First Published: Progressive Labor, Vol. 7, No. 3, November 1969
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Several years ago Walter Lippmann joyfully exclaimed that “nationalism has triumphed over communism.” Unlike some self-styled Marxist-Leninists, Lippmann recognized that nationalism and communism are antagonistic ideologies. Of course his victory proclamation is more wish than reality. The battle against nationalism and for communism is only in the earliest stages of proletarian revolutionary history. The struggle will inevitably be very protracted; national and class divisions will persist for a long time. Yet there can be no doubt about the outcome: The revolutionary process will inevitably abolish both class and national divisions. World communism will triumph.
The concept of nationalism is a historical category. It grew up in the epoch of the rise of capitalism and the overthrow of feudalism. The bourgeoisie was then the revolutionary class, and bourgeois ideology, including nationalism, was progressive.
As capitalism developed into imperialism, the system of exploitation for maximum profits extended over the entire globe. Not only did the imperialists exploit the working people of their own country, but in their drive for markets, raw materials and new areas for capital investment, a system of barbaric national oppression and aggression developed to exploit the peoples of the entire world, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The struggles of the working people within the imperialist countries and the liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America are forms of the global class struggle to overthrow the imperialist system and establish socialism. That is why Marxist-Leninists have always held that a revolutionary alliance must be forged between the liberation movements of the oppressed peoples and the working people within the imperialist countries; that is why the national question can only be solved when understood, as Stalin said, as “part and parcel of the proletarian revolution and the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
We live in the epoch of the proletarian revolution – the rise of world socialism and the overthrow of world capitalism (imperialism). In this epoch the bourgeoisie is counter-revolutionary, and its ideology, including nationalism, is completely reactionary. There is now only one class capable of overthrowing capitalism: the working class. This is true both within the imperialist countries and the oppressed nations. There is no middle road between the imperialist-capitalist system and socialism. The modern state is either a form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
There is no ideology above the class struggle; there is no ideology that serves the interests of both the bourgeoisie and the working class. Nor is there today such a thing as revolutionary bourgeois ideology. There is only one revolutionary ideology able to guide the working class to victory: Marxism-Leninism. And this also is true both within the imperialist countries and the oppressed nations of the world. The program for revolutionary victory for the working class and oppressed peoples of the world must contain the following features:
1. the leadership of a Marxist-Leninist party;
2. an alliance, led by the working class, of all the oppressed and exploited masses;
3. a people’s army under the leadership of the proletariat;
4. the defeat of counter-revolutionary bourgeois ideology, bourgeois culture, revisionism and nationalism;
5. the establishment and consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat throughout the entire epoch of transition from world capitalism to world socialism.
With these few precepts in mind, let us examine the objections of our opponents to our Party’s line on nationalism and national liberation movements in general and the Black Liberation Movement in particular. The attacks have been many-sided and have come from the Trotskyites, the revisionist Communist Party, the right wing Revolutionary Youth Movement leaders, who split off from the SDS, the Guardian, the nationalist leadership of the Black Panther Party, and an assortment of self-styled “Marxists-Leninists.” All are united in their opposition to our Party’s position that nationalism is reactionary and that liberation movements must have the perspective of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.
“The Progressive Labor Party ... fails to distinguish between oppressed and oppressor nations, between the nationalism of the oppressor which is reactionary and the nationalism of the oppressed which is progressive.”
Or as one “Marxist” critic put it: “What is nationalism? The common psychology of a particular people expressed in a common desire to determine their own destiny is at the roots of nationalism. When this is manifested in oppressed peoples it can be progressive – forward looking. When it becomes the expression of an oppressor nation, it leads to great power chauvinism.”
This analysis of nationalism is a bourgeois anti-Marxist-Leninist analysis because it contains no class analysis of nationalism, of great power chauvinism or of people determining their own destiny. As Chairman Mao said: “In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.”
Nationalism is a bourgeois class outlook that preaches to the people of a nation or national group that regardless of class they have more in common with one another than they do with the people of other nations. Nationalism helps bind the working class to the bourgeoisie of its nation. It says: “Rockefeller, Shmucker-feller, we’re all Americans.” Or as some would say: We (together with the bourgeoisie) have a common psychology and common desire to determine our common destiny.
Nationalism ties the working people to their own bourgeoisie; proletarian internationalism unites the working people of the world against the bourgeoisie. That is why the bourgeoisie promotes nationalism and opposes proletarian internationalism.
We say that working people’s destiny must not be tied to the bourgeoisie, neither to an imperialist bourgeoisie nor to a national bourgeoisie of an oppressed nation. We say that the international working class must determine its own destiny. The working class must have its own ideology and rid itself of the ideology of its class enemy. To the extent that the working class holds nationalist ideas, it is allowing its destiny to be determined by the bourgeoisie.
Marxist-Leninists must keep in mind the fact that nations and national groups consist of different classes. This is true in imperialist countries as well as in oppressed nations. National oppression is not a struggle between all the people of one nation against all the people of another. It is the oppression of the vast majority of the people of the oppressed nation, mainly its workers and peasants, by the imperialist ruling class of the oppressor nation.
