Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
[Editor: the author’s name is not listed on the original web post]
The purpose of this short article is to put to the pen a number of thoughts that have been working themselves out in my head recently about the default eurocentrism of the north amerikan left and the necessity for a genuinely anti-colonial position. I have been attempting to working out these ideas for myself regarding just what exactly such a position would look like, so please keep in mind that this is a work in progress.
First: Anti-Colonialism is NOT a Tendency, Plain & Simple
The general practice of the white and multinational lefts in occupied north amerika is to submerge the aspirations of Onkwehón:we (First Nations, Michif, Xicano, Genízaro & Boricua) and Afrikans for national liberation, land and independence underneath “the class-struggle,” which we are told pits the proletarian class against the capitalists. This reduces the national liberation movements of the domestic colonies of north amerika to mere tendencies or affinity groups within larger multinational class-struggle oriented organizations and movements (marxist-type parties of various stripes, anarchist federations etc.).
Onkwehón:we and Afrikans are told over and over again by the eurocentric left and its agents that it is only through broader “class unity” with the settler working-class that we can achieve our goals of decolonization. We are told that once the settler-led proletarian socialist revolution happens (because let’s be real, “multinational” in north amerika will always be code-talk for “settler-led”) on this continent we will be able to succeed from the corpus of the empire if we so please.
This is however, i contend, an utterly backwards formulation. It is necessary to understand that north amerika is a prison house of nations, and that as such it is without a single, unified class structure; there is no ineluctably singular “proletarian” class here. It is also necessary to understand that class structure is also quite different not only between the domestic colonies and the settler nation, but also from colony to colony. The Xicano colony for example is perhaps the most fully proletarianized of the the colonies (a process that went hand-in-hand with the process of de-tribalization of individual Indigenous nations). On the other end, tribal First Nations, both urban and rural populations, exist almost en masse outside of traditional capitalist production relations. First Nations experience oppression and exploitation not in the form of traditional capitalist labour exploitation but rather as ongoing primitive accumulation/accumulation by dispossession, in other words through the continued theft of our land and resources. The other domestic colonies occupy middle ground with mixed proletarianized and de-classed strata. All of the domestic colonies also posses small national pseudo-bourgeois elements (individually wealthy persons: car dealers, professional athletes etc.) and labour aristocracies of greater or lessor size.
However, what is most fundamental to understand is that the national-colonial question colours all other struggles, including, but most especially, the class-struggle. This can be most concretely seen in the positioning of settlers workers within the empire. Settler workers are, by and large, an embourgeoisified, non-exploited labour aristocracy, a pseudo-proletariat if you will, with a privileged lifestyle far above the levels of exploited and colonized nations of the world, both outside and within imperial borders. While there have been high tides of radical white working-class struggle, perhaps most clearly seen in the early work of the Industrial Workers of the World, that movement ebbed nearly a century ago. Since then the settler working-class has primarily functioned as a bulwark of colonial and fascist oppression domestically and imperialist aggression overseas. Their class aspirations are petty-bourgeois in nature, seeking a greater slice of the imperialist pie.
It’s been said before that under imperialism nations become almost as classes, and this is true of the situation here on Occupied Anówarakowa Kawennote. The class-struggle remains of central importance, however it does not take the form classically held by marxists and class-struggle anarchists of an antagonistic contest between an amorphous multinational “proletariat” on one side and the bourgeoisie on the other. Rather the class-struggle is concentrated within the national-colonial question which sees the proletarian and de-classed elements of the domestic colonies struggling against the imperialist white nation and its enriched, bought-off garrison of petty-bourgeois settlers.
Second: Racism is Not the Primary Locus of Onkwehón:we & Afrikan Oppression on Anówarakowa Kawennote
Understanding the role of national-colonial oppression on this continent allows us to also put into perspective one of the major planks of the north amerikan white and multinational lefts: anti-racism. Most of the left on this land has waxed eloquent about the “origins of the white race,” the horrors of racist police abuse and mass incarceration, and about how overcoming racist thinking is necessary for genuine revolutionary organizing. However, racism is a phenomena of the imperialist-colonialist superstructure. What most of the left refers to as “racism” or “racist oppression” in north amerika is in actuality the superstructural element of colonial oppression, which is a real, materialist relationship between the masses of the domestic colonies and the settler nation. Racism is the ideas in the minds of most of settler garrison that have arisen from, and reflectively continue to justify, the colonial oppression of Onkwehón:we & Afrikan People.
The focus on racism and anti-racism on the part of the majority of marxist and anarchist organizations in north amerika is an outgrowth of their position that views the north amerikan empire as an entity with a unified class-structure and a singular proletarian class. Given that, as noted above, the settler working-class has, more often than not, been the most reliable shock troops of colonialism, the left has had to seek a reason for this seeming contradiction in what they hold to be the fundamental nature of the proletariat. Relying on an array of, somewhat brutalized, extractions from gramscian, lukácsian, althusserian and post-marxist thought, they have put forward the notion that the development of white supremacy (white power is a better, more accurate, term) was/is an insidious plot by the bourgeoisie to fill up the minds of the settler garrison with false consciousness and ideology in order to break a supposedly previously unified working-class.
