Fight to end Jim Crow changed US forever

January 31, 2022

President Joseph Biden’s claim that the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are key to stop a new rise of Jim Crow segregation is a fraud. These bills are purely aimed at changing voting procedures to favor the Democrats.

Jim Crow was inflicted after the bloody defeat of Radical Reconstruction governments coming out of the Second American Revolution that overturned slavery. Its imposition was the worst setback in the entire history of the U.S. working class. The rural poor and working class were forcibly divided along color lines by bloody Klan violence. Class solidarity was crippled and racist oppression enshrined. It was enforced by state power, by both Democrats and Republicans, and by murderous violence from white-supremacist thugs.

Institutionalized segregation was only uprooted by the mass action of working people. “The mass, proletarian-led movement for Black rights,” Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes writes in Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, was “made possible by the political and physical discipline and courage of millions (including within the imperialist armed forces) and by the determination of a conscious vanguard to organize to defend their communities against night-riding terror, by any means necessary.”

This included the movement in response to the lynching of Emmett Till, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Rides, Woolworth lunch-counter sit-ins, the 1963 Battle of Birmingham, 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march, the organization of self-defense efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and more. These battles won support and awakened struggles for equal rights across the country. African Americans who led these struggles saw them as a part of movements for national liberation sweeping Africa, Asia and elsewhere. In the words of Malcolm X, millions were awakening to their own self-worth.

The movement that tore down Jim Crow changed social relations in the U.S. forever, increasing prospects for forging solidarity among working people and in union struggles. It helped strengthen working-class consciousness.

No one is seriously moving to resurrect Jim Crow in the U.S. today. That would require the rulers to inflict a historic and bloody defeat on the working class. Racism, which is essential to capitalist rule and the comfortable lives of their middle-class backers, does and will continue to be fostered by those who exploit us. Their profits and power depend on promoting divisions among working people. Biden, like Democratic and Republican politicians of all stripes, defends the rule of the capitalist class.

Fighting to overturn capitalist state power is the only way to open the road to the final battles to end oppression and exploitation once and for all. To do that, workers and farmers need to break with the Democrats and Republicans and build our own party, a labor party, to lead millions in revolutionary struggle to establish our own government.

The example set and defended for decades by working people in Cuba, who overturned the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and made a socialist revolution, shows the road forward. And that revolution, like the mass proletarian movement that brought down Jim Crow here, are powerful examples of the capacities of working people to transform ourselves as we fight to change our conditions.