Marxist-Leninists do not differentiate between oppressed and oppressor nations in order to proclaim that the nationalism of the oppressor is reactionary while that of the oppressed is progressive. The reason for the differentiation is to break down the reactionary nationalism that destroys the unity of all workers and oppressed peoples. It is precisely to overcome chauvinism and reactionary nationalism that Lenin raised the slogan “Workers of all countries and oppressed nations, unite.” He said: “The revolutionary movement in the advanced countries would indeed be a mere deception if complete and close unity did not exist between the workers fighting against capital in Europe and America and the hundreds and hundreds of millions of ’colonial’ slaves who are oppressed by that capital.”
Close unity must be established between the oppressed and exploited regardless of nationality and race. That is basically the same point that Marx made when he said “labor in the white skin can not be free as long as labor in the black skin is branded.” And in referring to the need to overcome the hostile attitude of the English worker towards the Irish workers, Marx wrote: “He...turns himself into a tool of the aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself.”
Again and again the essence of the writings of the great Marxist-Leninists on the national question is aimed precisely at overcoming the nationalist and racist ideas that stand in the way of establishing the revolutionary unity of the exploited and oppressed masses. The latest example is contained in Mao Tse-tung’s statement on the black people’s struggle:
“In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles among the whites who oppress the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of white people. At present, it is only the handful of imperialists headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are inflicting oppression, aggression and intimidation on the majority of the nations and peoples of the world.”
Marxist-Leninists do not fan the flames of nationalism that further divisions between the working class and oppressed peoples of the world. Marxist- Leninists promote working class internationalism to unite the workers and oppressed peoples of the world.
In the past, we in PL referred to the nationalism of the oppressed as having two aspects: one aspect was progressive and revolutionary, the other was reactionary and counter-revolutionary. We held that the nationalism that is directed against all the people of the oppressor nation (in the U.S. all blacks against all whites) regardless of class, was clearly reactionary nationalism. We believed that the nationalism that united the oppressed masses to struggle against imperialism was revolutionary nationalism.
The decision to abandon that position and attack all nationalism as reactionary was based on our effort to summarize revolutionary experience nationally and internationally, on the development of our Marxist-Leninist understanding that all ideology has a class basis, and on the development of our understanding of the vanguard role of a Marxist-Leninist party.
Here let us digress to deal with still another criticism of our position: “Instead of welcoming the worldwide upsurge of national liberation struggles, PLP denounces ’nationalism’ without qualifications as ’reactionary’ and focuses its attention on setbacks in the various national liberation struggles.”
Of course PLP welcomes the upsurge of anti-imperialist liberation struggles. The heroic Vietnamese people’s liberation struggle against U.S. imperialism is one of history’s great battles. It has helped to raise anti-imperialist and revolutionary consciousness throughout the world. But because of the counter-revolutionary influence of revisionism and nationalism, the Vietnamese revolutionary struggle is tragically heading for a setback. These setbacks can not be dismissed with such phrases as “twists and turns,” “ebb and flow,” and “zigzags.” They must be analyzed.
It is essential that Marxist-Leninists summarize experiences in the revolutionary movement and particularly focus on the setbacks, the errors and mistakes. We are not casual observers of the historic process. We are revolutionists striving to destroy this monstrous system of imperialist aggression and exploitation. We advance the revolution precisely by studying the reasons for errors and setbacks in order to overcome them.
The post-World War II period has been rich in revolutionary experiences, both successes and failures. To note some of the most important:
1. The destruction of socialism in the Soviet Union and the restoration of the capitalist-imperialist system.
2. The victory of the Chinese revolution under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the victory of the Cultural Revolution, which prevented a capitalist takeover of the party and state.
3. The breakup of the old communist movement and its degeneration into social-democratic nationalist parties.
4. The series of serious setbacks in the liberation revolutions in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Clearly, revisionism has temporarily triumphed in the Soviet Union. This has been a grave blow to the world proletarian revolution. Revisionism did not magically appear after the death of Stalin. Revisionism is always preceded by a series of opportunistic policies and practices. The slow growth of uncorrected opportunistic errors inevitably leads to the apparently sudden appearance of counter-revolutionary revisionism. Revisionism is all-out bourgeois ideology hiding behind the mask of Marxism- Leninism.
After the historic October Revolution, Stalin defeated the counter-revolutionary line of Trotsky, who said it was impossible to build socialism in the Soviet Union unless there was a proletarian revolution in western Europe: “Real progress of a socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the major European countries” (“The Year 1917”).
Stalin upheld Lenin’s belief that socialism could be built in a single country. Lenin believed that “uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even one capitalist country taken separately. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and having organized socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, raising revolts in those countries against the capitalists, and in the event of necessity coming out even with armed force against the exploiting classes and their states” (“The United States of Europe Slogan”).
During the struggle to defeat Trotsky’s counter-revolutionary line, Stalin developed two theses: A socialist victory in the Soviet Union could never be a final victory because as long as world imperialism existed the danger of capitalist restoration existed. He believed that while “the question of completely building socialism in the USSR is one of overcoming our own ’national’ bourgeoisie, the question of the final victory of socialism is one of overcoming the world bourgeoisie.” And second, that the victory of socialism in one country must be seen as a base for the world revolution: “The victory of the proletarian revolution in one country is not an end in itself, but a means and an aid for the development and victory of the revolution in all countries.” (“Once More on the Social Democratic Deviation in Our Party”).
