[Some members of LOOP have begun a wider study group of the recently republished False Nationalism False Internationalism, intending to also move on to Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, toward a constructive and critical engagement with these texts and what lessons for political practice they have for us as activists today.
As part of this, we also want to put together a study guide for at the least FNFI and collect and make more accessible (when it comes to both availability and readability) materials little-read nowadays that supplement or are relevant to a reassessment of those texts. We have already put up two of these: the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee’s “Revolutionary Internationalism” and the Native Study Group’s “On the National Question.” Here we are republishing a criticism of the Black Panther Party and certain forms of solidarity politics written by Imari Obadele, the first president of the Republic of New Afrika, excerpted from his book Revolution and Nation Building: Strategy for Building the Black Nation in America (1970, pp. 71-5).]
Revolutionary parties, such as today’s Black Panther Party, fail us not because they cannot provide the national apparatus and the training for self-government that we need. They can. They fail us, rather, because they do not create in us the mood and the frame of mind for independence and self-government.
They fail us because their major goal – the destruction of the total U.S. government and/or the seizing of the U.S. government machinery is incorrect. It defeats in black people the mood and frame of mind for self-government, and this in itself is sufficient reason for these parties’ failing us. But it is also important to note that this goal of theirs rests on an incorrect analysis of objective reality.
Their goal necessitates black-white alignment on a class basis – that is to say, black and white workers united against the small but powerful class of white exploiters. If we were to go to South Africa and suggest such an alignment as a strategy for black liberation, it would be crystal clear that we would be engaging either in a bold deception or in a pure flight of fantasy. This is hardly less true of America. A class alignment of black and white workers here is blocked as a practical achievement because the reality of the relationship between black and white workers is caste, not class. White workers in America – as a caste – are hostile to black workers, believe they share few common interests with the blacks, and see no benefits to be derived from union with blacks superior to the benefits they believe they already derive from caste.
The whole history of black-white relations – from union and plant contacts through housing riots – bespeaks this loudly.
Reality calls, NOW, for nationhood among blacks: for black reconstruction – of the black personality and dignity BY blacks. Only through nationhood can this be achieved. Only through the marshaling of our own resources in our own interest can we escape the persistent, all-pervading cancer of white supremacy, the interminable promotion of white interests through white supremacy. Oppressed as a group, we must rise up as a group.
The so-called revolutionary parties, resting on the impracticality of a black-white unity, would have us turn our energies from reconstruction of the black personality and the marshaling of our resources as a people, charging us with cultural nationalism and chauvinism; instead, they would have us disperse and dissipate our energies in vain pursuit of a black-white unity which would better and sooner come, in any event, AFTER we are reconstructed as a people, and AFTER we stand as equals with others in this world. Theirs is a game, which, as in the past, serves best the persistent aims of white supremacy.
The so-called revolutionary parties would have us turn from the building of a black nation to the goal of achieving sovereignty over all fifty states. Why? Do they – like whites in power – somehow feel there is something magic, inviolable, and eternal about the present territorial boundaries of the United States? Sovereignty over all fifty states may be a proper goal for the exploited classes of whites in American society: THEY are the majority population, even without us, but THEY, as a majority – white workers and the white poor – do not regard us as a part of them. And we ARE not a part of them; implicitly we tend to reject their most sacred more, their faith in white supremacy and their divine mission on earth, and, whether successfully rejecting that or not, we suffer from the effects of it universally and harshly.
Only as slaves, therefore, could we regard ourselves as part of the white majority. We are an oppressed people – oppressed not only by the white ruling class but in a quite real and deeply rooted sense by the WHOLE white majority. We are not a part of them. We are robbed by them, and ALL of them partake of the riches that flow to them spiritually and materially, from our exploitation. Let them if they would call to us and say, “Join us in the American political revolution first – and when we are in power, we will wipe out racial oppression.” No. We ARE no longer slaves. The fight for power WITHIN the American society is theirs. OUR energies now must be spent in marshaling our resources for our own well-being and strength, that we may, through our own power, free ourselves of oppression, that we may, through our own power, reconstruct the black personality, which is the first step toward freedom from oppression.
We have a need, as a people, to march to a different drummer – and a right. We have a right to create a quality of life that is uniquely ours, meeting OUR needs, reflecting OUR ambitions. The Republic of New Africa is the vehicle for achieving such a life. Our method entails campaigns for consent, followed by plebiscites, followed by defense of our land. Our success is to be predicated upon marshaling in our service eight strategic elements which are necessary for [the] success of a black state in North America. Among these eight elements is the “limited objective.”
By this element we leave to the white majority any war for control of the American machinery of government. We seek no control over their people or their goods. Neither do we seek all of their states or half of them or even one-quarter of them. We seek but one-tenth of the states over which they claim sovereignty. Our claim finds its justice not simply in the fact that we are one-tenth of the people in America but that these states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina – have been our traditional home for three centuries, we have worked the land and developed it, and have fought to stay there against terror and murder and assault and intimidation and deprivations of all sorts. We can say: this land is ours.
Here we shall build a new nation: in peace, if peace is permitted us; in war, if it is forced upon us. Our method of achieving this sovereignty over our land is the method of men of peace, of African men who love justice and honor law. In the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana citizens of New Africa move among our fellow black people, appraising them of the fact that black people in America have never had legal citizenship, apprising them of their opportunity to become citizens of our own nation, the Republic of New Africa. Next we shall demonstrate to the world, by means of a plebiscite, a vote, that it is New Africa, not the United States, which has the consent of the people who dominate those areas. Finally, at that moment which WE conceive to be most propitious for us, we shall declare the whole area free and independent and undertake to build the New Nation, the better society.