There is a restlessness among those who seek root change because we’re at the turning point where an old reality is giving way to a new reality. Both are still present & true at one and the same time. Combining but increasingly colliding. Especially in our minds.
Home videotape allows the fascinated world to watch as a mob of white L.A. cops club & kick a Black man over and over into the hospital. Old reality. At the same time, amerikkka puts another Afrikan-Amerikan man in command of reorganizing its military. Its elite combat units in Panama & the Gulf War, such as the 82nd Airborne, are half-New Afrikan. In a resurge of white pride, the most requested video on MTV in 1991 is a Black woman widely rumored to be a lesbian singing a pop version of the white man’s national anthem. New reality.
A car full of klansmen shoot a New Afrikan man in a drive by & three loser skinheads ambush gays and lesbians outside bars. Old reality. At the same time, NYC’s Black mayor holds onto the headlines by helping Irish gays & lesbians crash the St. Paddy’s day parade; marching with them at the rear, while white cops charge into the Fifth Ave. crowds to arrest white men hurling beer cans at the mayor. New reality.
We’ve seen pioneering hip hop group Run-DMC accused of anti-Semitism because of the mockingly stereotyped portrayal of a Jew in their movie—a movie deliberately so written, directed, and produced by their Jewish male business partner. “Black anti-semitism” is now another business, really. We’ve seen white lesbians joining city councils, on Wall St. corporate boards, even in the u.s. senate. New reality, ready or not.
While Black Genocide is shooting up in the backyard.
The old reality is colonialism, while the new reality is neo-colonialism. Not replacing or eliminating our old reality, but merging with it and taking it over.
The transformation to a neo-colonial world has only begun, but it promises to be as drastic, as disorienting a change as was the original european colonial conquest of the human race. Capitalism is again ripping apart & restructuring the world, and nothing will be the same. Not race, not nation, not gender, and certainly not whatever culture you used to have.
In this wrenching transformation, national empires, national borders & national economic rivalries are becoming less important to the international ruling class. To them, nations are less like the fortified bases of monopoly they used to be, but more like mere provinces, commercial suburbs, places of convenience for their multinational corporations. Nations are being subdivided, built & torn down at an increasing tempo by capitalist evolution itself. Nations aren’t seen any more as fixed, eternal, god-given—which was all delusion—but as ambiguous and subject to the class struggle.
But when the oppressed call themselves a nation they mean freedom from imperialistic power and its involuntary nations to build their new culture, their own economy, a new try at civilization. For example, for their way of life to thrive, Indian peoples must have their First Nations—how can they survive if imperialism owns the land & sovereignty? Can you become a free people based on bingo games & being a tourist ghetto?
Many peoples were involuntarily submerged to make larger nations/empires (and in places like India and the late Soviet Union we see opportunistic politicians and stunted capitalistic classes scrambling to tap that popular feeling).
So the weakening role of nations in the neo-imperial economy, their becoming more porous & less under control with decolonization, is leading to more nations not fewer. And the rise of new concepts as well: of nations as voluntary choices for people; of nations as being forms for change not dead tradition.
Now you have outcast groups as diverse as the Aryan Nation and the Queer Nation and the Hip Hop Nation publicly rejecting the right of the u.s. government to rule them, as obsolete white amerikkka is not merely declining but starting to break up just like the ussr, Yugoslavia, Great Britain and India are already doing. In the future everyone, even fools, will be able to see it, but the righteous should be able to read the earthsigns now.
All the building blocks of human culture—race, gender, nation, and especially class—are being transformed under great pressure to embody the spirit of this neo-colonial age.
Millions upon millions are migrating across nations; across genders, too, if we want to admit it. The largest population transfers in human history, surpassing even the Atlantic slave trade. How can it be the same again? Look at the recent Brooklyn Crown Heights “race riot,” where a hasidic Jewish fascist from Israel runs a red light following their chief’s police bodyguard & kills an Afrikan child from Guyana. In retaliation, some 15 year-old Afrikan child from Trinidad allegedly stabs another hasidic man from Australia. Then a few hundred Afrikan youth, many of whom are from Jamaica, stone & attack police, as well as looting stores owned by Arabs, Taiwanese, Koreans and other nationalities. Black children, who have no leaders and are out of history, follow white people on the street chanting “Hitler! Hitler!” Nothing is the same any more. Like that L.A. “riot,” which was a New Afrikan thing, only the majority of the looters arrested turned out to be Latinos.
