Black Anarchism and the Black Radical Tradition: Moving Beyond Racial Capitalism

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    Atticus Bagby-Williams, Nsambu Za Suekama

    Publisher: Daraja Press

    Year: 2022

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 62 pages

    ISBN: 9781990263323

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Black Anarchism and the Black Radical Tradition deals with three distinct radical orientations: the anarchist movement in Europe and the United States, the Black Radical Tradition, and Black anarchism. Importantly, Black anarchism owes more to the Black Radical Tradition than the European anarchist movement. Often, Black anarchists are not acknowledged within the Black Radical Tradition for their contributions to revolutionary theory as well as struggle. We seek to change that by discussing Black anarchist theorists and to shed light on the resonances and differences among them.

We are in the midst of the largest Black uprising since the 1960s. Increasingly, the resonances between anarchist struggle and Black rebellion (with a common enemy in the capitalist state) are becoming clear. Over the past ten years, within radical networks and academic milieus, there has been renewed interest in clarifying these resonances. The Black Radical Tradition, as coined by the late great Black scholar Cedric Robinson, and its interactions with U.S. anarchism are what this project is attempting to map and explain. Our book engages with two waves of Black anarchists, including Kuwasi Balagoon, Lorenzo Kom''boa Ervin, and Ashanti Alston in the first wave, and Zoe Samudzi, William C. Anderson, and the Anarkatas in the second wave. We investigate why there has been dissonance between anarchists and Black radicals, partly by engaging relevant work and thought of anarchists such as Emma Goldman and David Graeber. The book makes the argument that anarchist theory can be "stretched'' to Black people in the United States and other countries, in the way that Frantz Fanon stretched Marxism to the Global South.

Black anarchism is not simply anarchism being practiced by people who are Black, but rather a tradition of autonomy, mutual aid, and militant resistance that emerges out of Black historical struggle. It is clear there are resonances between Black radicalism and anarchism, especially in the wake of the great uprising of 2020. In this project, we seek to clarify those resonances. Black anarchism needs to be written and understood partly as a theoretical project and partly as a project of radical political action.

There has been a renewed interest in Black anarchism. Books such as As Black As Resistance or Anarcho-Blackness published in the past couple of years show that interest. However, our book differs in several ways. Importantly, we seek to engage more directly and to critique texts within the anarchist canon as well as engaging with scholars such as Fanon and Robinson, who are both located in anti-colonial movements of the 1960s. By using Fanon and Robinson to engage with the European anarchist canon, we hope to explain the resonances between long standing Black radicals and anarchism. In addition, by engaging fully with leading writers in the two waves of Black anarchism, we hope to bring more clarity to the project that is Black anarchism.

This work Is an important achievement in clarifying the history and current importance of Black anarchism. The information that the book presents will be new to many readers. For instance, one important component involves the explanations of how hierarchical principles within the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army helped generate the emergence of Black anarchism among key party members who later developed their ideas and strategies while in prison. Likewise, the book breaks new ground in demonstrating that Black anarchism has emerged not from the European/ North American anarchist traditions but rather from roots in Pan-Africanism, the Black radical tradition focusing on racial capitalism and the work of Cedric Robinson, and grassroots struggles partly in the U.S. South. An in-depth analysis of the somewhat different but complementary focuses within the two generations of Black anarchism also is very helpful. Finally, the book highlights concrete, contemporary implications for revolutionary strategy, including a perceptive analysis of the compatibilities between socialist and Black anarchist approaches to current transformative struggles. This publication will become widely known and used, because it brings enlightening new ways to understand and to act on the intertwined structures of racial capitalism and the capitalist state.

What People Are Saying

"I am glad to see that there is a second wave of Black anarchists since 2015, arriving on the scene. I support the rights of all Black anarchists to build their movements, and I defend the rights of Anarkata. I don’t agree with everything in this book, but that is immaterial. This is an excellent book and well written." Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, activist and author of Anarchism and the Black Revolution and The Progressive Plantation. During his over 50 years as an anarchist, Ervin was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party, and Concerned Citizens for Justice. He founded the first Black anarchist federation in North America, Black Autonomy.

