Friday, March 28, 2014



Today, Scission Prison Friday, goes to England where a young woman may, I say, may be on the verge of some much needed good news. 

Better late, then never.

Stacey Hyde was seventeen when she killed a man.  No one disputes that.  However, Stacey Hyde does not belong in jail...which is right where she is.  

At the time of her arrest Stacey was an adolescent with a history of mental health issues.  After she was convicted, a psychiatrist specializing in adolescence diagnosed Hyde as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The psychiatric reports also suggest she was suffering from emerging borderline personality disorder and depression at the time of the incident, and from post-  traumatic stress disorder at the time of the trial.   During the summer of 2009, she tried to hang herself from the curtain rail in the shower, and to drown herself in the bath. Two days before Francis was killed, she was seen by a community psychiatric nurse who recorded that she was at risk of serious self-harm or suicide.

Did I mention the man she killed, Vince Francis, was the violent partner of her friend.  Did I mention Stacey was scarred to death at the time of the "crime?"

As the Guardian writes:

On the evening of 3 September 2009, when Hyde was 17, she went out drinking with Francis's girlfriend, Holly Banwell. They returned to the flat where Banwell had been living with Francis, 34, and Hyde passed out on the bed.

In the early hours of the morning Hyde says she awoke to hear Banwell calling for help. Hyde doesn't clearly remember what happened next, but she seems to have run to Banwell's aid, and a fight ensued between her and Francis. During the course of the incident, Banwell called 999, and described what was going on, screaming: "My boyfriend is beating my friend," and later adding: "They are fighting."

The tussle spilled into the communal hall; a neighbour who was disturbed by the noise later testified that she saw Francis pull Hyde by the hair. Hyde allegedly kicked out at Francis, broke free and ran back into the flat, reappearing with a knife. Francis suffered 17 knife wounds, including two or three to the back, and was fatally injured in what the police described as a frenzied attack. When the police arrived, Hyde sobbed: "He tried to kill me ... I had to help Holly."

During her trial, where Stacey plead not guilty on the grounds of self defense, the prosecution admitted to 27 separate incidents of domestic violence between Banwell and Francis, and also said there was evidence of previous violence committed by Banwell against other women.

Hyde's "only crime was to react disproportionately, out of fear, to a man's violent attack on her and her friend," according to Justice for Women.   

Again, from the Guardian,

Harriet Wistrich, lawyer and co-founder of Justice for Women, said the case was important because of what it illustrates about the problems many young women face today – rape, eating disordersself-harm – problems for which they rarely receive proper help and assistance, and for which they are sometimes blamed. These issues disproportionately affect women, and are often either overlooked or dismissed in what Justice for Women describe as a "male-dominated criminal justice system".

A spokeswoman for Justice for Women said, 

“The law at the time meant that Stacey could not use the fear of serious violence as a defence. The law was changed in October 2010, just months after her conviction. If Stacey’s case had been tried under the new law, she may not have been convicted of murder.”

“At the time of her trial Stacey had not been diagnosed with ADHD and borderline personality disorder which make her easily led.

“Before the trial she was housed with offenders who had already been convicted.”

Ms Hyde’s team claim that these convicts “coached” her in how to speak while in the dock – even holding a mock trial.

“Stacey didn’t understand that she shouldn’t talk about her case with other prisoners. They were winding her up and making her behave in a way that made her come across unsympathetically to the jury.

“Had her condition been recognised, she would have had assistance from an intermediary at the trial that could have prevented this.

“Stacey had suffered abuse during her life and everything came to a head that day.

“Stacey shouldn’t be in prison.”

The following is from Justice for Women.

 Stacey Hyde new hearing to take place in the autumn.

Following Stacey's hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on 26th March, the court has referred Stacey's case to the full court (three judges) for further consideration, so there will be a longer and more in-depth hearing some time in the autumn. This hearing will decide on both whether Stacey will have permission to appeal (the court decided that they need more evidence to decide this finally) and Stacey's appeal itself. (This is called a "rolled-up" hearing.)

This is good news - it means that the court feel that Stacey has a chance to appeal successfully, and hopefully it means that Stacey is a step closer to freedom.

