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Follow the Leaders: The Fight-Back is Coming from the Most Marginalized

Among those who see themselves as politically enlightened, there’s now a widespread feeling that the world is doomed. The climate change-related depression and anxiety that’s become normal among so many in recent years is evidence of this pessimistic societal trend, as well as the horror and sadness that many Americans are now feeling amid the recent escalations of government violence against migrants. It appears that humanity is inexorably plunging towards ecological ruin and fascism. Interestingly, though, the belief that this collapse can’t be stopped seems prevalent largely within the core imperialist nations, where the forces of corporate tyranny are still dominant. In the countries where anti-capitalist and anti-colonial liberation struggles are winning or gaining ground, the evidence supports not impending apocalypse but rather societal rebirth.

The machinations of state control and the cruelties of neoliberal capitalism may be metastasizing within the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and other countries where capitalism is completing its inevitable descent into fascism, but look at how the power dynamic is shifting in the opposite direction in Venezuela, where the movement for Bolivarian socialism has stayed in power for twenty years despite imperialist aggressions and where the transition away from capitalism will in all likelihood continue throughout the coming decade; or in Sudan, where mass civil disobedience has toppled the country’s U.S.-supported dictator; or in Puerto Rico, where the island’s colonized people have overcome American repression to force their governor out of power.

In these and other places where people are in the process of trying to free themselves from imperial control, an example is being set for those who live in the colonizing nations. If we adopt the anti-colonial resistance mindset of the participants in these revolutions, we can also overpower neoliberal capitalism.

There are some in America whose ancestral memories have made it easier for them to develop this freedom-fighter consciousness. Savage Family, a Native American hip-hop group, has been bringing a message of militant anti-colonial and anti-capitalist resistance to our generation’s youth. These lyrics from one of their songs, “Truth Be Told”, articulates the mentality of resilience in the face of violent oppression that they hope to instill in Native young people:

They try and kill us off

Even our children are targets

The holocaust never ended, our people still be a problem

If you native then you know it’s not regardless

The governments are some terrorists guilty as charged

So listen up, here’s a story that’s true

What’s a warrior to do

Cept’ bang on these cowards with no more excuses

Wit’ no more excuses

Bang on these cowards with no more excuses

For Native American people, the war that cost them their land and most of their former population is still going on. Native people are killed by police in higher proportions than any other racial or ethnic group. They’re incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the national average. They’re subjected to the structural violence of enforced economic hardship, with the official poverty rate among Native Americans being 25% whereas the official rate among Americans overall is around half of that. With the current advancements towards fascism and environmental collapse, America’s indigenous people and their counterparts in the south are seeing this paradigm of violence against them escalate.

The current refugee crisis, and the violence against migrants that the Trump administration is carrying out in response to it, has been created by the modern forms of colonialism. The 2009 coup that the U.S. orchestrated in Honduras has been at the root of the country’s destabilization, with its disastrous ramifications continuing to make Honduran society harder for its residents to survive in. The militarization of Honduran society, the widening gap between the country’s rich and poor, and the paradigm of political violence within Honduras have all come about through the actions of the U.S, whose own society of course has parallels with all of these developments. When the country’s poor people respond to these atrocities in the only feasible way—which is to flee Honduras for a safer life in the north—they’re put in inhumane detention camps by America’s border police.

In a broader sense, all the other inhabitants of the so-called third world and the global lower class are now being colonized through the vicious process of climate collapse. As a result of carbon emissions from a small amount of large companies and wealthy individuals, and of the unparalleled pollution from the U.S. military, the global poor are seeing climate change uproot them from their lands and their livelihoods. Through a cycle of environmental destruction and increasing inequality that a recent United Nations report has described as “climate apartheid,” over 120 million people are estimated to be driven into poverty by 2030 as a result of climate disruption. The core imperialist nations will no doubt treat them the same way that they’re treating the current victims of colonialism at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The variable in this equation is the fact that there are people like the members of the Savage Family group, people who are standing their ground in the face of colonialist violence or the threat of it. Joey Castillo, an indigenous man in northern California a fellow member of mine in the Socialist Party of Humboldt County, is one of them. “Their problem is that they didn’t kill all of us,” Castillo has told me about the perpetrators of the Native genocide. (Disclaimer: my quotes from him are taken from memory and aren’t all verbatim.)

