1964 Chicago School Strike
It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains—
Assata Shakur, An Autobiography, 1987
A critical aspect of building a black left unity network is learning from the historical processes that highlights similar initiatives. The emergence of a black left in the U.S. has to be viewed within the context of the various historical phases of the struggle against Black national oppression, capitalist exploitation and women’s oppression, and their fusion into a revolutionary struggle for self-determination and socialism.
Throughout these historical phases of struggle, there have been struggles around the question of which way forward for Black liberation. Various organizations and tendencies were formed representing different perspectives and class forces. This development emerged particularly during and after the period of Black Reconstruction following the civil war.
The different periods of our past can offer lessons about the low and high tides of left engagement, particularly as we continue to struggle in the 21st Century. The Black Liberation Movement’s struggle against racist and national oppression is an ongoing struggle. Capitalism and imperialist has not stood still, it too has learned from its past.
The Black Activist working group feels that it is vitally important that we examine some of the historical documents where initiatives were taken to forge unity among Black Left forces. The Sankofa saying states that “in order to go forward we must look back.” It is important to study this history and learn the lessons of those who have come before us, although for veterans this can facilitate summation and self-criticism. While we must avoid recreating the past, it is essential to have detailed discussions to learn from this past experience.
The organizations featured in this first issue of the Black Activist have been some of the major initiatives in the last 50 years of struggle.
1. The Black Workers Congress: This organization was a unification of radical Black workers. Its main base was in Detroit because of the organizational development of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. This was the major initiative to radicalize the shop floor since the anti-labor McCarthy goon squads of the 1950's. The LRBW connected the struggle of the Black workers to the heart of the Black liberation movement. This defines the social basis for a Black left, understanding and organizing the historical role of Black workers in the Black liberation movement with anti-capitalist politics.
2. The African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC): The armed struggles for anti-colonial African liberation spawned a movement of support for these movements. In the process, revolutionary thinking, especially Marxism-Leninism, became a central focus for progressive Black thought. This organization involved workers, students, community activists, and progressive middles class forces. In its time it was the radical center of the Black Liberation Movement, and linked radicals throughout the African Diaspora. We need to rebuild this kind of global coordination of struggle.
3. Black Radical Congress: This organization was the last great gathering of the Black left. More than 2,000 people gathered in Chicago to forge a Freedom Agenda as a banner under the Black left could unify and march.
4. The Combahee River Collective: An initiative founded in Boston of Black Feminist and Lesbians who worked on projects and issues in which they saw race, sex, and class as concurrent forms of oppression. This collective of radical Black women called for liberation and the solidarity of progressive forces to combat the destructive forces of capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy.
All of the four documents take up the need for Black left formations to commit to the intersection of theory, practice, and, organization. Their ideas of unity were fused in principles that upheld democratic values based on self-determination, liberation, equality, justice, and power to the oppressed.
These and other organizations that will be featured in future issues of the Black Activist should be part of the knowledge frame of reference for left activists in the Black liberation movement. They were in the main on point and making a critical contribution that we can learn from. Remember that we run a relay race through history, passing the movement baton off to the next generation to further advance the struggle until victory. If we don’t study these organizations and movement history, and learn and apply the lessons of what to do and what not to do, what we pass on will be flawed.
This manifesto was first issued in draft form in 1970 and can be found in the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line, http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/bwc-manifesto.htm. Transcription, editing and markup by Paul Saba. Copyright: Creative Commons Common Deed.
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
The following draft proposal has been adopted by the founding convention of the International Black Workers Congress. We are withholding the date and place of the convention because of the intense repression in the United States, but we are building our movement on a solid base, of mass support and believe that we must encourage constructive criticism of our ideas.
The International Black Workers Congress is an organization of Black workers and students who have joined together to further the revolutionary struggle in the United States and other parts of the world, to consolidate many existing organizations, and to build unity among the revolutionary Third World Forces.
A final draft of our Manifesto will be issued after the educational and planning meeting of the International Black Workers Congress to be held on August 21 and 22, 1971, in Detroit, Michigan.
We call upon all Third World people to devote their attention to the condition of workers in the United States and other parts of the world. We invite all those Third World people who accept our manifesto in principle to join the ranks of the International Black Workers Congress.
I. Our objectives.
1. Workers’ control of their places of work – the factories, mines, fields, offices, transportation services and communication facilities – so that the exploitation of labor will cease and no person or corporation will get rich off the labor of another person, but all people will work for the collective benefit of humanity.
2. An elimination of all forms of racism and the right of self-determination for African people, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Asians and Indians who live in the United States and Puerto Rico.
3. The elimination of all forms of oppression of women in all phases of society, on the job and in the home.
4. The right of all people to express and develop their cultural heritage throughout the United States.
Cartoon by Ollie Harrington, from http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ARTharrington.htm
5. The right of all people to express and develop their cultural and religious views without fear of persecution.
6. A halt to the growing repression and increasing fascism of the United States, the militarization of the police, the arming of right wing forces and the repeal of all repressive legislation that abolishes the right of people to assemble, to speak freely, to have privacy and to publish their political views.
7. The replacement of all class collaborators in the trade union movement with leadership that will fight for the international solidarity of all oppressed people, a leadership that will fight all manifestations of racism, white skin privilege, capitalism, and imperialism (the sending of money, armed forces and Christian missionaries from one country to another for the purpose of exploiting and oppressing its workers). This leadership must demand real equality for women in employment.
8. The creation in the labor movement of revolutionary Black caucuses, Chicano and Puerto Rican revolutionary caucuses, Third World labor alliances, independent revolutionary union movements and other forms of revolutionary labor association that will seek to break the stranglehold of the reactionary labor bureaucrats and the capitalistic class collaborators that help to prevent the working class people from understanding their historic role in controlling the means of production,
9. A twenty-hour work week where all the people of the United States will be employed and have the necessary funds for food, clothing shelter and the right to improve their standard of living and enjoy the benefits of an industrialized society.
10. Thirty days of paid vacation time each year for all workers including women in the home and the use of all resort areas and the creation of new ones for working class people and the elimination of special privileges at resort areas for any group of people.
11. An elimination of speed-up, compulsory overtime, unsafe working conditions, inadequate medical facilities on the job, brutality and terror in the mines, factories and industrial plants of the United States and Puerto Rico.
12. That all people in the United States engage in productive work for the benefit of all the people in the world. Parasitic capitalistic vultures must be eliminated and all people who are outside of the work force must have jobs so that there will be no need for prostitution, pimps, dope pushers and addicts, gamblers, hustlers, winos – all creatures of the capitalistic system.
13. An elimination of the trash and violence perpetuated on the mass media and the right of all people to use the radio and television networks to express and develop their cultural forms.
14. An end to the pollution of the atmosphere, forests, trees, rivers and living quarters of all the people by the giant corporations who have no regard for the people and whose owners can fly away to islands in the Caribbean to avoid pollution or jet-set to Latin America and Africa, parts of Asia and other areas.
15. Adequate free public health facilities in all communities; adequate free hospitals, free doctor’s care and improved working conditions for nurses and hospital aides.
16. Sufficient free twenty-four-hour day care centers in all communities so that mothers and fathers will be able to engage in other work and activities and the care of children will be socialized and their education will train them to work for humanity and not for their selfish, individual aspirations.
17. Free education from pre-school through all levels of college and university training and control of the educational facilities by the people.
18. Safe, clean, uncrowded housing where there are no rats and roaches, crumbling walls, falling ceilings and garbage piled up from insufficient public garbage disposal.
19. Abolition of the brutal penal system of the United States and the establishment of people’s reorientation centers for those who misunderstand the workers’ society and commit crimes against the people.
20. The immediate release of all prisoners from the archaic jail system of the United States, many of whom are political prisoners in the traditional sense of the word, but all of whom are there because of the unjust historical development and practices of a capitalistic society.
21. A withdrawal of all United States troops from overseas countries and a total dismantling of the military force of the United States.
22. Elimination and smashing of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Counter-Insurgency forces and research activities that have terrorized the population of the United States and the people of the world.
23. A destruction of all the armed, vicious, brutal, militaristic police forces in the United States that kill people at random, terrorize the population, and the establishment of a people’s militia. There will be no need for an armed police force and military personnel, FBI or CIA, with workers control of the means of production, transport services and communication facilities.
24. Reparations from the United States government and all white racist institutions in the United States. We further demand that the United States government pay reparations to the people of Africa, Latin America and Asia whom it has exploited for centuries.
25. The withdrawal of all United States investment in South Africa.
26. The immediate ending of the aggressive war in Indo-China.
27. The right of the Palestinian people to their homeland in the Middle East.
28. The ending of the exploitation of workers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean by western powers such as the U.S., France, England, Portugal, Belgium, Israel.
