This was titled "Baraka to Barack" as a recognition of a session at the Harlem Book Fair in that name on Sunday, July 19. Unfortunately, C-Span did not show the fair on Sunday. Nonetheless, we can have a sense of what Amiri Baraka's conversation with Herb Boyd laid bare as a result of a position paper he presented to the Black Radical Congress in late June. Early on the blog, an audio speech by Baraka was posted. In that speech he was clear on the necessity of supporting the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. At the time he also challenged leftist purists to understand the importance of a Barack presidency and what it would represent for change in America. Here he re-emphasizes the importance of the Barack candidacy in the face of continued leftist critiques. Barack's FISA vote enraged many of his most devoted supporters on the left. Some of these supporters, as well as angry Hillary supporters, are challenged by Amiri Baraka to understand what is at stake. Specifically, he is critical to ultra left Green Party's candidacy of Cynthia McKinney as a "luxury" we cannot afford. Amiri Baraka is without question among the leading black intellectuals in this period. The essay below was prepared for presentation to the Black Radical Congress. RGN
Amiri Baraka challenges Black radicals to "do something."
By Amiri Baraka
June 21, 2008
We certainly know the animals of the right, the US Reich, the Foxes and Klan in Civilian clothes, e.g., O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh &c and certainly a coon or two Tavis & Andy, some people even came up with the slogan Strangle Rangel. Happily w/the departure of Bonnie & Clyde more of these Negro retainers will replace their " HillJig" buttons with the shit eating grin of exposed Toms as they try to ease painlessly into at least the margin of the masses who support Obama.
But I'm talking about another substantial pimple of soi disant, dare I say, intellectuals & self advertised radicals who are quite audible & wordy in opposition to Obama. You might say, 'but how is that, since now there is only the prisoner of war, McCain , whose proves every time he opens his mouth that he is still a prisoner of the Viet Nam war' that Obama faces. McCain's major campaign plank is that Americans need to keep dying in Iraq and our tax monies need to keep being fed to Halliburton and the other oilies and cronies. McCain also holds that we continue the Bush type savaging of the US constitution by denying habeas corpus and the legal rights of prisoners in Guantanamo. Keep it open as a Bush-Cheney concentration camp. McCain also wants to maintain the widespread hatred of the US by the world, as well as making Bush' giveaway Tax cuts for the super rich permanent.
Here's a charming character who on returning from Viet nam soon dumped his lst wife who had been severely crippled in an automobile accident, to run off with, among others, a beer brewery heiress who cd support his political barn storming. Here's a man, who for all the media clap about him being "an independent" is the spiritual follower of the man whose seat he sits in as Senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater.
I mention all this because it is criminal for these people claiming to be radical or intellectual to oppose or refuse to support Obama. I hope we don't have to hear about "the lesser of two evils" from people whose foolish mirror worship wd have us elect the worst of two evils.
For those who claim radical by supporting McKinney or, brain forbid, the Nadir of fake liberalism, we should have little sympathy. As much as I have admired Cynthia McKinney, to pose her candidacy as an alternative to Obama is at best empty idealism, at worst nearly as dangerous as when the Nader used the same windy egotism to help elect Bush.
The people who are supporting McKinney must know that that is an empty gesture. But too often such people are so pocked with self congratulatory idealism, that they care little or understand little about politics (i.e. the gaining maintaining and use of power) but want only to pronounce , to themselves mostly, how progressive or radical or even revolutionary they are.
Faced with the obvious that McKinney cannot actually do anything by running but put out lines a solid left bloc shd put out anyway, their pre-joinder is that Obama will be running as a candidate of an imperialist party, or Imperialism will not let Obama do anything different or progressive…that he will do the same things any democrat would do and that the Democrats are using Obama to draw young people to the Democratic party. Also that there is a sector of the bourgeoisie supports Obama to put a new face on the US as alternative to the Devil face Bush has projected as the American image.
