Rev­olu­tion­ary In­te­gra­tion: Program for Black Liberation

Introductory Note by the Prometheus Research Library

Continued from left column

Today the empiricist/racist brand of “schol­ar­ship” represented by Harvard historian Robert Fogel, author of Time on the Cross, is the ac­adem­ic re­flec­tion of the American ruling class’s renewed war on the black population. In 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant secretary at the De­part­ment of Labor, wrote The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, in which he outrageously argued that the “fun­da­men­tal problem...of family struc­ture” was responsible for the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of poverty, job­less­ness, seg­re­ga­tion in housing and lack of edu­ca­tion suffered by the masses in the big city ghettoes. Bourgeois-empirical sociology (ac­com­pa­nied by pages of charts and graphs) served to provide a pseudo-scientific cover for the old “blame the victim” lies. In 1970 Moynihan coined the term “benign neglect” to describe the fed­er­al policy signalling the rollback of the token gains of the civil rights move­ment. Fed­er­al funding for poverty pro­grams dried up; the gov­ern­ment under Nixon, Carter and Reagan dis­mantled civil rights legislation and destroyed even the minimal plans for busing to achieve school in­te­gra­tion.

Dick Fraser’s Marxist schol­ar­ship utterly rejected the manipulation of his­to­ry to justify the racist status quo. At the time of his death in 1988 Fraser, with Dave Dreiser, was actively working on notes and abstracts for a book, The Rise of the Slave Power, the result of over 40 years of study. The book was to be a Marxist analysis of the rise of the southern slavocracy, the class antagonisms which exploded in the 1861-1865 Civil War between the capitalist North and the slave South and the leading role of the militant abolitionists in the destruction of black chattel slavery.

While his primary area of study was the black question, Dick Fraser was active in many arenas of struggle. In selecting the docu­ments for this bulletin we have sought to show the breadth of his work. Of docu­ments omitted from this collection there are two worthy of special note: “For the Materialist Con­cep­tion of the Negro Question” is not published here only be­cause it is readily available in the Spar­tacist League’s Marxist Bulletin No. 5R, “What Strategy for Black Liberation? Trotskyism vs. Black Na­tion­al­ism.” The 1958 “Resolution on the Little Rock Crisis,” in which Fraser sharply exposes the SWP policy of calling for fed­er­al troops to intervene in the Little Rock, Arkansas school in­te­gra­tion crisis, is also omitted. Fraser’s position is well represented in two other, shorter docu­ments which we have included, “Con­tri­bu­tion to the Discussion on the Slogan ‘Send Fed­er­al Troops to Mississippi’ ” and a letter, “On Fed­er­al Troops in Little Rock.”

Those who would like to read further are directed to the bib­li­og­ra­phy of Fraser’s writings included here as an appendix. All of these mate­rials are available at the Prometheus Research Library.

Editorial Note: As a member of the Socialist Wor­kewrs Party and the Freedom Socialist Party Dick Fraser often used the name Richard Kirk. The bib­li­og­ra­phy distinguishes all docu­ments written under the name Kirk with an asterisk. Our introductions give the source and some back­ground for the docu­ments, which have been edited to correct minor errors and in­con­sis­ten­cies. Some purely personal mate­rial in the letters has been cut out. The PRL has added brief ex­pla­na­tions to clarify references when necessary; these appear in brackets. All footnotes and par­en­theti­cal mate­rial are by Dick Fraser.

Prometheus Research Library, July 1990

When, as a young Trotskyist activist, Dick Fraser became convinced that American Marxism had not come to terms with the question of black lib­era­tion, he made a life-long commitment to study of the question. Although he was hampered by little formal scholarly training, his Marxist un­der­stand­ing and his broad experience in militant struggles with black workers sharpened his insight into the lessons of his­to­ry. His dedicated study sprang from his conviction that in order to forge a pro­gram for black lib­era­tion, it is necessary to study the social forces that created the American institution of racial oppression. Fraser turned to the writings of the militant fighters for black equality during the Civil War and Re­con­struc­tion and to the pioneering studies by black ac­adem­ics such as E. Franklin Frazier and Oliver Cromwell Cox. To Fraser, un­der­stand­ing the roots of black oppression in the United States was no armchair activity; he carried his theory of Rev­olu­tion­ary In­te­gra­tion into struggle.

With the pub­li­ca­tion of this bulletin we are hon­or­ing Fraser’s fighting schol­ar­ship. In the past few years Trotskyism has lost three scholar-militants from the generation brought to rev­olu­tion­ary consciousness by the combative class struggles of the 1930s. George Breitman, who died in April 1986, was as a proponent of black “self-de­ter­mi­na­tion” Fraser’s main political opponent within the SWP on the black question. He was also the Pathfinder Press editor responsible for the pub­li­ca­tion of the works of Leon Trotsky and James P. Cannon. And in July 1990 the Trotsky scholar Louis Sinclair died. As the author of Leon Trotsky: A Bibliography (Hoover Institution Press, 1972), Sinclair performed an invaluable service to the rev­olu­tion­ary move­ment in docu­menting and col­lect­ing Trotsky’s writings in many languages. Now the tra­di­tion of rev­olu­tion­ary schol­ar­ship so hon­ora­bly exem­plified by Richard Fraser, George Breitman and Louis Sinclair must be carried on by a new generation of Marxists.

The U.S. capitalist class and its minions would like to forget this country’s modern origins in the Second American Revolution that was the Civil War. To un­der­stand the Civil War is to un­der­stand the char­ac­ter of U.S. society and its fatal flaw of racism. As Dave Dreiser, Fraser’s long-time col­lab­ora­tor and friend, writes in his 16 April 1990 letter to Jim Robertson (see Fraser and Amer­ican Scho­lar­ship on the Black Question), for decades the ac­adem­ic racists of the William Dunning school of U.S. his­to­ry legitimized the racist status quo. Their “in­ter­pre­ta­tion” was pop­ular­ized in the movies Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind.

The outbreak of the civil rights move­ment in the 1950s and 1960s and the struggle for black equality inspired a new generation of his­to­rians, who began to reexamine central issues of American his­to­ry, in particular the Civil War and Re­con­struc­tion. The dis­tin­guished James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era and The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Re­con­struc­tion, is only one of the many scholars who have docu­mented the heroic struggles of this rev­olu­tion­ary period. Eminent scholars who have studied southern slavery, the Civil War and Re­con­struc­tion also include Eugene Genovese, Kenneth Stampp, C. Vann Woodward and Eric Foner.