29. The ending of the trade blockade of Cuba.
30. The admission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations and the control of Formosa by the Chinese government of the mainland.
31. The rational planning of a world economic system that will eliminate racism, wars, hunger, disease, lack of housing, oppression of women, class antagonisms and big nation chauvinism.
32. The creation of a genuine revolutionary workers’ party in the United States under the leadership of third world workers, men and women, employed and unemployed, who will be guided by the accumulated wisdom of all revolutionary thinkers, and who will work untiringly to implement the objectives of the International Black Workers Congress.
1. The systematic study of revolutionary theory and the experiences of revolutionary movements and socialist nations so that we might learn from them, but in our learning we must at all times remember that we must apply all theory to the concrete realities of the United States. We live in the most industrialized nation of the world, a country that oppresses the majority of the people of the world. Any revolutionary theory that we cannot apply, cannot adjust to our concrete realities, will not be of much value; but all revolutionary theory in some form can be modified, extended, applied, interpreted to fit the needs of the revolutionary forces in the United States.
2. Creative discussion in a non-antagonistic manner about the future of the world in which we want to live and the methods to achieve these objectives. People’s leisure time should be spent in discussing, reading and working for the new world. Above all we must try to build the new world in order to learn how to build it.
3. A systematic attack on all the control mechanisms of United States society. Our efforts will never be successful if we do not engage in practical, day-to-day struggle against all the controls that the capitalists have erected to maintain their rule. The concept of citizenship in the United States, the educational system, the mass media, the dogma and practices of the Christian church, the welfare system, the courts and the administration of justice, the profit motive system and upward mobility, the love of life and fear of death, the lack of job security, inadequate payment of wages and consumer credit, the practices of the reactionary trade union leadership, the denial of adequate health and medical facilities, dope in our communities, the downgrading and denial of the cultural heritage of third world people, the poverty program and other counter-insurgency forms, the thievery of the land of third world people.
All these and other forms of control must be systematically attacked and the greater the unity in the attack, the greater the results and the quickening of the revolutionary process, for only when there is conflict against the control mechanisms of society will there be change and only the movement for change can produce revolutionary ferment and results.
4. The uniting of all third world revolutionary forces. Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Black people. Indians and Asians have too long been divided from each other and the exploiters have benefited from our disunity. We have all lived under the yoke of racism and economic exploitation. We have all suffered at the hands of the white imperialist powers and we have seen our native lands devastated, raped and pillaged, our mothers and sisters brutalized, our fathers cringe from the white master’s whip lash. The forces that oppress us are our major contradictions. Between us there are antagonisms, but these must be resolved through discussion and we must unite as one mighty force in this racist land called the United States of America and help to build a new world without racism, hunger, disease, exploitation in all forms, a world of sisters and brothers.
1. To keep our revolutionary commitment under all the harsh forms that repression and mounting fascism will take in the United States.
2. To work untiringly to fulfill our objectives.
3. To help create a world where all people will call each other sisters and brothers out of genuine love of each other.
II. 1971 Program Objectives
A. To increase the political consciousness of workers and students.
Every effort must be made to teach workers and students the meaning of surplus value, dialectical and historical materialism. With a firm understanding of these three concepts, workers and students will have a foundation for interpreting the workings of a capitalistic system. Without this theoretical framework, people will continue to flounder, and the rebellious spirit which exists among workers will not receive the political direction necessary to force that spirit of rebellion into an effective fighting force against racism, capitalism, and imperialism.
All those who begin to learn some of the interrelationships and scientific proofs of these concepts must teach others.
B. To build more and more cadres for the Congress.
(1) Workers and students in the Congress must not only teach, but also must urge and direct the teaching of workers on the job. Those who begin to learn the truth of surplus value, dialectical and historical materialism, must engage other people in discussion and study on the job and in the community. Constant discussion among workers and students is necessary and the objectives of the Congress must be discussed in study groups, newspapers, leaflets, and through mass agitation and propaganda.
A conscious recruiting plan must be made to get more workers into organizations that are part of the Congress and the constant political education of these workers must intensify. Meetings in the homes of workers are much better than those at offices; the grueling task of working in production consumes so much energy that workers do not have the physical energy to attend long meetings during the week. They are resting for the next day of deadly work. Whenever possible, hold public political education classes on Saturdays and Sundays, but do not neglect constant political education at the homes of workers and on the jobs where workers are socialized.
(2) Teach with a purpose. We are trying to build cadres for the Congress and its affiliated organizations in order to implement our political objectives. This means that workers must be organized and recruited. This will never happen if the workers do not have trust in the recruiter. Building trust on sound political grounds is a must for the Congress organizer and we must translate that trust and our teaching into active recruiting programs. We cannot become sectarian, but must reach out for all workers, especially production workers, those directly engaged in producing surplus value.
C. To constantly expand the base of the organization.
(1) Build the Black United Front and Third World Alliances. Black workers must never isolate themselves. It is imperative to work with other organizations but never giving up our principles. We must strive to get them to understand the correctness of our position, but this will not come just through debates. Our words, our practice, our activities, our image in the community will ultimately determine whether people accept the correctness of our political positions. We must work with people in order to change them. We cannot accomplish our objectives living alone in our homes with our families. We must go among the masses and work hard, trying to build political and moral support for the revolution. Only in this way can we implement a mass line and only in this way will we be able to accomplish our objectives.
We must know the history and practices of all groups in the community and work with those who are genuinely interested in the people. In some instances, we must seek to transform organizations. At all times we must constantly seek unity and to further educate people about our objectives and program. We need help to deal with the United States government and its repressive forces.
Third world people are divided. Much of this is due to incorrect leadership and a failure to understand the experiences of those who have made revolutions. The United Front is a good instrument and Third World people will respect this concept, but until, recently, those striving for United Fronts did not have the revolutionary objectives that we have.
(2) Establish a community newspaper that will serve the plant, the factory, and the world situation. This must be a well written paper, but a paper that is regular in circulation and that addresses itself to the needs of the workers in a particular area, but it must print a great deal of international news and political educational material. Building international solidarity requires information about the international pictures.
By the end of 1971, the Congress hopes to establish at least twenty newspapers throughout the country speaking directly to the needs of Third World Workers. This approach of local newspapers, we believe, is much better than just the distribution of a national newspaper. However, a national paper will be published and will reflect the political line of the Congress.
Those who publish newspapers should strive to involve students in the production and distribution. This is important, for students must learn to work with workers, and workers have a responsibility to educate students to the political realities and to working class conditions. Those students who are unwilling to distribute and help prepare the newspaper are not good candidates for the organization. But many students will respond to the calls of the workers. Try. Educate. Try again. But always relate the student workers to the realities of other workers. Encourage them to go to work in the plants and organize and learn what production is all about.
(3) Organize according to the natural division of the city. Establish workers’ committees in the various wards of a city that will implement programs, politicize, distribute newspapers, and raise funds. We must build a parallel political structure if we are to be successful in our organizing work.
Decentralization of activities and work must be our main thrust in program implementation. Centralized direction flows from the structure of the organization, but decentralized implementation will help us at all times to constantly expand our base and get more and more roots deep into our communities. The deeper our roots into the community, the harder will it be for the government and the capitalistic bosses to wipe out our organization.
We can never accomplish our objectives until the masses of our people observe and participate in shaping correct political objectives and help to achieve these objectives. Building an infrastructure, or a structure for implementing programs and distributing information, is one of the best ways to begin organizing support bases in a community.
(4) Establish book stores. This is a priority which must be accomplished immediately. Ultimately, we should strive to open book stores in various sections of cities, but even if we have to open a book store in the corner of our offices, we should do it. If we are to educate workers, they must buy and read books. We can get books from publishers at a greater discount than from bookstores, if we get a discount at all. Then too, we can earn some money to help support a worker who might need a job, by letting him be responsible for that.
(5) Establish printing concerns. This too is a priority, for no revolutionary movement can succeed if it does not have its own printing operation. We must try and devise all types of methods to get printing operations going in our cities. This must be stressed over and over again. A printing operation controlled by workers puts the struggle on a new plane.
Every worker should try to learn the art of printing, composing, and editing a newspaper. Those with these skills must teach others.
(6) Establish consumer cooperatives, housing projects, gasoline stations, etc. At a later date we will prepare a more detailed plan for cooperative economic programs, but as a rule we should try to establish service outlets for workers. Workers must live; all people must live and we all spend money for food, clothing, and shelter. We should try to utilize all the various mechanisms in a city, state, and country to build these service units for workers all under a cooperative program. This has been started in some cities, but experiences must be codified and expanded. It is not just enough to politically educate. We must seek to provide as many services for workers as possible. In all communities we will find third world people who are willing to help us implement programs for cooperative economic development.
