Class and The Movement for Black Lives

Story Transcript

JARED BALL, TRNN: What’s up world, and welcome to this special edition of imixwhatilike! here at the Real News Network.

I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore, and what we’re doing in this special edition is, with my cohost here, Bill Fletcher, formerly of the Global African, we’re going to have a conversation with this august panel of experts, activists and artists about the role of race and class in this moment, the moment of Black Lives Matter and more. So, Bill, do you want to?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Yeah. I want to welcome everyone to this, and certainly welcome our panelists. And let me just begin by just a little context, but also, first, an apology: It doesn’t take a great deal of analysis to look at our panel and realize that there’s a gender imbalance, and I want to apologize in advance. The invitations had gone out quite equitably, and we expected to have a very balanced panel, and unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. So I want to just apologize in advance to everyone that’s watching this, and apologize to the panelists.

In the last couple of years there’s been an explosive change in Black America and the rise of the movement for Black lives, and specifically organizations like Black Lives Matter. But it’s been within that context that various trends have started to surface, and trends of thought, and within those, there’s this odd situation, at least something that I’ve found odd, which is that there is increased attention about what’s been described as anti-Black racism, but very little attention to matters of class. Very little attention to the issue of capitalism and, to some extent, an ambivalence about other forms of racism that permeate US society.

And so we thought that it would be a good time to have a discussion about, well, like, what exactly is going on? What do we make of this, and, actually, what are the implications for the future of the Black freedom movement in the 21st century? So with that kickoff, let’s start with how you all see this moment, and do you think this observation that I’m offering is on point, or am I missing something?

NETFA FREEMAN, PAN-AFRICAN COMMUNITY ACTION: I guess I’ll jump in.

FLETCHER: Go for it.

FREEMAN: I think the observation is pretty much something I would concur with. Trying to assess the reasons why certain things are like that is a complicated question, so we’re going to have a lot to talk about in that sense.

But one of the first things that came to mind as you were talking about it, particularly when you said other forms of racism not being looked at, I thought about the nonprofit industrial complex, and how that impacts, and how it has impacted our movements, and how people–There is, right now, I would say, maybe among a lot of the activists, and the new generation of activists, not trying to be agist here, but not having the same critical critique that some of us, the more left, the more revolutionary critique as we would have of the system at some point.

So we can be susceptible to the enticements of the nonprofit industrial complex, which invariably will influence our movements: what we will and will not stand up for, those kind of things. So I thought about that, but that’s not the only, obviously not the only element, but it’s clearly something, and we can see large sums of money and all kind of, all nonprofits looking at things like Black Lives Matter. It’s trendy now, so without it even being any kind of conspiratorial thing, those with money, who even call themselves [wanting] to do something good, are, you know, putting forward to try to do their assessment and invariably making their mark on it that is not a positive one.

EUGENE PURYEAR, PARTY FOR SOCIALISM & LIBERATION: Yeah, I mean, I think, very good point. I think you’re right on point in terms of the characterization, and I think it’s because there’s something of a disconnect between the idea of, you know, anti-Blackness, as people are calling it, and what I would say the reality of the construction of Black oppression in America as constituent of capitalism.

So you have sort of a broad, youth radicalization, I think, happening across the country. Obviously a lot of white youth being excited by Bernie Sanders, the Occupy movement, Latino youth around immigration, Black youth around Black… So, I mean, in a way that’s sort of natural because of the way capitalism is constructed.

But without sort of a systemic focus of, you know, anti-Blackness as constituent of capitalism and imperialism, it allows you to put everything, where, like, Black class oppression, the oppression of Black workers, is just framed under anti-Blackness, not framed in a broader context, and I think we’re missing-The lack of that broader context makes it much more difficult to make, you know, some sort of strategic alliance between, say, Blacks and native people, who face an extreme amount of racism and oppression, in a lot of the times a very similar way.

