We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century

By Rod Bush | Go to book overview

8
The Future of Black Liberation
and Social Change in the
United States

The repression of the Black liberation movement and the political failure of its most radical organizations during the 1970s were one component of the overall repression of the New Left. The organizational manifestations of the world revolution of 1968 were defeated everywhere, but its impact on American society and on the world has been profound, and has set the stage for a much more profound transformation in the years to come, although this may not at all seem likely from the more general short-term perspective, a catastrophic sense of defeat.

I would hold that the first breakthrough on the U.S. front of this world revolution occurred with the mobilization of the civil rights movement. This is not an extraordinary conclusion; none other than FBI director J. Edgar Hoover held a similar point of view. According to Kenneth O'Reilly, Hoover decided to destroy the civil rights movement after the 1963 March on Washington, when it became clear that after decades of intermittent conflict and then three years of continuous skirmishes over voting rights responsibilities and Freedom Ride failures, the movement was not going away.1 By 1963, O'Reilly argues, Hoover had concluded that the nation was in the midst of a social revolution, and the racial movement was at its core. In one sense Hoover did not believe that the civil rights movement was an authentic expression of Black people's dissatisfaction with the racial status quo. He fundamentally agreed with the die-hard segregationists who argued that the southern Negro was satisfied and sought integration only at the urging of communists.

But Hoover, like some of his more sophisticated conservative associates, did indeed have his finger on something. The fear of the red menace was not entirely feigned, although it had nothing to do with the rhetoric about democracy versus godless communism. The red menace was

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