As long as the CPSU was committed to building socialism as a base to advance the world revolution, its national tasks merged with its international tasks. But this correct position was short-lived; Stalin deviated toward nationalism and great power chauvinism. In the nineteen-thirties the official line was that Soviet socialism had become irreversible. Bourgeois nationalist culture then flourished. The great anti-fascist war became the Great Patriotic War in defense of the motherland. As part of a deal with the anti-Nazi imperialist powers, Stalin unilaterally dissolved the Comintern. The growth of nationalism in the Soviet Union, together with an incorrect handling of contradictions among the people and gross violations in the practice of democratic centralism, paved the way for Khrushchev revisionism. Khrushchev’s “goulash communism” and his belief in peaceful co-existence, peaceful transition to socialism, and peaceful competition with capitalism are not only manifestations of revisionism but of nationalism, an ideology that told the exploited and oppressed peoples of the world not to make revolution because it might antagonize the imperialists and endanger the Soviet Union.
But genuine communists rely on the world revolutionary proletariat and oppressed masses and not on deals with the imperialists. The conclusion is inescapable: Nationalism will reverse socialism. Nationalism feeds revisionism for both are bourgeois outlooks. Both nationalism and revisionism must be fought and defeated to prevent capitalist restoration in socialist countries.
Today the Soviet Union is a capitalist-imperialist state. It supports fascist and reactionary regimes around the world. It conspires with the U.S. imperialists to divide the world into imperialist spheres of influence.
Liberation movements in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have become the focus of the contradictions between the forces of revolution and counter-revolution. The Communist Party of China has correctly characterized them “as storm centers of the world revolution.” The general direction of anti-imperialist liberation struggles, in spite of some serious setbacks, is a continued revolutionary upsurge. This is an objective process that reflects the intensified drive of the imperialists to extract more and more surplus value from the labor of the oppressed peoples of the world. The contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America will continue to sharpen.
After World War II, the United States, France and England granted “independence” to most of their colonial states, adopting this tactic to quell armed struggle and in order to prevent future rebellion. Most of these “new emerging states,” as they were called, entered the United Nations. Some people thought them anti-imperialist states. Some Marxist-Leninists thought that a broad anti-imperialist united front could be established with them. Some even believed that these former colonial states could peacefully evolve into socialist states. It was said that “step-by-step they could take a non-capitalist road to socialism.” Since, they reasoned, a new socialist world market had emerged, the new states wouldn’t have to rely on the capitalist countries for markets or capital to build up their economies. They could therefore turn to the socialist world for aid.
These ideas were all based on illusion, not reality. They were proven illusory, not simply because the revisionist takeover of the Soviet Union undermined the world socialist camp and world socialist market. The principal source of this illusion was the belief that these new states were ever really independent. The imperialist grip over their economies was never broken. The leaders of these new states were bourgeois nationalists. Nasser, Sukarno, Nehru, Nkrumah, Toure – all were so-called “revolutionary nationalists”; all pretended a desire for socialism. The banner of “revolutionary nationalism” waved over the so-called Third World. No wonder Tito, the hero of “national communism,” sought to lead an alliance of these states. They all appeared to have the same program: neutralism, peaceful coexistence, the non-capitalist road. They all seemed to maintain an anti-imperialist posture.
Unfortunately, none of these countries had ever broken out of the imperialist-capitalist grip; none of them became socialist countries. The workers and peasants there still suffer all of the horrors of super-exploitation.
The national bourgeoisie always participates in the national liberation struggle for its own narrow class interests. It raises its banner of nationalism – “Vietnam for the Vietnamese,” “Palestine for the Palestinians,” “Indonesia for the Indonesians,” etc. The nationalist banner appears to have an anti-imperialist content. It enlists the working class and the masses in the national liberation struggle. It even directs fire at the imperialists. But the key question is: What are its class aims? The bourgeoisie aims not at destroying imperialism, but at making a deal and getting a bigger slice of the exploitation pie. That is why it always ends up selling out to the imperialists, sometimes substituting one imperialist for another, but always to the highest bidder.
But the working class participates in the anti-imperialist liberation struggle with different aims. It wants to smash imperialism and destroy capitalist exploitation forever. The working class has no interest in substituting one imperialist for another; nor do workers prefer to have their own bourgeoisie exploit them. Therefore, the working class has its own class banner of anti-imperialism and socialism around which to rally the masses to victory.
Lenin pointed out that the national liberation movement is essentially a bourgeois-democratic struggle. But this doesn’t mean that communists should participate in this struggle as bourgeois democrats. Though communists not only participate but strive to lead, they must not try to be better nationalists than the bourgeois nationalists. Such a view would be like saying that communists should win leadership in reform struggles by being better reformists than the reformists. This is precisely the position of the revisionist CP. It is the very position Lenin demolished in his classic “What Is to Be Done”, when he exposed the reactionary nature of “economism” and “trade unionism.”
Lenin knew that “the only choice is: either the bourgeois or the socialist ideology. There is no middle course... Hence to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn away from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen the bourgeois ideology.”
