First Published: As letter to the editor in the Guardian, August 16, 1969.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Jim Prickett’s article (“Another View on SDS,” July 6), like most of the literature put out by WSA lately, evades the real issues which lay behind the expulsion of PL. Anti-communism and anti-working class politics may have been the attitude of some people in the new SDS, but they sure as hell weren’t its principles of unity. The vast majority of people who voted for expulsion (with their feet as well as their hands) did so for one reason: because PL’s indiscriminate attacks on “black nationalism” were making it increasingly difficult for SDS to ally itself with revolutionary black groups. .
This fact has been mulled over in many ways by PL spokesmen. A favorite technique (used by Prickett) has been to claim that SDS has “no program to combat racism.“ But what PL fails to point out is that the black movement is waging a struggle against racism that is more serious and militant than anything the white left is doing and that the key question for SDS is how to relate to that struggle. When PL opposes black studies on the campuses, denounces community control of schools and hospitals and attacks free breakfast programs as reformist and criticizes black caucuses in unions as “dividing the working class,” it is setting itself counter to the black community’s strongest campaign against institutional racism and white supremacy. This position has earned PL the scorn of the most revolutionary working class groups in the black community; the Black Panther party and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. At a time when the power of the ruling class is descending upon the black movement at an unprecedented rate, it was impossible for us to let a powerful minority faction dilute our support of black liberation. .
For many of us, this expulsion has not been a pleasant chore. Not everyone in WSA (or even PL) is a counter-revolutionary and a racist and many of its programs are worthy of support. Few of us could quarrel with campaigns against university expansion, counterinsurgency courses and ROTC and none of us would oppose the unionization of low-paid university employees. .
But with PL’s position on the black struggle, there can and will be no compromise. The history of the American left is strewn with the corpses of groups who presumed to tell black people how to fight for their liberation, but whose main contribution was to help the more privileged sectors of the working class get a larger slice of the pie. PL’s attack on nationalism at a time when it has become the most important revolutionary ideology in the black community places it squarely within that tradition.