Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Workers Group (Marxist-Leninist)

Our Tasks on the National Question

Against Nationalist Deviations in Our Movement


A. The Criteria of Nationhood

The four criteria of nationhood are integral conditions for the existence of a people as a nation. It is precisely the “interconnections and interdependence” of these characteristics that compose national life. As Stalin states, it is sufficient for one criteria to be missing and the nation ceases to be a nation. The two criteria that are crucial for understanding the conditions of Blacks in the Black Belt South are 1) territory, and 2) economic cohesion. On the question of territory, migrations out of the Black Belt and concentration of Blacks into urban areas have significantly altered the national composition of the Belt. There is little disagreement on this fact within the communist movement. The disagreement arises over how to interpret the effects of migrations. From point of theory, we would have to answer the question: at what point do migrations cause the territorial criteria to simply evaporate? At what point does a nation, due to migrations, cease to be a nation? There can be no doubt that if migration of a people continues at a given rate, at some point that people will lose their common territory. The question is, has this already occurred in the Black Belt area? If so, at what point did Blacks cease to be a nation? If not, what is the present extent of national union, or more precisely, what are the borders of the nation?

On the question of economic cohesion, it is not enough to simply list the percentages of a people engaged in various occupations. Ue must show to what extent that peoples engage in integral economic exchange, have a division of labor, agricultural and urban production, the extent of capital flow within the community, etc. In the case of an oppressed nation, we must distinguish between the economic community created by and for imperialism, and the national sector; between deformations in industry (such as parts manufacture) which are a compliment to imperialist production, and domestic industry providing for the home market; the extent to which imperialism seizes the home market and makes it dependent; between capital relations of the comprador bourgeoisie, and relations of the national bourgeoisie; the extent and variety of petty industry; etc. All these economic relations occur on solid ground, and are naturally tied to the question of territory. From point of theory, we must ask how the stability of the population effects its economic life, and vice versa. Such a complex Phenomenon can only be grasped when al1 the essential demographic and economic data have been compiled, compared and analysed. In the Peculiar circumstance in the Black Belt, such a comprehensive analysis is absolutely necessary before we can say Blacks in the area are or are not a nation. And until that determination is made, there is no point in speaking about the right of self-determination.

How does the BWC present the question?

Nevertheless, even though Black people today are overwhelmingly members of a single U.S. proletariat, and a decisive section of the U.S. industrial proletariat, we say that the basis of nationhood still exists. Why? Black people today, the Afro-American nation, still maintain a common economic life, the material basis of the modern Black bourgeoisie. And though dispersed throughout the major urban cities, we remain concentrated in ghettos. Moreover, Black people are still subject to ruthless national and racial discrimination and still do not enjoy the elemental “Democratic” rights that most whites take for granted. Additionally, Black people today have a higher level of national-revolutionary movement which is a most dangerous threat to U.S. imperialism. And though dispersed from our historic homeland – the “Black Belt” south which was stolen from us after reconstruction, we still retain the right to that homeland and the right to secede from the rest of the U.S. if we so desire. All these factors continue to bind the Afro-American people into a close national union, no where near the point of being “integrated” or “assimilated” into the dominant nation of whites. Black Workers Congress The Black Liberation Struggle, the Black Workers Congress, and Proletarian Revolution April 1974 p.15

We can assume that the categories of language and common psychological make-up are fulfilled. These two characteristics are common to oppressed nations and national minorities. Beyond these two, then, the BWC gives us: (1) a common economic life, (2) ghetto concentrations, (3) racial oppression and denial of democratic rights, and (4) lack of integration or assimilation into the dominant nation. We leave aside for the moment the question of self-determination.

What distinguishes the BWC’s definition from Marxism-Leninism is its fusion of objective categories and introduction of arbitrary features. Marxism-Leninism begins with a proven and established frame of reference, categories which are accurate and rational abstractions from a wide range of national experience. That is precisely what makes Stalin’s definition objective. It generalizes a given phenomenon, the nation, drawing from the practice of an entire epoch, the era of capitalism. It abstracts what is most essential to nations, the four integral and vital characteristics, and proceeds from there to the analysis of specific nations. Why, then, does the BWC, which is familiar with Stalin’s works, introduce vague and moralizing elements into the discussion? Either because (1) they have not understood Stalin, or (2) they suspect, but cannot prove one way or the other, that the Black Belt area no longer fulfills the basic criteria, and in their anxiety to depict Blacks as a nation are forced to create moral arguments for nationhood.

