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

By Rod Bush | Go to book overview

7
The Crisis of U.S. Hegemony and
the Transformation from Civil
Rights to Black Liberation

After 1966 the revolutionary Black nationalist tradition, renewed and invigorated by Malcolm X, caught fire. The example set by the Black Panther Party and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers led to a proliferation of revolutionary nationalist organizations, such as the Congress of African People, the Youth Organization for Black Unity, Malcolm X Liberation University, Peoples College, the African People's Socialist Party, and the African Liberation Support Committee.

However, the power of the nationalist position during this period was so strong that the nationalist fever also extended to the right. The once militant CORE began to interpret Black power as a demand for Black capitalism. Even Jesse Jackson's Operation Breadbasket used the slogan “It's nation time!”

In the 1970s the deepening economic crisis intensified competition among the various segments of the labor force. During the unprecedented expansion of the 1960s, there seemed to be room to bring more and more people into the labor force. This led to a tight labor market and, from capital's viewpoint, a lack of discipline in the workforce. As the profitability of capitalist enterprises began to be squeezed, they sought cheaper workforces outside the core zones. This attack on the working class was focused on the most militant and vulnerable segment, the Black and Latino working class.

In addition, given the gains of the civil rights movement, room had been created for a significantly enlarged Black middle class. This resulted in a move to the right among the major civil rights organizations, and also the establishment of a conservative segment of the Black body politic to the right of the liberal civil rights establishment.

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