against 'entrenched identities'

Michael Eisenscher meisenscher at
Fri Jun 26 17:37:39 PDT 1998

At 05:52 PM 6/26/98 -0400, Max Sawicky wrote:

>I could post a list of political events that various
>class- and labor-oriented groups are up to. I look
>forward to being able to post a similar list for the
>BRC or whatever follows it. But right now I don't
>see anything from the nationalist movement(s),
>even stuff I don't like. If there is more going
>on, go ahead and school me. But the dearth of
>activism reinforces my skepticism about nationalism.


I can't speak for other areas or for the BRC in general, although I do know they established a continuations committee, but in the Bay Area a group of Black activists from a variety of movements and perspectives met for two years prior to the conference and will continue meeting. You say you want evidence, which implies (excuse me if I read in too much) that you want to see Blacks acting concertedly as African Americans to implement some coherent coordinated "nationalist" plan, program, or sustained activity. What you fail to see (if I don't misread you) is that many of those (not all) who worked in local areas like ours to prepare for and who attended the BRC function in many different venues. The one I am most familiar with is the labor movement.

I spoke with one local union leader who returned from the BRC who has been part of the preceding two-year buildup. He is president of a local which, while it has a substantial Black and other non-white membership, probably still is majority white. He was elected president, clearly because he was perceived by more than just Blacks to be an effective militant leader. But to be a Black leader of a majority white union in a majority white labor movement (despite all its claims to diversity), operating in an even whiter hierarchy can often be a very lonely experience. I think that for him the BRC, whatever else it did, served as an important form of support. It offered a place to link up with others in similar circumstances to consider how to better address the challenges they confront individually. It helped address the sense of isolation and to create an opportunity for these Black trade unionists to better coordinate their efforts to confront and defeat the vestiges (often considerable) of racism and chauvinism they face daily in the work, including within their own organizations and local labor movements.

I suspect that many of those who attended are like my friend. They did not come to establish THE BLACK REVOLUTIONARY VANGUARD or some other kind of formation that would then lead the charge nationally and publicly in ways you would like to see, but rather they came from within many different movements and will return to their work within them reinforced by the experience and the opportunities the BRC afforded them. You want "evidence." You will have to look in the myriad of places where these Black radical activists carry out their political work, as opposed to looking for THE organizational expression of "the nationalist movement(s)." For my friend, to attend the BRC was not "nationalist." It was a way to extend, support, and amplify his work as a Black trade unionist, as well as to encourage a process through which greater unity of understanding and purpose might be achieved through the dialog and debates that occurred, both officially and informally, at the BRC.

I question why the BRC is automatically branded "nationalist." Merely because it was a gathering of Blacks? Would then a comparable gathering of whites be "racist"? To be sure there were "nationalists" present (with many differing views among them), but that does not make the BRC automatically "nationalist." When the Coalition of Labor Union Women, or the National Organization of Women meet, would they be "sexist" conclaves because they are intended to draw predominantly women to discuss issues of concern to women as women (as well as issues of concern to them as workers, mothers, wives, partners, political activists, etc.)? Would every women attending automatically be considered a "feminist"? If so, what do nationalist and sexist and feminist mean if those terms cover so divergent a range of views? In essence, they get thrown about by people who mean very different things by them but never delineate what they mean in ways that those differences become clear. If they did, the extent of those differences would be sufficient that the use of the terms becomes little more than perjoratives or surrogates for other unstated but inferred meanings.

In solidarity, Michael E.

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list