Pan-Africanism and Its Contradictions by Malik Sekou Osei - Veritus Vampirus #807
Submitted by folkie on 27 May 2013 - 4:33pm
Veritas Vampirus #807: Osei & the Eccentrics
LEFT OF THE "LEFT"
News from the Undead
The Rude-imentary Truth
Published in the United States of Mohawkia,
a subsidiary of the Republican States of Nightmarica
and PNOC: the Project for a New Orwellian Century.
One Critic’s Journal of Fact & Opinion.
Telling Truth via First Person Politics in
a Culture of Lies; the Gadfly in
Everyone's Ointment, and the
Home of Befouled Belles Lettres.
ISSUE #807 MAY 2013
by Mark S. Tucker,
provocateur, hector, meta-anarchist
“Have brain, will use; have pen, will poison.”
ASKING THE UNASKABLE, SAYING THE UNSAYABLE, REMOVING THE "LEFT'S" ARTIFACTS.
THE V.V. MISSION STATEMENT!!!: Fuck mission statements.
Slice, dice, saute, braise, cook over high heat, serve with toxic garni, shake vigorously, then throw in the trash. (The V.V. recipe for consuming conservative and "Left" radio.)
While it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people...it is true that most stupid people are conservative. - John Stuart Mill
You can lead a liberal to knowledge, but you can't make him think.
Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. - Robert F. Kennedy
Social-lites receive awards from groups because of their activism; Socialists get expelled from groups because of their activism. - Mike Alewitz
Up yours. Up mine. But, up everybody's? That takes time! - 10CC
The German Conservative Party is to the left of the American Democratic Party. - Steven Hill
Truth offends worse than falsehood. - Jack Vance
I'm on the right side with the wrong people. - Ian Masters
All I have is a voice / To undo the folded lie. - W.H. Auden
Everyone lies. - Gregory House
Je pense donc je suis…dangereux. - Descartes / The MiSFiT (updated - you knew it as 'Cogito ergo sum')
In journalism, reactionary and liberal alike, the function of "slanting" is to permit reader and writer to ooze virtue without paying for it. - Eric Bentley
First they fight you, then they backstab you, then they just gripe, then they sit sullenly, and finally they call you prophetic. They're wrong in all cases. - The MiSFiT
The search for Reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings, for it destroys the world in which you live. - Nisargadatta Maharaj
If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you. If you really make them think, they'll hate you. - P.T. Barnum
You read 100 good reviews and 1 bad one, and the bad one always seems to make more sense. - Johnny of Radiohead
History is on our side but not time. - Malik Sekou Osei
We are Anonymous. We are legion. We don't forgive. We don't forget. United as one, divided by zero, expect us.
Politics is violence. - CTraffik
Veritas Vampirus' patron saints: Sarasvati & Ikkyu
...I guess I'm just an annoying guy. - Bill Hicks
For in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Ecclesiastes 1:18
THE HOLY TRINITY OF DOCTRINE:
With the intestines of the last priest, let us strangle the last businessman.
When you see the mouth of a conservative, Republican, businessman, priest, or politician open, what you're hearing are lies.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups; in fact, never underestimate the stupidity of any group.
The two irreducible basics of Leftism: 1) No religion, 2) No capitalism. Lacking conviction in those, you can't possibly be a Leftie. End of story. Sorry.
THIS ISSUE: After Bill Bowles sent out a recent INI tear sheet with a link to Joe Bageant’s “Lonzy Parker is Missing”, a very cool first-person diarist piece, a number of readers wrote and commented that my work has striking similarities to Bageant’s. I’ll of course take that for the compliment it is, but have to note to some of those correspondents that, no, I can’t contact Joe…because...well...he’s dead. Kicked the bucket in 2011. Often, this fairly new oft clumsy system of re-posting articles (in this case as a 2013 entry) is a bit misleading and not exactly linearly coherent (I’m guessing it arises from style guides), so y’all might want to be a little careful in scanning such marginalia. At some point in the future, I'll be proposing a single unified style system that eradicates all the numerous problems of each (a recent reformulation I worked up for the now very fucked-up PowerPoint protocols obtained extremely good results in testing situations in a lab for teaching applications, sooooooooooo........).
I’ve aways liked Bageant’s work ‘cause, though he may not have been as scabrous as me or as willing to name “big-time” names (he too, like Hedges and Null, had to nurse his access points), the guy tread well off the path of third-person insularity and oft spoke profanely, scatalogically, as well. BIG points for that. Funny, though, ain’t it?, that many of those who referred to the guy on air or in print – Mike Malloy, for instance – wouldn’t veer an inch from their careerist paths to emulate Joe in the least.
