Earlier this year there was a small-scale three-way split within the U.S.-based Marxist-Leninist/communist organization known as the Workers World Party (WWP). This split, which occurred in stages, was the result of apparent conflict between what at first seemed to be the core organizational leadership of the WWP and the membership of the Huntington, West Virginia branch of the Party. The dispute arose due to the Huntington branch’s critical approach to the West Virginia teachers’ strike. The leadership of the WWP took the stance of uncompromising support for the strikers; while the position of the Huntington branch members, who were actually present in West Virginia, had been to raise anti-colonial and anti-imperialist slogans in an attempt to critique this unquestioned and uncritical support from the rest of the Party.
This caught the ire of the rest of the Party. From the reports of comrades at the heart of the conflict, I have been told that much of this came to a ruptural head following the prominent placement on the Huntington branch’s Facebook (since deleted) page of the slogan “White teachers owe reparations.” Along with the raising of this demand for white people, including white workers, and in this particular instance white teachers, to pay reparations for the chattel enslavement of African people, images were also shared on the branch page of old Pan Africanist Congress of Azania[i] agit-prop featuring their classic and beloved slogan “one settler; one bullet.”
Eventually this rupture within the WWP resulted in the majority of the Huntington branch resigning and moving on to form the Organization for the Liberation of Oppressed Peoples (LOOP), “a solidarity organization dedicated to the advance of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist politics” (2018). Curiously the Detroit, Michigan branch of the WWP has also split, forming a nascent organization calling itself the Communist Workers League (CWL) (2018). Curious because, as an outside observer located in Ontario, Canada, the Detroit branch was central in leading the charge against the comrades of the Huntington branch. It would seem that that the now CWL believed that the central WWP leadership was neither swift enough nor harsh enough in condemning the line of the comrades in West Virginia.
However, unsurprisingly, the remaining leadership of the WWP did indeed move to distance itself from the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist line of the former Huntington members. This was best summed up in longtime WWP leader Larry Holmes’s article Can We Meet the Challenges Facing the Working Class Including Identity Politics? (2018), which deployed the old Marxist bogeyman of “Identity Politics” as a blunt instrument against the former Huntington comrades. Interestingly however, the Party also made available on their website an article/talk by a member of United American Indians of New England entitled Indigenous Women, the Land and the Struggle Against Settler Colonialism (2018). The reason I, again as a third-party observer to to this intra-party struggle, found the sharing of this particular piece by the WWP to be so interesting is because the line presented in the article is contrary not only to that put forth by Holmes in the above referenced article, as well as the former Detroit members-come-Communist Workers League, but also to the general line of the WWP concerning its understanding of settler colonialism and the Indigenous struggle for decolonization. So much so that I would happily unite with an organization who’s line reflected the ideas in this document, though sadly that is not the case currently.
The meat of this writing though is in particular directly inspired by the article White Guilt and Third Worldism: An Infantile Disorder (2018), and takes it as a leaping off point for further discussion on these issues. The article was penned by a then member of the WWP Detroit branch, a comrade Mond, which was aimed at the politics of the Huntington branch, and which made several round through social media. While I absolutely believe the earnestness of this comrade, and do not doubt their commitment to building a revolutionary movement towards radical social change, the article is full of all manner of misconceptions and misunderstandings, and what I want to do here is to respond to a handful of them. I encourage readers to checkout Mond’s article if they have not already before proceeding.
Decoloniality & Marxism-with-Qualifiers
Before really diving into what I want to say, I want to be clear on something, as I believe it is something that comrades often misunderstand about me and my own politics: while I have in the past, labelled my politics and theoretical orientation as Third Worldist, or some other variant thereof, that is not really the case anymore. This is in large part because as I have come to understand it, what some people choose to label as so-called Third Worldism is more correctly understood as the proper application of anti-Eurocentric perspectives to the study of political economy, and consequently the taking seriously of the fact of parasitism and its impact on the formation and orientation of the working class within the imperialist core of the modern/colonialist/capitalist world-system.
Thus rather than thinking of Third Worldism as some kind of distinct label, I box its various understandings into my broader decolonial perspective on the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system. As such, rather than refer to Third Worldism I prefer to talk instead of anti-Eurocentric political economy. Indeed this is something that I believe converges with the analysis put forth by Robert Biel in his excellent, if not quite broad or deep enough, text Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement (2015), a work that is never, in my experience, labelled Third Worldist.
