Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Workers Group (Marxist-Leninist)

Our Tasks on the National Question

Against Nationalist Deviations in Our Movement


Ours is a very young movement, and consequently is plagued with the usual confusion and lack of clarity that has characterized the development of every communist movement. We confront the dual task of raising our own level of political competence, and raising the level of our class. Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This is something we have all learned by heart, but the recognition of the fact, alone, is no guarantee that our understanding of theory is correct, that we have the proper grasp on Marxisn^Leninism, or that we have the proper means to test our theory in practice. We are at the same time engaged in a wide variety of work, each having its own demands, demands that often leave little time for anything else. Communist-inclined cadre in the movement who have not had the background or exposure to theoretical work, or who have not yet realized the absolute necessity for every communist to take up this work, naturally look to the established communist organizations for political line and leadership. We read the latest pamphlets, are familiar with the development of each organization, the polemical exchanges, the “two-line struggles”, discuss the major questions, etc., always with the aim of clarifying our organizational tasks, always looking for the most consistent and Marxist-Leninist line around which the movement as a whole can unify.

It was In this vein that we greeted the publication of the Revolutionary Union’s Red Papers 5 and 6 on the national question. We had all heard about this “national question”, and were naturally anxious to see why it is a question, and what the correct answer should be. We were also naturally a little surprized when we opened Red Papers 5 and 6 and found, not a clear presentation of the question but a can of worms. Instead of the “method of Lenin and Stalin” that we are promised in Red Papers 5, we are treated to a series of inventions and shoddy devices, to dimestore dialectics, and to adaptations of socialism to nationalism through revisions of some of the fundamental principles of Marxism. To anyone who has given the national question serious thought, and who has subjected themselves to the tedious study of the Red Papers, there can be no other conclusion except that the RU’s line completely breaks with Marxism-Leninism.

We were told that the position was “tentative” and “still open to discussion”, and yet the entire movement knows that the RU line has been defended in practice as a fundamental principle of their program. The RU wants it both ways. They would like to pass off the Nation of a New Type as a theoretical solution to the national question, but since they smell something foul, leave the door cracked a bit. The line has been “proven In practice”. It therefore must be “predominantly” correct, or in the RU’s words: “Our line has always been generally correct”. “Generally” baked, is of course better than half-baked, depending on who is expected to swallow it. It doesn’t occur to the RU that even economism is “proven in practice”. If your goal is a dime an hour more, no one will disappoint you.

We must remind the RU of the tasks we have set ourselves. Our tasks in practical work aim at the consolidation of our class, its organizational and ideological cohesion, its unity and force of action. Our ideological tasks clear the way for that practical unity by forging a principled and unbreakable unity of line. These tasks confront us at every turn, demanding resolution. Thus far we all agree. In the RU’s words:

Our major criticism has to be directed against our own work and our proven inability at a trying time to consolidate our ranks, unify our ideologies, and advance to a higher level of unity in struggle.” Red Papers 5 p.7

The question is, do we raise ourselves to the level of our tasks, or do we degrade our tasks so they can be more readily resolved? What can we say of an organization that professes to “higher levels”, to the “method of Lenin and Stalin”, which assumes it has sufficiently mastered that method to make “an important contribution to the U.S. revolutionary movement”, which pats itself on the back for doing so, but which continually violates that method, revises Marxism, and presents us with a “’subjective’ concoction to justify what might prove to be dirty business” (Lenin)? What can we say of an organization that quacks away about “higher levels”, but consistently bows before its own “proven inabilities”, fosters opportunism on fundamental questions, and restricts the development of our movement?

We do not demand an impeccable movement, free from errors, shortcomings or mistakes. We only demand, and must continually and insistently demand, that it be free of gross errors, gross shortcomings, and gross mistakes. The Nation of a New Type has been put before the movement as the theoretical solution to the national question. We are presently being urged to unify around that line. If for the sake of convenience, of “unity”, and consolidation of a Party, we were to gloss over the ”opportunist sins” of the RU and compromise around this line, give it an organized form, and make it the basis for mass work on the national question, the inevitable result would be the lowering of all Party work around the lowest common denominator, around compromise of every Marxist-Leninist principle that stood in the way of “palpable” results. We should remember that every line developed by our movement has the potential of becoming a material force, of leading the workingclass in one direction or another. What began as theoretical opportunism, of compromise in principle, may, if it is not cut short in the theoretical stage, develop a material momentum of its own, of practical opportunism and compromise of the movement. In “trying times” this tendency is given a helping hand by the backwardness of our movement, our lack of experience and formulation. Hence the absolute necessity for every rank and file Marxist-Leninist to raise themselves to the level of our tasks, to double and triple their efforts, to establish firm principles in our work, and put an end to liberalism in study and compromise in Marxist principle.

In unraveling this ball of string, we will find that every loose end is tied to another, and it is only through such “interconnections” that the RU formulation resembles a coherent line. It differs from the BWC’s position only in that it is more sophisticated, more devious, and a more structured form of opportunism. The BWC adapts socialism to nationalism directly, and is never very successful with its theoretical inventions (’revolutionary nationalism’). It sets itself up as an easy target. The RU, on the other hand, adapts socialism to nationalism through slight of hand, deception and mystification of the national question. In this it reveals a much greater potential not only for accommodating nationalism, but of adapting Marxism-Leninism to opportunism in general.

In the polemics between the RU and the BWC each justifies, to some extent, the accusations made against the other. The RU rightly accuses the BWC of turning the national question into a vehicle for separatism; the BWC rightly accuses the RU of “raising the national question only to liquidate it”. The BWC turns the criteria of nationhood into a means of reclaiming the “historic homeland”. The RU interprets the criteria to mean Blacks can be, and in fact, are a nation regardless of territory. The BWC accommodates nationalism in order to fulfill it, in order to create a Black nation. The KU accommodates nationalism in order to defuse it. Both lines have the common feature of adapting socialism to nationalism.

It may be argued that the RU’s line is closer to Marxism-Leninism since it puts less emphasis on forming a Black Belt state, and upholds proletarian Internationalism over “revolutionary nationalism”. What is significant in revisions of Marxism-Leninism is not the preference for one or another desired result, but rather the fact that those results are the product of opportunism. It makes little difference whether the RU adapts socialism to nationalism, or nationalism to socialism. What concerns us here is that this accomodation has been made, and made through a distortion of Marxism-Leninism, through a revision of Marxist principles on the national question. Theoretical opportunism on such an important question is just an indication of theoretical opportunism in general.

