by Semaj and Tyler Zimmerman
We’re reposting an essay written by a couple members of ¡ella pelea!, a group that organized against budget cuts, cuts to ethnic studies, and for open enrollment at UT-Austin from 2009-2011, on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. It fits in with the broader conversations happening now on the union question, feminism, and the content and methodology of liberation. We did a study of the League together and wrote this essay to draw lessons for communists and other militants today in the fight against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and the State. We try to incorporate the best of the League experience while confronting its historical and political weaknesses.
This is the link to the original post.
For reference purposes and to explore past conversations we’ve had here on the League, check out this post from HiFi and the conversation that follows.
The League of Revolutionary Black Workers emerged in Detroit in the late 1960s, a period of growing dissatisfaction with the mainstream integrationist civil rights organizations and the failures of the Democratic Party to address the subjugation of black people in a comprehensive way. A new movement which came to be known as Black Power or Black Liberation, grew out of these failures and gave birth to a new identity and a number of new mass and revolutionary organizations, one of the most advanced being the Revolutionary Union Movement and the League.
The Black Power movement also conceptualized the oppression of black people domestically within an international context of white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism. It looked toward and drew inspiration from the national liberation movements that were happening in Cuba, Algeria, and Vietnam as well as the Cultural Revolution in China as a model for what black liberation in the United States could look like. The League was no exception in this regard.
Catalyzed by the Great Rebellion of 1967, an upheaval of Detroit’s black poor against police brutality, poor living conditions, and limited jobs, the League saw the necessity of organizing black workers. Formed by a core of organizers who worked in the auto industry, they were also instrumental in organizing the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), in the Dodge Main auto plant and which pushed for addressing atrocious workplace conditions, speed-up, and the extension of the working day as well as their racist implications. Some DRUM militants were a part of previous civil rights groups but were discontented with the politics and took a more radical political stand that contextualized white supremacy through the framework of capitalist social relations.