JENNIFER BRYANT, ONE DC: Yeah, and I also think about, how are these ideas popularized? So, you know, in popular culture we have, like, Black History Month. We have education in school which gives us a very rudimentary introduction to inequality in this country, but there’s no real mechanism for people to learn about class. And I see, just in movement spaces with younger people, people are talking about inequity, but we don’t have the language, and I feel like there’s no–It speaks to the need for popular education around class, because you wouldn’t get it in school, you wouldn’t get it anywhere else. So that’s why we have Black Lives Matter, not “Black, Working Class Lives Matter” or, you know, et cetera.

BALL: But does that, then, suggest that people are learning about white supremacy and racism adequately? I mean, you know [crosstalk], because I don’t…

BRYANT: [interposing] No, but, I mean, you get a baseline at least, you know? You’re going to go to school. Everybody knows Martin Luther King, you know so you’re going to get something, but even that’s inadequate.

BALL: And they don’t know about King’s later-life predilection for socialism, or class struggle, or the focus on that, either.

FREEMAN: Or his criticisms of the white liberals.

BALL: Well, that’s… And the Black bourgeoise, part of my favorite part of his work, too.

LAWRENCE GRANDPRE, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: Yeah. I think the allusion to Black history is very interesting to me, because when I think Black history, it wasn’t intended to be just a month. If you look back to Carter G. Woodson, it was a larger pedagogical apparatus, but what’s important about Carter G. Woodson is that he was using Black History to literally go town to town selling his books that he wrote to fund his independent Black scholarship from the Black community.

So I think right now we have a paucity in terms of people’s, even, understanding of the possibility to build independent institutions that are not tied to the nonprofit industrial complex. And I think that that’s a manifestation of the academic and cultural limitations of how people even encounter their understanding of racism today.

Just look at social media. We use Facebook a lot, and to get up on the Facebook timeline, you’ve got to pay for that, or you have to have some really clickbait-y, sort of, really pop culture-y type of framework, so even how people see social media, which they think is just neutral, they think this is just what people are talking about, is mediated by systems of capital. So we have a very thin understanding of antiracism in our younger generation because of the academic limitations and how social media is manufacturing a very much performative understanding, cultural understanding.

That’s not to say that’s inherently bad. There are different ways that culture manifests itself into politics. Everything can be political. That doesn’t mean that all political strategies are equally effective.

BALL: But with–

FLETCHER: [inaud.]

BALL: Go ahead, go ahead.

FLETCHER: Tom, I wanted to ask you: The generation of which you and I are a part–In the 60’s the rise of Black Power did not, initially, deal with class, but there was a certain move, there was a shift within the radical wing of the Black freedom movement towards an integration of discussions of class and, ultimately, discussions of gender. How do you contrast what happened then and what’s happening now?

TOM PORTER, VETERAN ACTIVIST WITH CORE AND SNCC: Well, it’s interesting. As he was talking about Carter G. Woodson, there’s no greater evidence of what Carter G. Woodson said about the miseducation for the Negro than what we see today. There’s a disconnect between what happened in our generation and this generation, and that’s on purpose. I mean, everything–There were discussions about race and class. In fact, that was always a struggle within the movement.

For instance, when Roy Innis and them took over CORE, they basically expelled all of the people who were socialists, radicals, Julius Hobson from DC and what have you. This was intentional, so that for young people coming along today, they know absolutely nothing. They know that Dr. King existed, but they don’t know that Dr. King, for instance, said that we must move from civil rights to human rights, from reform to revolution. They don’t know that Dr. King said that Black America would never be free until the long night of imperialism was lifted from Asia, Africa and Latin America. They don’t know any of this. What they know is he had a dream, but that’s what they know about everything. You know, and that’s deliberately.

When I was at the university I used to walk outside of classrooms and I couldn’t believe what they were teaching. And so, this, I call it the negation, and I say, in Marxist terms, that the responsibility of this generation is to negate the negation, which is an affirmation of something at a higher level.

