Blacks Leading the Left (was BRC/Left Cons.)

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Sun Jun 21 12:30:13 PDT 1998

CC said-

> I'll assume/hope it does. From now on (or, being pessimistic, until this
> "left" once again dissolves itself) I will assume that the task of
> would-be leftists is to explore how they will relate to this newly
> established left.
> It is called the Black Radical Congress.

If coherence is your criterion, a look at the conference agenda and speakers shows pretty conclusively that the BRC is no left either, but I would reject that criterion.

The BRC could lead to good things, in my view, but we've seen these sorts of conferences before. The possibility of those folks uniting seems remote. It would be nice to get some eyewitness feedback, since beneath the multiplicity of views and personalities, it is quite possible that some underlying organizational progress was made.

> I wonder if Wendy would try to impose her questions (or if most would try
> to impose their answers or non-answers) on ths Congress.

Probably not, since patronization of blacks is the rule for white lefts. "Impose" is probably the wrong word, since those folks are not going to be imposed upon.

Later, you said,

>>This is one of the ways (already imagined in my pessimistic imagination)
in which this beginning could fail. But a left *starting* out with a black core has the best chance of becoming, *in reality* and not merely in good intentions, a multi-"racial" left.>>

and elsewhere . . .

<<P.S. 2: Why is a Black-led mass movement so horrible and unimaginable to contemplate? Non-whites and women for a very long time have had to do the best they can within white-male led movements. Pretend I'm a female black marxist. What advice do you have for me?>>

Neither horrible nor unimaginable, though the definition of 'led' is important. My bet is that whites would support a leadership that was disproportionately black if it was also diverse, but they will never follow a Sharpton/ Farrakhan type setup which has no more than a few (if any) white stooges.

If you're a female black marxist, my advice is do what you know how to do: advance the interests of the class first.

Clearly a movement could start with a black core. What would make the difference is how they and we organized. A model in this light is the role of Jews in the Russian revolutionary movement. They had a disproportionately large role, but the message of the movement was universalistic, by and large, not an amalgam of nationalisms and other particularisms. There was less of Rev. Jackson's 'patchwork quilt' and more blanket.

Alternatively, I disagree that a movement could not start as white-only, for the same reason.

We seem to equate personal feelings with political behavior. In other words, a racist cannot be part of a non-racist or anti-racist movement. Meanwhile, we have some people saying most whites have always been racist, the proliferation of anti-racist activity by whites notwithstanding. I would suggest that workers are intelligent enough to understand when their material interests and their personal feelings are in conflict, and generally choose not to indulge their feelings when family well-being is at issue. The trick in class politics is to frame an appeal that elevates what is important and discounts what is counter-productive (e.g., racism). A black "core" could begin such an endeavor as well as anyone.

By contrast, some seem to advocate a movement which is framed as a rebuke to whites, whose point of departure is you're all racist and you need to come to terms with that. Even if this was true (which I doubt), it is stupid politics.

In some cases material interests may seem to reinforce race and other prejudice. I think such an argument is hard to sustain today, when everybody is getting screwed, albeit in different ways and to different degrees. That's the potential in the present period; oppression prevails in terms of class, not only race/gender/etc. Universal programs are under attack. White wages are down. All human labor is being devalued. White workers are not going to meet their economic goals by winning affirmative action cases, by segregating themselves, by busting the welfare system, or by shrinking government.

I've got experience too. I haven't spent all my years fox-hunting.



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