NEW BOUNDARIES NO. 6
WIN WHITE SUPPORT FOR NEW BOUNDARIES CONTENTS
II Revolutionaries and Abolitionists
Glory Days Revisited:
U.S. Whites During
the Depression and World War II
IV The Civil Rights Movement V
The Anti-War Movement
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Just over one-hundred years ago, white abolitionists capped decades of consistent sacrifices and risked execution to fight with
Black troops in the Civil War.
Their dedication moved other whites
to join the anti-slavery cause and contributed in a significant way to Emancipation, a big step for the New African nation.
liberation remains to be won and white support is urgently needed.
The legacy of the abolitionists must be carried on. Our goal is to help create new boundaries in North America
based on justice, on real self-determination of nations.
To- reach this
end, we must develop white support for the struggles of oppressed peoples within the United States.
The predominant force in mobilizing
whites is the strength and clarity of the oppressed peoples1 struggles. We are greatly encouraged, therefore, by the growing unity of the AfroAmerican, Puerto Rican and Mexican liberation movements.
independence organizations representing these people have recently come out
strongly in favor of told and state power for all three nations. Native
Peoples are also involved in courageous struggles to defend their land and culture.
What prompted us to write a paper on U.S. whites at this time? We came to question our past total rejection of white Americans.
considered most of them to be too poisoned by great power chauvinism for recruitment into the anti-imperialist struggle.
Hence, we devoted our
efforts to theoretical development and considered most practical work as adventurist and unrealistic. Yet, it is significant that several white organizations in the U.S. have made support to national liber ation forces their main goal in recent years. We note particularly the support given to the Republic of New Africa and its program for liberation of land in the South.
Because the New
African struggle plays a key role in the U.S. anti-imperialist movement, support to Black liberation is an essential issue on which to evaluate whites who participate in the movement.
Our efforts to understand why these progressive organizations are
developing now and where they came from have led us to study those U.S. whites who played positive roles in earlier struggles. Selected periods, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Depression, Civil Rights and anti-war movements will be discussed.
We hope to determine why some whites
(at times only a small minority) took a positive stand on the issues of the day and how we can best use these lessons to further our goals: the
defeat of imperialism and victory for the national liberation struggles.
REVOLUTIONARIES AND ABOLITIONISTS
Since its earliest days, the history of the white nation in the
United States has been tarnished by slavery of Africans and genocide against Native Peoples.
There were, however, times when our nation was
able to play a more positive role in the world. the two great events of our early history:
We take as an example
the American Revolution
and the Civil War.
The United States has been for some years the main bulwark of imperialism and- reaction in the world.
States was a revolutionary center struggling against one
of the main colonialist powers.
Even then, only a few Americans
thought that the ideas contained in the Declaration of Independence
should apply to non-Europeans.
Nevertheless, this document says
"all men are created equal" and has been often utionaries from Bolivar to Ho Chi Minh.
paraphrased by revol
New African comedian
Gregory gives a forceful reading of it on one of his records.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them
E tlâ„˘IT* dfsPÂ°tlsm> ic *â€˘ their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
"The Declaration, whatever the sober intentions of its signers, was inescapably a revolutionary document, and although it bound no one to anything but independence, it remained as a consecrated statement of
revolutionary purpose to which American radicalism thereafter could always appeal, reminding Americans that the American Way was arevolutionary tradition."1
In New Boundaries we have not followed this tradition. Because it is important to expose as false the idea that any large sector of the white
nation can be won over to support the oppressed nations today, we, have stressed its weaknesses in the past. The evidence is not hard to find.
In spite of the fine words, the American Revolution brought about arapid growth of slavery and increased genocide against the Native Peoples. At this time, we want to look back and see if the small minority of our nation who want to support the oppressed peoples can find some roots.
When John Brown was vilified for causing bloodshed and committing acts of treason against the duly constituted government, Wendell
Phillips and Henry David Thoreau defended him partly on the grounds that the heroes of the American Revolution did the same and for much less reason. If we can use Jefferson's words to defend New Africans, Puerto
Ricans and patriots of other oppressed nations that will be a fine thing. If we can use Jefferson's words to organize white Americans to support a Republic of New Africa, that will be even better. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that millions of Americans will not be won over just because we quote from past presidents.
Beside the formulation of some good ideas, did the American Revolu
tion contribute to the struggle of oppressed nations in any material way?
By weakening England, the most aggressive colonialist power, the
American Revolution shook the whole colonial system.
the revolution in France the colonial system was further destabilized.
By weakening the colonial system and by providing an example of a suc
cessful revolution the Americans surely helped precipitate the revolu
tions in Haiti and in the Spanish colonies.
The ending of slavery in
Haiti and Mexico surely brought nearer the day when it was ended in the British empire and eventually in the United States.
In the past we may have been too negative about the revolution but most Marxists have been too positive.
The history of modern, civilized America opened with one of those great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars of which there have been so few compared to the vast number
of wars of conquest which, like the present imperialist war, were caused by squabbles among kings, landowners or capital ists over the division of usurped lands or ill gotten gains. That was the war the American people waged against the Brit ish robbers who oppressed America and held her in colonial slavery, in the same way as these "civilized" bloodsuckers
are still oppressing and holding in colonial slavery hun dreds of millions of people in India, Egypt and all parts of the world.
In reality, of course, the American Revolution was very much a struggle over usurped lands of Native Peoples and ill-gotten gains from slavery.
The oppression of English settlers in America was
qualitatively different from the oppression of India and Egypt. The Haitian Revolution, which pitted slaves directly against planters and colonial power would be a better example of a "really liberating, really revolutionsry war." The Haitian Revolution has been ignored by leading Marxists.
There was, of course, a revolutionary aspect to the American Revolution from the point of view of the classes within the white nation,
The farmers and workers gained some power as well as formal political
rights and many of the rich fled to Canada as Loyalists. In the North feudal and colonial restrictions on industry were ended. For all the talk about democracy there was surprisingly little talk about slavery.
However, there was some.
The first anti-slavery society in the world was organized in Philadelphia five days before the battle of Lexington and Concord, "at a time," the society noted, "when justice, liberty, and the laws of the land are general topics among most ranks and stations of men." During the 1780*s slavery was abolished in one after another of the states north of
Maryland, freeing about 50,000. In the meantime twice as many slaves were freed in Virginia through manumission as were freed in Massachusetts through abolition.
This shows that the struggle for democracy within the \Shite nation had a small beneficial effect on the Blacks, at least in the short
The main aspect, however, is that slavery was left intact in
the South where most of the slaves lived.
Jefferson himself recognized that slaves also deserved the democratic rights that white Americans demanded but he wasn't ready to make a big fight over it.
Perhaps he and other revolutionary
leaders honestly believed that slavery would fade away for economic reasons or as part of the general movement toward democracy.
soon became evident that things were moving the other way. In 1806 a Rhode Island abolitionist observed that members of
"the young and rising generation felt less repugnance against slavery than did older men who had lived through the inspiring days of the
It was not until the early 1830's under the
influence of Walker's Appeal and Nat Turner's Rebellion that antislavery sentiment began to grow again in the white nation. The abolitionists seem to be the best model in our history for those who want to support New Africans and other oppressed nations today.
Although their ranks grew dramatically leading up to the Civil
War they remained a minority. were considered by others
Abolitionists considered themselves and
as a special part of the wider anti-slavery
Unlike the Colonization Society, the Free-Soil movement or the
Republican Party, they believed that slavery was the main issue in
America and judged other issues in that light.
They were against slavery
not from narrow self-interest but because they considered Blacks as humans with the same rights as whites.
They fought against racism because it was
an excuse for slavery. Their main weakness was that they did not, see any
thing positive in the culture of New Africans but saW only the^.nsgative effects of slavery which they felt kept New Africans from being just like them.
Although the Civil War largely resulted in the domination of the
South by Northern industry rather than slaveholders, the capitalists them
selves did not favor abolition. It was the Black nation which finally forced the ending of slavery. Within the white nation the abolitionists tried to represent their interests. Although a few were rich (Gerritt
Smith, the Tappans) they certainly did not have the backing of the wealthy and respectable classes. Nor did they have much support among the working class.
Early Marxists did not throw themselves into abolitionist work.
Their main interest was union organizing, which was not the most important issue of the day. It is true that their newspapers and meetings did occasionally make anti-slavery statements and the German Immigrant workers
that they represented were more anti-slavery than the rest of the working class.
However, letters written by Marx and Eng els to American Marxists
did not mention slavery until the Civil War was actually underway and even then not very much.
The abolitionists were mainly middle-class intellectuals, especially ministers. Some came from or represented the small farmers who hated slavery because it competed with them for land and limited their markets in the South. The Quakers played an Important role in the abolitionist movement, at least in terms of numbers.
