Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Oppose the Government’s Counter-Revolutionary Busing Plan

A Polemic Against the Idealist Essence of the “Material Base of Racism” Theories


First Published: By Compass Press (Boston), September 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The Method

In discussing a problem, we should start from reality and not from definitions. We are Marxists and Marxism teaches that in our approach to a problem we should start from objective facts not from abstract definitions, and that we should derive our guiding principles, policies, and measures from an analysis of these facts. (Mao Tse-tung, “Yenan Forum on Literature and Art,” Selected Readings, Eng ed., FLP, Peking, 1971, p.257)

PART I: Is The Government’s Bussing Plan An Attack Or A Concession?

Ever since the U.S. government announced its support for the State of Massachusetts bussing plan for Boston in 1974, there has been a fierce struggle among groups who claim to be fighting for socialism over the question of “Boston bussing.” Many groups, even some who say they take guidance from Marxism-Leninism (like CP(ML) formerly the October League, the Proletarian Unity League, and Radical America) claim that the government’s bussing plan was a “genuine concession” to the “just struggle of black people” and that Marxist-Leninists, particularly if they are white, have an obligation to support bussing. Other groups explain that bussing is a tactic of the imperialists, that it is being used to deceive progressive peoples so as to better suppress and exploit them, that the government’s bussing plan in Boston is a policy of the imperialists and the imperialists do not suddenly change their color and become the “friend” of black people.

The analysis that bussing is a “concession” is poignantly summed up in a newspaper article saying “Busing Continues to be the Central Axis in the Fight for Black Liberation and Equality.” (Student Mobilizer, National Student Coalition Against Racism, Fall 1976, p. l)

A review of the Afro-American struggle against racial discrimination and violent repression in the 1960’s will help to clarify that bussing is an attack on that struggle, not a concession to it.

History of the Afro-American Struggle Against Racial Discrimination And Violent Repression: 1960’s.

In August 1963, about 250,000 Afro-Americans and their supporters marched on Washington, D.C. This demonstration belonged to the category of “non-violence.” But by July, 1964, less than one year later, black people broke through the “non-violence-reformism” barrier and launched a struggle where the counter-revolutionary violence of the U.S. government, police, etc. was met with revolutionary violence. Afro-Americans in Harlem, fought troops and police with rocks, clubs, and incendiary bottles for six days and nights on end. From then on a just, violent struggle spread like a prairie fire all over the U.S. (This account is paraphrased from the account in Peking Review, #33, 8/6/68, p.10-11)[1] As Peking Review goes on to explain “according to the greatly minimized statistics of the U.S. bourgeois press, the Afro-American struggle by violence broke out in 15 cities in 1964 and 9 cities in 1965. It rapidly spread to 38 cities in 1966, to as many as 128 cities in 1967, and to 131 cities in the first half of 1968. Of these, the struggles which occurred in the Watts District of Los Angeles in 1965, in Chicago in 1966, and in Newark and Detroit in 1967 were on a comparatively large scale.” (Peking Review, #33, 8/6/68, p. 11)[2]

Martin Luther King[3] who had been a leading advocate of nonviolence was murdered in April, 1968, by the U.S. imperialists. This criminal act set off a new storm of struggle against violent repression which swept more than a hundred American cities.

The Black Movement Against Violent Repression, along with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, was a spark that helped to ignite the U.S. student movement of the late 1960’s. On April 23, 1968, many black and white students at Columbia University in New York City staged a sit-in. Columbia was the largest landlord in Harlem, the Afro-American ghetto that is adjacent to the University. It had evicted large numbers of black people there in the name of “urban renewal.” The plan of Columbia University officials to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park aroused strong opposition from people in Harlem. Columbia University students, black and white, took up the demands against the gymnasium raised by community people and added a demand against the University participation in the war in Vietnam and a demand against the University’s suppression of political dissent by students. The demands raised by the students were:

1. Opposition to racial discrimination. An end to the encroachment on the park in Harlem.
2. Opposition to the war of aggression against Vietnam. Severance of the University’s ties with the Institute of Defense Analysis headed by Maxwell Taylor (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War).
3. Opposition to political persecution. School authorities should not punish progressive students who participated in the student movement.

On April 24, 1968, to win their demands the protesters seized five buildings on the campus, took over the president’s office and held the dean and two aides for several hours.

This demonstration received the support of the Afro-American community. Large numbers of local high school students came to aid the! college students. The police sealed off the occupied buildings, and on April 30, armed police forced their way into the university. The students barricaded themselves in the five buildings they controlled, but were manhandled for over an hour and savagely beaten. More than 600 were arrested. Several thousand university lecturers and student rushed to aid the beseiged students and together put up a stiff fight. (See Peking Review, #21, May 24, 1968 and #24, June 14, 1968)

This student action was an inspiration to other students. On May 1 students at New York University seized one of the administration buildings. On May 3, more than 100 black students occupied the business office at Northwestern in Illinois and made demands against racial discrimination. White students supporting them seized the dean’s office.

As the Columbia example shows, progressive students combined demands against the Vietnam war with their demands against racial discrimination.