The director of the film “El Norte” said: “There are hundreds of thousands of refugees from Central America in Los Angeles alone. Nobody knows the exact number, but a recent TV inquiry estimated 300,000 to 400,000. In our own research, we came across a community of Mayans from Guatemala—5,000 from one village—now in Los Angeles. The original village, which is now dead, had 15,000.”109 Over 200 Indian villages totally disappeared during the 1980’s genocide in Guatemala, under the efficient supervision of borrowed Israeli military officers.
Now you got entire Mayan villages hiding “underground” in L.A. The thing is, they’ll never be the same again. Not as a race or a nation or a gender or a class. No, not after death squads and final solutions, nintendo, birth control pills, Slick Rick & student financial aid. They’re not going back to the farm again. In the same cities we got lesbian communities “underground”, too. Lots of people live in amerikkka but don’t always think of themselves as “Americans.”
In our zeal to expose imperialism’s evil, its oppression, we forgot that it is, to borrow a phrase, “wickedly great.” That capitalism can cause so much human suffering precisely because it is the most relentlessly revolutionary exploitative class society the earth has ever seen. The best-known passage in all political theory, written 150 years ago, sounds almost contemporary in describing the essential rhythm of this society:
“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all newly formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and woman is at last compelled to face with sober senses, her real conditions of life, and her relations with her kind.
“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
“The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property … It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”110
Neo-colonialism, as the latest stage of capitalism, is realizing a process begun at the dawn of industrialization. At first, european capitalism replicated itself only among its “kith & kin.” So 17th century Holland, a tiny nation but then a major european colonial power, promoted capitalism in England. England, in its turn, promoted capitalism in its white settler colonies of amerikkka & Canada. Now, capitalism is replicating itself indigenously in Asia, Afrika, Latin Amerika & the Middle East. Led by the fading u.s. empire, which in the 1950’s promoted the industrialization of Taiwan, South Korea & Hong Kong alongside their re-industrialization of Japan.
Neo-colonialism (which literally means “new & different colonialism”) isn’t merely colonialism fronted with David Dinkins and Ann Richards, but a drastic overhaul of imperialism forced by both internal and external factors. Both the victorious anti-colonial revolutions in colony after colony during the years 1945–1975, and the evolution of the capitalist economy itself, gave birth to this change. We are now experiencing the integration of former national capitalisms, colonies & monopolies into one borderless world economy (although to workers there are many borders) and one class structure. A formally decolonized but unfree world.
Within the center of this change is the dialectic of continuity. We are living in a continuation of 18th and 19th century industrial barbarism, only on a higher level of capitalist “civilization.” The dispossessed and semi-slave proletariat of early european industry have never disappeared at all, but have merely been displaced out of sight into the Third World and the migrant Fourth World, multiplying a thousand times and becoming the fastest growing class. Capitalism’s economic dependence on genocide and slavery, which determined the content of its character during the colonial era, still continues as the unseen foundation of the imperial economy.
In these last few paragraphs we’ve laid down a quick and very summarized overview of our analysis.
Everyone is looking for new political answers. Young movements are groping for strategies & programs. We are not even pretending to offer those answers, and it’s important to understand why. Because new answers come from the grassroots, from the strategies and understandings that always arise out of the struggles of the oppressed themselves. From the inventions, trials and errors of practice. Whether it’s the Black Panther Party or ACT-UP. The political answers we need are only going to come from new struggles, new social forces taking over.
This is not a blind or thoughtless process, however. The first step for anyone looking for answers is to know the situation. And that is what we are doing here, analyzing into the heart of the neo-colonial situation.
Out of this analysis three definite concepts emerge. Those who are really seeking root change have to detox ourselves from outmoded ideas—which may have been useful and on the mark just yesterday—and dysfunctional politics. For we all need to take our part in dismantling the old structures within our political thinking.
Secondly, we have to recognize that the reshaping of the neo-colonialized world in every instance reflects or is the result of, basic material changes in the system of economic production & distribution. Even the changer has been changed.
Finally, that the main contradiction for the oppressed is that of parasitism. The old anti-colonial unities of race or nation or gender are dysfunctional now, because the parasitic class relations of neo-colonialism have overridden everything. Parasitism is the knot that remains uncut awaiting new answers. Let us begin at the beginning, at the root of change.
109 Interview New York Times. January 8, 1984.
110 Karl Marx & Frederick Engels. “Communist Manifesto” in Selected Works. N.Y. 1970. pp. 40–41 (International Publishers).