Politics Mondays: Million More Movement: From Marching to Movement by Horace Campbell
The Million More Movement (MMM) made its mark on the USA by a massive demonstration in Washington, D.C, and the capital of the USA on Saturday October 15, calling for “regime change” in the USA. The marchers came from all parts of the country and sent a signal to all of the USA that they intended to build a new movement for the twenty first century. The estimated numbers of between 800,000 to one million demonstrators made radical demands on the US society for reparations and reconstruction. The immediate impetus for the call for repair, justice and break with its criminal past came from the massive outrage among African Americans over their treatment in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. But, the hurricane was simply the catalyst that galvanized all sections of the community to come out to make their voices heard for a change in the politics, economics and cultural policies of the USA.
Not since the marches of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) of the 1920’s and the massive outpouring of writers, artists, religious leaders and cultural leaders has there been an assembly of this sort. The Civil Rights movement made many marches and protests during the sixties and many veterans from that period provided the link of this intergenerational struggle. Dorothy Height, the veteran activist of over ninety years old, symbolized the intergenerational link and called on all to work together. By adding her voice to this new thrust for mobilization and self organization, Dorothy Height was bringing her considerable influence to bear to support the call for the building of a new movement of men and women, young and old, gays and straight, Christians and Muslims, and all of those who believed in the basic dignity of humans. Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam was even more explicit in the reasons for this movement to oppose militarism and racism. "We need to think about a new political party," Mr. Farrakhan said. "The Democrats have used us and abused us. They look at the black and the brown and the poor like this is a plantation, and our Democratic leaders are like the house Negro on the plantation of Democratic politics."
The spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, Minister Louis Farrakhan said simply that this march was a precursor to a movement of black, brown, red and the poor. Wyclef Jean, the Hip Hop activist, put the words to song and wailed, this is not a March but a movement. The Civil Rights Era cry of "Black Power" was made many times; speakers identified with the need to move from marches to concrete organization, while recognizing the need for marches to register collective opposition to neo-conservative militarism.
There were many impressive features of this Millions More Movement, but for this activist, by far the most defining was the broad range of organizations, religious formations and youth groups that were mobilized for this statement against US capitalism.
Religious Unity and the Politics of Inclusion
The other major victory of this march (to be transformed into a movement) was to bring together peoples of different religious faith and spiritual leanings to oppose the manipulation of religious sentiments in the black community and in the wider society. The so- called war on terror has depended on driving differences between Christians and followers of Islam. However, by bringing together the top leaders of the AME Church, AME Zion Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, various Baptist and other Christian groups, the Millions More Movement was bringing attention to the alternative to the mega-church conservative syndrome that is in bed with the neo-cons. Black people called on the god of justice and peace to repair the diseased spirit of the USA and the gods of racism, violence segregation and Jim Crow Jr. When the head of the Progressive National Baptist Convention pledged that the two million members would be behind the Millions More Movement, it was the clearest signal that the god of neo-conservatism and promise keepers was being challenged head-on. Christians, Muslims, Hebrew Israelites, Hindus, Rastafari, agnostics, nationalists, socialists, gays and lesbians, communists, men, women and youth came together in agreement that the time is now for us to make a break with this system of institutionalized racism. Because there were so many groups represented, there were many messages, and sometimes mixed messages relating to capitalism, but there was one voice when it came to racism, militarism and the injustice of the Gulf wars and the prison industrial complex.
One clear signal from this march came from the voices of women. Even though there were elements who longed for the march of men of 1995, women made their voices and their presence felt. The organizers of the Million Women March elaborated on the need for inclusion. It was noteworthy that the mainstream media had sought to manipulate the question of the inclusion of gays and lesbians to divide the movement but it was made clear in the call for the March of October 15 that no one was excluded. Those who excluded themselves were the ones who supported imperialism, racism and militarism.
However, to be really inclusive, there must be a more rigorous opposition to the homophobia in the ranks and parts of the leadership of the Million More Movement. It was not sufficient to say that the speaker from the gay and lesbian community was dropped from the program because of time pressure. After months of lobbying by the National Black Justice Coalition, the leadership of the Millions More Movement had agreed that the Gay and Lesbian speaker should be included. Moreover, given the long history of sexist, anti gay and violent sexist positions by some black leaders and preachers, the Millions More Movement has to be explicit in ensuring that all voices of peace and justice are heard. A religious leader or any leader who is known to use sexist, homophobic and graphically sexually violent language should not be given pride of place in the Millions More Movement.
