W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and the Resurgency of the Radical Black Left

  W.E.B. Dubois in 1918
W.E.B. Dubois in 1918

What Does it Mean to Be a Radical Progressive?

The term 'progressive' is an ambiguous one and can mean different things to different people. Not only is the meaning of progress dependent on one's political views, but how progress will be implemented is often the greatest source of controversy. Even within historic Black American progressivism, there have been rivalries between intellectuals. Whether it be Martin Delaney vs. Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois vs. Booker T. Washington vs. Marcus Garvey or Martin Luther King vs. Malcolm X...the debate has always centered around two questions. Are we going to try to work within a fundamentally corrupt system to make it better or will we utilize self-determination and do for self?

In the American sense, progressivism involves ideals that include, but are not limited to, eliminating corruption in government and making politicians more accountable to their constituents. Progressives in many ways have always been modenizers who utilize science, technology and education to eliminate the weaknesses of American life. Progressivism also involves the basic belief that mankind has the ability to improve the environment and the standard of living. Often times anti-war and economically populist (if not outright democratic socialist), there has always been an overlapping of the ideals of progressivism with the goals of Black Americans despite the racial animus that held back the original progressive movement of the early 20th century. In this sense, progressivism has always had a leftist appeal due to the basic fact that progress often times butts heads with traditionalism which is the appeal of conservatism.

However what exactly is "radical progressivism" anyway? It is my opinion that a radical progressive is one who doesn't believe in slow and incremental change that takes a generation or more to implement. He/She wants change as soon as possible due to the often dire circumstances they currently exist in. To a radical progressive the thought of injustices existing when they have already been exposed as existing is an afront on everything this country stands for and needs to be quickly done away with. Whereas a more moderate incrementalist might be willing to compromise on certain key facts during the negotiating process in order to simply say some sort of progress was made regardless of how weak or incomplete said progress was. Radical progressives understand that there are certain issues that the establishment will not concede on regardless of how bad their arguments for maintaining the current system are. For many reasons, the establishment may have too much to lose if they ever gave into the demands of progressives on certain issues. Due to this fact, radical progressives believe in change through transformation of this current system.

That 'change through transformation' can include political revolution working from the assumption that the establishment will circle its wagons and never willingly give into the desires of leftists who want to see the creation of a more free and fair society. For a moderate incrementalist, the idea of political revolution is scary and unrealistic. Many feel this way due to a sense of powerlessness when it comes to authority figures in American society and it's easy to forget that as long as we have the right to vote...we are in control. The control of the establishment is dictated by how effective their psychological operations and media propaganda are on the minds of the American people. The moment more Americans realize they can all collectively put whatever system into place they want to will be the day the current political establishment in America begins to lose its power. 

This is why it's important for us to stress the abolition of mass incarceration and the war on drugs. We don't want the moderate incremental approach under the guise of "reform." Some systems are broken beyond repair and need to be rebuilt from scratch.

In Black America there is a history of radical thought that has been mentioned, but not emphasized. A history that has been white-washed so that young Blacks today will not follow the writings of those trailblazers that came before us. One can make a strong argument that nearly all of the major Black intellectuals and leaders pre-integration were all leftist radicals of some form or another. They were all certainly people demanding immediate equality for the Black man and woman and understood that America had given Blacks a check that bounced due to insufficient funds (as spoken by Martin Luther King) in the bank of history. 

To begin to understand the Black left and Black radical progressivism and its many facets, we have to start from the very beginning. We have to grasp with the fact that proud, Black radicalism goes hand-in-hand with black suffering and oppression. If Black people are radical (as we should be), it is because America radicalized us after hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow apartheid, peonage, the drug war just to tell us to pull our damn selves up by the bootstraps and to stop asking for "handouts" from the government as if the government doesn't owe the Black community trillions of dollars as it is! Some of the greatest Black men and woman in U.S. history were proud radicals and some of the biggest steps we've taken in this country came due to their hard work.

Martin Delaney - The Father of Black American Radicalism

 Martin Delaney
Martin Delaney

Martin Delaney is the ideological founder of a line of thought that played a major role in thinkers down the line. Regarded by many as the unofficial founder of pan-Africanism, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante has echoed statements publicly that he views Delaney as a "transformatist" since he was advancing a theory of African liberation based on a commitment to self-definition, sacrifice, and the willingness to be bold enough to create one's own world.

