Bruce Dixon was anti-empire, anti-capitalist, and a champion of working-class Black America and the people at large.
“His organizing expertise is needed now more than ever in a period when leftist organizations are either non-existent, wed to the Democratic Party, or barely functioning.”
The year was 2013 and I was preparing to graduate from college. Like many in my age cohort, I was desperately seeking work that paid a living wage. My plan was to move back to my hometown of Cambridge, MA, support my father in retirement, and then move out. However, in the two years before my scramble for work, I had gone through a profound transformation of political consciousness. A combination of involvement in anti-racist activity, labor organizing, and Occupy Wall Street led me to wonder what exactly was missing from the fractured left. And Black Agenda Report was the only source that told the entire truth about the Obama era without pause or hesitation.
During my scramble for a wage, I came up for an interview with my local police department for a social work liaison position. It was the era of Snowden and Manning and I held an opportunistic idea that I could work from within the police department and uncover what I was sure would be many dark secrets about policing in America. Yet after reading the likes of Huey P. Newton, seeing how the police came down on Occupy Wall Street, and remembering my own racist encounters with the cops as a young person raised unsettling feelings about whether working to take down the police-state from the inside was strategically correct or necessary. I needed help, to say the least.
“Bruce’s radio commentary and articles were clearly and explicitly written to move the masses in an independent, working-class direction.”
I first turned to who I thought was a fellow comrade and self-described Pan-African professor. His response was to promptly end communication with me and tell every one of our joint contacts that I was an extension of COINTELPRO. With communication rapidly severed with a key mentor, I reached out to Bruce Dixon knowing that he possessed a wealth of organizing experience. His radio commentary and articles in Black Agenda Reportwere clearly and explicitly written to move the masses in an independent, working-class direction. Bruce was eagerly interested in advising me in the matter. His answer was simple yet profound. He stated that he knew family and friends who took careers in the military and police state and that none of them came out of the experience unchanged. That was all I needed to hear to relinquish my idealistic hopes of struggling against the surveillance state from within.
Throughout my years of contributing to Black Agenda Report, Bruce and I had a number of disagreements. He didn’t agree with my analysis that neo-liberalism was the final stage of imperialism (or the last stage) and he didn’t agree with my conclusion that U.S. elections, in the form of voting, should be boycotted for good. He also thought it was incorrect to focus any energy on getting Tulsi Gabbard to the 2020 Democratic Party primary debate stage. His willingness to engage in debate around these and other sites of struggle was one of my favorite traits of Bruce as a political strategist and a man. Whether I doubled down or corrected my position, I always listened to what he had to say and used them to strategize my next moves in the struggle for peace and socialism.
“His willingness to engage in debate was one of my favorite traits of Bruce as a political strategist and a man.”
Bruce Dixon’s life was dedicated to the people. I am forever grateful that I was touched by his service. His experience in the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, the labor movement, and the electoral arena gave him the discipline that was necessary to survive U.S. imperialism’s long war against the working class and oppressed—a war that only intensified as Bruce aged. Bruce spent countless hours working to make the Green Party an organized political party that was truly representative of working people and poor people. Yet he never wavered in his commitment as Managing Editor of Black Agenda Report, even as his physical condition worsened.
Discipline is a term rarely used by leftists in the United States. In an age where spontaneity and Democratic Party politics remain the dominant force on the U.S. left, Bruce made it his mission to educate and discipline the movement into making a serious commitment to political organization. His organizing 101 series for Black Agenda Report outlined basic yet invaluable lessons toward developing a working-class based organization independent of the Democratic Party. For Bruce, it was not enough to attend mass demonstrations or meetings. These political acts were fleeting expressions of energy unless an organized leadership nurtured this energy and provided a vehicle from which those new to the movement could join, participate, and develop socially transformative political alternatives.
“Bruce made it his mission to educate and discipline the movement into making a serious commitment to political organization.”
Bruce wasn’t only an organizer. He was a socialist who took difficult positions even when they were unpopular. His position that Sanders was, and still is, a “sheep-dog” for the Democrats gained him little fanfare from the growing large contingent of people supportive of Bernie Sanders. Bruce faced opposition from within his own party, the Green Party, for proposing bold plans to take the third-party from a movement to an organization through the institution of a dues-paying structure. Such opposition never silenced Bruce, nor did it stop him from ensuring that theory and analysis were always major facets of his contribution to the people.
The lessons that Bruce Dixon taught us remain critical to the future of the human condition. His organizing expertise is needed now more than ever in a period when leftist organizations are either non-existent, wed to the Democratic Party, or barely functioning. His willingness to ask difficult questions about emerging movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Sanders phenomenon come at a time where much of the left is managed by a so-called “resistance” to Donald Trump that appears more interested in respectability politics and careerism than it is in social change for the people. Bruce’s analysis of theory and organization are worthy of study and emulation. Luckily, his example will live on far beyond his physical body as conditions in the U.S. deteriorate and the people become hungry for a socially just resolution that can only come about through a real confrontation with, and transition of, power from the exploiting classes to the exploited.
“Bruce faced opposition from within the Green Party for proposing institution of a dues-paying structure.”
I wrote the book American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror in large part because of what I learned from Bruce Dixon. I began writing for Black Agenda Report in large part because of the contributions of Bruce Dixon. Bruce was masterful at deconstructing lies and providing the facts to back up his claims. He was anti-empire, anti-capitalist, and a champion of working-class Black America and the people at large. My life would have been a lot different were it not for his work and the humanity he brought to it. I am sure many more can say the same. Our job now is to celebrate his life by taking up what he died for: the peoples’ struggle for social justice, peace, and liberation in our lifetime.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News -- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected], on Instagram at danny_haiphong, and on Twitter at @SpiritofHo.
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