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. RAD.

ICAL
AMERICA
- ,

SE?rEHBER > - OCIDBER, 1968 Vol. II �'O. 5


,

50 t .

New Left,1965-67
, .

BLACK HISTOR'Y" II' ,


I

POETRY- & COMIX


Radical: South & cia

An 5 DS Journal of American Radicalism


Sept_Oct., 1968 Vol.II,no.5

CONTE�TS

James P. O"Brien, THE NEW tEFT;1965-67. • 1

t. I. krYss, CHICAGO • • • • • • • . • • 23

Robert Starobin &- Dale Tomich, BLACK


LIBERATION HISTORIOGRAPHY � • • • • . . 24

Franklin Rosemont, HOMAGE TO T-80NE SLIM. • 29

d.a. I,evy, VISUALIZED PRAYER 'TO THE


AMERI�AN GOD, #2 • • • • • • • • " . . . . . . . . 30

Joel Beck, THE UNIvERSAL INCREDIBLE GENERATIONAL


GAP' STORY,... • • • • • • • • . . . . . 31
,

Mark D. Naison, THE STFU: FAILURE ON THE LEFT 36

,'t\ortin Globermon, BLACK LIBERATION ,& THE UNIONS.. 57

James Gi [bert, IMAGES OF THE SOCIALIST


SCHOLARS' CONFERENCE.� • • • • • • • • • • • • 62

back cover:,R. Crumb, BOXES

RADICAL AMERICA, a bi-monthly journal of U.S. radic�J­


ism. Genera-! Editor: Paul Buhle. Cultural Editors:
Can Georgakas, Dave Wagner, H�nk Haslach. Associates:
George Arthur (Seattle), Tom Christoffel IO.C.),
Paul Mattick,Jr. (Boston), Don NcKelvey (Boston), Mark
Naison (New York City), Nick Norris ,(Chicago), James
Prickett (San Diego).

CREDITS: aoem on p.23 (rom Chicago Poems,Cleveland


Poems; poem on pp.29-30 from Morning 21 � Machine
Gun; concrete poem on 0.30, from D.A. levy, ! Tribute
to the Man; comics on pp.3l-35, 54,56 and back cover
;;orinfed with permission from Yelfow DOQ; Photographs:
on p.1B, (rom'New left Notes; on pp.39 and 46 from
Workers i..!l'OurF'TeT'ds:" -
1

The New left, 1965 -67

James P. O'Brien

This is the second part of what has now become


a three-part essay, with bibliography, on the American
New Left. The first segment appeared in the May-June
issue and it dealt with the period from the early
civil rights sit-ins of 1960 to the beginning of
large-scale Vietnam war protests in 1965. It was
during this earlier period, in my opinion, that
various strains of political activism and cultural
independence came together to form what could
genuinely be called a New Left. As for the two years
which followed that early period, there is much less
justification for treating them as a coherent unit.
Space limitations are the only reason that the present
installment stops in the spring of 1967 instead of
continuing to the present.
The bibliographical notes, incidentally, are
nothing more than that. I have placed them as foot­
notes solely for convenience, and they do not--as
scholarly footnotes ought t� do--provide full backing
for statements made in the �rticle itself. The
article is based in large p�rt on conversations with
friends and on r::.y own observations. The materials
cited are ones which seem to me to convey a good
sense of particular aspects of the New Left.

SDS AND SNCC

By the fall of 1965, the two organizations


which more than any others have defined the New Left
--Students for a Democratic Society and the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee--had undergone
marked changes which did a great deal to shape their
subsequent histories. For SDS, the Johnson admin­
istration!s decision to begin systematic bombing of
2

N orth V i etn am in February, 1965, was extremely


import an t . P revi ous to thi s st ep- up in the war,
V i etn am prot e st s in the U . S . had b e en few an d had
att ract e d l it t le in t e re st. When , in D e cemb e r 1964 ,
t he SD S n at i on al c oun c i l had s cheduled a prot e st march
in Washin gton for Apr i l , n o on e had ant i c ipated a
large turn out . Yet more than 15 , 000 p e ople c ame , most
of them st uden t s. The march gave a t remen dous boost
to an t i -war s en t iment , an d at the s ame t ime it made SD S
w idely kn own f or the f irst t ime . The n umb e r of SD S
chapt e r s grew from aroun d 35 to over a hun dred w ithin
three mon ths , an d memb e rsh ip mult iplied to s e ve ral
thousan d . At the s ame t ime , SD S' E c on omi c R e s e arch
an d Act i on P ro j e ct ( ERAP ) vot ed in the sprin g of 1965
to disban d it s elf a s a n at i on ally coordin at e d program;
the n at i on al ERAP off i c e in Ann Arb or was closed down ,
an d director Renn ie D av i s went to work in the JOIN
proj e ct in C h i c ag o. Thi s did n ot mean a ret ren chment
of the com mun ity organ i z in g program, s in c e the e arly
de ath of a few ERAP pro j e ct s w a s more than overb alan c ed
by the burge on in g of JOIN and by the in it i at i on of n ew
pro j e ct s in San F ran c i s co , Oaklan d , an d e l s ewhere .
N e arly two hun dred summe r volun t e e r s worked in the
various proj e c t s in 1965 . But th e t en den cy in t he most
s uc c e s sful proj e ct s , such as those in C le ve l an d an d
N ewark , was f or the ERAP organ i z e r s to en c ourage in­
digen ous le adership amon g the poor people themselve s .
The role of SDS in furn i shing n at i on a l c o ordin at i on
an d leadership t o the proj e ct s w a s c orre spon d in gly
dimin i shed . * Thus , although a welfare mother from
C leve l an d was amon g the speakers at the SD S V ietuam
march, an d although SD S pre s i den t P aul P otter st re s s ed
in h i s speech that gras s - roots organ iz in g was the key
to chan g ing the system t hat produced V ietn am , ** SD S

* R i ght n ow the b e s t hi story of E RAP i s by R i chard


Roth st e in , "ERAP: E volut i on of the Organ iz e r s , "
R ad i c al Ame r i c a , M arch -Ap r i l 1968 . Todd G it l in , an
importan t leade r of the N ew Left who worked w ith
JOIN in C h i c ago an d n ow writ e s for the S an-Fran c i s c o
Expre s s -Time s , i s w r i t ing a b ook ab out c ommun ity
organ i z in g eff ort s amon g the p o or .
** P otter ' s spe e ch , a very i mport an t stat ement of SD S
thinking on the war , was later printed as a p amphlet
an d w idely di stributed by SDS .
3

w a s alre ady c omin g t o be characte r i z ed more by it s


an t i -war st and than by i t s commun ity organ i z in g act i­
vi t i e s . It may be s i gn if i c an t that P otte r , who w o rked
in the Cleve l and proj e ct , was suc ceeded as SD S
pre s id en t in J un e by C arl O gl e sb y , on e of the origin a ­
tors o f the t e ach- in movement and b e st kn own a s an
e l o quen t speaker and w r i t e r again st the war . *
SNCC , at t h i s t ime , w a s al s o in a peri od of
re orien t at ion. E s calat i on in V ie tn am had le s s imme­
d i at e impact on SNCC than on SD S , partly b e c ause there
were far more pre s s in g i s s ue s in the South and partly
b e c ause SNCC w orkers by 1965 had alread y b e c ome
h i ghly skept i c al ab out the D emo crat i c admin i str at i on.
SNCC c o- spon s ored the Apr i l 17 V i etn am prote st , b ut
d ur in g 1965 its skept iC i sm was exacerb ated more b y
it s own d ire ct exper i en ce s than by c on c e rn over the
war . The C h i ld D evelopment G roup of M i s s i s s ipp i
( CD G M ) , formed early in the year by p e r s on s close t o
SNCC, ran an imagin at i ve He ad Start program b ut had
to f i ght for it s l ife again st a W ar on P overty bureau­
cr acy f e arful of offend in g M i s s i s s ippi polit i c i an s . **
M ore importan t w a s the fate of the M i s s i s s ipp i
Challen ge , in which the SNCC - or i g in ated M iSS i s s ippi
F reed om D emoc r at i c P arty had hoped t o un s e at the
st ate' s c on gre s s i on al d e legat i on. The challen g e ran
in t o quiet opp o s it i on from the W h ite House as well a s
from t h e con gre s si on al l e ad e rship , and aft er n in e
mon t h s the MFDP was ab le t o s e cure on ly l4o - odd vot e s ,

* See e spe c i ally h i s The V i etn am W ar: W orld R evolu­


t i on and Ame r i c an Conta in men t , prin t ed by SDS in
Apr i l 1965 , as well as h i s spee ch in Novemb e r of
that year, c ited b e l ow.
**See Andr ew K opk ind , "Bureaucracy' s Lon g A rm: Too
Heady a St art in M i s s i s s i pp i?" , N e w Repub l i c ,
August 21, 1965. F or s ub s e quent repor t s on the
trials of CD G M , s e e G e rald R o sen f i e ld' s thre e -part
art i c le in The M ovemen t , "What Happen ed to the
M i s s i s s ippi C h i ld D eve lopment G roup , " M arch , Apr i l ,
and Jun e 1966 , and P at W atters , " M i s s i s s ippi:
C h i ld ren and P ol it i c s , " D i s s en t , M ay-Jun e 1967.
4

far short of a majority . * SNCC's impatience and un­


willingness to work in harmony with the Johnson
administration began to worry many liberals , and its
image as one of the five "respectable " civil rights
groups (along with the NAACP, Urban League , Southern
Christian Leadership Conference, and CORE) began to
be eroded . **
This was also a time when the role of whites in
the civil rights movement began to be reevaluated
within SNCC . The experience of the Mississippi Summer
project in 1964, when most of the summer volunteers
went back to the comparative safety of the North after
the summer was over, had created some resentment. No
program on that scale was planned for 1965 , though
volunteers were welcomed in the SNCC projects (which
operated at that time in Arkansas, southwest Georgia,
and the Alabama black belt , as well as Mississippi) . ***
The summer of 1965 also saw the large-scale rioting in
Watts , Los Angeles, in which over thirty Negroes were
killed by police and national guardsmen . For many
militants Watts must have seemed like the death knell
of the nonviolent civil rights movement . Los Angeles
already had all the civil rights laws which anyone had
asked from the federal government , but black residents
had still thought it necessary to rise up against the
racism and poverty in which they lived. ****

* There is an excellent article with a long title


beginning "The MFDP Challenge. . . " in The Movement,
July 1965 . Andrew Kopkind , "Seat BeltSfor
Mississippi's Five, " New Republic, July 24, 1965 ,
is also a good summarY:-
** The sorrow with which liberals viewed developments
among young civil rights act ivists is ably ex­
pressed in Pat Watters , "Encounter with the
Future , " New South, May 1965.
*** See Eliz�beth-sutherland , Mississippi: Summer of ...
Discontent, " Nation, October 11, 1965, as well as
numerous articles in The Movement for 1965 . Over
the last four years The Movement , published monthly
in California, has been the best single source of
information and commentary from the "New Left .
***�For a sympathetic account of Watts by a SNCC worker
(continued on page 5)
5

Outside of SDS and SNCC, there was a scattering


of other New Left groups active in 1965 . The Southern
Student Organizing Committee ( SSOC) was close to both
SNCC and SDS . Founded in 1964 , it worked mainly among
southern white students . The Northern Student Move­
ment continued small-scale organizing activities in
northern cities, often in cooperation with SDS . The
W . E . B . DuBois Clubs of America, founded in California
and under strong Communist party influence without
being a classic "front group, " attracted some following
but did not seriously rival SDS anywhere but on the
West Coast . Much less of a New Left group in orienta­
tion, but more important than the DuBois Clubs, was
the Trotskyist-oriented Young Socialist Alliance ( YSA) .
The YSA worked within local anti-war committees and
campaigned to have the anti-war movement as a whole
adopt a position favoring outright American withdrawal
from Vietnam rather than negotiations . The May 2nd
Movement, though largely controlled by the Maoist
Progressive Labor Party, exercised an influence on the
New Left that was out of proportion to its numbers,
since it was the only group which put major stress on
the Vietnam war as an example of a generalized American
imperialism . *

,,!"***( continued from page 4) see Jimmy Garrett, "The


Negro Revolt in LA--From the Inside, " The Movement,
-
September 1965 .
- '--

*There has been little outside commentary on any of


these groups, so that their own publications are the
best sources of information on them . SSOC's New
South Student has been consistently interesting,
while May 2nd's Free Student published several issues
of high quality- -the paper kept up publication even
after May 2nd itself had been dissolved. The Northern
Student Movement put out Freedom North, YSA the Young
Socialist, and the DuBois Clubs The Insurgent . Doug
Jenness' well done pamphlet War and Revolution in
Vietnam, printed in 1965 , gives the YSA perspective
on the war . ( Continued on page 6 . )
6

One of the most surprlslng aspects of the New


Left as it stood in mid-1965 was that very little had
been done in the way of building on the experience of
the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley . The FSM in late
1964 had laid bare the relationship of the modern
American university to maintenance of discrimination
and privilege in society . It had also brought out into
the open the disgust which increasing numbers of stu­
dents felt at the impersonal and purposeless routine
of academic life . Moreover, during the 1964-65 school
year the campuses had been shaken by numerous teach­
ins and demonstrations against the war , as well as by
protests centered around such issues as social regula­
tions or the firing of popular teachers or student
suspensions. Yet there was almost no organized re­
sponse on the part of New Left groups. SNCC was off
campus entirely at that point , except for fund raising
and recruitingj SDS organized new chapters and dis­
tributed its Port Huron Statement but provided little
in the way of organizational direction . A handful of
free universities were established , some under impetus
from SDS , but none really caught on. The Free
University of New York, the biggest, was established

* ( Continued from page 5 ) .


Writers such as Jack Newfield , in A Prophetic Minority,
and Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau , in The New Radicals ,
have been quick to dismiss the DuBois-GlUbS, YSA, and
May 2nd as being simply hereditary remnants of the Old
Left. I am reluctant to do this . Granted that the
rhetoric and style of these groups may in varying
degrees be foreign to New Leftists , it is still true
that the DuBois Clubs provided an organizational
vehicle for many New Left activists, and that the YSA
and May 2nd have influenced the thinking of thousands
of young radicals outside their own ranks . YSA's work
in building up anti-war committees has been important .
May 2nd played a vanguard role for the New Left in
some ways, by raising issues such as imperialism, the
draft , and university involvement with the military
in advance of their being pushed by SDS .
7

in the summer of 1965 and encouraged " pas s i onate 'i


involvement , intelle ctual confrontat i on , and clash of
ideas , " but e nrollment never got beyond a few hundre d . *
Nowhere on the Left was there a program for organ i z ing
students at regular unive r s it i e s around the quality
of the i r educat i on . By the fall of 1965 it was the
war i n Vie tnam that w a s paramount .

