Black Radical Congress and "the Left"

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Sun Jun 21 21:52:22 PDT 1998

On whether we non-blacks agree to or pass over in silence our exclusion from the Congress (and it saddens and angers me) I still don't know what Michael and Nathan think.

The power of Karenga, Farrakhan, Asante depends on stereotypes of non-blacks which are strengthened by exclusion of non-blacks. That is, only by reducing all non blacks to a racist horde can these demagogues claim that blacks are alone to themselves (due to some combination of ineradicable white racism and their own putatively unified cultural and biological racial essence) and must thus make sacrifices to achieve what Cornel West has called black operational unity. In the face of (supposed) complete social isolation and incomparable social oppression, power can then only derive from "race unity"; moreover, power devolves to those tricksters most adept at demonstrating "racial" authenticity (for the dynamics of this the relevant chapters in Reed's DuBois book are excellent). So then one has to talk to "Brother" Farrakhan ( a fascist, murderer and patriarch by the way) to achieve some compromise so as to realize that operationally unified black agenda.

At a Ford Foundation meeting just prior to the March, Cornel West was challenged by a young graduate student (later to become a professor at Princeton) but he said he was marching on behalf of black women. Ugh! No, revolutionaries must gather their forces; we can't do that if we segregate ourselves from each other in terms of gender or race. The consequence of that is unavoidable compromise in reaction (an operationally unified black agenda can't be any more revolutionary than a union movement in the hands of white male senior or craft workers or neoconservative white guys in left clothing as Robin Kelley has described them).

One doesn't beat the Nation of Islam by setting the same parameters--the exclusion of non-blacks. Michael, Nathan--do you support or oppose the formal exclusion of non-blacks from the Conference? I think it was a blunder--in no small part because non-blacks could have learned some very important things from some of the participants as I have from reading their works over the years.

Referring to my previous post, Nathan writes:

then we have a proposal to really
>splinter and divide the black community by saying that we should exclude
>anyone who supports members of the Congressional Black Caucus or support,
>however critically, the fight of the labor movement in its current

Nathan makes it seem as if I am being divisive by criticizing the DP and AFLCIO; however, I suppose that this Black Congress was called because as the majority of blacks find themselves in horrific conditions, they are already unable to turn to the Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO and black or (jerry and willie) brown mayoral leadership. As for the Congressional Black Caucus, I am hardly convinced that the creation of majority minority districts has been a good thing, all around. After all, their most ardent supporters have often been Republicans, correct (see Paul Petersen, Classifying By Race)? And even if they turn out to have helped the right, then we can't expect the most Democratic black congressional congress to do much about them.

A couple of black men I know have been organizers for the AFLCIO (one has quit; one is still an organizer--hence, confusion in tense below): they have complained of the overemphasis on numbers over action (success of which can be the best way to increase numbers of course); they have been unable to figure out the logic behind the choice of workplaces and workers they have been called on to organize; they have been asked to quell actions that the leadership thought inappropriate at the time (one suspected that the union was coming to an agreement with an affiliate of the same company elsewhere and that part of the bargain was to pull out of this action, which pissed him off because of the energy the immigrant women workers had shown); they have mocked the candidates union money or union legitimacy has been used to support in the US and abroad; they have worried that the union barely gives back in return what workers have paid in dues and commented on what little unions do to lighten the horrible workload or pace the most oppressed must assume to get a wage; they are concerned that the union locks them into conservative agreeements; they were outraged at the lack of support the AFL-CIO gave to defeating those reactionary propositions in California; they have grown less surprised at the workers' skepticism about unions.

But they worked hard for the union (even if ultimately the union was most committed to maintaining the employment and wages of already unionized and better paid workers, that is older white males), though privately admitting that action may well have to be taken independently of and in opposition to union leadership. Why would I want to exclude them from participating in a radical congress?

I never made a proposal to exclude such critical AFL-CIO supporters from within the black community (and who's listening to me anyway unless the cable company really can see and hear me cuss out the tv?), and I don't know where Nathan got this idea from.

No doubt, he is a bit burned out after having finished his most interesting dissertation. CONGRATUATIONS--only read the stuff you sent to the line so far; is there a critique of the Berkeley Roundtable in International Economics in there? best, rakesh

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