Fw: Re: International Socialist Tendency Split

Les Schaffer schaffer at SPAMoptonline.net
Mon Mar 12 07:03:32 MST 2001

[ reformat, stripped Lou's original message ]

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Justin Schwartz" <jkschw at hotmail.com>
To: farmelantj at juno.com
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 04:06:21 -0000
Subject: Re: Fw: Re: International Socialist Tendency Split

Greensboro was before my time. I was mainly in the NDM, the successor
group, which had expressly renounced violence. I would not have joined
a group that advocated the overthrow of the government by force. Quite
apart from any other considerations, I have always thought it quite
mad to think that we could take on the 101st Airborne. I don't say
that there are no times and places where armed struggle is called
for. The Warsaw Ghetto fighters were heroes. I think the Sandinistas
and the FMLN had no reasonable options but armed struggle. The ANC
came around to that perspective too. But in modern Ameriac, it is not
only not called for, it is insane.

In any case, I knew Party members from, say, 1982 on.

Lessons like what? Don't try to use guns if you haven't a clue,
especially against people who do? The CWP 5 and others at the march
_were_ armed.  There was a sort of shootout, rather one sided; you can
watch it on TV; ther was a PBS special on Greensboro. The Klan and
Nazi assassins included people who had hunted since childhood,
probably ahd been in the service; the marchers--several physicians, a
philosophy PhD, among others--hadn't a chance.

It's true that the local police did not protect them and were in fact
in collusion with the killers, pulling out of town so as to let the
lynching occur. But self-defense was not practicable. It was a
delusion. The gun-waving and arms-bearing was a bit of late-70's
craziness, tragically dashed by Greensboro.

Politically, the decision to try armed self-defense was a
disaster. The press depicted the massacre as a shootout between
extremist groups rather than as a murderous assault on a labor and
civil rights march. It would have been much better if the Party had
let the Klan and Nazis shoot them without attempting srmed
self-defense. That was the lesson the Party drew from it, after some
struggle, and it led to the renunciation of violence in NDM.  (NDM
didn't work out, and has long ago dissolved, but that's another

It's true that we need to be strong in the face of the bad guys, but
there's strength and strength. I think the SCLC showed real strength
in the face of Bull Connor and his dogs and firehoses by turning out
again and again, filling the jails, and not going away. It's not
necessarily showing strength to wave guns about. A lot of our strength
is in moral superiority. That is dissipated if we act in a way that is
easily depicted as being no different from those we oppose.

Whether it is advisable to rely on the government for protection
against right wing forces depends. I don't think there is a general
rule.  Sometimes, as in Greensboro or at Pittson, or more recently in
the Detroit newspaper strike, the authorities are in collusion with
the bad guys. I actually rather suspect that the kind of old-style
lynch-law collusion that occurred at Greensboro is rare and
decreasingly common. So too is the old-style hood-and-sheets racism of
the KKK, which is under severe assualt from lawsuits mounted with
great effect by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  People say bad
things about Morris Dees, but his tediously legalistic tactics have
put the Alabama Klan and the Ayran Nations literally out of
business. That is one way to rely on the government.

Btw, the figure of "tens of thousands" of Blacks lynched by the KKK is
way too high. The true figure is somewhere between three and six
thousand lynched by all whites (not all or even mainly the KKK as
such) from the end of Reconstruction to the present. I am not
minimizing the terror under which Southern blacks lived: a lynching or
two a week on average for 100 years, mostly concentrated in the period
1877-1940, was enough to make life in the Jim Crow south a
nightmare. (For this, see Leon Littwack, Been in the Storm Too Long.)
But there's no point in exaggerating. It's like the people who insist
that Stalinism muat have had 20 million--50 million! 100 million!!
deaths. Wasn't eight or ten million enough?



Since you were at one time a member of the CWP, I was wondering
if you had any special insights concerning the Greensboro massacre
that you might be willing to share.


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