Also the Afro-American movement realized the need to link their demands against violent repression at home with the fight against the Vietnam War. As a commentator in Peking Review explained: “An important indication of the Afro-Americans’ rapid political awakening is that more and more of them are now linking up their struggle with the struggle against the U.S. imperialist policy of aggression abroad. Some of the more advanced elements among the black people have begun to realize that Afro-Americans can never win complete emancipation unless the imperialist system is smashed.” (“Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression Developing Vigorously,” Peking Review, #33, 8/6/68, p.11)

Peking Review points to examples of black anti-War organizations like the National Black Anti-War, Anti-Draft Union. It quotes black students burning their draft cards as saying, “Our battlefield is right here in the United States!” and it reports black soldiers distributing leaflets publicizing the idea that “what Black people should do is to oppose aggression and rise in revolution” and black soldiers sending home weapons to be used in the struggles against violent repression.

At the same time as the Afro-American struggle against violent repression was developing, so the movement against the U.S. aggression in Vietnam was gaining support. By the early summer of 1964 there were, for example, demonstrations in Times Square, N.Y.C., which were attacked by mounted police. Anti-War demonstrations gained in momentum and intensity through the 1960’s so that by Oct. 15, 1969, a million people demonstrated across the U.S. against the Vietnam War. By Nov. 13th 300,000 people were converging on Washington D.C. On the evening of Nov. 14th 3,000 people shouting slogans against the war marched on the “embassy” of the South Vietnamese puppet clique in Washington. They were there to serve it “an eviction notice.” The reactionary U.S. authorities rushed large numbers of police to “protect” the puppet “embassy.” The police blocked the streets and flagrantly teargassed the demonstrators. Some of the cops even ran their cars into the demonstrating crowd. National Guardsmen were called out to help the police in cracking down on the demonstrators. Undeterred by such brute force, the protesting masses fought back heroically, using rocks and bottles as weapons in battling with the reactionary police and guardsmen. A dozen or so of the police were injured, some police vans were damaged and a police scooter was burnt. The fight lasted till early the following morning. The next day, Nov. 15th, there was a demonstration of 300,000 people from all parts of the country. They carried red flags and placards with slogans like: “Get out now!” “Bring my husband home!” “Draft Richard Nixon.” Some of the protest marchers carried signs identifying themselves as servicemen opposed to the war or young men defying the draft. As they marched people shouted: “Revolution by the young,” “Hell no, we won’t go (to Vietnam)!” and other slogans. Traffic was brought to a standstill on the long avenue leading to the downtown area while the contingents marched. The powerful demonstration went on for more than three hours, followed by a big rally at the Washington Monument ground. A flag of the South Vietnam National Front for Liberation was hoisted on a flag pole beside the Monument by the demonstrators. In the afternoon there was a demonstration against the Justice Department by about 5,000 people. (See Peking Review, #47, 11/21/69)

By 1971 the strength and momentum against the war had reached such heights that a large demonstration in Washington was held under the slogan “Stop the War or We’ll Stop the Government.” On college campuses throughout the country, students fought the police, R.O.T.C. buildings were burned, and draft centers interrupted. Also, a strong and effective movement developed among the soldiers and veterans of the war. Soldiers refused to fight, there were fraggings where commanding officers were killed, and veterans held demonstrations and organized servicemen.

The Afro-Americans, students, G.I.’s and other progressive movements were gaining momentum and merging with each other in opposition to the Vietnam War.

The Merging of the American Workers Movement and the Afro-American Struggle Against Discrimination and Violent Repression.

By August, 1968, Peking Review reported that the strikes in the U.S. had surged forward one after another since the previous year and had reached the highest level in 15 years, in both momentum and magnitude. There was the movement into the cities of black people,[4] becoming either workers or unemployed, and thus bringing the struggle against violent repression and racial discrimination into the workers’ movement. In July, 1967, for example, during a widespread strike wave among ship builders, about 200 Afro-American workers in the transportation department of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company called a strike to protest against forced overtime. This rapidly developed into a large scale, company wide strike involving 20,000 black and white workers in the shipyard. Some strikers fought troops and police when they tried to attack the strike (Peking Review #33, 8/16/68, p.14). According to Peking Review there were 4,950 strikes by American workers in 1968 (Peking Review #17, 4/25/69)

Summing up these events, a Peking Review commentator observed:

By their armed struggle against tyranny the Afro-Americans are playing the important role of shock forces in the revolutionary struggle of the American people. (#34, 8/13/67)

In summing up the lessons being drawn by advanced Black people, there was a growing awareness of the need for revolutionary theory and for the struggle to have working class leadership. As a Peking Review commentator explains:

Some advanced Black people in the struggle have conscientiously studied and propagated Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung Thought and summed up the experience and lessons in the black peoples struggle. Through this summing up many of them have further pointed out what the Afro-Americans really need is an end to the system of exploitation of man by man, a revolution to destroy the capitalist system and that only the working class can lead the Afro-American movement to achieve this purpose and that only by integrating the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought with the concrete conditions in the United States can the working class win victory. (Peking Review, #17, 4/25/69, p. 13)

As Mao explains: “The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States share common interests and have common objectives to struggle for.”(1968 Statement)[5] And Peking Review commentators add: “This is a truth which the broad masses of American working people, both Black and white will come to see ever more clearly in the course of their joint struggle. It will enable them to further close their ranks and launch a sustained and vigorous offensive against their common enemy, the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.” (#18, 5/3/68)

Here we have the objective conditions: the Black Movement turning away from “reformism” and “non-violence” towards “revolutionary theory” and “revolutionary violence” merging with the working class movement, and advanced black people turning towards the science of Marxism-Leninism and identifying more and more as part of the working class movement; clearly a significant threat to the U.S. ruling clique.

