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July 25, 2004

Debunking Black Socialism: Part One

Perhaps some of this is coherent, but it represents the kind of nonsense that is out there. I can't assume that it is as self-evidently wrongheaded to everyone as it is to me, so I guess I'll have to take it apart bit by bit here. My counter is in bold.

A Reply to Bill Cosby: Only Socialism Can Save Black Youth



by Ron Slim Washington

Black Telephone Workers for Justice

The arrogance of the black bourgeoisie was on display again as Bill
Cosby utilized the PUSH platform (co-signed by Jesse Jackson and
Judge Greg Mathis!) to continue his condemnation and criticism of
black youth. Refusing to bow to public criticism of his prior
statements on black youth at the NAACP Brown v. Board of Education
anniversary function, Cosby, puffed out his chest and took it to
black youth again€accusing them of not being able to read or
write, cursing, calling each other niggers and going nowhere. Cosby,
a chief spokesman for the black bourgeoisie, called on us to stop
blaming the white man for our own anti-social behavior.

What makes this story interesting is the struggle to find the truth
in the phenomena. Anyone with eyes open can describe social
phenomena. What is difficult is to grasp the context that shapes the
phenomena and in which the phenomena plays out.

One does not have to be a rocket scientist to see the phenomena: the
negative, anti-social and self-hating characteristics of many black
youth. Though not the principal aspect of black youth culture, it's
all around us. So all around us, that it can be described as
systemic. Cosby's description of the most negative cultural and
political aspects of black youth culture is nothing new, and in
fact, something that is talked about in every barber-shop, diner,
work place and community, everyday. It is something that our
community has been talking about and trying to deal with for a long
time. In almost every community one can find community activists of
all sorts attempting to interface with black youth and searching to
find the ways and means to channel black youth's frustrations and
anxieties in a positive direction. From little league and sports
programs, mentoring and afro-centric after school programs, to
numerous stay in school and stop the violence and anti-gang
initiatives, the black community is trying to deal with our youth.
But, of course, divorced from the black community as most black
bourgeoisie are, these positive efforts aren't recognized.

These positive efforts are singly unable to rid the country of this behavior. Only maturity and force handle the anti-social nature of some kids. One can't be rushed, the other can't be unilaterally initiated. So society basically waits for kids to grow up or screw up. This is actually sufficient but it doesn't handle the sentiment that we want black kids to do well. Some may go as far as to say that the 'suvival of the race' depends upon charitable intervention, but the problem is actually not out of control. I can't say how pervasive it is, because I'm bourgie and I don't live in the 'hood. It's not pervasive in my America.

The key question in this debate sparked by Cosby and raging in the
black community (was Cosby right?), is not whether the phenomena
Cosby described is correct, but wherein lies the cause of the
phenomena and where must our principal blows be directed? Should we
blame the system or blame the victim?

The arrogant black bourgeoisie has further revealed its defense of
the capitalist system and counter-revolutionary program in blaming
black youth, the victim. Note that as a reflection of his outright
support for capitalism, Cosby poses the problem as blaming the white-
man. By not posing the problem as blaming the system, he effectively
lets the capitalist system off the hook and like a pulling-guard
runs interference for it.

I will inject at this point that a socialist has a vested interest in blaming capitalism. I will defend capitalism as a capitalist, but keep in mind that not everything that is wrong with dysfunctional youth is economic in origin. Socialist countries have laws against theft too. So what is it that lands bad kids in jail? These are offenses against their own communities which cannot be labeled as agents of the capitalist system. (I haven't read this thing to the end, I can just smell it coming.)

The class conscious black worker recognizes that the current and
historical anti-social and negative aspects of black culture in
general and black youth culture in particular is a result of
capitalist exploitation and national oppression. The system is the
principal cause of our misery and how we respond to that misery. No
matter how repulsive and negative the anti social behavior may
appear, they can only be resolved by the destruction of the system
causing the behavior, that is, the capitalist system itself. Any
other view is hopelessly utopian and ultimately serves to throw dust
in our eyes as to what our principal task must be. In addition, the
negative aspects of our culture can only be transformed in struggle
against the system of exploitation. As will be shown later, black
youth overcome reactionary bourgeois culture and forge a new culture
only in the fight against the system. Only the complete overthrow of
the capitalist bourgeoisie, its expropriation and the rule of the US
multi-national working class can bring an end to the suffering and
anti-social behavior of black youth. Only socialism can save black

OK so there it is. Youth automatically rebel against The System. True enough, but they rebel against any and every system. This adolescent rebellion is not world historical and its impulse is not born of wisdom but confusion. This is why youth only lead youth, not adults.