Most of them were farmers or
Eventually their pacifism outlived its usefulness.
An Uphill Struggle
In the 1830's the distinguishing feature of the slogan "Immediate Emancipation". It was not rare abolitionist lecturer in the 1830's who did harassment from mobs. Henry B. Stanton recalled
the abolitionists was popular. "It was a not repeatedly face that he was mobbed one
hundred and fifty times before 1840."6 The depression conditions of the late 1840's gave abolitionists a
wider audience among people who saw that slavery was hurting the economy. Their main break with northern opinion came over the war against Mexico. The abolitionists opposed the war as they had the annexation of Texas
because it was an extension of slavery. Their opposition to slavery made them the main force to support Mexico against Yankee aggression. Al though their opposition was not very effective they did break with the "patriotic" manifest-destiny sentiments of the North and South. The slogan of many abolitionists in the 1850's was "No union with slaveholders."
This slogan was on the face of it an expression of non-
resistant, pacifist convictionâ€”one would not fight evil but rather would turn away from it. But the slogan had another bloodier aspect that has frequently been overlooked, although its proponents at the time were fully aware of it.
Abolitionists believed that
slavery was sustained by the coercive power of the federal govern ment. Remove that power by dissolving the_Union and slavery would collapse in a great slave rebellion.
Many abolitionists finally dropped their pacifism under the influence
of the more numerous and militant Black abolitionists*. Henry Highland Garnet laid great emphasis on revolutionary action by the slaves. The practical application of the slogan "No union with slaveholders" was
to disobey federal law which was seen as being controlled by the slave-owners. The Fugitive Slave Law was a center of opposition. tically on the Underground Railroad.
Activity increased drama
In addition, federal slave-catchers in the
North were confronted sometimes by anti-slavery mobs and sometimes by small armed bands both white and Black. In Kansas John Brown taught the free-soil settlers
to take the law into their own hands and strike back at the slave
The abolitionists were winning some converts and were at
least tolerated by the majority in the North.
John Brown "could walk
the Northern streets boldly and solicit aid for purposes which were
recognizably subversive, but which he was not called upon specificQ
ally to declare'.' Aid was forthcoming in the form of "Beecher's Bibles", the Sharps rifle, which was becoming an important tool of the abolitionists.
Finally, John Brown carried the struggle a step further by
invading the South at Harpers Ferry.
This act, though unsuccessful,
helped push the country towards a war which New Africans could use
to end chattel slavery.
John Brown's raid was important because
there were forces in the North who supported him. William Lloyd Garrison quickly dissociated himself from Brown but he had to admit,
"whereas ten years since there were thousands who could not endure my lightest rebuke of the South, they can now swallow John Brown whole, and his rifle into the bargain."
John Brown was not the only one to repudiate-pacifism.
beginning of the Civil War many abolitionists volunteered to fight since most of the regular army went with the South. It was mainly the abolitionists who volunteered to serve with Black troops which meant certain death if captured.
A few forces continued to operate during Reconstruction when some poor southern whites were also won over tto support New African
struggles against the planter class. They were eventually destroyed by the Klan and the treachery of the Federal government.
Boundaries No. 3, we emphasized the reactionary, self-serving and treacherous nature of the white nation as a whole during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
That is important to remember for it is true
today that New Africans cannot rely on the majority of the white nation, no matter how liberal or democratic it claims to be.
also important to remember that there were many people who struggled and sacrificed in support of an oppressed people.
The abolitionists did not really survive the Civil War as an
organized political force. Their main goal, the end of slavery, was accomplished. Not many of them were able to organize around the next step which the Black leaders and masses demanded—forty acres and a mule, Even most of the Black leaders at that time did not see that the true
application of the great democratic ideals in,tne Declaration of Indep endence would not be Black and white equalfty\within the United States. Today, another century has added to that "lon§ train of abuses and usurpations" and convinced many New African lekders that they must fight for their own independence. To support this leadership we must look to the revolutionaries and abolitionists of our own nation, not only as a source of inspiration but as a challenge to do even better. ***
Gilman Ostrander, The Rights of Man in America, 1606-1861. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, 1969.
Vladimir I. Lenin, Letter to American Workers. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966, pp.3-4l
Ostrander, p. 98.
Merton L. Dillon, The Abolitionists: The Growth of a Dissenting Minority, Northern Illinois University Press, Dekalb,Illinois» 1974,p.18.
New Boundaries ;No. 3, 1979.
Louis Filler, The Crusade Against Slavery, 1830-1860, Harper&Row, New York, 1960, p.242.
Howard Zinn, "Abolitionists, Freedom Riders and the Tactics of
Agitation,", in Martin Duberman, ed., The Anti-Slavery Vanguard, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1965, p.432.
GLORY DAYS REVISITED
U.S. WHITES DURING THE DEPRESSION AND WORLD WAR II
During the Great Depression of the 1930's and World War II, millions of U.S. whites were politically active in causes which were beneficial to oppressed peoples. The experiences of strikes and of battles in Spain and World War II are often cited as precedents for present and future actions by whites in opposition to U.S. Imperialism. This section examines selected aspects of this period. We focus on
how white movements related to Afro-Americans and other oppressed peoples.
Causes of the Great Depression
The Great Depression started in the U.S. and spread to European imperialist countries already weakened by World War I and the economic and political impacts of the Russian Revolution. Hardest hit were oppressed nations â€”within Imperialist borders, in colonies and semicolonies .
Overproduction of the Depression. spurted almost 50%. labor force did not
and underconsumption were two principal causes During the 1920's, U.S. industrial production Much of the growth came from automation, as the increase. Surplus built up in the hands of
capitalists as profits multiplied far faster than wages. Some of the profits were reinvested in new plants and equipment bringing the crisis of overproduction closer. The surplus of investment funds also fed the stock market boom driving up prices of financial securities without creating anything new of real value. By 1929, consumer purchases of homes, automobiles, and other goods were slowing down. Cutbacks in production of consumer goods led to cancellation of orders
for construction, machine-tools, steel and other capital goods. Unemployment was the result leading to further drops in purchases of consumer items.
International trade also helped to destabilize the economy as European and oppressed nations piled up loans to buy U.S. exports. As their credit became exhausted, foreign nations had to reduce
purchases of U.S. exports and to default on past loans. The stock market crash destabilized the financial system and
brought these fundamental economic problems to a crisis point
U.S. economy could not continue on course.
The breakdown of U.S. industry triggered the collapse of farm prices because agriculture never recovered from the depression just
after World War I and was already depressed.
capitalist economies tumbled when the financial shock from the U.S.
European countries had suffered far more during World War I
and, as a result, never enjoyed a boom during the 1920's. But the worst damage of all fell to oppressed nations.
industrial production dropped to half the 1929 level in the U.S., export economies of oppressed nationswere almost wiped out.
and Bolivia , for example, exports fell to 20% of the 1929 figure.
Colonial Africa, too, was hit by a large decline in its exports of
To make things even worse, the prices of those
agricultural and primary products that still had a market fell faster than industrial prices leaving the colonial economies with greatly
reduced purchasing power.
These conditions led to a surge of revolu
tionary activities in oppressed nations, notably in South and Central America including Cuba, Chile and El Salvador.
Within U.S. borders, Blacks were hit especially hard by the Depression.
Within the agricultural sector, even worse off than indus
try, southern Black sharecroppers were driven off the land.
South, Black workers were fired so that whites could take their jobs'. Depression Conditions for Whites
Everyone has some idea of the conditions suffered by whites from
1929 through 1939.
In 1932 one in four workers was unemployed.
family in six was on relief.
Relief measures were the responsibility of
each city and town and fell far short of what was needed.
only $2 or $3 per week was provided for an entire family. families faced real starvation.
In some places,
From the stock market crash in 1929 until
1932 the Hoover administration endorsed business's approach carried over
from earlier economic crises: wages were reduced up to 35%; the federal budget remained balanced. The main activity of the federal government was issuing bulletins of hope that "prosperity is right around the corner."
As the Depression worsened, whites increased their political activity in support of programs which promised to recoup the losses in
They called on the federal government to take respon
sibility for relief measures and to institute programs to promote economic recovery.
The most popular government plan was Roosevelt's New Deal,
discussed briefly below.
The same general theme encompassed mass move
ments which made stronger demands for relief from the federal governmentâ€” Bonus Marchers, Townsend Plan supporters, Father Coughlin's National Union
for Social Justice and Huey Long's Share-the-Wealth movement.
Resistance to the Depression also took the form of union organizing against wage cuts by which labor tried to shift some of the Depression's burden to the capitalists.
A third avenue led to preserving white living standards at the ex
pense of Blacks. Blacks were driven from land taken over by whites or fired from low-paying jobs to be replaced by white workers who, now that the boom of the 1920's was over, no longer scorned dirty jobs as janitors or railway firemen.