BALL: You know, I do want to ask, you know, Lawrence particularly, with your work with LBS, Eugene–

FLETCHER: What’s LBS?

BALL: Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, sorry–Eugene with Party for Socialism and Liberation. You both [to Freeman] with PACA, well, you’re with Pan-African Community Action, and you [to Bryant] work with Black Lives Matter in DC as well, right?

BRYANT: I work with One DC.

BALL: One DC, sorry.

BRYANT: Which has been a part of the Black Lives Matter DMV spokes-council.

BALL: So, what I wanted to ask you all, sort of piggybacking of that last question, is: How does the issue of class come up within the work you all are doing? Obviously a little more clear on the Party for Socialism and Liberation, but Lawrence, starting with you with LBS and this focus on independent Black institutions disconnected from the nonprofit industrial complex. How does class come up, and how do you all address it?

GRANDPRE: I think it’s a very complicated issue, because our intellectual genealogy brings us through the Black radical tradition that includes Black socialism but also includes things like Black nationalist scholarship in a way that makes us wary of folks, obviously like Hillary Clinton, but also of Bernie Sanders. When I look at folks like Bernie Sanders, in terms of their economic plans, I know I was doing a written piece about Sandtown-Winchester which actually got millions of dollars of federal investment in the early 90’s. And the mechanism for how that investment happened literally destroyed organic, Black institutions like Arabber stables, where young, where people in the community actually sold fruit with this new vision of bringing in this alternative economic infrastructure.

I don’t think Bernie would do something in a similar way, but fundamentally, in terms of the ideology of that approach, he’s saying pump money into the cities. And as a good scholar would, I look empirically at the nature of folks who have a class-first analysis and their understanding of what that means. I don’t trust that that would happen in a way that’s organically connected to the people in that community. They would go to the unions. They would go to the established nonprofits that may have Black and brown spokespeople. But I fear that, even under Bernie Sanders, these mechanisms of investment would produce a civil society that’s fundamentally anti-Black.

Just look at his call: please, more infrastructure investment. Well, as we all know, if you bring in more infrastructure, the nature of the market is going to make those bases open for gentrification. So even with things like the [unintelligible] plan, we’re saying if you don’t have strong, locally controlled economic institutions like a collective, Black business incubator that focuses on collective solutions in a manner that maybe doesn’t focus on the factory or traditional socialist mechanisms of economic advancement, because the reality is that economics have changed so much that so many people in Sandtown-Winchester aren’t workers in the traditional sense.

They don’t fit into the Marxist vision of history because they have not entered into the struggle between the worker and the boss. Like, they are their own business. They hustle on the streets. Is there a mechanism of economic empowerment that can go beyond a Marxist framework and organically empower individuals in their communities? I think that maybe we have to combine different strains of economic and political scholarship.

PURYEAR: Well, I think it’s a lot of good points in there, and things to grapple with. You know, I think, from my perspective, and speaking to your question, I think the issue is really how do we frame it, in what we’re trying to put forward? Because it’s an issue of how do communities really even be empowered? I think that there’s a very important and interesting conversation going on about independent institutions which I think is necessary for, you know, the sustenance of a movement. But when you start to scale up independent institutions to a certain level, it’s inevitably going to bring you in contact with the state. And I think that, you know, from my perspective, our perspective in the PSL is, you know, we have to redirect the movement into a struggle for power.

I mean, the only way to empower yourself is to take the levers of power, and I think part of the problem, and I think what Lawrence has pointed out is a very good point here, is that people consider socialism in America, and what Bernie Sanders puts out is really just, like, radical liberalism, to a large degree.

Socialism isn’t, like, let’s put more money towards building houses, but, if everyone needs a house, what does it take? Where do we source the materials? Where do we get the labor? How is that organized? And how can any and all of that happen without some sort of democratic mechanism of people being able to have some sort of give and take and feedback loop, and that we have to not think about this amorphous issue of creating space, but an issue of, there is actually a class of people that hold a certain amount of power that prevents us from defining the terms by which we are able to build up our communities and the means by which to do so?

