U.S. and World Politics

Nightmare Years

Nightmare years will repeat themselves until the people kick out the cabal

By Glen Ford

To take on the corporate imperial racial capitalist state, we need a Black-led movement that puts politics in command and names the Democratic perpetrators and collaborators that are culpable in the unfolding, late-stage capitalist disaster.

By any objective reckoning, capitalism should have lost all vestige of legitimacy in the nightmare year 2020, when Covid-19 revealed the non-existence of a national healthcare system in the United States at precisely the historical moment when billionaire wealth exploded beyond the wildest dreams of the oligarchy. The most massive popular mobilization in U.S. history put tens-of-millions in the streets in June under the Black Lives Matter banner, proof that much more than a critical mass of the public is willing to mobilize for social justice. A Harris and Just Capital poll taken the previous month showed that only 25 percent of the public believed our current form of capitalism ensures the greater good of society—a belief gruesomely confirmed when the pandemic death toll approached half-a-million at year’s end.

So, why is there no imminent threat to the dictatorship of capital, no mass convulsion on the horizon that might bring down a system that has so demonstrably failed to provide for the health, welfare, security or happiness of the masses of people—and that allows Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, to invest tens-of-billions in disaster capitalist profits in his bid to privatize space while Americans—disproportionately Black and brown Americans—die gasping for air here on the ground?

Economic crises—or health or military catastrophes—do not automatically lead to political crises that threaten the ruling order. A transformative politics requires mass organizations that are clear on who the enemy is, and that have at least a general idea of what kind of society they want to create. If the people don’t directly challenge the oligarchy—whose wealth becomes even more concentrated during economic meltdowns—then no political crisis exists for the rulers, no matter

how lethal conditions become for the majority of the population. Mobilization, by itself, is not enough if the massed millions are not consciously organized to bring down the structures at the root of their oppression—an historical fact that was reaffirmed by the failure of the mammoth protests of June to present any threat to the oligarchy that rules the United States.

It is true that, among the more politically advanced elements of the Black movement, it is increasingly understood that the enemy is racial capitalism, the only kind of capitalism that exists in both national and global terms. “You can’t have capitalism without racism,” as Malcolm X declared. But anti-capitalism, although verbally expressed throughout Black activist circles and incorporated in many group statements of principles, did not shape the demands of the movement or prevent activists from collaborating in practice with one of the two pillars of corporate rule: the Democratic Party.

More than half-a-century ago, Malcolm understood the duopoly electoral system as “foxes” (Democrats) and “wolves” (Republicans), and that “both will eat you.” And indeed, the Democratic foxes have, since Malcolm’s time, devoured the vast bulk of the community’s civic organizations, turning Black churches, sororities and fraternities, and so-called “civil rights” groups into partisan annexes of the corporate duopoly. The Democratic Party, a mechanism of mass manipulation and social control, dominates every aspect of political life in Black America, blunting and negating the radical impulses of the nation’s most left-leaning, socialist-friendly polity. Thus, Black Lives Matter activists say they oppose racial capitalism but collaborate with, and base their strategies on, intimate interactions with Black operatives of the corporate political machinery: the thoroughly Democratic “Black Misleadership Class.”

Not that the movement has altered the political behavior of most Black elected officials in any substantive way. Although Black Lives Matter is a world model in confronting the police—the perennial flashpoint of Black interaction with the corporate state—Black Democratic elected officials at the national level continue to vote in lockstep with corporate Democratic leadership on militarization of local police (2014) and elevation of cops to the status of “protected class”—assault on which can now be prosecuted as a federal hate crime (2018).

The avowedly socialist, anti-imperialist, and Black self-determinationist elements within the Black Lives Matter umbrella are the best hope to lead a genuinely transformative movement in the United States—primarily because most Black Americans are peace-minded, socialism-friendly, and supportive of Black autonomy. But this can only happen if these organizations “put politics in command” and confront the enemy within: the Democratic Party, which is hegemonic in Black America.

Democratic hegemony does not mean unbeatable. The two most revered Black political icons, Malcolm and MLK, understood that you can’t effectively oppose the white oligarchs without first confronting Black Democrats, who are the ruling class’s first line of defense (and offense) in the Black community. Black Democratic mayors and councilpersons eagerly oversaw local mass Black incarceration regimes in the “chocolate cities” of the Seventies and Eighties—and called it progress. Even a narrow police and prisons abolition movement must politically defeat Black Democrats—delegitimize them—if it is to be an enduring force in the community. To grossly paraphrase Malcolm, “You can’t have capitalist hegemony in Black America without Black Democrats.” They are the enemy within.

To take on the corporate imperial racial capitalist state, we need a Black-led movement that puts politics in command and names the perpetrators and collaborators that are culpable in the unfolding, late-stage capitalist disaster, and is capable of presenting a coherent vision of a socialist future in which all peoples rights to self-determination are recognized, and where the people provide for their communal security.

Conditions of life will worsen as the contradictions of racial capitalism deepen. But the ever-consolidating cabal at the top will not give up power out of embarrassment or rocket en masse to Mars; they will have to be overthrown by a mass movement seeking social transformation. United States history dictates that Black folk must lead this movement. That means taking on an end-of-era, global responsibility.

Nobody is ready to take on this mission—but it’s got to be done, anyway.

Black Agenda Report, February 4, 2021