The anti-social behavior, worship of the most reactionary features
of bourgeois culture and the internal contradictions amongst the
people are nothing new to Afro-American people. Throughout our
history in the US, in every period of our history, certain sections
of our community, particularly the most exploited and oppressed
workers, poor farmers and share-croppers have exhibited anti-social
behavior born of oppression. Remember how back in the day, the black
bourgeoisie castigated black workers and poor farmers for gambling,
drinking, fighting and fornicating on Friday nights in the most
dangerous sections of the black community. Remember how the black
bourgeoisie, striving for respectability in the eyes of white-folk
dissed black workers and country folk for not being a credit to our
race, and blamed them for bringing down the race. This modern day
Cosby/Jackson black bourgeoisie is singing the same old tune. E.
Franklin Frazier (The Black Bourgeoisie) where are you when we need

This is a sketchy proof but I'll allow it. Sure every group exhibits anti-social behavior, but is it born of oppression? Is it a conscious decision? You have to ask the basic question are poor people anti-social because they are poor or because they are anti-social? You would have to establish a benchmark, I think, against those who have bought into the dominant system. If you argue that the System is corrupt is it because the system, you have to prove that it's not the fault of anti-social people running the System. See? Suge Knight is a crook whether he's the head of Death Row Records, or just another brother on lockdown. Similarly Skip Gates is a sweet guy whether he's teaching at Harvard or a skinny kid from the Piedmont. Does buying into Capitalism (or Socialism for that matter) as an economic system necessitate a change in moral character. I say no. Washington says yes. Socialists aren't necessarily immoral, they're just stupid.

What is key to understand, is that not only the Afro-American
people, but all people who suffer exploitation and oppression
develop anti-social traits specific to their historical situation.
We can look at the history of the oppressed Cuban people and what
went on in some to the worst sections of Havana; the history of the
oppressed Algerian people and what went on in the Casbah, described
in the writings of Frantz Fanon and illustrated in the Battle of
Algiers; the history of the negative anti-social behavior that
existed in Soweto and Johannesburg; and in the poorest sections of
Shanghai prior to the Chinese revolution. What is important to
understand is that it is the system of oppression and exploitation
that breeds the anti-social behavior, and only in the fight for
national liberation and socialism can the behavior be changed and
the new man/woman be forged. Survey the literature on the history of
white workers in the US, and you will find that some of the most
vehement bourgeois criticism was heaped upon the anti-social and
negative social behavior of Irish and Italian workers when they
first migrated to this country and were forced into the Irish and
Italian ghettos.

Yeah yeah yeah.

When we look at the situation in the US, the negative aspects of
reactionary bourgeois culture amongst black youth are not accidental
nor an aberration. What you find in LA is what you find in Detroit.
What you find in Atlanta is what you find in NYC. What you find in
Newark is what you find in Birmingham. In short its systematic. And
if the anti-social behavior is systematic then it stands to reason
that it must have a systematic cause. For us, the question is
whether the systematic cause is the system of capitalism or
own failings as a people as our enemies would have us believe, and
which is now being trumpeted by the black bourgeoisie. Our enemies,
from day one, from apologists for slavery to apologist for
capitalism have always claimed that our lack of morality, our lack
of a desire to work, our laziness, our failure to value education
and hard-work, our single-parent house-holds, our bad grammar, etc.,
are the reasons for the conditions that we find ourselves in. From
Moynihan to Cosby, this is the same old song, sung to defend the
system of exploitation. The class conscious black worker rejects
this propaganda.

A clever conflation. If you are capitalist, then you are racist and vice versal. Washington's inability to distinguish the critiques don't make his point.

Overcoming the worst features of reactionary bourgeois culture for
black youth and the Afro-American people in general will come as a
result of bringing the youth and workers into revolutionary struggle
against the system of oppression and exploitation. Unity, a thirst
for knowledge, compassion and respect for our people (the vast
majority of workers), will come as a result of struggle to transform
the system. Only in this way will we transform ourselves.

Or you could go to college.