And that the first step has to be that struggle for power, to displace the class of people that are preventing us from doing ourselves, and to take that power ourselves. And I think if there’s any one thing I want to really undermine in this movement, is like, that really has to be so much of our framework in terms of our strategy.

BALL: Go ahead, because I also, I specifically wanted to ask, do you see a class problem existing in this broader Black Lives Matter struggle, at least as you’ve interacted with it? But, feel free, obviously, to respond to [unintelligible].

BRYANT: Yeah, well first I want to just, so, I’m an organizer with One DC, and we’re starting the DC Black Workers Center. And one of the things that we really want to do is expand what we consider to be a worker. I think we’re working on antiquated definitions of the working class.

So when we’re talking about workers we’re not just talking about low wage workers. We’re talking about people that are unemployed, people that are union, people that are non-union. But also, that goes beyond sort of, kind of the image that we have in our head of who is a worker. Because there are people–I have friends, you know, who I went to Howard with, who have PhDs who are legitimately, I mean, they are the working poor.

But we don’t ever consider those people in terms of, like, class consciousness, they don’t consider themselves working class. They have PhDs. But we really have to interrogate that. So these are some of the conversations that we’re having at the Black Workers Center. On a broader, movement level, yeah. I mean, there are major class disparities. There are organizations who you go and they’re just completely made up of people who are, you know, nonprofit sector workers, all have college degrees, and so they’re talking about–They have a strong racial analysis, often a strong gender analysis too, but there’s no class analysis present in the work that they’re doing, and it shows. And it shows just in terms of who’s at the table.

PURYEAR: Can I follow up on that quickly, though? Because I think an important subtext here, because I think there’s a lot of this, is, I actually, don’t actually think it’s Marxism’s fault that there’s a narrow definition of the worker. I mean, the Marxist definition is just someone who has, the only choice they have is to sell their labor power. You’ve got to go to work, which is a broad frame. I think, you know, there’s something to be said for how, in America, the whole idea of the middle class has totally deformed the consciousness of working class people, and I think there’s a critique to be made about ,certainly, the communist party of the 30’s having a certain cultural framework of how they presented a worker, which, I think, gave people a certain limited understanding.

But I think sometimes, you know, we get caught up in this issue of anti-communism, quite frankly, which, I think, is why a lot of these questions don’t come up as people are–I mean, we do have a language. The working class. There’s a good definition. Imperialism, capitalism, socialism, I mean, there are clear definitions, and I think sometimes, you know, we get in a space where it was, like, good enough for Samora Machel but it’s not good enough for Black people in America. And we have to ask ourself, what is the influence of anti-socialist, anti-communist imperialist ideology, and putting in a new framework in how we view race in America.

[mixed voices]

FLETCHER: [crosstalk] Lawrence, I want to just, I want to push back on something you were raising. Maybe push back. But this issue, see, when I think about race and class, and I start thinking about strategy, I think about the complicated issue of Black business. And, you know, we have seen, and frequently hear, that the direction for Black freedom is the proliferation of Black business.

And there are people who will go nameless on this show, because I don’t want to be slapped with a suit, who have waved the red, black and green in order to increase the green. And they have united the community to support their various business ventures, saying that this is going to bring us closer to real freedom. And it goes back to something that was raised earlier. There’s not discussion about power.

Real power in this society, it ends up being more, let’s just get a better piece, a bigger piece of the action. So I’m curious about, when you’re talking about the issue of business, and I don’t want to go through everything that you were raising, but how do we deal with that? Because that’s the manifestation of class, [crosstalk] or one of the manifestations of class.

GRANDPRE: [interposing] Yeah, I think that’s a very good question, and I also think, similar to how certain historical notions around anti-communism have proliferated and kind of extracted the argument. Similar notions around Black capitalism, I think, have permeated people’s notions, where I’m thinking about, you know, heteronormative Black male business owner just, you know, getting more money and moving to the county.