Delaney's hallmark work was a book entitled 'The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States' written in 1852 in which he lays out a much more action-oriented agenda for Black people of America. It is Delaney who first makes the statement about African-Americans being a 'nation within a nation' by comparing Blacks in America to different groups of Europeans seeking self-determination and possibly even self-governance. Delaney also wasn't opposed to the idea of Black Americans emigrating to another country entirely which would serve not only as an ideological foundation of pan-Africanism, but would be echoed decades later by the likes of Marcus Garvey. In his book, Delaney expresses his opposition to the relocation of Black Americans to Liberia which was pushed by the American Anti-Slavery Society ---

Liberia is no place for the colored free men of the United States; and we dismiss the subject with a single remark of caution against any advice contained in a pamplet, which we have not seen...in favor of Liberian emigration

— Martin Delaney in 'The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States

Delaney saw the issue of emigration being a decision needing to be made either by looking to the North to Canada or the Americas to the South of the United States. He writes in passing about this continent having all that the Black man and woman would need through its variety in soil, climate and production capabilities. He also remarks about how the indigenous American was originally Black when he wrote about the Black Indian tribes of the Americas being here before the European ever arrived. When speaking to the fugitive slave, he advises they flee to Canada feeling the British would be more welcoming of Blacks than despots of the American South as he called them. Delaney however didn't view Canada as an emigration destination either...only a temporary fix for slaves escaped from bondage. He saw Central and South America as "evidently the ultimate destination and future home of the Colored race on this continent."

Delaney wrote about the need of Black Americans to break from the stranglehold of our oppressors and openly spoke about America not being the best country for our improvement. Mind you, he wrote this during a time when chattel slavery was still in full effect several years before the breakout of the Civil War in which he'd serve a prominent role. However the appeal of self-governance and statehood would not completely go away with the end of slavery as various new forms of oppression would emerge.

Above, I spoke of Delaney's rejection of Liberian colonization pushed by white abolitionists. That doesn't mean however he was against going back to Africa under the right conditions on top of the potential he saw in Central and South America. At the end of his book, Delaney also mentioned East Africa with its varied environment and open access to vast trading routes. He called for the formation of what he called a National Confidential Council which would appoint a Board of Commissioners to establish representatives who could go to East Africa and Central/South America to politic with local leaders and survey the land for potential real estate for adventurous Black Americans. Delaney said that the project would pay for itself due to the rich resources that exist in the soil of Africa itself.

Delaney's vision was never realized and a rivalry grew between he and his old friend Frederick Douglass who, while radical in his own right, did not share Delaney's views on self-governance. Martin Delaney was not a perfect man and much like Marcus Garvey years later, he made the mistake of putting faith in racist Whites to indirectly push his pro-Black agenda. However he has had just as much impact as Frederick Douglass on the foundation of Black radicalism in America. It just so happens that one man everyone has heard of, while the other not so much. It's not far-fetched to understand why when you compare what the two men called for.

DuBois vs. Garvey and Washington & 20th Century Pan-Africanism

When it comes to pan-Africanism there are others that one can name who have played an influential role in fostering African trans-national thought. You had Edward Wilmot Blyden who became a voice in the movement of Blacks immigrating to Liberia after the nation gained independence in 1847 and pushed a lot of concepts that would play a huge role in the opinions and writings of those who came after him. Then you have other voices in the movement such as Henry Sylvester Williams who founded the Pan-African Association in 1897 and helped to organize the first Pan-African Congress in 1900. At that first Pan-African Congress was a man who in my opinion is one the greatest Black radical intellectuals not only of the pre-integration era, but in Black American history period. His name was William Edward Burghardt DuBois (aka W.E.B. DuBois). All of the great men mentioned thus far were radicals not only in their own time, but some would consider some of their agendas still radical to this day. They are mentioned in school texts, but young students of history are never told to admire them enough to use their work as a ideological foundation in modern times. That's what this blog entry is for I suppose.

W.E.B. DuBois vs. Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Machine

 Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington

The rivalry between the radical progressive DuBois and Washington began in 1903 and it was based not only in a difference in ideology but it also dealt with the Tuskegee Machine. Ideologically, DuBois pushed his Talented Tenth theory which believed that Blacks through Higher Education could create a higher civilization whereby Blacks wouldn't need to be dependent on the dominant society with its interests that might conflict with interests in the Black community. Washington on the other hand believed that Blacks should focus more on trade schools and less on college and use the wealth gained from a job to uplift oneself. Washington openly discouraged the funding of Higher Education for Blacks and believed that essentially Blacks shouldn't push ideas that weren't supported by the majority of public opinion. He was also openly critical of political activism and protesting and overall DuBois regarded him as a smart man, but far too conciliatory to the dominant society. DuBois also viewed Washington essentially as an un-elected leader of Black America propped up by the likes of Andrew Carnegie and Theodore Roosevelt. The former gifted the Tuskegee institute with $600,000 in 1903 ($38.7 million in today's dollars); the ladder put Washington in a position to oversee the federal appointment of Blacks during the administrations of Roosevelt and William Taft between 1901 and 1912. 

The Tuskegee Machine as DuBois called it was an entity that represented the use of that institute by powerful white donors to essentially act as an intelligence source in the Black community where the support of Washington could make or break one's career. Only Blacks who got on message were backed and funded by Washington. It served as a way to suppress radical thought and force the black intelligentsia into conformity. Much of the Black press during the time didn't challenge Booker T. Washington due to his popularity and influence as well. There was in a sense a type of "Tuskegee philosophy" that developed as Black newspapers were being bought up by black and white adherents to that philosophy in an effort to control the narrative of the day.