This is bunk (i don’t really have time to explain how it is here, but please see this site’s suggested reading section for works that eviscerate this position at length), but it is important to address the fact that this kind of politics is profoundly obfuscating. The implications of the anti-racist focus in terms of revolutionary direction are two-fold:
This obscures the actual point of national-colonial oppression. Onkwehón:we & Afrikan people suffer under the heal of a really-existing material relationship rooted in exploitation and ongoing accumulation by dispossession, the solution to which is self-determination and national liberation, not radical integration into the klan fortress that is north amerika. While racist ideas kicking around the brains of white folks is a problem, it is not the fundamental problem: if Onkwehón:we & Afrikan people are allowed to determine our own destinies then these malicious ideas become of secondary importance. Indeed they are likely to wither away relatively quickly once the tables flip and Red & Black Power become the order of the day.
Third: The Belief that Settlers Have an Inherent Right to a Future of Stolen Land Has Got to Go
A genuine anti-colonial politic in north amerika must abandon the idea that settlers have an inherent right to a piece of this continent. It’s not that settler anarchists and marxists explicitly claim such a position, because they don’t (at least not that i have ever seen), but it is implicit quite clearly in their various lines (other relatively superficial disagreements aside) Here i am not addressing those formations and individuals whose lines are entirely rooted in anti-racism, as how that position leads to this point doesn’t need much explanation; rather i am aiming this at those forces who have a politic that recognizes, on some level, national-colonial oppression (often alongside racism as some kind of dual racist-national oppression).
Most of the marxist-leninist and maoist formations in north amerika, as well as some anarchists, put forth a sort of watered down recognition for anti-colonial struggle. Not only does it tends to be subsumed under a theoretical rubric problematized by the first two points i raised in this article, it is further inherently limited by a non-recognition of the liberation aspirations of Onkwehón:we. Many of these formations provide lip-service support to Afrikan, Xicano & Boricua independence, but tend to only provide vague platitudes when it comes comes to the question of First Nations.
Perhaps i am too much of a cynic, jaded by too many negative experiences working within and with settler-dominated marxist and anarchist movements, but i believe that this is because they have a deep psychological unwillingness to confront the consequences of genuine Onkwehón:we liberation. They can support Xicano, Boricua and Afrikan independence because while they would have to allow the succession of a few, sometimes quite large, swaths of imperial territory to oppressed nations, it is a scenario that leaves the bulk in settler hands. Support for the liberation of, and return of land to, First Nations and our Michif and Genízaro cousins, as well as our Xicano and Boricua family, and old Afrikan allies, would mean the surrender of the overwhelming majority, if not the entirety, of the settler nation’s land base.
Indeed, this the reason that the settler garrison exists at all: to physically hold down the land against the people from whom it was seized. This is also why the the colonial state enacts every kind of juridical tool at its disposal in order to head off Onkwehón:we land claims outside of a revolutionary situation.
The settler left cannot imagine a future where the garrison nation does not continue to hold down the majority of the land of Anówarakowa Kawennote. It doesn’t matter if settler society is re-organized on the basis of a confederation of autonomous anarchist municipalities or a federative socialist workers’ state: so long as the land is not relinquished back to its original owners then all that will develop is settler colonialism with a marxist or anarchist face.
So it must be recognized that all of Anówarakowa Kawennote is stolen land, and that over the course anti-colonial revolution all of it must be liberated, even if that goes against the material interests of the settler population. The rights and aspirations of the domestic colonies must be given primacy.
This means the return of all land seized via treaty, the overwhelming majority of which are demonstrably fraudulent, and were never signed in good mind on the part of settlers. Self-determination that is restricted to the open air prisons that are reservations and reserves is not real national liberation.
It also goes without saying that it must include the return of the enormous swaths of land (including for example the vast majority of so-called British Columbia) that were seized without even the slightest pretence of treaty making. Additionally the return of all lands to our nations which continue to exist, but which have no recognition from the colonial-state, or were written off as extinct, but whose existences have been continuous, must also be of highest priority. This includes the lands of many nations in new england and the Atlantic Coast.
We must also include the a right of return for those nations who were pushed west into Wisconsin, Ontario, Oklahoma and other places by the manifest destiny expansion of the united states and kanada. This means that the garrison population must surrender control of former Choctaw, Cherokee, Oneida, Lenape, Muscogee, Seneca, Munsee, Shawnee, Fox, Kickapoo and others’ land in the southeastern and northeastern woodlands for them to have autonomous space within which they can begin to rebuild their nations on the land to which they they are tied to intimately by identity, language, spirituality and culture. Self-determination of the prisons to which one was exiled is not self-determination.
Finally it must also mean the negotiation, should the Afrikan Nation seek it (something to be self-determined internally by the Afrikan nation without any form of external interference), of an Autonomous Afrikan Zone as part of the larger bio-regional confederacies that will form in the wake of the break up of “north amerika.” It must also mean reparations to the Onkwehón:we & Afrikan Nations.
These goals, once accomplished, would wipe out the the material basis for the existence of the white nation, which only exists by dint of genocide, enslavement and occupation. Only after all of this will it be possible to negotiate a future for the former occupying nation, but such negotiations must take place between the former colonized nations, not necessarily with the consent of the settler population. Indeed, given that the consolidation of the settler nation was dialecticaly tied to the colonization of Onkwehón:we and Afrikan peoples, then the elimination of the material basis of the settler nation via anti-colonial struggle may well result in the dissolution of that entity.
Once all of these things are understood, of the primacy of anti-colonial struggle, and the fullest understanding of what that portends for revolution on this continent, will it be possible to claim that one has arrived at the most genuine possible anti-colonial politics.