Greetings to Our Militant Vietnamese Brothers

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Introduction

The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Action Move­ment (RAM) was one of the most dynam­ic black rad­i­cal groups to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s. Found­ed in Cleve­land, Ohio in the spring of 1962 by stu­dents at Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty and Cen­tral State Col­lege at Wilber­force, RAM includ­ed the young rad­i­cals Max Stan­ford, Don­ald Free­man, and Wan­da Mar­shall at its core and main­tained a close asso­ci­a­tion with near­ly all the major rad­i­cal fig­ures of black nation­al­ism. James Bog­gs, for exam­ple, served as the group’s Ide­o­log­i­cal Chair­man, Robert F. Williams as Inter­na­tion­al Chair­man, and Mal­colm X as Inter­na­tion­al Spokesman. In fact, RAM emerged ear­ly on as a kind of orga­ni­za­tion­al node for the con­stel­la­tion of new black rad­i­cal groups appear­ing in the 1960s – mem­bers of SNCC and the future Black Pan­ther Par­ty, for exam­ple, were direct­ly influ­enced through encoun­ters with Stan­ford and fel­low RAM cadre Ernie Allen, respec­tive­ly. The group not only kept rad­i­cals tight­ly con­nect­ed, but it also played a cru­cial role in the cir­cu­la­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ary black nation­al­ist the­o­ry through its jour­nals Black Amer­i­ca and RAM Speaks, and thanks to the appear­ance of excerpts from Stanford’s “Towards A Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Action Man­i­festo” in the May 1964 issue of Month­ly Review.

Accord­ing to its prin­ci­pal the­o­rist, RAM’s cen­tral tenet was “that the Black lib­er­a­tion move­ment in the Unit­ed States was part of the van­guard of the world social­ist rev­o­lu­tion.” Through­out its exis­tence, RAM looked to strug­gles abroad for strate­gic insight, con­tin­u­al­ly refin­ing this deep con­nec­tion between inter­na­tion­al rev­o­lu­tion­ary cur­rents and the nation­al strug­gle of black peo­ple at home against what RAM labeled inter­nal colo­nial­ism. Indeed, this iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as a col­o­nized peo­ple allowed African Amer­i­cans to advance a very unique vision of sol­i­dar­i­ty with strug­gles abroad. RAM could oppose the war in Viet­nam, for exam­ple, not only on the grounds that African Amer­i­cans were dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly draft­ed, that they faced racial dis­crim­i­na­tion at the front, or even that the mon­ey wast­ed in Viet­nam could be bet­ter spent assist­ing poor black com­mu­ni­ties. For black rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, the basis of their sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Viet­namese lay in the fact that they expe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar form of colo­nial oppres­sion. As colo­nial sub­jects with­in the bor­ders of the Unit­ed States, African Amer­i­cans did not owe any alle­giance to the oppress­ing gov­ern­ment – grant­i­ng an effec­tive basis for RAM’s advo­ca­cy of armed self-defense and detailed con­sid­er­a­tions on urban gueril­la war.

RAM’s 1965 open let­ter to “Our Mil­i­tant Viet­namese Broth­ers,” pre­sent­ed below, implies that African Amer­i­cans and Viet­namese not only lived in relat­ed colo­nial sit­u­a­tions, but fought against same com­mon ene­my, Amer­i­can impe­ri­al­ism. What’s more, they strug­gled for the same goal: nation­al lib­er­a­tion. In Novem­ber 1965, Robert F. Williams even trav­eled to Hanoi to speak at the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence for Sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Peo­ple of Viet­nam as RAM’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, solid­i­fy­ing this alliance. There, Williams com­pared the esca­lat­ing and aggres­sive actions of the Unit­ed States in Viet­nam to the 1963 16th Street Bap­tist Church bomb­ing in Birm­ing­ham, Alaba­ma, a mobi­liz­ing cat­a­lyst for some of the most intense cam­paigns of the Civ­il Rights move­ment in the South. In turn, the head of the NLF in South Viet­nam, Tranh Van Tran, gave a speech in sup­port of strug­gles against racism in the Unit­ed States and South Africa, echo­ing Mao Zedong’s address on the same top­ic two years ear­li­er. These real inter­na­tion­al link­ages updat­ed a promi­nent thread in black anti­colo­nial thought and activism: Paul Robe­son, W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Vic­ki Garvin, and Clau­dia Jones all made the bridg­ing of these nation­al and inter­na­tion­al dimen­sions a focal point of their polit­i­cal work.