What was also so significant was the introduction of Louis Farrakhan by his daughter. Her speech and eloquence was not isolated since it emerged in a context of the debate among Muslims all over America of the place of the women in the Mosque and in public spaces. The case of Amina Wadud and the question of whether women should lead in prayers continue to be hot button issues among Muslims in the USA. By publicly embracing the daughter of Farrakhan as a speaker, the Nation of Islam was extending its understanding of the politics of inclusion.
We are all related - Political Unity towards a united front
Russell Means of the First Nation Peoples made the call for Unity by reminding the marchers that we are all related as human beings. This was a call for us to elaborate our humanity and to break the prison walls of race that divide blacks, browns, reds and the other oppressed who form the majority in this society. Despite the near absence of a high level representative from the Latino community, nearly all speakers noted the need for unity. This was also underlined by the speakers from the black community who called for greater unity among blacks. Minister Farrakhan said: “It is the strength of Unity that will make the difference in how we respond to the ills of our community and make right what has been wrong for years.”
The mainstream media had gone to great lengths to demonize the Minister, but the recent vivid pictures of exploited and poor blacks in the Superdome in New Orleans signaled to many that it was time to submerge our differences. And Dorothy Height said this simply: "We're here from all over the country, from many different backgrounds. And I think one of the things we have learned is that we may have come to this country by different ships, but we're all in the same boat now, and we've got to learn to work together."
Black people all over responded to this call. Over 150 key leaders, including the NAACP, National Urban League and the National Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the National Bar Association, TransAfrica, National Council of Negro Women, National Coalition for Reparations for Blacks in America, Black Social Workers, Black Trade Unionists, the Congressional Black Caucus, National Black Student Government Association and others had signed on to be National Co-Conveners of the Millions More Movement. It was hectic trying to make room for spokespersons of over 150 organizations in one day, but the voices were heard and all pledged to stay focused on the messages of reparations, peace, justice and redemption.
Unlike the Million Man March of 1995 when the emphasis was on the “atonement” of the black male, the speakers universally outlined why the present system of capitalism and survival of the fittest cannot serve black people, brown people, and poor whites. It was as if the words of Kanye West were being echoed all over the world, “George Bush doesn't care about black people.” The language of crimes and criminality was used by speakers who mobilized the people to see the war in Iraq as criminal, to see that the Administration should be charged with criminal negligence for Katrina, to see that the slave trade and capitalism was criminal and to see that repair was the only solution to move from this history of crimes.
The gathering at the Mall included women, men, gays, lesbians, Latinos and Native Americans and sympathetic whites, along with agents of the US government taking pictures from buildings around the march. But these government agents did not intimidate the people and there was one clear message. There was need for regime change in the USA: "I think we need a regime change in the United States of America."
This statement by Minister Louis Farrakhan underlined the message of the day and brought home a clear message that Blacks would be taking the lead for political change.
The capitalist class in the USA has in the past forty years taken away the rights of the workers to health care, the right to pensions, the right to housing and the right to a decent education. In order to continue to weaken the working classes and to divide all workers the neo conservatives have mobilized the corporate media to demonize black people. Additionally, the Republicans in Congress had placed new proposals to force the poor and working peoples to pay for the cost of the wars with new tax cuts for the super-rich. These plans to cut basic entitlements to poor and working class people are being put forward as the way the Federal government will “help” the poor to recover from Katrina.
For good measure in the week after the Massive March, the Bush administration approved a sweeping Medicaid plan for the state of Florida which would limit spending for millions of those who benefited from Medicaid. This plan was to be the model for the rest of the country.
The challenge that was posed: what kind of movement will emerge after the march? This challenge comes at a moment in the US history when the principal contradictions of militarism, racism, environmental racism, global warming, mis-education of the youth and the health crisis called for a radical change in the direction of the society. This challenge was nowhere clearer than in the disaster of the thousands who lost their lives and livelihoods in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina.
