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Revolutionary Union

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

Revolutionary Union

National Bulletin #13: Build the Leading Role of the Working Class, Merge the National and Class Struggles

The formulation our organization has made of the Black people in the U.S. today as a nation of a new type, and the publication of Red Papers 5 presenting this position in depth, has made an important contribution to the U.S. revolutionary movement, even though, as we said in RP5, this is still only the basic foundation and guide to the question of Black liberation and proletarian revolution. In the year since the publication of RP5, it has not only been studied critically by many honest Marxist-Leninists around the country, but has also been attacked by various opportunists, such as the October League and the Communist League.

Over this period, in the process of considering the constructive criticisms and answering some of these attacks, we have gone into more detail on certain aspects of our line, particularly around the existence of a class structure among Black people and the existence of a specifically Black market, which is the material basis for the existence of a Black bourgeoisie as a Black bourgeoisie. This was necessary especially in answering the dogmatists of various stripes, who have seized on the question of territory and claimed either that Black people are a nation only in the south and a national minority elsewhere, or are a national minority throughout the country. Our answers to these dogmatists, in the REVOLUTION and through other vehicles, have helped to strengthen our understanding of certain aspects of our position.

But on the other hand, in the course of this ideological struggle, in the necessity, so to speak, to “prove the existence of the Black nation,” there has been a tendency to lose sight of the analysis of RP5 that:

We have held to the formulation of the Black people as a nation because of the historical basis of nationhood and the present situation of Black people which continues to bind them in. a very close national union, and because of the importance of upholding the right of self–determination, including secession, which has been firmly established on the basis of the long history of Black people in the U.S.

But the important question is not the particular word–’nation’ as opposed, say, to ’national minority.’ The crucial question is to understand the historical and present material conditions of Black people and the essential thrust of the Black liberation struggle today that flows from these conditions.

The heart of our analysis is that on the one hand Blacks people are an oppressed nation of a new type–overwhelmingly workers, dispersed throughout the U.S., but concentrated in urban industrial areas, with real, but deformed class structure. But on the other hand, Black workers, making up the majority of Black people, are part of the single U.S. working class. And further, as we have said consistently in RED PAPERS, the “essential thrust” of the Black people’s struggle has not been for self-determination in the form of secession, but the fight 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.

The key point is the dual oppression of the masses of Black working people. The national oppression they suffer, and the mass struggle against it, is bound together by a thousand links with their struggle against class exploitation and oppression, and the oppression and exploitation of the whole class. This is exactly why the Black liberation struggle has been a “powerful driving force” pushing forward the whole struggle against U.S. imperialism and helping to lay the basis for the revolutionary unity of the class. This is the heart of our line on Black liberation and proletarian revolution.

It is very important for us, and all communists, to understand that Black people are a nation and what this means for the practical revolutionary struggle. This is so particularly in understanding the role of classes and class struggle within the Black nation, and its effect on the development of the overall revolutionary movement. Arid we, together with others, must do further study, investigation and summation of the role of the Black bourgeoisie, both in the overall class structure of U.S. society, and in relation to the Black petty bourgeoisie and the masses of Black working people. But, at the same time, we must grasp firmly that the basic and most important class struggle that Black workers are involved in is the struggle, as part of the single U.S. proletariat, against the monopoly capitalist ruling class, and not against the Black bourgeoisie.

The material basis for the unity of workers of different nationalities in the U.S. is greater than it has ever been in the history of the country. It is greater than it was in Russia, for example, because there, while some workers of different nationalities did live and work together in the same cities and factories, the oppressed nationalities lived mainly in the border areas, and there really were separate working classes–Great Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, Georgian, etc. You could not speak of a single proletariat in Russia, as exists in the U.S. today.

At the same time, as we point out in RP5, “The common exploitation and-oppression that white and Third World workers face, especially in the large industrial plants, forms the material basis for building their unity in struggle against monopoly capitalism. But simply the fact that white and Third World workers are employed in the same factory (or on the same assembly line) does not wipe out the inequality between them or automatically establish a high level of unity.”

In fact, the U.S. bourgeoisie, recognizing the strong material basis for unity, works overtime to foster, further and maintain discrimination and other forms of national oppression, to promote white national chauvinism– and bourgeois nationalism among the oppressed nationalities–to disrupt and hold back the unity of the class. It does everything it can to preserve the pattern of white supremacy and the petty privileges of white workers.

These privileges are the material basis for white national chauvinism, despite the fact that the privileges of white workers that come from being members of the oppressor nation–the relatively easier ability to move to the suburbs, to get promoted to skilled jobs, to have a little better schools, etc.–are nothing compared to the exploitation and oppression that the masses of white workers suffer, and are suffering more and more as the crisis of U.S. imperialism deepens.

These oppressor nation privileges, and white chauvinism, are also the basis for bourgeois nationalism to take root among the workers of the oppressed nationalities. The bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie of the oppressed nationalities, of course, have their own class interests in promoting bourgeois nationalism. And in recent years, panicked by the surging Black liberation struggle (as we say in RP5), the ruling class has launched a big campaign to build up the Black bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie as a material base for and as propagators of bourgeois nationalism and bourgeois ideology in general. But these forces have been able to make headway among the Black working masses, they have found some fertile soil for bourgeois nationalism there, because of the concrete national oppression the Black workers suffer, because of the divisions within the class on the basis of white supremacy, and because, spontaneously, without communist leadership and under the influence of bourgeois ideology–in particular white chauvinism–white workers have not yet grasped the crucial importance of the fight against national oppression, and the consciousness, and unity of the class around this struggle is not yet very developed. It is in the context of winning the whole class to the fight against national oppression that we can defeat both white chauvinism and bourgeois nationalism.

In general, bourgeois ideology finds a basis in the working class, because, among other reasons, workers are forced to compete for jobs, etc. This is the basis not only for bourgeois ideology in the class, but for antagonisms among the workers. The bourgeoisie tries to further these divisions and antagonisms by granting the petty privileges to the workers of the oppressor nation–white workers. That is, it gives them an advantage in competition, and conversely, forces Black, and other Third World workers, into some disadvantages. This makes clear that the divisions within the working class can only be fully overcome, not in the context of “how to slice the pie,” accepting the capitalist system, but in the context of the struggle to get rid of the whole system that forces all workers into this competition. To unite the workers in this struggle, around their real class interests, we uphold proletarian internationalism in opposition to oppressor nation chauvinism and to bourgeois nationalism of the oppressed nationalities.

