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Revolutionary Union

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

Revolutionary Union

Marxism vs. Bundism

Recently, the national leadership of the RU received a paper, “Criticism of National Bulletin 13 and the Right line in the RU” from the Black Workers Congress. After some discussion, the National Central Committee of the RU decided to write a response to the BWC document and circulate the response, together with the BWC paper, within our organization–and, of course, to give the response to the BWC leadership.

National Bulletin 13 was not written as a polemic against BWC or the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO). Nor did the RU give it (or any part of it) circulation (“publication”) outside our organization, as the BWC paper implies (although now we have given the paper “Build the Leading Role of the Working Class, Merge the National and Class Struggles” to people we are working with.) NB13 was an internal document for our organization, which the national leadership decided to give to the leadership of both BWC and PRRWO out of respect for the liaison relationship that had been built, and because it did touch on ideological and political questions with which these two organizations were very much concerned and on relations between our organization and them. Further, we hoped it would help to focus and sharpen ideological struggle around the questions of revolutionary nationalism and “Black workers take the lead,” which were supposed to be held in the framework of the national liaison meetings (more on the real history of liaison relations later).

Clearly, NB13 did focus and sharpen this struggle, though not exactly in the way we had hoped-through principled relations at the national liaison level. It is apparent that one thing the BWC paper says is correct: NB13 has ”become particularly important at this time in getting to the heart of the matter because it takes up most of the major questions around which the present struggle (between the RU on the one hand, and BWC & PRRWO, on the other) developed.”

The BWC reply, in turn, has made the terms of the struggle even sharper and the stand of the BWC clearer. And this is why the NCC decided to respond to the BWC paper and circulate the response (and the BWC paper) in the way we have described.

In its paper, the BWC throws out the challenge–if we are Bundists, prove it. In fact, references to Bundism in NB13 were directed at a former leading member of our organization, and not at BWC or PRRWO. The BWC paper, however, does fall into Bundist positions, and so it is important to clear up what this question of Bundism means and how it does apply to the BWC line. The Bund was an organization of Jewish Marxists in Russia who argued that Jewish workers had a special place in Russian society and in the Russian working class movement, and therefore the Jewish Marxists, as represented by the Bund, should have a special role in the Marxist movement. This deviation took many forms, but the essence of it was, as Stalin said (quoting Plekhanov) ”adapting socialism to nationalism.” In this response to the BWC paper we will show how they make exactly this error.


The heart of the BWC’s “Criticism” lies in their statement that the RU “Lumps the different historical periods in the development of the national question, not distinguishing the difference between the national question before the October Revolution (when it was still part of the bourgeois-democratic) revolution, and the national question after the October Revolution when it became part of the world wide proletarian revolution. In doing this the RU is hell bent on slandering the Black liberation movement by suggesting that it is a bourgeois movement.” (p. 15)

Wrong from the start–and from this many other errors flow. The difference between the RU line and that of the BWC is not that the BWC recognizes two periods in the development of the national question, while the RU recognizes only one, but in fact that the RU position recognizes that, in the U.S. today, the national question, particularly as applied to Black people, has entered a THIRD period, in which, unlike the previous periods it is IN ESSENCE A PROLETARIAN QUESTION.

To make this clear, let’s briefly review the development of the national question in the first two periods, and our analysis of it in this new period, in the U.S. today (much of this is laid out in RP 4 & 5 and we suggest that comrades and friends study them again with this question in mind).

The first period of the national question is the period before the First World War and the October Revolution in Russia (and actually the change from the first to the second period begins during the war and is further developed with the victory of the October Revolution). During this first period it is true that communists generally linked the national question and the national movements with the bourgeois-democratic revolution. During this period the national question was basically a “particular and internal state problem,” as Stalin put it, and the essence of the national question was the struggle between TWO BOURGEOISIES–the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation vs. the bourgeoisie of the oppressor nation. The essence of the question was that the bourgeoisie of the oppressor nation held down the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation, held back its growth and its development of a capitalist market, and generally retained pre-capitalist relations in the oppressed nation. The struggle of the oppressed nation bourgeoisie against the oppressor nation bourgeoisie could under certain circumstances and in certain aspects play a progressive role–in the fight against feudal survivals, for the creation of a larger area of capitalist development, etc. This could aid both the development of the productive forces in that area, and make conditions more favorable for the class struggle of the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie, within the oppressed nation and the whole state.

Also the struggle of the oppressed nation bourgeoisie against the oppressor nation bourgeoisie could help to weaken the MAIN ENEMY of the proletarians of all nations–the bourgeoisie of the dominant, or oppressor, nation. Of course, in order to wage this struggle, the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation tried to rally the masses of the oppressed nation to its “national” banner. And, especially in the early stages of the movement, the masses did rally to this banner to one degree or another, because of the national oppression they suffered.

The policy of the proletariat was to champion the fight against national oppression, for equality between nationalities. And in this context, the communists agitated especially among the workers of the oppressor nation to win support for the RIGHT of oppressed nations to self-determination–the right for these nations to determine the character of their state relations with the oppressor nation, including the right to secede and form a separate state.

The right to self-determination is a democratic demand of an oppressed nation, and the point of the proletariat, especially the proletariat of the oppressor nation, in raising this and other demands for equality of nations was to create the best conditions for proletarian unity in the class struggle, to win the masses of the oppressed nationalities to the banner of the proletarian struggle against capitalism. The proletariat never took an abstract stand for or against actual secession of a particular nation; it always evaluated the question according to concrete conditions, and always from the standpoint of what was necessary to advance the proletarian class struggle, while at the same time upholding the general RIGHT of all oppressed nations to self-determination. As Lenin wrote in early 1914, “For the proletariat, however, the important thing is to strengthen its class against the bourgeoisie and to educate the masses in the spirit of consistent democracy and socialism.” (“The Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” Vol. 20, p. 410) And this principle of evaluating all movements, including national movements, from the point of view of how they affect the struggle for proletarian revolution, and of subordinating all questions to the question of proletarian revolution–this is always the basic principle of communists, though, of course, like all principles, it has different concrete applications according to different concrete conditions (more on this later).

Further, Lenin explained at that time, because the important thing for the proletariat is the development of its class and the class struggle, “the proletariat confines itself” so to speak, to the negative demand for recognition of the RIGHT to self-determination, without giving any guarantees to any nation, and without undertaking to give ANYTHING AT THE EXPENSE of another nation.” (Lenin, same article, same page, emphasis his).

But, at the same time, Lenin stressed that “The bourgeois nationalism of ANY oppressed nation has a general democratic content that is directed AGAINST oppression and it is this content that we UNCONDITIONALLY support. At the same time we strictly distinguish it from the tendency toward national exclusiveness.” (Lenin, same article, p. 412, emphasis his.)

The right to self-determination is treated, under these conditions, as a NEGATIVE demand because what the class-conscious proletarians of all nations within the state are striving for is to move through and beyond the bourgeois-democratic stage to the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism in the largest territory possible, and the possibility exists for a united revolution throughout the state. But, as in all cases, the unity of the proletarians of all nationalities to achieve this historic task can only be carried out on the basis of a determined fight against all national oppression, for equality of all nationalities.

This basically applies to the national question in the first period. But the First World War and the October Revolution brought a great upsurge of the struggle of the peoples of the vast colonial areas and of the world for liberation, and gave impetus and strength to the proletariat and its communist organizations within these movements. In this period, the national question was transformed into a “general and international problem” (Stalin) and was linked with the question of colonial revolution against imperialism.

Several important factors resulted from this. First, the essence of the national movements changed. It was no longer essentially a question of the struggle between two bourgeoisies–though this remained a factor and always remains a factor in any national movement (any struggle of an oppressed nation). Instead it became essentially a question of the MASSES OF PEOPLE of the oppressed nations, and the colonies in particular, AGAINST IMPERIALISM. And since the masses of people were peasants, Stalin insisted during this period that the national question was “in essence, a peasant question.” (”Concerning the National Question in Yugoslavia,” Stalin, Vol. 7, p. 71).

Mao Tsetung developed this understanding further, with the theory of new democratic revolution. The new democratic revolution is a national-democratic revolution, which, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT AND ITS PARTY, becomes part of the overall proletarian-revolutionary struggle; it becomes the FIRST STAGE of a two-stage revolution that passes through the period of new democracy to the stage of socialism. This is why it is called NEW democratic–because, under the leadership of the proletariat, it develops into the socialist revolution and proletarian rule, and not into consolidation of bourgeois rule and capitalism, as was the case with the old democratic revolutions that occurred in Europe in earlier periods.

The new democratic revolution has one important thing in common with the old: it is directed against feudalism, and this gets back to why in essence it is a peasant question. It is the mobilizing of the peasant masses against the forces of feudalism that makes up the main content of the revolutionary movement. But, at the same time, the revolution is not only democratic–anti-feudal– but also national–anti-imperialist. Feudalism is the main internal ally and prop of imperialism, and the strategy for revolution at this stage is to integrate the agrarian revolution–land to the tiller–with the armed struggle, revolutionary war of liberation, against imperialism. The peasants are the backbone of this armed struggle, and this is why Stalin pointed out as early as 1925 that “there is no powerful national movement without the peasant army, nor can there be.” (Stalin, same article, Vol. 7, pp. 71-72)

As we pointed out in RP 5, the question of self-determination under these circumstances cannot be treated as a negative question of the RIGHT of secession. The basic approach must be to actively struggle for separation–national liberation–from the imperialists. To quote from RP 5, in this situation, “It is no longer a question of the same, simultaneous revolution, but of separate, unevenly developing revolutionary movements in the imperialist countries and in the colonies and semi-colonies. These movements are united against the same enemy: imperialism. So the strategy for linking them up is the alliance of the proletarian revolution in the imperialist countries with the national liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.” (p. 43)

To give a concrete example. It is not sufficient or correct for the proletariat of the United States to uphold as a NEGATIVE demand the RIGHT of the Vietnamese people to “separate” from U.S. imperialism, (to say, well, you have the RIGHT but we won’t commit ourselves as to whether you SHOULD). We must actively support the struggle for “separation,” for liberation, and this is inseparably linked with our own struggle for proletarian revolution in the U.S. Of course, if there were a real possibility of a single revolution occurring in the U.S. and Vietnam simultaneously, and leading to the establishment of a single socialist state, that would be something else again. But this idea flies in the face of reality and makes a mockery of Marxism-Leninism, and only Trotskyites think like this. There are particular situations where it is correct to oppose specific movements for secession–because they are not aimed at and will not weaken but strengthen the main imperialist enemy–Bangladesh was one outstanding example recently. But this does not contradict the general line of supporting the struggles for national liberation, in the colonial and semi-colonial countries especially.

What do we mean, then, when we say that the national question in the U.S. has entered a THIRD period? This, too, has several important aspects First, the masses of Black people, in particular, are WORKERS AND NOT PEASANTS. Secondly, ’while members of an oppressed nation, Black workers are part of the SINGLE MULTI-NATIONAL U.S. PROLETARIAT. Third, Black people are dispersed, not only from their historic homeland in the Black Belt – but within the Black Belt itself, they are more interspersed with whites than in previous periods, though they are concentrated in urban areas as well as small towns, and not scattered in the countryside. Finally, while the essence of the struggle of the Black people for liberation is the struggle of the masses of Black people against imperialism, and not the struggle of the Black bourgeoisie against the ruling (white) bourgeoisie, it is the IMPERIALIST RULING CLASS OF THE US, and not a “foreign” imperialist that this struggle is directed against. All this is why we say that the Black nation is a nation of a “new type” and that the struggle of Black people for liberation has a DUAL CHARACTER–against national oppression, and against class exploitation and oppression as part of the SINGLE MULTI-NATIONAL US PROLETARIAT.

“Nation of a new type” is not a “cute phrase” (see BWC paper, p. 15), but the key to understanding the real and powerful basis of unity between the struggle for Black liberation and proletarian revolution in the U.S., and the real and profound importance of the struggle of the masses of Black people against U.S. imperialism. It is the key to understanding why in essence this struggle is exactly NOT a bourgeois movement, why it is not in essence a democratic question of the old or new type, but IN ESSENCE a proletarian question and DIRECTLY LINKED IN A SINGLE STAGE REVOLUTION with the proletarian struggle for socialism. It is the key to the correct understanding of Mao’s statement that the struggle of Black people for emancipation is “bound to merge” with the workers’ movement and that this will eventually end monopoly capitalist rule.

It is also the key to understanding how the question of self-determination relates to this struggle. In RP 5 we point out that in the U.S. today “the national question is once more a particular and internal state problem . . . (but) under new conditions.” (p. 36) Note – under new conditions. So by saying it is a particular and internal state problem we don’t mean that Black people, and other oppressed nationalities, have not drawn inspiration from the struggles of the people of the Third World for liberation from imperialism, nor do we mean that the struggle of Black people against imperialism has not been of great support to the people of the world in their anti-imperialist struggle. RP 5 makes clear from the start that our stand is the opposite of this. As Mao Tsetung says, the struggle of Black in the US for emancipation is a component part of the struggle of the people of the world, but it is also, and MORE DIRECTLY A COMPONENT PART OF THE STRUGGLE FOR PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION IN THE U.S. ITSELF–and, again, this is because it is a nation of a new type, under new conditions.

As we pointed out in both RP 4 and RP 5, our situation in the U.S. today more closely approximates pre-revolutionary Russia than it does China before October, 1949, or the Third World today – in particular with regard to the national question and the right of self-determination. But there are important differences between our situation today and pre-1917 Russia (differences which we have also pointed out). In Russia during that period the bourgeois-democratic revolution had not been completed, and to a degree at least there were actually two stages to the revolution, the bourgeois-democratic and then the proletarian-socialist.

Further, in Russia, the oppressed nationalities resided mainly in separate border regions, some in European Russia, others in Asiatic Russia. And (as we said in NB13), contrary – to what the BWC suggests, while workers of different nationalities in Russia did in some cases live in the same towns and work in the same factories, this was on a relatively small scale, and the numbers of great-Russian workers in the border regions was very small (with the possible exception of the Ukraine), and the working people of the different nationalities were much more separated than in the U.S. today. You could not speak of a single multi-national proletariat in Russia in the same way you can and must in the U.S. today. Finally, for most of the pre-revolutionary period, the national question was confined to essentially a struggle between bourgeoisies, and the masses of the oppressed nationalities as well as the great-Russian nation, were mainly peasants But these differences only EMPHASIZE the fact that in the U.S. today, the national struggle is much more closely linked with the class struggle, and linked in a SINGLE STAGE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION.

In our conditions today, the question of self-determination is also a question of the RIGHT to a separate state, the NEGATIVE demand of the RIGHT of self-determination. With proletarian leadership in the fight against national oppression, for equality of nationalities, the possibility of establishing a single socialist state throughout the U.S. is even greater than in pre-revolutionary Russia, and as Lenin stressed, “OTHER CONDITIONS BEING EQUAL, the class-conscious proletariat will always stand for the larger state,” because the larger state allows for the fuller development of the productive forces, and of the struggle against the bourgeoisie–which, of course, goes on and even intensifies under socialism, and which if we are communists, is what it is all about. (See Lenin, ”Critical Remarks on the National Question,” Vol. 20, p. 45, emphasis his.)

“Other conditions being equal” refers, of course, to the equality of nations. The RIGHT to self-determination is an important aspect of equality between nations, and it is for this reason and in order to truly unite the proletariat that we uphold the RIGHT to self-determination, as an aspect of the fight against national oppression–a fight which, as we stress in RP 5 (and NB13) can and must be waged “as part of the overall class struggle.” A little later we will deal with the BWC’s insistence that the straggle for self-determination is the heart of the Black people’s struggle against imperialism, but first let’s summarize briefly the three periods of the national question and the important lessons to be drawn from this.

First period: the essence of the national question is the struggle of the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation against the bourgeoisie of the oppressor nation. It is basically a democratic question of the old type–bourgeois. The possibility of a single revolution throughout the state is real, and the question of self-determination is a NEGATIVE demand, the RIGHT of self-determination. The national movements have a progressive bourgeois democratic side which must be united with, while fighting the ideology of the bourgeoisie.

Second period: the essence of the question is the struggle of the peasant masses, especially of the colonial and semi-colonial countries, against imperialism and its main internal prop, feudalism. UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT, the democratic anti-imperialist straggle becomes a part of the proletarian revolution, the FIRST OF TWO STAGES – new democratic – leading to the second, socialist stage. The national question is in the main the question of the liberation of the colonies from imperialism, and the question of self-determination is transformed from the NEGATIVE RIGHT of self-determination to the POSITIVE STRUGGLE for ”separation,” for liberation from imperialism.

Third period, in the US today: the essence of the question is the struggle of the masses of the oppressed nationalities–workers not peasants–against imperialism, but it is “their own,” the “internal” imperialist ruling class; it is not a colonial question, it is a particular and internal state problem, but of a new type–in essence a proletarian question, the question of proletarian revolutionary struggle of the single multi-national U.S. working class. The struggle of the oppressed nationalities against imperialism has a dual character–the national aspect and the class aspect–and is a direct component part of the single stage proletarian revolution. The possibility for the establishment of the “larger state”–of a single socialist state–is very great and can be realized through the fight against all national oppression, to create the conditions for the VOLUNTARY UNION of all nations and the revolutionary unity of the workers of all nationalities. The question of self-determination is once again a question of the negative demand of the RIGHT of self-determination.

In this analysis of the three periods of the national question, we see not the negation of the national question, but the NEGATION OF THE NEGATION. The first period–an internal state question, but essentially a question of bourgeoisie vs. bourgeoisie. Second period–NOT an internal state question, and NOT essentially a question of bourgeoisie vs. bourgeoisie–but of the peasant masses against imperialism (and feudalism). The character of the first period is negated in a dialectical sense in the second period–changed in a dialectical way that makes possible a further qualitative change. Third period–once again an internal state question, but under new conditions, of a new type. The negation of the second period is negated in the third period, and we have an internal state question once again, not in the same way as in the first period, but in a “far higher and more developed form.” (Engels, “Dialectics, Negation of the Negation,” Chapter XIII, ANTI-DUHRING). Now it is IN ESSENCE a question of the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie, in a direct (single stage) showdown. This is a dialectical analysis of the question and is the exact opposite of the “two-into-one” approach of lumping together the first two periods of the national question.

