Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist League

Negro National Colonial Question


Of the many current viewpoints on the National Colonial question in the United States of North America, most deviate in one of two basic ways from a scientific analysis, i.e., from a Marxist-Leninist position. The general and primary type of deviation is national chauvinism, the other is reactionary cultural nationalism.

Chauvinism is linked to imperialism and as such maintains the domination of one nation over another. The specific role of racism in the history of the U.S.N.A., makes it inevitable that the most aggressive and brutal specific form of national chauvinism is white chauvinism. But, by no means be deceived that U.S.N.A. national chauvinism is never directed toward Anglo-Europeans. Any European will tell you otherwise. This even rubs off on Negroes – so they sometimes tend to slander or discriminate against colored people of other nations. We have all observed this idiotic situation. What we are trying to make clear is that the old racial white supremacy that justified slavery was supplanted by national chauvinism.

But “from nothing, nothing.” So the new ideology of aggressive imperialism of the U.S.N.A. had to assume certain forms of its forerunner – white supremacy. But it would be politically dangerous for us not to see the difference. White chauvinism is the leading and specific form of Anglo-American national chauvinism.

White chauvinism provides the excuse for the brutal exploitation of the colored nations and peoples of the world – white chauvinism is a form that the social bribery takes to the Anglo-American people that prevents the unity of the working class and prevents the building of a party of the class. White chauvinism is the principle ideology of aggressive U.S.N.A. fascism. In the U.S.N.A., we always find the other principle fascist ideology, anti-communism, tightly linked to and generally expressed as white chauvinism. So we see, that here in the United States of North America, the major ideological battle to be fought is against this fascist ideology.

Chauvinism is a concept that does away with class outlooks and substitutes for such outlooks the national imperialist outlook. Communism emphasizes the class struggle and class outlooks. The opposition to chauvinism of any type is the clarion call of the Third International, “Workers and Oppressed Peoples of the World, Unite”.

What, then, is the connection between these hostile, antagonistic ideas? The connection between these antagonisms is imperialism itself. Imperialism, while relying on chauvinism cannot help but create the conditions and the motives to make, “Workers of the World, Unite” a living reality. This is true because imperialism creates the material conditions for the unity of the class. Imperialism calls into existence a proletariat wherever it goes. It develops the necessary means of communication. Even though imperialism has to resort to the tactics of bribery in attempting to achieve national unity against the colonial workers, it cannot succeed. In the final analysis, imperialism unites first the colonial workers and when it is compelled to attack the majority of the workers in the imperialist nations – the political conditions for the unity of all the workers and oppressed peoples of the world will mature.

Speaking in terms of history, we see how on the one hand, white supremacy grew with Anglo-American expansionism. So long as there was no real economic use for white supremacy in the English colonies, it did not develop. As a matter of fact, leading Indians were presented to the courts of England and France as well as the Netherlands and Spain. It was only with the need to clear the western parts of the original colonies that the concept of white supremacy arose. “Those sober virtuosi of Protestantism, the Puritans of New England, in 1703, by decrees of their assembly set a premium of 40 lbs. on every Indian scalp and every captured red-skin; in 1720 a premium of 100 lbs. on every scalp; in 1744, after Massachusetts Bay had proclaimed a certain tribe as rebels, the following prices: for a male prisoner 12 years and up-wards l00 lbs. (new currency), for a male prisoner 105 lbs., women and children prisoners 50 lbs., for scalps of women and children 50 lbs..)”[1] Now this is in the context of an economy where $1 per week was considered a fairly good wage. Needless to say, in a relatively short time, the colonies were cleared of Indians. The scum of the earth had amassed fortunes that they invested in the new cheap lands and they saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” became part of the Anglo-American language.

In the northern colonies, slavery proved to be an unprofitable venture except in the case of house servants and they could more easily be hired, then purchased. One by one, the most northern states abolished slavery. Not true in the South. Little by little, indentured servitude was replaced by complete chattel slavery. Along side of this growth was the development of rationales of such chattel slavery. When the excuse of bringing the Africans here to make Christians of them no longer sufficed, then the concept of a racial superiority slowly emerged. At first it was expressed with laws separating Anglo-Europeans slaves from African slaves, laws prohibiting miscegenation, laws prohibiting any form of social equality developed.