Given these material conditions, what are our tasks as communists? We must “divide one into two” on the question of white workers. On the one hand, their privileges as members of the oppressor nation; on the other hand, their common exploitation and oppression, their common interests with the workers of the oppressed nationalities. We must build on the overwhelmingly principal aspect–their common exploitation and oppression and common interests–to overcome the non-principal aspect, their, oppressor nation privileges. And we must do this with a correct class stand, not viewing white workers as a “problem,” a group that somehow we must trick or “bogart” into “supporting Third World struggles,” but as class brothers and sisters who really suffer under this system and who have real fundamental interest in overthrowing it. As members of the greatest class in history, as Mao says, who are fully capable of grasping their historic role as members of this class.

This class stand must also be the one we use in struggling against chauvinism among white workers. We must struggle against it tooth and nail, help white workers to see that it comes from and serves the bourgeoisie, and is a chain around their neck which must be broken in their own interests, that is, in the interests of their class. Our attitude here should be guided by what Mao sets down in YENAN FORUM ON LITERATURE AND ART. “Among the proletariat many retain petty bourgeois ideas. We should be patient and spend a long time in educating them and helping them to get these loads off their backs and combat their own shortcomings and errors, so that they can advance with great strides ... To criticize the people’s shortcomings is necessary, as we have already said, but in doing so we must truly take the stand of the people and speak out of wholehearted eagerness to protect and educate them.” (emphasis added)

Unfortunately, this has not consistently been our method. For example, in one local anti-imperialist paper, the comment is made in an article about a strike that, if some white workers resent the more active role the Black workers played in the strike, that only goes to show how racist those whites are. This is not the way to combat chauvinism (racism) among white workers. Instead we should call on them to learn from the example and inspiration of the Black workers, to unite with them, play an active part, and make the struggle more powerful. (We are not sure whether the particular article in question was written by a member of our organization, another organization, or a worker from the plant, but the point is the same, and we must wage comradely struggle against this kind of approach, wherever it comes from. And, unfortunately, this is not an isolated example.)

A part of the ideological basis for this kind of error on the part of our organization is the fact that to some degree it has not been thoroughly grasped–and really believed–that white chauvinism is not inherent in white workers, but comes from and is promoted by the bourgeoisie at every turn. This same kind of problem arose in the Russian revolution. The Bundists attacked the Marxists for (as Lenin puts it) “spreading the ’no less dangerous fable’ (words of the Bundists) . . . that anti-Semitism is connected with the bourgeois strata and with their interests, and not with those of the working class.” (See “Does Jewish Proletariat Need an ’Independent Political Party’?”–Lenin, Vol. 6, p. 332). Lenin answered this by insisting that anti-Semitism does represent the ideology and “interests of the bourgeois, and not of the working class population . . . the social character of anti-Semitism is not changed by the fact that dozens or even hundreds of unorganized workers, nine-tenths of whom are still quite ignorant, take part in a pogrom.” (Lenin, ibid, p. 334).

Remember that in Russia, the Jews, while not a nation, were the most persecuted of all nationalities, and anti-Semitism was widespread and had deep historical roots in the society. The method that Lenin insists on in dealing with this question is exactly the method we use if we really want to solve the problem and build the unity of the class. It is the method Mao uses in his 1963 “Statement Supporting the American Negroes in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism,” where Mao says that “In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States it is only the reactionary ruling circles who oppress the Black people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people.”

By taking this stand, we will be able to wage a successful struggle against white chauvinism, unite with white workers on the basis of their real class interests and build the revolutionary unity of the class.

We must also have the same correct class stand toward Black and other Third World workers. Not viewing them romantically, not tailing behind their spontaneous consciousness and struggle, but uniting with them, too, as class brothers and sisters. As people whose consciousness can and must be raised to an understanding of themselves as members of an historic class together with workers of other nationalities. The Secretariat feels it is essential to emphasize this point, because the failure to take the correct class stand continues to come up in our work. There have been examples of white comrades saying that, in order to build unity with Black workers in a plant, they have to “distinguish themselves from the white workers.”

There have been many cases where comrades, especially white comrades, have made serious errors in their work, and failed to advance struggle, because they one-sidedly tailed behind the spontaneous actions of Black and other Third World workers, instead of striving to give communist leadership. In fact, these two attitudes”distinguishing yourself from the white workers” and tailing after Black and other Third World workers-are the flip side of each other and come from the same petty bourgeois baggage. When questions come up in the plant, around national oppression, for example, and the Black workers move to fight back, the stand of communists, especially white communists, must not be to take a sectarian stance (“left” in form error) of “distinguishing”–isolating–themselves from the white workers, but doing agitation among the white workers, raising their understanding, and uniting with them to take part in the struggle. Not to do this is really right in essence.

It amounts to saying that, for the white workers in particular, only issues that represent the lowest common denominator of trade union, purely economic concerns, can be raised, that white workers cannot be mobilized to struggle around anything beyond that. This is economist, pure and simple. It is tailing behind the consciousness of white workers and the most backward white workers in particular, and goes right along with tailing behind the consciousness of Black workers, while saying to them “look at me, I’m not prejudiced, like those other (dumb) whites, I’m an intelligent white, I’m cool.”

This is not only a clear cut case of petty bourgeois ideology in general–in the form of open contempt for workers, white workers in particular–but actually amounts to white chauvinism, and to reinforcing rather than overcoming divisions in the class. This emphasizes the fact that the struggle against white chauvinism within our organization must be linked with the struggle’ against economism and right errors generally. The more firmly we grasp the method of utilizing all political sparks and fanning them, and of relying on the masses and raising their consciousness in the course of struggle, the more we will make headway in winning the whole class to the fight against national discrimination and oppression. This must be the stand of communists–and not “distinguishing themselves from the white workers” or tailing behind Black and other Third World workers. This is not to condemn comrades, or to act as though this kind of stand characterized the organization. But this kind of baggage is still with us, and we must discard it and strengthen our proletarian class stand, in order td give communist leadership and advance the struggle of the masses toward liberation.

To summarize this point, we must grasp and apply our line, as stated in RP5, that the revolutionary unity of the class can and will be built not “on the basis of inequality of national oppression,” but “through the fight against inequality, against all forms of national oppression.” And that our basic policy must be one of “developing the struggle against national oppression as part of the overall class struggle.”

What does this mean, and, in particular, how does our line on the national question relate to the main task (as we say in the February REVOLUTION No. 1), “to build the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the working class and develop its leadership in the anti-imperialist struggle?”

As communists, as representatives of the multi-national proletariat, we must base ourselves first and foremost on a materialist analysis and a class analysis of social movements, including the struggle of oppressed nationalities against national oppression. Specifically, we must understand why, as we said in RP5, “Lenin already drew the distinction–which was to become even more crucial with the further development of the national question–between the nationalism of the bourgeoisie and the aspirations of the working class of the same nation for national equality and for proletarian internationalism.”