Communists must bring into the immediate struggle – in this case, an anti-imperialist liberation struggle – the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and the aim of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was the classical revisionist Bernstein and the renegade Kautsky who maintained that the “immediate struggle was everything, the ultimate aim nothing.’
It is our view that the fundamental reason for the number of serious setbacks that have occurred in the liberation struggles has been the failure to bring revolutionary socialist ideology and perspectives into the movement. Underlying this failure have been three false ideas:
1. The only way for communists to win leadership in the liberation struggle is by taking the banner of nationalism away from the bourgeoisie and making it their own. We think this is a right-opportunist capitulation to nationalism. Working class leadership based on bourgeois ideology means revisionism.
2. The socialist aims of the revolution should be set aside or played down for the sake of unity with the national bourgeoisie.
3. There is a separate stage between the anti-imperialist liberation struggle and the socialist revolution. It is only after the completion of the anti-imperialist struggle that the struggle for socialism should develop.
Experience has repeatedly shown that the national bourgeoisie will betray the people every time. Therefore, under no circumstances must they ever be relied on to lead the liberation struggle. All Marxist-Leninists are agreed that only the working class can lead the revolution for genuine liberation. A broad anti-imperialist united front based on the alliance of workers and peasants can and must be established. This alliance may include sections of the national bourgeoisie, but certainly not as a leading force, especially with regard to the people’s army, and not at the expense of setting aside the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The experiences of the Chinese revolution show that a generally correct tactical line of “unity with and struggle against” should be adopted by the party toward non-working class anti-imperialist forces. This correct tactic flows directly from the Marxist-Leninist party having a strategy of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is this strategic outlook and the ideology of Marxism-Leninism that differentiates the communist from the non-communist in the united front.
Communists, therefore, must not only unite with non-communists around an immediate anti-imperialist program – “U.S. Get Out of Vietnam Now” or “Smash the Imperialist Aggressors” – but also independently advance the perspective for socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. To unite around an immediate program such as the NLF’s 10 points without advancing the strategy for socialism means committing a right-opportunist error. This will be reflected in the united-front program itself – a watered-down neutralist line. In practice it means “unity with, but no struggle against.” This in turn leads to a continuous capitulation for the sake of unity and ultimately abandoning the leadership of the liberation struggle itself. It means that the party has failed to build a mass base among the workers and peasants for its own socialist class banners.
The Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), in its self-criticism after the debacle of September, 1965, which cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian comrades and their families, described this course of events:
“However, in the course of the cooperation with the national bourgeoisie, the ideological weaknesses in the Party, in particular among the Party leadership, grew and were influenced by the bourgeois ideology through that cooperation. The growth of the ideological weaknesses in the Party gradually deprived the Party of its independence in the united front with the national bourgeoisie. The Party gave too many concessions to the national bourgeoisie and lost its independent role of leadership.
“A manifestation of this loss of independence in the united front with the national bourgeoisie was the evaluation and the stand of the Party leadership towards Sukarno. The Party leadership did not adopt an independent attitude towards Sukarno. They had always avoided conflicts with Sukarno and, on the contrary, had greatly overemphasized the similarities and the unity between the Party and Sukarno. The public saw that there was no policy of Sukarno that was not supported by the PKI. The Party leadership went so far as to accept without any struggle the recognition to Sukarno as ’the great leader of the revolution’ and the leader of the ’people’s aspect’ in the state power of the Republic. In many articles and speeches, the Party leaders frequently said that the struggle of the PKI was based not only on Marxism-Leninism, but also on ’the teachings of Sukarno,’ that the PKI made such a rapid progress because it realized Sukarno’s idea of Nasakom unity, etc. Even the people’s democratic system in Indonesia was said to be in conformity with Sukarno’s main ideas as expressed in his speech ’The Birth of Pantjasila.’ (See D.N. Aidit, Report to the Fourth Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Fifth National Congress.) Thus the Party leadership did not educate the working class and the rest of the working people that the leadership of the revolution must be in the hands of the proletariat and their Party, the PKI.”
Communists strive for unity in the anti-imperialist struggle. We are willing to unite with all who genuinely oppose the imperialist enemy, whether they are nationalists, reformists or liberals. While we unite with these various forces in immediate political battles, we struggle sharply against their reactionary nationalist and reformist bourgeois ideology in order to win them and, above all, the masses to Marxism-Leninism and socialism.
Not to struggle for anti-imperialist unity would be a left-sectarian error. To do nothing but advance the strategic aim of the dictatorship of the proletariat without participating in actual tactical battles with the enemy would be absurd and reduce the party to an isolated propaganda sect. However, while leftism is always a danger and leftist errors have been made in the course of practical struggles, the main danger, from the point of view of policy and practice, has been and continues to be right-opportunism, revisionism and nationalism.
Many of our critics have castigated us for our belief that there is no stage between imperialism (the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie) and socialism (the dictatorship of the proletariat). They say we are distorting the Chinese revolution.
What is a stage? A stage in revolutionary history is determined by which class wields state power. The people, mainly workers and peasants, of semi-colonial, semi-feudal country under imperialist domination are suffering under the dictatorship of a foreign bourgeoisie and its lackeys (comprador bourgeois elements and feudal landlords). To overthrow imperialist domination they must establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Mao Tse-tung developed the strategy of the Peoples Democratic Dictatorship, or New Democracy. He believed that to win victory over imperialism three weapons were essential: “a well-disciplined party armed with the theory of Marxism-Leninism using the method of self-criticism and linked with the masses of people, an army under the leadership of such a party, a united front of all revolutionary classes and all revolutionary groups under the leadership of such a party.”
