Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Leslie Roberts

Conference Presentation: The Particular Tasks of National Minority Marxist-Leninists

Prepared and Delivered: June 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In addressing the question of the particular tasks of national minority Marxist-Leninists, we must first deal with the issue of why we have particular tasks. As we all know, racism is the leading contradiction dividing the U.S. working class. That can be a rhetorical statement in and of itself. What is meant by that statement? What does it mean for national Minority Marxist-Leninists?

We are all painfully aware of racism’s many faces and how it affects our day to day lives. Racism is a political, social and economic reality based on the ideology of white supremacy. Racism developed as an integral part of the growth of capitalism in the U.S. Its effects are escaped by no one living here in the U.S. Capitalism relies on racism to reap superprofits and to prevent the one thing it fears most – a united working class.

National minority workers are paid the least wages and are relegated the worst jobs compared to white workers, thus creating superprofits for the ruling class. Coupled with this inequality national minority workers must deal with the racism of both bosses and white workers. Due to the antagonism set up and festered intentionally by the ruling class it is not surprising that both white and non-white workers often view their struggle in only racial terms. White supremacist ideology is fostered and encouraged among white workers. This causes them to feel that they are better than non-white workers and to Identify with the Interests of the bosses. National minority workers In response to that perspective often liquidate the larger context of the class struggle because they are so much on the defensive from the racism of their white co-workers.

The ruling class uses racism to set up a competition between white and national minority workers for adequate jobs, housing, education for their children and other services. White workers realize they have to accept less than adequate wages and bad working conditions because they know that the reserve army of unemployed national minority workers may be hired for even less wages and worse working conditions. White workers are encouraged to believe that these workers are anxiously standing by, ready to come in and take over their jobs, neighborhoods and schools.

Historically, the two movements that have consistently fought for democratic rights In the U.S. have been the movements of the oppressed nationalities and the workers’ movement. Because of racism these movements have by and large operated separate from each other. In particular, this has manifested itself in the failure of white workers to take up the struggle against racism.

In spite Of the deep wedge racism has created within the working class, and between these movements, we can see historically how the struggle against racism has served to move the entire class forward and is in the best interests not only of national minority workers, but of white workers as well. The Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement of the late 60s and early 70s in Detroit was a model for other workers’ movements across the country. It was a struggle not only for black representation in the union and against discrimination in hiring, upgrading and promotion, but it also fought hard against the general unaccountability of UAW officials, speed-ups, unsafe machinery, hold-ups in pay, short paychecks, harrassment over sick leave, and many other problems. Most of these problems were intensified for black workers which in many instances made them more militant than their white counterparts. However, the demands were those that represented a victory for all the workers.

The Civil Rights Movement shows us how hard won struggles led by a national minority group in attacking racism have served to protect the rights of the entire working class. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is a good example. In this instance, the many methods used by the bourgeoisie to discriminate against national minority workers were defeated. A seniority system was established which defeated the “first fired” practice. Employers were forced to post jobs, giving everyone the opportunity to change jobs. The practice of refusing to hire someone because he/she had a criminal record was defeated (except in instances where the crime was job-related). Departmental promotion meant that if a national minority worker had more seniority in a particular department, the employer could pull a white worker with less seniority from that department and put him/her In another department with a higher job classification. This practice was defeated by Title VII. In many instances, employers gave tests to workers as criteria for job upgrading. They often gave different tests that were designed for them to fail. Title VII defeated this practice and states that the test has to be job-related. In addition, if you fail the test but have proven in other ways capable of performing the job, you are still eligible.

The institution of a seniority system and job posting, the defeat of the practice of departmental promoting, discriminatory testing and refusal to hire because of criminal records represented an advance not only for national minority but for white workers too. In addition, the bourgeoisie helped us along in advancing all sectors of the working class. In an attempt to defeat the legislation a reactionary senator from Mississippi proposed an amendment at the last minute to include sex along with race and religion. He employed this tactic thinking that surely the act would be defeated if his peers were forced to pass legislation against discrimination because of not only race and religion, but also sex! Nevertheless, it passed, and all sectors of the class won a brilliant victory.

The victories of the United Farm Workers is another example of how the struggle against racism has resulted in a victory for the whole working class. The UFW fought for the inclusion of farm workers and domestic workers not protected by this act. The UFW fought for better hours, higher wages, better working conditions, the elimination of child labor, and safer tools. In the course of the union drive social services for people were instituted so that they now have medical, educational and retirement services. These advances reach Chicano, Arab, Puerto Rican, Philippino, black and white farm workers. And the institution of bi-lingual education does not only mean that Hispanic children are taught two languages, but all the children in schools where these programs exist are exposed to more than one language. This is an advanced approach to education.

