Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Masters tools

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52 years-ago on February 21st, the world lost the great anti-colonial fighter, Malcolm X. Around the world, millions pause on this anniversary and take note of the life and contribution of Brother Malcolm. Two years ago, I keynoted a lecture on the legacy of Malcolm X at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. While I had long been aware of the veneration that Malcolm inspired in various parts of the world, I was still struck by the love and appreciation that so many have for Malcolm beyond activists in the black world.

There are a number of reasons that might explain why 52 years later so many still pay homage to Malcolm.  For those of us who operate within context of the Black Radical Tradition, Malcolm’s political life and philosophy connected three streams of the Black Radical Tradition: nationalism, anti-colonialism and internationalism. For many, the way in which Malcolm approached those elements account for his appeal. Yet, I think there is something else. Something not reducible to the language of political struggle and opposition that I hear when I encounter people in the U.S. and in other parts of the world when they talk about Malcolm. I suspect it is his defiance, his dignity, his courage and his selflessness. For me, it is all of that, but it is also how those elements were reflected in his politics, in particular his approach to the concept of human rights.

The aspects of his thought and practice that distinguished the period of his work in that short year between his break with the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1964 and his assassination in 1965 included not only his anti-racism and anti-colonialist stance but also his advocacy of a radical approach to the issue of human rights.  

Human Rights as a De-Colonial Fighting Instrument

Malcolm – in the tradition of earlier black radical activists and intellectuals in the late 1940s –  understood the subversive potential of the concept of human rights when philosophically and practically disconnected from its liberal, legalistic, and state-centered genesis.

For Malcolm, internationalizing resistance to the system of racial oppression in the U.S. meant redefining the struggle for constitutional civil rights by transforming the struggle for full recognition of African American citizenship rights to a struggle for human rights.

This strategy for international advocacy was not new. African Americans led by W.E. B. Dubois were present at Versailles during the post-World War I negotiations to pressure for self-rule for various African nations, including independence from the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. At the end of the World War II during the creation of the United Nations, African American radicals forged the possibilities to use this structure as a strategic space to pressure for international support for ending colonization in Africa and fight against racial oppression in the United States.

Malcolm studied the process by which various African American organizations – the National Negro Congress (NNC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), petitioned the UN through the Human Rights Commission on behalf of the human rights of African Americans. Therefore, in the very first months after his split with the NOI, he already envisioned idea that the struggle of Africans in the U.S. had to be internationalized as a human rights struggle.  He advised leaders of the civil rights movement to “expand their civil rights movement to a human rights movement, it would internationalize it.”

Taking a page from the examples of the NNC, NAACP and CRC, The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), one of the two organizations Malcolm formed after leaving the NOI, sought to bring the plight of African Americans to the United Nations to demand international sanctions against the U.S. for refusing to recognize the human rights of this oppressed nation.

However, there was something quite different with Malcolm’s approach to human rights that distinguished him from mainstream civil rights activists. By grounding himself in the radical human rights approach, Malcolm articulated a position on human rights struggle that did not contain itself to just advocacy. He understood that appealing to the same powers that were responsible for the structures of oppression was a dead end. Those kinds of unwise and potentially reactionary appeals would never result in substantial structural changes. Malcolm understood oppressed peoples must commit themselves to radical political struggle in order to advance a dignified approach to human rights.

“We have to make the world see that the problem that we’re confronted with is a problem for humanity. It’s not a Negro problem; it’s not an American problem. You and I have to make it a world problem, make the world aware that there’ll be no peace on this earth as long as our human rights are being violated in America.”

And if the U.S. and the international community does not address the human rights plight of the African American, Malcolm is clear on the course of action: “If we can’t be recognized and respected as a human being, we have to create a situation where no human being will enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Malcolm’s approach to the realization of human rights was one in which human agency is at the center. If oppressed individuals are not willing to fight for their human rights, Malcolm suggested that “you should be kept in the cotton patch where you’re not a human being.”

