Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Amiri Baraka

Run Jesse Run!

Jackson’s candidacy is a critical part of defeating Reagan in 1984

First Published: Unity, Vol. 7, No. 2, February 8-21, 1984.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Jesse Jackson’s decision to run for president is a singularly important, even critical factor in U.S. politics during this period. Critical, because at this point U.S. imperialism “led” by Ronald Reagan has not only been moving as fast as possible and as far as possible to the right, but these politics threaten fascism domestically and World War III internationally.

In the face of this rightward surge, the Democrats have also tailed the Republicans, moving to the right as well. So that both of the leading Democratic presidential candidates Mondale and Glenn, sound every day more and more conservative. Glenn in fact, is very much like an “Eisenhower Republican.”

The fundamental importance of Jackson’s candidacy is to take the whole electorate to the left.

Jackson’s presence among the presidential candidates ideally must force all the candidates to address questions (or at least take them into consideration) which previously would not even be considered. Not only “black issues” but foreign policy, particularly concerning Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, the Middle East, and the rest of the third world, disarmament, international alliances, immigration policies, north-south relationships. Jackson’s announced intention to struggle in the Democratic Convention is certainly correct. Impotent “third parties” are not as relevant at this point as a direct assault on one of the bastions of bourgeois democracy. The Democrats must be made to deal with the critical international problems, but most importantly they must be made to deal with the real needs of the American people, particularly the multinational working class.

The issues must be fought out on the floor of the Democratic Convention (so they will be trumpeted across the country). The black struggle is one key to the general U.S. proletarian revolution! The black masses have always formed the exploited base of the U.S. economy and social system. The white chauvinism that is the psychological justification for racism is the most reactionary form of opportunism, and class exploitation in the modern industrial state.

Sweep to the right

Since the murders of the principal leadership of the African American national liberation struggle, in the 50’s and 60’s Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, the most militant organizations of that struggle have generally disappeared. In fact, assassinations claimed the leadership of not only the BLM but with John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy the leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie as well. A casual look at the political trend of the U.S. presidents since Kennedy indicates how clear this country has been swept to the right! The only Democratic president since John F. Kennedy’s successor Lyndon B. Johnson was Carter who got in office based on the fallout of the Watergate scandal.

(There is a really frightening book Coup d’etat in America: The CIA and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, which includes photos of H. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis, two of the Watergate burglars, in police custody below the so-called “grassy knoll” minutes after Kennedy was assassinated. They were arrested, as “John Does,” characterized as “tramps” and released. The photos were taken from the front page of a Dallas newspaper!)

The point is that there has been an accelerated drive by the right in this country to completely dominate U.S. society and it is succeeding! The election of Ronald Reagan has opened the floodgates of reaction in power at every level of U.S. society. Both domestically and internationally.

The Reagan presidency has set the tone of undisguised attacks on labor (e.g., the destruction of the PATCO union, the attempts by Continental Airlines and Greyhound to destroy the unions). It has championed racism and male chauvinism, attacking social services of all kinds, food stamps, welfare, social security. It has all but demolished affirmative action, undermined public education, made direct assaults on African Americans, Latinos, undocumented workers, blocked ERA, and even made it almost impossible for many workers’ children to get free or reduced-priced school lunches.

At the same time, many social outrages not sponsored directly by the Reagan Administration have been supported by them, such as the repugnant campaigns of rightists like the so-called “Moral Majority,” or the anti-abortion Right to Life reactionaries, and other groups of burners, anti-science cultists (e.g., creationists) and so forth.

Direct assaults on all oppressed nationalities have risen sharply (such as the Vincent Chin case). This far-right tone has clearly characterized U.S. foreign policy which has become openly jingoistic and self-righteously imperialist!

Militarism abroad

Reagan’s racist “constructive engagement” with South Africa has supported their continuing occupation of Namibia and parts of Angola; the bombing of Mozambique; raids into Lesotho; and attempts to destabilize Zimbabwe and other “front-line” African states.

While long-term the U.S. is in strategic decline and the U.S.S.R. is strategically on the rise, U.S. imperialism has become the more aggressive superpower at this particular time. It is counterattacking and blustering bellicose threats to the world. It has set its Middle Eastern surrogate loose to run amok through the Arab world. The outrageous bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor was followed by the invasion and occupation of Lebanon, the massacre of Palestinian civilians, and the threatened partition of that country.

In Central America, the U.S. has intervened in El Salvador to prop up a bloody junta and is daily trying to topple the democratic Nicaraguan government. This has been topped by the racist bully invasion of Grenada, making clear how far Reagan and company will go to restore U.S. imperialism to its bloody throne. Certainly now we must all be aware of how dangerous and repressive is the present U.S. government.

What is so critical is that if we do not stop Reagan now, his re-election will allow his policies to shoot this country even much further to the right than it is now. Fascism and world war are the objective goals of this administration, and we must mobilize the broadest united front of the American people to make an end to the Reagan juggernaut or risk a repression so thorough in this society that bourgeois democracy as we know it will in all likelihood cease to exist!

Broad united front

The so-called Rainbow Coalition, the united front whose tip we glimpsed in the second March on Washington in August, 1983, must be the focus of our mobilization.

Jackson’s candidacy is key in this mobilization because he is the only candidate with sufficient stature able to mobilize most sectors of that broad united front. Further, he is the most progressive of the Democratic candidates, therefore the most qualified.

