Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Commentary: The Black Liberation Movement and the ruling class’ move to the right

First Published: Unity, Vol. 2, No. 24, November 30-December 12, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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It must become clearer and clearer to a broader spectrum of forces that the U.S. ruling forces are moving more swiftly and directly to the right. Meaning – more “conservative,” more repressive, more restrictive.

The few gains of the 1960’s struggles are systematically being cut away, like affirmative action. Social programs get the knife, especially health, education and welfare, including most of the programs designed to give U.S. society the look of being upwardly mobile for all. The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment for women) has been stalled for several years and new, anti-women legislation, particularly around the right to have free abortions, is being introduced daily. The death penalty has been restored, and Teddy Kennedy has sponsored a “new look” version of the S-l “omnibus crime act.” At the same time, as the U.S. imperialists suffer greater defeats internationally, as in the most recent Iranian incidents, they are whipping up the most jingoist, sword-rattling, chauvinism since the Nixon years.

Effect on Black masses

For the Black masses such a move to the right has an especially grim and intense effect. The Black masses exist for the most part in the lower stratum of the proletariat, as do other oppressed nationalities. It is their social programs that are the first to go, just as they are the first to be fired, even though they were the last to be hired. It is their schools that are made the most blatantly inferior by cutbacks; it is the hospitals in their communities that are shut down; it is their children that cannot get into college because of the elimination of affirmative action. Even in the area of culture it is the Black and other oppressed nationality institutions that are closed down because the grants stopped.

Blatant terror against Black people is rapidly escalating: both “legal” and extralegal. There are the notorious cases of Arthur Miller, a Black community leader in Brooklyn strangled to death by a dozen police, and the grand jury said no-crime was committed; Luis Baez in Brooklyn, shot 21 times by five police, and the grand jury said no crime was committed. In Oakland, the same cop who killed Melvin Black last March just killed another Black man, Talmadge Curtis. In Atlanta, Chicago and New Jersey in recent weeks police shot Blacks and Latinos down, completely backed up by the courts. During the past ten-year period in which there was supposedly no death penalty, according to the New York Times, police killed 6,000 people, 45% of them were Black. In big cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia 70% were Black. In 1976 alone the court sentenced 233 people to death in the U.S., but the police killed 590, “half of them no threat to anybody” according to the New York Times.

At the same time, all throughout the South as well as in California, New Jersey and Long Island, the Ku Klux Klan has come out from under its wraps. In many instances the Klan and the police are the same people, wearing one uniform by day and the other by night.

To justify these repressive moves the superstructure of the capitalist society gets to work overtime pumping out garbage legitimizing reaction. The media babbles about “reverse discrimination,” the destruction of education is called “back to basics.” A great part of TV and movies are given over to shows glorifying the police. The Blacks in these shows are usually portrayed as police sidekicks, informers, pimps and prostitutes. So-called militants, when they appear at all, are consistently burlesqued. In “An Act of Violence” recently on TV, a white woman, liberal newscaster is mugged by a Latino youth. She then had a change of heart, saying that she had become a racist bigot, because they made her become so. In the end a Latino youth is killed (to justify the endless number of Latino youths who are iced by police terror) and the woman says, “I guess we are all oppressors.” Both imperialism and its victims, both oppressors. Bizarre, but it is part of the ruling class offensive driving society to the right.

History of terror

This sort of terror is nothing new for the Afro-American people. Historically the Afro-American nation came into being under conditions of open terror. The destruction of the Reconstruction government, set up to bring democracy to the South after the Civil War, was carried out by Klan terror, paid for by Wall Street and led by the southern planter class.

Especially in the Black-belt South, because it is the homeland of the Afro-American nation, and the most intense concentration of Black people in this country, terror has always been a principal method of obstructing Black struggles for democracy and self-determination. The ruling class does not even allow the barest outline of bourgeois democracy to exist in the South because it would mean, minimally, Black electoral domination.

