Burning Spear News
The new period: A time for Party-building
African Liberation Day was part of the formation of the African People's Socialist Party in 1972 and it continues to the present day.
Editor's note: This Point of The Spear first appeared in February 1980. It was written 40 years ago for a Party conference in Gainesville, Florida by Chairman Omali Yeshitela. This document was actually a political report that preceded the Party's First Congress two years later.
For the last several years, dating back to the beginning of our existence, the African People's Socialist Party has been struggling to create the conditions which are favorable for building a strong, massive Party and pushing our movement forward in a fundamental way.
We have been struggling to reach the place where we are today. It is a new place. It is also a new period for our movement and our Party, a place and a period that the African People's Socialist Party helped to bring into existence.
The demands the Party finds itself faced with in this new period are also new.
This is to be expected, for every period presents its own contradictions, as well as the unresolved contradictions from the period which preceded it.
So, although the Party has a history of taking on new demands, one after the other, the new factor today which has caused some problems for us is the qualitative change that the Party has gone through itself and the critical relationship the new demands have to that change.
Therefore, this conference is very important to us because we need to give a general summary of the last period of Party work, going back to our founding, and the relationship of that work to tactical and strategical considerations for our movement and our Party.
We must also distinguish the last period of Party work from the critical period we are now entering.
The need to make such a distinction in periods is made clear by the obvious, generalized confusion that has swept the entire Party for the last two months.
This confusion has led to demoralization, a lack of initiative, and a haphazard, task-oriented approach to the work, an approach which negated the tactical and strategical political implications of the work and which, instead, seemed to mechanically do the work because it was there to do.
The enthusiasm and ingenuity which usually embrace the work are not there. The dynamic, revolutionary character, which is the hallmark of Party work, is missing.
There is instead, an honest befuddlement within our ranks. There is, instead, sincere bafflement by our best cadre as to the reason for our lack of enthusiasm and initiative.
Cadre persons have been heard to state: "I know how to do it, but I don't know why I can't do it."
What are the reasons for the befuddlement, the lack of initiative and revolutionary fervor? Why is it that Party members find ourselves incapable of carrying out a simple task today that we have carried out hundreds of times in the past?
I believe the answer lies in the new period we have helped to achieve for our movement, and are entering as a revolutionary political Party.
I believe the answer lies in the changes which have occurred in and for the Party and the concomitant lag in political consciousness of our cadre and membership.
The fact, sisters and brothers, is that the Party is presently going through a stage similar to adolescence in Western society.
We are growing up. We are no longer what we used to be, nor are we yet what we are becoming.
And, like the adolescent, we are pimple prone and quite unsteady on our feet. Indeed, we are embarrassingly awkward. Some of us may even be thinking of running away from home.
This adolescent stage is quite uncomfortable, I would even say, unbearable.
Therefore, it is important that we make this period as short as possible and get about the business of growing up.
But in order for us to do this, to grow up correctly and strong, we must quickly examine our past period and sum it up, and we must explain who we are and who we must become, and what we must do in relation to that period.
1972: A period of little motion by the masses
The African People's Socialist Party was founded in 1972. While 1972 was the year of the first African Liberation Day demonstration in the U.S., an event which saw the participation of tens of thousands of African people, it was nevertheless, at the same time, a period of very little motion of the masses of our people.
It was a period when for all practical purposes, the military assault on the Black Liberation Movement had been successful, and the Ideological Imperialists, groups of petty bourgeois North American radicals, were beginning the motion which would almost result in the ideological defeat of the Black Liberation Movement in the U.S.
The African Liberation Day demonstration did not occur as a result of the work of any single strong party or other organizational center; nor was it accomplished by two, three, or even several, strong parties or organizations.
Instead, African Liberation Day-U.S. was accomplished as the result of an ill-defined coalition of many different local organizations throughout the U.S.
However, notwithstanding the military assault on our movement and the absence of a strong revolutionary center, the massive turnout and the tremendous enthusiasm of the masses of our people for the African Liberation Day demonstration revealed a deep nationalist consciousness of the people at that time.
1972 was also the year the basis for a split within our movement was occurring; this split would clearly reveal itself by 1974.
The split came about as the result of the successful military assault on our movement and the tremendous ideological pressures being imposed on our movement by the Ideological Imperialists.
One sector of the primitive- petty bourgeois radicals which constituted a faction of the progressive Black Liberation Movement within current U.S. borders would find itself unable to withstand these pressures.
Evidence of the impending split manifested itself as early as 1972, prior to the African Liberation Day demonstration.
