Abayomi Azikiwe at PASU sponsored event on June 14, 1989 at WSU, Detroit. Azikiwe was addressing a seminar on South Africa featuring a representative of the African National Congress.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Event: PANW Editor to Deliver Address on 40th
Anniversary of the 1967 Rebellion in Detroit
Date: Saturday, July 21, 2007, 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Venue: 5920 Second Avenue at Antoinette, near WSU campus
Sponsors: Workers World Party Detroit Branch
Contact: (313) 831-0750, 680-5508
Abayomi Azikiwe, the Editor of the Pan-African News Wire, Will Deliver a Major Address on the International Significance of the Detroit Rebellion of July 1967
On July 23 the city of Detroit will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the 1967 rebellion. During that summer the masses of African-Americans and other working people rose up in opposition to the conditions of racism, police repression and economic exploitation.
After six days of unrest, more than 40 people were dead, thousands of businesses and residences were destroyed by looting and arson and the city was occupied by over 17,000 National Guard soldiers, U.S. Airborne Division Troops, local and state police along with government agents.
This rebellion, which was the largest to date in American history, did not take place in a vacuum. During 1967 there were other outbreaks in over 160 cities throughout the United States. The then Johnson Administration plead for calm while ordering tens of thousands of occupation troops into the urban areas across the country.
The rebellions of the 1967 took place alongside the armed struggles of the Vietnamese people against U.S. imperialist occupation; the growing national liberation struggles on the African continent and the Arab/Israeli war of June 1967.
Utilizing primary source documents and oral histories from the period, Abayomi Azikiwe, will argue that the urban rebellions of the 1960s were part and parcel of a broader struggle against national oppression, western imperialism and international racial capitalism.
In addition, a video featuring rare footage of the 1967 Detroit rebellion will be screened.
This event is open to the general public. For more information contact the Detroit offices of Workers World at numbers listed above.
Rebellion, Crisis and Transformation: A View on the Political Economy of Domestic Neo-Colonialism
By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
The purpose of this work is to chronicle the origins of the current political crises which exists in the African community in the United States. The word crisis as it is to be used in this context, refers to the current social conditions existing among the African people of America and the political response and course of action being proposed and executed by the African-American leadership aimed at addressing immense social problems faced by the African-American people. It is the contention of this study that the currently existing leadership of the African people of America are ill-prepared politically and ideologically to deal with the dire circumstances facing the majority of African people in this country. The aim of this article is to propose alternative approaches to historical problems which are increasing in momentum and magnitude.
The inspiration for the development of such a historical review arose from the fortieth anniversary of the African national uprising of 1967. In over 160 cities that year, particularly during the summer months, African poor and working people arose spontaneously in revolt against their national oppression. The City of Detroit, which at that time was the heartland of American industrialism, experienced that largest and most militant of all the rebellions taking place throughout the United States.
The Detroit rebellion of July 1967 and the political events occuring afterwards, between 1967-1973, were instrumental in charting a new course in the containment policy of the US ruling class vis-a-vis its relationship to the African masses in America. The shift from domestic colonialism to domestic neo-colonialism served as a mechanism for the American ruling class to postpone the necessity of addressing the problems created by the large-scale displacement of African people from the rural south to the urban north and west; a population shift which was caused by the industrial expansion in the northern urban areas and the unwillingnesss of the federal government to eradicate de jure segregation in the south.
The increased automation and reliance on high-technology during the 1960s created huge pockets of unemployment and institutionalized poverty in many northern urban areas. These factors coupled with the recalcitrance of the federal government to enforce the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964-65 in a meaningful fashion, lead to mounting frustration among urban African-Americans which erupted in to full-scale civil unrest in the leading commercial and industrial centers of the United States.
The thesis that will be put forward in this study is designed to illustrate that the phenomena of domestic neo-colonialism was instituted as a new form of exploitation designed to perpetuate the national oppression of African people in America. Utilizing Africans as surrogate representatives of US Capital and the continued exclusion of increasing layers of the African proletariat from the US post industrial economy, has created a demand for strategies which extend beyond the role of 'pressure groups' and 'power brokers' in regard to African-American political leadership.