Clear Message – Katrina and the exploitation of Black Brown and working poor.
The criminal neglect of the capitalist system and the racism of US society were brought to the attention of the world by the devastation caused in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. All of the major contradictions of the society (massive exploitation of black and brown peoples, the effects of hydrocarbons on climate change, super profits for oil and gas companies at the expense of people, lack of repair of basic infrastructure, filth, sludge and polluted urban environments, cancerous spaces of habitation, education for subjugation, racist policing and a shoot on sight policy) were brought before the world by the media. The majority of poor and black persons in the USA had lived and struggled on a day to day basis against these realities, but the glare of the cameras depicting hundreds of poor and exploited US citizens brought this reality to billions around the world. For the corporate leaders of America, the tragedy of Katrina was not the displacement and destruction but the fact that the images weakened the ideological hold of the US over the rest of the world in presenting the image of the US as a super power.
Prior to the hurricane, all over the country the conservatives and the corporate elements had been seeking ways to move blacks from the inner cities of the USA in order to take back prime properties. New Orleans was no exception. Under the power of eminent domain, the Supreme Court had given local capitalists the right to seize properties and turn them over to so-called private developers. More than two thirds of the residents of New Orleans were poor blacks. In private, the neo conservatives proclaimed that their god carried out the urban removal in New Orleans.
The peoples of Mississippi and Louisiana now faces the reality that the Bush administration wanted to use this tragedy to reconstruct the Gulf Coast and especially New Orleans for the capitalists and to ensure that blacks did not return. These realities and the gentrification of the cities in the USA ensured that the effects of Katrina acted as a source for the mobilization of the Millions More Movement. It was Katrina and the war in Iraq that elicited the clearest responses from the millions gathered on the mall. Survivors of the Katrina hurricane bore witness to the crimes of the US government and most speakers called for continued mobilization to ensure that the blacks were returned to their rightful place in Louisiana, with reconstruction contracts going to black business persons and entrepreneurs and not to the cronies of the administration such as Halliburton. The criminal nature of the past and present actions of the government was underlined by the principal speaker, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who called for a law suit against the US government to charge the government with “criminal neglect.”
Farrakhan asked rhetorically why the government did a better job helping the citizens of Florida last year, and why so few lives were lost, when the state was hit by four major hurricanes.
"I believe that we can charge the government with criminal neglect," he said. "I firmly believe that if the people on those rooftops (in New Orleans) had blond hair and blue eyes and pale skin, something would have been done in a more timely manner. We charge America with criminal neglect,"
Corporate Crime or Criminal neglect?
What the Minister called criminal neglect are crimes that have been consistent with the history of capitalism in the USA. Corporate crime has run rampant but under the Bush administration these criminals have been given the green light to plunder and loot with the scandals of Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, World Com. Etc, exposing the more brazen corporate elements. In order for this charge of criminal neglect to become a reality, the Millions More Movement will have to mobilize black lawyers, progressive lawyers, and black law students of the National Black Law Students Association (BALSA) to gather the evidence on the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to press the charges. Ultimately, questions of criminal neglect will be solved politically, but in the interim the pressure must be mounted so that the National Bar Association is not simply an endorser of the March but an active component of the new movement. It is only an organized movement that will expose whether the charge of “criminal neglect” will be more than rhetoric.
There were a number of initiatives announced for marches and rallies in Louisiana at the end of October and in December. One real test of this movement, with its diverse constituency, will be whether there can be coordination between organizations such as the October 28 manifestations and the Institute of the Black World 21st century organizing the December activities to expose the crimes in the Gulf.
Two Gulf Wars
If Katrina, the tragedy of the Gulf of Mexico, provided one impetus for unity, the other catalyst for unity was the total opposition to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In nearly every presentation references were made to the over $200 billion USD spent on the unjust and illegal war in Iraq and Afghanistan while the infrastructure deteriorated in the USA. There was more than one speaker that labeled the war criminal and called for George Bush to be impeached.
