The Tradition, by Assata Shakur


On Saturday, 9 August, Michael Brown – an 18 year old black man – was shot dead by a police office in Feguson, Missouri. He was unarmed. He had his hands up, in a position of surrender, when he was murdered.

Protests against Brown’s murder soon met with the heavily-armed local police force. Ferguson has a 70% black population, whilst its police force has only 3 non-white officers. The police have used high-grade, military equipment to violently oppress the Feguson community. A former US Marine, Paul Szoldra, wrote, ‘[they] have short-barrelled 5.56mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 metres. On their side, they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armour, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each.’ Alongside this grotesque display of brutality in arms, the police have deployed teargas of Ferguson’s residents. This is the violent, naked face of state racism. It is distinct from the general mechanisms of state racism only for its transparent barbarity.

In an article titled ‘Racism, Imperialism and the Working Class‘ in Revolutionary Communist 9, Maxine Williams, Steve Palmer and Gary Clapton wrote the following:

Racism is nothing else than the systematic oppression of the indigenous population of the countries conquered and exploited by imperialism. The backwardness and poverty of these countries was explained, not, of course, by the plunder and exploitation of imperialism, but by a supposed natural inferiority of oppressed peoples. A racist ideology was developed in order to justify the barbaric treatment by imperialism of the people of oppressed nations. Racism is the necessary and inevitable result of imperialism and will only be defeated with the defeat of imperialism.

Whilst the article deals with British Imperialism, the conclusion that ‘racism is the necessary and inevitable result of imperialism’ may equally be drawn about the US. Capitalism and imperialism create racism, as a necessity in order to ensure their survival. Only a revolutionary change can bring an end to racism.

RED reproduces below Assata Shakur’s poem, The Tradition. Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party for many years and, throughout her life, has fought a ceaseless battle against state racism, capitalism and imperialism. Equally, she has shown an unending solidarity with socialism across the globe – from China to Cuba, where she now resides as a political refugee. Assata’s autobiography provides the best account of her struggle and can be purchased here.

RED stands in full solidarity with those fighting back in Ferguson. Their resistance is heroic, necessary and admirable. The time to organise is now.

Justice for Michael Brown!
Resistance is justified when people are occupied!

FRFI statement on Ferguson | Party of Socialism and Liberation statement on Ferguson | FRFI 239 – Immigration Act intensifies exploitation | FRFI 131 – Assata Shakur interview | Black Panther Party Archive on Marxists Internet Archives

The Tradition, by Assata Shakur

Carry it on now.
Carry it on.
Carry it on now.
Carry it on.
Carry on the tradition.

Their were Black People since the childhood of time
who carried it on.
In Ghana and Mali and Timbuktu
We carried it on.
Carried on the tradition.

We hid in the bush.
When the slave masters came
holding spear
And when the moment was ripe,
leaped out and lanced the lifeblood
of our would-be masters.
We carried it on.

 On slave ships,
hurling ourselves into oceans.
Slitting the throats of our captors.
We took their whips.
And their ships
Blood flowed in the Atlantic
and it wasn’t all ours.
We carried it on.

Fed Missy arsenic apple pies.
Stole the axes from the shed.
Went and chopped off master’s head.
We ran. We fought.
We organized a railroad.
An underground.
We carried it on.

In newspapers. In meetings.
In arguments and street fights.
We carried it on.

In tales told to children.
In chants and cantatas.
In poems and blues songs
and saxophone screams,
We carried it on.

In classrooms. In churches.
In courtrooms. In prisons.
We carried it on.

On soapboxes and picket lines.
Welfare lines, unemployment
Our lives on the line,
We carried it on.

In sit-ins and pray ins
And march ins and die ins,
We carried it on.

On cold Missouri midnights
Pitting shotguns against lynch mobs
On burning Brooklyn streets
Pitting rocks against rifles,
We carried it on.

Against water hoses and bulldogs. >
Against nightsticks and bullets.
Against tanks and tear gas.
Needles and nooses.
Bombs and birth control.
We carried it on.

In Selma and San Juan.
Mozambique, Mississippi.
In Brazil and in Boston,
We carried it on.

Through the lies and the sell-outs,
The mistakes and the madness.
Through pain and hunger and frustration,
We carried it on.

Carried on the tradition.
Carried a strong tradition.
Carried a proud tradition.
Carried a Black tradition.
Carry it on.

Pass it down to the children.
Pass it down.
Carry it on.
Carry it on now.
Carry it on

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