Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Black Workers Congress

The Struggle Against Revisionism and Opportunism: Against the Communist League and the Revolutionary Union


Now that we have seen how CL thinks the use of a term like “superpower” hides the essence of imperialism (we wonder now about “Great-power”), on how the “sundering” of the world into three worlds is counter-revolutionary, and on how CL will have nothing to do with the term Third World and attempts to use Enver Hoxha as their authority and support; on how it is necessary to remind “someone ” (CL hints and hints and hints) “It is impossible to unite the various national interests against imperialism”; on how US imperialism has consolidated its hold on everything not nailed down, and that which is nailed down, too, and how “no matter what the contradictions are between the Imperialists, they cannot help but constitute a bloc;” and finally, on how the “dictatorship of the proletariat leaps into existence without any base whatsoever, we shouldn’t be surprised on what they have in store for us on the national question. We have already thoroughly uncovered and exposed the “left” cover attempting to hide CL’s conciliatory line towards Soviet Social-imperialism, conciliation which places CL in the modern revisionist camp; we have shown the philosophical roots of their errors, along with their right twins, the RU; and it should be abundantly clear that the line of CL and the RU cannot possibly reflect the general laws of social development and world history as long as they are wedded to their curious brands of dialectics.

In defining the general line of the international communist movement, the starting point is the concrete class analysis of world politics and economics as a whole and of actual world conditions, that is to say, of the fundamental contradictions in the contemporary world.

If one avoids a concrete class analysis, seizes at random on certain superficial phenomena, and draws subjective and groundless conclusions, one cannot possibly reach correct conclusions with regard to the general line of the international communist movement but will inevitably slide on to a track entirely different from that of Marxism-Leninism. From “A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement” CPC, 1963

The next two questions we want to examine concerning the line of the CL is their position on the “Negro National and Colonial Question” and their position on the dictatorship of the proletariat. On the first question it is not at all surprising that the CL has concocted the most absurd revisionist position of a supposedly “left” variety while the RU has preferred to dress up the CPUSA’s revisionist position in the old garb of American exceptionalism. We will concentrate at this time on the position of the CL but at the same time we will point out how there is unity between the so-called “left” variety of opportunism and open right opportunism. In this case, the CL and the RU. (We have initially dealt with the position of the RU in two previously published documents, “Criticism of National Bulletin #13 and the Right Line in the RU” and “Struggle in the RU: In Opposition to the Consolidation of the Revisionist Line on the Black National Question”, both of which are to be found in the new glossy Red Papers #6, or as it is “affectionately” known in the BWC, Red Papers #5 and a half.

CL’s stand and view of the struggles of the oppressed nations, the vast majority of the peoples of the world in the Third World, is intricately bound up with their counter-revolutionary position on the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is as Lenin stated, “the touchstone on which the REAL understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested.” (Lenin, State and Revolution, p. 40 Peking Edition) And finally before taking up directly CL’s position on the “Negro National and Colonial Question” we would like to point out that it is no secret that CL openly in its press and “individually and privately” through its leaders and certain CL cadre damn almost every national movement throughout the world as being reactionary or totally bought off and infiltrated by US imperialism. But we want to remind the CL of the advice given to the revisionists by the CPC in 1963: “Certain persons in the international communist movement are now taking a passive or scornful or negative attitude towards the struggles of the oppressed nations for liberation. They are in fact protecting the interests of monopoly capital, betraying those of the proletariat, and degenerating into social democrats. The attitude taken towards the revolutionary struggles of the people in the Asian, African, and Latin American countries is an important criterion for differentiating those who want revolution from those who do not and those who are truly defending world peace from those who are abetting the forces of aggression and war.”

During the rise of capitalism the national question was usually considered only a “particular and internal” state question of the civilized countries of Europe. The “uncivilized” natives of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the toiling masses of the darker skinned slaves of the vast zones of the world never entered the field of vision of the opportunists of the Second International. But under imperialism, capitalism completely outgrew the boundaries of the various national states and became clearly an international question of overall importance, a world wide question of the emancipation of the oppressed peoples in the dependent and colonial countries from the yoke of imperialism. The Bolsheviks and Lenin made this crystal clear. In the US the Black national question is indeed a special question of the proletariat’s struggle for socialism and the line of any revolutionary organization on this question is an important criterion of whether this or that organization is pursuing a revolutionary course or not. And therefore any high school kid knows that a correct solution to the Black national question is essential if the proletariat is to strengthen its alliance with the oppressed Black masses and the victory of proletarian revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and socialism is to be assured. It is in this context, comrades, that we take up the CL’s position of the “Negro National and Colonial Question” and the UNITY it supposedly adopts with the Communist International. We will not attempt to deal with every aspect of CL’s position but instead will concentrate on those blatant errors that are most clearly in contradiction with the C.I. We take this approach because it is necessary to pull the covers off CL’s supposed UNITY with the Comintern and to show how behind the cover of attacking the CPUSA they actually attack the Comintern and the International Communist Movement. There are four main points that we want to concentrate on in CL’s position: (1) Their position on capitalist-slavery and feudal or semi-feudal economic survivals, (2) The question of the Black Belt territory being a colony; (3) Their putting forward the slogan of independence, and (4) the internationalist duties of both the Black and white proletariat. All quotes unless otherwise stated and documented are taken from CL’s pamphlet, “The Negro National and Colonial Question.”


