Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist League

Negro National Colonial Question

National Evolution and the Negro Nation

History shows that nations did not always exist. Mankind travelled a long and complicated road of development before nations appeared.

A nation is not merely a historical category but a historical category belonging to a definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism. The process of elimination of feudalism and development of capitalism was at the same time a process of amalgamation of people into nations.[1]

In the formation of nations, the bourgeoisie played the leading role. The chief problem for a young bourgeoisie is the problem of the market. Its aim is to sell its goods and to emerge victorious from competition with the bourgeoisie of another nationality. Hence, its desire to secure its “own”, its “home” market. “The market is the first school in which the bourgeoisie learns its nationalism.”[2]

With the “discovery” of the “new world” mass migrations, forced and voluntary, involving millions of people of different colors, languages, customs, etc., took place. These immigrants, along with the native Indian peoples were basic productive forces that laid the basis for new nations to be formed.

The nations that exist today in the western hemisphere have travelled a long road since their wars of national liberation. The nations of Mexico, Brazil, and the United States of North America all waged wars against the Spanish, Portuguese and English colonial governments, respectively. These revolutionary wars of independence were led by the rising young bourgeoisie of these new nations.

In the stage of imperialism, nations were also formed. Imperialism forces divergent people together, compels them to take a common language, usually the language of the imperialists, develops a common economic life, a common territory etc. For example, African countries had their boundaries drawn by British, French, Belgium, German and the imperialists of the U.S.N.A. as they struggled for and divided the spoils among themselves. Members of the same tribes found themselves belonging to different countries due to arbitrary lines drawn on maps. As time passed these peoples came to consider themselves members of a particular nations rather than members of a particular tribe. In the stage of capitalist imperialism, the leading role in the struggle for national liberation has to be played by the working class of that nation. The tiny bourgeoisie is too weak, too compromised and too tied to property to effectively struggle against imperialism. The days of the bourgeoisie leading the struggle for national liberation is long over. It can be seen from the example of Algeria – that unless the working class is in the lead of the national liberation struggle – the most that can be achieved is a neo-colonial status.

The majority of the non-sovereign nations are under the economic control of imperialism of the U.S.N.A. The two nations under direct economic and political control of U.S.N.A. imperialism are Puerto Rico and Negro. The national liberation of these oppressed nations will not be on the order of the previous bourgeois revolutions. These national liberation struggles will be led by the proletariat, with political independence and Socialism as the only and necessary aim.

In the U.S.N.A. the main question facing any revolutionary party is whether they understand the role of the Negro people. Most parties and groupings in the U.S.N.A. evaluate the Negro people either as one homogenous mass of “lumpen proletariat” or all “Black workers” suffering from “racism”. The CPUSA leads the pack in distorting the historical development of the Negro Nation. Their evaluation of the oppression of the Negro people ranges from either denying the existence of the Negro Nation altogether and naming the source as individual subjective “racism” in the hearts and minds of “white” workers, to saying that the root of the oppression is due to the “incompletion of the bourgeois revolution” in the Black Belt. From these incorrect evaluations, wrong tactics cannot help but develop.

The Communist League takes as its starting point the position that was taken by Lenin and the Communist International during the 1920’s. That position is that the Negro question is not a race question or a question of a national minority, but a national question and an integral part of the world colonial revolution. Basing ourselves on the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin Stalin and Mao Tsetung, “We must inevitably reach the conclusion that the self-determination of nations means political separation of these nations from alien national bodies and the formation of an independent national state.”[3]

Since there is confusion concerning what is meant by a nation, we will give the definition developed by Stalin, “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”[4]

In bourgeois writing, the term “race”, “state” and “nation” are used interchangeably, “Race” is a term used primarily to describe physical characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, size of eyes, lips and nose, etc.. This term is very unscientific and has been used by many bourgeois governments to suit their own purposes, e.g., Nazi Germany classified their Japanese allies as members of the “Aryan Race”. The United States of N.A. classified all Mexicans and Puerto Ricans as Caucasians. In South Africa, Japanese are classified as “honorary whites” while Chinese are classified as “colored”. While nations belong in the category of history, a state belongs in the category of politics. A state is a political apparatus which one class uses to oppress another class – thus we have slave states, feudalist states, capitalist states and socialist states. A state is not necessarily a national state. States are also multinational, for example the multi-national state of the U.S.N.A. or the multi-national state of Great Britain.