The movements for government reform and for union
organizing were also heavily tainted by white supremacy. Yet, the Depres sion and World War II periods did provide some positive examples showing that the practical results of white supremacy can be neutralized to a considerable extent when whites need Black support in order to advance their immediate interests.
The break comes when advances for Blacks set
back white living standards or when Blacks develop nationalist politics. Movements along three themesâ€”government reforms, labor organizing and attacks on Blacksâ€”were influenced by the examples of Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. Russia was largely untouched by the Depression because its planned economy was isolated from the West. The socialist system seemed to be immune from the problems besetting the West and this enhanced
the prestige of U.S. Communists.
The U.S. Communist Party aggressively
championed the unemployed and later led in organizing the CIO.
influence spread and membership grew from 14,000 in 1932 to 24,000 in 1934.6 The example of Nazi Germany was also influential during the Depres sion. Hitler took power in 1933 and reduced unemployment through heavy military spending. These arms were to be used to win higher living stan dards for Germans by enslaving other nations. These tactics appealed to a sizeable number of U.S. whites.
With the examples of Russia and Germany before them, mass movements sought more action from the U.S. government.
Demands for Government Reforms
A wide range of political groups shared the demand that the federal government reform the country out of the depths of the Depression. We
will discuss briefly four groups that were typical in combining pressure for concessions from the government and capitalists with opportunistic moves to seek relief at the expense of Blacks.
Father Coughlin was a Catholic priest who built a political career
around a weekly radio program. The biggest radio audience in historyover 10 million peopleâ€”listened to his weekly combination of social
prescription and invective. Father Coughlin was openly sympathetic toward fascism and preached hatred against Jews. His program for
national recovery through price linflatfon, was popular especially in the Midwest.
Huey Long's Share-Our-Wealth plan called for taxing high incomes to provide a homestead and other necessities for every family.7 Built on this program, Long's political machine made him governor of Louisiana and later U.S. Senator with awide following among poor white farmers Q
and white workers in the South.
Long introduced some welfare
reforms for whites in his state without challenging the white suprema cist base of its economy.
A third popular movement involved hundreds of thousands of backers
of the Townsend old-age pension plan.9 It was proposed that every per son over the age of 60 receive a pension of $200 per month to be financed
by a 2% tax on all business transactions. Although the plan was not economically feasibleâ€”it would have required about 25% of the total national incomeâ€”support for pensions was very strong. Another well-known Depression social movement centered on the
Okies fleeing the Dustbowl in search of a better existence in California. Around 250,000 came between 1930 and 1940. Very few got any land and the overwhelming majority worked as agricultural laborers. The migrants lost
the immediate fight for better working conditions as is documented by Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath. Yet, as the Depression ended, they settled in towns and became the "domestic" workers who enjoyed better conditions than transient Mexican workers. "It was from the ranks of domestics that the agriculture industry recruited row bosses, field foremen, checkers and camp overseers."
,. V;YA. • .' •' > \ *
Such movements and others like them reflected the determination of
whites to take some action rather than starve quietly and they forced the U.S. capitalists and federal government to institute reforms.
adoption of Social Security, for example, was hastened by pressure from Long and Townsend supporters.
On the other hand, these movements concen
trated on whites and had many of the trappings of fascism.
was a sizeable contingent of conscious anti-fascists rallied around the
Communist Party, there was also significant pro-fascist feeling. Fascism failed to come to the U.S. not mainly because of resistance from U.S. whites but because U.S. imperialism chose to maneuver in the liberal
cloak of the New Deal.
As the dominant power, the U.S. sought to justify
the international balance of power where Hitler wanted to overturn it. For example, the U.S. dominated the economies of Central America.
Without openly declaring it a U.S. colony, U.S. Marines landed in Nicar agua to collect debts owed U.S. banks.
In 1933 President Roosevelt
declared his "Good Neighbor Policy" proclaiming an end to U.S. intervention. The intervention continued—in 1934 with U.S. blessing an assassin killed General Sandino, namesake of today's anti-imperialist government in Nicar
But the liberal "Good Neighbor" facade deceived people about the
goals of U.S. imperialism in Central and South America making its opera tion far more effective than it would have been under the fascist alternative.
Within U.S. borders the New Deal operated under the liberal banner
aiming to. restore depressed business conditions and r.eJ&«vethe plight of U.S. whites.
The buildup of war production from 1939 on was needed to
get the economy to advance beyond 1929 levels, but New Deal programs had led to a partial recovery. Labor Organizing
On another front white workers won some important tactical advances
against their employers during the Depression.
Major basic industriesâ€”
e.g. steel and autoâ€”were organized for the first time and labor unions
won the legal rights to collective bargaining and a minimum wage. During the Depression, the union movement of white workers received
important support from Black workers. In turn whites allowed Blacks to join the CIO, removing the traditional bar still maintained at that time
by the AF of L. Whites also attacked Black workers, when, they sought full equality.
This section goes into selected aspects of the union movement concen
trating on relations between whites and Blacks. We agree with Foner
who summarized the work of his fellow Communists during the Depression: ...while the Communists never succeeded in building a revol
utionary alliance between white labor and Black labor, they did manage, aided by the impact of the Great Depression, to create a greater willingness on the part of white labor to cooperate with Blacks on the basis of mutual interest.12
The mutual interest seems to have been stronger in the North. In the South, advances for Blacks were more clearly tied to demands for land.
The Communist Party had a formal resolution in 1928 supporting selfdetermination for the Black nation in the South but it was never put into
The Communists put far more effort into winning white support
and international backing for the Scottsboro boys than for the Alabama Sharecroppers Union.
The National Recovery Act (NRA, 1933) and subsequent legislation granted white labor the right to organize and some protection from the most brutal anti-union tactics of employers. Minimum wage scales were
established for each industry.
This represented an advance and spurred
unionization for whites. For Blacks the NRA legalized the prevailing arrangement of lower wages. Employers in the South refused to pay higher rates to Blacks.
While this was not directly the fault of white
workers, many took advantage of the NRA to take over jobs formerly held by Blacks.
These whites considered NRA minimums "too much money for
Blacks termed the NRA the "Negro Removal Act".
During the Depression, KKK terror and lynchings increased in the
Organized labor was divided on the Klan.
For example, Foner
tells how the Klan murdered CIO organizers working with Black citrus workers in Florida in 1936.
State leaders of the AF of L joined the
KKK and followers of Father Coughlin in opposition to the CIO.
Imperial Wizard of the KKK praised the AF of L for its anti-Communism.
AF of L national leaders never endorsed the KKK but neither did they investigate reports that AF of L members belonged.
At the other extreme
the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union was able to recruit former KKK members.
It organized under the lead of a white chairman and a Black vice-chairman.
According to Foster, "the building of the C.I.O. unions was the
greatest stride forward ever made by the American labor movement."
marked the all-time high point in the mass influence of the Communist Party in the U.S.
For, in spite of Depression conditions and increasing mili-
tance, before the CIO organized labor was in bad shape with fewer members in 1933 than in 1917.
The CIO drive organized industries previously
without unions and brought labor into an influential position by 1940. Although benefits for Blacks were limited and betrayals occurred, the CIO was the best example of whites supporting Blacks in order to advance the cause of white labor during the Depression era. The CIO drive concentrated on two basic industriesâ€”steel and auto;
both had sizeable numbers of Blacks.
Blacks had never shown any interest
in the overtures of white unions before.
This was partly because they had
plenty of reasons to mistrust the sincerity of whites and in part due to paternalistic support by employers for Black churches and fraternal groups.
Henry Ford was well regarded by many Blacks in Detroit.
Yet the CIO did
succeed in organizing steel and auto because it won the support of Black
leaders like the National Negro Congress by promising equal membership for Blacks.
The CIO's National Maritime Union (NMU) provided a fine example of whites fighting for the rights of Black workers.
hiring hall system and one wage scale for all.
The union instituted a
Led by Communists, the
NMU carried on an education campaign to winwhite backing for this system. There were incidents in which shipowners and some crews refused to
accept Blacks sent from the union halls but the NMU persevered and won. In brief, during the late 1930's the CIO proved that whites were
willing to admit Blacks to the labor movement.
Why has the attitude of
the industrial unionists degenerated to almost the same white supremacy of the craft unions?
We believe it is because white workers are no
longer down and out and because Black nationalism has surged ahead. Support for Black demands today holds no promise of immediate gains for whites as it did in the 1930's.
The Spanish Civil War and World War II
World War II was fought for many different causes.
and Japanese imperialists sought to break the dominance of the U.S., England and France. They also sought to conquer the Soviet Union, then the only large territory outside the control of any imperialist power. The fascists introduced into. Europe the vicious genocidal methods used routinely by Europeans in their colonies and by the U.S. in the South.
