Wohlforth Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Tim Wohlforth

Periodicals in Review

(Fall 1962)

From International Socialist Review, Vol.23 No.4, Fall 1962, p.127.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Negro Nationalism

A number of articles are beginning to appear in the radical and liberal press commenting on the new trends within the Negro movement. The most interesting and stimulating material yet published on the subject appears in the current issue of Studies on the Left (Vol.2, No.3, 1962). Studies deserves a good deal of credit for publishing John Schultz’s interview with Robert F. Williams, which captures so well the mood and spirit of the Negro militant, and Harold Cruse’s incisive article Revolutionary Nationalism and the Afro-American. All in all the current issue of Studies is perhaps the best these Wisconsin students have yet put out.

Of particular interest in Harold Cruse’s article is his critique of the Stalinist approach to Negro history (an approach which he insists on attributing to “Marxists” in general). Cruse feels that Aptheker and other Stalinist historians view the Negro People as an undifferentiated entity with identical interests. With this outlook the Stalinists ignore the very real class differentiations within the Negro community and thus have no way of explaining why the mass of the Negro people have so decisively rejected the leadership of the black bourgeoisie. This leads the Stalinists to simply tail the NAACP, King, CORE leaderships rather than seek an alternative to them.

“Lacking a working class character,” Cruse comments, “Marxism in the United States cannot objectively analyze the role of the bourgeoisie or take a political position in Negro affairs that would be more in keeping with the aspirations of the masses.”

Cruse’s comments on the Negro Nationalists are also quite thought-provoking. He feels that the progressive content of this movement has not been fully understood by the radical movement. At the same time he seems to feel that the goals of the Nationalists are Utopian.

“White society, the Muslims feel, is sick, immoral, dishonest, and filled with hate for non-whites. Their rejection of white society is analogous to the colonial people’s rejection of imperialist rule. The difference is only that people in colonies can succeed and Negro Nationalists cannot. The peculiar position of Negro Nationalists in the United States requires them to set themselves against the dominance of whites and still manage to live in the same country.”

It will be through the proper fusion of the Negro’s legitimate striving for self-identity and rejection of white bourgeois culture with the elements of class identity and struggle which will produce an effective Negro revolutionary movement. If Jim Crow cannot be rooted out of the fabric of capitalist society as Cruse correctly insists and if a national solution to the Negro question is Utopian, then there exists only one other solution – the overthrow of the existing social structure and the establishment of a socialist equalitarian society. This task cannot be completed by the Negro alone. He needs, as an ally, the white working class.

The proper balance of these elements into a correct program, the consolidation of a revolutionary Negro movement around such a program, all this is not a simple task. It will take much effort, much discussion, much thought. Contributions of the quality of Harold Cruse’s will be most essential.

Peaceful Politics

There is no protest movement in the United States so completely and thoroughly dominated by a “classless” middle class outlook and ideology as the peace movement. But, paradoxically, peace is a question above all which can only be resolved through the most fundamental revolutionary destruction of the social system which is driving the world madly towards war and universal death. Perhaps it is a feeling that this is one battle that must be fought through resolutely, uncompromisingly, which makes so many in the peace movement shrink away from any battle at all – once the battle is engaged the logic of it is difficult to avoid.

Currently we have read, with considerable upset of our digestive system, two typical products of this middle class mood which so dominates the peace movement: the special issue of New University Thought, Peace, 1962, and Peace Takes to the Hustings by Mary M. Grooms in the July 28 issue of the Nation.

Ten contributors write in New University Thought on the Politics of Peace and Mrs. Grooms picks up on the same theme in the Nation. Taken together these writings express rather well the spirit of the “new mood” of political activity in peace circles. The New University material reads like a primer on the art of licking the boots of the powers that be. Representative William Fitts Ryan’s legislative assistant tells you how to influence congressmen while others write on the techniques of organizing “peace lobbies.” All the projects seem so senseless, to express such weakness and disorientation. It is difficult to believe that the practitioners of this form of “politics” really believe that the US Government can be tamed into a peace-loving force through the lobbying of Democratic and Republican politicians or supporting the more “peaceful” politicians in primaries. One gets a feeling that all this is simply a substitute for doing nothing, a reaction to the correct feeling that protests and demonstrations are not enough.

None of these writers have any conception of the necessity to take the struggle for peace out of the suburban middle class homes and the intellectual campus community – to seek to mobilize the only force capable of changing modern society, the working class. Rather we find the opposite kind of thinking. Mrs. Grooms feels that it was wrong for the CND in England to support the Labour Party or the peace forces in Canada to support the New Democratic Party. You see, this would “split the peace vote” and who knows how many Conservatives might be willing to sign some sort of peace-loving petition.

Wohlforth Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 25.9.2008