U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Harold Cruse’s Ruthless Criticism: *The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual* Roundtable

Editor's Note

By Andrew Hartman, S-USIH Blogger and author of A War for the Soul of America.

In 1961, Harold Cruse submitted a long article to the hot new Madison-based lefty journal, Studies on the Left. The article, “Cuba, Marxism, Nationalism, and the American Negro,” which argued in part that black Americans could learn more from Cuban revolutionaries by studying their nationalism—as opposed to their Marxism—was eventually published by Studies. But the journal’s editors only decided to publish the piece after some serious intellectual soul searching.

Serious intellectual soul searching for the Studies editors often took the form of verbal high jinx, especially when the indomitable Ellie Hakim was involved. In an unsigned scathing review of Cruse’s manuscript (which I suspect was written by Hakim), his prose was described as replete with “the circular verbiage (rhymes with garbage) of nationalism.” In short, these young white New Leftists, whose vision of the good life was grounded in Marx or Emerson—sometimes both—had difficulty seeing the value of a social philosophy based on the ideas of Malcolm X.

But, since Studies was sincere in its effort to forge a capacious “new” left, it was open to articles that challenged old left pieties. So, it published Cruse, nationalism and all.

On the flip side, Cruse was not your typical black nationalist. As a former member of the Communist Party, he arrived at black nationalism circuitously. This helps explain the atypical character of Cruse’s remarkable literary achievement, his 1967 mammoth book, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, which this roundtable is commemorating on its 50th birthday.

To describe Crisis as atypical hardly begins to do it justice. We might call the book an intellectual history of black radicalism from the 1920s to the 1960s, but this too hardly begins to do it justice. Crisis is an eclectic set of essays about an array of topics, ranging from the Harlem Renaissance to Richard Wright to the Communist Party to violence. But the book cannot be reduced to a set of snapshots, either.

Perhaps it is best to say that Crisis is “a ruthless criticism of all that exists.” Cruse pulled no punches in offering withering critique after withering critique—of black intellectuals, black artists, civil rights liberals, integrationists, communists, socialists, and even his fellow black nationalists. Cruse thought black radical intellectual life was a complete mess. The only way to begin cleaning it up was through clearheaded if harsh criticism.

Fashioning identity politics as realism, Cruse’s central point can best be summed up in the following passage from Crisis: “The individual Negro has, proportionately, very few rights indeed because his ethnic group (whether or not he actually identifies with it) has very little political, economic or social power (beyond moral grounds) to wield.”

But what did black intellectuals have to do with this problem? Why was it their crisis? Cruse contended black intellectuals from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement had failed to give black Americans solutions to their problems because they had not developed an independent black radical culture.

Blacks would never achieve freedom in the United States—in white America—if they did not first build their own institutions. By declaring the need for institution-building, Cruse did not limit his scope to political and economic institutions. He also argued that black freedom required independent black cultural institutions. This is where intellectuals came in. “The special function of the Negro intellectual,” Cruse wrote, “is a cultural one.” Blacks had to believe they could be free, but such a belief could only take root if blacks had their own cultural institutions—theaters, newspapers, schools, etc. By working in racially integrated cultural settings and institutions—or worse, by working for white cultural patrons—black intellectuals had been unable to attain the cultural independence that was a necessary precondition of black freedom.

Based on the description of Cruse’s argument that I have given thus far, readers might wonder what makes Crisis different from any of the other Black Power texts that emerged from the late 1960s. How is Crisis any different from Stokely Carmichael’s and Charles Hamilton’s Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, also published in 1967? Sounding like Cruse, Carmichael and Hamilton wrote: “Group solidarity is necessary before a group can effectively form a bargaining position of strength in a pluralistic society.”

Cruse’s book was different for at least three reasons. First, Crisis is not celebratory black nationalism; it does not trade in myth. Cruse criticized everyone, including Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, and many more hallowed figures.

Second, in addition to being a history of black intellectuals, Crisis is also a deeply learned history of the American left, or of what Cruse would have considered the white left. How many other black nationalist writers were well grounded in V.F. Calverton of all people? How many other writers, period?

