Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist League

The Negro Nation–Colony of USNA Imperialism

First Published: The People’s Tribune, Vol. 6, No. 7, July 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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During the past period of time there has been an increasing awareness that the very cornerstone of the revolutionary policy of the Communist League is the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the national colonial question in general and the Negro question in particular and the proposal for a revolutionary solution to that question.

If our friends sometimes fail to grasp the significance of our line, our enemies hardly ever do. An example of this is the editorial in the Guardian of May 22, 1974 by Irwin Silber who states, “The CL proclaims the existence of a ’Negro Nation’ in the South, a physical land mass all of whose inhabitants, whether white or Black, are Negroes. The projection of two separate nations in this form really adds up not just to self-determination, but to an endorsement of secession.”

Silber is entirely correct. Our political outlook can be summed up – “The state of the United States is very powerful and as a united whole cannot be overthrown. The overthowal of this state is possible only if it is first – or in the process – dismembered.” This is what Silber is fighting against – and what all real revolutionaries are fighting for. Marxists understand that they cannot create objective reality – they can only work with existing developing situations. Hence, the Communist League has never attempted to create a situation that is favorable to us, but to analyze objective reality and to rely upon and exacerbate the aspect of the contradiction that is favorable to us. This is what Leninism is all about – the tactics of the oppressed to batter and finally overthrow an oppressor state.

The most important ideological weapon that the USNA imperialists have is the weapon of “American Exceptionalism”. It has and does permeate the projections of all social classes and is so inbred (based on the privileges of imperialism) that it is hardly noticeable as it disorients and distorts Marxism and objectivity.

For years “revolutionaries” have been talking about the Negro Nation, and no matter the correctness of their words, it is plain that they meant an oppressed people. Stalin points out how the Jews in Russia were an oppressed people because the lack of a Jewish peasantry prevented them from being an oppressed nation.

But there was an historically evolved community of territory as regards the Negro people along with the other criteria that define a nation. It is the ideology of “American exceptionalism” that allows them to say “Negro Nation”, and, at the same time, deny that all the people living in the nation are Negroes. None of these chauvinists would deny that all the people of Germany are Germans – be they Slavic or the “black” children of American soldiers. Compounding their confusion is their inability to grasp the fact that nations and tribes are two distinct and separate things. Nations are historically evolved communities, whereas tribes are ethnic.

Now there is a new question arising that has the same goal of undermining the revolutionary significance of the Negro question. This new projection is that the Negro question – while a national question – is not a colonial question.

It should be born in mind that until a year ago these same forces were denying that the Negro question was anything but a question of cultural nationalism. They are again saying the same thing, only with the sophistication that a beaten army learns. As Lenin stated, “A Russian Socialist who does not merely repeat what others say, but who thinks for himself, must realize that as far as Russia is concerned, it is particularly absurd to attempt to draw a serious distinction between oppressed nations and colonies.”[1]

First of all, we would like to ask: Can you point to a single national question that is not at the same time a colonial question? How is it conceivable in this period of dying, ferocious capitalism that there should be an oppressed nation that at the same time isn’t reduced to the level of a colony? It is plain for all to see that every colonial question involves the question of nations and also that every question of oppressed nations involves the question of colonial oppression. This is the indisputable result of the development of finance capital.

In this regard, Stalin wrote “It was the communists who first revealed the connection between the national question and the question of the colonies, who proved it theoretically and made it the basis of their practical revolutionary work.”[2] Is it that these latter day “Doubting Thomases” want to break us away from this basis of our revolutionary work? Yes Comrades, this is true because they represent the dying gasp of the revisionist Fosterite line of a “nation within a nation” – or to put it simply – cultural nationalism.

We are either dealing with people who refuse to read such elementary Marxist documents as Foundations of Leninism or people who are attempting to throw “learned dirt” into the eyes of the younger comrades by asking what appears to be innocent questions.

As noted above, the question boils down to this: Is the Fosterite conception of a “nation within a nation” correct, or is the Leninist concept of nations as direct colonies, as well as indirect neo-colonies tinder the dictatorship of an alien state correct? Foster’s “American exceptionalism” concept is cultural nationalism, pure and simple. Foster’s idea is a nation without territory. Likewise, the concept of an oppressed nation that is not a colony is the identical statement. Can there be a “nation within a nation”? Nations have frontiers – territory. How then is it possible to be within another nation? There cannot be multinational nations, only multinational states. States and nations are not the same.

We can partially excuse the chauvinism of the naive. In a certain sense of the word the Negro question is quite unique. It developed and matured within the state boundaries of the USNA. In almost all other cases, the colonies are questions of conquered peoples – peoples annexed to alien states by violence.

