First Published: Guardian, February 14, 1970.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Once again, one must first realize that Marxism is not the exclusive property of Marx or of his country of origin. It is the property of a whole family of political researchers, philosophers, scholars, who have helped to formulate and rationalize the laws of historic development. – Ahmed Sekou Toure, president of the Republic of Guinea
To answer what is the relevance of Marx and Lenin’s thinking for black and other third world people in the United States is to begin by asking what is Marxism?
Marxism is a theory of history that is far more than a scholarly and objective approach to the study of historical development. Marxism takes sides. It sides with the victim against the exploiter and says that there are certain laws in every society that are contradictions for the rule of the oppressor and that if the oppressed can take advantage of these laws then the days of oppression are numbered. Secondly, Marxism is a scientific system of analysis that can be used by any group in any society. To see Marxism as the thinking of one man is a great mistake; for the great contribution of Karl Marx was that he brought together the ideas of many thinkers and set about stating the laws of existence central to any feudal and modern social system. (Especially the relationship of capital and property to the labor of men and women in a given society.)
True Marxism thus becomes part of the scientific process or “the dialectical method.” As a science it is open for all to use and like true science it is always changing with new conclusions and expanding as it scientific approach is used in new situations and under different conditions. The Marxian method asks certain questions. What is the mode of production prevailing in the society under investigation? Who controls the means of production? What are the conflicts raging in the society? What are the main ideologies used to keep the oppressed in forms of bondage and ignorance? What are the divisions along the lines of class, race, age and sex?
The tragedy of most white so-called Marxists, whether in Europe or the U.S., is that they have refused to experiment as scientists with the dialectical method. They have become conservative, keeping to the same ideas and conclusions and making Marxism a dogma, not a system of analysis. Protecting “their” theory is more important than moving into uncharted revolutionary directions and real struggle along with colored revolutionaries. This has placed them in the footnotes of history.
Karl Marx gave us the idea of the class struggle and the class struggle is still important in the U.S. of the 1970s. What might be true in this decade is that the class struggle may intensify within classes such as between blacks, women, youth, etc., as the. contradictions inherent in the organization of the United States continue to multiply. The relationship of these classes to modern technology will create more bitter struggles within classes at this current moment than between them (“the myth of the bourgeoisie” of blacks, women and non-working class youth). Marxist theory of surplus value does much to explain how labor, profit; and exploitation still works in our society. His ideas on surplus capital show that money used as a basis for motivation can cause stagnation even in so-called socialist countries and that economics must not be used as the main reason for human development (i.e. Soviet Union).
With Lenin there is something new and important: For Lenin’s thinking thus represents Marxism in the age of the 20th century. Much of Lenin’s theoretical work, such as the theory of imperialism, was to answer why Marx’s original predictions on capitalism had not happened. Lenin’s thoughts, on imperialism do much to explain the contest for power in the modern world, an economic struggle with increasing racial characteristics. Lenin also believed in something often called “the dialectics of backwardness,” which argued that revolutionary awareness would first come in the colonial world in the so-called underdeveloped countries with their colored populations as the contradictions within imperialism were most open in these areas and that these colored, colonial populations were the world-wide proletarian force.
Lenin has also been the foremost authority on revolutionary organization. His ideas on democratic centralism, the front organization and most important, the vanguard political party as the conscious agent of the masses in struggle, are tremendous advances in terms of revolutionary practice. While there is some need to update some of Lenin’s ideas on organization for the U.S. in the 1970s, Lenin’s thinking must still be used as a basis for discussion and organization on leadership and organization building.
But Marxism-Leninism has not stopped with Marx and Lenin. Using rural China as a base, Mao Tse-Tung has raised Marxist-Leninist thought to its highest degree. All too often Mao’s contribution has been limited to that of revolutionary guerrilla warfare and a few “interesting” quotations on political thought. But Mao has blended Western materialism to Eastern thought and his writings on dialectics, political philosophy, creating reality, to the very idea of knowledge itself has expanded Marxist thought to entirely new dimensions. It does not stop there. Fide! Castro’s experiments in education and in political production – the l0 million ton sugar harvest in Cuba, the writings of Amilcar Cabral from the battlefields of “Portuguese” Guinea or to read the Tanzanian Arusha Declaration – probably the best written statement of advanced socialist principles to be found anywhere, is to realize that Lenin’s ideas on the dialectics of backwardness have been proved correct and given revolutionaries everywhere a new level of political consciousness and historic awareness.
And in an article such as this it is good to remember that our brothers and sisters, the Vietnamese, are colored and that they too are Marxist-Leninists. They are winning and creating a new society not despite their socialist principles and organization but because of them. This is why our new social theory must be called Marxism because it is the frame of reference for all these struggles, no matter how different they may be due to differences of geography.
It is not so much an end to Marxism as it is an end to the old doctrinaire, or new doctrinaire, white theory that passes for Marxism-Leninism in this country. A new Marxism-Leninism for the U.S. must be created. Whites cannot do this for us. Third world people represent the· most advanced and progressive forces moving for revolution in America.
It is from our struggle and, experience that this new theory must be developed. There is not only the right of the vanguard to do this but the responsibility as well.