Not Black Power ... Not White Power ... But Worker's Power!

Photo of SLP leaflet Not Black Power - Not White Power - But Worker's Power

The text of a leaflet distributed in 1968
by the Socialist Labor Party of America

A report on the racial question states: "The relation of whites and Negroes in the United States is our most grave and perplexing domestic problem."

Its analysis, studded with convincing argument and documentation, supports this conclusion. To lessen the danger of more violence it urges that measures be taken to assure urban Negroes jobs, open housing, a ban on discrimination by unions, better education and more police proteetion. It strongly condemns militant black and white racism as well as separatism. It declares that the times are filled with peril for the nation and that more violence is inevitable if black and white Americans do not work to understand each other.

No, the excerpt above is not from the 1968 report of President Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. It is from an impressively documented 1922 report by a Chicago commission on the 1919 Chicago race riot that left 38 dead, 537 injured and more than 1,000 homeless.

"The same inaction" The warning contained in the Chicago report was ignored. Today, the crisis in race relations and the danger of violence, arson and anarchy facing the nation are far, far greater in both scope and intensity than they were in 1919. Nevertheless, it takes no prophetic genius to foresee the futility of the President's commission's warning. As Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, author of "Dark Ghetto," told the commission:

"I must in candor say to you members of this commission -- it is a kind of Alice in Wonderland -- with the same moving picture reshown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendations and the same inaction."

Instead of undertaking multibillion-dollar remedial efforts to rehabilitate the ghettos (which, in any case would fail to expunge race prejudice, which is engendered by a competitive society of class rule), U.S. capitalism adopts repressive measures such as stockpiling special antiriot weapons for the police and training National Guardsmen for suppressing ghetto revolts.

Capitalism insures worsening conditions

The truth is that capitalism, under which we have developed industrial and scientific forces that no previous epoch in human history could have even dreamed of, cannot solve the crises it has itself created. On the contrary, the very laws that are at the heart of the capitalist system, the incentives and motivations behind its economic activities, insure that these crises will worsen.

One of the most revealing facts of oar time is this: Despite the soaring productivity of labor and the longest sustained period of "prosperity" in America's history, the relief rolls of every major city are also soaring.

Nor is it a difficult task to trace the forces generating social decay back to the system's profit incentive or greed motivation.

To insure itself a pool of cheap and unresisting labor for menial tasks and field work, the Southern ruling class decades ago enacted Jim Crow segregation laws. One of the bitter fruits of these laws was inferior education for Negro workers, adequate for cotton picking, but not for most industrial occupations.

These were the Negro workers who migrated to urban centers by the hundreds of thousands in recent years. The Southern agricultural capitalists, in their hunger for ever higher profits, had displaced them with machines and cast them adrift.

Simultaneously, again to satisfy profit hunger, capitalists automated other jobs that the poorly educated workers could have filled. It was then that relief rolls swelled rapidly, and the slums spread in the "central" cities while simultaneously both skilled white workers and industrial installations in which they were employed moved to the suburbs.

Armed struggle is no answer

The hideous conditions of life in the slums, the soul-searing humiliations that are the everyday punishment inflicted on Negro workers and workers of other racial minorities, the endless frustrations that defeat the strongest wills of black workers caught in the racial dead ends called ghettos -- these are facts that need no documentation here. What is needed here is to emphasize that ghetto revolts are the logical consequence of capitalism's inability to change or even ameliorate these conditions.

Against these conditions, some militant young Negroes call for the destruction of the capitalistic system by means of guerrilla warfare. They call on American Negroes to take arms and fight, from New York to California, from Canada to Mexico. They argue that only through armed struggle can Negroes put an end to the horrible situation they [Negroes] live in.

They are dead wrong. Armed insurrection and urban guerrilla warfare would only provoke the most violent response of which heartless and reactionary capitalism is capable. Even now, military tacticians are mapping campaigns, planning for the war in the alleys, streets, cellars, sewers and rooftops they are convinced the Army will be called upon to wage against the ghettos. On the other side of the terrible potential events there lies the prospect thoughtful blacks discuss endlessly -- the dread prospect of attempted genocide.

