!

So what has it been like? In short, it’s been a truly invigorating, or rather reinvigorating, experience to join. In fact, I have never felt better about joining a political organization that I have felt about joining the Uhuru Movement.

As I mentioned in a post at the beginning of last month, the last experience I had with being a member of an socialist organization was less than stellar. While I did not leave the New Socialist Group with a great amount of anger towards my now ex-fellow members, I did leave it feeling incredibly disappointed, enough so that I initially swore off joining another radical organization for the foreseeable future. While the immediate catalyst for my leaving the NSG was my final break with the whole “socialism from below” political trend (mentioned above), my frustrations had been building for some time, because being out here in Waterloo, while not that far from the main NSG hub in Toronto, felt like being on an island.

This most definitely has not been the case with the Uhuru Movement. As soon as I joined, and even before I officially joined, I made lots of contacts in various organizations that are part of the movement, from Toronto to Florida to Philadelphia to California. I was invited to attend events in Philly and St. Pete, and even though I couldn’t attend either, the point is that I was never once invited by NSG comrades to events in Toronto, even though Toronto is less than an hour away.

It’s also given new steam to my own theoretical work that I have put up through this site. My collected writings on the white “left”, which were produced earlier this summer, were all fuelled by the theoretical understandings of Yeshitelaism. These were some of the most popular articles I ever put up on this site, including both reblogged pieces and my own writings. Not to pat my own back too much, but I also think they are some of the best theoretical material I have ever produced on this site as well. So it’s quite important for me to say that I would not have had the theoretical ability to write them without having seriously engaged the thought of the Uhuru Movement. It’s important the bring this point out, because lots of people confused my analysis for that of J. Sakai and E. Tani & Kae Sara (authors of False Nationalism, False Internationalism), but while those authors may indeed be referenced here and there within the series, they are the backbone of the analysis.

So I feel reinvigorated. Not just about my current work to aid and build the African revolutionary movement, but about my commitments to my own people’s struggles as well, because Yeshitelaism is a tool for analysing the 500 years of colonial occupation of my people’s lands and the oppression we have suffered because of it. I now work to build revolutionary internationalism between Africans, Natives and white allies.

All of this is to say that I believe that joining the Uhuru Movement was the best political decision I have made in some time.

Uhuru!

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