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1963 March on Washington: The Mix of Struggle and Cooptation

Kasama Project

by Nat Winn

 

 

Warning: This is not the history or politics you have been taught.

It is Malcolm X’s immortal discussion, called A Message from the Grassroots.

Today, our oppressors’ media is doing unrestrained and shameless crowing about the 1963 March on Washington — using it to repackage the peoples struggle as a Democratic Party sidecar, and using their coverage to cover over how much the U.S. remains a brutal prison house for African American people and other people of color.

In that light, it is worth remembering that this 1963 March itself had an element of cooptation — that it involved an attempt by that old fox JFK to corral and subordinate the civil rights movement (including by promoting those leaders who were considered “responsible” from the perspective of this system and its dominant politics).

We too face a choice of whether to be “at distance from the state of affairs” or whether to be “politically under the wing of the bourgeoisie” (penned into the cooptation and endless degradation of bourgeois politics) . – (intro by Mike Ely)

Big, Glitzy Marches Are Not Movements

In 1963 and today, the real work happens elsewhere.

Boston Review

August 28, 2013
Robin D. G. Kelley

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vpickering/

 

Anyone paying attention to the events leading up to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington should know by now that this historic gathering rallied under the banner of “jobs and freedom.” It has become common knowledge that economic justice was at the heart of the march’s agenda, and the main forces behind the event had roots in socialist movements—Bayard Rustin and veteran black labor leader A. Philip Randolph, who threatened a similar march two decades earlier after a black woman activist proposed the idea at a Civil Rights conference in 1940.  Thanks to the penetrating scholarship of William P. Jones’s March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights, Gary Younge’s The Speech: The Story Behind Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, Dream, and Michael Honey’s eye-opening collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, forgotten speeches on labor, All Labor Has Dignity, among many other books and films, we have finally begun to crack a half century of myth portraying the march as a moment of Civil Rights triumph culminating in Dr. King’s optimistic and iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  While King’s speech remains the focus of every commemoration, A. Philip Randolph’s opening remarks are now getting some attention.  Echoing Karl Marx’s oft-quoted line in Capital, that “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded,” he presciently warned,

This civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights for our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not. . . . [W]e have no future in a society in which six million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty.  Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them. Yes, we want a Fair Employment Practice Act, but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers black and white?

Organizers of March on Washington Commemoration Defend a Criminal Administration

MarchonWashington

Dorothy Meekins holds up the national flag with the picture of President Barack Obama as she attends the rally, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. Organizers have planned for about 100,000 people to participate in the event, which is the precursor to the actual anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963, march. It will be led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and King’s son Martin Luther King III. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

World Socialist Website

26 August 2013

 By Sandy English

On Saturday, tens of thousands of workers and young people marched to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.

The presence of working people expressed the powerful hold on popular consciousness of the ideals of democracy and equality that animated the mass movement for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s and are associated with the event that culminated in King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.

However, the politics that dominated Saturday’s march, promoted by the organizers and the collection of Democratic politicians, official “civil rights” leaders and union bureaucrats who spoke from the podium, were the antithesis of those ideals. The organizers sought to exploit the anniversary by staging an event backed by the White House whose aim was to channel growing political and social opposition behind a government that is carrying out an unprecedented assault on democratic rights and a further growth of social inequality.

The event took place under the shadow of a new campaign of lies by the Obama administration to justify the launching of a war against Syria—something that no speaker so much as mentioned, doing a further disservice to the memory of King, who opposed the US war in Vietnam.

It’s a White Man’s World – Your Exclusive Daily Dose of Reality. Raw. Unedited. Uncomfortable.

Wrong Kind of Green Collective

August 26, 2013

by Forrest Palmer

ella-baker1

Thought of the evening:

In commemorating the love fest for the “angelic” MLK Jr. and the March on Washington, I am going to focus on one of the greatest ladies who in my estimation was BETTER than King and much more IMPORTANT in her message and place in history: Ella Baker…There was no better grass roots organizer who worked mainly behind the scenes in the 20th century than this lady……due to her somewhat open aggression towards the Southern Christian Leadership Council, she was disallowed from speaking at the March on Washington, which was a slap in the face since her history in HUMAN rights movements had preceded King by almost 20 years…SHE deserved to speak BEFORE him since her sacrifices and work PRECEDED and SURPASSED HIS…in fact, there were NO WOMEN who were scheduled to speak on that day and it took a protest to finally get three on the dais…As much as we look at King in such reverential terms today, he was human and had flaws like we all do and I think that this god like presence that overshadows EVERYTHING in the black community is DETRIMENTAL since it relegates what is right or wrong to what ONE MAN would have thought on whatever subject even if he had no KNOWLEDGE on the topic…In all honesty, I don’t think that Baker would have been pleased with this statue being placed at the National Mall for King…judging by her past, she would have wanted it to be a monument to ALL the women and men who gave just as much and some even MORE to the movement…

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