Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Union

Red Papers 6: Build the Leadership of the Proletariat and its Party

Revolutionary Union

Living Socialism and Dead Dogmatism: The Proletarian Line and the Struggle Against Opportunism on the National Question in the U.S.

The paper by the clique of Detroit defectors tries to give the impression that these four were part of a large group that split from the RU. This is as phony as the line of the paper itself. It announces that it is written “in opposition to the (RU’s) consolidation of the revisionism line on the Black National Question,” and proclaims its intention to “refute ”the RU line and lays bare its revisionist content.” This, of course, is not the first time that the RU line on the national question has been attacked as a “revisionist ... racist ... chauvinist . .. liquidation of the national question.” And, as is the case with the Detroit paper, this attack has frequently been based on the argument that the key to the struggle for Black liberation and socialist revolution in the U.S. is the “Black Belt’” south – generally speaking, the crescent-shaped area running from a part of Virginia down through parts of the deep south and into eastern Texas, the old plantation area which got the name “Black Belt” because of the rich quality (and the color) of the soil.

In the final analysis the Detroit paper rests on the erroneous point that the heart of the Black liberation struggle is the “land question” in the “Black Belt.” As part of trying to put this over, the authors of this paper mix up the use of the term “land,” using it to mean farmland – referring to the agrarian question – and to mean territory – referring to the fact that the “Black Belt” is the historic homeland of Black people in the U.S. These authors try to combine their two uses of “land” into one concept, thereby creating confusion. But whichever way you look at it, the Detroit paper is fundamentally wrong.

The Black liberation struggle is not essentially an agrarian question today – “land to the tiller” (40 acres and a mule, or 400 acres and a tractor) is not the fundamental demand of the Black people’s struggle. Nor is it essentially a territorial question – “liberating the Black Belt” (today a majority white area) in order to exercise political control and the right of self-determination (political secession) there is not the highest expression of the Black people’s struggle for liberation. Instead, while Black people have the right to self-determination, the Black liberation struggle is in essence a proletarian question –a fight both as a people and as part of the single multi-national working class to end national oppression and its source – capitalist rule – and build socialism, under the rule of the united working class, throughout the U.S.

From its beginning, the RU has formulated and developed its line on the national question in opposition to tendencies to liquidate it on the one hand, or to separate it from and raise it above the class struggle and interests of the proletariat, on the other hand. The Detroit paper is a clear example of the “above class struggle” tendency. While putting on the mantle of being the great upholder and defender of the Black liberation struggle against the “RU liquidationists,” the Detroit paper, like all similar arguments, in reality undercuts the Black liberation struggle by pointing away from its real revolutionary thrust today.

In Red Papers 4 and particularly in Red Papers 5 we analysed and refuted in detail this “land to the tiller” and “self-determination is the major thrust” line. We showed how clinging to this line today not only represents a complete rupture from the basic Marxist method of “concrete analysis of concrete conditions,” but also “guts the heart out of the Black liberation struggle,” because, “instead of emphasizing the driving force that the Black liberation struggle provides for the revolutionary struggle of the entire working class –the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism throughout the country – these groups (who hold the ’Black Belt is key’ line) roll back the wheel of history to the time when the Black people were concentrated as peasants in the Black Belt and did not occupy such a powerful, strategic position in society as a whole.” (Red Papers 5, p. 26)

The Detroit authors clearly recognize that in order to promote their petty bourgeois and reactionary longing for the past, they must base themselves on the “absolute necessity of thoroughly refuting RP 5.” Their “refutation,” as we will show, consists of lifeless dogma, cheap demagoguery, appeals to petty bourgeois moralism and a complete disregard for the communist stand of “seeking truth from facts.”

But the Detroit paper does represent a more up-dated and clever attempt to put over this fundamentally incorrect and opportunist position than the arguments for the same “Black Belt is key” line that we dealt with in RP 5. And, unfortunately, the position of this Detroit paper has been embraced recently by the Black Workers Congress (BWC) and the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), in their attempt to find one “theoretical” justification after another for their tendency to degenerate into dogmatism and bourgeois nationalism.

With the development of the U.S. mass movement and the communist movement over the past period, the task of uniting all who can be united around a Marxist-Leninist line and programme to form the new Communist Party has become the central task of communists in the U.S. today. Because of this, and because a correct line on the national question is such a crucial part of this, it is necessary to take up and defeat the Detroit paper and the fundamentally reactionary line it represents on the national question.

And it is important not only to defeat this line in and of itself, but to show how this line, and all who put it forward, act, in the end, as an aid and a cover for the revisionists, and actually obstruct the building of a new Party which makes a complete rupture with the revisionism of the “Communist Party,” USA, not only organizationally, but ideologically and politically.

The Development and The Periods of The National Question

The Detroit paper is almost as long as it is wrong. To answer it in every detail would take a book in itself because, as Lenin said, ”it requires roughly ten pages of print to untangle and popularly explain ten lines of confusion.” Fortunately, we do not have to answer all of its arguments in detail because many of them have already been answered not only in RP 4 and 5, but in the articles in this Red Papers dealing with the documents of the BWC. There are, however, several main points raised in the Detroit paper which we do have to go into at more length.

The first revolves around the attack on the RU analysis that in the U.S. today, the national question has entered a new period, a third period, in which it is once more a “particular and internal state question,” but on an “entirely new basis,” under “new and unique conditions,” in which “land to the tiller” and self-determination are not the “essential thrust” of the struggles of the oppressed nationalities, including the Black nation.

This is nothing but revisionism – American Exceptionalism – say the Detroit authors, because there can only be two periods of the national question, the first when it was part of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and the second when it has become part of the proletarian revolution. We are in the stage of proletarian revolution, so how can the national question have entered a third period?

This is the position of our Detroit authors, and, they add, since there can be no third period, the RU is actually “trying to put the Black national question back in the first period, when the bourgeoisie played the dominant role.” Therefore, in sum, according to our authors, the RU poses national struggle against the class struggle, treats the Black liberation movement as a bourgeois movement, as an obstacle to the development of the class struggle, and liquidates the revolutionary role of the Black liberation movement.

Well, it must be admitted that our Detroit authors are capable of a logical exercise. But the problem is that they base themselves on bourgeois ideology, which demands that arguments be consistent, fit together, but not that they bear any relation to the actual development of reality. For example, take the following: there are no antagonistic classes under socialism, therefore anyone who says that there are antagonistic classes in a socialist country is really saving that it is not a socialist country at all, but a capitalist one. There is nothing inconsistent about this statement, nothing wrong with it from the point of view of bourgeois logic; the only problem is that its first assumption – that there are no antagonistic classes under socialism – is incorrect, as the communist movement has learned, and therefore its conclusion is also incorrect (though consistent with its first assumption).

This method of bourgeois logic is opposed to the proletarian outlook and method that bases itself on materialism – on the actual conditions of life and society – and on dialectics– seeing how things develop through the struggle of opposing forces and continually advance from one stage to a qualitatively higher one.

Let’s see how this applies to the question of periods of development of the national question. We have already analyzed this in “Marxism vs. Bundism,” but let’s briefly review it here. It is true that, as a result of WW I and the Russian Revolution, the national question entered a new period. This meant that, taking its general character, it was transformed from a question limited mainly to Europe, into a question of world importance, a question especially of the colonies struggling against imperialism. As such it became, on a world scale an ally of the working classes in the developed countries in the struggle for socialism. It was in this sense that, again taking its general character, the national question on a world scale became a part of the proletarian-socialist and not of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.

But it is also true that, taking its general character, the national question, especially in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, is part of the bourgeois-democratic struggle against imperialism and feudalism in those countries. It is, however, not a bourgeois-democratic question of the old type – leading to capitalist rule – but of a new type – the first stage of the revolution which, under the leadership of the proletariat and its Party leads to proletarian rule and to socialism as its second stage. This first stage, the stage of new democratic revolution, is still the stage of struggle in most of the Third World today. As things have developed in the real world, this stage generally characterizes the second period of the national question –the new democratic epoch in the colonies – as opposed to the old bourgeois-democratic epoch in Europe that generally characterized the first period.

Does the national question in the U.S., and the Black national question in particular, fit into either of these two general periods? No, it does not. It is neither part of a bourgeois-democratic struggle of an old type, nor of a new type. It is in essence a part of the immediate, single stage struggle for proletarian rule and socialism. And this is exactly why we have said that it is in a new period, a third period. Like the struggle in the second period, the Black liberation struggle is part of the proletarian struggle for socialism, on a world scale. But unlike the second period, it is also directly and immediately a part of the struggle for socialism, within the country (the U.S.) itself.

If, by insisting that the Black national question is in the second period, our Detroit authors only wanted to stress that it is part of the world socialist and not part of any world capitalist revolution, and if along with this they made a correct analysis of the actual conditions and character of the Black liberation struggle in the U.S. today, then we would have no substantial disagreement with them. And we wouldn’t quarrel over the definition of periods simply for its own sake, or argue over formulations in the abstract – that is the business of dogmatists, not Marxist-Leninists.

But our Detroit dogmatists mean more than this. They mean that the Black national question is still essentially a bourgeois-democratic question – a question of agrarian revolution linked with the right of self-determination as its essential thrust – and in this way it is an ally of the U.S, proletariat in the struggle for socialism. This is where we fundamentally disagree, and this is what makes the question of periods assume vital importance for the actual development of the revolutionary movement in this country – for building the Black liberation struggle in a revolutionary way and linking it most powerfully with the overall proletarian struggle for socialism as the next, immediate goal.

To oppose revolution in the name of revolution, our Detroit authors quote at length from Lenin and Stalin on the national question and its character in different periods. But in their use of these quotations they violate the very principle that they quote from Stalin: their paper, like those Stalin polemicizes most sharply against, “quotes outside of space and time, without reference to the living historical situation, and therein violates the most elementary requirements of dialectics, and ignores the fact that what is right for one historical situation may prove to be wrong in another historical situation.” (See “The National Question Once Again.” Stalin, Vol. 7, p. 227)

Let’s look further, for example, at our Detroit dogmatists use of quotes from the articles by Stalin on the national question in Yugoslavia, written in 1925. In the first of these two articles, Stalin writes that “In the first stage, the national question was regarded as pan of the general question of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, that is to say as part of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. In the second stage, when the national question assumed wider scope and became a question of the colonies, when it become transformed from an intra-state question into a world question, it came to be regarded as part of the general question of the proletarian revolution, as part of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” (Stalin, “Concerning the National Question in Yugoslavia,” Vol. 7, p. 71, our emphasis) It is very significant that in quoting this passage the Detroit paper leaves out the part emphasized above.

Why? Because it is not possible to strictly apply what Stalin says there to the Chinese revolution, for example – and, of course, our Detroit authors have to pose as upholders, of Mao Tsetung Thought. Stalin says that the difference between the two periods was that, in the first period the national question was part of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, while in the second period it is part of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But in China, the national democratic (new democratic) revolution led to the dictatorship not only of the workers and peasants, but of broader strata as well, under the leadership of the proletariat and its Communist Party. Sticking strictly to Stalin’s analysis above would force you to say that the national liberation struggle in China was actually a part of the first period of the national question.

Will our dead dogmatists from Detroit please explain how Stalin’s formulation above applies in all its main points to China, before 1949, or to Indochina today? They cannot. Or will they tell us that the Chinese national liberation struggle was part of the first period of the national question, the period when the national question was limited essentially to Europe and had not yet developed into the broader question of the struggle of the colonies against imperialism? They cannot do that either, without obviously and openly making fools of themselves. This is no doubt why they omitted the part of Stalin’s statement in question, and gave us three dots instead of any concrete Marxist analysis.

Stalin was referring above to the situation in Russia, in particular, as well as to the general development of the national question. In Russia, the revolution had two stages, a bourgeois-democratic stage followed by the socialist stage. But this was not as fully the case in Russia as in China – and the colonies and semi-colonies generally. The progressive role of the “liberal” bourgeoisie in Russia was much more limited than the progressive role of the patriotic national bourgeoisie in the Third World countries. And it is true that, as soon as the Tsar was overthrown in February, 1917, the Russian bourgeoisie as a whole became completely and antagonistically opposed to the proletariat in its revolutionary struggle.

Still, because Russia was the most backward of all the countries that had reached the stage of imperialism and had feudal and monarchal survivals intermixed with capitalism, the revolution there did pass through a bourgeois-democratic stage, aimed not immediately at socialism but at overthrowing the Tsar. On the other hand, because the proletariat of Russia was very concentrated in large-scale enterprises, and because it had the leadership of a communist party, it was able to achieve the class consciousness and the political authority to carry the struggle forward to socialist revolution, right after the overthrow of the Tsar.

Russia was a kind of bridge, politically and economically, as well as geographically, between Europe and the East. In a sense, the Russian revolution stood halfway between the capitalist countries and the colonial and semi-colonial countries. That is, the Russian working class, in its fight for socialism, could not move immediately to socialism – as is the task in the developed capitalist countries – nor could it go through as full or as long a period of bourgeois-democratic struggle, maintaining as broad an alliance, including sections of the national bourgeoisie, for as long a period – as is the task in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.

In Russia the task of the proletariat was first to unite with the whole peasantry as its main ally in overthrowing the Tsar, and then to unite with the poor peasantry as its main ally in overthrowing capitalism and building socialism. This is what Stalin means in the passage cited above where he says that in the first period it was a question of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, while in the second period it became, in essence, the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But, with the further development of the national question, with the growing role of the colonial and anti-imperialist movements, the general character of the national question changed somewhat, became essentially a bourgeois-democratic question, but of a new type, an ally of the proletariat worldwide, and the first step toward socialism within the colonial and semi-colonial countries themselves. Once again, this is what has come to characterize the general development of the national question in the second period.

