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BA's article on ending racial oppression

Hey there, I've been checking our since meeting you guys at the george floyd protests. I read this article from Bob Avakian talking about ending racial oppression. But I don't really get what he is saying here?

"Then, when the Civil War broke out over the question of slavery, and even when slavery was abolished as a result of that Civil War, given that white supremacy had been, and remained, such a crucial part of the “glue” holding the country together, the only way to “put it back together,” on the foundation of the capitalist system, was to once again forcefully assert white supremacy."

What does he mean that this was the only way to "put it back together" on the foundation of the capitalist system. Can you use a specific example from history to help me understand?


In reply to by Anonymous

Thanks for your question. We invite other readers to both read the original article RACIAL OPPRESSION CAN BE ENDED—BUT NOT UNDER THIS SYSTEM and comment on this thread responding to this particular comment. As a start, and to cite the specific example you requested, we highly recommend the following excerpt from Bob Avakian's  “The Oppression of Black People & the Revolutionary Struggle to End All Oppression.”


In the period after the Civil War, during the very short-lived experience of Reconstruction—this was a period that lasted really for only about ten years, more or less from 1867 to 1877—the federal army, the Union army, remained in the South after the war as the enforcers of very real and significant reforms that were carried out, both in the economic base and in the political superstructure.

Today you see the Spike Lee films, and they have a reference to "forty acres and a mule"—this was the promise of land (and the basic means to work the land) that was made to Black people during the Civil War. Land ownership was at that time crucial for Black people to have as some kind of economic "anchor" and basis for them to resist being forced back into conditions of virtual if not literal slavery, of serf-like oppression, on the southern plantations.

Along with "forty acres and a mule," other economic and political rights were promised to Black people. And in fact during the brief period of Reconstruction, while the full promise of these rights was never realized, there were significant changes and improvements in the lives of Black people in the South. The right to vote and to hold office, and some of the other Constitutional rights that are supposed to apply to the citizens of the U.S., were partly, if not fully, realized by former slaves during Reconstruction. And in fact some Black people were elected to high office, though never the highest office of governor, in a number of southern states.

This was very sharply contradictory. The armed force of the state, as embodied in the federal army, was never consistently applied to guarantee these rights, and in fact it was often used to suppress popular struggles aimed at realizing these rights. But there was a kind of a bourgeois-democratic upsurge in the South during this period, and it not only involved the masses of Black people but also many poor white people and even some middle class white people in the South. During these ten years of Reconstruction, with all the sharp contradictions involved, there was a real upsurge and sort of flowering of bourgeois-democratic reforms. This was not the proletarian revolution, but at that time it was very significant.

In 1877, all this was reversed and betrayed. The bourgeoisie had gotten what it needed out of this situation: it had consolidated its hold over the country as a whole; it had consolidated its dominant position economically and politically within the South as well as the North and West.

Many of the old plantation owners were now beginning to move back in and take control of their own plantations, now involving exploitation in basically a feudal (or semi-feudal) form, and millions of Black people in particular were forced into sharecropping and similar relations of exploitation and were reduced to a serf-like condition, which was enforced by a whole system of legal and extra-legal terror. At the same time, banking and other capital from the North had bought into much of the southern economy and was intermingled with the plantation system, as well as other facets of the southern economy, on many different levels. So this whole bourgeois-democratic upsurge that marked Reconstruction was beginning to be a serious threat to the bourgeoisie, as well as to the southern planters. The northern-based capitalists had less and less interest in protecting, or even tolerating, this upsurge. They certainly didn't want to see it continue to grow and perhaps get out of their control more fully.