In this context, it is important to review the role played by the U.S. government and the revisionists and opportunists of all shades.

The Counter-revolutionary Dual Tactics of Rule of the U.S. Government – Force and Fraud.

While describing the progressive struggle against the U.S. monopoly capitalists, the Peking Review articles also point out the counter-revolutionary dual tactics, the cunning two faced tactics of force and deception employed by the U.S. bourgeoisie and their government.

Peking Review, representing the revolutionary understanding of the Communist Party of China, consistently exposed the political chicanery of the U.S. government’s so-called “concessions.” The Soviet social imperialists helped the U.S. government to deceive people by spreading the myth that these were indeed “concessions.” Peking Review describing the Soviet response to the “civil rights” act explains: “On April 10, the U.S. Congress passed a ’civil rights’ law to lull and dupe the Black people. The Soviet revisionists received the news like a godsend and hastened to praise U.S. imperialism, saying that the law which ’prohibits racial discrimination in the rent and sale of housing’ represented a ’concession’ on the part of the U.S. ruling circles.” (“Soviet Revisionism – No 1 Accomplice of U.S. Imperialism in Suppressing Afro-American Struggle,” Peking Review, #20, 5/17/68, p. 28) Peking Review exposes the Soviet Union’s response to the Kerner Report in 1968. They explain: “They (the U.S. government) also published a report prepared quite some time ago by the Special Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, an organ in the service of the U.S. President. The deceptive nature of the report was obvious as it recommended that the U.S. authorities introduce certain ’reforms’ to quiet down the Afro-American struggle. Yet an article in Trud of April 7, 1968, wrote that ’it was a sober-minded report’ – and that its recommendations constituted ’an earnest programme for social reform.’ A TASS report struck the same note.” (Ibid.)[6]

This Peking Review article goes on to show how the Soviet press responded to the black rebellions by attacking and criticizing them. It explains: “The Khrushchov clique then openly ranged itself with the U.S. ruling circles and opposed the Black people’s struggle. Its mouthpiece TASS, unashamedly came forward as the guardian of the colonialist system by abusing the masses of Afro-Americans in their heroic struggle as ’participants in boisterious disturbances’ and vilifying the struggle as ’outbursts of vandalism and violence.’ It branded as ’extremist’ those Afro-American organizations which advocate the use of revolutionary violence to meet counter-revolutionary violence.” (Ibid. p.28) The article goes on to expose how the Brezhnev-Kosygin clique “showered the Johnson Administration with praise for its ’civil rights bill’ which was supposed to ’ensure the right to vote’ but was actually designed to benumb the fighting will of the Afro-Americans....It asserted that the ’bill’ which was only an empty promise was ’necessary,’ as it prohibits all restrictions and procedures aimed at denying people the right to vote or curtailing this right on racial grounds or because of the colour of one’s skin.” (Ibid.) The Peking Review commentators go on to point out how Lenin provided them with the guidance for understanding the need to “expose” not “praise” the U.S. government’s counter-revolutionary dual tactics: “When exposing Kautsky, the arch renegade of the Second International, the great Lenin quoted the words of the German philosopher Feuerbach that those who try to comfort the slaves instead of arousing them to revolt against slavery are helping the slave owners.” (Ibid, p. 28)

In exposing the political chicanery of the U.S. government, Peking Review commentators also expose the traitorous role played by certain opportunist politicians: “...the reactionary U.S. ruling circles,” they explain, “have also picked out a few reactionary stooges from among the Black people and made them judges, congressmen and even generals or mayors so as to put up a facade to gain the confidence of the people on the one hand and, on the other, to sabotage the Afro-American struggle directly.” (#33, 8/6/68, p. 14) In another article, they point out how the U.S. government uses certain opportunist leaders in the Black Movement. The Peking Review commentators explain: “Through their counter-revolutionary dual tactics, they have on the one hand, instigated the Right-wing leaders in the Afro-American movement, whom they have bought over, to advocate the ’legal and non-violent’ road, while on the other hand, they have greatly increased the number of police and given hundreds and thousands of National Guardsmen and troops ’anti-riot training’ in a vain effort to stamp out the flames of the Afro-American struggle.” (#27, 7/5/68)

National Oppression Is The Result of Class Exploitation.

In his 1963 “Statement Supporting The Afro-Americans In Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination By U.S. Imperialism” (Peking Review, #33, 1963), Mao explained that, “In the final analysis national struggle is a matter of class struggle.” This is crucial to understand for it makes it possible to distinguish “friends from foes, define the general orientation of the struggle, and draw up correct strategy and tactics.” (“Afro-Americans Just Struggle Will Triumph”, Peking Review, #34, 8/13/67, p.29) Mao goes on to explain: “Among the whites in the United States it is only the reactionary ruling circles who oppress the Black people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened people who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people.” (our underlining). The Peking Review commentary in this article is very clear about the cause of national oppression. They explain:

Fundamentally speaking, it is the presence of classes and class oppression that gives rise to national oppression. To thoroughly eliminate national oppression it is imperative to eliminate class oppression, overthrow the reactionary rule of monopoly capital and smash the imperialist system. (Ibid.)

