What to make of black Democrats

Alex Locascio: what do we make of the progressive black Democrats who came out of the movements of the 60s into municipal office, like Harold Washington and Coleman Young (the latter indirectly associated with the LRBW/DRUM, if I'm not mistaken). Are they relics of a bygone era? Last summer I had the privilege of meeting both Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, both Democrats, both "progressive," both of whom (I think) voted against supporting the NATO intervention. In How Capitalism Developed Black America, Manning Marable urges revolutionaries to support truly progressive Democrats.

potential significance of late Harold Washington in Chicago was only partially related to his 'progressive' politics and, in fact, went far beyond him as a politician...while he ran as Dem, he was, in effect, drafted by grassroots movement from the neighborhoods that approached him...he agreed to run after community organizers and other activists added thousands of folks to voter registration rolls and raised a couple of hundred thousand dollars...

from beginning, strategy was dialectical: electoral/movement or inside/ outside...for his part, the administration was pledged to redistributing power and resources away from downtown and towards neighborhoods...for their part, neighborhood organizations were responsible for developing financial assistance proposals, reviewing city economic development policies, and implementing capital improvement programs...admittedly, both Washington and the neighborhoods defined city priorities in entrepreneurial terms, and their attempt to do so guided by populist principles was fraught with contradictions, but goal was moving beyond either electing 'good guys' or pressuring power from 'the streets' to doing both (with all the complexities and complications that would entail)...his death reopened struggle between various factions for control of city before transition could be consolidated (if such were actually possible)...

as for Young (a marxist labor organizer blacklisted by both auto companies & UAW in 1950s), he actively pursued corporate investment, accepted growth logic making clearance and incentives inevitable, and presided over conventional, old-style, downtown regime as Detroit's mayor...of course, such politics is/was not novel to him as US cities try to outbid one another for share of economic development and mayors get caught between dealing with their cities problems and controlling declining resources need to implement effective policies...

Michael Hoover


In his autobiography, Coleman Young , whose CP comrades were purged from Ford Local 600 and elsewhere by Reuther, denounced Reuther. Six months BEFORE the autobio came out, the UAW top leadership preemptively published letters to the editors of Detroit newspapers attacking Young for it. Reuther had been a cardcarrying Socialist ( and may evenhave joined the CP briefly) in his youth. But today's dominant opportunist ideology in the trade union movement and decades long plunge in union membership is rooted in Reutherism, because of the powerful role the UAW had in the AFL-CIO during McCarthyism. I