On racial ideology and the Vanguard

Jim heartfield Jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk
Sun Jul 5 10:31:57 PDT 1998

In message <199807041321.IAA25080 at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu>, Carrol Cox <cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> writes
>The excerpts I include here deal directly with ideology, and they contain
>embryonically my reasons for holding that a working class movement in the
>United States will become viable only if its leadership is primarily
>black, and that that condition depends on the prior and continuing
>self-organization of blacks, of which the BRC may or may not be a start.

A working class movement will become viable only if its leadership is primarily black? Why? The TGWU's president Bill Morris is black, but that did not stop him from selling out the Liverpool dockers. The Labour Party Home Office spokesman Paul Boateng is black, but that does not stop him from being the principle exponent of the Zero Tolerance policing in the UK.

Black skin does not make people radical, any more than white skin makes them racist. It is hard to imagine anything more patronising than the idea that people are to be acclaimed for their colour rather than their contribution.

Oppression might be the spur to great deeds, but it is just as likely to be morally and politically degrading. Homeless beggars getter a raw deal from the authorities: should we expect them to be the vanguard of the vanguard?

The idea of a 'vanguard' in the working class as Lenin conceived first it, was not a mere sociological category. Leftists ever since have tended to misunderstand the Leninist idea of a vanguard and look for a ready-made sociological group who could be declared the vanguard: in Britain it was the shop-stewards movement, and then radical students, and then third world nationalists.

The problem with that approach is that it is looking for a ready-made political leadership, when in truth political leadership is something that has to be built and developed. It is a caricature of Marxist determinism to imagine that the subjective question of political leadership will be resolved by an objective sociological grouping thrown up by capitalism.

Above all though it is an evasion of responsibility. Declaring Blacks to be the vanguard is just a way of refusing to take on the task of fighting for leadership. It is a quietist approach to the question of the working class movement that waits for the ruling class to organise us.

It sounds like flattery to say that blacks should be the leaders, but really it is the opposite. It is a way of saying that the specific ideas and propositions that are made by people, black or white, are to be weighed up according to their race, not according to the merit of those ideas. In other words, it is saying that blacks are leaders, not by virtue of their own leadership qualities, but by virtue of the oppression imposed upon them. -- Jim heartfield

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