Patrice Cullors is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter organization. It has been pointed out to me, numerous times, that she describes herself as a trained Marxist. What is a Marxist? What is the definition of Marxism?
Definition of Marxism :
the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Marx, especially a theory and practice of socialism (see SOCIALISM sense 3*) including the labor theory of value**, dialectical materialism*** , the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat**** until the establishment of a classless society.
*Socialism (sense 3 ) : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism***** and communism****** and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.
**Labor Theory of Value : the working class is exploited under capitalism, and dissociates price and value
***Dialectical Materialism: materialist and idealist views were irreconcilably opposed throughout the historical development of philosophy. The adoption of a thoroughgoing materialist approach, holding that any attempt to combine or reconcile materialism with idealism must result in confusion and inconsistency.
****Proletariat : the laboring class, especially the class of industrial workers who lack their own means of production and hence sell their labor to live or the lowest social or economic class of a community.
*****Capitalism : an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.
******Communism : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed or a theory advocating elimination of private property.
Ms. Cullors says she is a trained a Marxist. She does advocate contemporary socialist views, like those of Bernie Saunders. Does she advocate the contemporary socialist viewpoint, including concepts such as the government providing healthcare and other basic services to all Americans? Yes. This type of socialism advocates a social safety net that drastically increases public spending on health care, education and environmental protection. Does she advocate a classless society, the dissolution of the American family, the elimination of free enterprise, elimination of private property. No. If you look at “What We Believe” on the BLM website, these are not aspirations or goals of the organization. Is she a revolutionary? Yes. Ms. Cullors, in an interview, stated “revolution is rooted in the recognition that there are certain fundamentals to which every being has a right, just by virtue of one’s birth: healthy food, clean water, decent housing, safe communities, quality healthcare, mental health services, free and quality education, community spaces, art, democratic engagement, regular vacations, sports, and places for spiritual expression are not questions of resources, but questions of political will and they are requirements of any humane society.” She says, “our goal is to support the development of new Black leaders, as well as create a network where Black people feel empowered to determine our destinies in our communities.”
If you read the official BLM “What WeBelieve” page, it says they are “committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive. Our continued commitment to liberation for all Black people means we are continuing the work of our ancestors and fighting for our collective freedom because it is our duty. Every day, we recommit to healing ourselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported.”
Why is there still such opposition to the BLM organization? Why is there such fear on the part of some? On the religious front, I was reading an article by Sarah St.Onge, a Christian wife, mother and writer. Here is her article in the June 12, 2020 version of TheFederalist.com :
There’s an important distinction between supporting the Black Lives
Matter organization and lovingly supporting black people whose lives matter.
Our Christian faith requires we believe in the intrinsic value of all life. Love for our fellow man is the motivation for promoting life-affirming culture. If our black brothers and sisters feel they’ve been disenfranchised, addressing this carefully is paramount to getting to the truth and healing wounds. Loving and supporting black people’s goal of equity in opportunity is vital for those who hope to see a universal acceptance of the sanctity of all life. As such, we must be cautious to clarify that affirming “black lives matter” is different than supporting Black Lives Matter, the 501 (c)(3), its chapters, and its partners.
In her famous 2013 “Love Letter to Black People,” Black Lives Matter founder and community organizer Alicia Garza wrote: “I continue to be surprised at how little black lives matter.” Her friend and fellow organizer, Patrisse Kahn Cullors, created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Another organizer friend, Opal Tometi, saw the marketing potential, purchased the domain name, and created a social media presence. The three formed the official Black Lives Matter Network after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. As a movement, it is here to stay. Yet despite its seeming newness, Black Lives Matter is just part of a movement that has been in existence for decades under different names.”
It is my perception that Ms. St. Onge is saying that Christians should address the plight of African Americans. She objects to the BLM organization itself, but not the movement. I have said that the majority of the people out there protesting are are supporting the movement. They are supporting equality for black people. They are not card-carrying members of the BLM organization itself. She admits that this particular “movement” is just the continuation of many movements designed to highlight the unjust treatment of black people in this country through the years. That illustrates that the “movement” necessarily keeps recurring over the years because things just haven’t changed much. I see drastic changes happening under this particular movement, and I am encouraged there may be notable progress this time.
Ms. St. Onge says that the BLM movement is “Anti-Life.” I have written about that also. Nothing in their “What We Believe” format mentions anything about their support for abortion. There appears to be an underlying belief that because of a 2015 statement of their support of the Planned Parenthood organization, they are “radically pro-abortion.” As I have said before, I personally support Planned Parenthood, because they do more than perform abortions. They offer basic gynecological and pre-natal care in many economically disadvantaged communities. Because I support the organization for the good it does doesn’t make me “radically pro-abortion.”