National oppression exists, and takes a hundred forms every day. The masses of the oppressed nationalities want to and do fight back against this. The bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation tries to utilize the national oppression to win the masses of the oppressed nation to its “national” banner. It tries to use the masses as leverage against the bourgeoisie of the dominant nation–and other oppressed nationalities. It pushes for its own privileges against the other bourgeoisies.

“The development of nationality in general,” Lenin says, “is the principle of bourgeois nationalism; hence the exclusiveness of bourgeois nationalism, hence the endless national bickering.” And Lenin goes on to lay out the position of the communists: “Combat all national oppression. Yes, of course! Fight for any national development, for ’national culture’ in general? Of course not . . . The proletariat cannot support the consecration of nationalism; on the contrary it supports everything that helps to obliterate national distinctions and remove national barriers.” (“Critical Remarks on the National Question,” Vol. 20, p. 35). This is the position of communists, especially where, as in Russia and the U.S. the national question is not a colonial question but a “particular and internal state problem.” (Back to this later.)

So is Lenin taking a stand against all national movements? Of course not. “The principle of nationality is historically inevitable in bourgeois society,” says Lenin, “and taking this into due account the Marxist fully recognizes the historical legitimacy of national movements. But to prevent this recognition from becoming an apologia of nationalism, it must be strictly limited to what is progressive in such movements, in order that this recognition may not lead to bourgeois ideology obscuring proletarian consciousness.” (Ibid. p. 34).

So, are we reversing ourselves and saying with Progressive Labor that “all nationalism is reactionary?” No. But, in the final analysis, all nationalism is–nationalism. And all nationalism, even the most progressive, is, in the final analysis, bourgeois ideology. It is the ideology of “my nationality first” which reflects and serves the interests of the bourgeoisie of the particular nationality.

Even bourgeois nationalism (of an oppressed nationality) can, under certain circumstances, have progressive aspects–such as combatting chauvinist propaganda about inferiority and self-hatred by the ruling class, instilling pride and self-respect, in the members of the oppressed nation–all of which can aid the development of equality and real unity of the workers of different nationalities. But as bourgeois nationalism goes beyond that and takes an aggressive, and even chauvinist stance, it turns completely into a reactionary force, disrupts real equality and real unity of the proletariat. Beyond that, in the final analysis, all nationalism must be brought forward, must make a qualitative leap to class conscious internationalism, or it will degenerate into bourgeois, reactionary nationalism.

There is progressive, or revolutionary nationalism–as opposed to reactionary nationalism. But it must be seen dialectically, as something in motion, something that must move toward and eventually make a leap to a higher form of consciousness, class consciousness, or at some point it will fall back to bourgeois nationalism. Revolutionary nationalism is itself a contradiction, with two aspects: the revolutionary aspect, against the system; and the national aspect which is bourgeois in the final analysis–“my people first, above all.” One of these aspects must eventually win out. It is the duty of communists to unite with the progressive, or revolutionary aspect, build it up and advance it to a proletarian outlook, to overcome the bourgeois aspect.

That is why the Chinese say that, “In the revolutionary struggle it (the proletarian party) supports progressive nationalism and opposes reactionary nationalism.” But the Chinese make clear in the same statement that, “On the national question the world outlook of the proletarian party is internationalism and not nationalism.”

As applied to practice, when a Black communist, for example, is talking with another Black about the idea that “we (Black people) got to get together” to fight, what is the Black communist’s stand? He makes clear that he is for that, he points out who the real enemy is, how to fight him and win.’ He is for the liberation of Black people, of course, and in fact will fight for it harder than a non-communist, but he makes it clear that he is just as much for the liberation of all working people, and he points the way to the unity of the class. All this, of course, in the “mass line” style and with correct tactics, bringing forward a communist line in the course of struggle.

But he is never defensive about his stand of class unity and he never compromises his stand of the class first and above all, as opposed to Black people first and above all. If he did that he would inevitably fail to unite with the progressive aspects of revolutionary nationalism and lead it forward, but in fact would be uniting with its bourgeois aspects and would be dragged back himself.

We can make a comparison with trade unionism. It is possible for a militant trade unionist worker to play a progressive role for a period of time, and as communists, we must certainly unite with this worker and his desire to mobilize the workers to fight the company, etc. But if we do not, through the course of struggle, move him beyond mere trade unionism, he will move away from a stand of uniting the whole class, and be pulled back by bourgeois influences to a narrow stand of “my trade first,” which is a category of bourgeois ideology, “Me first.”

Beyond the question of narrow craft outlook, trade unionism, in and of itself, even in its most progressive form–expressed in terms of trade union solidarity of workers of different plants, unions, etc.–is still based on accepting the idea of selling your labor power to capital, and only fighting for better terms of that sale, as Lenin pointed out. It is still essentially reformist. It is based on the notion of accommodation in some form of the capitalist system.

This is why Lenin says that, in the final analysis, trade unionist ideology is still bourgeois ideology, which accepts and actually reinforces the capitalist system of wage slavery. The point is-and it is a point we must continually come back to-the unity of the class can only be built on the basis of consciousness of the position of the working class in society, in opposition to all other classes and groups, and its historical role in remaking society.

To sum up this point, the ideology of the working class cannot be reconciled with any other ideology, and this is why Lenin insists that “Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even the ’most just, purest,’ most refined and most civilized brand. In place of all forms of nationalism, Marxism advances internationalism, the amalgamation of all nations in the higher unity.” (“Critical Remarks,” Vol. 20, p. 34.)

But while the ideology of the proletariat cannot be reconciled with any kind of nationalism–as a category of bourgeois ideology–the struggle of the proletariat for its emancipation certainly can and must be “reconciled,” united, with the struggle of the oppressed nationalities against national oppression. While the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nationality tries to use the struggle against national oppression to promote a bourgeois ”national unity,” the proletariat, as the most consistent fighter against all forms of oppression, takes up the fight against national oppression and wins the masses of working people of the oppressed nationalities to its proletarian banner, to proletarian class unity. To do this, the class conscious proletariat, the communists, must unite with the progressive or revolutionary nationalism of the masses of the oppressed nationalities, with their determination to fight imperialist oppression of them as peoples, and to unite all who can be united in this fight. And, the communists must put forward their independent line, which is Marxism-Leninism, the stand of the single proletariat, and not the stand of any particular nationality.

It is in this perspective that we have to understand the statement in RED PAPERS 1, that “revolutionary nationalism is applied internationalism.” This statement as applied to the U.S. can have a correct and an incorrect aspect.

First, it is correct in the context that it was put in RP1. Here, we were arguing against PL, which has consistently refused to support the Black liberation struggle. So, we said in RP1, in opposition to PL, “We maintain that it is essential to uphold the Black liberation struggle. In our view, ’revolutionary nationalism is applied internationalism.’”