An Historically Evolved People

The Negro people are historically, as well as ethnically distinct from their African, Anglo or Indian ancestors. They were formed from diverse backgrounds both as regards the various groupings here and Africa. From the different peoples which were at different stages of economic development and had different languages, gods and cultural backgrounds, emerged a people with a common Negro nationality forged by centuries of chattel slavery in North America. The lash and the slave pen, the auction block and the breeding farm was the melting pot from which emerged the Negro people.

When the African slaves were brought to this country, they were broken in Spirit and trained to a specific form of labor. One tribal grouping was preferred for the cotton fields another for the cane fields another for artisan work. Both tribal temperment as well as stature was involved.

This process of being “broken in” was the common experience for all the African people that came to the American colonies. The Negro people are a mixture of these tribal groupings with the Indian and Anglo-European strain very noticeable. The latter strain is due primarily to the wholesale rape of Negro women.

Around the edges of slavery was the poor Anglo-American national minority who wrung a living from the poorer soil overlooked by the planter. They worked as a share cropper – as guard, or sometimes as a whip hand. Generally their life was a little better than the slaves. Their destinies then as, now were conditioned by the struggle and conditions of the Negro masses.

A Stable Community of People

The migration of Negro people during the 1920’s and post W.W. II years to the Anglo-American nation is a point always raised by “clever Marxists” to show the disappearing of the Negro Nation. These “clever Marxists” deal with percentages and not absolute numbers. From 1860 to 1960 the percentage of Negroes to Anglo-Americans in the South as a region declined from 36% to 20%. In fact, in the period from 1940 to 1963 the South lost 3,300,000 Negroes. These figures serve as the basis for all the claims the revisionists make concerning the stability of the Negro people. Well, let us look at some other figures.

More than five million Irish have immigrated to the U.S.N.A., most of them coming during the period of the Potato Famine in Ireland. Just because only four million remain, does this spell the end of the Irish nation? Of course not! Only a fool would reason otherwise. In the entire South (that region south of the Mason-Dixon line) the Negro population has shown a relative decline in percentage in relation to Anglo-American but there has been a stable and absolute year by year by growth of the Negro population. In 1860, there were roughly four million Negroes in the South; in 1910 about nine million and in 1960 eleven million. Today, 54% of all Negro people live in the South.

In the Negro Nation or that area which includes the Black Belt and economically connected areas there remains more than five million Negroes, and the out-migration from this area has ceased. In fact since 1966, the Bureau of the Census has noted (in a special study) a definite trend toward immigration into the Negro Nation.

A Stable Community of Language

The Negro people have a community of language which is English, the language of their oppressor nation. Every nation has its language, but different nations don’t have to speak different languages. Brazil is a nation which speaks Portuguese, the language of their former oppressor. Mexico is a nation which speaks Spanish, the language of its former oppressor.

A stable community of language is necessary because without it, it could be impossible to carry out a common economic life. Everyone in the Negro Nation communicates and carries out social and economic intercourse with a corn-common language.

A Stable Community of Territory

The 1960 census reported that 54% of all Negroes lived in the South. What the census doesn’t report is that Negroes live in very specific areas of the South. This area of Negro concentration is within the “Black Belt”. “Black Belt” refers to the rich and fertile black soil that stretches 1,600 miles long and 300 miles deep.

From the map showing the distribution of the slaves from 1670 to 1860 it can be seen that the slaves were concentrated in particular areas due to the crop that was being cultivated. In 1664, Virginia and Maryland were producing twenty- five million pounds of tobacco annually, and by 19770, Virginia was exporting 100,000,000 pounds per year.

Rice was brought in from Madagascar in 1694 and before long it was being cultivated widely in the low-lying lands of the “Rice-coast” of the Carolinas, Georgia and upper Florida.

Indigo was introduced from the West Indies of 1743 and soon became a paying crop.

Sugar was cultivated in Louisiana as early as 1851, but it was not until 1797 when the problem of crystallizing the cane juice into sugar was solved, that the crop began to take on commercial importance.

Cotton was planted in Jamestown as early as 1621, but owning to the difficulty of cleansing out the seeds, it remained for more than a century merely a garden plant. It was not until after the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, that cotton began its spectacular development and in its turn became “king” of the plantation economy. It can be seen from the maps that the distribution of crops correspond) with the territory inhabited by the Negro slaves.