With this as background, let’s take up the main points of the BWC paper and deal with them, one by one. The first major point seems to be their contention that ”It is clear that the RU does not understand this question of self-determination.” This, they say, has two aspects: first, that the RU “is equating self-determination with separation, with separatism,” and treating both as evils; and second that the RU fails to understand that, according to the BWC, the struggle for Black Liberation is the same thing as the struggle for self-determination (see pp. 2-3, BWC paper). In the BWC’s view these two “errors” of the RU are united by the RU’s statement that the question of self-determination is not “at the heart” or the “essential thrust” of the Black liberation struggle. Let’s examine this argument and see where it leads them.

First off, anyone reading the documents of the RU, including RP 5 and NB13 can clearly see that the RU equates the RIGHT of self-determination with the RIGHT to secession. In RP 5 for example, we say that while we uphold the right of self-determination for Black people, ”this does not mean that we ADVOCATE separation. In fact, we uphold the right of separation because it is a genuine right, and in upholding this right we create conditions for proletarian unity in opposition to bourgeois separatism.” (p. 36, emphasis in RP 5.) In NB13 we quote another section from RP 5 that stresses “the importance of upholding the RIGHT of self-determination including secession...” Just following that, in NB13, we make the statement that “the essential thrust” of the Black people’s struggle has not been for self-determination in the form of secession.”

Are we wrong in defining self-determination in this way? Not according to Lenin, who stated that “we must inevitably reach the conclusion that the self-determination of nations means the political separation of these nations from alien national bodies, and the formation of an independent national state. Later on we shall see still other reasons why it would be wrong to interpret the right to self-determination as meaning anything but the right to existence as a separate state.” (Lenin, “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” Vol. 20, p. 397). The essence of what Lenin, as well as the RU, is getting at is that the RIGHT to self-determination means the RIGHT to form a separate state. Of course, a nation can choose not to separate; and if it does this voluntarily, it is true that it has also exercised its right to self-determination by not separating. If that is what the BWC is getting at, then who are they arguing with, or more to the point, why are they arguing with the RU, and with Lenin, over this point? After all, on page 3 of their own document they say that “Self-determination means political independence, the right to secession, to every genuine Marxist since Stalin this is clear.” There must be more here than meets the eye at first glance–and there is.

We are not sure why the BWC inserts the phrase “since Stalin” in the sentence from their paper we have just quoted. Perhaps it is because a few sentences later, they try to invoke Stalin’s name to sanctify the “nation-building” line that they put forward. But, as we shall see, Stalin won’t be of any help to them.

They write that “Stalin says that a nation can establish its right of self-determination only as it establishes its political entity on a territorial basis. This means that this right must be exercised on a given territory, not some nebulous ’autonomous’ national communities’ wherever ’Black people are’ etc. For Afro-Americans in the U.S. this territory can only be their historic homeland–the Black Belt South. Arguments (like in RP 5) which say that Black people are completely dispersed from this territory and no longer constitute a majority there are not true, and even if they were would not prove the contrary.” (The words, “like in RP 5” in parentheses – BWC’s). It is the BWC that is trying to render Stalin “more profound” here–at the same time they are trying to render Bundism “more profound” as well. The arguments of Stalin on this question (in “Marxism and the National Question,” and elsewhere) are very different from the way the BWC is misrepresenting them here. Stalin was battling the “cultural-national autonomists,” who said that a nation need not have a common territory, and that each nationality would have its own representatives in Parliament, etc. and would “organize its nation” irrespective of territory. This was the line of the Austrian Social-Democrats and the Bund in Russia, among others. (See “Marxism and the National Question,” Stalin, Vol. 2, pp. 300-381.)

In opposition to this Stalin put forward the line of upholding the right of self-determination of nations, in their common integral territory. Stalin’s point was not that dispersed nationalities should all congregate, or re-congregate in common integral territories, in order to exercise the right of self-determination, but that nationalities that did constitute nations in common integral territories should have the right to self-determination in that territory.

Today the Black people do not have a common integral territory, separate from the territory of other nations in the U.S. In fact, even at the high point of concentration of the Black nation in the Black Belt South, in the period 1880-1920, whites made up more than 40% of the population there, and the percentage of whites increasingly grew during this period (see RP 5, p. 24: in 1880 whites made up just under 40%, by 1900 just over 40%, and by 1920 nearly 50%). To one degree or another, it has always been a question of the Black nation sharing a common territory with white people, even though, in the period since WW II, this has become much more pronounced.

The BWC paper claims that the evidence in RP 5 that shows that Black people are not a majority in the Black Belt is false. They say they have a pamphlet coming out on the national question, and the implication is that it will cite different evidence to prove that Black people do make up a majority in the Black Belt. The RU, for its part, is always willing and recognizes its responsibility to study new facts as they are presented, and we are certainly looking forward to the publication of this BWC pamphlet, which we hope will make the questions even clearer. But the rather extensive research and investigation we have done indicate that, since the 1940’s Black people have made up a minority in the Black Belt area, and that the percentage of Black people there continued to fall in the period 1950-1970. It was never our position that Black people are “completely dispersed” from this area; we said the contrary in both RP 5 and in our reply to Carl Davidson’s articles on RP 5 in the GUARDIAN. But it is our position that Black people have been dispersed by the millions to other parts of the state (U.S.) – in other words, the number of Black people in the Black Belt would be much greater than it is now if they had continued to be concentrated there in the same way as before WW II, rather than being dispersed much more throughout the country. It is our position-from all the facts we have seen–that Black people do not make up a majority in the Black Belt area, that the Black Belt area of today is not what it was 40 years ago, in terms of a plantation economy, based on feudal survivals; and that even in the Black Belt area today, there are very few Black peasants (or white ones, either), and finally, that in the Black Belt area today, as throughout the U.S., the national question for Black people is in essence a proletarian question and part of the same proletarian revolutionary struggle as throughout the country.

On the basis of these facts and analysis, and others laid out in RP 5 we have concluded that Black people, while not having a common integral territory separate from whites, but basically occupying the same common territory of the U.S. with people of other nationalities (including whites), still constitute a nation, but a nation of a new type. This was also the position of the BWC at one time (more on this later). Now the BWC has abandoned and denounced that position, and wants to reconstitute Black people in the Black Belt South, in order to meet Stalin’s criteria for a nation–in an earlier period–and exercise the right to self-determination on that basis.

But wait, doesn’t the BWC paper say “We don’t advocate separation for the Afro-American nation in the U.S.”? Yes, but let’s look at what they say at the same time, and see how it puts them in the position of at least advocating the re-constitution of the Black nation in the Black Belt South. Self-determination, they say, can ONLY be exercised in the territory of the Black Belt, and they say that the Black people’s struggle is in its essential thrust a struggle for self-determination, which is the same thing as Black liberation. And they say that “Black people have the absolute unequivocal right to re-establish themselves as a political entity in their historic homeland (which still exists).” (p.3, words in parentheses, BWC’s)

Here the BWC has gotten tripped up in its own contradictions and is stumbling over its formulation that amounts to the “right to the right” of self-determination. If it is true, which it is, that Black people have the right to self-determination, but if, as the BWC says, this right can ”ONLY” be exercised in the Black Belt, then it is not a question of the “RIGHT” of Black people to “re-establish themselves as a political entity” in the Black Belt. It is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY for them to do so, and unless they do so, the right to self-determination is denied, and the essence of the Black liberation struggle is liquidated, according to the BWC’s logic. “Re-establishing themselves as a political entity” makes no sense at all, unless it means moving populations around to make Black people at least a majority there, as in the past. This can only mean re-constituting Black people there, bringing them there from other parts of the country–or it must mean moving whites out, or both. In any case, INSISTING on this–which the BWC does–amounts to raising the national question above the class question.

In opposition to this kind of insistence on a particular form, the RU has always held that Black people have the right to self-determination, and we have said that the Black Belt area would be the most likely area for a separate state to be set up, if this was done at all (again, see RP 5 and our reply to Davidson in the GUARDIAN). In RP 5, we also discussed other alternatives besides the establishment of a separate state, including an autonomous region within the same state (see RP 5, p. 56). But we think it is a very serious error to insist that Black people must “re-establish themselves as a political entity” in the Black Belt, or to try to determine now the particular form that the exercise of the RIGHT to self-determination might take. We believe that this question can and will be solved by the proletariat on the basis of what will most contribute to and advance the struggle of the proletariat for socialist revolution. The key to solving it is to combat all national oppression, and to fight the FORCIBLE “assimilation” of nationalities, to fight for equality – and to PRACTICE THE MASS LINE to determine the real needs and interests of the masses of people of all nationalities.

We uphold the right to self-determination, but we do not make an absolute out of it, raise it above the class struggle and the interests of the proletariat, or pre-determine the form it will take as the BWC is bent on doing. We agree with Lenin that the proletariat must reject the insistence of bourgeois nationalists for a “practical” answer in favor of (or against) the secession of a particular nation, and that “The proletariat is opposed to such practicality. While recognizing equality and equal rights to a national state, it values above all and places foremost the alliance of the proletarians of all nations, and assesses any national demand, any national separation, from the angle of the workers’ class struggle. This call for practicality is in fact merely a call for uncritical acceptance of bourgeois aspirations.” (Lenin, “Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” Vol. 20, p. 411; see also Stalin, “The ’ Social-Democratic View on the National Question,” Vol. 1, pp. 49-54 especially).

Finally, while upholding the right of self-determination, we agree with Stalin, who wrote in 1923 (after the national question had entered the second period): “It should be borne in mind that in addition to the right of nations to self-determination, there is also the right of the working class to consolidate its power, and the right of self-determination is subordinate to this latter right. There are cases when the right of self-determination conflicts with another, higher right–the right of the working class that has come to power to consolidate its power. In such cases–this must be said bluntly–the right of self-determination cannot and must not serve as an obstacle to the working class in exercising its right to dictatorship.” (Stalin, “The Twelfth’ Congress of the R.C.P.(B),” Vol. 5, p. 270.)

We raise this last point-and quote Stalin at length on it–because under present and foreseeable conditions we can only believe that the re-constituting of Black people in the Black Belt, even if a correct and necessary step, could only be achieved under the rule of the working class–unless the bourgeoisie tried to do it as a way of establishing a “concentration camp” or a kind of puppet state, in which case we would certainly oppose it. And we can foresee the POSSIBILITY that re-constitution of the Black nation in the Black Belt might conflict with the struggle (right) of the proletariat to consolidate and exercise its dictatorship. This does not mean that we are declaring in advance against this possible re-constitution, but it certainly emphasizes the fact that communists should not declare in advance their insistence on such a step. This, again, amounts in fact to raising a democratic right of a nation above the class struggle of the proletariat. We think it is clear from all this that it is the BWC that does not understand “this question of self-determination”–does not understand it, at least, from the point of view of the proletariat.

Finally, on “this question of self-determination,” let’s deal with the BWC’s insistence that the struggle for Black liberation is the same thing as the struggle for self-determination (see p. 3, BWC paper). The BWC asked “Since when has any struggle of an oppressed people in the epoch of imperialism not been a struggle for self-determination?” To which we answer–since the national question has entered the third period, as in the U.S., and is in essence a proletarian question, and the question of self-determination is once more the question of the RIGHT to self-determination, a negative demand in the Leninist sense.

When we say that the “essential thrust” of the Black people’s struggle has been ”the fight against discrimination, the denial of democratic rights, violent police repression, and against exploitation and oppression as members of the working class ...” the BWC claims that we are reducing this struggle to a “struggle for democratic rights” or “civil rights” instead of recognizing that each of these struggles is building toward or should be built toward self-determination. In fact, it is the BWC that is reducing the revolutionary thrust of this struggle. Self-determination is also a democratic right, and the struggle for self-determination, where it is the essential thrust, is part of the democratic stage of revolution; even in the second period of the national question, where it is part of the national democratic revolution leading to proletarian rule and the socialist stage.

The BWC says this itself (on p. 3), but they refuse to deal with the implications of it. And we would like to ask: since when, especially where there is a single-stage proletarian revolution, is the struggle against exploitation and oppression as members of the working class a lower form of struggle than the struggle for self-determination? Only a Bundist, who is ”adapting socialism to nationalism,” or an Economist, who sees the class struggle purely in trade unionist, reformist terms could make this judgment (and we will deal a little later with the question of who are the real rightists in essence, and what is there in common between Bundism and Economism–how both are essentially tailist and defeatist towards the struggle of the class and the development of its revolutionary consciousness and unity).

Liberation for the masses of Black people in the U.S. means proletarian revolution, the overthrow of capitalism (imperialism), the consolidation of proletarian dictatorship, the building of socialism and the advance to communism. Yes, but the BWC says it agrees with this formulation that Black liberation means proletarian revolution. The point is that there are two lines on what this formulation means.

In the BWC’s view the Black people’s struggle is in its essential thrust a struggle for self-determination, Black people are “fighting for self-determination and national survival,” and in this way are “aiding the proletariat in its revolutionary struggle to transform society as a whole” (p. 9). This line, and not the RU line, actually separates the struggle of the Black people from the working class struggle, and actually reduces it to a bourgeois movement–whose highest expression is the right to self-determination, in the final analysis a bourgeois-democratic right. (We shall see later how the BWC also makes the opposite error, limiting the national question essentially to Black workers, and we will examine the basis of unity between these two errors.)

In our view the masses of Black people are fighting against both national oppression and class oppression and exploitation, and will fight in a more consciously anti-imperialist and proletarian-revolutionary way as their class consciousness is raised through the work of communists. With communist leadership, working at it “from both sides,” as we say in NB13, this struggle is “bound to merge” with the overall class struggle of the proletariat for socialist revolution, and is, together with the struggles of the other oppressed nationalities, the firmest ally of the multi-national proletariat in this struggle. The highest expression of this struggle (short of the eventual goal of communism) is proletarian revolution, proletarian dictatorship, the construction of socialism. Self-determination, in our view, is a subordinate question to this, a subordinate part of this struggle and is definitely not “at the heart of it.” This line, which has always been the line of the RU, is “raising the national question only to liquidate it,” as the BWC charges (p. 2), only if your highest goal is the establishment of a separate state, or the right to decide this question, and the re-constitution of the Black nation in the Black Belt in order to do so. The heart of this difference can be seen in the statement in RP 5: ”The very tendency of moribund U.S. capitalism to break up the Black nation, by driving it from the farmlands and dispersing it throughout the large industrial centers also represents an important advance for the Black people, who once again stand in the front ranks of the class struggle, but now on a completely new basis.” (RP 5, p. 54) This was an important advance, if you are looking at things from the point of view of the proletariat and its struggle for socialist revolution, because it linked the Black people’s struggle against national oppression much more closely with the overall class struggle. A correct understanding of the fact that Black liberation means proletarian revolution would inevitably lead you to recognizing this tremendous advance.

But the line of the BWC can only lead them to say that this was not an advance at all, but a setback for the Black people, and this process must be reversed by re-constituting Black people in the Black Belt. Clearly and unmistakably, this is a view of looking at things first and above all from the standpoint of the nation foremost. In the final analysis this is the outlook of aspiring bourgeois elements, for whom the constitution of a separate “Black political entity” would represent the best opportunity for securing a market. We are not saying that the BWC leadership are Black capitalists in fact; but they have fallen into bourgeois nationalism ideologically, they have undoubtedly “adapted socialism to nationalism.” And this is why we do label their line Bundist.

In fact, despite their insistence that they are for the unity of the class, for proletarian revolution, for socialism, communism, etc., the whole thrust of the BWC’s argument on “the struggle for self-determination,” treats proletarian revolution basically as a means to an end–self-determination, which the BWC recognizes “can only come about through proletarian revolution.” We see proletarian revolution as the means to another end-SOCIALISM AND COMMUNISM. The fact that under present and foreseeable conditions real self-determination can only be achieved–the right to self-determination exercised–with the overthrow of imperialism is a strong basis for winning nationalists, including even some who are essentially bourgeois nationalists to the anti-imperialist struggle. This fact that self-determination requires proletarian revolution can certainly be a basis for Marxists to unite in the practical struggle with these forces; but proletarian revolution as the means to self-determination cannot be the STAND, the INDEPENDENT LINE of the COMMUNISTS.

And we have seen, in practice, where the BWC’s line on self-determination leads it. In the past several months, for example, a leader of the BWC made a speech, in which he said that the right of self-determination means the right to decide whether “we want to live with white people, and how can we decide this when we can’t even live in Dearborn (suburb of Detroit)?” Remember this is supposedly a COMMUNIST talking, supposedly a representative of the multi-national proletariat talking about whether “we want to live with white people.” Is this how the BWC carries out its duty to build proletarian unity? Is this how the communist of an oppressed nation agitates against separatism? Frankly, we have heard the question put in a way less harmful to the unity of the proletariat by some nationalists who don’t even claim to be communists.

But let’s go back to their paper, conclude on this point and move on. The BWC charges (p. 3) that according to the RU “as the struggle of the working class develops, and as working class ’unity’ grows, Black people will be less concerned about their rights as an oppressed nation of people.” This is not the RU line, and not the point at all. What is true, is that as the working class struggle develops, as it increasingly takes up the fight against national oppression, and as the unity of the working class grows on this basis, Black people, especially class conscious Black workers, will be less susceptible to bourgeois nationalism, will be less concerned about bourgeois nationalist (or other forms of bourgeois) “solutions” to their oppression as members of the Black nation, and more concerned about the linking of the struggle against national oppression with the overall class struggle, more concerned about the proletarian-struggle for socialism– which, we will say once again, can only be built on the basis of the fight against all national oppression and for the equality of all nationalities.