"This revolutionary book reveals the political power of “stretching” the classical anarchic tradition to critiques of racial capitalism. Bagby-Williams and Suekama deliver an accessible, thought-provoking analysis of two waves of Black American anarchism: that which arose from 20th-century politics of Black liberation and the later reanimation of anarchism triggered by 21st-century killings by American police. The authors layer deep class criticism with insightful case studies not just to retrace a history of Black Anarchism but to make a compelling argument about the diversity of thought that influences the radical tradition. With this book, the historical and continuing contributions of feminist thought, queer activism, and anti-colonial struggle to the movement are made clear. Readers will learn that Black Anarchism has not died due to “progress,” but rather proliferated in light of the American tragedy that is capitalism, imperialism and brutal, carceral control. This book has nuance. Read it now!” S.M. Rodriguez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Gender, Rights and Human Rights, London School of Economics, and author of The Economies of Queer Inclusion: Transnational Organizing for LGBTI Rights in Uganda. www.smrodriguez.com

"A necessary and accessible historical analysis of the often overlooked Black anarchism. Bagby-Williams and Za Suekama demonstrate that any revolutionary movement truly committed to a post-capitalist world must constructively engage with this Black radical tradition." Toni Harrison, Black Canadian writer, community organizer, and host of the podcast Actually Existing Socialism (https://podbay.fm/p/actually-existing-socialism).

"Thank you for sharing the pamphlet. Once we started reading it we could not put it down. It was refreshing to learn about the different texts, approaches and experiences of Black anarchism. What stood out the most for us was the inclusion of feminist and queer perspectives moving away from the ableist heteropatriarchy lens. The authors recognize the importance of pan-Africanism as one source of Black anarchism. They also emphasize the Black anarchist insight that all forms of oppression must be fought, to better address the challenges across all oppressed and Black bodies. In an era where movements are advocating for the abolition or reform of oppressive systems, this text helps reflect and reimagine what new inclusive systems may look like. It also makes an important analysis that highlights the complexity and diversity in Black anarchism, which is essential if we are to confront the white savior complex and complacency in addressing inequities and dismantling racial capitalism." Tinashe Goronga, medical doctor and public health leader in Zimbabwe; coordinator of EqualHealth’s Global Campaign Against Racism affiliated with the international Social Medicine Consortium; and Mandela Washington Fellow for 2022; and Yeukai Chikwenhere, pharmacist and global health researcher in Zimbabwe, co-founder for the Centre for Health Equity, and community organizer for EqualHealth’s Global Campaign Against Racism.

"This geography of Black anarchism succeeds in outlining its tendencies, champions, and contradictions. It reminds us that the children of Maroons don’t need no lessons in liberation. That we’ve always used things that confine to redefine. We beat plowshares into swords. And then we rob gun stores, cause who uses swords anymore?" Ben Passmore, comics artist, political cartoonist, creator of the Daygloayhole Series, and author of My Black Friend, which in 2017 won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic.

About the Authors and Editors

Authors:

Atticus Bagby-Williams is a communist theorist though he likes to think of himself as an anarchist in practice. His theoretical work is concerned with historical and contemporaneous black anarchist thought, the multiplicity of social struggles against oppression in the United States, and third worldist perspectives on revolution. His anarchist practice is concerned primarily with community based radical education, cultivating cultures of community self defense and anti-repression work. He has written for Red Voice and the Commoner and previously published a chapter with Shemon and Arturo in the book The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Rebellion.

Nsambu Za Suekama (or “Bl3ssing”), they/she, is a New African woman of nonbinary/transgender experience, focused on revolutionary organizing and educating at the crossroads of Black ecology, Third Worldism, transfeminist materialism, and anarchist/autonomist movement. They previously published “To The Ones Who Can Fly: A Message from the Whirlwind” (True Leap Press), including a study guide for support of Black trans prisoners. Her radical theoretical contributions have been featured on Red Voice News and Afrofuturist Abolitionists of the Americas.

Editors:

Shannon Fauwkes (they/them) is a non binary BlaQueer organizer in the Midwest who’s current work focuses primarily on abolition, Black Autonomous/Anarchic Radical (BAR) theory and praxis, and creating affordable, cooperative housing options in their city with their co-op crew. They live and work at a Catholic Worker hospitality house for single mothers with children.

Howard Waitzkin is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of New Mexico and practices internal medicine part-time in rural New Mexico and Illinois. For many years he has been active in struggles focusing on health in the United States and Latin America. He is coordinator, with the Working Group for Health Beyond Capitalism, of Health Care Under the Knife: Moving Beyond Capitalism for Our Health (Monthly Review Press, 2018).

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