Reparations or Revolution? (2007)


During the weekend of June 22, 2007, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), sponsored a gathering in Philly.  The aim of the conference was to build and channel a broad base of mass energy towards winning reparations for Blacks in Amerika; to repair the ongoing suffering and negative effects we’ve suffered as a result of slavery, segregation and racism.

In light of the amount of work put into this conference and the overall campaign, we thought it important to say a few words on the question of reparations, to challenge the focus of this energy and to contrast it with working towards revolution.  As revolutionary nationalists and internationalists, we feel working towards revolution should be the main focus of the New Afrikan Nation in Amerika.

No one can argue that the past exploitation of Black people in Amerika did not enrich the white capitalists or that it played an insignificant part in making the U.S. today’s sole imperialist superpower.  Moreover, the capitalist ruling class continues to super exploit and oppress Black people in the U.S. and internationally.  The point and the solution, however, is not to beg for a monetary settlement but to settle accounts by putting an end to the system of capitalist imperialism altogether.

This means revolution, and we believe that this should be the focus of our energy and what we are down with organizing.  It is not a simple task, but it is pure idealism to believe that the U.S. government is going to pay out trillions of dollars to Black people simply because we make a compelling moral argument that they should.  At best all they will give is a carefully worded apology.

What we see within this talk about keeping money in the Black community is a plea by aspiring Black capitalists to get a bigger piece of the profits made off the exploitation of the Black masses.  There is nothing new about a section of the Black community profiting in this way.  It is the same old neo-colonial trickery that was used to derail the revolutionary struggles of people of color throughout the 20th century.

Capitalism is the problem, and there were Black people all along who profited from our exploitation going back to our ancestors’ enslavement back in Afrika.  There were Black overseers on the plantations and even some Black slave-owners.  Historically, Black businessmen and gangsters have fronted for white businessmen and gangsters in the Black community, and this is still the case.  Black “illegal capitalists” are a big part of the problem in the Black community, but so too are the “respectable” Black bourgeoisie.

We’re not saying that there is not some room for making tactical alliances in furtherance of building a united front against capitalist imperialism, but this class cannot lead us to liberation.  Their class interests don’t go that way.  These Black bourgeoisie and bourgeois nationalism cannot lead to the liberation of Black people in Amerika anymore than they have in Afrika.

The Nation of New Afrikans in Amerika is in a unique situation.  We cannot achieve our national liberation by separating from the white supremacist United States nor by integrating with it—only by overthrowing it and putting an end to capitalist imperialism.  So long as this system exists, it will maneuver its money and power and its military force and neo-colonial agents to keep us down and exploited.  Divided, the colonized people who have struggled for national liberation could not escape the bonds of neo-colonial economic and political domination.

Much less could we secede from the U.S. and form our own republic in the Black Belt South.  Such dreams and schemes are a diversion from what must be done.  We must pull the system down.  Black people are not the only ones exploited and oppressed by capitalist imperialism—the whole world is!  This comes down unevenly—with some people being more oppressed and more exploited than others—but almost everybody stands to gain from proletarian socialist revolution and sweeping capitalist imperialism onto the trash heap of history.

With the U.S. economy in crisis, where would reparations come from?

The U.S. government and economy is headed towards bankruptcy.  In fact it is running on borrowed money now!  Whereas the U.S. used to be the #1 lender nation, it is now the #1 debtor nation.  As the national debt grows, more and more of the GNP must be channeled towards servicing that debt.  The U.S. ruling class is doing to the U.S. economy what it has done to the 3rd World.  It is cannibalizing it.  How will it get out of the crisis it is creating?  It won’t.

No wonder leading ruling class figures are talking about the “End Times” and “Revelations.”  Imperialism is the last stage of capitalism, and globalization has only sped up the decline . So in the face of this growing economic crisis, how can any sane persyn imagine that the U.S. government would borrow trillions more to pay for the past exploitation of Black people?  And who would be the caretakers of this vast sum of money?  This is just pandering to the Black capitalist element with dollar signs in their eyes.

It’s a diversion from the real need of the Black masses to end their exploitation and oppression by organizing to make a revolution when a truly revolutionary situation presents itself—as it will.  Since 1987, when N’COBRA was founded, the situation for the masses of Black people in Amerika has steadily declined.  Unemployment has risen, and so has incarceration for millions of Black and other oppressed people.  Social service programs have been dramatically cut, and social problems have dramatically worsened.

But instead of rebuilding the Vanguard Party and mass movements of the 60s and 70s, many Black activists shifted towards accommodation with capitalist imperialism and the U.S. government.  Stripped of its nationalistic rhetoric, that is just what this reparations movement is about.

Imperialist payoffs as classic neo-colonialism

Whether given out in the name of “economic aid,” “debt forgiveness” or “reparations,” large sums paid out by the imperialists to “imperialist-approved” leaders of oppressed people is a classic neo-colonialist tactic.  It serves a purpose—namely that of propping up their control over the oppressed people and countries.  The aspiring capitalists of oppressed nationalists serve to hold in check and divert the oppressed masses from the struggle for their liberation from all oppression and channel their energy into substituting one master for another—a master through whom the imperialists can rule indirectly.