Stalin is no less a great Marxist-Leninist if, in 1925, when writing mainly about the national question in Yugoslavia – which was a somewhat different situation than the colonial and semi-colonial countries – he did not foresee all these developments in the national question. (Stalin, in writings shortly afterward on the struggle in China, did stress that it was still in a bourgeois-democratic stage, but it remained for Mao Tsetung to fully develop the theory of revolution in China, and the colonial and semi-colonial countries generally). Our Detroit authors, however, who fancy themselves great Marxist-Leninists, cannot be excused, nor even regarded as simply ignorant, if they refuse to learn from the development of the revolutionary struggle, including the national liberation movements, over the past 40-50 years.

Instead, our Detroit authors rely on the method Stalin sharply ridiculed – the tendency to “doze at the fireside and munch ready-made solutions.” But reality, and Marxism-Leninism, which is the scientific summation of reality in the process of constant change and transformation, is not so simple as repeating quotations.

To emphasize this point–and it can’t be emphasized too strongly, especially when dealing with dogmatists –let’s look at a few more examples. Lenin, during the same time as he stressed that, in general, the national question had become part of the world socialist revolution, also insisted that in speaking of the national question it was necessary to distinguish three types of countries, or, in essence, three historical situations. He laid it out like this:

First type: the advanced countries of Western Europe (and America), where the national movement is a thing of the past. Second type: Eastern Europe, where it is a thing of the present. Third type: semi-colonies and colonies, where it is largely a thing of the future. (“A Caricature of Marxism,” Lenin, Vol. 23, p. 38, emphasis and words in parentheses, Lenin’s)

When Lenin says that in Western Europe and America the national movement is a thing of the past, he is not talking about particular national questions in these countries, or areas–such as the Black people in the U.S., or the question of Ireland. He means that, as a general rule, the period of rising capitalism, when the bourgeoisie of the newly emerging nations played a progressive role in opposing feudalism and developing modern capitalist relations and a modern (capitalist) state –this period was already a thing of the past in Western Europe and the U.S. At the same time, however, because modern (capitalist) nations developed later in Eastern Europe, and faced the domination of more powerful and developed bourgeois and landlord classes of the oppressor nations, the progressive role of national movements there was not over. And this was still more the case in the colonies, where modern nations and progressive national movements had only begun to develop.

And, when inter-imperialist contradictions among the advanced capitalist countries exploded into WW I, the national movements, in parts of Eastern Europe, and still more so in the colonies, became a part of the general, revolutionary socialist movement, headed by the proletariat of the advanced countries and aimed at overthrowing imperialism. The success of the proletarian revolution in Russia and its influence in forming and strengthening communist parties throughout the world, further strengthened the revolutionary role of the national movements, especially in the colonies, and linked them more closely with the world struggle for socialism.

On a world scale, the alliance between the proletariat of the advanced countries and the liberation struggles of the colonies became in essence an extension of the worker-peasant alliance. This was so because, as Stalin pointed out, the masses of people in the colonies were peasants and the national struggle was “in essence a peasant question,” the struggle of the peasant masses against imperialism.

From this we can see that WW I and the Russian revolution ushered in a new era in the world – the era of proletarian revolution – and the national question, taking its general character, became a part of that era, and was no longer a part of the era of capitalist world revolution, of rising capitalism. But, as Lenin also stressed in the article cited above, “An era is called an era precisely because it encompasses the sum total of variegated phenomena and wars, typical and untypical, big and small, some peculiar to advanced countries, others to backward countries. To brush aside these concrete questions by resorting to general phrases about the ’era’ is to abuse the very concept ’era.’” (Lenin, same article, Vol. 23, pp. 36-37).

This is a perfect description of the “abuse” of our Detroit opportunists, who insist that because WW I was the “beginning of the era of proletarian revolution,” therefore the character of the national question is always and everywhere the same, and to say otherwise is “revisionism,” “social-chauvinism,” “American-exceptionalism,” etc. But as much as our dogmatists may want to ignore it, the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution has proved to be a very long era, longer than Lenin anticipated at the time of WW I. In the course of this era, many important changes have taken place, and the analysis and policies of communists must change in accordance with this.

For example, in one of the articles our Detroit dogmatists are most fond of quoting–and in which Lenin notes that the national question has entered a new period–he also says that “revolutionary movements of all kinds–including national movements–are more possible, more practicable, more stubborn, more conscious and more difficult to defeat in Europe than they are in the colonies.” (“The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up,” Lenin, Vol. 22, p. 338, emphasis Lenin’s)

This statement was correct when Lenin wrote it in 1916, but is it true today? No, it is not, nor could you insist on applying it today without in fact liquidating the tremendous revolutionary role of the national liberation movements in the colonies.

As a result of WW I and the Russian revolution, the colonial areas of the world were transformed from the reserves of the bourgeoisie into the reserves of the proletariat. But, beyond that, as a result of WW II, and the events that followed it, especially the Chinese revolution, the Third World, as it is called today, has been transformed into the storm center of the international revolutionary movement. (This, too, will change at some point, the storm center will at some point shift back to the advanced capitalist countries, but that has not been the case since WW II).

Lenin, of course, could not foresee all this, exactly because, as he said at the time of WW I, the national movements in the colonies were then mainly a thing of the future. But, again, looking at the general character of the national movements, centered mainly in the colonies since the time of WW I, the second period of the national question is basically defined by the fact that the struggle is a bourgeois-democratic revolution of a new type, part of the world socialist revolution, and the first stage leading to socialist revolution within the colonial and semi-colonial countries themselves.

The Black national question in the U.S. today, however, while certainly a part of the world socialist revolution, is not in the period of new democratic revolution, but of proletarian-socialist revolution. It is in a new, or third, period.

Summing this up, it might be argued that actually there have been four periods of the national question: the three “types” cited from Lenin (above) and the situation in the U.S. today. Again, our purpose is not to quarrel over definitions, in the abstract or for their own sake. But we feel that actually the national question in Eastern Europe –Lenin’s second type –was both a part of the first period – the period of rising capitalism –and then became a part of the second period–the period when bourgeois-democratic national movements became a part of the world struggle for socialism. This is another reflection of the fact that parts of Eastern Europe, and Russia, in particular, acted as a bridge between the advanced capitalist countries and the colonies and semi-colonies.

For these reasons, summing up the general development of the national question, it is essentially correct to outline three general historical situations: bourgeois-democratic of an old type, bourgeois-democratic of a new type, and proletarian-socialist. This is the basis for understanding the actual conditions and the real revolutionary thrust of the Black liberation struggle, and other national movements in the U.S. today.

In saving that the Black national question today has entered a new, third, period, we don’t mean to imply that it has developed, nice and neat, through the two previous periods –like a dance step, one, two, three. What we mean, what a real revolutionary line on the question must be based on, is that the Black liberation struggle today is not essentially the same as the old bourgeois-democratic national movements in Europe, nor is it essentially the same as the bourgeois-democratic national struggles of a new type in the colonies, but is in essence a proletarian-socialist question, a direct component part of the struggle of the single multinational proletariat for socialism throughout the country.” And this is why we say that it is a “particular and internal state question,” but of a new type, on a far higher and more developed level –more closely and directly linked with socialist revolution –than in the first period in Europe, But wait a minute, scream our dogmatists, ”in the epoch of proletarian revolution the national question cannot be seen as a particular and internal problem,” they insist. If by this they simply meant that it is fundamentally incorrect to regard the national question today as only, or mainly, a question of a few advanced capitalist countries, and not to see that it is mainly a question of the colonies, then no one –at least no genuine Marxist – would disagree. But they mean more than that, they mean that it is impermissible to analyze the concrete conditions of the national question in any given country, or to treat that national question in any one country as essentially different than in other countries.

But contrary to the pronouncements of our Little League Lenins, there are situations in which real Leninists treat the national question as a “particular and internal state question,” even today, “in the era of proletarian revolution” and even, in certain cases, when speaking of the Third World.

This, for example, is exactly how our Chinese comrades treated the question of East Pakistan (“Bangla Desh”). That is, they treated the question not its part of the general struggle of the colonial countries against imperialism, but insisted instead that many countries in the world have nationality problems, which need to be solved properly and reasonably in conformity with the desire and interests of the people, but these are the internal affairs of the respective countries, which can be solved only by their own governments and peoples, and in which no foreign country has the right to interfere.” (See “Statement of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, December 16, 1971,” in Peking Review, No. 51, December 17, 1971)

Of course, the chief concern of the Chinese in this case was, quite correctly, the fact that the Soviet social imperialists, through the government of India, were instigating and backing a reactionary secessionist movement, aimed not at liberating the people of East Pakistan, but at carving up Pakistan, bringing a part of it under Soviet domination and gaining another base area for the encirclement of China. And the Chinese stuck to their principled stand, despite the attacks from the Trotskyites and revisionists that the Chinese were violating the right of self-determination of “Bangla Desh” and opposing a struggle for national liberation.

“Bangla Desh” was itself an example of a reactionary national movement that strengthened and did not weaken imperialism and reaction in the area overall, and this is why the Chinese opposed it. But the Chinese statement quoted above refers not only to Pakistan, but to “Many countries in the world” whose “nationality problems” are the internal affairs of those particular countries. We would like to ask our dogmatists from Detroit – are the Chinese revisionists and chauvinists for saving this, are they deliberately distorting the fact that today, the national question is part of the “era of proletarian revolution” and ”a general and international problem?”

We don’t know what our dogmatists authors might say, but we believe that the Chinese are upholding Marxism, making a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, and determining their stand on the basis of the actual situation, which is different in different countries and different parts of the world, as well as in different periods. Would the Chinese say, for example, that Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau are the “internal affair” of Portugal, did they say that Algeria, before it achieved independence, was the “internal affair” of France, and so on? Of course not–this was and is the stand of the colonialists and imperialists and their revisionist agents, and the Chinese thoroughly oppose this and resolutely support such national liberation struggles. Everything, as Stalin said, depends on condition, time and place.

The Chinese did and do say for example, that the national question within China itself, that is the question of the minority nationalities in China, is solely its internal affair and particular to the Chinese revolution. Because of this correct stand, and because in the course of the Chinese revolution, separate republics were not set up in the territories of the minority nationalities, the revisionists have actually accused the Chinese of violating the Leninist principle of self-determination.

Henry Winston, chairman of the “CP”USA writes that “The Chinese Communist Party denied this right to many non-Chinese nations within China’s territory, offering instead formal regional autonomy to some of the non-Chinese national minorities. This left the Han majority as the controlling force in all areas and overall nations and nationalities within the unitary-state.” (from Strategy for a Black Agenda, Chapter 6, “Maoist Violation of the Right of Self-Determination,” p. 109)

It is very interesting that in attacking the Chinese, besides using outright lies about Han domination, Winston uses the very same arguments, and even the very same quotation from Lenin’s article “Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up”–on the difference between a reformist and revolutionary solution to the national question, the difference between mere autonomy and the right of self-determination–that our Detroit authors use in attacking the RU’s line. All that this shows is that the worst opportunists, and even outright agents of imperialism, can use the letter of Marxism against the spirit of Marxism by quoting “outside of space and time,” and “ignoring the fact that what is right for one historical situation may prove to be wrong in another historical situation.”

In fact, regional autonomy has proved to be the correct solution in regard to the minority nationalities in China for several reasons. First, most of these nationalities lived in conditions even more backward than the majority (Han) Chinese, and generally had not reached the stage of capitalism upon which a modern nation-state could be formed. And given this, and the actual situation of China, especially since the mid-50’s, with the restoration of capitalism in the USSR, any tendency to separate these nationalities and their territories from China would only mean that they would be more vulnerable to aggression from surrounding imperialist and reactionary powers, and that they would almost certainly be forcibly removed from a socialist state and put under the domination of a reactionary state.

Still, it could conceivably be argued that in China today there are nationalities, with separate territories in the border regions which do technically constitute nations. And, on that basis, some dogmatists may want to join with the revisionists in opportunistically attacking the Chinese as violators of the tight to self-determination, because, in building socialism in China, they adopted the “unitary state” form and not the Soviet form of separate republics! These dogmatists and revisionists would not want, of course, to acknowledge that, in the Russian revolution itself, the proletariat did not make self-determination an “absolute” and in certain cases “violated” the right of self-determination–that is, subordinated it to the consolidation of power by the working class, as Stalin himself said, writing about Poland, for example.

But beyond that, the fact is that in China, the basic question of national liberation and self-determination was the liberation of the Chinese people as a whole, including its minority nationalities, from imperialism. It was this struggle that was a part of the world proletarian-socialist revolution, a part of the general and international national liberation struggle, especially of the colonies. The Chinese correctly dealt with the question of the minority nationalities within China as a “particular and internal state question,” within he general development of the revolution and the contraction of socialism in China. And this correct stand has led to the elimination of national oppression within China, and to the establishment of genuine equality between nationalities–without the step of establishing separate republics.

This does not mean that the Soviet model was wrong in Russia. It only shows once again that one is bound to land in unity with the opportunists if he can only “regard the national question not as part of the general question of the social and political development of society, subordinated to this general question, but as something self-contained and constant, whose direction and character remain basically unchanged throughout the course of history.” (Stalin, “The National Question and Leninism,” Vol. I, p. 365)

This of course, is the downfall of our Detroit authors and their fellow dogmatists and worshippers of bourgeois nationalism, such as the BWC and PRRWO. Significantly, in their “Criticism” of RU National Bulletin 13, the BWC, in unity with PRRWO, quote the following from a China Reconstructs supplement dealing with the question of minority nationalities in China: “Any nationality, as long as it has a compact community large enough to form an administrative unit (autonomous region, chou or county) can establish an autonomous area with its own organs of self-government which can exercise autonomy in administering internal affairs.” (See “Some Basic Facts about China, China Reconstructs Supplement, January, 1974, p. 71.) The BWC follows this quote immediately with the statement, “It is clear that the RU does not understand this question of self-determination.”

The quote from the China Reconstructs supplement, however, refers not to self-determination, as it was applied in the Soviet Union, and as BWC and other dogmatists insist it must be applied in the U.S. today. It refers instead to national regional autonomy and self-government, within the single (“unitary”) socialist state. From this it is clear, once again, that it is the BWC and its dogmatist friends who do not understand self-determination and the national question –from the point of view of the proletariat.