The contemporary dynamics of capitalist development in the United States does not involve the expansion of labor-intensive employment opportunities. Many of the urban revitalization programs have not been geared toward the imporvement of the social and economic conditions of the African proletariat and poor, but has utimately lead to the increased impoverishment of the African urban proletariat and the escalation of class polarization between the African-American petty-bourgeoisie on the one hand and the African proletariat and poor on the other.
Such a course of capitalist development now in operation in the United States requires a sober assessment of the contemporary conditions and potential options aimed at reversing the course of oppression and moving the political mood towards one of a serious approach to these monumental problems. The complete destruction of the system of domestic neo-colonialism is the only hope for the reversal of the abysmal conditions which the African masses live under at present.
The position of this historical review is that the existing African-American political leadership, both mainstream and 'radical' have opted, one way or the other, for the domestic neo-colonial solution to the African-American problem. Many among the African-American petty-bourgeoisie have a vested interests as leaders presiding over a failed system. The decadent culture of modern-day American consumerism has drenched the consciousness of this stratum among African-Americans.
Incapable of becoming a geniune bourgeois class based on the historical development of capitalism, (it is impossible to repeat a 19th century process resulting from the primitive accumulation of capital leading to industrialization), the African-American petty-bourgeeosie has opted for the trappling of bourgeois life absent of any substance. Entirely dependent upon American post industrial capitalism for protection in their roles as surrogates towering over the African masses in their misery, this stratum has objectively become the class enemy (although secondary due to economic baselessness) to the majority of African people in America.
This historical review will not proclaim to be the last word on the current conditions of African-Americans. However, the objective is to lend clarity to the current problems facing African people from the perspective of the African proletariat. The working people initiated and led the African national uprising of 1967 despite its lack of consciousness as a class. Even though this fact was revealed in the ruling class financed studies conducted after the rebellions, it has been the petty-bourgeois stratum among the African populace which has been instrumental in the ruling class designs aimed at the demobilization of the African proletariat as a political force in the African liberation movement in the United States.
In conclusion, this work aims to point out the significant role that the African proletariat of America must play in the overall African Revolution taking place internationally on the continent, in Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America and where ever Africans are being exploited and oppressed. It is only with the collapse of US imperialism that the oppressed people of the world can envision peace, development and security. Consequently, the most exploited and nations within the domestic confines of the United States must be unleashed as a conscious revolutionary force aimed at the liberation of humanity from all forms of exploitation and oppression.
The Theory of Domestic Neo-Colonialism
The notion that African people in America constitute a distinct, oppressed, underdeveloped nation subjected to the economic and political domination of the European settler nation class, has been the contention of many African political tendencies operating within the community. The question of what constitutes a nation is key in determining the validity of African nationhood in the United States. The mere acceptance of African nationhood in the US does not automatically resolve the key questions of: where does this nations exist, i.e., what are the boundaries; what geographic areas does the land mass of the nation cover; do Africans have primary land claims to the south-central and south-eastern portion of the United States; if Africa should be the focus of the African-American political struggles, how does this fit into the contemporary neo-colonial nation-state politics of modern-day Africa?
The concept of the African community being an internal colony comprising wage-laborers and a burgeoning reserve army of labor, has been advanced by various social scientists since the late 1960s. In 1972, Robert Blauner published his study on the sociology of African-American oppression entitled: "Racial Oppression in America," where he advanced the theory of the Black internal colony. Also a further elucidation on this question can be found in Richard C. Hill's "Exploitation and Discrimination in Capitalist Metropolis: Is Detroit An Internal Colony? (1977). Hill provides a definition for what consitutes an internal colony, he states that: "a structure of capital accumulation and social control which corresponds to the logic of exploitation within a racial capitalist society."
The interrelationship between race and class is a key component in viewing the historical development of the oppressed African nation in the US, however, the partial or total recognition of the interrelationship between race and class cannot depict the totality of African-American oppression. In the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder Report of 1968, it is stated that there are two socieities in America: one black, one white, separate and unequal. This analysis of the dual nature of the US social system stops far short of stating that African people suffer national oppression. Such an admission would lead one to conclude that such national oppression could only be abolished through a national struggle aimed at ending the oppressive colonial system.
The failure of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder, commonly known as the Kerner Commission, to explicitely accept the nationally oppressed character of the US social system is rooted in the fact that the white ruling elites both liberal and conservative maintain a vested interest in the preservation of the status-quo vis-a-vis the US political economy. The ideology of racism which permeates the major social institutions in the US has served as a rationalization for the maintenance of the current system. Blauner, in relation to racism states that: "the conquest of people of color by white westerners, the establishment of slavery as an institution along color lines, and the consolidation of the racial principle of economic exploitation in colonial societies led to the elaboration and solidification of the racist potential of earlier modes of thought."
This schism based on race has been interjected into the very fabric of the production process itself. The historical development of Detroit itself can be analyzed within this context. With the increase demand for labor during the pre and post World War I periods, the industrial giants encouraged the migration of millions of African-Americans from the rural and urban south to the burgeoning industrial north.
During the years of 1916-17, over 30,000 African-Americans migrated to Detroit. At the beginning of the 1920s, the African-American population had increased by more than 600 percent over what it was in 1910. By 1925, another 40,000 African-Americans had re-located in Detroit, doubling the population of Africans, making it approximately seven percent of the city's population. This migration of African people into Detroit went unmatched by any other city in the industrial north other than the steel center of Gary, Indiana.
The entrance of African-Americans in large numbers into industrial production was carried out in a manner which perpetuated the division of the industrial workforce along racial lines. This division served the aims and objectives of the owners of capital by promoting racial antagonism in the fierce competition for jobs and housing. For example, Ford Motor Company was the largest employer of African-Americans in the auto industry, however, it kept them largely confined to the Rouge complex. Outside of Detroit, Ford refused to hire Africans as production workers, but only as menial workers. In all, the African-American was confined t the most menial, dirty and low-wage jobs inthe entire industry of auto production.
The fact that Ford had hired 12,000 African-Americans in its plants by the mid-1920s, Henry Ford I held tremendous influence in the African-American community of Detroit. His philanthropic assistance to Detroit African-American churches gave his political views tremendous exposure in the community. The Detroit chapter of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) was heavily based in the churches since its founding in 1912. Consequently, the organization became a recipient of large donations from Ford and other auto owners and executives.
In addition to the influence among the churches and the NAACP, the Urban League of Detroit, which was founded by the Empolyers Association of Detroit and the Community Chest in 1916, was instrumental in recruiting African-Americans into industrial production in Detroit. These factors served to promote a leadership subservience to the auto giants in Detroit. The NAACP, the Urban League and the churches remained for the most part heavily pro-management and anti-labor throughout the 1920s, 30s and early 1940s.
Living conditions for the Africans who had migrated into Detroit remained sub-standard. Africans were confined largely to an area known as Paradise Valley, located on the near-east side of the city. In this area they were charged high rents for deteriorating houses and apartments, and as a result, suffered disease rates 200 to 300 percent higher than the city's white population.
In efforts aimed at maintaining cheap labor and a reserve labor pool, the owners of capital encouraged the development of a split labor market in the industrial north. Racial antagonism was fueled by increased competition among African and white workers for better housing and employment opportunities.
Racial Antagonism and the Split Labor Market
As a result of the development of racial categorization in job availability, pay-scale and working conditions in Detroit, a large segment of the white working class felt that they held a vested interest in preserving racial privilege in employment and housing practices. African-Americans who were restricted as a source of cheap labor and a reserve labor pool, increasingly became the victims of racial violence. In the 1940s, the population of workers grew tremendously in Detroit. In the first three years of the decade, over 50,000 Africans and 500,000 southern whites migrated into the city. This factor of large-scale migration in the 1940s, resulting from increased labor demands in the war industry, exasperated racial tensions.
In the area of housing an acute crisis existed in regard to quality and availability. White controlled real estate firms in cooperation with the "neighborhood improvement associations" worked to keep Africans confined to their sixty-square block black ghetto on the lower east side. These restrictions created appalling for the residents of this section of the city. A report issued by the city's Housing Commission in 1941, pointed out that over 50% of the dwellings in the Paradise Valley section were considered substandard. Many dwellings utilized outdoor toilets which were oftentimes shacks built over open sewage mains. The report also noted that five-room apartments that rent in white neighborhoods for 25 dollars per month, were being subdivided into five one-rooms dwellings renting for 15 dollars each.