DuBois' views on Washington are best summed up in his first major book called 'The Souls of Black Folk' written in 1903 with an entire chapter dedicated to Booker T. Washington and his allies and associates within black and white society. You can also read some of his best quotes including his views of the Tuskegee Machine by reading the blog article, 8 W.E.B. DuBois Quotes That Will Blow Your Mind.

Among [Blacks], however, Mr. Washington has encountered the strongest and most lasting opposition, amounting at times to bitterness, and even to-day continuing strong and insistent even though largely silenced in outward expression by the public opinion of the nation...But the hushing of criticism of honest opponents is a dangerous thing. It leads some of the best of the critics to unfortunate silence and paralysis of effort, and others to burst into speech so passionately and intemperately as to lose listeners...But Booker T. Washington arose as essentially the leader not of one race but of two, —a compromiser between the South, the North, and the Negro. Naturally the Negroes resented, at first bitterly, signs of compromise which surrendered their civil and political rights...Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission...and Mr. Washington’s program practically accepts the alleged inferiority of the Negro races...Mr. Washington distinctly asks for Black people to give up, at least for the present, three things——

1. First, political power
2. Second, insistence on civil rights
3. Third, higher education of Negro youth

and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South....As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return?

1. The disenfranchisement of the Negro
2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro
3. The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro

These movements are not, to be sure, direct results of Mr. Washington’s teachings; but his propaganda has, without a shadow of doubt, helped their speedier accomplishment. [Mr. Washington’s] doctrine has tended to make the Whites, North and South, shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro’s shoulders and stand aside as critical and rather pessimistic spectators; when in fact the burden belongs to the nation, and the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs...But so far as Mr. Washington apologizes for injustice, North or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions, and opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter minds,—so far as he, the South, or the Nation, does this,— we must unceasingly and firmly oppose them.

— W.E.B. DuBois in 'The Souls of Blacks Folk'

It was at this moment that DuBois established himself as an unapologetic radical progressive. Not the most radical thinker of his time, but certainly not an appeaser in the vain of Booker T. Washington who dies later in 1915. DuBois would go on to be a founding member of the Niagara Movement which would lead to the formation of the N.A.A.C.P. in 1910 where he would be the only Black man to sit on the Executive Board initially. Despite attacks by pro-Washington forces in the Black and White press, DuBois' rivalry with Washington shows the need for radical progressives to be headstrong and steadfast in the face of popular opposition. If you know your cause is just and you know you're fighting for the rights of men and women in the face of tyrannical oppression...then there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to give in to the demands of conciliatory opinions unless you want to be complicit in the outcomes of those opinions.

W.E.B. DuBois vs. Marcus Mosiah Garvey

One cannot talk about Black radical progressivism and not talk about pan-Africanism and the economic agenda its proponents emphasized. However not all pan-Africanists agreed with each other. As mentioned above, there were disagreements between Martin Delaney and Frederick Douglass, but it is also a known fact that DuBois and Marcus Garvey butted heads over how Black progressivism should be implemented. In his essay entitled 'The Conservation of Races,' written in 1897 DuBois  makes the case that essentially Marcus Garvey would make several years later.

[Black Americans] must soon come to realize that if they are to take their just place in the van of Pan-Negroism, then their destiny is not absorption by the white Americans. That in America if it is to be proven for the first time in the modern world that not only Negroes are capable of evolving individual men like Toussaint, the Savior, but are a nation stored with wonderful possibilities of culture, then their destiny is not a servile imitation of Anglo-Saxon culture, but a stalwart originality which shall unswervingly follow Negro ideals”
”For the accomplishment of these ends we need race organizations, a Negro school of literature and art, and an intellectual clearing house, for all these products of the Negro mind, which we may call a Negro Academy. Not only is all this necessary for positive advance, it is absolutely imperative for negative defense. Let us not deceive ourselves at our situation in this country. Weighted with a heritage of moral iniquity from our past history, hard pressed in the economic world by foreign immigrants and native prejudice, hated here, despised there and pitied everywhere; our one haven of refuge is ourselves, and but one means of advance, our own belief in our great destiny, our own implicit trust in our ability and worth. There is no power under God’s high heaven that can stop the advance of either thousand thousand honest, earnest, inspired and united people....No people that laughs at itself, and ridicules itself, and wishes to God it was anything but itself ever wrote its name in history; it must be inspired with the Divine faith of our black mothers, that out of the blood and dust of battle will march a victorious host, a mighty nation, a peculiar people, to speak to the nations of the Earth a Divine truth that shall make them free.