(7) Establish clinics, schools, and institutions to help raise the reading, writing, and speaking ability of all workers. The International Black Workers Congress is interested in preparing strong working-class leadership that will grow stronger each year, and until we raise the reading, writing, and speaking ability of workers, we cannot accomplish this objective with efficiency.
Urge all workers to obtain and constantly use a dictionary as they read.
Utilize the services of third world teachers to start remedial and advanced reading schools for workers.
Teach the skill of writing the English language and encourage workers to write for plant and community publications.
Prepare forms and urge workers to answer these questions about any important event in their community or place of work: What happened, who was involved, where did it happen, when did it happen, how did it occur, and the evaluation and significance of the action.
Always encourage workers to speak in public and at meetings, following the rules for basic public speaking.
a. State clearly basic points you wish to make.
b. Give supporting statements, illustrations, and comparisons.
c. Conclude, urging listeners to support your basic points and proposals, while urging them to act against other incorrect proposals.
(8) Engage in mass fund raising. Workers must financially support their struggle. Without money we cannot accomplish many of our objectives. Money is the nerve of warfare. We must constantly stress that workers must pay for the cost of the war we are waging. No revolutionary can work without money and no people will liberate themselves if they are not willing to pay to help with their liberation struggle.
The following suggested ideas must be improved upon and each worker in our organization must understand the political importance of raising money and cannot evade his responsibility to the organization. We cannot tolerate the liberal attitude that raising money is the function of someone else. True, we must have a division of labor and we plan to establish cadres who will specialize in raising money, but from the very beginning, every worker must clearly understand that he has a responsibility which we will not allow him to forget or to evade – a responsibility to help provide funds, food, housing and other forms of material support to the workers’ revolution. At the point of repetition, we stress again that without money we will not be able to accomplish our objectives and no forms of evading the responsibility to help raise money will be tolerated.
a. A voluntary tax upon each worker in a plant or a work situation. Exact honesty on the part of all cadres and members is absolutely essential and he or she who would steal one penny from the organization is violating trust and must be eliminated from our ranks and punished for his crime against the people.
b. A voluntary tax upon each household in the community. People will support our efforts if they understand our objectives and see us working to implement those objectives. We are truly the servants of the people. We are a part of the people and we must never remove ourselves from the people, for the masses will not support us financially if they see us violating trust and confidence. Certainly they will never support us financially nor should we expect them to if we become a gang of opportunists who abuse the people, terrorize them, speak harshly to them, ignore their problems and strive to be elitist in our behavior and attitude.
c. Fund raising parties, dances, paid cultural events, etc.
d. Solicitations with cans on the streets or places where people gather. Not only should we try to raise money at these points but we must strive at all times to give people a copy of our objectives. Raising money is a political act. The revolutionary forces will grow stronger to the extent that they are educating about our objectives, discussing them and joining the ranks of workers who are working for the total society.
e. Sell posters, bumper stickers, buttons, artifacts, etc. Mass fund raising is possible and the best method by which revolutionary forces can gather resources to help carry out programs. No worker can assume the attitude that he is above selling any item that will help bring revenue to the organization. Elitism in all its forms must be combated at all times and any person who refuses to sell items for the organization is expressing an elitist attitude.
f. Establish and organize units of the United Black Appeal and the International Black Appeal. Details on this program are contained in a separate memorandum.
g. Collect food and gasoline stamps. Many people buy food and gasoline at places where stamps are issued and do not bother with collecting or redeeming them.
h. Utilize the welfare system and food stamp programs. While this is not a direct fund raising proposal, some workers might feel too proud to take advantage of existing laws that will help to improve their economic situation. This is a manifestation of liberalism. The money that the government spends is our money and one day we will control the finances of this country, but in striving to accomplish our objectives we must utilize all available methods that will provide us with food, clothing and shelter.
i. Cooperative buying of food at wholesale houses. This is another indirect method of fund raising. It is absurd for workers to raise money to spend at neighborhood food stores whose prices are often sky high. By organizing collective food buying programs and going to the city or farmers’ market, we often save money and get better food products. Collectivism must extend to buying and cooking foods.
The above are suggestions for raising money; the following is our fund raising policy which must be adhered to at all times.
Fund Raising Policy
Our policy is to accept funds from anyone who wishes to support our objectives and programs and who understands that policy is made by our organization, not by those who give money. We cannot afford to allow anyone to dictate our policies. At the same time we cannot turn down help from anyone, regardless of their skin color. It is the duty of whites in this country to support liberation efforts of blacks, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Asians and Indians.
We must fight against those reactionary forces in our communities who say that we should not accept money from whites. When you check it out concretely, many of the most anti-white forces in the black community are accepting foundation grants and white church grants for reformist programs, yet these vultures criticize third world people who accept money from whites for political purposes. Not only are they dishonest, but they are retarding the revolutionary process with their criticism of blacks who are studying the science of making a revolution, and one of the principles of making a revolution is to have the financial resources to wage warfare. We stress that our policies are made by our organization but we welcome help from all progressive forces in the United States and around the world. Self-reliance does not negate financial and material support from anyone who wants to help us accomplish our objectives and programs.
(1) Build the International and national conferences. The International Black Workers Congress is planning a two-day international education and planning conference on August 21-22, 1971 in Detroit, Michigan. These dates have been selected because of their historic importance. On August 21, 1831 Nat Turner led a slave rebellion in the United States and on August 22, 1791 Toussaint L’Overture led a Haitian slave rebellion against French planters. We plan to hold many workshops, local and regional planning meetings to culminate in the national conference. We want to build a base for our organization prior to any national meeting and utilize the national conference to further build the base of the organization. Details of this objective are contained in a separate memorandum.
(2) Prepare for a Third World Labor Strike on August 8, 1972, to end the Indo-China War, the restoration of the Palestinian people to their homeland, the withdrawal of United States investments from South Africa.
To implement this objective we must begin to educate workers about the Indo-China war, the Palestinian armed struggle and the role of United States investment in South Africa. Constant propaganda around these issues must be accentuated. Further details for building the strike are contained in a separate memorandum.
(3) Organize personal and community self-defense units. Training in the martial arts should increase and other forms of personal and community self-defense techniques.
(4) Beware of leeches, opportunists, and those who would latch onto our movement for their purposes. Remember we are trying to lay the foundations for a genuine revolutionary party among third world people. Some people in the traditional white left in this country have historically tried to jump on the bandwagon of black movements and just as often have jumped off when these movements took positions that offended the white leadership of these traditional organizations. Usually these organizations have sent their black members into black organizations and they have often worked very hard, but when directives were given that they should pull out, they pulled out for the most part. There are those who will say we are anti-communist for this position, but we know this is not true. We must build our own revolutionary movement. We too can read all the revolutionary thinkers and apply their thoughts to our concrete realities. Only when we read and apply for ourselves will we make progress in advancing the cause of world socialism, an explicit definition of the sum total of our objectives.
(5) Beware of police infiltration. The recent trials of the Black Panther Party and the revelation that Gene Roberts, a bodyguard of Malcolm X – a man who tried to breathe in Malcolm’s mouth and revive him – is a police informer certainly indicates the extent of police infiltration in this country. At the same time we cannot stop motion and organizing because of the increasing number of black people who are turning into police spies. Certainly one of the reasons the pigs revealed Gene Roberts as a police informer inside the Panthers was to frighten other black people from getting together and working on programs collectively. If the United States government can frighten black people away from mass collective action, then it will have retarded the revolutionary process. Only through the mass action of third world people will we be able to generate ferment among our people and this mass action does not always have to take the form of demonstrations.
III. Statement of Principles That Govern Our Revolutionary WorkWe are issuing this statement as a part of our manifesto so that the people will have a further guide by which to judge our behavior. We encourage all the people to critically examine our standards for work and study and to examine other groups and organizations by the standards which guide us.
Why do we study?
1. To equip ourselves with the knowledge of the science and art of making a revolution so that we may apply scientific principles and historically proven techniques to the art of making a socialist revolution in the United States. If you want to build a skyscraper, you study the principles of architecture. If you want to be a good farmer, you study agriculture. Hence, if you really want to change conditions and to fulfill the objectives of the International Black Workers Congress, then you must study the science and art of making a revolution.
2. To build revolutionary strength, initiative, and imagination.
3. To hold firm to a consistent working class attitude.
4. To fight petty-bourgeois or middle-class tendencies such as individualism, selfishness, greed, ultra-democracy, liberalism, petty bickering, elitism, anti-intellectualism, know-it-all attitude, dislike for detail work, egotism, male chauvinism and reactionary nationalism.
5. To build iron discipline and a firm commitment to a life of struggle for world socialism and the ending of all exploitation.
6. To weed out corrosive elements by observing how people study and implement what they learn.
7. To build a spirit of international solidarity.
8. To train cadres who will further organize the party and revolutionary organizations of the working class, the only class capable of giving correct political direction, to revolutionary forces.
