W.E.B. Du Bois on war and empire

One of the things that I noticed as I was writing my dissertation about Du Bois was his participation in the peace movement. In fact, when I was at Fisk doing research, his opposition to militarism was indelible. To be sure, he viewed war as an instrument of empire, one ultimately incapable of securing the surety of peace and human well-being. Further, war and militarism were linked to capitalism. Hence, for all its horror, warfare is exceedingly profitable.

At any rate, he might say of our present moment that humanity stands at the precipice. I agree. Militarism is increasingly the preserve of dying empires. Moribund powers whose folly will result, not only in their annihilation, but ours with it.

Read “There Is No Such Thing as a Small Nuclear War” by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research: https://thetricontinental.org/newsletterissue/nato-ukraine-nuclear-crisis/

Our petty bourgeois strivings

I know that many of us continue to celebrate African/Black people being installed as agents of the state apparatus, the same state that kept Africans in shackles during the era of chattel slavery, suppressed Black voting rights for nearly a century, sabotaged Black movements for sovereignty, assassinated Black leaders, and has consistently sought to inflict “on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

I am reminded in the midst of these celebratory moments of the wisdom of Malcolm X, who stated, “Racial unrest never occurs among the satisfied, bourgeois class of Negroes. They can easily be appeased and controlled and influenced just by continuing to drop crumbs on their table—the crumbs of tokenism. And this type of Negro that the so-called Negro leadership represents is a type that can be appeased and can be controlled with the crumbs of token integration.”

I think that Malcolm X’s criticism highlights the inadequacy of integrationism as a political strategy and ideology. In many ways one might say that he anticipated its devolution from appeals for structural integration to the present bifurcation of the African/Black community in the US, where the petty bourgeoise class continues to aspire to enjoy the bounty of capitalist exploitation, which the masses are increasingly dislocated by. 

Ultimately, the performance of representation by powerful institutions is a paean to the aspirations of the Black elite. Such strivings do not equate to the imperative of self-determination for the masses, a self-determination whose actualization dismisses the very legitimacy of the dominant system itself.

On Cruses’s Two Streams

The notion that Africans/Blacks in the US can advance by asserting their “Americanness” & denying their “Africanness” is an old idea, visible in the poetry of Phillis Wheatley in the 18th Century. Wheatley and many who would come after her reflect Cruse’s integrationist stream.

Cruse also acknowledged another stream, the Black nationalist stream, which many say begins with Martin Delany, but I think saw its inception within the traditions of insurrection, maroonage, and the earliest examples of repatriation with Paul Cuffe in the early 19th Century.

When one considers the intellectual legacies of integrationism and Black nationalism, they seem irreconcilable. Assimilation results in African people’s subordination to white domination. Whereas nationalism rejects the legitimacy of African life under alien subjugation.

The history of these streams remains unfinished, but as ever, the integrationist stream is presented as the singular expression of Black political thought, while the nationalist stream is decried as folly. However, all evidence suggests that integrationism is not possible, nor is capable of solving all of the problems of our people–problems that result from our lack of control over our lives.

On the expansive meaning of Malcolm X

Malcolm X’s ideas contributed greatly to the formation of cultural and territorial nationalism among Africans in the US. He famously stated, “Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis for all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.” This idea greatly informed the New African Independence Movement that called for the formation of an independent Black nation in the US states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

He also was a proponent of revolutionary struggle. He spoke at length about the myopia of Black leaders.

Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution knows no compromise, revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way. And you, sitting around here like a knot on the way, saying, “I’m going to love these folks no matter how much they hate me,” No, you need a revolution. Whoever heard of a revolution where they lock arms….singing “We Shall Overcome?” You don’t do that in a revolution. You don’t do any singing, you’re too busy swinging. It’s based on land. A revolutionary wants land so he can set up his own nation, an independent nation. These Negroes aren’t asking for any nation — they’re trying to crawl back on the plantation.

Thus, he had a profound influence on the revolutionary discourses in the 60s and beyond, as well as on the Black Power formations that advocated revolutionary struggle.

Further, Malcolm’s Pan-Africanism made his message resonate with African peoples the world over. He would often remark on the impact of anti-colonial leaders on the African continent, such as Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah. He remarked on the exploitation of Congo as a consequence of US imperialism, noting that the same settler colonial state responsible for the oppression of Africans in the US, was responsible for the oppression of Africans abroad.