— W.E.B. DuBois in 'The Conservation of Races' circa 1897

Given the fact that the above quote comes to us in the present day now 119 years after it was originally written; one has to give a pass to the common usage of the word "negro" to describe Black people and understand that was the academic or professional way of referring to Blacks during that time...even by other Black people. However I wanted to give the quote in its original form and allow readers to understand that despite the antiquated verbage, what DuBois is saying still has meaning to this day. What DuBois is saying is that dependency on the dominant society for our own advancement is not going to work and will only cause Blacks to be in a position of servile imitation. This is the ultimate message for doing for self and DuBois makes it clear that no group of people who hates themselves will ever be great. Among the greatest pan-Africanists, there has always been this goal of building a new nation. This concept was especially prevalent pre-integration and much like Delaney and Blyden, DuBois too would echo this sentiment. Writing in his 1920 autobiography called 'Darkwater' in an essay entitled, The Hands of Ethiopia, DuBois shares his pan-African vision in a totally revolutionary and unapologetic way --

Against this idea let us set the conception of a new African World State, a Black Africa...It may not be possible to build this state at once. With the victory of the Entente Allies, the German colonies, with their million of square miles and one-half mission black inhabitants, should form such a nucleus. It would give Black Africa its physical beginnings...Does this sound like an impossible dream? No one could be blamed for so regarding before 1914. I, myself, would have agreed with them. But since the nightmare of 1914-1918, since we have seen the impossible happen and the unspeakable become so common as to cease to stir us; in a day when Russia has dethroned her Czar, England has granted the suffrage to women and is in the act of giving home rule to Ireland; when Germany has adopted parliamentary government; when Jerusalem has been delivered from the Turks; and the United States has taken control of its railroads, —is it really so far-fetched to think of an Africa for the Africans, guided by organized civilization?”
”Secondly, this building of a new African State does not mean the segregation in it of all the world’s Black folk. It is too late in the history of the world to go back to the idea of absolute racial segregation. The new African State would not involve any idea of a vast transplantation of the 27 million Negroids of the western world, of Africa, or of the gathering there of Negroid Asia. The Negroes in the United States and the other Americas have earned the right to fight out their problems where they are, but they could easily furnish from time to time technical experts, leaders of thought, and missionaries of culture for their bretheren in the new Africa.

— W.E.B. DuBois in The Hands of Ethiopia circa 1920
 Marcus Mosiah Garvey
Marcus Mosiah Garvey

The above quote shows the difference between DuBois and Marcus Garvey. DuBois wanted to foster the creation in an independent Black African super-state, but didn't see it as something that required as he said the "transplanting" of millions of Blacks in the Americas or Europe. This is a different view from Delaney, Blyden and even Garvey. DuBois didn't agree with the idea of colonizing Africa the way Garvey did, but he was still staunchly anti-colonial and anti-European imperialism.

This became the source of the friction between the two Black titans of progressivism. One who saw Blacks in the diaspora almost akin to saviors of the African continent, the other who also wanted Africa for Africans, but without supplanting the cultures that already existed there. Two men that could've been great allies had the two not allowed their egos to get the best of them. DuBois at the time was still a member of the NAACP and one wonders how much that had an impact on his views of Garvey. Here is a snippet of Garvey's perspective on pan-Africanism

It is only a question of a few more years when Africa will be completely colonized by Negroes, as Europe is by the white race. It is for us to welcome the proffered help of such men as Senators McCullum and France. Though their methods are a little different to that of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, yet it is felt that the same object will be achieved. What we want is an independent African nationality, and if America is to help the Negro peoples of the world establish such a nationality, then we welcome the assistance.

— Marcus Garvey in The Negro World Newspaper circa 1922

DuBois himself would say in 1940 in his book Dusk of Dawn that he viewed Garvey as a sincere man whose platform had some practical features and even called him an outstanding leader. DuBois acknowledged that his first effort was to explain away the Garvey movement as an impracticable. DuBois faulted Garvey's "over-advertised schemes" for hurting the potential of the Pan-African Congresses which he helped to set up such as the 3rd Pan-African Congress assembled in 1923.

 Red, Black and Green UNIA Flag Developed in 1920 in NYC
Red, Black and Green UNIA Flag Developed in 1920 in NYC

Garvey's call to fame was the formation of the "Black Star line" which included 3 different boats. Garvey announced the Black Star line as a $10 million corporation with shares that would be sold for $5 each (about $137 in today's dollars according to the contemporary standard of living benchmark). He would also announce the formation of the Negro Factories Corporation and the subscription of $5 million to free Liberia and Haiti from debt. In 1920, Garvey would call a convention in New York City and form a "Declaration of Independence" with 66 articles, a national anthem and a flag with the colors red, black and green. DuBois however was critical of Garvey's bombast and what many today would call atttention-whoring but even more than that...he showed that the entire movement Garvey was building up wasn't based on the most solid of financial foundations ---