This is applied internationalism in the sense that upholding the Black liberation struggle is a concrete blow against U.S. imperialism, because as Mao Tse-Tung said in his 1968 statement “The Afro-American struggle is ... a tremendous support and inspiration to the struggle of the people throughout the world against U.S. imperialism and to the struggle of the Vietnamese people against U.S. imperialism.” It is also true, as Mao says in the same statement, that the Black liberation struggle is “a storm such as has never taken place before in the history of that country (the U.S.)” and is a “new clarion call to all exploited and oppressed people of the United States to fight against the barbarous rule of the monopoly capitalist class.” For this reason, as well, it is certainly a concrete application of Marxism-Leninism to uphold, support, build the Black liberation struggle.

But a part of the analysis of this in RP1 can at least be interpreted incorrectly. This is where we quote Mao that, “In the final analysis a national struggle is a question of class struggle,” and add a quote from Huey Newton, “To be a revolutionary nationalist you must of necessity be a socialist.”

Newton’s statement is true–if we take it to mean in the final analysis. That is, you cannot remain a revolutionary, especially in the U.S. where we have a single stage proletarian revolution, unless you become a socialist, and not only any kind of socialist, but a Marxist-Leninist. But there is a qualitative leap involved, from revolutionary nationalism to Marxism-Leninism, it is a question of one” making a qualitative change into the other, and not of the two things being the same. At the least, this passage in RP 1 is confusing. (See “Against the Brainwash”).

This has important implications for our practical work, because if we equate revolutionary nationalism with Marxism-Leninism, we will make both “left” and right errors. The “left” error will be on insisting that revolutionary nationalists–Black people and other Third World people who are for the liberation of their people from imperialism–be Marxist-Leninists, or at least “for Socialism.” This is a sectarian stance that will isolate us from large numbers of Third World people, who can be moved along through struggle to Marxism-Leninism. The right error will be in watering down the ideology of Marxism-Leninism with nationalism and diluting the strength of the communist forces.

Finally, the statement that in the U.S. for oppressed nationalities “revolutionary nationalism is applied internationalism,” cannot be fully applied in the same way as Mao’s statement about China during the War of Resistance against Japan. “Can a communist, who is an internationalist, at the same time be a patriot? We hold that he not only can be but must be ... in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism.” (“Role of the CCP in the National War,” Vol. 2, p. 195ff)

Through the struggle against the opportunist line of the Franklins, the publication of RED PAPERS 4, etc., our organization has strengthened our understanding that the struggle of Black people in the U.S. will not take the form of a war of national liberation, but of proletarian revolution, as part of the single U.S. proletariat. As was pointed out several times in the struggle against the Franklin line, the Black nation does not exist as a colony of U.S. imperialism; the national question in the U.S. is a “particular and internal state problem.” There are not two stages in the liberation of the masses of Black people. And it is not the Black proletariat which must lead the liberation struggle of the Black people, but the single multi-national U.S. proletariat and its communist party.

In China, at the time Mao wrote “Role of the CCP in the National War,” the situation was very different from the U.S. today. The revolution was in its first stage–national (new) democratic. So Mao wrote that “only by achieving national liberation will it be possible for the proletariat and other working people to achieve their own emancipation.”

In other words, the struggle between the Chinese proletariat and the Chinese bourgeoisie, the struggle between the socialist and capitalist roads could not even come to the fore in China until after the first stage, the new democratic revolution had been completed. The class struggle that the Chinese proletariat was engaged in at that time was the struggle, politically and ideologically, between itself and the bourgeoisie for leadership of the national liberation movement, the War of Resistance. And Mao even wrote in the same article that, during the War of Resistance, “everything must be subordinated to the interests of resistance. Therefore, the interests of class struggle must be subordinated to, and must not conflict with, the interests of the War of Resistance . . . We do not deny the class struggle, we adjust it.”

Clearly, all this cannot be applied to the national struggles in the U.S. As we have said earlier, the basic class struggle that Black workers are involved in is the struggle of the whole working class against the monopoly capitalists, not the struggle against the Black bourgeoisie. Further, it is not the case that the Black liberation struggle must first win victory before the question of the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie can come to the fore.

In fact, it is only through the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat that the Black masses and other Third World people can win liberation. And, therefore, we cannot adjust the class struggle, subordinate it to the national movements, but must “develop the struggle against national oppression as part of the overall class struggle.”

It is exactly in doing this that the communists will be able to win the masses of the oppressed nationalities to the proletarian stand, to the banner of the multi-national working class. As Stalin said in MARXISM AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION, what the oppressed nationalities, the masses, want is an end to national oppression, not the “national union” that the bourgeoisie is after to secure its market. (Stalin is talking here about national minorities dispersed in the territories of other oppressed nationalities, but we believe his basic argument applies directly to the situation of the masses of oppressed nationalities, including the Black nation, in the U.S. today. See Section VII, “The National Question in Russia,” Vol. 2, p. 373ff.)

How, then, do we wage this fight as part of the overall class struggle, how do we bring about the merger of the national and class struggles that Mao talks about? We have to work at it “from two sides.” On the one side, we have to help unite the greatest numbers of the oppressed nationalities, in the fight against national oppression. We do not say to the oppressed nationalities, ”do not wage a fight against your oppression, wait for the working class to become fully conscious and take leadership of that struggle.” This would only guarantee that the national movements would be under bourgeois leadership, and it would also hold back the development of class consciousness and class unity of the proletariat. As communists we must involve ourselves in every possible struggle against national oppression, work to direct it against the imperialist enemy, to unite it with other anti-imperialist movements and raise the class consciousness of the struggling masses.

There is a strong material basis for doing this. To take one example–in Atlanta, in the wake of rampant police murder of Black people, a multi-national coalition was formed to fight repression. Included in this coalition is not only the BWC, but nationalist Black groups which have joined the coalition hot out of commitment to building the unity of the working class, but because they can see that to wage the fight against police murder of Black people it is necessary to unite all who can be united. And this creates favorable conditions for eventually winning many involved to a communist stand, the stand of the class above all.

It will be mainly Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano, Asian communists, etc. who will do this practical work, although they will, of course, represent the entire proletariat and act according to its necessary division of labor in building a revolutionary movement under its leadership.

From the other side, we must work to develop the workers’ movement as a class conscious movement, into a political force that fights against all forms of oppression, recognizing especially the crucial importance of the fight against national oppression. In RP5, in the articles on practical work, we cite examples of how white workers united with Third World workers to fight discrimination on the job. Wherever this can be developed, we must seize the opportunity to do it. But even this is only the beginning.