Maps also show the concentration of cotton and other crops in 1930 and also the concentration of Negroes. Quite a coincidence. But the revisionists and chauvinists say that the stable population and territory of Negroes has disappeared due to massive migration North. Maps show the concentration of Negro people in the South in 1960. The breakdown by county shows unmistakably the stability of Negroes in areas based primarily around the old plantations.

In the strictest sense, the limits of the Negro Nation are the limits of the Black Belt and the surrounding area. But it is senseless to discuss national boundaries without discussing the peripheral areas that are economically dependent on them. Therefore, the historically evolved territory of the Negro Nation is the Black Belt plus the economically surrounding area that makes possible the economic and geographic entity we call the nation.

Lenin points out:

But the national composition of the population is one of the most important economic factors, not the only one, and not the most important. Towns, for example, play a most important economic role under capitalism, and everywhere–it is the towns that are mostly distinguished for their mixed populations. To separate the towns from the villages and areas which economically gravitate towards them for the sake of the “national” factor would be absurd and impossible. Marxists, therefore must not take their stand entirely and exclusively on the national-territorial principle.

The solution to the problem indicated by the last conference of Russian Marxists is much more correct than the Austrians. On this question the conference advanced the following thesis: “There is a need for...extensive regional autonomy” (not for Poland alone, of course, but for all the regions of Russia) “and completely democratic local self-governing and autonomous regions to be defined (the borders of the present gubernias, uzezds, etc.) but on the basis of the local inhabitants’ assessment of the economic and social conditions and national composition of the population etc.

Here the national composition of the population is put side by side with the other conditions (primarily economic, then social, etc.) which must serve as the basis for defining the new borders that will be suitable for modern capitalism and not for bureaucracy and Asiatic barbarism. All these conditions can be fully “assessed” only by the Local population, and on the basis of this assessment the central parliament of the state will define the borders of the autonomous regions and the limits of the jurisdiction of autonomous diets.[5]

Economic Community

The Negro Nation has a common economic life which began developing before the Civil War and was based on the production and exporting of agricultural products. During this period industrial capitalism in the North was in a weak position due to the competition of the British for the “South’s” market. The South supplied the raw material (cotton) for the textile mills of England while it got back finished products.

After the Civil War and the defeat of the Southern Planters, Northern capital began to penetrate the South. This was especially evident after the birth of U.S.N.A. imperialism, and the crushing of Reconstruction in 1877. The major investment of Northern capital during this time was in railroads. Wall St. had taken over the Nashville Railroad during the economic crisis of 1873 to 1878. In 1893, J.P. Morgan created the Southern Railroad out of the remains of the Richmond and West Point Terminal Railroad. In 1907 Morgan took over Tennessee Coal and Iron and Railroad Company. Northern capital also invested heavily in lumber, coal, steel, tobacco and iron production. In the late 1880’s the South was producing more iron than the whole nation was before the Civil War. The Negro Nation which is less than 3% of the world’s land produced 55% of the world’s cotton in 1929.

U.S.N.A. imperialism began to mature about 1880 and by 1900 it was well developed. The political and economic life of the Negro Nation was subordinated to the needs of Anglo-American monopoly capital, and the economic ties between town and country along with the common banking credit and monetary system, which constituted an economic community were reforged by the overwhelming power of Wall St.

The social chauvinists (socialists in words, chauvinists in deeds) have delighted in pointing out that the Negro Nation (Black Belt and connected area) does not have a separate economic system”. Certainly, Brazil is controlled by U.S.N.A. imperialism. The Brazilian economy is geared to and is part of the economy of the U.S.N.A. According to the revisionist logic, imperialism by its nature destroys nations by destroying “separate economic structures”. The continued existence of common economic exchange in nations like Brazil and the Negro Nation refute this chauvinist argument.

The indication of “common economic life” or “common economic community” is the existence of economic classes. The major classes in the Negro Nation, are the comprador bourgeoisie, national bourgeoisie, peasantry (farmers) and the proletariat. However, in order to have a common economic life, or economic exchange, all that is necessary is the proletariat and the peasantry. That indicates exchange between town and country.