But what about the boats? The Yarmouth is a wooden steamer of 1,452 tons, built in 1887. It is old and unseaworthy; it came near sinking a year ago and it has cost a great deal for repairs with a large bill due. Without doubt the inexperienced purchasers of this vessel paid far more than it is worth, and it will soon be utterly worthless unless rebuilt at a very high cost....the cases of the Kanawha and the Shadyside are puzzling. Neither of these boats is registered as belonging to the Black Star line at all. The former is recorded as belonging to C.L. Dimon, and the latter to the North and East River Steamboat Company. Does the Black Star line really own these boats, or is it buying them by installments, or only leasing them? We do not know the facts and have been unable to find out. Under the circumstances, they look like dubious “assets.”
”The main lines of the Garvey plan are perfectly feasible. What he is trying to say and do is this: American Negroes can, by accumulating and administering their own capital, organize industry, join the Black centers of the South atlantic by commercial enterprise and in this way ultimately redeem Africa as a fit and free home for Black men. This is true. It is feasible. It is, in a sense, practical; but it will take for its accomplishment long years of painstaking, self-sacrificing effort. It will call for every ounce of ability, knowledge, experience and devotion in the whole Negro race. It is not a task for one man or one organization, but for co-ordinate effort on the part of millions. The plan is not original with Garvey but he has popularized it, made it a living, vocal ideal and swept thousands with him with intense belief in the possible accomplishment of the ideal...but when Garvey forges ahead and almost single-handed attempts to realize his dream in a few years, with large words and wild gestures, he grievously minimizes his task and endangers his cause.

— W.E.B. DuBois in essay entitled 'Marcus Garvey' circa 1920

That last quoted paragraph above is the best summation of DuBois' feelings towards Garvey and the UNIA. He believed in the end goal, but questioned Garvey's motives, his handling of funds and knowledge of business. Garvey didn't take well to these critiques of his agenda and would ultimately blame "Negro Advancement Associations" for the downfall of the movement. In his weekly Negro World publication, Garvey would blame various other groups and some his own employees for sabotaging his efforts. It got so bad that when DuBois returned to America from a trip to Africa he was met on the dock with police protection because his associates felt like Garvey might try to assassinate him! DuBois himself stated that after his first article was written on Garvey in 1920, he got death threats from people claiming to be Garvey's associates. 

Now let us be honest about something here, when it comes to radically progressive agendas such as the Black Star line, despite clear signs of business mis-management and the misuse of funds on Garvey's part, one cannot count out the very real possibility of sabotage. Garvey was a Black man pushing the first tangible pan-African agenda in history. Garvey took pan-Africanism from being purely intellectual to being something physical that people could work towards and help build up. This was his appeal...he was getting things done! So how involved Garvey was with any death threats against DuBois will never be known and it's possible there were agitators in the UNIA who were working with outside forces to sow division in the movement. The problem is Garvey didn't seem to have anyone working for him who had any knowledge of the shipping industry and 3 boats that for all intents and purposes were garbage. Instead of spending several years saving up funds and finding genius, cheaper ways of generating revenue to buy a state-of-the-art ship (for the time), he spent tens of thousands on an old wooden ship from 1887 that only went on one voyage because it required too many repairs to be used more than that.

The downfall of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA set back pan-Africanism. DuBois would continue to promote it in his own way by fighting against European colonialism and imperialism in Africa, but no far-reaching agenda has been attempted since 1922. Marcus Garvey is both a source of inspiration and a warning for the new Black Left in America. His vision inspires us to dream big, but that dream needs a strong foundation, the right leadership and cannot be rushed. Many Black people got their hopes up high for the Black Star Line and Garvey's other ventures to be successful and with their utter failure came a slow distancing of most Blacks from grandiose pan-Africanist agendas.

The New Black Left of the 21st Century

If the problem of the 20th century was the problem of the color line as DuBois stated in his address to the 1st Pan African Congress over 100 years ago, then the problem of the 21st century is the problem of plutocracy and wealth distribution...on top of the race problem that, while much better than it was during DuBois' time, is still very much a factor in American life.

So now that the history of Black radical progressivism has been touched on, let's turn the focus of the discussion to the present and the future. The new Black Left in America has to have a strong foundation among the Millennial generation. The youth have always and will always be the source of energy and vigor in any movement. However this does not mean we distance ourselves from the advice and guidance of our elders who have been in the struggle longer than we have. The torch has always been passed from generation to generation and so too will it be passed to Millennials who have already begun to carry the message of freedom and equality into the new millennium. 

We cannot and must not leave out economic equality however and this is an important part. Nearly every Black radical had a platform for economics and understood that power for Blacks wouldn't just come through social progress or even political progress alone. Much like DuBois, Martin Luther King and others, we must question capitalism and I believe a mistake that has been made post-integration has been the neglecting of the economic message of equality. Capitalism can be a fine system with the right controls in place, but we have seen over the past 30 years or so that when those controls begin to break down, then you have a very serious problem. Plutocracy was an issue during DuBois' time and he wrote of it and called it out. So if it was an issue back in the 20's, 30's and 40's and prior even, then why would it not be an even bigger problem now post-deregulation, post-NAFTA, post-Union-busting, post-globalization, post-TPP? It was such a problem back then that it drove DuBois to join the Socialist Party and for MLK to openly call for democratic socialism in complete and total belief in radical progressivism.

