Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Miami Conference: U.S. People Demand New Leadership For The 80’s

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 21, June 16, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Communist Workers Party is actively participating in a conference–New Leadership for the 80’s–in the heart of Liberty City, the storm center of the Miami rebellion. Phil Thompson, Central Committee member and spokesman for the Communist Workers Party, said on the purpose of the Conference is to “Sum up the lessons of the rebellion with the revolutionary people of Miami, and to make it clear that the only way to end exploitation of working people and the oppression of blacks, Cubans, Haitians and other minorities is to overthrow monopoly capitalism and build a society where workers and oppressed nationalities rule over the capitalists–and that means socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

The revolutionary anger of the people have not diminished in the least in the weeks since the rebellion. Almost anyone in Miami will tell you that the shit ainít over yet. What we have here is a cease-fire. The announcement of this conference is a timely step to meet the most urgent demand of the masses and that is for revolutionary leadership. Over and over again, on street corners, in empty school yards, as people discuss and digest the lessons of the Miami rebellion, you will hear that, “if we only had some real leadership, we could really get something done.”

If you don’t run the line in Miami, you can’t even begin to do work there. Even the pigs will tell you the issue isn’t police brutality. The masses don’t want to hear about some poverty programs, they want to know how you are going to prevent restoration of capitalism once you seize state power. They want to know our line on Tito and Stalin. So the only way to tap the masses enthusiasm is lay out the Party’s line on preparation for the dictatorship of the proletariat in the 80’s and what future it brings to the Afro-Americans.

Expose the Capitalist Lie that Miami was A Race Riot

Jerry Tung, General Secretary of the Communist Workers Party, recently pointed out the implications of the Miami revolt for the 80’s, “The Miami revolt speaks for the whole U.S. people, the Levitowns, Love Canals; the number of Afro-American revolts in recent weeks, are indicators, foreshadowing the revolutionary situation to come. The massive food riots, widespread armed clashes of striking workers and the state, the revolt of the multinational working class, the revolt of the multinational jobless, the multinational poor, and the siding of the petty bourgeoisie. .. The spontaneous revolutionary situation, the ripening of the spontaneous subjective factor may come soon–whether we are ready or not–the situation will be entirely different, with a spontaneous revolutionary situation like in South Korea now. The bourgeoisie will not be sufficiently centralized to concentrate forces to suppress them but the masses will not have the leadership to seize power if we are not prepared.”

The capitalist class, morbidly afraid of the anger of the U.S. people, have subjected the truth of the Miami rebellion to a campaign of wholesale distortion and suppression. From the point of view of the capitalist class, Miami is a city gone mad. To try to make the Miami rebellion serve their twisted aim of dividing the U.S. people, they have tried to turn Miami into a race riot. As one paper put it, “an orgy of violence by blacks against whites.” The Washington Post said, “We are not dealing with the 60’s. These rioters were different. In the past white people got hurt because they got in the way, or provoked a confrontation. In this riot, the purpose was to kill white people.” (May 15, 1980) This is a lie. The Miami rebellion, especially in its early stages was aimed at the capitalist state, the heart of capitalist rule. Remember the papers’ report that a man was snatched from his car, beaten almost to death, his ears cut off, his tongue cut out, and a car ran over him 2 or 3 times as blacks cheered? Remember that? Well, that “innocent bystander” was a KKK dog who got caught shooting at blacks a few minutes earlier. He deserved everything he got.

The capitalist class tried to say that it was black against white, or black against Cubans, blacks against anybody but the capitalist class. The scapegoat politics that they tried to whip up this time is a continuation of the scapegoating tactics that the capitalists have been trying to whip up for months and years in Miami. When blacks tried to go to the food stamps office, or to the welfare office, or to the unemployment office, the social workers said that there were no benefits for blacks because money was being used to take care of the Cuban refugees.

The lie that Miami was anti-white or anti-Cuban was smashed by the thousands of white workers who called in to radio shows, saying they support the rebellion. A poll of the DJ’s of the white stations showed that more than 70% of the callers during the rebellion supported it. Their lies were exploded by Paul and Ruth Jones, white workers whose home was burned down during the rebellion, “What you have to understand about this whole McDuffie thing that it wasn’t blacks against whites, it was the poor against the cops and rich.” The second day of the rebellion, a Cuban political organization held a rally in support of it and offered to supply Liberty City with weapons during the rebellion.

At one plant that used to be mostly black, now mostly Cuban, the bosses tried to bust the union during the rebellion by demanding that every one at the plant work mandatory overtime, knowing full well that all buses stopped running out of Liberty City at 5:00pm. The Cuban workers refused the overtime in support of their Afro-American brothers. When a 12-year old girl was run down by the cops, a Cuban organization put up more than $35,000 to cover the hospitalization expenses. Miami wasn’t a race riot, it was the explosion the anger of the whole U.S. people.

