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(en) The Utopian #2 - Anarchism and African - By WAYNE PRICE I (1/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.utopianmag.com/)
Date Mon, 14 Oct 2002 04:50:51 -0400 (EDT)


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      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
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"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time,
but if you have come because your liberation is bound up
with mine, then let us work together."
--Words of an Aboriginal Australian Woman

Approaches to Black liberation start from many perspec-
tives: that racial oppression is the basic issue, that class
oppression is the basic issue, that national oppression is
basic, or gender oppression, and so on. My starting point is
that it is oppression itself which is the essential problem. It is
the existence of a hierarchical society in which some domi-
nate others which frames and reinforces racial oppression.

Historically the dominant programs in the Black libera-
tion movement have been varieties of "integration" or
"nationalism." Usually these are explicitly pro-capitalist,
but sometimes they are posed in a way which is influenced
by Marxism. There is much truth in each of these pro-
grams but ultimately both are inadequate to achieve com-
plete freedom for African-Americans. They need to be
brought together in a holistic, multidimensional, anarchist
perspective, one which sees racial oppression as an impor-
tant facet of a total authoritarian society (other facets
being capitalism, statism, sexism, etc.). I am making two
claims here: that racism is part of an authoritarian total
system and that it is an extremely important part .

Both integrationism and nationalism can be understood in
either a broad or a narrow way. The broad way is how they
are understood by most people, and includes their positive
aspects. The narrow way is the specific programs into which
they are crystallized and elaborated by various middle class
groupings. These ideological groups intend to use their pro-
grams to win leadership over ordinary people and advance
their own interests. Usually these would-be leaderships are
very sincere, combining idealism and opportunism.

LIBERAL INTEGRATIONISM

For example, most Black people are "for" integration, in
the sense that they are for civil rights and liberties, includ-
ing the right to work where they want, to live where they
want, to shop anywhere, to walk in any part of their city
without being attacked by White mobs, to drive or walk
down any street without being stopped by cops, to go any-
where without being shot by cops. They want the rights
promised to all by the great bourgeois-democratic revolu-
tions, including the U.S. revolution. They want the rights
enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill
of Rights--and expressed by the values of Western
Christianity as commonly understood, including the infi-
nite worth of each individual and the need for community
and solidarity ("brotherhood" ).

To an extent these rights were won by the Civil Rights
Movement. The legal form of Jim Crow segregation was
overthrown--which had existed in half the country,
enforced by local police as well as by night-riding Klan ter-
rorism. But discrimination and White prejudice are still
widespread, public schools are more racially separated
than ever, and African-Americans remain at the bottom of
society. The continued fight against prejudice and discrim-
ination, for equality and civil rights, is the valuable part of
the integration struggle.

But as a developed middle class program, "integration"
implies merging into this society, as it is--accepting this social
system--with its capitalism, sexism, militarism, and imperial-
ism--except for its racism. Integration implies cultural assimi-
lation, adopting the values of middle class White America and
criticizing Black people whose sexual and work standards do
not fit those U.S. standards. And integrationism includes a
political strategy of appealing to what's left of the liberal wing
of the U.S. capitalist class. This requires working within the
Democratic Party and carrying out a pacifist, nonviolent,
approach to struggle.

To their credit, it was the integrationists who organized mass
demonstrations in the fifties and sixties, who mobilized large
numbers of Black people to struggle against racism. While the
nationalists sat on the sidelines and criticized, integrationists
led the struggles in the South which broke down legal Jim
Crow. This does not mean that Black people bought the whole
integrationist program. For all their respect for Dr. King, few
African-Americans ever believed in pacifism as a political phi-
losophy. The nonviolent Civil Rights marches were followed
by the violent urban rebellions--so-called Black riots--North
and South. The integrationists did not approve of the mass
rebellions; instead King supported the (violent) National
Guard which suppressed them. (Not that the nationalists
organized the rebellions either. The uprisings had no "leader-
ship" or "organizers." This was both their weakness and their
good fortune.)

