We must build organizations of professional revolutionaries to overturn imperialism!

The following is a presentation made by Chairman Omali Yeshitela on January 23, 2005 at a conference of the African People’s Solidarity Committee held in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

I think that it’s not difficult to understand that this is a very critical period that we are living and struggling in. What I would hope is that those of us who are participating in this movement, in the African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC) and the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), would understand how significant we are right now.

It is often a tendency among people who would give themselves and their talents and resources to try to change things for the masses of people out in the world to suffer from a kind of humility that, while good, sometimes is a disservice in the sense that, as individuals, we don’t often think of ourselves very highly.

We sometimes transfer that sense of significance to our organizations, but the work that we do and the existence of the APSC and the Party are critical.

I cannot think of a better place to be and better company to be in than with people like yourselves who have committed yourselves to transforming this world. I think that it is not a little thing to have an organization and individuals who have made the kind of commitment that we have made. I just want to salute you.

It would be impossible to imagine a greater core of comrades than those who are here. I want to especially applaud the leadership of the African People’s Solidarity Committee for keeping the APSC itself on track, because it is not the easiest thing in the world to do for any number of reasons that most people here understand.

I think that this is an exciting time. It‘s not just a critical time, it’s an exciting time. It’s a good place to be. It’s good to know that we are sort of in the right place at the right time. We have an opportunity to join in with a clearly emerging movement of peoples around the world to change their relationship to oppression and to imperialism.

We have talked over and over again about an obvious kind of crisis that imperialism is experiencing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that some of the people who seem to be at the helm recognize the existence of the crisis.

The reality is that the basis of the crisis is the ongoing resistance of oppressed peoples and the attempt to take back the stolen resources that gave birth to imperialism and still continue to keep it afloat.

I guess with every historical period there are signposts which don’t necessarily say that this is the essence of the contradiction or even of the struggle, but they give evidence of the presence of the struggle.

For us, one of the glaring things, of course, has been this 9-11 situation. I point to that as one example. It is not the only example, and perhaps it is not the most profound example. It gave evidence of the existence of struggle.

I might even point out another example of this evidence being the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that happened in Durban, South Africa, which ended just a few days before the 9-11 incident.

At this conference, Africans and other colonized peoples from throughout the world did, among other things, declare slavery to be a crime against humanity. They said that people should be paid reparations for slavery and colonialism.

This was really important because it represented the sentiment of peoples who have been victimized by imperialism; people whose resources, human and material, are the basis for the power and existence of imperialism.

So, you have this conference in Durban where the world’s people had targeted the illegitimate settler State of Israel and targeted all of imperialism perpetrators of slavery and colonialism. Then of course, you have this 9-11 thing with the twin towers and the attack on the Pentagon, and it is alleged that there was an attempt to attack the White House itself. These are serious signs of a growing resistance of the people to this whole colonial setup.

Crisis of imperialism recognized by APSP and by thinking representatives of imperialism

Now, 9-11 offered up an excuse for imperialism to try and push back the time and enact plans that had been made among different sectors of the thinking representatives of the white ruling class and had been bandied about from time to time. These plans represented a response to evidence of crisis that imperialist pundits and intellectual whores had already begun to talk about some years before, and was recognized by most of them even before we saw the signs in Durban at the World Conference or on 9-11.

These people like Zbigniew Brzezinski — who was the architect of U.S. President James Carter’s program that created the modern jihad, Bin Laden and those force that they now characterize as the greatest evil on earth, and powered them — wrote about these things. Brzezinski’s book, “Out of Control” is one example of the struggle to restructure this relationship being made by oppressed peoples around the world.

The Carter regime under Brzezinski had characterized the existence of this arc of crisis. This was pre-9-11. This was before Durban, but the thinking representatives of the bourgeoisie had already begun to signal recognition of a kind of crisis.

Then in Brzezinski’s “The Grand Chessboard,” he talked about the things the U.S. needed to do to change its imperialistic relationship to the rest of the world and then predicted that the only way that such things could happen is for a crisis to emerge, because the North American people would not easily unite with being an imperialist power unless there was some crisis that represented a great threat. The 9-11 event was the thing that gave them an opportunity to take that on.

