Monday, November 7, 2016

Adolph Reed responds to his Jacobin critics

As you should expect, Reed responds with academic prose that lets him be precise, but can be difficult for casual readers. If, like me, you're among the latter group and curious about what identitarianism is doing to the left, be prepared to read with more attention than you'd give most blog posts.

I'll quote a bit that I would refer to if I wrote a history of the growth of left-identitarianism. People who confuse left-identitarians with socialists should note this: left-identitarianism was a rejection of socialism by members of the black bourgeoisie.

From Splendors and Miseries of the Antiracist “Left” |
...another, more richly grounded and textured perspective makes clear that their characterization of an initially conservative movement that became radical “through the course of struggle itself” is exactly the opposite of the movement’s trajectory. Preston Smith II’s important account of the constitutive tension between programs of racial democracy – an ideal of strict equality of opportunity within capitalism – and social democracy shows how the former tendency, under pressure of Cold War anti-leftism, the predominant class commitments among black civic elites, and positive reinforcement from the courts, liberal opinion-leaders, and the national Democratic coalition, became the dominant trend in the 1950s. The social-democratic tendency persisted; e.g., through the agency of A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and their Negro American Labor Council, that tendency was the originating and primary organizing force of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which became Martin Luther King, Jr.’s event only in posthumous reinvention.3 But the victory of the racial-democratic orientation in the mid-1960s – illustrated symbolically in the emergence of Black Power ideology and defeat of the social-democratic initiatives spearheaded by Randolph and Rustin — underwrote consolidation of a new black political class of public officials, functionaries, and race relations administrators as the central force in black political agenda-formation.4 And, contrary to Birch and Heideman’s odd contention that racial redistribution is actually intrinsically anti-capitalist, the record of the black political regime consolidated in the late 1960s and early 1970s is most markedly class-skewed and amounts to at best a sort-of racial trickle down.