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NYU Screening: Finally Got The News (1970)

Finally Got the News, 1970 (film still)A Film by Stewart Bird, Rene Lichtman and Peter Gessner
Produced in Association with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers

Running Time: 55 Minutes

Friday, January 16th 2009
New York University Sociology Department
Puck Building
295 Lafayette st. 4th FL New York, NY 10012


"Offers black workers' views of working conditions inside Detroit's auto factories, focusing on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and their efforts to build an independent black labor organization. Beginning with a historical montage, from the early days of slavery through the subsequent growth and organization of the working class, the film examines the crucial role of the black worker in the American economy." (Facets, Chicago)

Recommended Reading:
“Soul Power or Workers Power? The Rise and Fall of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers” (1974)


  • Posted 12 years ago

    This is a joke, right? You’re using an obscure subset of an already obscure sectarian groupiscule’s take on this as your go-to analysis? And not, say, an actual history of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Revolutionary Union Movement?

    by Hegemonik on January 12, 2009 10:12 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Those of us who were attendees of the Platypus reading group this past Sunday discussed the bulletin on the LRBW by the Spartacist League as part of a group of texts — inc. Bayard Rustin. All dealt with the relationship of Black workers to labor organizing and the Left. Georgakas and Surkin’s account of the LRBW is a worthwhile read, and I would not shy away from recommending it, however, the SL bulletin is succinct and gets to the ideological and practical problems that we’d like to address in discussion. In other words, the choice was made in light of the kind of conversation we would like to have after the film.

    by NY chapter head (Author) on January 13, 2009 12:46 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Hate to state what should be abundantly obvious but… Bayard Rustin was a hack. He was beyond a hack: he was pretty openly doing the work of the CIA, not the least of which was for his redbaiting and naming-names within the Civil Rights movement.

    Why not just study the KUBARK manual?

    by Hegemonik on January 13, 2009 11:04 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    And this is why we are ultimately more interesting than anyone rehearsing the platitudes of the sectarian Left.

    Let me put it simply, we in Platypus are concerned with the purchase of the ideas and their place in the Left’s history and ideological trajectory. We read these texts not because we’d like to idolize nor lambaste these figures, but because we believe them to be important nodal points that help us understand how the Left has dealt with its immediate and long term goals through the development of its political consciousness and practice.

    by NY chapter head (Author) on January 14, 2009 11:54 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Bayard Rustin put himself to work for such great Left causes as the Dominican military junta, white rule in Rhodesia, Zionism in the Levant, and the death squads of El Salvador.

    If you consider that the Left, then it’s little wonder why you end up with a shallow slogan like,”The Left is Dead.”

    And when I say read the Kubark manual, I am quite serious. Why are we bothering with the Right’s quislings among the Left, when we could actually be bothering analyzing the Right (preferrably, to destroy it, rather than give it some Leftist patina).

    by Hegemonik on January 15, 2009 2:27 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    As much as I’ve enjoyed the repartee, I am afraid there is not much here to discuss. I’d like to discuss these issues with folks who are invested in the growth and development of political consciousness, not those who insist on petty attacks via… blogs. If you think you have something intelligent to argue, then, by all means, find a better vehicle for your ideas.

    by NY chapter head (Author) on January 15, 2009 5:03 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    p.s.- Readings on the Right reading group:

    by NY chapter head (Author) on January 15, 2009 5:15 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Since my Readings on the Right website has been mentioned, I feel that I should respond. To put it bluntly, this conversation is very frustrating. I might as well preface my statement with my opinion of the formality of “blogging,” esp. since this is the first conversation that is taking place on our new website.

    Quickly written blogs always fail to do justice on the issues at stake, no matter whose side is being defended. On the other hand, the medium of the “blog” is quite liberating in the fact that it is a rather impersonal conversation, meaning that we are usually more inclined to type (rather than say something face-to-face) what we *truly* feel. Therefore, I would hope that this is one part of the two-fold reason for creating these blogs on our website: 1) to allow a discussion to take place with those not directly involved with Platypus, or those who are unable to attend our events; and, to emphasis my point, 2) to create a platform for everyone to further contribute their knowledge and/or opinions on these issues, since it can be rather nerve-wracking (or impossible) to state them in the flesh or at the moment of conversation. Evidently, blogs do tend to become vulgar conversations, but I will leave the reader to decide if the past thread has fallen to this.

    That being said, in part it is my intention to reinvigorate *this* specific conversation, but overall, I hope that in the future, the blogs on this website will retain fruitful dialogues and/or raise important questions (that are not usually asked) so they do not turn into mindless “repartees,” or mere quagmires.

    First off, I have to admit that I know nothing about Rustin’s involvement with the CIA. When I Googled this fact, little if any credible evidence was provided to convince me he was a hack in the proper sense of the term. This is not to say that I outright deny the possibility of Rustin’s past involvement with the CIA, or of its validity. On the contrary, I would argue that if this involvement were true, it only makes Platypus’ contention “The Left is Dead” more salient, not “shallow.” Rustin is remembered for his heavy involvement with black civil rights, pacifism, and in his later life, the gay and lesbian rights movement. He was a strong voice in advocating rights for these peoples, and fought his whole life to do so. From this, in all forms of appearance, Rustin was a character that stood on the *Left* and its causes (even if he saw Stalin’s call for the CP-USA to abandon the Civil Rights Movement as a betrayal and became anti-Communist). He is certainly not remembered in the mainstream for informing the CIA, supporting dictators in Latin America, being pro-Zionist, or even siding with these causes. This, then, is far from “obvious.”

    Yet, if it is true, and his involvement with the CIA did much harm to the leftist cause (emulating a turn to the Right on Rustin’s part) it is a well repressed piece of history that must be dealt with. If one of the most arguably important figures on the American Left did turn his back on his comrades to play a role on the Right, completely reversing the ideologies he ostensibly stood for, wouldn’t that highlight the death of the Left? Doesn’t this “fact” of Rustin’s involvement with the CIA taint the name of the Left, obscuring its political position even more? If those who are historically and politically understood to uphold a leftist position, but in actuality had tendencies that negate the core of what it means to be on the “Left,” wouldn’t it be appropriate to create a venue to flesh out how this became the case?

    Maybe then the Left *is* already a movement of the Right, and its symptoms should have been apparent with Rustin’s helping hand in the CIA. (It should be obvious that today, the Left harbors tendencies of the Right but still remains unrecognized. May I mention, for example, Ramsey Clark’s distasteful legal representation and apologias for the worst dictators in the last 25 years? And this is in the name of the Left and it’s current anti-war movement! I will certainly be so bold to say the Left is Dead!) Therefore, taking these issues into account, we in Platypus welcome internal criticisms of the Left (unless they end up being pathological), and find them to be a necessary method in moving beyond the impotence we are confronted with today. To immanently dispel these myths is quite an important task for ourselves, and they must be taken seriously if we want to maintain whatever sliver of life that remains of an authentic Left. Whether we find the best approach to do this through studying well known historical accounts or “sectarian groupiscule’s” texts, what remains most important is that the critique is cogent and constructive. No jokes intended.

    Then, my question to you, Hegemonik, is what evidence is out there that proves Rustin’s involvement with the CIA (I do sincerely want to know), and how does this provide that he is not a worthy figure to study under the history and theories of the Left (since, he is coming from the ostensible Left)?

    by Chris on January 16, 2009 12:11 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Rustin’s past as a snitch is well documented – split the difference between his recent biography, as well as any decent book on Malcolm X, SNCC, and the Black Liberation Movement (as opposed to those books on the Civil Rights Movement devoted to maintaining the hagiography of Martin Luther King, of which Rustin was a chief architect).

    It’s quite clear that Rustin’s break with the CPUSA was not because he hated “Stalinism”. If it were, he would have become a Trotskyist (as part of “Left Opposition”). Instead he left because he was with Jay Lovestone’s faction (the “Right Opposition” in the U.S.) who would later be the driving forces behind the degeneration of the UAW and AFL-CIO documented in “Finally Got the News.”

    Rustin’s membership in the known CIA front of the Congress for Cultural Freedom and Freedom House are certainly no secret; his positions always towed the CIA’s line of containment (most appallingly in Africa, where said “containment” led to vicious wars in Rhodesia, Angola, as well as in the border regions of South Africa). Among his last impotent acts as a housebroken Cold-War liberal was endorsing the invasion of Grenada.

