“The beginning of wisdom is to know who you are — draw near and listen: We are the people of the day before yesterday, and the people of the day after tomorrow.
The world is our village — what is good for the world is good for us.”
1. This paper calls into question the terms and concepts that We use to identify ourselves, e.g., “black,” “white,” New Afrikan, American, African-American, etc. Whatever your present identity, it ain’t static, but a thing in motion and evolving, influencing and being influenced by all social phenomena, as things change, as the old fades away and new things arise. No matter how you define your goals and interests (e.g., for national self-determination, to “smash the white race,” to overthrow capitalism, to liberate women, gays and lesbians, etc.), all of these require the self-transformation of each individual and of each group, toward greater philosophical, ideological, social homogeneity — one world, one people — not withstanding the diversity that will remain (since life would come to an end without the (non-antagonistic) struggle of “opposites”).
2. Even now, We must use, in various ways, some of the differences as means of evolving into the “New People” that We are becoming. i still have a need (no matter how uncomfortable i feel) to speak from an identity as a New Afrikan (a nationality, not a “race” or “color”) Communist (socio-political consciousness) because of the boundaries within which We exist and the need to have a present identity that distinguishes me/us from the enemy — but, at the same time, i must begin to develop a new orientation for the present identity. That is, We must continue to organize on the basis of particular identities and interests as the best means of gaining strength and character, necessary to transform the particular into the general.
3. For example: A) Our identity as a people (New Afrikan) lies at the center of the struggle for self-determination — choosing political destiny requires a specific socio-political consciousness. As We struggle as a people for resolution of our problems, We need an identity that distinguishes us from the forces of evil, which symbolizes our need to move beyond the boundaries of U.S. political-economic structures and its bourgeois/capitalist values and morality. Our evolving identity must inform our new politics and the new socio-economic structure that We need in order to realize ourselves as a New People;
B) “New Afrikans” must continue to struggle as a people — yet transform the meaning and goals of the struggle so that even as a new “national identity is shaped, it comes to be characterized by consciousness, and not by “race” or “color,” and the interests of “New Afrikans” are expressed as the common interests of all peoples (i.e., an end to all forms of exploitation and oppression). Afrikans in the U.S. may or may not “Free The Land” or otherwise realize a “national independence” as presently conceived — but liberation in any form, for any of us, can only come through a challenge and overthrow of capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. It’s really “anti-capitalism” and “pro-socialism” that sit at the center of the identity of the New People — straight-forward challenges and abandonment of the capitalist way, and anything short of this is insufficient, and part of the what’s passing away, e.g., Afrocentricity, multiculturalism, and New Abolitionism.
4. Afrocentricity and multiculturalism are both essentially forms of an “ethnic pluralism” that doesn’t critique and abandon capitalism. They join the “New Abolitionism” as petty-bourgeois tendencies which vacillate and fail to cross the boundaries of bourgeois hegemony. (Those who want to challenge “whiteness,” “abolish the white race,” or “overthrow white supremacy” must begin to explicitly name and challenge capitalism, and not continue to omit naming it and instead use such “neo-radical” language as “to challenge, disrupt, and eventually overturn the institutions and behavior patterns that reproduce the privileges of whiteness” — underlying all these is CAPITALISM! “Whiteness” is not the cause, and to merely challenge “whiteness” without an explicit challenge to capitalism is actually a way to continue enjoying privilege while claiming to reject it. It won’t work if one tries to make “the destruction of the white race” central to the destruction of capitalism, rather than making the destruction of capitalism central to the destruction of “white privilege” –“whiteness” is to capitalism, what the shadow is to an object — you won’t destroy the object by trying to destroy the shadow.)
5. Identities based on so-called “race” or skin pigmentation are increasingly inadequate and are fading away. Identities based upon nationality are better, but these, too, will lack and fade if the nations that We claim don’t abandon and challenge patriarchy, capitalism and imperialism. At bottom, the way that We come to identify, as individuals, as groups, as a New People, is and will best rest upon what We believe about ourselves and relationships to other people, and to nature — upon what We do in and for the world.
1. Who are We? How do We define ourselves — especially, how do We define ourselves in relation to others? Does raising questions such as these draw us into a form of “identity politics” that can divide us, and diminish the struggles around “more important” issues? Only if We fail to see the interconnectedness, and inter-dependency of all issues, and give a narrow definition to our “identity politics” which tends to isolate one aspect of who We are (e.g., one’s “race,” gender, or profession) from all other aspects, and attempt to make that one aspect the sole focus of one’s socio-political energies. Of course, knowing who you are is at the “center” of anything and everything that you struggle for — any problem that you have and seek to resolve; any vision that you want to realize — but, who you are is a combination of any elements, is constantly reshaped and influenced by literally all social phenomena — no single aspect of who you are exists in isolation from all other aspects. As best We can, We must begin to define an identity (a “label” if you will) that incorporates all aspects of who We are… that takes into account all of the social phenomena that acts upon us, and upon which We, too, act…. In this sense, We are dealing with an “identity/politics” — but in a broader, more complex, and far more dynamic and evolving context than that in which We generally perceive the issue….
2. i’m trying to discuss a concept of “identity” that is based upon what We all have — or should have — in common; upon a set of psycho-socio-economic characteristics that define our common interests, and inform our jointly arrived at and pursued solutions to all questions arising from the struggle to end all forms of oppression and exploitation, and to build a socialist society. (e.g., questions as to why We don’t have, and how We can have, FREE public transportation; an end to environmental destruction; -an end to the high cost and widespread unavailability of health care; people’s control over insurance and pharmaceutical companies; people’s regulation of the air waves (t.v. and radio) and phone communication and public utilities — literally any and every issue that We face in our daily lives is related to the way that We define — or should define — our identity and our interests.)
3. i’m trying to discuss an identity — a concept of identity — -that is characterized by (one’s) politics (and a concept of politics that characterizes (one’s) identity; where “politics” comes to be understood by everyone as not just what “they” do in D.C., or at the state capital, or at city hall, but what every individual does or fails to do about all things presently left to “the politicians”).
4. “The people of the day before yesterday” are essentially characterized by the socio-economic orders that they developed, on the basis of the conditions under which they lived. We refer to these orders as “communal” or as “primitive communism” — where there were no concepts of “ownership” or of “private property” in the major means of social production, and the people shared in the work and the fruits of the social means of production — no person or group was exploited or oppressed by another person or group (i.e., for reasons of gender, “race,” or class) ….
5. “The people of the day after tomorrow” must create a contemporary form of communal society, where differences between people aren’t used to rationalize exploitation; where all of the people again “own” and share in the fruits of the social means of produc-tion, and participate in the major decision-making — where all people enjoy the rights to FREE education, health care, and all other major social services….
6. The struggle for a new identity (individual and collective) is a reflection of the process of becoming New People, with new values, a new morality, and new social, economic, and political consciousness. It’s not just about what We call ourselves, but about the kind of people We want/need to be; about the way We want to live, to produce and distribute the goods and services that sustain our lives. It’s about shaping new ways of relating to each other and to nature — urging each other to think about and discuss such new relationships, rather than continue to rank commodities above people…. We’re engaged in struggle today not only because of things and ideas that We stand in opposition to, but because there are things and ideas that We are/should be struggling to realize — -what We want for ourselves and our children and all those that come after us, everywhere in the world. All of this is about “identity,” knowing that what We fight to depends on who we are that who We ought to be, informs what We (should) fight for….
(End of Part One)
Owusu Yaki Yakubu