The third reason that Crisis stands out among the black nationalist literature—related to the second—is that Cruse outlines a plan not only for black intellectuals but also for American Marxism. Cruse argued that the Marxism pitched by the American Communist Party, including the party’s black members, was based on ideas that were alien to the American masses. Marx and Lenin had no purchase on American political life. One of the reasons Cruse admired Calverton, editor of the independent Marxist journal Modern Quarterly, which was in print from 1923 to 1933, was because Calverton had long been highly critical of the notion that European Marxism, filtered through Russia, could help build a left in the United States.

Cruse was not necessarily opposed to the idea of an American Marxism, but in building on insights gleaned from Calverton he contended that if effective socialist theory was going to sprout on native grounds, it had to be planted by black intellectuals. As Du Bois said in a passage approvingly quoted by Cruse: “We who are dark can see America in a way that white Americans can not.” To truly understand American capitalism—its strengths and weaknesses—it helped to be among the most exploited caste. But tragically, black intellectuals had also failed in this mission. “It evidently never occurred to Negro revolutionaries,” Cruse wrote, “that there was no one in America who possessed the remotest potential for Americanizing Marxism but themselves.”

This critique of the left would have been considered heresy in the 1930s—indeed Calverton was written out of the Communist left—but by 1967 some were ready to hear it. Christopher Lasch wrote an extremely favorable review of the book, praising its nationalism. (At the time, Lasch was still a member in good standing of the left, since that review predated his shift to anticapitalist traditionalism). Lasch wrote: “American history seems to show that a group cannot achieve ‘integration’—that is, equality—without first developing institutions which express and create a sense of its own distinctiveness.”  In supporting this claim, Lasch offered the example of the Irish and the Kennedys. Camelot was the result of a whole bunch of Irish immigrants who leveraged ethnic solidarity to achieve power in WASP America. Lasch even liked Cruse’s critique of blacks for working alongside white leftists. “Cruse accuses integrationists of being taken in by the dominant mythology of American individualism and of failing to see the importance of collective action along ethnic lines, or—even worse—of mistakenly conceiving collective action in class terms which are irrelevant to the Negro’s situation in America.”

Cruse believed that ethnic or racial solidarity was a more effective way to achieve political power than class solidarity—because he believed ethnicity and race were more authentic, perhaps even more natural if I dare use that now forbidden word. This led him to the controversial argument that the American Communist Party was mostly a vehicle for Jewish power. Black intellectuals and activists who worked within the Communist Party were thus unwittingly working for Jewish power, which was ultimately a barrier to black power. Cruse wrote: “the great brainwashing of Negro radical intellectuals was not achieved by capitalism, or the capitalistic bourgeoisie, but by Jewish intellectuals in the American Communist Party.”

Cruse’s blunt analysis of black-Jewish relations led to charges of anti-Semitism. Historian Mark Naison claims that, beyond the anti-Semitic fringes of black nationalism, specialists don’t take that aspect of Cruse’s book very seriously anymore. It sounds too conspiratorial. To me, though, such analysis is merely the logical outgrowth of zero-sum identity politics, which is grounded in racial or ethnic nationalism. Any honest Zionist would make a similar claim in reverse. So, in concluding this essay, I’m not going to focus on the boring question of whether Cruse was an anti-Semite, but rather on a more interesting question: Did Cruse’s ethno-determinism distort his analysis of class solidarity in general and the Communist Party in particular?

Short answer, yes. Now to the long answer.

I’m not about to flip Cruse’s script and argue that race and ethnicity are constructions but that class is something more elemental. Class is indeed a constructed identity that is based on social relations—much like race—and thus must be contextualized. E.P. Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class shows this dynamic to be true. Yet, saying something is constructed does not entail it has no power—quite the opposite!

Those who joined the Communist Party had many reasons for doing so, but the most common reason was class solidarity. As Vivian Gornick shows in her magisterial book, The Romance of American Communism, people who joined the party often did so either because they identified as working class and thought that it served their class interests, or because they wanted to demonstrate solidarity with working class folks. Cruse’s experience in the Communist Party might have led him to a different conclusion—an experience filtered through his identity as a black man—but that does not make his conclusion historically accurate.

One telling sign that Cruse’s idea that the Communist Party was a vehicle for Jewish nationalism was wrong: he thought Karl Marx was the originator of this impulse. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. Marx was ethnically Jewish, so to speak—his father was Jewish before converting to Protestantism to secure his standing as a lawyer in a Prussian society that barred Jews from many professions—but he was an atheist through and through and thought religious belief was a barrier to organizing the working class.

