Adolph Reed, Jr.’s “Sectarians” & Black Media Trust

Lately, I have come across a few discussion where individuals and groups who are in extreme situations that demand extreme measures in their politics are confused with those that embrace extreme positions in rhetoric alone. It can be “extremely” easy to embrace a critique of social media as a hotbed for this sort of dynamic. I wish for Black Media Trust to be not a challenging means of analysis, but it should challenge its adherents when discussing challenging conditions.


There should always be a striving for accuracy in our criticism of others. There should be a nuanced approach to judgment. Our containers for defining others based on their actions, words, and ideas should be well clarified. Especially if we are publicly presenting these judgments from an authoritative position. Or even just an influential one.


In seeking to accurately define what is rank divisive campaigning or extreme use of radical rhetoric solely for sport, and those that sincerely employ these practices with practical measurable gains in tow, Political Professor Adolph Reed, Jr, writes:


Granted, in part the difference is only a matter of choosing sides in a debate: Ultraleftists and sectarians are the people who disagree with you. Fro that perspective, the difference is something like that between a religious sect and a cult, or between a durable party organization and a political machine.

“Class Notes: Posing As Politics And Other Thoughts On The American Scene”, Adolph Reed, Jr., pg 193


Continuing, he writes:


Characterizing critics as ultraleftist places them beyond the pale of legitimacy, so you don’t need to respond to anything they say.

pg 193

His concluding point is brought to bear as he states:


This tendency severs the idea of commitment to principle from the need to make realistic assessments of the options that exist in the fluid here-and-now;to analyze tough-mindedly our strengths and weaknesses; to think seriously and instrumentally about how to build a constituency within a social base(to “unite the many to defeat the few,” for those nostalgic for old slogans).

Ultraleftism is a maximalist politics. It’s much more about taking positions that express the intensity of one’s commitments than about organizing or building anything. Rather than crafting language to build broad support for a substantively radical program, for instance, ultraleftists prefer potted rhetoric that asserts their bona fides, without concern for communicating outside the ranks of believers.

pg 194


Lack of connection to palpable constituencies makes it possible to convince oneself of all manner of ridiculous fantasies.

pg 195


…we need a politics that rests on careful, nuanced analysis of the social conditions we live in, grounded on and shaped by a concrete project of advancing the struggle for progressive social transformation.

We need, that is, a politics that proceeds from a subtle form of what used to be called historical materialism.

pg 195


Now, granted, this chapter that I am quoting is in part a not so subtle criticism of anarchist camps and Black nationalists ones, both lanes of thought I support, and that many reading this are proponents of. It is, however, a larger measure of Black Media Trust to utilize critique cultivated from experiences, than to hide behind groupthink like strategies of defense. What Dr. Reed, Jr. is explicating here in criticism is a draughtsperson’s finger. While crude as a yardstick, it is a tried and true device used to measure reality against our own interpretations of it.