Integrationism is often based on an analysis of Black
oppression as a "caste" system. Like the Asian-Indian caste
system, Black and White are categories into which people
are born and which they cannot get out of--unlike eco-
nomic classes. A middle class person may rise into the rich
(although it rarely happens, Bill Gates aside) or fall into the
poor, but Black people are Black no matter how they other-
wise succeed or fail (leaving aside the very few light-skinned
Blacks who can "pass" in each generation). The program-
matic implications of this analysis is to break down the
caste barriers, to abolish the rigid, inherited, categorical dif-
ferences between the races--that is, integration.

Integrationists say that African-Americans should become
part of this predominately European-American society, just
like everyone else (in other words, just like White people).
It is true that racial differences are rigid and caste-like. But
this analysis leaves out the relation of racism to other facets
of authoritarian oppression. Black people are almost entire-
ly in the working class, and mostly in the poorest part of the
working class. If tomorrow, all African-Americans were to
magically turn White (leaving aside whether this would be
desirable), most of them would still be poor, living in slums,
and working at the worst jobs. Meanwhile the racial preju-
dices of the White majority are created by the oppressions
from which they suffer, the breeding grounds of their hatred
and bigotry. Their prejudices will not end just by enlight-
ened education--but by directing their anger at their real
enemies, the ruling rich, and eventually by creating an egali-
tarian, cooperative society.

BLACK NATIONALISM

The historical alternative to integrationism has been Black
nationalism. This also has a broad and a narrow meaning.
Broadly, African-Americans have maintained their own insti-
tutions, including churches and colleges, and have no inten-
tion of abandoning them. They have called for pride in their
looks, which do not simply fit European standards of beauty,
and pride in their history and historical achievements. For
generations, they have made their own music which has been
an enormously creative force in world culture. They have
organized themselves as communities and as a people in order
to win gains in the White-dominated society. This broader
nationalist current has been expressed in terms such as race
pride or Black pride or Black consciousness or Black power.

But Black nationalism has also been expressed in
narrow, specific political programs which call for
African-Americans separating out and forming
their own country, either in Africa or in North
America. Ideological Black nationalism's great
strength has been its rejection of White society,
its radical perception that the existing system
will not accept Black people, will not grant them
equality or freedom. Contrary to the integra-
tionists, the nationalists at their best reject liber-
al illusions in favor of revolutionary opposition
to the existing state. And yet nationalism, as a
fully developed program of separatism, has
never been popular among more than a tiny
minority of African-Americans. This may be
compared, for example, with the French-speak-
ing people of Quebec, Canada, historically an
oppressed people in North America. Over the years, support
for separatism among the Quebeçois has varied from a large
minority to a majority, at times enough to elect the nation-
alists into power. Separatist nationalism has never come
close to this among U.S. Blacks.

Mainly this is because the nationalist program is based on
an error. African-Americans are not a (distinct) nation.
They share the language, religion, and culture of the rest of
the country. Like most U.S. citizens, they speak English,
they are Christians--mostly Protestants. Blacks are no
doubt a cultural minority in many ways--more precisely, a
U.S. subculture--who have infused both English and
Christianity with their own experience, creating their own,
unique, versions. But in many ways they are quintessential
Americans. Because they are central to U.S. history, they
are at the core of the U.S. experience, and are at least as
"American" as anyone. If Blacks are not "Americans," then
who is? Of course, Blacks have been excluded and
oppressed by the U.S., but exclusion and oppression are
also part of the U.S. experience--for so many people.

Besides the cultural aspects of their existence, Blacks lack
the "material" basis for a separate nation. They do not
have a common land even partially capable of sustaining
an independent economy, of creating a commodity-pro-
ducing national community. In the early thirties, the
Communist Party advocated "Self-Determination for the
Black Belt," an agricultural region (so-called for its soil,
not for its Black population) cutting across several
Southern states. It mostly had Black people, and had most
of the U.S.'s Black people. Whatever the merits of that
position (U.S. Blacks were never asked whether they want-
ed independence for the Black Belt region), it no longer
applies. African-Americans are now scattered across the
U.S., mostly living in the North, mostly living in urban
areas North and South. Only a minority still work on the
land. (Only a minority of anyone in North America still
works on the land--less than 2 percent.) There is no sepa-
rate Black economy exploited by U.S. capitalism, the way
Western imperialism exploits the national economies of
Africa or Asia. Blacks work for U.S. companies. They are
"integrated" into the U.S. economy--at the bottom. The
call to build "Black capitalism" by the nationalists is an
admission that a Black colony--the basis for national
independence--does not exist. "Black capitalism" is a pro-
gram to create a colony--not to free one.