In its degeneration further along the road of dogmatism and bourgeois nationalism, the BWC conveniently omitted this quote from China Reconstructs in the section of their pamphlet, The Black Liberation Struggle, the Black Workers Congress and Proletarian Revolution, which deals with self-determination and attacks the RU (though not by name). This was done without any self-criticism or explanation, because no doubt BWC realized that this quote went against its efforts to make the right of political secession the heart of the Black liberation struggle. Therefore, from the point of view of the BWC, it was more opportune just to delete any reference to the solution of the national question within China itself.

Black Liberation and Socialist Revolution in the U.S.

This brings us back to why we say that the Black national question in the U.S. today is a “particular arid internal state question” under “new conditions” and that self-determination (that is, the right of political secession) and agrarian revolution–“land to the tiller”–in the “Black Belt” is not at the heart of the Black liberation struggle. It is an “internal state question” because the Black nation in the U.S. exists within the state of the U.S. It is not a colony.

Even our Detroit dogmatists do not argue with this. They cannot argue with it, because the 1930 Resolution of the Communist International (Comintern) on the Negro National Question in the U.S.–which our Detroit authors insist still applies in every major point today–says straight out that “It is not correct to consider the Negro zone of the South as a colony of the United States ... (although) it would be none the less false to make a fundamental distinction between the character of national oppression to which the colonial peoples are subjected and the yoke of other oppressed nations.” (We will take up the Comintern Resolutions and the question of their applicability to the U.S. today a little later.) And our Detroit authors’ mentor, Harry Haywood, in his book Negro Liberation, while calling the “Black Belt” at that time (1948) a “kind of internal ’colony,’“ still referred to “Negroes in the United States (south)” as a ”nation within a nation.” (See Negro Liberation, Harry Haywood, 1948, pp. 146, 152.)

The Black national question in the U.S. today is a ”particular” question in the sense that it is an integral and component part of the single stage proletarian revolution in the U.S., and not a struggle separate and apart from the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism throughout the U.S. It is not essentially the same as the national liberation struggles in the colonies and semi-colonies. The Black nation is not a part of the Third World, or a separate country from the U.S., as the BWC tried to say in its Guardian statement of April 3 (reprinted in this Red Papers). And the statement by Mao, on the character of the revolution in the colonial and semi-colonial countries–that they will lead to the establishment of a “state and governmental structure. .. . basically the same, i.e., a new democratic state under the joint dictatorship of several anti-imperialist classes”–this does not apply to the Black liberation struggle in the U.S. today. (See, “On New Democracy,” Mao, Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 351.)

In the semi-colonial and colonial countries generally, the struggle for liberation of the nation basically defines the over-all character of the revolutionary movement in the country as a whole. Liberation, independence from imperialism, is a first and necessary step in order to clear the ground for the next stage of struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the struggle for socialism, throughout the entire nation (country). So, as Mao Tsetung wrote, in these conditions, the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in that country (the oppressed nation) must be subordinated to the struggle for national liberation – independence of the country from imperialism – until the revolution has developed into its second, socialist stage. (See “Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War,” Mao Tse Tung Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 196.)

This does not apply to the Black national question in the U.S. It is not necessary to go through a New Democratic stage and calling for this is in essence revisionist. Further, the Black liberation struggle, while an extremely important revolutionary force in its own right, and as a component part of the overall struggle of the working class for socialism, does not basically define the overall character of the revolutionary movement in the country as a whole, but is a particular part of it. And the overall class struggle cannot be subordinated to the struggle for the independence of the Black nation, but the reverse. Self-determination, the right of political secession, of the Black nation must be subordinated to the overall struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat throughout the U.S. It is not the case, even when speaking only of Black workers, that “only by achieving national liberation will it be possible for the proletariat and other working people to achieve their own liberation.” Rather, only through socialist revolution, as the next immediate stage, can the masses of Black people and other oppressed nationalities achieve their own liberation.

The BWC, in its pamphlet, Black Liberation, the BWC, and Proletarian Revolution tries to get around this fact by treating the class struggle and the national struggle as “separate but equal” struggles in the U.S. This leads them to the contused formulation that in the U.S. today there is one “fundamental contradiction” –between the working class and the bourgeoisie –but two “basic contradictions” – “The contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed Black Nation and national minorities, and the contradiction between the capitalist class and the working class.” So, according to BWC, “the proletariat and the communists have two principal tasks, proletarian revolution and national liberation,” which will lead to the “liberation of the whole working class and its allies on the one hand, and the freedom and liberation of Black people on the other.” (See pp.5, 9, 10)

This is fundamentally incorrect and represents an attempt to separate the national question from the class question and elevate it to a position equal to (in fact, in practice, above) the class question. As we said before, this position actually liquidates the struggle both for socialism and for Black liberation.

The single multi-national proletariat in the U.S. has one basic or fundamental task, flowing from the one basic or fundamental contradiction of this society –the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the working class, and the establishment of the rule of the working class to build socialism and advance to communism. To accomplish this historic task, the multi-national proletariat and its Communist Party must unite under its leadership all those who can be united against the imperialist ruling class. In particular, the proletariat must take up and lead the struggle against all national oppression, in order to unite the workers’ movement with the struggle of the oppressed nationalities for liberation, for the smashing of all imperialist oppression of them as peoples as well as members of the single multinational working class.

This is a reflection of the fact that, in the U.S. today, the Black national question, and the national question generally, is not only an “internal state question,” but a particular and direct component part of the single stage proletarian revolution. Word games and double talk about “one fundamental” and “two basic” contradictions do not change this and cannot hide the fact that BWC, and others, are trying to divorce the national struggle from the class struggle and treat the national struggle as above all a “patriotic” struggle for “independence of the homeland,” which is an absolutely correct and necessary strategy for the Third World countries, but absolutely incorrect as a strategy for the national movements in the U.S. today.

From all this, it is clear why the Black national question is a particular and an internal state question, but under new conditions, in a higher form than dining the first period of the national question. To summarize what we said before on this point: The Black national struggle, like national movements in today’s world, generally, is part of the world proletarian-socialist movement and not part of any bourgeois-capitalist revolution. But, unlike the national movements in almost all other countries in the world, the Black liberation struggle, and other national movements in the U.S. are directly and immediately a component part of the single stage struggle for proletarian revolution and socialism throughout the U.S.

All this is connected with the fact that, in the U.S. today, the agrarian revolution and the question of self-determination, the light of political secession, is not at the heart of the Black liberation struggle. The fact that the RU bases itself on this understanding is what sends the worshippers of dogma and bourgeois nationalism into a frenzy. The RU, with this line “plays into the hands of the Wall Street imperialists and their Dixiecrat allies,” scream the Detroit dogmatists (these asses can’t even write in the language of the present period!) And they add, for good measure, that the RU also follows in the chauvinist “wake of our national liberals” (their emphasis). Well, since our line has set up such a howl from these authors, we must be hitting the mark in the struggle against opportunist lines, and we should therefore pursue the question further and deeper.

Since the basis of our dogmatists’ opportunism is the argument that the Comintern positions on the Negro national question in the U.S., formulated 45 or so years ago, must still be applied to the letter today, it is important to analyze why the Comintern resolutions were essentially correct at that time and why, today, they no longer deal with the essence of the Black national question.

At the time of these Comintern resolutions (1928-1930), although the migration of Black people from the south and the growth of the Black wage workers was a marked tendency, it was still correct, as a general description that the masses of Black people in the U.S. “live in compact masses in the South, most of them being peasants and agricultural laborers in a state of semi-serfdom, settled in the ’Black Belt’ and constituting the majority of the population, whereas the Negroes in the northern states are for the most part industrial workers of the lowest categories who have recently come to the various industrial centers from the South (having often fled from there).” (1930 Resolution) At that time, according to the Comintern, 86 percent of all Black people lived in the South, and ”74 percent live in the rural districts and are dependent almost exclusively upon agriculture for a livelihood,” (1928 Comintern Resolution).

On this basis, the Comintern held that Black people constituted an oppressed nation in the “Black Belt” south, while in the north they were a national minority, whose conditions and fate were closely bound up, however, with the struggle of the Negro Nation in the south for liberation. The Comintern stated very explicitly why self-determination was the highest expression of the struggle for Black liberation at that time:

Owing to the peculiar situation in the Black Belt (the fact that the majority of the resident Negro population are farmers and agricultural laborers and that the capitalist economic as well as political class rule there is not only a special kind, but to a great extent still has pre-capitalist and semi-colonial features), the right of self-determination of the Negroes as the main slogan of the Communist Party in the Black Belt is appropriate.” (1930 Resolution, part in parentheses in original, emphasis added).

Further, the Comintern stated that, because of these special features, it would be possible, through revolutionary struggle, for Black people in the “Black Belt” area of the south to break away from imperialist domination and establish a state under their own control, even before the overthrow of the imperialist ruling class throughout the country as a whole. Do these conditions still hold true today? No, they do not. And the attempt of our dogmatists to cling to an analysis essentially correct in the past but no longer essentially correct today, leads them into distortions and demagoguery and to completely depart from the Marxist stand and method, and therefore from the real interests and struggles of the masses of Black people and the whole working class.

Let’s deal with the different aspects of this, one by one. First the question of population concentration. Our authors state that “the South is still the home of 52% of the Black population.” Actually, according to the 1970 census, 53% of the Black population live in the South, if you include Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Maryland, Delaware, Tennessee and Kentucky – most (and in some cases all) of whose territories lie outside the “Black Belt” and its surrounding area. Do our Detroit dogmatists want to tell us that this entire area of the south constitutes the historic homeland of the Black nation, in which it has the right to self-determination? In that case, it must be pointed out in this total area, Blacks are a very small minority, only 19%.

But, as our dogmatists should know, the entire area of the south is not the historic homeland of Black people in this country. A historic homeland is exactly that – it is historically constituted and cannot be enlarged, or shrunk, arbitrarily, to fit the whims of opportunists. Attempting to do so in no way conforms to the needs of the masses of people, Black, white or any other nationality. As Mao Tsetung insists

Marxism-Leninism is a science, and science means honest, solid knowledge, there is no room for playing tricks. Let us then, be honest.

But our opportunists offer us one trick after another. “The majority” of Black people in the south, they claim, are “still concentrated in and around the Black Belt.” What do they mean “around” the “Black Belt?” The fact is that the Black population of the “Black Belt” and surrounding areas–the total area of the historic homeland of Black people –is less than half the total Black population in the south (and less than a quarter of the Black population in the country as a whole). In Florida, there are over 1 million Black people, most of them living outside the area historically, defined as the “Black Belt” and surrounding areas. Most of these Blacks live in cities. In Texas there are 1.5 million Black people; most are in cities, too, and the great majority are outside the “Black Belt” and surrounding area.

Next, our authors say that “There are 113 counties where Blacks are 50-81% of the population and 250 with a concentration of 30-49%. All of them are in the Deep South. There are only 7 counties outside the South with a Black population of over 20%.”

This has to be examined from several aspects. First off, according to the 1970 census, there are 102 (not 113) counties of Black majority, all in the south, almost all “in and around” the “Black Belt” area. In 1900 by comparison, there were nearly three times as many counties in the “Black Belt” area, which were Black majority. Further, according to our Detroit authors’ mentor, Harry Haywood, the territory of the “Black Belt,” the historic homeland of Black people, includes 470 counties. So in this area, only slightly more than one-fifth of the counties are Black majority today.

The fact that there are some 250 counties of 30-49% Black population in this general area (down from 290 in the 1940’s) shows that there are still significant concentrations of Black people in the area–a fact the RU itself has pointed out several times (in RP 5, and in our reply to Carl Davidson in the Guardian last year, for example). But this does not show that Black people are a majority in the area of the “Black Belt.”

In fact, in the five southern states of highest percentage Black population –Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana –the total Black percentage is just under 30%. The territory of these states –which are the ones demanded by the Republic of New Africa –lie mainly within the “Black Belt” and surrounding area, and the total Black population within the 470 counties of the “Black Belt” territory is also clearly a minority of the population there. In other words, today, even if it were possible to conceive of separating the historic territory of Black people before proletarian revolution throughout the rest of the country, this would be a territory not with a clear Black majority and a significant white minority, but just the reverse.

Actually, our Detroit authors are finally forced to admit this, but then they try to liquidate the whole question of population. First they evade and beg the question – “Really the main question that faces us is not the racial composition of the Black Belt, but a correct analysis of the Black national question today.” Then why, worthy opportunists, do you bother to list any figures on population at all? And do you think that a “correct analysis of the Black national question” can be made by avoiding a concrete analysis of the actual conditions of the Black people, including where they live and under what conditions? Obviously they do. And, further, sensing no doubt that they are walking on shaky ground, they fall back on emotional bombast and abstract moralizing–Black people have “earned it (the ’Black Belt’) as no other people have earned a homeland.” (their emphasis, our parentheses).

Of course, Black people and all oppressed and exploited people in the U.S. have “earned” liberation from imperialism and all its forms of oppression and exploitation, and they have earned the right to the full benefits of socialism throughout the entire U.S. But, dear dogmatists, the question remains, what is a correct analysis of the Black national question today – today! – and what will lead to liberation for Black people and socialism throughout the country? Your petty bourgeois moralizing is only an attempt to distract any serious efforts to answer this question on the basis of concrete Marxist analysis, and to build a real struggle for Black liberation and socialism.

A deeper analysis of the question of population and territory shows exactly what we said in “Marxism vs. Bundism” –that, not only are large numbers of Black people dispersed from the “Black Belt,” but within the “Black Belt” itself, they are much more dispersed (or interspersed) among whites than in previous periods. Today; the majority (56%) of Black people as well as whites in the south as a whole live in metropolitan areas. This is also true within the “Black Belt” and surrounding areas, the historic homeland of Black people.