In the early hours of 4th September 2009, Stacey Hyde remembers waking up to hear her friend Holly screaming for help.  In the frightening events that followed, which Stacey does not clearly remember, Stacey stabbed and killed her friend Holly’s partner Vince Francis.
When the police arrived Stacey was very distressed, sobbing and saying “he tried to kill me…I had to help Holly…he was going to kill her…I thought he would kill me…”.  She was found to have injuries, some of which were consistent with previous self-harm, and some of which were consistent with a forceful struggle with Vince.
Stacey was only 17 at the time of the offence, Vince was twice her age, and it was acknowledged by the prosecution that there had been 27 separate incidents of domestic violence between him and Holly, and that he had also been violent towards his previous girlfriend.  A 999 call made at the time of the incident records Holly screaming, “…my boyfriend is beating my friend… I need the police ASAP”.  She is then heard saying “they are fighting”, and then she is heard screaming that “Stacey has a knife and has stabbed him”.
On the 8th March 2010, at the age of only 18, Stacey was convicted of murdering Vince Francis, and sentenced to life imprisonment.   
This is a miscarriage of justice.  Stacey is not a murderer.
Stacey was tried under an old law that does not allow for the loss of control caused by a fear of serious violence.  The law has since changed, (partly as a result of previous campaigns by Justice for Women). If Stacey’s case had been tried under the new law, she may not have been convicted of murder. 
Please support Stacey’s fight for justice. She was a vulnerable adolescent, who had suffered from a history of mental health problems and sexual violence.  Her only crime was to react disproportionately, out of fear, to a man’s violent attack on her and her friend.
After Stacey’s conviction, her family contacted Justice for Women, and a new legal team submitted Grounds of Appeal against her conviction.  The grounds include fresh evidence from an adolescent psychiatrist that she had ADHD at the time of her offence, in addition to other psychiatric diagnoses resulting from an extremely difficult childhood.  These conditions would have substantially impaired her responsibility for the offence. 
As a result of her ADHD she was extremely vulnerable to peer pressure, and it has also come to light that other prisoners manipulated her to give evidence during her trial in a way that made her come across unsympathetically to the jury. Had her condition been recognised, she would have had assistance from an intermediary at trial that could have prevented this.  Her legal team also argue that the judge failed to direct the jury adequately to take into account the provocation she was subjected to.
A single judge has refused Stacey permission to appeal her conviction, but her lawyers are renewing the application before the full court (a panel of three judges).  This is Stacey’s last chance to get the justice she deserves. If the appeal is successful, her murder conviction would be substituted with manslaughter and she should get a determinate sentence which we hope would allow her to be released, as she has already served nearly four years in prison.
If we fail at this stage, however, Stacey will have to serve the rest of her sentence for murder.  This would be disastrous for Stacey, as she is very vulnerable and is not coping well with prison.
This case is not just about Stacey.  The issues that have affected Stacey in her life are issues that affect many people today, especially young women, but the criminal justice system is failing to ensure that all are equal before the law.  Help us challenge Stacey’s conviction to make sure that the criminal justice system recognises the abuse that women and girls suffer, instead of punishing them for it. 

 What you can do to help free Stacey
If you want to learn more about the campaign, or find out more ways to support Stacey, please get in touch with us or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, March 27, 2014



This piece below from the Center of a Stateless Society offers up three problems and really no solutions.  

You see you have these favelas on the hills surrounding Rio de Janeiro, these downtrodden neighborhoods of the poor, i.e. problem number one.  The favelas are wracked by the violence which comes along with the drug trade and the antiquated drug laws, i.e. problem number two.  The everyday police can't really deal with the "drug problem" so they are aided by the military police, i.e. problem number three.  The other day the combination of these problems left Claudia Silva Ferreira, a local cleaning lady, dead.

The drugs didn't exactly kill her, not really.  She didn't have anything to do with drugs.  The favela and its residents sure didn't kill her.  The military police they did kill her, they pulled the trigger.  Actually they killed her several times...for her own good and the good of those like her...or that is what we are left to believe.  Yes, they are the henchmen could be held responsible.

The system of Capital which has too many workers and not enough actual work, and thus creates a gazillion service type jobs which pay nothing to keep people busy and under control.  That system with even those no paying jobs still can't keep enough people working (busy and under control), leaves many destitute and with time on their hands living in the slums of the world.  That system which figures drugs (legal and illegal) might help by keeping some of those potential "subversives" slumbering and others of them working in the "illegal" trade (killing and maiming each other) which they tacitly accept in the halls of the State, but because they can't totally pretend all is well, sends in the men with the guns when the other men with the guns get too out of hand -  that system, Empire, doesn't pull the trigger, a system has no fingers after all, but it is the ultimate murderer no less.