The fascists used the Spanish fascist revolt led by FrancQt as a testingground to prepare for conquest of Europe. Events in Spain reflected the motivations of the major participants in World War II three years later. Spain in 1936 was neither an oppressed nation nor an imperialist power.
Rather it was a sub-imperialist power with colonies in Africa
and the Basque region but lacking the industrial base to compete with
the major powers. When the fascists attacked the Republican governmantâ€”an alliance of Social-Democrats and Anarchistsâ€”the Western imper ialist governments were officially neutral. They offered no material support for the Republicans and created difficulties for their supporters abroad while still allowing them to raise money and recruit volunteers. The U.S., England and France hoped that the fascists, if unprovoked, would leave western Europe alone and turn against the Soviet Union. To the Russian Communists it was clear that the fascists intended
to attack them. They sent what limited support they could to the Spanish Republic and organized a worldwide campaign in opposition to fascism. In the U.S., the majority attitude toward Spain (and later toward
World War II before the U.S. entered) favored neutrality.
people were outraged by fascist attacks on non-combatants in Spain as in
the infamous air raid on Guernica, they also wished not to get involved as no American interests were Immediately threatened.
The U.S. Communists
were able to influence a sizeable minority to support the Republicans in Spain.
Rallies were held to raise money and to protest the neutrality
of the U.S.
Three^thousand volunteers joined the International Brigades.
According to Foster, 2600 were whites and 1500 died in what he calls
"the most glorious event in the entire life of the Party."
We share Foster's admiration for the volunteers who sacrificed their
lives in Spain.
The fight against fascism and eventual victory in World
War II was a positive cause for it opened up great possibilities for
U.S. whites who supported the Republican cause in
Spain indirectly supported national liberation even though Spain was not an oppressed nation.
Yet it was a special combination of circumstances
which helped such heroism develop. neutral.
The U.S. government was officially
Further, the U.S. Communists were at the height of their
prestige in 1937. to take chances.
The Depression was still on and people were readier Finally, the people of Spain are white Europeans, which
made it easier to identify with their misfortunes.
These factors help to explain why U.S. whites acted differently in Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam from the way they acted in Spain. Unlike in Spain, the U.S. government openly opposed these liberation move
ments and used its power to break up internal opposition.
It is harder
for whites, prosperous today as they were not in 1937, to make sacri
fices in support of non-white peoples.
The example of Spain remains a
positive one but is unlikely to be repeated in the immediate future.
During World War II the contradictions discussed above were fought out to an Allied victory. Once the U.S. entered the war, whites were
fighting in part to defeat Japan—obj ectively in support of national liberation in China, to defend—again in the objective sense—the Soviet Union, and partly to preserve and extend the U.S. empire.
The conditions of both white and Black workers Improved during the war.
Labor was in short supply and Black leaders used this to
their advantage pressuring Roosevelt to appoint a Fair Employment Practices Commission to force companies with government contracts to
hire Blacks. Some CIO leaders defended Black workers' demands providing outstanding examples of whites willing to fight other whites for Black advances.
Other leaders and union members opposed admitting Blacks to good jobs to the point where their opposition slowed down the war effort. In Mobile, Alabama, federal troops had to be called in to stop a four-
day riot by 20,000 white workers objecting to upgrading of Black jobs. After the riot federal officials restored the status quo and Blacks failed to get better jobs.
Such "hate strikes" were common and cost over 100,000 man-days of work. The worst was in Philadelphia in August 1944 when white streetcar workers walked out in protest over assignment of eight Blacks as motormen. Public transport was closed for six days and it took 5,000 federal troops to restore service.
On the positive side, the CIO had a fairly consistent policy of treating Black workers fairly and Black membership grew. CIO leaders intervened against white supremany when hate strikes erupted. In late 1941, 500 white workers at the Curtis-Wright aircraft plant in Columbus, Ohio struck when a Negro was promoted to the tool and die department. Thomas (U.A.W. president) Immediately removed the local union official who had endorsed
the strike and ordered the men back?to work. This unequivocal action won praise from the NAACP...
Even such limited efforts against white chauvinism would be almost
unheard of in the labor movement today. During the Depression and today white chauvinism is restrained by the democratic format favored by U.S. imperialism. Black workers won sizeable participation in the auto industry, for example, as a result of Ffird's paternalism and CIO demands
during the Depression.
Had fascism come the the U.S. it is likely all
Blacks would have been driven from their jobs and placed in concentration camps. Even today things have not reached this extreme although genocide threatens.
Although Black labor is no longer essential to the U.S.
economy and Black unemployment very high, there are still a sizeable
number of Black auto workers. Yet white auto workers have changed so there is no longer any section, let alone the leadership, sympathetic to Black demands.
Some of the main reasons for the change have been discussed above.
The U.S. is now the main enemyâ€”limited alliances between the U.S. govern ment and anti-imperialists are virtually Impossible. Whites no longer have vivid memories of the Depression; they are tied to the system by substantial bribes.
The upsurge of nationalism after World War II and
the Impact of the Vietnam War have given Black nationalists considerable
influence over Black labor.
These leaders make it clear that advances
are tied to "Freeing the Land"â€”a just demand for an independent country in five states in the South which will cut into white bribes.
These reasons must be kept in mind as we try to learn from the role
of whites in the Depression and World War II. We cannot expect to win
white supporters for national liberation by using the tactics of 1936organizing white workers around economic demands.
call for different tactics focussed on national liberation.
John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash, Houghton-Mifflin Company, Boston, 1961, pp. 185-187.
William Z. Foster, Outline Political History of the Americas, International Publishers, New York, 1951, p. 405.
J. Forbes Munro, Africa and the International Economy 1800-1960. J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1976, p. 150.
Philip S. Foner, Organized Labor and the Black Worker 1619-1973. Praeger Publishers, New Yonk, 1974. Also New Boundaries No. 3, July 1979.
Gilbert C. Fite and Jim E. Reese, An Economic History of the United
States, Second Edition, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1965, p. 59. 6.
William Z. Foster, History of the Communist Party of the United States, International Publishers, New York, 1952.
Fite and Reese, p. 616.
Foster, History of the Communist Party of the United States, p. 316,
Fite and Reese, p. 615.
Ernesto Galarza, Farm Workers and Agribusiness in California 1947-
1960, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, 1977, p. 28. 11.
Fite and Reese, p. 629-630.
Foner, p. 197.
New Boundaries No. 3. July 1979.
Foner, pp. 192-193.
Foner, p. 200.
16' F°Ster* H^tory of the Communist Par^ .f the Unlted s,a,oc p^ ^ • 17.
Foner, pp. 230-231.
Fonery p. 207, footnote.
19' F°Ster> History of the Communist Pari-y of the Unl,^ ^a,ae ^ ^ 20.
Fite and Reese, p. 617.
21- aa&g^ysyct:^:f Modeni s^n-Holmes and Meir
22. Foster, History of the Communist- Party of the tTn^H q-....., p. 373. 23.
Foner, p. 265.
Foner, p. 255.
THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
The Civil Rights period of the 1950's and 1960's is worth studying aa an- example. oÂŁ active -white: support for the Afro-American struggle. The Civil Rights Movement was an important step forward for the Black libera tion struggle. It won widespread support among Afro-Americans who saw it as a way to win their freedom.
The fact that it did not achieve that
goal is an indication of its limitations and of the temporary strength of U.S. imperialism following World War II. Like any national struggle, the Black liberation struggle must go through different stages, even setbacks, before complete victory is achieved.
National liberation struggles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
during and after World War II had the strongest influence on the Black
people in the U.S. There was a new anti-colonialist spirit among the oppressed nations of the world; the people of China, Vietnam and the
Congo served as inspirational examples to all suffering colonialist and
and imperialist oppression, including the New Africans. Showing that
the imperialist yoke could be thrown off, such examples played a crucial role in stimulating the growth of the Civil Rights Movement,
It in turn
inspired hundred of whites to participate. As late as 1960 young people born during World War II were called
the "uncommitted generation".
They were so apathetic that they were
described in the following way: are not committed to any cause."
"What distinguishes them is that they The Civil Rights Movement changed this.
The Black youth who committed themselves to the freedom struggle were a tremendous example to all whites and in particular to white students.
A Brief History The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision against school segregation helped convince many people in the following years that integration was
not only desirable, but also attainable.
It was often pointed to as an
example of the fairness and impartiality of the U.S. legal process. The Court judgment made an impact not because of its results but mainly because it admitted the prevailing inequality.
Many of those.who joined
the Civil Rights Movement with the hope that the legal system could be used to bring about equality were to become bitterly disillusioned by the mid-1960's.
The Civil Rights Movement is considered to have begun in 1955 with
the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott.
This action, which involved over
95% of the Black population in Montgomery, forced the repeal of discrim inatory laws on public transportation.