Before and subsequent to 9-11 they had these thinking representatives of the bourgeoisie talking about crisis, talking about problems.They had recognized the crisis even before most of the North American people, and perhaps the vast majority of Europeans, recognized its existence. They had been offering up these solutions to how to reconquer the world and keep things as they are.

The Bush regime’s actions are just one manifestation of it. It’s not even the Brzezinski manifestation of it. They had a different take on it. There are other forces who had differences on how to approach it, but the Bush regime took it.

It’s not even like in doing that it represented some great break within imperialist ranks.

In fact, these other forces were quite willing to see if this thing that Bush was doing was going to work even as they disagreed with it. To the extent that there is some debate within the ranks of the imperialists, it has only to do with: one, whether or not this thing is working, or two, whether or not their particular specific interests may be challenged one way or another by the approach that the Bush regime is taking.

“We’re not fighting against racism. We recognize that what is referred to as racism is simply… the way that the system justifies itself ideologically for the crimes it commits and for why it maintains colonial domination over the rest of the world.”

The point is that this was something that was already being talked about even before 9-11. I think it is important to say that because 9-11 only represented a public manifestation of crisis that people could see, but the bourgeoisie already knew that the crisis was there.

We knew the crisis was there. We had been talking about the crisis of imperialism for many years now before 9-11, because it is a crisis that has been going on over a period of time. This position that we took in the Party distinguishes us from many forces who may even have revolutionary politic and revolutionary strategies to achieve power.

For example, I spent the last week or so of November in Holland participating in a meeting in a place called Eindhovan. This was a meeting sponsored by a group that called itself the International League of Peoples Struggle, and there were revolutionary forces there from throughout the world — primarily from the Philippines and Turkey, but also from places like Brazil, Pakistan and various other places.

There were six Africans present in the whole meeting. We were two-thirds of that presence there.

The thing is that the way they understood this crisis, one might say, is a typical Marxist formulation of the contradiction. They recognize crisis, but they characterize the crisis as a crisis of overproduction.

Now overproduction is something that the Marxists know a lot about. Economists talk about overproduction all the time. It is a real phenomenon that occurs within capitalist countries.

Overproduction is simply when a capitalist economy has reached a State wherein everyone who can afford the commodities now have the commodities. So, if you are producing automobiles, it doesn’t mean that everybody who needs an automobile has one. It means everybody who can afford an automobile has one.

Everybody who can afford housing now has housing. Everybody who can afford the resources now has the resources.

Of course, capitalist production is a n anarchistic production. It is without fundamental planning. So, the idea is that each capitalist goes out and tries to corner the market. It’s not like a capitalist says, “We know that there is ‘X’ number of people who need a car or who need this resource, therefore, we will produce that amount.”

No, there are six capitalists in a particular industry and there are 200,000 people who traditionally use that product. Each of the six is going to try to sell that product to that 200,000 people. Consequently, you have overproduction, because everybody who can afford the vehicle or the product now has it.

What happens as a consequence of that? As a consequence of overproduction, it means that we’ve got to shut down production, right?

In some places it means unemployment will begin to happen, but when unemployment begins to happen in this industry it means that people who would be employed in the automobile industry can’t buy refrigerators either. So then you have an impact on the refrigerator industry and it goes all the way around. That’s how they understand crises.

But the problem is that this is what we refer to as an “economistic” assessment. It places all the emphasis on the economy. What we are saying is that the essence of the crisis is not simple, blind production of commodities, but it is the intervention of the people ourselves in the process, fighting for our resources. And as a consequence of this, the crisis is created.

This is the intervention that we took into that discussion. It is necessary for us to take that into the discussion because that analysis that we just looked at did not recognize the significance of the people at all. For them, the economy sort of happens within this historically predetermined fashion, and communists somehow sort of take advantage of the crisis once it gets there.

We say that we play a role in creating the crisis and advancing it by leading struggles of peoples who struggle to withdraw from this relationship with imperialism. That is the essential basis for crises. That’s not to say that other stuff doesn’t lend to it, but this is the essence of the question.