What the BWC is raising here is what Lenin termed “the nationalist bogey of ’assimilation.’” (See “Critical Remarks on the National Question,” Vol. 20, p. 29). This comes through in the statement (p. 5, BWC paper) that “The fact that a Black worker may enter a plant and union with other workers does not make him lose his identity as a member of the Afro-American nation.” This is of course true, but listen to the whole slant of this statement–to the begrudging acknowledgement of the fact that there is a single multi-national proletariat in the U.S. This emphasis, especially for communists of an oppressed nation, whose special duty it is to agitate against separatism, is all backwards. It makes it absolutely clear that what is uppermost in the minds of the BWC is the preservation of national identity, that once again, the BWC is “adapting socialism to nationalism.”

Here the BWC comes on exactly like the Bundist Liebman whom Lenin takes on in “Critical Remarks.” Liebman complained that the Leninist position on the national question came down to saying that ” if asked what nationality he belongs to, the worker must answer: ’I am a Social-Democrat.’” To this Lenin answered: “Our Bundist considers this the acme of his wit. As a matter of fact, he gives himself away completely by SUCH witticisms and outcries about ’assimilation,’ LEVELLED AGAINST a consistently democratic and MARXIST slogan.” (Lenin, Vol. 20, p. 27, emphasis his). While the periods of the national question may not be the same, the ideological questions and the major political lessons are.

Further, according to the BWC, the RU denies that the more Black workers take part in and become the main force in the Black liberation struggle, the more powerful that movement becomes (see p. 3, BWC paper). This is just another crude distortion. The RU does not deny this but stresses it. The opening section to the main article in R.P. 5 emphasizes exactly this point. So what is the BWC trying to prove with this, and with their claim that the RU sees the Black liberation struggle ”in a completely negative light.” (P. 3) They are trying to exaggerate the CLASS CONSCIOUS role of Black workers and working class leadership in the Black liberation struggle today, and at the same time pretend that the ruling class has had no effect in recent years with its building up of Black bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces and their role in the Black people’s movement. This is why the BWC says that the RU thinks the Black liberation struggle is “bogged down.” In fact, as we say in NB13, we think the Black liberation struggle has, in the very recent past, experienced a temporary ebb, or lull, compared with the high point of the late ’60s. And we think that this is directly related to the fact that working class leadership has not yet established a strong position in the Black liberation struggle. But this is not the same as saying that it is “bogged down,” which would mean it has no future, would mean “seeing it in a completely negative light,” etc.

We think the present ebb–which is only a relative comparison to its previous high point– is a lull before a far more powerful storm than before, and the key to this is exactly working class leadership. We certainly think that the fight for working class leadership should be waged, is being waged and will be waged more effectively as we all grasp the correct line more firmly. But we don’t think proletarian leadership is won by declaring it, or pretending it already exists, as the BWC is doing. And this amounts to NOT EMPHASIZING the importance of the conscious proletarian forces and proletarian ideology is this struggle.

What the BWC is doing is overestimating the CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS that Black workers have developed spontaneously- and CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS is not the same and should not be equated with NATIONAL consciousness. On the other side, the BWC underestimates the class consciousness that many white workers have developed through struggle AND the work of communists, just as they greatly underestimate white workers’ potential for revolutionary consciousness (more on this later). The BWC is EXAGGERATING and raising to a principle the national distinctions in the class–differences which certainly exist but not in the way the BWC treats them, and which cannot be overcome with the line BWC is now pushing. In fact, the BWC is taking the approach of RE-ENFORCING barriers between Black (and other “third world”) workers, and white workers, and between the class and national struggles.

The class conscious proletariat stands for the greatest assimilation of nations and the amalgamation of workers of all nationalities to the greatest degree possible. What the proletariat is against is FORCIBLE assimilation, national inequality, the suppression of the culture, language, etc. of the oppressed nationalities, and so on. Lenin pointed out, however, that the Bundists of his time, “In condemning ’assimilation’ . . . had in mind NOT violence, NOT inequality and NOT privileges. Is there anything real left in the concept of assimilation, after all violence and inequality have been eliminated? Yes, there undoubtedly is. What is left is capitalism’s world-historical tendency to break down national barriers, obliterate national distinctions and to ASSIMILATE nations – a tendency that manifests itself more and more powerfully with every passing decade and is one of the greatest driving forces transforming capitalism into socialism.” (Lenin, “Critical Remarks,” p. 28, emphasis his). To break down national barriers–on the basis of equality–or to re-enforce them while talking about socialism and working class unity, that is at the heart of the differences here, as it has always been at the heart of the differences between the Marxists and the Bundists (see Stalin on the same question, in “The Social-Democratic View on the National Question,” Vol. 1, pp. 31-54).

But enough on that, we think the point has been clearly established. The next point centers around the question of the ”material basis of unity” of the class. Here, the BWC consistently distorts what NB13 says on the question.

For example, after quoting a statement from NB13 on the “material BASIS of unity,” the BWC conveniently converts this into “material UNITY,” to make it appear as though we are saying that the unity of the class is already at a high level. This is to set us up for an exhortation about how unity can only be achieved on the basis of struggle and the correct line, in opposition to opportunism, which, of course we have never denied, but always stressed.

But this is a minor annoyance, so let’s move on to more important things. The BWC claims that the ”RU reduces the question of great-nation privileges to a matter of white workers ’having a little better schools, etc’” (p. 4, BWC paper). In fact, NB13, while not attempting to list all great-nation privileges does talk about some of ”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.” We did not reduce it simply to the last point, schools.

The BWC cuts off this quote from NB13 to try to make a case for their claim that we don’t deal at all with the question of the labor aristocracy. But what do they think NB13 is talking about when it points to the advantage of white workers in getting skilled jobs, and why do they try to pretend we don’t mention this? And since the BWC not only distorts what we say, but then on the basis of this distortion trips out to make a whole case for how the RU is opportunist because we don’t deal with the question of the labor aristocracy, we think it is important to point out that we have dealt at length with that question in a number of documents, both internal and public – in RED PAPERS, in REVOLUTION (for example, the article, “Gov’t Tightens Ties With Labor Hacks,” p. 3, April, 1973), in our last NCC document (which was given to the leadership of BWC, and in other places. But, unlike the BWC, we have dealt with the question dialectically, recognizing that the bribery of anything but a minority of the class can only be temporary, as Lenin pointed out, and that the position of skilled workers does not make them counter-revolutionary enemies of the people.

Right off, in its paper the BWC falls into a serious error when it blanketly and one-sidedly refers to white workers “who form part of the labor aristocracy,” as “racist-chauvinist supporters of imperialism.” (p. 4) It is true that Lenin referred to trade union officials and “the stratum of bourgeoisified workers” as labor aristocracy that formed a SOCIAL BASIS for reformism, chauvinism and bourgeois ideology generally in the class. And, in the U.S. today, if we are talking about the heads of the unions–men like Abel, Meany, Fitzsimmons, Woodcock, et al.–they are not only ”labor lieutenants of the capitalist class” but capitalists in their own right. And Economism–the tendency to act like a “trade union secretary” instead of a communist–is certainly a major deviation in the communist movement in this country today–as exemplified not only by the revisionist “CP.” but increasingly, by the October League. And this is often connected with attempts to rely on trade union officials and a base among skilled workers.

But the situation in the U.S. today is not exactly the same as it was in Europe at the time of WWI and immediately after, when Lenin wrote about the split in the socialist camp into opportunist and revolutionary wings. In that situation, the opportunists–the Social-Democratic leaders of the Second International–had considerable influence in the trade unions, and were themselves labor aristocrats–with high positions in the unions, posts in Parliament, etc. This was directly related to their opportunism–to the fact that they were reformist, chauvinist supporters of imperialism. It was not, however, their MERE POSITIONS, but the fact that they limited the struggle to trade unionism and parliamentarianism that characterized their opportunism. It was the fact that they failed to RELY ON THE MASSES, to mobilize them in revolutionary struggle and raise their consciousness in the process. This, in turn, was related to their position and their social base among the more skilled workers, but it was related dialectically and did not AUTOMATICALLY flow from this. Once again, ideological and political line is decisive.

To understand the actual basis of opportunism, including its ideological roots, we need an application of the Leninist method, of the basic principles of communism, we need a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, and not the dogmatic book-worship that characterizes CL, which the BWC is now tailing after in several aspects. And this is especially true when the relation of communists to the trade unions in this country today is significantly different than that of the leaders of the Second International in their countries at that time. It is significant that, in its discussion of the basis of opportunism in the movement, the BWC made no analysis of the recent policy of the ruling class in building up petty bourgeois and bourgeois forces in the Black nation, of the fact that, as the poverty program funds have tended to dry up of late, the CP has made a special appeal to the types (“poverty pimps”) who were using it as a hustle, and lately other so-called revolutionary groups have picked up on this same technique, etc. (PL, others). This, too, is a part of the basis for opportunism in the U. S. revolutionary movement today, along with the general fact that much of it is still drawn from the petty bourgeoisie–more than the labor aristocracy. Obviously, it would be a serious error to ignore the question of labor aristocracy in this context, but one-sided concentration on it, and reducing everything to the racism-chauvinism of white workers “who form part of the labor aristocracy” can’t substitute for a more thorough and concrete analysis.

Further, the BWC is going out to lunch with the fact that skilled workers are a basis for reformism and chauvinism. When Lenin described the “bourgeoisified workers” as the prop of imperialism in the class, he meant that they were the SOCIAL BASIS for opportunism, for bourgeois ideology in the class. (Stalin also stressed this question of SOCIAL BASIS, for example, in FOUNDATIONS OF LENINISM, “The Party,” chap. VIII, pp. 115-17, in particular.) But saying that they are the social basis for this bourgeois ideology is not the same as the one-sided statement that white skilled workers are “racist-chauvinist supporters of imperialism,” which is how the BWC sees it. It certainly should not be taken to mean that it is impossible to win over sections of the skilled workers to the struggle against imperialism. But this is where the BWC line leads.

More, the BWC’s use of passages from the Albanian Party, including quotes from Engels on the British proletariat in the 19th century (see pp. 4-5, BWC paper) is also one-sided, builds up a negative aspect of the situation, and promotes defeatism toward the mass movement. At the time that Engels wrote about the British proletariat, England occupied a monopoly industrially and in colonial holdings, and this was the basis for the British bourgeoisie’s extensive bribery of the British working class. Lenin referred to this, but also stressed that, as England lost this monopoly, the condition of the British working class, and its consciousness, changed, the bourgeoisie was less able to bribe the workers, and the workers were less “bourgeoisified” in their consciousness. In other words, once again, Lenin showed how this “bourgeoisification” was and could only be a temporary thing, for the majority of the workers.

In the period immediately following WWII, U.S. imperialism occupied, for a while a monopoly of power within the imperialist camp, and on this basis was able to give a bit more of the spoils of this position to broader sections of the working class. This did lead to some “bourgeoisification” of these sections of the class, In the short run. But, (as the Chinese Communist Party has consistently emphasized, in the past few years), U.S. imperialism has been in decline, actually beginning with its defeat in Korea–a decline that has greatly accelerated with its tremendous defeat in Indochina, and has been added to by other struggles in the Third World, the intensification of competition from imperialist rivals, old and new, etc. – European, Japanese, and now, especially, the Soviet Union. In this situation, as we have pointed out in R.P. 5, REVOLUTION, and several other places, the ability of the U.S. imperialists to bribe sections of their victims, while not eliminated, has been and is being further and further undercut. And the struggle of the masses of people within this country is growing, despite ups and downs. This growing struggle, and not the fact of bribery is what is rising and developing.

Actually, the quotes the BWC uses from the Albanians do take note of the lessening of the hold of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois ideology on the working class in the imperialist countries. But the way in which the BWC uses these quotes, and the whole emphasis the BWC paper gives to this question, is to stress NOT the DECLINE of U.S. imperialism and the growing mass struggle, but the temporary bribery and the “bourgeoisification” of sections of the class. The effect of this is to lead directly away from seizing on a great opportunity to plunge more deeply into mass struggle, and to develop the struggle, consciousness and unity of the class and the masses to a much higher level. And when, as in the BWC paper, this is combined with an exaggerated and one-sided emphasis on the “subjective factor” (opportunism vs. revolutionism in the communist movement), it falls in with the rotten line that the revolutionaries are the real heroes who will make revolution, while the masses are passive, bribed slobs who must be tricked or forced into supporting revolutionaries. This is extremely RIGHTIST–defeatist and revisionist–in essence (more on the BWC’s line on the “subjective factor” shortly).

Again, there is, and always has been a unity between Bundism and Economism and other essentially reformist and rightist trends. In the Russian movement the Bundists always tended to unite with the Economists and Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks–as Lenin showed (see, for example, ”One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,” Vol. 7). And, as Stalin wrote in 1923, among the communist forces in the formerly oppressed nations in Russia, ”Nationalism is playing the same role in relation to these organizations as Menshevism in the past played in relation to the Bolshevik Party.” (See Stalin, Vol. 5, p. 316.)

But let’s examine a little more the “left” form of some of the BWC line’s rightist essence–specifically in relation to the question of the skilled workers, the bribery of the workers, and the question of chauvinism. What is the BWC’s approach, and what is the correct approach, to the question of skilled workers?

We believe that the strategy for proletarian revolution in the U.S. is the united front against imperialism under proletarian leadership. We believe that the petty bourgeoisie, or significant sections of it, can be won to this united front, and must be won to it, and we believe that many skilled workers can and must be won to it as well. The point is that the communists can’t build their BASE in the labor aristocracy, but must build it in the basic industrial proletariat, which is the social basis for developing a revolutionary working class movement. The question of SOCIAL BASIS cannot and must not be confused with the question of who can be united with. To use one example, in socialist society, the technicians, directors of factories, intellectuals, mental workers, etc. and even sections of the peasantry constitute a POTENTIAL SOCIAL BASIS for revisionism and the restoration of capitalism. But it would be disastrous for the proletarian Party to declare these sections “enemies of the people,” for that would in fact push them into the camp of the enemy. The Party must and can win over these sections to the revolutionary cause of the proletariat. The same approach must be applied to skilled workers.

But, in fact, the BWC has tended more and more in the opposite direction–in the direction of treating skilled workers as the enemy. For example, the same leader of the BWC whose speech was referred to earlier made another speech in the past few months in which he talked about skilled workers as those “funny men . . . who carry around those little boxes,” and so on. In this case he couldn’t attack the skilled workers outright, because they were in the midst of a very militant struggle (this was in auto). But he certainly did his best to discourage any real support for this struggle, any attempt to unite these skilled workers and bring proletarian consciousness to them in the course of this struggle, while also learning from them. And, unfortunately, this wasn’t just the quirk of one leader of the BWC, but flows directly from their line, a line that has very dangerous implications.

Mao Tsetung pointed out that, in the early stages of the Chinese revolution, the “ultra-Left policy of attacking the petty bourgeoisie drove most of them to the side of the landlords, with the result that they put on white ribbons and opposed us.” (See “The Struggle in the Chingkang Mountains,” Mao, SELECTED WORKS, Vol. 1, p. 98.) And the ultra-Leftists summed this up, not that they had made serious sectarian errors, but that it proved their line that the petty bourgeoisie was basically counter-revolutionary! Unfortunately, this is the same direction the BWC line on skilled workers will also take them. And, if they continue to follow in the footsteps of CL, it will lead them to writing off the heart of the industrial proletariat as “bribed” (CL has even gone so far as to invent wages of $6-$8/hour for steel workers to “prove” that they are bought off, for example).

Further, the BWC reduces the question of bribery to white workers and the chauvinist ideology that is based on this bribery to white national chauvinism. It is certainly true that, on the whole, white workers get more crumbs from the spoils of imperialism than Black workers and workers of other oppressed nationalities in the U.S. And national chauvinism certainly has a stronger material basis among white workers because of this. But in addition to white national chauvinism, the U.S. bourgeoisie also pushes great American chauvinism (or American great power chauvinism), which has a material basis not only among white workers but workers of the oppressed nationalities in this country as well, because they, too, receive some of the spoils of imperialism–though to a lesser degree than white workers, on the whole (when we talk about bribery and getting spoils, we are not talking about a CONSCIOUS DEAL, as the “white skin privilege” line puts it, we are talking about MATERIAL CONDITIONS). This fact that workers of the oppressed nationalities in the U.S. also get crumbs from the spoils of U.S. imperialism is a reflection of the fact that these workers are members of the single proletariat of what has been the most powerful, though declining, imperialist country since WWII. The fact that they share less in these spoils results, on the other hand, from the fact that they are members of oppressed nationalities within the U.S. And the overall bribery of the working class has in the past period strengthened the basis for bourgeois ideology in the class as a whole (though unevenly) and therefore acts as an obstacle to unity–in addition to the oppressor nation privileges of white workers (which are connected with imperialist bribery, of course), and to the general fact that workers are forced to compete for jobs, etc. But, given the use of this question by the BWC, it is necessary, to stress once again that what is rising and developing is not the bribery and “bourgeoisification” of sections of the class, but the decline of U.S. imperialism and the growing struggle of the masses. Finally, on this question of the “material basis of unity” (and disunity), the BWC makes another serious error in the way they one-sidedly sum up the “present situation” of the class and the one-sided “solution” they offer. First off, their characterization of the “present situation” as “the disunity of the class” (p. 5) fails again to look at things dialectically, fails to see that while there is disunity in the class, there is also unity–unity which is being built through struggle and increasingly with the work of communists.

There is never all disunity or all unity in the class, there is always both unity and disunity; the workers are constantly forging unity, while the bourgeoisie and the influence of its ideology are constantly working to break apart this unity. The point is that, like all things in the real world, this unity has to be built on, advanced to a continuously higher level, or it will fall back and be broken apart. This is where the communists come in, and we will say yet again that the basis for building this unity and advancing it is growing more and more favorable. But the BWC’s one-sided view of “disunity” goes right along with their one-sided “analysis” of the reason for this “disunity” and their one-sided view of the role and tasks of communists. They lay every problem, every cause of “disunity” at the doorstep of one thing–the “lack of a genuine Communist Party.” (p. 5)

We, too, recognize and emphasize the need for a genuine Party as soon as possible, and we recognize that it will greatly advance the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the class. And of course we also recognize the importance of the struggle against opportunism, in relation to forming the Party and in general. But the Party, once it is created, will have to deal with the same objective circumstances–with the fact that it is the Party of the proletariat of this imperialist U.S.–just as communist organizations have to deal with it in this period before the Party has been formed.