If you are not ready to pay the price required to experience full dignity as a person and as members of a self-determinant people, then you will be consigned to the “zone of non-being,” as Fanon refers to that place where the non-European is assigned. Malcolm referred to that zone as a place where one is a sub-human:

“You’re an animal that belongs in the cotton patch like a horse and a cow, or a chicken or a possum, if you’re not ready to pay the price that is necessary to be paid for recognition and respect as a human being.

And what is that price?  

The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die… it’s time for you and me now to let the world know how peaceful we are, how well-meaning we are, how law-abiding we wish to be. But at the same time, we have to let the same world know we’ll blow their world sky-high if we’re not respected and recognized and treated the same as other human beings are treated.”  

People(s)-Centered Human Rights:

This approach to human rights struggle is the basis of what I call the People(s)-Centered approach to human rights struggle.

People(s)-Centered Human Rights (PCHR) are those non-oppressive rights that reflect the highest commitment to universal human dignity and social justice that individuals and collectives define and secure for themselves through social struggle.  

This is the Black Radical Tradition’s approach to human rights.  It is an approach that views human rights as an arena of struggle that, when grounded and informed by the needs and aspirations of the oppressed, becomes part of a unified comprehensive strategy for de-colonization and radical social change.

The PCHR framework provides an alternative and a theoretical and practical break with the race and class-bound liberalism and mechanistic state-centered legalism that informs mainstream human rights.

The people-centered framework proceeds from the assumption that the genesis of the assaults on human dignity that are at the core of human rights violations is located in the relationships of oppression. The PCHR framework does not pretend to be non-political. It is a political project in the service of the oppressed. It names the enemies of freedom: the Western white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy.   

Therefore, the realization of authentic freedom and human dignity can only come about as a result of the radical alteration of the structures and relationships that determine and often deny human dignity. In other words, it is only through social revolution that human rights can be realized.

The demands for clean water; safe and accessible food; free quality education; healthcare and healthiness for all; housing; public transportation; wages and a socially productive job that allow for a dignified life; ending of mass incarceration; universal free child care; opposition to war and the control and eventual elimination of the police; self-determination; and respect for democracy in all aspects of life are some of the people-centered human rights that can only be realized through a bottom-up mass movement for building popular power.

By shifting the center of human rights struggle away from advocacy to struggle, Malcolm laid the foundation for a more relevant form of human rights struggle for people still caught in the tentacles of Euro-American colonial dominance. The PCHR approach that creates human rights from the bottom-up views human rights as an arena of struggle. Human rights does not emanate from legalistic texts negotiated by states—it comes from the aspirations of the people. Unlike the liberal conception of human rights that elevates some mystical notions of natural law (which is really bourgeois law) as the foundation of rights, the “people” in formation are the ethical foundation and source of PCHRs.   

Trumpism is the logical outcome of the decades long assault of racialized neoliberal capitalism. Malcolm showed us how to deal with Trumpism, and the PCHR movement that we must build will move us to that place where collective humanity must arrive if we are to survive and build a new world. And we will – “by any means necessary.”

 

Ajamu Baraka was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch magazine.  His latest publications include contributions to Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence (Counterpunch Books, 2014), Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA (HarperCollins, 2014) and Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral ( CODESRIA, 2013). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com

 

Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Hussein Obama

With the establishment of the period when the nation would celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, no one could have anticipated the possibility that one day that period would converge with the date when a “first black president” would be turning over executive power after serving two terms. But in just a few days Barack Hussein Obama will conclude an ironic but historic chapter in the ongoing story of this strange and dangerous place called the United States of America.

But the overlap of these two events, King’s official birthday period and the constitutionally mandated turnover of power by the nations’ first black president, serves as a kind of historical analogy for the contradictory politics of race, representation, and power in the first white supremacist nation-state in human history.

Dr. King, the creation of the black mass-movement for democratic and human rights that were presumably granted after the end of the civil war and then denied for another hundred years, and Barack Obama who allowed himself and even indirectly embraced the notion that his presidency was the natural and logical result of the black movements of the 60s and 70s, in actuality represented two different and competing narratives of black existence in the U.S.