“I’m from the hood,” Castillo has said about his childhood home in the impoverished and gang-controlled areas of southern California.

“That means I grew up in a war zone…when I was twelve, I had a man point a gun at me, and I saw him shoot the guy next to me instead…I usually had to carry a gun around when I was a teenager…I’ve been discriminated against by the police. I once had the cops jump me in an elevator. I shook my head [because their charge against me was bogus], and they started beating me…I wasn’t harassed by the cops when I had my gun on me…the police department there was known to be made up of white supremacists. They had infiltrated it, and it was a family tradition for racists in that community to become cops.”

Castillo envisions a future where America has been decolonized through the abolition of the United States government, and where the land has been returned to the indigenous tribes under a socialist confederacy. “A lot of people don’t know who they are,” he’s also said.

“Most Hispanic people don’t identify as indigenous, even though that’s what they are…internalized oppression has made a lot of people sell out, work for the big corporations, be patriotic for America and wave the flag. [But] my mom raised me to be anti-America…I’ve had to have therapy because of my ancestral trauma, because of how angry I’ve gotten after learning about what’s been done to my people…I’m looking for where the warriors still are, the people who are fighting.”

The oppressor class tries to mentally beat the will to fight out of the oppressed. They claim that anyone who uses force to defend themselves from the violence of their oppressors is immoral. They want the impoverished and the subjugated to be grateful for what they’ve been allowed to have. They use terror to keep the oppressed in line, like is now happening as ICE rounds up Hispanics—including American citizens—and puts them in what are effectively concentration camps. Yet there are examples of people with Joey’s mindset experiencing the most horrendous violence imaginable, and still striking the blows that win them their freedom.

The citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had every town in their country burned down by the U.S. during the Korean War. The Americans targeted civilians as a warfare strategy, resulting in a genocide where around a fourth of the country’s people were killed off. Throughout the almost seven decades since then, they’ve been experiencing a perpetual threat of nuclear annihilation from the U.S. and an economic strangulation campaign that’s made north Koreans suffer. Whatever one thinks about the current nature of north Korea, they have strived to build a socialist society that’s equipped to defend itself from future imperialist aggression.

This resonates with Native people like Castillo, who has told me, in what some may see as a controversial statement:

“It’s beautiful to me how north Korea has used their scientists to build an atomic bomb. They’ve been able to split atoms. That’s an amazing thing…when your country is under threat from the colonizers, I think it’s a good thing for you to have nuclear weapons.

We must recognize that here in the U.S. we also have a freedom-fighting capacity. The repression that America’s government will apply to us as we fight for our freedom in the coming years likely won’t be as extreme as what the people of the DPRK endured, so we should consider our task a relatively easy one. Ours is an obstacle that the Native American people, partnered with their fellow oppressed communities and with the American socialist movement, can and will be able to overcome.”

When the Standing Rock protesters faced down the fossil fuel industry and the colonialist American police three years ago in an action that started an ongoing global anti-oil movement, they showed the power that we have as freedom fighters within a core imperialist nation. As working people around the world have been carrying out the largest amount of strikes that we’ve seen in decades, they’ve shown the presence of the class struggle that the global victims of capitalism are beginning to embrace. As Hispanic people in El Paso have mobilized towards buying firearms in response to the white supremacist mass shooting that happened in their city this month, they demonstrate the fact that poor people and nonwhites will fight for their lives if necessary.

As Joey Castillo and Savage Family describes us, we are warriors.

“We recognize that there is honor in fighting back when an oppressor class is directing violence against you. We don’t recognize the legitimacy of the capitalist system that deprives billions of people of a comfortable life, or of the U.S. government that subjects the people it’s colonized to enforced poverty and deadly militarized police control. We won’t stop fighting for our freedom, because we can see that our compatriots abroad have been able to win under circumstances even worse than our own.”

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Rainer Shea

Rainer uses the written word to deconstruct establishment propaganda and to promote meaningful political action. His articles can also be found at Revolution Dispatch
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