I would like to say that I have always had a leaning towards revolutionary politics that my heart has always held the fire of truth and the need to press it to earth until the flowers of revolution bloom, but that would be a lie. I came to understand and accept revolutionary politics within the last year, prior to this I had been pretty much an anti white- black nationalist and in my youth, just filled with anger for and envy of the white elite. I make the distinction between my acceptance of revolutionary politics and my more previous selves because I believe that the dismissal of an entire group of people, while satisfying for whatever reasons and justified by certain reasons, is reactionary in the sense that it is not a scientific and sensible conclusion to dismiss people based on generalizations. When we talk about revolution, we are talking about a coming together of peoples for the liberation of the oppressed masses, which come in all shapes and forms. A recent post over at a comrade’s blog largely inspires this post.
Lately I have been feeling very depressed over the prospects of the building of a revolutionary movement because of the extreme patriarchy of the straight male leftist I have found myself around. I have no doubt that revolution will happen; I feel it as strongly as I do the first conscious breath in the morning. What is concerning to me what kind of society and movement against White Supremacist Patriarchal Capitalism we are building in the here and now. It is increasingly disheartening to be in spaces that don’t see the contributions of feminist thought and other gender oppressed folk to be as important as works about narrow definitions of class. In an environment of such intense class reductionism, where crucial theory is either left out of discussion or completely out of the practice of the revolutionaries real social interactions I have been left to ponder where my place actually is in this struggle. I see the struggle against Capitalism as one that must, at it’s core be anti-racist and feminist, because my life has not been merely shaped by being a person born into the ghettos of the United States. I am a Black Queer, which means my life and politicization has revolved around the politics of race and gender oppression under patriarchy.
We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation. We have arrived at the necessity for developing an understanding of class relationships that takes into account the specific class position of Black women who are generally marginal in the labor force, while at this particular time some of us are temporarily viewed as doubly desirable tokens at white-collar and professional levels. We need to articulate the real class situation of persons who are not merely raceless, sexless workers, but for whom racial and sexual oppression are significant determinants in their working/economic lives. Although we are in essential agreement with Marx’s theory as it applied to the very specific economic relationships he analyzed, we know that his analysis must be extended further in order for us to understand our specific economic situation as Black women.
– Combahee River Collective
Growing up, I found myself in the margins of many conversations about Black people’s history and struggle. Not only were queer Blacks not mentioned in class or discussion, but also homophobia was a horror all too common. It was acceptable to see a gay man beaten near death, to approached in the dark by one of his straight brothers expecting sexual favors in exchange for survival, or to have a teacher tell queer students that the harassment they faced was due to their gender expression. There was no sanctuary or quarter. Appeal to the white majority, through escape to appeal to the police, was met with racism. Police didn’t care and White queers, in large, were out to exploit or exoticize. I found solace in the fact that one day I would be able to build my own community, something I learned through reading the fiction of James Baldwin and realizing that others like me existed.
As I entered the emerging student movement in 09’, I was introduced to the politics of Marx and Marxism. Immediately, I was taken back by the fact that I was expected to get down with some dead European, who was probably a racist ass. As I mentioned before, I developed an intense, at times, unbearable, hatred for white people. One thing I gained from organizing was the ability to see white people as allies for the cause of ending the budget cuts. It wasn’t until reading more works of Marxist past that I was able to begin to understand how we are all connected under the dictatorship of the capitalist and how our particular oppressions connect and shape us. This inspired a compassion within me, even for those who I saw as beneficiaries of privilege or oppressors.
I identified with the struggles of revolutionaries of all backgrounds because I understood that the struggle to end racism and patriarchy cannot be done in isolation from the struggle against capitalism, which springs from and uses these wicked roots to enslave us all.
Coming into myself more in organized bodies and struggle against the budget cuts, brought me to the understanding that I must articulate my thoughts for myself in order to not be crushed under the growing pressure of giving myself to the struggle. It was my responsibility to contribute to discussion about direction and practice. In observation and practice two things became apparent to me: work in many organizations was valued when it could be quantified and class struggle often meant that race and gender were things that could be dealt with after the discussion of “real politics” was done. Something fell off a shelf in me. It was my utopian picture of revolutionary and militant organizations. They were places that like the rest of the world, needed to be struggled within. I began to feel marginalized and uncomfortable as the parade marched on, often taking a back seat to certain conversations because I felt that it wasn’t my place to speak if my opinion and lived experience wasn’t what mattered.
I found strength and courage in my female comrades, some of whom were also queer, they lent validation to my thoughts. Their struggles in building organizations with gender-privileged comrades were stories for me to learn from.
As I stated in a previous post, I believe that safe space, often mislabeled separatist, organizations need to exist in conjunction with integrated ones. I am a staunch believer in the fact that oppressed people reach a certain deepness of discussion and healing in circles of people who have similar lived experience and that this gives them the strength and tenacity to be able to enter into bigger orgs and to argue for their positions. It is also imperative that larger integrated organizations not rely on the few people of color, or gender oppressed people to be the sole teachers of their specific oppression. It is the task of the revolutionary to educate and seek out knowledge on his or her own, at times, and to not find themselves solely reliant on their partner or Black friend for that particular history and it’s relevance to revolutionary struggle.
At this point I find myself at a new beginning. I am eager, in this new year, to put my thoughts into practice and help to build dual power in the left for the gender oppressed. I believe to my core that if we are not serious in incorporating feminist analysis at the core of our challenging of power, then we are doomed to a kind of winter. And for the sake of the revolutionary movement, we need passion fueled by warmth, enough to birth three summers.
I want to leave off with a poem that not only sums up how I feel but that has also been very key in my political development:
I believe in living. I believe in the spectrum
of Beta days and Gamma people.
I believe in sunshine
in windmills and waterfalls,
tricycles and rocking chairs.
And I believe that seeds grow into sprouts,
And sprouts grow into trees.
I believe in the magic of the hands.
And in the wisdom of the eyes.
I believe in rain and tears.
And in the blood of infinity.
I believe in life.
And I have seen the death parade
march through the torso of the earth,
sculpting mud bodies in its path.
I have seen the destruction of the daylight,
and seen the bloodthirsty maggots
prayed to and saluted.
I have seen the kind become the blind
and the blind become the bind
in one easy lesson.
I have walked on cut glass.
I have eaten crow and blunder bread
and breathed the stench of indifference.
I have been locked by the lawless.
Handcuffed by the haters.
Gagged by the greedy.
And, if I know anything at all,
its that a wall is just a wall
and nothing more at all.
It can be broken down.
I believe in living.
I believe in birth.
I believe in the sweat of love
and in the fire of truth.
And I believe that a lost ship,
steered by tired, seasick sailors,
can still be guided home
– Affirmation, Assata Shakur