We must utilize the sparks of understanding generated in these struggles, do agitation and exposure around the oppression, and resistance, of Third World people throughout society, and must work to create the political atmosphere, where, as Lenin says in WHAT IS TO BE DONE, “the most backward worker will understand, or will feel, that the students and religious sects, the peasants and the authors (and we must add, especially the oppressed nationalities) are being abused and outraged by those same dark forces that are oppressing and crushing him at every step of his life. Feeling that, he himself will be filled with an irresistible desire to react.”

In fact, as Lenin drives home, it is only by involving the workers-and this applies to Third World as well as white workers–in all-around political struggle, against every manifestation of oppression in society, that we can and will build the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the working class and develop its leadership in the anti-imperialist struggle. It is only in this way that white workers, as well as Third World workers, will come to see themselves as part of a class, will be united in the fight against national oppression, and all other oppression; and that white chauvinism, as well as bourgeois nationalism, and other forms of bourgeois ideology Will be defeated.

The following passage from WHAT IS TO BE DONE must be our guideline in our work with all workers, white and Third World:

Working-class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence, and abuse, no matter what class is affected–unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a Social-Democratic (communist) point of view, and no other. The consciousness of the working masses cannot be genuine class-consciousness unless the workers learn, from concrete, and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe every other social class in all the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of life and activity of all classes, strata and groups of the population.

This principle is, in fact the basis for our strategy of united front against imperialism, under proletarian leadership, and for our work in carrying out the central task.

This raises another important point. While it is correct and necessary to develop communist leadership of the national movements in the U.S. (represented, in general, by communists of the oppressed nationalities) and to base these movements on the struggles, needs and interests of the working masses of the oppressed nationalities, it is primarily in the class struggle that oppressed nationality workers will develop class consciousness, will learn to distinguish their interests from the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie of their own nationality. Lenin made this very clear in pointing out that “When the Bundists, in advocating ’cultural-national’ autonomy, say that the constituting of nations will keep the class struggle within them clean of all extraneous considerations, then this is manifest and ridiculous sophistry. It is primarily in the economic and political sphere that a serious class struggle is waged in any capitalist society ... In any really serious and profound political issue sides are taken according to classes, not nations.”

Remember this is in Russia, which according to Lenin, “set the world record for national oppression.” And Lenin’s analysis applies with at least as much force to the U.S., where we do have a single proletariat. And it is borne out, for example, in the interview with a Black worker in Dallas (September ’73 REVOLUTION) who said that “The most important thing to me about the demonstration (he attended to protest police murder) was the uniting of the different races in protest of this police brutality. Why I see it was important is because, well, to the extent that people nowadays are beginning to realize that it isn’t just a racial thing ... I feel on a national basis that people are beginning to realize they’re getting the short end of the stick and they’re going to have to do something about it ... I believe the races will be able to get together to do this.”

The class struggle of the proletariat is not simply the trade union struggle. It is the political struggle against all the exploitation and oppression by the ruling class. To develop the workers’ movement to this level, we must as Lenin said, work among all oppressed strata and groups, we must especially build and lead movements against national oppression, and we must raise the class consciousness of the entire proletariat so that it is capable, as Lenin stressed, of responding to every manifestation of oppression and tyranny, including especially national oppression which plays a central role in the U.S. This is the way to carry out the line of “developing the struggle against national oppression as part of the overall class struggle.” And this is the basis for our analysis that the “solid core” of the united front in this country will be the alliance not of the Black nation and other oppressed nationalities with the white workers, but of the multi-national working class with the liberation struggles of the oppressed nationalities.

This brings up the question of the “special role” of Black and other Third World workers in linking the national struggles with the class struggle, and the question of ”the leading role of Black workers”, in particular. These ideas, too, have a correct and an incorrect aspect, the way they have been developed and put forward by our organization and others.

The correct aspect which must be upheld is the understanding, that, to quote Mao again, “The Afro-American struggle is not only a struggle waged by the exploited and oppressed Black people for freedom and emancipation, it is also a new clarion call to all the exploited and oppressed people of the United States to fight against the barbarous rule of the monopoly capitalist class.” This is why we say in RP5 and elsewhere that the Black liberation struggle has been a “powerful engine driving forward the struggle of all workers,” and that Black workers “have become a powerful militant spark in generating the struggle of the industrial working class.” And we must build on the understanding that, as their class consciousness is raised, Black and other Third World workers will increasingly play an extremely important role in linking the national struggles with the class struggle. All this is correct and very important to grasp firmly.

But it is incorrect to confuse the question of a struggle which is playing an advanced role with the question of conscious leadership of the class and the masses. In his article ORIENTATION OF THE YOUTH MOVEMENT, Mao said, for example, that “in a way they (the youth of China) have played a vanguard role–a fact recognized by everybody except the die-hards. What is a vanguard role? It means taking the lead and marching in the forefront of the revolutionary ranks.” But Mao was quick to point out that the,, workers and peasants, not the students were the main force of the revolution, and, of course, he always upheld the fact that it is the communist party, representing the proletariat, that is the real vanguard in the sense of a conscious general staff.

In the U.S. today the struggle of Black people is even more decisive than the student movement in China, it is much more firmly bound up with the class struggle and therefore, even more powerful. But while it is correct to say (as Mao did about the student movement in China) that as a social movement the Black liberation struggle has been in the forefront of the revolutionary ranks, it is incorrect to act as though all Black workers are automatically class conscious or as though all Black workers were more advanced in their political consciousness than other Third World workers or white workers.

If carried to its logical conclusion, this view would negate the need for a multi-national vanguard of the class, made up of its most advanced members, to raise the class consciousness of the entire class. It would lead to the erroneous line that was put forward by Bruce Franklin & Co.: “(We see) the proletariat of these two nations (Black and Chicano) as the leaders of the entire United Front Against Imperialism.” (RP4, p.44, emphasis added.) One of the major thrusts of our answer to the Franklin group, running through RP4, is that it is the single multi-national proletariat as a class, and especially the industrial proletariat that must play the leading role; and that it can do this only through its conscious vanguard communist party.

This kind of error–though not in the extreme form as the Franklin metaphysical nonsense–has shown up in some of our publications. In the TEMPLE STRIKE pamphlet, for instance, we say that Black workers are “the most advanced section” of the working class. And even worse, in a column signed by our organization in one local paper, the statement is made that Black workers are “the most important” section of the class. This view is not only tailist in regard to Black workers–assuming or implying that they are already all class conscious. It also furthers division in the class by setting up one nationality within the class against others–by saying it is “more important,” etc. So far, in our work, this is only a small error. But if it becomes a consolidated trend, it will become a very serious and damaging deviation. As Lenin warned, “a little mistake can always be turned into a monstrous one if it is persisted in, if profound justifications are sought for it, and if it is carried to its ’logical conclusion.’”

