An interview with Nnamdi Lumumba, activist of the Black workers-led Ujima People’s Progress Party in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of the 407 initiators of the World Conference against War and Exploitation, and for the Workers’ International (in Paris, 5 and 6 November).
The city of Baltimore will be welcoming a national conference of activists for Black and workers’ independent politics at the end of July. Why is this the issue of the moment, according to you?
We are in the middle of an interesting presidential election year in the U.S. The liberal imperialist Democratic Party is openly struggling against progressive elements within its party for the party’s nomination to run for president against president Donald Trump who is a member of the conservative imperialist Republican Party. We have watched progressive forces go from being very energized and optimistic that they could win the Democratic Party nomination via proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders to now seeing them become angry and demoralized after centralists and conservatives of the Democratic party have aligned themselves against Sanders and in support of former vice-president Joe Biden.
We have never had any faith for an inside strategy to be successful and have continued to push for independent Black and working-class political action. We seriously question the ability of workers, poor people and domestically colonized nationalists to use either of the two main imperialist parties to solve any of our contradictions as a class or an oppressed nation.
This conference will allow workers and oppressed peoples to gather ourselves and begin to plot a path of building working class power and resistance separate from imperialist, capitalist parties.
Indeed, the oppression of Blacks in the United States is actually a theme that has been absent from the Democratic Party primary campaigns. Why?
This question has multiple reasons for why this is occurring. Actually, systemic racism and police violence is rarely an issue in many national and presidential elections. We believe the main reason for why this isn’t being pushed in the election is the lack of class-consciousness and class organization of Black workers and poor people. This lack of consciousness means that Black workers aren’t prepared to make demands of candidates asking for our vote. We have been conditioned as an electorate to vote against who we fear the most and to uncritically support a candidate who appears most able to defeat a candidate we fear.
The second thing that makes it possible to have an election that avoids confronting the major contradictions facing Black workers is the use of a Black misleadership class, a comprador-like middle class, that functions in social, political and economic circles of our community as the gate keepers and promoters of the interests of capital and the ruling class. These forces are tied to both major imperialist parties and hate Black independent action. They fight tooth and nail to protect the political machines and oppressive relationships put into place by the ruling class of both parties.
Lastly, we think the lack of independent Black working class political organization and institutions is a key area of weakness. Without an organized and independent critique and resistance to U.S. capitalism and imperialism on the local, national and international, Black workers are often left unprepared to struggle for their interests and in support of the interests of other workers and oppressed peoples. All these things combine to create an atmosphere where elections of this type can happen without ever having to address systemic racism.
You are one of the 407 initiators of the World Conference against War and Exploitation, and for the Workers’ International that is taking place in Paris, next 5 and 6 November. What are you expecting from this conference?
For too long, oppressed peoples and workers have been made to feel isolated in our struggles for social and economic justice. At the same time, we see the imperialists and capitalists work out their differences in their efforts to maintain their wealth and power. We need conferences like this to unite our struggles, learn from each other and build meaningful and practical relationships to each other in our struggle against capital. We need this conference to help educate and improve the ability of local organizers from around the world to make them more prepared to wage struggle where they live and more connected to the work of others.
We also need to send a message to other workers and oppressed people that resistance is growing and that they do not have to stand on the sidelines. Let working people know where they can find resistance and join in the process to liberate ourselves from imperialism and capitalism.
Interview conducted by Dominique Ferré