August Nimtz is Professor of Political Science and African American and African Studies and Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Marx and Engels: Their Contribution to the Democratic Breakthrough (2000), Marx, Tocqueville, and Race in America: The 'Absolute Democracy' or 'Defiled Republic' (2003), and a number of related articles in edited volumes and journals.
August Nimtz joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 1971, and has been co-coordinator of the Minnesota Cuba Committee since its founding in 1991. He is co-editor, with Gary Prevost, of Race in Cuba (2013), and speaks and writes extensively on Cuba. His most recent book is the 2-volume, Lenin’s Electoral Strategy—The Ballot, the Streets—or Both (2014). He holds a B.A. in International Relations from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University.
In mid 2016 Nimtz campaigned with members of the Socialist Workers Party for two days on the Minnesota Iron Range.
- Given my politics, the SWP’s history in the state, the economic reality of the Range and this unprecedented election cycle, there may be nothing particularly surprising or significant about that. That I’m visibly African-American, however, adds something to the picture.
- As most Minnesotans know, there aren’t many people on the Range who look like me — although there may be a few more than in 1977, when I did something similar. About 1 to 2 percent of residents in the three towns I visited — Eveleth, Mountain Iron and Virginia — are African-American — maybe. Virginia’s total population is about 8,700; the other two towns are about half of that. So, it’s a region that qualifies for the label “small-town white America.”
- I’d read in the Militant, the SWP’s newspaper, that its supporters could get a hearing for its ideas from many of those who attend Donald Trump rallies. That resonated because of my time in 2012 in Newton, Iowa, collecting signatures for the SWP’s presidential campaign, including at the local NASCAR speedway.
- And in summer 2015, I visited friends in Appalachia, a few weeks after the Charleston, S.C., church massacre. When I arrived in the hollow where they live in eastern Kentucky, I noticed a number of Confederate flags on display. At the end of the visit, about a week later, virtually all had been taken down. I knew, therefore, not to draw easy conclusions about “poor whites.”
- The Range, I thought, could offer another cautionary lesson.
- We began in Eveleth. I’ll never forget my visit there in 1977, because that was where the “n-word” was hurled at me — the first of only three times that I’m aware of — from behind closed shades by what sounded like kids half a block away. Other than that (very nonthreatening) incident, I remember being cordially received. Hence, I had no qualms this year. Though I was part of a three-person team, the sole African-American, we each went separately to the households in a neighborhood or apartment complex. The particular neighborhood we selected in Eveleth had clearly seen better times — many abandoned homes not unlike predominantly black north Minneapolis (so much, then, for the contemptuous rant of the punditry about “poor whites not wanting to move”).
- “Hi, my name is August. I’m here on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party,” I began on the steps of a house of a very young mother, a 5-month-old in her arms. Looking up at her as she stood in the doorway, I pointed to a piece of campaign literature that spelled out the name of the party. “We’re here today to see if we can get a hearing for our ideas. The elections reveal so far that working people are fed up with the Democrats and Republicans and are looking for a working-class alternative. We think we present that alternative, and we’d like to have a discussion with you to see what you think.”
- The young woman was attentive and engaged during the entire 10 or 15 minutes we connected, despite her needy baby. At the end, she agreed to sign a petition to put on the ballot in Minnesota the SWP presidential and vice presidential candidates, Alyson Kennedy and Osborne Hart. The campaign literature I pointed to displayed prominent pictures of both candidates. Hart is African-American.
- No, we didn’t “convert” anyone to “communism” or get anyone “to sign up” for the SWP. What we did was to confirm that it is possible for not just reformist “socialists” like Bernie Sanders, but for revolutionary socialists, too, to get a hearing for their ideas even in supposed “Trump Country.” And the fact that one of our team’s members was an African-American speaks volumes about what’s open today for such a perspective.
- One of the memories about my 1977 visit to Eveleth was the prior warning from a staff member in my University of Minnesota department office about going there. A black socialist, she implied, wouldn’t be welcomed in the town; it could even be dangerous. She was certain, because she was from there.
One of the many workshops at the Manifestivity was;
Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church/Cuba
Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church has long been connected to Cuba. January 11th 2015 there was a free concert at the church by Cuban-American jazz pianist Nachito Herrera.
Before the start of the concert itself, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison made brief remarks. He said that President Obama’s December 17th announcement of the historic changes in the relationship of the two countries demonstrated the importance of persistence and hope for all who have been urging such changes for many years, as had most of the people in the audience. He congratulated us for having this persistence and hope. This lesson also was demonstrated, he said, by the current movie, “Selma,” which the Congressman recently had seen with his children. His parting injunction to us all: now we all need to keep the pressure on Congress to end the embargo and support the reconciliation.
Nachito Herrera was introduced by Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, Senior Pastor, who said our church has had a partnership with Nachito. We take things to his family in Cuba on some of our mission trips, and Nachito plays music at our church. Implicitly Tim was saying the church had the better part of that understanding.
To a capacity-crowd in our Great Hall, Nachito played Cuban music with great passion. He also told us that he was surprised and overjoyed by the December 17th news of the historic change in the two countries’ relationship and wanted to celebrate this important change by sharing his music with Westminster, which he regarded as part of his family. He also was very happy with the U.S. release from prison of the remaining three members of the Cuban Five, and in recognition of this event he returned his “Free the Cuban Five” button to two members of the Minnesota Cuba Committee, Prof. August Nimtz, and Frank Curbelo.
Multiple Socialist Worker Party Events
Chris Nisan, August Nimtz, Keith Ellison and their comrade Yusef Mgeni are mentioned in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) publication “The Militant” as speaking at various events sponsored by the SWP.,,
Left Forum 2016
- Star Tribune, A black socialist in Trump Country, By August H. Nimtz JULY 29, 2016
- Westminster Presbyterian ChurchMinneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Connections with Cuba
- Mgeni, Yusef and August Nimtz. “GRENADA: BLACK REVOLUTION IN THE CARIBBEAN,” The Militant, Feb. 20, 1988 LINK: http://www.themilitant.com/1988/5208/MIL5208.pdf, accessed May 11 2018
- Mgeni, Yusef and August Nimtz, et al. “STOP THE RACIST ATTACKS! RACISM IN AMERICA & MINNESOTA. MULTIPLE MURDERS IN BUFFALO & ATLANTA,” The Militant, November 9, 1980 LINK: http://www.themilitant.com/1988/5208/MIL5208.pdf, accessed May 11 2018
- Mgeni, Yusef and August Nimtz. “Malcolm X: the Struggle for Freedom,” The Militant, Sept. 21, 1980 LINK: http://www.themilitant.com/1980/4434/MIL4434.pdf, accessed May 11 2018