So in 1877 something very dramatic happened. The federal army was withdrawn from the South and the masses of Black people were stripped of even the partial economic and political gains they had made and were subjugated in the most brutal ways and once again chained to the plantations, only now essentially in peonage instead of outright slavery. And the federal troops that were withdrawn from the South were immediately used in two ways: one, to crush major strikes of what at that time was essentially a white labor movement; and two, to carry further the genocide against the Indians and to finish the job of driving those who survived into these concentration camps of poverty called "reservations" and force them to stay there. Here, once again, we see a very dramatic example of how the ruling class divided and conquered different groups of people it oppressed. And one of the sharpest examples, and real tragedies, of this is how some Black people became Buffalo soldiers fighting the Indians at the very time that Reconstruction was being betrayed.

But the larger point I am emphasizing is that here was a situation involving a major turning point in U.S. history where the question was posed very decisively: Can Black people and will Black people actually be "absorbed," or integrated, or assimilated into this society on a basis of equality? Will not only slavery, but the after-effects of slavery, be systematically addressed, attacked and uprooted…or not? And the answer came thunderously through—NO!—this will not be done. And there was a material reason for that: it could not be done by the bourgeoisie without tearing to shreds their whole system.

Instead they re-chained Black people—not in literal chains, but in economic chains of debt and other forms of economic exploitation and chains of both legal and extra-legal oppression and terror. So this was one major turning point where the system fundamentally failed and betrayed Black people. And everyone, not only Black people, but proletarians of all nationalities and the masses of people broadly, should understand this very clearly—with a dialectical and historical materialist stand, method and viewpoint.


In reply to by Moderator 1

There was a question on why "the only way to “put (the country) back together,” on the foundation of the capitalist system, was to once again forcefully assert white supremacy."

I appreciated that question since I was grappling with that too. This is one good place in which we can actually look deeper and use science as much as we can. So Even as I do appreciate the response that was given, and learned a lot from that excerpt, I think we should try and prove more of why it was the only way to put the country back together. I don't have much context of how the economy was working but it would be important to know in which ways and the "different levels" the North economy was intermingled with the southern economy and the plantation system, cuz understanding this can give a lot of insight of why it was a better thing to just let white supremacy to run rampant: Maybe having small owners (40 acres and a mule) was not producing enough material for the textile economy of the north? and therefore it made more sense to have old plantation owners go back to their plantation and hire poor blacks as workers, which would really only be as productive as slavery if they were terrorize with kkk and Jim Crow so they would accept brutal conditions of exploitation? I mean I don't know but i am trying to understand the formulation of "white supremacy is stitched together to capitalism". ANd that would be only the economic aspect of things, but there was also the cultural aspect: in the south Blacks were expected to do as told, so historically powerful man not being able to assert their authority in that way would not be good taken, were there revolts from powerful man who did not want to grant those rights to blacks? and why did the capitalist burgeoise had to allow that? in that sense: was the functioning of the economy principal? Meaning in the relation "putting the country back together", the need for it to be done by asserting white supremacy was principally economic? It would be good to wrangle over this things AND to get some suggestions on readings we can do whetehr historical recounts of the economy under the reconstruction and the period after, etc...


In reply to by Anonymous

Question on why "the only way to “put (the country) back together,” on the foundation of the capitalist system, was to once again forcefully assert white supremacy." BA is talking about base and superstructure. The dominant mode of production (hunting gathering, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, etc) in a society is the base. From that base rises the superstructure of the state, army, police, law, culture, tradition, ideas, etc. Capitalism relies on a class system, including a ruling class, which rules. One way it maintains its rule is by divide and conquer of the other classes. In the US and many other countries, one key part of that divide and conquer is white supremacy. As long as capitalism was not overthrown, even tho legal slavery was abolished, white supremacy was still a very valuable tool for the ruling class to maintain its rule. And there was a huge amount of tradition, culture, and inertia between behind white supremacy. So instead of white supremacy being abolished, it morphed into Jim Crow. And when Jim Crow was defeated in the 1960s it morphed into mass incarceration. That is how I interpret what BA is saying here. You can search for what he says on mode production, there's a short recent article on that in Also page 287 of The New Communism print edition lays it out clearer than I can.

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A statement from Bob Avakian

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Points of Attention for the Revolution

The Revolution Club upholds, lives by and fights for the following:

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