FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition

Photo by joey zanotti | CC BY 2.0


Young Patriots*

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the social movements crossed over into revolutionary territory. The victories and the failures of the civil rights movement, the intensification of the Vietnam War and anti-war movement, the assassination of MLK, the emergence of a new feminism, the revolt of soldiers and veterans, the stunning militance of the Stonewall rebellion and gay liberation, and the emergence of a mass environmental movement meant that people were moving toward solutions outside of the existing order.

In the white hot heat of the time — as the movement simultaneously approached the revolutionary threshold and the deeply entrenched power of the established order — working-class whites joined with the Black Panthers and Young Lords in the original “Rainbow Coalition.”

Inspired by Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Bob Lee, a group of “dislocated hillbillies” with organizing experience in JOIN’s police brutality committee founded the Young Patriots.

Modeling themselves on the Black Panthers, the Young Patriots envisioned two parallel tracks: Serve the people with local programs designed to meet the need of the community and repurpose white nationalist sentiment to revolutionary goals.

While the ideology and iconography of the Young Patriots may seem jarring by today’s cultural standards, remember the immense influence of third world nationalism on virtually all sectors of the American left of the period. The Young Patriots saw Appalachia as a kind of white homeland, an internal colony of the U.S. They adopted the rebel flag in an attempt to transform its meaning.

Imagine young white working class revolutionaries sporting rebel flags and making common cause with the Black Panthers and Young Lords. That is exactly what happened, and that was totally badass. A meeting between Young Patriots and Black Panthers was captured in the documentary American Revolution 2.

Today a reborn Young Patriots Organization and Redneck Revolt, a rural white anti-racist organization, are growing rapidly and showing us what patriots and rednecks are really made of.

The story of the Young Patriots so challenges liberal norms of identity politics that it virtually disappeared from historical accounts of the period until Hillbilly Nationalists retold the tale. The Young Patriots attempted something remarkable: the radical transformation of white nationalism and its symbols into the carriers of revolutionary consciousness.

“The south will rise again,” they claimed, “only this time in solidarity with our oppressed brothers and sisters.”[1]  “From historical experience, we know that the people make the meaning of a flag…This time we mean to see that the spirit of rebellion finds and smashes the real enemy rather than our brothers and sister in oppression.”[2]

Like JOIN before them, they saw racism as opposed to the interest of the white working class. William “Preacherman” Fesperman put it this way:

“Let racism become a disease. I’m talking to the white brothers and sisters because I know what it’s done. I know what it’s done to me. I know what it does to people everyday….It’s got to stop, and we’re doing it.”[3]

Despite their high ideals and multi-racial coalition work, the first Young Patriots were a short lived experiment. With their teachers and allies, the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, they were the target of local and national police surveillance and repression by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. In 1969, Fred Hampton, Chicago’s best know leader of the Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition was assassinated in a pre-dawn raid. The repression worked, and precious organizing energy was consumed on defense and survival.

But if we see the Young Patriots and the original Rainbow Coalition as a failed but inspired attempt to make history — at the high water mark of the last revolution — there remains much to be learned. The struggle of the Young Patriots offers us an essential lesson: revolution requires the transformation, not rejection, of existing cultural traditions. The Young Patriots tried to transform southern white culture.

The Rainbow Coalition also transformed the integrationist strategy of the civil rights movement. “Organizing you own” did not rule out, but instead enhanced, multi-racial work. The original Rainbow Coalition demanded each partner have the confidence and political independence that was only possible when each could first stand alone and strong in their own communities. Under the conditions of self-determination, a true meeting of equals became a practice not just a theory or hope.

Coalition work between distinct racial organizations was another, perhaps more practical, path to the utopian vision of the “beloved community” King envisioned for America’s future.[4]  Maybe integrated organizations underestimated the depth of racism —conscious and unconscious — and wished away racism with the shortcuts of good intentions, superficial outreach, and moral yearnings. The Rainbow Coalition based its unity on sturdier stuff: each group needed independent power as a precondition for a movement that could begin to practice political equality and mutual respect.

