by Ajamu Baraka, published on Black Agenda Report, May 3, 2023
Red Scares, McCarthyism, COINTELPRO, “Black Identity Extremists” are all indicative of how the colonized are treated by the state.
“America is just as much a colonial power as England ever was…what do you call second-class citizenship? Why, that’s colonization. Second-class citizenship is nothing but 20th (century) slavery. How you gonna to tell me you’re a second-class citizen? They don’t have second-class citizenship in any other government on this Earth. They just have slaves and people who are free! Well, this country is a hypocrite! They try and make you think they set you free by calling you a second-class citizen. No, you’re nothing but a 20th century slave.”
–Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet
In the colonial context, the colonized have no rights that the colonizer ever really needed to recognize. Therefore, any social space that Africans in the U.S. experienced were won through resistance. The historic fight for African self-determination and liberation from the anti-human colonial/capitalist system has been an uninterrupted feature of what we claim as the “Black Radical Tradition.”
An unapologetic opposition to the U.S. colonial/capitalist project and U.S. imperialism centers the Black radical tradition, along with internationalism and a commitment to socialist transformation. It is this tradition of principled, militant resistance that has been a constant source of concern and, consequently, systematic repression of Black/African radicalism by the U.S. colonial/imperialist state.
Fascism, in its historic form within the U.S. Southern apartheid system to its contemporary expressions, spearheaded by hegemonic neoliberal capital and operating through the Democratic Party and the state’s repressive apparatuses, continues to target the organized elements of the radical Black/African movement.
The “Red Scare,” where African Americans were physically attacked and murdered for just wearing their uniforms returning from World War I, the attack on the Garvey Movement, COINTELPRO, to “Black Identity Extremists,” – the state and its paramilitary associations have waged continuous war against African/Black people since the arrival of the first Africans in what became the United States in 1619.
Therefore, the indictments brought against the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and its Uhuru Movement mass formation should be seen as consistent with colonial practice. The only difference with these indictments is that the target is not just Black radicals. The indictments represent not only a veritable declaration of war against African/Black radicals, but left opposition in general in the U.S. This is the lesson that is strangely being missed, judging by the relative silence from left forces.
We are told from the indictments that “Russia’s foreign intelligence service allegedly weaponized our First Amendment rights — freedoms Russia denies to its own citizens — to divide Americans and interfere in elections in the United States,” according to Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
And how was the APSP dividing “Americans?” They were sowing something referred to as “discord” by opposing the disastrous war in Ukraine initiated in 2014 when, after the U.S.- backed coup, the U.S. gave a green light to their newly installed puppet government to carry out attacks against its own citizens in Eastern Ukraine who were opposed to the coup.
With the indictments, the Biden’s administration’s message is clear. First amendment rights will only be respected as long as you are in agreement with the state. But if you are one of the still oppressed Black members of this white supremacist, settler-colonial state and you dissent from the prevailing views, not only will your first amendment rights not be recognized but you also might face criminal prosecution.
As dangerous as this is, there is also something deeply racist about the implications that oppressed Black people will only oppose U.S. foreign policies when instructed to by a foreign power. The apparent assumption this belief is based on is that Black people are only supposed to be concerned with abstract, domestic demands like demands for “racial justice” or so-called criminal reforms. International issues and specifically U.S. foreign policies are beyond the understanding of Black people and ought to be left for white folks. Of course, this racist construction contradicts the lived history of African/Black internationalism at the center of the Black radical tradition.
Yet, as absurd, and racist as this position is, it, nevertheless, represents the beliefs of members of the Justice Department, or at least is what they pretend to believe. With the indictment of members of the APSP the state claims to have uncovered a vast conspiracy between the Russians and the APSP to corrupt the ideas and perceptions of ordinary “Americans.” And what are those unassailable and unchallenged views and perceptions that ordinary “Americans” are supposed to have? Overwhelming and unanimous support for the Ukrainian war that could only be corrupted by a campaign of Russia inspired “disinformation and misinformation.”
According to the indictment, the task of the APSP was to make it appear that there was strong support in the U.S. for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to build support for the 2015 United Nations petition that characterized U.S. treatment of African people in the U.S. as genocidal! The idea that the African People’s Socialist party or any Black radical organization needed encouragement from Russia or anywhere to take a position in opposition to U.S. imperialism and the genocidal policies of the settler-state against indigenous and Africans is racist nonsense.
The implications that opposition to the U.S. and NATO-manufactured conflict in Ukraine is ipso-facto evidence that the individual holding that view may be a Russian agent or unduly influenced by Russia propaganda is meant as intimidation. It remains to be seen if this move is an overreach on the part of the state.. However, for international audiences, the indictments is seen as the desperate move by a faltering hegemon that has lost global public opinion on the war and needs domestic ideological reinforcement.
The Fire this Time: McCarthyism Without Left Support
It is clear that the FBI, liberals’ new best friends, are still targeting Black Activists in the U.S. Why? Because for the state and for liberals, independent Black radicals are viewed as a potential if not actual internal enemies and a threat to national security.
The indictment of the APSP represents a tactical escalation that must be seen for what it is – a new declaration of war on Black radicals and by extension the uncompromised elements of the U.S. left.
The historical parallel is when the Truman administration indicted W.E.B. Dubois in 1951 as an agent of a foreign government. At that time he supposedly was an agent of the Soviet Union because as the Vice President of the Peace Information Center, he opposed war with the Soviet Union and advocated for peace and a peaceful relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
In both cases, the targeting of Black radicals reaffirms that radical Black organizations continue to be seen as security threats to the U.S. national security state. The indictments of APSP also further exposes the superficiality of its commitment to liberal values of free speech and the right to association and the more blatant turn to authoritarianism.
The crisis of capital today has resulted in liberalism losing its ability to contain forces of opposition and legitimacy. Consequently, more repressive practices were required. However, the ideological terrain had to be prepared for that to take place. Russiagate played that role.
The result? Unlike during the first McCarthy era when there was some opposition, however tentative, to the heavy hand of government repression, today, with the exception of a few left organizations and commentators from libertarians and the alt-right, the targeting of the APSP has been met with silence.
Once again, Africans will be abandoned. And once again, we are reminded that, despite the ideological mystifications from Negro politicians and confused, class reductionist leftists, the exploited and colonized African/Blacks working class has only itself to rely on to defend our right to self-determination and collective self-defense in this settler-colonial hell-hole called the United States.
*Featured Image: Some groups targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO.
Ajamu Baraka is Chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace and an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the U.S. based United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) and the Steering Committee of the Black is Back Coalition.