For me, nothing symbolizes more the gulf between the meaning and politics of Dr. King and Barack Obama than an incident that I wrote about a few years ago, in Atlanta.

Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s special advisor and personal friend, paid a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church of Dr. Martin Luther King.  As members of the King family looked on, Ms. Jarrett received a standing ovation from the assembled congregation when she shared the story of how President Obama was responsible for the killing of an unarmed Osama bin Laden. I share this strange and surreal scene from Ebenezer Church, where the largely African American congregation endorsed the killing of another human being – while in church – because I think it captures the vast historical and moral distance between two distinct periods: the period of the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Dr. King emerged as the symbolic leader of the civil rights wing of the ongoing Black liberation movement and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964; and the era of Barack Obama, launched with his ascendancy to the highest political office in the country and the winning of the Nobel Prize in 2008.

Not only did Dr. King and Barack Obama exist in two distinct but interrelated periods, they were on two distinct moral trajectories.  By 1967 King would condemned the U.S. as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” He said that he could not morally square calling for non-violence resistance in the U.S. and remain silent in the face of the massive destruction and death being unleashed by the U.S. military against the people of Vietnam.

However, for Obama, U.S. violence presented no such qualms because his loyalties are not with the peoples of the world but with the American empire.

In the 2009 Nobel Prize acceptance speech given by the newly-elected Barack Obama, he presented an argument for the concept of a “just war.” Startling many in the Oslo audience, Obama forcefully asserted in what many would begin to refer to as the “Obama doctrine” that: “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

For Obama, like liberal thought in general, there is a hierarchy of humanity and where one is situated is directly related to their value to the empire. If they are the objects to be “saved” from some “dictator” and reside in a national territory that empire has decided to seize in order to plunder its resources or for other geopolitical objectives, those peoples will occupy a higher status and will be recognized as humans – at least temporarily. But for the human beings who may be in resistance to the interests of empire, it is another story for them.  For those people, they have been assigned to what Fanon referred to as the “zone of non-being” and are, therefore, killable without any remorse and with impunity – think Native Americans, the Vietnamese, Libyan and Syrian nationalists, Palestinians, Eric Garner and Walter Scott, and the list goes on throughout the bloody history of this white supremacist, settler state.

The Obama period is over and hopefully with it the moral relativity. However, we know that moral relativity is inevitable in a society that has not come to terms with the contradictions of its defining philosophical tradition – liberalism, that represents the original sin of hierarchizing human societies and peoples and providing the arrogant justification for committing the most horrific crimes against “others” in the name of humanitarianism. This the essence of the white supremacist doctrine of American exceptionalism.

While Dr. King condemned the lawless violence, warmongering and colonialism of the U.S. historically and in Vietnam specifically in the name of exceptionalism, Obama in contrast states clearly that he believes “in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being”

So on the occasion of the departure of Barack Obama and the acknowledgement of Dr. King’s birthday, let us re-commit to a vision – not a dream, but a life-affirming vision – of a society and world in which the fundamental human rights and dignity for all is respected.

It is not too late, even with the election of Donald Trump but it will courage and clear thinking in order to shake ourselves free from the strange, hypnotic trance that has gripped liberals and progressives of all stripes. Dr. King pointed us in the right direction just before he was assassinated when he reminded us that we were living in revolutionary times, and that the U.S. needed to get on the right side of the world revolution. And for the U.S. to do that it needed a revolution of values. With the U.S. gripped in an unsolvable capitalist economic crisis that has deepened poverty, exacerbated racism and xenophobia, intensified class contradictions and struggle and produced a Donald Trump, the liberated knowledge and experience of the black liberation movement in the U.S. and all who have been made barefoot and shirtless by capitalist exploitation and oppression are actively creating new ways of living and seeing the world that will end up liberating all of us.

This is the reality of a new world that Dr. King could see from the mountaintop – and that a visionless, opportunist technocrat like Obama and a moribund liberalism could never imagine.