As one example, in only two of the five states of highest Black concentration (listed above) does the rural population outnumber the urban (Mississippi, 55.5% rural; South Carolina, 52.3%), and the majority of Black people in these five states (over 55%) live in urban areas. Compare this to 1940, when all of these states had a clear and large rural majority–Mississippi, 80%; South Carolina, 75.5%; Alabama, 69.8%; Georgia, 65.6%; and Louisiana, 58.5%.

But beyond that, in the “Black Belt” and surrounding areas, the Black population is concentrated in urban areas, where Blacks make up a minority. For example, in Georgia, there are 22 counties of Black majority. But the Black population of Fulton county (including Atlanta and part of its surroundings), where Blacks make up only 39% of the total county population, is greater than the total Black population of all 22 counties of Black majority. Similarly, the Black population of Jefferson County, Alabama (Birmingham and surrounding areas), which is only 32% Black, is greater than the combined Black population of the 10 counties with a Black majority.

In South Carolina, the combined Black population of the two counties that include the cities of Charleston and Columbia, while only 31.4% (in each county) is approximately equal to the combined Black population of the 12 counties of Black majority. In Louisiana, there are three counties of high urban concentration, in each of which the Black population, while a minority, is greater than the combined Black population of the 9 majority Black counties.

Only in Mississippi, which is the most rural and most backward of the southern states and has the highest number of Black majority counties, does this pattern not as fully hold true. But even there it is clearly the case that the largest concentrations of Blacks are in urban areas where they make up a minority. For example, the Black population of Hinds County (Jackson and surrounding area), while only 39% of the total, is more than twice as high as the Black population of any county of Black majority. It is greater than the combined Black population of the seven counties with the highest Black majority (more than one-quarter the total of 25 Mississippi counties with a Black majority).

In Mississippi itself –which before 1940 was majority Black, but today is only 37% Black –the number of counties with a Black majority (25) is less than one-third the total (82). and even the number of counties with more than 40% Black population is less than one-half the total. Further, the counties of Black majority, while concentrated around the Delta area and bordered by some counties in Louisiana and Arkansas which are also Black majority, are overall dispersed among and surrounded by counties of clear white majority. And this pattern is even more pronounced throughout the rest of the “Black Belt” and surrounding areas territory.

From all this it is clear that as a general pattern, even within the “Black Belt” territory, wherever Blacks are most concentrated they are most dispersed among whites. The fact that today there are over 100 counties of Black majority in the general territory of the “Black Belt” does not even have the same meaning that it would have 40-50 years ago. It is pure opportunism on the part of our Detroit authors to play up county population figures, since, as Harry Haywood stressed in Negro Liberation, “The Black Belt is arbitrarily broken up by a mass of state or county boundaries, and administrative, judicial and electoral subdivisions,” (p. 13). ”

Actually, however, while Haywood’s statement is generally correct in relation to the period of the highest concentration of Blacks in the “Black Belt”–until the period of WW2 and after–it is also true that, during this period, counties as a measure of population were much more relevant at that time than they are today. This is so because at that time the population of the “Black Belt” was overwhelmingly rural. Black people were more or less evenly distributed throughout the area, on small plots of land within the plantation system, as peasants. This was another important factor anchoring the Black nation at that time to the territory of the “Black Belt.”

But today, large sections of this same territory are only very thinly populated, and Black people (as well as whites) are concentrated in urban areas in large numbers, as workers, not peasants. This is another important aspect of the fact that not only has industry grown tremendously in the south since WW2, but that agriculture itself in the south today is essentially capitalist and not semi-feudal. This, along with the general fact of dispersal of Black people from the “Black Belt,” is what marks the Black national question today, in the south as well as the north, as fundamentally different from the time of the Comintern Resolutions 45 years ago. Today, under these conditions, the city –in the south and north –and not the countryside is the home of the masses of people and the center of the revolutionary struggle.

One last point on population. While it is true that there are still large numbers of Black people –several million – in the “Black Belt”, this has to be viewed in relation to the rest of the country as a whole. For example, the Black population of Chicago (about 1.1 million) is almost equal to the Black population of the entire state of Georgia (1.2 million), and is higher percentage wise (Chicago, 32.7%; Georgia, 25.9%). The Black population of New York City (nearly 1.7 million) is higher than that of any southern state, and the percent (21.2%) is almost as high as that of North Carolina (22.4%). Further, while the Black population of the five southern states with the highest percent of Black population (cited above) is roughly 4.8 million, the Black population of the five contiguous states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana is greater, 5.3 million –although the percent of Black population (about 10%) is only one-third that of the five southern states mentioned.

These facts would not have the significance they do, if today, as 40-50 years ago, masses of Black people in the south lived and worked in semi-serf conditions, on the plantation system, and if, on that basis, the economy of the south as a whole not only was more backward as a region (which it is still today), but was qualitatively different from the rest of the country. But when this is no longer true, when the differences are quantitative and not qualitative, when capitalist relations generally exist in agriculture as well as industry in the south, and when most Black (and white) people live and work in the cities as proletarians (modern wage workers), the figures on population cited above do have real significance and do reflect the fact that today, south and north, the masses of Black people are directly and immediately involved in the same basic contradiction and struggle in society –the class struggle between the multi-national proletariat and the bourgeoisie.. And it is this fact that has transformed the character of the Black national question.

What economic factors, for example, tie the city of Baltimore, the Black people within it (Baltimore is on the very northeastern tip of the “Black Belt” and surrounding areas territory) to Houston, Texas (far southwest of the “Black Belt” territory)–or even to Charleston, South Carolina, Memphis, Atlanta or Birmingham–more than to Philadelphia, New York City, or even Chicago? There are no economic or political factors that do this today in the sense of characterizing the “Black Belt” area as a separate economic and political zone that could be expected, any more than any other part of the country, to break away from imperialist rule, in a different way and at a different time than the rest of the country.

One other fact which is significant is that, since 1970, the out-migration of Blacks from the south has stopped – and, in fact, has been reversed, very slightly. But the Black people returning to the south are going to the cities, as we pointed out in RP 5. So the historical migration pattern of those returning is: rural south to urban north to urban south. This again, is another reflection of the fact that the relations of production and basic level of development of the south is on the same historical level –advanced capitalist –as the rest of the country, and the differences are quantitative, not qualitative.

The Agrarian Question, the Peasant Question and the Class Question Today

We will return to the question of population and territory in relation to the question of self-determination, but first we have to deal with the dogmatism of our Detroit authors around the agrarian question. They insist that “what the Comintern said 40 years ago still holds true. Today this landed property in the hands of white American exploiters constitutes the most important material basis of the entire system of national oppression and serfdom of Negroes in the Black Belt .. . These (sharecropping, contract labor, chain gangs, and we add seasonal and agricultural wage workers –ed.) are the main forms of present Negro slavery in the Black Belt and no breaking of the chains of this slavery is possible without confiscating all the landed property of white masters. Without this revolutionary measure, without agrarian revolution, the right of self-determination of the Negro population would be only a Utopia ...” (emphasis RU’s parenthetical comments by “ed” are those of Detroit authors).

Right off the bat, our dogmatists, by clinging to an analysis correct 45 years ago (but no longer essentially correct today) are forced to fly right in the face of reality. Is it true today that the “main forms” of slavery of Black people in the “Black Belt” are semi-serf forms of oppression – sharecropping, contract labor, chain gangs, etc? No, this is obviously not true, not even if we allow our Detroit “editors” to add agricultural wage workers. The main form is clearly wage-slavery in industry, and in capitalist agriculture.

Instead of dealing with this, our Detroit authors invent and distort facts. They say that “Black farmers and agricultural workers still make up a sizeable percentage of the Southern work force.” In fact, in 1970, the total southern work force numbered just under 25 million. There are approximately 175,000 Black farm laborers in the country, the great majority in the south, and, in addition, there are about an equal number (185,000) of southern “non-white” farm operators, almost all of them Black. So, together, Black farmworkers and farmers total , about 360,000 –or just under 1.5% of the total southern work force. Is that, worthy dogmatists, what you consider a “sizeable percentage?” One thing that can be said of these dogmatists is that respect for the facts is not one of their failings.

Our authors are forced to try to play tricks like this, because they are holding on for dear life to out-dated formulations. To let go of them would mean that they would have to go out and face the masses and the real situation as they actually are and not as they, with their petty bourgeois prejudices, would like them to be.

Stalin wrote, in 1925 in his polemics against Semich (on Yugoslavia), that the national question is in essence a peasant question, that the peasants are the main force in the national movement and “that there is no powerful national movement without the peasant army, nor can there be.” Therefore, because our dogmatists regard the articles by Stalin–and the Comintern Resolutions–of that period as the last word on the national question, (except for the writings of Harry Haywood re-stating these positions) there is only one choice for them when confronted with the realities of U.S. society, including the “Black Belt,” today. They have to invent a “peasant army,” they have to invent facts to make the peasantry the basis of the Black liberation struggle today. Stalin meant that only the masses –peasants in that period –could give the national movement its revolutionary character. But our dogmatists so mechanically worship the letter of Marxism that they can’t grasp and apply the spirit and method of Marxism.

Marx once said that when history does repeat itself, it is first time a tragedy, second time a farce. This holds true for our dogmatists in relation, for example, to the Narodniks in Russia at the end of the 19th century. The Narodniks were petty bourgeois romantics who argued that capitalism need not develop in Russia, that “communism” could be built directly on the basis of the feudal “communal” agricultural system. They therefore based themselves among the peasantry. These Narodniks ended up in isolated acts of terrorism, but as Lenin said there was a certain kind of heroism to their actions, however misguided. And, at least, in going to the peasantry, the Narodniks picked a group that did make up a majority of Russian society at that time. For these reasons, the smashing of the Narodniks by the Tsar can legitimately be considered a kind of tragedy.

But our authors insist today on inventing masses of peasants and moralizing about the national question on that basis. In essence, they are Narodniks without a peasantry, and this makes their stand not a tragedy, but a farce!

This, of course, does not mean that there are literally no peasants –small farmers –among the Black people in the U.S. Nor does it mean that the agrarian question is unimportant, that absolutely all survivals of the plantation system have been eliminated in southern agriculture or that the agrarian question has been “solved” in the interests of the people. But it is unmistakably the case that today, semi-serf forms of exploitation are not the main forms of slavery that Black people are subjected to in the south (even in the rural south), and that the basic system of agriculture in the “Black Belt” itself is not a plantation system of semi-serf exploitation, but a modern capitalist system of wage-slavery.

Lenin noted that in 1910 there were 1.5 million sharecroppers in the south of the U.S.A., and 1 million of them were Black. Further, he noted, the percentage of sharecroppers, relative to total farmers, was increasing, not decreasing. This, he said constituted the “economic basis” of the oppression of Black people, who were overwhelmingly concentrated in the south at that time. (See “Capitalism and Agriculture in the United States of America,” Lenin, Vol. 22, pp. 24-27.) But these conditions that Lenin noted do not describe the situation in the south, or the conditions of the Black masses today.

In the ”Black Belt” and the whole U.S. today, as the imperialist crisis deepens, does this come down on Black people mainly in the form of further squeezing and ruining Black peasants –and along with this, increased occupation of the “Black Belt” territory by the troops of the “Yankee imperialists?” No, it comes down mainly in the form of increased exploitation of Black wage workers and increased oppression, marked by police terror, in the ghettos, the Black communities in the south and north. The culture of Black people reflects this transformation. Black music, for example, no longer revolves around the problems of the peasantry – picking cotton, the boll weevil, stubborn mules and heartless planters –but around the problems of workers and the general problems of life in the ghetto.

And the mass upsurge of the Black people’s struggle that developed into a mighty storm in the late 60’s, did not take the form of seizing land and resisting occupying troops in the rural “Black Belt,” but urban rebellions and resistance to police violence in the ghettos and struggles and organizations of Black workers. These struggles were largely spontaneous, but their character also stemmed from and reflected the concrete material conditions of Black people today, throughout the country.

This mass struggle, hitting at discrimination on the job and throughout society, police terror and the whole structure of oppression directed against the Black communities, has been a tremendous force for the liberation of Black people and against the imperialist system, exactly because it strikes at the main forms of Black people’s oppression today and is so closely linked with the general working class struggle. Building and leading this struggle, and bringing to the struggling masses the undemanding of how this fight is inseparably linked with the overall struggle of the working class for emancipation– this is how the communists can and must prepare the masses to rip out this oppression at its roots as part of the struggle to overthrow imperialism, build socialism and advance to communism.

On the other hand, to direct the blow not against the actual material oppression of the Black masses today, but against semi-serf exploitation and “semi-colonial features” in the “Black Belt,” which no longer constitute the main form and material basis of oppression of Black people – this really means not struggling against the present day enslavement of Black people at all. This is precisely the case with our dogmatists. It is they who liquidate the real struggle against national oppression, while covering themselves with “revolutionary’ phrases” about the right of political secession and with the use of quotations without regard to condition, time and place.

In practice, the “Black Belt is key” dogmatists not only fail to build mass struggle against national oppression, they actually try to sabotage such struggle. For example, members of the “Communist League” (covering themselves as a so-called “laborers caucus”) in the Bay Area recently put out a scab leaflet attacking a demonstration in which the RU played a leading role, and which united more than 500 workers and others of all nationalities against “Operation Zebra” (police terror against Black people). This is the logical result of the line of these dogmatists who try to drag things back to the past and direct their fire away from the actual source and forms of oppression.

In their paper, our Detroit dogmatists offer no evidence that semi-serf exploitation is still the material basis of Black people’s oppression, no real refutation of the extensive analysis in RP 5 which shows that this is no longer the case.

Instead they say that “We feel that an all-sided dialectical investigation of the social relation’s in the South will reveal what is undeniably true: dying, decaying imperialism cannot carry out such fundamental changes in the South’s agricultural system.” But since when are the proletariat and the masses of people supposed to base their struggle on the “feelings” of opportunist authors who have already exhibited a complete contempt for facts and for the Marxist method of “seeking truth from facts?”

