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By José Carlos Marulanda
Millions from the Third World are displaced from their homelands and forced to migrate to the West.
They move following the wealth that has been stolen from them and their people in the Global South. A small sector of this diaspora is already politicized when they are forced to migrate. The vast majority, however, migrate for economic reasons, looking for “opportunities” that are not available back home. Ultimately, both sectors of the diaspora migrate for the same reason: the capitalist-imperialist system.
This essential context of forced migration, whether economic or political, is often neglected by second-generation political migrants and is rarely understood or given any significant importance by the majority of economic migrants. Evidence for this are the struggles that the diaspora focuses on when they do organize politically. In the United States, for example, what’s seen as the main contradiction in the Latinx community and what almost all mobilizations are devoted to is the question of legalization and citizenship.
Granted, immigration status takes a primary role in the struggle for the diaspora everywhere in the West for sound and practical reasons. What’s worrisome is that it’s generally treated as the cause of the community’s problems, rather than an effect. The ultimate objective becomes one of integration into the very societies that were responsible for displacing people from their homelands in the first place.
This integration is not uncritical. It occasionally challenges social injustices like racial profiling, police brutality, gender and sexual violence and immigration crackdowns, among others. However, the diaspora seems to find it increasingly difficult to put a finger on the foundation, the essence of these symptoms. It cannot find the pulse of the capitalist-imperialist heart that pumps out oppressive clots into communities, at home and wherever they are forced into exile.
Identity and respectability politics couched in Western liberal activism not only fail to go to the root of problems faced by the diaspora. They also stunt its revolutionary potential. Liberal activism, which is becoming a mainstream trend among the diaspora in the West and the Westernized world, gives priority to effects rather than causes, individuals rather than the collective.
Communism is the most radical answer to capitalism and its Western liberal values. Just as Mao Zedong adapted Marxism-Leninism to the special conditions of China, the Latinx diaspora in the West needs to apply this science to its own special conditions. These conditions are tied to the socioeconomic and political system dominating our Latin American homeland.
Fortunately, we have a theoretical layout in Jose Carlos Mariátegui who, like Mao, applied Marxism-Leninism to the conditions of his region. The early-20th-century Peruvian writer and political activist, considered the father of socialism and communism in Latin America, was able to dissect racial and class relations that existed in the region, many of which are still relevant today.
By putting the question of race at the center of his anti-capitalist analysis, Mariátegui Latin Americanized Marxism. This adaptation helps to dissolve liberal identity politics, which places racial injustices above class war, and the Eurocentric focus on class war without acknowledging the racial hierarchy of global capitalism. The Latin American diaspora, from this material conception of their history, can more accurately understand the conditions which forced them to migrate in the first place, as well as the multiple aggressions and microaggressions they face once in exile.
Communism is portrayed by some Indigenous nationalists and liberal activists in the diaspora as Eurocentric. It is seen as irreconcilable with the struggle to liberate the Latinx diaspora and homeland. The racism and Eurocentrism so entrenched in communist parties in the West only help to cement this inaccurate position.
The imperialist privileges extended to the working class of the First World through state welfare and other socioeconomic securities also places a material barrier, making leftist movements there narrow in their demands. Demands that are often counter-revolutionary and reformist. The Latinx diaspora, which is part of the bottom layer of the hierarchy in Western capitalist society, can have revolutionary potential if trendy liberalism is replaced with revolutionary anti-imperialist communism.
The Amauta (the term for “teacher” in the Indigenous Quechua language), as Mariátegui is known, was clear when he said that “we do not wish for Socialism in (Latin) America to be a tracing or a copy,” but that “we must, with our own reality, in our own language, bring Indoamerican socialism to life.”
In this spirit, those of us who form part of the diaspora can contribute to creating a revolutionary path that takes our own historical circumstances into account. This is the path of combating global capitalism, the engine that drives all injustices, and standing in solidarity with the most oppressed in this vile world system.