Methods of Carrying Out Revolutionary Work
1. We believe it is necessary to have stated objectives that will give direction and educate the masses. Stated objectives are the basis for recruiting and imaging the ideological struggle.
2. We believe that all revolutionary organizations must practice democratic centralism. This means: a) Centralized administration and collective authority, b) Decentralized methods of implementation of work that promote initiative, democratic discussion and a channel to initiate policy resolutions, c) Subordination of minority opinions to majority decisions, lower bodies to higher bodies and the supremacy of the central collective, d) Constant criticism and self-criticism, study and practice as the best methods to insure the vigor and vitality of the part or revolutionary organization and the promotion of growth of revolutionary theory and practice. We believe that any organization that does not promote criticism and self-criticism will mislead the masses and cause its own decay.
3. We believe that liberalism in all its political manifestations must be combated consistently, for in the United States the influence of middle class and capitalistic ideology is rooted deep in all people including workers. Liberalism is dangerous to a revolutionary organization for it retards growth, causes a diversion of energies, a turning inward on sisters and brothers and a failure to understand that imperialism is the major enemy. (By nature imperialism is capitalistic and racist.)
4. We believe leadership must be carefully selected, for an organization is judged by its leadership and leadership creates a dynamic of its own which must constantly be evaluated by the organization. There fore we believe that all revolutionary organizations must have leadership that is working class and revolutionary in outlook. The past history, activities, and commitment of leadership must be examined before it is selected and the strength and weakness of each person in a leadership position must be collectively discussed at all times.
5. We believe that anyone wishing to make a socialist revolution in the United States or who wishes to be known as a genuine revolutionary must struggle to master the science and art of making a revolution and learn how to apply those teachings to the concrete realities of the United States. We do not believe that formulas will work everywhere but that we must study revolutionary theory to learn how to apply it. Theory which we cannot apply is interesting reading but not relevant to our concrete realities. A broad knowledge of revolutionary theory will increase our ability to wage revolutionary warfare in the United States.
6. We believe that we must build the United Front, realizing that all united fronts are ’the unity of opposites which includes various classes in league with each other on the basis of a definite common program of struggle.’ (Le Duan, VIETNAMESE REVOLUTION: FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS ’ESSENTIAL TASKS’ HANOI, 1970.) Within the United Front the International Black Workers Congress will maintain its right to recruit and to accomplish its objectives, waging principled and non-antagonistic struggle with all other members of the Front, trying to get them to realize the correctness of our objectives and how they are in the best interest of all the people of the world.
Individuals and organizations that wish to become a part of the International Black Workers Congress must accept in principle our manifesto. It is our job to educate about our principle, objectives and method of work and to test people in their daily work to see if they are furthering the goals which they have accepted in principle.
We urge all those who want to support the International Black Workers Congress to duplicate this draft proposal, mimeograph copies, reprint it in newspapers, distribute it in plants, in factories, in any work situation, in communities. Hold discussion groups and try to implement the objectives.
We are especially interested in this document receiving wide publicity and criticism in the international community. We welcome books, periodicals, working drafts; documents, suggestions, and ideas by progressive and revolutionary forces anywhere in the world that will help us to further develop our revolutionary consciousness and accomplish our objectives.
"If there is no struggle, there can be no progress..."
Black people throughout the world are realizing that our freedom will only be won through a protracted struggle against two forces - racism and imperialism the world imperialist system festers in Africa and Asia and engulfs the Western Hemisphere as well. In the United States we know it as monopoly capitalism, in Africa it is imperialism in its colonial or neo-colonial form. Wherever it appears, its corner stone is the white ruling class of the United States of America.
Imperialism is neither invincible nor invulnerable. As the blows against it increase, the crisis of imperialism heightens and leads to new levels of exploitation of Black People in the Western Hemisphere, Africa and the rest of the world.
In Africa, the remains of classical European colonialism is held together by Portugal (in Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique). The United States government has been a constant supporter and ally of Portuguese oppression through direct aid (such as the $430 million Azores agreement) and gifts of planes, arms, and military training (at Fort Bragg, North Carolina) through NATO. White settler rule is based in police state South Africa, and extends to Namibia (South-West Africa) and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) as well. There is hardly a single major U.S. or multinational Corporation, or bank that does not have investments in Southern Africa. Chase Manhattan Bank, Firestone Rubber and tires, Gulf Oil, Holiday Inn, General Motors and some 300 other firms have investments totaling over l billion dollars. Several major problems face the people of Southern Africa and Guinea-Bissau as a result of the present crisis:
l. Resettlement schemes to absorb unemployed European workers as new colonists in Africa; they will be expected to fight against liberation forces. An example is the Cabora Bassa Dam project in the Tete province of Mozambique, where over 1,000,000 European workers are expected to settle.
2. Increased levels of exploitation caused by the relocation of factories from advanced capitalist countries - "runaway shops." The conditions that generally accompany this new investment are no-strike laws, forced labor, slave-wages, no right-to-Organize laws, and neo-fascist policies of political repression against all dissent.
3. Militaristic and aggressive expansionist policies of South •Africa and Israel to recolonize "independent" Africa using capital invested by multinational corporations based in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
Black people in the Western Hemisphere equally caught in the racist imperialist net, also face major problems in the present state of our struggle:
I. Problems on the job-unemployment, low wages, job insecurity, racism by management and union leadership, discrimination in hiring and promotions (especially in skilled crafts), and super-exploitation in the shops (speed-up compulsory overtime, etc.) '
2. Continued neglect, and indeed cutbacks in the area of social services • public welfare, transportation, housing sanitation, health facilities, and education, etc.
3. Political-police-military repression with fascist-type hit squads (like the STRESS squad was in Detroit), increased use of electronic surveillance and informers, a rising rate of Black Youth in prisons, and systematic introduction of heroin (or heroin substitutes) in to the Black Communities.
4. Continued onslaughts on efforts to preserve and develop revolutionary culture among Black people, including the use of distorted fragments of Black history and the accomplishments of "distinguished Black Americans." These onslaughts are in fact cultural aggression. Cultural aggression, like all other forms of racism, seeks to impose the way of life, values and institutions of one culture on another culture. Culture here defined as a way of life, values, and those institutions set up to maintain and develop that way of life and its values.
Black people throughout the world have finally got the news - the news that racism and 1mperialism the two headed monster - are our enemies. The major historical trends of the moment in Southern Africa can be summed up as:
1. The heightened struggle and increasing success of the liberation movements, which win new victories every day. Their struggle has been aided by the support of the Socialist countries, and by other anti-imperialist forces, especially the increasing support of progressive Black people in the United States.
2. The increasing support for the liberation movements by independent African countries, even conservative ones, through the .OAU Liberation Committee and by direct aid.
3. The rising desperation of the Portuguese governments in the face of liberation groups marching towards total victories in the "colonies". This desperation is reflected by the cowardly assassination of Amilcar Cabral, Secretary-General of the PAIGC, on the the streets of Conakry by Portuguese agents.
4. Increased co-operation between colonial and imperialist governments especially Rhodesia, South Africa, Portugal, Israel, and the United States in these areas; first, collective military arrangements; second, the wooing of governments of certaiJ1 African countries in an attempt to seduce them into "dialogue" with South Africa or otherwise breach the anti-colonial unity of Africa; third, the development of schemes to hand the Portuguese colonies over the phony "independent" Black governments - in reality puppets for the Portuguese.
5. The increasing awareness of Black workers in Southern Africa who are mounting demonstrations and strikes to prove that the system of internal oppression under which they suffer can be overthrown.
The major historicaI trends at the present time in the United States may be summed up as follows:
1. The international crisis of capitalism has produced effects - rising market price of gold, falling value of the dollar - that have put the U.S. economy on very shaky ground; unemployment, high food prices, run away shops are a few indications of the instability of the domestic market.
2. The increasing manifestations of frustrations and anger of people in the US, especially Black people-battered back and forth by forces which they do not understand.
3. The exposure of corruption in government from Nixon and Halderman to Mayors Daly and Addonizio, down to the cop on the corner. People increasingly realize that this corruption is linked to control of government by large corporations and the rich in their own interests.
4. The increasing attempts by the white ruling class of the USA and their apologists, to blame many social problems on Black People: (high taxes, welfare, unemployment for white workers; inflation) .
We can clearly see that the imperialist monster has two heads in the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere in the world. We here have the same duty as all progressive Black people - to fight imperialism in all its manifestations. To do this we must build an anti-racist, anti-imperialist United Front among Black people.
Black people throughout the world face a future of struggle to put together a movement with the theoretical and organizational tools and the practical experience necessary to defeat enemies and build a new world.