Beyond being wrong about the history of race and the American left, I would also argue that Cruse was wrong about the politics of race in relation to the left. Class solidarity is a better political vehicle than racial or ethnic solidarity.

Race complicates the matter of class greatly—race and class should never be conceptualized in isolation from one another. I’ve learned my lessons from the growing historiography of racial capitalism. I’ve read my Du Bois, C.L.R. James, and Cedric Robinson. And yet. Class solidarity, constructed or not, has done more to threaten the ruling class than racial or ethnic solidarity. This is for good reason—the ruling class is just that, a class.

I recognize such a contention is far from settled. Especially since Ta-Nehisi Coates’s bleak essays about how white supremacy is trans-historically fused with American society—from Fitzhugh to Trump—are widely celebrated as works of genius.

To be fair to Cruse, most liberals in the late 1960s either ignored or rejected his arguments, mostly because Crisis dumped a bucket of cold water on celebratory accounts of the civil rights movement. Coates, on the other hand, seems to have tapped into the psyche of American liberalism unlike any writer in decades. Cruse’s vision of American race relations was pessimistic but he offered a way out in the form of racial nationalism. In contrast, Coates offers us crippling despair (and reparations, it should be noted). Weird as it sounds, Coates is tonic for liberal Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in Obama only to have them crushed by Trump. Cruse was never anyone’s tonic.

14 Thoughts on this Post

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  1. Andrew Hartman offers a fairer reading of Cruse than yesterday’s round table guest. However, once again Hartman fails to acknowledge why nationalism or ethnic solidarity was important to Ho Chi Minh as it was to Cruse. White Leftist ideas and class constructs were rooted in an unacknowledge Eurocentricism. Let me suggest that Dr. Hartman read Booker T. Washington snide criticism of whiteness and its class consciousness in his ghost written book “The Man Farthest Down.” Somehow Hartman omits that the white left tried to stifle and pacify Black voices as much as white liberals. The white left was as gob smacked by what DuBois called “the wages of whiteness” as were the white working classes. There was power in white solidarity. Black leftist in trying conform intellectually to that power conceded their own well established communal power. The fact was class in the United States was equally a racial construct as it was in its British and European versions. Cruse saw this and criticize the white lefts infatuation with European Marxist theorist. The left was as Eurocentric in his eyes as was traditional white capitalist. The other fact that Hartman seems to forget by reading Cruse as a New Yorker instead of a Black Southerner is the solidarity of Black life stemming from his Black Virginian heritage. In other words, Cruse came from a proud tradition of southern Black life where people built their own shiggidy or institutions without aid of paternalistic white folks. There was strength in the collective institutional life of Black folk that was not dependent on white paternalism. Black Southerners had built churches, burial societies, fraternal organizations, and schools. However much “Jim and Jane Crow” tried to denigrate them they were proud. Fortunately for many of us, he challenged Black leftist for their tired dependency on white condescensions on Black life and culture. He saw in his own people a collective power. He wanted his people to claim their power. In his world the white leftist should be the followers and not the leaders. Although I like aspect of Hartman’s piece he fails, just as the white left has, by not understanding depth of nationalism rooted in Black Southern life beginning with enslaved communities to post-Emancipation life. Cruse’ rightfully saw that there was power in indigenous Black life of the United States, it needed to tapped into and built upon. This is why so many people who were not the Black educated elite discussed the book, and this why the book’s meaning continues to evade politicians and intellectuals of a certain breed. In other words he said bullshit to a certain kind of white leftist cosmopolitanism. Let me be clear, Cruse was bent on giving it to the white left and Black leftist who forgot their was power in maroons, slave quarters, the docks, and the mourners bench that had nothing to do with “leftist” intervention. I know it is hard for academic intellectual historians to hear that Cruse was critical of their high brow formulations, but facts are facts. The fact was it that army of Black Southerners who had stayed truer to building a collective future than their white counterparts, whose whiteness allowed them to be American individuals.

    • Thanks for the challenging comment and engagement with my essay, Randal, I appreciate it. You make some excellent points. I’m particularly intrigued in thinking about Cruse’s nationalism–or pluralism–as being a product of his southernness. Perhaps I missed it–Crisis is a massive tome, after all–but I did not pick up on this theme in the book. Having been a student of Cruse’s, you know much more about how his biography relates to his ideas than I do, but a close reading of Crisis suggests to me he was far more attentive to Harlem than the South in terms of thinking about black intellectual and political formulations. Although he did think that black culture and intellectual life that grew out of Harlem was problematic due to white patronage, so maybe you are right to point to his southernness as the basis of his critique of black intellectuals. In any case, more to ponder on that.

