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Dual and contending power: The history and struggle for economic development in the African People's Socialist Party

Under Deputy Chair Ona Zene Yeshitela's leadership (pictured, left), the Party's economic development work has grown in leaps.

African People’s Socialist Party, Chairman Omali Yeshitela made a series of presentations of portions of the Political Report to the Congress. In these presentations, he put forth excerpts of the Political Report and expounded on them. The following is an excerpt of one such presentation. In the presentation, he laid out the significance and the history of struggle for economic development made by the Party.
 

 
Africans believe in economic development. The masses are materialists.
 
So, when you go out there talking about you’re going to make revolution to make people free, then the best evidence of that is what you create in terms of the material capacity for people to live and survive with.
 
So when you talk about eco­nomic development and making revolution, then there must be some vision that’s given to the people of how that is going to rep­resent itself concretely in terms of our ability to grow our food, to make our clothing and build our own shelter.
 
That’s just something that people need. So that’s what con­cretely makes what we’re trying to do so significant.
 
I’m going to read a bit from the Political Report.
 
“The Office of Economic De­velopment, headed by Ona Zene Yeshitela, is a department that has the responsibility for leading the economic work of the Party while developing and promoting economic development for the entire colonially dispersed African nation.
 
“We recognize this as a bold proposition, but no bolder than a program for the total liberation and unification of Africa and Afri­cans the world over.
 
“This is the role enthusiasti­cally accepted by our Party. We have always prided ourselves in our ideological commitment to economic self-reliance, reflected in our history of practice. You see it in our practice, not just statement.
 
“We have also recognized that our practical work for national economic self-re­liance, work done since the inception of our Movement and the Party it­self, is a concrete manifestation of our ideology.
 
“It represents a measurable example of our political struggle against foreign and alien colonial domination.
 
“It is one of the things that show that the Party’s commitment to national liberation is not simply an abstract concept. It is demonstrably real in every way.
 
“The Political Report to the Fifth Party Congress spelled out the responsibility of the Office of Economic Development and Fi­nance based on the current state of our Party and struggle.
 
“Not only must this depart­ment create real economic devel­opment programs for the whole Party, it must anticipate new ex­penses and plan for meeting the budget requirements of the whole Party and its various programs. This office must also participate in helping to develop contending economic development programs that benefit the masses and help to bring them closer to the em­brace of our Party...
 
“The Office of Economic De­velopment and Finance must be bold in its vision and competent in its ever-expanding capacity. This is the office that must acquire the expertise to anticipate the emer­gence of an independent African economy growing out of process­es and programs of our Party that are developing now as instru­ments of contending and dual in­ternational economic power.
 
“The African petty bourgeoi­sie, where most of the expertise we need are for such develop­ment is located, is not readily ac­cessible to us at this time. It is also true that without ideological trans­formation, the expertise gained thru imperialist’s institutions, is not immediately useful to us.
 
“However, this will change. The conscientious work done by the Office of Economic Develop­ment and Finance will result in the development of the needed expertise within our own ranks, the growth of our Party and the Movement under its influence, will result in class suicide by elements of the African petty bourgeoisie with such expertise.
 
“They will abandon the inter­ests of the African petty bourgeoi­sie, which is a dying social force, and adopt the interests of the Af­rican working class as their own.
 
“The Office of Economic De­velopment and Finance must re-establish the culture of self-reliance within the ranks of our Party, and teach the Party how to constantly be in the process of re­source generation as a matter of practice on a regular and consis­tent basis.
 
“Party organizations must be taught the principles of financial accountability and resource se­curity. However, one of the impor­tant tasks in resource security is selling The Burning Spear news­paper, which is the property of the masses.
 
“One of the most important tasks of this Office is to develop a program to also teach those things to Party cadre. This not because all cadre will be involved in finance and economic devel­opment, but because we want each cadre to have a rudimen­tary knowledge that will make her capable of functioning in various organizations of the people in this struggle for influence and the ac­quisition of power.’”
 
For example, you are in the Party, and now the students are catching hell at a particular school where you are located and the parents are really upset about that.
 
You have to go and organize the parents because that’s your responsibility to try to organize the parents to try to deal with this question.
 
In the process of putting to­gether organization, there are various tasks that an organization has to carry out.
 
One of those tasks deals with how you are going to make mon­ey, what are you going to do with the money when you get it, how do you create a budget and things like that.
 
Our cadre will know how to do that. That’s what this Office will be training us to do so that we be­come helpful.
 
We begin to empower the Af­rican community in the capacity to build organization to solve prob­lems that we have everywhere.
 
“Leading the struggle of the entire people, places the responsi­bility of liberation of the dispersed African nation on the shoulders of the African working class through its fighting, revolutionary class or­ganization, the African People’s Socialist Party.
 
“Concretely, this means that the Party leads the struggle for national self-determination.
 
“One of the things that has distinguished the Party from as­similationist organizations and puts us firmly in the camp of Mar­cus Garvey is our history of build­ing self-determination institutions.
 
“Mostly this has happened within the framework of our strat­egy for building dual and contend­ing power as part of the contest with the existing colonial power.
 
“Assimilationist organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) do not have any such obligations because, for them, the ultimate aim is to inte­grate into the existing capitalist-colonialist system.”
 