At first sight, the contradictions which revealed themselves appeared to revolve around the personalities of the primary A.L.D. organizers and former student leader, Stokely Carmichael, who allegedly viewed the impending A.L.D. demonstration as a challenge to his assumed hegemony over the Black Liberation Movement.
The political and ideological character of these contradictions were revealed in the charge, attributed to Carmichael, that the African Liberation Day demonstration, supporting as it did, the liberation struggles occurring in southern Africa, was a threat to the already nominally-independent African states.
This position revealed a clear primitive-petty bourgeois position often heard on the Continent of Africa where Carmichael resided at the time.
It is a position that was often heard from the petty-bourgeoisie administrators in neo-colonialist states on the African continent, and one which is responsible, even today, for the lukewarm and half-hearted support given to African liberation forces by nominally independent African states. It is a position which cunning and deceitful U.S. and Western politicians generally refer to as "pragmatic.”
However, I think it was in 1974 when the split really revealed itself in a broad and general way that allowed it to be recognized by the entire movement.
This split was between what came to be known as the Marxist faction, and the nationalist faction for which Carmichael was a fading symbol, and with which he held nominal membership.
This split was brought on by the inherent inability of the primitive-petty bourgeoisie to have faith in the ability and willingness of the masses of our people to liberate ourselves from the dictatorial U.S. capitalist-colonialist state.
While this absence of faith in the masses had always been present in the nationalist sector of the primitive petty bourgeoisie which shunned meaningful struggle like the plague and founded various and ingenious superstitions with which to keep the masses from struggling, this was a relative new development, a turning point, for that sector which had become the Marxist-Leninist sector, for it had generally struggled for science within the Black Liberation Movement and had become relatively activist-oriented in the recent period.
However, as a result of the military setback for our movement which resulted in the absence of a generalized militant, anti-colonialist movement—the type of movement which characterized the latter half of the sixties and which actually led to primitive insurrections throughout the U.S., and in the face of the North American Left providing oversimplified, metaphysical solutions for our problems, which were combined with a fierce ideological assault on our movement, this sector of the primitive-petty bourgeoisie always capitulates as a class, in the direction of the strongest political force at the moment.
This is not to say they planned to capitulate or even that they knew they were capitulating.
I am only describing what happened and the historical inevitability that the petty bourgeoisie will vacillate, will be here today, depending on your strength, and there tomorrow, as soon as there is a shift in the political wind.
White nationalism prevented one sector of the primitive-petty bourgeoisie from joining the Ideological Imperialist assault on our Movement which was occurring under the guise of Marxism-Leninism.
The other sector, already in a state of ideological flux, abandoned the barricades at the first sign of battle, or to paraphrase H. Rap Brown, as soon as they saw the eyes of whites.
Ironically, the primitive- petty bourgeoisie did not go over to the side of US imperialism, as some might expect.
That’s something that could not be justified. For U.S. imperialism was losing on an international level. It was losing in Viet Nam. It was losing in Africa — in Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
In fact, it was the victories in Africa which had given this sector of the primitive-petty bourgeoisie the basis for its last fling at serious revolutionary work.
Therefore, there was no objective basis for them joining U.S. imperialism. It was losing and did not justify their confidence.
At the time it was hard pressed to demonstrate its own future, and the primitive- petty-bourgeoisie certainly was not prepared, under these circumstances, to stake its future on what appeared to be a sure loser.
On the other hand, there was emerging this enthusiastic and confident North American Left force which had easy answers and made it unnecessary for the primitive- petty bourgeoisie to study, to discover through scientific analysis, the basis of the defeat of the Black Liberation Movement.
Moreover, this new North American Ideological Imperialist force had a neo-imperialist plan for a division of labor within the so-called multinational communist movement which complements the subjective, colonialist imposed incapacity of the primitive-petty bourgeoisie to see itself as anything more than an assistant.
So this sector of the radical primitive-petty bourgeoisie joined the Ideological Imperialists. It did so because of its own insecurity in the face of the losses suffered by the Black Liberation Movement.
It did so because while the losses of imperialism internationally validated the basic assumptions of the Black Liberation Movement before its defeat, the losses of the Black Liberation Movement to the U.S. military assault destroyed the confidence of this sector of the primitive- petty bourgeoisie in the ability of African people to be our own liberators.
It did so because colonialism taught it to have no faith in African people and to have all faith in white people, so it opted for a new white boss, one apparently on the ascendency, as imperialism was losing, a new boss with a new plan which included "revolutionary affirmative action," so to speak, which would allow the primitive- petty bourgeoisie to realize its basic, pent up need to be our new boss, under the watchful eye of its new boss, of course.
