Big Flame


Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Racism’

POSITION ON BLACK AUTONOMY (Miscellaneous Big Flame Documents no 8)

Posted by archivearchie on November 28, 2010

This post is the eighth in an occasional series. This site already contains a large number of documents produced by Big Flame or its members. Most can be found in the 30 posts in Episodes in Big Flame History. Each post contains links to documents which relate to its theme. Links to the same documents are also listed on the website’s Publications page, this time sorted by type – pamphlets, journals, newspaper, internal documents.

A post in Episodes in BF history series on Racism and Fascism  touched on the issue of the autonomy of black people. I would now like to focus specifically on this topic.

At the May 1978 Conference a motion passed on the Struggle against Racism and Fascism which included this point: “BF sees the strengthening of autonomous and socialist movements amongst all sections of the Black communities as of great importance. BF recognises that autonomous revolutionary socialist organisations of blacks have the most important role to play in this process and pledges political, and if necessary practical, support for the strengthening of such organisations.”

Nevertheless, there remained differences between members of Big Flame in their understanding of autonomy.

A document produced for the conference, which took the form of a draft article for the Big Flame journal Revolutionary Socialism, developed the position: Black Autonomy: Why Big Flame Offers Unconditional Support. It aimed to counter the argument that support for black autonomy encouraged divisions in the working class. There are already real division in the working class based on divisions in power. Black people require their own organisations to reflect their needs. There are no short cuts to unity, which can only be genuine when both white and black revolutionaries have developed their strength. The white left needs to avoid parachuting into black struggles and crude attempts to recruit black people. It priority (as written in 1978) should be to counter fascism.

A version of this document appeared in Revolutionary Socialism no 2 Spring 1978: Black Autonomy in Class Struggle. By them it had been heavily edited by some one else. It still talked about material divisions in the working class, and looked forward to a time of collaboration and co-ordination between equal partners. However, much of the document had been rewrittten and the Jamesian (after the writer C.L.R. James) discussion of material divisions watered down. It was now much less clear what a commitment to the autonomy of black people meant in practice.

In a previous post on “Racism and Fascism” I drew attention to something the author of the original document wrote several years later:  Black Autonomy and the White Left (Discussion Bulletin January 1984). Apologies again for including something which is difficult to read (it has faint typing on a coloured background). It discusses from his perspective the differences between the two articles, and restates his position on material differences. He recognises changes in the years since the mid 1970s – both among black people in general and their political organisations, as well as on the white left.

Archive Archie

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EPISODES IN BIG FLAME HISTORY: No 14. Racism and Fascism

Posted by archivearchie on September 22, 2009

Past-p1Big Flame members were active in the struggle against racism and fascism. Two pamphlets set out the perspectives they brought to these struggles. A Close Look at Fascism and Racism from 1978 is a collection of more journalistic pieces, mostly reprinted from the Big Flame newspaper. The Past against Our Future: Fighting Racism and Fascism from 1980 is a more analytic work, which sought to develop the theory that underlay the practice.

Elements in the Big Flame perspective included:

–          The focus on fascism with little attention to racism by much of the left was a mistake.

–          The term fascism is sometimes used too loosely to describe a variety of movements.

–          The ideas behind fascism are often more extreme examples of the “commonplace” and “common sense”.

–          Racism is more than prejudiced opinions but a whole process of domination built into the institutions of society.

–          Racism within the white working class is more than false consciousness as it has a material basis.

–          Because of the divisions within the working class and because real unity can only be based on equality of power, the autonomous organisation of black people should be supported.

–          Anti-racism and anti-fascism should not be abandoned in favour of other easier struggles or compartmentalised from those struggles.

–          There had been problems with both the network of local anti-racism anti-fascism committees and the Anti Nazi League (ANL) which operated during the 1970s.

CloseLook-p1Click here to view the two pamphlets – split into two and four parts:

A Closer Look at Fascism and Racism: front-p10

A Closer Look at Fascism and Racism: p11-back

The Past against Our Future: Intro & Ch1

The Past against Our Future: Ch2

The Past against Our Future: Ch3

The Past against Our Future: Ch4

As mentioned above, one theme developed in these pamphlets is the need to support the organisational and political autonomy of black people. However, there was not complete agreement within Big Flame on what this position meant. This is discussed in an article from the Discussion Bulletin of January 1984: Black Autonomy and the White Left (Note: This scan of a duplicated document will be difficult to read. I have included it as it is only two pages long).

Archive Archie

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