First, the question of economic cohesion. How extensive is the economic community among Blacks? How does the class composition of Black people relate to the class structure, i.e. how interdependent are the various classes? We are told that Blacks have a common economic life, the material basis of the modern Black bourgeoisie, and later that

In 1969 Black businesses had on the whole 1.6 billion dollars in revenue – 90% of which was derived from an exclusive Black market. Ibid p.15

But does such an “example-based” argument prove that there is in fact a common economic community? What sort of businesses are these, and where are they located? What percentage of revenues comes from what geographical sectors of the Black population? What sorts of services or goods are produced, how much is urban? What percentage of the 1.6 billion is gained in the Black Belt, and how does that southern revenue compare with the total capacity of the Black Belt market? These are only the beginnings of the sorts of questions that would have to be answered comprehensively before we could begin to talk about common economic community. Anyone who doubts the necessity of such a “dogmatic” approach would do well to read their Lenin more closely. If we respect Lenin as a teacher, we should pay more attention to his style of work, his thoroughness, his eye for detail, and his ability to rise to the most complex tasks before the workingclass. Marxism-Leninism is not an intention, but a capability, a capacity for an uncompromising thoroughness in all aspects of Party work. It is a skill that our movement must fight for and achieve if we are to rise to a consistently communist style in our theoretical and practical work. To base a program on the most superficial and selective evidence may satisfy the need to have an official ’position ’, but we must remember that every position has a class content, and the means of its adoption says as much as the position itself. The example of the ”1.6 billion” tells us only that the BWC has not done its homework, has not taken a Marxist-Leninist approach to the question, and therefore not a workingclass approach, and therefore must be speaking on behalf of some other class.

On the question of territory, the BWC states: “...though dispersed throughout the major urban cities, we remain concentrated in the ghettos and ”...though dispersed from our historic homeland –the ’Black Belt’ south which was stolen from us after reconstruction, we still retain the right to that homeland...”. Later we have:

By 1960 only 59% of Black people resided in the South. Outside and Inside the south Black people lived overwhelmingly in large metropolitan areas.


By 1967, almost 50% of Black people lived outside the south and almost 90% of Black people lived in metropolitan areas of over 250,000 in population. Ibid p.21

In terms of the basic criteria, these quotations from the BWC tell us (1) that migrations among Blacks are severe, amounting to nearly half the total population, (2) that migrations are generally bound for urban areas, and (3) that the BWC splits the criteria for nationhood from the right to self-determination. The figures say nothing about the rate of migration of Blacks in relation to other migrating nationalities, or to the general population flow within the U.S. as a whole. There is therefore no basis for establishing a norm, for getting an accurate perspective on the migrations of a particular people. We have no idea of what to make of the fact that migration dispersed nearly half of the population, or what this indicates for Blacks remaining in the South. We are given no figures on the percentage concentration within the South, the relation between urban and rural areas, or comparative figures for whites and other nationalities. Or of continuous areas of Black population throughout the South. In short, we can draw no conclusions one way or the other as to whether Blacks have the territorial basis for nationhood. The BWC turns the question of territory this way and that, but can make no sense of it. The readily available data seems to point to the “ominous” conclusion that territoriality has sufficiently eroded for the “nation ceasing to be a nation”. Instead of stopping to see whether this is actually the case, the BWC is overcome with moral indignation. Ceased to be a nation! It can’t be! “We still retain the right to that homeland”!

The BWC, which so often accuses the RU and others of liquidating the national question, have themselves liquidated the essential criteria in their panic to create new grounds for nationhood.

B. Self-Determination for Non-Nations

The BWC’s analysis operates on the assumption that Blacks do not presently have a territorial basis for nationality within the Black Belt. Nevertheless, Blacks still have ’close national union’, i.e. are a nation, and are therefore entitled to the right of self-determination, the right to “reclaim the historic homeland”. Of course, this is entirely the BWC’s own theoretical construction. It never slips from the moral plane down, down, down to the corporeal world and so says nothing about the actual status of Blacks.