Today I would identify my political outlook as a kind of Marxism-with-Qualifiers (a term I have borrowed from a Lakota decolonial communist and comrade Hinskéhanska ) rather than with one of the many layer cake approaches to Marxism which generally entail a religious fidelity to a chosen lineage of Marxist Ascended Masters. Thus, to be clear, I am not anti-Marxist, a label which has been applied to me by detractors at various times, born out of disagreement with what I say. I have always valued, and will continue to value, the theoretical, ideological, methodological and practical/organizational lessons that I have been taught from Marxism. My affinity to Marxism, which is still strongly present, is simply very critical and decolonized, or in the process of becoming such.
However, my decolonization of Marxism—a process which began with a movement towards an anti-Eurocentric political economy, inspired by study and analysis of world-systems analysis, dependency theory and many other theorists and movement—deepened the more I have delved into contemporary understandings of coloniality, settler colonialism, racial capitalism and the critique of the onto-epistemological project of Euro-modernity and the Enlightenment. These critiques, which emerge from a position of a radical Indigenous decolonial and critical theory, as well as the Black radical tradition, queer theory, subaltern theory, settler colonial studies and other lines of critique and inquiry, has pushed my decolonization of Marxism towards other fronts than simply the question of political economy, which is often both the end and the beginning of anti-Eurocentrism for many Marxists, along with the related question of support for national liberation and the understanding of where the centre of the global revolutionary store is located.
Consequently, and again country to the appellations some would input on me my approach to these subjects, I am not, and indeed find myself in opposition to, the staunchly Eurocentric understandings prevalent to postmodernism. I agree deeply with the assessment of postmodernism by decolonial theorists, which is that it is a Eurocentric critique of European modernity. However, and this perhaps the source of some confusion, I do read those theorists often most associated with so-called “postmodernism” and am not afraid to learn critically from them.
Further, my connection to Marxism is maintained by the fact that the growth of theorization around the questions of coloniality/decoloniality emerged from critical engagements with Marxism-derived theories like those of world-systems analysis and dependency theory in so-called Latin America. Many of the principal proponents of modern decolonial theory have taken Marx very seriously (Dussel 2001). The same is of course true, and consequently influences my relationship to Marxism, of many postcolonial and subaltern studies theorists, the work on Black Marxism (1983) and the anthropology of Marxism by Cedric Robinson (1999) and the modern Indigenous critical theory of Glen Coulthard (2014). Modern settler colonial theory also contains within it many influences from Marxism. All these are ideas and works that have been essential to me remaining a Marxist, of some sort, while also deepening my critique of the Eurocentricities within the mainstream of the Marxist cannon and tradition.
All of that is a long way to set up that, in terms of my perspective on the political economy of the world-system, I think it is without question that parasitism and unequal exchange is maintained by the capitalist core upon the nations of the periphery. As a direct consequence of this, the historical development of the world-system has seen the emergence of a massive labour aristocracy in the core nations, amongst primarily white/settler workers. These workers, driven by their positionality within the coordinates of the world-economy, have developed petty bourgeois aspirations and a have historically aligned themselves with the white and imperialist ruling classes of the core nations and settler colonies against the movements for decolonization and revolutionary abolition by the colonized and racialized multitudes who make of the majority of this world.
Indeed, some argument can be made that this has always been the case; that it didn’t emerge when capitalism transitioned, in the Leninist understanding of the historical development of the world-system, into the modern phase of imperialism. Indeed, while the strength of the labour aristocracy has perhaps been at its most historically strongest during this era, especially in the post-World War II period, I do believe that I strong argument can be, and has been already, made that capitalism was born parasitic. As such there was never not a time in the history of the modern/colonial world that white workers were not on a pedestal of genocide, slavery and colonial brigandage.
Ultimately though is in this regard that I remain committed to a genuine anti-Eurocentric understanding of global political economy and the question of imperialist parasitism, even as I may no longer label my politics primarily with that term. It is also why I find myself in the odd position of feeling a need to defend it these understandings against distortions and misrepresentations by other comrades.
