Argentina: horizontal organization/reply

Thu Feb 21 09:40:36 MST 2002

Horizontal Organizations and the need for a Party of Labor

The revolutionary process unfolding in Argentina saved my soul. It also
prevents me from staying stuck in my indiscretions and stupidities. The
statement and comments on the formations of various grassroots organization
is too lengthy to reproduce. I am of course prohibited from dictating alleged
"answers" to the struggle against the bourgeoisie in any country other than
my own.

I do have some experience with horizontal grassroots organizations in my own
country. I was recruited into a grassroots horizontal organization, passing
out election literature during a phase in my country called the Civil Rights
Movement. The Civil Rights Movement was a phase of the social struggle
generated on the basis of the expansion of the boundary of capitalist
production or rather the quantitative expansion of industrialization,
specifically the mechanization of agriculture.  The needs of a sector of
capital to shatter the social barriers preventing the movement of a huge
sector of the agricultural population from being integrated into the lower
section of the industrial economy coincided with the unbroken struggle of the
so-called Negro masses (the term African-American had not yet entered the
social lexicon) and unleashed the diverse class forces amongst a people into
the political sphere, generating a powerful social movement throughout all of

Horizontal implies an organization whose leaders and members arise on the
basis on the spontaneous movement in a specific locale. Giving the nature of
systemic exclusion in the economic, social and political sphere, local
organizations arose confronting various barriers to the full entry of a
people into the totality of social life. At a certain stage this social
movement gave rise to the demand for representation in the general political
arena ad manifested itself in the formation of electoral organizations. In
two states the electoral aspect of the movement consolidated as a political
party seeking representation: Fannie Lou H. Mississippi Freedom Now Party and
the Michigan Freedom Now Party. Mississippi remains the archetype of Southern
slavery while Michigan (Detroit) remains the archetype of the industrial
proletariat on the basis of heavy industry.

The horizontal movement and political organization I was recruited into was
the Michigan Freedom Now Party and my specific task was passing out
literature for the campaign of this political party.  The demand of the
Freedom Now Party was for "freedom now" and this was defined across the total
spectrum of the various class forces in play. One thing was clear to
everyone: the lack of a focused voice in the political arena.

My individual task, which was understood to be part of a greater cause and
task of similar people, was passing out literature to get a candidate elected
who expressed the hopes and desires of the people. If memory serves me
correct the year was - maybe 1964. The candidate riveting the work of our
family and neighbors was uncle Leroy - my father's older brother, who was
running for Secretary of Treasure in the state of Michigan. "Vote for Uncle
Leroy." I was no older than 12 years old and felt like a big boy.  Reaction
had bombed the kids in "that" church in Alabama and whoever would not stand
against evil was in fact evil.

I get teary eyes and lose my composure thinking about the circumstances.
Grasping the boundaries of a new era is simply. Grasping how one murders
children, starve people and kowtow before the supreme dictate of money is
outside most folk conceptual framework. The literature was passed out because
I was against bombing kids and in favor of giving people money when it can be
printed on a machine. Every human being can have the money they need to get
the things they want, if the people who are against this are moved out of the
way. All the theories on earth mean nothing when you can just get the people
some money fresh off of the printing press.  It was years later that I
developed an understanding of classes: that it was capitalist who said,  "I
could give less than a damn about your family starving and "freedom" as long
as my family makes money."

Horizontal organizations arise to get people the things that they want.
People join horizontal organizational because they want the people who are
against them to know that it makes no difference and the act of joining and
participating in and alongside side of such organizations constitutes the
revolutionary social process. The social forces that organized and
consolidated around the Michigan Freedom Now Party and the Mississippi
Freedom Now Party, produced or rather was the nexus of which the individuals
emerged who would dominate critical elements of the social movement for
thirty years, continuously reemerging at every critical junction. This
remains true to this very day.

Some of the leading personalities galvanized on the basis of the Michigan
Freedom Now Party were General Baker, Mike Hamilin, Kenneth Cockrel, John
Watson, John Williams and later Marian Kramer, Edna Watson and of course
Albert Cleage was there and joined the movement with an altering impact.
Reverence Albert Cleage would later change his name and create the
organization infrastructure and ideological index that to this day is called
Black Christian Nationalism. Uncle Leroy - a person of academia, painter and
historian who worked at the Ford Motor Company for ten years, would later
move his family to Ghana and teach in its universities for thirty years.

The Freedom Now Party in Michigan articulated in the Political sphere an
unmistakable demand for leadership of the industrial workers and unemployed,
meaning the demands of the industrial workers and unemployed against police
violence and for control of political institutions was put forth with
profound consequences. With the exception of Albert Cleage and Leroy - who
moved to Africa, the other activist experience a political evolution that led
to the founding of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, which was not
the League of Revolutionary Unionized Black Workers.

John Watson played an important role in this process - one that altered the
political fabric of America, and needs to be mentioned in as much as he died
November 16, 2001. Watson - Kenneth John Watson was born January 11, 1944, in
Detroit, Michigan and began his political activism based on his parents
support and activism, who were early supporters of SCLC (Southern Christian
Leadership Conference). At age 16, Watson had led a protest that led to the
desegregation of public swimming pools in Michigan. Watson was an
intellectual, having graduated from Cass Technical High School and then
enrolled in Wayne State University. Cass Technical High has an unbroken
history of intellectual excellence and even been the home of "Jazz Greats"
like Donald Byrd - "Spaces and Places" album, Christ-o Redento (Christ the
Redeemer), Flight Time, "Black Jack" album, "Street Lady" and the phase of
jazz called fusion. The idea that the workers do not draw a line of
distinction between the intellectuals of their soul, administrators and
bureaucrats who exercise arbitrary authority by virtue of a "job" leads to
wrong conclusions.