With the insatiable greed of the plantations for slaves, Negro became the word for slave as much as Slav was the word for slave in the Roman empire. The ideological rationale outran the realities. Even in the field of language, black and evil, black and crude, black and unpleasant, became the unconscious expression of a system gone mad. Blackguard, blackmail, blackluck and countless other expressions indicated the tidal wave of racism that was generated by the most profitable system devised by man. Marx made clear the role and importance of slavery in that period.

Direct slavery is just as much the pivot of bourgeois industry as machinery, credits, etc.. Without slavery you have no cotton; without cotton you have no modern industry. It is slavery that has given the colonies their value; it is the colonies that have created world trade, and it is world trade that is the pre-condition of large scale industry. Thus slavery is an economic category of the greatest importance.[2]

Would the rising capitalist class defend such an important category in the superstructure? It absolutely had to. It might be asked, “Why did the North co-exist and even assist the slaveowners?” The reason is that until the 1850’s the main wealth of the North was gained by the sale of meats, cloth and other necessaries to the slave areas. So we see that the entire country was involved with and dependent upon slavery, and that was the reason why white supremacy and racism found fertile soil in all parts of the country. Only with the development of the contradiction – when the productive capacity of the North outran the consuming capacity of the South did the struggle for political power and the need for the exclusion of foreign and especially English commodities become areas of sharp economic and therefore social struggle. Only then was the question of democratic rights of Negroes raised.

Therefore, it is clearly shown that the basis of the gigantic strength of U.S.N.A. capitalism lies in the fact that the land was acquired by the slaughter of the Indians, that the primitive accumulation was provided by the slaves. Hence, the oppression and exploitation of Indians and African slaves became a matter of the utmost national economic importance. Would such an important matter be reflected in the superstructure? Just compare the free wheeling development of the U.S.N.A. capitalist with his free land and nearly free labor to the lot of the English or French capitalist who had to rent his land from the former nobility which still held a strangle hold on the bourgeoisie – and had to face a rebellious labor force. Small wonder that the most vulgar chauvinism has permeated every aspect of life in the U.S.N.A.

Post Civil War history complicated the situation even further. U.S.N.A. imperialism emerged as a modern imperialism, that is to say, as an exporter of finance capital and never really went through the stage of mercantile imperialism in the same way as the French or British imperialists.

But since U.S.N.A. imperialism emerged late, it had to either conquer other imperialists powers and take away their colonies, or be content with the lands and peoples that remained. Lincoln assisted Juarez in kicking out the French and Austrians. Teddy Roosevelt, kicked the Spanish out of the Caribbean and the Phillippines, out-flanked the Portuguese, French and Spanish in Latin America. The point is that the only place for the imperialists of the U.S.N.A. to expand to was the backward and colored areas of the world – in general, area that was not too attractive to mercantilism. At any rate, the enslavement of the colored Central and South Americas, the emergence of the Negro Nation, the conquest of the Phillippines, etc., all added to the concepts that were left over by the history of slavery. However, it is obvious that the modern imperialists were not interested in the capture and enslavement of one individual or a grouping of individuals. No, modern imperialism enslaved whole nations – hence, white supremacy turned into white chauvinism in as much as the enslaved nations were colored, and the ruling class of the U.S.N.A. white.

The Anglo-American “revolutionaries” in the U.S.N.A. who are blinded by white chauvinism, either ignore or downplay the importance of the national question, particularly as it relates to the Negro Nation. Some typical chauvinist errors are: “there is no national question in the U.S.N.A. and the special oppression of the Negro people is the result of ’RACISM’ and class oppression” or, “there may be a Negro Nation in the U.S.N.A., but national independence is not the way to solve the question, because the Negro people have not yet raised the demand for independence.” Another chauvinist position advanced in the U.S.N.A. holds that, “All nationalism is reactionary and must be defeated.” Finally we see that the basis of revisionism on the national question is William Z. Foster’s “National Exceptionalism”, or the idea, that the Negro Nation is a “nation within a nation” and therefore an exceptional instance in the history of colonial and oppressed nations and not in conformity with the basic Leninist laws on imperialism. In essence, this position held by Foster and others fails to deal with the national question as a question involving a specific and historically evolved territory with discernible boundaries. This position seeks to obscure the reality of the Negro Nation oppressed by the U.S.N.A. imperialist state. Consequently, the reactionary multi-national character of the U.S.N.A. state is blurred.

