During election and beyond
A call for Black unity, action
Published Sep 3, 2008 11:01 PM
Following is a statement put out Aug. 24 by the Black Left Unity
Network, which held its inaugural conference this past May 30-June 1 in Chapel
Hill, N.C. Write to Black Left Unity Network, P.O. Box 934,
Rocky Mount, NC 27802. E-mail: [email protected]
The U.S. is on the verge of making history with the possible nomination of
the first Black presidential candidate by one of the two major political
parties. The massive Black voter turnouts for the Democratic primaries are a
testament of the spontaneous political upsurge that is taking place throughout
the national Black community.
There are various pro and con views about Barack Obama’s
presidential platform. They all have a ring of truth. However, the massive
Black support he is receiving represents the desire by Black people and a
demand of our historic anti-racist struggle for self-determination to have
power and a voice in shaping our own destiny as an oppressed people and as part
of the wider U.S. working class who suffer from racism, sexism, homophobia and
capitalist exploitation. This sentiment cannot be ignored by Black activists
who are committed to building a radical mass movement that challenges and seeks
to transform the U.S. political and economic system.
However, the Black liberation movement, those Black organizations and
social movements that unite within a national framework to organize and empower
the Black masses to realize self-determination in our struggles for democracy
and national liberation, are fragmented. They lack an organized presence in
shaping the national mass Black consciousness and direction of this political
This fragmentation has greatly weakened the national Black
community’s response to major government and corporate attacks on Black
people’s democratic and human rights, which are rapidly intensifying
under the current economic crisis. Thus, the differences around the Obama
candidacy must not be a source for the continued fragmentation of the Black
liberation movement. We have an historical and political obligation to unite
around a program of action.
There is a sentiment among the Black masses expressed through the hundreds
of local struggles throughout the country demanding radical changes in the U.S.
political, economic and social system and in power relationships between the
haves and have-nots.
The past 30 years has been a period of major reversals in the gains won by
the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The past 10
years alone have shown the most brutal and execution-style murders of unnamed
young Blacks by police in cities across the U.S. The exoneration of the killer
cops that murdered Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell are examples of what the Black
masses can expect from the criminal injustice system.
Racist sentencing has led to Blacks constituting 1 million of the 2.3
million people in U.S. prisons. And many historic Black communities and
institutions have been gentrified and dismantled.
The outright government racism and human rights violations against the
majority Black and working-class population in New Orleans and throughout the
Gulf Coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including denying thousands
the right to return to their communities, is an unmistaken indication of the
genocide facing masses of Black people if there is no organized challenge to
Black national oppression.
Black-led mass organizations or social movements that don’t engage
in a practical way in this mass political upsurge will be left behind by their
own constituencies, who will conclude that they have no program to help provide
direction when the masses are in motion. This is especially true among young
Blacks, who have been a major part of this upsurge.
The experience of the Civil Rights movement under the leadership of Dr.
King and others shows that the key to change is not relying on presidential
candidates or liberal politicians to articulate the platform, but rather
building mass movements from below that raise the demands of the Black masses
and mobilize their power. Dr. King organized the Poor Peoples Campaign during
President Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 run for reelection, despite the fact that
he had signed the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.
Black activists must see themselves as entering more than just an historic
presidential campaign. It must also be seen as an important opportunity and
possible juncture in the historical struggle against racism, which capitalism
uses to super-exploit and divide the masses.
And while the struggle against Black national oppression may take on new
dimensions, depending on the developments during and the outcome of the
presidential elections, this struggle will continue and will require a strong
and politically conscious mass base, and an engaged national Black liberation
This question of mass-based national Black unity and political education
is especially critical now. There might be confusion amidst the mass sentiment,
thinking that since a Black candidate will be the Democratic Party presidential
nominee and possibly the next U.S. president that somehow the U.S. political
system and climate may be opening up democratically. The recent U.S. Senate
vote approving a major expansion of the government’s surveillance powers
makes clear that the anti- democratic and repressive direction of the U.S.
government since Sept. 11, 2001, has not changed.
Unlike the largely covert COINTELPRO in the 1960s, what we are seeing
today is a more open and in-your-face direction toward the consolidation of a
fascist U.S. government. Obama’s support for the bill shows further why
the Black masses, regardless of their support for him, need an independent
program of action.
A program of action must mobilize the Black masses along with other social
movements that speak truth to power through visible actions that challenge
oppression and attacks on democratic rights, and that calls on Obama and all
who seek to lead this country to hold true to the core principles advanced by
Dr. King of ending racism, poverty, repression and war. Direct engagement must
be part of movements for justice and democracy.
Part of the task of Black activists is to begin steps toward realigning,
rebuilding, politicizing and deepening the mass base of the national Black
liberation movement in preparation for the new challenges and opportunities
that may occur during and following the election period. Black activists must
unite to help organize local forums that provide an independent and democratic
framework to engage forces within the Black community in developing and uniting
around a transitional program for radical change that addresses and goes beyond
the election period.
Our focus must be on organizing our people around a set of demands that
unite and reflect their many struggles so that they speak and act in a
collective voice. We know that there are Black and Black-led mass organizations
and social movements engaged in struggles around the important issues of today.
However, they are not connected by a national framework and strategic slogan
that begins to define the magnitude of the capitalist crisis facing the Black
We call on Black activists, mass organizations and social movements to
adopt the slogan, We Charge Genocide, and participate in a national Ribbon
Campaign to show a united challenge against conditions and powers that are
destroying our lives and communities.
We call for the holding of local Black Assemblies to bring together
representatives of our many struggles to discuss, refine, unite and mobilize
around the following core demands as a National Black Agenda for
Reconstruction in the Gulf Coast and the right of return for survivors;
collective bargaining and the right to organize for all workers;
family-supporting living wages and income for the gainfully unemployed and
disabled; universal healthcare; end to U.S. wars, military aggression and
forced regime change in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Africa, Latin America,
the Caribbean and throughout the world; U.S. accountability to international
human rights covenants; end gay discrimination; stop gentrification; the right
to the cities; major funding for infrastructure needs; reparations; stop
environmental racism and global warming; immigrant rights; end police violence,
and economic justice.
These demands should be promoted inside the trade unions and mass
organizations and social movements comprising large numbers of the Black
working class and other oppressed sectors throughout society. They should be
promoted at the Democratic National Convention, throughout the many mass
activities aligned with the Obama campaign and by the McKinney/Clemente
campaign. We call on Black activists attending the Democratic Convention to
convene a Black Assembly near the convention site to bring together Black
delegates and activists to engage in actions toward promoting a National Black
Agenda for Democracy and Political Change.
Following the general election we call for the organizing of a mass-based
National Black Assembly in the first quarter of 2009 to develop a more
comprehensive program of action.
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