Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

W. Jean-Pierre

Black Liberation in the ’80s
Black Marxists meet in Detroit


First Published: The Call, Vol. 10, No. 5, July 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Detroit, Mi. – Black Marxists from six different cities representing several different organizations as well as individual activists gathered in Detroit on June 20 for a meeting on the current state of the Black liberation movement and the role of Black Marxist-Leninists.

Mike Hamlin, former chairman of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Black Workers Congress, stated that Black revolutionaries needed to regroup and organize to provide leadership and direction to the Black liberation movement during this period of crisis and increasing attacks on Black people by the forces of reaction.

“Presently in Detroit, Atlanta and elsewhere, Black people are being thrown out pf industry, kicked off of welfare, murdered by police and reactionary groups like the KKK, and being driven into destitution and poverty on a scale like that of the 1930’s.

“White workers are also catching hell, but because of the lack of progressive, left-wing organizations among them, they are being organized by the right to attack the oppressed minorities as the source of die crisis,” he stated.

“This situation has led to an extreme polarization of the races and a weakening of the whole labor movement which is now only experiencing the beginning of the ruling class attacks on it,” he explained. He also stated that militant Black leadership and organization is lacking to defend the basic democratic and human rights of the Black masses.

Viola Plummer, a black activist from N.Y., stated that housing and educational standards for Black people are continuing to decline while the unemployment rate skyrockets.

“For Black and other minority youth the unemployment rates are so high as to be genocidal.”

Lynn Mosely, a teacher, and former leader of the Black Workers Congress, stated that the increase in “structural” (permanent) unemployment is such that many of the Black and minority youth of today will never have jobs.

There was agreement among most attending this meeting that the present economic crisis is bearing down hard on all workers. People also stated, however, that though all workers are affected by the economic crisis, not all workers are affected equally.

The 1980 unemployment rate if analyzed through its component parts (race, age and sex) shows that white males have the lowest unemployment rate, followed by white females, Black female adults and Black male adults. Black youth fare worst with an unemployment rate which is five times the official unemployment rate for the country as a whole.

People also discussed the significance of unemployment in relation to particular industries. Among the hardest hit, for example, are the auto, steel and construction industries. The unemployment rate in the auto industry is nearly three times the “official” rate of 7.3%. This heavy industrial sector in which a large section of Black workers have been historically concentrated, has suffered high unemployment rates since the 1974-75 recession. These rates have been attributed in part to the growing surge in plant closings, “sun belt” migration and “re-industrialization” which has automation and the elimination of jobs as its major component.

The result of these developments, people stated, was that Black people are facing an employment and consequent social crisis of more serious proportions than at any time since the Great Depression.

Speaking of some of the political realities of the present situation, Don Stone, an activist from Atlanta and former BWC leader, stated that fascist tendencies within the state apparatus are growing. He cited numerous political and legislative acts which are gaining support through right-wing organizing efforts and the Reagan administration.

“The anti-abortion laws, the assault upon the Voting Rights Act, the attack upon science, logic and reason as indicated by the ’Creationist Movement,’ the budget cuts aimed at every social program that exists (except those that benefit the rich, ed.), the massive spending going into the defense budget, the reactionary culture represented by the filth that is churned out of Hollywood, TV, and and the newspapers are all indicators of where the state is headed. And that highway is labeled fascism.”

Comrades from the Proletarian Unity League showed how the anti-busing movement in Boston has been used to polarize the races and simultaneously drive down the educational standards for most Black kids.

A representative of the CPML stated that Black women were bearing the brunt of both the economic and social consequences of the present crisis. Citing a number of studies, she stated that Black women heads-of-households constituted nearly 50% of Black families and form the bulk of what is considered the “Black working poor” as opposed to the “welfare” stereotype.

At the same time, she stated, neither the nationalist movement nor the communist movement has tapped the revolutionary potential of Black women and brought them into their organizations in sufficient numbers, especially in leadership.

In addition to making an objective analysis of the conditions of Black people today, the participants also summed up the sectarianism which has characterized both the nationalist and Marxist-Leninist movements in the past ten years and which has taken its toll on organizations and individuals. People felt that the very fact that such a meeting could be held, after years of internecine and factional struggle, was itself a rejection of this sectarianism.

Earl Rose, member of the CPUSA(ML) formerly MLOC, stated that though a great many differences exist between the various groups and individuals, especially on questions of political line, the conditions clearly call for unity, at the very least.

In conclusion, the participants agreed to expand the next meeting scheduled for late September 1981 to include other activists both inside and outside organizations. They agreed also to fight for four broad strategic goals: 1) unity of the Black Liberation Movement, 2) building Black working class organizations, 3) unity of Black Marxist-Leninists, 4) unity of all Marxist-Leninists.

The participants also passed a number of resolutions, including: appointing W. Jean-Pierre to write a draft minimum program for the group, supporting a Black Workers Conference sponsored by the Black Workers’ Organizing Committee in New York, and designating the Detroit participants to act as a coordinating committee for the next meeting.