Obviously that’s not what i support. I think the key word there is cooperative: that you’re empowering individuals who have some kind of affinity and connection to each other organically, within community. And if you can invest in the infrastructure to facilitate those kind of cooperative connections, you incentivize cooperative business ventures, and that produces an environment where you have an incentive to cooperate within the community.

And I also think that the mechanism of even calling it Black business, I think, obviates some of the historical power relations that put us in our condition. Like, I never chose to come to America, historically, with my family. America is a capitalist country. So feeding my family in America, thus, by nature, means I am participating in capitalism. It doesn’t mean I’m embracing the ideology of what, historically, has been American capitalism.

And as, I think, folks know, Black folk, for example, are the highest contributors to charity. So I think there are cultural dynamics in the Black community that, if invested in, legitimately invested in, and you need to the power to produce that kind of investment, would produce a reality that gets us to where folks can, you can take this conversation to folks where they are on the streets.

Because folks right now, at least the folks who I’m working with in Gilmor homes, or I’m working with people who are working in Gilmor homes, they work all the time, but they’re not considered workers from the traditional Marxist dynamic. But can we view the indigenous economic entrepreneurship, outside of the pejorative notions of capitalism, and within a postive [notion] of a cultural creation to affirm a Black community in a way that recognizes that work needs to be invested in, and we need the power to push local and state governments to invest in that type of economic, communal infrastructure, the way so many Marxists along the white left ask for investment in infrastructure, so things like light rails and things like that. So that’s what I’m talking about, like, legitimate investment in the mechanisms and incentivize cooperative, culturally appropriate, communal relations that just happen to be economic, and what many people call capitalist.

FLETCHER: But this issue about infrastructure, which you’ve been critical of, Flint. [pause]

GRANDPRE: Yeah.

FLETCHER: Flint. That’s, I mean, infrastructure. I mean, this is a material, this is a very immediate, material thing, right? The lack of infrastructure of a poor, predominantly Black city. I mean, when people are saying we’ve got to increase investment in infrastructure, I’m thinking about Flint. I’m thinking about New Orleans.

GRANDPRE: That’s a very good point.

FLETCHER: Right? I’m thinking about, even, for that matter, that bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis back in, what, 2005? I mean, these are, this is not an abstraction.

GRANPRE: It’s not an abstraction, but I do feel that without the political power to push that agenda in a way that forces it to genuinely engage issues of the Black community, the Black community that may not get a temporary construction job on that bridge, which so many people are sort of saying will be the economic benefit, what you’re doing is, you will get bridges in predominantly white communities rebuilt. Absolutely. But if you don’t have a mechanism of political organization that recognizes the necessity of a culturally appropriate, political unity, you won’t have the cadres of Black people lobbying for that investment to genuinely address the problems you’re talking about.

And the inertia of a colorblind political framework is going to lead to the bridges of Madison County being fixed, but not the water pipes in Flint being fixed, and that’s why, well I’m not saying this is an either-or, Black folks in a situation where it really is and-, and-, and-, and-, we need a multiplicity of strategies.

It’s just, Charles Mills, he’s a professor at Northwestern, has this term called the epistemology of ignorance, and I just worry that when folks–I just look at the history of folks who have used class as the analytical framework to evaluate political struggle, and the best-laid plans of those folks oftentimes ignore the inertia of pushing those policies more to benefit white America, and less to benefit the underclass. Look at the GI Bill, which is, Lester Spence at Johns Hopkins points out: G. I. Bill, racially colorblind. The inertia of white supremacy pushes that to be racially disparate in terms of its implications.

