The purpose of this special issue of Socialism and Democracy is to show the relevance of a left perspective to the broad field of African American Studies. As will be apparent, we hold strongly differing views as to how such a perspective should be defined and in what terms it should be expressed. This divergence is reflected both in our own articles and in many of the other articles we present.

One approach embodied in some of the essays – to adapt a familiar dictum from Marx – is “ruthless criticism of all that exists [including all non-Marxist orientations in African American Studies] . . . in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at”; an alternative approach embodied in other essays is to seek common cause, rapprochement and areas of convergence in the various counter-hegemonic discourses of African American Studies.

The obvious differences serve to underscore the importance of the usual disclaimer accompanying such collections: that the views of the authors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors, or of each other.

While we acknowledge this divergence and while we recognize that a widely supported consensual position would do more to advance our common goal, we also believe that the array of sharply contrasting arguments that you will find here will prove to be not only stimulating in its own right, but also reflective of the actual state of the debate within the Black Left.

Better a frank accounting of our differences than a contrived unity. Despite all differences, however, we both remain committed, within the field of African American Studies, to the centrality of an anticapitalist critique.

John H. McClendon III and Yusuf Nuruddin

In Memoriam
Manning Marable (1950-2011)
A Marxist Scholar of African American Studies

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