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From ‘Black Nationalism’ to ‘Bahujan Nationalism’

From ‘Black Nationalism’ to ‘Bahujan Nationalism’

satvendra madara


Satvender Madara

satvendra madaraIn the last two centuries, in many parts of India, struggles started against the thousands of year old Brahmanical Caste System. In Eastern India, it was led by Harichand and Guruchand Thakur, by Phule-Shahu-Ambedkar in Western India, in the North by Babu Mangu Ram, Swami Achutanand and in the South by Narayana Guru and Periyar Ramasamy. After the British left, the power went into the hands of Brahmins and then this movement was led and revived throughout India, and specially in the North, by Saheb Kanshi Ram.

But till now, in all these movements, a major part of the struggle was focused on the cultural, religious, social and political fronts and though many achievements were made, not much work took place on the economic aspect, which is one of the most important. As long as the Bahujan Samaj (ST, SC, OBC and the converted minority castes from these categories) does not achieve full freedom from Brahmanism, it will not be able to come out of its clutches.

Bahujan Samaj is 85% of the country’s population, if it moves in this direction, there is no reason why it cannot succeed.

To achieve success on the economic front, we can take help from the ideology of Black Nationalism, which was developed by the African-Americans. African Blacks also started their struggle against racial discrimination by the European Whites in the 19th century, same as India. When they analyzed thoroughly all aspects of their slavery, they realized the extent of their total economic slavery along-with social, religious, political and cultural slavery.  

The first revolutionary steps in this direction were taken by one of the greatest black leaders, Honourable Marcus Garvey in New York in the year 1919. He was born on 17th August, 1887 in St.Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. From the year 1910 to 1914, he lived and traveled in Central and South America and then in London, England and Europe and returned to Jamaica in July, 1914. There, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A). As a part of his movement, he arrived for the first time in New York on 23rd March, 1916. After touring many American States he decided to live in Harlem, New York to carry on its activities. From here he laid the foundation of Black Nationalism which later on turned into a massive movement.

According to him, economic emancipation is the most important tool to gain freedom. An independent political action can only be carried on an independent economic base. As long as we are not strong on the economic front others will think of us as backward and if we do not become independent on the economic front then we will be made slaves again. He also believed that if we want to make our race a strong and successful race, then we have to keep its interests above all.

In regard to this he took the revolutionary step of founding the Black Star Line in 1919, which was a shipping company. He also founded the Negro Factories Corporation under which Universal Laundry, Universal Military Store, Universal Restaurant, Universal Grocery Store, a hotel, tailoring shops, a doll factory, printing press, bank, etc. and many small and big businesses were started, which provided employment for 300 to 1000 blacks at one point.

marcus garvey 1

In his own words:

“The Universal Negro Improvement Association teaches our race self-help and self-reliance, not only in one essential, but in all those things that contribute to human happiness and well being. The disposition of the many to depend upon the other races for a kindly and sympathetic consideration of their needs, without making the effort to do for themselves, has been the race’s standing disgrace by which we have been judged and through which we have created the strongest prejudice against ourselves….

The race needs workers at this time, not plagiarists, copyists and mere imitators; but men and women who are able to create, to originate and improve, and thus make an independent racial contribution to the world and civilization.” ~ Honourable Marcus Garvey, 18th August, 1923

He said that we have to produce and also gave the slogan, “Negro products, Negro distributors, Negro consumers.”

After his death on 10th June, 1940, this caravan came to a halt almost, and was revived again by another great black leader Malcolm X. In one of his well known speeches, he explained the ideology of Black Nationalism:

“The economic philosophy of Black Nationalism only means that we should own and operate and control the economy of our community. You can never open up a black store in a white community . White man won’t even patronize you. And he is not wrong . He has got sense enough to look out for himself . You the one who don’t have sense enough to look out for yourself.

The white man is too intelligent to let someone else come and gain control of the economy of his community . But you will let anybody come in and take control of the economy of your community, control the housing, control the education, control the jobs, control the businesses, under the pretext that you want to integrate. No, you out of your mind.

The political, the economic philosophy of black nationalism only means that we have to become involved in a program of re-education. To educate our people into the importance of knowing that when you spend your dollar out of the community in which you live, the community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer; the community out of which you take your money becomes poorer and poorer. And because these Negroes who have been mislead misguided, are breaking their necks to take their money and spend it with the man, the man is becoming richer and richer and you are becoming poorer and poorer. And then what happens ? The community in which you live becomes a slum, it becomes a ghetto, the conditions become run down. And then you have the audacity to complain about poor housing in a run down community. Why ? You run it down yourself when you take your dollar out.” ~ Malcolm X, 12th April, 1964, Detroit, Michigan

After his assassination on 21st February, 1965, in the 70s, Black Panthers laid great emphasis on the ideology of Black Nationalism and now it has turned into a large scale movement. Specially, if we look in the world of music, then Black singers have become economically independent and many of them are the owners of large music companies. In the whole of African Continent special attention is given to this aspect, that if they want to become fully independent, then not only politically, in which they have achieved freedom – they also have to become economically independent as well.

malcolm x

Now if we talk about the Bahujan Samaj in India, we can see that in many parts of the country, we have made huge progress on political, social, religious, cultural fronts but we have not made much progress on one of the most important fronts, the economic front. The Brahmanist community of 15%, specially Banias, are still the masters of economic power in the whole country. Whether the government is in the hands of Backwards (OBCs) or the Scheduled Caste or Tribe leaders – the economic power is still far away from Bahujan Samaj. Even though the population of this community is 85%, but regrettably, even today we are not using the right proportion of our strength on this front, and all energy is spent on the religious, political, social and cultural fronts. Now the time has come for us to use our strength on the economic front as well and motivate our community to run our own stores, factories and businesses so that they follow the famous slogan of Honourable Marcus Garvey, that we should produce, we should distribute and we should consume.

Many small and large attempts had been made in many parts of the country, but it is still getting late to make it a large scale movement on an ideological level. The famous African-American intellectual Dr. John Henrik Clarke has said in on of his speeches that you have to produce things which you consume yourselves and if you still consumed the things produced by others, then you will go back to slavery.

In the beginning of the 21st century we should move towards “Bahujan Nationalism” so that we can also win on the economic front and fulfill Saheb Kanshi Ram’s slogan that “21st century is ours, now is the turn of the Bahujans.” Hail Bahujan Nationalism!



Satvendar Madara works in the Hospitality Industry. He is doing the important work of collecting Saheb Kanshi Ram’s speeches online, and also takes a special interest in the Bahujan Movement.

Images courtesy: the internet.


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