In the late 1960s, the United Auto Workers (UAW) “lost touch with its mass base, especially minorities.” Workers in Detroit grew disillusioned with the UAW, rampant racism pervaded factory floors, and capital flight and a tightening economy created a precarious atmosphere, particularly for minorities who just began to make gains within the auto plants. Turmoil in the factories of Detroit occurred at the same time as turmoil in the streets. Police brutality, urban renewal, slum clearance, and disparate poverty conjoined to create a heavily oppressed and exploited Black working class. While capitalism buckled in Detroit, self-deterministic movements arose, reviving earlier notions of Black nationalism that combined revolutionary philosophies with intense internationalism and critique of U.S. foreign policy.2The League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW or the League), a group of Black radicals that began organizing in Detroit factories and publishing newspapers in the late 1960s, was a unique organization that blended revolutionary philosophies, working class politics, and internationalism/anti-colonialism. In “The Overall Program of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers,” the first sentence exclaimed, “we are struggling for the liberation of black people in the confines of the United States as well as to play a major revolutionary role in the liberation of all oppressed people.”Focused on organizing workers at the point of production and arguing for a global Black-Brown-Yellow struggle, the League is an important case study where the Black working class utilized an analytical framework that connected the struggles of the Global South to the struggles in the factories and neighborhoods of Detroit.
This paper will examine the League’s analytical framework and critiques of U.S. foreign policy through its extensive print and audiovisual media it created. Although the League existed for a short time, 1967-1974, the impetus for its creation, its tenure, and legacy was unique amongst Black Power organizations. Rather than organize students and unemployed Black youth like the Black Panther Party (BPP) did, the League organized Black workers at the point of production. This paper will also compare the two organizations critiques of U.S. foreign policy and organizing styles. Although similar in their revolutionary philosophy roots and commentaries on racial capitalism and U.S. imperialism, they differed dramatically when it came to their role in foreign affairs and involvement with Global South anti-colonial movements.