      As for your criticism of me as (to paraphrase) just another white leftist who forgets the reasons black nationalism was and is appealing to so many black Americans. Well, guilty as charged, I suppose! Though to be fair I have not actually forgotten, and I think I give a pretty empathetic reading of Cruse. Black nationalism makes perfect sense to me in its context, especially in 1967. And yet… Your Ho Chi Minh example is suggestive. Nationalism (combined with communism, let’s not forget) made perfect sense in the various anti-colonial movements around the world from Vietnam to Cuba etc. But I don’t think this analogy works for the United States, where only 12 percent of the population is black. Pluralism suggests a better way forward, to be sure, and it definitely seems this was Cruse’s intention. Certainly Lasch thought as much by using the Irish analogy, but Lasch was wrong in using the Irish as a model for black power. The Irish became mainstream Americans for a host of reasons particular to their history, and I would say Irish solidarity is only one factor and not the most important–although it certainly is a factor in terms of the Irish being an important constituency in the Democratic Party. More important, perhaps, is that they “became white” in the nineteenth century as Noel Ignatiev shows. Or even more important (since Lasch invokes the Kennedys as proof of his thesis) the Irish were really good anticommunists–see Joe McCarthy.

      My point is not to deny that the white left has been invested in the wages of whiteness. This is certainly true. But rather to think about black power in class terms (as Du Bois did in Black Reconstruction and as CLR James did in Black Jacobins). Black Americans in this way would be in the vanguard of a movement that would benefit them and many more. A movement that benefits many more is likely, I would think, to be more beneficial to black Americans. I should note that the onus is not necessarily on blacks in the formulation. I think we should all start thinking about working-class power in non-nationalist (white, black, or American) terms.

  2. At one point Andrew says in this post that Cruse thought the U.S. Communist Party was “mostly a vehicle for Jewish power.” Later the post says Cruse thought the U.S. C.P. was “a vehicle for Jewish nationalism.” What Cruse meant by either of these assertions is not entirely clear, at least not to me (and I have only the post to go on). In the interests of (relative) brevity in commenting, I will focus on this passage in the post:

    “Cruse’s blunt analysis of black-Jewish relations led to charges of anti-Semitism. Historian Mark Naison claims that, beyond the anti-Semitic fringes of black nationalism, specialists don’t take that aspect of Cruse’s book very seriously anymore. It sounds too conspiratorial. To me, though, such analysis is merely the logical outgrowth of zero-sum identity politics, which is grounded in racial or ethnic nationalism. Any honest Zionist would make a similar claim in reverse.”

    I’m not sure I understand the last sentence in this passage, but I’ll bracket that here. I question whether the assertion that the U.S. CP was a vehicle of “Jewish power” is/was simply or necessarily the result of “zero-sum identity politics.” But even if one accepts this statement, there are historically specific resonances here that perhaps should not go unmentioned. Linking the Communist Party to “Jewish power,” whatever Cruse’s intended meaning was, likely couldn’t have failed to have some disturbing echoes for any readers of his book who might have recalled the myth of the “Judeo-Bolshevik” conspiracy, a myth dear to the Nazis and one that was originally developed, according to Timothy Snyder, by some opponents of the Russian Revolution, for whom “the notion of global Jewish power seemed to explain the double catastrophe of revolution and military defeat. It transformed the victory of a universal over a national idea into the plot of an identifiable group of people who could be punished.” (Snyder, Black Earth, p.24)

    I have no interest in, to quote the post, “the boring question of whether Cruse was an anti-Semite.” It would in any case be highly presumptuous of me to venture an opinion on that question, having never read, as far as I can recall, so much as a word that Cruse wrote. That said, simply on the basis of what is contained in this post (as I read it), it’s not too difficult to see why Cruse’s analysis of black-Jewish relations and the CP would have provoked charges of anti-Semitism, or at least would have had, as already mentioned, disturbing resonances for some readers.

    • Minor correction to the Snyder quote; should read “a plot of an identifiable group…,” not “the plot”.