The BWC’s line that “The real cause of the present situation, of the disunity of the class, must NOT BE LOOKED FOR IN THE OBJECTIVE ’MATERIAL CONDITIONS,’ but first and foremost in the state of the subjective factor–in the opportunism which runs rampant in the country, and the lack of a genuine Communist Party, free from opportunism, capable of really uniting the class.” (p. 5, emphasis ours)–this line represents a retreat into the opportunist line on party-building (exemplified by CL) which says, basically, that before a Party is created nothing can be accomplished, really, all struggle is spontaneous and therefore useless (as though there are no communist organizations working among the masses at all); but somehow, magically, after the Party is created, this will all turn around. Has anyone every heard of a Communist Party that is “free from opportunism,” as the BWC puts it? It is true, of course, that we must struggle against opportunism in the communist movement and that we must create a Party “free from opportunism” in the sense that a revolutionary and not an opportunist line is what CHARACTERIZES the Party. But, so long as the Party has any real life, so long as it links itself with the mass movement, class struggle–struggle between Marxism-Leninism and opportunism–will always go on, to one degree or other, in’ its ranks, because this struggle is the reflection and extension of the class struggle going on in the material world between the working class and the bourgeoisie.

In the real world there can be no Party “free from opportunism” in the sense of being “pure” Marxist. Such parties exist only in the dreams and schemes of idealists and metaphysicians who want to “cultivate” such a Party in isolation from the mass movement. And these people set themselves an impossible and never-ending task, which will guarantee that they remain isolated from the mass movement. The BWC, we are sure, would deny that it is talking about this kind of approach to the Party, but the exaggerated and one-sided emphasis on the “subjective factor” in the BWC paper in fact represents a serious step backward, a retreat in the direction of idealism and metaphysics. (Later in this paper we will go more fully into the opportunist line on Party-building now put forward by BWC, and we will show how their line on Party-building is Bundist.)

But right now, let’s clear up one last distortion by the BWC on the question of divisions in the class and the struggle against white chauvinism. On page 5 of their paper they accuse us of minimizing the “differences in the standard of living of the class,” as well as in the “level of political consciousness of its various sectors” (we’ll deal with this last half of the accusation later on). In both NB13 and in an extensive section in RP 5, we analyze exactly the differences in standard of living. So what is the BWC trying to prove? They are trying to cover their Bundist line of EMPHASIZING national distinctions. And they are trying to create some evidence for their statement that they “know (!) that a serious struggle of this sort, against white national chauvinism, within the organization (RU) has never taken place; in fact the words are never mentioned for fear of becoming ’self-cultivators’ or ’CP liberals’ etc.” (p. 6.) Then, in the very next sentence, the BWC quotes NB13 where it says that “THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WHITE CHAUVINISM WITHIN OUR ORGANIZATION MUST BE LINKED WITH STRUGGLE AGAINST RIGHT ERRORS GENERALLY.” The BWC wanted to show with this quote that the RU has to admit that it makes right errors but fails to understand the basis of them; but instead the BWC showed their own opportunist methods.

First they say that the words white chauvinism are never mentioned, then they quote us using these very words! Here we think the advice of Lenin to one of the opportunists of his time would be well taken by the authors of the BWC paper: “Listen, ... lie but don’t overdo it! Why before the very eyes of the public you are misrepresenting the very quotation. . .”

As a matter of fact, the whole history of the RU is marked by the struggle against white chauvinism, within, our organization and outside of it, especially around the question of ideological and political line. And our white comrades, in their mass work and agitation, have consistently stressed the struggle against white chauvinism and have stressed the duty of white workers to fight against national oppression. But exactly because much of the revolutionary movement, including much of the RU, has been drawn from the petty bourgeoisie, there has been a tendency for the struggle against white chauvinism to take on an anti-working class character–particularly in the form of contempt for white workers, a tendency to treat them – all of them and not just the skilled white workers (which would be bad enough) – as “racist-chauvinist supporters of imperialism.” And this has frequently been coupled with a romantic and often patronizing attitude toward “third world” workers. This gave opportunists, including a former leading member of our organization, the opening to push a chauvinist, bourgeois nationalist line. These were the problems that were being addressed in NB13, while at the same time it was stressed several times that we must continue to combat white chauvinism, fight it “tooth and nail,” but with the correct class stand.


Despite their statement that they “are concerned with concrete analysis of concrete conditions” the BWC doesn’t even attempt to deal with our analysis of why the Black liberation struggle in the U.S. today is different than the national liberation struggle in China at the time that Mao wrote, “in wars of national liberation, patriotism is applied internationalism,” and insisted that under these conditions the Chinese communists “must be” patriotic. And the BWC avoided dealing with the political implications of these concrete differences They offer no attempt at refuting our statement that for oppressed nationalities in the U.S. today “revolutionary nationalism is applied internationalism” cannot be applied in the same way as Mao’s statement about the struggle in China–the anti-Japanese War of Resistance in particular–was applied there. Since they have not even attempted to answer this point, we will not go into it further here, but simply refer comrades back to the relevant sections in NB13. But we will take up several points the BWC does raise around this question of revolutionary nationalism.

First, let’s note how the BWC plays around with quotes to try to sell the idea that they have discovered a new ideology for the workers of oppressed nations–proletarian (revolutionary) nationalism. First (p. 6) they quote us paraphrasing Lenin: ”Lenin already drew the distinction, which has 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.” (original quote in R P 5, cited in N.B. 13, emphasis added here.) The point of Lenin (and RP 5) was to draw the distinction between BOURGEOIS IDEOLOGY–bourgeois nationalism in this case–and PROLETARIAN IDEOLOGY. But the BWC paper tries to play a little game of “combine two-into-one” here, by changing the quote the next time they refer to it (p. 7.) Now they have it that Lenin: “’already drew the distinction between the NATIONALISM OF THE BOURGEOISIE and THAT of the working people’.” (emphasis added) You see, all you have to do is change a few words around, and there it is, proletarian nationalism – right from Lenin, paraphrased by the RU.

Lenin did say–to the nationalist-socialists–that “there are two nations in every modern nation.” But he was pointing to the existence of two fundamentally opposed class camps, the bourgeois and the proletarian, within the nation. He was not saying that there is ”proletarian nationalism” as an ideology opposed to bourgeois nationalism–he specifically opposes proletarian INTERNATIONALISM to bourgeois nationalism as two antagonistic world outlooks. He was saying that nationalism, even the most ”refined” is bourgeois ideology, in the final analysis. This is unmistakable to anyone who reads for the real meaning of “Critical Remarks,” the article in question. And in this regard, in answering the BWC paper, we agree wholeheartedly with Lenin’s word of warning that “However tedious and laborious the task of correcting the distortions and perversions of the meaning of quotations may be, he who wishes to speak of the Russian Machists cannot avoid it.” (The Machists were “two-into-oners” whom Lenin had to combat.)

But, in case its sleight of hand with the meaning of “Critical Remarks” doesn’t get over, the BWC has left itself an out–“Critical Remarks” was written in the first period of the national question, so it doesn’t apply now anyway. Then they give us a quote from Stalin, combatting a comrade Semich, in the second period of the national question (1925). This quote from Stalin (p. 7, BWC paper) makes, among others, the point that the national question has to be judged according to the period it is in and according to the general conditions of society and the revolutionary struggle. Stalin made this point in the course of showing that the character of the national question had changed in the second period, and become part of the general proletarian revolutionary struggle.

We agree with Stalin, both on the change in the character of the national question in the second period in particular, AND on the need to always evaluate the national question in terms of the overall development of society and the character of the overall revolutionary struggle. We quoted Stalin and Lenin to this effect many times in RP 5. But we would like to point out that in another polemic with the same Semich, during the same year (1925), Stalin made the statement that we cited previously: “there is no powerful national movement without the peasant army, nor can there be.” (Stalin, Vol. 7, pp. 71-72, “Concerning the National Question in Yugoslavia.”)

Can we apply THAT statement of Stalin’s to the U.S. today without in fact liquidating the national question, or at least liquidating the powerful role of the national movement? Of course, we cannot. And if the BWC applied the very METHOD that Stalin insists on – evaluating the national movement as part of the general question of the development of society and the revolutionary movement-they would see that the national question in the U.S. today has entered a third period, when it is in essence a proletarian question and not a peasant question, and that THIS makes the national movements even more profoundly popular and powerful. And they would understand why “nation of a new type” is not a “cute phrase” but the key to understanding the national question and its relation to proletarian revolution in the U.S. today.

But, whatever period we are dealing with it is crucial to make the distinction between nationalism as an IDEOLOGY – which in the final analysis is bourgeois ideology – and nationalism PROGRAMMATICALLY, as expressed in the political struggle for national liberation. The following statement by Mao, during the War of Resistance against Japan, makes this very clear: “Carry out the Principle of Nationalism . . . carry out the Principle of Democracy . . . carry out the Principle of the People’s Livelihood. . . (etc.). ... All these points are in the Kuomingtang’s own published programme, which is also the common programme of the Kuomingtang and the Communist Party. ... In the stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, this programme of the Kuomingtang’s is basically the same as ours, but the ideology of the Kuomingtang is entirely different from that of the Communist Party. It is the common programme of the democratic revolution that we should put into practice, but on no account should we follow the ideology of the Kuomingtang.” (Mao, “Current Problems of Tactics in the Anti-Japanese United Front,” SELECTED READINGS, single volume, pp. 192-93). The fact that the Chinese Communists carried out the principle of nationalism in the mass movement-programmatically–did not make them nationalist in their ideology, any more than the fact that they carried out the principle of democracy made them bourgeois-democratic in their ideology, or the fact that they carried out the principle of the people’s livelihood made them Economist in their ideology. All these were concrete applications of their ideology, Marxism- Leninism; and it was exactly because this ideology, and not that of the Kuomingtang, led the (new) democratic struggle in China that this struggle did advance from the bourgeois (new) democratic stage to SOCIALIST REVOLUTION and not to capitalist rule.

In the quote above Mao was not contrasting revolutionary nationalism as the ideology of the Communists in China with the bourgeois nationalism of the Kuomingtang; he was contrasting the WORLD OUTLOOK OF THE PROLETARIAT, INTERNATIONALISM, with the WORLD OUTLOOK OF THE BOURGEOISIE, NATIONALISM. The following statement from the Chinese Communist Party’s “Proposal Concerning the General Line,” (which was cited in NB 13) should make this point clear: “On the national question the WORLD OUTLOOK OF THE PROLETARIAN PARTY is INTERNATIONALISM and NOT NATIONALISM. In the REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE it supports progressive nationalism and opposes reactionary nationalism. It must always draw a clear line of demarcation between itself and bourgeois nationalism to which it must never fall captive.” (p. 17, “General Line” proposal of the CPC, emphasis added). Once again, the two opposing ideologies, or world outlooks on the national question are NATIONALISM and INTERNATIONALISM; in the practical struggle (programmatically) the communists support progressive (revolutionary) nationalism and oppose reactionary nationalism, but in doing so, in upholding the principle of nationalism in the revolutionary struggle, they must clearly distinguish this from the stand of the bourgeoisie and not allow its ideology to have command or corrupt the ranks of the communists.

But why are we belaboring this point, when the BWC paper itself says, “We know that nationalism as an ideology, apart from any concrete conditions, is bourgeois.” Then what’s the point of difference? The point is that the BWC hastens to add, “But Communists NEVER make an analysis of things in the abstract.” (p. 7, BWC paper, emphasis theirs.) Just by looking at their statement we can see how it goes back on itself–nationalism as an ideology is bourgeois, they admit (“in the abstract”); but then they turn around and say that it may not be bourgeois ideology in the concrete. Something is wrong here.

What is wrong is their confusion, again, between ideology and programme, between IDEOLOGY on the one hand, and the concrete APPLICATION of that ideology, on the other. This is a crucial distinction, and it is why Mao can say that in wars of national liberation patriotism (programme) is APPLIED internationalism (ideology).

IDEOLOGY does in fact exist “in the abstract,” that is, apart from any particular concrete conditions. If this were not the case, then it could not be APPLIED to particular concrete conditions.

To get to the heart of this, in ON PRACTICE Mao points out that knowledge goes from the perceptual to the rational, back to the perceptual, then to the rational again, to the perceptual once more. . . and on and on endlessly in an upward spiral. But rational knowledge is a qualitatively different kind of knowledge than perceptual. A tree, a horse, an axe, a saddle–all exist independently of anyone’s perceiving them. But through perceiving them, and STUDYING THE LAWS THAT GOVERN THEM–what inter-relationship there is between them, what they have in common, as well as what is internal to them that makes them different from each other–you can arrive at RATIONAL KNOWLEDGE of them, and THEN USE this rational knowledge in relating to these things practically, and in turn learn more about them, laying the basis for a higher level of rational knowledge. . . and so on. But, if you do not raise your understanding of them to rational knowledge–or make mistakes in attempting to do so–you can let yourself in for real trouble–like trying to chop down a tree with a saddle (or sitting on an axe to ride a horse!).

To put it another way, theory is drawn from practice, and IN TURN serves practice. Theory is the rational summation of practice–the practice of class struggle, the struggle for production and scientific experiment–and as such is qualitatively different than practice. We must GRASP THEORY IN ORDER TO APPLY IT TO PRACTICE; but we do not say that we can determine what theory is only “after the fact,” so to speak)–only by seeing what form the application of theory took in a particular case. The material world and material things–practice–exist independently of our perceiving them, and of our rational knowledge of them; but our rational knowledge of them – theory – is not the same as the things themselves–just as our rational knowledge of the relationship between a tree and an axe is not the SAME as EITHER the tree or the axe. We have to STUDY THEORY, the summation of past practice, and APPLY this theory to practice to change the world, accumulate more practice. . . more theory. . .more practice, and on and on–but each time, there is a LEAP from the one to the other, and they are QUALITATIVELY DIFFERENT from each other.

Let’s take another example from everyday life. In driving a car there are certain laws–both physical laws (laws of nature) and laws of society. The more fully we grasp these laws, the better, and more safely, we can drive. And these laws exist “in the abstract”–that is independently of any particular act of driving. But if, without studying these laws, you just get into a car and start driving, you are letting yourself, and many other people, in for great danger. Driving in this way is the same kind of error as the error Lenin termed “tactics as process” (work things out as you go along, case by case), as opposed to the correct approach of “tactics as plan.” (See WHAT IS TO BE DONE?, II, C, “The Self-Emancipation Group and RABOCHEYE DYELO,” Lenin, Vol. 5, pp. 387 and following.)

Failing to grasp ideology–“in the abstract”–and on this basis apply it to concrete conditions, this leads to the real tailing after spontaneity, and in the case of the national question, will lead to tailing after and capitulation to bourgeois nationalism in the final analysis. The point, to summarize it once more, is to divide one into two on ideology and programme, and on this basis apply ideology to programme, and not to combine two into one, to EQUATE or confuse ideology with programme.

And this is exactly the error of the BWC–equating ideology with programme. To make this absolutely clear we only have to look at the following section from the BWC paper: “Why does the RU in the most absurd, abstract way say: ’in the final analysis nationalism, even the most progressive, is bourgeois IDEOLOGY’? We should ask the RU what do they really mean by this? Do they mean that since ’all nationalism is nationalism’ all national movements are bourgeois MOVEMENTS? Do they mean all nations are bourgeois nations? Is bourgeois ideology the world outlook of the socialist nations of Albania and China? Does the REVOLUTIONARY NATIONALISM and PATRIOTISM of the Albanians and Chinese ’reflect and serve the interests of the bourgeoisie’ of China and Albania? Are they calling Mao a BOURGEOIS NATIONALIST because he said the ’patriotism is APPLIED internationalism?’” (p. 7 BWC paper, our emphasis.)

Note, first they start out on the question of IDEOLOGY, and then switch to MOVEMENTS, political Struggle, PROGRAMME, without drawing any distinction. Their logic is: if you say that nationalism, in the final analysis if bourgeois IDEOLOGY, then you have to say that all national MOVEMENTS are bourgeois–that is, in the interests of the bourgeoisie–that all nations are bourgeois–again, serve the interests of ”the bourgeoisie–and that “applied internationalism” is really applied bourgeois ideology. They can only draw these ridiculous conclusions and fall into this twisted logic, because in fact they DO EQUATE ideology with programme, and get all fouled up on this basis. To use an example that is given in NB13, because Lenin says that in the final analysis trade unionism is bourgeois IDEOLOGY, does that make all trade union STRUGGLE bourgeois– that is, in the interests of the bourgeoisie? Some dogmatists may think so, but Leninists: do not. Whether any movement or struggle serves the bourgeoisie or the proletariat in the final analysis depends exactly on which IDEOLOGY is in command–wins leadership. That, again, is why Mao stressed that, for a period, the Chinese Communists and the Kuomingtang could have the same PROGRAMME, but never the same IDEOLOGY–or if they did the movement would become bourgeois.

Secondly, the IDEOLOGY of the proletariat of China (and Albania) is Marxism-Leninism, internationalism. In the practical world (programmatically), as Mao says, they combine patriotism with internationalism–that is, a concrete application of their ideology leads them to be patriotic toward their nation. But the IDEOLOGY of the proletariat of China, or the proletariat of any nation, is not revolutionary nationalism. If that were the case then we would have to argue that the workers of an oppressed nation (or a socialist nation) have a DIFFERENT IDEOLOGY than the workers of the oppressor nations – unless someone wants to say that there can be such a thing as the “revolutionary nationalism” of an oppressor nation! It’s either that or the correct recognition that the international proletariat of all nations has only one ideology, Marxism-Leninism, internationalism. The BWC, of course, does not try to argue that there is “revolutionary nationalism,” of an oppressor nation, but they do argue, in fact, that there is a different ideology for Black and white workers.