Miami Signals the Death of Reformism in the Black Liberation Movement

The profound change in the thinking of the Afro-American masses is reflected in the rejection of the big 5 misleadership (Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, NAACP, Operation PUSH, Congress for Racial Equality). Reformist black leadership were flown in on the orders of Carter to cool down the revolt of the Afro-American people. Even Newsweek to their own discomfort was forced to point out “the example of Andy Young’s hopeless attempt to quiet Miami suggested how little the mainstream leadership can do about it.” When Young tried to speak he was denounced. The black community demanded “what the hell are you doing here,” “the only time we see y’ll so-called leaders is when you come here trying to calm somebody.” Frightened out of his wits Young was forced to leave under “protective escort.” So terrified was Jesse Jackson when he got to Miami he lamented “this is the bitterest I’ve have ever seen.”

The 70’s proved that the reformist leadership was incapable of waging a consistent fight against national oppression. For their philosophy and political line make them susceptible to co-optation. The highly publicized resolution of the Gary Black Political Convention went no where after the conference was over. The Black United Fronts that emerged in 1978-1979 in Philly and New York took up a few fights and drifted into electoral politics.

This is why the Afro-American masses in Miami and throughout the country have rejected electoral politics as the road to black liberation. The objective demand of the Afro-American people cannot be interpreted any other way than a demand for revolution. The objective demand of the people of Miami is for a revolutionary party, not reformist mis-leaders. The masses demand the right of armed self-defense, not “turn the other cheek” philosophy.

McDuffie – The Spark that Starts The Prairie Fire

There was little doubt that in Liberty City, ravaged by 40% unemployment, scores of police murders, rapes that go unpunished, with half of the black population living below the official poverty level, that an acquital for the killers of Arthur McDuffie meant war. Miami was on edge all week long waiting the verdict. The night before the verdict was to be announced, the general manager of the black radio station ended his editorial by raising the question how long will blacks in Miami passively accept the injustice of the system. When the verdict was announced, the masses set into motion. Suddenly hundreds were on several street corners, and 5000 assembled in Liberty City’s largest park in angry silence.

That night, more than 5000 people surrounded the police headquarters and immediately a fierce struggle with the police began. The doors to the police station were battered down as several heroic attempts to storm the police station were made. The battle for the Miami police headquarters lasted for more than an hour and a half.

Vanguard Action

On the first night of the rebellion, the most important target components of state power in Miami were attacked in a conscious and organized manner. A black worker interviewed by the Workers Viewpoint said the following. “There were 3 things that happened that weekend, first a rebellion that began, and as a result of the rebellion, a riot broke out, because of the riot, looting took place. Now if you look at the first part, the rebellion part, those businesses were systematically ripped off of anything of value. The buildings were demolished and you know a molotov cocktail could not have done that. And besides, too many buildings were up simultaneously and so there are some brothers who appear to be dealing with this thing righteously, and in some of the co-op area you will find that the food that was taken was given to the poor, not sold but given. After the rebellion, then the riot took place. You had people all over the place. People started looting indiscriminately. The 3 factions resulted in that weekend of turmoil, not one person who were in the rebellion picture, and I would venture to say that, not one of them was even killed or caught. The rioters and the looters learnt who the brothers are because no one got killed.”

This is a very valuable observation to the CWP. Because this worker’s comments show at once the degree of spontaneous consciousness and organization of the masses and the limitations of any rebellion that lacks stable, authoritative communist leadership.

Correct Leadership and Tight Organization is Necessary for Victory

His observation that the casualties were the least among the most organized and conscious participants is not an accident. It vividly confirms the correctness of the Party’s demand for higher level of politics and tighter organization to be match to the tasks of class struggle in the 80’s. Because without a high level of discipline there is no way that timely vanguard actions which are an indispensable part of the party’s arsenal of tactics. But the task of seizing state power from the capitalist class demands that we not only be capable of executing military attacks against the bourgeoisie with deadly accuracy, we must be organized and lead the masses in the tens and hundreds of millions in a relentless and determined straggle against the bourgeoisie. This level of organization is not possible spontaneously. Only the leadership of a communist party–party of the working class–that is based on the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought, a party that can master all forms of struggle and has earned the confidence of the masses in the course of fighting the bourgeoisie toe to toe.

Lenin made it very clear, the caliber of organization that it takes to lead the masses to seize state power when he said, “When in the pursuit of a single aim and animated by a single will, millions alter the forms of their communication and their behavior, change the place and the modes of their activities, change their tools and weapons in accordance with the changing conditions and requirements of the struggle–all this is genuine organization.”

This most profound lesson of the Miami uprising has already been taken to heart by revolutionaries like Leo Harris who said, “If the CWP had been there we could have taken things much further.” At the Miami conference, what kind of leadership will lead the Afro-Americans and the American people in the 80’s will be the main point of discussion.