The point of this argument is not to deny that African-
Americans could create some kind of independent nation,
under conditions of great social stress. Nations have been
formed in the past which lacked various of the usual pre-
requisites of national existence. The most famous example
is the way Zionism succeeded in creating the nation of
Israel. It pulled together a (then) mostly European, mostly
middle class, scattered people who more-or-less shared a
religion and culture and the condition of being repressed,
to build a nation by settling on someone else's land. (But
the Israelis are still completely dependent on Western
imperialism.) There are other examples, such as Pakistan,
created by dividing out the Muslim Indians from the
Hindu Indians--who had never been two nations in the
past. For that matter, what is the United States? It com-
prises people from all over the earth, calling themselves
the "Americans" (as if the rest of the people of North and
South America are not Americans), living on land torn
from the Native Americans and the Mexicans.

Similarly, it is possible that a large number of African-
Americans could come to want an independent nation in
conditions of upheaval and chaos, of collapse of the existing
system, of revolution and counterrevolution, where revolu-
tionary anarchism, Stalinism, and fascist racism become the
main forces struggling for supremacy. Unfortunately, such a
situation may someday develop in the U.S. In such condi-
tions, many Blacks may come to feel that they need separa-
tion from the Whites, on the one hand, and that it is possi-
ble for them to successfully seize a part of the U.S., on the
other. Anarchists, Black and White, would then support this
demand. Whether or not they agreed with the idea of inde-
pendence, anarchists believe in freedom and self-determina-
tion, and would have to support the right of the Black pop-
ulation to separate out if it chooses.

Actually anarchists have held contradictory positions on
"national self-determination." As internationalists, they
have opposed nationalist ideologies. What is the advan-
tage, they ask, in getting rid of the foreign exploiter in
order to be ground down by a native exploiter (who will
make a new deal with the foreign exploiter anyway)? In
particular they have denied that oppressed peoples can
find liberation by creating new states. These new states
only continue the history of oppression, often oppressing
national minorities within the new nation (as Communist
Vietnam oppressed the Chinese-Vietnamese minority
within its borders, causing many to flee as boat people).
The independent nations of Africa are mixtures of nation-
al peoples, sometimes living peacefully with each other
and sometimes in murderous conflict with each other (the
recent Tutsi/Hutu wars of East Africa being among the
worst)--locked within the prisons of the states.

On the other hand, anarchists are opponents of imperial-
ism, of national oppression, and of international central-
ization. They have always advocated the right of commu-
nities, regions, and nations to secede from broader associ-
ations. Kropotkin argued for the right of national inde-
pendence by saying that, as anarchy meant the independ-
ence of individuals from each other, so a free internation-
alism required the independence of countries from each
other. "If we say no government...how can [we] permit the
government of conquered nationalities by the conquering
nationalities?" (quoted in Miller, 1976, p. 231). Guerin
(1970) goes so far as to claim that Lenin adopted his idea
of support for national self-determination from the anar-
chists (Lenin, 1970a)! Based on the experience of African
nationalism, two Nigerian anarchists conclude,
"Anarchists...support struggles for national independence
in Africa and around the world....However, anarchists also
insist that the usefulness of `self-determination' will be
very limited as long [as] the state system and capitalism--
including Marxist state capitalism--are retained" (Mbah &
Igariwey, 1997, p. 106).

National independence for a would-be Black nation could
not be won easily. The U.S. ruling class has no intention of
losing a significant part of its workforce nor of giving up
any part of its national territory. Besides, it could not per-
mit the example. What if Chicanos wanted to do the same
in the Southwest? Or the Native American nations? Or if
people just generally got the idea that they could break up
the mighty U.S. state? Black nationalists argue that Blacks
need their own nation because they cannot trust the
Whites--any Whites. But they do not explain how, then, the
White rulers would be willing to let Blacks separate. They
have no strategy, except the religious nationalists who call
on Allah or Jehovah to do it for them.