A. Criteria

The RU presumes, on special grounds, that Blacks currently are a nation, even though they are not concentrated on the same territory. Since it has granted nationality, it also grants the right to self-determination. But, we are told, the question of political secession is not “at the heart of the Black liberation struggle today”. Those who believe it is:

...base themselves on a mechanical attempt to apply to Black people, Stalin’s criteria for what does and what does not constitute a nation. In so doing, they actually play down the potential power of the Black people’s movement. They reduce the question of the Black nation to mere geography. Blacks outside the ’Black Belt’, the majority of Black people within the U.S. borders, become merely a ’national minority’ within the ’white oppressor nation’. Whites in the ’Black Belt’, who actually outnumber the Blacks there, become a ’national minority’ within the ’Black Belt’ nation. This makes a mockery of Marxism-Leninism. The essence of Stalin’s definition of a nation is the common historical evolution of a people. It is the common oppression of Black people, and their common resistance, throughout their history in this country and down to today, north as well as south, that established them as a nation. Theirs is obviously distinct from the historical evolution of a southern white, or a northern white. Red Papers 2 p.12

From this we have:(1) that any attempt to consistently apply Stalin’s four criteria of a nation is “mechanical”; (2) that insistence on fulfilling the territorial criteria reduces the national question to “mere” geography; (3) that there appears to be some logical difficulty in justifying a Black nation in the South, where, by EU’s figures, Blacks are outnumbered; (A) that the “essential thrust” therefore cannot be to establish a Black nation in the South, which would be a “mockery of Marxism-Leninism”; (5) that the RU has set Itself a different course in mocking Marxism-Leninism; (6) that since we should not “mechanically” apply Stalin’s criteria, that is, in detail and as principles, we should instead abstract from his definition only what suits us; and (7) that what suits the RU is “common historical evolution”, which becomes the main criteria.

Instead of four criteria of nationhood –language, territory, economy, and psychological make-up – we now have a fifth, i.e. “historically constituted”. According to James Jackson, “stable community” is also a criteria, so in fact we have six. What does Stalin have to say about all these criteria?

A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture. Stalin Marxism and the National Question p.12

It goes without saying that historical constitution and stability are features of a nation. It is just as clear that historical evolution and stability do not occur in the abstract, but are a mode of development of a people. For this mode of development to result in a nation, it must have certain characteristics, component parts, that give it a particular, national form. Those characteristics are the four characteristics, or criteria, that Stalin discusses: language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up. The general development of the nation occurs on the basis of these four features. It follows that if there is no “historical constitution” or no “stability”, this will be the result of changes In one or more of the basic criteria. Changes in territory, economy, & etc. directly effect the relative degree of historical development and continuity. If we do not separate these categories, if we do not distinguish between the mode of development and the concrete aspects of that mode, then we have missed the ABC of Marxist analysis, and have no way of distinguishing the woods from the trees.

The RU, of course, has not simply misread Stalin. They have set out in their discussion of the national question with the very definite aim of winning over nationalist tendencies within the movement. If they hold to a “mechanical attempt” to apply Stalin’s four criteria, they suspect that they will have to conclude that Blacks are not a nation, and therefore have no right to self-determination. This would put them in the embarrassing position of siding with the CPUSA, and alienate the Black nationalists who would immediately fall beyond the RU’s sphere of influence.

Migrations pose a difficult problem, in terms of economic community and common territory. The question of common economy can be overcome through a superficial analysis of class structure. Territory can be reduced to “mere geography”. But something more is needed, a new criteria, to bind the revised definition together. Hence, “historically constituted”.

In Red Papers 5 we are told that

...the whole history of the Black people’s oppression and resistance in the heart of the south, while, of course, interrelated with the experience of whites in the region is completely distinct and forms their historical basis as a separate nation. Red Papers 5 p.26

Formerly we had thought that according to Stalin the ”historical basis as a separate nation” was the inter-relation of the four criteria. Now we are told that the historical basis of the Black nation is formed by “oppression and resistance”. Where we had thought that the generations of oppression and resistance of Blacks had formed their particular psychological make-up and common culture, that is, of one criteria, we now find that oppression and resistance play a much larger role, are in fact the basis of Black nationhood. The identity of Black people, what the BWC calls “sufficient internal cohesion”, thus becomes the main prerequisite for nationhood. We must remind the RU that is was on the basis of this “criteria” that the CPUSA liquidated the national question.

Although Blacks are dispersed from the South, we are told they have not undergone the process of assimilation into the white-European nation. Therefore they continue to be “historically constituted” as a separate entity within the U.S. This in effect says that migrations have no influence on national status, that a people may disperse completely, and if they are not assimilated, continue to compose a nation.

Under these conditions, the break-up of the Black nation in the south has not and cannot mean that the Black people are assimilated into the society as a whole, that they simply merge into the class structure according to their relative numbers. Red Papers 5 p.32

Instead of assimilation, we have ghettos, and within the ghettos a definite class structure. Black workers are forced into the lowest paid and most oppressive jobs. Racism prevents professional and petty bourgeois Blacks from merging into the white power structure. A ghetto economy evolves. In short, Blacks are still “historically constituted” as a people. The RU quotes Stalin’s passage on migrations in which Stalin asks if it is possible to have a single national union when dispersion has broken up the old nation, resulting in new ties, new habits and distinctions. The RU replies:

Is it true today that Black people have ’grown so distinct’? We don’t believe that it is. Their culture, based on their common historical and present day experience as a people, is still a single culture, whatever part of the country they inhabit. Is it possible for them to unite into a ’single national union’? We believe it still is. Red Papers 5 p.33

Black people remain distinct, share a common culture “whatever part of the country they inhabit”. Blacks are therefore a nation. As we shall see, the RU will shortly begin tidying up this Bundist formulation, but it should be evident that at the basis of “historically constituted” is the notion that common national identity equals nationhood, and that the definition of a nation is thus put on a subjective basis.

The question arises, do a people have to be assimilated into another nation before they cease to be a separate nation? What is the relationship between assimilation and nationality? Assimilation, like “historic-cally constituted”, is an abstraction that needs particular expressions in order to be meaningful. It is all the particular manifestations of assimilation that gives us the general concept. Capitalism assimilates, both violently and non-violently, aspects of a people that suits its development. Capitalism may disperse a people, attract them to the great-nation economy, and in order to limit them to a specific strata of that economy impose restrictions on their further assimilation. Does the fact that they are not fully assimilated mean that they are still a separate nation? Stalin speaks of a dispersed people acquiring “new contacts...new habits, new tastes...”. Does this mean full and unlimited assimilation? Stalin also speaks of dispersed nationalities being

...made to suffer by the local national majorities in the way of limitations on their languages, schools, etc. Hence national collision. Stalin Marxism and the National Question p.33

It is clear that the lack of cultural assimilation does not prevent other forms of assimilation from occurring. In the case of migrations, there is automatically a form of geographical assimilation. In the case of a dispersed people being held to one strata of the workforce, there is a deliberate policy of economic assimilation, a policy that assimilates a people at their own expense.

It is “sufficient”, in Stalin’s words, for only one of the four criteria to be absent and a nation ceases to be a nation. The RU has reversed Stalin and in effect states that it is “sufficient” for one of the criteria to be present and a nation continues to be a nation. If it is proven that Blacks in the South are a nation, it will be due not to “historical constitution”, but to historical constitution of the four criteria. Likewise, if it is proven that Blacks are no longer a nation, it will be because one of the essential criteria is missing. No degree of national oppression, lack of assimilation, or national consciousness is sufficient to make a people a nation.

