Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center

Racism in the Communist Movement

The Other Side of the Struggle against Racism or “Why They Don’t Say Anything”

Accommodating Racism

Historically the Black Liberation Movement has had two major political trends. The first has been an uncompromising struggle against racism. People such as Nat Turner and David Walker are only two names that stand out in the struggle against slavery. In more recent times people such as Paul Robeson and Malcolm X and a section of the Black Power Movement symbolize this tendency among Black people. Along with this trend, however, has been an accommodationist trend. This accomodationist trend manifested itself in two basic forms. One has been various militant nationalist movements. The other has been an attempt to side step racism and adjust to it. We have seen both forms of this in the PWOC. Both forms of accommodation have been used in the service of racist ideology.

During the anti-slavery struggle some of the most militant spokespeople for Blacks were Paul Cuffe and Martin Delaney. But their solution to the oppression was to go back to Africa. They started the American Colonization Society to facilitate this perspective. Immediately some of the most staunch supporters of white supremacy latched on to this idea and helped to finance this movement. In more recent times, the militant movements of Marcus Garvey and Elijah Muhammed posed either back to Africa plans or separate Black states as the solution to tie reality of white racism. In both situations people like Senator Bilbo, a noted racist from Mississippi, Strom Thurmond, and the KKK supported these and similar movements among Black people.

We can see a similar situation that has occurred in the PWOC recently around comrade Sh. One of the reasons that Sh gave for leaving the PWOC was that he was objectively being taken out of the Black Liberation Movement because of the work load in the PWOC. Underlining this attitude was that Black people have narrow political interests and should not be giving all sided leadership to the communist movement. It is significant that the comrades who support this formulation are also some of the weakest in understanding the centrality of the struggle against racism. More precisely, there is a direct correlation between comrades who support Sh’s formulation that Black people belong in the Black Liberation Movement and oppose the organization committee’s resolution on Take Back the Night. These white comrades now claim to be seeking leadership from Sh and quote him every time their racism is being exposed in ideological struggle. Yet none of these comrades have had a political discussion with the one Black member of the EC, Y, L or 0s. Their racism has caused them to liquidate all of the Black members of the PWOC.

The passive side of this accommodationist approach to racism is when Blacks liquidate the struggle against racism in an attempt to adjust to it. In the society at large most Black react to the open chauvinist actions of the KKK, Nazi Party, or Frank Rizzo. Yet in a context of being around the “friends of the colored people” the tendency becomes one of not speaking to the racist errors and racist thinking of these “friends.” This is most sharply seen in the experiences of Y and L in the PWOC but all of the Black cadre are guilty of this behavior. This silence has led whites in the organization to develop their anti-racist credentials based on racist paternal relationships with Black comrades. This has resulted in feeding the racism of these white comrades by allowing them to have a false consciousness about their understanding and commitment to the struggle against racism.

On the EC during the personal struggle, M directed her main criticism against Z, even though he and Si held the same perspective. As Z’s point of view became known in the organization, people suggested that he was Sa’s dupe, a potential mugger of white women(probably at night, or shall we take the day away too?), had latent violent tendencies, and was in the “tradition” of B1ack men having a casual attitude towards stable family relationships. Similarly, Y has been called a liar and subjective when she has taken up the racism of PWOC comrades. It is significant that these perceptions have come from comrades who previously had “close” relationships with both of these comrades. As T has said recently, “People do not invite me out to eat the way they used to and I do not get as many hugs and kisses as before.” We can see that as soon as Blacks dare to differ with whites and demand respect, the whites want to know “what is wrong with them” and see it as “subjectivism.” What should be clear to comrades is that an accommodationist stance from the militant or otherwise left and from right does nothing but feed and bolster racism and racist ideology.