The call to bring the troops home now was underlined by many speakers, especially Damu Smith of Black Voices for Peace. In less than a minute, Damu Smith made the case for the withdrawal and yielded his place to a mother who had lost her son in the war. The voice of this black woman booming across the mall went to all the small towns, urban centers of the USA where the military recruiters had promised black youths a career in the army. Given the laws of unforeseen consequences, it was unclear whether this call for blacks to actively oppose the Iraq war could have the effect of expanding further the split in the US armed forces, eventually leading to breaking an already fragmented military structure. For while the Bush administration seeks to present an image of a strong military, there are many mothers in all communities who see their children being used as cannon fodder for the oil companies. The Black Voices for Peace and the black mothers share the anger of Cindy Sheehan. These mothers have been most forthright in arguing that their sons and daughters were sent to fight and die in an unjust war for reasons that have proven to be lies.
Will these revelations of lies and profiteering by the military industrialists lead to a split in the armed forces similar to the period of the civil war?
The millions More Movement will need to teach the youth of the work of John Brown, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and the militant abolitionists who precipitated this split in the armed forces in another era. One of the principal objectives of the Million More Movement must be the dismantling of the imperial military bases and the conversion of the military-scientific-industrial complex.
New Alliances necessary
The tasks of conversion and demilitarization will need a new political alliance between all of the oppressed regardless of race. All of the speeches pointed to the fact that the new political alliances were necessary in order to create a new power center to prosecute the real criminals. The call was made for an alliance of the majority to create a new government so that the agencies of the state such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) could spend the resources to prosecute the corporate criminals. Under the present system, the military and police forces are mobilized to defend the one per cent that controls the corporations.
The appeal to the youths in the military to oppose the war was probably one of the most radical features of this march. While the mainstream liberal peace movement has treated the question of the war crimes and torture in Iraq and Guantanamo gingerly, the black movement had no qualms in calling the war against the people of Iraq criminal. This resonated well with millions of youth across the country that are targeted as criminals and warehoused in the military, prison industrial complex.
A recorded message was sent from Death Row on behalf of all those behind bars and called for increased mobilization to stop the racist executions. The more well-known death row case of Mumia Abu-Jamal was also brought to the marchers in order to remind those present of the thousands of blacks and brown facing the death penalty. However, the marchers never heard the taped message prepared by Mumia.
Reparations and crimes against humanity
The word crime was used numerous times in this march. The clearest usage was when the charge of criminal neglect was leveled against the government. Other crimes, committed by the capitalist system, whether it was in relation to health, the environment, or test trials for drugs using Africans as guinea pigs, were also addressed. By speaking to the questions of crimes against humanity and reparations the Millions More Movement drew the attention and energies of the masses of people in the USA who have mobilized and will mobilize in support of reparations.
The representatives from the First Nation Peoples reminded the millions gathered of the crimes of genocide against the millions Native Americans. He drew attention to the fact that over 98 per cent of his people had been massacred by the invaders who had been celebrated as trailblazers of freedom. The connections between corporate crimes, crimes of biological warfare against blacks, crimes of neglect, the crimes of war, the crimes of genocide and the crimes of the Transatlantic Slave trade resonated throughout and went far and wide across the land. In his speech, Farrakhan called on poor whites not to
be accomplices to the historic crimes. One speaker noted that though the present generation of whites may be beneficiaries from the system of slavery and white supremacy, it was time to make a break with this criminal past.
Martin Luther King Jr. had made a similar observation when he was incarcerated in the Birmingham jail. He noted that the poor blacks had more in common with the poor whites (his jailers) but the system had mobilized the whites to be cheerleaders in their own oppression by being accomplices to crimes of lynching and killing black peoples.
The Millions More Movement was now calling on poor whites to refrain from being accomplices to crimes in the present. In this regard, it is imperative that the USA accede to the principles of the International Criminal Court.
While there is the focus on past crimes, it is also urgent to focus on the present crimes. It is urgent that the Million More Movement draw attention to the criminal activities of corporations that use our communities as dumping grounds for dangerous products. The cancer epidemic in our communities requires concrete mobilization. The women of the Million Women March have been most forthright in raising the question of health care and universal health care. Black Women have raised the bar in the debate on reparations by adding the questions of sexual violation and gender violence to the historic crimes.