The comprador bourgeoisie is of historical necessity Negro. This is so because the market of the comprador is imperialism. The comprador of the Negro Nation has nothing to sell except the people. The Negro majority will not follow an Anglo-American traitor. That traitor has to be Negro in the same manner that the comprador of China had to be of the nationality of the majority of the Chinese and Mobuto’s treachery could not be carried out by a Belgium national.

The comprador bourgeoisie is wholly an appendage of the international bourgeoisie, depending upon imperialism for their survival and growth. Representatives of this class are found in the clergy, in political life, in the governmental bureaucracy and the upper stratum of the Negro college community.

The most important section of this comprador class is its Negro politicians. There were over 450 Negroes holding elective or appointive positions, in state, municipal or county agencies of the South in 1965. These offices range from mayors, state senators and sheriffs to library and community relations commissions. Charles Evers, Julian Bond, Walter Washington, are a few of the nationally known Negro compradors, but there are also others more powerful, e.g. Leroy Johnson. According to Newsweek magazine, “Johnson, elected in 1962 as Georgia’s first Black state senator since Reconstruction, is probably the most powerful Black politician in the South. He delivered the votes that elected Sam Massell as Atlanta’s mayor; he even wields enough votes to intimidate Lester Maddox.” Newsweek also reported on John L. McCown a Negro businessman in Hancock County, Ga., who used government funds and foundation grants to engineer a campaign to have himself, “and his full slate of candidates for county commissions and school board swept into office.”[6]

These comprador politicians are entirely dependent on the imperialist government of the U.S.N.A. and as the struggle of the Negro people increases, this class will undoubtedly grow in order to maintain, for the U.S.N.A. imperialists, control over the Negro Nation. In fact, there are already clear signs that the U.S.N.A. imperialists are laying the ground work for a Puerto Rican type solution of the Negro national colonial question [This refers to neo-colonialism that was first tried out in Puerto Rico. After the mass struggles by the Nationalist Party, the administration of Puerto Rico was turned over to Puerto Ricans loyal to U.S.N.A. imperialism. This form of modern imperialism is best expressed in the Nixon policy of having Asians kill Asians–Ed.]. This is pointed out by the recent election where more than 650 Negro legislators and officials were elected in the South. In Alabama voters elected two Negro candidates to the state legislature, which has been all Anglo-American for nearly a century. In Greenwood county, Alabama, the entire slate of Negro legislators were elected. Alabama voters also elected four Negro sheriffs and a probate judge. A Baltimore college professor became the first Negro ever to be elected to Congress from Maryland. In another Maryland contest, a Negro was elected State’s attorney.

The national bourgeoisie, as well as the comprador class, has its historical basis among the freed slaves and house servants prior to the Civil War. The freed slaves had a virtual monopoly of the mechanical arts in the South. (For example, freed slaves made up 100,000 of the 125,000 artisans in the South at the end of the Civil War.) (See, Spero, S.D., Harris, Al, The Black Worker, p. 16) In 1860 the free “colored” people in New Orleans owned property valued at 15 million dollars. In Charleston, South Carolina, 371 free persons of color including thirteen Indians were paying taxes on real estate valued at about 1 million dollars.

Today, the Negro bourgeoisie is based primarily around fourteen banking institutions, sixteen savings and loan associations, twelve life insurance companies, fourteen fraternal benefit societies, eleven funeral service and mutual aid companies. This Negro capitalist class is also rooted in service industries (catering) eating and drinking establishments, funeral homes,% cosmetic manufacturing, gasoline stations, auto repair shops, barber and beauty shops, real estate dealers and brokers and owners of retail outlets. These businesses serve primarily a “segregated” market. Total assets of the ’core’ Negro financial institutions is a financially small but politically significant 1 billion dollars.

There are a handful of millionaires, and there is a fairly large and growing number of prosperous families and individuals. In 1964, 5.7% of the Negroes in the South had incomes of $10,000 or more per year, while 78.2% of the Southern population as a whole had incomes under $10,000. That portion of this upper income stratum living in the Negro Nation does not feel the full effects of the oppression of the Negro masses. They have good homes, expensive cars, college educated children, yachts and country clubs.

The Negro national bourgeoisie has a dual nature. On the one hand it opposes monopoly capital because it is held down by Wall St. in the competition for the Negro market. On the other hand, the Negro bourgeoisie fear confrontation with monopoly capital because they fear the revolutionary potential of the Negro workers and small farmers. The Negro bourgeoisie would like to establish a state under its own rule. The program of the Black Muslims and Republic of New Africa typifies the demands of this national bourgeoisie.