Does the “shadow of the plantation” still exist? Yes, but basically in an historical sense. First, in the fact that, due to ’the long period of widespread survivals of slavery and semi-feudal relations, the south, even today, while about on the level of development of advanced European capitalist counties, is still more rural and more backward than the rest of the U.S. And the poverty of Blacks (and whites) is still greater here.

And second, that the oppression of Black people today, north and south–in all its forms–has, as an historical basis, the fact that, after the reversal of Reconstruction, Blacks were forced back onto the plantation and held in semi-serf (or semi-slave) oppression. All this has important effects today, just as the period of chattel slavery had important effects on the oppression of Black people after Reconstruction. But that is not the same thing as saving that the semi-serf oppression of Black peasants constitutes the essential material base today for the oppression of Black people, any more than literal chattel slavery as such constituted the actual material basis of oppression in, say, 1900, or 1930. We would be laughed at by the masses of Black people if we told them that today they no longer suffer oppression as a people, but we would be just as much laughed at if we tried to tell them that the form and nature of that oppression had not basically changed since 1900, 1930, or even 1950.

The 1930 Comintern Resolution drew exactly this distinction–between the historical and the present day material basis of oppression–in pointing out that the oppression of Black people was “partly due to the historical past of the American Negroes as imported slaves, but is much more due to the still existing slavery of the American Negro,” in the form of “being peasants and agricultural laborers in a state of semi-serfdom.”

Similarly today, the oppression of Black people is due in part to the whole history of slavery, followed by the period of semi-feudal exploitation as peasants. But the present material basis is essentially the caste-like position of Black wage workers within the overall working class, which results in their concentration at the heart of the industrial proletariat. The typical Black today is not a sharecropper or small farmer but a wage worker, forced into the dirtiest, most dangerous, lowest paying jobs, and always facing the threat of unemployment – Blacks have twice the unemployment rate of whites.

This is reinforced by a structure of political, economic and social oppression which affects all classes of Black people, a structure of white supremacy that is rooted in the development of the capitalist system in this country, beginning with slavery, and remains an integral part of it in the U.S. today. This is very important because one thing out dogmatists have stumbled upon remains true! The programme of the proletariat and its Party in relation to the national question must strike at the root of national oppression, and not at its mere effects, or it will be reformist and not a revolutionary programme.

While insisting that the agrarian revolution is still the key to rooting out the national oppression of Black people, our Detroit authors are quick to add, “Obviously we don’t want to see Blacks put back on the plantation.” Black people are no doubt grateful to you for this, noble dogmatists, but what do you “want to see” as the solution? Their answer is to repeat the formulation of the 1930 Comintern Resolution (of course), which calls for “confiscating the landed property of the white planters and capitalists for the benefit of the Negro farmers.” It is here they claim that “Black farmers and agricultural wage workers still make up a sizeable percentage of the Southern work force.”

We have already shown that this last statement is completely false, and this underscores the problem with clinging to the Comintern formulations of 45 years ago –it will not lead you to strike at the root of the problem, at what today are the main forms of slavery of Black people in the south, as well as the north. The landed property of the (white) large landowners should certainly be expropriated for the benefit of the remaining Black farmers and farm workers –and the white ones, too, who now actually outnumber Blacks in the south in the category of tenant-farming. And white tenant farmers and agricultural laborers combined in the south outnumber the combined total of Blacks in these two categories, even though there are more Black agricultural wage workers than white in the south today. But, again, confiscation of large landownings does not strike at the main concrete forms of oppression of Black (or white) people in the south, not even in the rural south.

In even southern state, including even Mississippi, the percentage of workers in industry is higher than that in agriculture (in Mississippi it is now 14% in agriculture, and 20% in industrial production). But more than that, in every southern state, the numbers of Black people living on farms who work as farmers or farm laborers make up a minority of the Black farm-dwelling work force. And in every southern state, the number of Black non-farm rural dwellers who work as craftsmen, assembly line workers and other operatives, truck drivers and non-farm laborers is greater than the number who work as farmers and farm laborers.

All over the south today, industry is moving into rural areas (and some is even moving out of urban industrial areas, like Birmingham, into the rural areas). This is drawing together working people, Black and white, and increasingly proletarianizing them. The programme of the proletariat and its Party in relation to this cannot be to raise the slogan “land to the tiller,” but to organize these workers, to fight for the basic step of unionization, and link this with the broader fight against the oppression of Black people and the long-range struggle for socialism throughout the country.

Struggles like the Oneita, South Carolina, strike in 1973 show the great potential for this. In fact, the bourgeoisie and its agents in the labor bureaucracies have already recognized this and are moving to “organize” these workers, in order to head off class conscious struggle and to keep these workers under the domination of the bourgeoisie and the influence of its ideology. This only emphasizes the need for communists to base themselves on the struggle of the industrial proletariat in the cities and even the rural areas as the main force in the south, and not to make their basic strategy the agrarian revolution.

But what about the fairly large Black rural population in the south that is on public assistance, doesn’t this increase the importance of the agrarian question? Our Detroit authors don’t specifically mention this group, but it is nevertheless important to analyze this, since what we are after is not simply answering some dogmatists, but, in fact, making a correct and all-sided analysis of the Black national question and, on that basis, developing a correct line and programme for linking the struggle for Black liberation with socialist revolution in the U.S.

For instance, in the five southern states of highest Black concentration and in which the “Black Belt” is centered – South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana –there are about 90,000 rural Black families on public assistance, or between 20-25% of the total rural Black families. Taking the mean figure for Black rural family size (about five) and adding in about 25,000 single individuals on public assistance, there are roughly 475,000 rural Black people in these states on public assistance – again, between 20-25% of the rural Black population and just under 10% of the total Black population of these five states. Some of these families are headed by workers in agriculture, and more by workers in other categories marked by very low wages. Others are “welfare” families, with no members working, and a sizeable minority are old people no longer working. Taking in all categories, a large number are people who in the past few decades have been displaced from farming by mechanization and capitalist monopoly in agriculture.

Is it correct, then, to define this group as essentially; “landless peasants”? No, on the whole, this is incorrect. Such an analysis would be generally correct if agriculture were still largely on a pre-capitalist level, and the next necessary step were to divide the land in small plots among the tillers, in order to lay the basis (or future collectivization. If agriculture were still highly labor-intensive and had to involve large numbers of working people and there was almost no real modern industry in the rural areas; then such an analysis would basically apply. Such was the case, for example, in China, and Mao did define sections of the rural population who were forced to do domestic and other labor for the landlords as “landless peasants.”

But in the south today, as we showed in RP 5 (see pages 22-29), agriculture is highly mechanized, capital-intensive and not semi-feudal and labor-intensive. It no longer revolves around a plantation system, based on tenant-farming and share-cropping, but around capitalist methods and relations, based on exploitation of wage laborers who do not own the land (even nominally). In fact, it was the very replacement of feudalism by capitalism in agriculture that displaced these people from the land. This, of course, has not eliminated the contradiction between those who own and those who work the land, nor has it eliminated the national oppression of Black people. But it has transformed both into essentially proletarian questions.

As we said in RP 5, referring to the south as well as the rest of the country, “The land question remains important, But more than in any other country it, too, has become a proletarian question. It is now possible in the U.S., with the seizure of power by the proletariat to move directly to farm collectivization, and very quickly to socialization (direct state ownership), without first taking what Lenin described as the “progressive but undoubtedly capitalist” (bourgeois-democratic) step of dividing the land among the peasantry. The remaining small farmers will, of course, not be immediately and forcibly expropriated, but politically won over and gradually absorbed into collective life by the victorious, ruling proletariat. But this will be made far easier by the overwhelming socialization of agricultural production that has already been developed in the final stages of capitalism.” And those who have already been pushed off the land and held in conditions of underemployment and unemployment will also be brought fully into the productive process, mainly in industry but to some degree in agriculture, and into the political task of ruling the state and building socialism.

Again, what is correct in one historical situation may be wrong in another. What is correct under conditions of feudal domination is wrong under conditions of capitalist domination. Our dogmatists from Detroit leap at this as proof that the RU line is “chauvinist to the core.” The RU takes a concrete manifestation of national oppression –the driving of Black people off the land and their dispersal from their homeland –and treats this as a “progressive thing,” even an advance scream our authors. But, this only betrays our dogmatists’ total inability to grasp even the basic principles of dialectical materialism and reveals, again, their stand of petty bourgeois moralizing and longing for the past.

Of course, the development of capitalism in agriculture in the south was carried out on the basis of oppression and violence against the Black –and also white –peasants. This is true of all capitalist development and especially of “primitive accumulation,” the first and definitely forcible separation of the peasants from the land. Communists do not side with the bourgeoisie in doing this,” we oppose it. But once it has been done, neither do we call for a return to the past, to more primitive methods of farming based on individual ownership, nor do we make a “return to the land,” our strategy.

Lenin stressed exactly this point in using an analogy to expose the utopian and reactionary stand of the petty bourgeois forces who responded to imperialist war with a call for disarmament. “The business of the bourgeoisie,” he wrote in 1916, “is to promote trusts, to drive women and children into the factories, to torture them there, to corrupt them, to condemn them to extreme poverty. We do not ’demand’ such a development. We do not ’support’ it; we fight it. But how do we fight? We know that trusts and the employment of women in industry are progressive. We do not want to go back to the handicraft system to pre-monopolistic capitalism, to domestic drudgery for women. Forward through the trusts, etc. and beyond them to Socialism!” (From Lenin on War and Peace, Three Articles, p. 64, emphasis in original.)

Imagine, poor confused Lenin actually saving that imperialism had brought about a progressive change! If only he had lived long enough to read our Detroit dogmatists’ paper, he would certainly have understood the error of his ways.

But, in fact, in opposition to the metaphysical method of our opportunist author, genuine Marxist-Leninists, basing themselves on the method of dialectical materialism, understand that the development of capitalism, even monopoly capitalism, is progressive in that it prepares the material conditions for socialism by developing the productive forces, including the working class. But on the other hand, it rests on relations of production that prevent the liberation of the productive forces and their development to a qualitatively higher level. This is what defines the essentially reactionary character of capitalism, especially in its imperialist stage. And this is why a political revolution is required, the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in order to liberate the productive forces and advance society to the stage of socialism and eventually communism.

The same principle holds true in the sphere of the national question. This is why Lenin could write that “this is undoubtedly progressive. Capitalism is replacing the ignorant, conservative, settled muzhik (peasant) of the Great-Russian and Ukrainian backwoods with a mobile proletarian whose conditions of life break down specifically national narrow-mindedness, both Great-Russian and Ukrainian….(besides national oppression under capitalism) is capitalism’s world-historical tendency to break down national barriers, obliterate national distinctions, and to assimilate nations –a tendency which manifests itself more and more powerfully with even passing decade, and is one of the greatest driving forces transforming capitalism into socialism.” (“Critical Remarks on the National Question,” Vol. 20, pp. 31, and 28, emphasis Lenin’s, words in parentheses ours.)

These very tendencies which Lenin called progressive, have operated in the U.S., in relation to the Black national question in particular, over the past period, especially since WW2. The bourgeoisie on the basis of its own needs –for markets, and profit –has mechanized agriculture and increased the industrialization of the south. In place of the peasant of the backwoods this has created millions of proletarians, including among Black people. It has integrated the south, including the “Black Belt,” much more fully into the overall economic and political system of the whole country.

But of course, the bourgeoisie has done this always in accordance with its own interests and needs, and,, while tending to economically assimilate nations, it has not and cannot eliminate national oppression or establish equality, and in that sense cannot assimilate Black people. This is what makes the contradiction between the ruling class and the masses of Black people as explosive, and the Black liberation struggle as powerful and as closely linked with the class struggle for socialism, as it is today. Only the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the building of socialism can eliminate national oppression. This struggle for proletarian revolution, and the liberation of Black people, has been greatly strengthened by the very world-historical tendencies that Lenin spoke of. In this sense it has certainly been an advance, no matter how much our petty bourgeois metaphysicians may whine about it and cling to the past like a baby to his blanket.

Characteristically, they fail to grasp that, in terms of moving from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom, the fact that agriculture in the U.S. today produces huge quantities of commodities with only a very small number of laborers, is a tremendous advance. It will be a tremendous advantage for the U.S. proletariat, and the proletariat of the world, when socialism is established in the U.S. and the productive forces are liberated. As Marx pointed out, the greater the reduction of the number of workers (or man hours) that must be tied up in producing the basic necessities of life –and central to that, the more that workers in agriculture can produce beyond their own basic necessities – the further mankind is moving away from the realm of necessity, from mere animal-like existence.

Of course, to make a qualitative leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom requires proletarian revolution and the advance to communism, where mankind can produce “consciously and voluntarily,” as Mao put it. But we will not get to this stage if we base ourselves not on a dialectical and materialist analysis of the conditions we now face under capitalism, the conditions out of which socialism will arise, but instead base ourselves on the ”feelings” of reactionary petty bourgeois Utopians and moralizers who want to turn back the wheel of history.

That our Detroit authors want to do exactly this is revealed in their statement that the RU’s characterization of the “Black National Question then as a peasant question (when it was in essence a class question) and now as a proletarian question (and it is still in essence a class question) is straight up opportunism.” (emphasis, and parentheses in original; “then” refers to pre-WW2). We would like to point out to these Narodniks without a peasantry that in Negro Liberation, Harry Haywood, whom they regard as anything but a “straight up opportunist,” wrote that the Black national question was in essence a peasant question (see p. 154). And at least he was consistent, for he went on to explain the implications of this.

The landless soil tillers of the South, Negro and white,” (Haywood wrote) “are historically on the side of the industrial proletariat. But their basic aim is to be rid of landlordism and the semi-feudal conditions that keep them in bondage and poverty. While socialist agriculture could solve this problem most thoroughly, the masses of sharecroppers, as vet in the stage of aspiring to individual land holdings in the face of feudal monopoly of the land, could hardly be mobilized to fight for a purely socialist solution.” (Negro Liberation, p. 126.)