The RU suspects all this is true, but cannot bring itself to look facts straight in the face. After placing nationhood on a new foundation, i.e. “historically constituted”, which is free from the demands of territoriality, the RU turns to the question of common economy. The RU asks itself:

...is there still sufficient internal cohesion for the Black people to form a nation? Specifically, is there still the class structure and inter-relation of class forces among the Black people to make possible the establishment of a separate Black state? We are convinced that the answer is yes. Red Papers 5 p.34

Convinced! What greater proof do we need? First we are told that we cannot apply Stalin’s criteria (however many we may choose) in a “mechanical way”. Then we are told that Blacks have sufficient “internal cohesion” to be a nation, regardless of territory. Now we have a transition from ”form a nation” to ”establish a separate Black state”. The RU has got caught in the same contradiction the BWC sought to resolve with petty moralism. Blacks are a nation, regardless of the criteria of nationhood. They therefore have the right to self-determination. But the exercise of self-determination, i.e. political secession in some form, demands the criteria we have just suspended. To establish a separate Black state would require Foster’s “extensive territorial reorganization”, the export of white folk from the Black nation, etc. The RU is a little embarrassed to put forward such a transparent argument before the movement, and so looks for a “common economic community” for filler.

According to the “mechanical” interpretation of Stalin, a common economy is prerequisite for an existing nation. It is the daily business of economic life, exchange, production, division of labor, etc. that bind a people together in a national economic community. According to the RU*s creative application of Marxism, this economic community is not necessary for a people to exist as a nation. It is only necessary for a people to exist as a politically independent nation.

There was, however, and is still today, a basis for forming a separate modern economy in the Black Belt and therefore for forming a separate nation-state. Red Papers 5 p.35

Common economy thus becomes an attribute of political independence and not necessarily of nationality. Thanks to this “important contribution to the U.S. revolutionary movement” we are able to understand that Lenin was wrong in going to such great lengths to separate the notion of political self-determination from the notion of economic self-determination. It follows that if a common economic life is necessary only for the establishment of political independence, then the winning of political Independence is thereby bound to the feasibility of creating a separate economy. From the RU’s line of reasoning, the declaration of political independence is not the political separation of one nation from another, but the process of creating a nation, creating a separate economy, creating the territorial requirement, in short, creating that criteria that Stalin, in his mechanical way, presumed were necessary for a nation regardless of its political status.

What is this existing “class structure and inter-relation of class forces” that would allow the creation of a separate Black state?

While Black people are spread throughout the country, they are also concentrated in the inner-cities. Within the Black communities of these inner-cities, there are still class divisions, and, to a limited degree, an economy-within-an-economy, ghetto business which, although integrated into the overall economy of the country, service the Black communities exclusively. Red Papers 5 p.34

We have ”class divisions” and ghetto businesses. This is to the RU not an on-going economic community, not a separate Black economy, but the raw material for the creation of a separate economy. We are told there are Black professionals, a significant petty bourgeoisie, and a fragmented Black big bourgeoisie.

From among these forces, the bourgeoisie of a separate Black state could still be formed. They are mainly merchant capital; but merchant capital has historically provided the basis for the development of industrial capital, especially once the question of territory functioning as a national market is solved. For these reasons, the question of self-determination, of the creation of a separate Black state, is still a real –and not imaginary– question. Red Papers 5 p.34

In the RU’s view, this “common economy” is a very real possibility. But what sort of common economy is this? If it is to be built with a class structure, with a Black bourgeoisie that “could still be formed”, a Black petty bourgeoisie, and a Black workingclass, we can only assume that the RU intends to construct a Black capitalist economy in the Black Belt. Merchant capital, you see, can evolve into industrial capital. Industrial capital, in turn, demands industrial production, industrial plants, factories, raw materials, power, etc., which is conveniently “solved” by territory. Industrial capital performs a circuit, part of which demands a market, and if it is to be a guaranteed market, a home market. We simply “relocate” the white folk, import a few million Black folk, and we are well on our way to a common economy. In the process, a “bourgeoisie of a separate Black state” would be formed, thus fulfilling the fondest dreams of every Black worker. By this general sketch, we would have acquired the two criteria necessary, not for nationhood, but for political independence. We would have a common, capitalist economy, class structure, and land to set it all on. It is at this point that Blacks, according to the RU, would be able to actually create a nation-state. Formerly they could not actually do so, but due to their “historically constituted” were entitled to the right to do so.

Putting aside for a moment the question of the RU’s motives, what is the course of national movements under imperialism? It is precisely because it wishes to become a big and independent bourgeoisie, establish a home market, and a “separate economy” that the non-comprador section of the bourgeoisie, and the petty bourgeoisie initiate and take part in the national movement. They aim to throw out imperialism and create an independent national capital. In reality they have no hope of succeeding, since even if they were to momentarily separate themselves from Imperialism, they would still have to resolve the contradiction of maintaining a capitalist national economy in an imperialist world market. The imperialists would simply buy them out. In order to be a separate national economy, it must necessarily be a socialist national economy. The nation will either win political independence and continue being economically oppressed by imperialism, in which case its independence is a token, bourgeois-democratic independence. Or it will win political Independence, and in the course of the national movement oust not only imperialism, but all forms of capitalist relations.

This is something the RU has ’forgotten’ while busily constructing an Idealized course of capitalist development In the Black Belt. The bourgeoisie of a separate Black state ”could still be formed”, according to the RU, despite imperialism. The Black bourgeoisie would begin concentrating in the South. They would invest their capital in suitable enterprises, make a decent rate of profit, reinvest, expand, grow, etc. Large monopoly capital supposedly would not intervene in this process, would not absorb or crush the small Black capital, would not try to absorb the market for itself. We are not told why imperialism would be so generous, but we must assume it is a “possibility”.

All this is theoretically possible, according to the RU’s line of reasoning, and being theoretically possible necessitates that we uphold the right of Black people to go about this nation-building. Thus the question of common economy and common territory is put off to a later date, to the possible establishment of a nation-state, and we return to our original criteria, “historically constituted”. Since these other “mechanical” criteria are only in the realm of possibility, we must conclude that the real basis of the right of nations to self-determination is a people’s national identity, their ”historically constituted”.

The Black people have historically constituted a nation, and, once again, this historical basis of nationhood has not been destroyed, but transformed. Red Papers 5 p.35

Of course, we are all for “transformation”, it being so dialectical. Formerly the historical basis of nationhood was four very definite and integral criteria. The disappearance of one or more of those criteria does not destroy nationhood, says the RU, but on the contrary, transforms it. It is an ABC of Marxism that every act of destruction is also an act of creation and transformation. So it is not a question of “destroyed” versus “transformed”. It is very much a question of transformed into what. From the “mechanical” point of view, we had assumed that if a nation lost its criteria, it was transformed from a nation into a non-nation, or national minority. The RU anticipates our confusion on this point, and hastens to remind us that

...the important question is not the particular word – “nation” – as opposed, say, to “national minority”. The crucial question is to understand the historical and present material conditions of Black people and the essential thrust of the Black liberation struggle today that flows from those conditions. Red Papers 5 p.37 Nation, as opposed, say, for instance, to “national minority”. Once we have firmly grasped the notion that the right of nations to self-determination has absolutely nothing to do with objective criteria, it of course makes no difference what category Blacks are put into. The RU offers its own catch-phrase, “Nation of a New Type”, which will do very well. The crucial question, you see, is the “essential thrust”. Not thrusts in general, or even potential thrusts, but especially crucial “essential thrusts”.