You know what? Often when you say the murder of one lone women can only be solved by the destruction of global capital by the multitude in revolution, it is over-speak.  You know what, in this case, in many cases it really isn't.  After all, as long as capital exists, the capitalistic drug trade will exist, the favelas will exist in misery, the military police and the everyday police will go right on killing innocent people, hell, people in general.  The truth is there isn't any way around that which I can figure out.  We can protest police brutality, we can call for drug law reform, we can hope for economic changes within the system which will help the poor.  We can do all that...just as we have been doing that for a very long time to no real avail.  


We can all finally say enough of this shit...and mean it.

Until we say that.  Until we act on that.  Until we rid the Earth of the shit, let's call Capital what it is...until all goes on...

She was the Rule, Not an Exception
Claudia Silva Ferreira’s crime, last March 16, was living in the wrong place and having the wrong skin color. She went out to buy bread and ham, a cup of coffee in hand. We can never know how lethal a cup of coffee might be if held by a black, poor woman living on the periphery of a Brazilian city. Police shot the cleaning lady twice, leaving her body stretched on the ground, chest pierced.

She was taken to a police car to be driven to the hospital. The back seat was full of guns, so they couldn’t put a wounded person there — they must have their priorities straight. So Claudia was put in the trunk, which opened along the way and let her fall to the ground, stuck to the bumper by a piece of clothing, dragged by the car for 1,200 feet. The policemen finally noticed she had fallen and tucked her back in place. She died.

The Military Police denied what residents of Morro da Congonha, Madureira, Rio de Janeiro’s suburbs, saw. According to them, Claudia was found already shot. In the same operation, the police killed a supposed drug dealer, wounded and arrested another one, seizing four pistols, radios and drugs. It was probably worth it, since drugs destroy families.

If not for the drugs, the Military Police wouldn’t have been forced to climb the favela hill, wouldn’t have encountered a menacing and violent 38-year-old black woman holding a cup of coffee, wouldn’t have been obligated to shoot twice in her direction, entailing the bothersome task of taking her to the car and then to the hospital. And drugs keep tearing families apart. Claudia, for instance, raised 8 children, 4 of her own, 4 nieces and nephews. Her family now is defaced because of drugs.

And how can we demand that the military aid a dying woman? They are the military for a reason. They are called “soldiers” (specifically, the policemen involved here were two sub-lieutenants and a sergeant) and sent to war. The idea of protecting people is entirely alien to a military organization and the Military Police proves it every time it invades a favela and sees the residents not as people but as potential collateral damage.

Of those involved, sub-lieutenant Adir Serrano Machado is the most efficient. He has been involved in 57 actions involving some kind of resistance, leaving 63 dead. Sub-lieutenant Rodney Miguel Archanjo has been somewhat more circumspect, having been part of only 5 of those occurrences, with 6 dead. Sergeant Alex Sandro da Silva Alves, on the other hand, debuted on the Sunday in which Claudia was shot, his first resisted operation.

Given all of this, it’s clear that a demilitarization would weaken the police too much, making it impossible for them to fight crime. If we want someone to go up the favelas to confiscate weed and cocaine, we’ve got to have soldiers.

But is that really what we want?

It sounds good in political ads to say that police presence in the favelas has increased and that the battle against drugs has been intensified. But what this means is that hundreds of Claudia Silva Ferreiras are going to keep dying. Because the only way to keep an illusion of safe and drug-free cities is to shoot innocent people in the favelas.

To keep thinking that police brutality is an exception will take us nowhere. Brazilian police violence is institutionalized and necessary for the government’s goals. It is not possible to control the drug trade, or maintain the legitimacy of the state’s mission to “fight crime,” without the use of lethal force. With current drug policy, there’s no possibility of ending police violence — without it, the state would never be able to affirm its power.

For now, the Military Police could at least publish a pamphlet listing suspicious activities that honest citizens should avoid, such as being black and walking with coffee.

Translations for this article:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


THEY claim the sit/lie ordinance is there so that sidewalks aren't blocked.  That is an obvious lie. Many people obstruct pedestrian traffic. This includes people waiting for buses, people stopping to talk or window shop, people who camp out for a cherished spot on parade routes, people who stop to listen to or watch street performers, people who wait in line to buy food at the food stands, etc. Those aren't the people the cops arrest and those aren't the people the authorities want the cops to arrest.  You know that.  I know that.  Everyone knows that.  So why not just rename these ordinances, "get the homeless out of my face" ordinances.  These laws are simply meant to evict the homeless from the only home they have - the streets.