As a result of the large number of African-Americans in the city and the many employed in the war industry, the federal government decided to build a housing project for the African-American residents of the city. Heretofore, the public housing in Detroit had been reserved exclusively for whites. This proposal caused a tremendous reaction in the white community, leading to the so-called "race riot" of 1943 which left thirty-five people dead including twenty-five African-Americans.
The role of the white dominated United Auto Workers (UAW) during this period was quite dubious. The UAW had initially fought to keep Africans out of higher paying skilled job categories before the union was recognized formally as a bargaining unit. Henry Ford had promoted this racial division in the work force by cultivating this African workforce as an insurance against recognition in the early 1940s. In 1941, 800 African workers barricaded themselves in the Rouge Plant in order to prevent the final UAW organizing drive. Africans were also used unsuccessfully as strike-breakers at Chrysler in 1939.
Out of the necessity of war-time production it became necessary to upgrade the status of African workers in the auto plants. The response to this was usually the staging of wildcat strikes by rank-and-file white workers. In these instances, the UAW did intervene on the side of African workers being upgraded. In fact, one factor precipatating the racial tension before the June 1943 race riot, was a strike by 25,000 Packard workers over the upgrading of three African workers.
With the conclusion of World War II, the number of migrant Africans in continued to increase. At the same time, many whites began to relocate in the burgeoning suburban areas surrounding city boundaries. The breakdown in housing segregation patterns helped to foster this process. The outlawing of Restrictive Covenants in deeds for housing, resulting in the purchasing of homes by affluent African-Americans in wealthier white neighborhoods.
However, despite slight progress in housing conditions among African-Americans during the post WWII period, the problem of housing availability and quality persisited. During the 1950s, with the building of the major freeways: the Lodge, Ford and Chrysler, many African-Americans communities were violently disrupted from a social standpoint. Areas which were moved into by African-Americans soon became overcrowded and substandard based on the fluctuation of the labor market and the avarice practices of landlords in overcrowded African-American areas.
Another factor in racial antagonism among Detroit's population was the relationship between the majority white police force and the African-American community. Many police were recruited from the lower echelons of the white working class southern migrants. The overt racial intolerance of the white southern migrant worker was unleashed on the African community through the Detroit police force. In the early 1960s, the liberal Jerome Cavanaugh administration gained power in the city as a result of African-American discontent with rabid police brutality prevalent in the community.
These factors served to bring about a racist class exploitation of the African proletariat of Detroit. This phenomena was part of the overall national oppression suffered by African-Americans in the United States. The huge outmigration from the southern rural areas created massive social problems in the large industrial-urban areas of the country. Africans were still subjected to a rigid split labor market which restricted their ability for job advancement and availability. These conditions created poor residential sections occupied and patrolled by avarice white businessmen and racist police. Political boundaries prevented significant African representation in government in Detroit and many other major cities. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, unemployment, institutional poverty, substandard segregated housing, inferior education, quality health care services and working conditions continued to worsen during the middle to late 1960s.
The Uprising of July 1967
Despite the illusions of the owners of capital and the liberal petty-bourgeoisie in Detroit, the social conditions were ripe for large scale civil disorder in 1967. Detroit was the center of the largest rebellion resulting from national oppression in the entire history of the United States. For a detained account of the 1967 rebellion in Detroit and other cities see the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder report. For the purpose of this historical review we will focus on the effect of this uprising and its implication for the evolving nature of national oppression of African people in America.
The immediate response of the United States ruling class to the African national uprising of 1967 was: first, the quelling and confinement of the disorder and secondly, the cooptation of the most militant leadership and social forces involved in the rebellions. The creation of the Kerner Commission itself was a manifestation of this process of containment and cooptation. With the Commission stating that America was divided along racist class lines signalled the flood of programs aimed at quickly quelling the rebellions and embryonic revolutionary mood that was burgeoning in the community. In Detroit, the establishment of the New Detroit Committee was designed to coopt the militant community activists with the establishment of 'youth programs' and 'community development projects.'