NEW STAGE OF PROTESTS

Quaint though it may have b e e n , the "Assembly


of Unrepre sented P e ople " in early August of 1965
marked the b e ginning o f the inten s if i c at i on of the
anti-war Movement in the fall of that year . Led by
Staughton Lynd , Liberat i on c o-editor David Dell inge r ,
and Robert Parri s ( who under the name of Robert Mos e s
had headed the Mi s s i s s ippi Summer project ) , the
August prote st b rought ab out tw o thousand demonstra­
tors to Washi ngton for the purpose of dec laring peace
w i th the people of Vietnam . More than 350 people were
arre sted for committing c ivil d i s obedie nce on the
f inal day of the prote st . Though supported by h ardly
any groups except the p a c if i s t Committee for Non­
Vi olent Acti on, the Washington act i on drew a wide
vari e ty of parti c ipants and had a strong effe ct on
many of thos e involved in i t . At one of the rr.e eting s
held during the prote s t , attended mainly by non ­
pac i f i s t s , it was voted to e s tab l i sh a Nati onal
Coord inating Committee to End the War , w ith heeC'.­
quarte rs in Madi s on , W i s c on s i n , and w i th the imme diate
goal of helping plan for anti -war demonstrations which
SDS and the Vietnam Day Committee of Berkeley had
called f or O c tober 15 and 16 .
As it turned out , the mid-Octob e r prote st s ,
in whi ch demonstrations of varying s i z e s we re held
in at least 93 c itie s throughout the c ountry
suc ceeded in b ringing the ant i -war movement

*A sympathe t i c treatme nt of the Free Unive r s ity of


New York i s Howard Junke r , "The Fre e Unive r s ity :
Ac ademy for Mave r i cks , " The Nation ,
- August 16,
1965 .
8

emphatically to the attention of the U . S. public . *


It was the first real indication , since the Washington
march and teach-ins the previous spring , that large
numbers of people would refuse to be swept up into
the war effort . Charges of "treason" were rife, SDS ,
which had already become cool to the idea of large
demonstrations though its chapters provided most of
the turnout at many of the local October 15-16 pro­
tests , soon found itself in the center of public
attention . The SDS national council in September had
voted for a national draft program , in which young men
would be encouraged to apply for Conscientious
Objector status in large numbers , in an effort to clog
up the Selective Service System . Although this was to
be submitted to a membership referendum ( which
ultimately defeated it ) the press picked the story up
in mid-October, and Attorney-General Nicholas
Katzenbach announced he was having SDS investigated .
This resulted in the second great spurt in SDS member­
ships, in which the number of chapters increased from
around 100 to 180. This increase came without en­
couragement from the SDS national office, which was
in a state of acute disorganization, and it primarily
represented a show of solidarity among the student
left. SDS' s position was reaffirmed in November . The
National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy ( SANE )
had scheduled a Washington march for November 27, built
around a series of approved slogans calling for
"steps to peace" which specifically excluded American
withdrawal . In order to prevent the march from having
a disappointing turnout SANE was forced to allow SDS
to issue a separate call , far more militant . Carl
Oglesby' s speech at this march , an eloquent attack on
the liberal architects of American foreign policy ,

*The October 23 , 1965, National Guardian has several


articles on the protests. There is a fine movie on
the October anti-war march from Berkeley to Oakland .
It is entitled "Sons and Daughters, " and was
written and directed by Jerry Stoll .
9

drew a standing ovation. * 'j


The outcry against SDS' proposed anti-draft
program ( even the general board of the most liberal
Protestant denomination, the United Church of
Christ, denounced SDS' plan ) showed clearly the
sensitivity which was attached to the draft . When
David Miller, a young Catholic pacifist , burned his
draft card at the Whitehall Induction Station in New
York , in violation of a law passed by Congress that
summer , the clamor was equally great . Undoubtedly
fear of legal repression was an important factor in
the decisive vote which the SDS membership cast
against the anti-draft program .
With more members than ever before , and with
greater prestige within the anti-war movement than
any other group, SDS was nevertheless in a state of
confusion about its identity . Distrustful of large
marches , which seemed chiefly to boost the morale of
the already committed , and unwilling to confront the
government directly on the draft issue, SDS was
without a real program . ** This , coupled with a
breakdown in communication between the national
office and the chapters during the crisis period of

* Oglesby's speech was printed in a number of liberal


and radical journals, including Liberation , January
1966, and was also printed as an SDS pamphlet under
the title Trapped in a System . See also Andrew
Kopkind, "Radicalson-the March , " -
New Republic ,
Dec. 11, 1965.
**The closest thing to an "official" SDS program may
have been a document which national secretary Paul
Booth and former national secretary Lee Webb pre­
sented to an anti-war conference in November .
Reprinted in Our Generation , May 1966, as "From
Protest to Radical Politics, " the paper argued
that the anti-war movement had to build a broad
social movement that would reach people on issues
that affected them directly . This approach was
nothing new to SDS .
10

late October and early November, lent greater urgency


to a four-day membership conference scheduled for
Christmas vacation at the University of Illinois .
This meeting had been called at the request of Al
Haber, who along with Tom Hayden and a handful of
others had made SDS into a viable organization in
1961-62 . It was hoped that the December Conference
would help pull the organization together and enable
it to discuss the basic issues involved in its organi­
zing activities . Instead, the conference involved
little more t han a series of frustrating and some­
times acerbic discussions and a decision to replace
the mimeographed monthly Bulletin with a printed
weekly, New Left Notes . * It has been almost univer­
sally true-of SDS national meetings, since the pro­
ductive Pine Hill convention of 1963, that the only
benefits have come from informal discussions outside
the framework of the meeting itself . Be that as it
may , SDS entered the new year, 1966 , with no very
clear idea of where it was going . The Progressive
Labor Party's decision to dissolve the May 2nd Move­
ment and send PL members into SDS could hardly have
been much consolation .

BLACK POWER

In January 1966 SNCC took a further decisive


step in its break with liberal respectability by
denouncing the Vietnam war in terms that seemed to
put it in the position of encouraging draft resistance .
The statement , adopted at a SNCC conference in
Atlanta, attacked the government for its hypocrisy in
claiming to defend freedom in Vietnam . It went on to
say that "We are in sympathy with, and support, the
men in this country who are unwilling to respond to
a military draft which would compel them to contribute

*See Todd Gitlin's perceptive "Notes on the Pathology


of the N . C. " in New Left Notes, February 4 and 11 ,
1966 . Jonathan Eisen also had a critical article in
The Activist , March 1966.
r

11

their lives to United States aggression in Vietnam in


the name of the 'freedom' we find so false in this
country . "* Concrete response to this statement came
within days , as the Georgia House of Representatives
refused to seat Julian Bond, SNCC's communications
director who had been elected to the House from a
Negro district in Atlanta . Bond, excluded solely on
the basis of the SNCC anti-war statement , appealed
his case and eventually won a 9-0 verdict from the
Supreme Court , ** that the legislature had violated
his freedom of speech .
At the same time , discussions were taking
place within SNCC which led to its emergence in the
summer of 1966 as a "Black Power" organization . At
a conference in tpe spring, after long deliberation ,
Stokely Carmichael was elected SNCC chairman to
replace John Lewis . Part of the issue was that Lewis
insisted that he would attend a forthcoming White
House Conference on racial problems, against the
wishes of other SNCC members, but a more basic issue
was the question of the role of whites within the
civil rights movement . Carmichael was closely
associated with the Lowndes County Freedom Organiza­
tion , which he had helped to found and which was
attempting to elect an all-black slate of office­
holders in Alabama's most dangerous county . The
Lowndes County group's symbol was the black panther.
Lewis was much more favorable to the idea of alliances
with liberal white groups in order to win a share of
power in the South, while Carmichael considered the
basic problem to be one of organizing black people ,
with alliances merely being a hindrance at that
point . In addition , Lewis was wedded much more
closely to the idea of nonviolence , even under pro­
vocation, and Carmichael's election was widely
interpreted as a break from that tradition by SNCC.
It was on the "Meredith March" in June that
the changes in SNCC became crystallized , and the split

*SNCC's statement is printed in The Movement ,


---

January 1966 .
**See Herbert Shapiro, " Julian Bond: Georgia's
'Uppity' Legislator , " � Nation, Feb. 7, 1966 .
12

between SNCC and other civil rights groups came into


the open . James Meredith , the Air Force veteran who
had integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962,
had now announced his intention to walk alone through
Mississippi to help encourage the state' s Negroes to
stand up against oppression . When Meredith was gunned
down and hospitalized on the second day of his march,
other civil rights leaders hastened to Mississippi to
resume the walk where Meredith had been forced to
leave off. The march from that point was marked by
frequent instances of tension between Carmichael and
other SNCC leaders and Martin Luther King and other
leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
It was on this march that SNCC first popularized the
slogan of "Black Power, " a slogan which was deli­
berately counterposed to the old rallying cry of
"Freedom. "
From that point on , Black Power became a bone
of contention within liberal and radical circles , as
Martin Luther King and other moderates criticized the
new course taken by SNCC . Carmichael defined the con­
cept differently at different times, often refusing to
give it any definition ; if this was not a deliberate
effort to make the white press look foolish as it
tried to interpret "Black Power, " it nevertheless had
that effect. SDS and the Southern Student Organizing
Committee accepted SNCC's new course as a ctallenge
to them to step up their organizing efforts among
whites. In programmatic terms, SNCC was banking
heavily on the success of the Lowndes County Freedom
Organization in the November elections . * In the urban
areas of the North, where black consciousness had
already gone beyond the old civil rights formulas,
SNCC's new militancy had a certain appeal, but SNCC
had no real organizational base .

*There are sever-al articles worth reading on the


development of the Black Power concept within SNCC in
1966. Of special interest are " Interview with the
Alabama Black Panther Party Organizer , " The Movement,
February and March 1966 ; Stokely Carmichael, "What We
Want , " New York Review of Books, Sept. 22, 1966;
Black pQ;er-ra-position-Paper for the SNCC Atlanta
( continued on page 13 )
13

At the end of the summer , SNCC got a taste of


what its new program and its new image could mean in
making it vulnerable to police harrassment. It had
already experienced plenty of this in the Deep South ,
but now had to face it as a fact of life everywhere .
A miniature riot in the Vine City area of Atlanta was
blamed on SNCC workers by the mayor of that city ,
while in Philadelphia the police charged three SNCC
workers with possession of dynamite. SNCC was not
driven out of Vine City , where it had a solidly
established organizing program , but in Philadelphia
the dynamite accusations -- though they were subse­
quently dropped -- were enough to squash the organi­
zation . *

SDS VS SSS

For SDS in early 1966 , the most important


thing that happened was the Selective Service System's
decision to give special standardized exams to male
college students to help determine eligibility for

( Continued from page 12)


Project , now available as a pamphlet from SSOC) j
Andrew Kopkind , "The Future of Black Power , " New
Republic, Jan . 7, 1967j and "Stokely Carmichael, " an
interview , The Movement , February 1967 . Harold Jacobs'
later analytical article , "SNCC and Black Power , "
International Socialist Journal, August 1967, is cer­
tainly worth reading . Ed Clark , "Black Panther' s
Power , " Progressive Labor , Oct. -Nov . 1966 , is an
extensive article on the Lowndes County Freedom Or­
ganization . On the Meredith march, see Paul Good ,
"The Meredith March , " New South, Summer 1966 . Bayard
Rustin gave the moderate Negro leaders' case against
SNCC in "'Black Power' and Coalition Politics , "
Commentary , September 1966. For the response of the
white New Left to SNccrs new course , see "SDS State­
ment on SNCC , " New Left Notes , May 27, 1966 j Ed Hamlett ,
"Black Consciousnes"8,l'New Left Notes, May 27, 1966j
and Mike Miller , " Is There a Change in SNCC? " The
Movement, July and August 1966 . The best book on-Black
Power is, unfortunately , in Italian: Roberto
Giammanco' s antholo � y Potere ----
Negro.-
* ( Footnote on page 14).

=
14

the draft. The SDS national office drew up its own


"Vietnam Exam " with multiple-choice questions about
the war and American policy. On the first examination
date , in early May , these were distributed to students
at nearly 800 colleges. SDS had considered a call for
a boycott of the Selective Service exams, but had
turned this down on the realistic grounds that few
students would be likely to jeoparidze their 2-S
deferments to vindicate a moral principle . A more
popular issue was that of class ranking , by which
universities furnished draft boards with information
about the class standing of male students. The idea
was that local boards would be able to pick off stu­
dents in the bottom one-third or one-quarter of their
class. Late in the spring there were sit-ins against
class rank at Roosevelt, Chicago , Stanford, the
University of Wisconsin and several other schools.
This was the first time that the issue of the Vietnam
wsr had been tied up with the universities , and at
places like Wisconsin the sit-ins attracted a much
greater variety of students than had taken part in
demonstrations in the past.**
Otherwise, things were relatively quiet among
the white New Left . A second wave of nationally co­
ordinated local Vietnam protests in late March drew
more participants than in October but created much
less of a stir. Student activists in Berkeley were
drawn in large numbers into the campaign of Ramparts
managing editor Robert Scheer to win the Democratic
nomination for Congress. Running on a strong anti-war
platform against a liberal incumbent , Scheer got 45
per cent of the vote including a majority in the
Oakland ghetto. The local SDS group did not support

* ( Footnote from page 13)


See Paul Good , "A Tale of Two Cities , " The Nation ,
Nov. 21, 1966 ; Patricia Watters, "SNCC in Trouble:
A Report from Atlanta , " Dissent, Nov.-Dec. 1966 j and
Bill Wingell, "SNCC in Philadelphia: The Cops Declare
War, " National Guardian, August 27, 1966 .
**See particularly Jack Kittredge's report on the
Wisconsin sit-in , New Left Notes, May 27, 1966 .
15

the Scheer campaign, on the grounds that long-t erm 'i


organlzlng and educat i onal effort s were be ing sacri-
ficed t o electoral success . * In Mas sachusetts, SDS
members did take part in the independent senatorial
campaign of Thomas Boylston Adams ; the Adams campaign
was more radical than was Adams himself . Other
electoral campaigns which attracted the energie s of
New Left activist s included one waged in Manhattan ' s
19th Congre s sional District , in which the C ommittee
for Independent Political Action ran Jame s Weinstein
of Studie s on the Left, and a scattering of others . **
Of the old ERAP project s, JOIN and the Newark
C ommunity Union Proj ect (NCUP ) continued to be quite
active , while in Cleveland and to a lesser extent
Boston former ERAP workers continued t o play important
organizing role s in the poor communitie s . One new
program was initiated in the summer of 1966, the
Minneapolis C ommunity Union Proj ect . ***
The SDS national c onvention, held in late
August at a religious camp near Clear' Lake , Iowa, was
the largest that had so far been held , and it was

