In this essay, Bill Mullen, author of the forthcoming W.E.B. DuBois biography Revolutionary Across the Colour Line, considers the historical precedence set by DuBois’ thought. This survey of DuBois’ radicalism (evidenced in his advocating of the redistribution of public wealth, his alignment with Pan Africanism and solidarity with working class movements worldwide) allows us to contextualise the political motivations of the Black Lives coalition network, following the recent publication of their agenda.
Just weeks ago the Movement for Black Lives in the U.S. released its political platform. The six-part document called for a wide range of reforms of American capitalism: a universal health care system; a constitutional right to free higher education; cuts in military expenditures and re-investment in local infrastructures; a progressive restructuring of tax codes to ‘ensure and radical and equitable redistribution of wealth;’ a guarantee of the right of workers to organise. The document also called for the demilitarisation of U.S. police, an end to capital punishment, and the end of surveillance of Black communities by law enforcement.1
The Movement for Black Lives platform is a document the late W.E.B. Du Bois would have would have proudly endorsed. Indeed, in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, Du Bois published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper The Atlanta Creed, a bullet point program for Black equality and liberation. The ‘Creed’ called for ‘Business for Public Welfare, and not for Private Profit;’ ‘No monopoly of land, materials, or machines in private hands;’ ‘Political power not for jobs but for public recognition of the Negro’s right to share equally and proportionally in all public expenditures; for protecting all labour in wage and work; and for redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor through taxation and nationalisation.’ Most boldly, Du Bois called for Socialism: ‘We believe in the ultimate triumph of some form of Socialism the world over; that is, state ownership and control of the means of production, and equality of income; we believe that the ultimate power in the state should rest in the hands of those who work, and that the state should be ruled by them.’2