The Russian revolution and black radicalism in the United States

Spring 2018

After the first world war a new black radicalism emerged in the US, partly in response to the racism encountered by people emigrating to northern cities. These radicals rejected the passive and assimilationist politics of older organisations and made explicit links between class, race and capitalism. Race was central to their understandings of capitalism: it was a transnational term that linked slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow and capitalism. This was the context for black radical responses to the Russian revolution. Caribbean migrants were also centrally involved in the black socialist movement, and the pan-African internationalism of Garvey had some influence. For these radicals the racism of white workers was a serious impediment to class struggle, and black workers had an essential educational role to play in overcoming the limitations of their white colleagues.

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