Rising Up Angry

Hillbilly Nationalists also tells the story of three other organizing efforts. As the Young Patriots declined a new community organization in Chicago, Rising up Angry, returned to a style more like JOIN but still informed by the radicalism of the Young Patriots.

Rising Up Angry celebrated working class culture and placed culture and consciousness at the forefront. Influenced by the writings of James Forman, Amilcar Cabral, and others and compelled by the practical needs of day-to-day organizing, Angry knew culture mattered and sought to amplify the revolutionary tendencies within existing working class culture.[5]

Angry viewed gang members and street wise “greasers” as potential allies. Angry also saw soldiers and veterans as source of resistance and knew it made sense to honor the warrior while opposing the war. Angry help provide legal counseling for AWOL soldiers and attracted veterans to their organization. In 1972, Angry joined in a national day of coordinated actions “Armed Farces Day” and drew 3,000 to the Chicago demonstration.

Angry ran a health clinic, organized tenants unions, and supported abortion rights, all of which brought women and women’s issues into clearer focus as a mainstay of Angry’s work. As the womens movement grew, Angry’s women took leadership roles and led consciousness raising groups with working class women and men.

In the pages of their newspaper and in a short film, Trick Bag, Rising Up Angry took an anti-racist message to their community. Like all the working class projects in Hillbilly Nationalists, Angry went beyond moral politics to argue that racism against people of color weakened working class power and was against the self- interest and psychological well-being of white workers. And Angry did not turn away from physical confrontations with hard-core racists.

Angry combined radical, anti-racist, feminist, and working class identities and interests in a single organization without getting bogged down in endless debate about the “agent of history” or the “primary contradiction.” And they avoided, or at least blunted, the kind of debilitating internal division and splits that chase people away.[6]

Rising Up Angry practiced an early form of what we now call “intersectionality.” But instead of simply seeing how people are divided into distinct sections, they learned that the lines of power that divided people were also paths of resistance along which determined activists could push back. Class was the central organizing principle for Angry’s work, but even the communists who contributed so much to Angry learned that class consciousness would flourish best if not grasped too tightly.

Class rarely stands naked. Instead it is clothed in culture and perceived with the complex and contradictory states of mind that are the hallmarks of human consciousness.

*In addition to the account presented in Hillbilly Nationalist a well argued and well documented article by Patrick King offers a short history of the Young Patriots.

Notes.

1     All citations are from Amy Sonnie and James Tracy, Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times,  p. 74

2    p. 75

3   p.  75

4   p.  90

5   p.  128

 

More articles by:

Richard Moser writes at befreedom.co where this article first appeared.

January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
Nick Pemberton
There Are More Important Things Than The Truth
Brian Cloughley
How Trump’s Insults and Lies are Harming America
David Rosen
Sexual Predators in the Era of Trump
Tamara Pearson
Everything the Western Mainstream Media Outlets Get Wrong When Covering Poor Countries
Richard E. Rubenstein
Trump vs. the Anti-Trumps: It’s the System That Needs Changing Not Just the Personnel
Christopher Ketcham
A Walk in the Woods, Away from the Screens
Basav Sen
Democrats Failed Their First Big Test on Climate
Lauren Smith
Nicaragua – The Irony of the NICA Act Being Signed into Law by Trump
Joseph Natoli
Will Trumpism Outlive Trump?
Olivia Alperstein
The EPA Rule Change That Could Kill Thousands
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
The New Congress Needs to Create a Green Planet at Peace
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Cuba: Trump Turns the Vise
Ramzy Baroud
When Bolsonaro and Netanyahu Are ‘Brothers’: Why Brazil Should Shun the Israeli Model
Mitchell Zimmerman
Government by Extortion
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail