Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

October League (M-L)

Afro-American Self-Determination [on the RU’s Boston busing position]

First Published: The Call, November 1974.
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.

EROL Introduction: This article was part 3 of a three-part series in The Call critiquing the line of the Revolutionary Union. It was later reprinted in a pamphlet, Revolutionary Union: Opportunism in a “Super-Revolutionary” Disguise.

The final section of our response to the sectarian attacks by the Revolutionary Union deals with some aspects of the national question in the U.S., particularly as it applies to the struggle of the Afro-American people.

“PEOPLE MUST UNITE TO SMASH BOSTON BUSING PLAN.” This headline could have easily come from the newspapers of the racist States Rights Party, the reactionary American Independent Party or the paper of the KKK. But it didn’t. Rather it appears on the front page of the October issue of Revolution.

While it took some months of ideological struggle before this clear expression of RU’s racist line was forced out in the open, it has nevertheless appeared clear as day. The RU in recent weeks has openly taken the side of the diehard racists in opposing the desegregation of Boston schools and in actually encouraging the bus-stoning mobs who are trying to “unite to smash busing.”

But what is it that has brought this organization, which calls itself “revolutionary” to openly side with the reactionaries on a whole number of questions affecting the oppressed nations and people in their fight against imperialism? The majority of the RU rank-and-file are honestly committed to revolution and serving the people. But this is not enough. In this organization, an opportunist line has consolidated itself within the ranks of the leadership, a line which in effect places the interests of the oppressor nation ahead of those of the oppressed. It is a line which is not based upon the scientific teachings of Marxism-Leninism, but which has revised the basic tenets of this body of theory and substituted instead, idealism and metaphysics. It is a line which is disguised in revolutionary trimmings, which is “left” in form, complete with sloganeering and cries of “fight for socialism.” But in the final analysis it can only lead people to terrible setbacks.

The chauvinist line of the RU has not developed without struggle. Many honest forces in recent months have broken from the line and from the organization and the RU is being broadly criticized by many forces within the working class movement. It is largely in struggle to understand and oppose this erroneous line that the ideological foundations for a new communist party are being laid. Political line has become decisive in the development of a new party. Up until now, the debates over the national question have been largely confined to the realm of theory and the restating of the basic principles Of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. But practice and class struggle are the crucibles within which any political line can be tested. It is in the heat of mass struggle that a party must be forged, and the events in Boston have provided such a test.

Under these conditions, the RU, rather than standing in solid defense of the rights of the masses of Black people and in the interests of all working people, has claimed that the stone-throwing mobs in the streets actually represent the interests of the white working class. They put forth, shockingly enough, that Black people should unite with the mobs in the streets.

Spouting the same weary racist excuses as the reactionaries (i.e. ’The busing plan, then disrupts the lives of lots of children and their parents...”) the RU refuses to defend in practice the national democratic rights of the Afro-American people, including the right to integrate, free from, violent attacks. In their newspaper, they go so far as to attack the October League, Struggle (a Black anti-imperialist newspaper) and many other groups for calling for an end to the racist white boycott. They further attack the demand to “break up the fascist gangs” who have been pulling Black people from their cars and beating them.

The RU claims that these demands are counter-revolutionary. They write in the October issue of Revolution: ”We’ve heard this straight-up counter-revolutionary line before, from counter-revolutionary organizations, like the so-called ’Communist League’ as well as from various bourgeois nationalist and Bundist organizations.”

They claim that any group which opposes segregation or defends the rights of Black people is attacking the white workers and “dividing the working class.” This is the same lie the government pushes and could not be farther from the truth. We stand on thus side of the Black community in the face of racist attacks,, on the basis of internationalism. In taking this action, we point out that it is fully in the interest of all workers to do the same.

This is part of our fight in defense of the right of self-determination of the Afro-American people, a fight which is revolutionary in character. Lenin said that the right of self-determination meant a “consistent expression of struggle against all national oppression.” (Coll. Wks., Vol. 22, p. 146)

How can we say that we uphold the right of self-determination (as RU claims it does) and at the same time oppose in practice the efforts of an oppressed people to exercise even a most basic democratic right, the right to equal education. If Black people are not allowed to exercise this democratic right, how are they going to be able to exercise the highest form of democratic rights, the right of self-determination, which comes from the historic development of Black people as an oppressed nation within the borders of the U.S. and includes the right to secede and form a separate state if so desired by a majority of Black people.