The Montgomery struggle was the
first leadership test for Dr. Martin Luther King.
An attempt by nine Black schoolchildren to integrate the high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 was rebuffed by angry white mobs and the National Guard.
President Eisenhower, who had once vowed
he wouldn't use federal troops to enforce the 1954 Supreme Court decision, federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered it to protect the 2
Black children and to allow them to enter the school of their choice.
The sit-in movement got its start in North Carolina in 1960 when four
Black college students refused to leave a department store that wouldn't serve Blacks.
The tactic caught on and became a great catalyst for
the Civil Rights Movement.
Soon sit-ins were occurring all over the
South at local branches of department store chains that served whites
Thousands of white students held sit-ins in the North in sympathy
with the activists in the South. coordinate the sit-ins.
SNCC was formed in that year to
Its charter members included several white
students, mostly from the North.
The following year, CORE sponsored "freedom rides" to the South.
In all about 4,000 people took part, many of them white.
segregation of restaurants, bus stations and other public facilities. Many of the riders were beaten and injured by hostile whites. SNCC began a campaign in 1961 to register Blacks to vote in the
At that time in more than 40 Southern counties no Black was
In at least 20 counties, white registration exceeded .the
These statistics reflect the deliberate policy of
terror and violence carried out against the Black population. The voter registration campaign carried on for several years, despite numerous murders, beatings and jailings. SNCC and CORE joined forces in 1964 to organize the Summer Freedom Project in Mississippi to register Black voters. Some 500 white students, many from the North, volunteered.
The Freedom Project led to the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party by SNCC.
Dr. King led important Civil Rights compaigns in Birmingham in 1963, Selma in 1965, and Memphis in 1968.
The march in Selma in 1965 was put down in an especially brutal
fashion by the Alabama state police. It marked a turning point for many Blacks who had hoped the Civil Rights Movement could be a way to achieve their rights through legal and peaceful means.
repeated violence of police, Klan, and white mobs during the Civil
Rights years had eroded their hopes. last straw.
The violence in Selma was the
Embittered Blacks had not forgotten the assassinated
Malcolm X who supported the struggle for Black rights but warned against non-violence and opposed integration .
The rejection of the candidates of the Mississippi Freedom
Democratic Party by the U.S. Congress coupled with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signaled the end of the electoral struggle era of the Civil Rights Movement. The prospect of extra-legal struggle
appealed to those who were dissatisfied with the progress of the Civil Rights Movement. Blacks in increasing numbers abandoned the Civil Rights Movement for Black Power.
The imperialists had hoped violence would intimidate Civil Rights activists to keep them from challenging the status quo. Besides local
police and the Klan, they counted on the FBI. The FBI maintained links with the Klan during this period and has been implicated along with its informers in several fatal bombings and shootings of Civil Rights
J.Edgar Hoover secretly ordered the FBI to destroy Dr. King
and thereby the Civil Rights Movement.
The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement won some concessions for Afro-Americans.
The Federal government passed Civil Rights Acts in 1957, 1960, 1964, and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Traditional anti-Black
discriminatory practices such as barring Blacks from using public facilities were ended.
The right to vote was guaranteed and conseq
uently Blacks acquired new electoral strength, electing many local officials in the South for the first time in 100 years.
Rights laws barred discrimination in hiring. This forced some trade unions to admit Blacks for the first time.
The Federal government
and some private industries instituted "affirmative action" programs that gave preferential hiring to Blacks.
The legal gains were not sufficient to alleviate the poverty,
unemployment, and poor housing of the large majority of Afro-
Statistics show that, in the last ten years, living
conditions for the average Afro-American have deteriorated.
In other words, not only has equality not been achieved, but things have become more unequal than before. Now the Reagan government is working to increase the disparity by wiping out economic gains, including government jobs held by Blacks due to affirmative action.
Reagan is lobbying to let the Voting Rights Act lapse, endangering the Black voting capacity.
Those of us who followed the leadership of Hammer & Steel were
slow to acknowledge the positive side of the Civil Rights leadership. For several years, we had criticized Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement with a one-sided approach, ignoring what was anti-imperialist in their work. Dr. King did not consider himself a nationalist. It was only after he was assassinated that we reexamined
his role. While we disagreed with his advocacy of integration and non violent tactics, we recognized his prestige among the Afro-American people and his important anti-imperialist roles in the struggles
in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Memphis. We noted his public opposition to the war in Vietnam.
It was correct to support the Black Civil Rights leaders for their
positive contributions against white supremacy, for seeking justice for their people. It was not correct to refuse to work with them because we disagreed at times on tactics like non-violence. Non-violent tactics were used effectively on many occasions but we would not support non-violence as a long-term solution as advocated by some Civil
Rights leaders. Anti-Imperialists must find ways to join with others willing to fight imperialism when necessary even if tactical differ ences exist. We must work with the Martin Luther Kings and the
Khomeinis if we are to smash imperialism. If we worked only with those who agreed with us on everything, we would find few to work with indeed.
Whites and the Civil Rights Movements There is no doubt that the Civil Rights Movement and the Black
rebellions in Northern cities in the 1960's generated sympathy for the Black plight.
A majority of whites recognized the oppressive
conditions for Blacks immediately after the rebellion in Detroit, according to a poll.
But within a few years, as the demonstrations,
sit-ins, and rebellions faded from memory, the perception of whites changed and only a minority saw any serious problems for Blacks. At no time was a large percentage of the white population actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
were in the minority.
Even on the campuses, activists
At different times, many thousands who didn't
participate in activities did contribute money to Civil Rights organ
This had a positive side, because it helped the Movement
carry on its work;
but on the negative side it often inhibited the
organizations from taking militant positions for fear of alienating white financial backers.
This was the reason that the CORE leadership o
refused to endorse a resolution condemning the Vietnam war in 1966. It is true that most white Civil Rights workers were idealistic
college students who accepted integration, non-violent struggle, and faith in the courts.
However, so did millions of Afro-Americans in the
early stages of the Movement, even though their daily experience showed that the Federal and state governments, police, and courts
worked against their interests. It was positive that whites supported the demands of the Civil Rights Movement and took part in activities
on their behalf.
It put them in opposition to white supremacy and
the system of privileges U.S. imperialism provides for whites of all social circumstances.
At that time, however, we dismissed white Civil Rights workers as
upholders of the status quo. We thought that practical work like Civil Rights activity was unimportant. We spent most of our time developing theory. This was a good thing because theory on the
national question had been under attack. However, we tended to overemphasize trying to develop a theory that was 100% correct. We implied that if only we, along with others, could develop a correct theory on the national question, then we could launch an international attack on imperialism.
We said that no anti-imperialist struggle
could be effective in the absence of such international coordination.
This approach wrongly ignored the effect of the national liberation
struggles on anti-imperialist ideology.
It is mainly the material
conditions of the oppressed peoples in this era that will promote the development of theory to insure victory against imperialism. Just as we believed in coalescing with bourgeois Afro-American
forces fighting imperialism, we should have had a similar approach toward the white Civil Rights workers.
Since we felt obligated to
bring whites to support Black self-determination, it should have
been natural to look to the Civil Rights organizations for recruits.
Those organizations were far more effective than anyone else (inclu
ding us) at bringing people into the anti-imperialist struggle.
may have been more advanced theoretically, but we cannot deny the value of the experience of struggle in the South, of exposure to Black freedom fighters.
Moreover, students are not an insignificant portion of the U.S.
Students and intellectuals have played important roles
in other anti-imperialist struggles.
Many of the Black activists in
the Civil Rights Movement were students or intellectuals.
decade of the 1960's, the SDS was the most prominent white organization to endorse a policy against white chauvinism.
Rights Movement strongly influenced the SDS.
We know that the Civil
Had we been more advanced,
we would have joined organizations like SNCC, CORE, or SDS.
not have meant endorsement of all their policies.
We would have worked
with them where possible on the issues most likely to promote Black self-determination.
We would have urged the whites to take the advice
of Malcolm X, to go to the white communities and try to immobilize the
Klan, to fight white chauvinism.
We would have tried to present our
viewpoint to the most advanced people; that integration could not solve the problems of Blacks, but self-determination irr the Black Belt was
the best long-range solution. As long as the Civil Rights Movement welcomed white participation
and maintained hope for integration, there was little chance for us to
win much immediate support for Black self-determination.
We could not
expect many whites to advocate ideas that were not supported by the
Black leadership they followed, or indeed by most of the Black population. It was more realistic to anticipate that as time went on, the lessons of
the struggle would help bear out our views.
In the late 1960's, on the
strength of the Black nationalist leadership, several key leaders of SDS endorsed Black separatism and viewed the Afro-American people as "an in9
ternal colony within the confines of the oppressor nation .