 

This article was adapted from The Descent: From Dr. King to Barack Obama that was published in Counterpunch and Black Agenda Report in January 2013

 

Ajamu Baraka was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch magazine.  His latest publications include contributions to Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence (Counterpunch Books, 2014), Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA (HarperCollins, 2014) and Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral ( CODESRIA, 2013). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com

 

Building Green Party Power for 2018 and Beyond

The political culture in the United States is shifting. The majority of registered voters are neither Democrats nor Republicans and 57% of people in the US say that a third party is needed, an 11% increase from 2012 [Gallup, Sept.30, 2016]. This creates an opportunity for the Green Party to become a more powerful political force in 2018 and beyond.

In order to build Green power, it will be necessary to learn from past mistakes and to be proactive in preparation for not only the next elections but also the continuation, and even the worsening, of crises in wages and working conditions, education, health care, racialized state violence, assaults on civil liberties and more.

In order to become the independent, radical alternative that is necessary to confront issues that the capitalist parties ignore, we urge the Green Party to debate and take action on the proposals below.

Be Clear about Green Independence

The defining political issue of our era is the influence of wealth over policy. Both capitalist major parties service the rich and Big Business to the detriment of the working class and poor. The Green Party is distinct from the two capitalist parties in that it does not accept donations from political action committees (PACs) funded by the wealthy or Big Business. The four pillars and ten key values of the Green Party are other distinguishing factors that differentiate it from the capitalist parties.

These distinctions draw people who are searching for a party that represents their interests to the Green Party. In addition to not accepting donations from Big Business, being clearly independent of the capitalist parties is critical in order to challenge the agendas of both parties.

In the past, the Green Party has not been clear about its independence. Problems have occurred at the local, state and federal levels; however, a major turning point was the presidential election of 2004. Ralph Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate in 2000, was incorrectly demonized as the reason for George W. Bush’s election. Rather than embracing the power to impact elections, Greens ran on a ‘safe-states’ strategy, later called a ‘smart state’ strategy, in order to help the Democrats attempt to defeat Bush. This caused division within the party and the loss of Greens who opposed the party’s support for ‘lesser-evilism’, i.e. picking Kerry over Bush.

A similar situation may present itself in 2020 if Donald Trump seeks re-election. Although we can anticipate fear-mongering by the Democrats and accusations of ‘spoiling’ elections, Greens must be clear that neither capitalist party will solve the crises we face and that the need for a party that represents people is more important than ever.

Actions:

  • We urge the Green Party US to debate its stance on political independence now and to make that stance clear through a formal statement.

  • We also encourage this debate at the local and state levels and the consideration of a resolution to address issues of requirements for membership in the party, fusion and endorsement of candidates from the capitalist parties.

Pursue Electoral Reforms that Build Green Power

The electoral system in the US was created by and for the capitalist parties. Therefore, there are obstacles to alternative parties at every level of the process that, as a consequence, necessitate a wide range of reforms in order to have a more effective and fair democratic process. The Green Party should be the party to champion those efforts with a specific focus on blocking states from enacting voter suppression laws or policies. It is important when promoting changes to the electoral system that reforms are pursued in ways that enhance party-building and grow the power of the Green Party to challenge the capitalist parties.

We recommend that the Green Party prioritize gaining ballot access and ending both voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression. States should be encouraged to build the skills of local party members to do what is necessary to gain ballot access. Green Party local organizers should be prioritized when hiring people to petition for ballot access. And Green Party locals should be encouraged to organize with and in marginalized communities that are experiencing disenfranchisement and suppression. Leadership should be recognized and cultivated in working class and front line communities. 

We support Ranked Choice Voting (RCV or Instant-Runoff Voting) but it needs to be part of  a series of reforms. Without also addressing obstacles to Green Party candidates such as ballot access, voter registration for marginalized communities, fair media exposure, campaign financing and inclusion in debates, RCV serves to remove the power of Green Party candidates to impact elections and hands Green votes to one of the major parties.

