In the midst of this surreal political season, with the endurance of Black Lives Matter, and having just written an article about an African American neighborhood in Nashville, I suppose it might have been expected that I’d stumble across a mention about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, but it still caught me by surprise.
I’ve read deeply and broadly about America’s radical left and have a pretty thorough understanding of how groups like the Black Panthers came to be, their major players, their triumphs and their failures. I’ve also read a lot about how the Nation of Islam took root in the states. I’ve read about the Noble Drew Ali and Marcus Garvey. I understand how Malcolm X straddled both of these organizations between his life and his death.
But somehow I’d never heard of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers which formed right in my backyard in my hometown, in the auto factories of Detroit. Here’s a few words about the league from the legendary Detroit radical newspaper, The Fifth Estate…
The League of Revolutionary Black Workers is a federation of several revolutionary movements which exist in Detroit. It was originally formed to provide a broader base for organization of black workers into revolutionary organizations than was previously provided for when we were organizing on a plant to plant basis. The beginning of the League goes back to the beginning of DRUM, which was its first organization. The Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement was formed at the Hamtramck assembly plant of the Chrysler Corporation in the fall of 1967. It developed out of the caucuses of black workers which had formed in the automobile plants to fight increases in productivity and racism in the plant … With the development of DRUM and the successes we had in terms of organizing and mobilizing the workers at the Hamtramck plant many other black workers throughout the city began to come to us and ask for aid in organizing some sort of group in their plants. As a result, shortly after the formation of DRUM, the Eldon Axle Revolutionary Movement (ELRUM) was born at the Eldon gear and axle plant of the Chrysler Corporation. Also, the Ford Revolutionary Union Movement (FRUM) was formed at the Ford Rouge complex, and we now have two plants within that complex organized.
Our analysis tells us that the basic power of black people lies at the point of production, that the basic power we have is our power as workers. As workers, as black workers, we have historically been, and are now, essential elements in the American economic sense. Therefore, we have an overall analysis which sees the point of production as the major and primary sector of the society which has to be organized, and that the community should be organized in conjunction with that development. This is probably different from these kinds of analysis which say where it’s at is to go out and organize the community and to organize the so-called “brother on the street”. It’s not that we’re opposed to this type of organization but without a more-solid base such as that which the working class represents, this type of organization, that is, community based organization, is generally a pretty long, stretched-out, and futile development.
For more about the league here’s an illuminating documentary about these brave men and women, and their fight…