The fact that the New Detroit Committee, whose leadership consisted of the top industrial and commercial chiefs in the areas such as: Henry Ford II, Max Fisher, Lynn A. Townsend, William Day, Ralph McElvenny, etc., made overtures to leading 'black militants' in Detroit, indicated that the owners of capital realized that the older leadership had lost credibility in its inability to prevent the Detroit rebellion. However, in these maneuvers laid the seeds of a new methodology of control more insidious in nature than the one existing prior to the 1967 rebellion.
From Domestic Colonialism to Neo-Colonialism
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in April of 1968 ushered in a new wave of civil disorder throughout the United States. The magnitude of the rebellions following King's assassination was broader and more overtly political since the African nation was revolting against the murder of its most populist mass leader. in 1967, there were rebellions in approximately 160 cities throughout America. In 1968, after King's death, there were rebellions reported in over 130 cities in the United States. Mass demonstrations were held in most major cities and the African-American youth demonstrated a heightening militant political consciousness in regard to the struggle against national oppression.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party (BPP), the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW), the Republic of New Africa (RNA), and the militant black student unions arose out of the ashes of the rebellions calling for self-determination and the end to white political hegemony resulting inevitably in a social revolution led by the oppressed African masses. All organizations, with the exception of SNCC, came directly out of the social mood resulting from the rebellions. In 1967, H. Rap Brown (now known as Imam Jamil al-Amin), the chairman of SNCC, became the focal point for repression by the United States ruling class in its effort to suppress the articulate response of African youth and workers in rebellion against the American social system.
Despite this spirit of rebellion among the African working class and youth, the most opportunistic elements in the community, many proclaiming to be 'nationalist', began a scheme of subtle manipulation of mass sentiment along lines quite acceptable to the American ruling class. The first "Black Power Conference" for example, was financed by over fifty multi-national corporations in Neward in 1967. Nathan Wright, the organizer of the Conference, wihich came on the heels of the rebellion in Newark, began a semantical manipulation of the Black Power concept to define it as a group integration into maninstream America, as opposed to individual integration as previously cited by the so-called integrationist wing of the movement.
Either 'group integration' or nor 'individual', one-by-one integration, can fundamentally change the socio-economic status of African-Americans, because neither challenges the hegemony of capital over the lives of the African masses. This phenomena of corporate manipulation of the movement manifested itself in the nationalist wing of the African-American communities through the notion that it was possible to build a parallel black capitalist economy servicing the African community and eventually the entire American economy. As pointed out in the beginning of this article, the United States is dominated by a post-industrial monopoly capitalist economy which is not condusive to the level of competition and primitive capital accumulation required for the development of a national bourgeoise in the classical European/North American sense.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson has advocated a form of 'black capitalism' since the late 1960s when he stated that: "Modern capitalism must become an instrument for a much wider base of participation on the part of the masses in the economic benefits of the nation." Such an ideology cannot liberate the African masses from economic underdevelopment and social stagnation, because the foundation of the American capitlist system is built on the exploitation of African labor during slavery, sharecropping labor exploitation and the theft of Native ladn. Such a participation by the 'masses' as refered to by Jackson, can only take place after United States capitalism has been destroyed and the growth of a socialist society is in progress.
The nature of the contemporary American political economy presents formidable obstacles to the development of genuine African-American political empowerment. The coming to power of the African-American political officials as mayors of large cities, congresspersons in predominantly African-American districts, judges, civil servant bureaucrats, etc., has illustrated the poliltical limitations inherent in electoral politics. Although African-Americans have elected mayors in Cleveland, Gary, Chicago, Detroit, Newark, Los Angeles, Oakland, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, etc., the overall social and economic conditions of African people has worsened.
The refusal of many African-American politicians to recognize this factor publicly is rooted in their political vested interests in preserving the status-quo. The fact that political participation among Africans does not extend much behond beyond going to the polls on election day to vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate, points to the limited definition of 'democracy' prevalent in the United States. In order to break the hegemony of the two ruling class party dominated politics, it is necessary to promote and nuture the growth of participatory democracy. Democracy which involves the development and execution of political policy.
The election of these officials to public office has served as a means to fostering further neglect in regard to the social concerns of African-Americans. Since African have the right to vote and 'legal' privileges equal to all other 'Americans', the government and corporate community can now proclaim that the problem is solved. The ball is now in the African-American court: if they do not succeed it is their own fault.
