Theory 101: Common, Gaddafi, and the Global Significance of the Black Misleadership Class
The legitimacy of the US Black misleadership class resides in its ability to distort and claim leadership over the legitimate struggles of Black Americans to further their own careers within the ruling structure.
“Black Agenda Report was the only voice on the left in the United States to consistently criticize Obama’s legacy as the purest expression of the Black misleadership class’ criminality.”
Revolutionary theory must reflect reality if it is to serve the interests of social transformation. Black Agenda Report has for over a decade now developed a theoretical understanding of the class struggle that exists within the Black community in the United States. Class struggle within the Black community has been analyzed through the exposure and criticism of the Black misleadership class. The Black misleadership class is composed of those Black leaders in political and corporate offices who willingly and enthusiastically serve the interests of Empire. This class has arguably existed in some form since the foundations of chattel slavery but became even more invaluable to the US imperialist system in the aftermath of the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
“The Black misleadership class willingly and enthusiastically serves the interests of Empire.”
The Black misleadership class filled a political vacuum left in the wake of the US state’s brutal response to the Black liberation movement. Black revolutionary leaders such as Fred Hampton were murdered, while others, such as Sundiata Acoli,were imprisoned indefinitely. Beginning in the late 1970s, the US imperialist system entered a period of economic stagnation that required the mass warehousing of redundant Black labor. A new layer of Black leadership was created from the bosom of the bourgeoisie to justify not only the project of mass Black incarceration but also the intensification of all forms of strangulation under imperialism, both domestic and foreign. Black Agenda Report’s exposure of the Congressional Black Caucus’ voting record in support of Israel’s colonization of Palestine and the militarization of police in Black American communities provides all the evidence one needs to verify the fundamental role that the Black misleadership class plays in the reproduction of Empire. Of course, Black Agenda Report was the only voice on the left in the United States to consistently criticize Obama’s legacy as the purest expression of the Black misleadership class’ criminality.
“A new layer of Black leadership was created to justify mass Black incarceration and the intensification of all forms of strangulation under imperialism.”
The following analysis of the global significance of the Black misleadership draws on the theoretical foundations laid by George Jackson and Kwame Nkrumah. Two critical dates help ground their theoretical contributions in this moment of history. The first is the seventh anniversary of the U.S.-NATO backed assassination of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on October 20th, 2011. The second involves the Black American rapper, Common, who on October 16th crossed the picket line of a national strike against the monopoly hotel industry currently being led by the UNITE HERE union. Common and Gaddafi represent the diametrically opposed interests of the Black misleadership class and the oppressed people of the world.
Kwame Nkrumah and George Jackson shared a common revolutionary ideology that linked the development of U.S. imperialism to the rise of the global Black misleadership class. Nkrumah was the first President of revolutionary Ghana. His leadership was instrumental in the struggle for independence from colonialism in Africa. Jackson was a political prisoner whose activities behind prison walls led him to join the Black Panther Party and inspire prisoners to organize themselves for a revolution in the United States. Nkrumah analyzed the situation in “post-colonial” Africa while Jackson analyzed the situation in “post-Civil Rights” Black America. Nkrumah criticized the rise of the African elite as a byproduct of imperialism. The former colonial powers used the comprador bourgeoisie to plunder newly “independent” African states without the public relations baggage of settler regimes. In the United States, Jackson condemned the emerging Black bourgeoisie (and labor leadership) in the U.S. as a “pig class” who served as a buffer between the white ruling class and the Black working-class.
“Common and Gaddafi represent the diametrically opposed interests of the Black misleadership class and the oppressed people of the world.”
Jackson and Nkrumah’s analysis of neo-colonialism and the Black bourgeoisie is critical to understanding the major differences between Common and Gaddafi. Gaddafi was murdered by U.S.-NATO imperialist forces in 2011 for his service to the African continent and the peoples of the world. The Libyan state under Gaddafi provided healthcare, education, and housing for all Libyans and helped develop an economy with the Libyan people that made the small African country the most prosperous on the continent. National liberation movements across the continent received aid from Gaddafi, including the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Gaddafi was murdered and the Libyan state overthrown because it disrupted the neo-colonial order in Africa. He opposed U.S. military domination by way of AFRICOM and advocated for the development of an independent, continent-wide currency to wrestle Africa away from dependency on parasitic Western capital. For this, neo-colonial Western-backed African leaders showed their true colors by voting for the no-fly zone that would turn the once prosperous socialist Libyan state into an impoverished hell-hole.
Common, on the other hand, has received a career boost for his service to capital. The once “conscious” rapper has expanded his moneyed horizons as an actor and a corporate philanthropist. Common has given a boost to the privatization of public education in Chicago by fundraising for the most corrupt for-profit forces in the charter school movement. He plays a “good cop” in the film The Hate You Give and promotes “the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Microsoft commercials. That Common crossed the picket line should come as no surprise. His “wokeness” is merely a brand. Common is vying for a permanent seat at the table of imperialism and has marketed some of its most lucrative and destructive ventures.