Sakaiism and the Distortions of Euro-Marxism
Inevitably the main point of departure in any anti-critique of this kind tends to be pointing out that quite often orthodox Marxist criticisms of anti-Eurocentric political economy come from a political space and practice of understanding neither the questions raised by those attempting to apply a line of anti-Eurocentrism to contemporary political economy, nor the broader theoretical issues raised by the so-called Third Worldist tendency. I think any attempt at a polemical critique aimed at this tendency, or with any tendency for that matter, must to come from a place of having taken seriously and thus seriously having read Third Worldist literature and practice. Any attempted polemic or critique which does not come such a position is itself difficult to take seriously as a matter of theory and politics.
An important point to make clear here then is that when I speak of the literature produced by so-called Third Worldists I am not just referring to the work of J. Sakai (2014) and those who were and are a part of the particular tendency that was inspired by his seminal work, such as Butch Lee (2017) and the pair of E. Tani and Kae Sera (1985). Quite often when individuals and organizations from the nominal socialist/communist movement of North America argue against, or attempt to argue against, what may be termed Third Worldism they limit the scope of their efforts to what might be termed Sakaiism. This is not novel. Indeed the writings of J. Sakai, Lee, Tani and Sera have long been something of a monster lurking under the bed for the mainstream settler and settler-aligned Marxist movement. Because of this many tired, uninspired and ultimately outright incorrect attempts have been made to critique the historical analysis put forward by these authors, with particular attention paid to Sakai himself. One has to look no further than the sorry state of Tyler McCreary’s review in the pages of the Canadian anti-authoritarian journal Upping the Anti (2006) or Canadian Trotskyist Sebastian Lamb’s deeply flawed and misrepresentative analysis in J Sakai’s Settlers and Anti-Racist Working-Class Politics (2003).
While the particular political trend of Sakaiism has indeed been important to the development of a sort of anti-Eurocentric theory and practice in Occupied Turtle Island, it is neither the beginning nor the end of the development of such. Indeed it is in many ways insufficient for a full understanding of contemporary anti-Eurocentric political economy. Additionally, and this is perhaps the subject of another essay entirely, it is deeply insufficient as a critique of the actual logic and structures of settler colonialism. Neither Sakai nor Lee nor others actually theorize settler colonialism, which of course undermines much of the reasoning behind the otherwise positive and correct counter-current to “Read Settlers.” I agree that people should be reading Sakai and the rest of that tendency, but because they give us an excellent critical labour history of the white/settler/master working class on Occupied Turtle Island, rather than a meaningful elucidation of either settler colonialism or of global political economy.
The majority of contemporary anti-Eurocentric political economy finds its antecedents directly in the struggles of colonized peoples for independence and liberation from and before and during the period of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Chinese and anti-colonial revolutions that followed the end of the Second World War. While the works and names of these strugglers and thinkers are too much to list here, they are recounted and discussed in work such as Biel’s (2015). Beyond them however, modern contributions to what I understand today as anti-Eurocentric political economy have been made within the works of people like Zak Cope (2015), Torkil Lauesen (2018), John Smith (2016) and M.G.E. Kelly (2015) and much of dependency theory and world-systems analysis[ii]. My point here is that to single out so-called Third Worldism as if it is only the line that emanates from the work of J. Sakai and a handful of others who have come since, is to be disingenuous because in doing so one is woefully under-representing the analysis that one is arguing against.
Maoism contra Third Worldism
Moving on from the question of Sakaiism, a particularly curious aspect of this critique of anti-Eurocentric political economy–though one not made explicit in comrade Mond’s article but which I have seen made several times in the recent period on social media by certain Marxist-Leninist types (WWP members in particular, but also others)–seems to be an incredibly strained attempt to imagine some specific link between this kind of understanding of the world-system and the political tendency of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. This is a rhetorical leap, and it is one that simply makes no sense, even as a crude attempt at intra-Marxist polemics, because it is demonstrably untrue. Like the critique of Third Worldism as only Sakaiism, the attempt to forge a strong link between it and Marxism-Leninism-Maoism further distorts the attempt at critique.