Heh!, the “Left” isn’t dead. It never was alive.
This issue sees the last in a trilogy of excellent articles by Malik Osei, essays shedding new light on some very famous figures from a first-person POV. V.V.#808 will turn the binoculars on Leon Trotsky for the similarities that celebrated revolutionary experienced in group situations as well. After Leon will come the chronicles of a titan in American letters, some mook named Mark S. Tucker, as a third rail in the raggle taggle theme of gaggles. Basically, the thesis statement is this: Fuck groups.
Sigh! Too bad we can't live without 'em.
The following are links to some of my CD / DVD reviews recently-ish posted at FAME:
Doubt 'til thou canst doubt no more…doubt is thought and thought is life. Systems which end doubt are devices for drugging life. - Albert Guerard
First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do. - Epictetus
Cultivate only the habits that you are willing should master you. - Elbert Hubbard
THE DANCE OF THE SILLY ECCENTRICS
Pan-Africanism and Its Contradictions
by Malik Sekou Osei
(ed. by M.S. Tucker)
[[[EDITOR’S NOTE TO NEW READERS: This is the third in a series of essays by Malik Osei. It can be read independent of, or in concert with, the previous articles. If you’d like copies of those first two, just let me know.]]]
Mark, please excuse my venting and personal history, as I am just going through a number of things from the top of my head. I went to an event last Saturday centered around Elombe Brath up in Harlem, and I feel that as we point a hopeful direction out, we must always also show where not to go lest we lead ourselves to a dead end of emptyheaded sloganeering as any true form of Leftism.
While the Brath event was nice, even pleasant, it was simultaneously the usual cultural, nationalist, idealization love-fest in search of a hero upon whom to erect a history that never existed. I must tell you that I went for personal reasons, out of respect for Elombe, and to see people I hadn't seen in a number of years. I had emerged from the Patrice Lumumba Coalition of the mid-70s and was hoping to run into some old comrades from back in the day. I saw one or two, but the old membership itself simply didn't respond, didn't bother, even though Elombe was one of the founders of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition (PLC).
I wasn't really surprised by the lack of response from these old cadres. I had come out, as said, from the PLC and the problems with the Angolan Civil War of 1975. My work at the United Nations through the PLC, dealing with various people and peoples, proved to be good training even despite the contradictions of the PLC itself. Being at the U.N. forced me to quickly understand the world and various mutual contradictions among forces. I dealt with the Cubans, the Angolans, the South Africans, the Guineans, the Ghanians, the socially/culturally posturing Nigerians, the bourgeois and ambivalent French West Africans and their unhidden careerism, all kinds of factions. I also had to deal with the Chinese and quickly understand Mao and the Chinese role in Africa as well as their accusations of the Soviet Union of Soviet Social Imperialism. This struggle for clarity I pretty much accomplished on my own, though I had a lot of help from Samori Marksman through his structured approach of actual attempts at cadre development.
What a lot people never really knew or understood about the PLC was that all of us within the organization came to learn about critical events in Africa at the same time as the people in the mass meetings, so a number of comrades had to take notes during the meetings in order to understand events in Guinea or Angola or South Africa. This is important to know because one of the contradictions of the PLC was that it was functioning as a mass dynamic of very articulate men as theoretical charismatic leadership, even though it was neither mass nor actually charismatic nor creating the conditions for an organization to host or create a mass dynamic. This approach to agitation left the group open to a number of eccentrics and came to rely upon racial sentimentalism lacking any a real grasp of imperialism.
In all my years there, we never had any discussion on the work of Amilcar Cabral or Frantz Fanon nor did we lay any theoretical summary of their contributions to the actual struggles against imperialism. This wasn't good because the PLC Guinean leader Ahmed Sekou Toure was the supreme theoretician, leader, and visionary of the continental African Revolution. I came to know the work of Fanon through Marksman. I would go to Marksman's house over on Washington Ave., and he would fill me in on the struggles and history of Guinea-Bissau. It helps then to know that Elombe's leadership style was that an intellectual individualist pursuit based solely on the rigor of his empirical research of newspapers that most of us never had the resources to purchase, especially as international newspapers cost a small fortune at that time.
