Tag Archives: Black Liberation

Hands Up Turn Up: Ferguson Jailbreaks out of History

Let the economists fret over the $27 million lost, and the city planners sigh over one of their most beautiful supermarkets gone up in smoke, and McIntyre blubber over his slain deputy sheriff. Let the sociologists bemoan the absurdity and intoxication of this rebellion. The role of a revolutionary publication is not only to justify the Los Angeles insurgents, but to help elucidate their perspectives, to explain theoretically the truth for which such practical action expresses the search.

– The Situationist International, on the 1965 Watts Rebellion

Things have unfolded rapidly in Ferguson, Missouri. On Thursday and Friday, we have seen reports of “festive” conditions, as locals hug the state highway patrol officers tapped by the Governor to replace the St. Louis County police force, and Captain Ronald Johnson marching alongside protesters.

Yet the mood changed Friday and Saturday night, as some protesters returned to the militancy we saw Mon-Wed nights, facing off with the cops, sporadically blockading the street, occasionally looting, and defying the state of emergency and curfew that followed. The situation on the ground, as the pundits say, is “fluid.”

image00

U&S members and other comrades have engaged our respective communities with flyering, solidarity protests, and participation in larger, nationally coordinated demonstrations. In between, we have put our heads together to draft some notes analyzing what is happening in Ferguson and nationally, since we see this moment as a qualitative leap forward for the U.S. proletariat and black politics. It is an exciting moment. We are all stretched to the max so please excuse the sparseness, partially thought, scattered nature of the notes below, which were thrown together by many different people as events unfolded over the week. We wanted to have a place holder on the blog where we can discuss what has been unfolding in Ferguson and have place to link to updates, report backs, etc., to draw out clearer, more substantive ideas, and help accomplish the task the Situationists laid out fifty years ago.

Ferguson’s Racial Dynamics

We don’t have a ton of knowledge about Ferguson in particular. Nationally, bloggers and activists have released information about racial profiling practices in Ferguson (apparently the NAACP had already been asking for a federal investigation in this regard):

image01

Beyond these numbers, some of us feel Ferguson represents a kind of “perfect storm” of racialized social relations. St. Louis, like Louisville and Cincinnati, are long-time deindustrialized cities, which are very segregated, with a large black population and vastly white local government and police department. These cities, historically, have witnessed some of the worst “race riots” in US history, and today the police and other public officials in Ferguson are upholding this tradition of white supremacy in overt ways, in supposedly “post-racial” America: harsh repression of protests, leaving Mike Brown’s body in the street for 4 hours, refusing to release the cop’s name for several days, etc.
Continue reading Hands Up Turn Up: Ferguson Jailbreaks out of History

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers for Militants Today

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.

 

Introduction

 

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.

Continue reading The League of Revolutionary Black Workers for Militants Today

Message to the Grassroots

malcolm_speaking

By fatima and BaoYunCheng

The following speech by Malcolm, Message to the Grassroots, was delivered on November 10, 1963, at the Northern Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference. This conference was organized by Reverend Albert Cleage as a response to the Negro Summit Leadership Conference put on by the Detroit Council for Human Rights (DCHR), which Cleage, along with Rev. C. L. Franklin, initially started. The split between Franklin and Cleage reflected the differing visions and tactics between the Negro revolution and the black revolution, a point Malcolm foregrounds in this speech. The Negro revolution, as Malcolm laid out, was nonviolent, seeing the ends as only to “sit down [next] to white folks.” In contrast, the black revolution was uncompromising in tactics and with the end goal not simply being desegregation, but control of land, “the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.” As black revolution seemed impending in America in 1963, President Kennedy publicly acknowledged the “Negro revolution” on June 11th and called on black national civil rights leaders to reign in the militancy and self-activity of the black population. Bought off with Kennedy’s money, the Big Six civil rights leadership-which included Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Philip Randolph- along with white progressive leaders, took over the March on Washington of August 28, 1963. As Malcolm described in this speech, “As they took it over, [the march] lost its militancy. It ceased to be angry, it ceased to be hot, it ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march.” It was in this context that, Cleage organized the Northern Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference on the same weekend and asked Malcolm to headline it with his Message to the Grassroots. Continue reading Message to the Grassroots

Lessons from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers

The following are a few basic and rough notes on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. For the purposes of this post they are mainly based on “Dying from the Inside: The Decline of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers” by Ernie Allen, a key account of the organizational issues of the LRBW. These aren’t exhaustive notes, since it is possible and necessary to dig much deeper into the issues raised by the LRBW. Instead, they represent some basic starting points for a more thorough discussion of one of the most important groups and experiences of the Black Power and New Left period.

However, they are informed by other important readings on the LRBW that can’t be missed. These include Detroit: I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin, A. Muhammad Ahmad, The League of Revolutionary Black Workers, 1968-1971, and Class, Race and Worker Insurgency: The League of Revolutionary Black Workers by James Geschwender.

*******

1. To understand the origins of the LRBW we have to grasp two interrelated issues. First, is the particular place and experience of black workers in the United States. Second, is the history of the United Auto Workers as it developed out of the mass CIO labor movement of the 1930s. Specifically, we have to look at the formation of an industrial union bureaucracy with its integration into capitalist production.