Some of these things I agree with, but before qualifying that let me say that no amount of solipsistic fist pounding about "radical principles" will change this society as much as the election of Barack Obama will as president of the US. Not to understand this is to have few clues about the history of this country, its people, or the history of the Black struggle in the US. It is also to be completely at odds with the masses of the Afro-American people, let us say with the masses of black and colored people internationally. How people who claim to lead the people but who time after time tail them so badly must be understood. It is because they confuse elitism with class consciousness.
And at this point, the US body politic has been taken too far in this present election campaign to easily dissolve this heavy challenge to its historic race & class exclusivity. The positive aspect of Hillary Clinton's candidacy and commitment to work in the Obama campaign has certainly shredded some of the gender exclusivity as well, so that there is in reality a prospect that some substantive change can be made. Obama is the democratic nominee. Only repeats of the outright election theft of Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 can put McCain in the white house. In 2 weeks, since the Democratic Party primaries ended, McCain's poll numbers have dropped from a dead heat w/ Obama to trailing by 18 points.
It is up to revolutionaries and progressives and radicals of all stripes to make it difficult for another larceny in November. We should agitate for serious disruption across this country and internationally if such a criminal attempt to steal the US presidency is mounted.
For the so called left and would be radicals (and some grinning idiots who say they don't even care about politics) the McKinney gambit is to label oneself "Quixote of the loyal opposition" to pipsqueak a hiss of disproval at the rulers while being an enabler of the same. Neither McCain nor McKinney will help us. Only Obama offers some actual help.
Even the dumbest things Obama has said re: Cuba and the soft shoe for Israel must be seen as the cost of realpolitik, that is he is not running for president of the NAACP and not to understand that those are the stances that must be taken in the present political context, even though we hold out to support what he said about initiating talks with the Cubans, the Palestinians . After years of Washington stupidity and slavish support for the Miami Gusanos and Israeli imperialism, there is in Obama's raising of talks with the US Bourgeois enemies something that must be understood as the potential path for new initiative. It is the duty of a left progressive radical bloc to be loud and regular in our demands for the changes Obama has alluded to in his campaign. We must take up these issues and push collectively, as a Bloc, or he will be pushed inexorably to the right.
Some people were grousing about the father's day address and the stance he took lecturing Black men to actually become fathers not just disappearing sexual partners. But can anyone who actually lives in the hood, and has raised children there really claim that what Obama said is somehow an "insult to half a race". We need to take up that idea of making Black men stand up and embrace fatherhood (a lifetime gig) as men and quit winking at the vanished baby makers that litter our community with fatherless children. This is where a great deal of the raw material comes from for the gangs that imperil our communities.
As I answered one irate e-mailer who was pissed off at Obama for leveling that challenge, a Negro man killed my only sister, a Negro man killed my youngest daughter. I can't give no mealy mouth slack about that, we need to Stand Up!
Obama has addressed the Israeli lobby and the Gusano (anti Cuba) lobby. But where is the Black left and general progressive, radical and revolutionary lobby? That is the real job we need to address. We must bring something to the table. It is time for the left to really make some kind of Left Bloc to support Obama. I was at the Black Left meeting in North Carolina and had to argue with a group of folks who want to be revolutionary as heck with a Reconstruction Party supporting Cynthia McKinney. Though there was some good discussion, nothing concrete has been offered especially around the Obama campaign.
There were even a few badly disguised nationalists, posing as part of the left who think such posturing somehow more revolutionary than getting Obama into the oval office and dealing with getting him there and the rocking and rolling that will go on in this country whether he makes it or not. We ought to be putting together a left bloc document that can be circulated as soon and as widely as possible and in Denver and depending on the circumstances, beyond. Using this as a means of drawing the excited masses to the left.
We always knew that the Obama campaign had the potential to do this. And the closer we get to the convention and then the election even more excitement will be generated. We shd not let our role be to stand on the sidelines and mumble how hip weare, we can't be so hip we let this cross roads of US history pass us by and possibly even let the lobotomized Robocop of right wing Republicanism serve us up more Bush' it.
I am sending this document right after I finish writing it to the Black Radical Congress who is meeting in St. Louis this weekend. I would hope it could be circulated.