Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

OL’s Line on Racism Distorts Reality

First Published: The New Voice, Vol. VI, No. 23, November 28, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This is one of a series of articles supporting the revolutionary strategy in the U.S. and criticizing the party program being hawked by the October League under the name “Communist Party (M-L).” Readers are invited to contribute articles to the series. Articles should unite theory and practice. They should contribute to our understanding of the difference between the line of revolution and the line of no revolution. This is a good opportunity to analyze some of your experience and to deepen our understanding of the problems of revolution in the United States.

The pamphlet “Revolutionary Strategy in the U.S.” is available for 25$. TNV, P.O. Box 19107, Oakland, CA 94619.

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In June 1977, the October League (OL) announced the “historic” founding of the Communist Party (M-L). Buried within the same edition of The Call (June 20) is an article entitled, “Black Belt Family Faces Loss of Their Land.” In one newspaper we find news of a new party and a perfect illustration of that party’s inability to lead the working class to revolution.

The gist of the article on the black belt family goes like this: the Woolridges, a black family in Pickens County, Alabama, borrowed $150,000 from a white judge over a period of 20 years. However, due to exorbitant interest rates, the Woolridge family ended up paying back over a million dollars in cash and cotton while the debt actually got bigger.

Starting from this example of a white businessman’s oppression of a black businessman, the OL tries to use the Woolridge family to impress us with the OL’s theory of a black nation. The OL concludes, “...national oppression continues to intensify. The robbery of Black-owned land has, since Reconstruction, been a consistent feature of the denial of the Afro-American’s right to self-determination.”


Anyone striving for working-class revolution must begin every subject with a class analysis to determine the kind of revolution the society needs and the strategy for achieving it. In their treatment of the Woolridges, The Call editors are not even concerned with classes. They are concerned with proving that blacks suffer unique forms of oppression which make their struggle for liberation different from the overall working-class struggle for socialism. They see that uniqueness in people who make their living in agriculture. But, lacking a class analysis, they miss the mark completely. The Woolridges are small farmers being forced off their land by big business. This is happening to thousands of small farmers all over the U.S. But most of the small farmers are white, not black. And most are not in the South. Racism has its effect in this realm as anywhere else in capitalist society, and the conditions facing black farmers are clearly worse than those facing whites of the same class. But the basis of their conditions in the relations between classes are the same. The OL says that the loss of black farmers’ land proves national oppression; they do not tell us their analysis of white small farmers who are also losing their land. They put race above class.

The Call tries to recover by drawing a lame comparison between the Woolridges and black sharecroppers. But the OL admits that “the Woolridges would have to hire laborers and put the whole family to work to bring in the cotton.” And also, “Some years as many as 500 acres were rented and planted in cotton, producing sometimes over 400 bales.” Hiring laborers, 500 acres, an operation that sustained a debt of one million dollars–does this sound like the plight of the average oppressed sharecropper? The OL states that “in spite of being a rather large scale farmer, Woolridge is in a position much like any sharecropper in Pickens County with 50 acres and a rented mule.” What a laugh! How preposterous to imagine that this petty bourgeois family striving to become capitalists represents the terrible plight of a black sharecropper in the South. Those of us working here in the South know only too well the poverty and misery of black sharecroppers and workers in places like western Mississippi.


After putting race ahead of class, the OL not surprisingly builds an entire theory of national oppression without any reference to classes. The example of the Woolridges is one that could apply at most to 2.5% of blacks. Here, we will even allow the OL to count both sharecroppers and black small farmers if they wish. Only 2.5% of all blacks in the U.S. make their living in agriculture of any kind. Taking the South by itself, the figure is still only 3.5% (see TNV pamphlet: “Defeat the ’National Question” Line in the U.S. and Unite to Fight Racism,” page 38. The pamphlet is available from TNV for $1.00). Where are the other 96% of the black people? They are workers. They live where other workers live, they work where other workers work, and they are oppressed, to an even greater degree than white workers, by capitalist exploitation of surplus-value from them.

The OL was looking for unique conditions facing blacks to prove the theory of national oppression. The only thing unique is their example. They draw a non-class analysis of racism based on one black family which represents a small minority of their class (petty producers, small farmers) and only 2.5% of all blacks. The example is indeed unique in having nothing to do with the overwhelming majority of the population, white or black. It is drawn from the well-to-do stratum of the petty bourgeoisie, who as a whole are about 7% of the population and mostly white. The OL’s “national question” for blacks in the U.S. rests on thin air.

The OL substitutes empty rhetoric for a real class analysis of racism. Racism serves the monopoly capitalist ruling class. By forcing blacks into worse conditions, capitalists seek to split the working class. Divided, workers’ struggles against the capitalists for a better life are less effective. The capitalists benefit an all workers suffer. The working-class program to FIGHT RACISM! counters the divisiveness by opposing both the differential, the special oppression of blacks, and racist attitudes which arise from that differential. That is the path to class unity and revolution. The OL’s “national question” divides the working class and is not the path to revolution.