2. We need to understand the historical relationship between black labor and the apartheid system that has controlled it This system has deep roots in the stages of development of American capitalism. First as a source of the super-profits of enslaved labor extracted under a regime of racial terror. Second, as a debt-bonded peasantry that boosted falling profit rates of Southern agriculture and commodities under a racial caste system of Jim Crow segregation. Third, migration to the north to become industrial workers at the heart of American capitalism, but relegated to the lowest-tiered jobs and wages, generally excluded from production and skilled work until WW2, and subject to an elaborate system of discrimination and segregation to enforce this closed, racially-based labor market.

3. The role of the UAW bureaucracy was double-sided. One one side it helped subordinate workers to the assembly line by channeling grievances into periodic negotiations for the contract, thereby maintaining capitalist control over the day-to-day functioning of the factory. The other side of this role in controlling workers was enforcing the racial division of labor that not only facilitated job competition between black and white workers, but ensured that the status of black workers remain largely unchanged. Therefore the ways in which the bureaucracy functioned as an extension of capitalist power overlapped with its role as a white labor patronage network.
Continue reading Lessons from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers

50,000 Lineup for Housing Aid in Detroit: Where is the Left?

-Will

I only have two questions when reading the World Socialist Website article:

What does this say about the objective situation for the radical/ revolutionary left?

Where is the radical/ revolutionary left?

TheWSWS websites writes:

“In a scene reminiscent of the crowds of jobless workers who lined up for free soup during the Great Depression, a queue of tens of thousands of workers and unemployed people wound around the downtown arena. Young mothers pushing baby carriages, disabled workers in wheelchairs, senior citizens and throngs of young workers and youth stood for hours waiting. Many had slept on the streets the previous evening to be the first served.

Several people fainted during the wait and were treated by medical personnel on the scene. By 11:30 a.m., Detroit’s mayor, David Bing, made a public appeal for citizens to stop coming to Cobo Hall. Hundreds of police, including officers from Detroit’s special Gang Unit, stood guard at the entrances to hold back the crowd.”

Not a Recession, but a Depression for Black workers

Despite some important examples of struggles in this country in response to the effects of the economic crisis, it is the capitalist who have carried out a consistent offensive.

The devastation from unemployment is the worst since the 1930s, and the real percentage of which is above 16%, with over 20% in some areas. But the recession isn’t effecting all people the same way. Black and Latino unemployment is nearly double that of whites. One of the reasons is that the recession isn’t just attacking skilled labor, which is more white, but it’s blitzing unskilled labor. As more skilled labor takes up unskilled jobs to pay the bills this adds to the effect.

After the mini-recession of 2000-2001 there was a jobless recovery. But Black people saw faster rates of unemployment after the relative “boom” time of the 1990s at the same time the class divide in Black communities has expanded. But even considering that, in historical perspective black male unemployment has officially shifted between 15 and 10 percent from the 1980s and 1990s.

Dedrick Muhammad spoke recently on Democracy Now about this, touching on Black unemployment and Latino unemployment as well as the role of predatory lending by the banks that has lead to a loss of 70-90 billion dollars in home-value wealth for Black and Latino people.

Although we should realize they are talking about the working class and not the middle class, in the following article, taken from the Institute for Policy Studies, Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad address some of the details.

————-

The Destruction of the Black Middle Class

By Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad

To judge from most of the commentary on the Gates-Crowley affair, you would think that a “black elite” has gotten dangerously out of hand. First Gates (Cambridge, Yale, Harvard) showed insufficient deference to Crowley, then Obama (Occidental, Harvard) piled on to accuse the police of having acted “stupidly.” Was this “the end of white America” which the Atlantic had warned of in its January/February cover story? Or had the injuries of class — working class in Crowley’s case — finally trumped the grievances of race?

Left out of the ensuing tangle of commentary on race and class has been the increasing impoverishment — or, we should say, re-impoverishment — of African Americans as a group. In fact, the most salient and lasting effect of the current recession may turn out to be the decimation of the black middle class. According to a study by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, 33% of the black middle class was already in danger of falling out of the middle class at the start of the recession. Gates and Obama, along with Oprah and Cosby, will no doubt remain in place, but millions of the black equivalents of Officer Crowley — from factory workers to bank tellers and white collar managers — are sliding down toward destitution.
Continue reading Not a Recession, but a Depression for Black workers

Struggles from Detroit

Detroit workers on the march.
Detroit workers on the march.

 

by Will

It is tough watching Detroit go through this. But anyone familiar with the state of the Midwest, the rustbelt, with majority Black cities, knows that the recent budget and social crisis has been in the making since the early 1970s. Some historical accounts like Thomas Surgue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis and the famous Detroit I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin place this transition to the 1950s. Yet these two books paint a very different picture of what Black working class life and city looked like before deindustrialization officially attacked the Black working class.

The articles below, from the World Socialist Website and The Michigan Citizen bring us to Detroit amidst a national and international recession. The last decade or so saw the Detroit bourgeoisie try to revive the economy through the casino economy. They also hoped that they could ride the coat tails of the real-estate boom, but Detroit has been cursed—always too late, always too little. The official unemployment rate of Detroit is 17.7% and I have talked to friends who have told me it is probably closer to 30%.  Considering 80% of the city is Black, it is not hard to figure out who is getting hit the hardest. The new mayor of Detroit is using this crisis as a pretext to attack almost all layers of the class in the city. Now working class anger is beginning to erupt across the city.  Public sector workers are on the move.  I will try to interview a friend next week so we can get a picture of some of the movement dynamics happening.  As this crisis unfolds, we all have come to a realization that movement alone will not push the racists and capitalists back.  Our people need to step up their game cuz the enemy is on the march.
Continue reading Struggles from Detroit