    And no, this doesn’t taint “the Left.” The *actual* Left that was involved in the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements hated Rustin. Malcolm X trounced him in debate after debate. SNCC despised him for turning the March on Washington into a Democratic lovefest and censoring speeches from the stage (alongside A. Philip Randolph who was also turning into a Cold War liberal). The Fellowship of Reconciliation bristled underneath him for being pro-war on Vietnam at the beginning of the war, which contributed greatly to the turn that the original SDS took against red-baiting with Port Huron.

    You don’t get “consciousness” from an opportunist like this. The best you get is a pathetic story of self-deception, personal enrichment, and doing the dirty work of clubbing the *actual* Left.

    by Hegemonik on January 16, 2009 3:44 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    What about Mao’s and the People’s Republic of China’s support for Mobutu in Zaire, and thus South Africa (and Rhodesia) in Africa (incl. UNITA and FNLA in Angola)? (All in the name of fighting “Soviet imperialism,” of course!)

    China, under Mao’s leadership, became an integral part of the Cold War “containment” of the USSR and its satellites, and did a lot more harm than Rustin could ever dream of!

    Isn’t this a matter of the pot calling the kettle black, so to speak?

    I suppose Hegemonik is simply more comfortable with some forms of opportunism (e.g., black nationalism) over others.

    To each his own!

    by Chris Cutrone on January 16, 2009 5:13 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    @Chris: I am more than comfortable to say that Mao’s “Three Worlds Theory” was far from a shining moment in the history of China or in Maoist theory, and am willing to condemn it to the dustbin.

    Your choice of a line of criticism that simply does not apply (because I agree on the error) highlights a number of errors of orthodox-Trotskyism’s ideological blinders, namely the application of the Third International’s logic to a post-Third International world.

    Put another way: do you really think (as the Sparts do) that every organization that was influenced by Maoist theory defended every aspect of the PRC and CPC, in the same manner that every Party that affiliated to the Third International were instructed to “defend” the Soviet Union and CPSU?

    Because actually, that was (and is) not the case. Maoism as a world-historical phenomenon did not arise out of the deliberate efforts of the Chinese to form fraternal parties each towing the CPC’s line, but rather out of external forces having some positive appraisal of the CPC’s criticisms of the CPSU and its fraternal parties’ degeneration into conservatism and “peaceful coexistence”
    and moving on.

    To wit: the only Mao Zedong Thought influenced organization in the U.S. (for the sake of brevity, the New Communist Movement) that had “the franchise” in the United States were the CP-ML. They were roundly mocked throughout the milieu for having done so. Why? Because this was contrary to the actual spirit of the New Communist Movement, which arose after this “franchise” approach (with the Soviet Union) proved itself a dead end with the CPUSA (among others) becoming mired in the wake of Khruschev and “peaceful coexistence.”

    Every other U.S. organization from that milieu (the New Communist Movement) had some line difference to the CPC over the years, over any number of questions (whether to support or condemn the SACP; Angola, the MPLA and UNITA; Cuba’s role vis-a-vis. Puerto Rico; how to sum up the defeat of Allende in Chile).

    Nevertheless, bringing this conversation back to where you left it Chris: the Sino-Soviet split was one in which the break from the Soviets was in a leftward direction. In China and in the extended set of breaks throughout the International Communist Movement, the groups that broke with the CPSU ideologically (rather than just diplomatically) did so with an eye toward remaining on the left of the pro-Soviet orthodox parties.

    The split from Soviet orthodoxy that Rustin engaged in was confirmably not to the Left, but to the Right of Soviet politics, and it too has its international dimension. Witness the phenomenon of ex-Communists now supporting Sarkozy in France; the pro-imperialist turn of the Green Party in Germany; the degeneration of the Labor Party into the poodles of Clinton and then Bush. All this under the slogan that the fall of the Soviet Union meant the Left was dead or had nothing to say; that “we’re all Thatcherites” now; that the questions of the world are no longer the class struggle but over the environment or somesuch.

    This choice of which direction we break is not academic exercise in one-upsmanship, but has serious implications for the world. Do we break with old Soviet orthodoxy simply so that we can be accomodated by the political spectrum permitted to us by the State? Or do we do so because we declare that political spectrum null and void?

    by Hegemonik on January 17, 2009 1:27 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Granted. And I appreciate the non-dogmatism.

    But all this is to one side of the point I am making in service of a Platypus approach: that Maoism, as a species of Stalinism, and hence opportunism, was an essential part of the self-liquidation and utter disappearance of the Left. Mao was harmful to the possibility of a Marxian Left.

    The fact that this conclusion seems to mean that the history of the “Left” in the 20th Century was not really of the Left at all, but rather of a new Right, namely, a new (and very brutal) form of nationalism, might not be encouraging, but I would argue is an inescapable truth, which the pseudo-“Left” tries to avoid, rationalizing or wishing it away, or responding with anger to anyone pointing it out.

    The point is not to flee in fear from the new mutant strains of the avowed Right like the neo-cons or Bernard Kouchner of Sarkozy’s France, et al., but to recognize the distintegration and demise of the Left, in which Stalinism and Maoism (and Castroism, Fanonism, etc.), as the standard-bearers of the “Left,” also played a, crucial, defining role, which must be recognized and critiqued ruthlessly.

    The “Left” having become a new Right doesn’t mean that the Right isn’t the Right; this doesn’t mean that the political spectrum doesn’t apply, but that the Left, in a Marxian sense, is absent from politics today, and has been for a very long time.

    Trotskyism might not have been a great historical tendency in terms of practical political success (and not free from the above problems) but it at least in some small measure registered political consciousness of the problem (at least Trotsky himself did).

    Trotsky’s fellow revolutionary Marxists, Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, were, by comparison to Stalin and Mao, giants in the field of addressing anticapitalist politics dialectically, and not disavowing opportunism in empty gestural ways that only furthered it unconsciously and masked it ideologically, as Mao did, in absolutely everything he did.

    If interested in a helpful way of approaching criteria of Left vs. Right, see Leszek Kolakowski’s brilliant 1968 essay on “The Concept of the Left:”

    by Chris Cutrone on January 17, 2009 2:55 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    The division of the world’s communist parties (as well as its national liberation movements) into “Stalinists” or “Other” is a shallow analysis that simply does not line up with the facts of the world as it existed, or as it exists today. This is the ossified world that Stalinophiles (Ludo Martens being an example) or orthodox Trotskyists of various shadings of the Fourth International may believe was the case — cutting feet to fit the shoes (that is to say, dogma).

    Principle error: asserting that any organization or group that had any unity with the Stalin-era Comintern, or which upheld national liberation, somehow amounts to Stalinism. The dealings of the Comintern do not so conveniently fit this schema.

    Did the Chinese belong to the Comintern and listen to the dictates of CPSU bureaucrats? At first they did. After some decisive failures for Chinese communism (namely, the destruction of the Party after it was liquidated into the Kuomintang on Stalin’s orders) the CPC and Mao soured on Stalin for the rest of the relationship between the two.

    This came to a head twice over: first, during the WWII period, in which the CPC refused to carry out Stalin’s order to once again liquidate into the KMT (as other Parties had liquidated themselves into Popular Fronts), instead choosing to prosecute the war against Japan in a united front with independence for both political and military cadre from the KMT — seeCurrent Problems of Tactics in the Anti-Japanese United Front“.

    The other of Mao’s explicit breaks from Stalinism came in peacetime in the wake of the problems of the Great Leap and the problems of the Soviet methods imported with Stalin’s importation of Soviet “advisors” into China during this period. For that, Mao criticized Stalin’s understanding of constructing socialism in “Concerning Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR

    All of which is to say, Mao cast off Stalinism in both wartime and peacetime policies of the CPC. Third-party histories of the PRC and CPSU can confirm this to you as well: contrast any account of the attempt at land reform in the Soviet Union versus those which documented land reform in China in Fanshen — it is quite clear that the methods of Stalin and Mao differed, as did their general ideological framework. This is not a matter of Mao applying a “mask” to Stalin, but a decisive break from Stalin and the general morass to which the CPSU had found themselves stuck.

