BY SARA LOBMAN
Pathfinder is reprinting two Education for Socialists bulletins on the struggle to chart a course in the fight for Black rights and against racist discrimination, one that relies on the independent mobilization and organized struggles of the oppressed and exploited toilers.
These publications-Independent Black Political Action, 1954- 78: The Struggle to Break with the Democratic and Republican Parties and The National Black Independent Political Party: An Important Step Forward for Working People-will be particularly useful in sorting through the claims today by various individuals and organizations to offer a road forward for working people in the 1996 U.S. elections.
On July 18, for example, Benjamin Chavis announced plans for an African-American Leadership Summit in August. "What comes out of the hearing will be our national agenda, and we aim at pushing it at all parties-Republican, Democratic, and Reform," Chavis said. The summit is also expected to call a national convention to be held September 20-22 in St. Louis, Missouri.
And in June, Labor Party Advocates sponsored a founding convention of the Labor Party. The new party aims to pressure the Democratic and Republican parties. It will not run candidates of its own. "If we are a unified voice, maybe one of those other parties would listen to us," one participant said.
Break with the capitalist parties
The articles, resolutions, and other documents reprinted in these two publications take on such a class-collaborationist approach and put forward the need for independent working-class political action. They are drawn from the pages of the Militant and from resolutions of the Socialist Workers Party from the beginning of the civil rights movement in 1954 to 1980.
Break with the capitalist parties
"The Socialist Workers Party contends that racism, like unemployment, exploitation and war, can be abolished in this country only by independent political action aimed at taking control of the government out of the hands of the capitalists and their parties," a 1963 resolution reprinted in Independent Black Political Action states. "As a step in this direction, we have advocated that the unions break from the Democratic Party and form an independent labor party that would seek to politically unite workers, farmers, and Negroes and elect their representatives to office. In addition, and for the same reason, we have also endorsed and supported representatives of the Negro community whenever they have run for office independently of and in opposition to the old parties."
"The job of the militant Negroes and their white allies is to break with the capitalist parties, not to infiltrate those parties in the illusion they can be reformed," the Militant emphasized in another article on the 1954 fight to get Harry Hazelwood, an independent Black candidate, elected as councilman-at-large in Newark, New Jersey. The Stalinist Communist Party, fearing the prospect of Blacks deciding "to go it alone," had urged an alliance with the Democratic Party. A break by Blacks with the capitalist parties would, in fact, "have thoroughly progressive consequences" for all working people," the article added.
Farrell Dobbs explains in a 1959 discussion that independent political action is not the same as supporting any candidate who runs outside one of the two capitalist parties. The Los Angeles branch of the party had decided to offer critical support to Edward Atkinson, a Black candidate in the non-partisan election for city council. Dobbs, writing for the SWP Political Committee, noted that Atkinson was associated with internal factional squabbles within a wing of the Democratic Party."
We must be careful, Dobbs said, "about rushing to characterize as independent a campaign where there is evidence it may in fact represent an attempt to play a greater role within a capitalist party.... Our aim is to lead the fight for independent political action. For us two criteria are paramount: the nature of a given movement; and the direction in which it is going."
Nearly 20 years later, SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes made a similar point in reference Charles Evers, who ran for U.S. Senate in Mississippi against the Democratic and Republican candidates. Evers's campaign, Barnes explains in the final selection in Independent Black Political Action, "reveals the decisiveness of program on the electoral front. Independence is a programmatic question.... As the pressure mounts to break out of the framework of capitalist politics, the rulers are going to make more and more of an effort to come up with safety valves that keep the exploited and oppressed stuck in lesser-evilism."
From Freedom Now to NBIPP
At a convention in Philadelphia in November 1980, some 1,500 delegates launched the National Black Independent Political Party (NBIPP). The new party, which existed for more than half a decade, built on experiences of almost twenty years to forge an independent Black political party. These earlier efforts are documented in Independent Black Political Action. They represented an important step forward in the fight for independent Black and working-class political action.
From Freedom Now to NBIPP
A call for the Freedom Now Party was first made in August 1963 to the quarter million participants in the national civil rights March on Washington. While many people supported the call, it was only in Michigan that the new party mounted a serious electoral effort, running a slate of 39 candidates in the 1964 elections. Two years later, in 1966, Blacks in Lowndes County, Alabama, who had been working on voter registration and protesting inadequate educational facilities, organized the Lowndes Country Freedom Organization (LCFO). Independent Black Political Action includes a speech given by LCFO chairman John Hullet at an anti-Vietnam war rally in Los Angeles, as well as two on-the-scene reports by two leaders of the Young Socialist Alliance.
The same year as the LCFO was formed in Alabama, activists in Oakland, California organized the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The Black Panther Party platform and program, and article on their 1968 campaign for the Washington state legislature, and analysis of the party's retreat from a strategy of mass political action are included in Independent Black Political Action.
The NBIPP broke sharply with the Democratic and Republican parties. Noting that "both major parties have betrayed us because their interests essentially conflict with ours," its charter explained that the decision to form the party "was not just a decision to found a new organization, but to unleash an organized political movement for Black self-determination in the United States, and to affirm, once again in our lifetime, the reality that we ourselves must make the critical contribution to our own liberation."
"The National Black Independent Political Party aims to attain power to radically transform the present socio-economic order," the charter, reprinted in The National Black Independent Political Party said. "That is, to achieve self determination and social and political freedom for the masses of Black people. Therefore, our party will actively oppose racism, imperialism, sexual oppression, and capitalist exploitation."
The NBIPP, as an article reprinted from the Militant notes, remains an example, not only in the fight for Black rights, but for the entire labor movement. "The NBIPP charter points in a different direction from all [the] misleaders-away from reliance on the Democrats and Republicans, and toward the mass of the Black people; away from the bankers demanding handouts for the rich, and toward the poor of all races; away from the Pentagon's military drive, and toward the liberation struggles of the oppressed of the world."
It is the direction that the entire working class must travel
in order to take political power out of the hands of the ruling
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