A coalition of some 60 Black Lives Matter groups from around the United States has issued a platform statement titled “A vision for Black lives: policy demands for Black power, freedom and justice”.
It is the most important Black independent political action program since the National Black Independent Political Party and Black Power conventions of the early 1970s. It reflects the leading role of young Blacks in an as yet nascent general youth radicalisation. The preamble states:
“Despite constant exploitation and perpetual oppression, Black people have bravely and brilliantly been the driving force pushing the US towards the ideals it articulates but has never achieved.
“In recent years we have taken to the streets, launched massive campaigns, and impacted elections, but our elected officials have failed to address the legitimate demands of our movement. We can no longer wait … We are a collective that centres and is rooted in Black communities, but we recognise we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all our work.”
This is expressed in many of the document’s demands concerning Latinos, women, Native Americans, all workers, LGBT people and others.
It is a radical document that calls for fundamental change as well as immediate demands. For example, it states, “America is an empire that uses war to expand territory and power. American wars are unjust, destructive to Black communities globally and do not keep Black people safe locally”.
Zionist organisations have denounced the document because it opposes US military aid to Israel, “a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades”. It characterises Israel as an apartheid state responsible for genocide against the Palestinians. It details the role of the US globally, including its military actions in Africa, the long suppression of the Haitian people and so on.
“The interlinked systems of white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy shape the violence we face. As oppressed people living in the belly of global empire, we are in a critical position to build the necessary connections for a global liberation movement”, the policy statement says.
“Until we are able to overturn US imperialism, capitalism and white supremacy, our brothers and sisters around the world will continue to live in chains … our liberation is intrinsically tied to the liberation of Black and Brown people around the world.”
Another example of its vision for Blacks and society as a whole: “Until we achieve a world where cages are no longer used against our people … we demand an end to all jails, detention centres, youth facilities and prisons as we know them”.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been galvanised not only by the police murders of Blacks, but by the whole system of institutionalised racist oppression. The 2014 uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer, exposed not only systematic police violence and repression, but the entire legal system’s criminal use of frivolous arrests, high bail, fines, court surcharges and interest on these to exact what amounts to illegal taxes on the Black community.
“A vision for Black lives” calls for an end to the “war on Black immigrants”, including deportations, Immigration and Customs raids and immigrant detentions, which obviously also embraces Latinos and other immigrants.
By calling for an end to the war on “Black trans, queer and gender nonconforming people” – which does impact Blacks especially – it also embraces all LGBT people.
It calls for an end to: the criminalisation and dehumanisation of Black youth; the use of past criminal history to discriminate; capital punishment; mass surveillance of Black communities; the privatisation of police and prisons; and for the demilitarisation of police.
In making these and other demands throughout the document, the vision statement offers concise but thorough explanations of the problems addressed and what its demands would accomplish.
There are four other sections. One is on political power, and calls for “independent Black political power and Black self-determination”. This recalls demands raised in the Black radicalisation of the 1960s and early 1970s, as do calls for community control in another section.
This connection is also clear when the document calls for an end to the criminalisation of Black political activity and for the release of all political prisoners. It refers to the FBI’s COINTELPRO directed against Black organisations and leaders (and many others including socialists) in that earlier radicalisation, and to the political prisoners from that time still in jail or on international “terrorist” lists.
It calls for the removal of Assata Shakur from such lists, and for the bounty on her head to be rescinded. Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, was the victim of a police frame-up. She escaped prison in 1979 and later fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum. Democratic and Republican administrations and politicians, including current nominees Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, have demanded she be brought back to the US and sent to jail for the rest of her life.
Another section is on reparations for the harm done by slavery – a demand often raised by Black activists. The document takes the demand further, to include reparations for all the economic harm and exploitation of Blacks not only by slavery, but through Jim Crow up to the present day.
This exploitation is also addressed in a separate section on economic justice. Among other things, it calls for the elimination of regressive taxation and for worker protections for those not included under current regulations – including domestic workers, farm workers, restaurant and other workers who rely on tips. Many are Black and Latino, but this demand is in the interest of all workers, as is the demand for the right of all workers to organise unions.
“A vision for Black lives” is a work in progress. As it is read, discussed and changed by Black Lives Matter activists, their political awareness will be greatly deepened. It will also have an international aspect, as groups in other countries – including Canada, Britain and Australia – have taken up the name of Black Lives Matter in their own struggles.
It should also be read, discussed and debated among socialists and others on the left.
Black Lives Matter has increased the confidence of Black youth. They are taking the lead away from the Black political establishment, which is mired in the Democratic Party. “A vision for Black lives” will increase that confidence further.