We will show this shortly, but before getting to that, let’s look at what Stalin had to say about the question of ideology in socialist nations-and by socialist nations is meant nations whose working people are in power and are building socialism. In RP 5 we quote a section from an article by Stalin, written in 1929, where he emphasizes that in the Soviet Union, new, socialist nations had replaced the old bourgeois nations. Yet, in 1934, Stalin could say the following: ”It should be observed that the survivals of capitalism in people’s minds-are much more tenacious in the sphere of the national problem than in any other sphere. They are more tenacious because they are able to disguise themselves well in national costume... The deviation towards NATIONALISM is the adaption of the internationalist’ policy of the working class to the nationalist policy of the bourgeoisie.” (Stalin, ”Report to the Seventeenth Congress of the C.P.S.U. (B.),” 1934, emphasis ours.)

Note that Stalin, like the Chinese in the “General Line” statement, contrasts nationalism with internationalism as the two opposing ideologies. He does not contrast revolutionary nationalism with reactionary nationalism as the two opposing world outlooks, but NATIONALISM with internationalism. And, again, he is talking about what he himself has already called socialist nations. But, then, that was before the BWC came along to render Stalin, and Marxism-Leninism generally, “more profound” by adapting socialism to nationalism.

We would also like to point out to the BWC that, in this same report, Stalin said that it was impossible to say–“in the abstract” since the BWC likes that phrase–which was the greater danger: Great-Russian chauvinism, or the local nationalism of the formerly oppressed nations. “The major danger,” Stalin insisted, “is the deviation against which we have ceased to fight thereby allowing it to grow into a danger to the state.” While the proletariat does not yet hold state power in this country, the ideological and political lessons of Stalin’s statements apply. And contrary to what the BWC says, the RU, a multi-national organization, has never ceased to fight against white national chauvinism–but we have in the past had a tendency not to fight enough against bourgeois nationalism of the oppressed nationalities, a fight which the BWC, with its present line, cannot make, because despite its blasts against the Black bourgeoisie, it is adapting itself to nationalism, making concessions to bourgeois nationalism.

And the BWC’s attempt to combine two-into-one on Marxism-Leninism and revolutionary nationalism, to equate the two, will mean the “worst of both worlds,” and will lead to both watering down Marxism-Leninism with nationalism on the ideological level, and to taking a sectarian stance toward nationalists who are objectively (and maybe even subjectively) anti-imperialist, but have not declared themselves in favor of socialism, or for Marxism-Leninism. This attempt at two-into-one won’t lead to Marxist-Leninist unity on the one side, because it is adapting socialism to nationalism; and on the other side, it won’t lead to unity in the mass struggle with anti-imperialist forces whose ideology is nationalism, because they will see it as “perverting” nationalism with socialism and opportunizing on the ideology of nationalism. In opposition to this two-into-one, by dividing one-into-two–by not equating Marxism-Leninism with revolutionary nationalism but supporting revolutionary nationalism and uniting with revolutionary nationalists in the mass movement, while bringing forward an independent Marxist-Leninist line, it will be more possible to unite with nationalist forces against the imperialist enemy, and to advance many of these people TO Marxism-Leninism, while advancing the struggle in a more thoroughly anti-imperialist direction.

But let’s see how the BWC puts forward a separate ideology for Black workers. They say that “Revolutionary nationalism of Black people and all oppressed peoples is a reflection of the nationalism of the working masses. In the world today, this sort of nationalism doesn’t have to make any sort of ’leap’ to a higher form of ’consciousness, class consciousness,’ because the national aspirations of the oppressed Black masses are in themselves revolutionary AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION IS A CLASS QUESTION.” (p. 9, emphasis BWC’s.)

To be fair, they don’t say that this is the ideology only of Black workers, but of the “working masses” of “all oppressed peoples.” In passing we should point out another little example of “two-into-one-ism” here: “working masses” can refer to both workers and peasants, especially if we are talking about an oppressed nation in the second period of the national question (in BWC’s view. And in BWC’s view there are only two periods; they lump together the second and third). And, in the final analysis, the ideology of the peasants, the outlook that characterizes them as a class is not proletarian ideology, but small-producer, private property ideology, bourgeois ideology (again, in the final analysis). But the BWC combines this all into one: revolutionary nationalism that is already the same as, and doesn’t need to make any leap to, proletarian ideology. Isn’t this yet another example of equating programme or political struggle with ideology? Doesn’t this lead to the conclusion that white workers and workers of the oppressed nationalities in the U.S. have a different ideology? Isn’t this a clear case of “adapting socialism to nationalism?” The answer to these questions is clearly–Yes. In fact if the consciousness of a worker of an oppressed nationality (or any worker) is already working class consciousness, then it has transcended nationalism; and, on the other hand, if it has not “gone beyond”–made a qualitative leap beyond–nationalism, then it must do so to become PROLETARIAN IDEOLOGY. And we certainly don’t think that Black workers are any less capable than white workers of making this leap in their consciousness.

This question of a leap takes us back to the part in RP 1 (cited in NB13) where we quote Huey Newton, “to be a revolutionary ’ nationalist you must, of necessity, be a socialist.” As we pointed out in NB13, what is left out here is exactly the question of a qualitative leap to proletarian ideology, to class consciousness. It is OBJECTIVELY TRUE that, if you stand for the complete liberation of Black people from imperialism, and if you continue in this stand and follow it to its logical conclusion, you will have to become convinced of the need for socialist revolution. But in the subjective factor, in your consciousness, you must make a qualitative leap at some point, to go from revolutionary nationalism to Marxism-Leninism. The value of this statement by Huey Newton is that it points to the fact that there is a very powerful basis for winning the masses of Black people to the struggle for socialism–because of their national oppression as well as their class oppression. This point must not be lost sight of, but grasped firmly and built on. But, in order to carry this out, we must not confuse revolutionary nationalism with Marxism-Leninism, as an IDEOLOGY.

Further, it is correct to say that, IN ESSENCE the national question is a class question in the U.S. today, but it is wrong to say simply that the national question IS a class question, as the BWC does. This is another example “two-into-one-ism” that can fall into the PL line that the national question is really not a national question at all (or only in “form”), but simply a class question (and we will deal with the question of who is in essence the “real PL” a little later).

But before going into the question of the “PL line” it is important to deal with the question: if even during this third period of the national question, in the U.S. today, when it is in essence a proletarian question, nationalism is still, in the final analysis, bourgeois ideology, then how can there be such a thing as revolutionary nationalism–or more specifically, can there be organizations that are revolutionary nationalist and remain so for any length of time. The answer is–Yes, where they are under proletarian leadership. They key to understanding this, as we pointed out in NB13, is the dialectical principle of motion and development leading to a qualitative leap.

At any given point, while there is always motion within any thing, there is also relative stability within that motion which gives the thing its identity. This is why a chair is a chair, a table a table, etc. But, at any given point, the elements (molecules) within it are not m the same place as they were at another time, and under the right (external) conditions (a fire, raising the temperature, for example), the nature of the thing can change qualitatively, on the basis of its internal contradictions, the motion of the elements within it.

Applying this to political organization we can see that while there can be revolutionary nationalism and revolutionary nationalist organizations, the people within them do not all stay at the same point, and in fact the people who make them up change, over any period of time. Some people advance, and with the right external condition (Marxism-Leninism brought to them) make a qualitative leap to Marxism-Leninism; others degenerate and cease to move in a revolutionary direction, and so on. At any given point, if the organization has any life, new people continually come in (on the lower level, so to speak), others are advancing in consciousness through the organization, and others make a qualitative leap, beyond the bounds of that organization (“exit” at the higher level, so to speak) and advance to Marxism-Leninism. But at any time there are always people–though not always the SAME people–within the organization that give it its identity. Of course it is true that, under certain conditions, a whole group of people can be won to–make a leap to-Marxism-Leninism, but then their task, as Marxist-Leninists will still be to find the political and organizational basis to unite with broader numbers of people who are still on the level that they were on previously. So the basic principles we are talking about still apply.

To use an example to help illustrate this point. During the half-time of the Rose Bowl this year, the Ohio State band spelled out a “script Ohio.” The members of the band marched, and as they did so spelled out the four letters O-H-I-O. At any given point, taking the first “O” for example, the people who were there at first, spelling out this “O” had moved on–and were now spelling out other letters further ahead. But at the same time, new members of the band had marched into the space where the first “O” remained, so that at all times the first “O” was spelled out–had band members making it up–even though the specific band members changed through the process.

The same principle of motion and development applies to the question of revolutionary nationalist organizations, and not only to them but to all anti-imperialist organizations. It is true that, in the final analysis, there is no way to be thoroughly anti-imperialist, especially in an imperialist country like the U.S., unless you finally advance to Marxism-Leninism. But this advance involves a QUALITATIVE LEAP, and if after reaching a certain point in their development, particular individuals do not make this leap they will go backward, and cease to be anti-imperialist. But at the same time there will continue to be an anti-imperialist level (short of Marxism-Leninism) around which masses of people can be united, and through which they can be brought forward, with proletarian leadership. This, in fact, is the basis for the strategy of the united front against imperialism, under proletarian leadership.

In summary on this point, what is key here is the question of a qualitative leap in the development of people’s ideology. Or to use the words of Marx and Engels in the “Communist Manifesto,” it is a question of finally making a “radical rupture” with bourgeois ideology. Before making this radical rupture, people can advance more and more in a revolutionary direction, but only by making this radical rupture can they advance to proletarian ideology, Marxism-Leninism. (We recommend that comrades read the article, “The Two Most ’Radical Ruptures,’” in the PEKING REVIEW, 3, Jan. 21, 1972. This article deals with this same question, and the author points out that he joined the revolution as a poor peasant, and even considered himself a Communist, but until he studied and firmly grasped Marxism-Leninism, his ideology had still not made a radical rupture with bourgeois ideology and was, in fact, still bourgeois ideology in the final analysis.)

We think it is clear by now that it is the BWC and not the RU which continually confuses ideology with programme, and tries to combine two-into-one. And it is also their failing to divide one-into-two, and to apply the basic principles of dialectics, that leads them to say that today bourgeois nationalism and the bourgeoisie of an oppressed nation can have no progressive aspects. They say this not only about the U.S., but about the Third World as well.

First, the U.S. Their line is that the Black bourgeoisie is “comprador,” completely counter-revolutionary and cannot be united with in the struggle against the imperialist ruling class (see pp. 13, 15, BWC paper). The RU, while pointing (in RP 5 and elsewhere) to the existence of a Black market and a Black bourgeoisie as one of the important characteristics marking Black people as a nation today, has not yet completed a thorough analysis of the question of the Black bourgeoisie. And we will, of course, be glad to see and learn from any investigation and analysis by the BWC, or anyone else, on this question. But, from the investigation we have done, and our analysis of the national question, we cannot agree with the line that says that because the Black bourgeoisie is capitalist and ours is not a bourgeois-democratic stage of revolution, and because the Black bourgeoisie has direct ties with the monopoly capitalist, the Black bourgeoisie is therefore counter-revolutionary and cannot be united with in the struggle against monopoly capitalists.

The term “comprador” generally refers to the section of the bourgeoisie–in the colonial and semi-colonial countries in particular–that is tied in with the old relations of production–that is, with feudalism–and is therefore an ally and prop of the imperialists. Mao pointed out that even the national bourgeoisie in China had to have economic and political ties with the imperialists, but it still had a progressive aspect–it represented generally not feudal but rising capitalist relations–which conflicted with the imperialists’ interests and therefore could be united with. In the U.S. today, where practically speaking there are no longer feudal survivals, and where we have a single stage revolution, ALL classes except the proletariat represent, in the final analysis, the OLD–capitalist–relations of production. But the proletariat can still unite with other class forces against the monopoly capitalists–in particular the petty bourgeois forces. If this were not the case, there could be no basis for a united front; but, unlike in China, where there are two stages, the basis of our united front cannot be that other forces besides the proletariat represent, to some degree, new and rising relations of production. Our united front is based on the conflict of interests between the petty bourgeoisie and the monopoly capitalists. But, generally, speaking, the petty bourgeoisie in this country has ties with the monopoly capitalists, and the ideology of the petty bourgeoisie is, in the final analysis, bourgeois ideology. It is still correct, and necessary, however, for the proletariat to unite with the petty bourgeoisie and bring it into the revolutionary struggle as broadly as possible, on the basis of its contradictions with the monopoly capitalists. We believe that the same approach must be taken to the Black bourgeoisie, while, at the same time, fighting its ideology and the influence of its line within the revolutionary struggle, just as we fight all non-proletarian ideology.

Not to take this approach would be to fail to take into account that, whatever its ties with the monopoly capitalists, the Black bourgeoisie is still the bourgeoisie of an oppressed nation. Otherwise, what does it mean to say that the existence of a Black bourgeoisie is one of the important factors making the Black people a nation in the U.S. today–and this was one point, at least where we thought we still had unity with the BWC. It is true, as we pointed out, that especially since the Black urban rebellions of the ’60s, the ruling class has, on the one hand, built up the bourgeois and even petty bourgeois strata in the Black nation in an attempt to hold back the Black liberation struggle–and this has met with some partial and temporary success. But it is also true that with the other hand, the ruling class holds down the Black Bourgeoisie and tends to pull the rug out from under it, economically. And there is no question of the Black bourgeoisie reaching a position of “equality” with the (white) monopoly capitalist ruling class, or being totally “integrated” into it.

Taking the kind of one-sided stand the BWC does on the Black bourgeoisie will lead to the same kind of sectarianism that characterized PL’s line on the national question. We would like to call the comrades’ attention to an article by PL in 1969, entitled “Black Workers Must Lead” (Yes!), in which PL took essentially the same line on the Black bourgeoisie that BWC is taking now. Of course, it is true that PL was coming at this position from the opposite side, so to speak–from the position of saying that “all nationalism is reactionary”–while the BWC is trying to equate nationalism with Marxism-Leninism. But it is also true that, in essence, BWC’s line on the Black bourgeoisie is the same as PL’s.

The RU holds that all nationalism is BOURGEOIS IDEOLOGY, IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS. But we don’t agree with PL that therefore all nationalism in the practical struggle (programmatically), as expressed in the struggle for national liberation, is reactionary and “leads to the greatest corruption of workers.” Nor do we agree with the BWC’s flip-side-of-PL line that bourgeois nationalism can have no progressive aspects under any circumstances, that only revolutionary nationalism–the “nationalism of the working masses”–can be progressive, and is in fact the same as Marxism-Leninism. Both of these lines really come down to saying that only the working people of the oppressed nation can play a progressive role, and really amount to saying that the national question is not a national question at all, but only a class question–the question of the BLACK WORKERS. This is, again, the “worst of both worlds” on the question, downplaying the national aspect in fact, on the one hand, and divorcing Black workers from the whole working class on the other. And this is where the BWC line will lead.

We believe that, although there is no stage of bourgeois-democratic revolution in the U.S. today, there is still a question of (bourgeois) democratic rights, including the rights of oppressed nationalities. Whether this is a reformist or revolutionary question depends on whether these democratic rights are treated as an end in themselves, abstracted from and raised above the class struggle, or whether they are treated as part of the struggle for proletarian revolution–waging the fight against national oppression “as part of the overall class struggle,” and merging the national struggle with the class struggle. In other words, it is a question of whether BOURGEOIS OR PROLETARIAN IDEOLOGY is in command, in the final analysis. And we believe that what Lenin wrote in early 1914–that the bourgeois nationalism of the oppressed nation “has a general democratic content that is directed AGAINST oppression”–still basically applies, there is, as we put it in NB13, still an aspect of the bourgeois nationalism of an oppressed nation that “can, under certain circumstances, have progressive aspects.” The proletariat can never allow bourgeois nationalism, or any form of bourgeois ideology, to LEAD the struggle, but neither can it fail to unite with all progressive forces, all those who have contradictions with the main enemy, in the course of the struggle.

This error of the BWC stands out even more sharply when they talk about the Third World. They say that “as the productive forces continue to develop” in these countries, and as the transition is made from colonialism to neo-colonialism “the bourgeoisie. . . becomes reactionary,” and “bourgeois nationalism becomes a completely reactionary force.” (p. 8.) This is a serious error.

The Chinese Communist Party said in the “General Line” polemic in 1963, and Mao Tsetung has repeatedly stressed, that the bourgeoisie in these countries is made up of different sections, and besides the comprador section, there is also a section, generally called the national bourgeoisie, that can play a progressive role, not only as a tactical question–“against one or another imperialist bloc,” as the BWC says (p. 8)–this is true even of the comprador bourgeoisie in certain cases, as for example, Chiang Kai-Shek in China during the anti-Japanese war. The national bourgeoisie can also be united with because its own economic interests are in opposition to feudalism, the main internal prop of imperialism. And no matter how much the productive forces are developed in the Third World, survivals of feudalism on a big scale cannot be eliminated, until imperialism is overthrown and socialism built.

Further, while bourgeois ideology in any form cannot be allowed to lead the struggle, it is certainly the case that Lenin’s statement about the progressive aspect of the bourgeois nationalism of an oppressed nation applies here. The BWC falls into the error of negating this because it is bent on saying that once the national question entered the second period (and BWC recognizes no development of it beyond the second period), then revolutionary nationalism becomes the same as proletarian ideology, and bourgeois nationalism becomes always, everywhere and in every aspect reactionary. This is because the BWC places the contradiction as between REVOLUTIONARY NATIONALISM AND BOURGEOIS NATIONALISM in the question of ideology, instead of recognizing that NATIONALISM AND INTERNATIONALISM are the TWO OPPOSING WORLD OUTLOOKS on the national question. This goes right back to the BWC’s insistence that Black workers “do not need” to advance beyond revolutionary nationalism, which means that, with this line, BWC cannot help to advance them, in the final analysis, beyond bourgeois ideology.

