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September, 2006

The Future is Up to Us!

What is the significance of unity for the new class of poor?

Editor's note: This column is based on excerpts from the book, "The Future is Up To Us: A Revolutionary Talking Politics with the American People ," by Nelson Peery. We encourage our readers to join the discussion. Send your thoughts to info@peoplestribune.org. Order the book by sending $12 to Speakers for a New America Books, c/o People's Tribune, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.

Nelson Peery

Only equals can unite. Today, just as the new American class of poor is objectively communist (in that they are fighting for food, clothing shelter, and other necessities, without money to pay for it), the people are for the first time becoming objectively equal in poverty.

The next step is uniting the class subjectively -- politically and ideologically.

First of all, though, I think we have to look at the historical and economic situation in the 1930s to understand why unity is possible today while it was not possible then. At that time, the Blacks, to an overwhelming degree, were agricultural laborers. They were sharecroppers, or they worked for wages on the farms. In the North, they may have been involved with service work but, with few exceptions, they weren't working in the same area as the white industrial worker.

The northern industrial workers couldn't win their fight because the Southern senators and members of the House of Representatives held the balance of power. They held that power because the African American couldn't vote. Moreover, they held the chairmanship of practically every major committee. The lack of voting privileges for the Blacks allowed the fascists and reactionaries to maintain a grip on the Congress.

All the progressive votes in the North could not upset Southern reaction. The only way to break that grip was to see to it that the Blacks voted and voted these people out of office. The only way to accomplish this was to unite on the basis of the democratic demands of the Blacks. The white workers were not prepared to do that because of economic competition. So, what you ended up with was unity between the white middle class liberals and the Black workers.

In the main, Blacks and whites were in different areas of work and economically they were disunited. Black people and white people couldn't unite because the only people who can unite are qualitatively the same. It's like chemistry. You cannot unite two disparate things; they have to be of the same quality. As long as Blacks and whites had different agendas, they could not unite. The agenda of the Blacks was equality. The agenda of the whites was economic expansion. They could not put forth a slogan of "Unite on the basis of equality of opportunity." The socially privileged whites would not buy it. That made it difficult to come up with a slogan that could actually call for the political unity of Black and white.


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