Thanks to Grace Lee Boggs…a piece by James Boggs

As we commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion,
this article from  the Op-Ed page of the Sept. 23, 1972 New York Times
is worth revisiting. Jimmy was born May 28, 1919 and died July 22,
1993.

The black movement has gone through a number of stages in the last 15
years. First, there was the civil rights movement which reached a
critical stage with the Birmingham confrontations of 1963, and which
finally collapsed with the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King
Jr. in 1968. Then, there has been the black power movement which began
to rise with Malcolm in 1963-4, and which mushroomed into a national
movement following the Watts uprising of 1965 and the Newark and
Detroit rebellions of 1967.

Today we are still in the stage of trying to clarify what black power
means. At the present time most “movement” people are still in the
purely nationalist stage of black power. That is to say, most of those
who call themselves black power advocates are trying to find a solution
for blacks separate from a solution for the contradictions of the
entire United States. Actually this is impossible. Therefore, many
black nationalists are going off into all kinds of fantasies and dreams
about what black power means – like heading for Africa, or isolating
themselves in a few states, or whites just vanishing into thin air and
leaving this country to blacks.

We have yet to come face to face with our contradiction that just as
it has been on the backs of the black masses that this country has
advanced economically, so it is only under the revolutionary political
leadership of black people that this country will be able to get out of
its contradictions. We are hesitant to face up to this truth because it
is too challenging. We have the fear which always haunts the
revolutionary social forces, the fear of not  knowing whether they can
win, the lack of confidence in themselves and in their ability to
create a better society.

This is not a fear that is unique to blacks. All revolutionary social
forces have this fear as they come face to face with their real
conditions of life and the growing realization that they must assume
the revolutionary responsibility of changing the whole society, so that
their lives as well as those of others in the society can be
fundamentally changed. Because the task is so great, it becomes much
easier to evade the tremendous challenge and responsibility for
disciplined scientific thinking and disciplined political organization
which are necessary to lead revolutionary struggle.

Confronted with this political choice, many of those who have been
frustrated by the failure of the civil rights movement and the
succeeding rebellions to solve all our problems have begun to put
forward all kinds of fantastic ideas as to what we should now do. Some
say we should separate and return to Africa. Some say we should
separate but should remain here and try to build a new black capitalist
economy from scratch inside the most advanced and powerful capitalist
economy in the world! Some say we should join the Pan-African movement
of the African peoples in Africa and build a military base in Africa
from which we will eventually be able to attack the U.S.A.

Others say we should just struggle for survival from day to day, doing
whatever has to be done for survival. And finally, others have just
given up struggling for anything at all, and have turned to astrology
or drugs or religion in the old-time belief that some metaphysical
force out there in the twilight zone will rescue us from our dilemma.

We have to examine all these theories realistically and
scientifically—whatever their origin and whosoever is proposing them –
whether they are our friends or our relatives; whether or not they are
old comrades with whom we have demonstrated and gone to jail in the
past; whether or not we admire them for their past deeds or for their
charismatic personalities or because they make us feel good when we
hear them rapping against “the man.” All these personal considerations
are irrelevant measured against the real miseries of our present
conditions in this country and the real future which we must create for
ourselves and our posterity in this country. We live in this country,
our labors have laid the foundation for the growth of this country. Our
contradictions are rooted in this country’s unique development and can
only be resolved by struggles under our leadership to eliminate the
roots of these contradictions in this country.

As we look at our communities, looking more and more each day like
wastelands and fortresses, as we look at our younger brothers and
sisters scrambling and nodding on the streets of our communities, as we
think of the children whom we will be bringing into this world—we
cannot just grab on to any ideas of liberation just because they are
being pushed by old friends of ours or because they give us an
emotional shot in the arm.

We can start by categorically rejecting astrology, drugs, religion,
black capitalism, separatism and also all those messianic complexes
that someone else or we ourselves are going to become “the leader” whom
the black masses are waiting for, to lead them out of the wilderness of
their oppression. In other words, we can start by turning our backs on
all the various escape routes by which many people are still traveling,
in the vain hope that somehow they can evade grappling with the real
contradictions of this country, this society.

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