“Common’s ‘wokeness’ is merely a brand.”
There is a material basis for Common’s opportunism. That basis was laid by former President Barack Obama. Obama’s two-term Presidency raised the loyalty of the Black misleadership class to the Democratic Party-wing of U.S. imperialism to new heights. The Congressional Black Caucus voted even more fervently for war and Wall Street. Even radicals such as Angela Davis caught Obamamania by claiming that the former President “identified with the Black Radical Tradition.” Obama’s rule so deeply entrenched the backward political worldview of the Black misleadership class that his two-term Presidency broke the Black left consensus of peace and economic justice. What emerged in its place was silence in the face of expanding wars in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Ukraine and the precipitous decline of Black wealth amid the immense profits of monopolists like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
There is an important distinction that must be made between the global Black misleadership class and the likes of Clarence Thomas or Trump’s HUD secretary Ben Carson. Thomas and Carson swear allegiance to the White Man’s Republican Party. Their careers have certainly benefitted from dutifully serving the Republican Party. However, such service hasn’t given them legitimacy with Black Americans. The Black misleadership class in the United States is overwhelmingly Democrat and for good reason. This class regularly evokes the Civil Rights Movement to convince the most left-leaning constituency of supporting the Democratic Party without question. Thus, the legitimacy of the Black misleadership class resides in its ability to distort and claim leadership over the legitimate struggles of Black Americans to further their own careers within the ruling structure.
“Gaddafi was murdered and the Libyan state overthrown because it disrupted the neo-colonial order in Africa.”
Similarly, African dictators such as Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda have relied upon misrepresentations of their legacy to maintain domestic and international legitimacy. Museveni, it has been written, was inspired by the Cuban revolution and participated in political work with Walter Rodney. Kagame’s identity is hinged upon the myth that his party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), successfully fought off a genocide. Yet Kagame and Museveni’s actual record includes the genocide of over six million people in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Kagame and Museveni exercise brutal political, economic, and military policies that favor the U.S., Israel, and other foreign powers at the expense of the masses.
Rodney would not allow the likes of Musevini to identify with him were he alive. Martin Luther King Jr. would surely denounce Obama or the CBC’s thirst for war. The Black misledership class and the phenomena of neocolonialism relies upon both support from their imperialist backers and the relative decline and suppression of revolutionary political insurgency. In Latin America, the neocolonial oligarchy was exposed by the Cuban revolution of the 20thcentury and the Bolivarian movement of the 21stcentury. In Venezuela and Bolivia, neocolonialism has been forced to make concessions to the poor. However, the neocolonial elite still own a significant portion of the property and wealth of the continent and has waged a brutal attack on progressive forces. This is evidenced by the right-wing transitions, aided by the United States, in Brazil and Argentina.
“Obama’s rule broke the Black left consensus on peace and economic justice.”
In the U.S., the Black misleadership class has become the centerpiece of the Democratic Party and its political strategy. Democratic operatives have tried to give a facelift to the strategy of misleadership in the so-called “blue wave” that is predicted to occur in the mid-term elections. Figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Andrew Gillum have branded themselves as left of the Democratic Party establishment while maintaining that the party is a champion of “diversity.” What has been lost in the rise of these so-called left Democrats is the fact that their policies really aren’t all that different from the Democratic Party establishment. Gillum is a friend of Israel and the Zionist entity’s neoliberal war hawk supporters such as Hillary Clinton and Senator Corey Booker. Ocasio-Cortez believes that socialism is a “bourgie” ideology and used her own mother to denounce criticism from the left. She has also been quoted saying that the U.S. was the “hero” in defeating the Nazis in World War II and hopes that a similar mobilization by the ruling class will occur again in the form of climate change policy. What she failed to mention was that the ruling class is more likely to mobilize for World War III than for climate relief. She failed to say so because it wouldn’t benefit her career as a Democratic politician.
“Figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Andrew Gillum have branded themselves as left of the Democratic Party establishment while maintaining that the party is a champion of ‘diversity’.”
The global significance of the Black misleadership class is a theoretical question of critical importance to the development of a revolutionary movement. Transitions such as neocolonialism in the “post-colonial world” and the rise of the Black misleadership class in the United States are connected to definite stages of the imperialist system. Neocolonialism in Africa was a necessary response to the anti-colonial movements on the continent and the threat of the worldwide socialist movement to the interests of imperialism. The Black misleadership class was a necessary response to the Black liberation movement of the 20thcentury. Repression alone could not contain the ideology of organizations such as the Black Panther Party. The Black misleadership class is a weapon of the ruling class to contain and control the consciousness of the most revolutionary forces in human history: Black America and the darker nations of the world under the gun of imperialism.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the forthcoming book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: The Fake News of Wall Street, White Supremacy, and the US War Machine (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected]
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