This was the difference in leadership styles and world views: Elombe thought to make public, in a popular way, a Pan-African agenda through spontaneity of racial sentimentalism and concern over the continent while Samori was more grounded in seeking development of leadership among internal members, not just followers of any public line of PLC. This of course created an interesting environment, but, on this Saturday, none of the other leaders of the PLC were mentioned, Irving Davis and Markmen barely achieving even lip service despite their historic importance. Alas, there were deeper questions that I didn't expect to be addressed during the tribute for Elombe, but the absence of those things was nonetheless disappointing. It would have been more than idealistic of me at this social celebration for Elombe to hope for an actual somewhat rigorous inspection of the history of the PLC. That absence, though, presented problems.
A number of people and speakers praised Elombe's Pan-Africanism without ever defining it, the history of its development, or an explanation of its crisis. This was unfortunate, as the major questions of the African-American people are two-fold: 1) the ideas of Pan-Africanism, are they solely the political practice of a struggle to create Africa into a centralized nation-state based solely on race or on the inhabitants living on the continent?, and 2) if so, what is the political organizational form and practice? That is, can Pan-Africanism be basically a United Front formation or an advance party formation? What is its most popular call to mass party formation under the guise of popularism, and how should these formations function outside Africa, in the US and Caribbean?
We have seen the usual racialized sentimentalism about Africa give space and rise only to eccentrics as activists. Looking at the actual practice of Pan-Africanism, it was just a lot of sentimental busy-work based purely on symbolism. Even with the years of work done in Harlem, our community doesn't know or care in any real sense about African liberation. It isn't even mobilized around its own material interests here in Harlem. While Elombe would elucidate the work of Carlo Cooks in the city, the manifestation of this form of nationalism did not exist in any activism formed around contradictions in Harlem but rather in the sentimentalism of some grand coronation of Garveyism as relevant to actual struggles for power against actual imperialism.
Pan-Africanism at this point could never move beyond racial idealism relying on racial sentiment in understanding the contradictions of the world and in particular Africa. The major problem for the organization was not the struggle for actual power anywhere but instead was a competition for getting bigger and bigger crowds for the spokesmen, never organizing an actual base among our people. The contradictions at the time arose because we relied too much on informed charismatic spokesmen who would in practice never develop informed comrades to lead and build the formation. Thus the so-called cadre of the PLC became stuck in a time warp witnessing odd diplomatic moves regarding Guinea without understanding imperialism beyond white racism. Our actual work became simply a matter of passing out fliers for each new public meeting, far too simple idealist agitation built around profane ad-hoc-ism.
In such a realm, the first thing that gets purged in actual practice is any view of dialectics, epsecially regarding the seduction of empiricism. This leaves all theoretical questions in the trash bin and opposes actual practice, which turned out to be more than blind, hoping that mere informed rhetoric would lead to a mass dynamic of spontaneity based on a consciousness of racial injustice. Thus, I wasn't surprised when I saw a host of comrades vainly trying to ignite spontaneity via slogans…and Elombe began working with these forces (i.e., D12, the December 12th Movement) while searching for audiences and for public relevancy under, I can only guess, a supposed paradigm of a United Front.
A lot of comrades argued for an understanding of history as a vehicle of liberation while at the same time advocating a United Front as the “necessity” of African-American political history of liberation, never seeming to understand that United Fronts are used only in the very immediate sense of forces about to take power, never as forces of protest. This was, of course, very dismaying.
I suppose I'm being cynical when I say the evening program was hosted by elected official Carl Davis, and he did a fine job of trying to keep things really on time. I was surprised there was no admission fee, and the dinner, too, came without cost. Well, if nothing else, I'd gotten the names of the restaurants and, the next time I go out to have dinner, I'll drive there to eat. I said hello to everyone except the D12, and there were a number of old jazz musicians there that I've always really enjoyed, people like Randy Weston and a few others. At the same time, though, we had the usual sentimental agitprop poetry beatifying a love of Africa inspired by our African ancestry.
Sigh! I was simply bemused by it all, and once again had the opportunity to witness comrade Viola Plummer elucidating her usual sloganeering substituting as analysis. She began shouting “LIVE LIKE ELOMBE, LIVE LIKE ELOMBE!!!!”, and I guess this fit the sentiment of the evening. However, right after Viola, the U.N. ambassador of Cuba arrived and gave a very warm tribute to Elombe from the Cuban government, beginning his speech by stating that he was a veteran of the Angolan Civil War against apartheid South Africa. The thing that surprised me, however, was the fact that I never knew that Amina Baraka [formerly Sylvia Jones, second wife of Amiri Baraka] could really sing. After she talked about the importance of Elombe, she sang Billie Holiday's “God Bless a Child That's Got His Own”. I really liked that.
