Calendar of Events

Fall 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011
Jonathan Flatley (English, Wayne State)
Black Leninism; Or, Newspapers and Revolutionary Attunement from Lenin to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers
3:30 pm Curtin 118

Although neither Leninism nor the traditions of black radicalism are likely to come first to mind when we look for resources for understanding and addressing the critical, political, and economic predicaments of the early 21st century, Jonathan Flatley argues that the black Leninism of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers deserves our close attention at precisely this historical moment. Lenin and the League offer us lessons about the work of political organization and the centrality of affect and mood to that work.

For this talk, Flatley examines the role of the factory newspaper in the creation of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) in 1968, which later expanded and became the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. The organization's paper, also called DRUM, worked to bring into being a revolutionary collective by invoking what Martin Heidegger called a counter-mood, a new mode of attunement. Following the lead of DRUM's organizers, who remarked on the importance of reading Lenin in their decision to emphasize the central role of the newspaper in the organization of a revolutionary party, Flately returns to Lenin's writing to theorize the affective work that the newspaper accomplishes. In What is to be Done?, Lenin suggests that by reporting the mistreatment of other people (what he calls "shameful outrages"), the party newspaper will lead each worker not only to feel that he is oppressed by the same forces as other workers, peasants, and students, but will know, without reflection, how to act in response.

Through a reading of several issues of DRUM (specifically a recurring series called "Will You Be Next?") and an examination of the film Finally Got the News (1970), Flatley argues that DRUM, like the newspapers Lenin discussed, facilitates what Daniel Stern calls an affective attunement, which allows workers to share an affective state and indeed to become aware of themselves as a collective, and in so doing invoke a “counter-mood,” one in which collective political action—especially the strike—seems attractive, possible, and affectively rewarding.

Finally Got the News

Related events:

Film screening
Finally Got the News (1970)
Tuesday, September 27
4:00 pm Curtin 118

Finally Got the News is a forceful, unique documentary that reveals the activities of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers inside and outside the auto factories of Detroit. Through interviews with the members of the movement, footage shot in the auto plants, and footage of leafleting and picketing actions, the film documents their efforts to build an independent black labor organization that, unlike the UAW, will respond to worker's problems, such as the assembly line speed-up and inadequate wages faced by both black and white workers in the industry.

Brown Bag Lunch with Jonathan Flatley
Friday, September 30
12 noon, Curtin 939

Background reading:

Jonathan Flatley, "Like: Collecting and Collectivity," October 132 (Spring 2010): 71-98.

Jonathan Flatley, "Unlike Eve Sedgwick," Criticism 52, no. 2 (Spring 2010): 225-234.


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