PORTER: You know, two things I want to say. One is, when you talk about Marx, I don’t really talk about Marx. One of the things Marx said is, please save me from the Marxists, for they will be the worst. We refer to it as the science of society, and it’s an open ended science to be applied to whatever particular situation you find yourself in. So you don’t take the Chinese model and bring it here so that, and that analysis has–It led Lenin to make one conclusion, Fidel in Cuba to make another conclusion, but Marxism, or the science of society, is still real. The issues that it raises are still here. Marx was not a, was an authority on capitalism, and probably the best that’s ever come down the pipe.

The other thing is, [as a] character of work has changed. And when you talk about infrastructure, it’s not just roads and what have you, but the entire infrastructure of the Black community has been torn down, and we have to address that. And what we find are that these issues about Black business, petty [comparatory] is what we used to call it. It’s not anything new when Blacks are going, you know, the Jews came here and they were selling pencils, and so we had cats walking around in white sheets selling pencils and incense and what have you. See where that gets you.

We have to really deal with the fact that the character of work has changed, and the character of the Black community has changed. I mean, my father and his family, they were construction workers and steel workers. I worked my way through college as a post office worker. But my daughters, I have five, they don’t know anything about any of that. They work, one as a flight attendant, another works for a nonprofit, another one’s a dancer, and what have you. So notions of work, as I knew it, getting up and going to work, you know, that doesn’t exist anymore, so we have to deal with the actual, concrete situation that the Black community is in.

And there are notions of class. There’s a whole new generation of class, of Negroes who went to college, benefited, and I talk to them all the time. They’ve got a whole notion of class, which is real. It’s anti-Black. It’s anti-working class. So I think, one, we have to look at how the character of work has changed. The Black community, there’s really no such thing as a Black middle class anymore. There are still some people who make that kind of money, but the fact of it is our entire community has been marginalized, and those people who think they’re in another kind of class are really deluding themselves.

BRYANT: I really question the critique about there not being a class analysis in this movement. And I, you know, I heard Alicia Garza from Black Lives Matter speak at a Black Workers for Justice event in North Carolina, and, I mean, she openly had an anticapitalist line. And I think when you kind of look through some of the things on their website, it has an anticapitalist framework. I heard Charlene Carruthers speak at the Black Radical Tradition Conference last month in Philadelphia, and it’s a similar thing.

Now, whether or not this actually manifests in their work and in their organizations is a completely different question, but I think there is a knowledge of anti-capitalism and a referencing of anti-capitalism, and so, yeah, I’m just curious to hear other people’s thoughts on that.

PORTER: I don’t think you can separate the class question from the national question in America because of the overwhelming nature of racism in the society. So to split that dialectic, as opposed to dealing with the dynamic of how it plays itself out, there very definitely is a class struggle that’s going on in the Black community. At the same time, issues of national self-determination for Black people are real, and so separating those, talking about class and race as opposed to dealing with their, how they are interdependent upon each other, and how, in this country, you can’t really get to the class question unless you go through the national question.

BALL: That was sort of the, that was actually a response to the question I was going to get at, just to get, just to start to wrap up here, that: Is our intent here to focus on the issue of class somehow, or could it be perceived, or will it be perceived, by some as a critique on identity-based struggle, or Black Lives Matter’s struggle, or the struggle of particular other nationalized communities within the United States and elsewhere? And then, sort of as Mr. Porter has done, how does that play out as people respond or develop their analyses and responses and tactics, including even this question of, do we need to hear, for those of us who are interested in a class analysis, do we need to hear people openly expressing anti-capitalist, -imperialist, pro-socialist sentiments, or is it something that can be seen?

So on that very broad, big question, answer it quickly so we can get [crosstalk] out.

[laughter]

FREEMAN: So, first, the short answer is yes, we need to hear it, not just because it, you know, helps our sensibilities and how we perceive it, but for us to, for our movement, and not just a few people who can express and articulate about class struggle and what it means for–but for us to interject that and to, among those who are struggling, who are the most impacted, not any impacted but the most impacted, that needs to be also in all of our thinking and how we analyze that, and how we come up with the solutions, so for us to–We can’t have an anti-capitalist approach, anti-capitalist solutions, without anti-capitalism being a conscious, you know, element, a formulated idea in the hearts and minds of people. That’s how our behavior and our strategies are formed. And, so, I mean, I have to say yes, in that short answer.

