A discussion about the philosophical debates/splits within the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination.
Liberalism no longer affords a sinecure. It cannot grow old in office. It must pass on, like adolescence, into revolution. For at is not an end in itself, nor even the means to an end. It is a transient phase of history, bridging the gap between the old and the new – a last act of communication, as it were, before the old is lost to view. Its role therefore is not to renew itself (because it can do so only by betraying the new), but to lose itself in the progressive forces that it had, in a way, generated – and transform communication into communion.
It is the inability of liberals, white and black, both in America and in this country, to make this transformation or acknowledge their obsolescence, that has frozen them in the attitudes of injured in their parents who had only their children’s welfare at heart. In their anger and their hurt at being rejected they have condemned the forces of renewal as diabolic and destructive or, in the language of our time, Maoist.
It is in this context, that the upheavals in CARD over the last few months becomes intelligible. The liberal rump of the organisation keeps pointing to CARD’s achievements in the past two years and pleads that it does not jeopardise its standing in the community (or in Parliament) through fancy slogans and fancier programmes. They have done a lot, they say, and they can do more. But lente, lente … They even acknowledge – the white faction, that is – that they must relegate themselves to the rear and give the black people their heads. They can, in other words, conceive of a pie in which they have only a finger, but what is unthinkable is that the pie should not be of their own baking. In their consternation they fall back on liberal catch-phrases that serve only to conceal the real issues: “unconstitutional”, “undemocratic”, “Illegal” and the not so liberal one of “racist”. And when the battle is lost and the black people on whose behalf they are fighting decided to fight for themselves – in terms of their own history – the liberals throw up their hands in horror and point to the perils of the yellow philosophy. For who else but a Maoist would intrude the colonial dialogue into a CARD convention? How utterly unrealistic it was to think that a small organisation fashioned for a local purpose could take on the forces of international colonialism. And finally, wasn’t the quest for black power itself racist?
But to the black man his colour is a whole way of life, of non-life. To say that he is colour conscious is to imply that he has been allowed the possibility of another consciousness. In fact, it would be true to say that his colour is the one thing he does not wish to be conscious of- for it is his mark of oppression. He has tried to escape it as best he could; aping the white man, playing the white man’s game (even when he changed the rules so as to keep on winning), even forcing the white man to concede a victory or two. But it all took bin further from himself and no nearer to the whiteness which he bad been led to believe was the highest good. He knows now and at last that he must accept his blackness, embrace it with all his being and force out of it an image of himself, peerless and profound. He knows too that the white world, caught up in its history of privilege and power has become cynical about its own values and will not yield up either justice or dignity. And the liberal white who is closest to him is also furthest from him – for he is unable to make that final leap of love which will allow his to say not “I will help you” but “I am you”. And so he remains uncompromisingly black – desperately true to himself.
If this is racism, it bears no resemblance to the racism of the white man which is at one level a matter of choice and at another level a matter of privilege but at all levels an exercise in oppression. White racism incurs, somewhere down the line, the denial of human dignity, black “racism” envisages the destruction of that denial. It is the liberal fallacy which gives them equal weight.
As for the arguments that the fight against colonialism is another fight and that its intrusion into CARD politics could only vitiate the struggle against discrimination in this country – these, too, stem from an un-understanding of black history. The experience of colonial oppression is total and pervasive. It does not cease at the moment of independence or through emigration to the mother country” (the latter in fact serves only to enhance the experience). It does not very in effect as between one colonised country and another. It is the one thing common to all the peoples of the third world; it goes hand in hand with the colour of their skin. And it binds them in a manner inconceivable to the dialectical draftsmen of the Fourth International. For, in their pain and their purpose they have found an identity with each other that makes them not many countries but one people. Their revolution is basically and spontaneously international – almost by accident one night say rather than by design. And yet they are aware that there must be many revolutions, each carried out in terms of its own country, her history and terrain, a sort of international nationalism, centripetal. It is this that distinguishes the Fifth International (proclaimed, one night say, at the Havana Congress in August this year) from its predecessors and makes it unintelligible to *orthodox* party hacks.
What this means at the individual level is that the black man carries his revolution wherever he goes. His colour is still his consciousness but it is now a consciousness that redeems: blackness and not whiteness is the highest good. And his struggle to redeem himself is the struggle also of one thousand five hundred million natives” as opposed to “five hundred million men”. He cannot, even if he wished to (unless he was a white man masquerading as a black), forget this fact for a moment. It is infinitely more real to him than all the fond gestures of a white society.