The true surprise, however, came from Amiri Baraka himself, who took the podium after his ex-wife. He remarked that we're living in very dangerous times and, with the death of our artists, our brains shrink because we lose the people who would tell us “a fool is talking” as we lose our humility and sense of things. He buttressed that by noting that, after the death of Hugo Chavis, the world is indeed a less safe place, even noting that “a Black man is kicking our asses” - referring to Obama - and that we need all our brain power to understand and explain that. I mean, I was REALLY surprised to here him speak like this after months of his going back and forth about the matter on the BLU site wherein he argued that Obama was better than Romney, Barack being the lesser evil. My position has always been that Obama was just another enemy of humanity in representing imperialism, so this "conversion" of his was nice to hear.
There were a number of other forces there: Leonard Jeffries, a number of elected officials, John Liu, etc. I saw Carmel Yarbourbo and several really great jazz musicians who once played for Elombe's AJAZZ organization. I even saw a number of older sisters who used to model for Miss Natural, something pulled together by Elombe and his brother Kwame back in the late 50s. I thought that I might run across some surviving members of Carlo Cooks' or the African Pioneer Movement, hoping someone might give an explanation of how Elombe come to Garveyism through Cooks. I met some of Elombe's other brothers but found the fellows rather self-involved and dismissive.
Making things even more bizarre, as dinner was served, there was a really good traditional jazz band present, but we also heard from and saw a number of perfectly irrelevant personalities, a host of just simply too loud agitprop poetry from angry sentimentalists. Ah well, we can't expect much from these forums, can we? They're just celebrations for our community as it loses its ability to wage confrontation in the realm of ideas and practice, so what should one expect? When the activist class is in search of celebration as a form of cultural resistance, it offers nothing in political actuality. That was the case here.
Attending the Elombe Tribute showed that some very real questions still need to be asked, the chiefest one being: How does one evaluate and assess African-American intellectuals in relation to the complex problems of “being” or “becoming” representatives and spokesperson on behalf of “the” race or “ethnic group,” the Black masses? This has to be addressed in two levels. On the first level, as creative artists or intellectuals, how does one evaluate and measure the creative end-product? On the second level, as African-American spokesmen, to what extent does the art's and artist's analysis of the African-American situation get to the bottom of its own reality, its lived reality? The struggles at this point must and will come into the Black community's artistic expression, for our so-called militant art is not insightful of everyday African-American life, but instead possesses an Afrocentric feel-good of escape into ancient kingdoms of self-esteem and false motivations.
Without those two questions being answered, we create a vacuum of silly eccentrics coming in with slogans and bright rhetoric, hucksters garbed in bright African clothing and posing as elder statesmen / modern day royalty. It must be said that Pan-Africanism was one of the venues that tried to fill that vacuum but had nothing of substance to offer outside a strange pride in an ancient history of kingdoms in Africa, a subject, like everything else, uninspected by both its messianic leadership and gullible followers.
NEXT: Trotsky - Pt. 1.
The priest tight-fisted with his money and the philosopher tight-fisted with his discoveries are both stealing from the poor. What is more, I think discoveries are only valuable and secure when they circulate among the general mass of people; I am impatient to take them there. - Diderot
...you will learn a little of its nature. You'll feel the rot of it, the leprosy that will not be stamped out, and you'll see that its face is always respectability. - R.A. Lafferty
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Mark S. Tucker is a writer, editor, graphic artist, Commercial Jetliner Systems Analyst (747), martial arts quasi-trainer, paralegal, and holistic medicine interne-practitioner, among myriad other pursuits. He’s been published nationally in i/e, Progression, Expose, Sound Choice, E/I (founding co-editor), OPtion, Signal to Noise, Camera Obscura, and other magazines. On the Net, he intermittently critiques music and conducts musician interviews for Perfect Sound Forever and reviews CDs for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME) and The Buzz About. As well as being a decade-long past member of Rowrbrazzle, a cartoonists / animators / writers society, he was also published at OpEdNews.com - a sickness, granted, but he’s now better, though his 116 articles there were destroyed by the publisher, Rightie-in-hiding Rob Kall. Nonetheless, thousands of his articles and reviews have appeared over the last two decades, often formulated to piss someone off..........you, perhaps?
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