And already in our work this erroneous view has led to costly mistakes. For example, In one strike, a group of skilled white workers actually took a better line at that time than most of the Black workers, who were mainly on the production lines. But comrades working in the strike tailed behind the Black workers who were still under the influence of Black trade union officials, who pushed the line of sending people back to work, group by group, while the skilled workers held out for the line that everybody goes back together.

The point is, of course, not that, overall white skilled workers are more advanced than Black production workers, certainly not that we should tail behind skilled workers, or that our main base should be among skilled workers. The point is that, whatever group among the workers grasps the more correct line at any time, the line that most represents the interests of the class, that is objectively the leading group at that time. Our job is to unite with the correct line; in this sense, unite with those grasping it, and win the masses of workers to it, and advance their consciousness. And we cannot say that, in any given situation, one nationality of workers will necessarily have the more correct stand. That has to be determined objectively, on the basis of materialist analysis as Lenin insists in WHAT IS TO BE DONE.

For all these reasons, the discussions of national leadership have led us to the conclusion that the slogan “Black Workers Take the Lead,” which can also be found in the TEMPLE STRIKE pamphlet and has been raised in places in our mass work, is not a correct slogan for the workers’ movement or the mass movement in general, and is an incorrect concept, especially when applied to the working class.

The correct method of communist leadership has been formulated by Mao Tsetung in the following terms: “The masses in any given place are generally composed of three’ parts, the relatively active, the intermediate and the relatively backward. The leaders must therefore be skilled in uniting the small number of active elements around the leadership and must rely on them to raise the level of the intermediate elements and to win over the backward elements.” In any given situation the most active elements may be all Black; in another case, they may be all Chicano, all Puerto Rican, etc., or all white, for that matter. But, in general, the relatively small number of active elements are made up of different nationalities, and overall, ’the advanced section of the class is always multi-national.

This does not deny that, because of dual oppression, and the experience of the liberation struggle, there may be at any time, and in general, a relatively higher number of Blacks and other Third World people, among the active and advanced group of workers But this group is, as a whole, not all Black.

And beyond that, it is not our purpose as communists to emphasize distinctions within the class by nationality, but to stress the common interests of the class. As Stalin wrote, it was the Bundists who based themselves on “national distinctions,” while the Marxists “concentrated our attention mainly on the common conditions of the proletarians, on the unity of their interests and spoke of their ’national distinctions’ only in so far as these did not contradict their common interests.” (See “The Social-Democratic View of the National Question,” Stalin, Vol., pp. 31-54, p. 37 in particular.)

The “common interests” and “unity of interests” of the proletarians of different nationalities includes and must include, of course, the struggle against all national oppression. There can be no real and lasting unity otherwise. But the essence of what Stalin is saying is that the work of communists–and this must apply to slogans we raise–must emphasize the common cause of the class, and not its division by nationality.

The point is that the basis of unity of workers of different nationalities, including the workers of the oppressor nation and the workers of the oppressed nationalities, is and can only be class and not nationality. In the U.S. we have seen the development of “third world unity,” and in other writings Stalin spoke of a “common front” of the oppressed nationalities of Russia. But we have also seen that unless this is developed into class consciousness and class unity, it splinters apart, each nationality begins “to depart, each to his own national tent” (Stalin) and we get bogged down in the “endless national bickering” (Lenin).

Therefore in our mass work, while we must grasp and build on the “clarion call,” the “militant spark,” etc. of the Black people’s struggle, we must raise slogans, demands, etc., that rally the broadest numbers of the class and the masses to fight for their common interests. We must unite with the active and advanced workers of all nationalities, develop the initiative of the greatest number of workers, and develop the workers’ movement into a fully class conscious movement leading the anti-imperialist struggle. Slogans that reflect the idea of linking the national struggle with the class struggle, uniting the class to fight national oppression and all other forms of oppression and exploitation–these are the kind of slogans we must raise, and not the slogan “Black Workers Take the Lead.” Finally it is not a correct slogan for the class, because it is not and cannot be a call to action to white, Chicano, Puerto Rican and other workers. In fact it can encourage the idea of “let the Blacks do it” and actually tend to reinforce chauvinism, while at the same time not developing the initiative of workers of all nationalities.

Even as applied to the Black liberation struggle, we feel that, in general, it is not a correct slogan to raise. There is no great wall between the Black Liberation struggle and the overall class struggle. And as we stressed earlier, it is not the Black proletariat, separate from the working class as a whole, that must and will lead the Black liberation struggle. It is not only Black workers, but workers of all nationalities, who must be won to and play a leading role in the fight against national oppression. So even in this context, raising this slogan generally tends to set Black workers apart from the proletariat, separate from the working class as a whole, that must and will lead the Black liberation struggle. It is not only Black workers, but workers of all nationalities, who must be won to and play a leading role in the fight against national oppression. So even in this context raising the slogan generally tends to set Black workers apart from the rest of the class.

”Stop Police Murder of Black People,” is an example of a slogan that can mobilize and unite not only Black people, but people of all nationalities to fight. But “Black Workers Take the Lead” does not call on people to unite and struggle against the enemy in a concrete way.

Further, even in situations where the struggle at a given point only involves Black people, the, slogan “Black Workers Take the Lead,” can have a sectarian stance toward other sections of Black people who can and must be united with. It is of course true that proletarian (communist) leadership must be fought for in all struggles; that is the leading role of a proletarian line. And it is true that it is mainly class conscious Black workers and Black communists, who in a practical sense will bring forward and fight for the proletarian line in the Black liberation struggle. But proletarian leadership is not won by proclaiming it, but by putting forward the correct line and winning people to it, in the course of struggle. When repression comes down on Black people, bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces among Black people put forward a line of relying on bourgeois procedures–a “liberal politician,” negotiations with city hall, election of a Black mayor, etc. In opposition to all this, the communists must put forward the line of relying on and involving the masses of people in struggle.

In this context, it is correct for communists–in this case, in practical terms we are talking about Black communists, especially–to raise with the workers “We’ve got to take things out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and get the people involved and wage real struggle.” This can be both correct and necessary to build real struggle, but this is a different thing from raising as a slogan, “Black Workers Take the Lead.”

The national leadership discussions have also begun to go into the question of forms of organization, national and multi-national in particular. While there is still much to be discussed, investigated and struggled out, both within our own organization, and with others, certain principles have become clearer. On the communist level, it is vital to work toward the creation of the single party of the proletariat at the earliest possible time. As the representative of the single multi-national class, this Party can best direct and unify the mass struggles and the workers of different nationalities.

