In the last edition of the online 'zine Black Commentator
The publishers gave their idea as to what black labor was to do in the face of corporate attacks. Unfortunately I believe that the publishers are being short sighted in their analysis and are too dependent upon appeals to "the government" or "political parties" to be agents of change. They quote William Lucy who states that black labor:
“must vigorously challenge these twin lies: that a low-wage economy is both good and necessary for America to regain its global economic power and that working families must accept a lower standard of living, while inept CEOs collect fat paychecks,” said Lucy. “We must change the economic thinking of national and local policy-makers if we intend to create a new economic order where social prosperity is shared by all.”
. “We are trying to shift to an economic approach,” said Lucy. “Both political parties need to respond to the Black community with an economic agenda, rather than competing to see who can do the best civil rights speech. We will begin to lay out the demand that both parties roll out some economic position” relevant to the African American condition.
I would respond by saying that while there are indeed "twin lies" we should not mistake it for some sort of patriotic concern for America. Rather the push to lower standards of livings for some while a small portion of the populance hoards a great deal of assets are hallmarks of the nationless corporation and persons who cares not for any particular place but rather in their assets. They would be more than willing to throw America the nation to the wolves should it suit their economic ends. It is this fact in itself that makes any discussion that centers on "American" communities or appeals to the American political system a waste of valuable time and energy. Garveyism informs us that economic prosperity comes to those who plan and execute a plan for it. It does not come by way or largess by those in power but rather comes from the self empowerment of the oppressed group. Such statements as:
“Both political parties need to respond to the Black community with an economic agenda, rather than competing to see who can do the best civil rights speech. We will begin to lay out the demand that both parties roll out some economic position” relevant to the African American condition Lead us right back to my long ago post containing choice wisdom from The Matrix Reloaded:
If you have nothing that "both political parties" want or need, exactly why should they listen to much less act on the demands of African-Americans?
So then the article goes on to critique the role of entrepreneurship:
“Among some Black political tendencies, the term ‘economic development’ is thought to be synonymous with individual entrepreneurship. That’s a very narrow definition of economic development, one that reduces most Blacks to the role of mere potential customers, who are expected to support individual Black businesspeople as if the survival of The Race depended on it.”
I don't think BC is opposed outright to entrepreneurship, as much as it is opposed to the lack of purpose or vision of said entrepreneurs. However; it would behoove the reader to understand that lack of business development within the black community and the lack of large scale commerce between disparate groups of black people is the source of our economic problems today. This is the very same message that both Marcus and Amy Garvey made well over 70 years ago and is even more relevant today.
BC makes the following statement:
Black unionists know full well the value of collective labor power, political power, and earning power. “There’s lots of potential earning power in our communities,” said the UFCW’s Willie Baker. “There’s a direct correlation between economic power for Black Americans and labor unions. When the UAW loses 200,000 jobs, there are large numbers of Blacks losing jobs. African Americans are the most severely impacted” – a fact brought home most starkly by U.S. Labor Department statistics that showed “55 percent (or 168,000) of the union jobs lost in 2004 were held by black workers, even though they represented only 13 percent of total union membership.” (See Dwight Kirk, BC, February 24, 2005.)
The decline in Black living standards cannot be reversed by Black entrepreneurialism that benefits only a few, and is itself often dependent on the earning power of Black working people. Economic development in Black America means, first and foremost, good jobs at good wages.
In my view, the fact that Black Americans, specifically those in the UAW and related unions, are dependent upon large white corporations for their livelihoods amounts to a new slave plantation system. If we remove the whips and chains, we essentially have the same thing: Large numbers of black people doing some sort of manual labor for a largely white run institutions that pay as little as they can to maintain the necessary human capital. Wasn't that the essence of slave labor? Garveyism is quite clear that wage labor for other people never gets the oppressed into positions of independence. Indeed I think this is the whole problem. There is a lot of energy spent discussing how to get "massa" to treat blacks better but rarely a discussion, much less any type of plan to get off "massas" plantation.
Let me address the issue of "Black entrepreneurialism " as quoted above. I agree with the overall sentiment but I think that it is way to simplified. I have been a vocal critique of the civil rights movements insistence on integration. Integration will be proven to be the biggest economic blow dealt to African Americans since slavery. This is not an endorsement of legal segregation but rather stating the fact that any group that seeks economic success clings to and services its own first and then branches out. If you walk around black neighborhoods you will note one of two things: either there are very few places offering goods and services or the goods and services are largely owned by or franchises of white businesses. Now take another walk in any largely Asian neighborhood and you're likely to see the opposite. walk through a Jewish neighborhood and you'll see the opposite. You'll notice a similar pattern in black neighborhoods with increasing "latino" populations as well.
The pattern is pretty clear you must establish a monopoly on goods and services rendered to your population. Thus whatever monies come in from wage workers stays in that community. These businesses also serve as primary means of employment for young people. Once these businesses are large and stable enough, they are able to exert pressure on local government on behalf of their customers who also happen to be their constituencies. In other words, business is much like a government representative in local government. If anything should illustrate this it would be the recent "immigration" rallies. Much of the economic support for these rallies came from businesses in these communities whether by direct contributions or by proxy (meaning donations to or other support of non-profit organizations).
I don't want to dwell on this point to long, but it must be understood that the future of black people, worldwide, is directly related to our ability to provide for and support ourselves wherever we are. Let's move on further into BC's commentary:
f there is to be economic change in Black America, it will come through mass political action, sustained by the massed capital and energies of the people. The new Movement will not be a mom-and-pop enterprise. Its objectives can only be achieved through the accumulation and exercise of political power.
I think BC should study the sequential equation
in which economic transformation (+e) of a society stands behind the political transformation of society(+p). In other words there will be no political power without economic power to back it up. Never has been, never will be, except in our sleep perhaps. Let me close with this:
“At one time Detroit had the highest paid Black workers in the country,” Willie Baker reminds us:
That is like saying: At one time Detroit had the best plantation. If black Detroiters took it for granted that they would be sitting pretty on the hill, flush with "Big Three" cash and did even consider much less plan for when the rug would get pulled out from under them, then who is to blame for that lack of planning and foresight? How long until negroes understand that slavery ended because it was no longer profitable? Why pay for maintenance of people that you could no longer import when you could simply pay them next to nothing and let them deal with maintaining themselves or die? it's the same situation except negroes think they are special because Mexicans are in the fields doing the picking.
I think BC has it's heart in the right place but I think they are stuck on the same things that failed us before. While I don't oppose moderate political maneuvers where relevant, I think that African-Americans place way too much emphasis on the political process and far to little time on the unglamorous work of institution building and maintenance (don't get me started on the state of HBCU's).