The lessons of the Civil Rights Movement indicate that we should work with those whites who are following Black leadership to counter
white supremacy and win allies for the oppressed peoples whether the situation calls for going to the South in the 1960's or winning support for the Republic of New Africa in the 1980's. These lessons are reinforced when we look at the anti-war movement.
Walter Kaufmann, The Faith of a Heretic, quoted in Howard Zinn, SNCC: The New Abolitionists, Beacon Press, Boston, p. 2.
Sig Synnestvedt, The White Response to Black Emancipation, Macmillan, New York, p. 176.
Synnestvedt, p. 183.
Synnestvedt, p. 177.
New York Times, May 21, 1973, p. 25.
See New Boundaries #3, author, July, 1979, pp. 14-26.
Synnestvedt, p. 212-213.
August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, CORE, Oxford University Press, New York, 1973, p. 404.
Irwin Unger, The Movement: New York, 1974, p. 165.
The American New Left, Dodd, Mead, & Co.,
'HE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT
Opposition to the Vietnam war produced the largest white move ment to oppose the U.S. government since the abolitionists. We want to
find out why this opposition was so much greater than during the Korean war or the many brutal imperialist wars earlier in our nation's history. By answering this question we will be better able to predict whether there will be opposition to imperialist wars in the future. Also we
must decide how effective this opposition was in weakening U.S. imperi alism so that we can work for even more effective opposition in the future.
The main reason that theanti-war movement developed was that the national liberation forces were gaining enough strength that the even
tual destruction of U.S. imperialism was seen by more people. The sequence of wars in China, the Philippines, Korea, Algeria, Cuba and
Vietnam was beginning to force into people's consciousness the reality
that national liberation struggles met by fierce imperialist attacks were the main feature of today's world. Due to its geography and its history of defeating the French some people saw that Vietnam might be the country to end the American boast that "we never lost a war".
Because the main forces for change were outside the imperialist nations, it is not surprising that students were the largest contingent of the anti-war movement. Not because they were oppressed but because they had more leisure time for reading, more inclination toward intellectual work, greater access to books and news sources, including foreign sources,
students came to the fore.
In addition they had greater freedom to go on
demonstrations, print leaflets, etc.
With the possible exception of the great heroism of the Vietnamese
themselves, the "single most important influence on white (anti-war)
students remained the example of black students in the South".1 In the summer of 1964 when three Civil Rights workers were slain in Mississippi, Bob Moses of SNCC tied these killings in with the killings in Vietnam. Many of the early anti-war activists first became critical of their own country when they saw the poverty and terror and lack of democracy in the South.
Mario Savio, the leader of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley,
was just back from Mississippi and a leader of the Friends of SNCC group on campus.
Even in Congress, Adam Clayton Powell was the only member of
the House who did not support the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.
The growing strength of the oppressed nations had important indirect
influences on the anti-war movement.
European, Japanese and Canadian
imperialists had doubts about U.S. policy in Vietnam.
nations wanted to maintain their profitable trade and investments in oppressed nations which might eventually turn against the U.S. in greater
Perhaps also they did not think they could afford military
adventures of the scale the U.S. was involved in.
important difference from the Korean War.
In any case, this was an
U Thant, Secretary General of
the U.N., criticized the U.S. bombing in Vietnam whereas in Korea, the U.S.
and its allies had fought under the U.N. banner.
among the imperialists made it more difficult for the U.S. govern
ment to hide completely what was happening in Vietnam.
the "credibility gap" grew so that even supporters of U.S. war policy did not believe government statements.
The economy was not a major factor in the development of the anti war movement.
As in Korea, and a number of other wars that the U.S.
fought on someone else's soil, the economy boomed. It is true that many Blacks and some whites thought that, if it were not for the war, more social programs would have been funded to eliminate poverty. The post-war years have certainly seen no such development. A great deal
of present-day inflation was caused by failure to raise taxes enough to finance the war. At the time, the economy was not a major motiva ting factor for the anti-war movement.
The immediate, personal reasons for opposing the war were of course the obvious immorality and brutality of the U.S. invaders and the draft with its threat of death. However, these factors which loomed so large cannot in themselves explain the difference between
Vietnam and Korea or other earlier wars.
Indeed the draft, which was
the center of so much protest, had relatively little effect on the students at the prestigious universities which were the earliest
centers of anti-war activity. The length of the war may have provided more time for people to understand the immorality of the world's
richest country going halfway around the world to bomb, burn crops, and massacre a poor and poorly armed people. But the length of the war was only another reflection of the main factor, the growing strength of the oppressed nations in their struggle against imperialism.
The fact that some people were becoming aware of the growing strength of the national liberation struggles does not mean that many
of them welcomed it. Many were not ready to give up the many privileges that they received as members of an imperialist nation. They felt caught between the government which they were beginning to see as an
enemy and the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed people which they had been brought up to see as the enemy. At first many turned to pacifism and said both sides were wrong. Fearing that some would move closer to the oppressed the imperialists encouraged them to drop out of the struggle. Drugs, formerly restricted to the ghettos, began to flow onto college campuses where the anti-war movement was largest. Drugs were also made freely available to the troops in Vietnam to keep them from thinking too much.
Although the anti-war movement was quite large, it was always a minority even on the college campuses where it had its greatest strength.
No matter what tactics were used, it probably would not
have been able to interfere greatly with the imperialist war machine. Yet, the imperialists would no doubt have been happier if no large group had opposed the war.
In that case, it would have been easy
for them to claim to be democratic at home even while they committed genocide in Vietnam.
As it was, they were still able to maintain
their democratic facade with a few notable exceptions:
ations of Malcolm X, Reverend King and the Kennedy brothers, the
handling of the 1968 Democratic convention and the shooting of students at Kent State.
At the same time, there were many atrocities against
New Africans such as at Jackson State, the Chicago Panther headquarters, and the Republic of New Africa headquarters in Mississippi.
these were not directly connected to the Vietnam war, they worked to
undermine the image of U.S. democracy at home and abroad. The main complaint that the government made of the anti-war move ment was that it might strengthen the resolve of the Vietnamese
people to keep fighting by making it appear that the American people were seriously divided. mainly mistaken.
If the Vietnamese believed this, they were
However, there is one sense in which it is true.
protracted war does wear down the resolve of an imperialist nation. There were millions of -people who backed Kennedy or McCarthy because
"If tYre \3.S. doesn't go in there all the way we should get out."
Given that the Imperialists did not go all the way, that is invade North Vietnam or use nuclear weapons, the anti-war movement may have had some small effect on the morale of the U.S. public and U.S.
Had the imperialists seen this as a major threat, however,
they could have crushed the anti-war movement by suppressing literat ure, arresting leaders, assassinations, etc.
If the government had
done so, the majority of Americans would have supported the government
or remained discreetly silent.
After the killing of white students
at Kent State in 1970, a poll showed that 72.2% of the population of Ohio felt the National Guard should load with live ammunition
and use it whenever its officers deemed necessary.
ment might have inflated this figure to justify its actions.
it is clear that a large percentage of the population favored repression of anti-war forces along with New Africans
the main target of
the National Guard.
From our viewpoint, the existence of large-scale discontent with an imperialist war was positive.
But, the tactics used to organize the
discontent often played into the hands of the imperialists.
is not surprising when we consider the privileged position of the people who provided its base
white Americans, mainly middle class.
There must also have been a large number of full- and part-time
government agents working hard to keep activities relatively harmless. Nevertheless, anti-war sentiment did grow.
The number of people
supporting victory for the NLF also grew. There was an increase in the numbers who saw the war as symptomatic of U.S. imperialism rather than as an abberation.
Unfortunately, there was also a move towards Marxism with its
incorrect class analysis of the U.S.
Orthodox Marxism replaced
pacifism as the main problem in the anti-war movement.
told the movement that the American working class was their natural
ally because it, like the Vietnamese, was oppressed by U.S. imper ialism.
Then and now, the Marxist picture is not reality. U.S. workers as a whole get more from imperialism than they lose through exploitation.
If the world's wealth is to be more equitably distributed, the majority of U.S. workers will experience a decline in living standards. It is not true that the working class supports imperialism mainly through ignorance of its real interests. Nor is it true that if revolutionary intellectuals help the working class on bread-and-butter union issues
that the workers well be won over to support national liberation.
Workers can be appealed to on the basis of building a more just world, a more sane world.
We can appeal to them to come over to the side that
will eventually win to avoid retribution.
We cannot appeal to them on
the basis of higher wages or cheaper gasoline.
They know the imperialists
are more likely to give them that. The Anti-Draft Movement
The draft which subjected young men to the idiocy of the imperialist military along with the danger of being killed in Vietnam, was the main
price which Americans paid for the continued oppression of Southeast
The anti-war movement was largely a student movement especially
in the early years and therefore its members were not affected by the draft as much as other groups.