CL states that ”It is petty bourgeois intellectuals’ search for laboratory purity in social systems that has prevented them and through them prevented revolutionaries from seeing the slavery in the Black Belt as capitalist-slavery and therefore exposing the secret genesis of the Negro National question.” (p. 8)

On pages 20-21 they state that the Black nation never knew lingering feudal economic relations, only feudal social relations. In short, the Black nation never knew slavery, or slave remnants, and semi-feudalism, as economic systems, only social systems using CL’s curious dialectics again; the whole thing was simply a form of capitalism.

The Comintern’s analysis is just the opposite. The 1928 Resolution states, “In addition to the ordinary forms of capitalist exploitation, American imperialism utilizes every possible form of slave exploitation (peonage, sharecropping, landlord supervision of crops and marketing, etc.) for the purpose of extracting super-profits. On the basis of these slave remnants there has grown up a superstructure of social and political inequality that expresses itself in lynching, segregation, Jim-Crowism, etc.”, (pg. 123 – all page numbers for the Comintern Resolutions correspond to page numbers given in CL’s pamphlet). The 1930 Resolution states, “...the capitalist economic system as well as class rule there (in the South – ed.) is not only a special kind, but to a great extent still has precapitalist and semi-colonial features.” (p. 111) And also that the special oppression of Blacks is “...partly due to the historical past of the American Negroes as imported slaves, but is much more due to the still existing slavery of the American Negroes.” (p. 109)

Perhaps CL would like to claim that the Comintern forgot to mention that this was capitalist slavery. If they do, then they also have Lenin to reckon with, who spoke directly to this question in his article – “Capitalism In Agriculture in the U.S.” Here he states “The United States of America, writes Mr. Himmer, is a ’country which has never known feudalism and is free from its economic survivals’ p.41 of his article. This is the very opposite of the truth, for the economic survivals of slavery are not in any way distinguishable from those of feudalism, and in the former slave-owning South of the USA these survivals are still very powerful....What then is the economic base that has produced and continues to support this fine “superstructure”? It is the typically Russian, “purely Russian” labour service system, which is known as share-cropping. .. These are not even tenants in the European, civilised, modern capitalist sense of the word. They are chiefly semi-feudal or – which is the same thing in economic terms – semi-slave sharecroppers.” (CW, Vol.22 p.24-25)

In the face of this how can CL claim that the economic remnants of slavery, and the economic base of slavery itself, were purely capitalist? Or that precapitalist survivals didn’t exist after the Civil War? Their only choice is to admit that they are wrong, or claim that both the Comintern and Lenin were wrong.

Along with this formulation of slavery, CL paints a rather unique history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. They begin at least, by agreeing that the Civil War was in fact a revolutionary struggle between two social systems. But they choose to ignore the contradiction in their own position which maintains that one economic system can produce two diametrically opposed social systems. This is hardly a materialist analysis’ which takes as its starting point the fact that social structures are based on economic interests.

CL then proceeds to say that Reconstruction was the “political phase of the struggle between financial capitalists of the north and the blood-sucking feudal-minded brutal landlords of the South – both capitalists – different wings of the same brutal class.”(p.20), and that the betrayal of Reconstruction was the “consolidation of hegemony, both economic and political, of finance capital” and that “to the degree that the finance capitalists politically subdued the landlord-planter, to that degree did the monopolies hand the Negroes back into new slavery.”(p.23-24) The whole thing culminated in a fascist offensive “led by the absolute agents of finance capital of the North.”(p.25) And on page 23 they run: “So we see that the conditions for the defeat of Reconstruction was the consolidation of hegemony, both economic and political, of finance capital. This does not at all jibe with the CPUSA’S contention that the defeat of Reconstruction was based on an agreement between the feudal landlord planters and the Northern industrialists.” And they run again on page 25: “Some of the fascist characteristics of the counter-revolution were: 1) it confirmed to the description of being the ’open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialistic elements of finance capital.”

This interpretation of U.S. history is entirely unique. Factually, on the question of the emergence of finance capital and fascism by the eighteen seventies, it is a direct slap at Marx, Engels and Lenin Taken altogether, CL’s line attempts to prove that the Civil War was not in fact a bourgeois democratic revolution. Further, that the betrayal of Reconstruction was a political fight of the bourgeoisies rather than the defeat, and incompletion, of the bourgeois democratic revolution. We ask how is it that the entire International Communist movement has failed to mention only that which the CL has seen in the last 4 or 5 years? In their own attempt to answer this question, CL tries to hide themselves under the cover of opposing the CPUSA without once mentioning in what period(a consistent ploy of theirs as we have seen throughout this pamphlet).In the 1930’s the CPUSA certainly did not hold the line that the CL is putting forward. Is CL also opposing the C.I.’s line which was by and large the same position of the CPUSA in the 30’s? Here is another example of what we mean stated on page 21: “However he fails to explain why it is that the CPUSA’s program concerning the struggle for democracy In the South is based on the destruction of lingering feudal relations, not feudal social but feudal economic relations. ..The leadership of the CPUSA knows full well that to admit that slavery in the United States of North America was a crude, brutal, primitive form of capitalist exploitation would bring the CPUSA’s house of revisionist cards down around their heads.”