Not only would armed insurrection provoke a military response a hundred times more violent, it would also give the ruling class of this country the pretext and opportunity to drop the mask of democracy and adopt on the political field the despotism that prevails in capitalist industry. Armed insurrection is an open invitation to fascist dictatorship.

What revolution means

A revelution means a complete change, and it need not be accompanied by violence. For a successful revolution there most be a constructive phase when new institutions are established to replace those that are dismantled. In an age of great technological and economic complexity such as the present one, when prolonged economic paralysis can have devastating consequences to great masses of people, especially to the masses crowded into the great urban centers, this constructive phase of the revolution must be carefully planned and prepared for. Of the all-important constructive phase so vital to the success of a revolution, advocates of violence in the so-called Black Power movement, are obviously oblivious. Destruction is for them the end-all and be-all of what they consider "revolution" -- that is, insurrection in fact.

A great social historian, Henry Thomas Buckle, has succinctly summed op the difference between insurrection and revolution. "Insurrections," he wrote 100 years ago, "are generally wrong; revolutions are always right. An insurrection is too often the mad and passionate effort of ignorant persons who are impatient under some immediate injury, and never stop to investigate its remote and general causes. But a revolution ... is a splendid and imposing spectacle, because to the moral quality of indignation produced by the presence of evil, it adds the intellectual qualities of foresight and combination; and uniting in the same act some of the highest properties of our nature it achieves a double purpose, not only punishing the oppressor but also relieving the oppressed."

This remarkable analysis of insurrection and revolution, which could have been written for today, applies not only to the suggested "black revolution," but particularly to those preparing and organizing for the pending peaceful social revolution wherein the entire working class, black and white, must be the active participants and architects of the new social order, the Socialist Industrial Commonwealth.

Reject violence

With all the sympathy that it is possible for a humane mankind to summon for the suffering, anguish and despair of the black victims of cannibalistic capitalism, with enlightened understanding of their anger and bitterness and complete agreement that their anger and bitterness are justified, the Socialist Labor Party nevertheless urges all who are inclined to listen to the advocates of violence to reflect, and to reflect soberly. No one should doubt that such a nationwide insurrection as they propose would cause enormous damage and bloodshed. But, as in Watts, Detroit, Newark, Washington, Pittsburgh, Chicago and other cities, that damage will be inflicted on the ghettos themselves. And it will be inflicted, not only by the insurrectionists, but also by the tanks and cannon and flamethrowers of the minions of capitalist law, many of whom are ready, willing and eager to wage war on those whom they fear and hate.

Revolution is absolutely necessary if the horrible conditions of ghetto life, and all the other problems of our cities and of society are to be ended. But such a revolution cannot be consummated by black people alone. Indeed, it can only be consummated by the working class.

This follows because because it is only the working class (black and white, skilled and unskilled) that can complete the all-important constructive phase of reconstructing society on Socialist lines. Only the workers can take, hold and operate the industries. Only the workers, organized in accord with the program of the Socialist Labor Party, politically and into one integral Socialist Industrial Union, can avert a period of economic paralysis and chaos and raise the dome of the Socialist industrial Republic of Labor. And they will do it, not with guns, but with the ballot backed up by the economic might of their industrially organized forces.

In Socialist society we shall be able to enjoy the material well-being our productive capability makes possible. We shall be secure, healthy and happy human beings living in peace, harmony and freedom, in marked contrast to the capitalist jungle of strife, misery and insecurity in which we live today.

Black and white workers alike must face the fact that the task confronting them is to organize their political and economic power -- not to demand merely the amelioration of the horrible conditions of ghetto life, but to demand the abolition of the capitalist system of wage slavery, and to effect an orderly Socialist Reconstruction of Society.

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