Revolution #277, August 12, 2012
The U.S. Constitution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
Two Constitutions, Two Different Systems, Two Different Futures for African-American People
Part 4: Breaking the Chains in a New Socialist Society
The U.S. Constitution was drafted, debated, and approved by slave owners and exploiters. Despite this profound truth about the historical birth of the United States, many people argue that the U.S. Constitution has protected and expanded the political and civil rights of the people; and that it continues to provide the legal foundation and political vision for overcoming existing inequalities and injustices. But this message—that the U.S. Constitution establishes a vision and basis for achieving a society where "everyone is equal"—is profoundly UNTRUE and actually does great harm. From the very beginning this Constitution has provided the legal framework and justifications for a society torn by deep inequalities, and the preservation of a whole economic and social setup in which a relatively small number of people rule over an exploitative society, and maintain that dominance.
In 2010, the Revolutionary Communist Party published the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).1 This visionary document, based on the new synthesis of communism developed over decades by Bob Avakian, provides the framework for a whole new society, a framework to advance to a communist world—a world no longer divided into antagonistic social groups, where people will instead live and work together as a freely associating community of human beings all over the planet.
This series compares and contrasts the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)—in relation to the enslavement, oppression, and emancipation of African-American people. We encourage readers to discuss and study this series; spread and share it among your friends; get it into the classrooms, communities, and prisons; and send us your comments. See Revolution #264 (April 1, 2012) for the introduction to this series; #270 (May 27) for Part 1: A Slaveholders' Union; #271 (June 10) for Part 2: Reconstruction, and the First Great Betrayal, 1867-1896; and #275 (June 11) for Part 3: Battleground Over Segregated Education in the 1950s and 1960s (see earlier parts of the series here). This is the fourth and final part of this series.
This series has taken a hard look at what the U.S. Constitution has meant for African-American people since the founding of the United States of America. Some important truths have been revealed:
- The United States proclaims to be based on the principle that "all men are created equal." But in reality this country was founded by invaders and occupiers who committed genocide against the people who had been living on this land. These colonialists then enslaved millions of kidnapped Africans to build a country enriched and empowered by the wealth created largely by the labor of these slaves.
- The U.S. developed a Constitution and a system of laws that it has declared to be a "model of freedom and liberty" for the world to follow. Yet embedded in this Constitution and its laws was the "right" to own other human beings as slaves, who had no rights whatsoever.
- For decades after the Civil War finally put an end to slavery, lynching was a common occurrence in the South. Groups of armed men hunted down former slaves and their descendents, hanged them from trees, tore their bodies apart, burned them alive, even sold tickets to the grotesque spectacles. Between 1882 and 1930, 3,386 known Black victims (mostly male) were lynched.2 Across the entire South a system of degradation and oppression that became known as Jim Crow was institutionalized in the laws of every state and municipality. Black people were systematically, legally, and violently purged from voting rolls, prevented from riding in public transportation, living where they wanted, entering public buildings or using public facilities, and a thousand other humiliations that were woven deep into the fabric of everyday life.
Today the U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with the majority of the prison population made up of Blacks and Latinos. It is a society where youth whose ancestors were Black slaves are deprived of a decent education, and are unable to find work in a system that has no place for them. They are relentlessly hounded by armed police enforcers of the system that oppresses them, and are locked away for years in crowded prisons—many times driven mad in conditions of solitary confinement that amount to illegal, inhumane, and immoral torture. And all of this takes place within the framework of the U.S. Constitution, and the whole legal and "justice" system that derives from this Constitution.
This is the reality of American history and present day society.
A Constitution for What Kind of Society?
Why have the U.S. Constitution and the "laws of the land" consistently allowed for these atrocities? Why have the U.S. Constitution and the "laws of the land" perpetuated the condition of Black people as an oppressed people? It's not mainly because of white supremacist judges or racist lawmakers writing racist laws—even though this has and continues to exist. There is something far more fundamental involved: the U.S. Constitution, the laws stemming from it, and the whole legal-repressive system enforcing these laws reflect the very nature of U.S. society.
As Bob Avakian has written, "Constitutions, where there is a necessity for them and they play an indispensable role, establish the basic framework, principles and provisions (or, more baldly, the 'rules') for how a government can and must function, how state power shall be exercised."3
With regard to the United States of America, its Constitution embodies the basic rules for how to enforce economic and social relations of exploitation and oppression. The U.S. government has functioned consistently to protect and expand a property rights system based on the control of the means of producing wealth by a small capitalist class that exploits wage laborers. The so-called Founding Fathers established a system of government serving capitalism—and, for more than 70 years, the preservation of slavery.