The RU has gone to a great deal of trouble to show us that Blacks are still a nation, regardless of criteria, and are entitled to the right to self-determination. In so doing they have reassured the petty bourgeois nationalists that Blacks actually do have a “historically constituted” basis for nationhood, and that the RU fully supports the right of the Black nation to political independence. Now we are told that the “essential thrust” of the Black movement is not at all towards political independence, for a separate state, but that the “essential thrust” of the Black movement is for a single, class-wide proletarian revolution against the monopoly capitalists.

Why, then, has the RU broken with Marxism in order to portray a nation, regardless of criteria, that Is entitled to self-determination, only to turn around and deny that the “essential thrust” of the Black movement has anything to do with self-determination? Precisely in order to accommodate, bait, and then win over the Black nationalists to the RU’s idea of the class struggle.

“We are a nation!” assert the Black nationalists.

“Oh yes, we agree.” says the RU.

““Regardless of territory, which was stolen outright from us; regardless of common economy, which has been deformed by imperialism. We are a nation as long as we demand it!” demand the nationalists.

Yes, of course”, puts in the RU, “We won’t hold you to all that mechanical criteria. You Just go on being a nation as long as you like.”

“And we have the right to self-determination, the right to reclaim the historic homeland, to build our own nation!”

“Oh, we always uphold the right to self-determination, why, its a fundamental principle of Marxism. You can call yourselves anything you like. A nation, or say, perhaps a national minority, or if you want, a Nation of a New Type. Has a nice ring doesn’t it?”

“Then there’s room for us in your organization?”

“That’s what we’ve been trying to say. We’ll accommodate about anybody.”

“And you’ll uphold our right to self-determination?”

“Why of course. But, we would like to discuss with you the essential thrust of the Black liberation movement. You know we uphold your right to go about building a nation, but do give this essential thrust some thought. As you can see, the essential thrust is not towards self-determination, that is, secession. That’s really not at the heart of the Black liberation struggle. You see, its really a proletarian question. You know, a class struggle.”

“A proletarian what?”

Such a bizarre conversation could obviously only occur in the Third Period.

B. The Third Period

Those veteran readers who have survived the Red Papers will understand that the Third Period is full of promise. It is a very wonderful Period, free from “mechanical” restrictions and the demands of consistency. It is virtually teeming with “transformations”, negations of the negations, and other dialectical delights. Such a fertile Period Is a natural birthplace for the Nation of a New Type.

In such a fury of dialectical activity, we will need to exercise some caution in sorting the various categories and thus finding our bearings. As the RU states:

...it has become clear that we are limited by the formulations and even the vocabulary of Marxism-Leninism in dealing with the national question in earlier historical periods. Those writings have boiled the question down to Its essence for those situations, but don’t strictly apply In every detail to our conditions. Red Papers 5 p.37

We are limited, literally hemmed in, by the “formulations” and even the “vocabulary” of Marxism-Leninism of “earlier historical periods”. Even by the vocabulary of Marxism-Leninism. Apparently we need a different language in order to relate to the Third Period. A language free from the mechanical formulations of ”earlier historical periods”. A language perfectly adapted to the Third Period, that reveals its full essence and creative potential. We will not have to look very far for an interpreter:

The question is not how to compress the phenomena of the Negro people’s movement in the U.S. into the conditions of a given Marxist category but how to effectively use the science of Marxism-Leninism to serve the cause of Negro equality and freedom. James Jackson ”The Negro Freedom Fight” Political Affairs January 1959

No, we should not “compress the phenomena...into the conditions of a given Marxist category”, nor allow ourselves to be ”limited by the formulations and even vocabulary of Marxism-Leninism in dealing with the national question in earlier historical periods.” The RU will protest against the presence of Dr. Jackson in the Third Period, but we must remind the RU that in opening the door to this new epoch, literally anyone can wander in and do as they please. After all, if we are no longer limited by formulations of “earlier historical periods”, if we have taken up the vocabulary of the Third Period, can we really criticize others for doing the same?

What is this Third Period? It has nothing in common with Stalin’s. It is one of those rare historical moments when everything is transformed into Its opposite. A unique historical juncture. Formerly the national question was an “external” question. It now becomes “internal”. Formerly it was a “peasant” question. It now becomes a “proletarian” question. Formerly the right to self-determination was a “positive” demand. It now becomes a “negative” demand. Formerly there were definite and precise criteria for a nation. Those criteria are now consolidated “dialectically” under the heading of “historically constituted”.

Of course, every “transformation” is propped up by another, so we will have to exercise some caution in examining each one. There is always the danger, of which the RU is acutely aware, of the entire structure collapsing around us. The RU has therefore prepared the way for us, so we can enter into the Third Period properly equipped to deal with this new and strange phenomena.

The RU begins with the “abnormality” of the national question in the U.S. We are given a quotation from Lenin in which Lenin states that the internal constitution of multi-national states has “for some reason or another remained abnormal or underdeveloped”. It Is because of the underdevelopment of capitalism, as in Russia, that multi-national, rather than single-nation, states are formed. The RU confirms this for the U.S.

The ’abnormality’ of slavery has also meant, as the other side of Lenin’s analysis implies, that, the national question in the U.S. is also ’abnormal’ and extremely complex in its development. Red Papers 5 p.22

As the reader can see, we are already beginning to learn the grammar of the Third Period. Lenin is speaking of the “abnormality” and underdevelopment of capitalism, which gives rise to multi-national states. Now we are given Lenin’s backside, the implication of “the other side of Lenin’s analysis”, i.e. that the national question, too, will be “abnormal”, extremely complex, etc. If the national question is abnormal, we should expect abnormal conclusions.

Next we are told that although there are certain similarities between Russia and the U.S., and although the writings of Lenin and Stalin ”point the direction” for a correct solution to the national question in the U.S., nevertheless

...there are important differences between Tsarist Russia and the U.S., and these significantly influence the development of the national question. Red Papers 5 p.22

We should not, of course, apply Lenin and Stalin “mechanically”. There are “important differences” “significantly” influencing American conditions. We are thus assured that the RU has not taken a dogmatic approach, which we would all find offensive, but is leading us to a concrete analysis of our own peculiar conditions. Lenin and Stalin have pointed the way, and the RU is clearing a path for us.

After showing us that the old Black nation was a peasant nation, with the majority of the population engaged in sharecropping, we are now brought to the outskirts of the Third Period. We know it is the Third Period, because it is at this point that the great transformations commences

But with World War I, a great transformation of the Black nation began...

For the first time, Black people in large numbers were allowed to enter into the industrial work force concentrated in the North. The out-migration of the Black people from the plantation Black Belt area became a significant and irreversible trend. This of course was a shift not only from south to north, but from rural to urban and, most importantly, from peasant to worker. Red Papers 5 p.23

The Black nation is dispersing. Facts and figures on migrations. A chart showing the effects of migrations on the racial composition of the Black Belt. A chart showing the decline in Black farming. More statistics on the role of Blacks in industrial production. All of this is said to indicate

...decisively that the key to the Black liberation struggle lies not in the southern farmlands, but in the northern and southern urban Industrial centers; that, in short, the national question for Black people in the U.S. today is in essence a proletarian question. Red Papers 5 p.26

The evolution of the national question from a peasant question into a “proletarian question” is thus one of the first fruits of the Third Period. What does this “proletarian question” enable us to do? Quite a number of things.

