Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ivan Hoe

Thoughts on the Hawaii National Question

First Published: Modern Times, Vol. IV, No. 12, December 1980-January 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A national question arises when the people of a given territory are systematically oppressed as a people beyond that which can be explained by the “normal” exploitation that goes on under capitalism. In the U.S., national questions have arisen concerning black, Chicano, Indian and Puerto Rican peoples. In Spain there exists a Basque national question; in Iran, a Kurdish national question; in Ethiopia, an Eritrean national question, and in Canada, a Quebec national question.

In essence, the Hawaii national question is this: “Is Hawaii a permanent part of the United States like Ohio or Pennsylvania, in spite of its having been forcibly annexed, its geographical location, and its history of Polynesian and oriental peoples? It will not do simply to say “yes” or “no” based on our own subjective wishes or thinking. We must have a real study of the question. The answer, once researched will give us clarity in defining our political tasks.

For years now, the socialist movement in Hawaii has been characterized by jumping into support for this or that community eviction struggle or strike with no overall guiding line as to where it all leads, except vaguely eventually to socialism. But as Chairman Mao has so succinctly put it, “When a task, no matter which, has to be performed, but there is as yet no guiding line, method, plan or policy, the principal and decisive thing is to decide on a guiding line, method, plan or policy.” (“On Contradiction”).

Whenever the need to deepen our theoretical work is raised, someone will inevitably call out, “Yes, but we don’t want theory divorced from practice.” In the general sense this is true, but in the context where practice divorced from theory is the rule, this amounts to a coverup of the predominant economism and spontaneity.

What is necessary at this point is to make an all-sided investigation of the political economy of Hawaii, past and present, and to examine the attitudes regarding Hawaii’s status as the 50th state which exists among the various classes and nationalities of Hawaii. Certainly among Hawaiians that status is being questioned; others are somewhat open about it, but are non-committal. Being integrated into the USA has brought a measure of prosperity to some, it cannot be doubted. On the other hand, others are alienated from the U.S. and everything it stands for. At present, Hawaii is very dependent on the U.S. mainland, but does it have to be that way? Attacks on tourists and military personnel are .a symptom of the resentment and frustration of the dispossessed. With the military occupying 25% of Oahu’s land as well as Pearl Harbor, and with resort developments, condominiums and golf courses sprouting up like weeds, many people are saying “Nuff already!”

But since capitalism pushes relentlessly into every nook and cranny regardless of the desires of existing residents, the problem will get continually worse until forced to do otherwise. This pressure then generates an interest on the part of oppressed people to resist. This process is the dialectics of historical relations between the oppressor and the oppressed.

As is well known, Hawaii has a significance for military strategy beyond the “mere” economic investment in the form of industry and tourism here. Hawaii is the command center for the military capacity of U.S. imperialism in the Pacific and Asia. As such, it will go to extreme lengths to avoid giving it up. On the other hand, the very presence of such military concentration makes Oahu an inevitable target in a nuclear war as long as that concentration exists. This is the key point. This is why the Hawaii National Question has international significance. If Hawaii’s people, under the leadership of the working class, unify against the further intrusion of U.S. imperialism and force it to retreat, and in the process defeat the local collaborators, then Hawaii will be in a far better position to survive a world war. Such actions would also make a significant contribution toward reducing the danger of a U.S.-provoked world war by destabilizing a key base area.

So far in the discussion of the issue, two distinct positions have emerged. The RCP, continuing the traditions of the CPUSA, regards Hawaii as an inseparable part of the USA, according to their Programme. The Workers Viewpoint Organization declares that Hawaii is a colony and urges independence as long as imperialism has not been overthrown on the U.S. mainland. However, many questions remain to be answered, and any solution must involve the organized strength of the working class and its allies. So far, this is not an issue that has gripped the masses. But it is likely to do so before long.

The national question is not fundamentally a question of race, but of class. Formal political independence for a nation without soon attaining economic independence leads to a continued all-around dependency on the oppressor nation for jobs, industrial goods, and even for food itself. A radical break has to be made with the economic order that binds the oppressed nation to the oppressor. This requires a socialist revolution and a smashing of the control of the existing capitalist class and its structures that perpetuate that control. Economic independence does not mean, of course, cessation of trade relations with other countries, but cessation of unequal trade.

Such a transformation cannot come about without the working class at its head, together with a Marxist-Leninist party to guide it. Even then, the danger of revisionism lurks in the shadows, as we have seen in the USSR and China. But the struggle is doomed to failure without M-L leadership. For such leadership to arise, the working class must come to understand the political economy of Hawaii, both its internal workings right here, and how it connects with the mainland. But this knowledge does not come spontaneously through day-to-day shop struggles or even in major strikes. As Lenin pointed out 75 years ago, this knowledge must be brought to the working class by that portion of the intelligentsia which takes the class stand of the workers and seeks to merge with them in forming a class-conscious proletarian revolution. In turn, this group, which has the training to do this work, must do it, not tail after each spontaneous movement that arises from the oppression of capitalism. Failure to engage in this work and to unite with the deepest sentiments of the people for liberation, can lead to race war by default, as people explode with anger at the nearest vulnerable target, such as isolated GI’s or tourists now, and perhaps attack larger groups of people later.

Regardless of the solution to the Hawaii National Question, whether as part of the U.S. working class struggle or as a striving for independence, the enemy is U.S. imperialism, which is responsible for both the exploitation of the working class and the oppression of non-white nationalities, here, on the mainland, and around the world. To make the details of this exploitation and oppression concretely visible as a system is the task of revolutionary intellectuals. Failure to do this educational work amounts to betrayal, even more than of so-called “labor leaders” who settle for contracts favorable to management by selling out workers’ demands.

(When the dominant worldwide mode of production is capitalist, it is unlikely that unequal trade relations can be ended by a revolution. Even with trade among self-proclaimed “socialist” nations, the nature of the trade is still commodity production for exchange, as Kim II Sung has written. While a revolution may help to decrease the inequality of trade relations, the disadvantages of a non-industrial country that must trade with technologically advanced countries will remain for a long time.

Concerning the question of a conscious vanguard party, several successful revolutionary movements have claimed that they were not led by a Marxist-Leninist party (although the leadership was influenced by M-L ideas). These countries include Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau. M-L parties were officially formed after victory (In the case of Cuba, the old Communist Party was taken over by the new revolutionary leadership. –Ed.)