Is this true today, when, in the south, there are not “masses of sharecroppers” but less than 100,000 (more white than Black) and there is not a feudal but a capitalist monopoly of land? No, it is not true, and this is why it is absolutely correct to say that the Black national question today is not in essence a peasant but a proletarian question, and can be linked directly and immediately with a single stage (what Haywood calls a “purely”) socialist revolution. And this is why the Black national question today has entered a third period in which it is in essence neither bourgeois democratic of the old type, nor bourgeois democratic of the new type, but is proletarian-socialist in essence. Harry Haywood is not to be blamed if, in 1948, he did not fully recognize the transformation that was only beginning to take place on a mass scale, but today, anyone who calls himself a Marxist but refuses to recognize this can only be characterized as a real “straight up opportunist.”

Since they have no evidence –but only their “feelings” – that the agriculture of the deep south has not been transformed from feudal to capitalist in essence, our opportunist authors have another argument. This transformation could not have taken place, they say, because the Comintern Resolutions of 45 years ago say that industrialization of the south would not eliminate the semi-feudal agriculture, which was then the basis of national oppression of Black people. This is truly brilliant! Will these Rip Van Winkles please wake up and explain why U.S. society cannot change in 45 years but must be the same today as in 1930? And where in your books, dusty dogmatists, does it say that there must be feudalism all throughout the stage of capitalism, even in the “epoch of imperialism”?

In 1930, at a time when the masses of Black people were suffering virtual slavery on the plantations of the “Black Belt” south, to take the stand that there is no need to struggle against this since industrialization of the south will solve the problem in due time –this was obviously a chauvinist, counter-revolutionary stand. The Comintern, of course, was absolutely correct in repudiating this position of the “Lovestoneites” in the U.S. communist movement of that time, and in insisting that only through revolutionary struggle against the oppression of Black people in the “Black Belt” and the support of the entire working class for this struggle, could the plantation system and the whole system of imperialism be overthrown.

But despite the heroic mass struggles of the working class and Black people, often led by the then-revolutionary “CP” USA, a revolutionary situation did not develop in the U.S. in the 1930’s. Socialist revolution did not come, but WW2 did. Through it the position of U.S. imperialism was temporarily strengthened, and it has been able to prolong its vulture-like existence for 30 years since the end of that war.

During this period, according to the basic laws of capitalism, it has had to try to expand and capture new markets, compete with other capitalists, make increasing use of the state as a “regulator of the economy,” conduct several wars of aggression and take other steps to preserve its rule within the U.S. and its domination worldwide. One result of this is that it has been forced to mechanize agriculture in the south and promote industrialization there, stimulated by defense spending in many cases – which is a major reason that military bases have been constructed and maintained in the south (it was not done, as the “Communist League” says, to keep the “Black Belt” a “colony.”).

Specifically, in relation to agriculture, the changes that have taken place in cotton production illustrate very clearly the transformation from feudal to capitalist exploitation. Cotton was the backbone of the plantation system, both before and after the Civil War.

Up until WW I, no fundamental changes took place in the methods of cotton production. The plantation system was still firmly entrenched and was still the most profitable form of exploitation for the planters and northern finance capitalists who controlled it. In 1921, however, cotton was hit hard by the boll weevil plague. And, along with this there was the general problem that the primitive methods of the plantation system constantly led to erosion and depletion of the soil. During the 20’s, some of this land was transferred from cotton and other crops to livestock. But the general pattern of King Cotton, raised by semi-slave Blacks, along with poor whites, remained.

The depression of the 30’s sent the price of cotton sinking. This, along with losses in the international market, ruined many poor farmers, and even some richer ones. At the same time, the general economic crunch prevented investment in machinery to pick up cotton production.

With the upturn of the economy due to WW2 (even before Pearl Harbor), however, tractors started to be introduced to cotton production in the south in large numbers for the first time. Still, cotton production was not really mechanized until the 1950’s with the introduction of chemical herbicides and most importantly, mechanized pickers, which solved the problems of weeding and picking. As a key indicator of the changes taking place, in 1950 only 1% of cotton in the south was picked by machine, but by 1962 the figure was over half – 55% – and during the next decade, machine picking has become the overwhelming method.

To take full advantage of this machinery it was necessary to break up the pattern of small sharecropping farms and reorganize production on a larger scale, using hired wage labor in place of tenant-farming. In other words, it was necessary to make the transformation from feudal to capitalist exploitation. A reflection of this was the fact that, while in 1945 there were almost 500,000 Black cotton farmers, by 1959, the number had already fallen to only about 180,000. But the number of Black hired wage laborers in southern agriculture, including cotton, went up in the 50’s.

There were several factors causing the planters and finance capitalists to make these changes. For one thing, irrigated cotton farming had been developed on a wide scale in the western states (California, Arizona and others). Another factor was the development on a wide scale of synthetic fibers, such as rayon and nylon, as cotton substitutes. Further there has been the fact that on the world market such things as soybeans, as well as cattle and dairy products, have become more profitable. The results of all this have been that cotton production has been made more capital-intensive (mechanized) in order to be more competitive with other cotton-growing areas (in the U.S. and internationally), and at the same time former cotton-growing areas have been more diversified –into soybeans, cattle raising, etc. All of this has undermined the basis of the old plantation system (and the same kind of process has basically taken place with peanuts, tobacco and other “plantation crops.”)

This shows, not that imperialism is progressive – as our dogmatists try to have us say –but only that it is anarchistic, and that, from the point of view of maximum profit–the basic law of monopoly capital–the plantation system is no longer the best means of exploitation.

Along with these changes in the economic base, there have been changes in the political superstructure in the south. One example is that, while as late as 1960 only 29.1% of Black people in the south were registered to vote, by 1970 the figure was up to 62%. And, in 1971, there were over 700 Black elected officials in the 11 states of the old Confederacy.

These changes were clearly concessions to the mass struggle of Black people, supported by other progressive forces. They certainly don’t mean that equality has been achieved, national oppression has been eliminated. Nevertheless, these figures are a reflection in the superstructure of the fact that the economic basis of oppression of Black people in the south itself has changed from essentially feudal to essentially capitalist exploitation.

The Comintern did not foresee all this in 1930, of course, any more than it foresaw at that time the actual character of WW2, or the worldwide anti-fascist united front, or the Chinese revolution and other socialist revolutions that followed this war. Neither, of course, did the Comintern foresee the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. But its purpose in 1930 was not to foresee all this –“Marxists are not fortune tellers.” Its purpose was to help formulate correct policies for the revolutionary movements in the different countries according to the conditions prevailing in those countries at that time. It was this function that the Comintern Resolutions of 1928 and 1930 on the Negro Question in the U.S. served.

To analyze today the new conditions of the Black national question is not to violate but to uphold the principles of Marxism-Leninism upon which the Comintern was based. It is not “American Exceptionalism” any more than it was “Chinese Exceptionalism” for Mao to say that the Chinese revolution could not follow the Soviet model, or to note that, after imperialist penetration of China the feudal system of agriculture was modified (though not in that case fully transformed).

Capitalism, especially in the epoch of imperialism, cannot do without colonies. The imperialists never willingly give up colonies, and to say that they do is revisionism. But the imperialists, besides being forced by revolutionary struggle to give up colonies, also can and have changed the form of their domination in the Third World –for example, from outright colonialism to more concealed neocolonialism. Similarly, the U.S. imperialists cannot do without national oppression within the U.S., and this will not be eliminated until the imperialists are overthrown.

But the U.S. imperialists can and have changed the form of their national oppression within the U.S., in the ways we have described.

The charge of “American Exceptionalism,” coming from our dogmatists, is actually an encouragement, because it indicates that we are making a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, which is pure poison to all dogmatists. Analyzing the actual conditions in the U.S. today, according to the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism, is not American Exceptionalism. Arguing that these basic principles do not apply to this country is American Exceptionalism.

One example makes this very clear. U.S. imperialism was an “exception” in WW2: it emerged from the war in a strengthened position, while the other imperialist powers (victors and vanquished alike) emerged greatly weakened. To recognize this is not American Exceptionalism. But arguing that because of these developments, imperialism, at least U.S. imperialism, has changed its basic nature and eliminated its basic contradiction, and therefore, there will no longer be any class struggle in the U.S.; that proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat are no longer required and socialism will come (some day) through a series of reforms in the imperialist system –this is indeed American exceptionalism, revisionism. And, along with this, to argue that national oppression in the U.S. today can be eliminated or “solved” in some other way than through proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat–this, too is American Exceptionalism, revisionism.

But where, except in the demagogic distortions of our dogmatists, did the RU ever say any of this? In fact, it is our dogmatist authors who in essence take the stand of actually separating the national question in this country from the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat and raise as the basic solution to the question, bourgeois-democratic agrarian revolution and the bourgeois-democratic light of self-determination in the ”Black Belt.”

The Question of Self-Determination, Once Again

From the standpoint of objective, concrete analysis it is clear that the formulations of the Comintern 45 years ago and the reasons it gave for why right of self-determination in the “Black Belt” must be the main slogan in relation to the Black national question, no longer apply. But, our dogmatists, while failing to offer any analysis that shows that semi-feudal oppression with “semi-colonial features” (as the Comintern put it) is still the actual material basis of Black people’s oppression, finally fall back on petty bourgeois moralizing.

They argue: the “Black Belt” was stolen from Black people by the bourgeoisie in alliance with the planters after the reversal of Reconstruction, and therefore this is the material basis of oppression today, and only with the return of the “Black Belt” to Black people can the oppression of Black people be eliminated. Again, this is bourgeois logic, not materialist dialectics.

The “Black Belt” was stolen from Black people with the reversal of Reconstruction, in the sense that they were deprived of ownership of land and of democratic rights – in short, they were excluded from the bourgeois-democratic revolution at that time. And on that basis, Black people developed as an oppressed nation in the territory of the plantation area, the ”Black Belt.”

But that does not mean that today, with the transformation of the Black nation, the present material basis of oppression of Black people is imperialist control of the “Black Belt,” or that the basic solution to this oppression must be to return the “Black Belt” to Black people –which would require returning Black people to the “Black Belt.” Black people were stolen from Africa to be made slaves in America, but returning to Africa is not the solution to Black people’s oppression today in the U.S. The territory of most of the southwest of the U.S. was stolen from Mexico. Does that mean that the solution to the oppression of the Mexican-American people in the U.S. today requires the return of that territory to Mexico? No, it does not, because society develops, conditions change, and the national question must be viewed as a part of this overall development and not separate from it, as Stalin stressed.

The same applies to the Black national question. The method of Marxists is to begin with the concrete material conditions, to examine them in their historical context and their dialectical development, and to build on what is rising and developing. The method of the dogmatists is to begin with the past, to impose it on the present and insist on returning to the past in the name of the future.

Our dogmatists argue that Black people have been forcibly dispersed from the “Black Belt” and that to use this as a “pretext” to rule out the right to self-determination is to unite with imperialist oppression. We have already dealt with this argument, in relation to the agrarian question, and while we don’t think that the right of self-determination has been eliminated, the bourgeois logic of our dogmatists cannot be used to justify the line that right of self-determination in the “Black Belt” is the essence of the Black liberation struggle.

Self-determination is a democratic question and it is impossible to think of self-determination on the basis of the rule of a minority, which violates the principles of consistent democracy. The Comintern resolutions stressed this fact at a time when it was possible to construct, in the general territory of the “Black Belt,” a state that was based on a Black majority, but with a “fairly significant white minority.” Today, in order to do this, it would be necessary for millions of Black people to return to the “Black Belt” territory, which is now made up of a clear white majority with a significant Black minority. And it should be pointed out that the whites in that area, in their overwhelming majority, also have roots there and have been exploited there for generations, going back before the Civil War.

The RU does not think it is correct to absolutely rule out the possibility of a reconstitution of Black people in the “Black Belt,” or even the establishment of a separate state there, on the condition, of course, that it was voluntary and not forced. If anything, in the past (for example, in RP 5) the RU had the tendency to downplay the complications that would be involved in this and, in particular, the fact that millions of white, as well as Black, working people have historical roots in the “Black Belt” territory. Still, we were correct in saying that this does not rule out the right of self-determination for Black people.

We recognize that, within the Black liberation movement, the line of reconstituting Black people in the south to achieve self-determination there is put forward by certain forces–for example, by the Republic of New Africa (and more recently, by the Black Workers Congress, as was pointed out in “Marxism vs. Bundism”). But such a step would only really be possible after the overthrow of imperialism, which will undoubtedly require a fairly protracted period of civil war. No one can predict how all this will go down, but exactly for this reason, no one, at least no Marxist, should insist on such a step, which might very well prove to be impossible, or contradictory to the interests of the proletariat, during such a civil war, and even after, during the period of socialist construction.

Do our dogmatists actually want to argue that reconstituting Black people in the “Black Belt” as a majority in order to decide the question of political secession is an absolute necessity and must be carried out? Or do they want to say that self-determination should be carried out on the basis of rule by a minority? If they do, that only shows that they have abstracted the national struggle from and raised it above the class struggle, and thereby tailed after the bourgeois nationalists. If they don’t, will they please explain how self-determination in the “Black Belt” can be the revolutionary basis of the Black liberation struggle? All this is why, while upholding the right of self-determination, it is perfectly consistent with the principles of Marxism for communists, including white communists, to struggle politically for the position that under present and foreseeable conditions the step of returning Black people to the “Black Belt” and actually forming a separate state there would, in fact, be a step backward. (Sometimes the proletariat has to take a step backward in order to then take two steps forward, but that doesn’t mean that communists should advocate steps backward.)