In the past, our organization has had the tendency to put the question of forming the Party into the distant future, even though we say in RP 5, for example, that we want the Party as soon as possible, and ”yesterday would have been infinitely preferable to tomorrow.” To a certain degree this attitude of making the Party a distant abstraction has arisen as a result of our struggle against the sectarian line on “party building” put forward by CL, and OL (in its “left” phase) which made the central, and basically only task, “propaganda for the advanced workers,” organizing study circles abstracted from practical struggle, etc.–all for the purpose of building up their organizations at the expense of the people’s struggles.

But in combatting this line, and insisting, correctly, that the central task is to build the workers’ movement into a class conscious political movement, leading the anti-imperialist struggle, there has been some tendency to lose sight of the importance of building toward the Party. As Mao says, while concentrating on one central task, we must unfold others around it. We must work on the tasks of building the workers’ movement, building the united front, building the Party, all at once, while concentrating on the main task now to advance the work of all three. Already, in some places our work with advanced workers has suffered, because we failed to emphasize the building of the Party, while making it clear how it relates to the present main task. This failure amounted to tailing behind them, since they were already deep into practical struggle, were running into the limitations of spontaneous struggle, and were keenly aware of the need for conscious, scientific leadership. We must correct his error and put more emphasis on building toward the Party, without falling into the sectarianism of C.L., et al.

As was pointed out in the articles on the Party in RP 5 and in the November REVOLUTION the treachery of the CP. led to a situation where there has been no proletarian vanguard all during a period of tremendous mass struggles around various spearheads and a growing awareness of the imperialist enemy. In this situation, a number of revolutionary organizations have grown up, out of the various spontaneous movements. Some, while they made very important contributions, eventually fell apart or degenerated, because they did not move to grasp and apply a Marxist-Leninist line to the mass movement. Others have moved in this direction, including our organization.

And our objective is to continue to try to develop the basis of joint work, and ideological struggle, with other Marxist-Leninist organizations, in order to build toward the Party, as well as building the mass movement.

The other major groups besides our organization are national in form–leaving aside the OL, which seems clearly to be replacing a previous “left” opportunist line with a consolidated right opportunist line, and the CL, which has a consistent history of dogmatism and sectarianism. We have stressed many times that in the pre-party stage neither form, national or multi-national is a “higher” form of M-L organization.

But of course, as soon as the Party can be formed, on the basis of correct ideological and political line, a concrete political program for mass struggle, and the necessary roots to establish political authority, this multi-national Party will be a higher form than any of the existing M-L organizations, national or multi-national in form. It will best be able to establish the “conveyer belts”, the various kinds and forms of mass organizations that will link it with the mass struggles, and direct these struggles toward the unified goal of overthrowing imperialism. In particular, the multi-national Party, once it is formed, will be in the best position to build and work within national forms of mass organizations and raise class consciousness of the people involved. This is because the Party can best and most fully represent the interests, consciousness, and ideology of the class. This is another reason why we must work for the creation of the Party at the earliest possible time, on a principled basis, on the basis of a concrete application of M-L to our concrete conditions. More discussion and struggle have to be carried on between our organization and others around this question.

On the mass level, in relation to national and multi-national forms, we say the following in RP 5: “At the present time we support and are helping to build TW mass organizations among TW workers and especially in the TW communities. At the same time we are working to build the multinational unity of the proletariat in active struggle against monopoly capital: and where the basis of unity exists, to build multinational mass organizations, especially among the workers.” (p. 51)

In the working class, once again, our objective, our emphasis, is to build the unity of the class, ideologically politically and organizationally. The principle involved in building an organization of any kind is that we should create the form of organization that at any time can best carry forward the struggle against oppression and exploitation and can develop the unity of the class to a higher level.

Throughout industry and other work places, the same pattern of discrimination and national oppression exists as in society as a whole. Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican and other TW workers continually fight this, spontaneously, even without communist leadership. This is a reflection of the objective law that wherever there is oppression, there is resistance.

Our objective as communists is to build this struggle–again, as part of the overall class struggle–to put forward a line that shows how this fight is in the interests of all workers and helps to build the unity of the class against the common enemy. In certain conditions, where the level of understanding of white workers is not yet very high around this question, it is necessary and correct to build national forms of organization, in order to be able to develop the struggle. But from the beginning, we must work to unite the white workers in this struggle and to link it with struggle around the oppression and exploitation that all the workers feel–speed-up, dangerous working conditions, compulsory overtime, etc. As this happens, we must build a multi-national workers’ organization that can carry forward the unified struggle of the workers.

To summarize this point, in the working class, which is multi-national, our goal is to build toward multi-national organization which can be multi-national in the political sense–that is can really mobilize the workers of all nationalities to fight against discrimination and national oppression, as well as speed-up, for wages, etc. And, in fact, Black and other TW workers will and continually have raised the fact that it is necessary to unite the greatest numbers of workers possible, in order to win. For this reason, wherever possible, wherever, as we say in RP 5, “the basis of unity exists” we must work to build multi-national workers’ organizations from the beginning.”

In this way we will work to realize the principle that Lenin repeatedly insisted on: “The demand for the unconditional unity and complete amalgamation of workers of all nationalities in all working class organizations: trade union, cooperative, consumers educational and all other, in contradistinction to any kind of bourgeois nationalism.” (Critical Remarks, Vol. 20, p. 22)

The building, maintaining and advancing of the unity of the workers of different nationalities depends on raising the class consciousness of the workers of all nationalities, and developing the workers’ movement into a politically conscious movement fighting all oppression. It is from this point of view that we must approach the question of form of organization in every case.

In the national movements as such, especially as we say in RP 5, in the communities, naturally we are going to build and work within national forms of organization. We are not going to “import” a white worker into a struggle in the Black or other TW community, just for the sake of having “multi-national” organization.

But here, too, there is no great wall between the national and class struggle, and between people of different nationalities. In struggles around schools, for example, where the school is multi-national, we should work toward building multi-national organizations, in the same way as talked about in the plants. And in all struggles against national oppression, we should work to link up with, unite with all who can be united and, as communists, bring forward the common interests and objectives of the workers of all nationalities. Again, this is something that the masses themselves will and have raised–the uniting of all possible to win.

The question of building a nationwide anti-imperialist Black organization, and other forms of national organization among Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, etc., is something that the national leadership has only begun to raise and investigate. This question will certainly be a very important part of developing the political programme of the communist movement and the Communist Party, once it is created. It will be a crucial part of developing the practical solution to the merging of the national and class struggles and building real Marxist-Leninist leadership in the process.

Finally, we want to speak to one point: the question of “negating the national question” or “negating the difference between an oppressor nation and an oppressed nation.” This was a charge that the Franklin group hurled at our organization, because we insisted on upholding the proletarian line on the national question. For a short time, the Franklin opportunists were able to create some confusion in the ranks of our organization around this, because it is a very important concern–that we do uphold the Black and other liberation movements. And, historically in this country, wherever revisionism has taken hold of the communist movement, it has led to negating the struggle against national oppression, as well as the struggle of the whole class for emancipation.