The BWC is sensitive to the charge of Bundism, and goes to the effort of distancing itself from ’national-cultural autonomy’. In this they call upon Stalin:

Stalin says that a nation can establish its right of self-determination only as it establishes its political entry on a territorial basis. This means that this right must be exercised on a given territory, and not some nebuluous ’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 which say that Black people are ’dispersed’ from this territory and no longer constitute a majority there do not prove the contrary. As long as the basis for nationhood exists, as long as sufficient internal cohesion, and as long as the masses of Black people demand it, they have the absolute, unequivocal right to re-establish themselves as a political entity in their historic homeland. Ibid p.18

From this we have (1) a new criteria for nationhood, i.e. “sufficient internal cohesion”, (2) an apparent break with Bundism, since they include the ’historic homeland’ as the territorial requirement, (3) a liquidation of the old, Stalinist notion of territoriality and the effects of migrations, (4) a new basis for self-determination, i.e. “on demand”, regardless of objective national status, and (5) a new status for the right to self-determination, i.e. “absolute, unequivocal”. Formerly we had thought that the rights of nations were relative and equivocal, that is, subordinate to the higher right of the workingclass to protect its class interests. Essentially what we have here is a demand for land, and some political power to go with it.

Since the BWC has convinced itself that Blacks are not presently a nation in the Black Belt, but are an internally cohesive nation waiting to reclaim its homeland, we must see if there is any justification of the charge of Bundism put against them. There is no avoiding the fact that the BWC maintains national rights for a non-nation, If it assumes Blacks lack the territorial criteria for nationhood, and yet still have national status, they directly alter the notion of nationality, and thus split the old notion from its old tie to self-determination. The new definition of a nation has an entirely moral basis, dependent upon the people’s view of themselves. Self-determination is thus reduced from an objective political right to a subjective and moral right. As long as a people ’demand’ self-determination, it is an ’absolute, unequivocal’ right, etc. Is that Bundism?

As we have seen, the Bund called for ”national-cultural autonomy”, for autonomy regardless of territory. The BWC does not. But is a specific program, “national-cultural autonomy”, what is characteristic of Bundism. No, that is only a particular form. What is characteristic of Bundism is that it attempts to create a form of national rights for a dispersed peoples. It makes little difference whether that takes the form of ”national-cultural autonomy” or a supposed right to ”reclaim the historic homeland”. The BWC is less inventive than the Bund, which never would have dared to put forward such a tacky theoretical position like “reclaim the historic homeland” before the R.S.D.L.P. As we shall see, the RU is on par with the Bund in this respect.

The Bundists did not bother with the right to territorial self-determination, since that quite clearly demands not a past or future territory, but a present one. Self-determination in any objective definition of the word simply does not apply to a people that are already dispersed. Dispersion, on the other hand, does not completely eliminate a people’s culture, their sense of national heritage, or their identity as a national grouping. If anything, such identity is often strengthened since

...these groups are made to suffer by the local national majorities In the way of limitations on their language, schools, etc. Hence national collisions. Stalin Marxism and the National Question p.33

Dispersion does not eliminate the aspirations of the various classes composing a people, and for the national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, for which dispersion acts as an erosion of their potential economic base, their aspirations become more pronounced and desperate. For the upper classes, it becomes mandatory to either quickly integrate Into the larger national economy, or if that proves impossible, to devise schemes for maintaining some marginal form of home market. And so, the push for integration by some sectors of the bourgeoisie, and the rise of nationalism among other sectors. Since the petty bourgeoisie has no economic future within a monopolized great-nation economy, it invariably tends towards the nationalist solution, and in one form or another advances the idea of national union. With the Bund, this took the form of “national-cultural autonomy”, i.e. in reality not a means to defend “national culture” for its own sake, but through the preservation of “national culture”, the preservation of a national identity, of national bonds, and therefore the preservation of some form of domestic market. Even a weak, non-territorial ’national union’ is, from the petty bourgeois standpoint, better than nothing at all. With the BWC this phenomenon takes the form of reclaiming the “historic homeland”. They have set their sights much higher than the Bund, not wishing to settle for cultural autonomy, and so go the limit of demanding the right of territorial self-determination. In essence there is no difference between the two positions. In essence both have the same motive force, the same petty bourgeois class base, and the same willingness to accomplish their ambitions by adapting socialism to nationalism. Both lines act as conduits for bourgeois ideology into the workingclass movement.