During the 1950’s and early 1960’s the leadership of the Negro people’s movement was almost entirely in the hands of the Negro bourgeoisie. This can be seen from the demands that were made at that time. Desegregation and integration to the extent that it took place had a different meaning for the Negro bourgeoisie than for the Negro proletariat. For the Negro workers, the gains had to be limited to the position of the Anglo-American national minority workers. But for the Negro capitalists the sky was the limit. The Negro bourgeoisie could not fight alone, it had to have the muscle represented by the working class. Therefore, demands dear to the working class were raised, and in some cases some gains were won by hard fighting and bloodshed. In such struggles, no matter what the color or nationality, the workers do the fighting and dying while the bourgeoisie reaps the profits. For this reason the struggle was acceptable to the imperialists and in some instances commenced and supported by them.

The Negro national working class includes the Anglo-American national minority workers. Historical development places the proletariat of the Negro people as the vanguard of the working class in the Negro Nation. They have been and will continue to raise demands which are fundamentally in opposition to capitalist rule. The Negro proletariat has grown rapidly since 1947, as non-agricultural employment increased by 75% between 1946 and 1966 in the South as a region. This compares with a 38.2% increase for the continental U.S.N.A., and reflects the influx of profit hungry industries since the end of W.W. II.

Of the more than 7 million proletarians working in the manufacturing, contract construction and transportation industries of the South, nearly 2 and a half million are concentrated in and around the Negro Nation. Over 50% of these proletarians are Negro and in 1960 more than 60% of all employed were employed in the South. The vanguard of the Negro working class is concentrated in the heavy industrial and transportation sectors of the economy, but recent years have also seen those workers employed in public services and farm labor take a leading role in the class struggle of the Negro Nation and the South as a region.

The leadership of the Negro people is shifting from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat. This has further radicalized the Negro people’s struggle. In 1967 the Newport shipyard strike was led by Negro workers, but included a large number of Anglo-Americans. This strike developed such unity that the Chief of Police said that “The whites and Blacks were fighting like brothers”, against the police and the scabs. The vanguard of the Negro working class also led the big hospital strikes in Atlanta Ga., and Charleston, South Carolina in 1969. From 1968 through 1970 militant strikes by sanitation workers throughout the South signaled the rising class consciousness of the Negro people. During a 1968 strike, Martin L. King Jr., an exponent of non-violence and a tool of U.S.N.A. imperialism, was forced to go South to channel the struggle of the striking sanitation workers onto a “safe” and “non-violent” road.

We can see from the mass uprisings across the Anglo-American nation and in the Negro Nation that “non-violence” as a philosophy has been completely discredited and rejected by the Negro masses. It now remains for a Marxist-Leninist party to unite and organize the Negro proletariat as the vanguard of the Negro national liberation struggle allied with the world’s oppressed peasantry and united with the Anglo-American proletariat. Only in this way can independence and Socialism be won.

Peasantry – Anchor of the Nation

No nation can exist without a peasantry (farmers) to stabilize it in one locale. Stalin points this out in his criticisms of Bauer for his wrong view on a “Jewish” Nation: “...among the Jews there is no large and stable stratum associated with the soil, which would naturally rivet the nation, serving not only as its framework, but also as a ’national’ market.”[7]

Agriculture was the basic purpose for the importation of African slaves into the American colonies. By 1850, some 2.8 million slaves lived within the confines of the cotton kingdom working on farms and plantations, of these, 1.8 million were engaged in cotton cultivation with the remainder being used to raise tobacco, rice and sugar cane.

Emancipation and reconstruction did not radically alter the Negro’s role in agriculture, particularly since he was not afforded the opportunity to participate in the postwar homesteading movement. After 1865, Negro farm workers were the main source of cheap labor for cultivating the agricultural products of the South. In 1890, twenty-five years after the Civil War, 65% of all employed Negroes in the South were farmers or farm laborers. By 1920 Negro farm operators numbered 915,595 in the South. In 1965, about 9% of all Negro workers including women are principally in agriculture compared to 6% of all Anglo-American workers.