Making use of this, Franklin & Co. accused us of “racism,” “national chauvinism,” etc., and said that our position “asks the revolutionary masses of these oppressed nations (Black and Chicano) not to fight until the proletariat of the imperialist nation (i.e., the white workers) is ready, willing, and able to unite with them to seize state power.” And that we were calling on them to “give up the fight for national liberation.” (See RP4, p. 45.)

Engaging in further demagogy, the Franklin bunch brought up a quote from RP2, in a distorted way, as an accusation against those who upheld the proletarian line. The quote is: “Many theories are being brought forward on the exact position of Black people in the United States. In general, they fall into two camps: those that deny the national oppression of Black people and reduce the Black people’s movement to a subordinate position in the class struggle; and those that recognize that the Black liberation struggle is both a national and class question. We hold the second view. We recognize that it is the key to understanding the dynamics of proletarian revolution in the U.S.”

The Franklin forces claimed that our position represented the first view, that we were denying the national oppression of Black people and the Black liberation struggle. The key question to understand here is the concept “subordinate to the class struggle.” Throughout RP5 and 4, we make the point that, like every other question, the national question is subordinate to the class question, but not in the way that the quote from RP2 above means it. While RP2 presents a correct line, our understanding of the correct line has grown and deepened since that time. And we can recognize that certain formulations in earlier Red Papers are not the best. The above quote which the Franklins seized on is an example.

The Black liberation struggle is subordinate to the class struggle in the sense that the overthrow of imperialism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat; socialism and communism, is the highest goal of communists. Everything, every movement, must be evaluated from the point of view of how it contributes to, builds towards that goal. This applies to the national question, and the national liberation movements.

But the whole point of the statement in RP2, and of our line in general, as developed further in RP4 and 5 is that, with communist leadership, the struggles of Black and other Third World people against national oppression will be a crucial component part of not only the world revolution, but of the proletarian revolution in the U.S. “Subordinate position in the class struggle,” as referred to in RP2–and the formulation is not the best– referred to those, like PL, who tried to say that the Black people’s struggle should tail behind whatever was the spontaneous level of the workers’ movement at any given time, and refused to recognize that it was playing a very important part in advancing the level of the workers’ movement. This does amount to telling the masses of the oppressed nationalities not to fight for liberation until, magically, the whole class, and white workers in particular, are prepared to take it up fully and lead it.

Our position is exactly the opposite: build the struggles of Third World people against national oppression, build on this to help raise the consciousness of the whole working class, put forward an independent communist line to raise the class consciousness of all workers, develop the workers’ movement into a politically conscious movement, and merge the national and class struggles to make revolution.

Insisting on a class analysis of the national struggles, fighting for the leadership of the multi- national working class, and its communist vanguard, for the leading role of proletarian ideology and no other–this is not “negating the national question,” but strengthening the struggle against national oppression a thousand times. After all, in his 1968 statement, Mao says point blank: “The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction.” He is not “negating the national question,” but making a class analysis and pointing the way to real and complete liberation: the overthrow of the monopoly capitalist class by the working class and its allies.

As we showed in RP 4, the Franklins simply dredged up the same arguments that had been historically raised by the opportunists against the Marxists. And in their charge of “negating the national question,” they were also dragging out arguments historically raised by so-called Marxists who had degenerated into or tailed after bourgeois nationalists.

In the Russian revolution, for example, the Polish Socialist Party (PSP) hurled the accusation at the Bolsheviks that their position amounted to saying that “We (the Poles) must wait for the social revolution, and until then, we must patiently endure national oppression.”

To this slander, Lenin replied:

This is an utter falsehood. The Russian Social-Democrats (communists) have never advised anything of the sort; on the contrary they themselves fight, and call upon the whole Russian proletariat to fight, against all manifestations of national oppression in Russia; they include in their programme not only complete equality of status for all languages, nationalities, etc.; but also recognition of every nation’s right to determine its own destiny. Recognizing this right, we subordinate to the interests of the proletarian struggle our support of the demand for national independence, and only a chauvinist can interpret our position as an expression of a Russian’s mistrust of a non-Russian, for in reality this position necessarily follows from the class-conscious proletarian’s distrust for the bourgeoisie. The PSP takes the view that the national question is exhausted by the contrast–’we’ (Poles) and ’they’ (Germans, Russians, etc.) The Social-Democrat, however, gives first place to the contrast’we’ the proletarians and ’they’ the bourgeoisie . . . And that is why undeterred by chauvinist and opportunist heckling, we shall always say to the Polish Workers: only the most complete and intimate alliance with the Russian proletariat can meet the requirements of the present political struggle against the autocracy; only such an alliance can guarantee complete political and economic emancipation.

What we have said on the Polish question is wholly applicable to every other national question. The accursed history of autocracy has left us a legacy of tremendous estrangement between the working classes of the various nationalities oppressed by that autocracy. This estrangement is a very great evil, a very great obstacle in the struggle against the autocracy, and we must not legitimize this evil or sanctify this outrageous state of affairs. (“The National Question in Our Programme,” Lenin, Vol. 6, pp. 461-62)

We believe that Lenin’s analysis not only applies “to every other national question” but applies in particular and, again, with more force, to the U.S. where we also have “an accursed history” of national oppression, but where the national question today is in essence a proletarian question, and we have a single multi-national working class which, like the proletarians of all Russia, is fully capable of waging and leading the fight against national oppression and overthrowing the cause of it, the capitalist system.

In summation and conclusion, we must:

Conduct the fight against national oppression from “two sides,” unite the masses of the oppressed nationalities in the struggle against this oppression, win the whole working class to this fight, bring forward the common interests and the ideology of the class and in this way merge the national struggle with the class struggle.

And, guided by the principles that Lenin lays out in WHAT IS TO BE DONE, we must develop the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the whole class, develop the workers’ consciousness of themselves as an historic class as distinct from all other classes, strata and groups in society, and in this way develop the working class as the leading force in the United Front Against Imperialism, the single force that can unify and lead that struggle to its final goal: the overthrow of imperialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, socialism and communism.

We urge that this paper be the basis for study, discussion and struggle. In addition to studying and discussion of RP 5 from this perspective, the following readings should also be; done and focused on:

RED PAPERS 4, especially the articles “Revisionism or Proletarian Revolution” (Franklin group), “Marxism vs. Opportunism” (RU leadership), and “Proletarian Ideology, Proletarian Revolution,” (RU leadership, pp. 44-47 , 49-73, and 81-94.)
Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE, especially Chapters II, III, IV.
Stalin, MARXISM AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION, Vol. 2, pp. 300-381.