Recently, the FBI has targeted Black nationalist groups for allegedly having ties to Russian authorities. Three individual members of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and its activist arm Uhuru Movement based in St. Petersburg, Florida, and one member of the Black Hammer Party based in Atlanta, Georgia were indicted by a federal grand jury in Tampa for allegedly working on behalf of the Russian government and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Specifically, the indictment alleges that the Black nationalist activists “conduct[ed] a multi-year foreign malign influence campaign in the United States,” and acted as unregistered agents of the Russian government to “sow discord and spread pro-Russian propaganda.”
The indictment alleges that Russian citizen Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, who was indicted last year, sought to use U.S. political groups to interfere in U.S. elections by, among other things, funding political campaigns of APSP members in 2019.
Omali Yeshitela, who is a founding member of the APSP and the Uhuru Movement, has stated that Ionov did not play a role in any of their election campaigns and denied taking money from Ionov. Yeshitela is a long-term resident of St. Petersburg, Florida, and has been active in promoting anti-racist, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist politics there and across the country. Penny Hess, chairperson of the African People’s Solidarity Committee and one of the APSP members facing indictments, said at a May 10th press conference that “it is completely absurd and profoundly racist that anyone would say that Chairman Omali Yeshitela is anything but his own person, that he would be somebody else’s agent.”
Indeed, these indictments echo racist propaganda used by the media and government officials that try to paint political dissent among Black people as the result of “outside influence” or “outside agitators.” The goal of these assertions is to undermine the political activity of Black radical and socialist activists and minimize the wider impact and influence of particularly militant expressions of resistance by the Black working class and community.
The political repression of Black, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist activists is an act with historical precedence, and one that the capitalist state and both capitalist parties (the Democrats and Republicans) relied on to curtail the growth of the 2020 BLM uprisings and their radical, anti-capitalist tendencies. When the protests erupted in 2020, many were met with police violence and mass arrests. When that failed to stop the movement, the capitalists then relied on the Democratic Party, the non-profit and trade union bureaucracy, and corporate foundations to co-opt the movement. When they failed to co-opt the vanguard of the movement, the capitalists deployed continual forms of state repression to drive the vanguard off the streets. Examples include the proliferation of anti-protest laws throughout the country and the continuous persecution of BLM activists in Grand Rapids and Detroit as well as abolitionist and environmental activists resisting Cop City in Atlanta, Georgia.
Many of the vanguard activists and organizations have found it difficult to maintain their forces and organize while defending themselves against legal charges. Many leaders were placed on probation, and in some instances even sentenced to jail. Hence, it should be clear that the main goal of state repression is to prevent the independent activity of the working class and oppressed, which in turn makes it critically important that the Left speak out and expose these instances of state repression and their purpose.
The Left should not only speak out against this attempt of state repression against activists expressing dissent against the U.S. government, but also advocate for the right of activists to have international connections and ties to other anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist organizations. This, in principle, should include organizations that we have political disagreements with. We in Left Voice have very important disagreements with APSP, the Uhuru Movement, and Black Hammer, specifically our analysis of class exploitation and oppression, the role of the revolutionary vanguard party, and the need to have a strategic orientation towards the working class, to name a few. Given that Black Hammer has recently aligned itself with neo-fascist formations like the Proud Boys and shown admiration for Trump and Majorie Taylor Greene, we cannot in good faith consider them as part of the Left and call into question their commitment to liberation of the working class and oppressed. Nonetheless, we stand firm against the capitalist state’s racist attempt to repress these groups because they speak out and critique the capitalist state.
Above all, we must ensure that the critiques of the racist and violent practices of capitalism stay front and center, and not the narratives of the police and FBI. Their narratives are challenged by evidence of their violence and repression, such as the recent autopsy report of Tortuguita, who was shot 57 times and had no gun powder residue on his hands. We demand all charges be dropped against Black activists and those fighting to Stop Cop City.