On page 23 they continue:

So we see that the conditions for the defeat of Reconstruction was the consolidation of hegemony, both economic, and political, of finance capital. This does not at all jibe with the CPUSA’s contention that the defeat of Reconstruction was based on an agreement between the feudal landlords planters and the Northern industrialists.”

And they end up by saying:

The fundamental difference between the position of the Communist League and the CPUSA on the Negro question is the description by the CL of the Negro question as a modern National Colonial question with all its ramifications for the proletarian revolution and the daily class struggle. The CP position on the Negro Nation is a continuation of the ”Battle for Democracy” and the program must be a complete wiping out of the remains of feudalism” and the completion of the bourgeois democratic revolution. Under the conditions of fascism and the total control of monopoly the CP proposals become thoroughly exposed as reactionary.”

Poor CL. Rather than having the courage to stand up and openly attack the Comintern, they instead claim they agree with the Comintern but not with the CPUSA. But this clever trick only exposes even more their bog of deception. If the CP’s position in the 1930’s was revisionist and abstract, one that denied the Negro question was a National Colonial question, so is the Comintern’s. As the quotes above already show, the Comintern lays the basis of national oppression primarily on the existence of slave remnants and the state of semi-serfdom of Blacks in the South. Let the Comintern speak for itself:

In the interest of the utmost clarity of ideas on this question, the Negro question in the United States must be viewed from the standpoint of its peculiarity, namely, as the question of an oppressed nation, which is in a peculiar and extraordinarily distressing situation of national oppression not only in view of the prominent racial distinctions (marked difference in the color of skin, etc.) but above all, because of considerable social antagonisms (remnants of slavery) (’30 Resolution, p.108)

And the absolute necessity to eradicate these remnants of slavery is stressed time and time again. Specifically:

The landed property in the hands of the white American exploiters constitute the most important material basis of the entire system of national oppression and serfdom of the Negroes in the Black Belt. More than three quarters of all Negro farmers are here bound in actual serfdom to the farms and plantations of the white exploiters by the feudal system of “sharecropping” ... no breaking of the chains of this slavery is possible without confiscating the landed property of the white masters. Without this revolutionary measure, without agrarian revolution the right of self-determination of the Negro population would be a Utopia or at best would remain only on paper without changing in any way the actual enslavement.” (p.114)

What is this if not the completion of the bourgeois democratic task of agrarian revolution? CL in no way stresses this point. In the entire pamphlet there is only brief mention of the peasantry (pp. 55-60).

Nowhere do they explain that the existence of the peasantry had anything to do with the remnants of slavery. Though they claim to trace the development of the nation, nowhere do they mention the importance of control of the land by the white exploiters, or that the agrarian question lies at the root of national oppression. They do say that land redistribution is necessary to settle the national question (p.59). But without placing this question in its historical context, without relating it to the concrete development of the Black nation and explaining why it is necessary, it can only remain an empty phrase that attempts to show that CL agrees with Stalin and the Comintern.

But what Is CL getting at here? The historical presentation of the “Negro Question” by genuine Marxist-Leninists have always taken as their starting point Marx’s analysis that the Civil War was a struggle between two social systems; one, a system of slavery and the other a capitalist system of free labor. Lenin’s Preliminary Draft Of Theses On The National And Colonial Questions (For the Second Congress of the Communist International) put forth clearly that Negroes in America must be seen as an oppressed nation: “... it is necessary that all Communist Parties render direct aid to the revolutionary movements among the dependent and subject nations (for example, in Ireland, among the Negroes of America, etc.) and in the colonies.” (Lenin On The National And Colonial Questions, Peking, FLP, p.25) And as we have said the Communist International working on the line of Lenin and the Bolsheviks put forth a full line on the Negro Question which stated that there were Indeed pre-capitalist economic relations and that ”... no breaking of the chains of this, slavery is possible without confiscating the landed property of the white masters. Without this revolutionary measure, without agrarian revolution the right of self-determination of the Negro population would be a utopia, or at best would remain only on paper without changing in any way the actual enslavement.” (see Comintern statement p.114, CL’s pamphlet) Again, we ask, what is CL getting at? Perhaps that proletarian revolution was at stake in the l870’s? Remember comrades, it is CL which has stated earlier that the Dictatorship of the Proletariat leaps into existence without any base whatsoever.

Using such “Marxism” why then was it not possible for the dictatorship of the proletariat to leap Into existence as an outcome of the Civil War? According to CL’s study of history the imperialists of the north did meet the struggle of reconstruction with a fascist dictatorship, a dictatorship which ”... confirmed to the description of being the ’open terrorist dictatorship’ of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialistic elements of finance capital.” (p.25, CL’s pamphlet) Our “advanced theoreticians” are heading towards a familiar swamp and the dictatorship of the proletariat is indeed at the center of their distortions and lies, but let us continue to examine their great UNITY with the Communist International on the question of the Black Belt being a colony.


