Report from Chicago: Politics Transformed: Harold Washington Goes to City Hall (Harold M. Baron, 1985)

Synopsis by Donald Planey

Politics Transformed is the empirical counterpart to Baron’s Racism Transformed. Drawn from his own experience in the Washington mayoralty as well as early journalism about the Harold Washington campaign, Baron uses the Chicago context to explore how the Washington movement and mayoralty asserted Black political power while grappling with the profound rightward-turn in U.S. politics. Baron characteristically lays out the political history of Black Chicago, from the New Deal through Black Power era, leading up to Washington’s campaign. He compliments the Chicago context with a history of national-scale Black politics, and its struggles against the rise of Reaganism.

The next part of the essay details the process by which Harold Washington stitched together a constituency and progressive political apparatus, as well as the means by which different factions of opposition-the old white machine guard, business interests, and bureaucrats-reacted to the campaign and mayoralty. Baron concludes with an analysis of the institutional bottlenecks encountered by the Washington mayoralty, and how they represent teachable lessons for grassroots organizing under “advanced” capitalism and racial stratification.