The RU’s answer to this is that “self-determination is not at the heart of the struggle” and that ”self-determination is a negative demand.” (Red Papers 5). By claiming that Afro-American people are a “nation of a new type” and a “proletarian nation” the RU in fact is liquidating the just struggle of the Black masses for their full national rights. “A nation of a new type” means that the principles of Marxism-Leninism are thrown out of the window. The RU claims in RP-5 that Black people are not a nation in the sense of being formed historically as a stable community of people, as laid out by Lenin and Stalin, on the basis of common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.

They claim that the teachings of Lenin and Stalin don’t apply any longer in this country. Why? In their chauvinist attack on Black nationalism called, “Marxism vs. Bundism,” RU claims that in the U.S., the national question has reached a “new stage” in which the Afro-American struggle can no longer be viewed as part of the world-wide movement of the oppressed nations against imperialism and colonialism. The reason, claims the RU, is because the Afro-American people are “not pedants but workers ”


They claim that the national question has reverted back to simply “an internal” question as it was in the pre-imperialist days in feudal Russia, with the exception that the people are workers and not capitalists or peasants. This is their excuse for inventing their “nation of a new type” theory.

This theory of a “new type” robs the Afro-American question of its revolutionary guts and separates it from the general united front against imperialism. They fail to see the revolutionary, anti-imperialist content of the question and the positive role it has historically played in pushing forward the working class movement in this country and around the world. As Mao Tsetung wrote, “The Afro-American struggle is not only a struggle waged by the exploited and oppressed Black people for freedom and emancipation, it is also a new clarion call to all the exploited and oppressed people of the United States to fight against the barbarous rule of the monopoly capitalist class. It is a tremendous inspiration to the struggle of the people throughout the world against U.S. imperialism.” He adds, “Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system.”

This brilliant statement demonstrates the origins of the Afro-American national question as well as its anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist character. Why does the RU try so desperately to deny this character by reducing the question simply to an internal matter?

Secondly, there is no “third period” on the national question except in the minds of the RU leadership. Lenin wrote, “Developing capitalism knows two historical tendencies in the national question. First: the awakening of national life and the national movements, struggle against all national oppression, creation of national states. Second: development and acceleration of all kinds of intercourse between nations, breakdown of national barriers, creation of the international unity of capital, of economic life in general, of politics, science, etc. ”

Lenin concludes, “Both tendencies are a world-wide law of capitalism. The first predominates at the beginning of its development, the second characterizes mature capitalism that is moving towards its transformation into socialist society”(C.W. Vol. 17, pp. 139-40)

The last sentence of the above quote is a perfect description of the U.S. today (“mature capitalism moving toward transformation into socialist society.”) Why then does RU need to revise these basic teachings and invent some new third period?

There is a method to this madness.

Like the CPUSA revisionists before them, the RU is trying to make a break with Lenin and Stalin ’s revolutionary teachings on the national question in order to impose a great-nation chauvinist line on the U.S. working class. The new theories teach the people that because of the “new type” of national question, it is no longer necessary to uphold in practice the right of self-determination, which they claim is impossible to achieve under capitalism and not necessary under socialism. They also attempt to liquidate the national question in the sense of it being a broad movement of many classes within the oppressed nation. Instead they claim it is a “proletarian question” and a “proletarian nation.” This “left” and “proletarian” rhetoric actually proves devastating in practice to the Black united front and the broad character of the democratic struggle for rights, like the one presently going on in Boston and other cities.

By turning their back on the broad national character of the Black liberation struggle, which includes the many classes of Black people, not just the proletariat, the RU opens its main guns on Black nationalism and the Black civil rights activists and reformers whom it labels in its own racist fashion as “Black bootlickers.” This racist view objectively splits the Black struggle and undermines the united front.

The historic national oppression of Black people, who developed as a nation of people within the former slave areas of the South over a 300-year period, led to the development of Black nationalism. A Marxist understanding of this nationalism was clearly put forth by Lenin who wrote, “The bourgeois nationalism of any oppressed nation has a general democratic content that is directed against oppression, and it is this content that we unconditionally support.”

In other words, while nationalism is a bourgeois ideology quite different from Marxism-Leninism, the fact that the outlook of a section of the oppressed national bourgeoisie of the oppressed nations objectively unites with the proletarian struggle against imperialism, and the fact that its nationalism is taken up as a rallying cry by millions of proletarians gives this outlook a progressive character.