Jackson’s candidacy must be able to register millions of new voters, certainly hundreds of thousands of black voters.

The statistics that Jackson cites in his recent speeches are electrifying. For instance, he points out that Reagan won the last election by 200,000 votes in New York state, but there are over 800,000 unregistered black voters in that state alone!

One stumbling block in progressive organizations for many years has been the fact that many of the would-be organizers fail to completely understand the nature of bourgeois democracy. Too often we have modelled our political work wholly on earlier historical models without making the “concrete analysis of concrete conditions” that Lenin called for. Mao Zedong in “Problems of War and Strategy” (1938) pointed out that in bourgeois democracies “the question is one of a long legal struggle, of utilizing parliament as a platform, of economic and political strikes . . . .” The task is “to educate the workers and build up strength through a long period of legal struggle, and thus prepare for the final overthrow of capitalism.”

But too often some “Marxists” have neglected or stepped away from this “legal struggle” in the “parliaments” and trade unions Mao speaks of. The Russia and China that many used as our ongoing models were not bourgeois democracies. But even in pre-revolutionary Russia, Lenin utilized parliament to agitate and propagandize.

The Jackson candidacy can help us mobilize millions of Americans against Reagan and the politics of war. It can help us openly mobilize the masses against imperialism and superpower contention!

The principal enemy of black liberation is the racist imperialist class whose most important spokesperson is Ronald Reagan. This class is also the enemy of the majority of people in the U.S. The task of transforming objective allies into conscious allies, building class unity among the multinational working class is one of the most important tasks confronting revolutionary organizers.

New York Mayor Koch’s and Reagan’s attempts to divide blacks and Latinos are aimed at splitting this class unity. The Jewish Defense League’s loud and empty campaign “Jews Against Jackson,” with the infamous racist Meir Kahane of the JDL, has promised to disrupt Jesse Jackson’s appearances because Jackson is an “anti-Semite” is obviously set in motion by the far right to split Jews and blacks, two important elements of any anti-Reagan movement. The attack by Zionists on the Africana Studies program at State University of New York Stony Brook seems part of the same attempt at splitting blacks and Jews. The right seeks to disperse key elements of the traditional Democratic Party constituency. And we must expose and oppose this attempt!

Struggle in the united front

But real unity can only come through struggle! Struggle around the Jackson candidacy can forge a multinational popular front that can not only defeat Reagan but go forward toward building a new broad unity among the working class and the rest of the population, that would help in the building of a genuine multinational communist party.

Jackson’s candidacy should put a progressive sector in some kind of bargaining situation with the Democratic Party that previously did not exist. Jackson as vice president on a Jackson-Mondale ticket would create an attractive popular ticket for millions of people, one that could maximize the democratic force at a popular level necessary to turn back the right!

The front can be as broad as possible around the campaign, an anti-Reagan, pro-Jackson (and then pro-whatever the positive results of Jackson’s entrance into the Democratic Convention) being the central unifying principles!

The “amateur hour” politics of the pseudo-left and near-left, such as the “presidential campaigns” of the Communist Party USA, Socialist Workers Party, New Alliance Party and others, must be collectively transcended!

How can people hope to make socialist revolution who cannot even elect the mayor?

Jackson’s candidacy is a charismatic and radical thrust against the top levels of bourgeois democracy. Any ticket including Jackson would have enough charisma and enough potential political explosiveness to send out a whole new wave of politically motivated young people. To help reorganize revolutionary and progressive politics.

The opposition of the national leadership of the NAACP and Urban League is predictable, since their policies are still controlled by that sector of the U.S. bourgeoisie that gives philanthropies to black institutions.

Destruction of democratic rights

The attacks on the BLM and the whole movement of progressive people during the 60’s and the subsequent reactionary trend in the U.S. is very much like the destruction of the Reconstruction after the Civil War.

The destruction of the Reconstruction stopped the entrance of African Americans into U.S. society as citizens with equal rights. The direct assault and naked rule of terror by the KKK in the South was followed by laws that formally made black people legally unequal and with separate status as U.S. citizens by law. The Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and the militancy of the 60’s Black Liberation Movement fought around the dis-enfranchisement, inequality, American apartheid, that the destruction of the 19th century Reconstruction created. Attacks on voting rights as a basis of bourgeois democratic political representation and power were always key to the national oppression of the black masses. Without that disenfranchisement, there would be widespread political representation of blacks in the South, and in the Black Belt a long history of black representation and political power that would have changed the entire character of the South and the U.S. society as we know it. Since the Civil War most of the representation in U.S. Congress and locally in the South has been illegal since blacks have been stopped from participation.

For this reason voting rights, political democracy are important aspects of the black struggle for democracy. Jesse Jackson will highlight this struggle, and the whole level of class struggle can be elevated and intensified around this issue, and resistance to Reagan and U.S. imperialism’s sharp move toward war and fascism.

The Nixon-Carter-Reagan years have also been long strides away from the 60’s reconstruction, a replay of the 1870’s destruction of the Reconstruction. At the high point of that period at the end of the 19th century the U.S. invaded Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in what was called the Spanish-American War, announcing U.S. imperialism’s maturity on the world stage, and as preface to World War I. At the end of this current destruction of the reconstruction of the 60’s Reagan and company have already gone into Grenada and have given the world notice that World War III might not be so far away.

In this context it is imperative that we use the Jackson candidacy as a focus of reorganization and counterattack against the growing strength of U.S. reaction before it is too late.