As the primitive-petty bourgeoisie was splitting among itself, another split was taking place within our movement.
This was a split by revolutionary nationalist forces from one or both of the two main factors of the primitive- petty bourgeois sector within the Black Liberation Movement.
Some forces joined with the primitive petty bourgeois nationalists, and together they waxed furiously at the black Marxist-Leninist "dupes of the white Left," while the Party described both factions as two sides of the same petty bourgeois coin.
This then, is a brief description of the period into which the African People's Socialist Party was born. It was a period of tremendous weaknesses which was characterized by the absence of a strong revolutionary center; ideological chaos resulting from our military defeat and the ideological assault by the Ideological Imperialists who were now joined by a significant sector of our radical black intelligentsia; a disappearance of material resources, which were now going to the Ideological Imperialists and their black allies, and a nationalist movement that was now consolidated in its anti-white, antisocialist, anti-struggle, defeatist worldview.
From the beginning, the work of the Party consciously reflected this period.
One of the first pamphlets published by the Party, in 1973, took on Don L. Lee, who had become for many the new high priest of black nationalism and who had written an article, the primary point of which was essentially the position that the inability of African people to win liberation was somehow tied to our inability to speak Swahili.
This was a form of American Exceptionalism which fed on the nationalist superstitions which characterized a sector of our movement. Although the Party's pamphlet in response to Lee was primitive and lacked the clarity of today's Party material, we successfully took Lee to task for what was generally a non-scientific, defeatist, and anti-struggle position. It was our responsibility to do so.
In the Party's pamphlet that we sent out to more than 200 persons and organizations close to the black revolutionary nationalist movement, we rebutted Lee's argument by stating:
“Revolutionary struggle for state power can be waged by African people wherever we are.
"Our language will become revolutionary, regardless of its national origin, depending upon the validity of our struggle.
"A truly revolutionary movement, based upon the principles of scientific socialism... although speaking to the concrete realities of time, place, and national aspirations will have all things in common with other truly revolutionary movements.
"Therefore, our immediate cultural needs must be defined in relation to our revolutionary aspirations.
"Our culture, the culture of African people, must be designed to implant the collective mission for the creation of the revolutionary African state.
"That revolutionary state can make a determination on the question of language and other cultural needs, so that even if Roy Wilkins should learn to speak Swahili better than the French-speaking Sekou Toure, he would have been defined politically as a tool of racist European imperialism, and that definition will be precisely understood in whatever language it is translated."
Now, the significance of this pamphlet and the Party's struggle against this tendency within our movement must be understood within the context of the period within which it was written, within the period just described above.
Today, the basic arguments found within the pamphlet, including the excerpt I just read, are taken for granted by everyone here.
However, at the time it was a critical document, one that prevented an even larger bloc of black forces from peeling off from the black movement and joining this emerging cult of utopian nationalism.
This pamphlet also attempted to show that one could be nationalist and scientific, too.
At the time of the writing of this pamphlet there existed an unprincipled alliance between the primitive petty bourgeois nationalists and Marxist-Leninists which precluded any criticism or struggle between them around the various pressing questions confronting our movement.
However the Marxist-Leninist faction of the primitive petty bourgeois sector of the movement did make telephone calls to the Party to express appreciation for the pamphlet and to solicit the Party's participation in a scheme to discredit Carmichael by our doing a similar criticism of a recent Carmichael speech.
We also began to lead ideological struggles with the Ideological Imperialists very early in our historical development as a Party.
In fact, the term "Ideological Imperialism" was coined by the Party during our struggle with these petty- bourgeois adventurists in worker's clothing.
Before we coined and defined the term, there was no such thing as "Ideological Imperialism."
The wide use of the term by other political forces today is the best evidence of the Party’s leadership and influence during this struggle.
Some years later, after the Party had effectively laid the ideological bases for the defeat of the Ideological Imperialists within our movement, Stokely Carmichael, chairman of the All-African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) was to admit that the Party had provided the only leadership in the struggle to defend our movement, from the neo-imperialist Ideological Imperialists.
In November, 1977, at a meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, Carmichael admitted that the A-APRP had closely watched our offensive against the Ideological Imperialists and had directed its cadre to study our materials to learn how to make such a struggle.
He then went on to say that although the A-APRP was sympathetic with our struggle it refused to join us when it saw no other black formation was taking up the struggle, and that it, the A-APRP, did not want to jump in alone and stick its neck out.