In typical CL fashion throughout their 130 page pamphlet they put forward the line that the “Negro Nation” is a colony but not once do they put forward a single shred of evidence which would lead anyone to believe that “Such differences (with the C.I.) are natural when viewed over a forty year span.” (p.104, CL pamphlet) CL simply asserts that the Black Nation is today a colony and they never explain why today things have changed from 1930 (except to say that the export of capital is far more pronounced), but even more important, CL’s leadership openly runs in private that they disagree with the Comintern’s line on the Negro Question because Bukharin had leadership of the Comintern at that time. But we don’t have to rely on Bukharin concerning the Black Belt. Marx stated over 100 years ago that the South was not strictly separate from the rest of the country, and that it certainly wasn’t a separate country. And the Comintern working on this line put forward in the clearest terms its position:

It is not correct to consider the Negro zone of the South as a colony of the United States. Such a characterization of the Black Belt could be based In some respects only upon artificially construed analogies, and would create superfluous difficulties for the clarification of ideas. In rejecting this estimation however, it should not be overlooked that it would be none the less false to try and make a fundamental distinction between the character of national oppression which colonial peoples are subjected and the yoke of other oppressed nations. Fundamentally, national oppression in both cases is of the same character, and is in the Black Belt in many respects worse than in a number of actual colonies. On one hand, this zone is not, either economically or politically, such a united whole as to warrant its being called a special colony of the United States. But on the other hand this zone is not, either politically or economically, such an integral part of the United States, as any other part of the country. (p.113)

There is hardly any room to “misinterpret” the Comintern, so again, what is CL trying to get at? That both whites and Blacks in the Black Belt are Negroes? But the Comintern was clear on this again and was not afraid to use the terms white and black. But let the Comintern speak for itself:

Establishment of the state unity of the Black Belt. At the present time this Negro zone – precisely for the purpose of facilitating national oppression – is artificially split up and divided into a number of various states which include distant localities having a majority of white population. If the right of self-determination of the Negroes is to be put into force, it is necessary wherever possible to bring together into one government unit all districts of the South where the majority of the settled population consists of Negroes. Within the limits of this state there will of course remain a fairly significant white minority which must submit to the right of self-determination of the Negro majority ...

Right of self-determination. This means complete and unlimited right of the Negro majority to exercise governmental authority in the entire territory of the Black Belt, as well as to decide upon the relations between their territory and other nations, particularly the United States.” (p.115, CL pamphlet)

As we have already stated CL’s formulations are headed straight for an attack on the dictatorship of the proletariat, but even before we take up that question directly, we can begin to see more clearly the counter-revolutionary swamp CL’s line is pointing towards as we examine their slogan of Independence for the Negro Nation as opposed to the slogan of the Right of Self-Determination or Right to Secession. CL with all the bluster and typicalness of the petty bourgeois phrase monger first covers itself with “Marxist” phrases in abundance, and then proceeds to attack the international communist movement and Marxism-Leninism on the Black National Question by asserting that there were no pre-capitalist economic survivals in the Black Belt South; that the whole thing was capitalism all along; that only CL has uncovered the secret genesis of the Negro National question; that fascism and imperialism came to power in the Black Belt in the l870’s (And we have to presume because the bourgeoisie was confronted with proletarian revolution); that the Black Belt South is now a colony or has always been a colony; that the whole area of the Black Belt is a separate country with both Black and white Negroes; and that the north is another separate country with Anglo-Americans. This comrades is what we are dished up from the “left”. We’ve already been treated to reams and reams of bullshit about nations of a new type and third stages in the national question in the U.S. by the Right: the RU with their thinly disguised CPUSA line on the Black national question. But lets pursue the CL line on into their slogan of Independence.


Once again let us start with CL’s position on this question and see if it corresponds to that of the Comintern.

On page 75 they state:

There is but one scientific and revolutionary demand around the Negro National Colonial Question. That is Independence for the Negro Nation. That independence is necessary before any real self-determination can proceed. Self-determination means free to choose. This freedom to choose doesn’t mean anything unless a nation is free to choose, i.e., independent. (our emphasis)

And further that,

It should be evident to all class conscious workers in the USNA that the working class in this country cannot unite and take any real steps forward in the organized struggle against fascist USNA imperialism until the demand for an Independent Negro Nation is raised and recognized through action. (p. 84, our emphasis)

The Comintern deals extensively with the necessity to raise the slogan of right of self-determination, defining its meaning and specifically drawing the distinction between right of self-determination and governmental separation.

The Comintern defined the right of self-determination as the “complete and unlimited right of the Negro majority to exercise governmental authority in the entire territory of the Black Belt, as well as to decide upon the relation between their territory and other nations, particularly the US...only if the Negro population of the Black Belt wins its freedom from American imperialism even to the point of deciding itself the relations between its country and other governments, especially the US, will it win real and complete self-determination.” (page 115)

The Comintern stated that the “slogan of right of self-determination occupies the central place in the liberation struggle of the Negro population,” (p.114) and that “only its fulfillment can assure them of true equality.” (p.109)

Along with the right of self-determination the Comintern had two other revolutionary demands:

1) confiscation of landed property and breaking of chains of slavery by agrarian revolution
2) State unity, meaning that wherever possible it was necessary to bring together into one governmental unit all districts of the South where the majority of the settled population consists of Negroes. (p.115)

This then was the content of the right of self-determination, and the demands necessary to make this right a concrete, realisable demand. The last two slogans reflected the social reality at that time (1930) in the Black Belt when the Black population was overwhelmingly peasants. Today we will have to work out our specific slogans corresponding to the reality of today. The Comintern also clarified that they saw the right of self-determination as an action slogan, not just one of propaganda. (p.116)

How is it that CL chooses to ignore all this? Why was the right of self-determination correct in 1930 but not now, as the RU also says, and today the “only scientific demand” is Independence Or was the right of self-determination wrong then? Why was unity of the proletariat possible then but not now? Of all this CL says nothing. Vie are left only to guess the whys and wherefores of this position that supposedly takes the Comintern as its starting point.

