"To Elevate the Level of Struggle" - Charisse Burden-Stelly & Jodi Dean on Organize, Fight, Win: Black Communist Women's Political Writing

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In this conversation Charisse Burden-Stelly returns to the podcast, and is joined by Jodi Dean to talk about their new book Organize, Fight, Win: Black Communist Women’s Political Writing.

Charisse Burden-Stelly is an Associate Professor of African American Studies at Wayne State University. Along with Gerald Horne she co-authored W.E.B. Du Bois: A Life In American History. She is a co-editor of the book Reproducing Domination On the Caribbean and the Postcolonial State. She is also the author of the forthcoming book Black Scare / Red Scare. She is a member of Black Alliance for Peace and was previously the co-host of The Last Dope Intellectual podcast.

Jodi Dean teaches political, feminist, and media theory in Geneva, New York. She has written or edited thirteen books, including The Communist Horizon, Crowds and Party, and Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging. She is also a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

The first collection of its kind, Organize, Fight, Win brings together three decades of Black Communist women’s political writings. In doing so, it highlights the link between Communism and Black liberation. Likewise, it makes clear how Black women fundamentally shaped, and were shaped by, Communist praxis in the twentieth century.

Organize, Fight, Win includes writings from card-carrying Communists like Dorothy Burnham, Williana Burroughs, Grace P. Campbell, Alice Childress, Marvel Cooke, Esther Cooper Jackson, Thelma Dale Perkins, Vicki Garvin, Yvonne Gregory, Claudia Jones, Maude White Katz, and Louise Thompson Patterson, and writings by those who organized alongside the Communist Party, like Ella Baker, Charlotta Bass, Thyra Edwards, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dorothy Hunton.

Dr. CBS and Dr. Dean introduce the text further in the discussion, and read some excerpts from it along the way as well. In conversation we talk about a number of the interventions made by Black Communist Women that are collected in Organize, Fight, Win. We also talk about how many of these women have often been written about, frequently to further intellectual frameworks that are not the Black Communist analysis and modes of organizing that they themselves espoused.

We discuss the interventions these women made in relation to unionization efforts, anti-imperialism, anti-fascism, and the struggle for peace. We also discuss the difference between common manifestations of identitarian politics today and the materialist analysis these Black Communist Women deployed. We also talk about the internal critiques that they leveed against certain positions of the CPUSA, not in attempts to destroy the party, but in dedication to its mission.

Organize, Fight, Win is available for pre-order from Verso Books and it will come out on this coming Tuesday. Black Alliance for Peace has a webinar kicking off the International Month of Action Against AFRICOM on Saturday October 1st. We’ll include links to those as well as to pre-orders for Socialist Reconstruction: A Better Future all of which are named in the episode. We’ll also include links to some previous discussions that relate to topics covered here.

And as always if you like what we do, please support our work on patreon. You can become a patron of the show for as little as $1 a month at patreon.com/millennialsarekillingcapitalism.

Relevant links:

Socialist Reconstruction: A Better Future

Black Alliance for Peace webinar on AFRICOM

Black Alliance for Peace's International Month of Action Against AFRICOM

Our previous conversation with Dr. CBS which provides a lot of useful context on anti-communism and anti-blackness and other terms and frameworks that are relevant to this discussion.

Our previous discussion on Lorraine Hansberry’s time at Freedom

Our conversation with Mary Helen Washington (who was also referenced in the show)

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