Therefore it must be said: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the anti-Eurocentric understanding of political economy have never been collapsible into one-another. In fact outside of the small (and always was small) Maoist Internationalist and Maoist (Third Worldist) tendencies, Maoists in the imperialist nations have almost always, at a bare minimum, been inclined towards Eurocentrism, with a particular tendency for Orientalism. This Orientalism often emerges from both the fetishization of the Chinese Revolution and Chinese revolutionaries, but also in the common rejoinder to the critique of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Eurocentrism that can be summed up in the parody retort “how can we be Eurocentric, Chairman Mao was Chinese!” Sometimes today this is shifted to more recent figures and movements, such the fetishization of the former Shining Path of Peru or the Communist Party of the Philippines and the consequent shifting of the retort to “how can we be Eurocentric, Presidente Gonzalo is a Latin American? or “Joma Sison is Filipino?”
Obviously though Marxist-Leninists are themselves often quite guilty of this fetishizing, borderline parodic practice as well. Quite often when modern North American Marxist-Leninists are confronted with the fact of their own Eurocentrism they are quick to parade pictures of Black and Brown revolutionaries from around the world such as Fred Hampton, Thomas Sankara, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and many others as if the fact of these former revolutionary leaders and martyrs non-whiteness itself disarms the critique of Eurocentrism.
These questionably parodical practices aside, today the Eurocentrism of the North American Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tendency is visible in the politics and work of the current Parti communiste révolutionnaire–Revolutionary Communist Party in Canada (both the branches who stood with the Central Committee in their recent split, as well as the “Continuators” rooted in Montreal). Within the United States we can likewise see this amongst the Montreal “Continuators” erstwhile allies in the decentralized “Red Guard” and allied organizations that have sprung into existence either just before or in the wake of the collapse of the attempts to launch a post-RCP-USA “New Communist Party.” Whether their Maoism does or does not include a crude Orientalism, these organizations, or elements within them, have at times exhibited a clear settler chauvanism, intentional or not. This could recently be seen most starkly in the Twitter and broader social media struggle that erupted between supporters and members of the PCR-RCP in Ottawa, and eventually other parts of Canada, and Indigenous land defenders and warriors in that city who had critiqued the politics and practices of the Party.
Most crudely these white/settler/master chauvinist politics on the part of the PCR-RCP could be seen in their too-little-too-late official statement on the conflict, Ottawa Reoccupation and State Repression – Against Snitch-Jacketing! (2018). While the document is guilty of not really dealing with the issues raised by members of the Indigenous sovereignty movement in that city, it drips with Euro-chauvanism when, in its first paragraph, it crudely dismisses them as merely “skeptical activists who hold hostile views towards communism” and who were only out “to slander PCR-RCP and MER-RSM (note: the Party’s extensive student arm).”
What has been clear though more than a decade of involvement is that the majority representation of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in Occupied Turtle island is far from anti-Eurocentric. Indeed recent upsurges of debate again on social media (far too many to link to here) between Marxist-Leninist-Maoists, in particular U.S. and Europe-based individuals and tendencies, has shown that the tendency towards Eurocentrism and deference towards the white/settler/master is still a strong element within that particular socialist/communist tendency. Though Biel himself (2015) attempts to contort an argument in the closing pages of his book that would see Marxism-Leninism-Maoism positioned as the most genuinely anti-Eurocentric Marxist current, if we are to consider the majority representations of it in North America to be actually anti-Eurocentric, it is not any conception of anti-Eurocentrism that would, or should, be recognized as such.
Returning to my original point, this attempt to collapse these political trends within Marxism into each other would appear to indicate a lack of actually being familiar with what one is attempting to be polemical against. You can demonstrate the non-anti-Eurocentric politics of the majority of the avowed Marxist-Leninist-Maoist movement in Turtle Island movement by both analysis of the explicit programmatic lines laid down by the overwhelming majority of North American factions, as well as their actual praxis.
Going from what I said near the beginning of this I would also like to reemphasize the point that the vast majority of those fighters and theorists who have contributed the most to the anti-Eurocentric understanding of political economy have decidedly not emerged from within what one might understand as “Maoism.” Yes there have been, and continues to be, a small minority of Maoists who also claim this kind of understanding as essential and correct, but there have also been Marxist-Leninists[iii] and even Trotskyists who have contributed to the development of the broad anti-Eurocentric current within Marxist theory, such as the heterodox South African theorist and anti-apartheid fighter Hosea Jaffe (1985). There have also been many who have contributed to the “cannon” who have decidedly rejected the Marxist label in toto, such as the late comrades James Yaki Sayles (2010) and Kuwasi Balagoon (2018). Indeed I owe much of my own political development to these latter thinkers, which is why for me it is entirely possible to maintain an anti-Eurocentric outlook on global political economy without holding loyalty to the many Eurocentricities that have plagued the bulk of the Marxist project since its inception.
