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“From Third Worldism to the Rainbow Coalition: The League of Revolutionary Struggle and the US Left in Transition, 1978-1990,” Cindy Gao
Drawing from original archival research and oral history interviews, this paper traces the activities of the United States organization, the League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist). The LRS was formed out of the merger of several American Third Worldist organizations who had turned from cultural nationalism to Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. Of these, the most prominent were the Asian American group I Wor Kuen, the Chicano group the August 29th Movement, and the Black Nationalist group the Revolutionary Communist League, formerly known as the Congress of Afrikan Peoples and led by Amiri Baraka. The LRS emphasized mass work rooted in oppressed minority communities, organizing cultural events, labor campaigns, and student protests. Though the LRS began as a New Communist Movement organization committed to the Chinese line, engaging in polemics against Soviet imperialism, the organization ultimately became a major player in the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns of 1984 and 1988. I frame the movement of LRS from Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy to social democratic electoral politics in the context of the rise of neoliberalism and attacks on high liberal institutions, as well as the People’s Republic of China’s repudiation of the Cultural Revolution and experimentation with market reforms. I also examine the relationship of the LRS’ defense of the China line alongside its defense of the “national question” for Black, Chicano, and Asian populations. Finally, I consider the rapid dissolution of the LRS in 1989-1990 as a consequence of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the end of the defensibility of the PRC.
Image courtesy Unity Newspaper/Unity Archives Project.