Roots of Accommodation

The ideology of white liberalism is the driving force that makes Blacks cynical towards whites. Blacks, through organizations such as NAACP or various human relations commissions, have come to know that “anti-racist” whites were that in word and not deed. Basically these forms, thoroughly compromised by bourgeois ideology, counseled Blacks to be “patient” and “understanding” about white racism. They often asked Black to liquidate racism for the greater concern for the country at large. Also, this gradualist and reformist approach to racism sought to undercut militant responses to racism and apologize for the “shortcomings” of capitalist society. Another dimension of accommodation is that Blacks, like whites, failed to recognize the white working people as having no objective interest in racism. Bourgeois ideology, which blames racism on white working people and not on capitalism, creates a sense of hopelessness in Blacks about the ability for whites to change. Blacks are convinced that all whites have no interest in changing.

Because of the racist division in American society, most Black people have not had any significant social interaction with white people. Except for the military or perhaps attending school with whites, the daily contact between white and Black people is superficial in the most profound sense of the word. This lack of personal contact with white people has allowed B1ack to objectify white racism. When a white person does something that is racist, Blacks do not have to think about “maybe they did not mean to do it”. In other words, whites have a one dimensional reality to Black people and this is usually in regards to race. However, when B1ack people develop the semblance of a personal relationship with white people, the tendency is to liquidate their racism in the name of “they did not mean to do it.” The clearest expression of this thinking in Black and white comrades is the failure to take up the racism of whites in interracial relationships or whites who have interracial children. Comrades have asked “how could they be racist?”

Another aspect of this same phenomena is that most Black people who join what is commonly called the “movement” in general, and the Marxist-Leninist movement in particular, are, for the first time, faced with a situation where whites are asking to be judged on their anti-racist stance. Soon the Black person realizes that the only difference between these “good” whites and the “bad” whites is how they approach racist perceptions of Black people. For example, the “bad” whites believe that Black people are dirty and lazy and it is “their nature”. The “good” whites believe the same thing but choose to “feel sorry for them” and say that “it is not their fault.” The realization of the racism of the “good” whites creates a situation where the Black person accepts the most superficial personal and political racist behavior from the “good” whites. This situation is summed up by Blacks as “white folks will be white folks.”

Racism has had another impact on Blacks. This has been the internalization of the racist myths and stereotypes of white people. Historically, bourgeois society has blamed the results of racism on the “nature of Black people.” For example, the fact that there was racism in employment was summed up as Blacks are lazy and want to be on welfare. Or the fact that Black people were victims of inferior schools was summed up as Black people cannot read, write, or think as well as whites. Acts of violence by Black people, particularly toward whites, was summed up as Blacks having a violent nature and not in the context of white racism.

The blaming of Black people for the results of racism has had its effect on Black people. While only the most politically backward Black person would not acknowledge the root of Black people’s oppression as white racism, many Blacks have internalized various aspects of this oppression. An example of this is a college student being ashamed to bring their white classmates home for fear of being “embarrassed”. The fact that whites do usually have better housing, clothes and education has often created insecurities in Black people toward each other and in their relationships with white people.

This sense of inadequacy has been compounded because most Blacks come from and are part of the working class. In a society where the working class is viewed as something that everyone tries to get out of or at least work like hell to insure that their children can leave, Black people suffer an additional “burden”. This causes many Black folks, like white workers, to apologize for not having gone to college. Being from the working class is a statement on having failed in life, rather than a source of pride.

Moreover, working class people are taught through various subtle and not so subtle ways that they have nothing to teach people. They are imbued with the perspective that the realm of ideas are for the petit-bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie and it is too difficult for them to understand. This has caused many Blacks to blame their shortcomings on being Black and not on the reality of white racism.

These two phenomena, pessimism of white’s ability to struggle with their racism and internalization of racism, reinforce each other and work in the service of racism. As Marxist-Leninists we cannot accept consciousness as static and incapable of change. For Blacks to treat whites as hopelessly racist shows a profound disrespect for then and implies that they too are not compromised by racist ideology. It is to suggest that racism is only the concern of Black people. It shows a lack of understanding by Blacks that racism is not objectively in the interest of whites, unless they are part of the bourgeoisie. It also allows racism to be relegated to Black concerns. It undermines the understanding of the necessity of white communists to win whites to the struggle against racism.