Settler Colonialism & the Question of “Socialist Justice”
However, setting aside the question of what exactly constitutes Third Worldism, what I really want to draw readers attention to and what I think should be most troubling for genuine anti-colonial and decolonial forces here in so-called “North America” is the handling of the question of settler colonialism that one finds in these kinds of anti-Third Worldist polemics and theoretical formulations. Simply put, bundled within the explicit rejection of the perspective on modern global political economy put forth by so-called Third Worldists–by Marxists/communists like the WWP–is also the implicit, though sometimes also explicit, rejection of the critique of settler colonialism as an ongoing process and the call for the total decolonization of Turtle Island.
This is in part because those socialists/communists who have held firm to the genuine anti-Eurocentric understanding of political economy (of one stripe or another) have in the past often been some of the only socialist/communist tendencies to consistently call for the total dismantling of what Adam Barker (2012) refers to as the northern bloc of settler colonialism, and the return of the land, all of it, and not just symbolically, to Indigenous nations (Tuck & Yang 2010). Those Marxist-Leninists (and Maoists, and Trotskyists etc) who reject what is essentially the anti-Eurocentric perspective within political economy are more often than not the same purported leftists who instinctively move away from the call for Indigenous land rematriation, and this is outwardly reflected in their programmes, slogans and praxis.
However it goes further than a knee-jerk opposition to programmatics into the roots of the theoretical perspective of WWP-type Marxist-Leninists. These self-labelled revolutionaries would, and quite often do when confronted directly in debate, argue that it would be an absolute injustice to the white/settler/master worker to make a call for the return of land. Drawing on the thought of Africana existentialist and Philosopher Lewis R. Gordon (2018) and the Chickisaw scholar Jodi A. Byrd (2015), I would argue that this is because in essence, their’s is a theory and philosophy that requires as one of its fundamental premises the always-already genocide and dispossession of Indigenous nations and the emptying out of Turtle Island. They require this fundamentally as the ground on which to build their new socialist/communist society. They radically (in the sense of getting to the root) cannot enact their vision of “revolutionary” socialist change without prefigurative anti-Indigenous violence.
This is why, hand-in-hand with their rejection of anti-Eurocentric political economy, they reject the critique of settler colonialism as, as put by the late Patrick Wolfe “a structure, not an event” (2006). They may talk about settler colonialism but implicit within their theoretical treatment of the subject is the understanding that settler colonialism is only (one might even say merely) an onto-historical event that can and must be understood only as history and legacy. Indeed this kind of thinking about “the history of settler-colonialism and its legacy of racism” is explicitly made quite often, including twice within comrade Mond’s article.
This kind of perspective, which sees settler colonialism only as historical event, fails to grasp the material fact that settler colonialism is an ongoing structuring process. Indeed it is not only one of the central foundations, along with, and profoundly intertwined with, ongoing anti-black racism and the global colonization and enslavement of African people, of North American capitalism but of the entire modern/colonial/capitalist world-system—a process that drives towards the elimination of Indigenous people and the continued dispossession of our lands.
This is the essence of what Marx was to call primitive accumulation:
The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation (1977, 915).
Marx perhaps even more deeply saw this link when he noted that:
Whilst the cotton industry introduced child-slavery in England, it gave in the United States a stimulus to the transformation of the earlier, more or less patriarchal slavery, into a system of commercial exploitation. In fact, the veiled slavery of the wage workers in Europe needed, for its pedestal, slavery pure and simple in the new world (1977, 925).
While “Marx so insistently repressed throughout the rest of the text” (Johnson 2004, 300) this dialectical and materialist understanding it is essential to any meaningful understanding of the situation we face. Freed of its temporal constraints ala Glen Coulthard (2014), it is this understanding that allows us to say that settler colonialism, genocide and enslavement are not merely a set of facts of history who’s residual legacy is racism. This is what anti-Eurocentrists mean when they speak of the pedestal upon which the entire world of the white/settler worker stands.