Reparations and Reconstruction in Africa
This message of Reparations was also echoed in the context of new efforts to divert attention from the global demands of the World Conference Against Racism in 2001. One such diversion is the present international campaign to Make Poverty History in Africa.
Louis Farrakhan addressed his comments specifically to Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom who had convened a special summit of the G8 in Scotland earlier this year, with the agenda to end poverty in Africa. Mocking the announced plans to give $50 billion US dollars worth of aid to Africa, Farrakhan spelled out the demand that Africa did not want aid but demanded reparations. He repeated the call for the cancellation of the African debt, apology for slavery, the return of cultural objects stolen from Africa and called for trillions of dollars to be invested in the building of roads, (from Cape to Cairo) the building of bridges, the building of water supply systems, the building of new energy and electrical systems and the construction of other infrastructure.
While the message on reparations for crimes in Africa was on point, Farrakhan sent a mixed message on the role of African Americans in the reconstruction of Africa. His ideas on reconstruction did not take into consideration the tremendous technical changes that made old forms of industrialization outdated in the bio-tech century. African plants and genetic materials are far more valuable today than industrial plants. The Millions More Movement must grasp the fact that Africans in the Americas who want to participate in the reconstruction of Africa must start with consultations and discussions with the oppressed Africans themselves. Ultimately, Africans in the USA must break with the vision of those leaders in Africa who envision Africa as a free trade zone for African Americans.
Yet, the castigation of Blair and the call for reparations for Africa spelt a clear political shift from the professional lobbyists of the humanitarian sector who consider themselves to be new missionaries in Africa. The Millions More Movement was poised between the Pan Africanism of Kente Cloth and trips to Africa by the black middle classes and the reality of police brutality against African immigrants (epitomized by the profiling of North African immigrants and the shooting of others such as the pumping of 41 bullets into Amadou Diallo.
Hitherto, the US government had sought to divide Africans everywhere who are supposed to be Christians from their Islamic brothers and sisters in other parts of Africa. All of the language and symbols of the so called war on terror had been pointed against Africans of the Islamic faith and peoples of the Arab World in general.
The Millions More Movement was a statement and opposition to all forms of racial profiling and called on black people to break from elite Pan Africanism that served the interests of the Pentagon. If this movement is to be internationalist and taken seriously by Africans and others fighting against colonialism and occupation in places such as Palestine and Puerto Rico, it must intensify its solidarity and information work. Black and Brown peoples in the USA must know what is going on in societies such as Nigeria, the Sudan and Zimbabwe. This is to ensure that African Americans are not mobilized to be on the wrong side of history.
Even before the so called war on terror and the elevation of Colin Powell and Condi Rice as the non white spokespersons of US imperialism, the militarists in the USA sought to recruit sections of the African American community through links to the Corporate Council for Africa. This organization has in turn sought to tap into the genuine love for Africa which is manifest in the black community as a whole. In turn, there has developed an organization called the Constituency for Africa.
The Millions More Movement by its very existence, and its overt Pan African message to the grassroots, stands as a challenge to the forward plans of the corporate criminals. In turn, an organized movement will be able to expose which forces believe in a real Constituency for Africa.
The stated objective of the US government through so called consultations and dialogue was to bring Africa under the neo liberal straightjacket through the Africa Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) framework for trade and the Africa contingency operations training assistance (ACOTA) for the military efforts.
The test of the Sudan
The Million More Movement will be tested on the question of the US military presence
in Africa. Ten years ago, during the Million Man March, there was not enough done to expose Africans in the USA to the crimes of genocide in Rwanda, the crimes of General Abacha in Nigeria and the manipulation of Islam in the Sudan. Sections of the US black leadership were flirting with the leaders of the Sudan at precisely the time when the Sudanese army was using the Sharia courts to intensify repression in the country. Not only have the forces for peace in the Sudan prevailed, but the crimes of genocide in Darfur has made it easier for the Millions More Movement to distance itself from repressive and militaristic leaders in the Sudan.
Ten years after the killing of Ken Saro Wiwa and in the year of the death of John Garang of the Sudan, the Million More movement was being called upon to be more informed on the day to day realities of what was going on in Africa. It was simply not enough to echo the cry for the United States of Africa, but for a clear understanding of the conditions in every African country.