    Secondary error: this, I believe to be a continuation of your stream of abuse on national liberation – upholding “Marxianism” as a mixed-bag of the worst orthodoxies of the Second International (namely, national-chauvinism) and of the Third International (namely, Eurocentrism and “defense of the Soviet Union” as a dividing line question).

    In this I have to question the understanding of the historic questions which your “Marxianism” is presupposing. Namely, the unity against nationalism that you presuppose existed among Luxemburg, Trotsky and Lenin did not exist: all three came to their own positions on national liberation as it existed in their era, namely on the question of whether to support the national insurrection in Ireland. Lenin explicitly supported James Connolly and the Easter Rising against British imperialism; Trotsky supported some vague idea of independence (but only if accomplished according to his dictates — typical early Trotsky); Luxemburg kept distant from Irish independence as far as I know (being opposed to all nationalism).

    In this, Lenin is distinguished by a fidelity to Marx’s conception of internationalism: not simply the elimination of nationalism, but the removal of the cause of nationalism. In Lenin’s terms, the ascent of capitalist states to their imperial stage, as well as the resultant superprofits extracted through this system; or in Marx’s own words, a situation in which

    The representative of the antiquated world appears prompted by ethical motives, while the representative of overwhelming modern society fights for the privilege of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest markets — this, indeed, is a sort of tragical couplet stranger than any poet would ever have dared to fancy.

    by Hegemonik on January 18, 2009 12:02 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    This debate started with “Finally got the news and has led to the Sino-Soviet split. Wow. Bravo.

    Not being able to look at this from a purely ideological basis, since I am no expert in Stalism/Leninism/Maoism, I can say this: Mao made many pragmatic choices that were objectively not good in either the long or the short run. I know that Mao attempted to justify everything he did as an off shoot of Marxism-Lenism, but the truth is that all political leaders must make “political” and not ideological decisions when dealing with affairs of state or the politics of running a movement.

    Marx even had to make political decisions in dealing with anarchists, guildists, collectivists and others within the “international.”

    Any attempt to learn from the past must be able to look at these two decisions in the light of their own time, and not draw ideological lessons from politicsl decisions.

    In the need to build power for struggle it will at times take forming alliances that are unpopular, or that might even not fall into our ideological camp at all. This is a political question.

    In Vietnam alliances were formed with minority tribes people, who were not interested in communism. In China with Muslim tribes in the west, and Nationalist at times. In the first international, even though Marx was pre-occupied with suffurage and the vote, and political parties, he was not content to let Bakunin and Collectivist gather support from all the unions and guilds — he build alliances to maintain leadership in the group.

    Political decision making is important.

    This is a way of thinking on the left that has been lost. Groups don’t want to dirty their hands by doing things that aren’t pure.

    Or by forming alliances were they can and leaving the fight with the other group till later.

    I actually think that this connects pretty well back to the story of the league of black revolutionary workers and the film.

    The League lasted two years, it was a dismal failure. As far as I can tell the whole thing was “political decisions” masquerading as “ideological decisions.”

    The focus on race and not class. The failure to reach out to white workers. The rhetoric of the group. I am sure that the masked these decisions as ideology, but in the end, the decisions killed in its infancy any chance the group had.

    How can you take on the UAW when you virtually declare 85 percent of the membership your enemy, and you are unwilling to make alliances.

    In the middle ages, alliances were made and broken when the alliance became too uncomfortable for one side or the other.

    I guess the point is — it’s ok to make bad decisions and for us to learn from them, so long as we are able to understand that some bad decisions do not show the weakness of entire ideologies, but rather the inability of the leadership of the group/state/party to formulate a good political program that wins.

    by Richard Kidd on January 18, 2009 7:14 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Both these responses, by Hegemonic and Kidd, do everything assiduously to avoid the issue of opportunism and ideological clarification, in the name of being “practical.” There is no hard line between being pragmatic and being opportunist, but everything needs to be able to remain subject to such criteria. Especially because a whole host of various supposedly pragmatic choices have ended up destroying the Left, both as a consciousness and as a practical politics.

    I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I am saying — to get back to the original point about Rustin vs. black nationalism — that we can’t be so sure looking back what was the baby and what was the bathwater. There’s no reason for us to assume, and many reasons for us to challenge, that, e.g., Malcolm X was to the “Left” (more emancipatory) than Bayard Rustin, MLK, et al.

    We can go ’round and ’round forever about who’s being dogmatic and who’s being opportunist, but the point is that such “debates” on the pseudo-“Left” have really amounted to competing dogmatisms — and opportunisms. We need to transcend both dogmatism and opportunism (really two sides of the same coin), and put to rest by now stale and quite pointless debates that have led and will lead nowhere. Hegemonik would have us forget Rustin. But such dogmatic exclusion (in favor of Malcolm X) will not help us out of the blind alley the “Left” in all its varieties has become. Platypus is the only group that will read both Malcolm X and Bayard Rustin, screen a film affirmative about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and read a critique of them. We’re doing the work the rest of the “Left” assiduously avoids doing. “The Left is dead!”

    by Chris Cutrone on January 18, 2009 12:44 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    I’m entirely willing to go into opportunism and ideological clarification, Chris.

    Lenin was asked why Brest-Litovsk and the ceding of Russia’s territory to Germany was not an opportunist compromise. His reply was that if you are accosted by a highwayman who says “Your money or your life,” — and you choose to give him your money — that is a principled compromise. An opportunist compromise is one made simply for enrichment.

    As for Rustin vs. Malcolm and MLK: there is reason to believe that, at the very least, Malcolm was far more interested in Left causes than Rustin was. That is:Malcolm was a far better internationalist than Rustin. The forgotten part of the “chickens coming home to roost” speech (re: the JFK assassination) was that Malcolm reminding his congregation that Kennedy had authorized the assassination of Lumumba. Did he get shitted on by liberals and ultimately Elijah Mohammad himself for that? Sure. But he never took it back. Just like he was willing (far earlier than Martin was) to criticize the military buildup in Vietnam and the draft. I have already spoken as to Rustin’s simultaneous cowardice and willingness to be appropriated by the State Department.Malcolm was far bolder at attacking the Democrats for attempting to have it both ways (i.e., supporting Civil Rights while upholding the Dixiecrats’ monopoly on Southern Democratic politics); one of his last speeches was on the invitation of SNCC where he gave much needed support to the rebellion against the Mississippi machine from Fannie Lou Hamer. Rustin, in contrast, was unwilling to support that rebellion if it cost votes to LBJ (who, needless to to say, was an imperialist pig).Finally, and this should not be overlooked — looking at constituencies and politics, Rustin approached the black population in the South with a certain level of cynicism, playing up their submissiveness (in the form of bourgeois non-violence) even though the South had its own exceptional leaders (such as the Deacons for Defense, Robert F. Williams, etc.) who were trying to cast off that negative legacy of Jim Crow. Not surprisingly, when Rustin returned to the North with Martin in the later years of the Civil Rights movement, he was booed for this Tom-ish behavior. In contrast, Malcolm had a far better idea of what black people throughout the U.S. were going through, and was chastened from such behavior by knowing where that led black people in the North (namely, into slums).

    As for your typical cocksure attitude, Chris:

    I can say that I’ve read more than my fair share on Rustin, Martin, Malcolm and the Civil Rights-Black Liberation Movements (and I’d be more than happy to share with you some more first-hand materials). I never suggested here that people not read. I merely stated that if one expects some revolutionary content out of an opportunist like Rustin, they will be sadly disappointed. And that if the aim here is to understand right-wing, let’s cut out the people who merely put a Left patina on the right wing.

    Likewise, did I suggest people not be critical of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers? Certainly not. I am more than a little wary, however, that the certifiably bonkers IBW and Spartacist League are far from authoritative sources on just about anything (except for justifications for pedophilia).

    A simple question here, Cutrone: do you think the Sparts’ profile on you (which we all read and laughed at) has any bearing on reality? Why would you expect this to be so on any other subject?

    The point here is that the pseudo-“objectivity” that is embraced here ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It makes for a good pose for the condescending saviors of academia who refuse to sully their pristine theories with actual practice.

    The Left may or may not be dead, but the last thing we need are necrophiles.

    by Hegemonik on January 18, 2009 3:46 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    My apologies for the bad formatting above; apparently HTML elements like unordered lists are not allowed by the commenting software.

    by Hegemonik on January 18, 2009 3:47 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    To Hegemonik,

    There isn’t a clearer way of showing defeat on a political argument than when one turns to a personal attack.

    by The Wordpress Queen on January 18, 2009 4:31 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    There is a clearer way of showing defeat, Queen: announcing your surrender to the Right by announcing that the Left is dead.