Actions:

  • We urge the Green Party US to invest in efforts to support local and state organizing around ballot access and ending voter disenfranchisement and suppression.

  • If funds are left over from the Stein-Cobb recount effort, we encourage them to be used specifically for electoral reform efforts that build and empower party grassroots infrastructure.

Strengthen Relationships with the Popular Movement

Social transformation in the US has always required both a social movement and a political party that reflects the agenda of the social movement. As the crises in the US continue and grow, the Green Party must prioritize building relationships with people engaged in struggles in order to serve as a vehicle for transformation.

The Green Party must continue to develop a more comprehensive organizing and recruitment strategy with a clear eye towards growing the party in a new, more politically-defined, and diverse and inclusive direction. It must continue to make the necessary investments to broaden party-building efforts with a new commitment to bottom-up movement building and solidarity by working directly with front line and working class communities and their struggles.

As a political party this will clearly include running candidates, but as a relatively small and growing party, the Green Party’s power also resides in building and strengthening its relationship to the popular movement. This means showing up in solidarity with communities that are in struggle. And it means recognizing or developing leadership within working class and front line communities so that candidates arise from those communities.

Actions:

  • We urge the Green Party US to actively address issues within the party that perpetuate racial and class dominance, sexism, cis-heterosexism, ableism, and all manifestations of oppressive and White supremacist culture.

  • We also urge the Green Party US to encourage members to support working class and front line struggles, to prioritize the voices of those engaged in struggle and to run candidates from communities in struggle.

Ensure Democracy within and Accountability to the Party

As the Green Party grows, there will be challenges to sustain the party, maintain unity and ensure the party members and its candidates are accountable to the pillars and values of the party. It is necessary to put structures in place now that address these challenges.

One of the key strengths of the Green Party is that it does not accept donations from the wealthy and Big Business so that it represents the interests of the people. This is also a weakness because the Green Party does not have adequate resources, and when an individual or group does have resources, they can control what is done without accountability to the party.

A solution is to develop a dues-paying (or other form of support for those who cannot afford dues) membership structure for the party based on a simple national standard. Along with a membership structure, the Green Party can also develop a mechanism by which decisions are made in a democratic way so that members have an equal voice.

In the past, there has been little coordination between candidates and the party, especially at the presidential level. Candidates have acted in ways that are not consistent with the interests or majority support of the party members. While political parties and candidates have different needs, a structure can be put in place so that the party is more supportive of candidates at all levels and so that candidates, particularly those running at the national level, more accurately represent the priorities of the party members.

Actions:

  • We urge the Green Party US to develop a national standard for a dues-paying (or non-monetary contribution for some) membership structure and mechanism for democratic decision-making by members.

  • We also urge the Green Party US to develop a structure that strengthens the relationship between the party and candidates.

  • We urge the creation of a comprehensive political education program that provides information and analysis of the issues and concepts outlined in this letter.

Trump’s Neo-Fascism will be built on Neo-Fascism of Obama and Democrat Party

Late on the evening of December 23, when the attention of the public was fixed on the consumerist excesses of the holiday season, President Obama signed into law the Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Like the other NDAAs that President Obama signed into law during his administration, this one further strengthened the repressive capacities of the state.

Buried deep in the provisions of the NDAA was language from a bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman ostensibly to protect the public from the effects of “foreign propaganda.” As previously reported by Black Agenda Report, the bill, originally introduced last March, was passed by the Senate on December 8 as the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” and then inserted into the NDAA.

According to Senator Portman, the intent of the law is to “…improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government.”

For Senator Portman, the U.S. is the innocent victim of ruthless propaganda efforts on the part of foreign governments to slander and discredit the altruistic objectives of U.S. global activities.   

In the face of the Neo-McCarthyism represented by this legislation and the many other repressive moves of the Obama administration to curtail speech and control information – from the increased surveillance of the public to the use of the espionage act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers – one would reasonably assume that forces on the left would vigorously oppose the normalization of authoritarianism, especially in this period of heightened concerns about neo-fascism.  

