The Burning House: Multiracialism as a Characteristic of 21st Century American Fascism
Martin Luther King, Jr. famously told his friend Harry Belafonte that he felt that he was involved in the struggle for integrating his people into “a burning house”. The full statement was:
“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”
Fundamentally liberal-reformist thought aside, it is important to take stock of the conditions under which New Afrikans and the working class as a whole finds itself as we approach the 60th anniversary of King’s murder in 2028. Where are we, and what does this burning house look like? What were the material impacts of the reformist aspect of the civil rights movement, the movement which produced concessions in the form of the Voting and Civil Rights Acts? Where did we come from?
In the period before the 1940s, with very few exceptions, New Afrikans were not allowed to entertain the delusion that we were Americans. In the South, we had no right to vote or participate in any other aspects of democratic life. In the cities of the North, where we were allowed to participate in sham democracy, our votes were under the thumb of crooked ward bosses who worked as glorified errand boys for the settler political machines. Unions were segregated, we were allowed nothing but the most menial and dangerous labor. New Afrikan women were forced into settlers’ kitchens, or underpaid grunt work in factories, men were forced into dangerous steel mills, auto plants, and other such places. This entry into the industrial proletariat and the realization that the North was not the promised land of milk and honey led to merciless manifestations of class struggle. There was a small black petty-bourgeoisie (usually owners of funeral parlors, barber shops, and professionals such as lawyers, teachers, doctors, and petty merchants) but the overwhelming class character of our nation has always been proletarian, either rural or industrial, because we were not allowed to be anything but. We were brought to this country with the sole purpose of working, and working is what we have done, until we couldn’t. This is why the fascist method of wholesale genocide that was applied against the Indigenous people could not be applied, because Black people were needed for our original purpose, labor. Huey Newton’s analysis in the early 1970s that the flight of low skilled labor overseas and the automation of plants that remained would lead to growth in the ranks of the lumpen/proletariat in our nation in the late 20th/21st centuries has turned out to be correct.
What changed in the 1960s and early 1970s? Contrary to liberal myth, the bourgeoisie was not swayed by protest demonstrations and the self-sacrifice of the Ghandian school, it was swayed first by cold economics and foreign policy considerations, and secondly by the violent uprisings of the masses. The social imperialist USSR and the imperialist USA were in contention for newly independent states in Africa and Asia, and these states were paying sharp attention to the treatment of New Afrikans within the United States. It’s difficult for a Ghanaian or a Nigerian or an Egyptian to look to the United States as a model when you have their radios and television sets showing people who looked like them being attacked by firehoses, dogs, and pigs with batons. The bourgeoisie saw that segregation not only locked them out of a substantial market, with rising income as a result of access to better jobs, but nurtured an independent Black petty-bourgeoisie which, class limitations aside, harbored a national consciousness, was well educated, and nursed a burning hatred of the settler bourgeoisie due to their being locked out of the upper echelons by racist laws and customs. This class led to the development of individuals like Dr. T.R.M. Howard and C.O. Chinn in Mississippi, who did not rely on settler capital or employment by settlers for their living and thus were able to offer critical support for Black activists in the form of housing and armed support. In short, it was a powder keg that, if allowed to continue to exist, would lead to more and more violent incidents such as riots and uprisings. Fascism had to be clever and reinvent itself to appear “open and democratic” in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the majority of the world which was then coming into its own, politically, and it also had to clip the wings of this independent Black petit-bourgeoisie by encouraging its integration into the broader, settler dominated system.
The United States military was, not surprisingly, one of the first major American institutions to desegregate with the issuance of Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948. Experiments with desegregation began during WWII with mixed units in the last days of the war against Germany, and in preparation for an expected invasion of the Japanese home islands, which would cause so many casualties that segregation would be impractical and stupid. Segregation and foul treatment of all-Black units by settler locals in the South led to countless mutinies, riots, and embarrassing situations such as British locals banning settler GIs from pubs during WWII due to their constant quarrels with Black GIs. The Cold War and its proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam required the full force and talent of all “Americans”, it was a contradiction to tell the world that America fought for democracy with a Jim Crow military, and it generally was not in the service of rising American imperialism to maintain a segregated military. Fast-forward to 2020, when Black people made up 19% of the US Army, 9% of the officer corps, and 6.5% of generals. In short, as far as the US military is concerned, we are American enough to be allowed to fully participate in their imperialist wars. We used to not be allowed to kill except in the direst of circumstances, and now we are encouraged and trained fully to do so on behalf of imperialism. We now have Black generals, admirals, and other high officers who are integral to American fascism. Colin Powell was allowed to cut his teeth murdering the Vietnamese people, and eventually rose to be the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Advisor. We currently have Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense.