The deci­sion to declare their sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Unit­ed States’ mil­i­tary ene­my on July 4 is sig­nif­i­cant, then, because it allowed RAM to point to the utter hypocrisy of America’s myths about being the land of the free and inde­pen­dent. At the very same time that the Unit­ed States cel­e­brat­ed its inde­pen­dence from a colo­nial pow­er, it waged a war to crush the inde­pen­dence strug­gle of anoth­er peo­ple – inde­pen­dence, it seems, was not for every­one. Of course, like forms of inter­na­tion­al sol­i­dar­i­ty, this strate­gic and crit­i­cal ref­er­ence to the sign­ing of the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence has a much longer his­to­ry. On July 5, 1852, Fred­er­ick Dou­glass famous­ly asked, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” The Dec­la­ra­tion, he argued, did not apply to all Amer­i­cans:

I am not includ­ed with­in the pale of this glo­ri­ous anniver­sary! Your high inde­pen­dence only reveals the immea­sur­able dis­tance between us. The bless­ings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in com­mon. — The rich inher­i­tance of jus­tice, lib­er­ty, pros­per­i­ty and inde­pen­dence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sun­light that brought life and heal­ing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.

Lat­er, after 1945, when the Unit­ed States began to fash­ion itself as a kind of glob­al lib­er­a­tor, oth­er oppressed peo­ples would strate­gi­cal­ly redi­rect America’s ideals for their own ends. In fact, the very first line of the 1945 Viet­namese Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence explic­it­ly quotes the Amer­i­can ver­sion. If every­one is alleged­ly born free, and nation­al lib­er­a­tion is a right, the Dec­la­ra­tion argues, then why does this not apply to the col­o­nized peo­ples of the world? For RAM, this kind of think­ing and enun­cia­tive pow­er applied to Black Amer­i­cans as well, and the two strug­gles for full self-deter­mi­na­tion, the ones at home and those abroad, were treat­ed as insep­a­ra­ble.

– Patrick King and Salar Mohan­desi

 


 

Greetings to Our Militant Vietnamese Brothers

July 4, 1964

On this Fourth of July 1964 when White Amer­i­ca cel­e­brates its Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence from for­eign dom­i­na­tion one hun­dred and eighty-eight years ago, we of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Action Move­ment (RAM) con­grat­u­late the Viet­namese Front of Nation­al Lib­er­a­tion for their inspir­ing vic­to­ries against U.S. impe­ri­al­ism in South Viet­nam and there­by declare Our Inde­pen­dence from the poli­cies of the U.S. gov­ern­ment abroad and at home.

RAM does this because, as the Black Lib­er­a­tion Front of the U.S.A., our phi­los­o­phy is one of world rev­o­lu­tion of oppressed peo­ple ris­ing up against their for­mer slave­mas­ters. Our move­ment is a move­ment of black peo­ple who are coor­di­nat­ing their efforts to cre­ate a new world free from exploita­tion and oppres­sion of man by man.

We of RAM know that in South Viet­nam today, U.S. impe­ri­al­ism is try­ing to fill the vac­u­um left by the Indochi­nese rout of French impe­ri­al­ism ten years ago, as else­where in the world it is try­ing to fill the vac­u­um left by Britain, Hol­land, and the oth­er Euro­pean impe­ri­al­ist pow­ers. We are well aware of the unde­clared war that the forces of U.S. impe­ri­al­ism are fight­ing today, against the peo­ple of South­east Asia, in the name of the “Free World,” and also of the intrigues by which U.S. impe­ri­al­ism seeks to divide your coun­try; in order to crip­ple its econ­o­my and make it com­plete­ly depen­dent upon U.S. aid. We know that U.S. cap­i­tal­ism is the citadel of world cap­i­tal­ism. That is why we of RAM do not seek assim­i­la­tion or inte­gra­tion into this “Free World.” We do not want to share in the oppres­sion of our broth­ers any­where on earth; we will not join in the White Amer­i­can counter-rev­o­lu­tion that is attempt­ing – at home and abroad – to crush the mount­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary strug­gles.

We hope that our sol­i­dar­i­ty will encour­age our broth­ers in South Viet­nam and the world over to inten­si­fy their rev­o­lu­tion­ary efforts so that in the near future, all of us will be able to meet and lay the basis for a new world soci­ety in which all forms of colo­nial­ism and exploita­tion – polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, social, and cul­tur­al – will have been buried and all those who have been oppressed will have the pow­er to decide their own des­tiny. Then and only then will men be able to live as human beings and not as slaves and slave­mas­ters.

This arti­cle first appeared in Black Amer­i­ca, Fall 1964, page 21.

Author of the article

was an influential black revolutionary organization founded in 1962.