Result of U.S. imperialist crisis

Today the new rising terror against Blacks is a direct manifestation of the economic and political crisis of U.S. imperialism. Internationally U.S. imperialism has been in open retreat due to the continued liberation and independence struggles of the third world. Its markets have shrunk and its influence has eroded. It can no longer steal the oil of the Arab countries, and it has seen the consequences of giving asylum to the most hated enemy of the Iranian people, the murderous Shah. At the same time the U.S. is faced with the growing expansion of the Soviet Union, and the two superpowers’ contention over which imperialist will control the world is driving them both toward World War III. The U.S. preparation for war is accompanied by a move to the right domestically, because the people in the U.S. will never permit the U.S. to enter World War III of their own free will.

In addition, the domestic situation is wrought with “crises” for the ruling class – the “normal” periodic economic crisis of overproduction plus the “energy crisis” and the “crisis of confidence” in government. Greater repression is necessary as the crisis and shrinking of superprofits from the third world means that the bourgeoisie has less resources it can use to bribe a section of the working class; nor can it offer as many social cool-out programs to the lower stratum of the workers who are potentially the most revolutionary! If imperialism cannot rule by the carrot, i.e., by trick, it will rule by the stick, i.e., by force.

Today the ruling class judges the time is right to unleash another violent offensive against the Black masses, because of the subsiding of the most intense struggles and a dissipation of the national Black united front which existed in the 1960’s. But even though the mass upsurges of the 1960’s subsided to a certain extent, and could not go further because there was no genuine communist party and the assassination of Malcolm X left a vacuum which was not successfully filled, it is clear that the Black Liberation Movement is starting to intensify again. Mass organizations like the United League of Mississippi and the Black United Front in New York have mobilized thousands of people against police and Klan terror. In addition some of the leading organizations in the Black Liberation Movement in the 1960’s, by the mid-1970’s had become Marxist-Leninists, so that now within the Black Liberation Movement there is much more scientific understanding of the requirements of Black self-determination and the relationship of the Black struggle to the overall struggle of the multinational working class for socialism.


In the current situation it is absolutely critical that the forces within the BLM and all revolutionaries understand and actively combat the U.S. state’s motion to the right. We must intensify our work to resist and beat back killer cops and the Klan, the two most frequent and blatant means used to attack the Black masses. Coalitions and programs should be formed to educate and organize around these issues and show their relationship. These can also be utilized as part of our efforts to rebuild a national Black united front, of all democratic classes, organizations and individuals to fight against U.S. imperialism and for Black self-determination. It is the strength of a united mass movement which can defeat the attacks of the ruling class. We must also intensify and raise to an even higher level the call for self-determination for the Afro-American nation in the Black-belt South and democratic rights for Black people everywhere else in the U.S.!

For Marxist-Leninists it is crucial to intensify our efforts to integrate Marxism-Leninism with the Black Liberation Movement, deepen our ties with the Black masses, and struggle for a correct line and orientation for the mass movement. This includes struggling against incorrect lines which only lead to a reformist dead end or otherwise hurt the mass struggle. For example, the slogan “Ban the Klan” is being put forth by some elements. Obviously legal means can be used, but these cannot be the solution. Education, mobilization of the masses, and mass struggle must be carried out! Can you ban imperialism? This idea is similar to the slogan of the revisionist CPUSA, “Outlaw racism,” which views that a constitutional guarantee can end national oppression, just as they view there can be a peaceful transition to socialism! At the same time the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO – now the so-called Communist Workers Party) in typical trotskyite fashion shouts all sorts of proclamations about “revolution” and “seizing state power.” But WVO has no ties among the masses since it has never concretely fought for the Black masses nor stood for the right of self-determination. Thus they are unable to wage any real struggle, as their lack of preparation and mass support at Greensboro showed. They are not more for revolution or a party than they were ready to deal with the Klan. The only correct slogan for the Klan is “Death to the Klan!” as a call for mass mobilization and mass struggle, as a call to not give one inch of compromise to these murderous scum.

All these tasks and actions not only are necessary to help push the struggle forward but are also part of our struggle to build a genuine communist party built on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought which can unite, organize and guide the struggles against monopoly capitalism in this country and lead them finally to making socialist revolution.