Below are 5 main reasons why I think Black radical progressivism is resurgent among the Millennial population of America. So much so that is has the potential to become the greatest political revival in recent American history.

5 Reasons Why Black Radical Progressivism is Resurgent

  1. The Unexpected Rise of New Media. New media has given the Black Left a platform unlike any seen before in American history. Of course it gives everyone an amazing platform, but the amount of grassroots intellectualism online from smart and strong Black voices is beginning to rival some of the best periods in American history in terms of its scope and influence. Much like Douglass' 'The North Star,' 'Garvey's 'Negro World ' and Trotter's 'Boston Guardian' of the past, new platforms have emerged and have potentially far more influence than those great papers of old ever had. When combined with the power of social media, one has the ability to spread a message that otherwise may have been too expensive to put out or never allowed in more mainstream publications. New Black media however needs the support of a Black base. A base that understands the basic idea that current mainstream media that is run by corporations is never going to tell the story we want told, so we've got to do it ourselves with our own voice and universal support. However New Media too cannot be afraid to acknowledge certain truths that may rub some people the wrong way. We should strive for "total truth" and transparency even when we know we may not get it. That is what the mainstream media doesn't do due to ad revenue and wanting to rub elbows with the elites in Washington circles who provide access. New Media has to be better than that and provide accurate information to those in need of it.
  2. Increasingly Positive Views of Socialism Among the Millennial generation. 
    A YouGov poll from May of 2015 showed that among young Democrats under the age of 30, socialism is viewed most positively when compared to other groups. This is a reflection of many young people who have grown up in an era when the "American Dream" has been realized as a dream. A generation saddled with mountains of tremendous debt and a shrinking middle class. Millennials have a much more critical view of capitalism than our parents and grandparents. The proper word to use would be plutocracy anyway. A plutocracy is a country, nation, society or civilization ruled by the wealthy, by corporations and conglomerates. Author Chris Hedges has called it Inverted Totalitarianism and a Princeton study from 2014 determined that America was now effectively an oligarchy. No matter what you want to call it, the fact remains that people are looking for alternatives. It is important to note that Martin Luther King himself spoke glowingly of democratic socialism and echoed sentiment that there must be something better than capitalism. Many major Black rebels, radicals and revolutionaries questioned capitalism. It doesn't mean the current system needs to be done away with however. At the very least we should implement elements of social democracy before attempting full-on democratic socialism. I am open to both leftist approaches however and speak on both below .
  3. Failure of the Myth of "Post-Racial" America. There has been a consistent theme throughout American history post-Civil Rights. That theme has been legitimized in many ways by the election and re-election of President Barack Obama. It gets to the heart of a major divide in perspective in how Whites and Blacks not only view themselves, but their place in this society with respect to other groups. The general understanding is that America no longer factors in race with regards to policy, employment, housing and life in general in America. However a plethora of studies and research has come out over the years that has forced the label of "post-racial" to exist in the realm of myth and folklore instead of fact and reality. Don't get me wrong, progress has been made which is where one could include the Barack Obama presidency. However the arguers to the contrary would say that we've traded lynchings for extra-judicial killings, Jim Crow apartheid for mass incarceration and the drug war, co-dependency and unity for a seat at a table we don't own to get crumbs, half-loaves and pseudo-progress. The failure of post-racial America has been possibly the biggest wakeup call for millions of Black Americans in this new age. 
  4. It Never Went Away...It Was Suppressed. The Black Left really hasn't gone anywhere. It was snuffed out, infiltrated and dispersed. Jobs left and drugs, that Blacks don't produce, flooded communities across America just in time for the Drug War. An organized campaign was waged that saw many of the movements we celebrate today destroyed, all the while a new Black middle class was allowed to grow and participate while the leaders who led the charge were imprisoned, murdered, ridiculed, lied on and denigrated by much of mainstream society and politics. Some escaped the fallout and found new niches and new callings, but the passionate radicalisms of the 60's were effectively silenced in a very un-democratic way. Racial calls for a "silent majority" to stand up to fight against progress were ginned up and the rest is history. We are living in a present era of broken promises and problems left unsolved. The Civil Rights movement didn't end because we got everything we needed as has been portrayed by politicians and the establishment for the past several decades. It ended due to outside forces infiltrating movements and turning leaders against each other. Now that sentiment is resurgent and growing possibly stronger than it was even back then.
  5. The Appeal of Pan-Africanism & the Building of a Black Economic Base. Ask most Black leftists today what needs to be done and without fault, most will say we need to build an economic base and more Black-owned businesses. Pan-Africanism wasn't just about returning to Africa, or even in DuBois' case...aiding in the rebuilding of Africa and fostering the growth of an African super-state...a real life Wakanda in many ways (nod to Marvel's Black Panther). It was about building a foundational source of wealth among enough Blacks to maintain a small economy within the community. One way this can be done is the formation of worker cooperatives and consumer cooperatives. Cooperatives are a business concept that comes out of early socialist thought. Co-ops can be found in multiple countries around the world, even in the U.S. in the form of financial credit unions and various other business co-ops. The whole purpose of a co-op is to build social networks within the community and to build social cohesion and help develop a thriving social infrastructure. Co-ops can be used to circulate dollars in the community and use a democratic structure to decide how those dollars will be allocated and to what ends. Modern Pan-Africanism should continue to strive towards the growth of an African superpower as well. It's been 425 years since the fall of the Songhai Empire that brought an end to an African golden age, so we should strive for a return to glory. A glory that will do justice to our incredible historical legacy. Building strong business links with Africans in various countries is a major part of this. There will be time in the future to further flesh out the details of modern-day Pan-Africanism and setting an agenda down on paper about using the co-op structure to build Black wealth. 