* See Andrew Kopkind, "Anti-Vietnam Politics," New


Republic, June 4 , 1966, and Buddy Stein and David
Wellman, "The Scheer Campaign , " Studie s on the
Left , Jan . -Feb . 1967 . The Stein-Wellman-article,
now-available from the Radical Education Project,
has been very influential in warning of the
danger s in electoral politics .
** CIPA published an exce llent b iweekly new spaper in
connection with Weinstein's campaign, entitled
simply 19 . It folded right after the November
election, but in its five or so is sue s it achieved
some of the best radical reportage and analysis,
geared to a general community readership, that the
Left has c ome up with in the ' 60s .
***See Mike Jame s, "ERAP Report: JOIN," New Left
Notes, August 24 , 1966 ; "Cleveland to Buil-d-­
DeiIiOCracy " " NLN April 24 " 1966· "M-CUP ' " --'
NLN
October 1, 19bb .
16

cert ainly one of the most import ant . Coming after a


summer in which SNCC had called on the black community
to organize it self, and in which the proportion of SDS
members engaged in community organizing among the poor
was much smaller than a year earl ier, the convention
had to confront the fact that ERAP-type organizing no
longer defined SDS . At the same t ime, the mood within
SDS was hostile t o large anti -war demonstrat ions and
al so, generally speaking, t o anti-war electoral
politics . What emerged at Clear Lake was a " return to
the campus " as the focus for organiz ing . This t urn
had been presaged by the Vietnam exams and clas s-rank
sit -ins the previous spring, but the national office
under Paul Booth had been att racted to the idea of
"new politics " campaigns such as Scheer ' s . At Clear
Lake the most influential position paper was one
authored by Carl Davids on, campus t raveler in the Great
Plains region, entitled "Student Syndicalism, or
University Reform Revisited . " Davidson, who was
elected vice-president of SDS largely on the st rength
of this paper, argued in it that SDS chapters should
initiate campus-wide movement s to gain what later came
to be called "student power . " He held that society
was dependent on a constant supply of pliable manpower
in order to carry on activities like the Vietnam war,
and that in loco parentis regulations were an important
factor in-enabling universities t o turn out graduates
who could fit uncritically into the system. Therefore,
a fight for power within the univers ity , in which
student s would demand the abolition of grades and of
interference with their extracurricular lives, could
be an important means of changing society . Davidson ' s
paper was an important attempt to apply to a university
environment the SDS-SNCC concept that people should
have a meaningful voice in the "decisions that affect
their lives," which had mainly been developed in
organizing among the poor. There was rec ognition that
the draft would be an important is sue during the
ensuing s chool year ( hence, in part, Davidson's stress
on abolishing grades, which would eliminate the basis
for class rank ) but the b asic issue was held to be
power within the university . SDS was not , at this
stage, ready to go ahead with even the relatively mild
17

anti-draft program which it had turned down in the


fall of 1965 . *
What happened in late 1966 , in a sense , was
that the war sneaked up again on SDS. Although un­
successful attempts were made at Penn State, Wisconsin ,
and elsewhere to put the ideas of "Student
Syndicalism " into effect on a campus-wide basis , and
although most SDS chapters probably were involved in
one form or another of "student power" agitation ,
this did not become the main thrust of SDS as an
organization . Instead , draft resistance -- in a much
more radical form than previously contemplated -­
became dominant. A secondary theme was a growing
number of actions taken by SDS chapters to protest
or disrupt campus appearances by representatives of
the military or of war contractors. Thus , although
SDS furnished some of the basic ideas behind the
"student power" fight , as well as much of its campus
leadership, SDS as an organization did not serve as
any kind of national coordinating body in this
respect.

DRAFT RESISTANCE

Draft resistance prior to the winter of 1966-


67 had been almost entirely an individual matter .
The stress had been on individual gestures of
opposition to the war , and except for the abortive
SDS program in the fall of 1965 there was no strategy
for using anti-draft activity either to stop the war
or to bring about basic changes in society. The May
2nd Movement as early as 1964 had circulated state­
ments of refusal to fight in Vietnam , and had gotten

*Davidson' s paper is printed in New Left Notes,


Sept. 9, 1966. For a report on the Clear Lake
Convention, see Jack A. Smith , "SDS Heads Back to
the Grassroots , " National Guardian , Sept. 17, 1966.
Incidentally , Paul Booth's "National Secretary' s
Report " in New Left Notes, June 17, 1966 , gives a
good picture of where SDS stood in the summer of
1966 .
IS

signatures from over a thousand draft-age men. In the


spring of 1965 a number of veteran leaders of the
peace movement, including Bayard Rustin , had signed
an advert::'sement in Liberation calling on men who were
opposed to the war on grounds of conscience to refuse
�nduction. Neither of these attracted much attention .
fJ. flurry of draft-card burnings in the summer of 1965
had led Congress to pass a law against this practice ,
and in the fall of that year David Miller and then a
handful of others had defied the law by burning their
draft cards . David �itchell, a young New Yorker , re­
fused induction in 1965 and then appealed his convic­
tion on the grounds that the Vietnam war was illegal
under the terms of the Nuremburg trials. Though
Mitchell got short shrift from the federal courts, he
used the publicity from his case to stir up opposition
to the war and the draft . A group centered around him
published a bulletin , Downdraft, which had news of
19
i
anti-draft activities as well as of Mitchell's own
case . In the summer of 1966 three young soldiers at
Fort Hood, Texas, refused orders for duty in Vietnam .
The three -- James Johnson, Dennis Mora, and David
Samas - - received considerable publicity within the
anti-war movement as the "Fort Hood Three . 11 By the
end of 1966 there had been isolated instances of
other soldiers refusing to go to Vietnam, as well as
a growing number of court cases of men who refused
to submit to induction . All the time, the number of
American troops fighting in Vietnam continued to
swell, despite optimistic reports by administration
and military officials about the progress of the
fighting. By the late fall of 1966 there were
350, 000 American troops already in Vietnam, and
monthly draft calls were running at about 40 , 000 per
month.
In December 1966 the SDS national council,
after nineteen hours of debate on a draft resolution,
passed by 53-10-3 a radical version of it . The
wording of the resolution was important, both because
of the program it called for and the grounds it gave
for opposition to the draft . It attacked the Vietnam
war as being directed against the "Vietnamese people
in their struggle for self-determination, " and it
went on to argue "that conscription in any form is
coercive and anti-democratic, and that it is used by
the United States Government to oppress people in the
United States and around the world . " It announced
SDS' opposition to all attempts to reform the draft,
such as by a lottery, since none of the proposed re­
forms would change the basic nature or purpose of the
draft . It urged formation of anti-draft unions,
composed of people pledged to resist conscription,
with a program aimed at reaching out to the community
as a whole . The resolution also pledged national SDS
to assist all efforts to organize within the armed
forces, but this was outside the main drift of the
document as a whole . *

*Not much has been written about draft resistance


efforts prior to 1967 . "Make Love, Not War: The
( Continued on page 20)
20

Although a few campus anti-draft groups had


gotten started before the SDS program was adopted,
such as a group of 32 who signed a "We Won't Go"
statement at the University of Chicago, it was SDS
which gave the resistance movement its greatest
impetus . Jeff Segal, Dee Jacobson, and others from
the SDS national office worked closely with local
anti-draft groups, which picketed and leafletted at
induction centers, offered draft counseling for local
youths, and had members speaking wherever they could
find an audience on "Why I Won't Go . " At this time
there was great uncertainty as to whether the federal
government would prosecute people who signed "We Won't
Go " statements or who urged others not to cooperate
with the draft . There was an atmosphere of risk and
determination in the anti-draft unions, as well as a
hope that the war might be forced to a halt by the
refusal of a sufficiently large number of men to sub­
mit to induction . ** At the same time, SDS organizers

( Continued from page 19)


Campaign Against the Draft," in Liberation, December
1967, is worth reading, as are several articles in
the National Guardian: Jack A . Smith, " Support Mounts
for GI' s Refusing to Fight in Vietnam, " July 9 ;
William A. Price, " Resist-Draft Cases Soar, " August
20� Jack A . Smith, "War Foes Move Toward Confrontation
on Draft," Nov. 5; and William A . Price, "Negroes
Resist Fighting a 'White Man's War, ,II Nov . 5 . Bernard
Weinraub wrote a warm account of one draft refuser in
"Four Ways to Go: Tommy Rodd Went to Jail," Esquire,
September 1966. Staughton Lynd's article "A Time for
Compassionate Solidarity, " National Guardian, August
6, 1966, was an important plea for the initiation of
a draft resistance movement .
The SDS resolution is printed in New Left Notes,
January 13, 1967. National Secretary Greg Calvert has
an article in the same issue, "From Protest to Re­
sistance," which expresses the romantic way in which
many in SDS saw the new program .
**See "The Wisconsin Draft Resistance Union, " an inter­
view with Jody Chandler, in Connections, March 25, 1968,
and the special issue of New Left Notes on Draft
Resistance? March 27, 196r;-especiallr, the article on
Cornell: 'We Won 't Go: A Case Study . '
21

constantly pointed out the relation of the draft to


the structure of s ociety , and quoted the Selective
Service System as boasting that the draft was a mean s
of thrusting people into deferable j ob s which were
in the "national interest . "*
The first sign that there was a divergence of
viewpoints within the draft resistance movement came
in April in connection with the "Spring Mobilization"
against the war . The Mobilization it self had been
viewed with a great deal of skepticism by SDS -- it
was the largest of all the large Vietnam demonstra­
tions , with more than 200 , 000 marching in New York
and 65 , 000 in San Francisco - - but the national
council meeting in early April had reluctantly en­
dorsed it . The C ornell SDS group, which at that
time was running the most extensive draft - resistance
pr�gram in the country , put out a call for five
hundred men to burn their draft cards at the New
York march . The proposal ran int o a great deal of
opposition from other anti-draft group s , on the
grounds that draft card burning was a symbolic gesture
which was of no practical aid in day-to-day organi ­
zing , and that there was no point in confronting the
law unnecessarily . This criticism expres sed a view ­
point which was t o become general within SDS .
Although it received only a small response t o its
call , the Cornell group decided to go ahead with its
plan s , and sooething like 150 men burned their draft
cards on the Sheep Meadow in Central Park on April
15 . At the time , together with the large turnout s
for the New York and San Francisco protest s , the mass
card burning probably was important in making the
anti-war movement visible once again to the public .
Whereas the draft resistance movement was in
large part nurtured by the national SDS leadership ,
another form of campus resistance t o the war grew up
with s carcely any national coordination at all .
Beginning at Berkeley in December and continuing
through the spring of 1967 , there was a series of
confrontations between students and recruiters for
the armed services , the CIA, and the Dow Chemical
*See Peter Henig's excellent article , "On the
Manpower Channelers , " New Left --
---
Notes , January 20,
1967 .
22

Company, makers of napalm. At Berkeley, students


attempted to set up an anti-draft table next to a
Navy recruiting table in the student union building.
After police were called in and nine arrests made,
over 10,000 students rallied andfurmulated demands for
a strike, which went on for five days. Shortly before,
Harvard SDS members had surrounded the car of Defense
Secretary Robert McNamara and forced him to engage in
a hectic question-and-answer session, during which
McNamara boasted that at their age he had been a lot
tougher. Dow Chemical recruiters were confronted by
students at a number of campuses during the winter and
spring, beginning at Brown University in January.
There were major sit-ins against Dow at the University
of Hisconsin and at several California schools. Although
Todd Gitlin wrote an article in New Left Notes in
March calling for a national SDS program of severing
universities' ties with the military, and although
many of the local confrontations were reported in New
Left �ot��, they got little national publicity and were
far from being part of any SDS strategy. They did,
however, show anti-war sentiment on the campuses was
stronger and more militant than before, and that
issues which linked the universities to the war were
capable cf arousing a wide response.*

*On the Berkeley strike see James Petras, "The


Politics of Bureaucracy," Liberation, Feb. 1967, and
Jeff Lustig, "Berkeley Student- Strike," The Movement,
--­
Jan. 1967. See also Robert M. Greenstei-n,--
"The
McNamara Incident at Harvard," Dissent, March-April
1967; John Fuerst, "Columbia: How It Happened," New
Left Notes, May 1, 1967; Todd Gitlin, "Resistanc-;-and
the Movement," New Left Notes, Mar. 20, 1967.
23

My forgivenes s is as big as any steel


monolith- - Itll kill you with forgivenes s
steel monolith
------- ------

I am Chicagots last Abe Lincoln


Sucking in the city thru my hollow eyes
and forgiving it many times over for
its crimes against Carl Sandburg and
other children of delusion l
At nights I can be seen hanging over bridges
shouting down Subway tunnels ,
looking up the legs of statues
giving cigarettes and nickels to panhandlers,
laughing, weeping with the deaf queens of the
bowery / all the time forgiving
allatime forgiving
forgiving the poor assas sinated spirits
with death in their eyes I
forgiving the monolithic mountains of stone
and steel / they are only monolithic mountains
of stone and steel,
but they still scare shit out of me /
I f orgive them though
like Abe Lincoln might have done
had he lived to see thi s b lundering nightmare
of bargainb asementbignes s
had he lived to puke into the Chicago River