    As for “personal attacks”: at this point, when “Chris Cutrone” is literally bigger than “capitalism” on this site’s tag-cloud, is his hubris my problem or his?

    by Hegemonik on January 18, 2009 4:49 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago


    About Kidd’s post: I didn’t mean to lump him and Hegemonik together so much as to maintain the point about ideological clarity, which is not a matter of purism. One can and must drink contaminated water all the time, but there is a point at which it becomes too toxic.

    But Kidd’s point about the “black nationalist” 1960s New Leftist rejection of the established labor movement, as in the League of Revolutionary Black Workers’ dual-unionism (one black, one white, and what about everyone else?) and struggle not within but against the UAW (e.g., “UAW means yoU Ain’t White!,” and about Walter Reuther, an important historical labor militant, “behead the red-head!,” etc.), remains very pertinent. Again, the line between political pragmatics and opportunist adaptation is not a hard and fast one. Whereas Rustin was part of the “labor bureaucracy,” Malcolm X et al. were strike-breaking Right-wingers with no compunction about it. (Malcolm X once, in the reading we recommended recently, cited the precedent of the actions of Egyptian Arab nationalist Nasser approvingly, and explicitly stated that Leftists should be used by nationalists and then clapped in jail or killed once they’ve no longer proven useful!)

    * * *

    It’s not a function of hubris that I have posted the most items to Platypus over time. I’m sure the Freedom Road Socialist Organization’s site, if it had one, would have Bill Fletcher’s name as the largest item in their “tag cloud.”

    What Hegemonik can’t countenance is that the “Left,” including him, long ago surrendered to the Right, in fact were never anything but the Right, not “surrendering” to it but promoting it, and this pseudo-“Left” became merely a part of intra-Right politics, in other words, taking one reactionary side over another.

    And such fake “Leftists” have been on both sides of every issue for a long time, begging the question of what the “Left” really is: we in Platypus say so, that the “dead”/pseudo-“Left” is actually the Right, not because being Left is impossible, but because people have actually failed in doing so. We refuse to pretend this is not the case.

    by Chris Cutrone on January 18, 2009 7:34 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    “There is a clearer way of showing defeat, Queen: announcing your surrender to the Right by announcing that the Left is dead.”

    Well, Queen was talking about showing defeat in an argument, not in struggle against the right. So your response to her is incoherent.

    Anyway, Hegemonik, if you’re so busy fighting the Right as part of the Left which according to you is alive and kicking, why are you spending time on this exchange with a mere academic like Chris? Don’t you have more pressing issues?

    What exactly do you think this Left is Dead; Long live the Left! slogan means?

    by Marco T. on January 19, 2009 1:02 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Not for nothing, Chris: as I think you’re quite aware, it’s not as if American labor’s record on the question of race has been far from pristine – not for nothing was the first union label this sparkling example of American labor’s inclusivity.

    As for strikes and Malcolm’s attitude toward them: Malcolm’s formative years were spent in World War II in which he (like much of his young generation of black men) were only employed in semi-decent jobs when the exodus of whites to the war effort became great enough that the war effort would take anyone with two arms (and of course, some with one, and some with none).

    Malcolm more than a right to speak with both frustration and fury in the face of the hollowness of labor’s rhetoric back then. Before being so cavalier with the word “strikebreaker” I would ask whether you’d go down with the ship in supporting the strikes of this period, which were of a decidedly reactionary and racist character – a case in point being the 1944 transit strike in Philadelphia, in which 10,000 white workers went wildcat over the appointment of a single black man.

    Thus it’s entirely fitting and proper that Malcolm exercise more than a little cynicism over talk about “solidarity” when said solidarity has been the solidarity forming a cordon against black employment and the status of perpetual lumpen-hood for black people post-Reconstruction.

    Nor would I discount the damage that “Left” radicals have done in keeping to this conception of solidarity – especially since no less a figure than Trotsky’s pal Max Shachtman fully endorsed racist wildcats and consistently upheld a line of vetoing any measure for full equality for black people if white privileges (such as their monopoly exercised through seniority) were threatened.

    In Shachtman’s case, as it is here with your own blindspot, there is an open hypocrisy: in the name of combating black “identity politics” what is prescribed is precisely white working class identity politics – white prejudice and xenophobia elevated to the place of proletarian virtue.

    Dialectics does many things, but it does not simply turn corruption into virtue, and it doesn’t turn the Left into the Right (for that, you need well heeled think-tank money and academe).

    In conclusion, I would like to add that I thought asserting Rustin as a radical was laughable, but Walter Reuther (a mildew-assed bureaucrat who, among other crimes, helped torpedo universal healthcare in this country) as a labor radical? Good grief!

    The miracles do not cease! What is next? Charlton Heston as an upstanding communist, because he marched on Washington with King and carried weapons? Roy Innis as black messiah for heading the modern-day CORE?

    by Hegemonik on January 19, 2009 4:49 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Frustration is all that Malcolm X ever represented. The degree to which he went beyond this and took actual political positions instead of just blowing hot air, he was a conservative.

    If Hegemonik wants to oppose the politicization of the working class because of racist attitudes of many workers (of all colors/backgrounds), and prioritize the issue of racism (or, more positively, communitarianism) over anti-capitalism and the empowerment of the working class, that’s fine. But Platypus is here to say that, from a Marxian perspective, this means departing from the Left.

    The Left is not reducible to “self-determination” or other democratic struggles, nor to working-class empowerment in and of itself, but, following Marx, the Left must be understood, in this specific historical epoch (i.e., ever since circa 1848), as being about enhancing the possibilities and conscious social-political agency for overcoming capitalism.

    Anti-capitalism is the essential touch-stone, and so clarity about what capitalism is and how we might attempt to overcome it, must be, from a Marxian perspective, central to any potential Left. Endorsing oppressed groups’ grievances, or even endorsing the social-political empowerment of the working class (wage earners) is not enough for, or even the essential core of, a Marxian Left politics. There are many ways the historical Marxist revolutionary Left liquidated its politics into other concerns; on the other hand, there have been many political tendencies that have been motivated by other concerns (e.g., nationalism) that have adopted the label of “Marxism.” But both of these complementary tendencies have been, from a Marxian perspective, merely pseudo- or pretend “Leftism.” They have dissolved and liquidated, and really destroyed, the Left, leaving us where we are today.

    If obsessing about color-consciousness, etc. gets a bigger rise out of you than trying to work through the overcoming of capitalism in the world in our lifetime, for which those of us in the U.S. necessarily have a prominent and indispensable role to play, that’s fine, but recognize that this means being part, rather, of the rearrangement of capitalism to favor some groups over others, and not about its overcoming.

    If Malcolm X comes off better than any Marxist or labor leader contemporary one might mention, then why not just say that you’re a black nationalist and not a Leftist at all? For the endorsement of Malcolm X, over Rustin or Reuther or Shachtman or Trotsky, really means dropping Marxism or a Marxian approach, so why pretend otherwise?

    by Chris Cutrone on January 19, 2009 8:08 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    As counter-intuitive as it may seem, I would say that today’s entirely disoriented left owes much more to Malcolm X’s nationalism than to the liberal politics of Rustin, King, et. al. In other words, the decline of the left in the last 40 years (which no one can deny) is due to the fact that Malcolm Xian ideology has been, in fact, much more incorporated into mainstream leftist politics than that of Rustin and King.

    by soren on January 19, 2009 9:51 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Hegemonick —

    I get it, there are cases when american workers and american unions have taken racist actions. But to claim that this is the norm is decided wrong historically, and more so is wrong in the present.

    More “people of color” are union members in america today than “native born white amaericans.” Some unions were marching for civil rights in the 1960’s, but some were actually fighting for civil rights as far back as the 1940’s. And a few unions notably the Steelworkers Organizing Committee organized all races in a shop.

    This does not mean that some unions and some workers havne’t behaved awfully in the past, but the truth is that there is racism/homophobia/sexism amongst workers so of course there is similar feelings in their institutions, the goal is to get those institutions and our class to overcome them.

    by Richard Kidd on January 19, 2009 6:34 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago


    I would never suggest that racist wildcats are the “norm” (using the term “wildcat” precisely means that these strikes happened outside of the norm). Though I would say that American labor unions were mostly built on America’s specific baggage of white chauvinism and supremacy.