5 Ways the Black Left Can Shape the Future of Black America

  1. The Development of a Neo-Pan-Africanist Agenda for the 21st Century. The immigration strategy will never work. That is my view and others are allowed to disagree. It may have seemed to make sense during chattel slavery if nothing else but to escape such a brutal system, but it is not practical or needed in today's society. I'm not against individual people either immigrating to other nations or becoming duel citizens, but I don't think that should be the foundation of a new platform for the still young 21st century. No, this neo-pan-Africanism should apply the best of both DuBois and Garvey. Grandiose, but tempered and calculating. Flamboyant and proud, but thoughtful, flexible and willing to change. Much like other groups of ethnic people of the world who live abroad, we too have to understand and realize that our ancestral homeland still makes up a majority portion in our DNA. Tens of thousands of years of genetic history doesn't become irrelevant because you spent a few hundred years in bondage. Much like DuBois, we must still call for the rise of that Black super state. Independence has come to Africa and luckily DuBois was still alive to see the beginnings of that in 1960 after fighting against colonialism for so many decades. However there are still many problems and many criticisms that can be leveled at global institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the role they've played in the economic paralysis that has continued post-Independence on the African continent.
  2. The Development of a New Political Party. Let me say first and foremost that I am not against the idea of Blacks working within the Democratic Party to try to change it from the inside by running truly Progressive candidates and getting enough into office to really push forward a Progressive agenda. There are some who would favor a different party altogether, but don't believe in the ability for a 3rd Party to ever gain traction on a national level due to our purposefully rigid two-party system. I favor all options and tactics being put on the table and multiple groups all pushing for the same things, but using different ways to do it. However allow me to say that there may come the day when the Left, particularly the Black Left must once and for all abandon the Democratic Party. This is an especially important message for Millennials who will one day hold much more power politically than they do now...despite the fact that our influence is already palpable. This is going to be hard to do for some who struggle with brand loyalty to the Democrats because of the 1960's or out of tradition. There are several currently-existing political parties that people should take some time to look at including the Green Party and the Socialist Party of America that provide a platform for strong progressive ideas. However nothing says we have to stop there. Whatever we do needs to make sense because continuing to support the same politicians and expecting different results stopped making sense a very long time ago.
  3. The Creation of a Uniquely New Musical/Arts Tradition. This may be the one that comes as a surprise to some readers. Some may wonder why music and the arts should have anything at all to do with a movement. Look to the 60's and the major impact that protest songs had on those movements. Look to the Harlem Renaissance and the impact that literature and the arts had on the New Negro movement. Music can serve as a rallying cry and all major social movements and even minor social movements have had their songs. Their hymns and rhymes and musical traditions that tell the story of great individuals and valiant acts of courage and feats of success. It is why some believe Hip-Hop was co-opted with its once clear and obvious political messages watered-down and played down in favor of something else. If you click the link below and go to the Black and Intellectual Soundcloud page. There is a playlist we call the Epic Conscious Mix *For the Real Radicals* that we want people to listen to while surfing the site and it's why we decided to use music on the home page. However I'm talking about a music tradition, a rhythmic legacy to be passed down and used for inspirational purposes for later generations. The same way Millennials today may see the value and power in Sam Cooke's song 'A Change is Gonna Come' or Public Enemy's righteous anthem 'Fight the Power,' future generations should be the beneficiaries of a vibrant, colorful and inspirational song and story. Whether they be musical pieces or fictional stories, there needs to be a intellectual renaissance  in our musical and arts tradition.
  4. The Development of Either Social Democratic or Democratic Socialist Ideals. Some people have a way of labeling things without looking at the full context of what it is they're saying. Let us first define the terms 'social democracy' and 'democratic socialism.' The two are similar and close to each other on the political spectrum, but they are different systems. Social democracy is to the left of our current political and economic system, yet elements of social democracy already exist in America and have since the New Deal. The public school system, universal healthcare, social security and basically every other element of the SOCIAL safety net are elements of social democracy. Many people point to the 'Nordic system' of social democracy as the best example of social democracy being implemented on a large scale successfully. The primary aim of social democracy is not only giving each and every individual their rights, but also equality of opportunity for everyone. It is a model of equality and freedom for everyone. In that sense, America's basic ideals comes out of social democracy. When most people talk about "freedom" and "justice" and the "pursuit of happiness," they are speaking on an idea rooted in social democracy. What then is democratic socialism? Democratic socialists believe everything social democrats do, but they go a bit further to the Left. Many democratic socialists don't just believe the Big Banks need to be broken up, but that their assets and collective wealth need to be seized and property rights re-distributed. Democratic Socialists are much more revolutionary in their approach to capitalism than social democrats. Democratic socialists will outright call the banking system a criminal enterprise and openly oppose the World Bank, Word Trade Organization (WTO), and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Democratic Socialists believe all financial and insurance institutions should be socially owned and operated with a democratically-controlled national banking authority. Most importantly, Democratic socialists believe in reparations for the slave trade and in some cases the drug war. These are some of the primary aims of democratic socialists, but the list goes far beyond what's been mentioned here. Now at Black and Intellectual, this platform represents a political balance between these two ideals. For Black people in America, we must come to grips with certain harsh realities about where we've been, where we currently are and most importantly where we're going as a people. We have to judge this current paradigm for what it truly is and has done to our community instead of what we think or want it to be. The further development of these ideals is highly critical to forward success.
  5. The Development of a New Crypto-Currency or the Utilization of One Already Created. Currency simply put is a system of money used by nations to determine the strength of their economy. Crypto-currencies are all the rage with the explosion of Bitcoin some years back in 2009 and the fear of an impending collapse of our current system. Cryto-currencies are not a fad and can be used by the community to build independent wealth. Not simply having money in U.S. dollars, but having a completely new, self-sufficient and functioning e-currency. The "crypto" in cryto-currency comes from the fact that digital currency uses crytography for security purposes and to prevent counterfeiting. A perfect example of this is the blockchain technology that has come about as a result of the rise of Bitcoin. There are too many benefits to cryto-currencies and too many intricacies to go into too much detail here. Understand that it's revolutionary and potentially very disruptive technology that should be taken seriously when it comes to planning for the future. The development of a new currency must be included in the discussion of building a Black economic base. It's fine to build Black wealth with dollars as long as the Dollar remains the global currency, however that's not radical enough. An even more radical solution would be the use of crypto-currencies and crypto-platforms to build decentralized organizations and entities that are democratic in nature with an independent currency to back it up.