That is the kind of stuff that we bring into this discussion in terms of understanding the nature of the crisis, how we’ve understood it for a long time now.

So the crisis is there, and it manifests itself in a lot of different ways. Of course, it takes the covers off relationships. It makes it necessary for people to view themselves differently and to view other peoples in the world differently. It used to be a really casual relationship that America and the imperial powers had with other peoples.

That relationship is less casual now. It’s necessary now for North Americans and Europeans to at least give some thought to this relationship. Even if that thought is something that is informed by reaction, it’s not a casual relationship any more.

Even Europeans who are defined by relationships to different States — for example, Europeans in North America, Europeans in France and England and all these other places — have to look at the relationship that exists between each other and between them and the rest of the world.

It’s an exciting place to be. I think that we have a grip on a relatively decent analysis of the crisis itself and also some understanding of what it takes to win.

Racism — the ideological justification of imperialism

In this country and much of the world, there has been this attempt to define the struggle of African people as a struggle against racism. This is a relatively new phenomenon that’s happened. It is an ideological phenomenon — this whole concept of what we refer to as racism.

The concept is not new, but the characterization of it as racism is relatively new. This concept we say is the philosophical underpinning of imperialism itself. We understand that all imperialism rests upon a basic fundamental philosophical assumption of the superiority of white people over the rest of us.

It is a way that the system explains itself to itself and the way it explains itself to its victims. But what happens is that the system begins to believe in its own superiority. This is one of the reasons it is fraught with so many anxieties when it runs into situations like Korea and Vietnam and the success of oppressed peoples in fighting back; when it runs into such things as 9-11.

We become victimized by the philosophy itself in another way. You hear people who are supposedly the good folks on our side, who talk about the criticism of Bush and the criticism of what America is doing in Iraq and they say things like, “Well, what a crime because there really weren’t weapons of mass destruction there.”

They say things like, “America is supposed to be opposed to oppression. Now what’s it gonna’ do when Bush is now talking about spreading democracy everywhere. Is he also going to do it in Saudi Arabia, which is an ally of the U.S. and is repressive? Is he going to do it in Pakistan which is an ally of the U.S. and it’s repressive?”

“What I’m involved in is a struggle for national liberation. I want to build a movement that can win our freedom and that can build a State power that can represent the interests of Africans. When we talk about this, we are clear that there must be a struggle against the U.S. imperialist State.”

Well, how in the hell can a non-repressive, democratic State have a relationship with all those repressive States that require their repressive relationship for their existence if in fact it is itself a democratic State?

The thing is that there is this assumption that the white folks of America are on the good side, the democratic side, despite the America’s blunders and no matter who is in power — even George Bush, who they don’t like.

They dismiss the humanity of the rest of the people. It’s based on the assumption of a racial superiority that would allow white people to be upset about the possibility that Iran might be making an atomic weapon when the U.S. has more atomic weapons than the whole world put together; when the white Jewish State of Israel is armed to the teeth with atomic weapons.

Nobody is raising this question. The bourgeoisie understand this, but why aren’t ordinary white folks saying how the hell can you tell me they can’t have atomic weapons? You don’t even hear liberals and frothing-at-the-mouth leftists saying that.

You’ve got a situation where a white man (George Bush) actually disenfranchised in public view an entire African population to come to power in the first place, and everybody knows it. And then they would put him back into power the second time, and they did that because he’s going to protect them from the oppressed people, like the disenfranchised African people in this country who might be trying to get back at them.

That is the power of the philosophy of imperialism.

You have people who swear that they’re not racist. They are clearly letting you know that they are not “for racism,” and the fact that we would have them make that statement is itself a result of the imperialist philosophy.

In fact, it is often said that you are not supposed to strike against this relationship because of the insidious power of this philosophical assumption.

Then Africans and other people are victimized by it and sometimes believe that this is the way it is supposed to be. We sometimes believe in the superiority of white people.

I grew up as a youngster actually being thankful for slavery because otherwise, I would have been left in the jungles of Africa with monkeys and barbarians and stuff like that. So the ideas that are feeding the consciousness of the victims of imperialism are also those ideas that have their origin, generally speaking, from the imperialist oppressor.