    All of which is to say that when Malcolm was speaking against unions, he was speaking to a specific problem of unions’ prejudicial “sweetheart” collusion between unions and management to keep out black people and other potential rivals.

    I did some Googling for the specific speech Chris mentioned above. I didn’t find it. However, there’s at least one instance I found where Malcolm was actively protesting a union: that being the case of construction unions in Harlem.

    Knowing the modern day construction trades in New York fairly well, the problem then is very likely the problem as it exists now: the construction trades were (are) an old boys’ network that adamantly refused (and continues to refuse) to hire locally — in fact, to this day, the unionized construction trades in New York benefit white workers who live in Pennsylvania and New Jersey better than local construction workers.

    On that occasion, Malcolm was demanding jobs. Who can blame him, when the construction industry is in fact racist in both management and union aspects? And why should unions be held to a lower standard so far as racism is concerned?

    Finally, after taking some time to do some Googling, I’ve come across an account of Malcolm explicitly supporting a union action from Moe Foner (of the Bread and Roses at SEIU1199) — that being a strike for recognition of a union among low-wage workers in New York City’s Brookdale Hospital.

    It is notable that Malcolm and Martin Luther King could have been on the same stage at the event, but Martin went back to Georgia on business.

    Also notable is that this came well before Malcolm broke with Elijah Muhammad; thus I’m led to believe that Malcolm was generally of far better political instincts, even under bad influence, than Chris would attribute.

    by Hegemonik on January 19, 2009 11:55 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Rustin’s famous 1962 debate with Malcolm X

    by Ian Morrison on January 20, 2009 12:49 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Malcolm X, like any Right-winger, was incoherent ideologically (and hence also ultimately politically), so it’s not surprising that you can find instances of his saying anything you might want to find.

    But see Malcolm X’s speech “I Don’t Mean Bananas” (esp. pp. 220-22 at the end) that I mentioned (and was recommended as a reading for Platypus):

    Here Malcolm X makes an eloquent argument for pure opportunism (out of a desire for “self-determination,” of course).

    These statements are bad enough, ideologically, about political principle. But what about women and homosexuals, et al.? And what of Doctor Yakub? Malcolm X was not only under the “influence of” Elijah Muhammad, but was who he was by virtue of the Nation of Islam: when he broke with them, he became less not more political, he became an authentic conservative instead of a crackpot one.

    After this turn, Malcolm X himself referred to his earlier time as one of “sickness and madness.” Malcolm X needed to see blue-eyed white people praying in Mecca before he gave up his pathology and became a Muslim conservative, instead of a black nationalist Nation of Islam racist, which is all he had been, despite whatever polish he might have had, and the opportunist “political” arguments he might have made, which were in service of his essential racism (and not the other way around, which is how he’s usually mistaken to be). Once Malcolm X departed from Elijah Muhammad’s script for abusing black people’s social-political grievances to get Nation of Islam converts, Muhammad had him killed.

    As Rustin pointed out about such black “separatist” ideology as Malcolm X’s, it was borne of failure and frustration, and was an expression not of political vision but despair — and ultimately accommodation, if in however a deceptively roundabout way. As Rustin further pointed out: “Passionate self-assertion can be a mask for accommodation.” That so many were taken in by Malcolm X’s charisma does not change the essential ideological-political meaning of such despair.

    Conservative ideologies are always generally more popular in their appeal than Leftist ones.

    Rustin’s excellent article on “The Failure of Black Separatism” (1970) that we read in the Platypus reading group can be found at:

    Malcolm X was not essentially some kind of radical militant Leftist with some crackpot ideas he eventually gave up, but a nationalist whose conservative-reactionary politics one can ignore only by projecting onto him what you want to see, not what was actually there.

    by Chris Cutrone on January 20, 2009 3:06 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    I went over the PDF, Chris and on actually seeing it recall it quite clearly from prior study groups. It says what it says, and not what you twist it to mean.

    The passage regarding Nasser (p. 220) simply states non-alignment as it occurred in Egypt: that Nasser took Soviet aid but handled his own affairs his own way.

    By way of commentary Malcolm explicitly says he did not back that specific line of action against the communists and says further that people should do their own judgment of whether to go after capitalists and socialists – all this after saying that capitalists are bloodsuckers and that socialism was the way to go.

    The sole area where Malcolm expresses unity with Nasser is in not taking orders from Khruschev’s Kremlin – which is pretty much what anyone who’s not a Moscow flunky would think.

    I have yet to see how Malcolm’s belief in Islam rendered him more conservative than Rustin’s Quakerism, or for that matter Martin’s own Baptist beliefs, or for that matter the bourgeois ideology of nonviolence that Tolstoy and Gandhi to which both Rustin and King subscribed.

    If we are going to open the conversation on religion, then let’s stop pussyfooting around: we are talking about figures that all subscribed to bizarre superstitions; why those of Malcolm are in question and not those of King and Rustin is simply incoherent on your part.

    Put another way: why is it any more strange to believe Elijah Muhammad was the anointed savior of black people than it is to believe a white Jesus “died for our sins?” Why is it any more anti-Semitic to believe in the mad scientist Yakoub than for Martin to uphold a faith that believes non-Christians will go to hell (as he would be bound to uphold as a Baptist preacher)? Why is it any more bourgeois than a pacifist theology developed by Tolstoy and Gandhi (bourgeois figures par excellence)?

    Religion is irrelevant here, as all of the figures above were religious leaders mainly because that was the way one gained leadership in the black community, prior to full enfranchisement and the reversal of Jim Crow.

    James Baldwin (who was unmatched by any of the above figures for pure intellectual rigor) put it in his own face-to-face debate with Malcolm, “The [Black] Muslim theology is as good as any.” A rough translation: take it from a queer black man raised in the church – if you think Black Muslims are bad, I’d hate to take you to my dad’s church.

    by Hegemonik on January 20, 2009 1:56 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    My point was not about religion at all but about racism: Malcolm X was a racist demagogue and became a religious conservative. In neither case was he of the Left. Rustin and MLK were at least liberals.

    My other point was about opportunism not about alignment with Soviet Communism: Malcolm X argued for pure opportunism as regards means, and his ends were not emancipatory but nationalist, which in the epoch we share with him is conservative if not reactionary.

    As Lenin put it in “Socialism and War” (1915):

    “The Socialists of oppressed nations must, in their turn, unfailingly fight for the complete (including organisational) unity of the workers of the oppressed and oppressing nationalities. The idea of the juridical separation of one nation from another (so-called “cultural-national autonomy” advocated by Bauer and Renner) is reactionary.”

    Politically, Rustin and even MLK had more in common with Lenin than Malcolm X did. But the 1960s “New Left” and the Stalinism from which they took their cue (even when supposedly “anti-Stalinist”), went so far around the bend in their degeneration that nationalism seemed more progressive than liberalism. It is not.

    by Chris Cutrone on January 20, 2009 2:22 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    To put it in the Bronxese: unity’s a motherfucker.

    First, on Lenin:
    You omit the immediately preceding section in Lenin’s writing: that socialists of oppressor nations must actively repudiate their national chauvinism and combat their imperialists, affirming (in Lenin): “the right to political secession. The Socialist of a ruling or colony-owning nation who fails to champion this right is a chauvinist.”)

    You also fail to see where the distinction (for Lenin) lies between oppressed nationalities rightfully exercising “political secession” and those advocating “juridical separation”: that being the question of the “cultural-national autonomy” and the conflation of “culture” with “nation” (the conflation of a part of nationality with its whole scope).

    Elsewhere in Ireland, where the principles of Irish Republicanism were built on decidedly non-sectarian grounds by James Connolly (“Ireland for the Irish, not for London or for Rome”) , Lenin had no problem endorsing their call to secession – or for calling out Plekhanov as well as the British for the national chauvinism of their opposition to Sinn Fein.

