Continuing to push back against weaponized historical revisionism. The prevailing world-historical narrative over slavery and the West is an ideological exercise. This blog does not deny slavery was practiced in the West. Nor does it deny that racism exist or remains a problem. My previous blog Truth in the Face of the 1619 Project: The United States and the West Did Not Establish Slavery—They Abolished It attacks the idea that one can diminish Western civilization and the American republic on grounds that white Europeans made them. I argue that such an assessment of culture and ideas on account of race is a profoundly racist claim in itself. The claim is rooted in the fallacy that culture roots in race. We see the fallacy in the rhetoric of “cultural appropriation.” Leftwing identiarianism is founded upon an untenable essentialism about race (when convenient, it does the same thing with gender). As I will explain in this blog, this error results in part from the shift from class to race in New Left thought, largely the product of a Mao Zedong Third Worldist corruption. The public has no idea how much our culture and politics have been shaped by Mao Zedong thought. You cannot understand what Black Lives Matter is really about until you grasp this history.
The error I identified in my previous blog Truth in the Face of the 1619 Project: The United States and the West Did Not Establish Slavery—They Abolished It points to the schism between classical Marxism and the Old Left, on the one hand, and Maoism and the New Left, on the other.
Classical Marxists value the Enlightenment and modernity because they understand that these forces have historically detribalized people and reincorporated them as citizens and individuals in national communities based on liberal and secular values. Put another way, modernity liberates people from backwards and traditional structures. (See The Individual, the Nation-State, and Left-Libertarianism; Secularism, Nationalism, and Nativism; Capitalist Globalization and the Promise of Democratic-Republicanism.) As a consequence, working people have opportunities to grasp more clearly the primary determinant of their life-chances: social class. They come to recognize themselves as a class-in-itself and make possible thinking as a class-for-itself. This points to the bourgeois necessity of confusing the proletariat with ideology and propaganda.
Classical Marxists do not reduce the Enlightenment to capitalism. Indeed, communism and socialism are themselves products of the Enlightenment. Such liberal values as free speech are not the problem for Marxists. The problem is that the bourgeoisie possesses power and property to such a degree that the possibility of realizing these values in action are unequally distributed and thus constrained for the majority.
More than clearing the ground for class consciousness and opening the possibility for socialism and the expansion and deepening of democracy, the ethics of liberalism and modernity articulate the reasons for abolishing slavery. By recognizing common humanity and emancipating the person from the tribe so as to make the individual, the Enlightenment puts the black man on the same moral plane as the white man. “Am I not a man and a brother?” asked the man in chains in Josiah Wedgwood’s 1787 medallion designed for the British antislavery campaign. This sentiment is made possible by the recognition of species-being. The injustice of involuntary servitude becomes an inescapable fact in the light of modernity; rationalizations of it could only work at times and in places and only for so long. The institution of slavery is marginal in the world because the West spread this sentiment across the planet.
The Enlightenment did not invent colonialism or race prejudice. It pointed a way beyond them. It was revolutionary and universalist. By transcending capitalism, the classical Marxist argues, liberal values can be more fully realized, since the contradiction that restricts access to them would be removed. Until then, the target of resistance is globalism. Karl Marx did not stand against Enlightenment but was a product of it. He did not want to overthrow modernity but universalize it.
It was Mao Zedong thought and the New Left who reframed the political problem in racial terms, shifting the dynamic from class antagonisms and struggle to white Western oppression of nonwhites. Whereas Marx exposed the strategy as “bourgeois nationalism,” Moa embraced it. The “North-South” divide in international political economy, obscuring class antagonisms in the national context, is a product of the reframing. This is Third Worldism. This Worldism is not a class-analytical standpoint, but a race-ideological one, dressed in Marxist jargon. With its rhetoric of “oppressed nations,” Maoism pits workers of some nations against workers of other nations on the basis of race. It sinks this divisiveness down into the national context, antagonizing social relations with the rhetoric of “internal colonialism,” thus making racialized minorities appear as aliens in their own countries. In this way, minorities are alienated from their comrades in the majority. This ideology makes enemies among the people. Divide and rule. The 1983 Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, in arguing that white proletarians lack working class consciousness, and that therefore nonwhite minorities are the organic vanguard of socialist revolution, is a case in point.
That New Left ideology is not actually revolutionary explains corporate elite financing of Black Lives Matter and the broad academic and media support it enjoys. Maoist in character, BLM is promoted because of its disruptive impact on proletarian consciousness. If it were an actual class-based movement elites would suppress it. Moreover, New Left thought is useful to a campaign to delegitimize cultural, legal, political, and social institutions in order to prepare the people of the West for full integration with the transnational system of corporate governance. (See What’s Really Going On with #BlackLivesMatter; Mao Zedong Thought and the New Left Corruption of Emancipatory Politics; The Elite Obsession with Race Reveals a Project to Divide the Working Class and Dismantle the American Republic; Corporations Own the Left. Black Lives Matter Proves it; Dividing Americans by Race to Keep America From Democracy; The Endless Relitigating of the Past as a Postmodern Condition; Monument Redux: What the Defacers and the Topplers are Really After.)
The crowd in the street is not a movement for equality and justice. Such a movement would be a multiracial (transracial, really) class-based mass movement against corporate power. An authentic democratic movement would not manifest as a race-identitarian reaction canceling republican institutions and liberal principles. That is an obvious contradiction. A genuine emancipatory movement would extol democratic-republican values of individual rights and responsibilities, for these are the liberating forces that abolished slavery and marginalized racism. Such a movement would not merely eschew the regressive and racist ideology of blood guilt, but would condemn it as authoritarian and retrograde. An authentic movement for equality and justice would not strive to make our most violent neighborhoods less secure by diminishing the institutions of public safety. It would demand that the national government step in to protect citizens where state and local governments fail them. A movement representing working people would focus its rhetoric on the continuing problem of class exploitation and economic inequality. The movement’s character would be populist not progressive. It would be left-realist.
Capitalists have long used race to divide the working people. They’re at it again. What we are seeing is not a democratic movement for equality but an elite-financed elite-organized countermovement to entrench corporate governance and spread neoliberal programming. It’s astroturf.
What makes today’s race project so successful is that many on the political left have adopted the transnationalization agenda of the globalist fraction of bourgeoisie: the managed decline of the West and its institutions. The left has been duped by a deformation of critical thinking that leverages against the people the alienation caused by conditions of which they remain unconscious. As they sit in their high school and college classes listening to their teachers and professors trashing the institutions of the West, they do not hear about the most important determinant of their life-chances: the capitalist mode of production. Instead, they are in training to become functionaries of the very productive modality that exploits their labor.
The progressive deceit turns out popular forces to wage war on comrades not capitalists. The mob thinks it’s working for justice. But it’s working against itself. At least it is working against the proletariat. It’s working for corporate power. The effort is not making a more just society, but undermining the striving to manifest in law and policy the values extolled by rational and fair-minded people, and with these the aspirations, interests, and security of the American working class, including the black and brown Americans for whom the riot does not and cannot speak.