Unfortunately, the petit-bourgeois “latte left” along with their liberal allies have been in full collaboration with the state for the past eight years, with the predictable result that no such alarm was issued, nor has any critique or even debate been forthcoming.

So there has been very little “mainstream” liberal/left discussion around the fact that, as the political blog Zero Hedge noted, long before ‘fake news’ became a major media topic, the US government was already planning its legally-backed crackdown on anything it would eventually label ‘fake news.’ ”

As Black Agenda Report publisher Glen Ford framed it,When the narrative at the heart of a system of rule falls apart, when the flow of history runs counter to the story told by those in power, then we know the entire edifice is crumbling under the weight of its own contradictions. The political crisis arrives when the people sense that the prevailing order is built on a foundation of oppressions and lies. The rulers panic, scrambling to reweave the matrix of fables and myths that justify their waning supremacy. At such points in history, the truth is up for grabs – and a change of regime is in the offing.”

The dangerous and cynical moves by the Clinton campaign during the presidential campaign to paint Trump as an agent of a foreign government in order to project Hillary as the real, tough alternative, has morphed into a commonsense narrative that has a dual purpose.

First, it is meant to weaken the incoming administration by attempting to split it from its Republican legislative arm. The liberal, transnational financial and corporate rulers are especially concerned by Trump’s economic and social base that is demanding an alteration of the neoliberal order in favor of small, mid-size and large business interests still dependent on the U.S. domestic market. They see this demand as a threat to the neoliberal logic that has been largely unquestioned in the West over the last three decades.

Secondly, by narrowing the scope of acceptable political discourse in relation to U.S. global strategies that are heavily dependent on militarism and the strategic commitment to suppress regional capitalist rivals, the neocons and liberal interventionists can expect to avoid mass opposition to continued imperialist adventures. Similar to the McCarthyite period when the ideological commitment to containment abroad required the destruction of any domestic opposition, the neo-McCarthyism of today is geared toward ideological conformity. In this sense, Trumpism is becoming a useful tool for enforcing neoliberal ideological consensus.

For those of us who take a consistent oppositional stance to the bi-partisan games being played on the people, the potential danger of the unfolding order is not lost on us. The set-up piece that ran in the Washington Post that supposedly identified news outlets that were supposed to be involved in questionable or outright “fake news” included a number of outlets to which I contribute, including Counterpunch and the only all-black outlet on the list, Black Agenda Report.

When you have supposedly respectable liberal outlets pushing this kind of madness, we are not expecting much support from liberals or even left forces when the repressive knife is sharpened on us.

The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner has even suggested that Trump is guilty of treason because of what he calls the President-elect’s “dalliance” with Vladimir Putin.

With the left’s attention fixed on Trump and its fear of the “new” authoritarianism that he is supposed to introduce, it has failed to confront or even be aware of the fact that the foundation for any kind of “neo-fascism” that might emerge in the U.S. was constructed over the last 15 years of the combined Bush and Obama administrations.

But even more dangerous for authentic oppositional forces in the U.S., collaboration from the left with the new McCarthyism is providing an opening for the isolation and repression of those of us who represent and are part of oppressed communities/peoples who were going to have to fight no matter who would have been elected.

This is not a new situation for us. When the repressive apparatus of the state focused on radical black organizations like the National Negro Congress and Civil Rights Congress, and on such individuals as Paul Robeson, W.E. B. Dubois, William Patterson and Claudia Jones, to the systematic assault on the radical Black Liberation Movement in the 1960s and ‘70s, we were largely required to fend for ourselves against the state after being abandoned by white liberals and significant numbers of white leftists. I fully expect that to happen again.

Neo-fascism is not a new existential phenomenon for us or for people around the world who have suffered from the racist, arrogant assaults of this criminal state to maintain the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project. So save your hysterical concerns about Trump for others and either commit yourself to building a revolutionary movement or get out of the way.