Wayne State University John Watson was elected editor of the Southern End
newspapers and transformed it into the voice of the revolution in Detroit.
Among the many issues raised was the Palestine Question, which earned him the
distinction as being the singular person to bring this issue into America's
political sphere on a level that later in life won his awards from various
countries throughout the Middle East. Watson's South End was extraordinary in
American political history and often ran above its banner, "One Class
Conscious Worker is worth One Hundred Students" and passed out at plants
gates throughout Detroit. (This is one of several reasons I went to the
factory: I wanted to be worth 100 of myself. Needless to say there is no
glory in hard work).

Watson was the commensurate fundraiser allowing the League to establish its
print shops and propaganda apparatus. He co-produced "Finally Got The News,"
a political film that is still shown today.

Watson's activity was always in unity with the aforementioned peoples who
suspended the production of their newspaper, "Inner City Voice" after control
of the South End made it possible for a broader scale of propaganda. The
evolution of the various individuals was rapid after the 67 Rebellion in
Detroit. From Uhuru (Freedom) to the Capital Study Group to the Dodge
Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) and the initial conception of a League of
Revolutionary Workers.  In passing it should be mentioned that a small core
of individuals that initially founded the Black Panther Party in Detroit was
recruited to the "line" of the Drum movement and the conception of the
"lumpen-proletariat" was defeated in Detroit in favor for a syndicalist
tinged version of "Marxism." This produced intense strife when the South End
ran its front page story, "DRUM" Vanguard of the Black Revolution" - and the
National Office of the Black Panther Party forwarded its specific view.
Suffice it to state that a meeting between General Baker and Fred Hampton -
later murdered by the Chicago Police, sealed an unspoken unity within the
industrial workers, no matter what their organizational affiliation.

As an organization we had rejected the glorification of the gun  (the result
of the world social movement evolving on the basis of needing to defeat
imperialism militarily and giving rise to the commander/leader concept), and
implemented a "line" of patient work in the lowest sector of the working
class. To this day I vividly recall a national spokespersons of the Panther
stating that the there was a need to "bomb the workers out of the plants."
This did not sit well with people who worked in the plants and whose parents
had worked in the plants.  We had an analysis of the individual leaders of
the Panthers and who was working class. Suffice it to state that Mr. Eldridge
Cleaver was condemned in our newspaper as a degenerate and rapist, whose book
"Soul on Ice" was called "Sold Out Nice." (It was not Cleaver - who we called
"Mr. Cleaver," who spoke of bombing the workers.)

What had been various horizontal organizations took on "vertical" complexity
when several hundred people rapidly joined the League. Even with the
syndicalism and exclusion of Anglo-Americans from the group, the League
simply lacked a certain organizational expertise and could have had a core of
several thousand people. What evolved was a series of organizations can
counterparts of the League throughout Michigan and later the country.
Nationally, this led to the formation of the Black Workers Congress and what
later evolved into the Black United Fund. No element of the social movement
could escape the orbit of the League, not simply because it was black and
battered certain exclusionary structures within the organized sector of the
labor movement, but because it sought to articulate the voice of the lowest
sector of the proletariat, compelled into a certain combat with state
agencies of violence and abuse. It was this base of activity that won the
League the love and respect of a social movement and the admiration of the
anarchist - notably the lovable local iconoclast Freddie Perlman, whose print
shop on Michigan Avenue was open to the workers of the world. We of course
fought hard and everyone in the movement loved one another very hard. To this
day the political movement in Detroit and through Detroit remains aligned on
this basis and the next upsurge is underway - in progress.

"Overnight" John Watson's activity was elevated to an international field of
play. John Watson's "nervous tick" - perhaps an emotional disorder from
"knowing," chain smoking, shifting beady eyes and love for dogs did not
prevent him from rising from the horizontal leader to a General strategist in
a social movement. At the time of his passing he was a Computer Program
Analyst for Ford Motor Company, a professional photographer, played the
violin and a noted leather craftsman and declared "Mr. Palestinian" by the
leaders of the Palestinian peoples - whose working class has yet to
articulate its voice.

The emergence and consolidation of a party of Labor in America is not simply
historically inevitable in a bourgeois democratic republic, but the next
consequence and outcome of the failure of "other" third party movements to
exist and flourish on a basis detached from the lowest section of the working
class. Medical care, adequate food supplies based on family size, rent
support, fresh water, clothing supplies, a halt to arbitrariness of
authorities, military buildup and war and public transportation are urgently
needed in every arena of the social struggle in the world today. In America
these demands must be broadcast nationally. A Labor Party has to be formed
that will unleash its own process involving interclass - not ideological,
fighting. Organized labor is honorable but has a different set of demand than
the overwhelming majority of the laboring classes. Targeting the organized
sector of labor as the basis of the social movement is the road to fascism
and outright denies the obvious features of this specific phase of capital
decay. Leaders of course come from all walks of life and we do not judge a
person by their suit of clothes, their love affairs or musical taste, but
their class program. The word "program" is the negation of "ism" and

One of the slogans from an organization within the Palestinian movement of
the Watson period struck a cord in our hearts:

"Our Revolution is a drop of blood, a drop of sweat, a drop of ink." Rest in
peace John . . . the struggle continues.

Joe Freemen

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