His anti-colonialism continues to be drawn upon as an example of international solidarity between oppressed peoples. Whether it was Africa, Asia, or Latin America, he recognized the folly of subdividing the struggle against western domination, instead emphasizing that “We have a common oppressor.” His remarks on the Bandung Conference expressed focused on the coming together of revolutionary forces to forge a future for themselves de-linked from the hegemony of the West. In a related vein, socialists have emphasized Malcolm’s anti-capitalism, emphasizing that Malcolm recognized that capitalism lay at the foundation of Western imperialism.

Malcolm X’s icon has been used variously to promote Islam in the Black community, as some have sought to link Malcolm’s faith with his politics, and in so doing have promoted Islam as a vehicle of both political consciousness and spiritual awakening. Further, his thinking doubtlessly contributed to religious nationalism among Africans/Blacks in the US across the theological spectrum.

Finally, he provides an ideal of African/Black manhood, whose righteous character and convictions were the driving forces in his life.

In short, the meaning of Malcolm X is rich and varied. His life is replete with lessons that have informed the consciousness of African/Black peoples and many others in the decades since his assassination. He lives on as an exemplary ancestor, whose good character and commitment to African freedom and social transformation endure as an example worthy of both study and emulation.


I watched and participated in a Zoom discussion of Judas and the Black Messiah tonight. One of the points that I raised is that William O’Neal exemplifies the betrayer archetype. Men/women such as he have been an ever-present menace for African people. They are a recurring response of Europeans to the struggle for African freedom.

We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that agents and traitors will disappear or cease to be consequential at any point in our movement. Quite often, much like O’Neal himself, such persons will rise to prominence within the organizations and movements that they have been set against. We should even consider that such individuals will fabricate movements so as to sow seeds of confusion, discord, and facilitate misdirection.

At best, we can carry out our work in a such a manner that limits the destructive capacity of traitors. One partial solution to this is to engage in struggle in a manner that is highly decentralized, characterized by independent yet ideologically aligned collectives, groups working towards a common aim, yet who maintain localized organizational structures characterized by collective forms of governance.

This is perhaps easier said than done. Dynamic work often coheres around a visionary mind. Their genius is an asset to our struggle, yet in our adversary’s aim to maintain our oppression, they are often targeted and imprisoned or killed in the hopes that their deaths will destroy the movement. There will always be people like Chairman Fred Hampton who animate the imaginations of the people and who articulate a vision of a future free from the fetters of oppression. Such individuals will also be targeted by the state. The key, the principle challenge is to ensure the survival and expansion of the movement beyond the deaths of inspiring leaders, beyond the acts of sabotage by traitors, and beyond the machinations of our enemies. To demonstrate through work and determination that “You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.”


Treachery has long been a nemesis of African movements for self-determination. Traitors have often aligned themselves with the revolutionary struggles only as a means to pursue counterrevolutionary ends. These traitors have, invariably, placed their own self-aggrandizement over the interests of the masses. Their actions have also reinforced European dominance.

Such patterns persist in the present day. In fact, the politics of tepid multiculturalism and the ethos of atomistic individualism provides a convenient ideological cover for such acts today. Individuals who become exponents of such positions are often celebrated. Their visibility is often strategically useful in the propagation of a debilitating confusion and alienation, which negates a consciousness of who we are–Africans–and a commitment to what we should be doing– reclaiming our culture and  restoring our sovereignty.

The third option

Conservatives have thrown themselves headlong into nationalist designs, on the assumption that such a basis will provide for greater hegemony for domestic elites. They have been quite effective in mobilizing millions of Whites through appeals to fear and loathing, as well as the assurance that a better tomorrow, one resembling a halcyon past lay just beyond the horizon.

Liberals, by contrast, have demonstrated their commitment to global, neoliberal capitalism, and are increasingly mining the symbolic worth of individuals from racialized and oppressed groups, who become redemptive icons of a moribund social order.

The discerning, rather than aligning themselves with one or the other, should instead seek a third path. This path, clearly articulated by thinkers such as Malcolm X, would dismiss the two aforementioned possibilities. Instead, he would insist on the creation of an entirely different system, one wherein Africans were neither bogeymen or tokens, but one where we control our destiny.