What is the essence of a People’s Democratic Dictatorship other than that of being a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat? The main component of state power is the armed forces. The armed forces under the People’s Democratic Dictatorship must be under the leadership of the proletariat and its vanguard party. In other words, the Chinese people’s revolutionary war against Japanese imperialism and the Kuo-mintang reactionaries backed by U.S. imperialism brought the working class to power in China.
There is still only one road to power: the road of the October revolution – that is, the road of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The forms will vary; the essence will everywhere be the same.
Some people who regard themselves as Marxist-Leninists look at the form and never at the essence of a question. In light of experience, Marxist-Leninists have concluded that imperialism cannot be defeated without defeating revisionism. Nor can it be defeated if we do not learn to correctly distinguish friends from enemies. If you make alliances with revisionists and cover up their treachery, you will inevitably fail.
The focus of much of the attacks on PL concerns our line on Vietnam. We need not here take up the history of the leadership PL has given in helping to develop the anti-imperialist struggle against U.S. aggression in Vietnam in order to answer some of the most vicious lies and slanders to the effect that PL merely stands on the sidelines while it criticizes the leadership of the NLF and DRV. This particular slander primarily reveals not contempt for PL but for the tens and hundreds of thousands of non-PL anti-war fighters who know from their own experiences the fact that PL, together with others, has stood in the forefront of the struggle.
The nub of the attack on PL’s position on Vietnam centers on the cry of “How dare you criticize the Vietnamese communist leaders?” And “The Chinese leaders aren’t criticizing the Vietnamese leaders and if you’re supposed to be Maoists why aren’t you following the Chinese example?” Or “You PL’ers think you’re more revolutionary than Ho and wiser than Mao.”
First, we are not batonists. We believe that Mao’s call for revolutionaries to “Dare to think; dare to speak; dare to struggle. And don’t fear the people” is quite appropriate. The old CP. always awaited Stalin’s baton before they would adopt a new policy. We haven’t done that in the past and we won’t do that now. We respect and cherish Mao for the great contributions he has made to Marxism-Leninism. We study Mao’s works as serious revolutionists.
All of the right-opportunist errors previously described are at work in the Vietnam liberation struggle and have brought that historic battle to the brink of disaster. What are the errors of the Vietnamese communist leaders?
1. The Failure to Fight Revisionism – They believe in and have practiced united action with the Soviet revisionists. They accept Soviet “aid” and have hailed Soviet aggression in Czechoslovakia. They maintain fraternal relations with all the revisionist parties.
The truth is they haven’t repudiated Soviet revisionism because they don’t regard them as revisionists. They call the Soviet rulers Marxist-Leninists and the Soviet Union socialist.
Some people think they can have it both ways. They agree that the Soviet leaders, who support fascist regimes such as the Suharto-Nasution clique in Indonesia, are clearly counter-revolutionaries. At the same time they say that it’s correct for the Vietnamese communist leadership to hail these counter-revolutionaries and unite with them. We say that you can’t defeat imperialism without defeating revisionism.
2. The Failure to Play an Independent Vanguard Role in the Liberation Struggle – They support neutralism. They have set aside the perspective for the dictatorship of the proletariat. They even say that they will welcome aid from the U.S. imperialists after apolitical agreement is reached. They have adopted the banner of nationalism, not socialism.
3. Abandonment of People’s War ’ They have chosen to negotiate with imperialism instead of maintaining the perspective of protracted People’s War to defeat imperialism.
Unwilling to face the reality that a political deal is at the heart of the haggling in Paris, some people insist that this is just a “talk and fight” tactic the Vietnamese are employing. But what have the Vietnamese gained by such a tactic? Nothing. The revolutionary situation in Vietnam was excellent. People’s War was smashing U.S. imperialism. The U.S. rulers were in a panic. They were becoming more and more isolated at home and abroad. The Soviet revisionist call to “stop the bombing and negotiate” was quickly grasped by the U.S. imperialists as a way out of their defeat. Colluding with the Soviets, the Vietnamese leaders agreed to bail the imperialists out of their difficulties. The result has been Paris – the decline of People’s War and the decline of the worldwide anti-imperialist struggle. This setback is grave, but only temporary. Marxist- Leninists will draw new lessons. The struggle for liberation will go on until complete victory is won.
It is safe to predict that when a political deal is consummated some people will hail this sellout as a great victory for the Vietnamese people. They would like us to forget the hundreds of thousands that gave their lives to end imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation. Recall how the revisionists hailed the 1962 Kennedy-Khrushchev Geneva accord to set up a “neutral” Laos. It was another historic “turning point.” But what is the situation now in Laos. The war still goes on and the so-called neutralist Prince Souvana Phouma has again requested that U.S. imperialism step up its military force in Laos to crush the revolutionaries.
It is a wild delusion to think that Nixon’s recent trip to Asia portends a U.S. withdrawal there. Just the opposite is the truth. Together with the Soviets, who plan a so-called Asian Security Pact, the U.S. imperialists want to consolidate their Asian interests and develop a joint Soviet-U.S. strategic encirclement of revolutionary China.