The fact is that the proletariat, upon coming to power in this country, will inherit a very complicated situation, especially in relation to the national question. Exactly what forms the solution this question will take; in relation not only to Black people, but Chicanos, Indians, Asian and other oppressed peoples, cannot be predicted now. Exactly what forms of self-government will be established for the nationalities within this country which have been oppressed by the imperialist ruling class cannot now be determined. But one principle is very dear and must be upheld and fought for: the white workers, who are members of the oppressor nation., and are a majority of the working class, must renounce the use of force against the masses of the oppressed nationalities in settling this question, so that it can be decided solely on the basis of what serves the interests of the proletariat and the masses of people, in consolidating and strengthening proletarian rule and building socialism.

To carry out this task, the communists must educate the workers, especially white workers, to the understanding that there is nothing “sacred” about the present boundaries of the U.S.; they were formed on the basis of barbaric oppression of the Indians, Mexican people and Black people, and that the only thing sacred is the unity of the proletariat and its allies, especially the oppressed nationalities and the building of socialism on the basis of true national equality and voluntary union. This is what upholding the right to self-determination means under our concrete conditions.

Specifically, in relation to the Black nation, the question of whether or not to re-constitute Black people in the “Black Belt” as a majority in order to exercise self-determination is one that must be settled on the basis of what serves the interests of the masses of Black people and the whole proletariat (and fundamentally, this is the same) in earning forward socialist revolution. Upholding the right to self-determination means, again, that white workers renounce the use of force against the Black masses in solving this question. And, if force proves necessary to suppress counter-revolutionary attempts at separation, the armed Black masses must be relied on as the main force to carry this out.

Anyone who honestly examines the work, both theoretical and practical, of the RU can see that we do conduct propaganda and agitation to educate the masses in a “self-determinist spirit” as Lenin said. What we don’t do is advocate that Black people return to the “Black Belt” in order to establish themselves as a ruling majority there. This, to our dogmatists, is failing to really uphold self-determination and liquidating the national question. But that only shows how completely they have departed from Marxism-Leninism and from the actual needs and struggles of the masses of the working class and the oppressed nationalities.

And this, again, is why our Detroit authors’ use of lengthy quotations from Lenin and Stalin on the right of self-determination represents exactly what Stalin warned against in one of those quotations, when he said that “Semich quotes outside of space and time, without reference to the living historical situation, and thereby violates the most elementary requirements of dialectics and ignores the fact that what is right for one historical situation may prove to be wrong in another historical situation.”

This, for example, is the case with the use our Detroit dogmatists make of Lenin’s article “The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up,” on which they rely heavily in their thesis. In this article, Lenin emphasizes that the proletariat of the oppressor nation must support “any revolt of the annexed regions,” and in this way uphold self-determination. This phrase “annexed region” is used many times throughout the article, and this points up the difficulty of trying to mechanically apply this article – and the overall thrust of Lenin’s writings on self-determination – to the Black national question today.

Take, for example, Lenin’s insistence in this article on the difference between a reformist and revolutionary” approach to the national question, upon which our Detroit authors bank much of their arguments. “A reformist change,” Lenin says, “is one which leaves intact the foundations of power of the ruling class and is merely a concession leaving its power unimpaired. A revolutionary change undermines the foundations of power.” And, say our Detroit authors, since the RU sees the “essential thrust” of the Black liberation struggle not as “wresting control of the Black Belt from the imperialists” but as fighting “against discrimination, the denial of democratic rights, violent police repression and against exploitation and oppression as members of the working class, suffering caste-like oppression within the class,” (as we put it in “Bulletin 13”), therefore, they say, the RU’s line is clearly reformist. Again, another exercise in bourgeois logic.

Does the RU stand for wresting control of the “Black Belt” from the imperialists? Yes, of course, but we point out two things here: 1) This can only be done as part of the overall struggle of the multi-national proletariat to overthrow monopoly capital throughout the country; and 2) when this is accomplished, as part of the single stage proletarian revolution throughout the country, it will bring to power not the Black nation as a majority in the “Black Belt,” but the multi-national working class, with whites as a majority and Blacks as a significant minority in the area. (We base this on a concrete analysis of present and foreseeable conditions, recognizing, of course, that if proletarian revolution is delayed for many decades, many changes will undoubtedly take place –but then, unlike our dogmatists, the genuine Marxist-Leninists will also change their policies and tactics in accordance with this.)

Further, does the RU advocate only “mitigating” the oppression of Black people (as Lenin says of the reformist programme on the national question), while leaving the foundations of power of the oppressors intact? Of course not. We are for smashing absolutely the foundations of power of the imperialists, who oppress Black people, other oppressed nationalities and the whole working class. But, again, this means smashing the bourgeois state throughout the country, and not just eliminating their control of the “Black Belt,” which, again, cannot be done except as part of the overall proletarian-socialist revolution. Do we uphold the right of self-determination? Yes, but under our concrete conditions it is not the “essential thrust.”

The point here, and the opportunism of our Detroit dogmatists, can be further illustrated by making a comparison between the Black nation in the U.S.–a nation of a “new type”–and the nation of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is exactly an “annexed region” in the way Lenin uses this term. In fact, Lenin cites the annexation of Puerto Rico by the U.S. in 1898 as one of the important events marking the beginning of the “era of imperialism” and the beginning of annexations in the “epoch of imperialism.”

Our Detroit authors try to say that the RU “might” try to characterize Puerto Rico as a “nation of a new type,” and say that it, too, is a “particular and internal state problem” where “right of self-determination is not at the heart of the question.” This, they exclaim, “is hardly objective reality!” Very good!

Indeed, this is not objective reality, but neither is the reality of the Black nation in the U.S. –or even in the “Black Belt” alone –the same as the objective reality of Puerto Rico. Our dogmatists “might” confuse this, but the RU doesn’t. Are the Puerto Rican people a clear minority in Puerto Rico? Is Puerto Rico not a colony of U.S. imperialism–and wouldn’t it remain so, even if it was declared a “state” (after all, the Portuguese colonialists have long called Angola an “overseas province”)? Are the Puerto Rican workers on the island part of the same single multi-national working class as workers in the U.S., in the same way that Black workers in the U.S. are? These questions answer themselves, and expose the inability of our Detroit dogmatists to even begin to grasp and apply the Marxist method, or to comprehend anything but scattered bits and pieces of “objective reality.”

Self-determination is absolutely at the heart of the struggle of the Puerto Rican nation. Only through ”wresting control” of the territory of Puerto Rico can the people of that nation win liberation, and only after that is done can hey begin to build socialism there.

Under these conditions, even if there were no struggle in Puerto Rico for independence (which, of course, there is) it would be the duty of communists there to build such a movement. If, under those conditions, the communists restricted themselves to fighting this or that manifestation of imperialist oppression –for example police brutality – without linking this to the struggle for liberation and eventually socialism, they would be reformists and “straight up opportunists,” just as, in the U.S., if the communists restrict themselves to fighting against particular manifestations of national oppression, without linking this to the struggle to overthrow the imperialists, this, too, would clearly be reformism and opportunism. But, let us repeat it once again, the overthrow of U.S. imperialism in the U.S. means a single stage proletarian revolution throughout the country, and not a two-stage and two-part revolution – new-democratic in the “Black Belt,” and proletarian-socialist in the rest of the country.

This, of course, does not eliminate the national question, or do away with the struggle against national oppression. Only by merging the movement of the oppressed nationalities against imperialist oppression of them as peoples, with the overall movement of the multi-national working class can socialist revolution be achieved. And, as we said, upon seizing power the proletariat will be faced with the very complicated question of really establishing equality between nationalities and working out the forms of self-government of the various oppressed nationalities.

Since this can only be solved in accordance with the felt needs and interests of the masses, the use of force by one section of the class against others, and specifically by white workers against the masses of oppressed nationalities, must and will be renounced. As we stressed, no one can predict exactly how this will be worked out, but Black control of the “Black Belt” cannot be insisted on and is not at the heart of the fight for Black liberation.

What can and must be insisted on is that the ruling proletariat will adopt special measures to overcome the oppression and inequality that the capitalist system in this country has enforced on the minority nationalities. It is the duty of communists, especially white communists, to mobilize the working class to fight against this oppression now and to prepare it to completely smash national oppression and overcome all national inequality after seizing power. This, as we see it, is the correct, proletarian line and approach to the national question in the concrete conditions of the U.S. today.

The last leg our Detroit dogmatists try to stand on is the argument that the RU says that the Black national question in the U.S. has always had unique features. For example, the RU is falling in with the stand that the “CP” has taken on this question, since the time of the 50’s when it went thoroughly revisionist.

First off, it must be said that the Black national question in the U.S. has always had unique features. For example Harry Haywood noted that ”The uniqueness of the Negro problem in the United States lies in the fact that the Negro was left out of the country’s general democratic-transformation.” (Negro Liberation, p. 143, footnote.) And the 1930 Comintern Resolution speaks of the “peculiar nature” and “particularly oppressive” character of the Black national question at that time, because of the history and the survivals of slavery.

But what makes the conditions new and unique today is the very transformation of the national question which we have dealt with at length. Genuine Marxist-Leninists must base themselves on a concrete analysis of these concrete conditions, no matter how much it may displease the dogmatists, because it is the masses of people and the struggle for socialism that matters, not the “feelings” of the dogmatists, or any other opportunists.

As for unity with the revisionist CP line, it is really the dogmatists who aid and act as a cover for the CP on this question, and who really have objective unity with the revisionist stand. The CP notes the basic changes in the conditions of Black people since WW2, and on this basis does two things. First, they say that the former position of the Comintern and the CP itself was incorrect –when, in fact, this did provide the basis for a revolutionary struggle of Black people at the time it was formulated, even though the question of self-determination did not prove in the practice of the CP, even in its revolutionary days in the 30’s, to be as much a focus as the Comintern Resolutions had anticipated.

Second, the CP today (with no regard for consistency) takes the position that since these changes have taken place, there is no longer any basis for a revolutionary movement of Black people against national oppression, but only a reformist struggle to “defend democracy” and the gains of the “Civil Rights Decade” from the “ultra-rightists” in the ruling class. The CP presents the Black people’s struggle not as an integral part of the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, for the smashing of the imperialist state, but as a part of the “anti-monopoly coalition” to “curb the power of the monopolies.” (See for example, Strategy for a Black Agenda, by Henry Winston, especially the last two chapters.)

And what alternative do our dogmatists offer to this position? With only a very thin “revolutionary” cover they, too, present the Black liberation struggle as essentially a democratic question –“land to the tiller” and right of self-determination in the “Black Belt.” But more than that, they insist that the only basis for a “revolutionary” struggle of Black people is to fight for control of the territory and “landed property” of the “Black Belt.”

Since this no longer conforms to the actual concrete conditions, as we have shown, and since it therefore cannot be the actual basis for the revolutionary struggle of Black people, it offers no alternative at all in the real world to the revisionist line, and in fact only strengthens the revisionist CP and aids it in liquidating the national question. By comparison with our dogmatists, the CP seems at least to be basing itself on reality – whereas in fact, it is only trying to reconcile Black people, and the masses of oppressed and exploited people as a whole, to the present reality of imperialist rule. The dogmatists unite with them in this, and with a “revolutionary” knife cut the proletarian heart out of the Black liberation struggle.

The real alternative to the CP’s revisionist line on the national question is not to try to drag things back to the past, but to build on the present struggles of Black people, and to lead them to the future –socialist revolution. It is to show, in a living way, how the present position of the Black masses–overwhelmingly workers, part of the single multi-national proletariat–puts them in a very powerful strategic position not only to fight against their national oppression, but to unite with the whole class in this struggle, and in the overall struggle against all oppression and exploitation and for proletarian revolution. To show how the caste-like oppression of Black people within the class, and the oppression and the structure of white supremacy that has been historically rooted in the development of capitalism in this country, can only be thoroughly rooted out by the complete overthrow of this system. And to show, along with that, that liberation for Black people and all working people lies in the liberation of the productive forces through socialist revolution and the advance to communism. This, the revisionists will never do, and neither will the dogmatists, no matter how much “propaganda” they put out calling for socialism but divorcing socialism from the actual conditions and the living struggles of the masses.

Proletarian Ideology, Proletarian Revolution and the Struggle Against Deviations on the National Question

From all that has been said, it is clear that the Black people’s struggle is not, in its essential thrust, a movement for independence, for the right of political secession in the “Black Belt.” It is not a “patriotic” struggle in the sense of being a struggle, in essence, for “liberation of the homeland,” the territory of the “Black Belt” south. And this is why, as we said in National Bulletin 13, Mao’s statement that “in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism,” cannot be applied to the Black liberation struggle in the same way as it could in China. At the same time, as we have also stressed, Black communists must, of course, stand and fight for the liberation of Black people, as well as the whole class.

The Detroit paper’s treatment of the question of revolutionary nationalism (as well as, its confused and self-contradictory analysis of the role of the Black bourgeoisie) is really just a rehash of the arguments of the BWC, which we have already answered (especially in “Marxism vs. Bundism”), and so there is no need to deal with most of these arguments again in this paper.

One inconsistency of the Detroit paper, on the role of the Black bourgeoisie in relation to the question of self-determination, is significant. The Detroit authors argue that the Black bourgeoisie will never raise the demand for self-determination. At the same time, of course, they insist that the Comintern Resolutions still apply.

But the Comintern Resolution of 1930 says that if the proletariat “has come into power in the United States, the Communists Negroes will come out not for but against separation.” Why? Because, under these conditions, “the bourgeois counter-revolution; on the other hand, will then be interested in boosting the separation tendencies in the ranks of the various nationalities in order to utilize separatist nationalism as a banner for the bourgeois counter-revolution against the consolidation of the proletarian dictatorship.” According to the logic of our dogmatist authors, this “bourgeois counter-revolution”, would certainly include the Black bourgeoisie, and it would be exactly the Black bourgeoisie in league with the imperialists who would then be raising the demand, not just for self-determination, but for actual separation.

Under today’s conditions, the question of separation would only be possible when the proletariat has come into power. We do not think that the Black bourgeoisie is simply a counter-revolutionary agent of the imperialists, but is built up, on the one hand, and held down, on the other, by the ruling class. Therefore, the Black bourgeoisie has two aspects –the tendency to ally with the imperialists, and the tendency to ally with the masses in opposing the imperialists. The Black bourgeoisie, or at least sections of it, should be considered a possible, though vacillating, ally of the proletariat, not an absolute enemy.

