Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist League

Reply to October League (ML) Part 2


First Published: The People’s Tribune, Vol. 5, No. 8, September 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In this second part of our discussion of the resolutions adopted by the October League (Marxist-Leninist) at their recent second congress (reported in the Aug. and Sept. issues of The Call), we would like to again look specifically at the section on “Self-Determination”. Because of the strategic importance of the Negro National Colonial Question to the Anglo-American proletariat, we welcome the chance to further discuss the formulations of the OL(M-L).

In their resolution, the OL(M-L) stated that, “Black people constitute an oppressed nation in the South with full right of self-determination,” They state further that, “During the period of slavery, civil wars and reconstruction Black people developed these characteristics which Stalin calls nationhood. In other words, a Black nation was forged out of the chains of Negro slavery.” As if to then lend support to this seemingly innocent formulation, the OL calls upon Stalin. And what does Stalin say? “A nation is an historically constituted, stable community (our emphasis) of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up, manifested in a common culture.”[1] We must thank our “young communist” friends for handing out some “Old” communist ammunition to destroy their own formulations. We must ask these folks where Comrade Stalin speaks of a “common race” in listing the five characteristics which taken all together define a nation?

A look at history quickly shows up the confusion of this formulation. While the OL(M-L) correctly points out that the African slave was the base of “the slave system, that developed in the South, it is well known a that there were at the same time, Anglo-European and Indian slaves bound up in the system. And of course, along with the slaves, there were the “white” slave masters. The widespread use of “breeding farms” and wholesale rape of Negro women in the centuries of chattel slavery gave rise to a Negro people distinct from their diverse ethnic origins. The poor “whites” scratching a living out alongside the slave plantations and even bound up in them as guards and whip hands were very much a part of that history.

Nations are not formed because of color, ethnic origin or religion. As. Stalin points out, “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.”[2] Only after the Civil War was this process completed in the South. With the full development of exchange between town and country, and the consolidation of a native bourgeoisie, proletariat and peasantry, the South, including the Black Belt and surrounding areas, was able to become a cohesive economic unit. It was composed of all who had taken part in its history, no matter what their color, ethnic origin or religion.

In putting forth the idea of a “Black” nation, we must ask our friends, where is the “White nation”? If they are speaking of Anglo-America, it is also a “historically constituted stable community of people” of many different colors, religions, and ethnic origins.

This belief that it is possible to arbitrarily construct a nation is best exemplified in Israel. It has proclaimed itself to be the Jewish nation, yet does not the Israeli government put restrictions on Yemenite Jews? And did they not recently refuse the immigration of “Black” Jews from the USNA? This demonstrates that it is impossible to make-up a nation. A nation evolves; it does not appear out of the blue. This explains why the Palestinians have a historic right to their land. They belong to that stable community of people that has lived there for hundreds of years.

Stalin spoke to this question of a Jewish nation which so closely parallels the imaginative “Black” nation: “Bauer’s point of view, which identifies a nation with its national character, divorces the nation from its soil and converts it into an invisible, self-contained force. The result is not a living and active nation, but something mystical, intangible and supernatural. For, I repeat, what sort of nation, for instance, is a Jewish nation that consists of Georgian, Daghestanian, Russian, American, and other Jews, the members of which do not understand each other (since they speak different languages), inhabit different parts Of the globe, will never see each other, will never act together, whether in time of peace or in time of war? No, it is not for such paper “nations” that the Social-Democratic Party draws up its national program. It can only reckon with real nations, which act and move, and therefore insist on being reckoned with.

Bauer is obviously confusing nation, which is a historical category, with tribe, which is an ethnographical category.[3]


[1] Stalin, “Marxism and. the National Question,” Selected Works, Cardinal Publishers, 1971, p. 53.

[2] Ibid., p. 56.

[3] Ibid., p. 55.