First, it substantiates the RU’s claim that this is an “abnormal” question we’re dealing with, which cannot be approached with those limiting formulations and vocabulary of “earlier historical periods”. After all, if Stalin said the national question is essentially a peasant question, and the RU has given us irrefutable evidence that it is in fact a “proletarian question”, we can reach no other conclusion except that Stalin has become passe.

Secondly, it allows us to show that the “essential thrust” of the Black liberation movement cannot be towards creating an independent Black state in the Black Belt. The RU concedes, and in fact has gone out of its way to prove, that such a state is “possible”, and on the basis of that possibility has granted the dispersed nation the right to self-determination. But, since the national question is now a “proletarian question” we must place our “essential thrust” elsewhere.

Thirdly, it allows us to escape from the embarrassing question of territory, since if the national question is now a “proletarian question”, the land question

...remains important, but more than in any other country, it, too has become a proletarian question. Red Papers 5 p.30

In the Third Period, everything becomes a “proletarian question”. Someone is bound to ask, if during the Third Period everything is becoming a matter of class struggle, if Blacks have dispersed and become part of the American workingclass, if there is such a deformed and stunted class structure among Blacks, if they no longer have a common territory, or a common economy, isn’t it likely that Blacks are no longer a nation, and therefore do not have the right to territorial self-determination? It should be obvious by now that such a question has no relevance in the Third Period. The questioner has evidently forgotten that in the Third Period anything is possible, and that

The Black people have historically constituted a nation, and, once again, this historical basis of nationhood has not been destroyed, but transformed. Red Papers 5 p.35

Finally, it is out of “proletarian questions” that Nations of a New Type are built. In fact, the Nation of a New Type is also a “proletarian question”, i.e. a “proletarian nation”.

Since we have not yet run into the Nation of a New Type, we must content ourselves with other dialectical phenomena in the Third Period. Here we find the transformation of external to internal. Lenin and Stalin have “pointed the direction”, and so we know that during the first period of the national question, that is, during its European phase, it was an “internal” question, a question to be resolved within the multi-national states. During the second, or imperialist phase, with the rise of national liberation movements in the colonies, it becomes an “external” question, i.e. a contradiction between the imperialist powers and the colonies and semi-colonies. In the Third Period “in the U.S.”, however, it again becomes an “internal” question, in the RU’s words, “a particular and internal state problem”. Since we are in the Third Period by the RU’s invitation and hospitality, we hesitate to point out that the national question in the U.S. has always been a “particular and internal” state problem, and always is in any case in which the oppressed nation is within the geographical boundaries of the multi-national state. But then, we must excuse ourselves for speaking in the “vocabulary of Marxism-Leninism in dealing with the national question in earlier historical periods.”

On the right to self-determination, we find a transformation of negative and positive. In the first period, the slogan for the right to self-determination is largely a “negative” demand. We support the right of an oppressed nation to its own self-determination, but in no way support its nationalism, economic demands, or demands for special privileges. In the second, imperialist period, we support the national-revolutionary movement to the extent that it weakens imperialism. If such a movement is led by the workingclass and peasantry, we “positively” support not only political independence, but ally with the movement towards a complete break with imperialism and the establishment of socialism. In the Third Period, however,

The question of self-determination is once again a question of the negative demand of the RIGHT of self-determination. Red Papers 6 p.38

This is because, we are told, the national movement of Blacks In the U.S. is a question of “proletarian revolutionary struggle of the single multi-national worklngclass.”

We are set at this point for a dialectical leap into the heart of the Third Period, but before we are torn away from the limits of the “formulations” etc. of “earlier historical periods”, let us take one last mechanical look at the old vocabulary. According to this “dogmatic” view, not all national movements in the second period are led by the worklngclass and peasantry at all times. We do not, for instance, give “positive” support to the right to self-determination when the national movement is in the hands of reactionaries. In the second period, Lenin wrote in his old way:

Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support. We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism; we will not support an uprising of the reactionary classes against imperialism. Lenin A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism CW Vol. 23 p.63

So to say that in the first period the right of self-determination is a “negative” demand, while in the second it is “positive”; or that in the first period it is an “internal” matter, while in the second it is ”external” or international; or that in the second period It is largely a “peasant question” – these are only the predominant features of the national question in each period. According to the old formulations, we must consider each national movement on the basis of principled criteria, the practical outcome of self-determination in terms of the objective interests of the workingclass, as well as the particular historical conditions of the period the movement occurs within. According to the language of the Third Period, these are not “features” of the national question, but absolute “essences” of each period, and it is on the basis of such absolute “essences” that we ourselves will go through a “great transformation”.

How will we arrive? By booking passage on the Negation of the Negation:

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. Red Papers 6 p.38

Travelling on the Negation of the Negation, as we would expect, is a very profound experience. We are bound to suffer some disorientation. The first thing people usually ask each other is, “Was it dialectical?”

It had the appearance of being dialectical. There were, after all, all the key words: “dialectical sense”, “dialectical way”, “qualitative change”, “is negated” etc. The BWC accuses the RU of Hegelianism on this account, but is it really necessary to slander Hegel while exposing the RU? At least Marx was able to turn Hegel onto his feet. Is there any force on earth that can put the RU on its feet again, or will the RU succeed in turning the movement on its head?

The RU hasn’t resurrected the Negation of the Negation merely in order to embarrass itself or insult its readers. It is only through this version of the Negation of the Negation that we can arrive at the Third Period, and once within the Third Period, declare the Nation of a New Type. The reader who knows nothing of dialectics, the national question, or the “vocabulary of Marxism-Leninism...in earlier historical periods”, will hopefully be overwhelmed by the force of the RU’s “dialectics” and be convinced that such things as the Third Period and the Nation of a New Type do in fact exist.

What does this Negation of the Negation reduce to? In the basic pattern of First Period/Second Period/Third Period we have the following: internal/external/internal of a new type; negative/positive/negative of a new type; bourgeoisie vs. bourgeoisie/peasant vs. bourgeoisie/proletariat vs. bourgeoisie; bourgeois question/peasant question/proletarian question; etc. It is only through such “wooden triads” that we have “great transformations”, and on the basis of those transformations, the RU line.

It is self-evident that national movements in the Third World still continue to be “external” or International presentations of the national question, are still ”positive” to the extent that they weaken imperialism are still national-revolutionary to the extent that the national bourgeoisic participates in the national movement, are still predominately peasant in composition, and must pass through a New Democratic phase before socialist construction begins. It follows, then, that national movements in the Third World are still in an “earlier historical period” that is, in the second period.

It is just as evident that the national question in the U.S. never ceased to be an “internal” question, that if it assumes the proportions of an on-going national movement that its positive or negative aspect would be determined by the class interests of the workingclass as a whole.

If there is no “internal/external/internal” and no “negative/ positive/negative”, then we must ask the RU how it will create a negation of the negation now that it has lost its triads.