Given the world power of the U.S. rulers, the only way
national independence for Blacks could be won would be
in the context of a revolution by the whole multi-national
U.S. working class and oppressed people. That is, the
power elite would have to be overthrown and broken up
before Blacks could separate. There would have to be a
united struggle by Black, White, Asian, Latino, and Native
American people, straight and Gay, women and men,
young and old, able-bodied and "disabled," workers and
oppressed people of all sorts--the coming together of
many struggles over many issues. The revolution would
have to be international; forces from Mexico may well be
fighting on our side. Faced with the mightiest state on
earth, nothing less will do.

The same point applies after independence. If a separate
Black nation could--somehow--be won without over-
throwing the U.S., then its new, weak, economy would be
dominated by the imperialist U.S. just as are the economies
of Africa today--or the rest of the world. Again, true inde-
pendence would require the overthrow of the existing
U.S.--and world--imperialist system by a unified struggle.

A unified struggle is just what the nationalists do not
believe in. Which is what makes them nationalists. The
grounds for this are not hard to understand. There is plen-
ty of reason for Blacks to distrust Whites. Blacks tend to
have a higher political consciousness than European-
Americans. Even in quiet times, most African-Americans
understand at least that there is a great deal of oppression
and injustice in a way which most Whites do not. Racism
is widespread among Whites, whether of the extreme or
the mild-liberal varieties. As a result, it is positive for
Blacks to build an independent movement, to feel pride in
themselves, to organize their communities, to assert their
right to decide for themselves. The problem arises when
this is hardened into a program which rejects working
with other sections of the oppressed, White or otherwise.

The nationalist approach tends to see the U.S. as two solid
blocs, the European-Americans versus the African-
Americans. This overlooks the splits in both blocs, such as
the class conflicts within each or the gender conflict in each.
Black feminists have complained about the sexism which has
historically been strong among nationalists, but this is a nat-
ural tendency among those who see the Black population as
a single entity. Denying the splits and oppressions among
Blacks, they do not focus on the oppression of Black women
by Black men (and, of course, White men).
Nationalists also tend to overlook groups which do not fit
into the Black/White conflict. Latinos (Hispanics) are not
a "racial" group, although it is often convenient to lump
them into "people of color." They include people of Native
American, African, and European ancestry. They come
from a wide variety of national cultures. U.S. people of
Asian-Indian background are of various skin shades, lan-
guages, and cultures. East Asian-Americans (Chinese,
Vietnamese, Japanese, etc.) are a "racial" group, but they
too come from a wide variety of countries and cultures.

Many of them have merged well into the U.S. White cul-
ture, rising rapidly into the middle class and above. Yet
many are stuck in some of the worst, most exploited,
sweatshop jobs in the country. Blacks also have their
national conflicts, such as U.S.-born versus West Indian
Blacks. Nor are Whites really a homogeneous group.

Consider the Jews, who are currently merging into the
White population. Yet, because of their different religion,
they remain vulnerable to being victimized by far-right
racist fanatics in conditions of crisis. In brief, the national-
ist view of the U.S. as basically composed of two racial
blocs is misleading.

SOCIALIST VIEWS OF BLACK LIBERATION

The Marxist view has often been to turn the caste analysis
on its head, portraying Blacks as essentially a super-
exploited section of the working class. This ignores the
racial aspect of their oppression. It also ignores the fact
that many Black people are not in the poor, super-exploit-
ed class but are middle class white-collar workers or in
other classes (consider Vernon Jordan, the well-off friend
of Bill Clinton). Historically this perspective has opposed
any struggle for Black rights on the ground that these
rights would automatically be achieved by working class
revolution. Even the early Socialist Party of Eugene Debs
declared, "We have nothing special to offer the Negro."

Some radical Marxists still hold this view, which is in fact
racist because it subordinates the Black struggle to the
interests of the White workers. In practice it tells Blacks
not to raise their own issues because these may rouse the
prejudices of White workers and upset class "unity." But it
is really the Whites' racial privileges which interfere with
real class unity. True class solidarity can only be built
around the interests of the most oppressed, those who
have no special privileges which tie them to the ruling
class. They are the ones who have "nothing to lose but
their chains" (in the concluding words of Marx's
Communist Manifesto).