*If you close your eyes at night you can hear


the stars shuddering at all this bigness*

t . 1. kryss
Chicago, 1967
25

themselves to be t ransformed int o the Samboes that


whites imagined or wanted them to be obviously has
great bearing on the black liberation movement t oday.
In a larger sense, however , Rawick's analysi s
of slave resistance, African cultural survivals, and
the abolitionist movement i s so inadequate and s o
unsound that he must be directly challenged . Though
we disagree with him at many point s , we will con­
sider only two -- culture and the Underground Rail­
road .
In the first place, no serious student now
doubts that enough African culture survived to p re­
vent tot al deculturalization, nor that sub st antial
numbers of slaves resisted their enslavement. Elkins
has repeatedly been proven wrong on this point for
the last decade , and Rawick seems only to be flailing
away at an already dying cause.* The important
question is how such resist ance proceeded and how
such culture endured . Though people choose their own
forms of struggle, as C . L . R . James says , the
hist orian ' s t ask is not only to describe these forms ,
but also to interpret whether they could be effective
in the context of the time . Some modes of resistance
and culture are reformist , leading only t o more
oppres sion ; others are revolutionary, helping to
overthrow the system . The distinction between these
modes must alway s be made , and the most effective
and politically cons cious forms of struggle should be
analyzed. To understand the " real hist orical ro ot s
of black power , " the true revolutionary heroes should
be identified , and the ineffectual ones exposed . In
short , what was the potential for revolutionary t rans ­
formation i n those forms o f self-activity which the
slaves themselves chose, and could such activity lead
t o slave revolution?
Concerning slave culture , Rawick himself -­

though he does not realize it - - provides the true


key t o underst andi'ng this problem . When he mentions
that "one can never remove culture , although one can
t ransform it , II Rawick hint s at the framework within
which slaves had t o operate . Slave culture was
certainly African in its origins and traditions, but
once t ransplanted t o the South it became something
26

uniquely American and at the same time uniquely black


-- an Afro-American product . Slave culture was not
wholly imposed by whitesJ nor was it purely African .
In order to survive it had to adapt to the conditions
imposed upon it by the dominant white culture. LeRoi
Jones' Blues People provides a good analysis of this
process.
Moreover, the Br'er Rabbit stories mentioned
by Rawick are excellent examples of this process of
transformation. These stories , which originated in
Africa, always concern a weak but clever creature who
survives by outwitting his powerful animal neighbors
-- a perfect analogy to life under slavery. Con­
spicuously absent from these tales , however , are
those African stories in which strength and courage
are the virtues of the warriors , or the pythons,
crocodiles , and lions, which exist in the African
context . The cultural forms tending to survive in
the United States did not convey an image of power or
merit , which might have allowed slaves to overcome
their oppression. Rather, the stories that did sur­
vive conveyed the image of the slaves only as they
could exist under bondage. Indeed , such culture
seems defensive and adaptive when compared to the
feeling of superiority found in those Haitians who
swore, according to one song, "to destroy the whites
and all that they possess ; let us die rather than
fail to keep this vow . "
Concerning slave resistance , Rawick' s explana­
tion of why large-scale rebellions failed is much
too simple . That "slaves in North America were in
every respect far outnumbered by whites , who in any
area could successfully hold off an attack until
help came from elsewhere, " to quote Rawick' s
ambiguous formulation, does not do justice to the
objective reality. Slaves comprised fully one-third
of the southern population , and in the plantation
Black Belt they formed an overwhelming majority . In
the South Carolina low-country -- to give but one
example of conditions which obtained elsewhere -­
slaves constituted the vast majority of most
districts. Even in urban Charleston , blacks greatly
outnumbered whites through the first half of the
27

ninete enth century . That an oppre ssed group has


rarely had such an excellent potent ial base for
revolut ionary act ivity was surely indicated by Denmark
Vesey's conspiracy in 1822, by John Brown's plan s for
guerrilla warfare in 1859, and by those slave s who
actually sei zed the ir sea- i sland plantat ions during
the C ivil War . Unlike Raw i ck' s , an adequate acc ount
of why large -s cale rebellions failed would have t o
include such re alitie s a s the brutal and subtle
mechanisms of white control as well as the problem of
unifying the "black community . "**
Relat ed t o thi s , Rdwick ' s view of the
abolit ionist movement and the black's role in it is
w oefully lacking in analysi s . There were in fact
several di st inct ant i- slavery effort s , each of which
was supported by blacks . One of the se in which many
free b lacks engaged as William Lloyd Garrison ' s
moral-rel igious crusade for "immediate emanc ipation . "
Keeping the slavery i s sue before the nat ion's
"consc ience" was the chief program of the se agit a­
tors , who s ignificantly were led by whites . Except
for thi s program, the Garri s onians had little under­
standing of power, and the ir philosophical and
t act ical pac ifi sm sugge st s the ir complete misunde r­
standing of how slavery would have to be aboli shed.
Strongly supported by northern Negroe s was the
Underground Railroad t ravel which Rawick so greatly
admire s . However, while the Underground Railroad
did provide escape routes for thousands of slaves ,
it cannot ob j e ct ively be cons idered as revolut ionary
act iv ity . Though it hurt the South by draining off
valuab le slave c apital , the railroad in effect opera­
ted as a safety-valve for s lavery by re leas ing
pot ent ial rebel leade rs -- the art isans, industrial
slave s , and those with init iative who comprised the
bulk of the fugit ives . Unle s s these fugit ive s them­
selve s organi zed revolut ionary activity among the ir
black b rothers st ill in bondage , or among northern
or Canadi an black commun it ie s , the thrust of the
Underground Rai lroad was blunted . The day-t o-day
res i stance , which Rawick me nt ions and which did
permeate bondage , could never be come a liberat ion
movement without organi zat i on . But how many
28

Harriet Tubmans returned South time and again? And


why did only a handful of free blacks j oin John
Brown's band? The Underground Railroad experience
merely prove s that expatriates who do not return
home do not make revolution s . In thi s sense,
Rawick's assertion that b uilding e s cape-routes was
the most important black self-activity is a b it anti­
climatic .
Finally, it is mysterious that Raw ick fails to
ment i on another abolitionist tendency that was
supported by blacks whose consciousne s s was perhaps
most advanced of all . Thi s group was typified by
David Walker, a southern black who in 1829 appealed
to the "coloured citi zens of the world " to overthrow
slavery ; by Henry Highland Garnet, another black who
in 1843 reiterated the martyred Walker's revolut ionary
" appeal ; and by the black-and-white followers of
j ,

John Brown who first helped stop the spread of


slavery int o Kansas and then attempted to attack and
t o organize against bondage w ithin the South . Indeed,
if today ' s black liberation must have histori cal
"heroe s , ' it i s difficult t o avoid the conclus i on
that the se revoluti onaries -- along with the slave
rebels Prosser, Turner, and especially Vesey, as well
as the ir almost-forgotten slave co-conspirators --
are the most likely candidate s .

FOCTNCTES :
* For recent criticism of Elkins ' hypothe s i s, see
Eugene Genove se, et al . , "The Legacy of Slavery and
the Roots of Black Nat ionali sm, l' Studie s on the Left,
November-December, 1966 ; Genove se also sugge st s ---­

that Elkins merely demonstrated the "limiting case, "


not the general one, of servile character in another
art icle in Civil War History, December, 1967; in the
same i s sue, George Frederickson and Chri stopher
Las ch attempt t o define "political" slave re si stance .
**On the que stion of disciplining slave s, see, for
example, Robert Starob in ' s article in the Journal
of Negro Hi story, April, 1968 . For disunity w ithin
the slave community see his forthcoming piece on
the accommodationist role of slave drivers, and Dale
Tomi ch's hi story honor's essay on house servants,
Univers ity of Wis consin, Madison, 1968 .
29

HOMA GE TO T-BONE SLIM


Think of the snow that could once have fallen on your grave
even before you died
Think of the highways laughing in and out of the empty eyes
asleep in New York
the bottles of words which you hurled through the. s i lent glass
of solitude
the water too deep to touch
the calendar too far away to mean anything
the door that kept swinging open
the dog that kept howling
the roads that kept leading nowhere
the world had no beginni ng for you
but it ended all the time
If I were you I'd have laughed at them
set their horses free
made them walk
the white clown dead in the moon lit street
a horse trampl ing a glass accordion
m idnight i s something more than a razor s l i e ing an owl in two
something more than a blind man eating an orange
You knew thi s you tried to tell us
The helple s s arson of your eyes
sets fire to the past
every word you wrote make s mi rrors usele s s
g
You lived o n what you grew i n your blacif arden of. tomorrows
The sleepwalker dies in the middle of the street
The streetcar covers its lips w ith blood
and says hello
A pass ing girl
her eyes closed
throws away a glove
without a word she speaks of tigers
of darkne s s
o f a folding fan and a strawberry made o f stone
and she too dies
In the violet rain that falls on the beckoning hands of shadows
In l ithograp hs of flame and canaries
In the medieval wind that settle s in cracked mirrors
In the scarlet leaf of gold that nails laughter to a wooden fence
You redefined the parts of speech
in terms of cutlery and heat
To be free
You fled everything you could have been
preferr ing to be free
In jail the crocodiles slept in unopened envelopes
You wandered across the verbal sand
30
tying red ribbons to oblivion
Balancing rocks in the black velvet wind
every word every promise shipwrecked on the shores of a dream
too far away to reach without going mad
You Imew this too it i s the risk one takes
the closed gate the stupid smile the blue hair
There are :to wings on the enameled laughter
of dead trees
But in the quiet blood of deserted streets
blind falcolls close their speechless eyes
wave the ir immovable hands
surrender like paper pigeons die like iron fleas
The rebel wheat of stone burns like a violin

in the white and voiceless sea


It is the night rocking to sleep its terrors
with songs themselves too terrible to sing alone
You rewrote the script of darkness to throw at the d ismal light of day
The red wreath of your laughter
the black flowers of your scorn

Chicago.
(all. 196.5
FRANKLIN ROSEMONT

VISUALIZED PRAlER TO THE AMERICAH GOI) #2


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,
T he Southern Tenants ' Formers ' Union and the ( 1 0

Ma rk O. Na i son

The hist ory of the Southern Tenant s Farmers


Union , an inte rracial organ ization of sharecropper
and tenant farme rs which rose to nat ional prominence
in the Depre s sion , illuminates with striking clarity
both the potent ialit ies and the limitations of the
radi c al organiz ing drive s in the ' 30 ' s . Brought to­
gether in 193 4 by SOc ialist party workers in the
Mi s s i s s ippi Delt a, this un ion demonstrated the unique
opportunit ies for radical organizat ion which the
depre s s ion had opened in the rural south , a sect i on
whe re class conflict had long been suppre s sed by
rac i al divi sions . Beginning as a crit ic of New Deal
agri c ult ural programs , th e un ion grew into a mass
movement which aimed at t he reconstruct ion of s outhern
agri culture along soc ialist line s and the eliminat ion
of the polit ical and educ at i onal disab ilit ies which
made �)oor 'Ihite and black pas s i ve ob servers of the ir
own explo itat ion .
To many Ameri can radi cal s , the STFU symb olized
the revival of the old populist dream of a black­
white alliance which w ould c onvert the southern
working clas s int o a powerful force for radical change .
But as the STFU reached out for aid from other radical
groups to magn ify it s power, the dream turned int o a
nightmare . An alliance w ith the labor movement , whi ch
the union leaders hoped w ould provide a new energy
and a new independence , imposed a bureaucrati c b urden
upon the union ' s affairs which drained it of it s
revolut ionary spirit . The most powe rful mas s organi­
z at i ons on a nat i onal sphe re , the Communi st Party and
the C ongress of Indust rial Organi zat ions , posse ssed a
world view which made them unable t o appreciate the
union ' s contribution . Ont o a movement which had
developed a soc ialist cons ciousne s s with enormous
popular appeal , they imposed an organ izat ional
37

strategy whi ch valued sound busine s s pract ices ab ove


polit ical appeal and financ ial stabi lity above re­
volut ionary militance . In the two years it fell
under the ir influence , the STFU saw it s ranks depleted
by fact ional confli ct , personality struggle s , and
racial strife .

GROWTH OF A MOVEMENT

To the eight million share cropper and tenant


farmers on southern cotton plantations , the depres­
sion signalled both unparalleled suffering and a f irst
hope of liberat i on . The drasti c decline in c otton
price s whi ch the cri sis init iated drove the croppers '
already depre ssed income s far below sUb s i stence .
Starvat ion , evict ions , and fore closure s were a common
fate . But the same event s dealt a heavy blow to the
repre s s ive , paternalistic system of labor control
whi ch had dominated the plant at ion system s ince the
end of re constructi on . As bankrupt cy overt ook the
planters , as farms reverted to the banks , the co­
he sivene ss of the rural social order began to break .
The merchant owners and the ir satellites, preoc cupied
with their own f inancial troub le s , had little t ime to
supervi se the black and whit e tenant s within the ir
purview . Thousands of lab orers roamed the highways
of the south, seeking shelter, seeking work . For the
first t ime since the 1890 ' s , food riot s became a
common part of the southern scene .
The New Deal , strongly dependent upon southern
support for it s elect ion, stepped in dramat ically t o
re st ore order to the demorali zed regional economy . By
giving plante r parity che cks t o remove acreage from
product ion , it prec ipit at ed a rapid jump in cotton
prices which restored the shaken confidence of the
landowning clas s . But the cris i s of the tenant was
only intens if ied . The acreage reducti on provi s ions
offered a powerful incent ive to rid the plantat i on of
it s exce ss labor supply . In the first two years of
the Agricultural Adjustment Act , thousands of t enant s
were evicted from the ir home s , reduced in status to
casual laborers , or forced to survive on intermittent
and grudgingly admini stered relief grant s . One
crit i c doubted if the C ivil War had actually produced
more suffering and pauperizat i on in proport ion t o the
populat ion than the AAA had done in the few short
years of it s life . l Such was the meaning of New Deal
liberali sm t o the southern sharecropper .
In the midst of this chaot i c re organizat ion of
the plantat ion economy, a movement arose t o challenge
both the old system of subordinat ion and the rat ion­
ali z ing scheme s of the New Deal reformers . In the
cotton belt of Arkansas , two young socialists named
H . L . Mitchell and Clay East, acting upon the advice
of Sociali st Party leader Norman Thomas, dec ided to
organize a union of sharecropper and tenant farmers
who had been evicted or reduced in status during the
opening year of the Agricultural Adj ustment Act .
The i r polit ical work among the sharecroppers had con­
vinced them that the di scontent cut wide and deep,
and that black and white tenants might be willing to
cooperate in the cri s i s . Soc ialist Party leaders,
anx i ous to develop a mas s base for the ir crit i que of
the New Deal, promi sed unlimited aid and support . In
the spring of 1934 , Mit chell and East organized
meet ings throughout eastern Arkansas urging share ­
croppers to unite and organize . Within a few months,
they had developed a s olid follow ing of two t o three
thousand members and had launched a propaganda attack
on the New Deal ' s cotton program that made government
officials very uncomfortab le .
The early act ivitie s of the uni on, following
Soc ialist Party tradit ion s , emphas i zed legal and
educat i onal work above mas s act i on . On the advice of
the ir Socialist patrons, the union leaders directed
almost all of their organizat ion ' s energy int o a
nat ionwide campaign to expose the brutality of the
plant at ion system and the inequit i e s of the New
Deal ' s agricultural poli c ie s . Suit s were launched in
stat e and federal court s to test the legality of the
cotton contract , speaking t ours arranged to mob ilize
liberal and radical groups behind the union ' s effort ,
books and pamphlet s written t o dramat ize the hard­
ships of the sharecropper ' s life . Soc ialist in
the ory, the campaign tended to as sume a t one that
was paternalist i c and reformi st in character . It s
exposure of injust ice, divorced from organizat i on,
--

39

became an appeal to consc ience . The end re sult of


Norman Thomas' speeche s , eloquent though they were ,
was the development of a " Sharecropper ' s Lobby" to
prosecute the union ' s cause in Washington .
Thi s inc ipient paternali sm, however, was
rapidly destroyed by the enthus iast i c , almost
violent re sponse to the union� organiz ing campaigns .

