Sunday, May 8, 2011

Corporate Fascism and African America

“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution. Pass on the torch. Join us, give up your life for the people.” -George Jackson

Its official, fascism is here. As the United States economy continues to deteriorate leading to imperial collapse, all pretenses of democracy are abandoned. Moreover, as political commentator Glen Ford notes fascism in the U.S. has distinguishing features from previous forms such as those that developed in twentieth century Russia, Italy, and Germany.

The most striking contemporary example is the state of Michigan which passed a law giving broad powers to declare a municipality insolvent, dissolve its local government and unions, and establish an appointed emergency “financial manager”. This new law and others like it will have a disproportionate negative impact on Blacks, particularly Black workers, due to the distinct form of national oppression they experience.

Beginning in the early twentieth century, large numbers of Africans in the southern United States began to migrate to Northern and western cities to escape white terrorism, legal segregation, and overall lack of economic opportunities.

One of those émigrés was a man from Alabama named James Boggs who migrated to Detroit. While a factory worker he wrote several tracts discussing Black liberation from a communist perspective. He wrote “automation replaces men. This of course is nothing new. What is new, is that now, unlike in earlier periods, the displaced men have nowhere to go.” Prefiguring Sidney Wilhelm’s Who Needs the Negro by several years, Boggs foresaw that deindustrialization and automation would have a devastating impact on Black workers recently arrived from the south who had secured work in the industrial sector.

Similarly, William Robinson in his work on global capitalism discusses the exclusion of almost one third of humanity from the global economy. In other words, large numbers of oppressed nationalities inside and outside the United States are surplus labor. In the 1960’s the frustration of these economic conditions resulted in urban rebellions all over the United States including Benton Harbor. In 2003, following a police chase that ended in the death of a young Black male, Benton Harbor, which is 92% African, exploded in three nights of rebellions.

Looking at the numbers it’s easy to see why. At the time, in neighboring St. Joseph, which is majority white, the median income was $37,032, Benton harbor’s was only $17,471. In addition, 32% of St. Joseph residents were college graduates but only 4% of Benton Harbor residents were college graduates. Today, nearly half of Benton Harbor lives below the poverty line.

In order to further the agenda of 21st century corporate fascism the governor of Michigan dissolved the city government and appointed a “financial manager”, who is paid $11,000 a month. The elected officials of the city are essentially now only allowed to open and close meetings. Andy Kroll, in an enlightening article in MotherJones titled “Behind Michigan's "Financial Martial Law” describes how the neoliberal think tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has promoted union busting, privatization, and emergency financial measures such as the one currently effecting Benton Harbor.

Furthermore, between 2002 to 2009 the Mackinac Center collectively received over $350,000 from right wing elites such as the Walton (Walmart), Davos (Amway), Koch, Prince (Blackwater now Xe) foundations. The current situation in Benton Harbor is an example of what Naomi Klein refers to as disaster capitalism. In short, disaster capitalism is an attempt by elites to push through extreme economic measures during periods of duress such as now, that normally would be rejected by the general population. The question is what do we do to confront and eliminate corporate fascism?

In 1969, James Boggs published a pamphlet “The Manifesto of a Black Revolutionary Party.” In the document he argues for the creation of an All-Black political party with the goal of overthrowing imperialism and capitalism and establishing a socialist system. Such a party is needed today. With the rise of corporate fascism, electoral politics loses even more credibility; therefore, the primary focus of the party should be organizing outside the electoral system. Using national liberation movements such as the Black Panther Party and Hezballoh (minus “Islamist” ideology) as a model, the party should orient its work around social programs such as liberation schools, free clinics, and other basic necessities that are needed by the majority of our community who have been virtually excluded from the American economy.

The goals of the social programs are to become full self-sustaining institutions, vehicles for recruitment, and to demonstrate to our people what socialism and self determination truly look like in a concrete way. The decline of the U.S. Empire has presented Black revolutionaries with an excellent opportunity but will they take advantage of this historical moment? Only time will tell….


Boggs, James. “Manifesto of a Black Revolutionary Party” in Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook: a James Boggs Reader (ed.) Stephen M. Ward. Wayne State University: Detroit, MI. 2011.

Davey, Monica. “A State Manager Takes Over and Cuts What a City Can’t.” New York Times.

Ford, Glen. “Michigan’s “Emergency” Financial Regime: What Fascism Looks Like.”

Kroll, Andy. “Behind Michigan's "Financial Martial Law": Corporations and Right-Wing Billionaires” Mother Jones.

Paulson, Amanda. “Michigan Riots: Tales of Two Cities and the Gulf Between” Christian Science Monitor.

Jackson, Jesse. “Time for an Uprising in Benton Harbor” Chicago Sun Times.

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Metropolitan Books: New York, NY. 2007.