But worse, they throw up a rather seemingly logical statement, (that is, that in order to be free to choose a nation must be independent), and from this conclude that only independence will solve the question. And let us note that CL say a nation, and not just the Black nation in particular. We can only conclude therefore, that independence is necessary for any and every nation to be “free to choose”.

Once again we must ask how it is that the Comintern, and Lenin and Stalin themselves, were such muddle-headed fools that they forgot to mention this simple fact? Why, if this were true, did Lenin and Stalin raise the slogan of the right to secession and not the slogan of Independence? And why did the Comintern take up this exact question and somehow manage to demand the right of self-determination and not Independence for the Negro Nation?

A closer look at the facts, and the principles established on this question by the International Communist movement, will clarify why Independence has not been the slogan in the program of any multi-national state, and why in fact CI’s position liquidates the struggle for unity of the multi-national proletariat and throws the principle of federation right out the window.

We will start with the program of the Bolsheviks, and we hope that CL will not leap to contradict it as readily as they do the Comintern.

The programmatic demand of the Bolsheviks in 1903 was “recognition of the right to self-determination for all nations forming part of the state”. (LCW, Vol.6, p.30) And In an article entitled the National Question In Our Program, Lenin very clearly explains why their slogan was the right of self-determination and not national independence.

In including in its program recognition of the right of nations to self-determination, it takes into account all possible, and even all conceivable, combinations. That program in no way precludes the adoption by the Polish proletariat the slogan of a free and Independent Polish republic, even though the probability of its becoming a reality before socialism is introduced is infinitesimal. The program merely demands that a genuinely socialist party shall not corrupt proletarian class-consciousness, or slur over the class struggle, or lure the working class with bourgeois democratic phrases, or break the unity of the proletariat’s present-day political struggle. This reservation is the crux of the matter, for only with this reservation do we recognise self-determination...’We (the Poles) must wait for the social revolution, and until then we must patiently endure national oppression.’ This is an utter falsehood. The Russian Social-Democrats have never advised anything of the sort; on the contrary, they themselves fight, and call upon the whole Russian proletariat to fight, against all manifestations of national oppression in Russia; they include in their program not only complete equality of status for all languages, nationalities, etc., but also recognition of every nation’s right to determine its own destiny. Recognising this right, we subordinate to the interests of the proletarian struggle our support of the demand for national independence, and only a chauvinist can interpret our position as an expression of a Russian’s mistrust of a non-Russian, for in reality this position necessarily follows from the class-conscious proletariat’s distrust of the bourgeoisie. (LCW, Vol.6, pp.460&461)

The main principles in this article, were reaffirmed in the Bolsheviks program of 1917, which says in part:

The right of all nations forming part of Russia freely to secede and form independent states must be recognized... It is only the recognition by the proletariat of the right of nations to secede that can ensure complete solidarity among the workers of the various nations...

The right of nations freely to secede must not be confused with the expediency of secession of a given nation at a given moment. The party of the proletariat must decide the latter question quite independently in each particular case from the standpoint of the interests of the social development as a whole and of the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat from Socialism. (History of the CPSU-B p.190)

How did the Bolsheviks apply these principles? They consistently upheld the right of all nations to freely secede, and at the same time fought for the multi-national unity of the proletariat.

Concretely, in 1917, this meant that the Bolsheviks came out not for separation of the oppressed nations of the border regions but against it:

The demand for the secession of the border regions from Russia as the form that should be given to the relations between the center and the border regions must be rejected not only because it is contrary to the very purpose of establishing an alliance between the center and the border regions, but primarily because it is fundamentally opposed to the interests of the masses both of the center and of the border regions ...Of course, the border regions of Russia, the nations and tribes which inhabit these regions, just as all other nations, possess the inalienable right to secede from Russia, and if any of these nations decided by a majority to secede from Russia, as was the case with Finland in 1917, Russia presumably, would be obliged to record the fact and sanction the secession. But the question here is not the indubitable rights of nations, but the interests of the masses both in the center and in the border regions; it is a question of the character – determined by these interests – of the agitation which our Party must carry on if it wishes to influence the will of the tolling masses of the nationalities in a definite direction. And the interests of* the masses render the demand for secession of the border regions at the present stage of the revolution a profoundly counter-revolutionary one...there remains regional autonomy for border regions marked by the specific social customs and the national composition, as the only expedient form of alliance between the center and the border regions, an autonomy which is designed to connect the border regions of Russia with the center by federal ties.” (Stalin, from pamphlet Selections from Lenin and Stalin, Calcutta Books, p.116)

Thus during the period of intense Civil War the various Soviet Republics (Transcaucasia, Ukraine, White Russia, R.S.F.S.R.) were federated, and as Stalin states: “Three years of Soviet policy in the sphere of the national question in Russia have shown that in applying Soviet autonomy in its varied forms the Soviet government is on the right path...” (ibid, p.117) And it is precisely these federal ties that enabled these republics to exercise state sovereignty in the very literal sense of the word. Each had Commissariats of Foreign Trade, Military Affairs, Foreign Affairs, etc. All of these four Republics, to one degree or another, were in a sense independent states. (note: the national question in Russia was very complicated and all the various nations did not have the same rights. We limit ourselves here to a discussion of the four major Republics that eventually formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, recognizing that even among these there were varying degrees of autonomy).

