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Ben Blumberg For the American Left in the first half the 20th century—commonly referred to as the “Old Left”— the task of advancing freedom entailed a thoroughgoing critique of the racist institutions in American society, a socioeconomic and historical analysis of their origins and contemporary function, as well as practical efforts to eradicate these structures. In other words, racism was the challenge faced by the American Old Left. However, to a large extent it evaded the very challenge it set for itself by accepting the characterization of the black population’s political situation as “the Negro problem.” Only the best of the Old Left pushed against this characterization. The New Left, seeking to overcome the Old Left’s shortcomings and receiving a great impulse from the demands of the Civil Rights movement to do so, would nevertheless come to reenact the previous generation’s failings. This brings forth an uncomfortable question: if Marxists in the United States were unable to meet the challenge of raising racism to the level of a transformable reality, then to what extent can we speak of an American tradition of Marxism—a Marxism adequate to the situation of American capitalism—at all?

1960s paths not taken (1): Civil Rights - Black Power


Platypus Marxist readings for Sunday January 11, 2009

· Richard Fraser, Two Lectures on the Black Question in America and Revolutionary

· James Robertson and Shirley Stoute, "For Black Trotskyism" (1963)

Spartacist League, "Black and Red — Class Struggle Road to Negro Freedom" (1966)

· Bayard Rustin, "The Failure of Black Separatism" (1970)

At two locations in Chicago:

University of Chicago
Reynolds Club 5706 S. University Ave.
2nd floor South Lounge

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Ave.
room 707 (7th floor)

If you are not affiliated with SAIC and would like to participate in the reading group contact