Hand in hand with the military, naturally, go the police, the military force that most Americans see every day. Chances are, if you live in a Black neighborhood, you see mostly Black cops, or Black and settler cops together. I saw photographs of the unfortunate mass shooting in Monterey Park, a heavily Asian district of Los Angeles, last week where most of the responding cops were Asian. Atlanta, which is currently in the midst of overriding the people’s will by replacing a people’s park with a police training center, has a heavily Black police force, some of whom have been engaged in violently attacking and abusing protesters who oppose the training center. Most of our major cities in which Black people comprise a substantial amount or majority of the population have had one or several Black police chiefs. Does this change the character of the police? Does it have a tangible effect on the welfare of the Black masses who live under the thumb of these pigs? No, it does not. A major characteristic of modern fascism is that it is elastic, it changes according to the circumstances. If the people, led by liberals, call for more Black cops, they will receive more Black cops, but the cop remains, and the cop will think as blue, not as Black. The arrangement necessary for the continued oppression of Black people remains, it just has changed face. George Jackson tells us:
The common feature of all instances of fascism is the opposition of a weak socialist revolution. When the fascist arrangement begins to emerge in any of the independent nation-states, it does so by default! It is simply an arrangement of an established capitalist economy, an attempt to renew, perpetuate and legitimize that economy’s rulers by circumflexing and weighing down, diffusing a revolutionary consciousness pushing from below. Fascism must be seen as an episodically logical stage in the socio-economic development of capitalism in a state of crisis. It is the result of a revolutionary thrust that was weak and miscarried–a consciousness that was compromised.
This has been confirmed by the past 50 years. The upsurge in the people’s consciousness which led to civil rights movement, the rise of revolutionary nationalist figures such as Malcolm X, and, eventually to the creation of formations such as that to which Jackson belonged, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was taken advantage of by politicians and their tools. Again, elastic fascism. The important thing for the ruling class is to remain in control of their wealth and the apparatus which allowed them to extract it. Revolutionary consciousness has been diffused through a variety of methods, namely, the recuperation of the old institutions into the ruling class way of doing things. Unions are lobbying and pressure groups, not class weapons. Universities are incubators of reactionary ideas and methods posing as progressive, and many of those who have gone on to derail organic people’s struggles and movements have cut their teeth in university “activism”. Nongovernmental organizations and corporate backed foundations pour billions of dollars into what are essentially counterinsurgency programs. After uprisings such as those we saw in Minneapolis and Ferguson, these foundations and organizations serve to offer salves to the masses in the form of shiny new community centers, job training programs, and backing for politicians which carry the line of recuperation and class peace. The masses are encouraged to agitate for, listen to, and emulate Black police chiefs, Black generals, Black drone pilots, Black political bosses, Black Fortune 500 CEOs and Chairpersons of the Board. All of these positions are in lockstep with the goal of defending the continued power of the bourgeoisie as a class. According to Black Enterprise, there have been 22 Black CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations.
Kathleen Cleaver mentioned that desegregation and the opening of the upper ranks of the bourgeoisie to New Afrikans had a negative effect, in that it helped break apart our national consciousness, allowing educated New Afrikans to move to the suburbs with their white counterparts, isolating them from the masses. Historically Black universities, schools, and institutions that, for all their issues, served to nurture and develop the New Afrikan nation and advance its culture, were neglected, as talent and skills went to serve the mainstream settler society. She refers to this as a sort of internal “brain drain”, with people who in the era of segregation would have had no choice but to be among and serve their people flying to the ranks of settler America and becoming integrated…into mainstream fascism, as sellouts and tools. A Black doctor who would have spent his life saving Black lives at a clinic in the Black community, now went to produce drugs for a settler company, or teach settlers at Harvard.
Jackson tells us:
The establishment does everything in its power to ensure that revolutionary rage is redirected into empty outlets which provide pressure releases for desires that could become dangerous if allowed to progress.
This everything includes grants, changes in the makeup of police departments, and other “soft methods” that in the grand scheme of things are more palatable than the simple method of kicking in doors and assassinating people, which arouses the anger of the masses and allows the mask to slip, which serves to offer propaganda for revolutionaries. Opposing a job training program that is funded by a corporate foundation or the federal government is much harder than organizing the people against the massacre of Black Panthers and forest defenders.
Many within Black liberation circles view some type of “Black capitalism” and “paper stacking” as the main path to progress and freedom for our people. This shows a position ignorant of history and basic economics — there can only be so many capitalists, and there must be proletarians to support the capitalists. Capitalism is strictly about exploitation of humans by other humans, and Black capitalists seek the exploitation of other Black people, whether here in the United States or overseas in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa. Raw materials extracted from the periphery, labor extracted from the masses overseas or here at home, all of this is what goes into their mansions and Bugattis. Even if they “give back to the hood”, their position is still that of the exploiter, not the masses of the people. The often heard claim that “they don’t want you to get rich” is another lie in this day and age, as Richard Nixon, one of the most virulently racist Presidents in history, supported and encouraged the creation of Black businesses and “minority enterprises”. The only cure for fascism is Communism, because the two are antagonists and cannot coexist.
The burning house that we currently live in demonstrates the ability of fascism to adapt itself and change form in response to developments. In the 1940s, an attempt by a Black person to vote in the state of Mississippi was met by an instant and brutal beating. Now, we have elections in which we have two Black fascists to choose from, both of which are funded by settler capital, both of which oppose the welfare and aspirations of the broadest masses of our people. The first Black secretary of defense will be happy to make war on Africa, just as the first Black President did. The upper ranks of the fascist status quo in this country are stocked with our people, and other colonized people. Black cops beat Black men, women, and children to death. America is a multiracial country. It makes perfect sense that its fascist arrangement would reflect this.