But at the time of seizure of power by the proletariat, it will be exactly bourgeois forces among Black people, partly for their own concern, for securing a market, and partly because of the influence of the imperialists, that are most likely to raise the demand for separation. Even Black bourgeois forces that united in the struggle to overthrow the imperialists may then raise this demand. And they will undoubtedly have some influence among the Black masses. This is a major reason why the right of self-determination must be upheld, but why, on the other hand, under present and foreseeable circumstances, actual reparation would be a step backward.

Finally, having examined that confusion created by the Detroit paper, it is important to deal with one last distortion raised by our Detroit authors –the question of white chauvinism, bourgeois nationalism among the oppressed nationalities, and which constitutes the main danger. The Detroit paper says not only that white chauvinism is the main danger, but that it is another sign of the RU’s white chauvinism that we spend more time combatting bourgeois nationalism among Blacks than white chauvinism among whites. Again, all we get from our Detroit authors is bourgeois logic.

In the working class and society as a whole white chauvinism (or racism) is clearly the main danger, the most dangerous form of bourgeois ideology on the national question, because it represents a unity with the bourgeoisie of the oppressing nation, the imperialists. The RU, as well as all genuine communists, directs the main blow against white chauvinism; in particular, our white comrades emphasize the struggle against white chauvinism, while our comrades from the oppressed nationalities emphasize the struggle against the bourgeois nationalism of their own nationality.

But several points have to be made here. First, the fact that white chauvinism is the main danger in society as a whole, does not automatically make it the main danger in the ranks of the communists. In China before liberation, the main problem among the masses, overall, was a tendency toward defeatism, toward doubting that the landlords, imperialists and bureaucrat capitalists could actually be overthrown. But, in the Communist Party of China at various times, adventurism, based on expectations of very quick victory, became the main danger rather than conservatism. (Adventurism, of course, has in common with conservatism that it actually fails to rely on the masses, but it is nevertheless of a different form of opportunism than conservatism, or open defeatism!)

The communists, the vanguard, while they must be rooted among the masses and learn from the masses, do not have the same consciousness as the masses, do not merely reflect the undemanding of the masses. This is a point which our dogmatists ought to understand, since they are forever talking about the role of the “conscious element” and the difference between the masses and the communists –their error, of course, lies in raising this difference to a principle and divorcing the communists from the masses.

In recent years in the U.S. communist movement– and here we are talking about the anti-revisionist forces –the main political and ideological deviation on the national question has not been white chauvinism (even though white chauvinism has remained the main danger among the masses and has significant influence, of course, within the communist movement). But the main deviation in the communist movement has been the tendency to tail after the bourgeois nationalism of the oppressed nationalities (of course, for whites to tail after bourgeois nationalism also has an aspect of chauvinism, and we’ll return to this point shortly). This is so because in the U.S. in the past period, revolutionary nationalist movements and forces have sprung up at a time when the level of struggle, consciousness and units of the working class as a whole has not vet been very developed. At the same time the roots of the communist forces in the working class, and their foundation in Marxism-Leninism also have not been very developed. And the bourgeoisie, panicked by the revolutionary movements of the oppressed nationalities, has put tremendous effort into building up petty bourgeois and bourgeois forces among these peoples and promoting bourgeois ideology, especially in the form of bourgeois nationalism.

Under these circumstances, it was inevitable that nationalist ideology would tend to dominate in these movements–and in the revolutionary movement generally, which has been tremendously influenced by the struggles of the Black people and other oppressed nationalities. But along with this, there has been the tendency in the revolutionary movement not to struggle against nationalist ideology and, instead, to equate it with proletarian ideology, or even raise it above proletarian ideology. This is what must be combatted in the communist movement, while uniting with the tremendous revolutionary thrust of the struggles of the masses of oppressed nationalities.

Those who have fallen into dogmatism and bourgeois nationalism cannot, of course, grasp this or carry it out. For example, the BWC attacks certain “white chauvinists” (and obviously they are referring to the RU) who “say that Black nationalism and separatism are growing among Black people and this is a bad sign.” The BWC adds this comment: “Of course Black nationalism and separatist tendencies exist and will continue to grow within the Black community as long as Black people are oppressed by U.S. imperialism.” (See The Black Liberation Struggle, The Black Workers Congress and Proletarian Revolution, p. 10)

BWC has missed the point. What concerns the RU, and all genuine communists, is not so much that bourgeois nationalism and separatism is growing among Black people. What concerns us is that these tendencies are growing among some, and certainly not all, Black communists, as exemplified by BWC itself. And to the degree that this is the case, this will only further the growth of these tendencies among the Black masses. This is not the rising trend among Black communists, but it is one which still has a strong influence, exactly because it has not been systematically struggled against in the past.

As Stalin wrote in 1934,

The deviation towards nationalism is the adaption of the internationalist policy of the working class to the nationalist policy of the bourgeoisie. There is a controversy as to which deviation represents the major danger: the deviation towards Great-Russian nationalism, or the deviation towards local nationalism? Under present conditions, this is a formal, and therefore, a pointless controversy. It would be absurd to attempt to give ready-made recipes suitable for all times and for all conditions as regards the major and minor danger. Such recipes do not exist. The major danger is the deviation against which we have ceased to fight, thereby allowing it to grow into a danger to the state. (Stalin, “Report to the 17th Congress of the CPSU(B)”)

The “present conditions” Stalin refers to, included, of course, the fact that the working class was in power in the Soviet Union and had overthrown the imperialist system and its national oppression in that country (though, of course, it had not yet eliminated all vestiges or national inequality, all remnants left over from capitalist and Tsarist oppression). But Stalin’s general guideline: “The major danger is the deviation against which we have ceased to fight” –applies to the situation within the communist movement–whether or not the proletariat is in power. And, in the recent history of the U.S. communist movement, the deviation that has not been fought as much against is the deviation towards the bourgeois nationalism of the oppressed nationalities. This is shown in the very fact that within the communist movement itself it has often been enough to label a statement “racist” or “chauvinist” in order to avoid any real analysis or principled struggle.

Does this mean that we must ignore or downplay the struggle against white chauvinism, at least within the communist movement? No, it absolutely does not mean that. We must intensify this struggle. But, as we have stressed in the struggle against the “Bundist” line, we must carry this struggle out, in the communist movement and among the masses, with a correct class stand. As National Bulletin 13 points out, this has often not been the stand of RU comrades (and this holds true, we believe, for other forces in the communist movement as well) in combatting white chauvinism among the masses. In fact, this struggle has tended to take on the form of hostility towards white workers and tailing behind the spontaneous consciousness and attitudes of Black and other minority nationality workers.

This last aspect is on the part of whites, a form of white chauvinism–a liberal and patronizing attitude. But it would be a serious error to define the whole tendency in these terms and not to see that tailing after bourgeois nationalism among Blacks and adopting an anti-white worker stand comes from the general anti-working class baggage of the petty bourgeoisie which still has considerable influence in the communist movement. And it comes out of the character of the revolutionary movement in recent years, which has been heavily influenced by nationalist ideology in the way that we summarized earlier. It is this “tide” within the communist movement itself that not only the RU, but all genuine communists must “go against,” while continuing and intensifying the struggle against white chauvinism, in connection with the struggle against all national oppression.

Our Detroit dogmatists distort all this in their paper, and even invent statements to attribute to the RU, in order to claim that the RU doesn’t think it is important to fight white chauvinism, even among the masses. We have already answered their distortions around self-determination (and that answers their inventions of what RU cadre supposedly say on that question), but the following invention is even more crude. According to these imposters, the stand of RU cadre is: “We must not focus on the weaknesses 6f white workers, on disunity. We must not emphasize racism and national chauvinism unless it takes on a really blatant –“kill the niggers” –form. Instead our job is to point to the unity that is developing, and bring these examples forward.”

Please, blessed Dogmatists, don’t put words into our mouths–they are bad enough coming out of your own. (And here we should note that these authors were suspended from the RU not because they took a dogmatist stand, but because this opportunist line led them to violate the discipline of the organization, to refuse to carry out struggle within the organization according to democratic centralism, and, instead, to spread distortions and slander about the RU line and work, as typified by their paper.) But let’s look at their invention above.

First, anyone who actually examines the propaganda, agitation, and mass work of the RU knows that we consistently combat racism and national chauvinism, whether blatant, or less overt. The whole history of the RU has been marked by this struggle, linked with the struggle against national oppression.

Was it chauvinism, or struggling against chauvinism and national oppression when the RU took up the support of the Black Panther Party and the defense of its leaders when the BPP was playing a revolutionary role? Was it chauvinism, or the struggle against chauvinism when the RU took up the struggle against the PL line of attacking all national liberation struggles and claiming that “all nationalism is reactionary”? Is it chauvinism, or the struggle against chauvinism and national oppression that has led the RU to support struggles for open admissions and “third world studies” on the campuses, to fight discrimination on the job, police brutality, and other forms of national oppression? Was it chauvinism, or the fight against chauvinism and national oppression when the RU played a leading role recently in organizing struggle against “Operation Zebra” in the Bay Area? We are not “taking credit” for all these struggles, though we have played an important part. The point is not to “take credit” but to point out the actual role and history of the RU in the struggle against national oppression, and the correct way to struggle against chauvinism and national oppression – all of which is so thoroughly and shamelessly distorted by our dogmatist defectors.

But let’s look deeper at their statement. Is it wrong to “point to the unity that is developing and bring these examples forward”? No, it is absolutely correct, and this is a very important part of combatting chauvinism and raising the class consciousness of white and minority nationality workers. Our Detroit authors don’t agree with this, because they think the only way to carry out the struggle against white chauvinism is to adopt an anti-white worker (and really an anti-Black worker and completely anti-working class) stance. They aren’t interested in learning from examples of how unity can be forged in the struggle against the imperialist enemy – in short, they aren’t interested in building the revolutionary unity of the class for socialist revolution.

This is shown, for example, in the way they blow the Yokinen Trial all out of proportion and attribute “magical wonders” to it. August Yokinen, a Finnish-American worker and member of the Communist Party, USA, was expelled from the Party in 1931 for white chauvinism at a trial attended by thousands of people in Harlem. (He was re-admitted to the Party six months later on the basis of actively joining the struggle against the oppression of Black people and taking up the fight against white chauvinism –this was the recommendation of the “workers’ jury” that expelled Yokinen.)

From the pamphlet summarizing the trial, it is clear that Yokinen was guilty of serious chauvinist acts –refusing Blacks admittance to a dance at the Finnish-American workers’ hall in Harlem, and stating that he didn’t want them to use the facilities, especially the baths. He certainly should have been seriously disciplined by the Party.

But our Detroit authors go out to lunch when they try to say that without the Yokinen trial the Party would not have taken up the defense of the Scottsboro Boys. Before this trial, the Party had plunged into the Gastonia, North Carolina strike, around which it defeated the Lovestone line in the Party and raised the struggle against the oppression of Black people, including the right of self-determination (though this was raised in a kind of hokey way without much relation to the actual struggle). Before the Yokinen trial the Party had already established the Southern Worker, organized unemployed struggles, uniting Black and white workers, and begun building the Sharecroppers’ Union. At the same time as it had carried out this work in the south, it had actively engaged in struggles in the north against discrimination and other oppression of Black people.

In fact, our Detroit authors basically misrepresent the Party’s work during the 30s around the Black national question. If our dogmatists were at least consistent they would condemn rather than praise the CP during this period, because as it turned out the Party did not make the question of self-determination the main basis of its work around the Black people’s struggle. It did not, because, while the question of self-determination was more central than it is today, and while the Party uphold it as a right, self-determination did not become a question around which masses of people, Black or white, could be mobilized in struggle.

It was mainly the work of the Party in building struggle against lynching, sharecropping exploitation, discrimination and other forms of national oppression, as well as the general struggle against class oppression, that drew large numbers of Black people and workers of all nationalities to the Party’s banner in the 30s. This was true before and after the Yokinen trial. In fact, without this concrete work, the Yokinen trial would have been a complete farce, simply another Madison-Avenue promotion job –and as it was, it had a strong aspect of that.

The dangers of one-sidedly promoting the “Yokinen trial model” can be seen by examining the so-called campaign against white chauvinism that the CP carried out in the late 40’s and early 50’s, which divorced the struggle against white chauvinism from the mass struggle against national oppression and went to ridiculous extremes of “purifying the soul.” This so-called campaign was guided by Liu Shao-chi’s writings on self-cultivation. They were printed and distributed in as many as nine editions throughout the Party during this campaign. In fact, this campaign was really a cover for pulling back from any involvement in the mass struggles of the Black people and the working class as a whole. That is exactly what self-cultivation is–“fighting bourgeois ideology” and making yourself a “good communist” in isolation from the needs and struggles of the masses.

This may be just what is to be done, according to dogmatists, who make a principle out of ignoring the concrete conditions and actual needs of the masses, and of divorcing themselves from the struggles of the masses. But to genuine Marxist-Leninists, the struggle against white chauvinism, as well as against bourgeois nationalism and all bourgeois ideology, must be linked with the mass struggle against national and class oppression and with ideological struggle within the communist movement to achieve a correct line and programme and to lead the mass movement to socialist revolution.

As we said at the beginning, the national question, and the Black national question in particular, is central and decisive to achieving proletarian revolution and socialism in this country. At this point in the development of the communist movement, forging clarity and unity around a correct line on the national question is a crucial part of uniting all who can be united around a Marxist-Leninist line and programme to form a genuine vanguard Party. And the struggle against the dogmatist line represented by the Detroit paper–which is extremely rightist in essence–is an important step for the communist movement in breaking with the dead hand of the past, building a new Party based on Marxism-Leninism, capable of leading the masses, and merging the national and class struggles to overthrow imperialism and build a new world, without national oppression or exploitation of any kind.