It is not constitutionally permissible to get away with laws that target people for who they are as opposed to what they do.  So THEY find ways to work their way around such obstacles and legal niceties.  So they pass laws against specific behaviors associated with people whom THEY don't want in our public space. Like laws prohibiting sitting on the sidewalk.  A guest opinion in the SF Guardian a few years ago put it like this:

Over a hundred years ago, Anatole France famously praised "the majestic equality of the law that forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." He would no doubt smile at a law that forbids everybody from sitting on the sidewalk. 

He might smile, but we should stand up and scream, "enough already."  We should join with the homeless, who could be, who might be us, and shout that people are more important than capital, than business.  We should look those gentrifiers in their face and tell them, "you don't get to turn the city into a theme park for you to play in."  We should tell them  to go back where they came from... 

That brings us to a guy called Papa Bear.    Poor Magazine tells us a little about who he is.

Papa Bear is a double vet who volunteered for the Vietnam War, he reports, “because my country said, 'fight for freedom.' At 17 years old, I was very proud of my country[...]. I felt that I should fight for my country and freedom.”

Papa Bear's tour ended when he nearly bled to death in combat. He says, “I was legally toe-tagged in the morgue for a day and a half. When they made their first cut for my autopsy, I woke up.” He says, “I bled to death. But it wasn't my time.”

Papa Bear was there for his brothers and sisters on the streets.  Papa Bear was never afraid to speak his mind.  Papa Bear was the sort of fellow THEY most especially wanted to just "move on."  The beautiful people don't want to have to mingle with the Papa Bears of the world.  The Papa Bears make them uncomfortable, not uncomfortable enough to want to try and figure out why there are people living on the streets, mind you, not uncomfortable enough to want to challenge a system that requires that people live on the streets...or is so miserable that some choose to live in freedom on that streets.   Not that uncomfortable.  They prefer to just not see such people.  It spoils their day.

Screw em.

Papa Bear has now moved on, but we know he will never really be gone.

The following is from The SF Bay View.


by Papa Bear with Leontyne Smith, Poor News Network
Papa Bear transitioned to his spirit journey on or around March 10. POOR Magazine will be holding a humble homegoing ceremony for him on the street corner where he lived and worked at Geary and Van Ness, San Francisco, on Tuesday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m. Bring a flower or a prayer to share.
Papa Bear at Community Newsroom by PNN
Papa Bear at Community Newsroom – Photo: PNN
Papa Bear, a survivor of the U.S. military industrial complex and the poor people hate law called sit-lie, which makes it illegal to sleep or sit on the street while poor, shared his monthly reports of living and working as a panhandler in the racist, classist streets of Amerikkka every month at POOR Magazine’s people’s newsroom we call Community Newsroom. Here is his last report, translated by PNN poverty skola Leontyne Smith.
As people know, Papa Bear comes to newsroom every month with a report straight from the streets of Frisco – as tired as he is from panhandling all day and getting harassed by the police. He said recently the police have expedited their patrols to every three to five minutes. They are taking photos of the dope dealers and beating them up.
As he talked about the usual stuff that goes on in the Tenderloin, he brought up the problems with power washing. A lot of people are dying because of the chemicals that the Department of Public Works puts in their washing solution. Some people think this is happening on purpose to demean the homeless and make them know they are supposed to be inferior.
I read on Google the only harm that happens to the homeless is self-inflicted, and they should just die without food and shelter. This month at Newsroom the news about how homeless folks in the room are getting treated is absurd. At shelters they make you sign in at 5 o’clock in the morning and you are never guaranteed a bed. They are usually infected with bed bugs, which are really hard to get rid of and usually you get bites all over your body almost instantly.
Papa Bear at Community Newsroom-2 by PNN
Papa Bear regularly reported on the criminalization and cruelty toward homeless people on the streets of San Francisco. – Photo: PNN
Other people in the room talked about how the staff are worse than the clients, and they do not care. Being that I have been working with Poor Magazine, I talk with a lot of people were homeless and/or living in low income housing, which in itself costs way too much now.
At the end of Papa Bear’s update, he talked about getting another warrant, which is No. 19 now, and he is aiming for 20. Police have broken his ribs for sleeping on the streets and now they are even closing parks just to give homeless people a hard time.
Golden Gate Park closes one hour before midnight, and that is making trouble for people enjoying the earth and people who need to sleep there too. Parks are nature, and that is something that brings peace and contentment of mind.
I used to love writing in my journal in the cuts of the trees in Golden Gate Park when I was a teenager. That was my escape from everybody and everything. It was like hiding out in a little forest where nobody could find me. There’s something about breathing in the trees, flowers and the beautiful plants.
I am not homeless, yet I am seriously mad as hell because nature is a safe haven for some people. Papa Bear has been homeless for a long time after serving his country for half his life, and what does he get? Racism and warrants, wow.
Leontyne Smith is an activist and journalist with Poor News Network. She can be reached Visit POOR at