This pessimism tends to manifest itself as liberalism by Black Marxist-Leninists. This liberalism is the root of Z permitting white comrades to only discuss racial issues with him as if that were all he could converse about or give leadership around. This liberalism causes Y to let white comrades liquidate her role as a leading communist propagandist and trade union cadre. Both of these examples exhibit a pessimism about white’s ability to deal with their racism and result in feeding racist stereotypes. As one Black comrade has said, “Wouldn’t the white folks be surprised to learn that when we talk to each that we discuss events in western Europe, Latin America and not just racism.”

Internalizing Racism

The internalization of racism feeds paternalism. It is true that, generally speaking, racist education has created a situation where whites have better literary skills than Blacks. But many Blacks have allowed this fact to be viewed by whites as “whites can write and Blacks can’t” or “whites can read and Blacks can’t.” These attitudes are intensified in an interracial context. An example of this is when F was having problems in a study program she assumed that Y was having the same problem even though this perception was incorrect. There were other white comrades who were having similar problems as F, but she did not think to identify with them. On the other hand, by not assuming a leadership role and challenging the racist assumption of F, Y fed into this racist paternalism.

The racism of the community cell, the Women’s Liberation Commission, and the DC, has allowed L to sit quiet in many meetings over the years. The fact that she was not challenged was a clear indication that her white comrades felt that she had nothing to contribute anyway. They liquidated her role as chair of JPCAAR and the UPCAAR fraction and objectively saw that role as “colored concerns” where these other forms were “white folks business.” Yet L must bear some responsibility for this situation. By accepting this treatment of herself she only helped feed this racist perspective.

The other side of this internalization of racism is that Blacks objectively assume that they have nothing to teach white people. They allow whites to think that the science of Marxism-Leninism is for the white petit-bourgeoisie. Y’s experiences could teach many so-called feminists many things about sexist oppression. (Yes, comrades, she is a woman too.) The fusing of international questions such as Vietnam, South Africa and Chile with the domestic struggle has been done many times by Z with workers. Yet how many white comrades have come to him for leadership around how to take up the international question with workers. 0s is one of the three people in the PWOC who has read all four volumes of Capital (surprise, surprise, surprise).

In the trade union work comrades treat advanced workers as helpers to the white communist. How many leaflets have ever been written by advanced workers in the entire history of the PWOC’s trade union work? How many comrades have ever thought to seek out D, P, or H to develop strategy around a shop struggle?

Indeed, Black comrades have allowed white comrades to develop the attitude of “how do we whites uplift these noble savages” or “how do we keep them in our organization, recognizing that they can never reach our level.” This silence of Blacks also plays into the opportunist use of Black leadership. For example, comrades such as A, Wh and B are “concerned” about Sh when they want to hide their racist line on Take Back the Night and attack the leadership of the PWOC. These and other comrades now talk about building Black leadership and never sought out L when she was on the DC and have never sought the leadership of Z. We saw shades of this same opportunism around the “personal situation” regarding Sm, M, J and others wanted to use Sm to advance their opportunist cause. Yet no comrades have ever challenged Si on the racism in his past relationship with Sm.

Nevertheless, B1ack comrades cannot just sit back and “throw stones” at our white comrades. It is individualism for any Black to make a separate peace with racism. To do so dooms the movement to its current racial and class composition. We can be assured that every racist error made towards Blacks in the PWOC is compounded at the workplace and in the mass movement.

Other Forms of Accommodation or the PWOC as “The White Organizing Committee”

The objective role that Black accommodation to racism plays in the PWOC is to treat the organization as the “white organizing committee.” One example of this is the lack of any concern about promoting Black leadership. In the history of the PWOC all leading bodies have been scrutinized about their sexual composition. Indeed white women comrades are always raising concern over sexism of the EC and leading male comrades. Though it is not the sole role of Black comrades to raise racism, just like it is not the sole role of white women comrades to be concerned about sexism, Blacks in the PWOC have never systematically challenged the racial composition of leading bodies. They have never attempted to promote Black leadership. No Black comrade raised hell about the role that racism played in Sm leaving the PWOC, Sh and L leaving the DC and Sh leaving the organization. Can you imagine what would occur in the PWOC if the DC had wound up being all men and not all white? This practice only encourages the common view of the SC as recently expressed by Al as “that body with four men and one woman”.