We must learn from the experience of other movements and other struggles experience which teaches that "there can be no revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory." We have learned rich lessons from struggles with no theory at all. Those lessons teach us two important things about unity and theory:
1. We cannot be dogmatic. Once we have rooted ourselves in certain principles, we must direct our struggle according to the concrete, changing conditions around us.
2. Real unity will come about not by ignoring differences but by airing those differences and struggling to resolve them. It is through the interplay of ideas and the testing of those ideas in practice that a correct position will be hammered out.
We must struggle to improve our organization work. Building unity means finding ways of utilizing the abilities and skills of everyone who is serious about struggling.
The• real test of our united front work is, of course, in practice. We must engage in principled work both inside and outside of the anti-imperialist front; in addition we must develop our ability to carry the fight against racism and imperialism to different groups of people around different issues, yet maintain our course.
The principle task of our movement at this time has two aspects.. We must merge the Black liberation struggles in the U.S. -with the National liberation struggles in Africa, because a victory anywhere in the fight against U.S. imperialism is a victory everywhere. We must coordinate the Black Liberation struggles in the Western Hemisphere with the overall struggle of People of Color to change the fundamental nature of this society, because we have a responsibility to the world to fight exploitation and oppression in this very stronghold.
The time is ripe to develop a United Black people's struggle, a struggle to merge the Black liberation movement with the process of World Revolution. The question is: HOW?
The whole argument about whether unity is achieved through a step by step process. or through a political decision is in fact a futile one. Ultimately political decision is necessary, without it unity cannot be achieved. But in the meantime, do we merely wait and hope for a miracle, leaving our development and independence forever in jeopardy, or do we make what progress we can?—Julius K. Nyerere
The struggle we are engaged in must be a broad one -it must be capable of encompassing a diversity of ideological positions, class formation, and social groups, And it must be operational. It cannot be so broad that it cannot function.
But unity cannot be ordered or willed into being, it must be built as the conditions develop. We do not expect Black nationalists, elected Black public officials, Black socialists, Black ministers, and Black union leaders to unite around a common program merely by their attendance at a meeting, no matter how spectacular. In fact, we feel that this is an incorrect approach at the present time. "Great" men and women do not make history -the people make history. There are some who say that all of "the leaders" should come together so that Black people can come together. We believe that, to the contray, it is the struggles of everyday Black people - it is their emerging unity that will make the "leaders" come together, and not the other way around. Those who are serious about struggle against racism and imperialism must involve themselves in the struggle of Black people, only such a cause will bring about the unity we all desire so much . "
The development of a lasting Black anti-imperialist united front requires a struggle for unity on two levels; internal and external.
Dust will accumulate in a room if not cleared regularly—Mao Tse Tung
In order for the Black Liberation Struggle to advance there must be a dynamic and direct struggle to unite forces, and develop correct views. This unity in struggle will develop militants with experience, committed to correct views and unified with other individuals and organizations proven in the fight against imperialism. Active criticism and ideological struggle are the weapons and the way of ensuring that Brothers and Sisters within the ALSC build strong organizational unity. Non-antagonistic contradictions within the committee only be resolved through active ideological and political struggle based on principle. The basis of such struggle will ensure us a higher unity. Such a unity based on unity-struggle-unity, will cement organizational unity and correct our political direction. If errors are left by themselves, organizational unity, strength and direction will not be achieved.
Our unity with other political tendencies in the Black Community must be based on a commitment to eliminate racism and defeat monopoly capitalism in the Western Hemisphere and imperialism throughout the rest of the world. For example, our view is that African people must control Southern Africa and Guinea-Bissau and the only way to really do this is by armed revolutionary struggle. Recognizing the present condition, we also support the struggles for democratic rights; for instance the right of Black workers to organize in Durham, N.C., South Africa or Detroit, Michigan. In this way we must begin to involve people of various ideological positions -ministers, elected officials, civil rights groups, etc., around the program of ALSC, not on their terms but on commonly agreed terms - on terms of the front which we can all support. This process will not happen immediately, it will have to be done step by step. Part of its success or failure will be in our ability to scientifically identify different classes and social groupings in the Black Community so that we can deal with them all effectively .The success of ':unite the many to oppose the few" in any society involves knowing exactly who composes "the many" and determining what they can be united around.
Most Black adults work in production or service jobs. It is this sector of the Black community that has the most to gain by the victory of our struggles and yet they have been the most 'ignored by the movement. We also consider unemployed workers, most brothers and sisters incarcerated in prisons and welfare recipients as displaced workers. We must give the highest priority to mobilizing Black workers because they have demonstrated the power to do many things, such as stopping illegal chrome shipments from Rhodesia, expose repressive use of Polaroid identification systems and stop production of cars, not only in solidarity with the liberation movements, but also as a part of the fight against their own oppression. Therefore we encourage Black workers to take the lead. It is in this area that the ALSC - the anti-racist, anti-imperialist Black United Front, must meet the challenge of showing the interrelationship of the oppression of the people of Southern Africa and the exploitation of the Black people in the Western Hemisphere.
The post World War II rise of Blacks in clerical and professional jobs provided the basis for leadership, organizational skills, and ideology during the Civil Rights Era. In turn, this struggle opened up new opportunities in government work, business opportunities, educational institutions, etc. As the crisis of imperialism causes the society to contract and cut back, the Black middle strata will be cut back. This is especially true of those jobs created by the poverty program and similar agencies in the past nine years. In addition to the radicalization of these people, occupants of traditional middle strata "professional" jobs are increasingly feeling the squeeze of monopoly capital. Teachers, social workers, and government workers, to name a few can and must be shown the true nature of the society of the Western Hemisphere. Their struggle will ultimately not be that of saving their professional status, but rather in joining with the masses of people to defeat racism and imperialism decisively and finally.
Short life expectancy and high birth rates result in the Black community being young. Youth is also a time of struggle. We must gather together Black Youth from the plants, from the campuses, the streets, penal institutions, military reservations, and wherever else they are, to create a mass mobilization of these youth in the anti-racist, anti-imperialist struggle.
In summary we have presented three major points:
1. The new unity of the Black Liberation struggle must be anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist in character.
2. The struggle to unify Black anti-racist, anti-imperialist forces is our source of strength in building an ideologically advanced movement.
3. Our unity must involve all Black social groups and class formations, and we propose that Black workers take the lead,
Basic Program for African Liberation Support Committee
1. Raise money for liberation groups in Southern Africa and Guinea-Bissau through the United African Appeal.
2. Conduct educational seminars and programs on racism, feudalism, imperialism colonialism and neo-colonialism and its effect on the continent of Africa, especially South Africa and Guinea-Bissau.
3. Develop and distribute literature, films, and other educational material on racism, feudalism, imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism and its effect on the continent of Africa, especially South Africa and Guinea-Bissau.
4. Participate in and aid Black community and Black workers in the struggles against oppression in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean.
5. Engage in efforts to influence and transform U.S. policy as regards to its 1mpenalist role in the world.
6. Engage in. mass actions against governments, products and companies that are involved in or are supportive of racist, illegitimate regimes in Southern Africa and Guinea-Bissau.
7. Support and spearhead annual ALD demonstrations, in conjunction with the International African Solidarity Day.
Black Radical Congress Mission Statement Adopted by the National Council (NC) of the BRC, East St. Louis, Illinois—September 26, 1999The purpose of the Black Radical Congress (BRC) is to promote dialogue among African American activists and scholars on the left; to discuss critical issues on the national and international scene that pertain to the Black community; to explore new strategies and directions for progressive political, social and cultural movements; and to renew the Black radical movement through increased unified action.
The economic, political and social problems facing the country and the world demand radical and democratic solutions. This assessment resonates with a particularly strong echo among people of African descent. Yet, the political forces which have advocated such transformation for Black people have found themselves marginalized and isolated from each other. However, there is a critical mass of African American activists and scholars able and willing to engage in a serious discussion of the motion of Black politics, the issues of the day and the strengths and weaknesses of the strategies for advancement that hold sway in the Black community and in the broader progressive movements. Fresh thinking and creative approaches are required to overcome class exploitation, racism, sexism, homophobia, to protect the environment and to build a humane and just society in a peaceful world. We are challenged to preserve and utilize the best elements of revolutionary nationalist, radical feminist, new Afrikan, socialist and Marxist revolutionary traditions while opening ourselves to new analyses and perspectives in order to redefine our role and vision in a new historical epoch as we enter the 21st century.
The BRC sponsors conferences, seminars and forums, produces publications and takes on various projects that engage black progressives from a wide variety of social and political experiences. Our main emphasis is on finding concrete mechanisms to build dialogue and alliances; bringing diverse radical traditions to bear on contemporary realities; dealing seriously with political, social, cultural and theoretical issues in an accessible way and recognizing the centrality of anti-racist politics and the movements of people of color to the process of social change in the United States. BRC projects will include producing publications including periodical policy papers, sponsoring and co-sponsoring forums and conferences, holding small discussion groups and developing means for information sharing and networking among progressive black activists nationally and locally, and engaging in collective action on political, social, economic and cultural issues that pertain to the Black community locally, nationally and globally.