What is important to grasp here is that there is a sharp distinction between the independence exercised by these states, and the independence of those states which separated, like Finland and Poland. In either case, both were free to choose whatever ties, whatever relations, they wanted with Russia.

In summary then, can we conclude that a nation must first be a separate independent state before it can be free to choose? Of course not, because to do so you would have to claim that the Russian Republics that federated were forced to do so, and didn’t choose to do so. Perhaps we should give CL the benefit of the doubt, and assume that by independence they don’t mean separation. We firmly believe this is not the case however, because they could hardly have forgotten to make so important a distinction.

We can also conclude that you can’t raise the slogan of independence as an absolute. The stand of the proletariat must vary according to the particular situation at a given moment, and support for this demand must always, and everywhere be subordinate to the interests of the proletarian class struggle. This is especially true in a single multi-national state, where the history of the Bolsheviks shows that they consistently fought to unite the proletariat of the multi-national state, and not divide them into separate national states.

Does CL’s position in any way correspond to these general principles? Can they possibly account for all the conceivable combinations, the hundreds of twists and turns on the road to liberation of the Black nation? No, they have decided that regardless of the thousands of varying factors, there is only one choice, and they have made this an absolute: there cannot be unity, no real steps forward, until the Black nation is Independent. And not only the Black nation, but all oppressed nations because, after all, “freedom to choose doesn’t mean anything unless a nation is free to choose, i.e., independent”. Coming from the other side is R.U. which says that for Blacks to separate “ever” would be a “reactionary step backwards”.

At this point we ask CL just what they will do if the multinational proletariat, without their help, manages to unite before the Black Nation is independent? And how can you say, on the one hand, that there can be no unity, and on the other, say that there can be a multi-national communist party? Wouldn’t a multi-national Communist Party be a “real step forward”, a concrete example that unity of the multi-national proletariat CAN be achieved?

Questions aside, let us now examine how the Comintern applied the principles established by Lenin and Stalin to the concrete conditions in the U.S. It states:

Complete right to self-determination includes also the right to governmental separation, but does not necessarily Imply that the Negro population should make use of this right in all circumstances, that is, that it must actually separate or attempt to separate the Black Belt from the existing governmental federation with the United States. If it desires to separate it must be free to do so; but if it prefers to remain federated with the United States it must also be free to do that. This is the correct meaning of the idea of self-determination, and it must be recognized quite independently of whether the United States is still a capitalist state or whether a proletarian dictatorship has already been established there ...If the proletariat has come into power in the United States the Communist Negroes will not come out for but against separation of the Negro Republic from federation with the United States. But the right of the Negroes to governmental separation will be unconditionally realised by the Communist Party; it will unconditionally give the Negro population of the Black Belt freedom of choice even on this question. Only when the proletariat has come to power in the United States will the Communist Party carry on propaganda among the working masses of the Negro population against separation, in order to convince them that it is much better and In the interests of the Negro Nation for the Black Belt to be a free republic where the Negro majority has complete right of self-determination but remains governmentally federated with the great proletarian republic of the United States... As long as capitalism rules in the United States the Communists cannot come out against governmental separation of the Negro zone from the United States. They recognize that this separation from the imperialist United States would be preferable, from the standpoint of the national interests of the Negro population, to their present oppressed state, and therefore, the Communists are ready at any time to offer all their support if only the working masses of the Negro population are ready to take up the struggle for governmental independence of the Black Belt. At the present time however, the situation is not such as to win mass support of the working Negroes for this separatist struggle; and it is not the task of Communists to call upon them to separate, without taking into consideration the existing situation and the desires of the Negro masses. (pp. 117-118)

We quote the Comintern at such great length because it makes clear that there has been struggle on this question before and that the International Communist movement adopted a very definite position.

It should also be clear that the slogan of independence for the Negro Nation could, at a particular moment, be correct but in demanding independence we must always consider first whether it is in the best interests of the masses and the proletarian class struggle, and also whether the masses of the oppressed nation desire to take up the struggle for independence.

CL makes absolutely no attempt to analyze the concrete conditions of today and explain why the slogan of independence is a correct one at this time. They clearly do not draw on the lessons of the Russian Revolution, or at least they make no attempt to explain how it is that In the “prison house of nations” the Bolsheviks were able to forge unity, not under the banner of independence, but with the slogan of the right of self-determination.

Nor do they explain what qualitative changes have occurred since 1930 that now make the right of self-determination a bourgeois liberal slogan. And they do not dare mention that in the 1930s, the CPUSA, armed with the revolutionary line of the Comintern Resolutions, was in fact able to unite the multi-national proletariat, take up the fight against white chauvinism in the ranks of the party, and recruit thousands of Blacks into the Party.

CL doesn’t deal with these questions because they can’t deal with them. And they don’t stress the unity of the proletariat, and the need for the revolutionary alliance of the Black masses with the white proletariat, because they’ve already given up the fight for unity. They’ve already decided that the proletariat cannot unite, cannot take a single step forward until the Black Nation is independent.

