Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

John Cook

Guardian forum poses: ’Question of Black Nation’

First Published: The Guardian, May 9, 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A capacity crowd of 550 people attended a Guardian forum on “The Question of the Black Nation” held April 27 at the New York University Law School in New York City.

“White supremacy and the struggle against it is the Achilles’ heel of U.S. imperialism,” Carl Davidson, Guardian staff writer and moderator of the forum, said at the beginning of the meeting. “An incorrect approach to the national question can be the Achilles’ heel of the proletarian revolution.”

“Part of the reason for being here tonight,” he continued, “is to arrive at greater clarity and unity among communist organizations so that the new communist party now being built will be able to turn the present divisions within the working class into their opposite and smash the rule of capital once and for all.”

Speaking at the forum were Sherman Miller of the central committee of the October League (M-L), Earl Rose of the Revolutionary Union and Ted Allen of Harper’s Ferry Organization.

Miller said the October League saw the national struggle of black people against imperialism as a class contradiction and that the key demand at this time is the struggle for democratic rights for black people.


Miller explained that the black population concentrated in the southern U.S. region known as the Black Belt “was forged into a nation through 350 years of slavery.” During the 1930s, however, the black nation was transformed by the mechanization of farm labor, the need for more labor in the urban centers and the desire on the part of the factory owners to use black workers as a weapon against the militant trade union movement that was developing at the time, he said.

“As black people began to settle more in urban areas, the political content of the struggle of black people changed also,” Miller said. The emphasis shifted from a struggle of an oppressed people tied to the land fighting for human recognition to a struggle of urban workers fighting for democratic rights.

Miller explained that the October League supported the right of self-determination of black people in the South, including the right to secede and form an independent state ”in the region that has historically constituted the Black Belt nation.”

Earl Rose discussed the theoretical basis and the practical implications of the position of the Revolutionary Union on the national question.

“The black people,” Rose explained, “are a nation of a new type, dispersed among the urban areas with a common culture, common language and the same kind of psychological make-up.” They have a common economic life, a class structure and are not assimilated into white society, he said. “Today, four-fifths of the black people in the urban areas of the North and South are wage earners,” Rose said.

“They are an oppressed section of the working class, concentrated in the lowest-paying, most dangerous jobs with the least seniority, dispersed from the land of the Black Belt but concentrated in the urban ghetto areas.”


Rose pointed out that the black bourgeoisie plays a key role in the black communities in terms of their tremendous economic, cultural and political influence.

“The white bourgeoisie is not going to let the black bourgeoisie develop,” Rose maintained. But the black bourgeoisie protects its interest in the black community by trying to control it with “nationalist and black capitalist schemes.”

“The white workers have a common class interest and unite on the basis of a common class interest (with black workers). The white workers can be won to see the fight against oppression of the black people and for liberation of the black nation as their fight and in their own interest.”

The third speaker, Ted Allen, spoke on behalf of both Harper’s Ferry Organization and the Sojourner Truth Organization.

“We believe that three centuries of history show that the key to bourgeois domination in this country is white supremacy,” Allen said. White racist opportunism, he explained, has been the principal aspect of the U.S. working class movement and therefore, must be the main target of the proletarian revolution.

“The acquiescence of white workers in the system of white skin privileges imposed by the bourgeoisie,” Allen said, has been the main barrier to black-white proletarian unity. Allen cautioned that past errors within the proletarian movement in regard to the national question consisted of the subordination of the fight against white chauvinism. “The magic solution of self-determination which would come only with socialism,” Allen said, “subverted the intention of the revolution.”

The next forum, “Women and Class Struggle” is scheduled for May 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Tishman Auditorium, NYU Law School, 40 Washington Square S. Speaking at the forum will be Fran Beal, Third World Women’s Alliance; Carmen Cruz, Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization; Karen Davidson, Guardian; Mary Lou Greenberg, Revolutionary Union, and Vivian Rivera, Puerto Rican Socialist party.