The difference between understanding settler colonialism as ongoing, living, breathing eliminative anti-Indigenous violence continuously enacted by the settler colonial nation-state[iv] on Indigenous lands, nations and bodies versus it merely being a question of histories and legacies has profound impact on how one understands the current juncture and the growing calls for decolonization, decoloniality and revolutionary abolitionism on the part of Indigenous, African and other colonized peoples.
Again drawing links from Gordon (2018), I argue that further, the rejection of settler colonial critique, anti-Eurocentric political economy, as well as the many critiques that have been levied by many from within the Black radical tradition, by many Marxist-Leninists and Marxist-Leninist-Maoists is hard, if not impossible, to separate from the idea that it would be an injustice imposed upon the white/settler/master worker to return Indigenous land, abolish the oppression and exploitation of African people worldwide and to smash global imperialist parasitism.
This is because at the uninterrogated heart of their worldview is the idea that it is fundamentally just for that worker at the heart of the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system to have not only what they already do, but to struggle to have more. Indeed the essential injustice of the capitalist system is precisely that they do not have more due to the exploitation of their labour in the generation of value in the capital circuit of the world-economy. Thus, because of the ineluctable link between what that worker has, as well as their potential to accumulate more, and the processes of ongoing Indigenous genocide and dispossession, ongoing anti-black racism and the colonization and enslavement of African people, and the ongoing parasitism of the imperialist nations on the colonized world it is an injustice to call for those structures to be overturned in the most revolutionary fashion possible through radical decolonial and abolitionist struggle.
This is white power chauvinism in the raw. Further, it is important to recognize that it does not matter if the person making the argument is white or Red, Black or Brown. This is why the critique of what many of us refer to as the “white left” holds no matter the supposed multinational formation of most of the mainstream Marxist/communist movement in Occupied Turtle Island.
Towards a Conclusion
Finally I want to close off this commentary by addressing the claim that the beast-in-closet that Third Worldism seems to be, and by extension settler colonial critique, leads to a politics of nihilism and do-nothingism. Connected to this is the claim that it is only white petty/bourgeois academic types who uphold and advance so-called Third Worldism. While I myself am perhaps one those wilely academic types, I can say this because I can point to both past and present revolutionary organizations and movements who’s histories prove these charges to be demonstrably false misrepresentations.
Variants of an anti-Eurocentric line have been taken up by several sectors within the New Afrikan Independence and Pan-Africanist Movements, including perhaps most importantly here in Occupied Turtle Island by the Black Liberation Army. Comrades and forebears who were either directly involved with the BLA, who whose political lineage directly links back to it, such as the late James Yaki Sayles (2010), Kuwasi Balagoon (2018) and Sanyika Shakur (2013) have made many critical insights to the development of a genuine anti-Eurocentic ethic and politic on this continent. However, this is a history and a present that is often scrubbed clean by many within the socialist/communist movement, as well as anarchist forces, who loyal ultimately to the Eurocentric line. One only has to witness the way that many of these nominally revolutionary individuals and organizations rush to the defence of the modern day Maroon and Black liberation heroine Assata Shakur, as they righteously should, but who could also not distance themselves more completely from her actual politics. Shakur demonstrates the stark difference in line when she says:
I have one message for you and your comrade. Do not be naive about the mind of the white person. It has been taught since birth to believe in its superiority and to believe that the Afrikan child must labour and toil so wealth and power can drop into their hands like rain from heaven.
The European is not your friend. The liberal European might be pretend to be your friend and might even contrive to denigrate themselves in front of you to show they belong among Afrikans.
When the powerful turn their guns you, that person will leave you behind.
Throughout history, the person of colour has had his back whipped by the white man. Our Afrikan hearts have been penetrated by white bullets.
Our souls have been sliced by their spears. In Sharpeville, your brothers were mowed down by the white man, the same white man who holds you in captivity now in his game of educational mind colonisation (2015).
She also puts it bluntly in her biography, which has for sometime been essential reading for genuine anti-colonial, decolonial and abolitionist forces on Turtle Island. She says:
Once you study and really get a good understanding of the way the system in the United States works, then you see, without a doubt, that the civil rights movement never had a chance of succeeding. White people, whether they are from the North or from the South, whether it was in 1960 or 1980, benefit from the oppression of Black people (2014).