Still it hung over the heads of those
who would graduate, fail or drop out.
Some saw the draft as contrary
to America's democratic traditions since Vietnam was not a declared war.
All anti-draft techniques favored the white middle class.
deferments, conscientious objector status, faked medical problems or going to Canada were all more difficult for oppressed nationalities and
Since the U.S. always got the number of soldiers needed,
the anti-draft movement simply replaced middle-class white youth with
oppressed people Blacks,Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. But this is only part of the picture. Although the oppressed did have a disproportionate
share of combat duty and death only a tiny part of this can be attributed to the anti-draft movement, as compared to economic
pressures on the oppressed and imperialist draft laws. The main victims of the U.S. military were not, at that time, the oppressed nations within the U.S., but the Vietnamese peasants. The U.S. government would have liked to see students flock to the
military and provide the officer corps with its best men.
it is known that both the morale and efficiency of officers and
and men in Vietnam were low.
maintain their resistance.
This certainly helped the Vietnamese
On the other hand, what we would have
considered ideal was for all draft resisters to go in the army,
study the art of war and plan for revolutionary support to oppressed nations.
That, of course, was unrealistic.
energy attacking the anti-draft movement.
We spent too much What we should have done
is said that it is a good thing that people don't want to cooperate with the military but those who are really serious should do this... Those of us who followed Hammer & Steel did not take this stance
because we did not- think any movement within the white nation made much
difference until a major ideological breakthrough was made internat ionally.
We hoped that the Chinese or Albanians could be convinced
of the importance of the struggle for New African and Mexican land
within the borders of the U.S.
We thought that a powerful internal
ional anti-revisionist movement would quickly sweep away the errors
of the American New Left and show the correct way to struggle. Therefore, we were more interested in exposing the errors of various leaders than in really trying to influence any movement.
was a lot positive in developing a correct ideology on the national
question compared to the pure "activist" tendencies of many of our generation.
But, once it was clear that China was siding with the
U.S., our reliance on pure ideological struggle became an idealist approach.
We ignored the fact that ideological development
come about mainly as a result of the strengthening of liberation
struggles and weakening of imperialism. This is happening even though there are only partial victories and less than perfect leadership. By 1969 or 1970 there began to be a fair number of soldiers and
veterans who were against the war.
Anti-war newspapers and coffee
houses were started near many of the major army bases.
In 1968, SDS
did adopt a resolution saying "we should move into the liberation
struggle now being fought in the armed forces and take an active part."
In 1969 and 1970, there were two deserters for every draft dodger coming to Canada.
By 1971, this added up to half a division.
were a total of 40,227 desertions in 1967, 53,352 in 1968 and 73,121 in 1969.
About one-third of these men returned to their units.
would be wrong to say that most of those who deserted were ideologic ally anti-imperialist or even anti-war.
Nevertheless, the fact that
had less than unanimous support must have been a contributing
Desertion probably cost the army more than draft-dodging*
Still deserters who returned were not subjected to heavy punishment. During the Vietnam war and probably for some time in the future the
imperialist army will have less trouble from real anti-imperialists than from individuals who don't want to give up their personal freedom
to fight for imperialism. tactics in a future war. heavily punished.
The government could change to repressive Desertions and disobeying orders could be
Newspapers, coffee houses and all literature
questioning U.S. policy could be suppressed.
work very well for several reasons.
But such tactics may not
Unlike the McCarthy era and
the Korean war, Canada, Europe and Japan may not back the U.S. all
Unlike Hitler's Germany, the U.S. may not be able to raise
the standard of living above its already high level.
hard to enforce in a war like Vietnam where small units are used.
Also, as long as large numbers of oppressed nationalities are used
in the imperialist army there will be resistance which may inspire resistance among whites.
This does not prove that the imperialists will never be able to
mold the white nation into a disciplined and motivated fighting force. We cannot forget the lessons of Germany but we cannot be sure that the U.S. will follow the same model.
The imperialists are not sure either.
That is one reason that they are maintaining lenient and democratic structures.
If it is true that the white nation will give the imperialists more trouble through unwillingness to sacrifice rather than by con scious anti-imperialist struggle, does this have any implications for
Should we concentrate on building a small
consciously anti-imperialist force, or along with this are there things we can do to help neutralize the reactionary potential of the white nation?
The experience of Vietnam would indicate that building a
conscious anti-imperialist movement is the best way to stimulate spon taneous opposition to imperialism.
The fact that people who were
consciously against the war, if not anti-imperialist, dodged the draft
or deserted encouraged others who were only interested in "saving their own skins" to do the same.
The fact that there was not universal
support for the war meant soldiers were more reluctant to carry out dangerous assignments.
Therefore, we should concentrate on building
conscious revolutionary support for oppressed nations.
This will weaken
imperialism and aggravate all other contradictions within the white nation. *
Thomas Powers, The War at Home, Grossman Publications, New York, 1973, p. 24.
James A. Michener, Kent State, Fawcett Publications, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1971.
Students for a Democratic Society, "Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement," reprinted in John Erlich and Susan Erlich, eds., Student Power, Participation and Revolution, Association Press, New York, 1978, p. 186.
m •i ^
• v \;- !>'v>. ;'-
Persistent double-digit inflation and the 1980 recession combined to depress the real income of American families
by 5.5% last year , the bigpst drop since 1947... the Census Bureau reported today.
This drop follows over a decade of slow growth and small declines in real income (i.e., income adjusted for inflation) for white house holds.
The white real household income for 1979 remained the same
as it was in 1969 despite a significant increase in the number of households with more than one wage-earner.
U.S. whites, about 6% of world population, still consume
many times that percentage of the world's production each year.
anything, their standard of living has improved relative to oppressed
nations', whose standard of living is in steep decline. merely slipped.
U.S. whites could weather many 5% declines before
If there is an economic crisis, it is not the U.S.
whites who are bearing the brunt of it.
Yet, whites have traditionally
lived better than their parents who lived better than their parents did and this expectation has not been fulfilled recently.
For them this
setback to the "American Dream" is a new and disturbing fact of life. One cause of the whites' economic problems is the just assertion by OPEC and Iran of greater control over their oil.
prices are a major factor behind high inflation, high interest rates and high unemployment.
Oil also illustrates the resilience of the U.S.
economy based on still very great oppressive power.
By that we mean
the U.S. economy is in relatively good shape given the ten-fold increases in OPEC prices during the 1970's and cutroff of Iran's oil.
imperialists have to have oil at any price, in the short term to ensure
their supply and buy time to develop alternate sources, but they have managed to keep the Arab governments disunited over Israel and oil and
to reduce slightly the demand for imported oil.
As they turn more to
"domestic" oil and to nuclear power, they increase the pressure on oppressed peoples' land within U.S. borders and on nations which possess uranium.
It is not impossible that technological development and
shifted emphasis of oppression will produce another period of cheap energy.
This will renew some whites' optimism.
However, we note that oil was the cheap energy source.
If the U.S.
were still as dominant as in the 1950's it might have invaded Iran and
forced her into supplying oil cheap, buying dear, and policing the region for the U.S. again.
Instead U.S. imperialism is shifting and retrenching,
Even before their complete national liberation, oil-possessing peoples are striking economic blows at the imperialist order. to apply to the possessors of uranium.
The same will come
The large AFL-CIO-sponsored march in Washington to press economic demands on the U.S. government showed the dissatisfaction of some U.S.
whites. On the other hand hundreds of thousands of employees are agree ing to reductions in pay and benefits to help keep their companies or
industries going, as in the notable case of the Chrysler Corporation. This increasing economic discontent within its own borders makes it a
little harder for U.S. imperialism to maneuver. tests are not in themselves anti-imperialist.
However, economic pro In one of the few recent
anti-imperialist labor actions, unions took part in demonstrations against U.S. intervention in El Salvador. This action was anti-imperialist because it focussed away from economic demands of U.S. whites and on the heeds of the oppressed peoples.
Much of whites' economic discontent has expressed itself in attacks on the oppressed, as in Proposition 13, the Bakke case and anti-
busing movements. These preceded Reagan and his budget cuts which attack the welfare categories on which many oppressed people rely. It is now open official policy to do what many whites always advocatedâ€”ax the oppressed to keep up government spending for whites.
U.S. imperialism's economic problems can only intensify in the long run. The money from Reagan's budget cuts in reality goes more to the military than to services for whites; this diversion will be magni fied many times in the future. More whites, still comfortable by world standards, will grow disillusioned with their government.
people will hamper U.S. imperialism to the advantage of the national
liberation struggles even though they might be equally bitter against the oppressed and newly liberated peoples. Paramilitary Involvement
Building along with white economic concern is white participation in violent repression of oppressed people.
