What Wing has done is taken an important formulation and neutered it to serve neoliberal multiculturalism.
“Wing’s formulation conveniently forgets about the rest of the world, as unfortunately many ‘anti-racists’ tend to do.”
I decided to write this piece not because Bob Wing’s formulation has any merit on its own but because a response was penned by esteemed Leftist historian Dr. Gerald Horne, which was reprinted in one of the most important Left platforms, Black Agenda Report. Because of my deep respect for Dr. Horne and BAR, I decided to take a look at Wing’s article, which was much more than a simple disappointment. It was a shocking and very troubling disappointment. Part of me wanted to ignore this matter altogether, not give Wing’s essay an iota more of attention, but readers of BAR, particularly those who may be of a younger generation, might benefit from the critique I offer.
Dr. Horne’s response focused on a particular aspect of Wing’s article— the highlighting of the US as a settler colonial white racist republic. I have no quarrel with this aspect of Wing’s article. But we should also remind ourselves that there is nothing new about this formulation. It has been articulated generally and much more effectively for a number of years now by a consensus of Indigenous scholars, by individuals such as Professor Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Dr. Horne himself, BAR editors, and many others. What Wing has done, however, is taken an important formulation and neutered it to serve one of the US capitalist state’s hippest and preferred modes of ideological hegemony today, neoliberal multiculturalism. It is the part of Wing’s analysis (or misanalysis) largely left out of Dr. Horne’s response which is where the trouble lies.
“Wing’s article was much more than a simple disappointment.”
Wing is proposing a political strategy for moving forward in our era, and the objective is building what Wing calls the “anti-racist state” to replace the “racist state.” Not surprisingly, to arrive at the “anti-racist state” we need to build and support electoral victories by the Democratic Party. To be fair, Wing also states that we need to build outside of the Democratic Party through independent social movements. Of course, this is what every social democrat from Sanders to AOC says, leaving out the thorny problem that in practice these ‘independent’ movements are largely steered by appendages of the Democratic Party in the non-profit-industrial complex.
One might never guess that Wing once identified as a Marxist because there is nothing in his analysis about a capitalist state versus a socialist state— or within the US capitalist state itself, liberal democracy being the “Good Cop,” as Dr. Gabriel Rockhill posits, to the US capitalist state’s other self, the “Bad Cop,” or fascism. Wing believes that Trump was an aberration, a turn toward fascism, but fascism is always present in the US for certain people in certain places, while others might get their liberal democracy instead. This is about the capitalist state and what it needs to survive and reproduce, and this can be different things for different people at any given time. For example, how would we describe a mass surveillance police state that constitute’s five percent of the world’s population but incarcerates twenty to twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners, a grossly disproportionate number who are Black and Brown? Anywhere else, such a capitalist state might just be considered a fascist authoritarian state, regardless of whether there was a strong man in power or not, or whatever the government in power called itself. Within the US, the Democratic Party-controlled state of California has the most extensive prison gulag system in the entire world.
“Wing believes that Trump was an aberration.”
Wing’s formulation of building an anti-racist state with the help of Democratic Party electoral victories conveniently forgets about the rest of the world, as unfortunately many “anti-racists” tend to do. Wing is mute on the Democratic Party’s imperialist imperative as the US exports US racism across the globe, mentioning Obama in passing and without criticism. But how can one be truly anti-racist without being in solidarity with the people of Venezuela, Cuba, the Palestinians, the peoples of US-occupied Africa? How can one not take issue with constant US bipartisan threats against China, Russia, and Iran? The US is a racist state not simply because it practices racism within its settler colonial so-called “borders” but because it is at its core an imperialist state; the expansion of the continental US was nothing less than what Dunbar-Ortiz and others refer to as “continental imperialism.” The “racist state” is simply the local iteration of the imperialist state. They are one and the same, the US capitalist state, which must be a racist state because capitalism is racial capitalism. The notion that we can build an “anti-racist state” within the context of US capitalism/imperialism is a dangerous fantasy as we have seen most recently with ‘woke’ multicultural CIA recruitment videos.
Without irony, Wing also references the anti-Trump “resistance,” a sad trope of deluded liberals, divorcing Trumpism from the Democratic Party’s own racist policies and failures to deliver fundamental improvements to the lives of working people, instead spending trillions to kill and oppress the darker nations of the world. I will not go through the litany of Democratic Party abuses towards the masses in general and non-white people in particular, as I’ve done in a previous piece (and as BAR does on a regular basis); but if there was one individual who embodied the white, racist settler US republic, that would be Andrew Jackson, around whom the Democratic Party was founded. At some point in Wing’s imagination, it seems the Democratic Party became something other than what its political genetic code determines it must be— a racist, settler colonial, imperialist, ruling-class war party.
“The US is a racist state not simply because it practices racism within its settler colonial so-called “borders” but because it is at its core an imperialist state.”
How did Wing (and others) arrive at this nonsense? Wing is part of that generation discussed in Max Ebaum’s book Revolution in the Air, a broad array of Leftists who emerged from the sixties and seventies, sometimes referred to as the New Communist Movement. The New Communist Movement was not an organization but refers to various political formations and individuals of the aforementioned era. This informal movement extended into the eighties, where Wing’s nonsense and that of his ilk takes root. Since the Revolution didn’t happen as expected, some folks decided to focus on electoral politics, so they went all in with Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition.
Now let me be very clear about something: I am not saying that participating in electoral politics is reactionary. I am saying, however, that agitating to build the Democratic Party is reactionary as it necessitates political suicide for the Left. Perhaps this was not clear in the eighties, as I’m sure many Leftists had good intentions. But in the thirty plus years since the demise of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, the lessons now cannot be any clearer. The Democratic Party (dark faces in high places notwithstanding) has moved decisively to the right— not the left— and along with its Republican brethren has intensified the attack on working people through austerity, police violence, mass incarceration, impoverishment, debt, and war. Only a party with a socialist orientation and truly independent of the corporate duopoly can represent and fight for the interests of working people. The political theater and political failure of Sanders and AOC are constant reminders of this.
“Agitating to build the Democratic Party is reactionary as it necessitates political suicide for the Left.”
It would have been one thing to support the Jesse Jackson campaign, and then move on and organize outside the Democratic Party, accept that the Left does not, and cannot, coopt a capitalist party; the Democratic Party does the coopting. But for some there seems to be a strange and stagnant nostalgia in the air, a bankruptcy and laziness of political intellect, a desire to run it back— Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition 2.0— maybe this time they can get it right. At the end of the day, however, personal or political motives become irrelevant. Wing and others will dutifully sheepdog those with anti-racist politics or progressive leanings into the Democratic Party. A sheepdog is a sheepdog, not because of its thoughts or aspirations— but because of what it does.
Quetzal Cáceres is a Xicanx educator and socialist living in Yanga (Los Angeles), land of the indigenous Tongva people.