Negro owners (full and part) number 127,000 and controlled 8.7 million acres of land in 1959. That is a little more than 13,000 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined. The vast majority of Negro farmers in the U.S.N.A. today are in the tobacco and cotton country of eastern North and South Carolina and the cotton belt lying fifty miles north and seventy-five miles south of Memphis Tenn.

Cotton, tobacco, and “other field crops” amount to 92% of all Southern Negro farms operated at the commercial level. “Other field crops” consist principally of peanut and soy bean specialty farms in North Carolina and Georgia. In the fall of 1959, 56% of the commercial size farms run by Negroes were cotton farms. In Arkansas, 94% of all Negro commercial farmers were cotton specialists in 1959.

There has been a trend that developed during and after W.W.I that prolonged the role of Negroes in U.S.N.A. agriculture. This was the rise in cigarette smoking. Much of the tobacco used was grown only in the South, predominantly in sections where many Negro farmers were already present. The Negro farmer was well suited to tobacco, which was grown strictly by hand and animal labor. Tobacco growing did not require much land. Between 1910 and 1945, the number of Negro tobacco growers rose from 42,000 to 91,000. Negro operated farms growing tobacco account for one-sixth of all cigarette tobacco grown, whereas one-tenth of all cotton was grown by Negro operated cotton farms (1959). Of the principal cigarette type – flue-cured tobacco – Negro farmers account for 25% of the crop.

There has been a steady over-all decline in the numbers of the Negro peasantry. This “fleeing the land” process is the main point that the revisionist CPUSA and other “leftist” groups seize upon to “prove” the disappearance of the Negro Nation. There is an old saying the “figures don’t lie but liars can figure.” This is exactly what the Anglo-American chauvinists do in describing the process of Negroes leaving the farms for the urban areas. When Marxists analyze any social process, they always study it in its inter-relationship with other processes.

The first massive migration of Negroes out of the “South” appears to have started about 1915 and to have continued at a high rate during most of the next ten years. Several factors were responsible for this migration. One, the boll weevil, a beetle which lays its eggs in cotton balls and whose larvae consume the cotton, had entered southern Texas from Mexico in the 1890’s. By 1921, it had spread over the entire Cotton Belt. The boll weevil caused great panic as millions of acres of cotton were heavily damaged and production fell. The sections most susceptible to damage were those with heavy slow-warming soils, such as in the Black Belt of Alabama, where the majority of farmers were Negroes. In these sections, cotton never regained its prominence, and thousands of Negroes emigrated as the landlords returned to livestock and dairying. In the rolling Piedmont country of Georgia and South Carolina, severe erosion and soil depletion added to the problem and impelled other thousands to leave or look for industrial work.

In the years just prior to W.W.II, the future character of cotton farming in the U.S.N.A. became noticeable. In the northern part of the Mississippi Delta country, hundreds of tenant people were “tractored off” the cotton plantations. Mules were replaced by tractors and vast numbers of families were displaced. In the same period the mechanical cotton picker was being developed and it was obviously only a matter of time before it would be perfected.

The major factor inducing migration from the South was the first World War. Immigration of Europeans to the U.S.N.A., which had been bringing more than a million persons a year to Northern industrial cities, was cut off. The war, even before direct U.S.N.A. “involvement” brought new demands upon Northern manufacturing industries. Industries, which had been providing hundreds of thousands of jobs each year for new immigrants, now had this cheap labor supply cut-off during a period of great demand for labor.

Many firms not only discovered the Negro proletariat, but sent out labor recruiters to the South to encourage Negroes to come North. Many Negroes who made the move, encouraged friends and relatives to join them. Other factors responsible for driving Negro farmers off the land and into the cities were the increased use of synthetic material and the cheaper cotton imported from Egypt and Pakistan. In addition, cutbacks in tobacco production have been responsible for forcing many Negroes out of commercial farming.

We can see from these factors that the Negro peasantry has been on the decline. But this phenomena isn’t limited to Negroes alone. Migration of Anglo-Americans from Southern farms during the decade of the 1960’s is estimated at 43%, even though the rate for Negroes was 63%. From the various charts, we see the number of Negro farmers diminishing whereas the number of Negro farm laborers has been growing. A rural proletariat has been created. In April 1950 the South’s 392,000 Anglo-American hired farm workers had declined to 308,000 while hired Negro farm workers had increased to 311,000. For the first time Negroes made up over half of the South’s farm wage workers. In the South, where Negro farmers comprise only one-sixth of all farmers, Negro workers make-up fully one-half of all farm wage work.

