A CORRESPONDENCE AND READING PROJECT FOR 2018

by Andrew Stewart on January 12, 2018

Dear Comrades

The world today seems quite contradictory and altogether confusing in some instances.

The American empire is now captained by a gameshow host whose incompetence and garish modus operandi might rival the most ridiculous satirical speculations of the future published a quarter century ago. Trump’s international praxis and approach is so anti-praxis in nature that one can seriously wonder if he could end up being the final nail in the coffin for the American imperial project of unipolar hegemony. While the total collapse of American empire might take decades longer, perhaps extending another half-century, its credibility and respectability has been significantly diminished. Into this void we see the emergence of diplomacy from China, Russia, Iran, and other states that present striking and altogether unknown territories of potential.

Domestically Trump has awakened and emboldened the white nationalist currents of America in a way unseen in decades. While there have been plenty of Republican presidents who shamelessly courted white nationalism, such as when Ronald Reagan announced his presidential campaign within mere miles of the crime scene where three civil rights activists were murdered by acclaiming ‘states rights’, Bannon and his minions have activated these forces in a way not seen previously. There is a clear instance of collusion and discourse between the presidency and outlets like Breitbart that moves to a new level of interaction and creates a new precedent.

With these things in mind I want to propose a yearlong project based around Cedric J. Robinson’s Black Marxism: Making of the Black Radical Tradition. The author, in my view, provides a framework and analytical lens that can be of substantial use for Marxist thinkers in these times. By first retelling the history of Europe with a particular acknowledgement of anti-Black racism, slavery, and colonialism, which he calls racial capitalism, he creates a form of Marxist analysis that transcends the previous hindrances regarding race and racism that have been acknowledged by multiple thinkers over the decades. Next, by creating a Hegelian triad of examples using the biographies of W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, and Richard Wright, he offers a praxis that confronts in a head-on fashion the shortcomings of previous attempts regarding what was called the African American national question and matters of self-determination/liberation. His praxis, what he describes as the Black Radical Tradition, is a form that has used Marxist politics as a vehicle for liberation when it was convenient but predates Marxism as a mode of thinking. It is the strategy of struggle against white supremacy. Capitalism, and imperialism with the longest history in the Western world and, in the view of Robinson, is therefore the praxis with the greatest potential for success.

Cedric Robinson (1940-2016)/ photo credit: Ruthie Wilson Gilmore

Over the next year I would like to engage with comrades in a correspondence that digests not only the book Black Marxism but also the sources that Robinson utilizes, particularly the writings of Du Bois, James, and Wright. What wisdom can be extracted from Black Reconstruction in regards to electoral politics as we move towards the 2018 and 2020 elections? How does Wright’s critique of class respond and augment the popular notion of a ‘white working class’ that fled to the Trump candidacy from the Democratic Party in 2016? What can we make of the high esteem James places on spontaneity and particularly how it has continued to shape protest politics spanning from the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle to Occupy to the more radical elements of Black Lives Matter/Movement for Black Lives?

I think a deep reading of Robinson offers us insights regarding how to move forward in a political landscape unseen in years. It provides answers to questions that seem to be recurring and I hope a robust dialogue between comrades via the Marxmail list might provide such an opportunity.

The book is available for free via (https://libcom.org/library/black-marxism-making-black-radical-tradition-cedric-j-robinson).

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fred Murphy January 12, 2018 at 11:27 am
SocraticGadfly January 12, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Where’s Frantz Fanon?

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