Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Commentary on the Greensboro shooting

The Klan: henchmen of imperialism

First Published: Unity, Vol. 2, No. 23, November 16-29, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On November 3 in Greensboro, North Carolina, a band of Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party members attacked an anti-Klan demonstration, murdering five and wounding at least eight others. The killings were another bloody example of the ruthlessness of racist forces such as the Klan.

The shootings show that the Klan and similar forces have become emboldened in their activities. The Klan attack is a part of a general offensive of reactionary paramilitary forces around the country. It is no coincidence that the Klan attack has occurred at a time when it is once again holding rallies and press conferences and openly recruiting. The Klan and Nazis are re-emerging not just in the South but in the North where they have held demonstrations in Chicago, burned crosses and painted swastikas in New York state and attacked Blacks in San Diego. But this type of activity is the most intense in the South, as this is the land base of the Afro-American nation and the main area of struggle of the Afro-American people for self-determination.

The ruling forces of this country have always encouraged Klan activities whenever extralegal terror was needed to attack the mass movement, in particular the Black Liberation Movement. The Klan itself was originally formed by Southern plantation owners and Northern Wall Street capitalists to smash rising Black political power in the post-Civil War period. The Klan killed and tortured Blacks and intimidated sympathetic whites. Between 1876 and 1898 over 2,500 known Blacks were lynched in the South.

The Klan re-emerged during the Depression years and then again during the years of the Civil Rights Movement to attack the developing people’s forces. Today–as U.S. imperialism is being attacked all over the world, its economy is in constant turmoil, and mass discontent grows due to the resulting cuts in basic services and rising unemployment – the Klan again is becoming more active in doing imperialism’s dirty work to repress the growing mass resistance, especially in the Black Liberation Movement.

The shootings in Greensboro also further illustrate the direct connection between the state and the Klan. It is well-known that there are many Klan members and sympathizers in law enforcement agencies around the country. In Greensboro, police early in advance informed the Klan of the rally site and conveniently disappeared before the Klan arrived and opened fire.

President Carter sent two dozen FBI agents to North Carolina after the shootings to give the appearance that the federal government was concerned about the violence. But this was just so much window dressing. The federal government knows full well the identities of the Klan leaders and allows them to freely operate and plan their activities. Also, as recently revealed, federal agents have infiltrated the ranks of the Klan and have been involved in some of its most violent actions. FBI agents were involved in the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that left three little Black girls dead.

In Greensboro, all five victims were members of the Workers Viewpoint Organization (now known as the Communist Workers Party). WVO is a small opportunist sect, and in the weeks prior to the shootings, had challenged the Klan to a fight. WVO however was inadequately prepared for a real showdown with the Klan and the result was the deaths of five WVO members.

The Klan is hoping that their violence will intimidate progressive and revolutionary forces. But this is not the case. Throughout history the people’s forces have waged blow for blow struggles against the Klan. One reason the Klan must remain a clandestine organization is because it is so hated by the people. The only reason the Klan has continued to exist is because of the protection of the state.

Recently there have been numerous anti-Klan actions. In northern Mississippi, the United League has conducted its work for years by broadly organizing the masses, taking precautions against Klan threats and practicing armed self-defense. In Dallas, Texas, on the same weekend of the Greensboro shootings a coalition of 2,000 Blacks, Chicanos and whites turned back a march of 40 Klan members. In Concord, California, in October, 1,000 people shouted down a small rally of Nazis who had to be protected by hundreds of police.

An important basic weapon in the struggle against the Klan is the forging of a national Black united front struggling for self-determination and a united front of all the progressive and revolutionary forces against imperialism and their agents like the Klan. A related lesson from the Greensboro shootings also is the necessity of armed self-defense.

The battle against the Klan is an inseparable part of the fight against imperialism itself. Nurtured and inspired by the ruling forces of this country, the Klan will be around as long as there is a bourgeoisie. U.S. revolutionaries should draw appropriate lessons from the Greensboro killings to become wiser, more determined and more astute in the battle to put a final end to the bloody rule of U.S. capitalism and its henchmen like the Klan. Death to the Klan!