This is the third time I've let this 'reactionary bourgeois culture' slide by unidentified. It would be nice to have an example of this so we could all gasp in horror. What is this? The guy who puts spinning rims on his SUV and talks about the guy with ordinary rims? Are we in a struggle against the capitalism of Sprewell?

Just looking back at our most recent history proves the above point.
When we look back nostalgically at the 60's as a high point in the
struggle for unity in our community, we remember it was a time when
we called each other brother and sister, spoke of serving and
defending our community, and fought for respect for every member of
our community. The fight against the remnants of Jim Crow, police
brutality, unemployment and all of the other ills that were
manifestations of racism and capitalist oppression brought millions
of black youth into struggle. It was in the course of struggle
against the system that black youth began to leave the street
corners and the negative life-style and take up the fight against
bourgeois individualism and the dog-eat-dog pursuit of capitalist
materialism. How to serve the black community and black people?
became the call to which black youth responded. In many communities,
former gang members became political. Thousands of black youth
joined the Black Panther Party, the Simba's, revolutionary high
school and college organizations, and thousands of local community
organizations. In the course they began to develop a new black
community that had not existed since Reconstruction and the Harlem
Renaissance. Thousands of black youth selflessly quit colleges and
universities and went south to develop the black liberation struggle
or took up the struggle in their local communities. Black youth
remade themselves in the course of attempting to remake the world.
In the course of active participation in the black liberation
movement they helped to remake many black communities that for a
brief period served as hotbeds of political activity and models for
our future. Black youth developed a new attitude toward black women,
and began to refer to them as sisters and comrades in struggle.
Motivated by fighters such as Malcolm X, the struggle even went so
far in many political circles as to place the Black woman on a
pedestal as the Mother of Civilization.

There's a big fat nostalgic paragraph. It's more true that folks like my father and Ron Karenga were in a battle for the vanguard against Negroes, specifically those Christian Negroes who were considered anti-intellectual and 'counter-revolutionary'. The revolutionary consciousness they attempted to created was a challenge. It wasn't so much a gracious agenda as it is said in retrospect - it was more like 'join or die'. Like all radicals, everyone looked forward to some apocalypse that would divide the righteous from the rabble. The apocalypse never came, and 'brothers and sisters' accepted ony the more reasonable aspects of the new consciousness. I was a Simba, and there weren't even dozens of us. We black youth followed not because our inherent rebellion recognized the perfect parallel with the Struggle, we simply followed what our parents told us to do.

Black youth in thousands of communities across the country began to
put community and serving the people first, and going for self
second. The popular model of emulation in the black community, the
numbers running, Cadillac driving, conk-headed, immaculately
dressed, drug dealing, diamond on the pinkie, womanizing pimp began
to be rejected as a model for black youth and was considered played
out. We all remember the merciless criticism leveled at that life-
style by Malcolm X and the NOI. We all remember the call by forces
from every section of the black liberation movement to clean up our
communities. Swept up in the upsurge of the black liberation
movement, black youth began to re-define their world-outlook and
value system. Thirsty for knowledge, black youth began to study in
order to take part in the community discussions on fighting the
system. Black youth (many coming home from the racist-imperialist
war against the Vietnamese people) began to develop ritual
handshakes as a way of expressing the new found unity and sense of
brotherhood in the black community. Black Panthers and Simba's in
the black community, the Young Lord's in the Puerto Rican community,
the Brown Beret in the Chicano community, swept up in the fight
against racism and capitalism posed a direct challenge to the anti-
social behavior of the pimp and pimp culture. The movement became
cool to black youth. The influence was so great the even Superfly
now had to find a way to justify his anti-social behavior as serving
the community and fighting the MAN.

If you say so.

With the setbacks in the popular movement and the all around
fragmentation of the revolutionary movement, black youth are once
again without revolutionary leadership and consequently subject to
being won over to the worst influences of reactionary bourgeois
culture. In the absence of a revolutionary movement and a
revolutionary role models, Snoop-Doggie-Dog (Superfly 2000) and
Nellie (Pimp Juice) have set black youth back twenty years. But even
these popularly recognized backward role models don't do as much
damage to the black liberation movement as that done by the
bourgeois and petty-bourgeois role models promoted by the Cosby/
Jackson capitalist collaborators. Only a revolutionary youth
movement aimed at the fight for socialism and national liberation
can bring a halt to the current state of affairs.