The continuing oppression of whole peoples has been foundational and is a defining and integral feature of the entire fabric of U.S. society. The history of Black people in this country is one in which the U.S. Constitution and the laws derived from it have been wielded by the ruling capitalist class to develop and maintain white supremacy while deepening the oppression of Black people—even as this has taken different and changing forms and expressions.
A Constitution for a Truly Liberating Society
Now let's take Avakian's point about how constitutions establish "rules" for how a government can and must function and how state power shall be exercised—and apply it to a whole different kind of society, a socialist society.
Let's look at the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) that is based on Avakian's new synthesis of communism and see what kind of society this Constitution provides the institutional framework for. The introductory explanation of the nature, purpose, and role of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America starts off by saying:
"This Constitution (Draft Proposal) is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history—communism—with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise."4
Today we ARE building a movement for revolution—a revolution that WILL put this visionary document into practice. So it is extremely important, exciting, and relevant to study, discuss, and debate what the rules of a whole new game will be... and how they will be a guide for those who will lead the new state power for what to do on Day One, and after.
This Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) would take effect in a society where the capitalist-imperialist state of the U.S. and its institutions would have been defeated, abolished, and dismantled by masses of people, led by their vanguard, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In its place a new, revolutionary state would have been born.
The relations at the base of this socialist society would be radically transformed from the old, capitalist ways. Instead of a handful of capitalists monopolizing ownership of the wealth produced by the labor of millions of people, the means of producing society's material needs would be placed under socialist state public ownership, with the economy serving the betterment of society and humanity, the advance of the world revolution, and the protection of the environment.
Further, the relations among people in a socialist economy would be dramatically changed. People would not be pitted against each other in a struggle to survive in the capitalist snake pit, but millions and millions of people would work "based on and promoting relations and values of people working cooperatively for the common good and for the interests of world humanity"5; and where the spheres of social consumption were being expanded continually, and consciously.
It is through the overall process of making revolution and moving, through waves of struggle and transformation, to a communist world that it will be possible to overcome the effects and legacy of the oppression of Black people and all relations of social inequality. The struggle in socialist society to dig up the soil that breeds capitalism, to change people's thinking, to forge new values, and to defeat attempts at counterrevolution will be complex and protracted, and the outcome is not a sure thing.
Beginning Day One: Overcoming the Effects and Legacy of National Oppression
But with a new state power, it can be accomplished. And decisive measures and changes will take effect right away! The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic provides the necessary direction and framework. The police forces of the old society that had brutalized and degraded Black and Latino youth, that functioned as an occupying army, that maimed and killed in the name of security—they will have been disbanded with the seizure of state power. New public security forces will be created. They will protect the victories of the revolution. They will ensure the safety and rights of the people, including the right to take responsibility for the direction of society. These new public security forces will help people resolve disputes and problems among themselves in non-antagonistic ways.
Right away, resources will be channeled into the former ghettoes and barrios to provide housing and health care, cultural and recreational facilities. People will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work that contributes to the all-around transformation of society. The society envisioned by this Constitution is one in which architects, urban planners, ecologists, artists, and other professionals will be joining with the youth and with residents of these areas to solve problems and learn from each other—and take part together in great debates and struggle over how to move society forward and overcome the scars of the past.
On the question of doing away with national oppression the Preamble to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) states:
"The New Socialist Republic in North America is a multi-national and multi-lingual state, which is based on the principle of equality between different nationalities and cultures and has as one of its essential objectives fully overcoming national oppression and inequality, which was such a fundamental part of the imperialist USA throughout its history. Only on the basis of these principles and objectives can divisions among humanity by country and nation be finally overcome and surpassed and a world community of freely associating human beings be brought into being. This orientation is also embodied in the various institutions of the state and in the functioning of the government in the New Socialist Republic in North America."6
The Constitution later explains:
"In light of the egregious crimes, oppression and injustice perpetrated by the former ruling class and government of the United States of America against various minority nationalities, to give expression to the voluntary union and growing unity of the various peoples within the New Socialist Republic in North America, and to give the most powerful effect to the principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution, discrimination against minority nationalities, in every sphere of society, including segregation in housing, education and other areas, shall be outlawed and prohibited, and concrete measures and steps shall be adopted and carried out, by the government at the central and other levels, to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation, and the whole legacy of oppression, to which these peoples have been subjected."7
And then the Constitution goes on to say:
"As one important dimension of this, in regions (or other areas) of significant population concentration of minority nationalities which were oppressed within the borders of the former imperialist USA, there shall be the right of the people of those nationalities to autonomy, in the form of self-government within the overall territory, framework and structure of the New Socialist Republic in North America and its unified socialist economy, system of law, armed forces, and conduct of foreign relations."8
The Constitution makes clear that Black people, Chicano people, and other formerly oppressed nationalities, while having the right to live in such autonomous regions, will not be required to live in these areas—this will be a matter of choice. And the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic also makes clear that the new government, at all levels, would be working to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation and would be promoting integration and unity among the various nationalities on the basis of equality. Resources and assistance will be provided to the autonomous regions.