    Second, on Malcolm:
    Malcolm never argued for anything like religious conservatism. His conception of black nationalism was decidedly secular:

    [T]hough Islam is my religious philosophy, my political, economic, and social philosophy is Black Nationalism. You and I — As I say, if we bring up religion we’ll have differences; we’ll have arguments; and we’ll never be able to get together. But if we keep our religion at home, keep our religion in the closet, keep our religion between ourselves and our God, but when we come out here, we have a fight that’s common to all of us against a [sic] enemy who is common to all of us. (“Ballot or the Bullet” 1964)

    Malcolm’s conception of black nationalism as internationalist and not national-chauvinist. This is quite clear as he states the importance of African internationalism; his emphasis on the Bandung Conference uniting the post-colonial world; as well as having little to no problem dealing with Europeans outside of the confines of American white supremacy.

    As for black national chauvinism, his opposition to this is quite clear in the article you yourself cite. He had no problem repudiating the black chauvinists of Guyana who refused to work alongside Indo-Guyanese and who welcomed the CIA’s psychological operations teams.

    Finally, Malcolm’s own work with the OAAU should vindicate him plenty: the Organization had no problem with working with non-African Americans so long as they were not chauvinists – most notably, they got along fine with the Puerto RIcan community in East Harlem, and were more than willing to work with Japanese-American Yuri Kochiyama.

    by Hegemonik on January 20, 2009 4:19 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Hegemonik makes a perfectly Stalinist and nationalist argument, and assimilates Malcolm X and Lenin into it. Good. But there are other interpretations, and these have a political purchase. My Marxian approach causes me to stand with Lenin and oppose Malcolm X; Hegemonik’s Stalinist and nationalist approach causes him to stand with Malcolm X and oppose himself to those parts of Lenin that don’t fit. As far as I’m concerned, for clarity’s sake, regarding Lenin and Malcolm X, their differences are more important to me than their apparent similarities. It’s the difference between using a Marxian approach to understand and intervene politically in issues like national oppression, as Lenin did, and to adopt a superficial “Marxism” to opportunistically subordinate oneself to and become the advocate for nationalism, as Stalinists and other pseudo-“Leftist” did. I have no problem considering Lenin’s endorsement of democratic struggles for self-determination against national oppression, but Hegemonik would be hard pressed to make sense of why Lenin would say that it is obligatory for Marxists of oppressed nations to have political and organizational unity with Marxists of oppressor nations. I emphasized the part of Lenin that tends to be overlooked or dropped out, whereas Hegemonik repeated the typical nationalist-opportunist selective appropriation and abuse of Lenin for decidedly non-Marxian ends.

    by Chris Cutrone on January 20, 2009 4:41 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    _(Name of political opponent)_ is a (pick one: crypto/pseudo/faux)-Leninist.

    In truth, they are a (Name of heretical sect member)-(-ist, -ite) from the (Name of heretical sect)-oid (Name of organization)

    (Defamatory claim about political opponent).

    (Claim to orthodox lineage of position)

    (Obscure anecdote about faction fight in one of the four Internationals)

    (Slogan, with an exclamation point)

    Template from the Spartacist League Manual of Style, Vol. 5, “How to write a Workers Hammer-grade polemic to reforge the Fourth International (c)

    by Hegemonik on January 20, 2009 5:31 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    This attack on form would seem indicate an inability to deal with content.

    by soren on January 20, 2009 6:00 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Both Hegemonik and Chris possess a good deal more historical knowledge on this topic than myself, so it is difficult to enter into this debate without feeling ill-equipped. But I will say this: the writings of Bayard Rustin with which I am familiar represent, however inadequate they may be in the final analysis, a real attempt to grasp and to critique the problems of race and class in America, whereas those of Malcolm X represent a mis-recognition, misdiagnosis, and evasion of those issues.

    I realize this may seem like a rolling back of the level of conversation and an oversimplification of the matter at hand, but I fear this crucial point may be getting lost in the deluge of historical anecdotes offered on both sides of the debate.


    by soren on January 20, 2009 6:17 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Hegemonick, you seem to lack a basic understanding of unions in the modern sense.

    Aside from the building trades, no other union operates as a hiring hall, meaning, unions do not “hire” people.

    People get jobs in shops that have a “collective bargaining agreement” meaning a contract, and then become members of unions, or workers who do not have a union in their location organize a union.

    The few unions that are organizing on large scales are UNITE HERE, SEIU, AFSCME and CWA…all of these unions are majority people of color and in most cases, majority female.

    The building trades, which are actually all small unions and are shrinking….making up the backwards wing of the labor movement and are the only parts left with hiring halls.

    My estimaation is that they account for less than 10 percent of the labor movement in this country and canada.

    My union has diversity and immigration protection clauses in their contracts which actually require employers to have affirmative action programs and hire from racially and ethnically diverse communities.

    If you would like to know any actually facts about the modern labor movement please let me know. We are not stuck in the 1950s.

    by Richard Kidd on January 20, 2009 7:17 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    I’m aware of how unions and hiring go, Richard. I’m employed by a previously mentioned union, and am familiar with the process as it goes in the public sector in NYC and NYS. Can’t say I am too well acquainted with the private sector. And I’m generally pro-union.

    We’re straying from the question at hand (over Malcolm X’s ) which to my knowledge was over the racism in the construction trades and their role in segregation — a case where they entirely earned the disgust of progressive minded black and Latino workers, as well as that of the rest of the working class.

    Since we’re straying, might as well enjoy the side trip though.

    I would say that while certain strides have been made in the labor movement, that the labor movement has not been entirely free of the stain of its origins. Much of the progress made (such as that in the garment industry) was entirely done in a concession not to political pressure but to changing economic reality. This was the case with UNITE; before UNITE’s formation (and somewhat beyond) the structures of UNITE’s predecessor locals were built around maintaining the ability to play off inter-ethnic rivalries by the central leadership. New immigrant groups would be absorbed into one of the pre-existing Locals (leading to such comedies as what to do about Greeks? And Albanians? Put them in the Italian Local or the Jewish one?) The end result were segregated shop floors. It was only after this arrangement became unwieldy and sweatshop labor come back with a vengeance after immigration laws were rewritten that UNITE ever considered this to be a problem.

    Elsewhere (such as in the public sector unions) bigotry in unions was not cured at all by the unions themselves, but by more rigorous civil service testing requirements that unions would fight tooth and nail over. A good example would be the Uniformed Firefighters Association (union of the FDNY), which to present remains a bastion of white privilege. UFA maintained this state of affairs through its control over physical fitness testing of new recruits — where they could grade recruits in an entirely subjective manner (so that black applicants would be told that they held ladders wrong, for example, while the Irish applicants were not). When that didn’t work, they would move up toward hazing out black firefighters.

    Not for nothing, but that treatment led to considerable enough backlash that it’s led to black fraternal and mutual aid societies, simply to keep up some semblance of fairness in the system (and to raise money for lawyers, who are unfortunately the ultimate beneficiaries of such screwed up unions).

    You’ll find other forms of ethnic racketeering out of unions in other trades. In unions where there’s some level of control by union shop stewards over things like overtime and vacation, a lot of the time you’ll find an ethnic skew one way or another.

    All of which is to say, class contradictions don’t necessarily fall into a neat bundle of management-vs.-worker struggles; as often, workers are pitted against one another even in unions that are supposed to be designed to halt such practices.

    Such is the condition of unions under a capitalist system in which unions’ primary role is not understood to be anti-capitalist but simply as a bureaucratic/regulatory function of capitalism.

    This is why, beyond organizing on solely on the basis of unions, we need multiple interlocking forms of organization under some unified roof (whether that’s the traditional party formation or some other new form, I am not entirely decided).

    by Hegemonik on January 20, 2009 9:21 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Ok. Hegemonic…I really don’t have it in me to continue in an arguement with someone that is just not going to find common ground or move on a point.

    All of what you are saying is absolutely true…if only we were still in the 1950’s.

    Ethnic based locals haven’t existed in seventy years, ever since the formation of the CIO. Even black/white locals haven’t existed since the 1950’s or 60’s.

    But you are right…this is a side issue to what the central point is. But I’m not sure why you are and chris are debating. You disagree or at least seem to disagree about the the “problem” so you will never agree on what the appropriate solution is now….and more importantly about stuff that happened before either of you were born.

    You seem to (and i could be wrong) think that the main problem is racism, where as chris thinks (i’m guessing) is capital.

    by Richard Kidd on January 20, 2009 10:12 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Also, while you might know about the hiring, you seem to distort it and talk about how “the unions won’t hire” people of color.