Of course the U.S. imperialists would like to withdraw some U.S. troops and replace them with a native Asian colonial army. This would help their image internationally and at home, while still maintaining their grip in Vietnam. A neat trick. Their only chance to pull off this coup would be a letup in People’s War by the revolutionary forces. This is precisely what the Paris negotiations are all about.
We believe that one of the main causes for the growth of revisionism in the Vietnamese communist party leadership is nationalism. One cannot sacrifice the interests of the world revolutionary movement by being a fig leaf for revisionism for the sake of some spurious “aid” from the enemy of the world proletariat and oppressed peoples everywhere and still remain a Marxist-Leninist. This is nationalism, pure and simple, and ugly.
Castro tried to play the same game. At one time Cuba, like Vietnam, was the focus of the struggle against U.S. imperialism. Instead of repudiating revisionism, Castro attacked the Chinese and called the fight against revisionism a “Byzantine struggle.” Castro reasoned that the Soviets could do more for Cuba. Instead of a policy of self-reliance and unity with the world revolutionary forces, Castro became dependent upon Soviet aid.
At first, Castro and Guevara tried to impose the Cuban revolutionary experience on others. This resulted in the Bolivian disaster and Guevara’s death. Castro now announces he is ready to support any kind of leadership he believes to be revolutionary. When the militarists of Peru took some steps toward nationalization Castro hailed them as revolutionaries. And yet some people still regard Castro as a Marxist-Leninist.
For tactical reasons the north Vietnamese leaders and Castro pose as being independent of Moscow. Castro even blusters a little at them occasionally in order to maintain his revolutionary image in Latin America. Moscow’s theory of a peaceful transition to socialism is a little too much for anyone to buy in Latin America, so there must be some disassociation. But take away the veneer; the hard reality is that there is no middle road or neutralism in the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism. The leaders of north Vietnam and Castro, together with North Korea’s Kim II Sung, are aligned with the Soviet revisionists. And they do it all in the name of independence – that is, nationalism.
The special oppression and exploitation of black people, first as chattel then as wage slaves, has been an essential part of the growth of capitalism and imperialism in the U.S. The incalculable hundreds of billions of dollars that have been robbed from the super-exploited labor of the black workers has been a primary reason for the U.S. ruling class being the richest in the history of man.
The history of the black people in the U.S. has been a history of struggle against this special oppression. Only the revolutionary overthrow of imperialism will abolish the brutal special exploitation of the black masses. The central question confronting revolutionaries, therefore, is: What is the correct strategy for victory?
In our Party’s statement on Black Liberation we said:
“The Progressive Labor Party, in the past, has made the mistake of spreading illusions about nationalists, nationalism and the role the ideology plays in the Black Liberation Movement. We talked and wrote about “revolutionary nationalists,” “progressive nationalists” and “reactionary nationalists.” More often than not we failed to examine and fully analyze what their relationship was (and is) to the rulers of this country and to the overwhelming majority of the black people – the workers, who are being oppressed by these rulers. We failed to point out that the “political and economic basis of all nationalism is capitalism” and that it is “bourgeois ideology.” “We made these errors because we did not fully understand that black liberation could not be won without the dictatorship of the proletariat.” (Quoted from Black Liberation Program – PL, Feb., 1969.)
This self-critical position has become the storm center of an ideological assault by nationalists and their “Marxist” supporters. PL’s position that nationalism is reactionary has resulted in such vituperative denunciations as “PL is racist,” “PL is counter-revolutionary,” “PL is leftist in form, but rightist in essence,” “PL opposes self-determination for oppressed peoples.”
Under the avalanche of all these epithets and false accusations, our critics hope to bury the basic position of PL and never answer the central questions we have raised:
Is nationalism a bourgeois ideology? Can oppressed people achieve liberation if they are guided by bourgeois ideas and not Marxism-Leninism? Can the oppressed achieve liberation without the strategy of the dictatorship of the proletariat?
Some people who have hailed the Panther leadership as the revolutionary vanguard are dismayed at the rapidity with which they have united with the CP. revisionists. How, they ask, can “Maoist” nationalists unite with pro-Moscow revisionists?
The answer isn’t difficult to see if you have a class analysis of politics: Both the revisionists and the “revolutionary” nationalists have the same bourgeois ideological outlook.
The history of the political positions of the socialist-communist movement in the U.S. on the question of black liberation is most helpful in understanding why the ideology of socialism never penetrated deeply into the outlook of the black masses.
In the pre-CP. period, the socialist movement virtually ignored the special oppression of the black people. When it was discussed at all, what emerged was the opinion that when the working class (they meant white workers) established socialism, racial discrimination would be abolished. In practice, all of the special demands of the black people’s fight against racism were ignored. Socialism was a “white” movement.
The founding of the Communist Party and the study of Lenin and Stalin on the national question narrowed the gap between the struggle for socialism and the struggle to end black oppression. For the first time the oppression of the black people was discussed in the communist movement as a special question. In 1928 the CP. concluded that the black people in the U.S. constituted an oppressed nation in the Black Belt region of the South and advocated the establishment of a black republic.