Papa Bear on sit-lie laws

I’m Papa Bear. That’s my alias. My real name is Abdullah. What’s coming down on the street – I know you’ve seen it in the papers – is sit-lie laws are starting to be enforced in the Haight area and big time in the Tenderloin.
Papa Bear altar 0314
A loving memorial altar at Papa Bear’s corner – Photo: PNN
The shelter beds were full. I slept in an alley. I was arrested. I had to accept the judge’s ruling: one year probation and a stay-away order from the alley I slept in. If I’m caught in the alley I slept in, I get a year in county jail.
Having your freedom taken away is the worst thing that can happen to you. Someone telling you what to do. I’m my own man.
I’m a double vet. I spent two years in the army, two years in the Marines and too many years in Vietnam. I fought hard and worked hard for this country. I died for this country. In Vietnam, I woke up on a cot and they took me to surgery for 56 hours. I’m still hurting.
Sit-lie law is no joke. They are promoting it big time. Enforcing it big time. In the Tenderloin, there are more black and whites (cop cars), more undercover, and everyone is enforcing sit-lie.
People are scared. They’re terrified. You want to speak out, but people are scared. So many undercover, people are like, “Man, we scared.” But you got to go to sleep soon. Where you gonna go?

Monday, March 24, 2014


It's Theoretical Monday and I have a cold and a fever and KU has lost and I am just not happy, not to mention it is snowing.  So I have nothing to say at all.

I am providing an essay concerning the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.  If you are my age, you know who they were.  If you aren't, well, maybe you should.

The following is from UNITY AND STRUGGLE...

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers for Militants Today

by Semaj and Tyler Zimmerman
We’re reposting an essay written by a couple members of ¡ella pelea!, a group that organized against budget cuts, cuts to ethnic studies, and for open enrollment at UT-Austin from 2009-2011, on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.  It fits in with the broader conversations happening now on the union question, feminism, and the content and methodology of liberation.  We did a study of the League together and wrote this essay to draw lessons for communists and other militants today in the fight against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and the State.  We try to incorporate the best of the League experience while confronting its historical and political weaknesses.
This is the link to the original post.
For reference purposes and to explore past conversations we’ve had here on the League, check out this post from HiFi and the conversation that follows.


The League of Revolutionary Black Workers emerged in Detroit in the late 1960s, a period of growing dissatisfaction with the mainstream integrationist civil rights organizations and the failures of the Democratic Party to address the subjugation of black people in a comprehensive way.  A new movement which came to be known as Black Power or Black Liberation, grew out of these failures and gave birth to a new identity and a number of new mass and revolutionary organizations, one of the most advanced being the Revolutionary Union Movement and the League.
The Black Power movement also conceptualized the oppression of black people domestically within an international context of white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism.  It looked toward and drew inspiration from the national liberation movements that were happening in Cuba, Algeria, and Vietnam as well as the Cultural Revolution in China as a model for what black liberation in the United States could look like.  The League was no exception in this regard.
Catalyzed by the Great Rebellion of 1967, an upheaval of Detroit’s black poor against police brutality, poor living conditions, and limited jobs, the League saw the necessity of organizing black workers.  Formed by a core of organizers who worked in the auto industry, they were also instrumental in organizing the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), in the Dodge Main auto plant and which pushed for addressing atrocious workplace conditions, speed-up, and the extension of the working day as well as their racist implications.  Some DRUM militants were a part of previous civil rights groups but were discontented with the politics and took a more radical political stand that contextualized white supremacy through the framework of capitalist social relations.