    Which simply is not the case for the vast majority of unions (well over 90 percent don’t even have hiring ability).

    by Richard Kidd on January 20, 2009 10:18 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Didn’t mean to make it sound as if the practice of ethnicly-bloc’ed Locals still existed on that basis — only wished to point out that the practice was effectively ended by economic conditions rather than any real will.

    Though within memory, I believe several locals of the East Coast longshoremen (ILA) started ethnically divided and essentially stayed that way with the advent of white flight out of Newark. An interesting case of “chicken and the egg.”

    As for hiring ability, you’re not seeing forest from the trees here: this is not a singular critique on hiring that is prone to racism, but more broadly speaking, that any number of union functions on the shop floor can be subject to racist manipulations on the union side of the equation.

    My end point being: enlightened decisions won’t just spring out of the shop floor itself because the union gets a say in matters.

    by Hegemonik on January 20, 2009 11:59 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Let’s get down to “brass tacks” on this issue: I am opposed to the separate organization of black workers in the U.S., either “economically” in terms of separate labor unions, or “politically” in terms of parties and other organizations. Lenin would agree with me on this point. Everything else, e.g., raising Malcolm X, is just a smokescreen for avoiding this point: that a Marxian political approach needs to be about overcoming the obstacles to “interracial” and “international” organizing of the working class for socio-economic and political power on a global scale. But such organizing will have a political dynamic of its own, so I am saying that those separatist tendencies that inevitably emerge in the process of such struggle for working class empowerment need to be critiqued, opposed and defeated, completely overcome by a Marxian approach. Black workers (among others) need to become Marxist activists and not allowed to become instead “nationalist” enemies of proletarian socialism. I think Hegemonik is offering a contrary, opposed view, that tails after and adapts to whatever black and other non-white demagogues might be saying. Worse still, I think Hegemonik himself offers what amounts to a racist-demagogical perspective (however soft-pedaled). At the NYC forum on Obama, at the end of the Q&A he questioned whether Obama was really “black.” Similar revolting discourse was offered on the panel of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement forum in NYC on Nov. 23. But this is not even a humane, let alone progressive or emancipatory impulse, but only an ugly, pathological racist one. Hence Hegemonik’s sympathy for Malcolm X. Hegemonik is a racist Right-winger that only the current degeneracy of the “Left” allows to masquerade as a “Leftist.”

    by Chris Cutrone on January 21, 2009 8:56 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    On another note…I’m against separate organizations of any kind because they are not and can not be successful. None allow for enough power to overcome the primary oppressive force of society…capitalism.

    The enemy ends up becoming “whites” or “men” or “heterosexuals” and not the state or capitalism.

    by Richard Kidd on January 21, 2009 5:14 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Chris: my thanks for now degenerating from bar-room slander into libel, and for now resorting to race baiting on top of the run of the mill invective.

    I never questioned Obama’s blackness at your forum. I think people can listen to that for themselves.

    To be very straightforward: I merely pointed out that Obama is of an atypical background as a black person in the U.S. Because he is simply not of a background with links to the slave trade, to the slave system, or even the broader slave trade in the Americas (as could be said for Colin Powell, of West Indian descent).

    Obama himself acknowledges this gap between his experience as an immigrant and the experience of the bulk of black people in the U.S. in his own book. In fact, he attributes both the bad behavior of his early adulthood, as well as his course of study, to attempting to try to figure this out.

    This is certainly at odds with the rhetoric about Obama as a figure who carries upon his shoulders the dreams of former slaves, and that anyone who says black people have it tough are delusional — and the sharpness of this contrast must be understood as a question of not just class but class as shaped through nationality (or the lack thereof for the descendants of black slaves in the United States).

    Let us get down to brass tacks here: this country has never managed to work to undo or even address in a rigorous way its origins as a slaveholding society. Even if it has worked to ameliorate the racial tensions left in its wake, the last governmental moves to do anything with the legacy of slavery were the Freedmen’s Bureaus and (perhaps) the WPA’s documentation of former slaves lives.

    Meanwhile, the efforts of former slaves and their descendants to establish themselves in this country have universally been brutally attacked:
    Reconstruction ended through violence as well as white betrayal of blacks who were perfectly willing to work with whites (as was the case of Populism in North Carolina);
    the Great Migration met with slums, ghettos, white race rioting, blockbusting and black codes;
    the leaders of the Civil Rights movement assassinated and black militancy criminalized;
    the Great Society giving the bulk of its money away to poverty pimps as the people for whom it was designed were turned away;
    and finally some 30 years of rollback of any program aimed at the descendants of slaves liberated by the Civil War.

    Obama has dealt with none of these historical factors as a personal slight to him in his upbringing, his education, or indeed his political career.

    That this is so entails the reasons he can be far more palatable in crucial swing states like Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana than someone whose descent reminded these states of the former slaves they once lynched. Because the boldness of his speech can be interpreted as “articulate” rather than “uppity”; because he was far more willing than most African Americans to say “that was the past.”

    If we are dialectical materialists and historical materialists believe that consciousness extends out of the material basis and not merely out of skin color. If we take that approach then I suggest finding an all-too material factor, the economic line imposed between black people of slave and non-slave heredity. This has proven to be undiscovered country so far as mainstream American politics and social policy are concerned; that is precisely why it is up to revolutionaries to deal with it.

    To see how deeply that divide is felt, look no further than the hallowed halls of academe in which we are all so familiar. Rigorous academic studies have conclusively proven a demographic skew in admissions of black students — those that have not dealt with the “peculiar institution” in the United States having a far greater chance of being admitted than those that did.

    Accord-ing to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2004, more than 12 percent of all black undergraduate students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities were born in a foreign land. This is nearly four times the rate for whites. Nearly 21 percent of all black students enrolled in undergraduate higher education in the United States had at least one parent born outside the United States.

    The percentage of foreign-born blacks rises significantly when we examine enrollments at the graduate school level. For enrolled black graduate students, 18.7 percent, or more than one of every six, were born outside the U.S. This is triple the rate for whites. More than 27 percent of the black students enrolled in graduate school had one or both parents who were foreign born.

    [. . .] [A further] study, published in the February 2007 issue of the American Journal of Education, finds that 27 percent of black students at 28 highly selective colleges and universities had at least one parent who was born outside the United States. But nationwide, 20.9 percent of all black undergraduate students had at least one parent born in a foreign land. Thus, the percentage of recent immigrants among black students at the selective schools is significantly higher than the nationwide average. The data shows that of the immigrant black students at these 28 selective colleges, 43 percent had Caribbean roots while 29 percent had at least one parent born in Africa.

    I imagine a collective “whatever” coming out at the statistics.

    The sound of that “whatever” is the sound of your growing irrelevance.

    by Hegemonik on January 23, 2009 8:29 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    so what do you propose?

    by Richard Kidd on January 23, 2009 9:35 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Hegemonik accuses me of libel and then remakes the same racist argument about Obama’s blackness he made at our forum in NYC Dec. 6. So given the opportunity to clarify himself, Hegemonik digs himself deeper into his hole. The logic of Hegemoik’s argument is: If whites vote for a black person, there must be something wrong with that black person relative to the issue of racism. (Racist whites don’t ask whether someone is the descendant of slaves or of immigrants: if they do, perhaps they’re basing their judgment on something other than biological race?)

    So therefore Hegemonik is capable of no rethinking about how racism actually functions and how such interrogation into present social realities and political possibilities might be required in the face of a major change in American politics, that traditional racism is not working the way it used to. Instead, the insistence is that nothing has changed. This is not only blind to the obvious facts: that Obama received more white votes than previous recent Democratic Presidential candidates, but is conservative-reactionary, i.e., Right-wing, trying to ignore or blur changes, close off possibilities, and retreat to an earlier time that is now passed. Hegemonik is opposing Obama from the Right.

    As evinced by Hegemonik’s fetishistic attachment to a “black nationalist” approach, to which he submits any and all data and phenomena, such pseudo-“Left” is not only dead, but has in fact become a new Right. The statistics cited by Hegemonik about higher education admissions and the structural legacy of slavery points to class not racial distinctions. Hegemonik is taking things at face value, i.e., the typical association of race and class, despite the fact that this has broken down/changed between the 1960s and now, and Hegemonik’s approach is therefore affirming of present consciousness or really retrograde relative to the present and a throwback to an obsolete perspective, and not in any way challenging, or at least not in a progressive-emancipatory direction.