There are numerous historical examples that we could spend time discussion. The point is that the struggle against racism and for democratic rights is objectively a struggle that advances the entire working class. It is for this reason that the primary aspect of our particular task as national minority Marxist-Leninists is to unite the working class movement with the movements of the oppressed nationalities.

We have heard in this morning’s presentation about the history of the party-building movement and the development of the OCIC. What concerns us is that there are two major problems that are impeding the development of multi-national unity in our trend. The first problem is that many left groups have failed to correctly apply the science of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions facing us in the U.S.. The result of this failure is that these groups, particularly the revisionist CPUSA and the dogmatist CP-ML, CLP, and RCP have made racist errors. In response to these conditions many national minorities have become disillusioned, cynical, anti-communist or narrow nationalist in their world view. Many others, while not abandoning Marxism-Leninism, have been forced to carry on their day-to-day struggle outside of the context of an organization – even those organizations that are anti-revisionist and anti-dogmatist. This leads us to the second problem.

The second problem is that the class and racial composition of the organized party-building movement is largely petty-bourgeois and majority white. The composition of the organized party-building movement makes it virtually impossible for it to take a qualitative leap in moving forward in the struggle against racism. Majority white and all white organizations have little or no credibility in national minority communities. These groups have often demonstrated their lack of understanding of the centrality of the question of racism by holding back in the effort to win over white workers to the anti-racist struggle. The mentality reflected here is “we have to wait until we have some national minority cadre before we can take up this struggle.”

It would be unrealistic to expect our white comrades to be free from the ideology of white supremacy simply because they are Marxist-Leninists. None of us live in a vacuum. The problem is that while many of these groups continue to make racist errors, many of us respond by saying, “yeah, that’s typical of those white folks.” Thus we totally dismiss them and at the same time deny any responsibility we have for dealing with the rectification of their errors. Some of us have even gone so far as to judge communism itself by what the “white folks” do. Clearly, it-is in the absence of national minority leadership within the communist movement that helps to retard the struggle against racism within white Marxist-Leninists groups.

These objective conditions – racism being the leading contradiction dividing the working class, the political errors of the revisionists and the dogmatists, and the current composition of the organized party-building movement – dictate that we as national minority Marxist-Leninists have some particular tasks.

In discussing our particular tasks we must be clear on the fact that they are not our only tasks. As Marxist-Leninists we must take up the larger task of party building. While we are especially concerned and skilled at struggling against racism, we must put that struggle in the context of party-building. We may spend much time working on the Weber case, farmworkers, housing issues, busing, etc. – issues that are clearly an attack on national minorities. But if we do only that without any long range objectives, we are failing our people, our class and ourselves.

The elimination of the bourgeoisie as the ruling class and the replacement of a dictatorship of the proletariat is the only way that national minorities will be freed from the stranglehold of racism. And the only way we will have that In the U.S. is to build a multinational revolutionary vanguard party to guide the class to a dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, national minority communists must develop themselves in all areas concerning us not only as national minorities, but as Marxist-Leninists. We have to take up all theoretical, ideological as well as practical questions facing the communist movement today. It is only in an organized context that we can realize our fullest potential as communists. National minority Marxist-Leninists not only have the potential and ability to take leadership in communist organizations, we have a responsibility to do just that.

It is the task of all genuine Marxist-Leninists to take up the struggle against racism. The cornerstone of this task is the demonstrated ability of white Marxist-Leninists to win white workers to the struggle against racism. Secondarily, the particular task of national minority Marxist-Leninists in this regard is to struggle against narrow nationalism.

One of the foremost tasks facing the communist movement is to develop a theoretical understanding of the centrality of the struggle against racism. This understanding will enable us to guide our work and to systematically address racist errors in the communist movement and racism In the working class movement.

The question is what are the prerequisites to approaching this theoretical task? The process should assure that the most advanced theoretical work as well as the most advanced experience on this question be summed up In an open and centralized manner.

Quite obviously the struggle against racism is most pressing for us. And as national minority communists we are faced with the task of developing class conscious national minorities into revolutionaries. Many of those class conscious people are involving themselves in anti-racist struggles. These struggles are taking place in the communities of national minorities as well as at the workplace. In fact, these anti-racist struggles have the effect of developing class consciousness in embryo in the movements of oppressed nationalities.

These advanced forces have to be won over to communism. There are many places where we can take up the task of winning national minority advanced people over to communism. At the workplace, in rank-and-file caucuses we must support and encourage the advanced worker who is pushing for class conscious and anti-racist activities against the companies and within the union. We have to encourage that worker to not only struggle at the workplace, but to see the links between that struggle, and the ones going on in other industries and in the community. In other words, we have to encourage that worker to place these various struggles in the overall context of the U.S. class struggle. There should be organizations, study groups, and propaganda that will help the advanced worker to draw these links and to take his/her broader perspective into his/her indigenous struggle and mobilize other people into action with that broader perspective. We must point to countries that have fought for socialism and the differences in peoples day-to-day lives there and in the U.S.

