re: Civil Rights and Marxism in the '60s

Grover Furr (
Sat, 4 May 1996 22:53:09 -0400

Eide has written:

>The key to the decay of
>the civil rights movement was when it lost its central tenet
>as expressed by Rev. King: to wit, the establishment of the
>'content of character' over the racialism that came to dominate
>the movement under the direct influence of the marxist left.

There was, and is, no single "marxist left". Certainly not the BPP!
though they had some ties to the CPUSA through their lawyers (Charles
Garry, I believe, maybe others).

There are variations, but all Marxist conceptions of racism I've
seen stress how racism is and was used (1) to get a source of very
cheap labor (from slavery through Jim Crow); (2) to divide the working
class, or the exploited (in colonial times) against one another, to
prevent unity; (3) to blunt class consciousness; (4) to lower the
price of labor, therefore, not only of the direct victims of racism
but _of workers of the majority group as well_, since the latter can
be more readily exploited because disunity.

IN other words: all Marxist analyses of racism I've ever heard of
stress how racism hurts ALL workers, ALL the exploited. I feel Eide is
completely incorrect here. Interpretations of racism that stress
separatism have nothing in common with Marxism. The Garveyites, for
example -- major opponents of the Communists during the '20s and '30s
in New York and Chicago -- stressed the nationalist, divisive
position; the CP never did.

There were some attempts at an "amalgamation" of class analysis
and nationalist analysis, of course. The Comintern position was:
national liberation first, class liberation second. I can see that
this made some sense at the time (under conditions of open colonialism
in most of the world and Jim Crow in the US), but in my view it turned
out to be wrong and itself racist. The "white skin privilege" line one
still occasionally hears is another variant of this "amalgamation",
this time of nationalism with a veneer of class rhetoric; it certainly
never had much hold in the 60s.

King was successful at preventing what was, in places, a struggle
against economic exploitation into a struggle over getting rid of
legal segregation. Certainly the Federal Government also decided after
WWII that legal segregation had to go, for various reasons, so King
and the "mainstream" civil rights leadership -- basically very
conservative ministers -- were oppositional only in the South.

It may be hard for some Americans to realize how fascist the US
seemed even to many in the "free world," forget about the formerly
colonial world, up to and including the 60s. I grew up in Montreal
with parents from rural North Carolina, and witnessed every day how
bad the Jim Crow system made the US look even to Canadians. Legal
segregation was a tremendous ideological handicap to the US in the
Cold War, when even the Soviets seemed to be committed anti-racists in
comparison (or, at least, the pro-Soviet CPs)! So segregation had to
go, in the interests of the elite -- I'd say, the ruling class --

All this goes far to explain how King, and his "non-violent",
"turn-the-other-cheek" philosophy, came to be so lionized by the elite
in the US.

Grover Furr