This Constitution upholds the right of Black people to self-determination, up to and including the right to secede and form an independent republic. The Constitution sets out the procedures enabling the African-American people to decide this matter without force or coercion.
This is a whole different society and orientation for leading society. The U.S. Constitution pretends there is equality while the system perpetuates inequality. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) stands for genuine equality while also recognizing the special measures that must be taken to redress and overcome the historical effects and continuing expressions of inequality.
Tackling the legacy of racism and overcoming inequality, along with the struggle to uproot patriarchy and the oppression of women, will be defining features of the new socialist society.
Education in the New Socialist Society
Take the question of education. Here we are in 2012, and segregation remains in force; as we pointed out in Part 3 ("Battleground Over Segregated Education in the 1950s and 1960s"), a third of all Black and Latino children sit in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent Black and Latino. Many of these children must pass through metal detectors and gauntlets of security guards to go to school. Many of them are in overcrowded classrooms starved for resources, and many of these youth are written off at an early age.
Here we are in 2012, and affirmative action, which was supposed to open up opportunity long denied Black and other minority nationalities as well as women, has been gutted by the courts, including the Supreme Court—in the name of a "color blind society." But consider this fact: nationwide, in 2006 2.2 percent of doctors and medical students were Black—a lower percentage than 100 years ago.9 So under the pretext of achieving a "color blind society," the discrimination against—the oppression of—Black people continues and has been given the legal seal of approval by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution.
Let's turn to education in the socialist society. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) explains that the new educational system will provide for well-rounded learning, as well as specialization, at government expense. A core principle of the educational system will be to promote the pursuit of the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity. A central purpose of the educational system will be "to enable students (and the people broadly) to learn deeply about the reality of, and the basis for, the oppression of whole peoples, and the domination and oppression of women, in the former imperialist USA and throughout the world where societies have been founded on exploitation and ruled by exploiting classes—and, on this basis, to become deeply dedicated to and actively involved in the fight to uproot and eliminate all such relations of inequality and oppression. ..."10
Education in the new socialist society will be oriented towards "overcoming, in society (and ultimately the world) as a whole, such antagonism relating to the division between mental and physical work, which is deeply rooted in the development of societies marked by oppressive and exploitative relations and which itself is a source of such relations, shall be a concern of the state overall, and attention shall be paid to this in all spheres of society"11.
Unlike the old capitalist society where oppressed people's culture and language was denigrated and denied—the new socialist society will bring into being something rather extraordinary: a bi-lingual/multi-lingual educational system and a whole society that promotes critical thinking; equality of cultures and languages; and the real study of the whole history and remaining expressions of the historic oppression of minority nationalities.
This is a society that will be putting the interests of world humanity first and instilling people with an internationalist understanding and spirit.
Think about how totally opposite this is to what now exists in U.S. society. Look at the situation in Arizona where government authority is trying to ban the teaching of Chicano Studies. Look at how in this society immigrants are told to "Speak English" and scolded for speaking their own languages; or how Black people are discriminated against for not speaking so-called "proper English."
Conclusion: There Is a Way Out
We don't have to live this way. The masses of Black people and other oppressed nationalities do not have to endure the ongoing horrors of America as the price of some mythical "progress towards freedom" guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. No, the U.S. Constitution is, as Bob Avakian has put it, the "instrument enforcing ... exploitation and oppression."12
But there is a way out, a way forward, a vision for a radically different and better society, and a strategy to get there. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is the legal-political framework for a truly emancipating society, where the masses of the people and their vanguard are confronting the challenge of advancing to a world where the divisions among people based on nationality, gender, and class will have been overcome: a world where people produce for the common good and the betterment of the planet, and are fully engaged in cultural, scientific, and political life, instead of millions of people slaving away in body- and spirit-crushing work, condemned to lives of wretched poverty and deprivation for the enrichment of a handful.
2. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience—The Concise Desk Reference, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Running Press, 2003.
These murderous activities, carried out by mobs, cheered on by whole families, were protected by the U.S. Constitution and its laws. [back]
3. Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, Part 1: Revolution and the State, From a talk given in 2010. [back]
4. Constitution (Draft Proposal), p i [back]
5. Ibid., p 79 [back]
6. Ibid., p 5 [back]
7. Ibid., p 51 [back]
8. Ibid., pp 51-52 [back]
10. Constitution (Draft Proposal), pp 32-33 [back]
11. Ibid., p 32 [back]
12. Birds Cannot Give Rise to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon [back]
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