Though the CP. made some inroads in the black community because of the leadership they gave to immediate struggles, the idea of socialist revolution never took root because it was never brought into the mass struggles. In fact, the question of whether a black republic could be established under capitalism or only under socialism was set aside as a theoretical problem without practical significance. The aim was to struggle now for the right of the black people to have a separate state; socialism would come later.
In the late Thirties, the CP. abandoned the concept of the separate black state. The policy of supporting the FDR-type liberal imperialists developed into full-blown revisionism under the leadership of Earl Browder. (Interestingly, Browder was among the first “national communists” with his slogan that “communism is 20th century Americanism.”) Browder claimed that the black people had already decided in favor of integration.
Following the Second World War, some of Browder’s most flagrant distortions of Marxism were repudiated and the CP. re-adopted its 1928 position—with one change: Instead of advocating a black republic it only advanced the general slogan of the right of the black people to self-determination in the Black Belt. It argued that to advocate a black republic was to anticipate the will of the black people.
Again the CP. tried to build a base among the black masses by initiating and leading some immediate struggles against job and housing discrimination, against police brutality, and other reform battles. Unfortunately, the party never changed its belief in the possibility of a peaceful transition to socialism, but on the contrary made it the cornerstone of its entire strategy. Such “revolutionary” fakery could never take hold among the brutally oppressed black masses. And once again the socialist ideology of Marxism-Leninism and the dictatorship of the proletariat was set aside.
As the civil rights movement grew in scope, the CP. jumped on the bandwagon. It now hailed the new militants, slobbering over them with patronizing praise. (It had initially condemned the Freedom Rides as “left-adventurist.”) Martin Luther King became the C.P.’s new hero, and the cause of integrationism was hailed as the new “revolutionary” solution.
The newly organized Progressive Labor Movement understood that reformism would never end oppression and exploitation. When the civil rights movement developed further and King allied himself more and more with the ruling class, we exposed him as a ruling class tool. For this correct class position we were attacked by the CP. revisionists and the civil rights liberals as “racists” and “counter-revolutionaries.”
We think our criticisms of the weakness of the reformist civil rights movement have been proven correct by life. Despite the heroic struggles of millions, which cost the lives of thousands of courageous fighters, the conditions of life for the black masses continued to worsen. The token gains made were mainly a sop to thwart the development of revolutionary consciousness.
In 1964 the first of the modern ghetto rebellions burst forth. All the phony civil rights leaders, from Wilkins to King, said “Cool it.” The only organization to offer a political program and direction to the rebellion was PL. Again we were denounced by the CP. revisionists as “leftist adventurers.” But again life asserted itself. Ghetto rebellions mushroomed across the country and the ruling class cried that the country faced its greatest crisis since the Civil War. The rebellions shattered the so-called non-violent civil rights movement. King was in the autumn of his political career when he was assassinated.
Paralleling the decline of the civil rights movement has been the growth of the nationalist movement. PL in its early days had mistakenly believed the militant nationalism of Malcolm X and Robert Williams to be the alternative to the reformism of the integration movement. We were particularly impressed by the self-defense aspects of their program and their militant exposure of the reformist uncle tom’s. But we’ve come to understand that nationalism can not lead the people to the dictatorship of the proletariat and to the overthrow of imperialism. Thus we have repudiated nationalism as not being a revolutionary ideology or a correct basis for a revolutionary strategy.
But now that the nationalists are riding high, the same opportunists and revisionists who in the recent past were slobbering over the integrationists, Martin Luther King & Co., have now embraced as their new heroes the nationalists, particularly the leadership of the Black Panthers.
The swing of the revisionists from the reformists to the nationalists is in keeping with their entire history. They never offered a Marxist-Leninist analysis of the question of black oppression. They tried either to fit black history into a dogmatic position of an oppressed nation in the Black Belt, to which life wouldn’t conform, or abandoned completely the problem of the special oppression of black people. Now they opportunistically latch on to whatever is currently on the upswing.
The alliance of the Panther leadership with the revisionist CP. is a good negative example because it will hasten the exposure of nationalism as the reactionary counterpart to revisionism. The militant black masses, who want to destroy forever this racist imperialist system, will turn away from nationalism and towards Marxism-Leninism.
Our repudiation of nationalism does not mean that we have repudiated the principle of self-determination for oppressed peoples. But we believe that self-determination can be achieved only after the working class takes state power, and that only Marxism-Leninism, which is the outlook of proletarian internationalism, can guide the working class.
Some of our critics say that PL has put white workers and black workers in the same bag. Our answer to this is a dialectical “Yes and No.” Yes, because both white and black workers are oppressed and exploited by the same class enemy – U.S. monopoly capitalists. No, because we understand that the black people have had a long history of special super-exploitation and special racist oppression. We do not deny the national aspects of the oppression of the black people, but we emphasize the fundamental class basis of the oppression. That is why we say that the black liberation movement will be national in form and working class in content.
There is no need in this article to spell out the particular arguments around special programmatic points such as our opposition to such nationalist demands as community control of the cops or of the schools, more black foremen, black cops, or school administrators, or open admissions and black study departments. The tests we use to determine opposition or support of particular reform demands are the following:
Will this struggle help to raise the revolutionary class consciousness of the masses ?Does the struggle help to smash illusions about the capitalist system or does it strengthen those illusions? Will the struggle help to differentiate friends from enemies, or will it confuse the masses as to who are their enemies? Will the struggle enhance the leading role of the working class, advance the unity of the working class and strengthen the revolutionary organization of the working class?