    • Thanks for this, Louis. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you entirely that it seems entirely obvious why many considered Cruse’s analysis of Jewish power within the American Communist Party anti-Semitic. There are some sentences that make for really uncomfortable reading. And it’s not that I’m just giving Cruse the benefit of the doubt, but rather that I think his reading of Jewish power in the CPUSA is entirely consistent with his larger theory about nationalism and pluralism whether or not he was anti-Semitic. So I was using this particular wedge as a way to show that his theory was wrong. And it was never more wrong than when he writes about the use of communism to attain Jewish power originated with Marx. Which is another longstanding anti-Semitic trope–and yet also consistent with Cruse/s thesis which denies both the idealistic and practical upside to communism or class-based political organization.

      • Thanks for the reply, Andrew.

        Since you mentioned your point about Marx, I do have a comment on that passage in your post:

        “One telling sign that Cruse’s idea that the Communist Party was a vehicle for Jewish nationalism was wrong: he thought Karl Marx was the originator of this impulse. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. Marx was ethnically Jewish, so to speak—his father was Jewish before converting to Protestantism to secure his standing as a lawyer in a Prussian society that barred Jews from many professions—but he was an atheist through and through and thought religious belief was a barrier to organizing the working class.”

        I’d suggest that it’s not so much Marx’s atheism or general hostility to religion that’s the key here, but rather Marx’s general attitude toward nationalism and nationalist movements (including Zionism, if one construes that for these purposes as an expression of Jewish nationalism). Probably the majority of Zionists, including a lot of Zionists who were contemporaries of Marx, were not at all religious (there was a strand of religious Zionism, but it was a distinct, separate tendency or sub-movement within the broader Zionist movement, and most Orthodox Jews were opposed to Zionism).

        So Marx’s atheism really can’t be what primarily explains his opposition to ‘Jewish nationalism’, since a great many Jewish nationalists (Zionists) were themselves atheists (or pretty close to it). The mainstream of political Zionism was not at all a religious movement, and I wouldn’t be surprised for example (though I’d have to check this) if Theodor Herzl, one of its key figures, never set foot in a synagogue in his adult life.

        In short, you’re right of course about Marx’s attitude toward Jewish nationalism, but I think Marx’s atheism was, at most, a minor source of that attitude. Much more important was his belief in working-class solidarity across national lines — the name of the organization, after all, was the International Workingmen’s Association — and his concomitant hostility toward nationalism as a force that divided the working class, whether it was French nationalism, British nationalism, German nationalism, Swedish nationalism, Belgian nationalism, or Jewish nationalism.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post and I really have to revisit V.F. Calverton, whom I learned a bit about writing about Harlem.

    Hartman’s post nicely places Cruse’s work within the context of his earlier writings. This I think is important to get at Cruse’s trajectory. And this is what’s missing from Geary’s post–historical context. This is why I think the commentary here about Ellie Hakim is so important, yet likely in error. Why might she call his prose “circular verbiage”? I think it has something to do with Randal’s comments about neglecting to read Cruse as a black southerner, although I have some slights modifications.

    Yes Cruse was a southerner, but he also encountered similar institutions and efforts to forge black autonomy in Harlem. The point here is, Cruse didn’t learn about nationalism from Malcolm X and that the roots of his nationalism derived from black institutional life in the South and Harlem. Davarian Baldwin, following St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton, and I following Baldwin–called it the black metropolis, which was primarily about black autonomy.

    This point, I think, also gets at Hartman’s ambiguous claim, “Race complicates the matter of class greatly—race and class should never be conceptualized in isolation from one another. I’ve learned my lessons from the growing historiography of racial capitalism. I’ve read my Du Bois, C.L.R. James, and Cedric Robinson. And yet. Class solidarity, constructed or not, has done more to threaten the ruling class than racial or ethnic solidarity. This is for good reason—the ruling class is just that, a class.”

    First, why does Hartman here need to revisit the hackneyed race vs. class. Inherent in that way of thinking is that race is for black people and class is for white people. As Hartman’s discussion of Cruse demonstrates, though, these issues of race, class, and ethnicity are never that easy to disentangle. Consider the question of “nationalism” in Robin D. G. Kelley’s Hammer and Hoe, about black Alabama communists in the CP’s who’s marxism was a blend of Marx and cultural nationalism. Cruse, in other words, wasn’t so caught in Malcolm X and others, but authentic nationalism rooted in African American culture. This is perhaps what Ellie Hakim missed then and now Hartman.

