REVOLUTIONARY ACTION MOVEMENT
A collective of undergraduate students at Central State College (now University), Wilberforce, Ohio, founded the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) in the spring of 1962. The first community branch of RAM was established in December 1962 in Philadelphia, The local Philadelphia organization became public in 1963, RAM engaged in voter registration/education drives and had free African American history classes. It publicized itself as a revolutionary nationalist-internationalist organization based around the tactics of using confrontational self-defense direct action to achieve its ends. It believed in collective leadership, had a governing central committee, published a bi-monthly journal titled, “Black America,”and a free weekly two page newsletter titled, “Ram Speaks.”RAM sought to reach parity in jobs through its participation in mass demonstrations in education and in the political arena. It did not believe the questions of integration or separation were relevant, because RAM felt that, in order to achieve any objective, socialism would first have to be established in the United States. African Americans would have to institutethe right of self-determination and to decide for themselves what they, as a people, wanted todo.The mentors of the RAM cadres in the 1962-63 period were Donald Freeman of Cleveland, Ohio, Chairman of the African American Institute; Ethel “Azelle” Johnson of Monroe, North Carolina, a co-worker of Robert F. Williams who was a central committee member of RAM; and Queen Mother Audley Moore, who was an advisor.After a year (1963) of local and regional mobilization for jobs and resisting police brutality, RAM organizers went into the South, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in Greenwood, Mississippi. From 1964-1965 RAM worked closely with Minister Malcolm X, who joined RAM and served as its secret international spokesman in conjunction with Robert F. Williams, it’s International Chairman.
RAM developed a twelve-point-program in July 1964, when it became a national organization It read Development of:
1.A National Black Student Organization Movement.
2.Ideology (Freedom) Schools.
4.A Liberation Army.
5.Propaganda, Training Centers and a National Organization.
6.An Underground Vanguard.
7.Black Workers “Liberation Unions.”
8.Block Organization (Cells).
9.A Nation within a Nation Concept, Government in Exile.
10.A War Fund (Political Economy).
11.Black Farmer Co-operatives.
12.An Army of the Black Unemployed.
Haki Kweli Shakur 4-23-52ADM 2017 ATC NAPLA NAIM ( The Struggle Iz For Land , Organize The South PT II , A Nation Within A Nation
In 1965, RAM worked with the Afro-American Student Movement (ASM) and began to develop the motion for the establishment of Black Studies at some college (university) campuses. In 1966, it entered into an alliance with the SNCC and helped organize Black Panther Parties in several cities throughout the country. RAM was active in the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and raised the slogan, “America’s the Blackman’s Battleground.”In 1967 its manifesto titled:World Black Revolutionwas published, which was widely circulated. In the spring of 1967, J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, called Max Stanford, RAM’s national field chairman, “the most dangerous man in America.” This was the signal for a national and worldwide manhunt to take off the streets and incarcerate suspected RAM members. In 1968, facing repression from the intelligence agencies of the U.S. government, coordinating with local police departments, the national central committee dissolved RAM as an organization. The League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the African People’s Party, the Republic of New Africa and the Black Panther Party superseded it.Dr. Muhammad Ahmad(Max Stanford)2008
The Afroamerican revolutionary, being inside the citadel of world imperialism and being the Vanguard against the most highly developed capitalist complex has problems no other revolutionary has had. His position is so strategic that victory means the downfall of the arch enemy of the oppressed (U.S. imperialism) and the beginning of the birth of a new world. –“The African American War of National-Liberation,” RAM’s Black America
RAM was the first group in the United States to synthesize the thought of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Malcolm X into a comprehensive theory of revolutionary black nationalism. They combined socialism, black nationalism, and Third World internationalism into a coherent and applicable theory that called for revolution “inside the citadel of world imperialism,” meaning the United States.
The revolutionary nationalists of RAM believed that colonized peoples around the world must rise up and destroy the “universal slavemaster.” They also believed that all people have a right to self-determination, including the “internal black colony” of the United States. In their opinion, African Americans had to gain control of land and political power through national liberation and establish revolutionary socialism in sovereign, liberated lands. They emphasized creating a black nation on land in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina that, in their eyes, rightfully belonged to black people. This push for a sovereign black nation was in some ways a reiteration of an old black leftist line from the 1930s.
