First Published: Progressive Labor Vol. 4, No. 3, March 1965
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Editor’s Note: The convention to found a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party in the United States, called some months ago by the Progressive Labor Movement, will be held in New York City from April 15 to April 18, 1965. The following is a contribution to the pre-convention discussion. The purpose of the discussion is to arrive at a concensus for policy for the new party.
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The footsteps of black nationalism lead straight out of black slavery of the seventeenth and eighteenth century; the slave revolts; the sweat and blood of endless toil, the torment of family, torn asunder, at the will of the slaveowner. The footsteps of black nationalism lead straight from the Emancipation Proclamation, not to emancipation, but into “black captivity,” despite the period known as “Reconstruction.” The period of “black captivity,” was a period of lynchings by the thousands, ghettoes, starvation, and every conceivable deprivation.
Today, we hover between the period of “black captivity” and revolution. What I mean is that the period of struggle of the Negro people is revolutionary, in that it is a struggle for national liberation from the enemy, which is the capitalist class, the one and same capitalist class which holds captive the entire working class.
What does this mean to us? It should point out that regardless of whether the Negro people fulfill each of the five points that Stalin outlined in “On the National Question,” it is the process of analysis that is important. This process is the reflection of the already existent national liberation struggle of the Negro people. Our concern with the national character of this struggle must be of practical value. Once recognizing the national character of the black liberation movement, and recognizing the contradictions existent between the black people and the ruling class, we may then proceed to lead struggles which take on the character of a nation’s fight for self-determination and for political independence.
As we are attempting to move our nation forward to socialism, we must chart the course which will move the forces necessary, the working class, the Negro people, and all those who ally themselves, into ever increasing struggle against the class enemy.
The basic, driving, motivating force behind the surge of the Negro people is the fight for national liberation. Every nation has the right to self-determination. Self-determination does not start after we win a civil struggle for socialism; it exists so long as a nation exists.
The black nation’s class enemy is identical with the class enemy of the working class as a whole. This fact sets the stage for the development of a parallel struggle against the class enemy.
Nationalism is a progressive force in the period of struggle for national liberation. Only after national liberation is won, does national begin to become a reactionary force, one which would hold back the development of inter-nationalism, or as in this case, the strengthening of class ties between the black and white sectors of the American working class.
The right of the Negro nation to self-determination begins now. The choice of the Negro people depends on the forms of struggle within the working class as a whole, and could conceivably lead to the territorial, political (sovereign) development of a black nation within these United States. Whatever the choice, it belongs to the Negro people. The struggle for black liberation is, on the one hand, separate and distinct from the struggle for socialism, and, on the other hand, quite bound up with the struggle for working class power, to win a socialist revolution in this country.
The struggle for black liberation, is a bourgeois democratic revolution in the same sense that the American colonies fought for their freedom from British rule and oppression. The struggle for socialism is both political and economic, in that it will change the entire relationship of ownership and control over the means of production (the factories, the land, the wealth).
The bourgeois democratic revolution of the Negro people may, or may not be completed under capitalism, we cannot predict. This question is entirely dependent on the rate of development of the power of the white majority of the working class. We cannot say that the black liberation movement will hold back to await the arrival of socialism, nor can we say that the development of working class power to establish a socialist organization of society, can hold back to await the completion of the black liberation struggle. One thing we can be sure of is that many alliances will be made along the way, in order to win both struggles, and many battles will be fought side-by-side. “Negro-white unity” will be a question of winning “battles” along the way to the great victory over the exploitation of man by man.
What I have outlined above is the course of parallel struggle, which is the natural course of struggle in this country. The struggle for black liberation demands black leadership. A communist party which does not have an autonomous black section, cannot lead the black liberation struggle, it can only watch. By autonomous, I mean that the black section has the first say in all matters pertaining to the black community (as reflected by the black community to the black section). Thereupon, the entire party should be availed of the substance of the reports of the black section for discussion and recommendation, whereupon, the black section shall have final say on all decisions pertaining to the black community. This arrangement is the only arrangement which will take into account the self-determination aspect of the black liberation struggle. The wishes of the white majority, well-meaning or not, in the Marxist revolutionary movement, for “Negro-white unity” are not to be realized in this period of history in these United States. The black minority is in no mood to listen to pleas for unity from white, would-be leaders. No, the Negro people are looking to black leaders who are equipped to lead them in the struggle for black liberation from the unequal state of life in which they have been forced to live in the U.S.
This is not to say that our black comrades shall not participate fully in all aspects of party and national questions. It would be completely erroneous to even consider such a possibility. I have demonstrated the interrelationship, despite the parallel course, of the black liberation struggle with the overall working class struggle for state power. Therefore, all members of a communist party should take part in every aspect of party work and discussion, except as relates to the black liberation struggle. So long as a black nation exists apart from, and un-integrated into every level of participation in the affairs and control of the nation-as-a-whole, there will be a demand for black leadership and a black section of the communist party.
Parallel struggle demands the concentration of all white comrades on moving the white majority into struggle against the class enemy. This means that we must begin to do some real work in analyzing the economic and social contradictions in our society, as they affect the various section of the white majority, and lead political struggles to correct these contradictions. The white majority will not accept black leadership, no more than the black minority will now respond to white leadership. These two points are fundamental to a correct understanding of the leadership question arising out of the false and damaging appeals for “Negro-white unity.”
Our white comrades must again go into white working class communities and organize these workers to better their lot. We must begin to build a party which will be recognized for its majority appeal in leading struggles which are pertinent to the majority needs. We cannot stand on a “beatnick” philosophy of getting lost in minority causes and denying the main goal, the victory of the working class, and finally, the elimination of all classes.