When these working class revolutionary guidelines are ignored and others used, such as “completing the bourgeois democratic revolution” or “revolutionary” nationalism, some people end up with the following absurd position offered by another so-called “Maoist” anti-PL group, the San Francisco Afro-American Society Study Group: “So what if the potential black administrators in fact turn out to be lackeys of the bourgeoisie? Wouldn’t real Marxists see this as merely equal rights? Or would they capitulate to white racism in the manner of Progressive Labor and oppose the right of blacks to become administrators and agents of the bourgeoisie alongside whites who are administrators, and also agents of the bourgeoisie?”
We plead guilty. We do oppose all the agents of the ruling class and all those programs that are designed to help the ruling class obtain agents. What the masses need are not programs to further ruling class oppression but programs to overthrow them and their stooges.
Surely the time has come for honest militants who may have been temporarily fooled by the program of “revolutionary nationalism” to pause and reconsider when even the notorious Urban League urges “community control of the schools and police” (N.Y. Times, July 31, 1969).
Some of our critics have suggested that there should be two vanguard parties, one white and one black. They even do this in the name of Marxism-Leninism. This is what reactionary nationalism and racist thinking leads to: “The Panthers are the vanguard of the oppressed black nation, and the white working class of the oppressor nation needs its vanguard.” Those who believe that a nationalist party, or a party based on race, can be a vanguard for the working class, reveal their complete ignorance of the ABCs of Marxism-Leninism.
Genuine communist parties in each country are parties that represent the interests of the entire working class. In Czarist Russia, which was known as the prison house of nations, the Bolshevik party was a class party representing all the working people.
Nowadays the revisionists talk of parties of the whole people, just as bourgeois parties claim they are parties of the whole people. Nationalists and those who capitulate to nationalism and racism say essentially the same thing. They say revolutionary parties should represent only a section of the working class and be organized along race or national lines, and not united class lines.
The two-party theory is a capitulation not only to nationalism, but to racism. It’s saying to the most advanced sector of the working class, its revolutionary vanguard, that revolutionary Marxist-Leninists can’t trust one another. Who does this help other than the capitalist class enemy, who wants to keep all workers divided? Socialism-communism means collectivity, and if the revolutionary vanguard can’t be a collective of all sections of the working class, how can anyone be convinced of the collectivity of our socialist aims? Thus those who claim to be “revolutionary nationalists for socialism” are entangled in a web of bourgeois contradictions.
Some people in the movement have so little confidence in the revolutionary potential of white workers and their ability to fight racism that they even advocate separate black unions as a solution to job discrimination. This is a double mistake. Neither separatism nor trade unions will end super-exploitation. Instead of struggling against racism within the labor movement and trying to smash the racist ruling class domination of the trade unions, they urge unions based on race and national lines. Is it any wonder that the fake “Marxists” once hailed the nationalist Panthers as the vanguard?
Of course a struggle must be waged inside the Marxist-Leninist vanguard against all forms of bourgeois ideology and particularly racism, which has deeply penetrated the thinking of white workers. This struggle against racism inside the Party is a precondition for waging the battle against racism outside the Party. Nor can we win the struggle against racism inside the Party unless there is a continuous struggle against racism outside the Party.
The principal manifestations of racism in the Marxist movement have been the failure to fight the racism of white workers and students, and a patronizing, contemptuous attitude toward black workers and students.
Both attitudes go together and both lead to a failure to conduct class struggle among either white workers or black workers. Together they spell a failure to bring the international working class outlook of Marxism-Leninism to the masses.
Nationalism and its twin, revisionism, have wrecked havoc within the world communist movement. The once internationalist revolutionary communist parties, which were united under the Third International founded by Lenin, have degenerated into bourgeois social-democratic nationalist parties of the Second International type.
Revisionism and nationalism have undermined the first socialist state, the Soviet Union and restored the capitalist-imperialist system there.
Revisionism and nationalism brought the great Chinese Communist Party and socialist China to the brink of a capitalist takeover, which was thwarted only by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Revisionism and nationalism have been at the root of the disastrous setbacks in the liberation revolutions of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The world communist movement is in the process of renewal and revitalization, strengthened by the lessons of proletarian revolutionary experiences and also by the outstanding contributions of Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
The central task in this period is to build strong Marxist-Leninist parties with close ties to the masses. The central lesson we must learn from the summary of these experiences is that the world socialist revolution can no be victorious and consolidated unless the masses are won to Marxism-Leninism.
The Marxist-Leninist world outlook is not the exclusive property of a revolutionary elite whose task it is to lead the “backward” masses. Of course the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist vanguard party is necessary. However the party’s principal task is to bring this Marxist Leninist proletarian revolutionary world outlook to the masses. That is why Lenin always stressed that “socialism must merge with the ’spontaneous’ class struggles of the workers,” and why Mao has stressed that “the people, and the people alone, are the makers of history.’
Defeat nationalism and revisionism!
Win the masses to Marxism-Leninism!