I wanted to say the most impacted because, and just to talk about our new, really quickly, our new organization, the most impacted, PACA, we try to, you know, organize in the community. We’re seeing mostly, when it comes to media, and I guess we shouldn’t depend on what we see in high-profile things, people doing protests, people doing more mobilization, not so much organization. So we have to be able, if we agree with, like you mentioned, popular education, if we also want to introduce the concept of participatory, you know, forums and decision making, we’ve got to be in our communities where people are really, you know, hit by this thing more than we are.

You know, to just be able to sit here right now, and drive from DC, gives us a privilege that a lot of people just don’t even have. They don’t come out of their block. How do we get the, you know, the people that’s on the corner, you know, there’s some genius there, too, and if not genius there’s at least some type of mindset, some mentality we should be engaging in and trying to affect so that everyone is participating in the solutions.

BRYANT: Yeah, I mean, just on the point of class, looking at Ferguson and this uprising of working class, Black people in Baltimore, the uprising of working class, Black people, most of them, many of them Black youth, I think, where are those folks now, in terms of the organizations that have emerged out of this moment? Where are they in the conversation? And so I think that there are major issues around class that we need to think through and discuss within our own organizations.

Especially, I mean, I was in the streets in DC after Darren Wilson didn’t get indicted. It was 4 thousand people out there, but where are they now, and what does that say about the way that we organize if we weren’t able to kind of maintain connections with folks, and how can we do that better? So I think that there are many questions to be asked around class, and even if we do, are able to articulate a strong class analysis, I think it can’t just be us saying it, but we have to see it in our organizations. It has to be reflected in our [crosstalk] membership.

PORTER: It has to manifest itself in the character of your work. I mean, you know, if I’m catching hell I know I’m catching hell. I mean I saw a young lady in a Chinese restaurant late one evening, she’s about 15 years old and she was going on, I mean, with a brilliant analysis of a society and I said, well, how do you know all this? She said, shit, I read.

[laughter]

PORTER: And so, what I’m saying is, we as organizers, when you are working with people, you have to not only meet people where they are but you have to meet their needs. You can’t come in saying this is what I think you need. The other thing is, we can’t get caught in the class analysis, the traditional class analysis that says that class is primary and race is derivative. Well that’s B.S., you know, because that means that the people, and it means that whites will always be, you know. I mean, they had this one notion that class struggle for white people and Black nationalism for Black people, but since class is primary what does that say about where you want me to be? You know, up under you.

So I just think that we have to [analyze] the concrete situations of our communities and how they’ve changed, and how we deal with these changing dynamics, because it’s not going to be the working class that we used to know. I mean, there’s a lot I could say about organizing, but we have to, I mean, a lot of times we have brilliant ideas but we can’t get the people to understand them because we don’t listen. People are saying sometimes exactly what you’re saying, but they don’t understand what you are saying, you know, because there’s elitism among Marxists, you know. Their favorite word is correct and incorrect.

FLETCHER: So let me suggest that, we could certainly go on for another several hours, but I think we have to bring this in for a landing. And I want to pose that perhaps another discussion needs to happen that takes this, where we’re starting, and really then translates this into the discussion about strategy and organization.

PORTER: Exactly.

FLETCHER: Right, because, you know, we’ve just touched the surface, and I think we’ve done a good job, you know? But, it’s like, okay, then, therefore, as the man said, what is to be done? And I want to thank you each for this discussion, this very, very important discussion. And again, it’s not over. It just happens, at this point, we have to take a pause.

BALL: Definitely thanks to all of you for joining us, and thank you for joining us wherever you are. For all involved, again, I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore saying, as the socialist Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.

End

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