Finally, to conclude on this question of ideology and is all nationalism, nationalism; it is important to note how the BWC also lapses into mechanical materialism. They take up our analysis that all nationalism is bourgeois ideology in the final analysis and that revolutionary nationalism must make a qualitative leap to Marxism-Leninism, and they try to show how this is illogical and not materialist. How do they do this? By saying that the BOURGEOISIE cannot transcend itself and transform its ideology into proletarian ideology, so therefore the RU’s argument is obviously wrong and ridiculous. And, further, they say that the RU is not analyzing the class content of revolutionary nationalism (see section “... Is All Nationalism, Nationalism?” pp. 6-10).

The world would indeed be simple if a particular class ideology was held only by the members of that class, and specifically if working people were not influenced by non-proletarian ideology. But then, if that were the case, there would be no need for the conscious element, the communists.

The fact is, however, that workers are influenced by bourgeois ideology, including nationalism. When we talk about making a qualitative leap, or radical rupture, we are talking about the IDEOLOGY THAT PEOPLE HOLD, members of the working class especially. We are talking about people making a LEAP IN THEIR CONSCIOUSNESS to class consciousness, to Marxism-Leninism. The point is that within revolutionary nationalism there are ASPECTS of proletarian consciousness (and if this weren’t so, there could be no leap), there is a revolutionary thrust directed against the system, as we said in NB 13. But in the final analysis, nationalism of any kind, as an IDEOLOGY, is still bourgeois ideology, because even the ideology of revolutionary nationalism has still not made a radical rupture with bourgeois ideology. And when a revolutionary nationalist makes this radical rupture, his consciousness makes a qualitative leap, BEYOND NATIONALISM TO MARXISM-LENINISM. The position of workers in society gives them the greatest potential for making the leap beyond bourgeois ideology to proletarian ideology. Grasping this, while understanding that communists must bring proletarian ideology to the workers so they can make this leap-this is DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM as opposed to MECHANICAL materialism (metaphysics). The mechanical nationalism of the BWC is shown from the other side, in its argument that revolutionary nationalism is the nationalism of the working masses and therefore it is the same as proletarian ideology. The-fact that many workers of an oppressed nationality may be revolutionary nationalist at any point, that while still nationalist in their outlook they are moving in a revolutionary direction, does not make revolutionary nationalism proletarian ideology. Again, if whatever consciousness workers had at any time was automatically (mechanically) proletarian, then there would be no need for the conscious element, the communists, to raise the workers’ consciousness to the level of Marxism-Leninism.

Stalin said, in defending WHAT IS TO BE DONE? from the attacks of the Economists, that spontaneously the working class does tend to “gravitate” toward communist consciousness, but more powerfully, he showed, the working class is pulled back to bourgeois ideology by ”spontaneity.” And he pointed out that even in the trade unionism of workers, there are ASPECTS of proletarian ideology, but that this doesn’t change the fact that, in the final analysis, it is still bourgeois ideology. And it certainly doesn’t eliminate the need for communists to bring proletarian ideology to workers and help them make the LEAP to Marxism-Leninism. (See Stalin, “Briefly About the Disagreements in the Party,” Vol. 1, pp. 90-132).

From this error of the BWC we can see, once more, not only that they continually confuse and equate ideology with programme; but that they negate the role of proletarian ideology, and in fact tail behind the spontaneous consciousness of the masses–Black workers in particular. This means tailing behind BOURGEOIS ’IDEOLOGY, because as Lenin explained, “spontaneous” consciousness in class society means bourgeois ideology, the ideology that workers will inevitably (“spontaneously”) be shackled by, in one form or another, until proletarian ideology is brought to them by the communists.


In the section of its paper “Revolutionary Slogans or Revolutionary Phrase-mongering” (pp. 10-11), the BWC makes an attempt–only half-hearted it is true–to defend the slogan “Black Workers Take the Lead.” Right off, they are forced to cop a plea–“Actually we never said that the slogan was correct for all times and all places.” (p. 10) Then they go on to justify the slogan, even as a slogan for the workers’ movement, on the basis that “The Black sector of the proletariat and other minority workers are playing a vanguard roles in the struggle against imperialism.” Well, taking this statement at face value, how can this be a basis for the slogan, “BLACK Workers Take The Lead”? How does the Farah strike–which they cite as an example–show that “BLACK Workers Take the Lead” is a correct slogan?

But let’s look into the examples BWC cites. It is true that through the course of the Farah strike, a number of strikers have developed broader political consciousness, have engaged in political struggle, have united with and mobilized other sections of the Chicano movement and other workers of all nationalities. And, through the course of the strike, in many parts of the country, a number of workers, of different nationalities, have actively supported the Farah strike – and not only on a trade union basis, but in many cases on a broader political basis–on the basis of supporting the struggle of Chicano people and the struggle of the class as a class (for itself) against the imperialist ruling class. But has all this happened spontaneously? No, it has been, in good part, due to the work of communists, uniting with the struggle, helping the workers to fight, and in the course of the fight to make the links between this and other struggles, to draw political lessons from it, and generally to advance their consciousness. We think the BWC knows, or should know WHICH communist organization, in the main, has carried out this work. And it has been carried out by grasping and building on the definition of an “advanced worker” found in RP 5 (more on this shortly). We raise our role not to take all the credit, or because we feel that there have been no errors in our work around the Farah strike; but since the BWC has gotten on its hobby horse as characterizing the RU as Economist (“bowing to spontaneity”), and since they have no hesitation in decreeing that the RU “Now finds itself isolated from both” the national movement and the workers’ movement, we thought it might be helpful to inject a few facts on the subject into the discussion. Finally, we think it is important to say, again, that among the workers who have actively supported the Farah strike around the country, there have been a significant number of all nationalities – though, not unexpectedly, many of them have been Chicano. And it is important to point out that the fact that they have received support from workers of all nationalities has been of great encouragement to the Farah strikers, especially the advanced workers.

Let’s take another example the BWC raises–the struggle around the importation of Rhodesian chrome. From what we know, this, too, has been due to a significant degree, to the work of communists, including BWC, or in other cases to Black students and other progressive forces. It has not happened “spontaneously.” And, in our own experience in working around this question, we have seen how the line of ”Black Workers Take the Lead,” has actually hurt this struggle, in at least one case. In one area, a group of longshoremen, who in this case were mainly white, took the initiative (though, again, not completely spontaneously) to begin organizing struggle around this. We worked with this, but the influence of the bourgeois nationalist line within our organization interfered with this work, because it led to someone involved saying that this was not a very important struggle, because Black workers weren’t taking the lead. Fortunately, this line was defeated. The point is not that this is a crude application of a wrong line–which is true–but that the whole approach of emphasizing distinctions within the class on the basis of nationality, ”rating the proletariat by nationality,” etc. is encouraged by raising slogans like “Black Workers Take the Lead” especially when applied to the workers’ movement.

As we said in NB 13, and have said in many other places, it is very important to recognize and build on the driving force that the struggles of Black workers and other oppressed nationality workers have provided for the whole class, and the “clarion call” of the struggles of the Black people and other oppressed nationalities generally. It is very important to build on the political sparks that are generated in these struggles, in order to raise the CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS of the masses involved in these struggles and the whole class.

But the BWC, in its paper, makes two errors in relation to this. First, they are in fact belittling–not even mentioning–the role of the conscious element in these struggles, giving the impression that these struggles spontaneously developed “a high level of consciousness.” If we do this, and if we exaggerate the level of consciousness that is generated in spontaneous struggle generally, we will fail to carry out our duty as communists to join with these struggles and through the course of them raise the consciousness of the struggling masses.

Second, the BWC is ignoring important struggles of the working class, where Black and other oppressed nationality workers have not been playing the leading role–for example the miners’ struggles in recent years–but where a high level of militancy has developed, and where many political sparks have been generated among the workers, which communists can and must build on, broaden and deepen. The BWC seems to think that only if a high level of NATIONAL consciousness (of oppressed nationalities) is involved, can we say that “a high level of consciousness” has developed – and NATIONAL consciousness CAN develop spontaneously (spontaneously means WITHOUT COMMUNIST LEADERSHIP, it does not mean “all on its own” without any influence on it). And the BWC is ignoring the role of many white workers in relation to such struggles as the Farah and farmworkers’ strikes – struggles cited by the BWC in its arguments in defense of “Black Workers Take the Lead.” We do not think that refusing to emphasize national distinctions and divisions among the workers means liquidating the national question; but we do think insisting on emphasizing these distinctions and raising them to a principle with slogans like “Black Workers Take the Lead,” amounts to liquidating the class question. And under the influence of this kind of line important opportunities have been and will be lost, or weakened, to join with white workers–and other non-Black workers–in struggle and raise their class consciousness. And then, on the basis of failing to do this, some “communists” will no doubt come along to say that these workers are too backward anyway–bribed, racist-chauvinist supporters of imperialism–since they have not spontaneously demonstrated a high level of political consciousness.

The BWC falls into the errors it makes and tries to justify the slogan “Black Workers Take the Lead,” because in fact it is bent on raising national distinctions and unevenness within the class to a principle, and because it wants to build a case for its argument that “the bulk” of the advanced workers “today come from the oppressed nationalities.” To be blunt, we don’t know how the BWC feels it is in a position to make this analysis. According to a report from the Chairman of the BWC to the organization about 6 months ago, “The BWC is still weak, inexperienced, and without a mass base in the working class and the masses of people” (this report was given to RU leadership by BWC). So how can the BWC say now with such certainty that the BULK of the “really advanced workers” are from the oppressed nationalities? Our experience–and it is accurate and necessary to say that our base among the masses is still not broad and deep–is that there are, among the advanced workers; many from the oppressed nationalities– in a higher proportion than the percent of Third World workers in the total population of the class, if you like–but there are also many whites among the advanced workers. To use a comparison with standard of living, the PERCENTAGE of Black people below the official “poverty line” is significantly higher than the percentage of whites, but the total number of whites is nearly twice as high. There is, of course, no EQUATION between standard of living and level of class consciousness–that is, there is not an automatic relation and we can’t fall into the metaphysical notion of “more oppressed equals more revolutionary,” or try to transfer mechanically the percentage and figures from one thing to another. But this comparison with standard of living does point on the one hand to the importance of grasping, and not ignoring, the DUAL OPPRESSION of Black and other Third World workers and its effects on their condition and their consciousness, and on the other hand the importance of grasping, and not ignoring, the fact that there are masses of oppressed and exploited white workers, including many who are among the truly advanced section of the class.

And we don’t feel that it is correct to say that in the country as a whole the BULK of advanced workers comes from any nationality–or from the oppressed nationalities–but, then, again, our purpose is not to “rate the proletariat by nationality,” or emphasize national distinctions. Our purpose is to unite with all advanced workers to lead the masses, develop communists while building the mass struggle as broadly as possible, link the national struggle with the class struggle, and generally raise the level of working class consciousness of the masses.

How you assess the relative numbers of advanced workers depends, of course, on what your definition of an advanced worker is and flows directly from your line. And. in attacking the RU’s definition of an advanced worker in RP5, the BWC has gotten to the heart of important differences. We think that the BWC–especially now that it is following in the footsteps of the CL line–must regard an advanced worker and advanced people generally, as those who respond favorably to the BWC’s line, including not only its adapting of Marxism-Leninism to nationalism, but its dogmatic, one-sided emphasis on the “subjective factor” (study Marxism-Leninism to build a Party “free from opportunism,” in isolation from the mass movement–more on this later). Given this line it would not surprise us at all if there are not many white workers–or workers of other nationalities, either who respond very favorably to this line, and therefore, by failing to do so, lose out on their chance to be classified as advanced by BWC.

We believe that the definition of an advanced worker in RP5 is basically correct: “To us, the advanced worker is one who has the respect of his fellow workers, to whom they come when they are in trouble, and need to discuss their problems, whom they rally around when they face a collective problem and who provides leadership in struggle. And this is true even if the individual professes some anti-communism. His anti-communism is socially and media-conditioned and can be overcome through his work with communists, precisely because of the devoted practice he has shown toward others.” (RP5, pp.7-8)

The BWC claims that this is “essentially tailist” and negates the role of political consciousness, and “says nothing of the need for ideological and political training.” (p. 12, BWC paper). Then what does the BWC think “work with Communists” refers to? It refers exactly to communists raising the consciousness of the workers, to political and ideological training – LINKED WITH THE PRACTICAL STRUGGLE ITSELF. The role of communists in this regard is repeatedly emphasized throughout RP5, and is stressed in the article that the above quote is taken from (“Toward the Multi-national Revolutionary U.S. Communist Party”). The BWC knows, or should know, that in every RED PAPERS, in REVOLUTION, in many internal bulletins of the RU (which have been given to BWC leadership in many cases), the question of “finding and training revolutionaries,” of raising the political consciousness of the class and the masses is consistently emphasized.

The point is that the advanced workers are those who come to the fore as leaders of mass struggles, and who on the basis of their devotion to the class and its struggle, can develop real class consciousness through the work of communists. As we also said in RP5, the “advanced worker” who gets a piece of communist propaganda and says “right on” may or may not be truly advanced–though we stress that in any case this worker should be brought into the struggle. The point of the section in RP5 on the advanced worker is that the practice of the mass line, relying on and summing up the opinions of the masses of workers (summing them up scientifically, according to Marxist-Leninist principles), this will enable communists to determine who are the real leaders of struggle, and can be DEVELOPED into communists (since as far as we know communists don’t come ready-made), and who just talks a good line but flakes out when the real struggle goes down. The principle here is that people learn through struggle, in the course of the practical struggle, and not in isolation from it. In relation to this, it is the duty of communists to combine communist propaganda and agitation with the practical struggle, in order to raise consciousness and train revolutionaries. But communists can’t do this if they fail to carry out the method outlined by Mao Tsetung: the communists ”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.” (“Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership,” Mao Tsetung; SELECTED WORKS, Vol. 3, p. 118 – emphasis added). Of course, within the general group of active workers, the workers who come to the fore as mass leaders, there are some who are more advanced than others, some who, on the basis of their experience and struggle, can grasp revolutionary ideas more quickly and firmly. And, as we said, communists should try to unite with those who talk a good line and help them translate this into active leadership in struggle. But this certainly does not contradict the basic principle that in the main it is from among the people who do come to the fore as mass leaders that the potential communists are to be found.

The BWC attacks this definition of advanced workers because the BWC is retreating from the stand of actively leading mass struggle, and they are looking for workers who have already developed “a high level of consciousness” (defined, no doubt, as the tendency to agree with the BWC line), on their own. In this the BWC fails to recognize that it is fundamentally the task of communists to bring class consciousness to the workers and to train as revolutionaries those who in practice show their active leadership and devotion to the struggle.

The BWC tries to say that the RU is guilty of “treating them (the masses) to politics ’only at exceptional occasions.’” (p. 15) Apparently the BWC is not aware of the literally millions of leaflets, political agitation and propaganda, which the RU – sometimes on its own, sometimes together with others–has put out; or of the many anti-imperialist papers across the country, aimed particularly at workers, which the RU plays an important part in putting out; apparently the BWC has never read REVOLUTION, or the pamphlets put out by the RU, and they are apparently unaware of the workers’ study circles the RU has led and is leading. This is not to say that there are not many errors in this agitation and propaganda–right and also “left” errors–but in all honesty, while we have certainly not done nearly enough, we have just as certainly been responsible for more agitation and propaganda to raise the political consciousness of the masses than any other communist organization in the U.S. today. And we have done this, while more and more actively linking our organization with the practical mass movement (is this what BWC means by ”bowing to spontaneity?”). The BWC has, we know, seen much of the agitation and propaganda we refer to–but that only makes it worse, because it shows that they are trying to twist reality and distort things to justify the erroneous line they have adopted.

Let’s deal with one last example of how they do this in connection with “Black Workers Take the Lead,” and then let’s move directly to the question of party-building and central task. The BWC attacks the argument in NB13 that ”Black Workers Take the Lead,” is in general not a correct slogan to raise, “even as applied to the Black liberation struggle.” NB13 gives two reasons for this: 1) because it tends to set Black workers off from the rest of the class and separate the national struggle from the class struggle; and 2) because it can have the sectarian effect of DECLARING proletarian leadership, instead of WINNING IT POLITICALLY in the course of struggle. Taking the second point first, we have shown how the BWC does in fact take a sectarian stance toward non-proletarian strata and classes in the Black nation–the Black bourgeoisie in particular–and how they do adopt the method of declaring proletarian leadership instead of recognizing the necessity of winning it through actively leading struggle and bringing forward a proletarian line.

As for the first point, the BWC cites sections from NB13 where we say that it is not just the Black workers, on their own, who must lead the Black liberation struggle, but the proletariat as a whole. To “refute” this, the BWC quotes from the Communist International (C.I.) resolution of 1930 on the Negro national question. The C.I. resolution says that Negro workers can and should “assume hegemony of all Negro liberation movements,” while playing an important part in the overall class struggle. But this same C.I. resolution stresses that this can only happen “under the leadership of the Communist Party,” which, of course, represented the entire proletariat.

Here is what NB13 says specifically on this question: “It will be mainly Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano, Asian communists, etc., who will do this practical work (give proletarian leadership to the national struggles), 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 ... 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 ... 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 (Black workers in the Black liberation struggle), ’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 than raising as a slogan, ’Black Workers Take the Lead.’” (Words in parentheses in quote above, added here; quote above is talking specifically about ”situations where the struggle, at a given point, only involves Black people.”)

So what does the BWC object to, why are they trying to make it look as if we are opposed to building the PRACTICAL LEADING ROLE OF BLACK WORKERS, as opposed to other sections of Black people, in the Black liberation movement, as called for in the C.I. resolution? What they object to is the statement in NB13 that “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.” And the fact that there is no great wall between these struggles is even more important to grasp today than at the time of the C.I. resolution in 1930. But the BWC attacks this, because they do see a great wall between these struggles, and because, despite their many declarations that “we are 100% for the revolutionary unity of the class,” they see building this “unity” by isolating workers of different nationalities in separate armies and making an alliance on that basis. They emphasize not the “common interests” and “unity of interests” (Stalin) of the workers of all nationalities–including, of course, the fight against all national oppression–but the divisions and national distinctions within the class, even to the point of advocating DIFFERENT IDEOLOGIES for the white workers and the workers of the oppressed nationalities, as we have shown.