The earlie st union meet ings were organized quietly ,


often secretly, by the STFU ' s founde r, who feared
that a militant posture would bring down the re ­
pre ss ion of the planters and would divide the
croppers by race . Legal, nonviolent methods were
st re s sed . C roppers were advised to organize around
exi st ing federal programs , and t o publ icize the ir
grievance thr ough peaceful demonstrat i ons . But at
meeting after meeting, union leaders were surpri sed
and st irred by the sight of long-humble croppers
demanding the seizure of the plant at i ons and the
b an ishment of the owners who had so long oppres sed
them . Mit chell and East , southerners themselve s
40

and the childre n of f arme r s , S 8"W the p ot e nt ial f or a


revolut i onary mas s movement t h at c ould sweep through
the s o ut h . In the s ummer and fall of 1934 , they
brought the i r organ i z ing int o the open and b e gan t o
prepare the cr oppe rs f o r m i l i t ant local act ion .
In t h i s new organ i z ing drive , a uni que s p irit
b e g an t o emerge , one which had not b e e n seen in the
South s i nce the days of the Popul i s t s . At mas s
me et i ngs c alled thr oughout eastern Arkansas , white
and b lack organi z e r s , s h ar ing the same plat f o rm s ,
to ld audi e n c e s of thous ands of t e n ant s t o put a s i de
ra c i a l animo s i t i e s and un ite against the plant at io n
owners . Fundament al i st m i n i s t e r s and pre ache r s , the
" n at ural " le ade rs of the t e nant populat i o n, b e c ame the
mo st dedi c ated un ion organi z e r s . When plant e r s moved
to arre st b l ack organ i z e rs , mob s of white share ­
c roppe r s s ome t ime s arrived to l ib e r at e them from j a il .
By the beginning of 193 5 , the un i on had a membe rship
of more than 10 , 000 in 80 l o c al un it s .
F aced w ith a range of problems stagge r i ng in
vari ety , thre at ene d w it h repr i sals at every p o i nt ,
the un io n emerged as a " t ot al i n s t itut i o n " that ab ­
s o rb ed the e nt i re li fe p r o c e s s of it s memb e r sh i p and
c Ollimanded a loyalty that w a s pas s i onate and unre ­
strained . To make an imp act on the degradat i on of
t he shar e c ropp e r ' s life , the un ion had to organ i z e
aga inst s choolboards , re l i ef age n c i e s , court s , he alth
programs , and p ol i c e force s as well as the plant e r .
With all of the se agenc ie s in the c ont ro l of the s ame
cl a s s and admi n i stered w it h the s ingle ob j e ct ive of
ke e p i ng the sharec ropp e r d o c i l e and ignorant , t he
struggle f o r pub l i c se rvi c e s s e e me d as f undame nt al a s
t h e b at t le f o r c ont rol o f t h e p l ant at i on system .

STRIKE !

During the summer of 1935 , the un i on leade r s


felt confident enough t o launch t h e i r f i r st mas s
camp a i gn , a c otton p i c ke r ' s stri ke in t he f i e ld s of
Ea st e rn Arkan s a s . Spre ading the w ord by handb i lls ,
by art i c les in the un i on news pape rs , and by that
system of unde rgr ound c ommun i c at i on t h at poor pe ople
everywhere seem to deve lop , the un i on led t e n s of
--

41

thou s ands o f share c r opp e r s out o f t h e i r f i e lds i n an


at tempt to r a i s e w age s from 50¢ to $1 . 2 5 per hundred
pounds of c otton and to w i n written cont r a ct s . As a
demon strat i on of w orker s o l idarity and a st i mulus t o
organ i z at ions , the st rike w a s remarkably effect ive
-- share croppers i n a vast are a of the Delta stayed
aw ay from w ork - - but negot i at i on s w it h the plant e r s
d i d n o t e n sue . F o r m o s t of t h e c roppe r s , s t ay i ng
out on st rike meant h iding in the swamp or b arr i c ading
themse lve s i n house s , and the only b arg ain ing t h at
t o ok place w a s non - ve rb al and i ndire ct . Aft e r a
month - long war of nerve s , marked by c on s ide r ab l e
blood shed , m o s t o f the share c r oppe r s returned t o work
at c on s iderab ly h igher wag e s , b ut w ith out w r itt e n
cont ract s .
Although hardly a paragon of planned and di s ­
c i p l i ned act i on , this str ike provided the union w ith
an e normous inj e ct i on of e nergy on s everal diff e rent
front s . F i r st , it gave a powe rful s t imulus to the
un i o n ' s organ i z ing drive . The st rike b rought the
un ion i nt o dire ct c o nt a ct w ith tens of thous ands of
unorgan i z ed sharec r oppe r s , many of whom j oi ned the
un i o n when the st rike w as ove r . In addit i o n , the
e c onomi c suc c e s s of the union ' s c amp aign , unpre c e de nt e d
in r e c ent s out hern h i st ory , b r ought ab out t he o r g a n ­
i z at i on o f un i on locals i n s e ct i on s o f the c ount ry
that the str ike did not even t ouch . Share cropp e r s
spontaneously organ i z ed c h apt e r s i n Oklahoma ,
Mi s s our i , Tenne s s e e and Mi s s i s s ippi . By the end of
193 5 the un i on c l aimed a membe r ship of 25 , 000 . On a
polit i c al leve l , the strike had an e qually import ant
impact . The dramat i c quality of the s h ar e c ropp e r ' s
prot e st and the b rut ality of the te rror which greeted
it f o cused a harsh b e am o f l i ght on the New Deal ' s
ag r i cultural program s . Report e r s eage rly c at alogued
the shoot ing s , the burnings and the whipp ings w h i c h
followed the c ourse of t h e un ion ' s c amp aign , pro ­
voking a c athart i c di splay of concern by l ib e ra l s
for t h e "plight of t h e sharec roppe r . " T h e pre s sure s
b e c ame intense e n ough t o extract at least a syrrili o l i c
re sponse from the New Deal : w h e n t h e str ike had
ende d , R o o s e ve lt announ c e d that he was i n it iat in g a
c omprehe n s ive review of the problem of te nancy and
app o inted a fede ral c ommi s s i on t o st udy it .
42

During the next year , the union c ont inued to


grow in s i z e , in militan c y , and i n polit i c al impact .
Ten thousand new me mb e r s w e re adde d , another c ot t on
p i cke r s ' str ike organ i z e d , a more sophi st i c ated
p ol it i c al pr ogram develope d . As the un ion grew in
size, it c larif ied it s p o s it i on as a "movement o f
eman c ipat i on . " Union l i t e rature r a i led aga inst the
poll t ax , the dis cri minat ory admi n i st rat ion of
fede ral programs , the denial of unemployment re l ief ;
suit s , pet it i on s str ike s and b oy c ott s were employed
t o make the t e nant s ' pow e r fe lt . But as the New
Deal re sponded w ith reforms t o t h i s at t a c k on t he
s outhern s o c i al syst e m , the un i on le ade r s began t o
p e r c e ive s ome o f the l imit at ions o f the i r organ i z a­
t i on ' s power . R oo s e velt ' s t e nancy program w a s a
be aut iful example of symb o l i c ally grat ifying p a l l i a ­
b i ·Je s . Incre a s i ng the t e nar.t s ' share of parity p ay ­
:::e r:>.t s from 15% to 25% and p roviding that the i r
d i st r ib ut i on b e d i rect w a s a n ope n re c ognit ion of
t h e un ion ' s at t a cks on the AM b ut had little
mean i ng so long as plant e r s c ontrolled the admi n i ­
strat ion of the program on a fede r a l , s t at e and
c ounty level . The appropr i at ion of f ifty mill i on
dollars per year t o place impove r i shed t e nant s on
sub s i stence f arms w a s a n i c e g e s t ure t o the c ro pper ' s
que s t for self - determinat i on b ut was only a quixot i c
dive r s ion i n a se ct or o f the e c on omy where large ­
s c ale un i t s alone c ould be prof i t able . The plant a ­
t i on e c onomy \l a s me chan i z ing and reducing it s need
for l ab or ; small s c ale g a i n s i n i n c ome and p ow e r
w on b y programs of t h i s k i nd would be w iped away like
dust by the b road sweep of t e chnolog i c al change .
R o o s e ve lt ' s "War on Rural P ove rt y " re aff irmed the
un i o n ' s need t o make funct i on al c ont rol of the
plant at ion system and it s p olit i c al s upport s an
imme d i at e goal of the un i on ' s c ampaign - - not j ust
as a ph i l o s oph i c or re l i g i ous ideal , b ut a s a pre ­
c ondit ion of any f in al and pe rmanent improvement in
the share c r oppe r ' s st at u s .
Howeve r , the STFU l e aders c le arly ob s e rved
t h at the c ont i nuat i on of the uni on ' s growth along
current line s would n ot achieve t h at goal . No
mat t e r how large the un i on grew , n o mat t e r how
--

organ i zed its const itue n c y b e c ame , it w ould cont inue


to be an int e re st group worthy only of temp orary
conce s s ion so long as it s pow e r remained regi onal .
For the suc c e s s of it s p r ogram, the un i on needed t o
b e c ome part o f a nat i onal radi cal movement capable
of def e at i ng the New Deal c oal it ion and smashing the
power of the plante r in the nat i onal arena . The
Soc i al i st Party and the r e l i g i ous groups who had
supported the un ion up to now c ould not supply such
a force . For an all i ance to transform Amer i c an
p o l it i c s , the STFU began t o turn to a newly v it al i z ed
w ing of the lab or movement - - the C I O .

THUNDER ON THE LEFT

For most Depre s s i o n - e r a radi cal s , the growth


of the C I O was an inspirat i onal event that evoked
gre at dreams of polit i c al succe s s . Born of a p ower
st ruggle in a c ollaborat i o n i st lab or movement , led
by a Repub l i can and a d i s c iple of Samuel Gomper s ,
the movement b e c ame , i n t w o short ye ar s , the se lf ­
c on s c i ous advocat e of the unorgan i z ed and unemp l oyed
worker and a somet ime s b it t e r c r it i c of the pol i c ie s
o f the New Deal . F i ght ing lockout s , P i nkert on ' s
agent s and federal troops , the CIO organ i z e d four
mi l l i on workers into industr ial uni ons and seemed t o
radi c a l i z e everyone conne cted w ith it . By 1937 J ohn
L. Lew i s , a man who had b egun h i s effort w ith the
hope of "w inn ing the Amer i can w orke r f rom the i sms
and phi l o s oph i e s of for e i gn lands , " 2 had begun t o
e sp ouse a program whi ch s e e med ant i cap it al i st .
P r oc laiming that " it ,.,las the respon s ib i l ity of the
st at e to provide every ab le b odied worke r w ith
employment i f the c orporat i o n s which c ontrol
Amer i can indust ry fail t o provide it " Lew i s called
f o r the organ i z at i on of 2 5 million worke rs in n at i on ­
w i de indust rial uni o n and the f ormat ion o f a farme r ­
labor all iance t o radi c al i z e t h e Democrat s or
develop a third polit i c al party . Thi s program,
l imited though it was , seemed to offer a hope of
un it ing the Ame ri can w o rking c las s i nt o a cons c i ous
polit i c al f orce .
The STFU, w ith more opt imism than the fact s
44

would j ust ify, s aw it self playing an import ant role


in the " C Ia Crus ade . " If Lew is seriously inte nded to
creat e a third party whi ch could b reak through the
New Deal stalemate on que st ions of unemployment and
j ob se curity, the un i on leaders reasone d , the
alleg iance of s outhe rn w orke r s t o the i r c on s e rvative
pol it i c al leadership would have to be b roken by in­
tens ive organi z at i on . The STFU be gan to see it self
as an " advance guard for the labor movement in the
s o uth " supported by it s more affluent and powerful
brethren in return for the polit i c al appeal it would
t r i ng to the i r organiz ing drive s . It was w ith such
hop e s in mind that the un ion leade r s b egan to pre s s
Lew i s for direct aff i l i at i on w ith the C I a , a relat ion­
ship which they exp e cted would provide much needed
funds t o expand and solidify the union organ i z at i on .
How e ve r , although the p olit i c al rhetor i c of
the CIa seemed to s ugge st an important place for the
un i o n , it s organ i z at i onal de c i s i on s ref lected a dif ­
ferent dynami c . The e v i dent failure of cap ital i sm t o
rat i on a l i z e it s e lf b a d impre s sed Lew i s ( who , if an
opportun i st , was an int e ll igent one ) but hi s natural
strat e g i c re spon se was t o un i on i z e eve ryb ody in
cent ral i z e d industrial unit s rathe r than to transf orm
c apit al i sm polit i c ally from above . When the STFU
leaders lliet Lew i s , they w ere surpri sed at the k ind of
que st ions he aske d : What kind of due s could the un ion
pay? How long would it t ake before it could b e c ome
self - support ing? The p o l it i cal appeal of the un ion
and the quality of it s pr ogram se emed le s s import ant
t o Lew i s than it s p ot ent i al f inanc i al st ab i l ity .
While prai s ing the union ' S work , he carefully avoided
committ ing the CIa to s upport it .
Lew i s ' evas i on ref lected a qual ity of the CIa
movement wh ich t h e un ion leade rs , i n the i r enthus iasm,
had tot ally failed to see : it s dependence upon c o l ­
lect ive barga ining a s b ot h a n e c onomic and polit i c al
t e ch n i que . The CIa built it s organ i z ing d r ive around
the re c ogn it ion of vast indust r i al uni ons as the sole
b argain ing agent s of worke rs in Ame r i can industri e s ;
the great maj ority of it s st r ike s were f ought around
i s sue s of un ion r e c ogn it i on rather than w age s or
working condit i on s . The s e highly cent ral i z e d un it s
46

b e c ause of the influence of the C ommun i st Part y , the


most powerful and d i s c ipli ned radi cal group ing in the
movement . During the P opular Front period, and in
it s work in the C I O , the C . P . funct i oned w ith a split
p e r s onality , e ach s ide of which was exce s s ively
st ilted and false . I n the i r pub l i c role s , C ommun i st s
t ook the p o s it i on of brutal pragmat i st s , comfort able
w ith the most narrow and p r o - cap ital i st def init ion of
organ i z ing if it suc ceeded in building un i on s . In
the i r private role s , on the other hand, party members
st ruggled to att ain the maximum orthodoxy in what
they c once ived to be Marxi st theory, an ente rpr i se
which , if nothing e l se , c ould maint ain the not i on
tb at it s part i c ipant s were revolut i onarie s . Th i s
dual ity , exceedingly sharp i n many C I O commun i st s ,
w orke d against the development of a popular s o c i al i st
ideology in the great industrial uni on s . In the case
of the southern te nant farmer s ' uni o n , for whom the
strug 3 1e for s o c ial i sm viaS a matter of survival , it
w orked t Ollard the de st ruc t i o n of a movement .