The Freedom Agenda (FA) of the Black Radical Congress (BRC). Ratified by the BRC National Council (NC), April 17, 1999, Baltimore, Maryland.
During the last 500 years, humanity has displayed on a colossal scale its capacity for creative genius and ruthless destruction, for brutal oppression and indomitable survival, for rigid tradition and rapid change. The Americas evolved to their present state of development at great cost to their original, indigenous peoples, and at great cost to those whose labor enabled modernization under the yoke of that protracted crime against humanity, slavery. Even so, a good idea is implicit in the Declaration of Independence of the United States: that all people are "endowed with certain inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That the idea of a just society, contained in those words, remains unrealized is what compels this declaration.
Not only has the idea not been realized, but we are moving further away from its realization by the hour. Global capitalism, both the cause and effect of neo-liberal and Reaganist policies, has facilitated the transfer of enormous wealth from the bottom to the top of society in recent years, concentrating the control of abundant resources in ever fewer hands. As a result, the working people who constitute the vast majority of people have confronted a steady decline in their prospects for earning a decent living and controlling their lives. In the U.S., the threat of sudden unemployment hangs over most households. We pay unfair taxes and receive fewer services, while multibillion-dollar fortunes accumulate in the private sector. Prisons proliferate as budgets are slashed for public schools, day care, healthcare and welfare. The grip of big money on the two-party electoral process has robbed us of control over the political institutions that are mandated to serve us. We are losing ground, and democracy is more and more elusive.As for people of African descent, most of whose ancestors were among the shackled millions who helped build the edifices and culture of the Americas, we carry an enormously disproportionate burden. In the U.S., the living legacy of slavery, and the pervasiveness of institutional white supremacy, have placed us on all-too-familiar terms with poverty, urban and rural; exploitative conditions of employment; disproportionately high rates of unemployment and underemployment; inferior health care; substandard education; the corrosive drug trade, with its accompanying gun violence; police brutality and its partner, excessive incarceration; hate-inspired terrorism; a biased legal system, and discrimination of every kind -- persistent even after the end of legal segregation.
Resistance is in our marrow as Black people, given our history in this place. From the Haitian revolution, to the U.S. abolitionist movement against slavery, to the 20th Century movement for civil rights and empowerment, we have struggled and died for justice. We believe that struggle must continue, and with renewed vigor. Our historical experiences suggest to us, by negative example, what a truly just and democratic society should look like: It should be democratic, not just in myth but in practice, a society in which all people -- regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, nationality, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, family structure, or mental or physical capability -- enjoy full human rights, the fruits of their labor, and the freedom to realize their full human potential. If you agree, and if you are committed to helping achieve justice and democracy in the 21st Century, please sign your name and/or the name of your organization to this 15-point Freedom Agenda.
I. We will fight for the human rights of Black people and all people.
We will struggle for a society and world in which every individual enjoys full human rights, full protection of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and in the United States equal protection of the Constitution and of all the laws. We seek a society in which every individual-- regardless of color, nationality, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, family structure, or mental or physical capability-- is free to experience "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We affirm that all people are entitled to:
a. a safe and secure home;
b. employment at a living wage -- that is, compensation for the full value of their labor;
c. free, quality health care, including full reproductive freedom with the right to choose when or whether to bear children, and free, quality child care;
d. free, quality public education.
We oppose the Human Genome Project in its current form and with its current leadership, and we oppose all sociobiological or genetic experiments that are spurred by, and help perpetuate, scientific racism.
We will fight for a society and world in which every individual and all social groups can live secure, dignified lives.
II. We will fight for political democracy.
We will struggle to expand political democracy to ensure the people's greater participation in decision-making. In the U.S., we will work to replace the current two-party, winner-take-all electoral system with a more democratic multiparty system based on proportional representation, and we will fight to abolish all registration procedures that restrict the number of eligible voters. We oppose private financing of electoral campaigns, especially corporate contributions; we will work to replace the
present corrupt system with public financing.
III. We will fight to advance beyond capitalism, which has demonstrated its structural incapacity to address basic human needs worldwide and, in particular, the needs of Black people.
Guided by our belief that people should come before profits, we will fight to maximize economic democracy and economic justice:
a. We seek full employment at livable wages, public control of private sector financial operations, worker control of production decisions, and a guaranteed annual income for the needy;
b. we will fight to end racial discrimination by capitalist enterprises, especially banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions;
c. we seek a society in which working people enjoy safe working conditions and flexible hours to accommodate family responsibilities, leisure and vacations;
d. we seek laws mandating public ownership of utilities, and mandating federal and local budgetary emphases on programs for the general welfare-- health care, education, public transportation, recreation and infrastructure;
e. we will struggle for laws that regulate private sector business practices, especially regarding prices, fees, plant shutdowns and job relocations -- where shutdowns are permitted, adequate compensation to workers shall be required;
f. we support the historical mission of trade unions to represent workers' interests and to negotiate on their behalf;
g. we seek a fair, equitable, highly progressive tax system that places the heaviest taxes on the wealthiest sector, and we seek expansion of the earned income tax credit.
IV. We will fight to end the super-exploitation of Southern workers.
More than 50 percent of people of African descent residing in the U.S. live in the South, where workers' earnings and general welfare are besieged by corporate practices, and where "right to work" laws undermine union organizing. Thus, we seek relief for Southern workers from corporate oppression, and we will struggle to repeal anti-union laws. We will also fight for aid to Black farmers, and for the restoration of farm land seized from them by agribusiness, speculators and real estate developers.
V. We will struggle to ensure that all people in society receive free public education.We affirm that all are entitled to free, quality public education throughout their lifetime. Free education should include adult education and retraining for occupational and career changes. We will fight to ensure that curricula in U.S. schools, colleges and universities are anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic, and for curricula that adequately accommodate students' needs to express and develop their artistic, musical or other creative potential.
VI. We will struggle against state terrorism.
We will fight for a society in which every person and every community is free from state repression, including freedom from state-sponsored surveillance. We seek amnesty for, and the release of, all political prisoners. We will struggle to repeal all legislation that expands the police power of the state and undermines the U.S. Constitution's First and Fourth Amendments. We will fight to eliminate the deliberate trafficking in drugs and weapons in our communities by organized crime, and by institutions of the state such as the Central Intelligence Agency.
VII. We will struggle for a clean and healthy environment.
We will fight for a society in which the welfare of people and the natural environment takes precedence over commercial profits and political expediency. We will work to protect, preserve and enhance society's and the planet's natural heritage -- forests, lakes, rivers, oceans, mountain ranges, animal life, flora and fauna. In the U.S., we will struggle against environmental racism by fighting for laws that strictly regulate the disposal of hazardous industrial waste, and that forbid both the discriminatory targeting of poor and non-white communities for dumping and despoilment of the natural environment.
VIII. We will fight to abolish police brutality, unwarranted incarceration and the death penalty.
We are determined to end police brutality and murder:
a. We will fight for strong civilian oversight of police work by elected civilian review boards that are empowered to discipline police misconduct and enforce residency requirements for police officers;
b. we seek fundamental changes in police training and education to emphasize public service over social control as the context in which law enforcement occurs, and to stress respect for the histories and cultures of the U.S.-born and immigrant communities served.
c. we seek to limit incarceration to the most violent criminals, only those who have clearly demonstrated their danger to the lives and limbs of others;
d. regarding non-violent offenders, we demand that they be released and provided with appropriate medical, rehabilitative and educative assistance without incarceration.
e. we will struggle for abolition of the death penalty, which has been abolished in the majority of developed nations. In the U.S., the history of the death penalty's application is inextricable from the nation's origins as a slave state. Since Emancipation, it has been a white supremacist tool intended to maintain control over a population perceived as an alien, ongoing threat to the social order. Application of the death penalty, which is highly discriminatory on the basis of color and class, violates international human rights law and must be eliminated.
IX. We will fight for gender equality, for women's liberation, and for women's rights to be recognized as human rights in all areas of personal, social, economic and political life.We will work to create a society and world in which women of African descent, along with their sisters of other colors, nationalities and backgrounds, shall enjoy non-discriminatory access to the education, training and occupations of their choice. We will struggle to ensure that all women enjoy equal access to quality health care and full reproductive rights, including the right to determine when or whether they will bear children and the right to a safe, legal abortion. We will fight to end domestic abuse and sexual harassment in the workplace.
