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  • Limits of the Black Radical Tradition and the Valueform

    Shemon Salam

    Limits of the Black Radical Tradition and the Value-form develops an immanent critique of the Black Radical Tradition to show the boundaries of its own categories, history, and epistemologies. Limits argues that the Black Radical Tradition developed in the national context of completing Reconstruction and the international context of colonialism-decolonization resulting in a particular form and content of the tradition. This process constituted the tradition, and subsequently the tradition is still working with the older set of tools that struggle to grapple with Afro-Pessimism, Indigeneity, racial capitalism, and even the George Floyd Uprising. Limits carefully reformulates the tradition so it can once again play a leading role in revolutionary struggles.

    Limits offers a critique of value-form theory, while still arguing that value-form theory is the direction that Black Marxism must head if it is to stay relevant to revolutionary struggles, decolonization, and the fight against anti-Blackness. The Black Radical Tradition demonstrates that value-form theory has a narrow understanding of class politics, reduces history to the struggle of factory workers, and is ultimately Euro-centric. The Black Radical Tradition can re-orient value-form theory to account for race, geo-politics, and other forms of oppression which are not reducible to an economic accounting.

    Concurrently value-form theory addresses shortcomings in Black Marxism’s analysis of Capital, value theory, and more concrete analysis of capitalism. Value-form theory removes the priority of labor, progress, and stages of development from Marxism. Paradoxically, this move on the part of value-form theory recovers a hidden history of Black revolutionaries dealing with the value-form. This recovery shows that the Black Radical Tradition was working towards its own analysis of the value-form as well.

    This double maneuver of recovery and critique of the Black Radical Tradition and value-form theory follows Cedric Robinson’s last words in Black Marxism, the traditions of Marxism and Black Radicalism must come together if they are going to overthrow racial capitalism. Limits follows in Robinson’s footsteps.