Consequently, the current economic blight within the African nation is subtly regarded as a product of African political empowerment within the United States social structure. Detroit is devastated because the 1967 'riot', according to the ruling class view; the Young administration, the first black mayor in Detroit, was inefficient, therefore Detroit became depressed economically. Crime is also cited as a root cause of Detroit's post rebellion crises, however, never does the ruling class viewpoint cite the large scale labor idleness as resulting from the super labor exploitation and unplanned automation of industry.
A first page article published in the Wall Street Journal on June 17, 1987, focused on Detroit twenty years after the rebellion in 1967. In investigating this story, the writer, John Bussey, recognizes immediately that the social conditions of the people are much worse than they were twenty years before. The article points out that the aftermath of the rebellion saw the influx of large-scale spending on job training and social programs, however, this was not enough to sustain long term growth and prevent ever encroaching urban blight.
According to the statistics in the Wall Street Journal article, 28% of African households were receiving public assistance and 26% of Africans are living below the officially designated poverty line, an increase of 4% since 1970. These conservative figures gives one a glimpse of the level of economic underdevelopment characterizing the African nation. Other figures of importance were the comparison of the 1967 rate of unemployment among Africans which stood at 10% with 1987's being an estimated 25% of the African labor force in general and at least twice as high among African youth.
The quotation by Detroit's first black mayor Coleman Young, who served between 1974-1994, illustrates the politico-ideological bankruptcy of his strata within the community. Young was quoted as saying: "What I've been trying to do is to develop downtown to make the hard conversion from automobiles to service and high-tech, which is what we must do if this city is to survive. There is no other answer." What Coleman did not point out was that high-tech and service industries in a post-industrial economy are not labor intensive, i.e., they will not require the employment of large numbers of unskilled or skilled workers significant enough to make a miniscule dent in the structural unemployment in Detroit.
In 2007, some twenty years later, the same strategy and political line is advanced by Kwame Kilpatrick, who was quoted in the Detroit corporate press as saying that the heroic history of the 1967 rebellion is no longer relevant to his young children. What Kilpatrick and other black mayors avoid is any penetrating analysis of their policies which ultimately benefit the interests of capital and not the masses who pay the taxes to provide public subsidies to multi-national corporations operating in the city.
The hopeless nature of the situation as portrayed by the Wall Street Journal in 1987 is again utilizing the 'blame the victim' syndrome prevalent in United States ruling circles since the 1970s. The problem of course is one created by the dynamics of post-industrial monopoly capitalism: human idleness, massive military expenditures, drug abuse, street violence, racist hatred between the national groups and the oppression and exploitaition of women. These social ailments are the result of a decaying capitalist system which can only be solved through a social revolution led by the oppressed national groups and the working class.
In analyzing the current situation of the oppressed African nation in America, we must not get stalled in the acquisition of data which lends empirical evidence to this thesis. The ultimate aim of this work is to provide a political praxis for the effective political struggle against national oppression in its current domestic neo-colonial form. In the beginning of this historical review it was pointed out that it is necessary to define what liberation consist of for the African nation. Imperialism must be defeated no doubt; but what is the most effective strategy geared toward this aim?
Africans constitute a nation based on the historical development of United States capitalism and its handling of the national question. Coming from many African nations and nationalities captured by the Atlantic slave trade, African people were subjected to the vicious exploitation of their labor, the capture and colonization of their land by western European imperialists and legal disenfranchisement and social degradation by European political structures. Consequently, this exploitation and oppression created colonized African nations on the Continent and in the Americas. The struggle is to liberate the oppressed African nations from capitalism, racialism and imperialism and to build societies devoid of the exploitation of human beings by dominant social classes.
The question then arises as to the existence of the location of the African nation itself in the United States. Many accept the view of a nations of Africans in the south-central and south-eastern regions of the United States. However, it is the contention of this article that the mass outmigration of the African rural proleteriat and landless peasantry from the southern United States into the urban and now suburban areas, has torn down the notion of territorial boundaries as a determining factor in defining the parameters of the African nation in America. Since the 1960s, the existence of large numbers of Africans in industrial and commercial centers on the north-midwest, northeast, west and growing metropolitan areas of the south, has destroyed the ability of anyone to make a credible argument for the sole existence of the African nation in the south.
