To achieve unity, we must join the fight for decolonization

BY:Ellie Samsal Chandler| April 11, 2024
To achieve unity, we must join the fight for decolonization


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

It is therefore the duty of the class-conscious communist proletariat of all countries to regard with particular caution and attention the survivals of national sentiments in the countries and among nationalities which have been oppressed the longest; it is equally necessary to make certain concessions with a view to more rapidly overcoming this distrust and these prejudices. Complete victory over capitalism cannot be won unless the proletariat and, following it, the mass of working people in all countries and nations throughout the world voluntarily strive for alliance and unity. — Lenin, Theses on National and Colonial Questions

Nineteen years ago Hurricane Katrina rolled over Louisiana, a horrific natural disaster which displaced over 600,000 people and cast the region’s widespread poverty into the national spotlight. Those who returned found a new disaster waiting for them, the wealthy landowners expecting a profit from their “generous” investment.

Then in 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, which was followed closely by Hurricane Fiona in 2022. As their livelihoods were swept away, the “territory” could only watch as the government that they couldn’t vote for treated their disaster relief funds as an afterthought.

And last year, as Hawai’i was ravaged by wildfires, tourist’s lives were prioritized while natives were left to face the destruction of their homeland. As the smoke cleared, housing prices soared, and a community already in crises was shoved into deeper desperation.

In the wake of climate change fueled disasters, American colonialism rears its monstrous head, enticed by the arrival of fresh meat.

But now, as Israel enacts its war of extermination against Gaza and, despite tremendous public outcry, the US throws its full weight in support of the genocide, our government has clearly demonstrated its commitment towards imperialist policy. As the US begins construction of a base on Gaza’s razed ground—adding to the list of over 750 bases located internationally—while Israelis fantasize of amusement parks built upon mass graves, the similarities between our two countries becomes undeniable. The US’s settler colonial model is Israel’s blueprint—just as Hitler lauded American settlers, using our reservations as inspiration for his camps. The “American Dream” has always been a settler’s dream.

As the ongoing genocide awakens the world to the dangerous reality of settler colonialism, it’s time that our party commits to decolonization.

By ignoring the settler colonial structures that govern our society, we are ignoring the material struggles of the oppressed peoples that we claim to fight for. This error can be most heavily felt within Section III of our party program, where our lack of a settler colonial analysis leads us playing in liberal identity politics.

The only colony the program makes demands for is Puerto Rico. Otherwise, Hawai’i “used to be a colony”, ignoring the Kanaka Maoli’s assertions of independence. The Aluet are named but Alaska is not, removing them from their land again. We call Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa colonies, but we forget the Northern Mariana Islands, and nowhere do we call for independence.

As for nations suffering under American monopoly capital neoimperialist control, the only issue our program fights against is the racism faced against them. We present no material analysis of the global imperialist situation or America’s role as the imperial core. Therefore, we are advocating for an equal redistribution of our nation’s wealth while giving almost nothing back to those it was stolen from in the first place.

This brings us to the program’s treatment of American Natives. Our ignorance of our native comrades isn’t something new. In his 1952 history of the party, former National Chairman William Z. Foster wrote, “Indeed, in the whole period from Jefferson right down to our own day, the long series of workers’ trade unions and political parties have almost completely ignored the plight and sufferings [of] the abused and heroic Indian peoples. The story of labor’s relations with the Indians is practically a blank.” This lack of history with our native comrades is reflected in our pogram’s attempt to recognize the sovereignty of native tribes while avoiding elaborating on what that sovereignty actually means. Our sidestepping of the colonial issue seems to imply that this “sovereignty” is of the concentration camps we call their “reservations”, ignorantly pushing the myths reinforcing our settler state.

It’s no wonder Foster says that the history of labor relations with American Natives is “practically a blank”. US labor relations are settler labor relations. We have been actively working against their interests from the very beginning.

Our lack of a decolonial analysis continues to haunt us today. Recently, it can be seen in our uncritical support of the Green New Deal, unaware of the real concerns indigenous communities have raised over their land being ruthlessly exploited for uranium, cobalt, lithium, and copper in order to fuel “green” technology. This contradiction can even be found within our own borders., As comrades in Arizona know well, our indigenous tribes have spent generations fighting back against similar attempts of greenwashed colonialism. The Grand Canyon and Oak Flats—a site highly sacred to multiple local tribes—are being harvested for uranium, and the SunZia transmission line is planned to run straight through Tohono O’odham land. And Arizona isn’t the only state –  indigenous communities throughout the US have similar histories, and we need to assist these groups in their fight before they’re abandoned.

Decolonization is the defining issue of our time, and we can’t continue to ignore it. Already, we’ve begun to see Palestinian and Indigenous activists stand in solidarity following October 7th, connecting over their shared fight against settler colonialism. And while the demands of decolonization may appear overwhelming, there are steps we can take now to reach out to these groups. This includes: editing the party program to accurately recognize the independence movements of America’s colonies, begin engaging with indigenous theorists to educate ourselves on decolonial theory, and working with local indigenous communities to form a united front against colonialism. Our allies have called us to rally, and we must answer their call.


    Ellie Samsal Chandler is an activist with the Arizona Communist Party USA - Phoenix

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