The BWC will object that it “doesn’t wish to speak for all Jewish workers”, is not separatist, believes wholeheartedly in a multinational Party, etc. But that changes nothing. Either Black people presently fulfill the criteria for nationhood, in which case they are entitled to the right to self-determination. Or Black people are no longer a nation, and self-determination does not apply. But we will not substitute a shoddy and moral definition of a nation in place of Stalin’s objective and accurate one. If, by the BWC’s own assumption, Blacks do not presently have the territorial basis for nationhood, and yet, as the BWC insists, Blacks still have the right to self-determination, then there is no other conclusion we can reach except that the BWC has lapsed into Bundism, has lapsed into bourgeois nationalism, and is injecting nationalism into the communist movement. Whether it continues to do so is up to the BWC.

C. The Question of Dispersion

From the BWC we have:

The demand for cheap Black labor increased tremendously. This, coupled with the increasingly desperate situation of economic depression (the boll weevil epidemic which destroyed tons of cotton) and the never-ending racist terror in the rural south, caused wave after Black human wave to roll northward to the ’promised land’. Between 1914 and 1919, there was an increase of 500,000 to 1,500,000 Black workers in the north. B.L.S., B.W.C., & P.P. p. 14

We have, then, three motive forces of the migrations: (1) attraction of jobs in the North and Midwest, (2) deteriorating conditions in the Southern economy, and (3) racist terror in the South. The first two forces are common to all migrations within a capitalist economy, and in the case of nationalities

...a process of dispersion of nations sets in, a process whereby whole groups, in search of a livlihood separate from nations, subsequently settling finally in other regions of the state...” Stalin Marxism and the National Question p.36

It is through the “international unity of capital, of economic life in general” (Lenin), of which migrations are one facet, that national barriers are broken down and through which the international character of the class struggle becomes self-evident. The nation Is the shell within which each national capital develops until it outgrows that shell, breaks beyond the national boundary, and spills out into the world. For the advanced countries, the breaking down of national barriers is the result of the migration of capital, capital “in search of a livdihood”, capital looking for the highest rate of return. The ’export’ of military and political power, which paves the way for capital, results in the internationalizing of great-nation culture, values, language, etc. and its imposition upon the oppressed nations. The oppressed nations are the “beneficiaries” of the new Internationalism, which stunts their own national development, monopolizes the home market, and begins dispersing the population.

From a communist standpoint, we oppose the forceful suppression of an oppressed nation’s language, customs and national identity. But we cannot in any way oppose, and in fact stand for, the breaking down of national barriers that results from economic intercourse, from the movement of people “in search of a livlihood”, etc. It is not the business of communists to oppose economic migrations, to restrict a people to a specific sphere of capitalist exploitation, under “their own” bourgeoisie, or to cry about “the historic homeland” when that territory has been abandoned for economic reasons. Such migrations in no way violate the interests of the workingclass, and to the extent that migrations contribute to the international unity of labor, advance those interests. The only classes that stand to lose from migrations, who see their interests violated by the dispersion of “their” people, and who out of desperation fantasize in public about “the historic homeland”, are the national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. With the dispersion of a people, there is the dispersion of the home market, and it is precisely this fact that puts the petty bourgeoisie into a panic.

We are left, then, with the third force, “racist terror in the rural south”. We must ask here, of the total migrations of Blacks from the Black Belt, what portion was due primarily to economic reasons, and what portion the result of terrorism? We would have to examine a number of things. The cycles of migrations in relation to the labor market in the North and Midwest. Migrations in relation to economic conditions in the South. The cycles of migrations in relation to cycles of racist terrorism. The degree of terrorism in the North and Midwest. Etc. Only by answering these questions could we begin to develop an accurate understanding of Black migrations over the past hundred years.

The issue of dispersion due to terrorism is important, since it is linked by the BWC to the “right” to return to the historic homeland.

And though dispersed from our historic homeland – the ’Black Belt’ South which was stolen from us after reconstruction, we still retain the right to that homeland and the right to secede from the rest of the U.S. if we so desire. B.L.S., B.W.C., & P.R. p.15

Reconstruction did not result in land reform, but in compromise between Northern and Southern capital against Southern labor. The Black nation, which rose after Reconstruction thus lacked the property right to its own territory, and so the means for developing an independent capital. Terrorism by the local ruling classes forced Blacks into semi-feudal conditions, and in combination with worsening economic conditions, eventually resulted in dispersion. The generations of slavery and wage-slavery of Black folk in the Black Belt, however, entitles all Black folk to a share in that homeland. Thus Blacks have the ”right” to reclaim that homeland whenever they see fit. Such is the moral sketch outlined by the BWC.