According to the old formulations there are in fact three periods! (1) the European phase, (2) the national question under imperialism, and (3) the national question under socialism. The distinctive feature of the third period according to Stalin is that instead of relations between oppressor nation and oppressed, we have fraternal relations between socialist republics who work hand in hand to eliminate the legacy of national chauvinism inherited from capitalism. There is, of course, some overlapping between the second and third period, as we have national movements in some countries, and socialist construction in others. But all three periods are universal to the national question, mark its actual development as a question within the workingclass movement. As Lenin states, there is no wall between periods of historical development. The RU’s Third Period, however, demands a “dialectical” break with “earlier historical periods” in order to generate enough contrast to pose as a separate entity.

According to the RU’s line of reasoning, the Third Period can only occur within the U.S. The U.S. is in one very unique and particular historical period, the rest of the world in another. Is this American exceptionalism?

The charge of ’American exceptionalism’ coming from our dogmatists, is actually an encouragement, because it indicates that we are making a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, which is pure poison to all dogmatists. Analyzing the actual conditions in the U.S. today, according to the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism, is not American Exceptionalism. Arguing that these basic principles do not apply to this country _is American Exceptionalism. Red Papers 6 p.109

And who is it that argues that the principles of Marxism-Leninism do not apply to this country?

...it has become clear that we are limited by the formulation and even the vocabulary of Marxism-Leninism in dealing with the national question in earlier historical periods. These writings have boiled the question down to its essence for those situations, but don’t strictly apply in every detail to our conditions. Red Papers 5 p.37

Lenin and Stalin only “boiled down” the question to “essences”, you see, whereas we uphold those “essences” rather than “every detail”. That is to say, the RU has watered down the principles of Marxism-Leninism so it can accommodate the “actual conditions in the U.S. today”, i.e. accommodate the strength of nationalist tendencies within the Black movement.

Stalin, of course, had four criteria for a nation. Those criteria are mere “detail”, whereas the “essential thrust” of Stalin’s definition is an essence, “historically constituted”. The RU therefore upholds, as a basic principle of Marxism-Leninism, the “historically constituted” definition of a nation. From this comes the curious interpretation of the right to self-determination, i.e. that any people who were once a nation are always entitled to the right to self-determination.

In the second period, the national question becomes international. The RU seizes upon this externality, gives it an “essence” and is thus able to strike a bold stance for “internality” in the Third Period. Never mind that oppressed nations within multi-national states were always “internal” problems during the second period. One cannot create a negation of the negation with “internal/internal/internal”. It must be ”internal/external/internal”. We must understand that what is crucial is the “essence” of the matter.

In the first period, the right to self-determination is a negative right. In the second period it is sometimes negative and sometimes positive, depending on the actual circumstances. In Stalin’s words:

Cases occur when the national movements in certain oppressed countries come into conflict with the interests of the development of the proletarian movement. In such cases support is, of course, entitely out of the question. Stalin The National Question M&NQ p.185 (from Foundations of Leninism)

All movements that weaken imperialism are positive to some degree. Not all are positive to the same degree, and a positive movement may become a negative movement. To say that the general feature of the second period is that the right to self-determination is “positive” must therefore be understood for what it is, a generality. The RU makes this general feature something of an absolute “essence” in order to prop up its notion of a distinctive Third Period, in which the right to self-determination is again “negative”. What will we say of national movements In the second period in which, for one or another reason, self-determination is not in the interests of the workingclass? Does it enter Into a Third Period on this account? It may have the peculiar combination of being both an external problem with a “negative” aspect. Then we must conclude that part of it enters into the RU’s Third Period, while the other part remains in the second period, or perhaps there is some Fourth Period we know nothing about.

We are left, then, with the only three features that could possibly relate in such a particular way to the RU’s Third Period: “proletariat vs. bourgeoisie”, “proletarian question”, and “single stage”. In point of theory, these are the only distinctive features of the Nation of a New Type.

C. The Nation of a New Type

After abstracting the “detail” from Stalin’s definition of a nation, the RU turns to him for support of the Nation of a New Type. We are told that Stalin warned against

...mis-handling of the national question by the proletarian state–based on the erroneous line that nations had ceased to exist under the new conditions–could lead to divisions among the various nationalities and the disintegration of the unified socialist state. Red Papers 5 p.31

What were the new conditions that Stalin was speaking of? The conditions of the proletarian dictatorship. The liquidationists had argued that with these new conditions, in which the class line predominated throughout Russia, there were no longer nations or nationalities. Stalin argued in the old vocabulary that nations in fact continue to exist under socialism, and that in order to combat national chauvinism it was necessary to uphold the rights of nations, grant the minority nations autonomy, and provide material support for their economic and cultural advancement. The RU recognizes the limits of comparing revolutionary Russia to imperialist America, and so cautions

Obviously, we cannot apply this pamphlet of Stalin’s mechanically, either. The proletariat does not yet hold state power in the U.S. But we can apply Stalin’s method–the Marxist method of dialectical and historical materialism–to our own situation. Red Papers 5 p. 31

What has the RU taken of Stalin’s method? The fact that Stalin argued against “the erroneous line that nations had ceased to exist under the new conditions”. From here it is only a short jump to

...a nation of a new type. By ’nation of a new type’ we mean a nation under new conditions. Red Papers 5 p.31

The RU should have no fear of applying Stalin mechanically. There is obviously a great deal of imagination here. New conditions in Russia did not mean that nations had ceased to exist. Therefore, new conditions in the U.S. do not mean that the Black nation has ceased to exist. Never mind the content of the “new conditions”; we must at all costs avoid being mechanical. What is important is that we apply the “essence” the method of Stalin to our own situation, or, if we may consult Dr. Jackson,

...effectively use the science of Marxism-Leninism to serve the cause of Negro equality and freedom. Jackson “The Negro Freedom Fight” Political Affairs January 1959

We have already met some of these “new conditions” on our way through the Third Period, so we must examine here the uses to which the Nation of a New Type can be put. The RU asks:

But what about a situation–like the U.S. today– where the national question is not in essence a peasant question and where it is in fact ’a particular and internal state problem’? Under these circumstances, can the national question be transformed? Can a nation have a different function, within the same country, can it assume new features with the development of society within which it arises and develops? Red Papers 5 p.31

What is meant here by “a different function”? The old “function” of oppressed nations is that they invariably develop national movements against the oppressor nation. These being nations of the old type, they are grounded on the four criteria, and aim at self-determination. If a nation is predominantly peasant, we can expect the national movement to be a predominantly peasant movement. If the movement is led by the national bourgeoisie, and if it allows the workingclass freedom to organize within the movement, we would call it a “national-revolutionary” movement. We would support the dominance of the workingclass within the leadership. Whether or not self-determination is viable would depend on the specific circumstances of the movement. If the oppressed nation was within the geographical boundaries of the multi-national state, we would call it an “internal state problem”. If it were abroad we would call it an “external” or international problem. If the workingclass were the most populous class, we would say it was a predominantly proletarian national movement in alliance with its “own” national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, etc. In any case, the aim of the movement as a whole would be against national oppression, and if necessary towards self-determination, i.e. political secession. The workingclass of the oppressor nation would support the right to self-determination, but would judge support of actual secession on the merits of the specific conditions. For the workingclass of the oppressed nation, the imperialist bourgeoisie is not its “own” imperialist bourgeoisie, but an alien imperialist bourgeoisie.