In the community we must push for a class analysis In the struggles that are taken up around housing, education, unemployment, etc. We have to show the links between the many struggles that are being waged in our communities with those that are taking place in labor and encourage united front action wherever possible. Propaganda is especially important. The tenants organization’s newsletter should carry articles not only about what is happening with its particular situation, but also about housing struggles across the country. It has to discuss not only what the landlord is doing to its own tenants but it must draw links between that landlord and the local bourgeoisie that is forcing people to struggle against it around other issues. In final analysis this can only happen when the advanced fighters from the movements of the oppressed nationalities have been drawn into the party building movement and have taken up the theoretical tasks facing it.

One important aspect to the endeavor to win over national minority advanced workers to communism is the struggle against narrow nationalism. We have to understand the historical roots of nationalism and the progressive role that it has played. It is in reaction to racism that groups have fought as a people against oppression. We also have to understand and point out the shortcomings of nationalism in the long run. Otherwise the all-black group that ran an all-black slate for elected city officials or union representatives can become disillusioned when they see the limited power these people have without any unity with white working class people. We have to point out the multi-class nature of nationalism and the fact that the elected union official may have the same class interests as the bourgeoisie. We must demonstrate that the only way to end our oppression is to unite with the entire working class.

It is important to be clear when narrow nationalism is operating and when real concerns are needing to be addressed. While in the long run we would hope to have all sectors of the class struggling together against racism and against the bourgeoisie, it is sometimes necessary to support and work with all-minority mass forms. Racism dictates that sometimes this is the only way to protect the interests of the group.

We see examples of this in all areas across the country. In labor, education, politics, criminal justice, and other areas racism within organizations and institutions have forced people to form all-minority caucuses and all-minority organizations. They do this because whites within organizations and institutions either refuse to recognize the issue of racism or refuse to struggle against it, and often promote it. Thus, as a tactic, we must be conscious when all-minority mass forms are appropriate and when a broader composition of the struggle would be more productive. We must struggle against the narrow nationalist tendency that wants to maintain all-minority forms on principle regardless of the circumstances. Overall, our particular task is to unite the movements of the oppressed national minorities with workers movements.

One task of national minority Marxist-Leninists that will take us a long way down the road to party-building is that of forging unity between national minority communities. More often than not struggles are isolated from one another and sometimes narrow nationalism is a barrier to building real unity. It will be more than a notion for us to perform this task. The ruling class has used racism to not only cause antagonisms between white and non-white workers, but to promote antagonisms between different national minority groups as well. The result Is that we are often fighting each other over crumbs. The black community wants the $25,000 that has been budgeted for special programs in the school system to go Into developing a black history curriculum, while the Latino community demands that those funds are spent for hiring bilingual teachers.

National minority communists have to demonstrate how it is counterproductive for us to stay isolated from each other and how we play into the hand of the bourgeoisie by remaining isolated or fighting each other over shrinking resources. We have to respect and understand cultural differences between different national minority groups and at the same time struggle against stereotypes about other groups that are created and encouraged by the bourgeoisie.

In national minority communities where anti-imperialist activities are going on, communists have certain responsibilities within the context of forging unity between different groups. (And where those activities are not going on we have to raise anti-imperialist consciousness and see that those activities are initiated). We have to encourage groups that support the liberation movements in Southern Africa, the independence of Puerto Rico, and the Palestinian liberation struggle to work with each other in the effort to defeat imperialism. While each national minority community has a special interest in working on ’anti-imperialist efforts concerning countries where they were born and/or have ancestral ties, it is important for us to be clear on where the emphasis should be placed at any given time. National minority Marxist-Leninists have to avoid their own subjectivism in making such a political judgement. While blacks may have felt strongly about supporting African liberation movements during the Vietnam War, the point of contention for U.S. imperialism was clearly Vietnam at that time. National minority communists have to show that to struggle against U.S. imperialism at its weakest point at a given time is indeed a victory for the liberation and independence movements in other parts of the world, including our struggle at home for democratic rights.

In summary, the reason for our particular tasks is rooted in the prevailing role that racism plays in impeding the development of a revolutionary movement in the U.S. The major obstacles are the political deviation from Marxism-Leninism reflected in the line and practice of revisionism and dogmatism and the current class and racial composition of the organized party-building movement. We stated that our tasks then are:
1. To unite the struggles of the oppressed national minorities with the working class movement;
2. To win over advanced national minorities to communism;
3. To struggle for unity between national minority communities; and
4. To struggle against narrow nationalism.

These tasks must be carried out in order to develop a multinational vanguard party to lead the revolutionary struggle for socialism. We hope that the ensuing discussion will serve to further clarify the tasks that have been presented.