The question arises, in what instances can we say that dispersion due to terrorism or force entitles a people to the right to reclaim their historic homeland? The RU, who is in agreement with the BWC on this point cites the example of Palestine. It is a good parallel, although the RU draws the wrong conclusion. The Palestinians were, prior to 1948, an integral nation occupying a common territory. Their dispersion from Palestine by the Zionists was accomplished through terrorism, mass murder, systematic destruction of villages, seizure of land, businesses, farms, etc. In the place of Palestine there appeared Israel, not a new nation, but a settler state in the tradition of Rhodesia and South Africa. The Palestinians did not migrate for economic reasons, in search of a livlihood, did not settle into a new economic life in the other Arab states, or begin the long process of assimilation into these new areas. Their integration stopped at the border of their homeland, where they have been encamped ever since, fighting to get back in. If the Palestinians had given up their homeland, dispersed into the surrounding Arab countries, and established new lives, they of course would longer be a nation, nor have any “absolute, unequivocal” right re-establish themselves in their homeland. In fact, because of the peculiar way in which the Palestinian nation was deprived of its territory, we recognize that the Palestinians are still a nation. Likewise, if the migrations of Blacks from the Black Belt were accomplished solely through force of arms, if the Black population were encamped on the Mason-Dixon line, and fighting a war of national liberation, we would also recognize that Blacks did indeed have a “right to reclaim that historic homeland”.

In point of theory, however, “sufficient internal cohesion” (which can only mean national will by the BWC’s interpretation) and “demand” do not entitle the dispersed portion of the Black population to the “right” to reclaim what has been left behind. Self-determination applies to nations, not to dispersed peoples. If the criteria of nationhood and the right to self-determination apply in any way to Blacks in the U.S., they apply to the Blacks presently residing in the Black Belt. We repeat: no one in the contemporary movement has proven or disproven the existence of a Black nation. The question remains open.

D. Is There Such a Thing as Workingclass Nationalism?

In order to show that nationalism among the masses of Blacks is “in and of itself” revolutionary, the BWC distinguishes between two forms of nationalism. The nationalism of the bourgeoisie is of course reactionary and adapted to bourgeois class interests. The nationalism of the workingclass and peasantry, however, is a very nice sort of nationalism, clean and inoffensive. Workingclass nationalism fights for the interests of the entire nation, and against imperialism. It is therefore a revolutionary nationalism.

From the BWC we have:

Revolutionary nationalism of Black people and all oppressed peoples, is a reflection of the nationalism of the working masses. “Criticism of ’National Bulletin #13’ ” Red Papers 6 p.28

Many Black revolutionaries who are not yet able to distinguish genuine Marxism from sham Marxism, imagine that communism and nationalism are incompatable. B.L.S., B.W.C. , & P.R. p.8

...As such, communists within these oppressed nations are at the same time “patriots”, revolutionary nationalists, because not only do they defend and protect the national interests of their respective people, but they actively take the lead in doing so.

But every communist of an oppressed nation is a revolutionary nationalist – Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Kim II Sung, and so on. Although for socialism and the international proletariat, these men were the most consistent fighters for the legitimate interests of their respective peoples. Ibid p.8

The question is, are there two forms of nationalism, bourgeois and proletarian, or is communism in fact incompatible with nationalism? Lenin has a few words to say on this, since it seems he, too, could not ”distinguish genuine Marxism from sham Marxism” and “imagined” that communism and nationalism are incompatible:

Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even of the ’most just’, ’purest’, most refined and civilized brand. In place of all forms of nationalism Marxism advances internationalism, the amalgamation of all nations in the higher unity, a unity that is growing before our eyes with every mile of railway line that is built, with every international trust, and every workers’ association that is formed (an association that is international in its economic activities as well as in its ideas and aims). Lenin Critical Remarks on the National Question CW Vol. 20 p.34

The BWC will protest that they know and have admitted publicly that nationalism is a bourgeois ideology. And they will agree with Lenin that this form of nationalism is incompatible with Marxism. But, they will say, Lenin was writing before imperialism altered the nature of the national question, before a new form of nationalism, revolutionary workingclass nationalism, arose. Therefore, to cite Lenin against the BWC is just an underhanded trick. But let us see who is tricking whom.