Back it 1953, when the CPUSA was still making an attempt at fighting white chauvinism, Foster, chairman of the CP wrote, “White chauvinism, the poisonous ideology of white supremacy etc.”. That might sound like an innocent enough statement, but it will not bear examination. What is white supremacy? White supremacy is the ideology of racism – it is the defense of white racial privilege over colored peoples.

But according to the CP even in their good days, they could not see past the formulation of racism. This was during the period when the Party was upholding the concept of the Negro Nation – but only in words. White chauvinism cannot be a rationale for white supremacy, because chauvinism is linked – at least in Marxist terminology – to national privilege – and nations are not and cannot be based on racialism. States can achieve this fascist ideology. States come and go as politics demand, but nations are the result of history and will be with us for a long, long time. Further, he states, “White chauvinism originally developed by the Southern planters as a defense of chattel slavery has been taken up by the capitalists generally as one of the most dangerous of all their ideological weapons against the working class and its democratic allies. Here again we see the ideological and political confusion that marked the writings of the CP leaders and especially Foster. White chauvinism could not have been developed by the Southern planters. It could only be developed in the era of imperialism. According to Foster, modern French chauvinism could be equated with the racism of the slave owning class in the early 1800’s. Such ideological confusion will not stand the test of investigation. We cannot buy a concept that does not change with a changing material basis. Chauvinism is linked with the conquest and enslavement of nations, not races. One of the reasons that the CP could not win the fight against chauvinism and chauvinists within the Party is that they never really had a clear understanding of chauvinism and the historical and political role that it has played.

Incorrect theory leads without fail to incorrect political programs and slogans. This is certainly true of the chauvinist ideas and theories which have been projected into political programs and slogans. For instance take the common slogan which says “fight racism”. This slogan implies that the solution lies in Anglo-Americans defeating their own racist ideas by repudiating self. As previously mentioned, this approach reduces the liberation struggle to a battle of ideas and forces a division between Negro and Anglo-American workers.

The “left” advocates of white chauvinism in the U.S.N.A. all attempt to pass themselves off as Marxist-Leninists by hiding beneath Marxist slogans as ’workers of the world unite’ and ’combat reactionary nationalism’. But what is the specific position of Marxism-Leninism toward white chauvinism? The position expressed by Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung on great-power chauvinism (which is concretely expressed in the U.S.N.A. as white chauvinism) is that this is the ideological justification for imperialist oppression. Lenin pointed out in supporting Plekhanov’s 1902 defense of the ’right of self-determination’ that “this demand, while not obligatory upon bourgeois democrats, “was ’obligatory upon Social Democrats’. If we were to forget it or hesitate to advance it...for fear of offending the national prejudices of our fellow countrymen of Great Russian nationality, the call workers of all countries unite, would be a shameful lie on our lips....”[3]

Our model will always be Marx, who after living in Britain for decades and becoming half English, demanded freedom and national independence for Ireland in the interests of the socialist movement of the British workers.”[4]

But the bourgeois radicals and mystifiers cry, “doesn’t the bourgeois separatist movement gain support from the slogan Independence for the Negro Nation?” Concerning this point Lenin stated: “We have seen that the following argument is one of R. Luxemburg’s ’trump cards’ in her struggle against the programme of the Marxists in Russia: recognition of the right to self-determination is tantamount to supporting the bourgeois nationalism of the oppressed nations.”