A D ISASTROUS AFFILIATION

In March of 1937 , when the C I O f inally entered


the f i e ld of agri cultural organ i z at i on , i t was the CP
rathe r than the STFU whi ch t ook the i n it i at ive , and
it did so in a manner which would be ac cept able t o
the most c on s e rvat ive bus ine s s un i o n i st . Rather than
the C I O granting direct affi l i at i on to the STFU or
forming a nat i onal farm w orke r s ' federat i on , CP
st rat e g i s t s proposed an internat i onal uni on t o or­
gani z e f arm worke rs and c annery w orke r s s imult aneously,
arguing that the presence of the latte r would g ive the
organ i z at i on a b e t t e r chance of b e c oming self - sup­
port i ng . Lew i s approved the plan and appoint e d
Donald Hender son , a prominent commun ist the oret i c ian
and the head of the Nat ional Rural Worke r s ' Committee ,
as the internat i onal ' s f i r st pre s i dent . The STFU,
invited t o part i c ipat e in the new organ i z at i on
( called the United C annery , Agri cultural Proc e s s ing
and All ied Worke rs of Ame r i c a , UCAPAWA f or short ) ,
were told that thi s was the only way that they could
be as sured of a c onn e ct i on with the C IO .
47

T o the STFU leade r s , frust r at e d by t h e ( t o them )


inexp i c able reluctance of the C I O t o support the ir
org an i z at i on and it s program , the f o rmat i on of the
UCAPAWA w a s a nightmare whose reality they c ould
ne ve r quit e a c cept . Donald Hende r s o n , who s e think ing
the st ructure of the Int e rn at i onal refle ct e d , was a
b itter and open c r it i c of methods and style by wh i ch
the STFU ope r at e d , who had openly dec lared h i s de s ire
to see the un ion broken up . In Hende r s on ' s view ­
p o i nt , the STFU ' s gre at e s t achievement - - it s de ve lop ­
ment of an independent s o c i al i st c o n s c iousne s s
b as e d on agrarian and re l i g i ous symb oli sm- -'l a s a
dangerous polit i c al dev i at i on . Like many c ommuni s t s
o f h i s t ime , Hende r s on b e l ieved that a t rue re ­
v olut i o nary c on s c i ou s ne s s could only stem from an
indust r i al prolet ar i at , and that movement s w h i c h
drew the ir b as e from group s othe r than a st r i ct
w orking c l a s s had t o b e s ub j e ct e d t o r i g i d ide o l ogi ­
cal and organi z at i onal control . Hi s 1935 art i c le in
C ommun i st , the "Rural Mas s e s and the Work of Our
Party" had w arned of the need t o t i e agr ar i an m ove ­
me nt s t o a prolet ar i an b a s e in orde r to prevent
"pol i t i cal vac i llat i ons and organ i z at i onal c o ll ap s e , "
and the structure of the I nt e rnat i onal se emed de ­
s igned t o meet pre c i se ly t h at ob j e ct ive . 3 The STFU
le ad e r s knew t h at if they l i nked up w ith the
Int e rnat i onal , the i r organ i z at i on w ould b e unde r
c on st ant pre s sure t o adjust it s program and t ac t i c s
to C . P. dire ct ive s . But i n spite o f the s e doubt s ,
the STFU prepared t o aff i l i at e . It re ally had no
choi ce . By j o in ing the Internat i onal, and w orking
t o p e r s uade the CIO of the import an ce of the un i on ' s
w ork , the STFU c ould at le a s t keep alive the po s s i ­
b i l ity of a p o l it i cal reorient at i on wh i c h c ould g ive
me aning t o it s l o c al st ruggle s .

DECLINE AND F ALL

The relat ionship w i th the Internat i onal , chosen


in the int e r e s t of long - t erm st rat egy, proved to be
even more repre s s ive than the STFU le ade r s imag ined .
48

UNION ORGANIZER

The central ized framework of the UCAPAWA, modeled on


that of CIa unions in the bas i c indust ries, left the
STFU leadership w ith very l ittle c ontrol of organ i z ing
pol i c ies . From the mome nt the union aff il iated
( September , 193 7 ) its organi zat i on was subj e cted to a
disc ipl ine whi ch provoked tensions and confli cts it
had struggled might ily to repress .
The first serious tensions emerged over the
quest i on of dues and a c c ount ing procedures--an
ideolog ically neutral quest ion one would think . The
Internat ional sent every local of the STFU a charter,
an ac count ing book and a list of requireme nt s for
part i c ipat ion in the Internat ional. Members were to
pay dues of 25¢ per month plus a 5¢ per capita t ax
to C Ia headquarters . Local se cret aries were to f ill
out balance sheets in quadrupl i c ate, keep one, send
one to district headquarters, ( STFU off i ce in
Memph i s ) one to Internat ional headquarters ( in
Cal ifornia) and one to CIa headquart ers ( in
Washington ) . These procedures were the bas i c organ i ­
zat i on cement of t he CIa movement , and Henderson
appl ied them w ithout expe ct ing a protest . But the
union ' s organi zers rebelled as a unit against tt.ose
requireme nts . The southern sharecropper, deprived
of education, burdened by debt, was in no position
to pay the dues or do the paperwork whi ch the CIa
--

49

demanded of an industrial �orker . After see ing the


charter mate rial s , Mit chell wrote Henderson he �as
convinced that the STFU did not have ten loc al
se cretarie s who could handle them . One organize r ' s
sugge st ion was that they be kept for the next 50 years ,
during which t ime the croppers might be sufficiently
educated to handle them . 4
Henderson ' s re sponse to the union ' s complaint
was that both the dues and the account ing proce ­
dure s had to be rigorously applied . 5 When the uni on
le aders went t o Le�i s to prote st this de c i s ion, they
were told that compliance was a pre condit ion of the ir
part i c ipation in the CIa . Helple s s , the union
le ade rs instructed the ir organizers to re structure
the local unit s in line with internat ional dire c ­
tives . At the same t ime , they revived their cam­
paign to win a separate affil iat ion from the CIa.
The attempt to apply the inte rnat ional ' s
guideline s , as the union leaders feared, began to
undermine the bas i s of solidarity which the movement
had developed . On a local level the STFU held and
expanded it s membe rship by two bas i c techniques :
organized act ion to increase the share cropper ' s
st andard of living and prote ct ion in t ime s of crisis ;
and the cult ivation, through ritual s , mas s gatherings
and demonstrations , of an almost re ligious belief in
the j ust ice of the union ' s cause and the ult imate
succe s s of it s program . To force the union members
to pay high due s �ould hinder it s effort s in the
first dimens ion, for it �ould s iphon off a major
port ion of the economic gains that the union was
ab le to win, but to bureaucrat ize the union ' s
structure �ould be more deadly yet , for it would
dra� ene rgy a�ay from the emot ional bonds �hich held
the union members together and which were , in the
long run, the bas i s of the union ' s strength .
By the summer of 1938, nine months after the
aff iliat ion had occurred, the STFU was in serious
diff i culty . A recession of cons ide rab le magnitude
had c omplicated the due s ' collecting drive by drama­
t i cally reduc ing the effect ivene s s of the un ion ' s
economi c program . For the first t ime in it s five ­
year history , the STFU �as experienced as a burden
by the share cropper �hich dre� upon , rather than
50

added to , his tiny cash income . In addition the


remoteness of the union's leadership from activities
in the field , imposed by long and fruitless negotia­
tions with the CIO and the international , brought
suspicions of misconduct to a dangerous level .
Almost half the union locals went inactive, waiting
for the old personalized style of leadership to
revive , and serious racial tensions began to develop .
In one section of Arkansas, E . B . McKinney , a Garveyite
minister who was one of the union's organizers , had
become so incensed by the declining effectiveness of
the union' s program and the increasing distance of
the union's ( mostly white ) executive board that he
began to advocate the formation of an all-black union ,
McKinney's proposal did little more than get members
demoralized , but it warned union leaders that their
movement would be destroyed unless they restored the
program and the spirit which had been its original
basis. It was clear to them the STFU was in no posi­
tion to rationalize itself along industrial union
lines . In August of 1938, the union halted its
campaign to collect dues and membership reports for
the UCAPAWA office.
Henderson, a former Columbia instructor who
had never organized in the South , was infuriated by
this action . He found it inexplicable that a mass
movement could be mobilized around ideology , and he
interpreted the union's difficulties as a sign of
incompetent leadership . After going to the CIO
directors for confirmation , he informed the union
leader that a separate affiliation for the STFU was
unthinkable, and that its relationship with the CIO
was contingent upon its conformity to the rules of
the International . At the same time, he mobilized
the C . P . apparatus for a takeover of the union from
within.
During the succeeding three months, violent
factional conflicts entered the STFU's ranks,
paralyzing the union's effort to revive its local
program . A popular union organizer, the Rev . Claude
Williams , allowed a paper describing alleged CP plans
to take over the union to fall into the hands of J .
R . Butler, the STFU's president . When Williams was
51

suspe nded from the organ i z at i on by the STFU exe c u­


t ive b oard, he appealed to loc al chapt er
the i r support t o Hende r s on , furthe r confus ing t h e
demor ali zed memb e r ship . Then in De cemb e r the
Internat i onal provoked addit i onal tens ions by cutt ing
uni on repre sent at ion on the UCAPAWA Exe cut ive B o ard
to half of it s previous leve l , a " puni shment " f or
it s failure to colle ct due s and memb e r ship report s .
The STFU ret aliat e d by f i l ing a prot e st w ith the C Ia
and by i s suing pre ss rele ase s denounc ing Hende r s o n .
The f inal break came in the e arly months of
193 9 , during a severe and unexpected e c onomi c c r i s i s .
Planters in the "boothe e l " region of Mi s s ouri ,
spurred by " reforms " in the AAA which incre ased
te nant s ' share of parity p ayment s , shifted thei r
labor system from share cropp ing t o wage labor ,
evict ing 2000 t e n ant s in the proce s s . When union
organ i z e r s spontane ously led the evicted familie s
int o a " camp in" on the h i ghway between St . Loui s
and Memphis , a b itter st ruggle eme rged f o r the
loyalty of the demonstrat ors . UACAPAWA off i c ials
organ i zed a separate relief drive from that of the
STFU , and b e gan to openly s e e k support for its
" st r i ct t rade union" p o s it i on . Owen Whit f ield, the
leader of the Mi s s our i group , bounced like a shuttle ­
c o ck between St . Loui s and Memphi s , alt e rnat e ly
w o oe d by union and C . P. off i c i al s . In February,
the STFU le ade r s lost the i r p at ie n c e . They wrote
let t e r s t o the C Ia exe cut ive b o ard de c l ar ing that
the Internat i onal had sust ained a systemat ic campaign
to de st roy its effe ct ivene s s and warned that the
un ion w ould be f orced t o leave the C I a unle s s it
cle aned up the s it uat ion in the I nt e rnat ional . . 6
S oon afte rward , Henderson announced that he was
calling a spe c i al conve nt i o n to re organ i z e the STFU
and expel it s leade r sh ip .
The C Ia dire ct ors at thi s point ent e red the
dispute and the p o s it ion they t ook indi c ated the i r
preoc cupat i on w ith the b ur e aucrat ic s i de of union
organ i z at ion and the i r d i s t an ce from the prob lems
whi ch the share croppe r f ac e d . Although they di s ­
approved of Hende rson ' s plan t o c all for a dual
c onvent i on, they would not stop h im unle s s the uni on
52

leade rs agreed to abide by the UCAPAWA constitution


and meet outstanding due s and obligations. The un ion
leaders' complaints that the i r movement could not
survive w ithin such a framework were dee med irrelevant ;
Hende rson' s acti on all fell within the bounds of
standard trade-union practice and had been cleared i n
advance by C I a headquarters . Afte r ten days of
negotiat i on , it became clear that the CIa ' s approach
to organi z ing was all too s im i lar t o that of Hende rson,
and that ne ither would allow the union to operate on
suitable terms . On March 11, Mitchell announced that
the un ion was breaking its t i e s with the CIa.
During the next few month s , Mitchell chose to
challenge Hender s on ' s drive to reorgan i z e the union .
Rounding up whateve r loyal members he could find ,
Mitche ll crashed the dual convent i on , took it over ,
and led h i s supporters out . 7 Henderson was left with
a handful of croppe rs , most of them followe rs of
Wh itfield and McKinney . With no bas i s for an inter ­
racial movement , he was never t o make a serious effort
to re organ i z e in cotton .
But the STFU had been almost e qually devastated
by the di spute . In a survey of the f ie ld , Mitchell
found only forty active locals out of a total of 200
8
wh ich the union had at the peak of its strength .
The faction fight had been so confus ing to the people
that they had s i mply shut down and quit for the time
b e ing, di sgusted with all union s . The rac ial
solidar ity upon which the union had based its program ,
more ove r , had been badly shatte re d by the fight . The
be st black organ i ze r s had left the movement , d i s i l ­
lus ioned with its declining le vel o f performance , and
the wh ite s had gone inactive . But finally, and most
important , the almost religious sense of m i s s ion from
which the union had drawn its strength had been
utterly de stroyed by the cri s i s . From the union ' s
earl i e s t days , its me mbe rs had been sustained by the
hope that there were force s within America which
could shatter the old plantati on system and win a
decent life for the sharecropper on its ruin s . Now ,
no such hope could be maintained . The most radical
mas s force s for change in the society, the C Ia and the
Commun i st Party , had stood apart from the union ' s
strivings , had smothered it with forms , had crushed
--

53

it w it h obligat ions . Not even on the distant hori z o u


were there forc e s of suff i c i e nt strength to tran s ­
form the cot t on e conomy into a free and ordered
system of product i on . From 1939 , the STFU c onf ined
it s w o rk t o educ at i on and l obby ing , s e rving as a
l i a i s on betwe e n share croppe rs and federal t e nancy
programs it had regarded as hope le s s ly inade quate
two ye ar s before .

