- Paperback: 305 pages
- Publisher: Africa World Pr; Reprint, 1992 edition (June 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0865431574
- ISBN-13: 978-0865431577
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
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Black Awakening in Capitalist America: An Analytic History Reprint, 1992 Edition
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The foundational premise of his study is that black America exists "as a semicolony, or what has been termed domestic colonialism," and is progressing toward "a program of domestic neocolonialism" (2, 8). He aligns the "general economic motivations" of the American capitalist system with that of colonial regimes internationally, to the extent that in both international and domestic contexts political control is established over a subordinate group for the purpose of extracting resources and labor for the economic benefit of the dominant group (11). Neocolonialism, again viewed analogously to international contexts, has been fostered by the establishment of programs funded and sponsored by the white corporate elite and the black bourgeoisie, to act as a co-opting buffer to stave off rebellions by urban, lower and working class black Americans.
Allen's second chapter works through the social context of Black Power. He views Malcolm X as "the ideological father of the black power movement" (30). In keeping with colonialist frame, Allen focuses on Malcolm's efforts to place the black liberation struggle within the international context. This connection is further by Malcolm's attempts to address the UN and King's stance against the war in Viet Nam. Stokely Carmichael's definition of Black Power is also introduced at this time. However, Allen notes that "black power initially emerged as an effort to reform the social system," an indication that black militants at the time though more in terms of correcting social "deficiencies" as opposed to advocating for a complete restructuring of the social order (49). While Carmichael's and SNCC's version of black power was essentially more reform-based, Allen notes that the ten-point platform and program of the Black Panther Party was "of great significance because it represented the first concrete attempt to spell out the meaning of black power" (87). Whether the Panthers' reform programs could be viewed as revolutionary, according to Allen, is ultimately subject to questioning the class-based control and purpose of those programs.
In a bit of a "long movement" mode, Allen next analyzes "black power as a variant form of black nationalism that has roots that reach deep into the history and social fabric of black America" (89). He traces the lineage of black nationalism through Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and Marcus Garvey. The author also works into this chapter an interesting discussion of the historical ambivalence of the black middle class, which alternately shares the desire (as other "raced" middle classes) to separate itself from the black majority AND to ascribe to black nationalism at the failed attempt of shedding their blackness to enter fully into the white middle class.
It is this black bourgeoisie ambivalence that ultimately makes the group unreliable. This is part of the thread that runs through the fourth chapter, "Black Power and Bourgeois Nationalism." In the wake of the Newark riots, a manifestation of black urban dissent, the potential for real substantive change is lost due to establishment of a neocolonial order, where the black middle class is complicit with the establishment of white corporate elite control. This "bourgeoisie nationalism," while espousing some tenants of cultural nationalism, actually further served the entrenchment of American capitalism in the areas of rebellion (191).
Given that this book was first published in 1969, it is not that far off in terms of describing the effects of capitalism, white elite, and black bourgeois participation in the maintenance of disenfranchisement of ALL working and lower class Americans. Allen's conclusion, as a revision of a prescription given earlier by Dr. DuBois, is the most complete explication of "what next?" that we've encountered in our readings. Allen goes further than even Countryman (who for me has held the cup of pragmatism to this point) to explicitly indicate the role of capitalism in the maintenance of the status quo. He is also realistic in stating the need for a "transitional program" if revolution is still the goal. Allen's "in the moment" analysis holds, and awaits an update. Even though this study comes before The Black Power Movement edited collection, it is one step further down the path of a pragmatic application of Black Studies scholarship for which Peniel Joseph advocates. Certainly, cultural and political approaches to social reorganization are essential. Ultimately, though, capitalism is antithetical to the practice of democracy, and so long as it is the prevailing economic system will never willfully afford full participation for the most disenfranchised members of this society.
Now that it is 2013, it was somewhat amusing that so much of what our Black nationalist thought were the answers to alleviate the oppression of Blacks as a race have failed miserably.
The same capitalist dynamics that were a factor then, are the same now, nearly 50 years later. Allen's analysis basically delineated why those failures would occur, yet provided no ideas that would be successful...I gathered because there are none!
According to Allen, the die has been cast and the masses of Blacks will remain a permanently poor, exploited, hated, despised, manipulated, disrespected, immoral, uneducated, and criminal class in America. There is simply no financial, spiritual, or human incentive for Whites or Blacks, especially Whites, to do so.
As Allen so aptly pointed out, it is easier for the Black bourgeoise to align themselves with the white power structure than to commit to the uplift of their race - whether you were a radical, revolutionary, culturalist, intellectual, or just a " plain, ordinary brother."
I rated the book 4 stars mostly because of its historical facts, and context.