teleSUR looks at how Ajamu Baraka's Green Party run alongside Jill Stein may electrify Black, brown and working-class resistance beyond November.
For those skeptics on the left whose reaction to the 2016 U.S. presidential race has ranged from a frenzied urge to #DemExit to an apathetic “meh,” Jill Stein's choice Monday of the human rights activist, organizer and writer, Ajamu Baraka as the Green Party's vice-presidential candidate carries the potential to electrify U.S. politics at its grassroots.
The central issue is the unresponsive politics of the neoliberal Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and the demagogic GOP nominee, Donald Trump. By choosing Baraka, whose progressive bonafides are unassailable, Stein and the Green Party have signaled their intentions to build a viable third-party alternative that actually represents the interests of the oppressed in what is ostensibly a multicultural democracy – the United States.
TeleSUR takes a look at the ways in which the Stein-Baraka ticket could lay the foundations for a robust working class political movement beyond November.
1. A Veteran Fighter Who Opposes “Zombie Democracy”
Ajamu Baraka (far left) in Riohacha, Colombia with the National Council of Palenques | Photo: Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)
In a status update posted to Facebook on Monday, Ajamu Baraka noted that his candidacy was “for anyone out there who may have thought for a moment that Jill was not serious about making some real change. Its on – playing with radical change is over.”
Unlike the vice-presidential candidates in the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties, Baraka is not a wealthy white lawyer. Instead, he is an accomplished Black scholar, professor, and human rights advocate who has tirelessly fought for the rights of working people in the United States and throughout the world.
Writing for Counterpunch and noting the “at times hilarious” state of “zombie democracy in the USA” – “a rotten facsimile that looked a little like democracy, sounded like democracy and even had some democratic forms, but was never the real thing, never really alive” – Baraka's views on what constitutes progressive politics can be summed up as follows: “It was the people’s struggle over time that injected what little life there is in the walking corpse that is democracy in America.”
2. A Consistent Anti-Imperialist
An Iraqi man is held after being arrested by the U.S Army. | Photo: Reuters
Barack Obama's presidency largely served to silence the anti-war movement of the Bush years, demobilizing those liberals who took to the streets to protest the post-9/11 “War on Terror” and continuing much of the Bush-era foreign policy track, including the wars Obama pledged to end. However, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton represents an even more hawkish wing of the U.S. establishment, having played a key role as secretary of state in the coup in Honduras, the toppling of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, and the destabilization of Venezuela, among other actions. During Clinton's campaign, the Saudi-funded first female presidential candidate has also promised to maintain an anti-Iran stance in the Middle East while pursuing a “regime change” course in Syria and signaling her unwavering support to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
However, Ajamu Baraka has consistently blasted the Democratic Party's so-called “humanitarian” imperialism, noting that it provides “the U.S. state (with) the perfect ideological cover and international rationalization” to police the world on behalf of the capitalist system in the name of the so-called “international community.” This, he notes, allows the “the West” to play the role of savior in a kind of neo-colonial sequel to the “white man's burden” and forms the basis for Baraka's consistent opposition to the U.S.'s ongoing “pro-democracy” efforts across the globe – from Ukraine to Guatemala, Syria to Venezuela – which he describes as “international gangsterism.”
3. A Fighter for Black Liberation and Internationalism
"Your uncle tom president says that there is no excuse for violence – when it comes to the oppressed. For the empire, violence is the first weapon of choice from Libya to Syria and the police forces in Ferguson." - Ajamu Baraka | Photo: AFP
A veteran of Black liberation movements and an editor for Black Agenda Report – whose managing editor, Bruce A. Dixon, famously characterized Bernie Sanders' campaign as “sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats” – Ajamu Baraka has offered incisive criticisms of the presidency of Barack Obama while also critiquing Black Lives Matter from a position of solidarity, warning it against accomodating the mainstream of U.S. liberalism.
During the uprising that followed the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Baraka wrote in Counterpunch that, “the task of the African American resistance movement is not to worry about sitting down with white people infected with the disease of white supremacy, but to build the capacity of black poor and working class folks to resist the intensifying expressions of repressive state power directed at our people.” Baraka urged BLM to “build(ing) coalitions with other oppressed communities and people who are ready to take on the task of opposing the settler capitalist state at every level.”
4. Upholds Black-Brown Unity
"Immigration is a black issue" – Black Lives Matter joins International Workers Day march in Los Angeles, CA, on May 1, 2016 | Photo: Twitter / @adamsigoodman
During the debates on immigration reform that engulfed the second term of Obama's presidency, Baraka blasted the “petit-bourgeois silliness” of Hispanic immigrant rights advocates who embraced schemes which proposed border militarization, high fees for naturalizing citizens, and increased Homeland Security enforcement as a trade-off for “a pathway to citizenship.” Baraka saw the mainstream, beltway immigration movement as a betrayal of the aspirations of millions of Latino immigrants, merely to win favor with a Democratic establishment motivated purely by profiteering.
Emphasizing working-class black-brown unity – while excoriating the “non-profit hustlers and political hacks from the Democratic Party” – Baraka proposed an independent, working-class and popular movement with a politicized global perspective that "understands the contradiction of global capitalism and imperialism, which push and pull people across national borders."
5. An Iconoclastic Voice
Ajamu Baraka (left) speaks in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers | Photo: AjamuBaraka.com
From Charlie Hebdo to black armed resistance, the Green Party vice-presidential candidate has never shied away from controversy or the need to openly debate the hot-button – and sensitive – issues of the day.
Following Beyonce's performance of the song “Formation” at the 2016 Super Bowl, Baraka lambasted an activist culture that was all-too-willing to receive affirmation from such a commercialized platform. Writing for Black Agenda Report, Baraka stated:
Structural and ideological changes have profoundly altered the U.S. social formation. Even in the period of the most serious crisis of the capitalist order, the ethical framework of liberal capitalist individualism is still dominant. And within the black community, post-modernism is in open competition for hegemony with our ever-developing radical tradition.
In this period of media-driven pseudo-opposition in the form of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Beyoncé or even Bernie Sanders, it is increasingly difficult to make the distinction between image and reality, especially when the production of images and symbols is controlled by dominant forces with an interest in keeping us all stupid.
It is only through ruthless criticism and a commitment to struggling beyond the accepted paradigms that we can penetrate the BS and engage in a politics that is truly subversive. And that kind of politics will not be brought to you in living color in the safety of your homes while you stuff yourself with poison foods and spirits to dull the mind.