The Failed Anti-Racism of the Civil Rights Movement

One of the central critiques of civil rights groups made by black power militants was that it was largely beholden to the Democratic Party and Federal Government for mitigating the conditions of the black southerners.  Certainly, the new mass activity that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) organized around help bring new life to the civil rights struggle as they broke with the conservative politics and organizing approaches of the NAACP.  This was demonstrated by the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 which saw the creation of a completely autonomous and self-organized system of mass transit.  While this was not completely directed from the top, SCLC organizers were a positive force that fused with this self-organization and gave it a more conscious purpose.[1]
In the long-term, they were incapable of safeguarding the self-activity of blacks as they strove to draw all of it under the wing of the SCLC leadership.  Such an orientation is the reason that Ella Baker left the organization and advocated for the wildcat sit-ins of 1960 by black students to remain independent.  She saw the bureaucratizing effect SCLC had played on the movement and the new vitality black students brought to it with the sit-ins.  This led to the formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which served as an organizational bridge and transition from civil rights to black liberation.[2]
The influence of the federal government precipitated a split in SNCC between desegregation campaigns on the one hand and voter registration on the other.  The Kennedy Administration refused to intervene in the brutal attacks by random whites on black and white freedom riders in 1961 unless SNCC shifted their focus onto voter registration and end their desegregation work.  While the organizing done by SNCC around voter registration was very dynamic, it also served to buttress the Democratic Party who could parlay that organizing into votes for their candidates.[3]
Ultimately, the black power movement saw that organizing in this fashion is not an effective anti-racist strategy in that it hinders the movement from making demands that would challenge white hegemony.
Another major critique of the civil rights movement is that they actively sought out white liberal participation. This hindered the movement largely due to the fact white liberals were more hesitant to address white supremacy outside its Jim Crow manifestations and this sacrificed the more comprehensive ways black folks experienced white supremacy.  This spoke to the  civil rights movement predominately middle class composition.  Organizing black workers around their specific concrete oppressions were not a part of the platform for these groups.  SCLC and CORE viewed black freedom as having suffrage and being integrated in the same school with white folks. The demands that these groups organized around largely benefited just the black middle class who weren’t facing the niggermation of River Rouge.

The Dynamics of Race in 1960s Detroit and Urban Insurrection

The 1965 Watts riot and the rebellions of the late 1960s concretely connected the State’s role in the oppression of black workers at home and abroad and threw open the door on the limitations of civil rights organizations.  These rebellions also spoke to racial tensions among the working class itself and these manifested in an uneven and contradictory way in Detroit.
In Detroit the established Polish community, no doubt having deep class struggle roots, had long been reined in by the Polish patronage apparatus that bargained for access to officialdom in exchange for controlling and stamping out independent rank and file initiative.  They received the better jobs in the factory and were less subjected to the 90 days rotation,[4] though they were exploited just as black workers.  The factories had a policy that it could legally fire an employee anytime before a 90 trial period and black workers more so than other workers were the target for this egregious policy.
In the 1960s, white Appalachians began to immigrate into the Midwest and although these workers were not embraced by the Polish and other established white ethnic groups, they were more tolerated than their black counterparts.  Their contradictory position meant that, on the one hand, they shared the body politics of Polish workers who were more open to association with them than with black workers, and on the other hand, they existed outside the ethnic patronage machine and shared a similar class position with black workers which led to a confusion as to who the enemy was.  At times they fell into the seductive proto-fascism of George Wallace who talked about the rich stealing from the working man in collusion with “the nigger.”  Yet during the Great Rebellion, they took part alongside urban blacks in the destruction and looting of capitalist property.  Some even acted as snipers, shooting the cops who inflicted similar harassment and violent upon them as blacks.