The Nation of a New Type, however, has a “different function” from the old nations. Here the national movement has merged completely with the “single stage” proletarian movement. It functions on this basis because the oppressed nation itself has merged, through migrations, into the oppressor nation. The oppressed nation has lost a common territory and common economy, and therefore the “essential thrust” is not towards self-determination, but towards achieving basic democratic rights. Workers of the oppressed nation do not fight against an alien imperialist bourgeoisie, but against the great-nation imperialist bourgeoisie which has now become their “own” imperialist bourgeoisie. The struggle is therefore not a national struggle, but primarily a class struggle. The aim of the national movement is not self-determination, but socialism.

The national movement of the Nation of a New Type is, in effect, indistinguishable from the general class struggle. The RU has thus achieved what it set out to do, namely, to accommodate nationalism in theory, and then dissolve it in the class struggle between the multinational proletariat and the imperialist bourgeoisie.

What has any of this in common with Marxism-Leninism? The right of nations to self-determination is a principle applied only to existing nations. A nation, in turn, is composed of “detail”, such as a common language, territory, economy and psychological make-up. A people that have lost one or more of these criteria are no longer a nation, and it is pointless to grant such a people the right to self-determination when they lack the basis for exercising it. Upholding the right to self-determination for a non-nation can only serve the nationalist petty bourgeoisie, is an adaptation of socialism to nationalism, and thus completely breaks with Marxism-Leninism.

If through dispersion, a people are no longer a nation, they may still be a national minority, in which case it is the duty of the workingclass to insure their democratic rights and agitate against any form of national chauvinism or privilege. The workingclass views the bourgeoisie of the oppressed national minority as a possible ally, but only to the extent that the latter fights the imperialist bourgeoisie. Since the oppressed bourgeoisie lack the material basis for nationhood, there is little incentive for them to take an active part in the struggle against the imperialists. They are therefore a much weaker and more vacillating ally than the national bourgeoisie of an oppressed nation. For the national minorities, there may be movements against national oppression, but there cannot be national movements as such. The workers of the national minority, therefore, take a place, not within a separate national movement in alliance with the workers of the oppressor nation, but directly participate with the other workers of the multi-national workingclass. Instead of a national movement that could result in political secession, we now have a direct class struggle, i.e. multinational proletariat and its allies against the imperialist bourgeoisie. The national element occurs only in specific programs of the workingclass to end national privileges, to eliminate national chauvinism, and to integrate and unify the class.

This is the basic program that the RU, by a circuitous route, wishes to arrive at. They suspect there is no existing Black nation in the Black Belt, but will not say so openly for fear of alienating the nationalist petty bourgeoisie. They must therefore find an inoffensive way of introducing the idea of the multi-national class struggle while upholding the right to self-determination of a nation that may or may not exist. This cannot be achieved through Marxism-Leninism, which is a precise science and demands the “sum total of facts, without a single exception”. The RU is afraid those facts will be embarrassing, and so commences creating a new language. Hence the Third Period, and the Nation of a New Type.

Is it possible to have a Marxist line on the class struggle, and simultaneously accommodate nationalism through such inventions? There are only two courses. Either the RU maintains a principled stand on all questions, speaks in the “vocabulary of...earlier historical periods”, discards the Third Period and the Nation of a New Type as severe nationalist deviations, as opportunism on the national question, and joins the movement in finding a correct solution. Or, it continues to maintain an opportunist position on the class struggle, continues to accomodate nationalism, continues to create an opportunist vocabulary, perpetuates and institutionalizes its amateurism, and generates further splits in the movement.

D. National Forms of Organization

Nationalism and nationalist deviations are harmful to our movement not only because they are specific forms of bourgeois ideology, but primarily because they are symptoms of a far greater and more pervasive bourgeois trend. Any organization that accommodates opportunism in any way leaves itself open for the eventual hegemony of opportunism in its ranks. In the Third Period and Nation of a New Type we have just discussed, opportunism and compromise in principle appear in fairly sophisticated, if not very successful, forms. Theoretical opportunism engenders organizational opportunism, and so it is not surprising that we should find nationalist deviations in the RU’s presentation of organizational tasks.

In Red Papers 5 we are told that

...we believe that, because of the uneven development of the national and class struggles at this time, both national and multi-national forms of revolutionary organizations are necessary. Red Papers 5 p.4

At the same time we are told:

...we are firmly convinced that there can be no such thing as a ’white’ revolutionary organization because white workers have no progressive Interests as whites but only as members of the multinational working class. Red Papers 5 p.4

The RU is trying to accommodate national Marxist-Leninist organizations like the BWC while avoiding extremes. Everyone is agreed that a new communist party would necessarily be multi-national. The problem being how to arrive at that point. The RU’s solution is the coexistence of both national and multi-national forms of “various kinds of workers’ organizations” etc. which the RU never clearly defines.

The entire affair seems to pivot on the degree of racism among white workers:

In certain conditions, where the level of understanding of white workers is not yet very high around this question, it is necessary and correct to build national forms of organization, in order to be able to develop the struggle. Red Papers 6 p.21

According to this line, Black workers would, where “the level of understanding of white workers is not yet very high around this question”, that is, in almost every factory in the U.S., create separate caucuses, organizing committees, etc. to organize and protect “their own”. White workers, of course, “have no progressive interests as whites”, and so are left outside these caucuses. White workers, of course, are propagandized, and urged to participate in a multi-national class effort, but since they have no integral, organizational experience with the Black and Third World workers, must be content with what the RU calls “multi-national in the political sense”. “Multi-national in the political sense”, as we know means concerted efforts by the Third World caucuses which white communists are supposed to rally the white workers behind. This is the actual practice of many organizations, and was the norm during the 1960’s on all levels of political work.

Judging whether it is permissible or not to create separate national forms of workers organizations on the basis of “the level of understanding of white workers” is to the national question what “bowing to spontaneity” is to the political and economic struggle. Officially, the RU would like to have nothing but multi-national organizations on all levels. But behind this official line there is a tendency towards accommodation and compromise on the question of national form, based on the subjective “level of understanding” of workers, a tendency that is a reflection in organizational work of the RU’s theoretical positions.

If the “level of understanding of white workers is not yet very high”, if they fail to see the importance of the struggles of Third World workers, just as they fail to see the importance of the struggles of all oppressed classes, it is solely because no one has taken them political knowledge, given them political leadership, or created the organizational forms that advance their class consciousness. How are national barriers and national separation to be overcome if “Marxist-Leninists” justify organizational separation on the grounds of the “level of understanding of white workers”? The “level of understanding” of all workers “is not yet very high”. It is not enough to “work to build multi-national workers’ organizations from the beginning”, if “from the beginning” you are willing to compromise this task. This can only lead to continued fragmentation, isolation, and mistrust within the workingclass.

We must ask, who is judging the level of white workers as opposed to the level of Third World workers? The BWC, until it opened its ranks to other nationalities, operated on the same subjective criteria. In the BWC’s words:

Upholding a national form of organization, especially for communists, was a nationalist deviation on our part. The Communist Vol. 1, I August 1974

What the BWC through its own experience had to struggle through and resolve on its own, the RU accommodates, and in accommodating, perpetuates.