Recently, the Black Liberation Commission was objectively liquidated by its chair, Z. The underlying causes were the lack of respect Z had for the Black comrades in the PWOC. An aspect of this liquidation was both sexism and the anti-working class bias of Z. On the other hand, except for one member of the BLC (Y), there was no pressure on Z to activate the BLC until it was taken up on the OC. While it is not the responsibility of the BLC to carry the burden of the struggle against racism in the PWOC, the fact that it was not meeting comprised the organizations ability to wage this struggle internally and externally.

The acceptance of the PWOC and the communist movement as belonging to white people, has an effect on the relationships of Black comrades towards each other. They have accepted the “ghettoization” of their work and their comrades’ work. As comrade A has said recently, Blacks belong in the Black Liberation Movement. There is no doubt that all Black comrades have seen racism towards themselves and remained silent. They have also seen it towards other Black comrades and have not raised it with the white comrades or with each other. The most stark example of this is Z and Y. Z has always seen the racist paternalism exhibited to Y. Yet he never raised it with Y and only in a shallow way with a few whites. Apart from showing a cynical attitude towards whites, it also showed a lack of respect for Y. The implication of his behavior is, “I would not let people treat me like that, but she must like it.” But invariably, if one lets someone get treated like that, they too, will accept that treatment. Until recently Black comrades have never challenged each other in their acceptance of racist behavior towards them or other Black people. This has led to a situation that Blacks have little genuine contact with each other.

The “white organizing committee” mentality can be seen by the fact that the PWOC has never celebrated any event from the Black Liberation Movement, Commemorations such as Black History Week or the birthdays of people such as Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, W.E.B DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King go totally ignored in the PWOC except for superficial coverage in the Organizer. White the racism of the organization is ultimately at fault, seldom has any Black comrade raised these concerns. Can you imagine if we did not celebrate May Day or International Women’s Day? If Black PWOC members were in an all Black Marxist-Leninist organization it is doubtful if they would allow this situation to exist.

The result of Black comrades “race hiding” and not viewing the PWOC as also belonging to them and any genuine Marxist-Leninist, allows advanced 31ack forces from the shops and the Black Liberation Movement to also view it as a white organization. The failure to promote the PWOC and give it a public face among Blacks is a disservice to the Black Liberation Movement and the class struggle. It allows the forces of opportunism and narrow nationalism free rein.

It is important to note that independent of the PWOC’s weaknesses, that Black comrades still capitulate to narrow nationalism. As was mentioned earlier, this is a result of not internalizing the objective interest that white working people have in the struggle against racism. The failure to grasp this fact invariably will cause vacillation in the midst of ideological struggle in the Black Liberation Movement. For example, a commitment to a multinational People’s Party, as opposed to a Black Independent Party, to challenge the two party system is correct regardless of racist errors in the PWOC. Black comrades must make a break with defining their commitment to Marxism-Leninism based on the strengths and weaknesses of white communists. Black comrades, like all communists, have a responsibility to defend and advance the science of Marxism-Leninism against any intrusion of bourgeois ideology.

Finally, this has not been written to blunt the primary responsibility of whites for racism in the PWOC. However, Black comrades also must accept their role in allowing this situation to exist without virtually any struggle. The deepening of our awareness of racism is part of a long and difficult process. We are all aware that racism will not be eliminated under capitalism and we must wage a constant struggle against it in the society and in the communist movement. Black comrades have a responsibility to challenge any manifestation of racism in the PWOC and the entire communist movement. Anything short of this posture compromises our ability to make a revolution and strike a death blow to racism.

Z for the OC
9 May, 1980