The RUMs’ Challenge to White Supremacy

On May 2, 1968, production workers at Detroit’s Dodge Main facility walked out in protest of the increased speed of the line, without the approval United Auto Workers local leadership.  With the Great Rebellion still fresh on their minds, a group of black workers participating in the mainly black wildcat strike proposed the formation of a new autonomous organization called DRUM, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement. Within a matter of months, similar RUM units proliferated throughout Detroit and reaching as far away as New Jersey.
The experience of the Revolutionary Union Movements provided an effective anti-racist framework in that it organized black workers into autonomous workplace units independent of company and union influence. It challenged the white supremacist model that stratified black workers and kept them in the most dangerous and dirtiest jobs and prevented the safety and health and even advancement of blacks into better positions due to the collusion of union and management and the massive profits generated from this exploitation.
Though the RUMs were preceded by forms of autonomous black working class organization in the 1910s and 20s, the predominance of reformism in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as indicated above, effectively harnessed black workers to the State and to capital. The UAW hierarchy’s support for the work of the SCLC and other mainstream civil rights groups meant that black workers fighting against the racist UAW in the plants found no support from SCLC, whose would have alienated their liberal union benefactors. The influence of the federal government in the organizing strategies of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee meant wedding black organization to the designs of the federal government. Inside the plants, however, the prevalence of black union caucuses were unable to seriously challenge the condition of blacks in the workplace. This was due primarily to two reasons.
One, the company and union were so hostile to black representation, despite their ostensible support for civil rights, that they often resorted to illegal tactics to prevent blacks from occupying official posts in the union.  Two, and most importantly, the historic absorption of trade unions into production meant their collaboration with capital and mediation of rank and file struggles.  The early CIO, for example, turned the autonomous activity of workers who struggled for control over the pace and organization of work into concessions that benefited workers outside the workplace.  Meanwhile, what goes on inside the plant, “the transformation of sweat and blood, literally, into finished products,”[5] continued to be determined by the interests of capital.
The strikes of black workers in the late 1960s were completely outside of and against the trade union structure precisely because they struck at the process of production itself.  This more effectively challenged the racism of management and union and broke the stranglehold of the reformism of caucuses.  The limitations of black union caucuses were in their orientation to the union bureaucracy rather than to the rank and file.  In Detroit’s Eldon Avenue Gear and Axle plant, Jordan Sims, a respected black unionist, pursued such a strategy with little results in the 1960s.
The RUMs were a completely new subjectivity that broke with this form of activity and it substituted the free association of workers over the machinations of the bureaucracy which was restricted to the terms of the contract.  In this way, their anti-racist strategy threw up the limitations of both the civil rights groups which organized outside the workplace and black caucuses that organized from within but confined their demands to the “fruits of labor” rather than self-activity of the workers themselves.

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Pivot of Labor in Anti-Racism

militants from the RUMs and the LRBW
The League of Revolutionary Black Workers rode the wave of black insurgency in the factories set in motion by Detroit’s “Great Rebellion” of 1967. Though League cadre were active years before the Great Rebellion, their radicalism had a new currency with the growing tide of militancy among black workers who constituted the RUM organizations. The Great Rebellion gave a new legitimacy to forms of struggle and confrontation with capitalist property and state power that the civil rights establishment opposed. Additionally, it led to the emergence of a black working class identity that largely stood in the shadow of the middle class in the civil rights era.
Unique to the League’s perspective was the intensity of exploitation of black workers particularly resulting in the immense profits of the “Big Three” auto companies, Ford, GM, and Chrysler. They placed this within a historic narrative that linked the chattel slavery of the antebellum South to the contemporary wage slavery of the industrialized North. The negligible investment into the reproduction of slave labor led to massive returns in the cotton trade which laid the basis for and funded the industrialization of the 19th century. League militants were able to link race and class in a dynamic fashion that neither black nationalists nor white class reductionists could appreciate:
“Black workers have historically been the foundation stone upon which the American industrial empire has been built and sustained. It began with slavery over 400 years ago…That is, the capital which was used to build industry in Europe and America essentially came out of the cotton trade…We’re essential, and key, to the continued operation and continued smooth functioning of a highly industrialized, highly complicated machine.”[6]
The auto companies attributed their increased output in the late 1960s to new, more efficient machinery and automation.  The reality was much different.  The auto manufacturers were merely increasing the pace of the line, while the UAW looked away, a process black workers called “niggermation.”  The League’s forefronting of niggermation put class struggle on an anti-racist basis.
In addition to the League’s perspective on the white supremacy inherent in capitalism, they focused on organizing black industrial workers because of the strategic position they occupied in the economy: heavy industry, transportation, and distribution.  In several plants, blacks were an overwhelming majority as the auto companies saw they could exploit their labor to a higher degree.  A broad organization of black workers independent of the union bureaucracy could cripple the functioning of white supremacist capitalism through a general strike, the on-the-job actions of individual workplaces being a prelude to such a strike.
The role the union bureaucracy played in the capitalist system which ensured the stratification of black workers meant that the struggle had to be independent:“The organization…must be free from political and financial ties to the union hierarchy which prevents independent action of the part of the rank and file.”[7]
This method contrasted then with what was largely an overemphasis in the black power movement on confronting the means of dominating labor (the State) leading to an under appreciation of fighting the means of exploiting labor (capital) upon which the State is based.  While the League leadership tended to vacillate on their orientation to the State, their focus on the centrality of labor better positioned them to fight white supremacy as it manifested in production.  While the Black Panther Party attempted to organize the black lumpen as a paramilitary unit outside the workplace, the League had a more holistic approach to organizing black workers and unemployed that didn’t depend on the adventurism that often plagued the Panthers, valid as their work was.
Yet while the League was able to circumvent such adventurism and the cult of personality of the Panthers, the lack of clarification on the role of the union bureaucracy and the content of the RUMs is what partially facilitated the break-up of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.  Throughout their existence they held a line between trying to capture the union bureaucracy though “revolutionary slates,” on the one hand, and building and strengthening independent black organization on the other.   While such a strategy differed in form from traditional black caucuses due to the anti-capitalist politics of the League, its content was consistent with its emphasis on “bad leadership,” no matter how militant it sounded.
Nevertheless, the League refused to narrow their work to electoralism as they positively oriented to the wildcat strikes, praising them and striving to give them a broad political character.  This manifested, for instance, in linking the war in Vietnam to the war inside in the plants.  They deaths inside the plant due to company negligence, faulty equipment, and speed-up led to more workers dying in the plants every year than in the war itself.
They argued that a pure class struggle is an illusion and that if there’s any hope to displace and destroy capitalist social relationships, the rank and file labor movement had consciously take up and support independent black demands and attack the hierarchy of labor powers in how it set different layers of the working class in competition with each other.