Ms. St. Onge points out that the BLM organization supports SOCIALISM and that they are EXTREMIST LEFT ORGANIZATION. I have written about the party-line division on these issues. Socialism doesn’t mean the same as it did years ago. And its definition is perceived differently if you are a Republican or if you a Democrat. Republicans see it as the end of capitalism and Democrats see if as opportunity for all. And if you are a Democrat, you are perceived as having a leftist ideology by Republicans. I am not going to address this here, because I am not trying to change anyone’s view on this. You believe what you believe. I have a couple of future posts coming out on this subject.
Pamela Lightsey, Associate Dean, Boston University School of Theology said, in an article on the website The Immanent Frame : Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere ( tif.ssrc.org ), refers to the underlying religious basis of the BLM movement and its transition :
“…the theological language of love, the sacredness of life and righteousness, has been invoked largely by young activists without any overt religious affiliation. They have shown us that neither the language nor hopeful practices are limited to religion. Yes, religion is pervasive in Black communities, but the movement for Black lives contains activists from a variety of contexts, including atheists, agnostics, and those who identify as spiritual but not religious. This suggests to me that what is really happening in this movement is out of the hands of the Church; it is out of the Church and into the streets to use a modified version of one of our protest chants. This is a Kairos moment empowered by God’s Holy Spirit moving upon whosoever will help usher in the beloved community.
As God’s people, we ought be thankful for what has been accomplished. We are indebted to this movement for Black lives for helping us see the festering wound and to feel the horror in knowing the knife that is still in our backs is inches from our heart. Now seeing, we must believe; and believing, we must do the healing work.”
Ms. Lightsey is admitting that this movement has gone from the passive movements of the church into to activism of the street, involving mostly young people from all walks of life, all religions…and lack of religion. It involves a moral calling, a desire to see equality for all people for your community. It is a new day, and young people are not as patient to change as their predecessors. That in itself is a plus and a liability at the same time. This country is not used to radical change, thus the massive pushback we are observing.
I decided to do a little more research by looking at some websites that had a more radical theology. Workers World ( workers.org ) may be viewed by some as one of those radical, Marxist websites. I may not, like almost everything I read, agree with ALL the writings on its site, but this passage offered a clear, concise explanation of racism in this country that I found intriguing. One may not see eye-to-eye with some of the terminology, but I understand what they are concluding :
Racism & Oppressed Nations
“In the U.S. there are still oppressed ‘nations’ who are systematically singled out for oppression, regardless of where they live, because of their ethnic and historical backgrounds. Thus we say that the U.S. today is multinational, with a dominant white nation alongside and intermingled with a number of oppressed national groupings, including the Black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Native nations.
The working class too is multinational. At the factories and in the shops, workers of different nations work side-by-side. But the entire working class is exploited by the same capitalist class — the bankers, the big farmers or agribusinesses, the industrialists, and the landlords — and this capitalist class belongs primarily to the upper strata of the dominant white nation.
How did it come to be this way? Why did people coming to the U.S. from different European nations in the early days become assimilated, while those who originally inhabited this continent, those forcibly brought from Africa, and others have remained oppressed? The European immigrants to North America, while some were rich and some poor, were gradually assimilated, their national differences (though not necessarily their class differences) breaking down to where they now constitute a ‘nation’ in themselves. The majority of them chose to come to the U.S. because of economic and political conditions in their own countries. But as U.S. capitalism developed and the 13 colonies won their independence, the U.S. forcibly conquered other nations and nationalities and took them over through military expansionist wars. The Native nations, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Aztlan (the southwest area of the U.S. that was stolen from Mexico) are a few examples. In addition, entire peoples were uprooted from their African homelands and kidnapped to the U.S. through the slave trade. The U.S., as the world’s biggest superpower, has also forced economic policies onto so-called ‘developing’ countries that have had a devastating impact on the people of those countries. As a result, many workers migrate to the U.S. in search of job opportunities. These national groupings of immigrants are then forced into the lowest-paying, super-exploitative jobs in the U.S. and live in fear of workplace raids, detention and deportation. All these different oppressed nations and nationalities have been retained within the boundaries of the U.S., their lands stolen and plundered of natural resources, their people used as a source of cheap labor. Because of slavery and imperialist intervention, they were prevented from developing as independent ‘nations’. Nor have they received the protection of the democratic rights supposedly granted by the U.S. Constitution. In reality these oppressed people are internal colonies of the U.S. ruling class.
The capitalist ruling class has deliberately fostered divisions between white workers and oppressed peoples. This divide-and-conquer tactic means denying oppressed people their democratic rights; mis-educating white workers and attempting to indoctrinate them with racist ideas; blaming nonwhites for the evils of capitalism; giving white workers a few extra crumbs (while still exploiting their labor intensively); and creating a system of racism and national oppression based on super-exploitation, inequality and prejudice.”