This has happened across the 3rd World, from Afrika to Palestine, to Latin America, to Native America; from Cape Town to Harlem.  The native bourgeois act as front men in the exploitation of “their own” oppressed masses.  Is this national liberation?  We think not!  It is classic neo-colonialism, which is the preferred means of domination by the U.S. Empire.  It can then talk about promoting “Democracy” and “Independence,” while reserving the “right” to effect “regime changes” whenever it suits its interests, and dollars are more cost efficient and less obvious means of control than colonial administrators.

If the oppressed people choose leaders the U.S. doesn’t approve of, it can cut off payments, as the U.S. did when Hamas was elected last year by the Palestinians.  And then there is the option of sanctions and U.S. invasion and occupation as in Afghanistan and Iraq.

India under British rule was an early archetype of neo-colonial domination, and the U.S. learned from this model.  Under British domination, India was administered by Indians for 200 years.  This “Jewel of the British Empire” was primarily administered by an Indian elite and garrisoned by brutal Indian soldiers who oppressed the Indian people.

Even under Apartheid in South Afrika, it was Black soldiers and police who did most of the dirty work of oppressing the people.  But more revealing is that after the fall of Apartheid, a native Black elite was substituted for the white colonial settler regime and given a cut of the profits from the exploitation of the still miserably poor Black masses while, the local white elite and imperialists continue to control the economy.

This neo-colonial process is how the U.S. keeps Latin America under its thumb and controls its wealth of resources.  These countries are run by imperialist agents who receive U.S. “economic aid” and depend upon a military system that props up the local elite and allows U.S. economic exploitation of their oppressed masses.  The poor are kept poor and “in line.”

The same would be the case with New Afrikans, if we did manage to convince the U.S. Government to pay us reparations.  It would go into the hands of the Black bourgeoisie elite for services rendered to the Empire.  But they don’t need to do that.  Not when straight up exploitation and oppression are doing just fine.

There are those who want to protest and seek to reform this rotten system and those who was to end it, overthrow and bury it, and move on to build a new, radically different kind of system based upon serving people’s needs through socialist ownership of the basic means of production and people’s power.  The New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter and our allies are quite clear where we stand and on the absolute need for revolution.  That is what our ideological and political orientation—“Pantherism”—is based upon.

Yes, we will and do protest the many outrages perpetrated by this system, and we do demand certain reforms, but not as ends in themselves and not to reach any accommodation with imperialism.  We do so only to build a truly revolutionary movement and to create more favorable conditions for struggle.  We need to agitate, educate and organize to this end.

To make revolution, we must have a revolutionary vanguard party that is steeled in struggle, a mass movement that builds mass revolutionary consciousness, and a revolutionary united front that is both national and international.  The Party must be guided by the most advanced revolutionary theory and organized along tried and proven revolutionary lines to facilitate the maximum amount of democratic discussion and unity in action.

The Debt We Owe 

A nation is a continuum.  It includes those who have passed on and those yet to be born.  As a nation, the most fundamental question we New Afrikans should be asking is: “What do we owe our ancestors and to future generations?”

To those whose bones lie at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and under the black soil of the South, to those who will come after us bearing our DNA, we owe our life’s blood.  We owe the determination to carry the struggle against exploitation and oppression forward to victory, so that our progeny will not labor for exploiters or suffer cruel oppression because of the color of their skin.

Beyond the Nation, we owe it to our class—to all who labor for their daily bread—here and around the world—to break the chains of servitude and subjugation—to bring to an end the Epoch of Exploitation—and to advance humyn social evolution to a higher stage.

The system of capitalism—which arose with the kidnapping and enslavement of our ancestors from Afrika—will only perish when we New Afrikans rise to lead the world proletarian revolution.  Can anyone put a price on that?

Capitalist imperialism is the final stage of capitalism.  It is capitalism in its most rotten and decadent form—rotten ripe for revolution.  It imposes poverty on the masses worldwide to serve the enrichment of a small class of social parasites.  It destroys the natural environment and wastes precious resources.  It devalues humyn life, destroys families and communities, and promotes alienation and shallow individualism and consumerism.

It is the final stage of the long Epoch of exploitation that began with the overthrow of Mother Right and the imposition of Patriarchy.  Slavery was thousands of years old before it brought our ancestors to Amerika.  So who owes the descendents of the slaves of Afrika, Asia and Europe reparations?  The evolution of class exploitation with all its suffering—wars, rapes, tortures, hunger and poverty—the suffering of slaves, serfs, tenant farmers and wage slaves—has brought us to this point it time when it can be finally ended once and for all.

The possibility of social justice for all is now a reality if we but dare to SEIZE THE TIME and take history into our own hands.  The globalization and socialization of production and advances in technology cry out for liberation from private ownership to serve the needs of all humanity.  The possibility of providing everyone on the planet with a decent standard of living, with decent health care and persynal liberty exists now.

All that is needed is the courage and conviction to take the power into our hands to do it.  The Nation of New Afrikans in Amerika has the moral responsibility to stand up and lead this revolution.  We who live within the “Belly of the Beast,” the sole imperialist superpower that was built upon the backs of our ancestors, we owe it to them, to our posterity and to ourselves not to seek accommodation with capitalist imperialism but to dig its grave and bury it!

In the words of our late comrade, Hasan Shakur, an innocent man murdered by the state of Texas because of the color of his skin: “The sooner begun the sooner done!”

All Power to the People!

Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!


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