Requiem for a Black Trotskyist
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/11/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21507
News of the death of former United Auto Workers staff member Ernie Dillard came by way of a phone call on Bastille Day 2016. The subsequent silence about his passing in the radical and mainstream press is an accusatory reminder of the extent to which the memory of the Left has been confiscated from those who require it most.
In brief, Ernest C. Dillard (1915-2016) was among a hundred African Americans, mostly auto workers, recruited to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) toward the end of World War II. As Trotskyists, they contested the Stalinist Communist Party (CP) as a disfigurement of the socialist movement - not due to ill will or lack of commitment of CP members but because that party's politics depended on the Soviet caricature of what a liberated society was supposed to be.
Resistance to capitalism and imperialism took priority. Even in the excruciatingly complicated era of the war against fascism, Trotskyists distinguished themselves from Communists by supporting the civil liberties of Japanese Americans, backing strikes against the wishes of labor bureaucrats, refusing to support the exploitation of the West's colonies as cannon fodder for the Europeans, and declining to put domestic anti-racist struggles on the back burner.
This militancy, especially in the auto plants, was the basis for the attraction of Dillard and many more Black proletarians to the SWP in Detroit. Attendance of Black SWP members tended to be higher and more regular at meetings of "fractions" (members working in an industry) than at the party meetings themselves.