But the RU refuses to unite with this “general democratic content” and instead repeats the worn chauvinist phrases of their forerunners in Progressive Labor Party who attacked “all nationalism” and refused to distinguish between the two types of nationalism that of the oppressed nation and that of the oppressor nation.

Recently the RU has gone so far as to state that “Black nationalism is the main danger in the communist movement,” and has launched the most racist campaign against the so-called “Bundists” who have recently left the leadership of the RU on the grounds that they could no longer put up with the racist and degrading treatment they received in the RU. For RU’s part, they claim to have largely solved the problem of white chauvinism in their ranks.

But RU’s own example demonstrates the fact that it is great-nation or white chauvinism which has always been the main weak point of the communist movement within the imperialist countries.

The August issue of Revolution directs its main attack on the OL around the question of the Black United Front, which is our strategic approach to the question of Black liberation. The United Front unites all those that can be united in the fight for Black liberation and self-determination. Within the united front there is the struggle for working class leadership, based on the fact that the workers are the strongest class within the Black nation and the most consistently revolutionary class. In unity with the general workers’ movement, the Black United Front is directed at imperialism and its racist policies. It is a component part of the United Front Against Imperialism and along with the general multi-national workers movement makes up the core of that front.

The RU claims that this strategy “pushes forward certain ’progressive’ petty bourgeois elements in the Black and third world movement. . . ” and later in their article “. . .it turns out they mean unity with the imperialists and united front behind the ’liberals’ in the ruling class, ’with the labor fat cats and Black bootlickers as the front men.’” (August Revolution, p.18).

The truth of the matter, however, is that RU’s racist line and attacks on the united front in fact leave the masses under the thumb of these petty bourgeois forces. This is the same approach, in essence, that they take towards the trade unions and the international struggle of the third world countries, which is to drive the middle forces into the arms of the enemy and leave the working class to go it alone, without allies.

While making many errors in the past in our work, the OL has tried to raise a consistent struggle against the petty bourgeois nationalism and reformism of various opportunists within the Black United Front. This has been carried out in the course of struggle against racism and white chauvinism of all sorts.

Examples of this can be seen in our work during the 1972 Mead wildcat strike and other battles in Atlanta, where we combatted the pacifist line of certain forces and struggled against the view that we should rely on the good graces of the liberal Black politicians. However, in combatting the sectarian line of the likes of RU and others who would smash Black unity if they could, and liquidate the national question, our comrades did at times fall into certain rightist errors during the Atlanta anti-repression campaigns. There were times when we failed to expose the likes of these reformists, when in fact we should have.

But these errors came through our active involvement in the struggle for self-determination and in defense of the basic national rights of Black people. They came through lack of study and failure to make a concrete analysis of the complicated situation. They also came through lack of experience.

The RU, however, which is totally absent from the struggle of the Black masses for their rights, and which has in fact increasingly sided with the rock-throwing racist mobs against the Black masses, are in no danger of making mistakes of this type.

We will continue to learn from our errors and openly criticize them. But the main blow must not be directed at “tailing nationalism.” Narrow nationalism is a reaction to white chauvinism and national oppression. It can only be defeated among the people in the course of the main struggle against all national oppression.

In summary then, it is our view that the recent attacks on the OL and other revolutionary organizations in the paper. Revolution, serve to reveal the opportunism of the RU.

Faced with internal dissension and splits and growing isolation from the struggles of the workers and oppressed people, the RU leadership has engaged in these vicious attacks on other sections of the revolutionary movement in order to take the heat off of themselves and pacify their own rank and file.

The common thread running through their actions, has been a kind of petty bourgeois, anti-Marxist opportunism which takes on the form of white chauvinism and liquidation of the national question and the struggles for democratic rights of minorities and women. The RU has violated the principles of the anti-imperialist united front; has engaged in splitting and wrecking activities within the movement; and has abandoned all communist work within the trade unions.

This represents a line which is “super revolutionary” and ultra-“leftist” in form, but is rightist in essence and, as it has done in the Boston events, places them objectively on the side of the reactionaries.

A new communist party can be built only in militant opposition to both modern revisionism and the CPUSA and the petty bourgeois “leftism” of groups like the RU.