September 6, 2010

The Name Of The Road

Damn, I mean I have comrades younger than Freedom Road, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall. A useful short history of the group recently posted at the FRSO/OSCL website decided me to flesh out a few details about the fateful weekend the group was founded at the end of a grueling three year merger process.

With most of details nailed down, a unity statement drafted and ready for debate, and an ad-hoc leadership structure in place, another problem, pushed aside for more pressing issues, suddenly loomed very large as the founding meeting opened. What would the new group be called?

This was of considerable importance to folks who had spent close to a decade in either the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters or the Proletarian Unity League. There was complete unity that both names were clunky and awful.

No suggestion had been advanced which won much support. A carrot and stick solution was advanced by some joker:

1. Whoever put forward the name finally chosen wouldn't have to pay dues for the first year.

2. If no name won a majority, the new group would be dubbed the Unified Proletarian Headquarters and everybody would have to wear BIG buttons bearing that name.

That did the trick. A heartfelt sigh of relief filled the room as we voted to become the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

There were several reasons for this. First, it said that we weren't a party, though we came out of a movement where declaring one's outfit the Vanguard Party of the American Working Class was almost obligatory (Two, Three, Many Parties Of A New Type, as the PUL had jibed.). And when asked why not, we could talk about the idea that a real revolutionary party in the US could only be built by uniting a broad range of forces, based on common work in the struggle.

Second, exactly because it wasn't the standard issue organization name recombining terms from 1920s Comintern documents, it declared that we were trying to bring something new, something different, into being.

Finally, by dipping into history to borrow another name for what we know today as the Underground Railroad, it put the struggle of the Black Nation, and by implication all oppressed nationalities, at the center of our politics.

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