The essence of CL’s call for independence is that rather than guaranteeing the victory of the proletariat, they are guaranteeing its defeat, by demanding the division and separation of the revolutionary forces. They forget that the US is a multi-national state and that the first interests of the multi-national proletariat are its class interests. They forget that the national question is a special phase of the class struggle, but not a separate struggle. And in trying to separate the two, undermines the struggle for proletarian revolution in this country. This is because in a multinational state, you can’t fight for alliance and separation at the same time. It has to be one or the other. And because CL chooses separation as an absolute necessity, they are denying that the revolutionary alliance of the white proletariat and the masses of oppressed Blacks Is possible at this time. This line can only lead to the defeat of the proletariat, because proletarian revolution in this country cannot succeed unless the alliance and unity of the multi-national proletariat is forged. And we agree with the Comintern when it says that:

Negro communists must explain to non-Negro workers and peasants that only their close union with the white proletariat and joint struggle with them can lead to their liberation from barbarous exploitation.” (Colonial theses, from pamphlet Comintern and National and Colonial Question, CP of India publication, p.117)

It is not our task to demand the formation of separate states, to depy the Black masses the choice to federate, to voluntarily unite without first separating. It is the task of the multinational proletariat to demand full right of every nation making up the U.S. to freely secede from the state, and fight for the iron unity of the multi-national proletariat. The hundreds of years of oppression and suffering of Black people demands that we fight even harder to unite the proletariat, and not divide it into separate states.

In 1940 Comrade Kuusinen of the C.I. and the E.C.C.I, spoke on the National Question In capitalist Europe and the task of creating the unity of the proletariat in a multi-national state. We quote a portion of his report especially for both CL and RU:

The State power is the power of the same State throughout Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, Yugo-Slavia, Romania, etc. In each case the bourgeoisie and landlords of the ruling nation are the chief enemies of national freedom for the subject nation just as they are of the class struggle of the revolutionary country In the whole land, and the bourgeoisie of the subject nation forms a united front all the time with the bourgeoisie and landlords of the ruling country in the struggle against the revolution. The chief motive force of the revolution is also the same throughout the whole state, i.e., the revolutionary proletariat of the various nations. Again there is only one Communist Party. Accordingly it would be quite incorrect to approach this question in such a manner that there would be talk of “two revolutions”: in each of the states under review there is one revolution and one counter-revolution.

It has often happened in the course of the last ten years in Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, and Czechslovakia that there has been a fatal lagging of the revolutionary movement in the ruling country behind the tremendous upsurge of the national revolutionary movement of the subject nations. On the other hand, the opposite case is not excluded (though it is less probable), i.e. that at the moment of a great revolutionary fight on the part of the workers of the ruling nation, one or other of the subject nations is unable to raise its head at once and co-operate in the victory of the revolution in the whole country. The success of powerful revolutionary upsurge, however depends in the majority of these countries to a rather essential degree today on whether the time of this movement in the ruling country coincides with the revolutionary upsurge of the workers of the subject nations; but in concrete reality such an advanced stage of revolutionary upsurge is very far from always maturing at the same time in the component national parts of the country.

Hence, then, there is the possibility and the danger of a tendency to split up the revolutionary movement into national sections. These tendencies (nearly always unconscious “frames of mind”) are expressed for example in a lack of appreciation of the Revolutionary movement of another nation ( “Even if they do anything, nothing will come out of it from them”); in mutual alienation (“Let them get on with their own business, what have we got to do with it?”); and in attempts to subordinate mechanically the revolutionary upsurge in the subject nations to the conditions and tempo of the revolutionary movement of the ruling nation (“Let them wait, they cannot secure a victory of their national movement till the time is ripe for our revolution”), etc.


In their attempt to separate the struggle of the Black nation from the overall class struggle, and to treat the Black nation as a separate colony, rather than part of a single multi-national state, CL completely loses sight of the internationalist tasks of the multi-national US proletariat. This is especially compounded by another unique CL formulation, namely “white Negroes”. (CL’s terminology alone, is enough to isolate them from the masses.) We cannot deal with all the numerous implications and complications this formulation creates, but will simply show how CL uses this to cloud the tasks of white communists especially in the South.

First, however, it is important to pose a few questions in regards to this unusual formulation. How is it that Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and the Comintern all failed to see the existence of these white Negroes, and thus failed to understand the true make-up of the Negro nation? How is it that both Comintern Resolutions speak only to the oppression of the Negroes, and specifically site whites as a significant white minority? But to continue. CL maintains that they speak in the interests of the Anglo-American working class, that their demand for Independence is not a demand from the Negro Nation, but rather an important part of the strategy of the Anglo-American proletariat, (p.75) And that “CL realizes that the fight for the independence of the Negro nation will have to be waged primarily amongst the Anglo-American working class...; on the other hand, CL holds the principle of unity of the working class. But the question of unity must be primarily raised by comrades within the Negro nation.” (p.79)

First, let us clarify for CL that it is not the task of the Anglo-American working class to raise the demand for the right of self-determination (or independence), it is the task of the multinational proletariat and its Communist Party. It is not the task of comrades within the Black nation to raise the question of unity, it is the task of the single multi-national Communist Party. And a multinational CP includes members of the entire multi-national state, and not just one nation within it. Once again, this reflects CL’s attempts to split the national struggle from the class struggle (RU denies any national struggle – “proletarian nation of a new type”).

