A Black Lives Matter leader who once described herself as a “trained” Marxist is attempting to clarify her position, calling the past admission “something I’ve been accused of over the last several months.”
Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of BLM who serves as the BLM Global Network executive director, uploaded a video to her YouTube channel last week to sort out her views titled, “Am I A Marxist?”
The commentary is a response to a recent stir caused by a 2015 interview with Cullors that surfaced over the summer, shortly after George Floyd’s death had rapidly accelerated several BLM-inspired organizing efforts nationwide. She had said both she and fellow BLM co-founder Alicia Garza were “trained Marxists,” and that ideological theory had been influential in building the BLM movement.
In her new “Am I A Marxist?” video, Cullors speaks to the camera while donning a Jimi Hendrix “Bold As Love” t-shirt. She never directly answers the question, however.
“It’s been intense at times; it’s been hilarious at times,” she said. “But I feel like I need to set the record straight.”
Cullors read several comments she had received that accused her of pursuing a “communist agenda” and “trying to burn the whole system down.” She said some of the remarks “have been incredibly hurtful.”
“Am I a Marxist? I am a lot of things,” Cullors says. “I do believe in Marxism. It’s a philosophy that I learned early on in my organizing career. We were taught to learn about the systems that were criticizing capitalism. We were taught to understand why there were philosophies that were criticizing capitalism.”
Cullors was mentored and trained as a teenager by Eric Mann, who runs the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles. He is known for his involvement with the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s and its more radical splinter group, the Weathermen.
“I’m working to make sure that people don’t suffer, I’m working to make sure that people don’t go hungry,” Cullors continued.
Cullors said that misconceptions about her views have unfairly created a false narrative that “so many people who have listened to me, Black Lives Matter, and other social justice organizations aren’t really taking our work very seriously.”
“But I do believe that we can get to a place where there is a socio-economic system that doesn’t oppress some groups of people and only uplifts a few,” she added. “We can’t allow for fear to dictate how we understand what’s possible.”
As the video concludes, Cullors tells her audience, “everybody called Martin Luther King a communist…up until he was assassinated.”
“And now, everybody loves Dr. Martin Luther King. Nobody talks about his work as being work that was terrible or bad.”
She said capitalism wouldn’t lead to “the liberation of every single human being” but did not specify other economic structures that would. Cullors acknowledged that communism has failed around the world but said, “so has capitalism.”