Musings on Art, “Culture”, & Revolution

Nina Simone’s “Young Gifted and Black” a political anthem of affirmation

I want to issue a call out to all artists, revolutionaries, and anyone else who seeks to affiliate themselves with the class struggle. The heading will read: “URGENT!!! Class Struggle Seeks Culture.” Thoughts surrounding the absence of any critical amount of organic art and the lack of any kind of synthesis of the so-called elements of “culture” into the class struggle hae been racing through my mind.

Class struggle is apart of and comes from the cultures of the oppressed but for some reason leftists and ethnocrats have drawn lines in the sand between the two. It has become a tendency in the left to mock cultural events as being non political, when, in my opinion, the expression of culture that differs and establishes its independence under white supremacy is political because it strikes against the very structure that seeks to assimilate it. It’s true, at times strong class struggle politics that seek to organize along more radical, and less “beg the man” lines, are missing and this is a very crucial element. However, the outright absence of the so-called “left” in these spaces does nothing but contribute to this void.

It also follows, that there has become a habit amongst the ethnocrats, and by ethnocrat I mean the large bodies that organize around ethnicity with very dogmatic lines on what is and what isn’t, to ignore more radical class struggle politics. The line of it being a “white man’s thing” in reference to Marxist tradition is often used. And emphasis is placed on finding and creating something of “our own”. The main problem being that if one does not call out and attempt to strike at the nature of capital itself than true liberation cannot happen seeing as though the pillars of capitalism, racism, and sexism all hold up the same house. Striking at one pillar while seeking to preserve the others does not truly serve the cause.This brings us to the core of the empty rhetoric; there is no class consciousness. This comes as a result of lack of exposure to revolutionary text and people or an outright rejection of the contributions to class struggle by Marx and Lenin stemming, in most cases, from a reaction to the vicious racism of the White Capitalist system of the United States. Thus anything “White” is bad. Fred Hampton once stated the following:

people joining the BPP from a background of poverty might not understand the ultimate goal of “a communistic state”. Without political education, those who joined the party because they “wanted something”, would find themselves wanting more. This would lead the revolutionary movement to capitalism, and “before you know it, you’ve got Negro imperialists”.

These two diametric trains of thought provide us with no real path toward people’s liberation because they are missing one another. In the White Supremacist power structure, it is crucial that oppressed people of color reclaim what has been viciously stolen from them, what the system has attempted to beat out of them. Culture informs us, it informs the steps we take and contributes to the creativity and strength of the coming revolution. In the same vein, the contributions to revolutionary thought and action must all be looked at equally and used accordingly. If we are to say that we are about people’s revolution then we cannot lock ourselves into one dogmatic corner of the human experience.

On a similar topic, but maybe not quite, I began talking about the lack of a strong and organic output of art that compliments and a accompanies the movement. I am immediately reminded of Emory Douglas, of the Black Panthers, in the 60’s and 70’s. In an interview Douglas spoke about how the party would make scans of his art and hang them in the streets, on fences and everywhere else as a means of bringing the bourgeois art show concept into the street and of agitation. Music, and image have the power to touch people in a way that not a million words can because they strike at the being of a person, they touch at the “spirit” if you will.

A piece by Douglas

However, looking at the current situation one can see on the horizon a time when this type of renaissance will make a resurgence. If history shows us anything, it is that the majority of the art community becomes political when the conditions intensify to a degree that cannot be ignored.

One of my favorite poems about police brutality.

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