[Marxism] Grappling With the Racism of the DSA?s Founders

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Mon Sep 10 21:46:42 MDT 2018

First off, I've been pretty mature and level-headed considering some of the
wild and overall insulting stuff hurled at me over pointing out that the
Democrats are always the Democrats. Your silence when people were saying
that stuff was noted.

Second, lighten the hell up, really. Irving Howe was a cranky old grouch
and racist asshole. Michael Harrington was a fence-sitter and straddled the
status quo when the urban middle class of New York City was being
repulsive, racist, and classist towards a set of political developments
that could have led to a genuine municipal democratic socialism. If you go
read David Harvey, one of his pinpoints on the timeline of neoliberal
history is 1975 and Gerald Ford telling NYC to 'Drop Dead'. That was the
moment of finance capitalism in America speaking from the Oval Office and
causing a counter-revolution we are still in the death grip of. The only
reason that happened was because Howe and Harrington and Shanker had broken
the alliance between the middle class unionists and the working class
taxpayers who were most reliant upon the Welfare state.

I will close here with this quote from Noel Ignativev's essay on Thomas E.
Watson, the Populist politician who ended life as a Dixiecrat <

In 1896, the national Democratic Party, feeling the heat of Populism,
nominated William Jennings Bryan for President on a platform that borrowed
planks from Populism. Now the Party was confronted with a dilemma, to go
with Bryan or hold out for the complete platform. At its St. Louis
Convention, the Party split, some voting to support Bryan, others to remain
independent. As a compromise Watson agreed to accept the Populist
nomination for vice-president on a ticket headed by Bryan.

The election, won by Republican William McKinley, was a debacle for
Populism, leaving its supporters embittered and leading to the Party’s
demise. Watson withdrew from politics, turning his attention to writing
histories, biographies, and a novel. Then in 1904 he returned to politics,
now as an advocate of disfranchising black voters. (At that time, black
people still voted in the South even though their political organizations
had been repressed and their power reduced when Reconstruction was

How to explain the change? It was not a result of corruption, bribery or
personal betrayal; in fact, it was not personal at all, but representative
of a general problem in U.S. history, and there was logic in it.

The so-called “Negro Question” had always been his nemesis; if, he
reasoned, the black vote could be eliminated as a factor in elections, poor
whites would no longer be afraid to vote their interests, and the
banker-industrialists dominating the New South could be overturned. Hence,
he endorsed the disfranchisement of black voters. He also launched attacks
against the Catholic Church, which he accused of serving a foreign power,
and against Jews, whom he saw as representatives of northern capitalist
interests. (His stirring up popular resentment of Jews led to the 1915
lynching of Leo Frank in Atlanta.)

The roots of his transubstantiation were to be found in his failure, and
the failure of the movement he led, even in the days when he was preaching
unity of black and white poor, to address the material basis of the

There were always fissures in the Populist coalition, largely based in
differences in standing between black wage-laborers and white farm owners:
for example, when the Colored Farmers’ Alliance proposed to call a strike
of black cotton-pickers, the president of the (white) Alliance denounced it
as an effort “to better their condition at the expense of their white

Watson’s efforts at uniting the poor of both races had always been grounded
on the premise that the “races” had divergent (as well as common)
interests; it was, therefore, a small step for him to abandon those efforts
when new avenues promising greater success opened.

What if black laborers were more often than whites wage-workers? What if
black sharecroppers generally found themselves laboring under more
unfavorable terms than whites, terms enforced by legal and extra-legal
terror? What if black people made up the overwhelming majority of victims
of the convict lease system? What if rural schools for black children were
open a hundred days of the year, shutting down during cotton-picking
season, while schools for whites stayed open year-round? Why, when the task
is to unite the laborers, focus on the things that divide them? Doesn’t it
make more sense to focus on the grievances they have in common, their
common subordination to the banks, railroads and corrupt public officials?

The answer is, no, it does not. History shows it does not. This sort of
false unity always leaves the black worker on the bottom. It is black and
white together on the picket line, and after the strike is over the white
workers return to the skilled trades, the machining departments and the
cleaner assembly areas, and the black workers return to the labor gang, the
coke plant and the open hearth. Every “victory” of this kind feeds the
poison of white supremacy and pushes further off the real unity of the
working class.



If anyone reading this is serious about socialist politics and revolution,
it require the thorough and unflinching examination of the record with
regard to racism and how it defined the foundation of DSA. Unless that
exercise is undertaken unflinchingly, you only cause more problems. I do
not agree with Ignatiev on everything, including his estimation of
spontaneity as opposed to the role of a party, nor his conception of how
international law should be handled within revolutionary struggle, but I
agree with him here.
Best regards,

Andrew Stewart

from: Saman Sepehri <p70volkl at yahoo.com>
to: Andrew Stewart <hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com>,
Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
date: Sep 10, 2018, 11:02 PM
subject: Re: [Marxism] Grappling With the Racism of the DSA?s Founders

What in the hell does this have anything to do with any serious discussion
of DSA today--for or against (cis-gendered man  having sex with etc.etc....
jussy gossip about  Irwing Howe sodomizing Harrington...)?

This from your previous comment says it all:

"First, I have to admit that I find it deeply satisfying to see that I
garnered such a reaction, it means I struck a nerve. Either way one looks
at it, my ego profits mightily from this exercise. Way cool!"

Please stop trolling on this list. No matter what you think you are doing.

Don't need this filth presented as debate on DSA, any more than I need
"grabbing Pussy" on part of Trump as legitimate discussion.

On Monday, September 10, 2018, 9:14:34 PM CDT, Andrew Stewart via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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a) There is nothing bizarre or even radical in describing Bayard Rustin as
a cis-gendered man, which he was. He did not present himself as trans in
public and I have not encountered anything saying otherwise. He was cis, he
was a man who had sex with men (MSM), and he was Black. Ergo "*they all are
cis men and, except for Rustin, white heterosexuals*" is the proper

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