The oppressor has a philosophy that it needs to believe in. Otherwise, it could not easily live with this. It is easier to do once you’ve dehumanized masses of people, and the philosophical assumption of imperialism does that automatically.

We’ve talked before about how even this philosophy has penetrated the popular culture with such things as Christmas and the assumptions therein that exist here in this country and in other places around the world. That’s the power of philosophy, but our movement understands these questions much better.

We’re not fighting against racism. We have no illusions about that. We recognize that what is referred to as racism is simply an ideological justification. It is the way that the system justifies itself ideologically for the crimes it commits and for why it maintains colonial domination over the rest of the world.

And I shouldn’t even say “crime” because it’s not a crime. In most instances it is quite legal. In fact, they have the power to make it legal.

We’re not off battling the windmills, fighting against this racism, although most people are. It’s really interesting how this is almost a requirement for Africans — to fight against racism. Not just Africans who live in this country.

It is a requirement that Africans have to say that what we are fighting for is not our liberation, is not for self-determination, is not to repossess our rights as a dispersed nation and to consolidate those rights in the form of an actual nation-state, but we are fighting against the opinions that white people have about us.

It is a struggle against racism that is imposed on nobody else. Nobody said the Vietnamese had to fight to make white people like them, but anytime I’m on the radio station here and I talk about the conditions of all the places around the world somebody’s gonna step forward and say, “It’s not about race.”

With Africans, there is this assumption that we are the property of white people. The reality is that this philosophy does not simply define Africans. It defines white people, too. This relationship defines each of us and we are defined in relationship to each other. Africans are all these negative things, against which is weighed all the wonderful things of white people.

At the juncture the African is removed from the equation, then white people have only themselves to make a judgment about their own value. It causes certain kinds of problems and crises, even for individual North Americans, when Africans step out of that equation saying, “I got nothing to do with this. I don’t give a damn whether white people like me. I’m not about that. I’m about national liberation!”

Party is clear that struggle is for national liberation not to change ideas in white people’s heads

The APSP is not trapped fighting that. The Party has for many, many years run into struggles around this question, even with people in the African national liberation movement in this country.

We’ve been clear that our struggle is for national liberation. We recognize that we are a nation of Africans that is stretched around the world; a nation whose every bit of suffering everywhere is a consequence of having been forcibly dispersed around the world and alienated from our own resources.

We recognize that our solution, the only way we can consolidate this dispersed nation, build it and unify it, is through the existence of a nation-state. We have to fight for State power.

The question is not somehow to make white people like us, which may or may not happen. I don’t know if phantom Johnny Cash will ever be able to get down with African people, but that shouldn’t be the question.

It shouldn’t matter whether white people like Reggae or whether white people like black music or anything like that. That shouldn’t be an issue.

I’m saying, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” What I’m involved in is a struggle for national liberation. That means that I want to destroy the ability of the imperial State, the capitalist-colonialist State, to impact and influence the existence of African people.

“We have a responsibility and obligation to try to prevent imperialism from resolving its crisis because the crisis will only be resolved at the expense of the freedom and resources of oppressed peoples around the world.”

I want to build a movement that can win our freedom and that can build a State power that can represent the interests of Africans. When we talk about this, we are clear that there must be a struggle against the U.S. imperialist State.

The U.S. imperialist State is not just a local manifestation. It is something that extends itself throughout the world. It’s in Iraq right now. It’s in most of the world.

The imperialists themselves have even created a joint capacity for ruling the world through creating State apparatuses collectively. They create organizations like NATO and other military organizations to maintain their relationship. They create political relationships and trade and economic relationships and the military power to keep them just as they are.

This is the real stuff. It ain’t got nothing to do with whether you like black folks or whether or not you like Bob Marley. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with real concrete material relationships in the world and those are the things that we are trying to deal with. That’s our movement.

We are clear on these questions, and again we are a people who have made a commitment to transform the world. This is why I say I cannot be in better company than that which I am in right now. These are the relationships that are going to make the difference in the world.