The first argument, as Kautsky irrefutably proved nearly twenty years ago is a case of blaming other people for ones’ own nationalism; in her fear of the nationalism of the bourgeoisie of oppressed nations, R. Luxemburg is actually playing into the hands of the Black Hundred nationalism of the Great Russians.[5]

Yet the petty bourgeoisie, fearing the revolution, hold up another traitors’ hesitation, “why” they say, “doesn’t this program of national independence split the proletariat?” Lenin also answered this question:

....is it not clear that the more liberty the Ukranian nationality enjoys in any particular country, the stronger its ties with the country will be? One would think that this truism could not be disputed without totally abandoning all the premises of democracy. Can there be greater freedom of nationality, as such than the freedom to secede, the freedom to form an independent national state?[6]

And further:

...the reactionaries are opposed to freedom of divorce; they say that it must be handled carefully and loudly declare that it means the ’disintegration of the family’. The democrats, however, believe that the reactionaries are hypocrites and that they are actually defending the omnipotence of the police and the bureaucracy, the privileges of one of the sexes, and the worst kind of oppression of women. They believe that in actual fact freedom of divorce will not cause the ’disintegration’ of family ties, but, on the contrary, will strengthen them on a democratic basis, which is the only possible and durable basis in civilized society.

To accuse those who support freedom of self-determination, i.e., freedom to secede, of encouraging separatism, is as foolish and hypocritical as accusing those who advocate freedom of divorce of encouraging the destruction of family ties.[7]

And finally:

The liberals’ hostility to the principle of political self-determination of nations can have one and only one, real class meaning, national-liberalism, defense of the state privilege of the Great Russian bourgeoisie.

The interests of the working class and of its struggle against capitalism demand complete solidarity and the closest unity of the workers of all nations; they demand resistance to the nationalist policy of the bourgeoisie of every nationality. Hence, Social Democrats would be deviating from proletarian policy and subordinating the workers to the policy of the bourgeoisie if they were to repudiate the right of nations to self-determination, i.e., the right of oppressed nations to secede, or if they were to support all the national demands of the bourgeoisie of oppressed nations.

In any case the hired workers will be an object of exploitation. Successful struggle against exploitation requires that the proletariat be free of nationalism, and be absolutely neutral so to speak, in the fight for supremacy that is going on among the bourgeoisie of the various nations. If the proletariat of any one nation gives the slightest support to the privileges of its own national bourgeoisie, that will inevitably rouse distrust among the proletariat of another nation: it will weaken the international class solidarity of the workers and divide them, to the delight of the bourgeoisie. Repudiation of the right of self-determination or to secession inevitably means, in practice support for the privileges of the dominant nation.[8]

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 freedom to choose. This freedom to choose doesn’t mean anything unless a nation is free to choose, i.e., independent. The proletariat of the Anglo-American and Negro nations must resolutely oppose the bourgeois concepts of ’racism’ and ’integration’, (unequals cannot be integrated) as the cause and cure of the Negro peoples oppression. The Communist League stands on the thesis of Marx that “labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded” and “that no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.”[9]

The Communist League speaks in the interests of the Anglo-American working class. Therefore, our demand of independence for the Negro Nation is not a demand from the Negro Nation, but an important part of the strategy of the Anglo-American proletariat in its struggle with the imperialists of the U.S.N.A. The fact is that as Dr. DuBois stated, the South controls the country, and Wall St. controls the South. The people of New York or California did not vote for the late Senator Richard Russell, but his 38 years in the Senate allowed him to head the decisive Appropriations Committee. Therefore, he effectively controlled legislation for the whole of the nation. This legislative control of the nation through the South is a main weapon in bourgeois democracy. By way of example, it should be noted that the following committees are headed by fascists from the states that in part make up the Negro Nation.

1. Agriculture and Forestry..... Talmadge (Ga.)
2. Armed Services ...Stennis (Mis.)
3. Banking and Currency ...Sparkman (Ala.)
4. Finance..... Russell (La.)
5. Foreign Relations.... Fulbright (Ark.)
6. Government operations.... .McClellan (Ark.)
7. Judiciary ...Eastland (Mis.)
8. Public Works.... Randolph (W. Vir.)
9. Rules and Administration... ...Jordan (N, Car.)
10. Standards and Conduct.... Stennis (Mis.)
11. Defense Production.... Patman (Tex.)
12. Internal Revenue Taxation ...Mills (Ark.)
13. Printing.... Jordan (N. Car.)
14. Reductions of Fed. Expenditures.... Mahon (Tex.)