    • Thanks for these smart comments, Shannon. You (and Randal) have given me much to consider. I particularly like you invoking Hammer and Hoe, which is still so important to these discussions. That, and your idea of the Black Metropolis helps me think about Cruse differently.

      Still not sure how we get beyond the problem of saying race when we mean class, or class when we mean race. Which is why I concluded my essay with Coates who seems as mired in this dilemma as I am.

  4. I would like to echo Louis’s comment and ask, is the Jewish question truly a “boring” question in the case of Cruse? One can address this matter in a critical, responsible way that sheds light on the signifier of Jewishness and its different historical values, in relationship to the left in particular, without falling into facile denouncements of the author’s anti-Semitism.

    I also think that nationalism merits more serious attention as a political ideology of liberation for people of color, as part of a struggle that extended itself transnationally. The specter of Fanon cannot be forgotten in this regard, as well as other Black intellectuals that espoused similar ideas such as Nkrumah–a Pan-Africanist nationalist. And of course there’s the case of Vietnam and Cuba. This is not to say I necessarily side with nationalist positions, but from a historical perspective I think one can offer a more nuanced and fair account, instead of presenting the good old Marxist truism of “class solidarity” as the ideal, proven way to “threaten the ruling class.” Of course, it is very difficult not to disagree with this statement as a political principle, but the phrasing here sidesteps the significance of Cruse’s project and the valence of nationalism as an imaginary and as a strategy, in the context of the contradictions of a white-led left and worker’s movement in terms of racial power within its own ranks, the racism that they still reproduced even as they struggled against it. A way to go around these issues might be to unpack the notion of race more, reflect on the articulations (not the same as construction, of course) of Blackness and whiteness in the era of Cruse.

    • Fair enough Kahlil. I addressed some of this in my replies to Randal and Louis above. The nationalist impulse was strong for people of color across the globe for good reason when Cruse wrote this book. That I did not address this leaves out important context and was an oversight. In chapter one of my book (War for the Soul), incidentally, I link “identity politics” (which in the 1960s is more accurately referred to as Black Power or ethnic nationalism) to the ideas of Fanon and Che Guevara.

      Even in 2017, race and class persist as a gordian knot. Or perhaps that’s just my problem.

      • Thanks for taking your time to develop your points further here regarding the proverbial “gordian knot,” as you call it, quite justly. I find myself generally in agreement with the Marxist framework you present here and elsewhere, but I feel we need to grapple deeply with the diverse formations of that knot, be they intersectional, dialectical or rhizomatic, and how they affect our own positions and ideas, beyond the conception of class as a totality. I am not saying that we are post-class or that we should follow a post-Marxian approach based on a politics of hegemony or assemblages, but there’s definitely more space for ruminating (and quesitoning) the articulations of class solidarity in connection to other social formations in this era, as well as the era of The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. In solidarity. 🙂

  5. Andrew et al
    I chose to use hot language “verbiage” to stir debate. I agree with Shannon Black institutional life set the stage for Cruse. Although, I might argue with quibble and say that the “Black Metropolis” whether in Chicago or Harlem was an extension of Black Southerner life (Black Virginians, North Carolinians, and South Carolinians occupied Harlem and Black Mississippians and Tennessean, Chicago). Like Shannon I will need to read Calverton more. However, I want to hold fast to the point that Cruse was unhappy with the political strategy of aligning with white liberals and leftist who he thought unreliable allies. Finally, I wholeheartedly agree with Daryl Scott, Cruse can be read through an intellectual history today, he was not writing an intellectual history. He drew on the past to cultural and political discussion to foster debate. He was writing a guide to shape real on the ground political efforts. He should be read in conjunction with Bayard Rustin’s essay “From Politics to Protest.”

  6. Wow, what a very truncated argument. It doesn’t even address Cruse’s central insight regarding how group solidarity and power could be achieved though the arts, and he was particularly insightful about how music–in his era it was jazz. A case in point, is hip-hop; it has made billions for the recording industry and for handful of blacks, but how music fits into the political economy of African American economics isn’t even touched by the article.

    Today’s so-called critical thinkers have spent a lot of time mining hip-hop via cultural criticism, yet very few people examine the dynamics of how is that blacks have developed several pathbreaking genres of music and remain employees of their own culture?

    People ought spend more time looking at what Cruse was actually arguing about economics and the arts more so that his take of black nationalism.

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