Why a Black Liberation Theoreticians Directory?
And, why now?

Abdul Alkalimat (6/30/2014)

To grasp the importance of these questions we will first define our terms, set the historical context, advance our selection criteria, and finally state what we hope to accomplish with this project. Black liberation is a multi-dimensional concept. It is the strategic goal of freedom, a revolutionary process to end all forms of racism, national oppression, and capitalist exploitation. It also includes the tactical battles that defend Black people in their everyday struggles against the constant attacks on all fronts in the evil system. Black liberation involves strategy and tactics, reform and revolution.

Theory consists of ideas that sum up what is and has been (the current condition and history), what can be (the future), what processes of change are possible, and what social forces (e.g. classes, nations, etc.) are in battle to advance or resist these changes. One kind of theory is idealist, when people begin with their imagination and make up their questions and answers without any serious investigation of the actual conditions of society. They can always think of themselves as being correct regardless of how the world is actually turning out. A quite different kind of theory begins with perceptions of actual conditions and uses empirically based dialectical logic to generalize perceptions into conceptions.

The linking together of these concepts with (again) dialectical logic creates sentences with theoretical content. The first approach has concepts valid only in the abstract while the latter is linked to actual social reality guiding one to practice that can have an impact. What is interesting is that everyone is theoretical in this way. Theory is part of cultural knowledge. Folk wisdom is materialist and based on the accumulated lived experience of a people. We must avoid the error of only valuing “approved” theory legitimated by some authority or traditional standard, analytic concepts that attempt to be systematic. Most theory is not systematic, even if that is a desirable goal that we work for. So by Black liberation theory we are beginning with a very broad inclusive approach.

This is necessary in this historical context. There are four main aspects of our current historical moment that create the necessity for this Back Liberation Theoretician Directory.

1. Transformation of the global capitalist system: The old national based industrial capitalism has been transformed into a new global informational capitalism based on the revolutionary transformation of information technology. There is an unprecedented polarity of wealth producing permanent war and new polarities of ideology and religious fanaticism of many varieties. It has produced a global surveillance state. If there ever was a time for the movement to have “all hands on deck” it is now.

2. We face the great set back of historical gains: The national liberation movements in the African Diaspora for the most part have been reversed and now face failing state structures and unprecedented impoverishment and terror for African peoples throughout Africa and the Caribbean. The movement toward social equality by African Americans has been reversed and exists now for an ever smaller section of the Black middle class. The autonomy of our social justice movements, and movement for political empowerment has been replaced by state and foundation funded NGO’s who set the agenda and parameters for “radical discourse.” Voting rights are being eliminated state by state. Much of this is being implemented by a government led by Black people.

3. Black people have moved to the left: Check the PEW study that reports the only demographic group that rejects capitalism and approves of socialism are Black People. This is something that the movement has yet to fully grasp.  There is no need to relive the ideological battles of the African Liberation Support Committee of the 1970’s, the last great confrontation of narrow Black Nationalism and dogmatic text based Marxism Leninism. Most now know that Black people must unite and fight against racism and national oppression, and that this has to be rooted in the class struggle because middle class Black people cannot and will not free poor and working class Black people who must rise to fight for themselves and be the leaders.

4. The spontaneity of our peoples fight back needs organization and leadership: The most recent national example of this, following on Jena La. and Katrina, is the response to the murder of Trayvon Martin. People rose up in every community. Opportunist elements funded by the state and the corporate mainstream tried to rush in and claim leadership of national coordination. This kills the movement. Elitist “public intellectuals” get TV time to talk about the movement with little or no links to the actual social motion on the ground.

There is a great need for grounded local forms of coordination, moving things toward the unity that can produce higher forms of struggle, a bluing of our flame on a regional and national level. This is the mission of the Black Left Unity Network. Given this historical moment it is clear that our approach to the BLT Directory has to embrace fight back on all fronts, to embrace writers of text, public speakers, and activists on the front lines. All represent some level of theory, some explicitly stated and sometimes implicitly encoded in their acts of resistance.

Everyone in the directory is committed to advancing the freedom of Black people with language that represents the articulation of theory. Some have the big picture, grand schemes for the revolutionary process, and some with a focus on a particular battle front. Some say it, and some sing it. Look forward to more artists, more ministers, and certainly more prisoners and labor activists. Critical to this is our focus on gender. No excuses – 50% men, and 50% women, with full embrace of the diversity of lifestyle and sexual orientation that exists in our community and in our movement for Black liberation.

We have initiated this project for several reasons, with clear goals in mind:

1. There are many of us fighting back, formulating ideas to advance the struggle for freedom, men and women. Some of us write, some talk, most actively organize to build the movement – step by step. We need to acknowledge who we are, respect each other and begin once again to listen and learn.

2. Our goal is to establish a base line of unity, something we call the 80-20 principle (lots of agreement allowing for some disagreements). We are building a movement not a unity homogeneous organization that speaks in one voice. We have many voices that need to be heard and while unity will be the dominant aspect we embrace the fact that there will be a diversity of views, even some differences.

3. We do this as a frontal assault on gender inequality.

4. We do it to challenge the dogmatists or elitists who narrow the discourse to what they think are important questions or their key conceptual framework. We want to engage the actual discourse that exists, and practice the mass line – engage what the movement is saying, synthesize it, clarify the contradictions and move toward greater and greater degrees of unity.

5. Finally, our goal is to build a movement, and we think showcasing a directory of BLT folks is a positive step in that direction. If people listen to what they are saying we might begin to believe a movement is possible and overcome a debilitating Afro-pessimism.

Note that the list is a work in progress, many names yet to be included. You can have a role to play by making your suggestions. SEND US YOUR NOMINEES

We have focused on living people as the critical factor right now, but soon we will begin to include the ancestors and those in the African Diaspora. One essential methodological point is the need to have digital material, text and video. This is a style of work issue.

The debate over ideas is welcome as we need information and clarity. Let’s do this in the spirit of searching for unity – if you know something of value then teach the rest of us, but also be prepared to learn from others as well.

Forward Comrades ................