Likewise, variants of what could be considered Third Worldism, though not by that name, is often the default position of people within the Indigenous Liberation Movement. Our day-to-day confrontation with living settler colonial violence leads many of us to recognize that it is materially unrealistic to rely upon the settler masses for alliance, and we know that it is undeniably true that everything that the settler has is because they have stolen it from us and all other colonized peoples. Indigenous people are also often credulous to the idea that a socialism/communism that does directly address the questions of the return of land and the end of genocide would mean the liberation of our Nations. The Osage theologian George Tinker sums up this position well, as well as drawing attention to other defincies in the Marxist approach to settler colonialism in North America (points which also link up with those Coulthard ), when he says:
Indigenous peoples are struggling with existence in ways that are not and probably cannot addressed by class analysis at all. Our oppression and the resulting poverty are not primarily due to any class status. Rather, they are rooted in the economic need of the colonizer to quiet our claims to the land and to mute our moral judgement on the United States’ long history of violence and conquest in north America … [in a socialist United States] our land will still not be ours, but would enter into the collective possession of a much larger colonizer proletariat who are also foreign to our land and who must be considered invaders (2008, 23-24)
In the end it is the Marxist-Leninist organizations, like the Workers World Party, who fail at producing a correct theorization of the current situation in Occupied Turtle Island. It is their perspective that has never been able to explain why it is that in North America in particular the Marxist movement has been met overwhelmingly with one hundred-fifty years of failure to organize the supposed proletarian settler masses for communist revolution. They have also been consistently unable to attract the loyalty of those of us from whom this continent was first stolen. Why? Why don’t Natives for the most care for Marxism-Leninism, Maoism and the many other variants on the same set of central themes? We know why, and I think it is high-time that we began to take seriously (as many others already have) those perspectives that might be able to begin offering us a more accurate understanding of this world, and this allowing us to think and dream through, beneath and beyond it.
[i] Against the neo-colonialist African National Congress, the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania maintained a strongly anti-settler colonial line during the anti-apartheid struggle in Occupied Azania (so-called “South Africa”) alongside organizations like the Azanian People’s Organisation. Today, while both the PAC and AZAPO continue to be active, they have been joined by organizations like Black First Land First in raising criticism of the neo-colonial, pro-capitalist policies of the ANC and the continual demand for the return of stolen Indigenous Azanian land, without compensation, including criticism of the current nature of the attempts by the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters (the EFF itself being a recent split from the ANC-Youth League) to nominally push for such an agenda. You can find these criticisms on the pages of the BLF.
[ii] While the work of Emmanuel is the body that most explicitly carries overtones of what is now deemed to be “Third Worldism,” any careful reading of dependency theory and world-systems Analysis lends itself quite easily to Third Worldist conclusions if one considers seriously the question of parasitism. This is the case even if the authors themselves do not necessarily take that theoretical next step, often due to political commitments which this shift may disrupt (such as, for example, in the large body of work of Samir Amin).
[iii] Indeed, and quite humorously (at least to myself), the line of Global Class War that has long been central to the theoretical and practical outlook of the Workers World Party (as formulated by its chief founder Sam Marcy), much like most of dependency theory and world-systems analysis, can lend itself quite easily to a so-called “Third Worldist” perspective of some form. Perhaps this is what lead the Huntington, West Virginia branch to eventually take up such a line.
[iv] But also not only the settler colonial state. To focus on settler colonialism as only a governmental project of the state, and thus to dismiss the active role of the settler population—what J. Sakai, Sanyika Shakur and others refer to as the settler “garrison” —leads to all manner of mistheorization. The individual settler had, and still has it must be emphasized, a wide degree of agency in forwarding the settler colonial project. As Patrick Wolfe noted:
Its [the settler colonial project’s] primary dynamic arose permissively in the absence of official regulation. This highly productive absence should caution us against viewing settler colonialism as a narrowly governmental project. Rather … settler invasion typically combines a shifting balance of official and unofficial strategies, initially to seize Native territory and subsequently to consolidate its expropriation. Rather than something separate from or running counter to the colonial state, the irregular activities of the frontier rabble constitute its principal means of expansion (2016, 40-41).
This active role of the settler masses in genocidal colonial violence and the maintenance of the dispossession of Indigenous nations of their lands deeply complicates the possibility for Indigenous-Settler solidarities, even beyond the question of the settler working class’s global positionality as a labour aristocracy.
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