    The approach evinced by Hegemonik is not only dogmatically blind but opportunistically craven, i.e., adapts to people’s worst impulses, rather than trying to engender consciousness and emancipatory transformation. Anyone who insists that nothing has or really can change, and maintains that racism or race is some historically unchanging reality is in fact a conservative, not a progressive, and a reactionary, not emancipatory, politically, and is being ideological, not attentive to the facts. Such a person not only will not be able to change the world for the better, but will not be able to even begin understand what is wrong with it to begin with. History will show who’s approach proves to be more irrelevant: I think Obama already does show this. Not only do I judge the increasing irrelevance of black nationalism, but I also wish this to be the case, and will fight to make it so.

    I think that cross-racial and international working class action will be necessary to overcome capitalism. In this I stand in a great tradition reaching back through Trotsky and Lenin to Marx. This is why I have a Marxian approach and Hegemonik does not. He ought to admit as much, that he is a nationalist and not a Marxist, or really is a reactionary racist and is not even able to be as decent as a liberal.

    by Chris Cutrone on January 24, 2009 10:50 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    P.S. This thread is meant to be in response to the NYC Platypus screening of the film Finally Got the News (1970), on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. As far as I know, Hegemonik didn’t attend this film screening and discussion, and has not been attending the Platypus reading groups, either. So what is the point of this exchange, for Hegemonik to just keep mouthing-off?

    Platypus reads articles by Richard Fraser and the Spartacist League on “revolutionary integrationism” as an alternative, Marxian way of approaching the issue of anti-black racism in the U.S., opposed to both liberal integrationism and black nationalism and other forms of separatist politics for black workers.

    Rather than engage this reconsideration Platypus is mounting of a neglected perspective in the history of the Marxist Left, Hegemonik has come up with every reason why we should continue to ignore it and stick to the usual pseudo-“Left” banalities about race, which have failed to accomplish anything in more than 40 years. If this was coming from someone who had lived through the 1960s it might be understandable that he is unable to reconsider what has become a historically bankrupt position. But Hegemonik, as a young person, has been attracted to and chosen to adhere to a self-marginalizing perspective of the “Left” that has little traction in the greater society. In the 1960s, adhering to such a perspective might have been trendy and therefore opportunist, but nowadays it’s just plain bizarre. Why should any young person today think that, e.g., Malcolm X’s perspective speaks effectively to the world in which Obama could be elected President of the U.S.

    The organization with which Hegemonik is affiliated, the Maoist group the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, is similarly confused. On the one hand the FRSO advocates black nationalism, on the other hand they endorsed Obama in the election. The consistency of these positions is the opportunism, the pseudo-“Leftism” which is actually liberal reformism with some overheated rhetoric, as in the FRSO’s Bill Fletcher’s discourse at the Nov. 23 Malcolm X Grassroots Movement forum in NYC — to which I refered in commentary on another thread.

    But Hegemonik’s perspective is actually worse than the FRSO, to the extent that he goes into impugning the character of Obama on the basis of race. The FRSO is consistent in its uncritical adaptation to any and all “black politics,” to which they assimilated Obama’s candidacy. But Hegemonik is “critical” of Obama — but from the Right! Hence the crankiness of his posts, which raise all sorts of issues as throwing so much sand in our eyes, as if we won’t notice his attempts to wriggle off the hook on which he’s become stuck, or the fact that he’s stuck.

    This is exemplary of the fake “Left,” that the only arguments they offer are evasions and attempts to try to get anyone from noticing that they really have nothing new to say. Hence the animus towards Platypus which Hegemonik et al. show — and their inability to avoid becoming obsessed with us.

    If as Hegemonik says, we in Platypus (and not he and other pseudo-“Leftists”) are increasingly “irrelevant,” then why is Hegemonik spending so much time and effort arguing with us? Because he knows that we represent any future a Marxian Left might have, and he’s trying to offer any argument he can against this.

    by Chris Cutrone on January 24, 2009 1:52 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    What does this blog have to do with remaking the Left?

    by query on January 24, 2009 2:35 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    please elaborate, query

    by Marco T. on January 24, 2009 6:37 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago


    I’m quite capable of speaking for myself Chris — no interlocutors needed.

    And I think the umpteenth citation of the Sparts as having anything to say is a sign that you have nothing to say.

    But you should by all means indulge us: let’s hear your bold partisan defense of their position that NAMBLA are the vanguard of queer liberation, uniting the people behind the revolutionary slogan of “Down with Age of Consent Laws.”

    by Hegemonik on January 25, 2009 12:04 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Being familiar with the Sparts, it seems to me like Chris is doing much more than parroting them. And defending yourself by attacking their position on NAMBLA is not only weak, but demagogic. In fact Chris’s point, the obsolescence of Malcolm X’s politics, would be roundly repudiated by the Sparts. You have failed to respond to the incoherences in your politics that Chris is pointing out.

    by Marco T. on January 25, 2009 12:36 am
  • Posted 12 years ago


    I was just looking at the FRSO (Hegemonik’s organization) website and the kind of Pop Frontist demagogery is unbelievable. Talk about tailism… they’re cheerleaders for extreme right-wing groups. This falls far below any kind of liberalism, let alone Marxism. One very understandable thing is to be horrfied at the violence of Israel’s actions… but to call Islamic Jihad a “revolutionary organization”?

    The best detail is calling Hamas “serve the people”… what kind of politics is this? Any kind of class analysis has been thrown out the window here.

    In its incoherence the “Left” has truly become the new Right.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    The aim of Israel is to kill the revolutionaries who lead the Palestinian people’s struggle in Gaza. The Israeli military is massing to invade with tanks and thousands of ground troops this coming week. Like the April 2002 invasion of Jenin in the West Bank, the situation is likely to become even grimmer. Israel seeks to wipe out the anti-Zionist, anti-imperialist, ‘serve the people’ groups that fight for freedom – Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Resistance Committees, Islamic Jihad and others. The Israeli government is desperate to impose the rule of their puppets and stooges upon the people of Gaza.

    While the peoples of the world understand that Israel is an attack dog for imperialism and the U.S. in particular, some of the Arab rulers actually help oppress the Palestinians. The reactionary regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is shooting at Palestinians who are trying to break through the border of Gaza into Egypt. While people starve and suffer, Mubarak accepts U.S. checks (and a U.S. bodyguard) for being Israel’s friend. The masses of Arab peoples, in solidarity with the Palestinians, seek to overthrow these traitors.

    by Marco T. on January 25, 2009 1:08 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    I think the Spartacist position in defense of NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) and calling for abolishing age of consent laws is very good, and is in fact one of their better positions. The reason this is a Marxist position is that it recognizes the historical transformability of sexual morality and looks forwards to emancipation. Most of the fake “Left” are utter reactionaries by comparison.

    If you’d like to read Adorno’s argument along similar lines, please see his essay on “Sexual Taboos and the Law Today” (1963), which was discussed recently in the Platypus reading groups:

    by Chris Cutrone on January 25, 2009 9:37 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    Actually, I believe you’re probably reading the wrong website. After splitting in the 1990’s, there are two organizations with the Freedom Road name. I belong to the one at .

    The excerpt you are probably reading the Midwest FRSO’s Fight Back News (whose viewpoints I certainly do not endorse, being as they have liquidated much of the line of the organization prior to their split).

    My apologies for the confusion.

    As for you Chris, thank you for the clarity on your position upholding the rights of chickenhawks, pimps, and pedophiles; I expect a communique with the slogan “But HE came on to ME!” soon.

    by Hegemonik on January 25, 2009 10:00 am
  • Posted 12 years ago

    This is a side track to an arguement.

    I disagree with NAMBLA and am pro-age of consent regulations, that being said…Malcolm X was not a revolutionary and League of Black Revolutionary workers were awful tacticians.

    I’m not sure how Hegemonik decided to bring up NAMBLA accept to throw out various attacks from left field

    by Richard Kidd on January 25, 2009 12:18 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    I guess I went down the wrong revolutionary road.

    by Marco T. on January 25, 2009 1:05 pm
  • Posted 12 years ago

    i mean, the wrong freedom road.

    by Marco T. on January 25, 2009 1:20 pm

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