First Published: The Guardian, December 25, 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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More than 500 people gathered at New York University Dec. 13 for a meeting to rally support for the democratic rights of oppressed nationalities in Boston and to debate various issues in the busing crisis there.
The event was sponsored by the Congress of Afrikan People (CAP), October League (OL), Guardian, African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), Workers Viewpoint and the Puerto Rican Socialist party (PSP). Each organization was represented on the speakers platform.
Katibu, moderator of the forum and a member of CAP, opened the meeting. He encouraged everyone present to join the demonstration in Boston the following day and endorsed the Fred Hampton Contingent, which was organized to put forth an independent anti-imperialist line at the action.
Ethel Shepton of the ALSC in Boston spoke first. She reviewed the background of the school crisis and exposed the segregationist policies of the Boston School Committee. ALSC’s position, she said, was to fight for community control of the schools in the Black neighborhoods, for armed self-defense against racist attacks and “for the right of Black children to go to any school.”
“A few words must be said,” she concluded, “about the role of the Revolutionary Union (RU).” She criticized them for “refusing to oppose the white school boycott.”
[RU had been invited to participate in the forum in N.Y. but refused.]
The next speaker was Jehu from the OL’s Boston district. “The main thing happening in Boston,” he said, “is a fascist and racist offensive against the Black community.” He traced the history of the Afro-American struggle there and linked the present defense of democratic rights “to the overall fight for Black liberation and the right of self-determination for the Black nation in the South.”
“What has happened also shows the weakness of the left,” he noted, “and points out the need to build a communist party.” He also stressed the need to organize among the white workers and hit the “integrationist” reformism of the NAACP, while directing the main attack at the “antibusing” reactionaries.
Jose Alberto Alvarez spoke for the PSP. “Racism,” he said, “was being used as a tool of the imperialists” to divide the people at a time of crisis. It was rooted, he explained, in the inequalities in the conditions of life among the various nationalities. He also underscored the necessity for armed defense against police terror.
CAP was represented by its chairman, Amiri Baraka. He placed the Boston situation in the context of the overall economic crisis of the imperialists and their attacks on the people.
“Ford and Rockefeller.” he pointed out “have joined with Hicks and Kerrigan to agitate racial violence so as to divide the people and continue to rob them,” depriving the masses of both quality education and decent living standards in general.
The Boston busing plan, he argued, was itself a violation of democratic rights “by telling Black children where they have to go to school. But once they get there and are met with racist violence, that becomes the main question. That violence has to be stopped and their right to attend those schools defended as first priority, before anything else can move ahead.”
Baraka concluded with a call for “victory to all oppressed people” and received tremendous applause.
Jerry Tung of Workers Viewpoint was next and began by posing the question: “Is the Boston busing plan really an issue of democratic rights or is it a ruling-class strategy to divide and rule?” He said it was the latter and that the first demand that had to be made was to “oppose forced busing.”
By making “busing appear to be a question of democratic rights,” Tung argued, liberals like the NAACP and the Kennedy family were “whipping up race hatred and stirring up issues” in a plot to divide the people and usher in fascism. Groups like the OL and the Guardian, he concluded, were right opportunist “snakes in the grass” for conciliating the liberals and thus assisting the rise of fascism.
Carl Davidson of the Guardian spoke last and directed most of his remarks at Tung, whose speech, he said, raised two questions: “Who makes history and which side are you on?” He pointed out that segregation and national oppression, “not the struggle against it,” was what divided the people. The most decisive sections of the bourgeoisie, he explained, also opposed “forcing busing” while the liberals were moving toward them.
Davidson also discussed the strategic importance of armed struggle in relation to the tactical demand that the “government break up the fascist gangs” by referring to the attempted mob attack on South Boston High School a few days earlier. “We understand the imperialist nature of the army and police,” he said. “But when we are too weak to defend those children ourselves, anyone who doesn’t understand the tactical importance of encouraging a fight between the police and a lynch mob, rather than having them unite against us at that point, doesn’t understand the ABC of Marxism–the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.”
Both Davidson’s and Tung’s remarks stirred considerable controversy among those attending the forum. The debate continued for about two hours in a question-and-answer period.