We understand that this is a struggle to destroy the State apparatus. We understand that it is a struggle against U.S. and world imperialism, which will maintain this relationship to the rest of the peoples of the world as long as it exists.

But beyond that, what we have concluded is that we just can’t have this thing disintegrate by itself. There’s not going to be a ripping away of this relationship. So we have to build organizations that take these understandings that I’m talking about now and include them into our organizational understanding, which informs the practice that we take out into the world.

These organizations have to be a different kind of organization. They have to be organizations of professional revolutionaries who, no matter whatever else we do, are involved in a struggle to overturn this relationship. This is the thing that gives us our value and our identity. This is what we live for.

We must struggle against our own contradictions

Right now, we are involved in a struggle to deal with our own contradictions because the deepening and sharpening of the crisis of imperialism brings to our attention weaknesses and contradictions that we have to take on. These contradictions have to be taken on because imperialism is moving as quickly as it can to resolve the crisis that it is confronted with.

We have a responsibility and obligation to try to prevent imperialism from resolving its crisis because the crisis will only be resolved at the expense of the freedom and resources of oppressed peoples around the world. It gives a great urgency to what we do as organized forces, those of us who are equipped with the analysis and understand that what we are putting forward now, you won’t find any place else. So our responsibility is greater now than perhaps it ordinarily and traditionally is.

We struggle with these contradictions as an organization. One thing we are suffering from is having too few bodies. We need people. We need forces in our movement, because we have some incredible tasks ahead of us that we cannot accomplish in the best possible way unless we have more forces in our ranks.

We also have to struggle as we talk about that to consolidate the character of the Party so that we give it the kind of fighting character that has been historically consistent with who we are; the kind of character that has helped us to come to the kind of conclusions that we’ve come to.

We have to fight for a way of Party life in our organizations. We have to struggle for democratic centralism in a way to be accountable for this process of winning freedom and liberation, and so that’s part of the struggle that we’re involved in.

One struggle that we are involved in, that is crucial, is strengthening our apparatus, our organization; strengthening our capacity to carry out the tasks that we’ve established for ourselves; deepening our understanding of things like democratic centralism and criticism and self-criticism; fighting against the liberalism that will come down into our organizations over a period of time if we’re not careful. Those are the things that we have to take on.

It is here where you create the foundation for everything else. Here we create our foundation for our ability to get the resources that we need to make this movement. This is the foundation for growing an organization that can influence masses of people, not only here, but around the world. The organization is fundamental.

In fact, it has been suggested that in order to make a revolution there are certain things, which are absolutely necessary. They include the existence of crisis — crisis is here.

They include the inability of the ruling class to rule in the same old way. That exists right now.

There must exist the willingness of people who would rather die than live under these circumstances. There are places in the world where you can see that happening, and I think that is a growing kind of phenomenon.

One thing that you certainly need is to have a revolutionary party guided by advanced revolutionary theory.

Those are some of the things that are fundamentally necessary to make revolution happen. That’s what we are fighting for. Not only are we fighting for it here, but the Party has been involved in a most serious and rather intense way to build the African Socialist International, especially, but not exclusively, over the last 6 months or so.

We are experiencing a situation where this struggle to build it has heated up. I have been in a constant state of travel and organizing. Since July, I’ve been to England three times. I’ve been to Paris and Belgium. I’ve been to two different congresses in Holland. I’ve spent two weeks in Azania or South Africa organizing all over. I spent some time in Suriname.

It has been an incredible bit of work and organizing that has bore fruit.

We have created a situation where we have influence on how movements will develop among African people in Spain. We’ve got folk now who are connected to us from Brazil and from Canada. I was the keynote speaker in Paris a month or so ago for the European regional leadership of the Global African Congress.

There’s a lot of stuff that’s happening out there in the world. We are really consolidating stuff but nothing that I do there can be as significant unless we build appropriately here and I have a foundation upon which I stand every time I leave and go to those places.

I want to thank you for being here. I mean that not only immediately, but for the duration of your participation in this movement as an organization of our Party. I hope that this conference will result in advancing our ability to fight.



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