ISR Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialist Review, Spring 1964


Robert Vernon

The Irrepressible Conflict


Source: International Socialist Review, Vol.25 No.2, Spring 1964, p.63.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Racial Crisis in America: Leadership in Conflict
by Lewis Killian and Charles Grigg
Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1964. 144 pp. Paper $1.95. Cloth $4.50.

The authors, both Southerners on the staff of Florida State University, are indicative of a new and more realistic trend in American academic sociology. Killian and Grigg challenge the naive expectation that the Southern race conflict will succumb to a reaffirmation of the American Creed; that resistance to integration “only delays the inevitable,” that “better communication between the races” will work wonders of love and understanding; or that the alleged good will, sense of fair play, justice, and respect for law of most white Americans and the natural big-heartedness of white American society will absorb all shocks of conflict within the framework of orderly democratic processes and continual “progress.”

Killian and Grigg sketch instead a sociologist’s alternative of conflict between “two hostile interest groups” as a more natural mode of socio-political interaction, in a “conflict-negotiation-compromise” cycle. This they see as a “dark” and “pessimistic” picture, but one which, ugly as it is, must be faced. The authors spend the first 100 pages verbalizing the trivial and the obvious in discussing the dilemmas, headaches, and illusions of impotent Southern white liberals, Negro accommodationists, and “responsible leaders,” and bi-racial committees for piecemeal integration. The authors draw inferences of real interest only in the last two chapters where they turn to the implications of social struggle in the North.

“... masses of Negroes trapped in these densely populated, continuously deteriorating ghettoes are not likely to keep pace with ‘the American way of life.’ Hence there is great danger that ... faith in America will be drowned in this black sea. Their isolation from white Americans will be magnified and, in their bitterness and isolation, they may be mobilized for violent conflict against people who need only to be recognized as white to be identified as enemies ... it is in the cities that most Negro Americans now live. In the cities the dynamite is waiting for the spark, and there is the hard core of ‘the Negro problem.’”

Killian and Grigg have their eyes opened wider than one would expect of academic sociologists. But they aren’t aware of half the dangers facing white America’s Way of Life. They realize that desegregation and integration, “token” or otherwise, will not make a dent in the white problem in the North. They wave the bogeyman of the Black Muslims as the worst variant of the impending conflict. But the Muslims are at most only a symbol and a symptom of “worse” yet to come.

Where Killian and Grigg see danger in insoluble conflict in an otherwise viable and eternal society, the new generation of black militants and the revolutionary socialists see the hopeful prospect of an unrelenting and uncompromising struggle for a new society.

Top of page

ISR Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 3 June 2009