We believe, as we stressed in NB13, that the solid core of the united front in this country will be the alliance of the SINGLE MULTI-NATIONAL WORKING CLASS with the struggles of the oppressed nationalities for liberation, and NOT the alliance of the oppressed nationalities with the WHITE workers. In these two different formulations are expressed two opposing lines. And we do believe that it is workers of all nationalities who must be WON TO and play a leading role in the fight against all national oppression. When the BWC accuses us of “phrasemongering” for raising this, they only show how THEY in fact “bow to spontaneity,” once again. The fact, as they say, that the workers of all nationalities have not yet taken up a thorough fight against national oppression, and that the working class is not yet leading the anti-imperialist struggle in general–this only EMPHASIZES the need for communists to WIN the workers to this fight, and not to raise this primitiveness to a principle or tail behind what exists today.

Stalin points out at the very beginning of “Marxism and the National Question,” that when Marxists of different nationalities lost faith in the ability of the proletariat to unite in common cause for a “bright future,” then they “began to depart, each to his own national tent–let every man count only upon himself! The ’national question’ is first and foremost.”.(Stalin, Vol. 2, p. 300) And this kind of retreat is the basis not only for the BWC’s line on the relation between the national struggle and class struggle, but for its line on how to build the party as well.

In the course of defending the slogan “Black Workers Take the Lead,” they say that ”the majority of the proletariat has not yet developed the necessary class-consciousness to play the leading role in the national struggle or the United Front as a whole. In this situation, the central task of communists is to rally the advanced sector of the proletariat, develop its class consciousness FIRST, welding the main core into Party cadres and the expansion of the cadres into a workers’ party. Then and only then, when this task is COMPLETED, will our central task become winning the MAJORITY of the working class for proletarian revolution.” (pp. 10-11, emphasis ours) And note that they come to this on the basis of saying that they were incorrect in the past to agree with the line (held by our organization) that the central task was to build the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the proletariat and develop its leadership in the anti-imperialist struggle (see the section of their paper on the “History of the National Liaison Committee”).

First, some general comments on the line on party-building they put forward, and then some specific points in answer to it. As a matter of fact, on the basis of discussions, summing up developments in the U.S. as a whole and the revolutionary movement in this country–and developments in the world, generally–the NCC of the RU has come to the conclusion that, in the immediate period ahead, the establishment of the Party, on the basis of developing a concrete political Programme for the struggle of the class and the masses, has BECOME the central task of communists But we have come to this conclusion on a completely opposed basis to that of the BWC, and we see the relationship between party-building and the mass struggle in a completely different way. To put it in a nutshell: we see building the Party on the basis of the real ADVANCES that have been made in linking up with the struggle of the class and the masses over the past few years, and not} as the BWC does, on the basis of RETREATING from the mass struggle. We believe that the central task as we formulated it in the past was correct for that period, and that the work of carrying out that task, by our organization and others, has helped to lay the basis for establishing the Party in the near future.

In fact, we have raised that central task–building the struggle, consciousness, and revolutionary unity, etc.–in basically the same way, since the struggle within our organization against the Franklin opportunists, over 3 years ago (which led to the publication of RP4). Our point in raising this central task was to direct our own forces, and to encourage others to direct theirs, toward linking up with the struggles of the masses, especially the industrial workers, and to carry out political work in these struggles in a revolutionary and not a reformist way.

We have always recognized and stated that only after the Party had been established could the revolutionary movement of the proletariat develop fully and could working class leadership in the anti-imperialist united front be fully established. And we certainly never stated that the MAJORITY of the working class could be won to revolution in the absence of a Party (or a revolutionary situation, either). But important progress can be made toward these goals through the work of communists and communist organizations even before the single Party has been formed. And this is why we have consistently emphasized that the work of building a revolutionary workers’ movement and a united front under proletarian leadership need not and should not wait for the establishment of the Party, and that, in fact, it was through the various communist organizations, uniting as closely as possible to carry out this work, and conducting ideological struggle in this context, that the basis for the Party would be laid. The principle involved here is that the Party must be established, and must be built up after it is founded, through active participation in class struggle, and not “from the sidelines.” This is why the central task as we formulated it has been correct for the period of the past few years, and why it is on the basis of building on the work that has been done in carrying out this task that the Party must be established, to lay the basis for further advances in building and leading the struggle of the class and the masses.

At this time we see that the key to establishing a real general staff–vanguard Party–of the class, and to raising the workers’ movement and the whole mass movement to a higher level, lies in developing the battle plan for the period ahead–the Programme–and in uniting as many forces as possible on the basis of Marxism-Leninism to carry out that Programme – to deploy our forces – in the most systematic way possible. We believe that the development of this Programme, and the founding of the Party on the basis of unity around a correct Programme, is the key link in this period that will enable us to advance the work of building a revolutionary workers’ movement and a united front under proletarian leadership.

We are especially concerned with training advanced workers as communists-through the course of struggle-but we also believe that what Lenin wrote in WHAT IS TO BE DONE? applies to our situation today: “we must have a committee of professional REVOLUTIONARIES, and it is immaterial whether a student or a worker is capable of becoming a professional revolutionary ... I mean PROFESSIONAL REVOLUTIONARIES, irrespective of whether they have developed from among students or working men. (“Organization of Workers and Organization of Revolutionaries,” WHAT IS TO BE DONE?, Lenin, Vol. 5, pp. 462, 464 – emphasis his.) Lenin’s point is very important today, especially in the face of the growing struggle of the masses – the working class and the masses need all the real revolutionary leadership they can get, drawn from all those in society who can grasp proletarian ideology and bring it to the struggle of the class and the masses, and they need it united into a single general staff, united around a correct line and Programme and organized into a real fist.

To some degree, in fact, the communist movement in this country over the past period has gone through some of the stages that Lenin described in the Russian movement, in WHAT IS TO BE DONE? and which are summarized in the first two chapters of HISTORY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION. In the early period of the communist movement in Russia, various revolutionary circles developed, mainly among the intellectuals, but attracting a small number of workers. Within this development, the fight for Marxist ideology was waged, and many of the revolutionary forced were won to Marxism in word at least). But, as the HCPSU puts it, the Marxist circles had “no connections, or very scant connections, with the mass working-class movement.” In this situation, Lenin struggled with these circles which “did not realize the necessity for passing to mass agitation among the working class” and developing connections with its practical movement (see pp. 15, 25 HCPSU). On the basis of carrying out this task of passing to mass agitation and linking up with the practical workers’ movement, the Marxists did sink roots among the masses. But, in the course of this, different tendencies developed among the Marxist forces themselves. Lenin led the fight for a revolutionary Marxist line–in opposition to Economism and various other opportunist trends–and fought for the establishment of a real organization of professional revolutionaries.

Obviously, no two movements in different countries in different historical periods (though in the same general stage of imperialism) go through exactly the same steps, but there are important similarities between the developments in the Russian Marxist movement at that time and the recent developments in the communist movement in this country, and there are important lessons to be drawn from this. While the connections of the Marxists in Russia with the workers’ movement were stronger at the time WHAT IS TO BE DONE? was written, than the connections of the communists in the U.S. today with the workers’ movement, it was still the case, according to Lenin, that until the 1905 revolution in Russia, “Several hundred revolutionary organizers, several thousand members of local organizations, half a dozen revolutionary papers appearing not more frequently than once a month . . . such were the revolutionary parties in Russia, and the revolutionary Social-Democracy in particular.” (Lenin, ”Lecture on the 1905 Revolution,” Vol. 23, p. 238) But, as Lenin also noted, because the basic line and Programme of the revolutionary Marxists (Social-Democrats) was correct, and because they rooted themselves in the mass movement, they grew tremendously in the revolutionary upsurge of 1905.

In this country in the past period communist collectives and other revolutionary organizations developed and many of these forces have gone to the working class–ideologically and in their practical work. On this basis, experience has been accumulated and summed up–though not nearly systematically enough. But, at this point, different tendencies have developed, different lines on how to move forward. The main immediate task– main but not single–is to sum up this work more systematically, and carry out ideological struggle to develop the Programme that can serve as the battle plan for the general staff–the Party.

This does not mean that the work of building a revolutionary workers’ movement, and a united front under proletarian leadership, should stop until the Programme has been systematized and the Party has been formed. All of these tasks–at all times–must be carried out simultaneously. But in the period ahead, until the establishment of the Party, the key link is the founding of the Party on the basis of developing the Programme and uniting all who can be united on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. Overall, both before and after the Party is formed, the central task of communists has been and will be to build the revolutionary workers’ movement as the leading force in the anti-imperialist united front. Both before and after the Party is formed, the work of communists in the U.S., even during this pre-revolutionary period, must be guided by the principle formulated by the Chinese Communist Party in the polemic on the “General Line”: “Even in ordinary times (non-revolutionary situations),WHERE IT IS LEADING THE MASSES IN THE DAY TO DAY STRUGGLE, the proletarian party should IDEOLOGICALLY, POLITICALLY AND ORGANIZATIONALLY PREPARE ITS OWN RANKS AND THE MASSES FOR REVOLUTION, AND PROMOTE REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLES (mass struggles that attack and expose the system), so that it will not miss the opportunity to overthrow the reactionary regime and establish a new state power when the conditions for revolution are ripe. Otherwise, when the conditions for revolution are ripe, the proletarian party will simply throw away the opportunity for seizing victory.” (“Proposal Concerning the General Line . . .p. 24, emphasis and words in parentheses, ours).

Again, for a brief period, in the immediate future, even while we CONTINUE AND STEP UP our mass work, the question of establishing the Programme and the Party on this basis becomes the key to taking the work of building the revolutionary workers’ movement to a higher level. And, if we were mechanical about the question of central task, seeing it as always the same and unchanging, then we could never form the Party–a genuine vanguard Party – and never fully develop a revolutionary workers’ movement and a united front under proletarian leadership.

We will go into the actual basis of our “party proposal” to the national liaison committee in the final part of this paper, but first, let’s contrast the line we have outlined above with the line on party-building in the BWC paper.

The BWC says that we must rally the advanced sector of the proletariat and develop its class consciousness FIRST, build a Party on this basis, and only then can our central task become the winning of the MAJORITY of the class for proletarian revolution. Besides BWC’s erroneous ideas of an advanced worker, there is something else wrong here. When will the task of winning over the advanced sector of the proletariat and developing its class consciousness be COMPLETED–as the BWC says it must before the central task can change from its line on Party-building. In the real world, truly advanced workers come forward all the time, in the course of struggle. There will never be a point (short of communism) when they are all won to communism, because that is a continual process. The BWC’s error here, among other things, is to artificially wall off the advanced workers, from ”the majority of the class” and from the mass struggle. Where this line will lead the BWC, and has already led the CL, in practice, is to the position of relating to the struggle of the masses, only for the purpose of attracting “advanced workers,” taking them away from the mass struggle and “developing their class consciousness” in isolation from the mass movement.

And what will be different after the Party is formed–if it is formed in this way? What will make the central task then building the revolutionary workers’ movement, according to the logic of this line? Basically nothing will have changed by forming the Party, because there will still be “advanced workers” whose class consciousness must be developed “FIRST”–and this approach will never lead to concentration on building the revolutionary struggle of the class and the masses. Despite its word of criticism for the tendency to see building the Party “as the only task, as an end in itself, and disregard preparatory work that must be done within the spontaneous revolutionary movement,” (BWC paper, p.16) the BWC has fallen into exactly this tendency.

This relates to their notion of a pure Party, “free from opportunism.” They seem to think that if you select out the “advanced workers” and get them into this Party, they will be “saved,” and automatically remain “advanced workers” forever–as long as they can be taught the rituals of book-worship and trained to exorcise Economism by repeating the phrase ”bowing to spontaneity . . . bowing to spontaneity . . .” As we said we don’t think that many truly advanced workers will be attracted to or follow this line, and it certainly won’t build a mass movement.

And on the question of advanced, this, too, is a question of motion and development. As Mao Tsetung has said, and as all Marxism-Leninism teaches us, even for communists, you must CONTINUE to advance or you will degenerate and even cease to be a communist. The fact is-and this is always the case, both before and after the Party is formed–truly advanced people can only be developed in the course of mass struggle, and can only remain advanced-and this means CONTINUING TO ADVANCE FURTHER–if they continue to root themselves in the struggles of the masses, as well as in the study of Marxism-Leninism.

The one-sided “single-focus” approach to building the Party has already arisen in the BWC’s work in recent months. For example, in Detroit the BWC put out a leaflet, supposedly summing up the work of a defense committee for a Black worker there. The leaflet doesn’t sound too bad for a while, it even talks about building “black-white unity and truly multinational unity among working people,” but then it gets to its real point: “Without a Revolutionary Workers Party to lead us and show, by example, how to struggle, we relied only on ourselves (this means the people working with the committee–RU) and our allies.” From there the leaflet trips off about how we need a party not like the ”revisionist counter-revolutionary Communist Party USA . . . (that even tries) to apologize for the counterrevolutionary government of the USSR etc. etc.” And the BWC put this leaflet out in the name of the defense committee!

This was the product of the BWC’s work in that committee in recent months, under the growing influence of its present line. It was to reduce it to a “recruiting ground” for this Revolutionary Workers Party the BWC is building. The BWC did criticize itself later for the kind of sectarianism represented by this leaflet, but unfortunately this sectarianism flows directly from the line on party-building that the BWC has adopted.

And another indication of this tendency was the line put forward by BWC, and PRRWO, at a conference of “third world people” organized mainly by BWC and PRRWO in New York, February 23. This conference did attract some 500 people, especially anti-imperialist youth of many different political tendencies. This showed that many people are looking for direction and the basis of unity in the struggle. But the BWC and PRRWO offered the people there, many of whom did not consider themselves Marxist-Leninists, no concrete guidance, no programme, no basis of uniting in the struggle–except the single task of studying Marxism-Leninism to form the Party. We, of course, think it is correct and very important to win as many people as possible to Marxism-Leninism and to the need for a Marxist-Leninist Party–but not in the absence of, and in effect as a substitute for, a Programme for the mass struggle. And we can see that this kind of line is really only a thin veneer covering an essentially rightist line that preaches to the masses that they cannot accomplish anything through mass struggle until a Marxist-Leninist Party is built, that can somehow magically, “by example” show them how to struggle. This line belittles the workers’ and mass struggles and belittles the Party, by reducing it to a sect of self-cultivators divorced from mass struggle.

Finally, on the question of party-building, we want to take up the Bundism of the BWC on this question. The BWC says in its paper that it has immunized itself against Bundism by declaring that it is in favor of a single multi-national Party of the proletariat in the U.S. But the Bundist line on party-building, in Russia, for example, did not consist simply in fighting against the formation of a single Party and for separate parties for workers of different nationalities–though it took this form at times. At other times, it took the form of insisting on a special role for itself, and the workers of its nationality, within the single Party. This view is adopted by the BWC in its line on revolutionary nationalism as the ideology of workers of oppressed nationalities, and is borne out by the statements of a leader of the BWC who insisted that Black workers will play the leading role in uniting the class, and that this will be reflected on all levels of organization, including the Marxist-Leninist level.

But more than the statements of a particular leader of BWC, the basis of a Bundist line on party-building was laid out in the past by BWC in the line that its role was to rally the Black workers to Marxism-Leninism, raise the consciousness of the “BLACK SECTOR” of the proletariat, increase ITS organization, etc., to lay the basis for the Party, and as a necessary step before the Party could be formed. (This is spelled out in internal documents of the BWC, which were given to RU leadership within the past 6 months). Despite this, Bundism is not what characterized the BWC line, until very recently, when it has made a retreat from Marxism-Leninism and is moving quickly to an opportunist position.


Up to this point in this paper, we have focused our comments on the line of the BWC, since it is their paper we are replying to. On the other hand, the BWC paper indicates that the PRRWO agrees with the line of the BWC, and for that reason our comments on the questions of line also apply to PRRWO. With respect to the question of a Bundist line on party-building, as applied to the PRRWO specifically, we believe that there were aspects of this line in positions of the PRRWO, dating back to its Congress in the summer of 1972. For example, in the Resolutions from that Congress, along with the statements on the need for a single Party of the multi-national proletariat, there is the statement that “in the United States, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organizations have to develop among Afro-Americans, Chicanos, Asians, Native Americans and North Americans to analyze their work and experiences with the proletariat of their nationality to create a base for a multi-national proletarian party in the future.”

Again, we want to say that we do not believe that Bundism, or any other form of opportunism CHARACTERIZED the PRRWO–and in fact what characterized them was a moving away from some of these Bundist aspects in particular–until recently, when PRRWO has also apparently retreated from Marxism-Leninism. And we want to point out that Bundist tendencies on the question of party-building, and in other areas, too, also existed in our own organization–consciously pushed by a former leading member of our organization, but tailed after, to some degree, by other people in leadership positions in our organization. The important question is motion and development–what direction forces are moving in. And we raise the past positions of PRRWO and BWC now only because of the path that they have taken of late, and because in its paper, the BWC avoids mention of these positions and tries to cover up and distort the real development of relations between the three organizations. And it is important to sum up this development accurately, in order to determine the correct road forward, along the path of Marxism-Leninism and not opportunism.

We will not try in this paper to review all the history of relations between the three organizations, but will focus on the RU’s “party proposal” and the developments around it, bringing in other developments as they relate to this.

At the time the RU leadership first made this proposal–about 6 months ago–it appeared that considerable ideological unity had been achieved between the three organizations. At that time, both PRRWO and BWC held fundamentally the same position as the RU or, the Black national question: that it was a nation of a new type as laid out in RP 5 (this is expressed, for example, in the internal documents of the BWC referred to earlier, although seeds of differences were there, around the Black bourgeoisie and “the leading role of Black workers,” in particular.) And the BWC, RU and PRRWO all agreed on what was at that time the central task of communists (the BWC acknowledges this in its paper).

