was able to replay the discussion between Carl Dix and Cornel West.
It took place on July 14 in New York City before an audience of
about 800. I also listened to Amy Goodman’s interview of the two
of them on Democracy NOW! For me the content of
the discussion was under whelming. I
found it un-remarkable. The title of the event that evening was "The
Ascendancy of Obama… and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation.
I do not know if it was the format or the participants but this
event did not live up to its potential for helping to solidify and
advance the movement for justice. There was no exchange.
– who I appreciate very much from his previous works – was entertaining
but mostly shallow and defensive. On his good side he hinted at
the need for alliances for resistance; he, however, did not spell
this out in terms of the meaning and structure of the needed alliances
and the critical importance of this to the success of resistance
actions. He also made a brief reference to cultural, artistic contributions
to the movement by saying that he had gone to a Prince, John Mellencamp,
and Bob Dylan musical concert that same evening noting their Blues
sensibilities and communion with the poor and working class; the
critical importance of this form of communications to reach all
groups was left unsaid.
West recognized the symbolic power of the new President’s black
skin and rightly declared that it was not enough; although he honored
the euphoria that some folks on the leftfeltabout Obama’s election, he did not adequately warn
against being misled by those feelings. There is a long history
in justice movements of ‘firsts’ and main stream societal celebrities
that mainly enhanced the Western Cultural myth of individualism
and furthered introspective and spiritual laziness. (This dynamic
is also deeply embedded in the functioning of Carl Dix’s Revolutionary
Communist Party and its reverence for the individual of Chairman
must be given some credit for mentioning that we are “all cracked
vessels” and mentioning the phenomena of HNICs (Head Negros in Charge);
but he did not break this down enough so that an unfamiliar audience
would understand. In the interview with Amy Goodman, the Professor
spoke of “the Obama administration [being] obsessed with the wrong
Lincoln.” There he spoke of the impact of the abolitionist movement
on Lincoln as represented by Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher
Stowe, Wendell Phillips, and Charles Sumner. Obama has closed off
almost all access to him by those in the justice movement. Obama’s
lesson from Lincoln is that he reached ‘across the aisle’ to include
some of his individual opponents in his cabinet; Barack’s ability
to so easily take Single Payer off the table is testament to continued
deafness to the left even when it is in the majority. Cornel West’s
comments on this regard are too brief.
Dr. West talks about his justification for supporting Obama as a
means to “bring Reaganism to a close.” This is a totally nebulous,
unexamined assertion or after-thought that is highly suspect as
a real achievement of the Obama election. First of all, Cornel stays
within the Western Cultural myth of individualism by equating conservatism
with the individual person of Reagan; then he talks as if Obama’s
election vanquished conservatism as if we are now living in a post-conservative
Obama era. We are no more living in a post-conservative age than
we are living in a post-racial age. Western Cultural conservative
myths and racial myths are buried too deeply in us as individuals,
in the language, in our conceptualizations, and in our institutions,
even those organizations we might believe to be radically left leaning.
Despite Professor West concluding with a call that we all take up
resistance as a way of life, I was very disappointed.
Dix was very good at describing the problem but little else. Carl
dealt with the ‘blaming the victim’ phenomenon that was exhibited
by Bill Cosby and by Obama in his “fathers’ day speeches.” Here
Dix, West, Cosby, Obama, and many others fail to escape the tangled
Western myths of individualism, either/or paradigms, and Western
cultural-scientism-authoritarian chauvinism. Through multiple intense
acts of love and caring, black parents and leaders naturally attempt
to guide the ignorant toward acts and behaviors that it is hoped
will lead to less poverty and reduced direct individual oppression.
In doing this, examples
are sought among those of us that have achieved some modicum of
‘success’ by adapting our language, our dress, and by ‘toning down’
our behaviors to mimic the way the oppressor acts – sometimes. But
rather than just say this is a model for survival, all too often
existing behaviors are ‘put down’ and denigrated as if these behaviors
are the reason that poor black folks are oppressed. We have here
a drastic imbalance in the perception of the locus of control; we
ought to know better because there are inexhaustible examples of
‘proper acting’ black folks facing discrimination. It is right to
tell someone to ‘duck’ but insane to think that they get hit because
they don’t duck; they get hit because of the person making the toss.
There is a both/and reality here that all too often Western Cultural
thinkers are blind to. No such analysis was presented other than
Dix also was provocatively inaccurate in his description of Obama’s
position on Africa for the same reasons; I never heard Obama tell
Africa that they should forget about slavery as Carl stated. I saw
Obama spend time touring the holding pens ofCape Coast Castlein Ghana, rather. Obama’s fault was in not giving due recognition to the
historical, capitalistic, Cold War, systemic reasons for mismanagement
of African governments. Obama is not wrong to point out this mismanagement.
In the same sense, Bob Avakian and the RCP is at fault in their
criticism of religion and religious people; they fail to give due
recognition to the twisting of Christian religion by Roman Emperor
Constantine and subsequent shaping by imperialism throughout history.
Imperialism infected nearly all human social institutions from the
individual, to the family, all the way up. Let us not fail to make
distinctions between a people’s or an institution’s goodness or
humanity and the twisting that came about because of history and
culture. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
Dix closed with a poem from Oscar Brown Jr. that graphically described
the problem, only.
West and Carl Dix simply stipulated their differences; if they had
engaged these differences, we might have had an interesting and
helpful discussion. When Amy Goodman asked Cornel where he disagreed
with Dix, Cornel said that he was “a free Jesus-loving black man,
and (Dix), my dear secular, atheistic, revolutionary communist comrade…we
disagree probably on what it means to engage in revolutionary transformation
of a capitalist society.” When Amy asked Dix what it means to be
a revolutionary communist, he described the need to recognize the
lethal, exploitive actions of capitalism. Ok, many of us are there.
Dix then talked about the need “to stop cold the system of capitalism
and imperialism…through revolution, andputpower into the hands of the people.” This is where
the RCP loses me. If one isputtingpower into the hands of the people than it is not
the people who have the power; it is theputter who controls the power. I say “no thanks” to creating a small vanguard
or “core” with power that has been - somehow - snatched from the
present small oligarchic elite.
would have been much more excited by a discussion between Cornel
West and Carl Dix on their differences and how to pull off the revolutionary
transformation of capitalist society. On the left we are clear about
what we are against. All too often we fail to articulate what we
are for and how to get there. That is why when we work together,
win, lose, or draw our efforts are unsustainable. Too bad for us
this talking-pass-one-another encounter was just another example
of a lost opportunity.
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator Wilson Riles is a
former Oakland, CA City Council Member. Click here
to contact Mr. Riles.
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