__________________________

Ajamu Baraka is the former Vice Presidential candidate for the U.S. Green Party in 2016 and an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is also a contributing writer with various outlets including Commondreams, Pambazaka, Dissident Voice, Counterpunch Magazine and Black Commentator. 

Freedom Isn’t Given, It’s Something We Must Take: The Green Party As An Instrument For Building An Authentic Electoral Opposition

We are at a critical moment in history. The multiple contradictions of the collapsing neoliberal order are coming to a head – in climate disasters, in the racial violence we see in the streets, at Standing Rock and in the lives of countless people in the U.S. who have seen their economic circumstances deteriorate while the transnational elites continue to accumulate wealth and power. These contradictions suggest that this system is no longer able to continue in its present form. We are seeing the writing on the wall that the legitimation process,the symbols of legitimacy,no longer hold. Young white suburbanites taking a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with professional athletes is a powerful indication that the usual symbols of patriotism no longer provide the social cement that they used to.

We recognize the threat that Trump represents. He stands for the dark forces in this country – the racism, xenophobia, and misogyny that existed before him and will persist regardless of whether he wins. But the political realignment taking place among the right, with significant elements breaking from the Republicans and moving to the Democrats, also represents a serious threat the liberal left fails to recognize. This realignment represents, for the first time in a long time, a consolidation and unity of the ruling elite, who are apparently willing to suspend their differences and support Hillary Clinton and her cynical strategy of throwing bones to the poor and working class in this country.  If we are serious about opposing the right, we must be serious about the various movements of the right, and we cannot afford to miss the implications of this realignment.

The Stein/Baraka campaign is committed to building alternative popular power. We must move beyond protest to a direct struggle for power, to take and exercise state power to improve our material conditions. This is why a central component of our campaign is the effort to use our national platform to lift up the struggles of African, Latinx, and indigenous people for sovereignty, self-determination, and authentic decolonization.

The Stein/Baraka Green Party campaign does not attempt to represent itself as “the” movement. It is developing an instrument, a tool, whose value is reflected by its ability to be linked with rising social movements everywhere. If people want to engage with the state, if they see it as a site of struggle, and if they want to involve themselves in the electoral arena, we need to have an instrument to do that. And the Green Party is an instrument that can be used in the service of a larger movement to build power. 

That’s why we find ourselves in places like Standing Rock. Indigenous and African people are the original victims of the genocidal violence through which this nation was born. Indigenous and African peoples worked together throughout centuries of colonialism and slavery to fight back against our common oppressors, as evidenced by the Great Seminole Uprising and countless other rebellions throughout our shared history. And now, the Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter engagements are at the forefront of contemporary resistance movements. 

As the Green Party vice-presidential candidate, I have been afforded the unique opportunity to travel extensively around the country and engage the people, listen to their stories and observe  the unwavering commitment in our communities to racial, economic and environmental justice. I have been surprised at the number of people of color, especially black people, who are involved in the Green Party at all levels. And through these experiences I have been convinced that there  is more of an appetite for radical solutions in the U.S. than the elite and corporate media let us know exist. 

The people are on the move and we are winning. Our campaign is very close to the critical 5 percent of the national popular vote we need in order to gain federal funding, ballot access, and the ability to build the national infrastructure needed to mount a real challenge to power in upcoming elections. Any time we have an opportunity to engage people in critical discussion to build an alternative, we are in fact winning. It is imperative for us to have an oppositional presence in this moment. It makes no sense to completely surrender that space to the ruling elite. Building independent political power is always a winning proposition. 

What we’ve been trying to do across this country is talk not just about the importance of voting for us on November 8, which is important, but about the absolute need to build an alternative to the existing paradigm. We are trying to facilitate the linking of these various movements together amongst themselves and the fledgling apparatus of the Green Party. We see this as part of a broader strategy for developing alternative power, understanding that we in a protracted struggle to shift the balance of forces back in favor of the people. Every action we take toward advancing this strategy, in the streets and at the ballot box, is an investment in laying a path to authentic human liberation - not the false liberation offered by liberalism from above, but true liberation that we take for ourselves, to save us all.