Other radical Marxists (some Trotskyists) have advocated
"revolutionary integrationism." That is, they support inte-
grationism but argue that it can only be won by means of a
social revolution. The goals of equality and nondiscrimina-
tion can only be fully won by revolution. But integrationism
is a consistent program which means more than that. To
advocate "revolutionary integrationism" is equivalent to
advocating "revolutionary liberalism," which is gibberish.

A socialist and class-based analysis of the position of
African-American workers must begin with their dual role.
On one hand, they are among the most oppressed, super-
exploited, section of the working class, paid the lowest
wages for the hardest work. In this way, extra profits are
squeezed out of them, beyond what the bosses would get if
they had to pay for White workers. On the other hand,
they have been used against the wages of the White work-
ers. Due to racism, the workers are divided, with the
Whites feeling privileged just for being White, and foolish-
ly opposed to joining unions or pressuring the (White)
capitalists. Therefore the U.S. workers have fewer benefits
(such as child care, unemployment benefits, health care, or
union rights) than the West European workers (who have
been able to create more unions and social democratic
parties). The workers in the U.S. South, the most racist
region, have the least benefits of all. In other
words, racism hurts Black workers most of all, but
it also hurts the whole working class, including
White workers. This has been true since Blacks
were dragged here to work as slaves.

Among socialist programs, anarchism has had
minimal influence in the Black movement. A few
ex-Panthers have developed anarchist politics. In
recent years there has been an explosion of anar-
chist groups throughout Africa, which may lead
African-Americans to see anarchism as more than
a "White" program. The Civil Rights movement
itself was mostly local, decentralized, and bottom-
up in character, with the would-be leaders follow-
ing the ranks more than the other way around. Its
main method was civil disobedience. That is, it
was often anarchistic in structure and methods.

The position I have developed here is an extension of the
ideas of the Black revolutionary C.L.R. James, who went from
being a pan-Africanist, to a Trotskyist, and finally to a liber-
tarian Marxist (James, 1978, 1996, 1999; Trotsky, 1978, which
includes discussions between James and Trotsky). They are
also based on a consideration of the ideas developed by
Malcolm X, especially in his last year (Breitman, 1968;
Gordon, 1979; Malcolm X, 1965, 1966). These ideas were fur-
ther developed in a series of discussions on Black liberation
by the Revolutionary Socialist League (Landy, 1972;
Revolutionary Socialist League, 1973, 1984)--which evolved
from an attempted revolutionary-democratic version of
Trotskyism to anarchism.

I recall sitting at a literature table at some demonstration,
when a fellow with a Mao pin in his cap came over,
glanced at the material, and focused on a pamphlet I had
written (Gordon, 1979), Malcolm X: "Revolution Knows No
Compromise." "That's anarchist," he sneered, and walked
away. That Maoist was right. I would not reject all com-
promises during a struggle, because we must be flexible in
tactics. But we should be unswerving in principle, and in
this sense anarchist revolution is the end of political com-
promise.

A HISTORY OF OPPRESSION AND STRUGGLE

>From its beginnings, the oppression of people of color has
been a central fact of Western capitalism. Hideous war was
waged for generations against the tribal, "primitive" nations
of Africa and the Americas. The First Nations of the
Americas ("Indians") were enslaved and/or exterminated,
their lands stolen and their resources looted (such as gold).
Black Africans were kidnapped en masse, forced to undergo
the middle passage which killed so many, and then coerced
into slavery in the Americas. Eventually almost all of Africa
would be divided up into colonies "owned" by European
states. Similar policies of warfare, robbery, oppression, and
colonization were carried out against the more developed
nations of North Africa and Asia. (This contradicts a sim-
plistic Marxist view that history develops in an automatic
pattern from slavery to feudalism to capitalism. Actually, the
development of capitalism caused a vast expansion of slav-
ery, greater than the Roman empire!)