In Conclusion

The ways the progressive Black Left can shape the future of Black America doesn't just involve making minor changes. It requires seismic shifts in our current way of thinking about ourselves and each other. It's going to require people getting on the same page even if there are disagreements and it's going to require building things that may not currently exist. Not just a new political party, musical tradition or currency...but possibly a new language too. It seems to be just accepted by Blacks in America that we don't have our own tongue. All immigrants to America have a native tongue and even for White Americans they have the native European tongue of English which comes down to us from Latin. Will a new language put money in peoples pockets? No, it will not. However that is not the point. The idea is to develop a new uniquely leftist, uniquely progressive and an unapologetically Black sub-culture. A sub-culture united by song, by politics, by economics and by tongue that will become so popular that the entirety of Black America will one day follow it and believe in it. 

Once we have done at least all of the things above, we can begin to approach the idea of statehood for African-Americans. We have always been a nation within a nation and once we are connected economically with a strong economic base, politically and socially, then we will have more power behind that demand than we would if we called for Statehood now. This is a long term agenda and something that will not come into place soon. However as often noted, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. How long will we vote for corporate politicians who have abandoned the progressive agenda? How long will be buy into this idea of waiting a lifetime to incrementally receive rights and protections under the law while thousands,-- no, tens of thousands are victimized by antiquated ideologies and racially-biased domestic policies? The answer is quite simple, the implementation of the necessary changes has proven to not be as easy a nut to crack. Perseverance and courage is needed and required for Black radical progressives of all ages and extensions.

Black and Intellectual is a platform dedicated to pushing this agenda forward. However we will need the support from those who agree with us. Those who agree that something is terribly wrong and major changes need to be made quickly across the board. If you don't believe there is a fundamental problem with business as usual then this site isn't for you. This site is for those who do believe there is a problem and want to do something about it. You can start by spreading the word visually. Below is the first shirt in what will become what we're calling the 'Radical Progressive' clothing line under the Black and Intellectual brand. It is our flagship product with an image that conveys a powerful message that is sure to turn heads. As the site grows, we look to add more to our store and provide quality content and opinions for those with the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and support black businesses, progressive ideals and a better future for all Americans.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu