Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

Marxist-Leninists exchange views on racism

First Published: The New Voice, Vol. IX, No. 10, September 15, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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NOTE: The following statement refutes a number of criticisms made against The New Voice’s class analysis of racism. TNV originally sent the statement as a letter in response to “Our Unities on the National Question” issued by the Colorado Organization for Revolutionary Struggles and the League for Proletarian Revolution (Resistance, April 1980). The letter was revised slightly for publication here. CORes and LPR, which have merged subsequently into the Marxist-Leninist League, did not mention The New Voice by name, but the exchange could have occurred between any adherents of the class analysis of racism and its opponents who advance the thesis of a black nation.

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First, some points of unity should be mentioned. We agree with you in “recognizing the existence of two distinct, although intimately related movements in our country: the working class movement and the national movements.” Black people (victims of racism) and various national minority peoples (victims of racism and national minority oppression) do constitute movements distinct from the working class as a whole. These peoples suffer extra oppression and superexploitation, and they are naturally aroused to fight it. This is the basis for these movements.

We agree on the need for revolutionary political power for black people and national minorities. You call it self-determination or regional autonomy; we do not use terms that prejudge the issue as a national question. In any case, we stand for black political power. To say that these peoples will enjoy political equality under socialism might mean only that some individuals would hold positions in the bodies of the state, but we support political power for them as groups. The exact form of this power we cannot specify without a study of each particular case, just as you “treat each question separately, and not with a wholesale approach.” Our line is documented in our stands on various issues and events, most recently the insurrection in Miami.

We agree on the “need to win over the unions to struggle for the special rights and demands of oppressed nationalities.” We do this in trade unions and in mass struggles, for example, our major campaign to defeat the threat of the Weber case against affirmative action.

There are many other points of agreement between us which are not in the least controversial. These agreements do not need to be discussed here.


Second, we must discuss a matter absent from your statement–a materialist analysis of the interests of workers of all nationalities, color and peoples. Is the extra oppression and superexploitation of black and other peoples a benefit for white workers?

Although it prevents revolutionary political progress, does this racist oppression have no immediate economic effect on white workers, as some leftists maintain? TNV says that the extra oppression of minority peoples immediately hurts the overwhelming majority of white workers, too. This oppression, by serving as the material basis for splits in the working class, leads to a lower wage rate for workers in general, since only united struggle can realize gains and extract concessions from the capitalists. Comparisons of the lot of white workers and oppressed peoples in various regions, cities and industries prove this point. Where racist oppression is stronger, minority people suffer the most, and the lot of all workers is worse because of it.

We agree that the working class cannot achieve socialism without struggling against racist and national minority oppression, that all workers are fighting a common enemy, and that “the working class is multinational with a large sector from the oppressed peoples.” Besides grasping these links binding all parts of the working class together and binding the working class to oppressed peoples, we must build on the close connection between the material class interest of the different sections of the working class. This point seems to be missing from your statement.


Third, we must disagree with your view of “the united front in the U.S.” Our criticism of the united front strategic (not merely tactical) conception for the U.S. is developed at length in our publication, Strategy for Revolution: Build the Great Unity of the Working Class. In practice this united front conception leads to denying proletarian unity. It accommodates the view that white workers do indeed enjoy privileges from capitalist super-exploitation of black people. It undermines the ability to work among white proletarians and unite them in the struggle against racist and national oppression.

The united front strategy has traditionally been opposed to the materialist analysis of racist and chauvinist divisions. At best, those who hold the united front strategic view cannot rally white workers to fight racism. For example, in the Weber case we had to supplement (rather than deny) the line and work of these people in order to build a broader, firmer fight. At the worst, the united front strategists promote splits in the working class (for example, when they supported forced busing in Boston in 1974).

Fourth, we should discuss terminology. It is wrong to prejudge issues by borrowing terms from the national question discussions of the communist movement at other times and in other lands. A black people exists in the U.S. and it has a black people’s movement, but we have never seen proof that there is a black nation. Nor are black people a national minority in the way that Chicano people, for example, are a national minority in the U.S. based on the Mexican nation. One unfortunate result of this terminology is your reference to “those which reduce the national question to a mere problem of racism.” It is your incorrect assumption, not based on TNV’s theory or its, practice, which regards racism purely as a matter of prejudicial attitudes. The class analysis of racism actually supplies the correct, current, materialist analysis of the problem, something the adherents of national-question terminology have never been able to provide.

Within the limits of principle we are flexible about terms. Unity on the substance of the question is what counts. Given that, the matter of terminology can be worked out fairly easily.