X. We recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as full and equal members of society, and of our communities.We affirm the right of all people to love whom they choose, to openly express their sexuality, and to live in the family units that meet their needs. We will fight against homophobia, and we support anti-homophobic instruction in public schools. We will fight for effective legal protections for the civil rights and civil liberties of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and we demand that violence and murder committed against such people be prosecuted as hate crimes. We will also fight to end discrimination against this sector in employment, health care, social welfare and other areas.
XI. We support affirmative action.
We will fight to retain and expand affirmative action policies in education, employment, the awarding of government contracts and all other areas affected by historical and contemporary injustices. Affirmative action, with goals and timetables, is indispensable for achieving equal opportunity, justice and fairness for the members of all historically oppressed groups.
XII. We will fight for reparations.Reparations is a well-established principle of international law that should be applied in the U.S. Historically, the U.S. has been both the recipient and disburser of reparations. As the descendants of enslaved Africans, we have the legal and moral right to receive just compensation for the oppression, systematic brutality and economic exploitation Black people have suffered historically and continue to experience today. Thus, we seek reparations from the U.S. for
a. its illegal assault on African peoples during the slave trade;
b. its exploitation of Black labor during slavery, and
c. its systematic and totalitarian physical, economic and cultural violence against people of African descent over the last four centuries.
XIII. We will struggle to build multicultural solidarity and alliances among all people of color.
We will fight against white supremacist tactics aimed at dividing people of color. We seek alliances with other people of color to develop unified strategies for achieving multicultural democracy, and for overcoming the divisions that exist around such issues as immigration, bilingual education, political representation and allocation of resources.
XIV. We will uphold the right of the African American people to self-determination.
The formation of the Black Radical Congress in June 1998 was an act of African American self-determination, a principle which is codified in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The African American people are entitled to define the direction, priorities, allies and goals of our struggle against national and racial oppression. Building the power to exercise these prerogatives is central to our struggle against all the systems of oppression confronting our people. Therefore, we will fight for both a national program of liberation and for a mass base of power in the social sectors, institutions, all levels of government, communities and territories of society that affect the lives of our people.
XV. We support the liberation struggles of all oppressed people.
We affirm our solidarity with peoples of African descent throughout the African diaspora. We support their struggles against imperialism and neo-colonialism from without, as well as against governmental corruption, exploitation and human rights abuses from within. We especially support struggles against transnational corporations, whose global market practices gravely exploit all workers, abuse workers' rights and threaten all workers' welfare. We affirm our solidarity with all oppressed people around the world, whatever their color, nation or religion --none of us is free unless all are free. We believe that all people everywhere should enjoy the right to self-determination and the right to pursue their dreams, unfettered by exploitation and discrimination.
[End of Freedom Agenda - Ratified April 17, 1999]
The Black Radical Congress convened to establish a "center without walls" for transformative politics that focuses on the conditions of Black working and poor people.
Recognizing contributions from diverse tendencies within Black Radicalism--including socialism, revolutionary nationalism and feminism--we are united in opposition to all forms of oppression, including class exploitation, racism, patriarchy, homophobia, anti-immigration prejudice and imperialism.
We began with a gathering on June 19-21, 1998. From there we are identifying proposals for action and establishing paths forward.
The Black Radical Congress does not intend to replace or displace existing organizations, parties or campaigns but will contribute to mobilizing unaffiliated individuals, as well as organizations, around common concerns.
1. We recognize the diverse historical tendencies in the Black radical tradition including revolutionary nationalism, feminism and socialism.
2. The technological revolution and capitalist globalization have changed the economy, labor force and class formations that need to inform our analysis and strategies. The increased class polarization created by these developments demands that we, as Black radicals, ally ourselves with the most oppressed sectors of our communities and society.
3. Gender and sexuality can no longer be viewed solely as personal issues but must be a basic part of our analyses, politics and struggles.
4. We reject racial and biological determinism, Black patriarchy and Black capitalism as solutions to problems facing Black people.
5. We must see the struggle in global terms.
6. We need to meet people where they are, taking seriously identity politics and single issue reform groups, at the same time that we push for a larger vision that links these struggles.
7. We must be democratic and inclusive in our dealings with one another, making room for constructive criticism and honest dissent within our ranks. There must be open venues for civil and comradely debates to occur.
8. Our discussions should be informed not only by a critique of what now exists, but by serious efforts to forge a creative vision of a new society.
9. We cannot limit ourselves to electoral politics--we must identify multiple sites of struggles.
10. We must overcome divisions within the Black radical forces, such as those of generation, region, and occupation. We must forge a common language that is accessible and relevant.
11. Black radicals must build a national congress of radical forces in the Black community to strengthen radicalism as the legitimate voice of Black working and poor people, and to build organized resistance.
see also http://www.blackradicalcongress.org/
We will discuss four major topics in the paper that follows: (1) the genesis of contemporary Black feminism; (2) what we believe, i.e., the specific province of our politics; (3) the problems in organizing Black feminists, including a brief herstory of our collective; and (4) Black feminist issues and practice.
A Black feminist presence has evolved most obviously in connection with the second wave of the American women's movement beginning in the late 1960s. Black, other Third World, and working women have been involved in the feminist movement from its start, but both outside reactionary forces and racism and elitism within the movement itself have served to obscure our participation. In 1973, Black feminists, primarily located in New York, felt the necessity of forming a separate Black feminist group. This became the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO).
Black feminist politics also have an obvious connection to movements for Black liberation, particularly those of the 1960s and I970s. Many of us were active in those movements (Civil Rights, Black nationalism, the Black Panthers), and all of our lives Were greatly affected and changed by their ideologies, their goals, and the tactics used to achieve their goals. It was our experience and disillusionment within these liberation movements, as well as experience on the periphery of the white male left, that led to the need to develop a politics that was anti-racist, unlike those of white women, and anti-sexist, unlike those of Black and white men.
There is also undeniably a personal genesis for Black Feminism, that is, the political realization that comes from the seemingly personal experiences of individual Black women's lives. Black feminists and many more Black women who do not define themselves as feminists have all experienced sexual oppression as a constant factor in our day-to-day existence. As children we realized that we were different from boys and that we were treated differently. For example, we were told in the same breath to be quiet both for the sake of being "ladylike" and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people. As we grew older we became aware of the threat of physical and sexual abuse by men. However, we had no way of conceptualizing what was so apparent to us, what we knew was really happening.
Black feminists often talk about their feelings of craziness before becoming conscious of the concepts of sexual politics, patriarchal rule, and most importantly, feminism, the political analysis and practice that we women use to struggle against our oppression. The fact that racial politics and indeed racism are pervasive factors in our lives did not allow us, and still does not allow most Black women, to look more deeply into our own experiences and, from that sharing and growing consciousness, to build a politics that will change our lives and inevitably end our oppression. Our development must also be tied to the contemporary economic and political position of Black people. The post World War II generation of Black youth was the first to be able to minimally partake of certain educational and employment options, previously closed completely to Black people. Although our economic position is still at the very bottom of the American capitalistic economy, a handful of us have been able to gain certain tools as a result of tokenism in education and employment which potentially enable us to more effectively fight our oppression.
A combined anti-racist and anti-sexist position drew us together initially, and as we developed politically we addressed ourselves to heterosexism and economic oppression under capItalism.
Above all else, our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else's may because of our need as human persons for autonomy. This may seem so obvious as to sound simplistic, but it is apparent that no other ostensibly progressive movement has ever consIdered our specific oppression as a priority or worked seriously for the ending of that oppression. Merely naming the pejorative stereotypes attributed to Black women (e.g. mammy, matriarch, Sapphire, whore, bulldagger), let alone cataloguing the cruel, often murderous, treatment we receive, Indicates how little value has been placed upon our lives during four centuries of bondage in the Western hemisphere. We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us. Our politics evolve from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community which allows us to continue our struggle and work.
This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else's oppression. In the case of Black women this is a particularly repugnant, dangerous, threatening, and therefore revolutionary concept because it is obvious from looking at all the political movements that have preceded us that anyone is more worthy of liberation than ourselves. We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.
We believe that sexual politics under patriarchy is as pervasive in Black women's lives as are the politics of class and race. We also often find it difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced simultaneously. We know that there is such a thing as racial-sexual oppression which is neither solely racial nor solely sexual, e.g., the history of rape of Black women by white men as a weapon of political repression.
Although we are feminists and Lesbians, we feel solidarity with progressive Black men and do not advocate the fractionalization that white women who are separatists demand. Our situation as Black people necessitates that we have solidarity around the fact of race, which white women of course do not need to have with white men, unless it is their negative solidarity as racial oppressors. We struggle together with Black men against racism, while we also struggle with Black men about sexism.
