You Should Know More About A. Philip Randolph, One of America’s Greatest Socialists

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tags: civil rights, African American history, socialism, labor history

The name A. Philip Randolph usually conjures up the image of an elder statesman of the Civil Rights Movement establishment. Even for some on the Left, he’s considered a moderate figure in black politics. Historians often reference his name in contrast to supposedly more revolutionary figures like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael.

This mistaken perception partly stems from the increasingly ahistorical way black politics is discussed today. In fact, Randolph was one of the most consistently radical figures in black politics and one of the greatest socialists of the twentieth century. His work made an impact on almost every major development in black politics from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Randolph commanded such overwhelming respect from black activists of all stripes that even Malcolm X had to say, “All civil rights leaders are confused, but Randolph is less confused than the rest.” His theoretical and organizational contributions are more relevant to the challenges democratic socialists face today than those of other civil rights leaders discussed more often.

He held firm to a deep conviction that separating racial and economic justice was not only impossible, but damaging to the goal of improving society. Through relentless determination and organizational brilliance, Randolph used the labor movement as the anchor for a broader struggle to include all workers in a democratic-socialist agenda. As the Civil Rights Movement began to achieve its most immediate legislative aims, he foresaw that the deep problems black working people faced could not be solved without a complete transformation of society.

As the Left attempts to chart a course in the wake of the Sanders campaign, there’s no better time to learn from America’s most underrated socialist.

Read entire article at Jacobin

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