The Failure of the League on the Centrality of Patriarchy

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers’ failed for a number of important reasons, yet one of the most important of these reasons that historians of the League have not sufficiently explained, was their theory and practice as it related to patriarchy.  While the program of the Black Workers Congress, a new organization that appeared in the early 1970s and to which a number of League members belonged, pointed to the sexual harassment many black women faced in the plants, they catastrophically failed to integrate patriarchy into an overarching analysis of value production as well as take serious the development of black women militants and support their independent demands and struggles.  At worst they were guilty of sexual harassment and misogyny in their day-to-day relationships with women workers as the experience of ELRUM, the Eldon Avenue Revolutionary Union Movement, indicated.
John Watson in the introduction to the League’s 1970 documentary, Finally Got the News, was able to dynamically elaborate the historic and contemporary relationship of race and class in America unlike any black nationalist or white socialist.  But the inability to situate patriarchy into that narrative constituted a monumental weak point that the resulting repression and capital offensive coming down on the working class used to their advantage.
How did this collapse to patriarchy spell doom for an effective anti-racism?  For one, it didn’t see  how the oppression of women in general and black women in particular hinged on the continued oppression of black men and women in production.  This evolved historically out of the separation of productive and reproductive labor.  Yet this separation constituted a gendered form, confining women to the production and reproduction of labor power itself.  But what is central about this is that the labor power exploited in service of that purpose was seen as not having value and as such was unwaged.
Chattel slavery was also unwaged but this didn’t prevent the League from seeing the relationship of unwaged labor in the production of value.  While they didn’t fall into class reductionist arguments of orthodox Marxism that American slavery was not capitalist or was at best auxiliary to the struggle of waged workers, they like most other revolutionary men were eluded by the fetishism and hidden nature of women’s reproductive work (cooking, cleaning, laundry, sex, caring work, etc.) which daily provided capital with fresh, rejuvenated labor power to be set in motion another day.  As Selma James argued in Sex, Race, and Class, “the capitalist got two laborers for the price of one.”[8]
Women’s work went beyond confinement to reproduction.  When men went on strike, court injunctions preventing their continued disruption of production saw women doing picket duty and fighting police and company thugs.  They have historically been central not only to men’s ability to continue producing value, but in their concrete workplace struggles that women were seen as alien to.
This theoretical and practical weakness of the League meant their incapacity to integrate the oppression of women more fully into their program and in prioritizing the development of women militants at home and in the workplace. Their dynamic anti-racism was nullified by their failure to fit patriarchy into capitalist social relations. Had they done this, it is possible that the decline of the RUMs due to company repression could have been circumvented by a concerted effort of the League to organize black women at home.
This makes their view that there is no pure class struggle all the more ironic and tragic in that they oriented to women not much different than white labor, socialists, and communists oriented to black workers.  Militants today can draw much inspiration from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, but it is our task to pay close attention to their pitfalls so as to ensure the success of new movements for liberation in the future.


[1] James, C.L.R., Negro Americans Take the Lead, Facing Reality Press 1963.
[2] Carson, Clayborne, In Struggle, 1984.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Georgakas, Dan and Marvin Surkin, Detroit: I Do Mind Dying, p. ?
[5] Watson, John, Finally Got the News, Black Star Productions, 1970
[6] Ibid.
[7] Geschwender, James, Class, Race, and Worker Insurgency, 1977.
[8] James, Selma, Sex, Race, and Class, 1975.