THE MEANING FaR THE LEFT

The de st ruct ion of the Southern Tenant


Farme r s Union epit om i z e d the b a s i c l imit at i on of the
most dynamic organ i z ing drive staged by radi c al s in
the thirt ie s - - the c ampaign of the C I a . With few
except ion s , rad i c al s w ithin the CIa were w i lling t o
live w ith a def i n it i on o f uni on organ i z ing that made
it impo s s ib l e e ithe r to o rgan i ze worke r s who were
out s ide of an industr ial system, or to concentrate
on politi cal organ i z at i on t hat challenged cap it al i st
inst itut ion s . In part i cular , C Ia C ommun i st s , who
should have known bet te r , w e re s o c once rned w ith
deve loping a working class b ase that they supporte d
a st r ategy o f uni oni z at i on wh i ch had b e e n c o n ­
s c io us ly de s igned t o rat i onalize a capit al i st
e c on omy . And when they came in c ontact w ith a move ­
ment which c ould not apply such a strategy , who s e
e c onomi c problems were s o s e ve re that not even a
temp orary solut i on could be f ound w ithin cap it a l i sm,
they allowed and eve n enc ouraged it s de st ruct ion
b e c ause it s support e r s were not c las s i c proletar ian s .
The c onse quen c e s of the se failure s have b e e n
very s e r i ous and very last ing . F i rst o f all , they
worked against the development of a broadly b as e d
radic al party and t h e growth o f a popular s o c ia l i st
c ons c i ousne s s . The obs e s s ion of many radical s w ith
act ivit i e s wh i ch creat e d p owe rful f inanc i ally s t ab le
organi z at i ons led them t o negle ct the very real
opportunit ie s to di s seminate a c o operat ive , ant i ­
cap it al i st ideology among the Amer i c an labor ing
populat ion . As the growth of the STFU i nd i c ate s ,
worke r s i n the mo st c onservat ive , t radit i onalist i c
se ct i ons of the s o c iety w e re oft e n re cept ive t o a
radical outlook if it was phrased in terms relevant
to the ir e xperience and combined with effective
organization.
But e qually important , the strategic orienta­
tion of CIa radicals re inforced the i solation of the
black population from the rest of the American
working clas s , helping to set the stage for ghetto iza­
tion and the social cr i s i s of our time. The narrow
definition of industrial un ion i s m embodied in the CIa
impl icitly e xcluded mo st of the black working force ,
who operated within marg inal sectors of the economy
which could not be rational i z e d within capital i sm.
The colonized sharecropper on the southern plantation ,
l i v ing under cond itions of dependence radically
different from those of a factory worker , could not
be organ ized in a central i zed bureaucratic union.
When old left strategi st s chos e to avoid a campaign
to reorgan i z e the American-economy , when they chose to
neglect the program that the union had advocat ea:-­
they were postponing the organ i zation of rural black
pe ople to some vague and later date. The m i s trus t of
white radical s by insurgents in the ghetto i s one
painful and indirect conse quence of the failure of
the union ' s program.
55

FOOTNOTES

1. Howard Ke ste r , Revolt Among the Share c roppers


( New York : Covi c i -Friede , 1 93bT , p. 27 . The
maj o r ity of the mat e r i al in t h i s art i c le has b e e n
der ived from manuscr ipt s ource s - - part i cularly the
very excellent and c omplete c o l le ct ion at the
S outhe rn H i s t or i c al C olle ct ion in Chapel Hil l ,
N.C. Howeve r , the c ons iderable b ody of s e c o ndary
l it e rature on the un ion has b e e n very helpful in
guiding the dire c t i on s of my analys i s . Student s
looking for a more det ailed d i s c u s s ion of the se
event s from a diffe rent polit i cal perspe ct ive
should re fer to the fo llow i ng books and art i c le s .
Jerold Aue rb ac h , "The Southern Tenant s F arme rs
Union : Soc iali st C r it i c s of the New De al , " Lab o r
Hist ory ( Winte r , 1966) ; David Eugene C onrad , The
Forgotten Farme r s ( Urb ana : Un ive r s ity of Ill i n o i s
Pre s s , 1965 ) ; Stuart J ami s on , Lab or Un ion i sm in
Ame r i c an Agr iculture , U. S. Department of labor ,
Bureau of Labor St at i st i c s , Bullet in #83 6 ; Vera
R ony , " Sorrow Song in Black and Whit e , " New South
( Summe r , 1967) j M . S . Vent akaraman i , "Norman --­

Thomas , Arkans a s Share c roppers , and the Roos e velt


Agr i cultural Pol i c ie s , 193 3 - 1937, " Mi s s i s s ippi
Valley H i st o r i c al Review ( Septemb e r , 1960) ; als o ,
H. L. Mit che ll ' s interv iew in the C olumb i a Oral
Hist ory Proj e ct and an unpubli shed PhD D i s sert a­
t i on , Donald H . Grubb s , "The Southern Tenant
F arme rs Union and the New Deal , " ( Unive rs ity of
Florida, 1963 ) .
2. C I O Pub l i c at ion , #10 ; the l ite rature on the growth
and evolut i on of the C IO is ne ither very good nor
very extens ive . Howeve r , the following w orks
should be studied before beg inn ing to develop a
p i ct ure of the se c omplex event s : Saul Al insky,
J ohn L . Lew i s , an Unauthor i z e d Bi ography ( New
York : G. P . Putnam ' s Sons , 1 949 ) ; Walt er
Galen s on , The CIO Challenge t o the AFL ( C ambridge :
Harvard Univ . Pre s s , 1960) ; Sidney Len s , Left ,
R ight and Cent e r ( Hinsdale : Henry Regnery C ompany ,
1949) ; Edward Lev inson , Labor on the March ( New
York : Unive rs ity Book s , 1936) ; Art Pre i s , Lab or ' s
G i ant Step (
New York : P i oneer Publi s hers , 1964 ) ;
R onald Radosh, "The corporate Ideology of Ame rican
Labor , " Studies On the Left , VI ( 1966 ) .
3. "The Rural Mas sesand the Work of Our Party , "
Commun i s t , March 18, 1935 .
4. See H. D. Mitchell to Donald Hende rson , October
11, 1937 ; and Mitchell to Gardner Jackson ,
October 23 , 193 7, in Southe rn Tenant Farme rs
Union Pape r s , Southern H i storical Collection , The
Unive r s ity of North Carolina, Chapel H ill , N. C .
5· Henderson to Mitchell , Octobe r 27, 193 7 . STFU
Papers .
6. J . R . Butl e r , "To Members Executive Board ,
Congre s s of Industrial Organi zation s , "
February 14, 1939 . STFU Papers .
7. For a more detailed di scus s i on of radical con­
flicts within the union see Mark D. Nai son , "The
Decline of the Southern Tenants Farmer ' s Union,
(
1937-39 , " unpubl i shed Maste r ' s e s say , Columbia
Univer sity, 1967) .
8. H. L. Mitchell to Norman Thomas , April 3 , 1939,
STFU Pape rs .

***

OUR CONTRI B UTORS g J AME S 0 9 B RI E N i s a g r a d u a t e s t u de n t


a t t h e Un i ve rs i t y o f W i s c o n s i n , was g e ne ra l e d i t o r o f
t he REP c o u n t e r= t e x t s e r i e s , TOM K RY S S r a n G ho s t P re s s
i n C l e ve l a n d , i s now i n S a n F r a n c i sco , ROB E RT S TARO B I N
i s a n Assoc i a t e P ro f e s s o r o f H i s t o ry a t W i s c o n s i n ; DA LE
TOM I C H r e c e n t l y g r a du a t e d f rom U . W . , n ow t e a c h e s s c hoo l
i n Mi I wauk e e ; F RA NK L I N ROS EMO N T he a ds B l ac k Swa n P re s s
i n Ch i c a go ; MARK N A I S O N i s a g ra du a t e s t u d e n t a t Co l um­
b i a; D.A. L EVY i s a C l e ve l an d e x i I e , e d i ts t he T h i rd
C l ass J u n k Ma i I B u d dh i s t O r ac l e ; MART I N G LAB E RMA N is
e d i tor �S p e a k Ou t i n De t ro i t , was a UAW r a n k - a n d - f i I e
m i l i t a n t f o r m a n y y e a rs ; R. C RUMB & J O E L B EC K a r e
a r t i s t s f o r Y e l l ow DOQ a n d Z A P Com i x ; JAMES G I L B E RT
is a v i s i t i n g p ro f e�r-at COlumb i a t h i s f a l I --h i s
f i rs t b ook , wr i t e rs � P a r t i s an s , w a s re l e as e d r e c e n t l y .
***

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57

Unions and Black liberation

Martin Glaberman

The Negro and the American Labor Movement, Julius


Jacob son, ed it� Garden City, New York : Anchor
Books, 1968 . 430 pp. , $ 1 . 75 (
pbk ) .

Thi s book helps to f ill a great vo id in


material on a cruc i al area of Ameri can life, making
cons iderable information on black workers and the
trade union movement easily acce s s ible . Its early
chapters, devoted primarily to the hi story of the
problem, are e spe c ially valuable: August Me ier and
Elliott Rudwick on black leaders ' attitude s toward
the labor movement, Herbert Gutman on the United
Mine Workers, Ray Marshall on southern un ions and
Mark Karson and Ronald Radosh on the A. F . of L .
provide very useful contribut i ons to an unde r­
standing of the current s ituat i on . The anthology as
a whole, however, and parti cularly those parts
dealing with immediate i s sue s and argume nts are
marred by a traditional view of the struggle for
black l iberation . It i s a view from before the
time of Debs and, although it i s s omewhat modified
here to remove the most glar ing contrad i ctions with
current reality, it doe s not go much beyond the time ­
worn slogan of "Black and White, Unite and Fight . "
The Negro and the Ameri can Labor Movement
deals primar ily w ith the organ i zed union movement,
which is a reasonable e nough area of d i s cus s ion but
doe s not justify e ither the tendency to identify the
unions with the workers as a whole or the di stinc ­
t ions that are made when the two are viewed separate ly .
Jacobson, in his introduction, note s " that the
efforts of the CIO leadership to rai s e the rank and
file to its own level of e qualitarian consc iousne s s
were inade quate . " (p . 8. ) The idea that the labor
leadership ( or any s ignif i cant part of it ) has had a
more radical con s c iousne s s than the rank and f ile
worker is a myth w ith wide spread s upport . But when
union leaders use a language that is constantly bel ied
by the i r acts it seems much more reasonable to believe
that the ir cons c i ousne s s i s refle cted in the ir act s
and that the ir language i s a refl e ction of what they
believe to be the consc iousne s s of the i r constituents .
The leaders un iversally use the harshe st d i s c iplinary
measures agai nst the ir members on such que st ions as
w ildcat strike s or v iolat ions of c ompany-union con­
tracts . When they b eg i n to show as little regard for
prejudice against Negroe s as they do for prejudice
against no-strike pledge s , it may begin to be
neces sary to take them seriously.
White workers are shot through w ith prejudice
against blacks . It would be diffi cult to imagine it
to be otherw ise after centurie s of slavery and a
system of education , e nt ertainment and communi cat ion
completely dominat ed by rac i st doctrine s . But there
have be en oc cas i ons when worke rs have attempted to
overcome this heritage and have been pushed back by
the ir leaders. The Detroit auto plants during World
War II are a case in point . Thousands of southerners ,
whites and b lacks , men and women found themselve s
working s ide by s ide . Most southe rn white s ,
propagandized b y years of stor i e s of race mixing ,
were prepared to accept the "worst" when they came
North . In many plant s soc ial intercours e acros s race
and sex lines be came c ommon. By the end of the war ,
it was apparent that the bas i c charact e r i stic of the
union leaders' ideology was not e quality but
t imidity , and the rac i s m inherent in thi s soc iety was
qui ckly reaff irmed. Ne ithe r the uni on nor its
leaders ever gave anything more than verb al
alleg iance to rac ial e qual ity . The gains made were
made by the d ire ct pre s sure of black workers . When
nati onal uni on s , such as the UAW, moved against the
overtly rac ist pract i c e s of some s outhern local s , it
was not from any e qualitarian consc iousn e s s at all
but from the need t o placate the powerfully-placed
black workers in the i r membership in the north.
59

UNIONS A S UNIONS

More fundame nt al than the " c on s c iousne s s " of


union leade r s ( b e st left to psychoanalyst s ) i s the
role of the union as such . Jacob s on say s that "the
union s ' r ight to organi z e , to b argain c olle ct ively,
to improve the welfare of the i r memb e r s must be
fort ified con st antly by progre s s i ve , democ r at ic
s o c ial and e c on om i c leg i s lat i on . Simi l arly, the
p o s it i on of the Negro w orke r in Ame r i c an s o c iety,
not merely as a worker b ut as a Negro w it h un ique
ne eds and intere st s , cannot b e improved w ithout a
cont inual growth and s ppl i c at i on in life of demo­
crat i c princ iple s . 1 I (p . 22 . ) Thi s i s t radit i onally
the ob j e ct ive b a s i s f or the Negro - labor coalit i on .
The problem i s the union inst itut ion and how it has
changed i n t ime . Old cat egorie s no longer apply and
there i s l ittle po int in t alking as if t h i s were
193 8 inst e ad of 19 68 .
Let us be spe c if i c : "The un i ons ' r i ght t o
organ i z e , to bargain collect ively , " i s no longer
e quivalent to "to improve the welfare of the ir
memb e r s . " One c ould ask whose welfare w a s improved
by John L . Lew i s ' right to b argai n away the j ob s of
150 , 000 mine r s in the 1950 ' s by accept i ng unlimited
mechani zat ion of the mine s ; who s e w e lfare was pro­
t e cted by Harry Bridge s ' not or i ous waterfront c on ­
t ract whi ch reduced the younger workers t o s e cond
c l a s s st atus in the union and on the j ob ; and whose
welfare i s improved by Reuthe r ' s contract s which
st e adily de st roy the w o rking c ondit ions of the aut o
w orke r s for trivial fringe b enef it s . The se were
among the mo st milit ant of the indus t r i al uni on s .
Most un ions are much worse . It i s not ac c ident al
that the right to organ i z e and b argain c o lle ctively
of the great indust r i al un i on s is strongly prote cted
by the force s of law and order in mo st c i rcumstan ce s .
( Thi s , of course , doe s not apply t o newer un i on s
in peripheral indust r ie s , such as agri culture . The )
b a s i c fun ct i on of the union has b e c ome t o part i ­
c ipate in the admin i st rat i on of product i on and t o
prot e ct the relat ive p o s it i on o f a favored few .
Th i s should be v i s ible to anyone fami l i ar w ith
60