The NAACP likes to brag about being the oldest, largest black organization in this country. The fact is, after all these years, they haven’t even created a cafe or a juice bar.
 
There’s nothing that the NAACP has created and contrib­uted toward economic develop­ment for our people.
 
Why? Because for them, suc­cess is not having the capacity to run our lives, but joining up with the enemy who controls our lives.
 
“Our quest for dual power is also different from the self-reli­ance, do-for-self institutions initi­ated by the original Nation of Is­lam because our intent is not to build a movement of petty mer­chants.
 
“For our Party, the work for self-determination and self-re­liance is an integral part of the struggle for national liberation under the leadership of the revo­lutionary African working class. Workers must have control of our economy.”
 
I read some time ago a criti­cism of Marcus Garvey written by a white woman who was a com­munist-socialist or something to that effect.
 
She said that Garvey was a petty bourgeois nationalist be­cause he didn’t build a movement for the workers to get jobs, but he’s up there trying to start busi­nesses. (laughter)
 
Well, businesses in the control of the working class is called so­cialism, fool! (laughter, applause)
 
The thing is that the objec­tive of a worker’s revolution is to become the new ruling class. The entire economy is under the leadership of the African working class.
 
That is what we’re construct­ing from the bottom up. That is what our intent is.
 
That is why we are conscious­ly involved in building, an anti-colonial economy trying to win the broad masses of African people into this process
 
Then as we move it forward and seize workers power, then we are talking about a socialist economy.
 
That woman’s a communist. She knew that, but like so many other white people, she’s con­cerned that y’all don’t have no jobs. So they say “get a job,” don’t get no freedom. (laughter)
 
I try to remind them that there used to be full employment under slavery (laughter).
 
“We are an organization of professional revolutionaries, which means that we have al­ways sought the ability to sustain our organizers. From our earliest days, this meant going into the or­ange groves for collective orange-picking, to holding traditional car washes and dinner sales, to build­ing large, highly successful insti­tutions. We have lived in collec­tives where one or more persons would take turns working regular jobs in order to pay the way for the group and the work.
 
“We have purchased and op­erated bookstores and record shops in Louisville, Kentucky and Gainesville, Florida, launching the first commercial African-owned newspaper in Gainesville.
 
“For eight years subsequent to our founding I traveled the U.S. living out of a red Samsonite suit­case organizing the Party wher­ever possible. In Atlanta, Geor­gia, one of our collectives was so dilapidated that the front door had no hinges. At another, we were engaged in a permanent battle with the water company that would turn off the water due to non-payment of the bill, only to have us turn the water back on once the company’s service per­sonnel would leave.”
 
I want to say this because people come to the Uhuru House and see some of the institutions that we’ve created.
 
It hasn’t always been like this and it isn’t like this where most of you are. So you have to make it like this.
 
You have to build it better than this, and you have to make the contributions to the work so that we can build the most effective movement that’s necessary.
 
There is so much stuff that we don’t have to facilitate this revolu­tionary process.
 
“The peoples of the world are engaged in a cataclysmic struggle for self-determination. Our Party is a part of that struggle, one that must be waged in the world and within our Party as well. We are now moving more vigorously to­ward economic self-reliance with­in our Party.
 
“We are developing our eco­nomic work as a new political front.”
 
I mentioned here that we don’t have access to the petty bourgeoisie, but that is growing. I cannot tell you what a leap our ca­pacity has made just since the re­cruitment of Comrade Ona Zene Yeshitela (applause).
 
One of the reasons that this is significant is because she has picked up a lot of skills and orga­nizational tools from the bourgeoi­sie.
 
The working class normally doesn’t have access to these tools, and most of the people with those skills in our community don’t bring them to the working class.
 
We want to set an example for the African petty bourgeoisie that they can commit class suicide and join this revolutionary move­ment and do what has to be done to win our freedom.
 
We’ve established a template of what it is to be a revolutionary and we’re going to fight every inch of the way to uphold that.
 
Dr. Aisha Fields is a physi­cist. Those are the people that make nuclear weapons!
 
Right now, she’s just trying to help create energy in African communities, like hydroelectric (power) and in helping to grow food, composting and things like that.
 
Ron Bobb-Semple, an ac­complished actor and radio an­nouncer—these are not persons who have been available to the revolution in the past.
 
Alex Morley out of the Ba­hamas is a lawyer. Charo is an economist.
 
The comrades here out of St. Mary’s, Georgia are not looking for Def Jam; they are looking for the revolution.
 
“We are developing our economic work as a new politi­cal front. Unlike the recent past where our economic work was essentially designed to fund po­litical activity, our economic work, more firmly in the hands of the Party directly, is now strategically geared toward the conquest of political power.”
 
We are not trying to coexist with imperialism. This is not a survival program.
 
Our program is designed to make sure that capitalism does not survive; that imperialism does not survive; that colonial­ism does not survive. Because you cannot coexist with imperial­ism.
 
Our political work will be more clearly defined as a dual and contending power with a dy­ing imperialism.
 
“This time, in the era of the Final Offensive, we intend to win the struggle for power and raise the African working class up to its proper place as the ruling class in a socialist, liberated and unit­ed Africa and African people.”
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