From the justification of national forms based on the subjective level of understanding of workers, it is only a small step to complete economism in the national question. We aim at the multi-national unity of the class, just as the economists aim at the eventual, however prolonged, transition to socialism. But here we have an unfortunate circumstance. The level of understanding of workers, you see, “is not yet very high”. Just as the economists resolve this misfortune through bowing to the spontaneity of the trade union movement, the RU resolves it through the accommodation of national separatism. For the economists, the trade union level is a necessary stage before workers can pass to political work. For the RU, the national forms may be, where the “level of understanding of white workers is not yet very high”, a necessary stage before workers can pass to the multi-national stage. Thus the RU has introduced the “theory of stages” into the national question.

In the November 1974 Revolution we are told that

In the new communist movement, the deviation that has not been struggled against«or against which the struggle has been seriously down-played--has been the deviation toward narrow nationalism, and this allowed it to grow into the greater danger. Revolution November 1974 p.15

The RU has in mind here the rest of the communist movement, but primarily the BWC, to which it opposes itself. As Stalin states: “The major danger is the deviation against which we have ceased to fight.” The RU concludes from this that since the movement has fought more against white chauvinism than against narrow nationalism, narrow nationalism poses the greater threat. Of course, we all know the movement has taken such a principled stand against white chauvinism. The RU, the BWC, the OL, why even the CPUSA has taken up the fight against white chauvinism. But we should remember this fight has a specific content. When It is conducted in a disgustingly opportunistic and compromising way, as with the CPUSA, the effect is to suppress chauvinism among whites, give it a liberal form, and convert the struggle against national oppression by minorities into toadyism.

The major deviation within the new communist movement as a whole Is the tendency to opportunism, economism, and compromise in principle. In the national question this deviation has surfaced in the form of bowing to the spontaneity of national divisions, which in turn has both a narrow nationalist and great-nation nationalist, or white chauvinist, aspect. The major deviation is the one against which we have ceased to fight. In reality, our movement has not “ceased to fight” against one or another deviation, but has yet to take up a principled struggle against both. Both are forms of bourgeois ideology, both reinforce divisions within the workingclass, and both have a common source in opportunism. It is because the RU has not taken up a principled struggle against narrow nationalism and white chauvinism that it is able to “keep both kinds of goods in stock and find a use for each.” (Mao Combat Liberalism).

E. The Party

In Red Papers 5 we are reassured that

...the RU does not consider itself to be that party, nor does it see itself as developing into it. The party will have to come from a merging of forces now in motion and from forces not yet in motion. Red Papers 5 p.7

Apparently this statement did not seal the credibility gap between the RU and the rest of the movement, for the RU repeats itself in Red Papers 6 to the effect that

We have no desire as an organization to ’achieve hegemony’ in the movement, and we think our actions over the years have certainly proven it. But as Marxist-Leninists we definitely do desire to see the correct ideological and political line achieve hegemony in the movement... Red Papers 6 p.6

Here we are given the impression that the RU views itself as one organization among many, who are engaged in the common task of developing a correct political line. The correct political line should have hegemony within the movement, but since the RU organization does not wish to achieve hegemony, we should conclude that there is still some distance between their organization and the “correct ideological and political line”. As usual, we have drawn the wrong conclusion, since, we are told

It is true that different lines are represented at this time by different organizations. It is also true that we in the RU think that our line is correct, and that its correctness is being established in practice. Red Papers 6 p.6

Apparently we have missed out on some “dialectical” transition here. The correct political line should have hegemony in the movement. The political line of the RU organization is correct. In our hopelessly mechanical way of thinking, we can only conclude that since we agree that the correct political line should have hegemony, it follows that the organization holding that line should be trying to achieve hegemony. Where have we read in Lenin that the Bolshevik line should win hegemony over the movement, while the Bolshevik organization should not? Why has the RU created this artificial bogey of “hegemonism”, a device that is only camouflage for saying one thing and doing another?

Our questions are put to rest by the appearance of the Draft Programme for the Party of the U.S. Working Class. Here the Party is treated as an accomplished fact, even to the point of coining new catchwords for the movement such as “festival of the oppressed” and “the single spark method”. It is only a small step from a Draft Programme written “as the final party programme must be written”, to the declaration of the Party itself and thus the fulfillment of ideological and organizational hegemony.

The tedious dissection of the entire programme is another subject, so we will only deal with those parts relating to the national question.

On the relation between the national question and party-building we are told in Red Papers 6 that

...from the standpoint of achieving minimum unity to build the Party–it is not necessary to hold strictly to Black people being a nation in terms of the five criteria laid out by Stalin. But it is necessary to agree that the right of self-determination does apply to Black people. Red Papers 6 p.10

It is not necessary to hold to the four, five, or six criteria laid out by Stalin. It therefore isn’t even necessary to hold that Blacks are a nation. All that is necessary is that the right to self-determination be upheld. It follows that if we are not bound by the principled definition of a nation, or the principled relation between a nation and the right of nations to self-determination, we have free license to liquidate any principle that stands between us and “minimum unity”. It is a way of creating “minimum unity” around maximum opportunism.

It is on the basis of such “principles” that the RU would like to create the Revolutionary Communist Party of the U.S.A., a party that would supposedly lead the workingclass to socialist revolution, or to what the RU with true poetic genius has called the “festival of the oppressed”. Does the RU have in mind a festival, or a circus?

The significance of the RU’s position in the Draft Programme is that the Third Period and Nation of a New Type now appear anonymous.

Instead we have

...the Black people remain an oppressed nation, but under new conditions, and in a different relation to U.S. imperialism than its colonies (and neo-colonies) in other countries. Draft Programme p.36

Instead of a nation based on “historically constituted”, we have

...the workingclass and its party uphold the right of Black people to return to and reclaim their homeland. Draft Programme p.36

Instead of “essential thrust” we now have “main thrust”. Lurking behind the very general presentation we have in the Programme are all the very specific revisions of Marxism we encountered as we fought our way through the Red Papers. Those formulations, of course, “boiled the question down” to its opportunist essence, “but don’t strictly apply in every detail” to what the RU hopes to achieve with the Programme. The RU suspects that if it offers us the Third Period and the Nation of a New Type as points of unity, we will all have a good laugh and then turn back to our real work. So it offers us something very loose and inoffensive, i.e. “new conditions”, “different relations”, etc. What could we possibly object to7

What the RU has accomplished with its Red Papers and the Draft Programme brings to mind the following passage from Engels:

It often seems as if these gentlemen think anything is good enough for the workers. If these gentlemen only knew that Marx thought his best things were still not good enough for the workers, how he regarded it as a crime to offer the workers anything but the very best! Engels Letter to C. Schmidt August 5 1890

The RU’s position on the national question will satisfy the petty bourgeois nationalists. The Draft Programme as a whole will satisfy the conciliators, opportunists, and petty bourgeois revolutionists. The petty bourgeoisie, after all, is not a very demanding class, and will take about anything it can get. The petty bourgeoisie may find accommodation within the RU, but the RU will find no accommodation within the workingclass.

If the RU persists in its present course, it will indeed create its Party, as the CL has created its, consolidate its opportunism into a hardened trend, and draw an indelible line between itself and Marxism-Leninism. As with the BWC, the RU must make up its mind on whose side it will stand.