The Boy Scouts of America fight against Nelly and Snoop Dog. So do Catholic Alter boys, Christian camp counselors, and church youth of all stripes. So do high school football teams, cheerleading squads, Four H clubs, Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls. The fight for socialism is not the sole font of decent morals, righetousness, and good citizenship. At the public elementary school my kids attend, everybody understands that Character Counts. It's hardly revolutionary and not even socialist. But if we have (finally) come to describe this 'reactionary bourgeois culture' as best exemplified by Snoop and Nelly, why didn't you say so 2000 words ago?


Black youth have a great and glorious history of rebelling against
the system of exploitation and oppression and consequently have been
special targets for capitalist repression both political and

It's not great and glorious. Further, their is nothing so special about youth culture that makes it a target of capitalists except for the disposable income they spend. Military? You must be smoking.

Though not the main or leading force, black youth have always played
an important and at times a vanguard role in the fight for black

Following their parents.

Historically denied access to education and work, humiliated by
white chauvinism and racism, targeted for police repression, etc.,
black youth in every historical period have rebelled against the
system. Could it be any other way?

How about we leave the crypto-socialist codewords out and say that black people have always struggled to improve their position in society? No, it could not be any other way. We have the example of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman who struggled for freedom and justice long before there was any such idea as Marxism

Black labor has been an essential need of the capitalist system.
It's widely understood that the slave trade was one of the essential
components of the development of the capitalist system throughout
the world. And it's even more widely understood that slavery in the
US was essential to building the wealth of the US that we know
today. The need and drive for cheap black labor, the super-
exploitation of black labor, has been and continues to be the major
factor determining the fate and situation of black people in
America. Last hired and first fired; relegated to the cheapest and
dirtiest of jobs, forced to live in the most used and dilapidated
housing and communities; having our history distorted and our
culture denigrated; and subject to extreme forms of legal and
illegal repression and incarceration, are the necessary results of a
systematic attempt to maintain the majority of black people as a
source of cheap labor for this capitalist machine.

I resist the temptation to break this paragraph up, but it betrays a determined ignorance of markets and attribution of willfullness to a centrally controlled 'System' which is directed by racist principles. There is no centrally directed capitalist machine.

Black youth are exceptionally vulnerable to the rapaciousness of
capitalism. For example, unemployment is a permanent and inevitable
feature of capitalism. You can't have capitalism without
unemployment! And it doesn't matter what your educational and skill
level may be. Capitalism cannot employ everyone because the very
nature of capitalist accumulation makes many workers superfluous on
the one hand, and the existence of a large surplus of workers
without jobs and willing to work for anything is a weapon to hold
down the wage levels of those that are working. Many of us are
familiar with the history of capitalists attempting to use
unemployed black workers to break strikes of white workers back in
the day. All of us are familiar with our bosses€™ daily threats
us to act right or he will hire someone off the street that will
gladly take less than what he is paying us.

You can't have unemployment without a minimum wage. But we are deep into socialist fundamentalist territory. I dont' have the time to unwind all of that thinking, even in this massive post.

Black workers always suffer the worst effects of unemployment.
Whatever the unemployment rate for white workers you can almost
double it to find the rate for black workers. For black youth, the
rate is sometimes four or five times the normal rate. We joke in the
black community about not knowing full employment since slavery. The
cause is the system.

An old canard. For someone so class conscious, you'd think Washington would break down something as simple as unemployment figures by class and education level. Blacks with the same educational achievements as non-blacks have unemployment levels which are comparable. Neither of us brings stats to this.

Since the effects of capitalist exploitation falls heavily on black
youth, we all know that without a job, you gon do crime. Without a
job black youth are forced into extra legal activity and anti-social
behavior. In addition, as a focus of police repression, black youth
are often the most rebellious element in the black community and are
the focus of tremendous police repression. The cause is the system.
It's no accident that the Black Panther Party captured the sentiment
of the black masses by standing up to the police. It's no mystery
that the black rebellions of the recent past were heavily influenced
by revolutionary minded and unemployed black youth. The system is
the cause.

If this were constant across the generations, the appeal of the Black Panthers would be as strong today as it was 30 years ago. But look how clearly, simply and easily he asserts that blacks who are unemployed will be criminals. Tsk. My bet says there are many more 20 year-old losers still mooching off their parents, than on the streets doing crimes to eat.