From these facts it can be seen that even though the number of Negro farmers have declined, the number of Negro proletariat has increased. There remains today a stable though small, population of Negroes based primarily around farming. In addition it should be mentioned that there are within the “Black Belt Area”, approximately one million “landless peasants” who remain on the land, but who are not for the most part included in commercial agricultural statistics. These people survive off of welfare, part-time jobs and small gardens. (These statistics based on figures reported in Dept. of Labor Statistics special 1966 report, “Part-time Labor in the Rural South”)

Joseph Stalin pointed that, “the peasant question after all, constitutes the basis and intrinsic essence of the national question.” In other words, the question of territory and land redistribution is a key aspect of the national question. The size of the peasantry is not the primary factor. As long as a peasantry exists, a nation will remain anchored to a given territory. This fact in turn means that the national question can only be settled by the liberation and redistribution of the lands worked by the oppressed farmers, wage laborers and landless peasants who are the “anchor of the nation”. Certainly, no progressive person would deny that the independence of Puerto Rico can only come about through some form of land redistribution, and the ratio of peasants to workers in that country is only one to twenty-six.

As shown above, a relatively large “peasantry” or anchor holds the Negro Nation to a general area embracing thousands of square miles of territory. Like the Puerto Rican national colonial question the Negro national colonial question can only be solved by a return of the land to the people who have toiled over it for centuries. In the Negro Nation this land redistribution will demand a combination of state farms and collective enterprises in order to best meet the needs of the people under the conditions of modern mechanized agriculture.

It should be added that in this era of declining imperialism, national liberation and the redistribution of land can only be accomplished by a united front of workers and peasants under the leadership of a Marxist-Leninist Party.

Community of Culture

Stalin points out that apart from the community of language, territory, economic life etc., “One must take into consideration the specific spiritual complexion of the people constituting a nation. Nations differ not only in their conditions of life, but also in spiritual complexion, which manifests itself in peculiarities of national culture.”[8]

Negro people have a distinct national character. The Negro people of the South are a separate folk, with distinct feelings and attitudes due to their common history of slavery and national oppression. This common background of slavery merged the slaves into a distinct people, before the rise of the Negro Nation. This common history, culture and the resultant emphasis on color makes it plain that the root and base of the Negro Nation is the ex-slaves. This historical factor, the basis for the community of culture, shows us that the Anglo-American national minority of the Negro Nation, although an integral part of that Nation – cannot be other than an Anglo-American national minority of the Negro Nation.

The motivating force which has produced this common culture is the historical fact of slavery. From the days of the plantation, the Negro people were bound together in a special way by the common experience of chattel slavery. This exploitation and oppression excluded them from the culture of the Anglo-American nation and forced them to create their own culture. The original diversity of the tribal cultures, which their forefathers brought over with them from Africa was mostly stamped out under the fierce pressures of slavery, although some traces still persist. Many Negro women still wrap their heads in styles that are definitely African in origin. This custom developed in order to keep the hair clean from the dirt in the field and the lice and ticks of the slave quarters. Today, this custom still continues even though modern silk scarves are used.

The development of music, literature, poetry and all of the aspects of a national character which become manifested in a distinctive culture bear the imprint of the oppression of the Negro people and their struggle against the slavers’ whip. To take a specific example, the present day “soul music” of the Negro people can be traced back to slave times. The soul of the African slave spoke to all men through the “sorrow songs”.

W.E.B. DuBois writes that the Negro folksong is the sole North American music; “it still remains as the singular spiritual heritage of the nation and the greatest gift of the Negro people.”[9] Through these songs of their oppression and dreams of a better life came the articulate message of the slave to the world. These songs were transmitted primarily through the vehicle of the Negro church. DuBois states: “The music of Negro religion is that plaintive rhythmic melody with its touching minor cadences, which, despite caricature and defilement, still remains the most original and beautiful expression of human life and longing yet born on American soil. Sprung from African forests, where its counter-part can still be heard, it was adapted, changed and intensified by the tragic soul life of the slaves, until, under the stress of law and whip it became the one true expression of a people’s sorrow, despair and hope.”[10] This music was unique to the Negro Nation because it was produced under the particularly brutal experience of slavery under capitalism and post-reconstruction national oppression under fascism.