These events happened simultaneously with the uprooting
of European peasants, through enclosure and poverty, the
destruction of European villages and communities, and the
creation of a White working class in Europe and the U.S.
The enormous wealth squeezed out of the colonies and
slaves was important in setting up capitalist industry
which could exploit White workers. In turn the European
and U.S. workers served in the industries which used the
raw materials from the colonies and slaves (such as the
British and French cotton industries), thereby requiring
further imperialism and racial exploitation. The exploita-
tion and suffering of White and "colored" workers of the
world fed off each other.

This view contradicts the simplistic theory that all of the
White population--capitalist, middle class, and working
class--lives off the working people of the colonial world,
as though, for example, the U.S. was South Africa. The
White workers of the U.S. and Europe are exploited.
Unlike South Africa, the majority of the work force in the
U.S. is European-American. The mostly White workers do
most of the work which keeps U.S. capitalism rolling.

The (relatively) high standard of living of the U.S. popula-
tion is partly due to the super-exploitation and robbery of
the "Third World" workers, including the imported cheap
clothes and the undervalued oil. But it is also due to the
high productivity of U.S. industry. U.S. workers produce a
great deal, so that they can be given a lot of material goods
even though they still receive only a small fraction of the
total value which they produce. Therefore they are exploit-
ed although they have a higher living standard than most
of the world. (The relatively high living standard is also
due to ecological destruction, including the using up of
limited raw materials as well as the pollution of the envi-
ronment, without preparing for the future, when this will
have to be paid for.) The industrialization of Southern
Asia is due to the capitalists' combination of the low stan-
dard of living of the Asians with the high productivity of
U.S. technology. This may raise the standard of living of
the Asian workers somewhat, while providing cheap goods
for the U.S. population, but it will weaken the U.S. work-
ers, as jobs go overseas.

I do not mean that imperialism or high productivity have
automatically resulted in a higher living standard for U.S.
workers. Rather they have produced super-profits for U.S.
capitalists, which made it possible for them to provide
higher wages and social services when under pressure from
U.S. workers, White and Black.

The Black slaves in the U.S. faced a "White bloc," a majori-
ty European-American population which was united against
them. From Jefferson to Jackson, the poor White farmers
and workers joined with Southern slave owners against the
rich Northern capitalists. Uniting in what became the
Democratic Party, the Northern White poor were either
hostile to Blacks or--at best--did not care about them. For
their part, the Northern merchants and bankers were also
heavily involved in the profits of Southern industry, first
from the slave trade (the "triangular trade") and later from
the selling and transporting of cotton and other slave-pro-
duced goods. Under these conditions, the Southern slavoc-
racy was able to dominate the national government in all its
branches, for generations. Struggle as they might, the slaves
were surrounded by enemies.

The opening for the slaves occurred with the breaking up
of the White bloc in the 1850s. Northern industry devel-
oped which did not depend on the Southern slave system,
and along with it, an expansion of the White working
class. There also developed a whole region of White farm-
ers in the Midwest (then the "West") whose interests
diverged from the slavocracy. They needed national help
in transporting their goods ("internal improvements"),
such as railroads and canals, while the Northern industri-
alists needed national banks and tariff protection for their
industries--all opposed to the slave masters' interests and
program. This does not mean that most Northern and
Western Whites cared about the slaves or stopped being
hostile to Blacks, but they became hostile to the slave
masters and the slave system which supported them. In
this atmosphere, there grew up a revolutionary minority
which completely opposed slavery: the abolitionists. The
split in the White bloc became a political crisis, the
Democrats split, the Whig party collapsed, and the
Republican party was created. In 1860 Lincoln was elected
and the Civil War was on.

Black people played a central role in this crisis. For genera-
tions there had been repeated slave uprisings, put down
with vicious violence. There had been a constant rebellion
in the form of slave escapes through the Underground
Railroad. Attempts by the slave owners to get their escaped
slaves back from Northern states (the Fugitive Slave Act)
polarized the Northern population against the South. The
Black population in the North was a major support for the
abolitionist movement, subscribing to its journals, writing
literature about the life of slaves, and contributing leaders,
especially Frederick Douglass. During the Civil War, two
hundred thousand Blacks served in the Union army and
another two hundred thousand served as teamsters, ditch
diggers, and cooks, without being enlisted. These four
hundred thousand Blacks made up the largest slave upris-
ing in the history of the world!

