50 Years Ago: Black Power in the United States

THE AMERICAN black power movement is a child of frustration. Thousands of civil rights supporters, having long since absorbed the few sops that capitalism can afford to give them, are running squarely into a sociological brick-wall—a wall they have termed the “white power structure.” Their response, the concept of black power, indicates that they have learned many lessons.

They have learned, for example, that “integration” as such is an empty issue when the integrated population still remains without any basic economic control over their own lives. They have learned that white liberals can do almost nothing for them. And they have learned that the Federal Government is not their friend; in the last analysis, it can never be anything but their implacable enemy. Anti-poverty and civil rights legislation masked for a time the nature of government, but last summer the mask was dropped. The spectacle of thousands of American troops, tanks, trucks, and jeeps being called out to crush rebellions on the part of other Americans, finally and fully revealed what governments exist for: to maintain the power of the ruling class by violent force. And they can never, of their own free will, enact any reform that will interfere with this function.(…)

It is difficult for the Marxian socialist to explain his position to a black nationalist. The socialist rejects capitalist, imperialist, and colonialist ideology, and sympathizes deeply with all of capitalism’s victims. It is his outrage at being victimised, in most cases, that originally led him to become a socialist. He recognises, too, that certain sections of the working class take more punishment than other sections, and at the present time the black worker in America generally suffers more than his white counterpart. This is an obvious fact to anyone who has lived in the U.S. with his eyes open. Yet the socialist, because of what he knows about capitalism, must reject the black power concept as a hopelessly inadequate solution.

(from Socialist Standard, February 1968)

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