Simply because Detroit exist outside the geographical boundaries laid down by the New African or Black Belt theses, it cannot be stated that the mere existence of this geographical factor would exclude the African inhabitants of Detroit from the African nation in America. It is the contention of this work that Africans throughout the United States are subjected to national oppression as described in this article and are in need of self-determination in order to liberate themselves from national and class oppression under United States capitalism.
African Liberation and the North American Land Question
The notion that Africans have a legitimate right to primary land claims in North America as a manifestation of their right to self-determination is rejected by this thesis. No historical basis can be laid for the African origins in North America. The existence of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Dineh, Hopi, etc., cannot be ignored when seeking solutions to the national question in North America. The history of capitalist development in North America was dependent upon land and mineral wealth seized by European settler-imperialists. Consequently, the only primary land claims to North America can be made by Native peoples.
The historical land base of African people is the African continent which the people were taken from as a result of the Atlantic slave trade. The fact that African labor was pivotal in efforts aimed at capital accumulation in North America and western Europe, the development of this wealth was carried out on behalf of the ruling European regimes. As a result of these factors of European capitalist exploitation of African labor, many attempt to justify the dismissal politically of the Native American's legitimate claims to primary land rights in North America. Such a position cannot be justified legally or historically.
The question then arises: how does the primary land claims of African-Americans to Africa actualize itself in the context of modern-day neo-colonialism in Africa? The present political situation in Africa is largely determined by historical and geo-political factors rooted in the colonial period. Although there have been progressive strides made in many African states and the existence during the post-independence period of a number of 'peoples' democracies' in Africa has lended a progressive current in some societies, the overall political economy of modern-day Africa is dependent upon western imperialist capital.
Recognizing the current nature of the African political economy on the continent, how can Africans in America fight for independent nationhood rooted in a methodology geared toward socialist development? Firstly, it is important to realize that the attainment of politcal nationhood does not automatically solve the problems of exploitation and oppression. The lessons of over fifty years of independent former colonial nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, illustrates that until a formal break is made with imperialism very little progress can be expected overally. Despite the tremendous assistance given to national liberation movements and developing states by the socialist countries, their (the socialist nations) economies still remain incapable of totally counteracting western imperialist hegemony within the world system.
This sober assessment requires that the African liberation movement in the United States be firmly anti-capitalist in orientation and led by the African proletariat. Only the destruction of the world capitalist-imperialist system can bring about the genuine liberation of African and all oppressed people. The African movement in America must struggle to destroy American capitalism as its contribution to the liberation of Africans and all oppressed and exploited peoples. The exercise of self-determination can be ensured with the destruction of United States capitlalism and the federation of the African nation in America with a progressive and revolutionary Africa united under a socialist political and economic system.
Africans under these conditions could decide if they wished to migrate to Africa or remain in America, but their strength will ultimately be in a united socialist Africa and a revolutionary socialist existence in America. A state mulst exist in North America controlled by the proletarian parties and mass organizations of the nationally oppressed groups to ensure the defeat of national chauvinism, racialism and imperialist-capitalism. Such a situation would resolve the foremost contradiction in modern society: the antagonistic contradiction between imperialist capital and exploited labor.
The view put forward in this work is designed to provide an analysis of the African condition and a view on how the problems of oppression, exploitation and underdevelopment can be solved. The abysmal conditions under which Africans endure in the City of Detroit provides an excellent case study for making a strong argument identifying the African-American condition as one of an oppressed nation suffering from a form of domestic neo-colonialism designed to perpetuate the existence of American political and economic power.
The solution must lie outside the capitalist system since the development of American capitalism was based on the exploitation of African labor and natural resources. The seizing of state power by the oppressed national groups in the United States and the ascendency of proletarian state power in a unified Africa can bring genuine independence and freedom to African peoples and consequently assist in the social liberation of the immense majority of humanity.
About the Author: Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, an electronic international press agency. Azikiwe has been a close observer of the social plight of Africans in the United States and the evolving character of the nationally oppressive apparatus employed by the ruling class in that country. Articles from the Pan-African News Wire have been published in dozens of periodicals, journals, research reports and web sites throughout the world.