How does the development of imperialism change the nature of the national question? Formerly, the national movement aimed at creating an independent capitalist state. It was progressive for the oppressed nation’s workingclass to the extent that it lifted the burden of foreign rule, allowed the free use of language, customs, etc., and resulted in basic bourgeois-democratic rights. It was progressive for the workers of the oppressor nation to the extent that it eliminated national hostility between the workers of both nations and drew them closer together. It was of course very lucrative for the national bourgeoisie since political independence gave it the opportunity to cultivate its own home market. And it weakened the multi-national state to the extent that the loss of political domination meant also the loss of easy access to the oppressed nation’s market. For the bourgeoisie of the multi-national state, the loss of the oppressed nation meant that continued economic domination must now be accompanied with bribes, legal maneuvers, etc. For the national bourgeoisie, political independence meant the opportunity to restrict or at least control foreign investments through legislation, tariffs, trade agreements, monetary valuations, etc.

For the workingclass, the national movement in this period only resolves one specific form of oppression, the repression of language, customs, etc. The overthrow of feudal remnants and foreign domination advances the nation as a whole to the stage of bourgeois-democracy. Bourgeois-democratic rights, in turn, are useful to the workingclass only as a course in political democracy, as a means of realizing their limits, and of pushing behond them to socialist revolution. Whether or not the workingclass becomes infected with nationalism

...depends on the degree of development and class contradictions, on the class consciousness and degree of organization of the proletariat. A class-conscious proletariat has its own tried banner, and it does not need to march under the banner of the bourgeoisie. Stalin Marxism and the National Question p.20

The banner of the workingclass is proletarian internationalism. In general, the national movement in the pre-imperialist period was a movement for the development of capitalism and its corresponding political form: bourgeois-democracy.

How is this changed under imperialism? Capital reaches a saturation point within the advanced countries, where it is no longer “productive” in the capitalist sense, and thus begins penetrating less developed areas in search of a higher rate of profit. Where formerly each national capital was fairly self-sufficient and maintained its own center of gravity, each is now out busily plundering the world, subjecting less advanced nations to the power of international finance, transforming backward countries into backward-kept countries, into sources of raw materials, cheap labor-power, and accessible markets for imperialism. Capital ceases to be national and becomes International.

In the oppressed nations, imperialism cultivates a comprador bourgeoisie to defend Its Interests, and begins monopolizing sectors of the home market. As in the old national movement, it is the national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie who give the call for revolt against national oppression, which is now a revolt against Imperialism. Unlike the old national movement, the national bourgeoisie cannot be a consistent force in the national movement because they face the contradiction of attempting to establish an independent national capital within an imperialist world market. Hence the tendency of the national bourgeoisie to hesitation and compromise. Either continued subservience to imperialism on a. capitalist basis; or a complete break with Imperialism on a socialist basis. That is the choice facing the national movement under imperialism.

The national movement, then, if it is to be successful, must be led by a class with a vital Interest in ending capitalist, as well as imperialist, exploitation. For the workingclass, the national movement occurs within a national framework, but since it must be aimed towards socialism, has an internationalist content. The workingclass leads the anti-imperialist forces to national independence and self-determination, consolidates its gains during the new democratic phase, and pushes on to socialist construction.

It goes without saying that the bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements within the national movement do not cease to have their own class ambitions simply because those ambitions cannot be realized. The national bourgeoisie still attempts to rally the masses behind its own class interests, rather than rally itself behind the interests of the masses. It issues the call to nationalism with which It seeks to restrict the national movement to a war against the Imperialist bourgeoisie. It still seeks to maintain some form of capitalism, of capitalist relations, of capitalist ’right’ to exploit labor-power. The workingclass, however, will have no part in any form of nationalism. The workingclass can feel national pride, and is patriotic. But patriotic in what sense? The masses are prond of themselves as a people. They have stood up. They have defeated imperialism. And they have made a vital contribution to the world revolution.

It is this sort of patriotism that the BWC transforms into workingclass nationalism. They turn to Mao for help, and in fact Mao does say that “We are at once internationalists and patriotists.” Nationalism is an ideology, and has a specific class content. Patriotism, like ’love of country’ is an emotion, a feeling, and likewise has a class content. The patriotism Mao is speaking of is the patriotism that develops in the course of the anti-imperialist war, the ’love of country’ of a people who are liberating themselves from imperialist oppression, or who are building socialism. The corresponding ideology to this sort of emotion is proletarian internationalism. By equating revolutionary nationalism to revolutionary patriotism, the BWC has in effect substituted bourgeois ideology for proletarian ideology. The concept of “revolutionary nationalism” is a way of giving a proletarian feeling a bourgeois expression, of giving a bourgeois idea currency within the workingclass movement, that is, another instance of adapting socialism to nationalism.

