Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Movement: Opportunity for Revolution or Opportunism Instead of Revolution?

In this period of the African struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism, internationally capitalism – military and economic white supremacy is in crisis; a crisis that has shaken the U.S. financial markets and promises to destabilize the European Union. It is a crisis reaching the scale of the depression era in the early 1930's in the U.S., Japan and many countries in Europe. 

For African people the economic ramifications of this current crisis has long been felt and has gotten worse for us than any other community of people in the U.S. Currently there is a listed unemployment rate of 16.5% for all Black people looking for work, there is a 22% unemployment rate for Black men and for Black youth 16 - 25 the unemployment rate is a staggering 45%. Again, this is for those looking for employment, it does not take into account those who have given up looking and those who are underemployed working part-time. 

Because of the U.S. banking system crisis in 2008, Black families have suffered the hardest in the lost of homes to foreclosures. Baltimore has the second highest number of foreclosures for African people in the whole U.S. One of the root causes of the banking system crisis the uncontrolled speculation and manipulation of the market by banks as they used predatory lending policies disproportionately against African families. African families were tricked into taking incredibly exploitative loans that would steal billions of dollars from our community on the initial promise of affordable home ownership.

In addition to the predatory lending policies, which extracted greater amounts of wealth from our community, discriminatory hiring practices in the labor market and the increased incarnation of African people cut into the overall economic stability of the African community. We are now in a situation where the wealth gap between Black and White families is reported to be the largest in the history of this country. White families are now on average 20 times wealthier than African families ($113,150 compared to $5,680) and some estimating it would take centuries for the gap to be closed.

The crisis in capitalism however is so deep that now the precious white middle class of America is feeling the effects. Once able to feel secure about their future and bribed by imperialism to be content with the exploitation and oppression of the African, Latino and other oppressed nations, the economic crisis now threatens white workers comfortable lives. Now the wealth gap between the average white person and the elite 1% ruling class has expanded into all time proportions. The national ratio for CEO-to-worker pay grew 20 percent from last year to hit a whopping 325 to 1.

In response to the crisis for finance capitalists and the military industrial complex, the U.S. government initiated a stated $700 billion bailout of banks. Many predict the actual amount spent to be in trillion-dollar range. The U.S. government also increased its spending of trillions of dollars to make war on Arab and African people abroad. All this was done at the expense of jobs, homes, and education for white people, a violation of the unwritten rules of class peace between the ruling class and the so-called white working class, pushing the white community to the edge.

Currently there is a national mobilization in various cities called the Occupy Wall Street movement. It obviously started in New York on Wall Street and has spread to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Seattle, Detroit and Baltimore as well as others. It has allowed for white people to express their narrow petty disagreements with U.S. imperialism about how they have been treated and want to share more in the looting of the world's resources. 

In almost every case, attempts by African, Latino and Indigenous people to participate on behalf of the contradictions that exist in our own communities have been met with hostility and suspicion. In addition, issues with woman and the LGBT community have also sprung up, exposing the true nature of these demonstrations as not being progressive and revolutionary but instead opportunist, racist and sexist.

In Baltimore, a city with 65% African population, we have the opportunity to turn the Occupy Baltimore mobilization into a showcase for the issues of the African community. We are able to expose the opportunism, opportunism, classism, and racism of the white middle class and the so-called white left for the lack of unity with the plight of the majority of people in this city and the world. Instead of unity with the demands of African people for real social justice and economic justice, the participants in the Occupy Baltimore action have attempt to be as vague as possible about the goals and objectives of the demonstration and have attempted to minimize all attempts by non-white and oppressed people to get our interests on the platform.

Just days ago, members of the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP) went to a meeting in East Baltimore at community church to participate in a meeting between white leftist and oppressed community forces who were upset with the state of the mobilization in Baltimore to this time. There were about 30 people there with the ratio being about 12 Africans to 18 white people. However as the meeting had no agenda and no formal leadership, the UPP was able to seize the moment and take over the meeting.

Comrade Jabbar took charge by being the facilitator of the whole meeting, he was able to control the flow of the meeting and recognize speakers. I was able to set out many of the goals the African community needed addressed and struggled with opinions that attempted to minimize a platform that spoke directly to African people. Essentially everyone at the meeting had to interact with the UPP as though we called the meeting.

Given the crisis of leadership in the African community and the long track record of opportunism in the white left, it was the most correct action available to the UPP comrades to take control of the discussion on behalf of the interests of African workers and other oppressed people.

At the end of the meeting, we had Comrade Chris volunteer to help craft a preamble statement to the Occupy Baltimore organizers and to the community in general. This preamble was a criticism of the Occupy Baltimore mobilization and pointed to the correct stance that should be taken. We also worked to create goals that would be presented to the Occupy Baltimore movement to challenge the rudderless leadership and as well as to speak to our own community about why they should participate in the local mobilization.

We summarize our basic goals for participating in this mobilization as the following:

1. Use the Occupy Baltimore mobilization to get signatures for the UPP and to recruit young/new African activists into working with our organization to build the party.
2. Push the mobilization to acknowledge and address the contractions and interests of the African community as we make up the largest segment of people in the city.
3. To make contact with organizations that can have principled unity with us to help push the UPP work forward and to build work in the community in general.

In addition to the goals consolidated in the meeting, we also won support for not bringing in the emerging body as a “People of Color” committee. In several locations around the country, oppressed people have consolidated themselves as an auxiliary committee in the Occupy Wall Street mobilization.

We resist submitting ourselves to the opportunist, racist and sexist leadership of the Occupy Baltimore movement, instead we stand as a separate “Power to the People” committee who come to the mobilization in support of our goals. We also resist using the term “People of Color” to define ourselves, we are Africans, and many of the committee attendees are left forces looking for concrete goals and objectives. The term “people of color” is a term used by white society to define what they believe to be minority populations but as Africans, we understand we are billion strong!

The goals we were able to push for and win with the meeting of organizers were:

1. End Gentrification of the African community and to end foreclosures on people's homes
2. Demand for jobs and a living wage.
3. Ending Police Brutality and the occupation of Baltimore by Baltimore City Police
4. End the school to prison pipeline and stop the Prison Industrial complex
5. Healthcare for all and the ending of Food Deserts in the Black community
6. More funding to public education
7. More funding to Youth Programs
8. Ending of the war on drugs and the racist immigration policies
9. End the wars in the Middle East and Africa

Bcde. Nnamdi Lumuma,
State Organizer,
Ujima People's Progress Party

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