We realize that the liberation of all oppressed peoples necessitates the destruction of the political-economic systems of capitalism and imperialism as well as patriarchy. We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses. Material resources must be equally distributed among those who create these resources. We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation. We have arrived at the necessity for developing an understanding of class relationships that takes into account the specific class position of Black women who are generally marginal in the labor force, while at this particular time some of us are temporarily viewed as doubly desirable tokens at white-collar and professional levels. We need to articulate the real class situation of persons who are not merely raceless, sexless workers, but for whom racial and sexual oppression are significant determinants in their working/economic lives. Although we are in essential agreement with Marx's theory as it applied to the very specific economic relationships he analyzed, we know that his analysis must be extended further in order for us to understand our specific economic situation as Black women.
A political contribution which we feel we have already made is the expansion of the feminist principle that the personal is political. In our consciousness-raising sessions, for example, we have in many ways gone beyond white women's revelations because we are dealing with the implications of race and class as well as sex. Even our Black women's style of talking/testifying in Black language about what we have experienced has a resonance that is both cultural and political. We have spent a great deal of energy delving into the cultural and experiential nature of our oppression out of necessity because none of these matters has ever been looked at before. No one before has ever examined the multilayered texture of Black women's lives. An example of this kind of revelation/conceptualization occurred at a meeting as we discussed the ways in which our early intellectual interests had been attacked by our peers, particularly Black males. We discovered that all of us, because we were "smart" had also been considered "ugly," i.e., "smart-ugly." "Smart-ugly" crystallized the way in which most of us had been forced to develop our intellects at great cost to our "social" lives. The sanctions In the Black and white communities against Black women thinkers is comparatively much higher than for white women, particularly ones from the educated middle and upper classes.
As we have already stated, we reject the stance of Lesbian separatism because it is not a viable political analysis or strategy for us. It leaves out far too much and far too many people, particularly Black men, women, and children. We have a great deal of criticism and loathing for what men have been socialized to be in this society: what they support, how they act, and how they oppress. But we do not have the misguided notion that it is their maleness, per se—i.e., their biological maleness—that makes them what they are. As BIack women we find any type of biological determinism a particularly dangerous and reactionary basis upon which to build a politic. We must also question whether Lesbian separatism is an adequate and progressive political analysis and strategy, even for those who practice it, since it so completely denies any but the sexual sources of women's oppression, negating the facts of class and race.
The major source of difficulty in our political work is that we are not just trying to fight oppression on one front or even two, but instead to address a whole range of oppressions. We do not have racial, sexual, heterosexual, or class privilege to rely upon, nor do we have even the minimal access to resources and power that groups who possess anyone of these types of privilege have.
The psychological toll of being a Black woman and the difficulties this presents in reaching political consciousness and doing political work can never be underestimated. There is a very low value placed upon Black women's psyches in this society, which is both racist and sexist. As an early group member once said, "We are all damaged people merely by virtue of being Black women." We are dispossessed psychologically and on every other level, and yet we feel the necessity to struggle to change the condition of all Black women. In "A Black Feminist's Search for Sisterhood," Michele Wallace arrives at this conclusion:
We exists as women who are Black who are feminists, each stranded for the moment, working independently because there is not yet an environment in this society remotely congenial to our struggle—because, being on the bottom, we would have to do what no one else has done: we would have to fight the world. 
Wallace is pessimistic but realistic in her assessment of Black feminists' position, particularly in her allusion to the nearly classic isolation most of us face. We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action. If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.
Feminism is, nevertheless, very threatening to the majority of Black people because it calls into question some of the most basic assumptions about our existence, i.e., that sex should be a determinant of power relationships. Here is the way male and female roles were defined in a Black nationalist pamphlet from the early 1970s:
We understand that it is and has been traditional that the man is the head of the house. He is the leader of the house/nation because his knowledge of the world is broader, his awareness is greater, his understanding is fuller and his application of this information is wiser...
After all, it is only reasonable that the man be the head of the house because he is able to defend and protect the development of his home... Women cannot do the same things as men—they are made by nature to function differently. Equality of men and women is something that cannot happen even in the abstract world. Men are not equal to other men, i.e. ability, experience or even understanding. The value of men and women can be seen as in the value of gold and silver—they are not equal but both have great value. We must realize that men and women are a complement to each other because there is no house/family without a man and his wife. Both are essential to the development of any life. 
The material conditions of most Black women would hardly lead them to upset both economic and sexual arrangements that seem to represent some stability in their lives. Many Black women have a good understanding of both sexism and racism, but because of the everyday constrictions of their lives, cannot risk struggling against them both.
The reaction of Black men to feminism has been notoriously negative. They are, of course, even more threatened than Black women by the possibility that Black feminists might organize around our own needs. They realize that they might not only lose valuable and hardworking allies in their struggles but that they might also be forced to change their habitually sexist ways of interacting with and oppressing Black women. Accusations that Black feminism divides the Black struggle are powerful deterrents to the growth of an autonomous Black women's movement.
Still, hundreds of women have been active at different times during the three-year existence of our group. And every Black woman who came, came out of a strongly-felt need for some level of possibility that did not previously exist in her life.When we first started meeting early in 1974 after the NBFO first eastern regional conference, we did not have a strategy for organizing, or even a focus. We just wanted to see what we had. After a period of months of not meeting, we began to meet again late in the year and started doing an intense variety of consciousness-raising. The overwhelming feeling that we had is that after years and years we had finally found each other.
Although we were not doing political work as a group, individuals continued their involvement in Lesbian politics, sterilization abuse and abortion rights work, Third World Women's International Women's Day activities, and support activity for the trials of Dr. Kenneth Edelin, Joan Little, and Inéz García. During our first summer when membership had dropped off considerably, those of us remaining devoted serious discussion to the possibility of opening a refuge for battered women in a Black community. (There was no refuge in Boston at that time.)
We also decided around that time to become an independent collective since we had serious disagreements with NBFO's bourgeois-feminist stance and their lack of a clear political focus.
We also were contacted at that time by socialist feminists, with whom we had worked on abortion rights activities, who wanted to encourage us to attend the National Socialist Feminist Conference in Yellow Springs. One of our members did attend and despite the narrowness of the ideology that was promoted at that particular conference, we became more aware of the need for us to understand our own economic situation and to make our own economic analysis.
In the fall, when some members returned, we experienced several months of comparative inactivity and internal disagreements which were first conceptualized as a Lesbian-straight split but which were also the result of class and political differences. During the summer those of us who were still meeting had determined the need to do political work and to move beyond consciousness-raising and serving exclusively as an emotional support group. At the beginning of 1976, when some of the women who had not wanted to do political work and who also had voiced disagreements stopped attending of their own accord, we again looked for a focus.
We decided at that time, with the addition of new members, to become a study group. We had always shared our reading with each other, and some of us had written papers on Black feminism for group discussion a few months before this decision was made. We began functioning as a study group and also began discussing the possibility of starting a Black feminist publication. We had a retreat in the late spring which provided a time for both political discussion and working out interpersonal issues. Currently we are planning to gather together a collection of Black feminist writing.
We feel that it is absolutely essential to demonstrate the reality of our politics to other Black women and believe that we can do this through writing and distributing our work. The fact that individual Black feminists are living in isolation all over the country, that our own numbers are small, and that we have some skills in writing, printing, and publishing makes us want to carry out these kinds of projects as a means of organizing Black feminists as we continue to do political work in coalition with other groups.
Issues and projects that collective members have actually worked on are sterilization abuse, abortion rights, battered women, rape and health care. We have also done many workshops and educationals on Black feminism on college campuses, at women's conferences, and most recently for high school women.
One issue that is of major concern to us and that we have begun to publicly address is racism in the white women's movement. As Black feminists we are made constantly and painfully aware of how little effort white women have made to understand and combat their racism, which requires among other things that they have a more than superficial comprehension of race, color, and Black history and culture. Eliminating racism in the white women's movement is by definition work for white women to do, but we will continue to speak to and demand accountability on this issue.
In the practice of our politics we do not believe that the end always justifies the means. Many reactionary and destructive acts have been done in the name of achieving "correct" political goals. As feminists we do not want to mess over people in the name of politics. We believe in collective process and a nonhierarchical distribution of power within our own group and in our vision of a revolutionary society. We are committed to a continual examination of our politics as they develop through criticism and self-criticism as an essential aspect of our practice. In her introduction to Sisterhood is Powerful Robin Morgan writes:
I haven't the faintest notion what possible revolutionary role white heterosexual men could fulfill, since they are the very embodiment of reactionary-vested-interest-power.
As Black feminists and Lesbians we know that we have a very definite revolutionary task to perform and we are ready for the lifetime of work and struggle before us.
 This statement is dated April 1977.
 Wallace, Michele. "A Black Feminist's Search for Sisterhood," The Village Voice, 28 July 1975, pp. 6-7.
 Mumininas of Committee for Unified Newark, Mwanamke Mwananchi (The Nationalist Woman), Newark, N.J., ©1971, pp. 4-5.