As part of the capitalist response to rebellious black youth and the
urban rebellions of the recent past, it is widely understood that
the capitalist flooded the black community with drugs. The racially
discriminatory drug laws are the direct cause of the present large
numbers of black youth and men incarcerated or €œcaught up in
system. This capitalist response served the system well. Imagine how
much more volatile the black community would be if all the young
black men currently in jail were on the street without jobs. The
60's would only have been a dress rehearsal for even greater
contemporary rebellions.

Oh this is a real gem. Supply without demand. The capitalist system also floods the ghetto with Japanese automobiles, Florida orange juice, Chinese cotton, African Kente clothe, plastic toys made in Hong Kong, music from Hollywood, food from Mexico and the list goes on forever. Why? Because people in the ghetto have the money to buy it. If they didn't, nobody would give it away for free. Explain that.

The incarceration of black youth and the army serve to cover up the
real character of unemployment amongst black youth. Add the number
of black youth in prison and in the army to the official
unemployment statistics and the picture becomes a horror. The real
question is why aren't black youth more rebellious? given their
treatment by the capitalist system. And the system's response to the
threat of rebellious black youth: prison, army and the promotion of
reactionary anti-social behavior. Could it be any other way? The
system is the problem. The problem with the spineless Cosbyite black
bourgeoisie is that they want capitalism without its horrors .an

The reason black youth aren't more rebellious is because the conditions do not support revolution. This is the singular fact that all of the trumped up rhetoric of Washington fails to acknowledge. The ghetto functions, albiet strangely, with the efficiency it does because it exists within the greater context of the markets of America. It is permeated by and co-exists with the broad mainstream. It is never too far away from the goods of America. The electricity stays on, the phones always work, the gas pump doesn't run dry, the shelves at the markets are in better shape than any third world country and better than many in the second world. It may be a ghetto, but it is an American ghetto - and that means conditions never get so bad that riots are the order of the day. If they were, then the people would riot, like they did in Los Angeles in 91, like they did in Detroit in 68. But the conditions are not that bad. Repeat. The conditions are not bad enough to sustain open rebellion against society.

The essential irrationality of capitalism is reflected by poverty in
the midst of plenty. You can't have capitalism without the horrors
that result from a system based upon the pursuit of profit above the
pursuit of people's needs. You can't have capitalism without horrors
that come as a result of the ownership of all of society's wealth by
a small hand-full of capitalists whose soul is driven by the pursuit
of profit. You can't have capitalism without unemployment. You can't
have capitalism without war. You can't have capitalism without
exploitation. And given the particular history of US capitalism, you
can't have capitalism without racism and the oppression of the black

Nonsense. American capitalism is sustained by the consumer economy. 2/3 of the GDP is all about the goods and services that go into the average American home. Light bills, phone bills, gasoline, car payments, groceries, insurance, doctor bills, and all that ordinary stuff. Coming from the 'Black Telephone Workers for Justice' Washington ought to know how much capitalism is all about people talking to each other on the phone. Ooh exploitive!

The entire history of capitalism has demonstrated that the
systematic exploitation it exacts upon the toiling masses, always
bludgeons, beats down, alienates and kills the spirit of the weakest
sections of the working class and oppressed masses. This is an
inevitable horror of the capitalist system. You can't have
capitalism without its horrors.

Which is why we need extraordinary leaders like Washington to remind us of these horrors.
The most disgraceful and reactionary character of the mis-leadership
of the black bourgeoisie is that it attempts to mis-lead the black
masses of working people into believing that our justice can be
achieved within the context of the capitalist system. Hence, Cosby's
attempt to sell black youth the myth, that by dressing correctly,
speaking correctly and black bourgeoisie's sacred cow €œgetting
good education, black youth will achieve liberation. Only
revolutionary struggle aimed at overthrowing the capitalist system
and the building of socialism with save black youth. Anything else
amounts to throwing dust in the eyes of the youth and amounts to
wishing for capitalism, without its horrors. As Malcolm said, that
won't even happen in Hollywood! Capitalism without exploitation and
oppression is like night without day or a hit by Harold Melvin
without the Blue-Notes. It's the system, baby!

Only revolutionary leaders need education. They will direct the black masses to the proper revolutionary consciousness. Freedom requires the destruction of capitalism. This is a recipe for disaster, not that most people are big enough suckers to believe it.

There's more of this garbage to sift through, but I've had enough for this morning. It's truly sad that the people for whom this tripe is directed may not have a good number of alternatives. We can only hope they check out this website...

Posted by mbowen at July 25, 2004 10:18 AM

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