Burning Spear News
How the Party dared to struggle and win against Ideological Imperialism following the defeat of the Black Revolution of the '60s
The March 1980 issue of The Burning Spear newspaper can be found, along with a full historical archive, in the University of Florida Digital Newspaper Collection © The Burning Spear newspaper
Editor's note: This is Part Two of “The New Period” that first appeared in the March 1980 Spear. It was written 40 years ago for a Party conference in Gainesville, Florida by Chairman Omali Yeshitela and served as a political report that preceded the Party's First Congress two years later.
In the first issue of The Burning Spear published by the African People's Socialist Party in November, 1973, we ran an editorial entitled: "O.L. — Ideological Imperialists." This article was one of a long series of ideological struggles waged against the Ideological Imperialists. The editorial was a criticism of the October League (now known as the Communist Party-Marxist-Leninist), and a defense of the Black Liberation Movement. A quote from that editorial will show the Party's ongoing struggles against Ideological Imperialism and the basic continuity and development of our ideology and our line, and will demonstrate the Party's conscious attempts to lead our movement out of its paralysis through overcoming all obstacles:
"The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), presently fighting to liberate Zimbabwe from the racist white Rhodesian settler government, pushes the slogan: 'We are our own liberators.' No doubt, the slogan was prompted in part, to combat the tendency that oppressed and colonized people sometimes have to wait for some outside force to rescue them from their oppression. On the other hand, it is probable that the slogan was also prompted by the constant attempt made by foreigners to dictate ideological and tactical direction for the Zimbabwean front of the African liberation struggle.
"It might be well for the African liberation movement within the U.S. to adopt this same slogan. For although the Black movement in the U.S. suffers from ideological shortcomings, the necessary material for ideological development exists only within a scientific analysis of the historical process that brought us this far in our struggle…Since all African people in the U.S. have the same peculiar history behind us as it relates to the African slave and colonial experience, it would logically seen that the objective prerequisite for correct analysis is residual within the Black Movement.
November 1973 editorial on Ideological Imperialism
"Not so, says the October League....The October League... a so-called multinational organization has decided it has the correct analysis to free African people in the U.S. Reaching its hands into the graveyard of white opportunism, the O.L. has resurrected the decayed, 1928, castaway ideological corpse of the Communist Party U.S.A. (CPUSA). The CPUSA, fascinated by the phenomenal success of the Garvey movement, and unable to control Garvey, added its hysterical cries to crush the Garvey movement. When, in 1928, the CPUSA still found itself unable to attract significant numbers of African people, it resorted to some old-fashioned revisionism — Garveyist Revisionism. The CPUSA decided that African people in the U.S. constituted a nation, but Africa was out. Our national home was in the U.S. South, according to the Communist Party...
"Now, forty-five years later, the O.L. has become a grave robber. Interestingly enough the O.L. did not seek its analysis from Garvey, Malcolm, or even King, or any of the more successful African leaders, but found itself with the still-born analysis from another 'multinational' organization....
"A Haitian Zombie has more life-fuel than their moribund theory on the 'national question.' Their theory of the birth of the African nation through a slave 'forging' process is clearly no different than any other racist notion of whites propelling Africans into history...If the common experiences provided by slavery 'forged' Africans into a nation in the U.S., and somehow justifies our struggle for the South as a national homeland, then surely, the same 'forging' process occurred for the settlers in Azania and Zimbabwe during their common experience in murdering and oppressing our people there.
"No, the O.L., recognizing the developing national consciousness of Africans within the U.S., attempts to broaden its political base in its struggle against its class enemy by luring Africans into its organizational control. No doubt O.L. believes the story of Red people, selling Manhattan for twenty-four dollars and figures that inflation being what it is today, they will give up the South for nothing. In any event, the O.L., as it relates to the African liberation struggles, is left in form and right in content, revolutionary in form and reactionary in essence.
"Political Africans must not be tricked into the unprincipled white arena where O.L. and the various white communist organizations are performing autopsies on the exhumed 'national question.' Let the dead bury the dead, we must be about the task of national liberation. After all, we are our own liberators!"
I apologize for the length of the quote from The Burning Spear but I think it was necessary to use the long quote in order to explain the period and to show the Party's role in that period. I should also mention that many of the black nationalist personalities and groups did not understand the importance of the struggle against the Ideological Imperialists and often complained that the Party should not waste time making the struggle against them because they would somehow simply mysteriously disappear.
However, although the Party also understood that the future would produce contradictions which would eventually expose ideological shortcomings and political opportunism of the Ideological Imperialists, we could also see the damage their presence was doing to our already near-decimated movement. Throughout the U.S. they were responsible for splitting and smashing what few revolutionary organizations that did exist. Moreover, the Party's position was that the Ideological Imperialists should not be allowed to die a natural death.
Fierce struggle against Ideological Imperialism
As Ideological Imperialism is a phenomena which has occurred throughout our history the Party understood that a fierce ideological struggle should be waged against it, a struggle which would reveal their ideological shortcomings and political opportunism while at the same time strengthen our own movement ideologically and politically. It was the Party's intent to furnish the ideological ammunition for their destruction should they reappear in the future, as well as to defeat them at the present.
Although many forces did not initially understand the need to struggle against Ideological Imperialism, most of them were to later agree, after their own experiences with Ideological Imperialists, that the struggle was important and necessary. Most of them were also to use the Party's arguments and ideological formulations as the basis for their struggles against Ideological Imperialism.
It should be kept in mind that where the Party initiated this struggle was through The Burning Spear. The Spear was read nationally, and as it was one of the only two or three revolutionary publications at the time, the ideological and political impact it was having prepared our movement for the struggle against Ideological Imperialism, even if it was independent of its will to be prepared.
The “Great Long March to Starke”
In October 1973, Party led "The Great Long March to Starke." This was a 45-mile march in defense of 14 black prisoners who were being tried on frame-up charges stemming from a prison guard riot at Florida State Prison in Starke, Florida.
This march resulted from the Party's clear colonialist analysis of the relationship black people have to prison in the U.S., and it was one of the only popular actions we were aware of which had its basis in clear nationalist politics.
The "Great Long March to Starke" should also be understood within the context of the period. For while the African Liberation Movement in this country was capable of staging African Liberation Day demonstrations, and while it is likely that local, spontaneous demonstrations were occurring throughout the U.S., our movement was virtually stagnant. The destruction of the Black Panther Party, which made its debut into the world as a revolutionary nationalist organization, resulted in the destruction of the general activist trend which had characterized our movement since the Civil Rights struggle.
The nationalist movement was now characterized by silly superstitious rituals primarily under the leading influence of people like Don L. Lee and Amiri Baraka, and an absolute adamant resistance to struggle. The developing situation was one that presented the Ideological Imperialists, and the spontaneous local struggles which were often militant and most often reformist, having hodgepodge ideological bases which contained mixtures of civil rights liberalism and Black Panther Party anti-colonialism, as the only consistent activists.
This is why it was necessary for the Party to take up our various struggles and tasks in the fashion that we did. Was the editorial on the October League for our own benefit? Did we write about "The Great Long March to Starke" just to see it in print? Was the pamphlet in response to Don L. Lee just an exercise in distributing paper? No, comrades. The Party was about the task of transforming the general situation for our movement from the negative to the positive. The Party assumed the responsibility for keeping the movement alive, deepening the ideological bases for the movement, and to do these things while teaching the African Liberation Movement how to make practical struggle around virtually every question from a revolutionary nationalist ideological basis, and how to win.