Government and citizens alike
fear the results of the true and intensifying economic crisis the New Africans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Native People are suffering. The imperialists are also aware that these peoples' leaders have grown more united and clearer on the necessity of reconquering their land while the imperialists need it more than ever as security against oil difficulties in countries they control less tightly. In short, the home front is tenser.
The U.S. government has always participated in non-official attacks on the oppressed within U.S. borders.
The Klan's consistent
good connections with the FBI are well-documented from the Civil
Rights movement to the present.
Bill Wilkinson, head of a major
national Klan, has admitted he passed information to the FBI.3 This means the FBI in turn influences Klan activity. It also obviously directs the oppressive activities and military-style armament of police and prison guards and the court system that allows white vigilantes to murder and go free.
During the Civil Rights period the U.S. government directed FBI-
Klan murders of Blacks and their supporters while officially trying to end Jim Crow.
At present it supports white involvement in oppression
more openly and more whites are "getting involved."
in armed national oppression at home is analogous to volunteering to fight for U.S. imperialism abroad.
However, the anti-war movement
around this type of war is small.
Most white Americans have had little exposure to the idea of breaking up present U.S. boundaries and are unaware of the movements supporting this plan.
When presented with correct ideas on the above
very few will consider them.
The chauvinism of our people is so all-
pervasive, especially concerning internal colonies, that, if one didn't know better, it would seem genetic rather than environmental.
In the past, our people's endemic chauvinism has turned many opponents of the U.S. government toward focussing on class struggle as the main force for change within U.S. borders.
With few small
exceptions, the bribes received by all whites have been ignored and the Afro-American nation's existence and right to land denied. The main positive development of the present is the growth of white
leadership which supports the Black nation's right to a Republic of New Africa and makes this the first test of every white. The very best leaders may not move many U.S. whites at this time but there
is no hope for white political advance without anti-imperialist leadership.
Why are there now a few white organizations working for white support to the Black nation's independence from U.S. imperialism? The reason is not to be found in the economic or political conditions of the whites but in the leadership of New Africans. The mass Black Power movement declined in numbers and force under sharp imperialist attack in the late 1960's and early 1970's. However, some of the people who had carried it to its theoretical conclusionâ€”the demand for &â€˘New- African stateâ€”have consolidated, focussed more clearly on the need for land and recently grown more influential among Blacks. There are now several Black organizations calling "Free
the Land!" Furthermore, they have established mutual support with Mexican, Puerto Rican, Quebecois and Native independence organizations. Why are some whites now willing to follow the leadership of Blacks demanding U.S.-claimed land? A major factor is the strength ened focus on land that was absent in the Black Power movement
as a whole.
Also, Mao is dead, China collaborates openly with the
U.S. and neither is as weighty a source of ideas as the African leaders.
We of New Boundaries did not anticipate the establishment of organizations focussed on New African self-determination and have not
been on hand to participate in it.
We now realize that the struggles
are helping to develop their own theory and materially aiding them is important to the development of common anti-imperialist understanding. We used to consider ideological work our main form of material support. We still think ideological work is an essential part of anti-imperialist
Oppressed peoples' spontaneous struggles are often anti-imperialist,
but for victory in the long run the leaders have to take into account the local and global balance of forces, previous experiences of revolutionary movements and possible future developments.
Our people are chauvinist
yet i^ we want to organize long-range support for the oppressed peoples we need to see beyond our people's Immediate attitudes.
a sound ideological foundation to guide our practical work.
In practice, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Angola and others have used aid from the U.S.S.R on balance to their advantage
they are freer, better off,
and helping to weaken the imperialist system while partly dependent on the U.S.S.R.; a greater degree of liberation in a world still dominated
by imperialism was not possible.
Similarly, Iranian, Angolan and
Congolese revolutionaries have correctly isolated or exposed the proChina forces who were actually supporting U.S. policy in their countries. Must Angolans, Zimbabweans and their supporters accept the U.S.S.R.
uncritically because these Africans have been helped by them, or should
they publicly support the Eritreans under attack with Soviet and Cuban backing?
Even within Angola the picture is not all positive, for
Russian trawlers are fishing Angola's coastal waters to the detriment of the Angolan catch.
The Angolan experience has been a lesson to all
on the possibilities of taking advantage of U.S.- U.S.S.R. contradictions. Yet it could be a more valuable experience if generalized, if linked
with Eritrea's or Vietnam's experiences, if considered in the light of possible future external supports to North American liberation wars.
Our organization's experiences illustrate the value of emphas
izing ideology and the importance of the liberation struggles in
giving force to anti-imperialist ideas.
The people of New Boundaries
supported Hammer & Steel of Boston, Massachusetts. t•••
H&S was founded
in 1960 by dissidents from the Communist Party of the U.S. who were '•v
determined to carry on the positive work of Stalin and the Third
International and to support China, Cuba and the "Afro-American
nation in the Black Belt".
By the mid-1960's, H&S's line on the
Black nation was very clear, correct and a focal point of its work.
By 1968, H&S recognized the damage China's Cultural Revolution and
Mao's Thought were doing to the Black Power movement and to the Left in general.
Without having discussed at great length these
issues which were receiving little consideration in the white
Left at the time, we would not be able to contribute anything to the anti-imperialist movement within the U.S. in 198.2,
On the other
hand, it is only since the resurgence of New African demands for land that our work has met with some interested response and vital
This has led us to consider practical as well as
ideological forms of struggle. Another subject for ideological consideration is Marxism. Whites who agree that the national liberation struggles are primary
and who attempt to apply dialectical materialism are the front edge
of white anti-imperialist activity.
They are also mainly Marxists.
We have been accused of throwing the baby out with the bathwater by positing another source of value
theory of value.
alongside the labor
However, can those who feel a critique of Marxism
is superfluous explain the oppression of North American Natives, the wipe-out of Amazonian tribes and'increasing redundancy of Black
labor by the labor theory of value? Resorting to the two-tier, raciallydivided labor market as the the sole explanation leads to the primacy of nulti-national class struggle. We need a theory which expresses what we already know in practice窶年ew Africans and all other peoples need
their own land on which to organize their labor. It will help us explain to our people how our wealth is based on ill-gotten gains from other
peoples' land, even though whites have been the majority labor force with in U.S. borders.
One of our key functions as whites is to support the Black organiza tions which work for liberation of southern U.S. land. We used to see support work as a weak form of anti-imperialist activity because it
seemed to involve little ideological initiative by whites.
In fact the
struggles themselves produce new perspectives or advance them.
There are obviously many kinds of support work, open and under
ground, which will vary as the liberation struggles advance. The possi bilities are especially wide for the oppressed nations within U.S. bor ders to utilize whatever white support is available.
Here we take as an example the attempted expropriation by Black and white anti-imperialists of $1.6 million from a Brink's truck.
charging robbery and murder, the government's main actions have obviously been to raid, investigate, slander, terrorize, torture and incarcerate
New African nationalists and white supporters; not to investigate a robbery.
As supporters of New Africans' right to "expropriate" their national
territory from land claimed by U.S. imperialism we also support expropri
ation of funds as one means toward this goal. The fact that this attempt failed does not mean it was adventurist; the strength under torture and pressure shown by all those arrested testifies to political and mental
preparedness. We express our solidarity with the captives and hope that
through their political defense the distinction between those who support break-up of U.S. territory by New Africans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and
Native Americans and those who pretend to be anti-imperialist will become ever clearer.
It is quite possible that the U.S. will invade another nation such
as El Salvador before the struggle of the oppressed within U.S. borders
becomes all-out war. The sending of troops would arouse many of the same elements who comprised the Vietnam anti-war movementâ€”pacifists, people morally opposed, those who think war a mistaken tactic.
The memory of
Vietnam is fresh enough that such a movement could develop quickly. Unlike Vietnam, perhaps due to the economy, many labor unions seem ready to oppose sending troops.
There are already support committees
for El Salvador doing useful work against U.S. imperialism's sending advisors and military aid to the reactionary junta.
With the concentra
tion of Black nationalism on the demand for land and increased unity with similarly-oriented Mexican and Puerto Rican nationalists, any
future white anti-external-war movement will be more likely to develop some elements who connect opposition to the external war with opposing oppression of the nations within U.S. borders.
New York Times, August 21, 1981, p. A12.
"Money Income of Households in the United States: 1979", Current Population Reports: Consumer Income, Series P.60, No. 126, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, p. 12.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Service, December 1981.
NEW BOUNDARIES PUBLICATIONS
"New Boundaries", March 1978, unnumbered. New Boundaries No. 2, "Indochina", April 1979c New Boundaries No. 3, "The Afro-American Nation:
Case for Liberation of the Black Belt", July 1979. New Boundaries No. 4, "Iran", December 16, 1979. New Boundaries No. 5, "On Native Peoples", January 1981.
New Boundaries No. 6, "Win White Support for New Boundaries",
Copies of New Boundaries publications are available free of charge on request.