Detroit’s League of Revolutionary Black Workers

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers’ is an incredible, exciting and crucial struggle in the history of the revolutionary socialist struggle in the United States.  I first learned about the struggle of the LRBW as an anti-activist at Wayne State, the university which many of the League members attended and out of which their paper, “The South End,” came.  A professor had suggested I look into them and I immediately rushed to purchase a copy of Detroit: I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin.  As I excitedly read the book (mostly during downtime at a hummus stand located in a local Whole Foods) I was overwhelmed both by the level and urgency of the Leagues struggle, but also how the history of the struggle was right under my nose!

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers was essentially an revolutionary umbrella organization of working-class Blacks who were forming rank-and-file revolutionary union movements at local Detroit auto plants.  These included DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement), ELRUM (Eldon Avenue Revolutionary Union Movement), FRUM (Ford Revolutionary Union Movement) and others.  These movements sought primarily to elevate the struggle of the black working-class in the auto plants, including fighting the UAW leadership which had become conciliatory to the auto industry management.

Here is a phenomenal short film in which LRBW members tell their own story called “Finally Got the News.”  The film ends with a kind of “call-to-arms” style explanation of the League’s mission:

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers recognizes that its struggle is not an isolated one.  We have common cause with other black workers in this racist land and the exploited and oppressed across the entire world.  Our ultimate intention is to organize black workers as a whole, as a class in the United States and proceeding from that basic mass organization to extend that revolutionary black organization throughout the community.  It is incumbent upon us to foster, join with, initiate, organize and lead other black workers in our common struggle.  Being in the forefront of this revolutionary struggle we must act swiftly to organize DRUM-type organizations wherever they are, whether they’re in a kitchen, the White House, White Tower restaurants, at Ford Rouge, the Mississippi Delta, the plains of Wyoming, the rubber plantations of Indochina, the oil fields of Biafra, or the Chrysler Plants in South Africa.

And anarcho-syndicalist/libertarian socialist website libcom has an excellent collection of historical accounts and studies of the League.  I especially recommend A. Muhammad Ahmad’s short overview of the history of the League.

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