The gains of the Civil Rights Movement won’t be expanded through constitutional law, but solidarity and militant struggle.
by Rob Hunter
Early in Seeing Red, a 1983 documentary about the Communist Party USA during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, Sylvia Woods, a retired black autoworker, is asked whether she was worried about becoming a member of an organization that explicitly challenged the country’s ruling institutions. She responds that she joined without fear, “because I was suffering from … discrimination — and the humiliation of discrimination.”
Like others interviewed in the film, Woods saw the radical left as the only political formation committed both to the full political and economic empowerment of individual Americans, and to challenging the institutions and power structures that disempowered them. Woods’s choice was clear: humiliation under a racist power structure, or dignity within the solidarity of a socialist movement.
Organized socialists were among the few political groups, North orSouth, who opposed segregation and Jim Crow in the decades preceding the Civil Rights Movement.