It is obvious that the working class movement in the Anglo-American nation is strangled by the political representatives of Wall St. from the South. There is no way for the Anglo-American workers to vote these fascists out of office – yet these Southern stooges of Wall St. legislate for the whole of the U.S.N.A.. There is but one proper slogan and that is the slogan for a separation of the Negro Nation from the Anglo-American nation.

In a very much parallel situation Marx wrote,

Quite apart from all phrases about ’international’ and ’humane’ justice for Ireland – which is in the direct and absolute interest of the English working class to get rid of their present connection with Ireland. And this is my fullest conviction, and for reason which in part I cannot tell the English workers themselves. For a long time, I believed that it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime by English working class ascendancy. I always expressed this point of view in the New York Tribune. Deeper study has now convinced me of the opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything until it has got rid of Ireland....English reaction in England had its roots in the subjugation of Ireland.[10]

It is from the concrete realities of our political lives, and from the theoretical understanding of a century of struggle against national oppression that we, in the name of the Anglo-American working class demand the independence and freedom of the Negro Nation.

White chauvinism has become a material force – a powerful weapon in the hands of the ruling class to divide the working class, bribe the Anglo-American workers into accepting, if not supporting aggressive imperialism of the U.S.N.A. White chauvinism acts to strengthen the U.S.N.A. imperialists’ oppression and exploitation of the Negro Nation and the Negro national minority. White chauvinism will not be eliminated by simple ideological cleansing campaigns that seek to wash from the minds and bodies of Anglo-American workers such unholy sins as “racism” and “white skin privilege”. While we carry on a relentless campaign against white chauvinism in all fields of work, we must deepen our understanding that the necessary material base of white chauvinism is imperialism and white chauvinism will not be completely wiped out until imperialism is defeated. It is from this point of view that within the Communist League we project that the concrete fight against white chauvinism is the fight to free the Negro Nation.

White chauvinism can be attacked and defeated in the realm of ideology. In order to succeed, the ideological attack must be linked to the obvious interests of the Anglo-American workers. There can be no unity of the working class without a struggle against white chauvinism. There can be no peace or Socialism without a struggle against white chauvinism. It is entirely possible and necessary to show the Anglo-American working class that the chauvinist bowl of pottage prevents them from achieving the decent, moral and happy life of Socialism.

The objective forces are developing (i.e., the collapse of imperialism) which will tend to unite labor. This unity will be realized if we correctly apply Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought to the solution of the National Colonial question in the U.S.N.A. and the world.

Concerning national cultural autonomy Lenin said, “The gist of this program is that every citizen registers as belonging to a particular nation, and every nation is constituted a legal entity with the right to impose compulsory taxation on its members with national parliaments (Diets) and national secretaries of state (ministers).”[11] Although this incorrect approach is manifested in several ways, its primary effect is to divorce the national question from the question of a common and historically evolved territory. Those who put forth the position of national cultural autonomy maintain that the nation is wherever Negro people are living at any given moment. Such formulations generally lead to reformist programs which may have as their goal self-determination (community control), via a parliamentary plebiscite or plea for justice to imperialist institutions like the United Nations, World Court etc. By ignoring or distorting the question of national territory, the cultural autonomists in the U.S.N.A. work objectively to preserve the U.S.N.A. as a multi-national imperialist state and encourage class collaboration among all classes within the Negro Nation and among the national minorities.

Lenin says of this reactionary theory: “Just as Proudhon was petty-bourgeois, and his theory and programme of ’cultural national autonomy’ petty bourgeois for its converts bourgeois nationalism into an absolute category, exalts it as the acme of perfection and.... Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism be it even of the ’most just’, ’purest’ most refined and civilized brand. In place of all forms of nationalism, Marxism advances internationalism, the amalgamation of all nations in higher unity....”[12] Stalin also commented on the divisive effects of this bourgeois theory: “The idea of National Autonomy creates the psychological conditions that make for the division of a united workers party into separate parties on national lines. The break-up of the party is followed by the break-up of trade unions, and complete isolation is the result. In this way a united class movement is broken up into separate national rivulets.[13]

Within the U.S.N.A. national cultural autonomy has also reared its head in the form of a demand that revolutionary parties should be divided along national or “racial” lines. Again it was Stalin who related the Austrian experience to point up further the effects of such a position:

Let us begin with the ’extremely edifying experience of the Social Democratic Party of Austria’. Up to 1896 there was a united Social Democratic Party of Austria. In that year the Czechs at the International Congress in London first demanded separate representation and got it. In 1897, at the Vienna (Wimberg) Party Congress, the united Party was formally liquidated and in its place a federal league of six national ’Social Democratic groups’ was set up. Subsequently these groups were converted into independent parties. The parties gradually severed contact. The parties were followed by the parliamentary group which also broke up national ’clubs’ were formed. Next came the trade unions, which also split along national lines. Even the cooperatives were effected, the Czech separatists calling upon the workers to split them up. We will not dwell on the fact that separatist agitation is undermining the sense of solidarity of the workers and frequently drives them to strike-breaking.[14]

Nationalism, expressed as national cultural autonomy is an expression of bourgeois ideology and must be combatted by all honest revolutionaries. On the question of national independence and the fight for democracy, the C.L. realizes that the fight for the independence of the Negro Nation will have to be waged primarily amongst the Anglo-American working class and will have to be one of the major points of the workers’ program and practice; on the other hand, the C.L. holds the principle of unity of the working class. But the question of unity must be primarily raised by the comrades within the Negro Nation. Lenin clarified this position when he said:

The weight of emphasis in the internationalist education of the workers in the oppressing countries must necessarily consist of their advocating and upholding freedom of secession of oppressed countries. Without this there can be no internationalism. It is our right and duty to treat every Social Democrat of an oppressing nation who fails to conduct such propaganda as an imperialist and a scoundrel. This is an absolute demand, even if the chance of secession being possible and ’feasible’ before the introduction of socialism by one in a thousand....

On the other hand, a Social Democrat belonging to a small nation must emphasize on his agitation the second word of our general formula; “voluntary union” of nations. He may, without violating his duties as an internationalist, be in favour of either the political independence of his nation or its inclusion in a neighbouring state X, Y, and Z, etc. But in all cases he must fight against small nations’ narrow mindedness, isolationism, and aloofness, he must fight for the recognition of the whole and the general for the subordination of the interests of the particular to the interests of the general.

People who have not gone thoroughly into the question think there is a ’contradiction’ in Social Democrats of oppressing nations insisting on ’freedom of secession’ while Social Democrats of oppressed nations insist on ’freedom of union’. However a little reflection will show that there is not, and cannot be any other road leading from the given situation to internationalism and the amalgamation of nations, any other road to this goal.[15]


[1] Marx, Karl, “Poverty of Philosophy”, Handbook of Marxism. Martin Lawrence, Ltd., London, 1935, pp. 356-357.

[2] Marx, Karl, Capital. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965. p. 753.

[3] Lenin, V.I., “The 1903 Programme and its Liquidators”, Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism F.L.P.H., Moscow, p. 116.

[4] Lenin, V.I.. Lenin quoting Plekhanov, “A Draft Programme for the Social Democratic Party, published in Zarya #4 1902, op. cit., p. 116.

[5] Lenin, V.I., “The Liberal Bourgeoisie and the Socialist Opportunists in the National Question, op. cit., p. 83.

[6] Ibid, p. 82.

[7] Lenin, V.I., op. cit., p. 92.

[8] Lenin, V.I., op. cit., pp. 94-95.

[9] Marx, Karl, Capital. F.L.P.H.. Moscow. 1961. p. 301. Lenin quoting Marx, Lenin, Collected Works. Vol. 19 International Publishers, N.Y., 1942, p. 287.

[10] Lenin, V.I., “The Utopian Karl Marx and the Practical Rosa Luxenburg”, op. cit., p. 83.

[11] Lenin, V.I., “Cultural-National Autonomy”, Question of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1970, p. 26.

[12] Ibid p. 27.

[13] Stalin, J.V., “Marxism and the National Question”, The National and Colonial Question. International Publishers, N.Y., 1934, p. 34.

[14] Ibid p. 44.

[15] Lenin, V.I., “Marxism or Proudhonism”, Collected Work3. Vol. XIX, International Publishers, N.Y., p. 293.