The case of the Sudan continues to stand out because the neo-conservative forces have targeted this society as one of the battle ground states in the so called crusade against Islam. The coming together of Christians and Muslims for the Millions More Movement and the commitment by leaders of the Christian churches that they will be part of the backbone of this movement undermined one of the core strategies of the neo-conservatives.
Anti Imperialism and the Million More Movement
The recorded video presentations by Ricardo Alarcón, president of the Cuban National Assembly, and Prime Minister P. J. Patterson of Jamaica represented the internationalist and anti imperialist thrust of the Millions More Movement. Cuba had offered medical support to the peoples of the USA in the wake of the Katrina tragedy. It was pointed out that the US was more interested in its ideological stand of sanctioning Cuba than in the lives of those who perished in New Orleans. Additionally, the Cuban speaker drew attention to the hypocritical position of the US government in relation to the war on terrorism. Cuba holds the view that all citizens of the world abhor terrorism. However, for the world to come to an agreement on terrorism there must be international standards to what constitutes terrorism.
In the particular case of Luis Posada Carriles, there is the continued call for the USA to hand over this terrorist to International bodies for the crimes committed against the Cuban people to be settled. The double standards of the US government in its so called war on terror are best exemplified by its protection and security for Posada. This anti imperialist and anti militarist message was also underlined by the many speakers who openly supported President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, (thus sending a clear message that any military adventure against Venezuela would be met with opposition by the Millions More Movement).
It is in this area of solidarity with the peoples of Central and South America where there is an urgent need for collaboration to expose the cocaine trade and its links to Wall Street and the banking system. Guns, cocaine, crime, Wall Street and violence are all linked to the ways in which the US stock market is integrated into narco- terrorism. Prime Minister P. J. Patterson of Jamaica clearly spelt out the impact of this trade in cocaine on the levels of gun violence in the Caribbean. Farrakhan followed up this opposition to imperialism by a clear exposure of those who had been deluded by "the neoconservative idea of an imperialist America."
Imperialism abroad and reaction at home or the old is dying and the new is being born.
From time to time an event or episode accelerates the class, race and gender struggles in a society. Apart from the contradictions (global warming, nuclear weapons build up, crony capitalism, institutionalized racism, US militarism etc) noted above, two weeks before the march, the former Secretary of Education had called for the aborting of black babies. William Bennett had said in a radio talk show that,” If it were your sole purpose to reduce crime, Bennett said, "You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. “ The outrage against this kind of thinking was registered by nearly all speakers. Black teachers, social workers, trade unionists and youth activists laid out differing plans relating to a social and economic agenda for blacks and poor peoples. The youths wanted the elders to break out of the slumber of seeking to integrate into the institutions of institutionalized racism.
Speakers called for spiritual and moral development, educational development, economic development, political development, social development, cultural development and health development. It was in these calls for “development” where the messages were mixed, because it was unclear whether the concept of development related to a liberal-capitalist concept of individual entrepreneurship and job creation of any type. In the past, some mayors have used job creation as the excuse in order to make our communities the dumping ground for toxic substances. Development must not be used as a cover for environmental racism.
In the open letter for all to engage the Millions More Movement Farrakhan and the conveners had signaled the ideas of new cooperation in this way:
“For the first time in our history, those of us of different ideologies, philosophies, methodologies, denominations, sects and religions, political and fraternal affiliations have come together to create the Millions More Movement. Each of us, who have agreed to work together for the benefit of the whole of our people, have said from our particular platforms, based on our beliefs and understanding or the lack thereof, words that have offended members of our own people and others; and our ideology, philosophy, religion and pronouncements may have hurt the ears and sentiments of others outside of our community. Therefore, this has kept us working inside of our own circles with those who think as we think or believe as we believe. As a result, some of us would never appear on the same stage with one another, for fear of being hurt by association with those with whom we have serious disagreements.
