Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The October League (M-L)

The Struggle for Black Liberation and Socialist Revolution

Resolution of the Third National Congress of the October League (Marxist-Leninist)


How can Black people win their freedom?

How can the mass of white workers unite more closely with the Black liberation struggle and rise up against the reactionary white chauvinist policies of the labor aristocrats?

How can the working class ally itself with all the oppressed nationalities-Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Asian-American. Native American—to smash the criminal rule of the imperialists and establish socialism?

These are some of the key issues that stand at the heart of what Marxist-Leninists have called ”the national question.” It has been debated in the workers’ movement of all countries for more than 100 years, in the course of a continuing two-line struggle between proletarian internationalism and various forms of national opportunism and chauvinism. It has been summed up repeatedly in the main slogans put forward by the revolutionary leaders of the workers and the oppressed peoples to guide their struggles.

This resolution was adopted at the Third Congress of the October League. It is by no means a final statement on this complex and multi-sided question. Rather it is a statement which has been developed through the course of struggle on the part of Marxist-Leninists who are involved in the movement of the working class and oppressed nationalities.

The purpose of the resolution is two-fold: first, it is written to give guidance to the practical work of Marxist-Leninists in order to arm them in their revolutionary activities; second, it is an effort to further clarify the revolutionary line of Marxist-Leninists on this question in the course of laying the ideological foundations for the building of a new communist party in the U.S.

Certainly no communist unity is possible in this country without a clear scientific and correct line on the Afro-American question. It is a question which has long been the touchstone for determining genuine from sham communists.

Especially in this epoch of the great struggle to abolish imperialism and establish socialism, the struggle of the oppressed nations has become a focal point of the class contradictions in the present day world.

The two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR, have emerged as the biggest international exploiters and oppressors, threatening to throw the world into a new war through their contention for world domination.

Everywhere in the world, as well as within their own borders, these two superpowers trample on the sovereign rights of other nations. They dispatch their troops to occupy other countries, they divide and wreck the national liberation struggles and they try to penetrate and strangle the economies of different countries in their desperate search for markets and profits.

The bloody record of U.S. imperialism in this regard is well known-from the rip-off of Mexico in the 19th century to the genocide in Vietnam. But recently, the Soviet Union, which was once a socialist country, has revealed its fully imperialist character with a host of “new” chauvinist theories and practices on the national question. For example, where the once-proud Soviet Union in the time of Lenin and Stalin championed the struggle of oppressed nations for self-determination, today the Soviet revisionists say that other countries should only have “limited sovereignty,” subordinate to the interests of “mother Russia.”

Throughout the world, wherever the opportunity arises, the superpowers are interfering and meddling in the affairs of other nations, fearing nothing so much as the genuine independence and self-determination of these nations, free from all superpower plunder and interference.

But the Third World is standing up to this offensive, and a storm of opposition to imperialism is sweeping the former colonies. The victories of national liberation struggles in Africa and Indochina over the last year have inspired workers and oppressed people the world over, by dealing death-blows to the strength of the imperialist system. The countries which have already won formal independence are now engaged in a historic battle to gain real political and economic independence from the neocolonial domination of the superpowers. This momentous tide of struggle is a reflection of the development of the national question as part of the world proletarian revolution.

The Third World has become the main force combating imperialism. The united front against imperialism and especially the superpowers is becoming a torrential force, uniting the efforts of countries to win independence, nations to win liberation, and people all over the world to make revolution.

The Black liberation movement is closely bound up with all the struggles of the peoples of the Third World against colonialism and neo-colonialism At the same time, it is a national revolutionary movement in the heartland of U.S. imperialism and therefore is integrally a part of the working class struggle for socialist revolution. This dual character of the Afro-American question is clearly brought out in this resolution.

In the resolution, the OL raises the revolutionary slogan of the right of self-determination for the Afro-American people, both as a democratic demand for Black freedom and as a rallying cry for the Black liberation struggle itself.

By raising this democratic demand, we are in no way encouraging separation of Black and white people, but rather laying the basis for genuine and permanent unity on the basis of equality. Upholding the right of self-determination is the basis upon which the fight against all national oppression takes place. This has always been a communist principle.

This resolution on Afro-American self-determination also represents a break from the modern revisionists of the Communist Party USA. The CP long ago abandoned the Black liberation struggle as a revolutionary battle that could accomplish its aims by establishing the political rule of the working class in general and the Black masses in particular. The reformist stand of the modern revisionists on this question represents a chauvinist tradition which has acted as a counter-current to proletarian internationalism throughout the entire history of the U.S. working class movement.

Beginning with the chauvinist treachery of the Second International – represented here in the U.S. in the stand of the opportunist Socialist Party and the Socialist Labor Party – and carried on by each opportunist trend which tried for or gained leadership in the CPUSA, opportunism always manifested itself in the abandonment of the Afro-American question.

The question is not simply one of upholding the phrase “right of self-determination.” More important is the waging of a consistent fight against all forms of national oppression. It requires special demands and special methods of struggle and organization. It can be seen clearly today in the need to consistently defend the democratic rights of Black and other minority nationalities in jobs, housing, education and in the fight against the white supremacist “anti-busing” school segregationist movement which is being whipped up in many cities today.

The struggle for the democratic rights of Black people did not begin with the recent struggles against segregation. Neither did it start in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. The present day Afro-American struggle for self-determination and democratic rights has its origins in the anti-slavery struggles before the Civil War.

Throughout the more than three centuries since the first English colonies were settled along the eastern coast of this country, the Afro-American people have waged a great and heroic struggle against every sort of racist crime on the part of the ruling class. Some of the most shameful pages of U.S. history are those dealing with the exploitation and oppression of the Negro masses, while some of the most glorious are those which portray the long Afro-American tradition of revolutionary struggle.

Black slavery served as a key component in the development of capitalism in both the U.S. and Europe. Karl Marx wrote, referring to England during the American Civil War period:

“Slavery is an economic category like any other ... Direct slavery is just as much the pivot of bourgeois industry as machinery, credits, etc. Without slavery you have no cotton; without cotton you have no modern industry.”[1]

This resolution traces the course of this historical struggle of Black people and shows its link to the growing socialist revolutionary movement. Its main theme is that the oppression of the Afro-American people is bound up with the rise of capitalism and that only with the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system can the emancipation of the Afro-American people be complete. Secondly that this overthrow is impossible without the unity of the white and Black worker and without the closest bond of united struggle between the general working-class movement and the struggle of the Afro-American people. This is the key strategic alliance in the mass struggle to overthrow U.S. monopoly capitalism today.

Finally, this resolution will show through tracing this history of struggle, that the Afro-American question is a national question. In other words, the oppression of Black people as a nation in the historic area of their development, the slave South, lies at the root of racial discrimination today.

In the following pages, then, this resolution will answer the following questions: (1) How did Black people develop historically into a nation of people, i.e., “a stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture”[2]? (2) What are the origins of the present movement for self-determination and democratic rights of Black people? (3) Why is the Afro-American struggle historically bound up with the fight against imperialism?


[1]Karl Marx, Poverty of Philosophy, International Publishers, p. 188.

[2]J. Stalin, "Marxism and the National Question," (Works, Moscow, 1954, Vol. 2, p. 307).