Following the Civil War, there was the Reconstruction era,
when the Northern bourgeoisie had the opportunity to
wipe out the legacy of slavery. Southern Blacks had organ-
ized themselves into liberty leagues and armed militias.
Controlling the national government, the Republicans
could have broken up the landed estates of the ex-slave-
masters, giving land to the former slaves as well as to poor
Whites. They could have guaranteed the right to vote to all
ex-slaves. But they did neither of these things. Facing
growing rebellion by the White workers in the North, the
capitalist politicians did not want to go further in attack-
ing property rights. They let the Klan destroy Black organ-
izations, with fire and blood. Without land, Blacks became
sharecroppers, virtually reenslaved. They lost the right to
vote. Powerless, they were unable to build coalitions with
poor Whites. Northern White workers, in their battles with
the capitalists, became willing again to ally with Southern
Democrats. Eventually the Republicans and the Democrats
made a deal, ending Reconstruction and reestablishing the
White bloc.

For a while, in the 1880s and '90s, it looked like the White
bloc might be broken by the Populists. Separate organiza-
tions of Black and White farmers, in the South and the
West, allied against the capitalists. They called for nation-
alization of the railroads, an end to government support of
the banks, and cheap money in order to pay off their debts
to the capitalists. They sought for an alliance with indus-
trial workers in the North. They formed farmer coopera-
tives and a national party independent of the Democrats
and Republicans. Their votes grew with each election. The
Black-White alliance became closer.

Naturally the capitalists could not permit such a move-
ment to spread. It was destroyed. During the campaign of
William Jennings Bryan, the Democrats adopted the least
radical of the Populists' demands, and then the capitalists
made sure the Republicans won the election. An upturn in
the economy took away much of the populists' appeal. The
unions did not ally with the populist farmers. And White
populist leaders, such as Tom Watson, were turned from
opposition to the rich toward opposition to Blacks (and
Jews and Roman Catholics). The movement was buried in
racism. The threatened White bloc was reestablished.

The White bloc was not disturbed again until the 1930s,
when the Great Depression hit the U.S. and the world.
Large popular struggles broke out in the U.S., as elsewhere.
There were vast struggles to form unions in the major
industries, and a growth of the radical left, mainly the
Communist Party. A wing of the capitalist class responded
by legalizing unions and providing some social services--
the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Unlike most of
Europe, which was torn between the workers' parties and
fascism, the U.S. rulers had enough wealth to part with
some of it (under great pressure). This served to prevent
revolution while maintaining capitalist democracy. They
did not need the dangerous adventure of fascism.

With the White workers fighting the capitalists and the
capitalists fighting politically among themselves (conserva-
tives versus liberals), the White bloc was cracked. African-
Americans mobilized widely. They joined unions in large
numbers, in spite of efforts by conservatives to use them as
strikebreakers. A significant minority joined the
Communist Party (Kelley, 1990; Solomon, 1998).

Following their leaders' advice (Black community leaders,
union officials, and the Communists), they switched from
the Republicans to Roosevelt's Democrats. Meanwhile,
Roosevelt maintained a coalition with the racist Southern
Democrats and refused to support anti-lynching bills or to
integrate the armed forces. He led the U.S. in World War II
with a segregated military, while interning thousands of
Japanese-American citizens in concentration camps, for no
other reason than their national ancestry.

With the coming of World War II, Roosevelt declared the
New Deal (that is, liberal reform) over. Many Blacks were
opposed to the war and even more adopted the slogan,
"Double V for Victory": Victory against fascism abroad
and racism at home. There was a movement throughout
the Black community for a mass march on Washington to
force the Roosevelt administration to desegregate the war
industries. The liberal president was forced to promise a
fair-employment program (barely enforced in practice)
and the liberal Black leadership (particularly A. Philip
Randolph, a reform socialist) called off the march. The
Communists had opposed it all along, as they opposed
strikes during the war. They were against anything which
"weakened" the all-class "national unity" in the war fought
in alliance with Russia's dictator, Stalin (their leader and
god). They became the worst finks and red-baiters possi-
ble. Between the Communists and the liberals, the White
bloc was repaired.


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