The Millions More Movement is challenging all of us to rise above the things that have kept us divided in the past, by focusing us on the agenda of the Millions More Movement to see how all of us, with all of our varied differences, can come together and direct our energy, not at each other, but at the condition of the reality of the suffering of our people, that we might use all of our skills, gifts and talents to create a better world for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
Opportunity and Challenges
The Minister's letter conveys the opportunity opened by the accelerated contradictions and the new sense of purpose developing in the black community. It appears that the majority of Blacks will not allow the media and the anti-defamation league to decide who will be the leaders of the movement and this is an indication that an opportunity is arising. Earlier, in a public letter, Russell Simmons of the Hip Hop Summit had refuted the divisive intervention of the Anti Defamation League.
What was not clear from the speeches of the traditional politicians was whether this mobilization of the October 15 march was to win back Congress for the Democratic Party in 2006 or whether this was a mobilization for more profound changes. The tension came through in all the speeches. The tension was present when Farrakhan made his call for Ministries while Jesse Jackson made the call for blacks to mobilize to defeat the Republicans in 2006.
While there was no disagreement that the Republicans should be defeated, the question of whether this would take the old conventional political forms was disputed, especially by the speaker from the First Nation people. There was an explicit call for a party of Native Americans, Blacks, brown, Latino and poor whites. In his call for Ministries, Was Farrakhan calling for a shadow government?
The fact that the Nation of Islam is organized in a quasi governmental structured has strengths and weaknesses. The clear strength was based on its capacity for self organization and self financing. The weakness is that as an organization it continues to be male centered when the baton of leadership had devolved to those struggling against sexism, militarism and violence. The movement for change must be for structural transformation and not simply for office holders in the present system. This is how the Millions More Movement will grow to distinguish itself from previous movements.
Jesse Jackson signaled that he understood this shift in the politics of black struggle when he stated that, "Don't imitate the violence, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism, gay bashing," he told the crowd. "We need … millions more to build a multi-racial coalition, we need not battle alone to fight poverty and greed and war."
Jesse Jackson made one of the more profound statements when he called on all US citizens to move from Jeffersonian democracy to the Martin Luther King Jr. concepts of democracy and peace.
Building a National United Front for Real Change
In the 1920’s at the time of the Garveyites, the intellectuals stood aloof while the communist left derided the Garveyites as a movement of the poor and unwashed. Conscious of how the FBI and the government manipulated the differences between the communists, the socialists and the UNIA, Imamu Baraka has been calling on the progressive left to build a United Front Permanent organization out of the Million More Movement. Baraka has been a voice on the left that has avoided the baiting and denigration of Farrakhan by the mainstream media.
Baraka and the left noted that there had been no serious follow up after the Million Man March in 1995. It is now clearer that the counter revolutionary politics of the neo -conservatives has impoverished the majority of blacks. Baraka’s call for follow up was also echoed by speakers who wanted real action to stop the racists who have been given a new lease on life by the neo conservatives. It was significant that on the same day of the Washington March, youths in Toledo, Ohio had to take to the streets to defend themselves from neo-Nazis. It is this presence of neo Nazis everywhere that dictates the need for a movement.
Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq have brought new life to the peace movement, the movement for justice and the anti racist, anti-sexist movement. A new politics is needed so that the movement grows beyond individuals and their egos. The call for a Covenant and the issues of universal health care are issues which all sections of the Black Community can agree on. However, the organization of the black working people will be the test of the building of this movement. The movement will grow and prosper when there is new thinking and new ways of organizing beyond the old centralized forms of organizing that places power in strong individuals, usually males. The movement cannot be built on what we are against (the Gulf wars and the prison industrial complex) but will be built on what we stand for – peace, reparations and justice. The movement is bigger than individuals and the dynamic of the struggle will create and inspire new leaders. Until that moment, it is necessary that while the Millions More Movement embarks on the establishment of a disaster relief fund, it should also embark on real political struggles to educate the youths to get up stand up, stand up for their rights. Collecting money for a disaster relief fund is noble but it reinforces the concept of charity and does not reinforce the fight for justice.
It is the organization at the grassroots which will be the test of how this new movement moves to embrace the concept of Ubuntu as the basis for revolutionary politics of the twenty first century. Real unity is built by organizing for the long term and this requires new tactics for organizing so that we do not spend our time commemorating martyrs but building a new society.
Horace Campbell is an activist, scholar, and Chairperson of The International Walter Rodney Commemoration Committee. He is the author of the widely acclaimed Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney and Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation.
He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, October 24, 2005