And further, CL’s formulation thus makes the deciding factor in determining our internationalist tasks, the question of whether or not you live in the Black nation or in the Anglo-American nation. This is fundamentally incorrect and directly leads to the liquidation of the fight both against white chauvinism and narrow nationalism.

The fight for proletarian internationalism demands a division of labor between members of the oppressor nation and members of the oppressed nation, regardless of where the comrades live. Black people living outside the territory of the Black nation are a national minority within the Anglo-American nation. But their nation, their homeland, is the Black nation. And the internationalist tasks of Black communists are the tasks of communists belonging to an oppressed nation. And white communists, wherever they live, have the tasks of a communist of an oppressor nation.

To say otherwise turns things on their head. For example, is it only Blacks living in the Black Belt who raise the question of unity? Is it only Blacks in the Black Belt who take up the task of fighting narrow nationalism? And can whites living in the Black nation primarily take up the fight against narrow nationalism, etc., etc.

CL uses this formula, and claims to speak only for the Anglo-American working class, because they are not really interested in dealing with the internationalist duties of both Blacks and whites. And there is nothing at all in the entire pamphlet that corresponds to the Comintern’s very sharp and clear position on this question: The Comintern states:

In the struggle for equal rights for the Negroes, however, it is the duty of white workers to march at the head of this struggle. They must everywhere make a breach in the wall of segregation and ’Jim Crow-ism’ which have been set up by the bourgeois slave-market morality. They must most ruthlessly unmask and condemn the hypocritical reformists and bourgeois ’friends of Negroes’ who, in reality are only interested in strengthening the power of the enemies of the Negroes. They the white workers, must boldly jump at the throat of the 100 per cent bandits who strike a Negro in the face. This struggle will be the test of real international solidarity of the American white workers.

It is the special duty of the revolutionary Negro workers to carry on tireless activity among the Negro working masses to free them of their distrust of the white proletariat and” draw them into the common front of the revolutionary class struggle against the bourgeoisie. They must emphasize with all force that the first rule of proletarian morality is that no worker who wants to be equal member of his class must never be a strike breaker or a supporter of bourgeois politics. They must ruthlessly unmask all Negro politicians corrupted or directly bribed by American bourgeois ideology, who systematically intefere with the real proletarian struggle for equal rights for the Negroes... (page 112) ... Their constant call to the Negro masses must be: Revolutionary struggle against the ruling white bourgeoisie, through a fighting alliance with the revolutionary white proletariat! (From the Comintern, p. 121)

Overall the task of the entire party is to fight for the full rights of the Black nation, including its right of self-determination, its right to secession; it is the duty of the party to take up an energetic fight for partial demands (the demands the RU places at the heart of the struggle), constantly linking them to the revolutionary slogans and paying attention that the fight for equal rights of Blacks throughout the U.S. be linked up with the full liberation of Blacks, the right of self-determination, in order to endow the ”Negro movement throughout the U.S. with the necessary effective strength” (page 121), and paying attention to the constant propaganda of the internationalist class solidarity (Black and white) of the proletariat.

Once again, CL fails to explain why they totally ignore these formulations. And the pamphlet makes very clear that they do not intend to concretely take up the tasks of proletarian internationalism, because they refuse to even speak on behalf of the multi-national proletariat, and explain the specific tasks of Black and white communists.

In conclusion, we hope it is clear to all that CL’s claim to reaffirm the position of the Comintern, and that it takes these documents (the Comintern documents) as a starting point is a downright lie. To claim that their differences with the Comintern are “natural when viewed over a forty year span” (page 104) while presenting a document that contradicts the Comintern from beginning to end, is sheer opportunism. And this opportunism is all the more naked and crass due to the fact that CL tries to hide its filth under the cover of attacking the CPUSA while really attacking the Comintern. The truth of the matter is that the only way for CL to present this garbage “honestly” would be to claim that in the entire history of the international communist movement, the only someone to produce a revolutionary position on the Black national question is the CL. And anyone who accepts CL’s position must also agree with this claim. We therefore humbly take our stand with the Communist International and the 1928 and 1930 Resolutions.

But what about our contentions that CL’s line is directly aimed at the dictatorship of the proletariat? First of all, it is clear that CL is not interested in forging the unity of the proletariat, nor the unity of the proletariat and its main and secondary allies. As a matter of fact, the CL claims that the United Front Against Imperialism or Monopoly Capitalism is a revisionist formulation regardless as to what class alliances it speaks to. But what kind of Marxist-Leninist is it who are not interested in allies for the seizure of power by the proletariat? What is this if not an attempt to liquidate proletarian revolution, socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat? Remember comrades, it is CL who tells us that the dictatorship of the proletariat leaps into existence without any base whatsoever. And again comrades, who is it that calls for the dictatorship of the proletariat in any and all conditions, skipping necessary stages of the revolution, especially in the colonial and semi-colonial countries of the Third World? What are their main aims in ignoring material reality while sounding “super-left”? But if there are comrades who are still unsure about where CL is coming from on this question, then let us examine what CL has to say directly on the dictatorship of the proletariat. First of all, we will reprint a document prepared by CL’s PARTY SCHOOL on the dictatorship of the proletariat and then we will point out how indeed CL holds a Trotskyite position on that which is “the touchstone on which the REAL understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested.”