Music is one aspect of Negro culture that has influenced and penetrated Anglo-American culture as no other has. To quote Oscar Brown Jr., “If all us Negroes split to Africa, you’d (Anglos) be left with Lawrence Welk in America.”[11]

Africa’s contribution to music was the invention of the violin, xylophone, harp, flute, zither, guitar and some sources say also the tambourine. When African slaves arrived in the new world they improvised a new music based around the slave work songs and spirituals which voiced their sufferings and aspirations. The banjo, which was invented by a slave, was the basic instrument for the riverboat songs. Many of the songs on the waterfront were originated by the Negro stevadores, although Stephen Foster received credit for many by publishing them in his name. The evolution of Negro music has passed from “spirituals” to blues, popular (rhythm and blues) and to modern jazz with each category having its own variations.

Negro migrations north had great influence on the music in the Anglo-American nation, and told of the different type of hardships Negroes met in the large urban centers. Negro music in the Anglo-American nation has gone through a transformation from a merging of Negro and Anglo-American musical idioms. This has produced artists like the Chambers Brothers, Jimi Hendricks, Sly and the Family Stone and the 5th Dimension, which have Anglo-Americans – both Negro national minority and Anglo-Americans, as their audiences. Many Anglo-American musicians have become famous by trying to imitate Negro musicians and entertainers: Al Jo1son, Stephen Foster, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones etc. The Beatles were honest in saying that Negro music was the inspiration for many of their songs. They proved this by going to Tenn. to study Negro musical techniques.

Negro literature and folk tales have a rich background in the experiences of the slaves. Animal stories which were very popular in Africa went through a transformation in the new world due to the different animals and environment. In the African prototypes of the Negro tales the heroes were generally the jackal, the hare, the tortoise and the spider. The African jackal survived as the American fox. The African hare as the American rabbit, and the African tortoise as the American dry-land turtle. As a villain the African hyena was replaced by the American wolf but that role is sometimes assigned to the fox or the bear.

These animal tales and folk stories are remembered in Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit stories told by Joel Chandler Harris. Other Negro literature includes stories on slavery (including “swapping dreams”), preacher and the devil stories, ghost stories, sermons, ballads (e.g., “John Henry”), street cries blues etc. Negro customs such as national cuisine (soul food) and religious life are very distinct from that in the Anglo-American nation. It can be seen today, that the custom of eating pigs feet, neck bones, black eye peas, greens, yams, chitterlings, etc., are all associated with the region of the South and particularly the Negro Nation.

“Soul”, this elusive substance which is often considered a special “coolness”, is nothing more than the national characteristic of the Negro people. The dynamics of Negro culture has always been an integral part of the continuous struggle to gain the posture of a free people.

In conclusion, it should be pointed out, that a nation, like every other historical phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its beginning and its end. It should also be remembered that none of the above discussed characteristics of Negro Nationhood is by itself sufficient to prove the existence of a nation. On the other hand, as Stalin pointed out; it is sufficient for a single one of these characteristics to be absent and the nation would cease to be a nation.


[1] Stalin, Joseph, "Marxism and the National Question", Marxism and the National Colonial Question. International Publishers, N.Y., 1934, p. 13

[2] Ibid p. 13

[3] Lenin, V.I., "The Right of Nations to Self-Determination",, Selections from V.I. Lenin and J.V. Stalin on National Colonial Question. Calcutta Book House, Calcutta, 1970, p. 14

[4] Stalin, Joseph, "Marxism and the National Question", op. cit., p. 68

[5] Lenin, V.I., "Questions of National Policy and Prole¬tarian Internationalism", Critical Remarks on the National Question. F.L.P.H., Moscow, 1954, p. 59

[6] Newsweek, Oct. 19, 1970, p. 50

[7] Stalin Joseph, "The Bund, its Nationalism, its Separatism", Selections from V.I. Lenin and J«V. Stalin on National Colonial Question, op. cit. p. 87

[8] Stalin, Joseph, "The Nation", op. cit., p. 68

[9] DuBois, W.E.B., Souls of Black Folk. Fawcett Publications, Inc., N.Y., 1968, p. 182

[10] Ibid p. 141

[11] Jet, Dec. 3, 1970