In fact, many RAM activists derived their ideology from an older generation of revolutionary black leftists: Harry Haywood, Queen Mother Audley Moore, Harold Cruse, and Abner Berry as well as James and Grace Lee Boggs. Many of these older revolutionaries played a role of ideological and political mentorship to RAM activists.
The revolutionary spirit of black Americans in the 1960s was by no means the sole example of rebellion in the world at that time. The decade brought forth revolutions and mass uprisings in countries all over the world, and though the people were protesting in different regions, most of these movements sought to achieve a similar goal: the universal elimination of racism and capitalism.Members of RAM understood that black nationalism, the formation of an independent nation of blacks in the U.S., was a concept inseparable from black internationalism, which had the goal of ending white supremacy through a conjoined effort of all oppressed groups to overthrow pan-European racism and the exploitative global capitalist system. In other words, the movement had a global vision, bigger than just the race relations of the United States. They saw the main battle as being between Western imperialism and the oppressed Third World within U.S. borders and around the world.The context of black liberation was the entire world revolution, rather than cultural nationalism, which RAM considered reactionary and bourgeois. RAM members saw themselves as colonial subjects fighting a “colonial war at home.”
The theory of black internationalism was first publicized in W.E.B. DuBois’ Dark Princess, where he argues that the black nation in America is just one faction of what he refers to as the “Land of the Blacks,” a conglomeration of all racially subjugated groups around the world. RAM spokesman Malcolm X later described the black revolution in the United States as part of a “worldwide struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor.” Several other political figures openly supported black internationalism, calling for people to join the revolution and be fully in conjunction “with the people in the great struggle for Africa and of suffering humanity”.
Some RAM activists saw themselves as an all-black cadre of Mao’s Red Army, and related their black freedom struggle to Mao’s strategy of encircling capitalist countries to challenge imperialism. In solidarity and fighting alongside anti-colonial struggles in China, Zanzibar, Cuba, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Algeria, RAM activists saw themselves as playing a global role.
Among what some saw as the hedonism of the 1960s, Mao’s revolutionary code of ethics, alongside the religious self-restraint preached by the Nation of Islam, was a powerful force. Some RAM materials about their revolutionary code of ethics take quotations nearly verbatim from The Little Red Book. When Robert F. Williams, chairman of RAM, came back from his exile in China, he also emphasized that all young black revolutionaries must “undergo personal and moral transformation. There is a need for a stringent revolutionary code of moral ethics. Revolutionaries are instruments of righteousness.”
RAM called for a “cultural revolution” of sorts: one that would purge the slave mentality from black people in the United States. They were for the creation of a new, revolutionary culture through the reclamation of African aesthetics, creation of art only in the service of the revolution, and active attempt to root out habits, traditions, customs, and philosophies taught to black people by white oppressors.
A New Afrikan Liberation Army / Black Guard / Street Gangs
Due to the fact that RAM was made up of mostly college-educated intellectuals (though many dropped out to organize full-time), they thought a lot about who they were trying to mobilize, eventually settling upon the black petit bourgeoisie youth and black working-class youth. RAM thought that the black petit bourgeoisie particularly embodied the contradictions of racial capitalism, and if properly brought into the movement, this group could form a “revolutionary intelligentsia capable of leading black America to true liberation.” They also used public street meetings to try and attract as many black working-class youth as possible to their organization, particularly gang members. RAM thought gang members had the most revolutionary potential of the population, because they could be trained to fight not against each other but against white power structures. They believed they could create a fighting force of former gang members on the model of the Congolese Youth guerrilla army and the Mau Mau guerrillas.
The Black Guard was a national armed youth self-defense group run by RAM that argued for protecting the interests of Black America by fighting directly against its enemies. The Black Guard, in Max Stanford’s words, “[was] to stop our youth from fighting amongst themselves, teach them a knowledge of [black] history…and prepare them…to protect our community from racist attacks.
Recently, Max Stanford has claimed that Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) was intended to be the popular front organization to RAM’s underground black liberation army. It is unclear as of yet if this claim is rooted in fact.
Despite numerous chapters all over the country, by 1964, RAM’s home base in Philadelphia was the main branch available to the public eye. The Philadelphia chapter was responsible for the publication of RAM’s bimonthly newspaper, Black America, and the single paged newsletter RAM Speaks. During their time in the city, RAM actively supported Leon Sullivan’s 1962 selective patronage campaign. This was the beginning of the “don’t buy where you can’t work” method of direct boycott action that serves as an example of the effectiveness of the black masses to black liberation.