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels explained that national oppression is the result of class exploitation. As the class struggle against the bourgeoisie is taken up and when the dictatorship of the proletariat is established, then the struggle against national antagonism can be successful. Marx explains: “In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.” (Communist Manifesto, FLP, Peking, 1970, p.55)

Here is how some Mill workers in China explain the class basis of national oppression. They say:

Chairman Mao pointed out in his statement ’The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction.’ We veteran workers of Tientsin know fully well that the exploiting classes the world over are birds of a feather and members of the proletariat everywhere are, as the saying goes, ’bitter melons growing on the same vine.’
Revolution and counter-revolution have never been distinguished by the colour of the skin or difference in race, but are distinguished by the difference in class. The reactionary ruling circles of the United States have long sown the seeds of racial prejudice and hatred among the working people of different colours to achieve their aim of ’divide and rule’ and safeguard the reactionary rule of the monopoly capitalist class. Our great leader Chairman Mao has pointedly exposed this criminal plot of U.S. imperialism and wisely said: ’The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for.’ The common objective of the working people of all nationalities in the United States is to smash the rule of the monopoly capitalist class and liberate their people.
Let us workers, peasants, and revolutionary people of the whole world, irrespective of colour, unite still more closely to overthrow our common enemy – U.S. imperialism, Soviet revisionism, and the reactionaries of all countries. (“Unite and Fight Against the Common Enemy,” by Chou Kuo-liang, Tung Chao-hui and Shih Chi-hua, Workers in the Tientsin Linen Mill, Peking Review, #17, 4/26/68, pl9-20.)


The Tientsin Mill workers correctly explain that “the common objective of the working people of all nationalities in the United States is to smash the rule of the monopoly capitalist class and liberate their people.” And Mao has said that “The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for.”

Against this correct political orientation of “who are the friends and who are the enemies” in the revolutionary struggle against U.S. imperialism, a trend within the U.S. socialist movement has emerged to wage counter-revolutionary class struggle on the ideological front. One very clear example of this trend is an article published in Radical America, “Black Workers, White Workers,” by Noel Ignatin (July-August 1974, vol. 8, no. 4). Ignatin explains that the enemy of the movement of Afro-Americans is white workers, not the imperialist bourgeoisie. He says:

The first point is that, for revolutionary strategists, the key problem is not the racism of the employing class but the racism of the white workers.... It is the support by white workers for the employers’ racial policies which represents the chief obstacle to all social progress in this country, including revolution. (our underlining) (p. 47)[7]

Ignatin, in his Radical America article does not agree with the Marxist understanding of the state – that the state is the tool used for the suppression of one class by another. He believes that the present monopoly capitalist government represents the people. He says: “There are groups, radical groups, which seem to operate on the premise that capitalist rule depends on the monopoly of guns and tanks held by the employing class and its ability to use them whenever it pleases against the exploited majority....! do not share this view of the secret of capitalist rule. I do not agree that capitalist power rests, at present, primarily on guns and tanks. It rests on the support of the majority of the people. This support is usually passive, sometimes active, but nonetheless effective.” (“Black Workers, White Workers,” op . cit. p. 43) (our underlining)

While the modern monopoly capitalist bourgeoisie rule by force and deception – they rule. It is not the people who rule. The bourgeoisie rules through its control of the state apparatus – through its control of political power. As Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto explain: “the bourgeoisie has ... conquered for itself, in the modern representative state, exclusive political sway.” (FLP, Peking, p. 33) In fact, the bourgeoisie depend upon the modern capitalist state to rule over and exploit and suppress the working class. Stalin in Anarchism and Socialism explains the bourgeoisie’s use of their tool the modern capitalist state apparatus: “If this unorganized social system, (referring to the anarchy of production characteristic under capitalism – ed.) still remains standing, if it still firmly withstands the attacks of the proletariat, it is primarily because it is protected by the capitalist state, by the capitalist government. ” (our emphasis) (International Publishers, N.Y., 1953, p. 34)

Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto explain that the immediate task of the proletariat and the party of the proletariat, the Communist Party, is the seizure of state power. They say: “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.” (FLP, Peking, 1970, p. 48) If, as Ignatin maintains, there is no force holding workers down but their own bad ideas, then there is no reason to fight a violent revolution against the bourgeoisie, no reason to fight for the proletariat to seize state power, in short there is no longer any need for a communist party or for working class revolution. Surely the bourgeoisie and Ignatin agree.

But capitalism is not the “usually passive, sometimes active, but nonetheless effective” peaceful conciliation of the class interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as Ignatin imagines. Capitalism is characterized by violent class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Along with the increase in wealth and the development of large scale industry, the bourgeoisie strives to squeeze out of the workers the maximum possible surplus value, to make the workers produce more and more goods which the capitalist appropriates as his private property. And the workers, to survive, are forced to fight back. But along with the development of large scale industry grows the organization and the unity of the workers ” in short, as the Communist Manifesto explains, “What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, are its own grave diggers.”(Ibid., p. 46)

Since the conditions in the lives of most workers are alien to the image of cooperation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat which Ignatin conjures up, let us look more carefully at why the editors of the Radical America, who present themselves as socialists and as revolutionaries, printed Ignatin’s article. They explain that they published his article because it put forward what they call a “materialist analysis of racism. ” What in fact does Radical America[8] consider to be a “materialist analysis of racism”?

First, it is helpful to examine how Radical America views the role of the government in the struggle against racial discrimination. In their article “Racism and Busing in Boston,” (vol. 8, no. 6) they explain that the government has “granted” bussing to black people in Boston in response to a long fight. (See pages 1-4 particularly.) They go on to describe Governor Peabody and the panel of bankers and monopoly capitalists he appointed in 1964 (called the Kiernan Commission) as the friends of black people. The solution the Kiernan Commission proposed to the demand of black people for equitable distribution of educational resources – two way forced bussing, Radical America editors call “the most effective short term solution.” (p. 13)

Compare this attitude toward the tactics of the government with the description by Mao of the role the U.S. government played in the struggle against racial discrimination:

The speedy development of the struggle of the Afro-Americans is a manifestation of sharpening class struggle and sharpening national struggle within the United States; it has been causing increasing anxiety among U.S. ruling circles. The Kennedy Administration is insidiously using dual tactics. On the one hand, it continues to connive at and take part in discrimination against Negroes and their persecution, and it even sends troops to suppress them. On the other hand, in the attempt to numb the fighting will of the black people and deceive the masses of the country, the Kennedy Administration is parading as an advocate of “the defence of human rights” and “the protection of the civil rights of Negroes”, calling upon the black people to exercise “restraint” and proposing the “civil rights legislation” to Congress. But more and more Afro-Americans are seeing through these tactics of the Kennedy Administration. (Mao Tse-tung, “Statement Supporting The Afro-Americans In Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination By U.S. Imperialism,” August 8, 1963, Peking Review #33, 1963)

Has the government changed its nature? Radical America would have us believe that Governor Peabody became the friend of black people when he appointed the Kiernan Commission. But wasn’t he using the same counter-revolutionary dual tactics of repression and deception against the struggles black people in Boston were waging against racial discrimination and for better education for their children? A serious comparison between the mass demands in the early 1960’s (open enrollment, no discrimination in hiring, new schools where needed, etc.) and the proposal by Boston’s ruling elite for forced bussing for black and white children will make clear that they were attacking, not conceding to the mass struggle.

The Radical America editors go on to look at the antagonism stirred up by the bussing and they conclude that the cause is “a hard-fought defense of the relative privileges of white workers over black workers.” (p.30) The Communist Party U.S.A. also talks about this ’privilege.’ They call it a ’differential.’ And they say workers have to fight for economic equality with each other before they can fight for socialism. For Radical America, CPUSA, and many others who call themselves ’socialists’ or ’communists’ the oppressor of black people is white workers who make ’higher wages’.

Mao, too, acknowledges that black people on average earn less money than white people and that there are many other examples of discriminatory treatment. But he does a class analysis of this discrimination, not a color analysis. In his 1963 Statement against racial discrimination he describes these wretched conditions experienced by black people in the U.S. The conditions today are for the most part very similar or the same, so we quote his description:

There are more than 19 million Afro-Americans in the United States, or about 11 per cent of the total population. They are enslaved, oppressed and discriminated against—such is their position in society. The overwhelming majority are deprived of their right to vote. In general, only the most backbreaking and despised jobs are open to them. Their average wages are barely a third or a half those of the white people. The proportion of unemployment among the Afro-Americans is the highest. In many states they are forbidden to go to the same school, eat at the same table, or travel in the same section of a bus or train as the white people. Afro-Americans are often arrested, beaten up or murdered at will by the U.S. authorities at various levels and by members of the Ku Klux Klan and other racists. About half the Afro-Americans are concentrated in eleven southern states, where the discrimination and persecution they suffer are especially shocking.

But Mao does not attribute this wretched treatment of black people to some gains by other workers. Instead, he clearly exposes how this discrimination is the result of class contradictions and the struggle against this discrimination is a struggle against the U.S. bourgeoisie. Mao explains the class basis of this contradiction:

Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the black masses in the United States and U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the black people in the United States win complete emancipation.

Mao is very clear that the contradiction is not between the black masses and the masses of white workers; it is between the black masses and the U.S. ruling circles. He explains:

the black people have exposed the true nature of so-called American democracy and freedom and revealed the inner link between the reactionary policies pursued by the U.S. government at home and its policies of aggression abroad.
I call on the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie and other enlightened persons of all colours in the world, whether white, black, yellow or brown, to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practised by U.S. imperialism and support the black people in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States it is only the reactionary ruling circles who oppress the black people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are oppressing, committing aggression against and menacing the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. 1963 STATEMENT (our underlining)

Not only are the masses of white workers not the oppressors of the black masses, but in fact they are comrades in arms for as Mao explains, they have a common enemy and common objectives: “The black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States share common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing ’numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States.” (Mao Tse-tung, 1968 Statement) (our underlining)

The point Mao makes very clear is that tne struggle of the black people in the United States is directed against the U.S. imperialists. How has a deception like bussing then been used to try to divert black people to see white workers as the enemy?

The Radical America article like a wolf in sheeps clothing is helpful to the bourgeoisie in creating this deception. The enemy of black people is said to be the ’privileges’ of the white workers, not the bourgeoisie. They go on to explain:

White working-class people oppose integrated education as a way of defending their material advantage over blacks.... The thrust of the racist movement that has crystallised this fall is to keep black people in their place – in segregated schools, in ghetto housing, and in the lowest paying jobs.../p.2-3) (our underlining)

They add:

To waver on the issue of bussing is to play into the hands of those racists who know that the defeat of bussing (which is possible) would greatly strengthen the racist status quo. ...Conversely, a black victory will be a working class victory. As black people demand and achieve democratic rights and equality, they are transforming the structure of the working class. In doing so, they narrow the differences between blacks and whites, erode the material base of racism, and create greater opportunity for class unity....In short, we are arguing that racism is at the center of the conflict in Boston this fall. We see racist divisions within the working class as one of the mainstays of capitalist domination. (p.3-4) (our underlining)

We have quoted at length to demonstrate how this analysis focuses the working class on itself as the enemy. The object of the working class struggle becomes not socialism but to transform “the structure of the working class.” The common class enemy – the bourgeoisie – vanishes. Capitalism is to be repaired. The capitalist state is not presented as the organ of class rule. Instead the problem for the working class is the “racist divisions within the working class.”

A stages theory of revolution is being set forward to deceive and pacify the working class. The bussing plan is pictured as a reform while the goal of socialism is said to be possible only after the no working class overcomes its racism. And the goal of socialism is of set so far off it becomes the struggle sometime in the distant future, it This is reformism, where the immediate goal becomes everything and the final goal vanishes. Only the bussing plan is not even a reform, a but an attack. Some imagined gain from the bussing plan – that it will “transform the structure of the working class” is substituted for the objective reality. The working class is told not to fight a the government and the bussing, but to welcome it because it brings a some imaginary gain.

The Radical America substitutes the fight to “transform... the structure of the working class” for the bitter class struggle necessitated by monopoly capitalism. In the name of a ’materialist analysis,’ we are given reformism. What in fact is materialist analysis, which is at the heart of the science of Marxism-Leninism? Stalin in Dialectical and Historical Materialism, explains that to understand the views, theories, ideas or political institutions of a given society, we cannot look to those views, theories, etc. themselves. We must look to the conditions of the material life of society, and to the needs of the development of that material life. (International Publishers, N.Y., 1940, p.21-22)

In Anarchism and Socialism, Stalin demonstrates how to apply this materialist analysis to understand the tasks of the proletariat under the conditions of monopoly capitalism:

The materialist theory affirms that a given ideal may be of direct service to the proletariat only if it does not run counter to the economic development of the country, if it fully answers the requirements of that development. The economic development of the capitalist system shows that present-day production is assuming a social character, that the social character of production fundamentally contradicts capitalist property. Consequently, our main task is to help to abolish capitalist property and to establish socialist property. And that means that the doctrine of Bernstein, who urges that socialism should be forgotten, fundamentally contradicts the requirements of economic development; it is harmful to the proletariat. (International Publishers, N.Y., 1953, p.31-32)

The reformist theories of Radical America and Ignatin, like those of Bernstein who Stalin criticizes, urge that the struggle for socialism be put off. But the needs of development of the material life of society demand the fight for socialism first and foremost. Radical America and Ignatin, and others who focus the working class on first fighting ’to transform the structure of the working class’ have created ’ideal plans’ and ’all embracing projects’ divorced from the real life of society. (See Dialectical and Historical Materialism, p.22)

There must be a fight against racial discrimination and racial antagonism, but that fight must be waged with revolutionary and not reformist tactics (i.e. the main thing is revolutionary work and not reforms, reforms are a by-product of the revolution.) It is not the ’privileges’ of white workers which are responsible for the oppression of black people, but the privileges of the capitalists and their bribed agents, that are maintained at the expense of workers of all nationalities. Those who say that ’workers are racist’ and so we first have to fight the workers and their racism are reminiscent of a similar argument that Lenin refutes in What The “Friends of the People” Are and How They Fight the Social Democrats. Mlkhailovsky a sociologist tried to attack Marxism by explaining that, “The International Working Men’s Association, formed by Marx and organized for the purposes of the class struggle, did not prevent the French and German workers from cutting each other’s throats and despoiling each other.” Mikhailovsky says that this “proves that materialism has not settled accounts ’with the demon of national vanity and national hatred’!” Lenin goes on to explain the falsity of Mikhailovsky’s attack: “Such an assertion,” he says, “reveals the critic’s utter failure to understand that the very real interests of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie constitute the principal basis of this hatred and that to talk of national sentiments as an INDEPENDENT factor is only to obscure the essence of the matter..., Mikhailovsky cannot grasp the simple truth that there is no other way of combating national hatred than by organizing and uniting the oppressed class for a struggle against the oppressor class in each separate country, than by uniting such national working-class organizations into a single international working class army to fight international capital. As to the statement that the International did not prevent the workers from cutting each other’s throats, it is enough to remind Mr. Mikhailovsky of the events of the COMMUNE WHICH SHOWED THE TRUE ATTITUDE OF THE ORGANIZED PROLETARIAT TO THE RULING CLASSES ENGAGED IN WAR.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964, Eng. ed. Vol 1, p. 155-157, our underlining)

The victorious fight of the Russian workers of all nationalities against the Russian capitalists in 1917 proved that Lenin was correct. It was the bourgeoisie only serving its own interests that stirred up anti-Semitism among the Russian workers. There were pogroms in Russia against the Jews by Great Russian workers. Yet Lenin was never sidetracked. The principal basis for this hatred was the interests of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie. Anti-Semitism was not in the interests of the Great Russian workers – and so Lenin proceeded to organize all the workers against the bourgeoisie. He taught particularly of the need to clearly and openly indict the government for the attacks on the Jews, for it was they who instigated and shielded the culprits. The working class does not benefit from racism, therefore the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat is the necessary fight to combat racism.

The fight against racial discrimination and racial antagonisms is the revolutionary fight of the whole working class against the bourgeoisie for emancipation, not a reformist fight of black people against white workers. There are no deep roots which racism can take within the working class, because racial discrimination or racial antagonism are not in the class interests of the working class. There is bourgeois racism which is an antagonistic contradiction and the method of resolution is socialist revolution. (There is white chauvinism, but it is a contradiction among the people when it appears among the working class, it is not an antagonistic contradiction unless instigated into being antagonistic e.g. by Radical America.)

The black movement is being lulled to sleep by these ideas of working class racism and diverted from its real enemy. It is genuine support for the movement of black people and the workers’ movement to take up the struggle to clarify the real enemy, the real goals and the real allies. Mao says: “The struggle of black people in the U.S. is bound to merge with the American worker’s movement and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.” (1968 Statement)

Radical America and the whole trend they are part of are trying to divert the working class movement and the black movement away from that merger – which is on the basis of a common enemy. The struggle for that merger is inevitable and it is what will make the struggle of the working class to wrest political power from the bourgeoisie victorious. Mao calls for unity based on that common struggle; “People of the whole world, unite still more closely and launch a sustained and vigorous offensive against our common enemy, U.S. imperialism and its accomplices.” (1968 Statement)

Our objective is to clearly understand the common enemy and to take up the struggle against that common enemy so as to forge the unity that will make that struggle victorious. Mao to the American People:

Dark night has its end. The reactionary forces in the United States now find themselves in an impasse which shows that their days are numbered. Right now, over there in your country, the situation in which the enemy is strong and we are weak is entirely a temporary phenomenon. It will certainly develop in the opposite direction.


Philosophy always serves politics. One’s world outlook determines the kind of philosophical thought he advances to serve his political line. (“Momentous Struggle on the Question of the Identity Between Thinking and Being,” Three Major Struggles on China’s Philosophical Front 1949-64, FLP, Peking, 1973.)

There is a trend in the socialist movement that offers the working class the reformist struggle ’to transform the structure of the working class’ by fighting ’racism’ and ’sexism’. While reforms against racial and sexual discrimination will be won as by-products of the working class’s fight for socialism, this trend in the socialist movement offers these fights as a substitute for the fight for socialism. Sometimes this trend covers the substitution by calling it a preparatory stage before the basis for socialist revolution can exist. By offering this reformist struggle this trend in the socialist movement is attempting to divert the working class from the necessary socialist revolution, all the time waving the flag of socialism.

This reformist trend in the socialist movement tries to fool progressive people into following it by inventing “material base of racism” theories to justify the need for reforms before the possibility for socialist revolution. Each of these theories that “the material base of racism” is the “previous condition of slavery of black people,” or is “the existence of a Black Nation,” or is “the differential or gap between the conditions of black and white workers” or is “capitalism or the bourgeoisie itself” are idealist theories offered to divert the working class movement from the materialist theory it needs to guide its revolutionary class struggle.

Proponents of these theories say “all ideas have a material base” or “matter is the source of all ideas .” For example, The New Voice justifies replacing the fight for socialism with the fight against the ’gap’ between the wages*of white and black workers by saying: “The Communist movement understands that ideas have a material base. ’It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.’ (Marx)”

Marx does indeed say; “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.” (Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy). But to say that this proves that all ideas have a material base is turning materialism upside down into idealism. Marx is saying just the opposite. He says “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence.” By this he means that we do not look at people’s consciousness and from that understand their existence. He says on the contrary it is “their social existence that determines their consciousness.” This does not mean that “all ideas have a material base,” but that we look to the social existence of men, to determine the consciousness that conforms to objective conditions. Social existence is primary, consciousness is a reflection of objective reality. There are correct and incorrect ideas. Correct ideas accord with the social conditions. Incorrect ideas do not. To say ’all ideas have a material base ’denies that there is idealism. But as Lenin explains: “... idealism... is a weapon in the hands of the reactionaries, a vehicle of reaction.” (Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, English ed., 1964, “Those Who Would Liquidate Us,” vol. 17, p. 77) To say ’all ideas have a material base’ says that consciousness and social existence are the same. This is a paraphrasing of the idealist fallacy of the ’sameness of thought and being’. “In his Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, Lenin thoroughly criticized the Machist theory of the sameness of thought and being, that is, the reactionary subjective idealist fallacies Ernst Mach & Co. advocated, such as...the sameness of social being and social consciousness.” (“Momentous Struggle on the Question of the Identity Between Thinking and Being,” Three Major Struggles on China’s Philosophical Front 1949-64, FLP, Peking, 1973, p.36.)

Thinking and being are not the same! Being is primary, it is the basis for thinking. As Stalin explains in Dialectical and Historical Materialism: “Materialist philosophy holds that matter, nature, being, is an objective reality existing outside and independent of our mind.” (our underlining, Int. Pub. NY, 1940, p.15-16.) Matter and mind are not the same. Once it is clear that being is primary, Marxists recognize that there are ideas which accurately reflect the needs of the material life of society. These ideas then become a force for moving society forward. This is called the identity of thought and being. Mao, in his essay, “Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?” explains that “matter can be transformed into consciousness and consciousness into matter.” This is the power of correct ideas, which are clarified and refined on the basis of practice.

When The New Voice and others put forward the sameness of thought and being, they in fact are denying the tremendous organizing and mobilizing power of ideas that reflect the material needs of society. As Stalin in Dialectical and Historical Materialism explains: “New social ideas and theories arise precisely because they are necessary to society, because it is impossible to carry out the urgent tasks of the development of the material life of society without their organizing, mobilizing and transforming action. Arising out of the new tasks set by the development of the material life of society, the new social ideas and theories force their way through, become the possession of the masses, mobilize and organize them against the moribund forces of society, and thus facilitate the overthrow of these forces which hamper the development of the material life of society. ...Marx says: ’Theory becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.’ (Zur Kritik del Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie)” (p. 22-23.)

Materialism directs us to the need for a social revolution led by the working class. But it also teaches us that Correct ideas that reflect the need for socialist revolution will mobilize and organize the masses and help them to smash the reactionary forces. As Mao explains:

Often correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice. (“Where Do Correct Ideas Come From”)

But since truth serves the working class we must be struggling for correct ideas, remembering that: “Marxism emphasizes the importance of theory precisely and only because it can guide action.” (“On Practice,” Mao Tse-tung, Selected Readings, FLP. Peking, 1971, p.76)

At present there is a two line struggle over what is the way forward. One line says: “Never forget class struggle, fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat, theory which accords with the needs of society is a material force when it grips the masses.” The other line says: “The problem is the working class, the capitalist government is the friend, we have to uproot all the bad ideas of the workers.” One line leads us forward, the other, backward. This two line struggle in the realm of philosophy is an expression of the sharp class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

The monopoly capitalists actively work to prepare public opinion for counter-revolutionary purposes. The proletariat must wage a tit for tat struggle. As Mao directed at the Tenth Plenary Session of the Party’s 8th Central Committee:

Never forget class struggle.

And he pointed out:

To overthrow a political power, it is always necessary first of all to create public opinion, to do work in the ideological sphere. This is true for the revolutionary class as well as for the counter-revolutionary class.


[1] Peking Review has been a reliable source of materialist analysis until Mao’s death and the arrest of leading members of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

[2] The rebellion in Detroit was one of the fiercest.

[3] Mao pointed out Martin Luther King was an exponent of nonviolence. Nevertheless, the U.S. imperialists did not on that account show any tolerance towards him but used counter-revolutionary violence and killed him in cold blood. (Peking Review #20, 5/ 17/68)

[4] Peking Review observes: “Since World War II, large numbers of Afro-Americans have moved to the cities from rural areas in the South. At present, 80% of the total population is jammed into city slums. Afro-American workers make up an ever bigger proportion of all the workers in some basic U.S. industries. For instance, they account for 35 to 50 per cent of all the workers in the auto industry about 35.per cent of all the workers in the steel industry and 40 to 50 per cent of the total number of workers in Chicago, Detroit, Newark and other major industrial cities. They are playing a more and more important role in American society.” (Peking Review, #33, 8/15/69, “Afro-American Workers Launch Vigorous Offensive Against the Ruling Class”)

[5] “Statement By Comrade Mao Tse-Tung, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, In Support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression.”Peking Review #16, 4/16/68.

[6] Those who call bussing a “concession” are following in the footsteps of the Soviet revisionists seeing the reactionary U.S. bourgeoisie as capable of “an earnest program for social reform.”

[7] This is strikingly reminiscent of how the U.S. bourgeoisie seas the problem. In a government commissioned and funded study, The Report of the Commission on Violent Disorders called the Kerner Report (1968), they too explain that white racism is the cause of black people’s problems in the U.S. Here is one example of how this deception is spread: “Negroes could point to the doctrine of white supremacy, its widespread acceptance, its persistence after emancipation, and its influence on the definition of the place of Negroes in American life. They could point to their long fight for full citizenship, when they had active opposition from most of the white population and little or no support from the government. They could see progress towards equality accompanied by bitter resistance. Perhaps most of all, they could feel the persistent, pervasive racism that kept them in inferior segregated schools, restricted them to ghettos, barred them from fair employment, provided double standards in courts of justice, inflicted bodily harm on their children and blighted their lives with a sense of hopelessness and despair.” (Bantam Books, New York, 1968, p.235, our underlining)

[8] We are taking Radical America’s article on bussing as the article we are examining because their ideas on racism and the working class are shared by many progressive people and groups, some of whom call themselves Marxist-Leninist. The Proletarian Unity League, for example, their pamphlet It’s Not the Bus, point to the Radical America article on “Racism and Busing in Boston” as the starting point for their analysis of Boston bussing. (See It’s Not the Bus, p.7)