The “party proposal” on the part of the RU leadership was based on several factors: the growing difficulties of U.S. imperialism, at home and abroad, and the general turmoil in the imperialist camp as a whole, which could all be taken advantage of much more fully if the class and the masses had a unified general staff at their head; the apparent unity of the RU, BWC and PRRWO, which, despite whatever differences seemed to remain, was strong enough, we felt, to serve as the basis for winning over and uniting with as many honest Marxist-Leninist forces as possible to form the Party, while isolating any die-hard opportunists; and the fact that the RU leadership had summed up as a serious error, the tendency in our own organization, and other sections of the communist movement, to almost make a PRINCIPLE out of NOT HAVING a Party. We felt that, on the basis of the (apparent) unity of the three organizations, we could seize the time to build a genuine Party and resolve any remaining differences–of immediate importance–in the course of moving to the Party. We know that, even with the Party, there are and will always be differences, but we felt that the unity was great enough to resolve these differences best in the context of a single Party.

These were the main reasons for our proposal, and the essence of the proposal was far different from the way the BWC presents it in its paper (see p. 14). We saw the organizing of “flying squads” to win over various “independent collectives” and other Marxist-Leninist forces – Third World as well as white and multi-national – as an important part of the proposal, but not the ESSENCE of it. The essence was to move to form the Party within a year, on the basis of developing a draft Programme (or several draft programmes) which would be circulated among all the organizations and forces that we were trying to unite with to form the Party. The key factor, which the BWC paper leaves out completely, was that the resolution of the question, the adoption of the final Programme and the selection of the leadership of the Party-would be accomplished “from the bottom up,” (as opposed to “the top down”), by involving and relying on all the members of these organizations and forces. This would take place at a founding Congress, where all these organizations and forces would be represented on a proportional basis (one delegate for so many members of the organization), upholding the principle that “all communists are equal.” Of course, at this Congress, delegates would vote as individuals, not in “blocs,” and the old democratic centralism of the former organizations would give way to the new democratic centralism of the Party that was being founded.

We did propose the expansion of the existing liaison committee to include more representatives from the three organizations and that it should be further expanded in the future to include representatives of other forces we were unifying with around building the Party. But we never saw the liaison committee as “the basis of the Central Committee for the new Party,” as the BWC paper says. We did use the term “rump central committee,” to describe the functions we felt this extended national liaison committee should have: to guide the work of the “flying squads,” and the drafting of the programmes, to prepare the basis for the Congress, where things would be settled “from the bottom up,” on the basis of elections, including the election by the Congress itself of a Central Committee of the Party. All the details of this proposal were not worked out, of course, but this was the essence of it.

The opposition of BWC and PRRWO to this proposal was mainly expressed in the form of arguing that the RU was essentially a ”white petty bourgeois organization,” and that bringing in “independent collectives” would only make the character of the Party more “white, petty bourgeois.” Besides pointing out that we were not just talking about “white” collectives, we argued that, while the class origins of the members of an organization are important, the most important thing, and the thing that basically defines the class character of an organization is its ideological and political line, its programme for mass struggle and the question of what class it is concentrating its work in. And we pointed out that the BWC-PRRWO “class analysis” of the origins of RU members was not entirely accurate, and questioned the basis on which they could claim to have made such an analysis. In any case, we said, every Party in every country had many petty bourgeois people in it at the start and had to further proletarianize its composition.

The BWC and PRRWO did not reject outright the idea of moving to the Party in about a year’s time, but they rejected the essence of our proposal for developing the Party and proposed instead, as it is put in the BWC paper, to “strengthen the role and work of the BWC and PRRWO in the revolutionary national movements and as Communist organizations as a first step towards party building.” (p. 14) We argued that, instead of continuing to build SEPARATE COMMUNIST organizations of different nationalities, we should unite into a single party all genuine Marxist-Leninists of all nationalities, and FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE OF A SINGLE PARTY build anti-imperialist, revolutionary nationalist MASS organizations, and other forms of organization, among the oppressed nationalities. It is their insistence on continuing to develop separate national forms of COMMUNIST organizations when the possibility of forming the Party exists that characterizes an essential aspect of their Bundism. Why can’t we ALL – the white and Third World comrades of the RU, PRRWO, BWC and others – unite as Marxist-Leninists into a single Party to lead the class and to develop most fully the role of communists in the national movements–recognizing, of course, that it will be communists (party members) of the oppressed nationalities who will carry out the practical work of the Party in this area.

What is involved here is the BWC-PRRWO idea of the SPECIAL AND INDEPENDENT ROLE of Black and other Third World people within the COMMUNIST movement -as opposed to the correct idea of the SPECIAL ROLE of communists of these oppressed nationalities in the MASS MOVEMENT of the oppressed nationalities. This, too, characterizes their line on party-building as Bundism–which, whatever form it takes, has an essential feature of raising nationality above class in the mass movement AND in the communist movement. As we said in NB13, it is true that in the history of the U.S. communist movement (and in every country), wherever revisionism has won out it has led to the liquidation of the national question as well as the overall class struggle. But, either we believe that this problem can be solved on the basis of a correct line and uniting people on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and the interests of the proletariat–or we would have to conclude that there is no solution. It definitely cannot be solved on the basis of Bundism, “adapting socialism to nationalism.”

Unfortunately, the discussion around the proposal–at the first and only meeting of the extended liaison committee held to discuss it – never got very far and was generally marked by considerable subjectivity, including some on our part – though not in the main and not without considerable provocation, in the form of attacks on our organization and its leadership (or “part” of its leadership), both before and at the meeting, on the basis that we are, as an organization “national chauvinist,” that certain leading members are “careerist,” etc. It is true that we struggled, at this meeting–and before it–over the questions of revolutionary nationalism and “Black Workers Take the Lead,” but we did not characterize the leadership of BWC and PRRWO as “degenerating into Bundism and bourgeois nationalism” (p. 14, BWC paper), – though, on the basis of developments since then we do so characterize their tendency now.

In fact the terms of the struggle over revolutionary nationalism are very revealing, in light of developments since that meeting and the BWC paper in particular. At the meeting, we put forward the position on the statement that “a Black Marxist-Leninist must be a revolutionary nationalist,” that this was true PROGRAMMATICALLY BUT NOT IDEOLOGICALLY. And we added two qualifying factors: first that supporting and uniting with revolutionary nationalism in the mass struggle was not only the programmatic approach for Black communists, but for the communist movement as a whole in this country; and second that supporting and uniting with revolutionary nationalism was only a PART and not the WHOLE of the practical work of Black communists. This stemmed from the analysis of the differences between the struggle for Black liberation in this country, and its relation to proletarian revolution, on the one hand, and the war of national liberation waged in China, on the other hand, when Mao wrote that in wars of national liberation “patriotism is applied internationalism.”

In response to this position of ours, we were told that “it is opportunist to separate your programme from your ideology.” Yet, now we are attacked for supposedly confusing programme with ideology; although, as we have shown, it is the BWC – and PRRWO – that confuses and equates programme with ideology. We want to emphasize, yet another time, that in the mass struggle, communists must unite with and support revolutionary nationalism, while bringing forward and fighting for proletarian ideology. In the national question in the U.S. today, as in all periods, the essential question is leadership–the contest between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie for leadership of the national movement. Exactly by uniting with revolutionary nationalism in the mass struggle, developing an anti-imperialist programme to link the national struggle with the overall class struggle, and bringing forward an independent communist line–this is how proletarian leadership is won in the national struggle. But the line that BWC and PRRWO are putting forward is not really revolutionary nationalism, it is opportunism, it is Bundism, adapting Marxism-Leninism to nationalism, to bourgeois ideology. And this is at the heart of the current ideological struggle.

At the end of the last liaison meeting, it was agreed that the most important thing was to continue ideological struggle over important differences – especially the questions of revolutionary nationalism and “Black Workers Take the Lead,” – and that this would be the purpose of the next liaison meeting, which was scheduled for a little more than a month later. It was also agreed – in words at least – that the “spirit” with which we would all leave the meeting and approach relations in the future would be to do everything possible to preserve unity, on a principled basis, to avoid public airing of differences where possible, and to make them non-antagonistic where they did occur.

Shortly after that meeting, the struggle with our opportunist former leading member came to a head, and NB13 was written as an internal document of our organisation, to sum up that struggle, and not, as we said before, as a polemic against BWC and/or PRRWO. As we noted at the beginning of this document, we did give NB 13 to the leadership of these organizations–and only to their leadership–for the reasons stated at the start of this paper. In particular, we hoped that it would help to serve as a framework for the ideological struggle that was supposed to take place at the next national liaison meeting, because it did deal with questions central to the differences.

For our part, the leadership of the RU carried out the policy agreed to at the last liaison meeting. We made no attacks on BWC or PRRWO, or on their leaderships, to their own cadre, to other people outside our organization–or to the cadre of the RU. Unfortunately, the leadership of both BWC and PRRWO stepped up their attacks on our organization and its “chauvinist . . . economist . . . opportunist” leadership – even inventing slander and distortion about the RU and its work, and carrying these attacks not only to cadre of our organization, but to other people we work with, and even making them at public meetings. In one city, in particular, where this repeatedly occurred and after unsuccessful efforts to resolve it through discussion with the leadership of the BWC, in this case, we were finally forced to make a reply to some of the more outrageous of these attacks, but we did not adopt the policy of “taking the offensive.”

At the last minute–only a few days before it was to take place–the next scheduled liaison meeting was called off, at the request of the BWC–though clearly with the consultation and agreement of PRRWO. No new meeting has been scheduled, and the BWC paper we are replying to here seems to have taken the place of discussion around the differences at the liaison level. And, at the same time, BWC and PRRWO have been continuing attacks on our organizations and sabotaging principled relations.

As we said in NB13, in the past there have been differences in line between the three organizations–some of them pretty sharp–but this did not lead to the kind of situation we have now. In the past, with regard to PRRWO (YLP) especially, there have been occasions when members of their organization have split from it, attacked it and approached us on that basis. We have always taken the stand of maintaining principled relations and principled ideological struggle, and have not taken the approach of trying to split PRRWO or BWC–even in the particular case where, in the short run, we agreed more with the line of the people who were splitting from PRRWO (YLP at the time) than with the leadership of PRRWO (YLP). In the more recent past, we struggled with the PRRWO leadership when we felt that they were in fact liquidating the national question and reducing everything to the class question. This is well known to the leadership of PRRWO, and BWC, and can be firmly documented. And, even at this point, while we feel that the line adopted by BWC and PRRWO is in fact “degenerating into Bundism and bourgeois nationalism,” and other aspects of opportunism, we certainly have not ruled out the possibility of uniting with these organizations, as a whole, including their leadership, on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. But we know that such unity can only be achieved on the basis of principled ideological struggle.

As is clear in the BWC paper, however, they (BWC, PRRWO) are openly attempting to split the RU, making appeals to the “revolutionary cadre,” the ”honest cadre,” etc. of the RU and putting forward the line that the organizations are “unable to respect each other.” (p. 1, BWC paper) This is disturbing not because of any possible effect it may have on the RU, but because of what it indicates about the methods of struggle that the BWC and PRRWO have elected to use–methods which are anything but principled.

And this goes hand in hand with their attempt to turn things upside down and make it appear as though the RU has departed from its own line. The BWC, in its paper, tries to say that it agrees with the RU line as expressed in RED PAPERS 1 & 2, while trying to say that the RU has changed its line since then (see the last sentence of their “Introduction”). There have, of course, been some changes and developments in the RU line not only since RED PAPERS 1 & 2, but even since RED PAPERS 4 & 5 – with which the BWC and PRRWO obviously do not agree. The RU line, like all things in the real world, has changed and developed in particular aspects throughout the organization, but the BASIC line has remained the same.

And, in fact, the BWC and PRRWO do not really agree with the “essential thrust” of RP 1 & 2. For example, in RP 2, the statement is made that the Black nation does not meet all the criteria Stalin laid out for a nation – when it was essentially a peasant question – and that despite this, self-determination as a right must be upheld, but that this has not been the heart of the Black people’s struggle, that it has been “around other democratic demands” as well as against oppression and exploitation as members of the single U.S. working class. This is the very line that BWC attacks in its paper, while trying to make it appear that it agrees with the line of RP 2, but the RU leadership has retreated from its own line to a “PL line.” (See the “United Front” article, in RP 2, section on “The National Liberation of Black and Mexican-American People and Support for the Democratic Demands of All Oppressed Minorities.”)

Contrary to what is said in the BWC paper, the RU has never regarded its line as “100% correct.” (p. 15, BWC paper). This is the kind of metaphysical thinking that characterizes the line that BWC. and PRRWO have adopted. We have pointed out the opposite of this in NB 13. And at the last national liaison meeting, we said that our line has always been generally correct, but like the line of any communist organization at any point, it has also always contained aspects of incorrectness, and there has always been a struggle between right and wrong lines in our organization, on one level or another. What has characterized our line as generally correct is that the correct aspects of our line have been principal over the incorrect aspects. Again, this was stated directly at the last national liaison meeting.

In particular, on the national question, at the time the RU was founded, our line, while generally correct, contained a lot of baggage from non-proletarian movements and ideologies, and tailed after such ideas as “the mother country and the colony,” which were developed by the Panthers and others, and which can be found in RP 1 & 2, running counter to the generally correct understanding. The more we have sunk roots in the class and the masses, and the more firmly we have grasped the proletarian line, the more we have moved away from this and other baggage, and we have tried to sum up this development at each point. For example, in RP 5, we criticize part of our formulation on the national question in RP 1. In that RP 5 we say, once again, that our formulation on the national question, though correct, a correct foundation, must be developed further through the work not only of our organization, but other Marxists-Leninists. And as NB 13 says, ”Through the struggle against the opportunist line of the Franklins, the publication of RP 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.” This process of developing our line through summing up its application to mass struggle and through ideological struggle based on this kind of summation will always go on, not only in the RU, but in the future Party, and in all genuine communist organizations in every country.

In this light the cheap shot in the BWC paper is completely ridiculous and totally anti-Marxist: “If the RU’s line in more correct–and they have had over five years to implement it–why haven’t they been more successful in uniting the class?” (p. 11) Just imagine, five years, and the class is still not united for revolution!–well, if we follow the advice of the BWC paper, we might as well give up! This statement of theirs only reveals the ”gimmick” approach to revolution that they have fallen into–well, we tried that line for a little while, and no revolution, and it’s hard and slow building the mass struggle and raising consciousness that way, so let’s try something else.

In the five years and more of the RU’s development–and the RU does not consider itself the Party–especially after the ideological struggle within the organization against the opportunist line of the Franklins, the RU has grown, has expanded into a national organization, has sunk deeper roots in the class and the masses and has made real contributions to uniting the class and developing its consciousness and struggle, and building toward the formation of the Party through ideological work and struggle to lay the basis for principled unity with others. We are certainly not doing all that we should in this regard, but the current struggle against the opportunist line of Bundism and bourgeois nationalism in general, as well as the struggle against opportunism generally and right errors (and “left” errors, secondarily)–all this will enable us to make greater advances and make more of a contribution to the class struggle and to the development of a vanguard Party to lead the class and the masses. And it will specifically enable us to much better carry out COMMUNIST WORK among Black people and other oppressed nationalities, as well as in the overall class struggle, just as the struggle against the Franklins laid the basis for important advances.

Given the objective conditions in our country–and we think objective conditions are important–as well as the actual state of the subjective factor–the communist movement– we certainly never expected to “turn the world upside down” in five years, nor do we think the task of building the revolutionary workers’ movement and a united front under proletarian leadership will be a quick and easy task, just because the line is basically correct. We are prepared for protracted and difficult struggle, even while we try at every point to maximize the advances and minimize the setbacks of the class struggle.

We think it would be far more helpful if, instead of applying ridiculous and metaphysical standards to the RU’s work and development, the BWC, and PRRWO, made an honest accounting of their own history and development. And more than that, if they reversed their retreat from Marxism-Leninism and turned back from the road of opportunism that they have lately set out on a road of promoting separatism in the guise of fighting for the unity of the class, and re-enforcing national distinctions; equating ideology with programme and inventing a separate ideology for workers of oppressed nationalities; combining dogmatism and sectarianism with nationalism in the question of “advanced worker” and party-building; and overall, and in essence, “adapting socialism to nationalism.” adopting Bundism and waging struggle against Marxism-Leninism on this basis.

The current struggle between the RU on the one hand, and the BWC and PRRWO on the other–a struggle in fact between Marxism and Bundism–has become very sharp exactly because it is over burning questions of the class struggle, questions which must and can be resolved on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, in order to build on the real advances that have been made, overcome present obstacles to further advance, and make a new leap forward. We are confident that this struggle will contribute to the development of greater unity of the revolutionary forces on the basis on Marxism-Leninism, will contribute to the development of a genuine vanguard Party of the proletariat, and to the building of a revolutionary workers’ movement capable of leading the masses of people in overthrowing imperialism and moving forward to socialism and communism.

We would like to remind the BWC and PRRWO of the high spirit of unity that marked the original formation of the liaison. This was based not on an absolute agreement on every political question, but on the commitment to subordinate the interests of our particular organizations to the overall and general interests of the proletariat and to “what was coming into being”–the Party. This was not an organizational question of abolishing the democratic centralism of the separate organizations, but an ideological question of putting our priority on working together to build the mass movement and build toward the Party.

For our part, the RU has always recognized that organizational unity and merger would have to be based on developing closer and closer political unity. But we have always felt sure that this would be achieved so long as we all upheld the spirit of serving the people with which the liaison was formed. It was in this same spirit that we made our party proposal to the liaison committee. And we are convinced that by reviving and upholding this original spirit, principled unity can be achieved through struggle and we can move forward together to “what is coming into being” – the Party and the revolution.