Secondly, the theoretical backwardness of the entire “left” in the USNA blocks the comrades from fully understanding the significance of the final stage of capitalist development, i.e. modern imperialism. Much of the confusion lies in the incorrect projection that the Negro Nation is not a colony because industrialization of that area is not in contradiction with the interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie. This statement means that the interests of imperialism are restricted to creating a commodity market and gaining sources of raw materials. This statement stinks of the position of Kautsky, of Rykov and Bukharin. What is that position? Kautsky spells it out. “Imperialism,” says Kautsky, “is a product of highly developed industrial capitalism. It consists in the striving of every industrial capitalist nation to bring under its control and to annex increasingly big agrarian regions irrespective of what nations inhabit those regions.”[3] Lenin replies, “The characteristic feature of imperialism is not industrial capital, but finance capital.”[4] And further, “...if it were chiefly a question of the annexation of agrarian countries by industrial capital, the role of the merchant would be predominant.”[5] Would these numbskulls dare to say that industrialized Puerto Rico isn’t a colony? Further, Lenin writes, “There was formerly an economic distinction between the colonies and the European peoples – at least the majority of the latter the colonies having been drawn into commodity exchange, but not into capitalist production. Imperialism changed this. Imperialism is, among other things, the export of capital.”[6]

In plain language this means that every colony is being brought into the sphere of commodity production, into industrialization. Lenin quotes from a bourgeois economist, Schulze-Gaevernitz: “Europe will shift, the burden of physical toil – first in agriculture and mining, and the more arduous toil in industry – on to the colored races, and itself be content with the role of rentier, and in this way, perhaps, pave the way for the economic, and later the political emancipation of the colored races.” Is this not happening before our eyes? How can anyone doubt that the national and colonial questions have merged – not simply in their political aspects but more fundamentally in their economic aspects.

We proved in the Negro National Colonial Question that the Negro people developed as a people prior to the development of the Negro Nation. We made clear and scientific analysis of this development and its historical implications. We are clear why there is such a reluctance on the part of most so-called “revolutionaries” to consider the territorial demands of the Negro people and the inevitability of at least temporarily partitioning this country! This reluctance is based in the fact that no other oppressed people were the direct servants of a very large section of the Anglo-American people. Lenin is clear: “Firstly, what is the most important, the fundamental idea contained in our thesis? The distinction between oppressed and oppressing nations.”[7] It should be noted that Lenin spoke of oppressed nations and oppressing nations – not simply classes. It is the privileges that the Anglo-American nation takes over the Negro Nation that accounts, in good part, for the loss of logic of the “radicals”. Ask any Anglo-American philistine, “Is Northern Ireland a colony of Great Britain?” Invariably the answer is “Yes”. Ask any British philistine, “Is the Negro Nation a colony?” and the answer invariably is “yes”. But to place the question of Northern Ireland to the British philistine or the Negro question to the Anglo-American philistine is to be concretely shown the effects of imperialist privileges over the subjugated peoples.

Scientifically, there can be no such thing as “American exceptionalism”. There can be no “nation within a nation” and there cannot be an oppressed nation that isn’t a colony. As x Lenin said about this, “...firstly because for the majority of the West-European countries the typical form of national oppression is colonial oppression, and secondly, because the term ’colonies’ is a particularly clear, obvious and vital one in Western European countries.”[8] It should be clear to all that the purpose of oppression is to facilitate exploitation. The Negro nation is exploited as a nation – that is to say – the natural, as well as, human resources. Is not Wall Street industrialising the South? And please don’t tell us that Wall Street is also industrializing Minnesota. We are talking about the export of finance capital beyond the national borders, the super-exploitation of the toilers in the oppressed area and the privileges of the people of the oppressor nation.

Today, most will agree that the term, “The Negro Peoples Liberation movement” is a correct term. Who and what are they trying to get liberated from? If the answer is “from finance capital”, then we are united because the export of finance capital is colonialism at a higher stage.

In this intense and crucial period, we simply cannot continue to theoretically struggle with people who will not read books or present position papers. Our position is clear: let the opposition present their position. Lenin long ago said, “seven fools can ask more questions than seventy wise men can answer.”

However, to assist our friends in understanding this question we submit a partial bibliography:

Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,
The Socialist Revolution and “the Right of Nation’s to Self-Determination”,
A Caricature of Marxism,
The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up

Marxism and the National Question,
Report on the National Question,
The October Revolution And the National Question,
Theses on the Immediate Tasks of the Party in Connection with the National Problem,
The National Question Presented,
The National Question,
The Proletarian Method of Solving the National Problem


[1] V.I. Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism. Coll. Wks. Vol. XXX, Intl. Pub. N.Y., 1942 p* 255

[2] J.V. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, Intl. Pub. N.Y.

[3] V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Coll. Wks., Vol. XIX Intl. Pub. N.Y. p. 162

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid p. 163

[6] Ibid

[7] Lenin, Collected Works. Vol. XIX, Int. Pub., 1942, p. 239.

[8] Op, Cit. A Caricature of Marxism