It’s not simply that the BWC confuses national feeling with nationalism. Their adaptation of socialism to nationalism has a definite intention. The BWC addresses itself to those Black revolutionaries who ̶o;imagine that communism and nationalism are incompatible”. It is precisely because communism and nationalism are incompatible that those Black revolutionary nationalists are hostile to communism. They feel, and rightly so, that there is no accommodation within Marxism-Leninism for petty bourgeois aspirations, for creating nations and home markets, for special national privileges, and so forth. Either the Black petty bourgeoisie, which has the greatest stake in Black nationalism, gives up its nationalism and sides with communism. Or it persists in its own narrow class interests, gives those interests a nationalist form, and remains outside the communist movement. There can be no middle ground. The petty bourgeois nationalists will either loosely ally with the workingclass, in which case there must eventually be a struggle between the two. Or they will from the first actively oppose the workingclass movement, in which case they must be defeated.

The BWC is too generous with the petty bourgeois nationalists, and in posing a compromise, compromises one of the fundamental principles of Marxism. If we want to win the Black petty bourgeoisie away from nationalism, we should do so directly, by explaining the stand of Marxism-Leninism, by exposing the limits of even the most progressive nationalism, by fighting for the dominance of the class line and against the dominance of the national line.

Instead of reducing the communist leaders of the Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean revolutions to the level of revolutionary nationalists, our revolutionary nationalists of the BWC would do better to raise themselves to the level of communists. We are told that “although for socialism” these men fought for their respective peoples. Imagine. Despite the fact that Mao Tse Tung was for socialism, he fought for his own people. Is there a contradiction between the fight for socialism, for proletarian internationalism, and the fight for one’s own people? From the standpoint of the workingclass, to fight for one’s own people iŁ to fight for socialism, for proletarian internationalism. From the standpoint of the petty bourgeoisie, however, there is a contradiction. To fight for one’s “own” people may not at all be a fight for socialism. The bourgeoisie, too, may also fight for the “Fatherland”, for it’s “own” people, against imperialism. But we must examine its motives very closely. For communists, however, there is no contradiction, there is in fact identity between the struggle for socialism and the struggle for one’s own people. “Although for socialism” the BWC struggles on behalf of petty bourgeois nationalism, wishing to keep a foot in each. It can only be warned: Our movement is drawing a deep line between the two; you must make up your minds on whose side you will stand.

E. The National Form of Organization

The BWC is generally very frank about its development, shortcomings, and deviations. It was created as a strictly Black organization, and meant to retain the national form until the creation of a new, multi-national communist party. It later changed this position, as we read in their first issue of The Communist:

...the BWC has taken a great leap forward, by breaking out of its shell of national form organization, by recruiting into its ranks workers and advanced elements from the multi-national proletariat. Our development as an all-Black organization, because of the objective and subjective factors of the late sixties..., can be understood but it can be no longer defended. UPHOLDING A NATIONAL FORM OF ORGANIZATION, ESPECIALLY FOR COMMUNISTS WAS A NATIONALIST DEVIATION ON OUR PART.

We stand with Stalin in saying that the national type of organization is a school of national narrow mindedness and prejudice, that it inculcates workers in a spirit of national aloofness. The International type of organization serves as a school of fraternal sentiments, and is a tremendous agitational factor on behalf of internationalism.

Clearly, whenever possible, the proletariat must be organized along multi-national lines. The Communist Vol I, I August 1974 p.3

We commend the BWC for this self-criticism, but only ask that it be more consistent. If the national form is no longer suitable, why retain an unsuitable name, i.e. the Black Workers Congress? If the national form was a nationalist deviation, why not Indicate, for the benefit of the movement, the exact nature of the deviation, i.e. Bundism. And, as long as you are standing with Stalin, why not ask him what he thinks of an organization taking an official position on the national question based on adaptations of socialism to nationalism? Standing with Stalin is a good vantage point if you can confront him face to face and take your true measure.