• JD Winters

Black Radical Tradition, and why Black Marxism is more relevant now than ever.

Malcom X, leader of the Black Power Vanguard movement, said in a 1964 speech, "you can’t have capitalism without racism." Black Marxism is a book published 21 years later by Cedric Robinson, professor and head of the Department of Black Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara who transitioned into becoming an ancestor in June 2016. He is regarded as one of the most innovative and original political theorists of our time, and wholly slept on simultaneously. Even his death went virtually unnoticed, but his legacy, concepts, and writings are here to live with us out of pure necessity and the refusal of the complex system of fascist subjugations we exist in.

In 2020, a new edition of Black Marxism was published, inspired by the estimated 26 million people, almost 10% of the entire United States population, who took to the streets during the spring and summer of 2020 to protest the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many others who lost their lives to police violence. These times of highly documented police brutality and obvious fascism made Cedric Robinson's concepts, Racial Capitalism and Black Radical Tradition presented in the book more relevant now than ever.


Racial Capitalism describes the process of extracting social and economic value from a person of a different racial identity, referring predominantly to the extraction of value from those of a nonwhite identity. Cedric Robinson proposes that capitalism was never a liberation from feudalism, but an evolution of it, for generational serfdom and castes are just as prevalent in capitalism as they were in European and other continents' feudalisms; and in the United States, being Black means being a second class citizen at any level of monetary privilege.


Black Marxism the book was actually mostly about Black revolt, not racial capitalism. It's a work in which Cedric Robinson acknowledges what political socialist theorists, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, could not, that ideologies that capitalize on racial difference is what fragmented the proletariat. Black Radical Tradition acknowledges that "Marx and Engels missed the significance of revolt in the rest of the world, specifically by non-Western peoples who made up the vast majority of the world’s unfree and nonindustrial labor force." Black Radical Tradition is described by Cedric, on page 169 of Black Marxism, as "a revolutionary consciousness that proceeded from the whole historical experience of Black people". Black liberation naturally will not happen without the liberation of all people, and that is our tradition.


We are colonized folk and our notions of revolt are not the same as our ancestors who were rejecting their enslavement. Our notions are based on Western conceptions of freedom which we bear the burden of ensuring its delivery for, and that is essentially what Black Radical Tradition has been and will continue to be as we shape the real free world, and Cedric's Black Marxism gives us the language and concepts to do so. You can buy it from a Black-owned online bookstore like Uncle Bobbies Coffee & Books.

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