condit ions in bas ic industry, who s e head is not still


back in the ' thirtie s.
Under the se circumstance s the obj ective
mutuality of intere st between black and white worker s
has t o be s ought elsewhere. It can be found in the
union only in the s ense that the union has become
hostile to the bas i c intere sts of both black and
white worke rs. It cannot be found on the s imple
que stions of race , but rathe r in the fact that the ir
cond itions of l i fe and work force black worke rs and
white workers to f ight the same enemy, an e nemy which
i s not s imply the abstract " system" but the particular
institutions of thi s society that oppre s s those whom
it dominate s , including the government , the corpora­
tions , and the unions.
The need to struggle within the union movement
against rac i sm and rac i st practice s should not blind
e ither the student or activist to a sense of hi storic
and economic development. Battle s over " con sciousne s s "
i n itse lf have accompli shed l i ttle here. Sumner M.
Ros e n , in h i s article on the CIa , note s: "Most
advance s secured by Negro industrial workers during
the CIa ' s l ife t ime were due to dominant economic
force s , specifically the acute and prolonged labor
shortage which prevailed during the Second World War. "
Thus , economic forc e s will not s e cure advance s without
struggle , but struggle will not secure advance s that
have no relation to the specific h i storical cond i ­
tions .
And it i s the point of h i s tory at which the
book i s weake st. There i s l i ttle recognition of the
continuing, even growing , power and s ignificance of
the black industrial working clas s. On the one hand ,
blacks continue to serve as a " permanent re serve army
of the unemploye d , " for a blue - collar s ector in which
the absolute numbe r of j ob s has r i sen i n the last
decade. On the other hand , they (
along with the
white industrial worke rs ) continue to re s ide in a
critical pos ition for the pos s ibility of a succe s sful
s ocial i st revolut i on , at the bas i c gears of the soci al
order. The pre sence of black maj oritie s in maj or
auto plant s , part i cularly Ford and Chrysle r , is the
61

bas i s for such developme nt s as DRUM ( Dodge


Revolut ionary Union Movement ) whi ch has shut down
the main Dodge plant s e ve ral t ime s . Black worke r s
d o man s ignifi cant se gment s o f Ame r i can industry
from the ins ide . They can shut it dow n j they c an
transform it or de stroy it .
The mot ion of millions of workers in the
' thirt i e s to t r ansform Ame ri can soc iety led t o
effe ct ive unity between b lack and white indust r i al
worker s and prevented the unemployment from leading
to race wars . But the st ruggle for l ib erat ion was
the n , and is t oday , count e red by the re act i on . The
growth of the Klan , of the Black Legion, of the
movement s of C oughlin and Gerald L . K . Smith
attempted to count e r the unre st and the revolu­
t i onary outbre aks . The i r e quivalent s are every­
where e vident t oday as a re sponse to the st ruggle
for l iberat i on . The r ad i c al re j o inder must go
beyond defense ont o the offens ive , b ased on the
strat e g i c strength of the bl ack i ndust rial worke r
and h i s ab i lity to carry the white w orke rs along
w ith h im . The great e st b arrier to such a develop ­
ment i s the n ot i on that struggle s of b lack and white
worke r s have t o t ake place w ithin the framew ork of
the labor union s .
An example of t h i s latte r not ion i s
Jacob s on ' s defen s e of preferent i al h i ring for
Negr o e s ( pp . 13 - 14 . ) He is forced to reduce the
que st ion to t e rms that are manageab le w ithin a
union framework : i s n ' t the graduat e d income t ax
preferent ial? etc . , etc . In fact , of cour s e ,
preferent ial h i r ing b arely s crat ch e s the surfac e .
If b lack worker s were preferent ially h i red every­
where t hey would st ill be t he last h ired and, by
seniority st andards , the f irst f i re d . But the
un i on has no choice b ut to defend the seniority
syst em which d i s cr iminat e s against black people ,
young pe ople and wome n . It s funct i on in t h i s
soc iety i s t o administer the rule s by w h i c h its
memb e r s are prote ct e d agai n st c ap it al i sm ' s w orst
evil s , and there is no way it c an re l i nquish thi s
funct ion without ceas ing t o b e a uni on . What i s
re qu ired i s not preferent i al h iring ( except as a
/'

62

mode st local demand ) but a c omplete reorgan i z at i on o f


j ob s . And t hat i s p o s s ib le only on the b as i s of a
new s o c iety, one in which j ob s are not dependent on
the r e quireme nt s of manager s but on the c olle ct i ve
de c i s i on of the worke r s . That may b e a Ut op i an ideal
or a pr act i c al p o s s ib il ity, ac c ording t o how one
sees it . In e ither c a s e , it i s in fundamental
oppos it i on to the un i on s a s they now are or a s
they may conceivab ly b e c ome .

Notes on the S. S.c.

J ames G i l be r t

There c ouldn ' t h ave b e e n a better sett ing than


R utgers for the Fourth annual se s s i on of the Soc i al i st
Scholars C onfere nce . R iding out from New Y ork C ity
thr ough the New Jersey indust r ial waste land was like
s e e ing an unedited vi s i on of the future , a moving
p i cture of the deb it s of our progre s s . What land i s
not yet h i ghway o r t o rn up t o b e c ome h i ghway looks
l ike a g i ant parking lot overgrow n by weeds , gulli e d
by moti onle s s pollut e d dit che s , and spotted by
o c c a s i onal hous ing pro j e ct s , fenced off like re s ide n ­
t i al re servat i on s .
The three days of s e s s ions were strung t ogether
by one ide a , that an examinat i on of the new rad i c al
c on st ituency in the un ive r s it i e s and among ethn i c and
rac i al gr oup s wh i ch might make up a new rad i c al move ­
ment was cruc i al at t h i s t ime . The progre s s ion of the
c onference from analy s i s of the past t o plann ing ,
however t e nt at ively , for the future g ave the me et ings
a momentum they had never demon strat e d before . The
f i rst s e s s i on s r a i s e d two imme nsely import ant que s ­
t i on s : the role of the int e lle ctual i n s o c i al change ,
di s cus s e d by Chr i st opher Lasch of Northwe stern and
Warren Sus man of Rutge rs , and the nature of the
Ame r i can w o rking clas s , examined by Herbert Gutman of
Roche ster Unive r s ity . The problem of t he int e l le c ­
tuals involved i n one sense , the very e s sence of the
conference for clearly , the a s s umpt ion of most of
the part i c ipant s and the audiences was that int elle c ­
tuals had an important role t o play . Genuine d i s ­
agreement s ab out t h i s role e rupted at the s e s s i on and
remained an unde rcurrent for the remainder of the
c onfe rence . Gutman , in h i s import ant pape r , examined
the ethnic make -up and behavior of the Amer i c an
w orking c l a s s and challenged the mechan i c al Marxi st
s cholarship which has often dominated the tradit i onal
Left ' s vi ew of the prolet ariat .
The s e c ond day ' s se s s ions sharply focused on
the b lack movement in the United St at e s and more
spe c if i c ally on the pecul i ar ethni c d iv i s i on of the
left , between blacks and Jew s . The maj or speaker was
Harold Cruse whose devast at ing b ook , The C r i s i s of
the Negro Int e l le ctual , raised ( and prob ably als o
settled ) the que st i on of b lack-white relat i on s in the
Amer i c an radi cal movement . The morning spee che s
provided a few clear mome nt s of import ance as C ruse
spun very pers onal ob s e rvat i ons int o import ant
c r it i c i sms of the Left ' s pat e rnal , even rac i st att i ­
tude s t ow ard Negroe s . The s e s s i on i t s e lf reflected
the current d i v i s ion and min imal pos s ib i l it ie s for
c ooperat i on between the white left and the b lack
movement .
By afternoon , at a general d i s cuss ion of the
e arlier speeche s , the dilemma of get t i ng the h i st ory
of black-white radi c al relat i on s st raight b e c ame a
heated argument ab out the pre s ent . Perhaps it had
been Cruse ' s pe r s onal t one in the morning that in­
spired Mor r i s Shappe s , editor of Jew i sh Current s ,
t o give an intensely pers onal a c c ount of hi s own
rad i c al act ivit i e s as a re sponse t o C ruse and as a
vindi cat i on of the Ame r i c an C ommun i st moveme nt ' s
att it ude s t oward b l acks . In s o doing he b r ought the
me et ing to one of it s few moment s of exc itement , and
forced the audience to re c o n s i de r the spe c ial re ­
lat ionship of Jew i s h radicals to the b l ack movement - ­
united s o the theory goe s , b e c ause J ew s suffered al s o
from rac i sm . Shappe s ' ow n story was one of
64

suc c e s sful tran s f ormat i on , f r om immigrant t o left -w ing


pub l i sher and editor . Yet h i s rec ount ing of it re ­
vealed a break- down in e lemental c ommun i c at i on .
Shappe s re c alled that he had " r e ad St alin in the
1920 ' s " and d i s c overed the Negro Que st ion . He had
b e c ome act i ve in Negro relat i ons w ith the rad i cal
movement and had , f r om there , move d on to the J ew i s h
que st i on . H e and many in the audience c ont i nued t o
e quate ant i - Semit i sm in Ame r i c a w ith rac i sm . But very
c l e arly, the few blacks in the audience did not . That
such que st i on s of ethn i c origin must st i l l agitate the
Left and d iv i de it s pot e nt ial const ituency is a legacy
of the d i s astrous past of Ame r i c an rad i c al i sm . It
lingers b e c ause of the need to confront that past
hone stly , but al s o be c ause the rad i c al movement re ­
fle ct s the ethn i c split s of Ame r i c an s o c iety .
On the f i nal day, the c onference moved to the
other end of the spraw l ing Rutgers campus ; the road
b etween the two s i nking down i nt o New Brunsw i c k , where
a wrong turn one way l e ad s abruptly i nt o street s out
of the 1930 ' s or anothe r i nt o the t imele s s alleys of
the Black ghett oe s where w o oden hous ing j ut s up
again st the st ilt s of sup e r h ighways le ading out of
t own . One ' s pre sence in this s ort of museum c it y
re inf orced t h e sense of t h e p a st ' s c l aims upon the
pre sent and unde r s c ored the need to str ike out in
d iffe rent dire ct ions and re ach new unde r st andings .
Several th ings at that last s e s s i on helped t o
do s o . The paper by J ame s We inst e i n on the prospe ct s
f o r planning a new s oc i al i st p arty gave me aning t o
many o f the ide a s which had b e e n expre s sed during the
previous two days . C l e arly , everyth ing was leading
up to thi s proposal . R ad i c al student s , d i s affected
memb e r s of the new middle clas s , and b l acks , We inst e i n
argued , were the p ot e nt ial c o n st ituency f o r a new
party .
We i n st e i n ' s analys i s att empt e d t o dire ct
planning f o r a new s o c i al i st organ i z at i on along the
l in e s ind i c at e d in many of the papers and c omme nt s of
the previous two days , and on yet there was an unde r ­
current o f d i s s at i s f act i on in the audience . This
re sulted i n part b e c ause o f what w a s not s a i d , and
partly b e c au s e no import ant movement f,£gure s were
repre sented on the p anel that last day . But more
import ant was an i s sue surrounding the Conferen ce ,
and of gre at import ance in the radi cal movement
eve rywhe re , w h i ch came up only at the e nd of the
se s s i on and the n b o iled over int o the bus ine s s meet ing
that f ollowed . Whateve r int e lle ctual w ay one slice s
the moveme nt , the Left i s deeply divide d int o gene r a ­
t ions ; int o Old-New Left and New -New Left ; int o
profe s s or and graduate student and student ; int o
polit i c al revolut ion i st and cultural revolut i on i st ;
int o t radit ion- oriented Left i st s and those sympathet ic
to mind-expan s i on drugs and hippie culture . Ne ither
const ituency de s ignat e d as part of the new movement
was pre s e nt in gre at numb e r s at that last s e s s ion or
repre sent e d on the pane l . There were no black repre ­
sent at ive s , and the student s who were the re re sent e d
the imp l i c at ion that the i r act ivi sm i n C h i c ago or
perhaps even Columb i a was mindle s s . They, in turn ,
struck out at profe s s ors ( and some , by impl i c at i on
at all i nt e llectuals ) who dominat e d the conference .
Underlying the maj or split at the confere nce
were d i s s imilar relat i onships to the un ive r s ity and
a potent ial host i l ity between element s of the radi c al
movement . The profe s s or ( and most of the speakers
were profe s s ors ) is current ly in the pos it i on of b e ing
a minor part of the ruling b ody of the un ive r s ity in
a parallel st ructure or shadow gove rnment of the ad­
min istrat io n . Most faculty memb e r s prob ably prefer
this structure . If they are re quired to a s s e rt the i r
potent i al power in a kind o f d e fact o revol ut i on
against the admini strat i on it-Would not b e , a s
Columb i a seems to demonstrat e , t o carry out student
demands , b ut to negot i at e from a different d i r e ct i on ,
only somewhat more favorable t o student s . Most
faculty memb e r s do not want p ow e r and even avoi d it ,
thus enab l ing the admin i strat i on bureaucracy t o
expand . F aculty memb e r s may even sense a thre at to
the ir p o s i t i on if they are forced t o exerc i se powe r .
Academic i s olat i on and academic free dom mean the
right to pract i ce expert i s e in h ist ory , s oc iology,
l it e rature or the s c ience s , and eve n t o carry on the
princ ipal pre oc cupat i on of most academi c s , career
advancement .
The radical movement t oday i s c e rtainly rich
, /

66

e nough to sust ain good s ch olarship in addit i on t o all


of the other things it doe s . The t ime has not c ome t o
che ck anyone ' s act ivist credent i al s . From a different
po int of view , the rad i c al movement is yet de spe rat e ly
poor, and the t ime has apparently not c ome to st iffen
in the f ace of s ome c oming confrontat i on w ith s oc iety .
Rathe r , it is t ime t o think s e r i ou s ly ab out a w orking
re l at i onship betwe e n two generat i on s of rad i c al s , two
c oncept s of the movement , and perhaps even two
int e rpret at i ons of c iv i l i z at i on . To make matters
harde r , t h i s d i s cus s i on must b e carried out primarily
w ithin the un ive r s ity where the ground rule s are
e s s ent i ally authorit ar i an and where the generat i on
gap is a s ign of st atus .
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issues 504 (unt i l SeRt. 1 , then 7Si); of Vo l . !
only n o . 3 , is sti I I avai l able.
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