It has been one year since the death of Glen Ford - Executive Director of the Black Agenda Report and contributor to the LA Progressive. The turbulence of the past year has been as intense as Glen Ford’s loss to the movement. President Joe Biden is facing a crisis of legitimacy. Inflation and recession loom over a flailing U.S. capitalist system. A U.S.-led imperialist war with Russia and China is closer than it has ever been and Black America is no better off with a Democrat controlling the White House.
Such conditions demand that we remember and emulate Glen Ford’s tireless contributions to the Black liberation, peace, and socialist movement. Ford was a student of revolution. Every word written and spoken by Ford was done in the name of developing a movement capable of bringing about the end of the American Empire. He was a true friend of the people who used his journalistic talents to educate and agitate a new generation of activists, organizers, and intellectuals into joining a class war for the future of humanity. His work emphasized the capitalist and imperialist character of the Democratic Party, the centrality of the movement for Black liberation in the United States, and the dangers of the American Empire in its most decadent stage.
“Assata Taught Me” emerged from the Black Lives Matter movement as a popular slogan for Black activists confronting the mass incarceration regime. Assata Shakur began her revolutionary life as a Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army member in New York before freeing herself from political imprisonment in the late 1970s. She was given political asylum in Cuba in 1984, escaping what would have been an almost certain fate of life in isolation behind prison walls or death. It took two generations before the movement would remember her contributions to the revolution. Luckily for us, Glen Ford was able to avoid exile and the revolutionary analysis that he left behind remains invaluable for understanding the current moment.
It is therefore appropriate to add the slogan “Glen Ford taught me” to the movement’s repertoire. Glen Ford taught us that the Democratic Party is the War Party and the single biggest impediment to the development of a truly independent Left political movement in the United States. Nowhere is this clearer than in the recent behavior of the Democratic Party. Joe Biden has taken the U.S. military regime into a protracted proxy war with Russia in Ukraine. Nancy Pelosi has spent the last week-plus flirting with a trip to Taiwan, a blatant violation of the One-China policy that threatens to spark a war with China.
Glen Ford taught us that the Democratic Party is able to get away with such treachery because it is the more effective evil of U.S. imperialism. Ford called the Democratic Party a “graveyard of social movements” and has been proven correct again and again. So-called “progressive” Ro Khanna sounded no different from Mike Pompeo in his defense of Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan stunt . Democrats in Congress unanimously voted for an $840 billion military budget without so much as a word from the most “progressive” within the Democratic Party base. Joe Biden has ignored majoritarian support for Medicare for All, student loan forgiveness, and a Green New Deal precisely because the ruling class has created the conditions for a political TINA (There Is No Alternative) through the Democratic Party to compliment the stagnant neoliberal order that has placed much of the Western Left within a pro-Empire camp.
Furthermore, Glen Ford taught us that the U.S. ruling order is in a tripartite crisis. The American Empire is in decline, capitalism is in decay, and the U.S. political system is mired in a crisis of legitimacy. This is a dialectical process, meaning that each is inseparable from the other. U.S. capitalism never recovered from the wreckage of the 2007-08 economic crisis and finance capital continues its super exploitation of the working class through bank bailouts, inflation, mounting debt, and a general downward pressure on living standards.
The limits of this process have caused the U.S. military state to rapidly expand toward a dangerous two-front war with U.S. capitalism’s biggest challengers: a sovereign Russia and a socialist China. And given that U.S. imperialism has nothing to offer the vast majority of humanity, the U.S.’s political prestige around the world has dropped significantly and its capacity to manage domestic contradictions has grinded to a screeching halt.
Perhaps most importantly, Glen Ford taught us to love Black people and all oppressed people. He was not afraid to call out political scoundrels no matter their racial identity and point radicalizing Black youth in a revolutionary direction. He understood that issuing condemnations to Barack Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus, and what he coined the Black Misleadership Class was not an exercise in political vanity. It was a historic necessity.
The U.S.’s ceaseless policy of endless war and austerity threatens the existence of humanity itself and Black people the most. One cannot demand the freedom for Julian Assange without demanding freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, criticize censorship without abolishing mass Black incarceration, or fight for socialism without placing the self-determination of Black America at the forefront of the U.S.-based class war.
Knowing and learning from Glen Ford will always be a key element of my own political process. Glen Ford taught me that the written word could be a spear in the war for liberation that pierces through the mythology and lies of the American Empire. He taught me that the class struggle was both racialized and international in character, requiring the broadest forms of solidarity to challenge the dictates of the U.S. imperialist albatross. And he taught me that movements are not built by individuals, slogans, or optics. They are built by a set of demands, and the power people are willing to assert to make these demands a reality.
We must dedicate ourselves to the grueling work of creating the conditions that gave rise to Glen Ford’s genius. We must make two, three, many more Glen Fords and unleash the political potential of the masses before U.S. imperialism makes us nuclear dust and destroys all of our movement efforts on the way out.
A good place to begin commemorating Glen Ford is by picking up his book and studying the work that he left behind.