Resolution on
the black national question

-Spring, 1985-

Reprinted from the Workers' Advocate Supplement, vol. 1, #8, October 15, 1985

The following resolution was adopted by the MLP,USA in Spring,1985 after a period of thorough inner-party discussion.

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In the revolutionary movement the question has been repeatedly raised of whether the black people in the U.S. constitute not only an oppressed nationality but also a nation based in a definite territory where they form the majority of the population. Connected to this question, there has been a persistent debate on the applicability of the slogan of the right of self-determination for the black people. After thoroughly studying the facts, and by applying the theoretical principled of Marxism-Leninism, the Marxist-Leninist Party has come to the conclusions expressed below. This assessment, besides answering the above questions, also confirms the correctness of the orientations for the black people's movement which were set out in the resolution from the 2nd Congress of the MLP entitled The Struggle Against Racism and National Oppression.

1. The liberation movement of the black people in the U.S. is an essential front of the struggle against capitalist reaction and is an important lever of the proletarian revolution.

2. The nearly 30 million black people in the U.S. are an oppressed nationality. Racism against the black people has long been one of the foundations of capitalist rule in the U.S. and a bulwark of all political reaction. The exploitation of cheap black labor is a source of great profits for the rich. As well, the capitalists' promotion of the poison of racism is a major instrument of their divide-and-rule tactics against the entire working class.

Today, the oppression of the black people is growing. The capitalist class has unleashed against the black people a major racist offensive, headed up by the Reagan government arid supported by the Democratic Party. The vast majority of the black people are industrial workers, service workers, and other sections of the working people. They are concentrated in the major urban centers throughout the country where they are frequently forced into segregated neighborhoods and decaying ghettoes. They are suffering from especially high levels of unemployment, impoverishment, and other burdens of the capitalist economic crisis. At the same time the capitalist government is on a segregationist drive, stepping up discrimination in housing, jobs, and education while racist terror by the police and government sponsored gangs is increasing against the black people.

3. The deep South continues to be a bastion of racist oppression. The dominance of the most overtly racist politicians combined with KKK terror, lynchings, and other of the most ugly forms of racism have endured to confront the black masses with daily degradation and terror.

4. Historically the deep South was the center of the inhuman system of chattel slavery which had been revived by the American exploiters and used to enslave block people from Africa. The black people never accepted this bestial system. Major slave revolts broke out in the 1600's and 1700's and reached a peak in the decade of the 1850's. Finally, the Civil War, in which the black masses played a major role, broke the back of the slaveocracy and abolished chattel slavery. But the northern capitalists soon compromised with the former slaver owners, and formal slavery was replaced with a ruthless semi-feudal system of Jim Crow segregation and Klan terror.

The majority of the black people were concentrated in the deep South. And in the zone commonly known as the "black belt," where the plantation system was concentrated, the black people formed a large majority of the population.

After the Civil War, for some time the black people in this zone went through a process of developing into a nation. This refers to a nation in the strict sense, that is, a nation based on a definite territory, with a certain economic development and class differentiation, where the black people comprised the majority of the population and which is "a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture." (Marxism and the National Question, Section I "The Nation," J. V. Stalin, 1913) These basic features existed during this period, and all together meant that a nation (in the strict sense) of the black people came into being for a time in the area known as the "black belt." But due to various factors, such as the emigration of black people out of this area, certain features defining the black people as a nation were not stable and they were not as accentuated as with most nations. Thus there was definite potential for the nation to become dispersed.

Throughout the period of the existence of this nation the possibility existed for the emergence of a black secessionist movement based on this national territory. However, for a number of reasons, such a movement did not come into being. The black masses showed disinterest in or, at times, even hostility to the idea of forming a separate black country in the South. The mass struggle of the black people developed mainly as a battle for the abolition of Jim Crow segregationism, for the elimination of the semi-feudal oppression suffered at the hands of the plantation lords, and for full equality.

In the late 1920's and 1930's the CPUSA upheld the black people's right to self-determination, that is, the right of the population in the territory of the black nation to themselves democratically decide whether or not to secede from the U.S. and form a separate government, and this was correct. At the same time, the interests of the liberation of the black people and of the socialist revolution of the working class demanded that the communists should not orient the movement to take up the goal of secession. Rather, the communists, in their practical work, were right to center their efforts on developing mass revolutionary struggles against discrimination in the work places and exclusion from the unions and for organizing together the workers of all nationalities against Jim Crow segregation, lynching, and all forms of national oppression; against landlordism and the plantation system and to organize the tenant farmers, sharecroppers, and agricultural laborers. And they worked to merge these streams of struggle with the proletanan movement for socialism.

5. During the period that lasted into the 1940's there were significant waves of migration of black people out of the rural areas of the deep South and to the big cities. But at the end of World War II a new wave of migration began which was bigger than any in the past. The black people were forced off the land in the rural South and were driven into ghettoes in the major urban centers throughout the country. Pushed off the plantations and farms the black people increasingly became workers.

The process of dispersing the black nation was in lull swing by the late 1940's, even then putting in doubt the existence of the nation in the strict sense, and by the 1960's one can certainly no longer speak of a black nation in the deep South. This process has dispersed the black people to such an extent that there is no longer a significant area of black majority in the former territory of the black nation. The small areas in this territory where there continues to to be a black majority have only an insignificant population. Many black people live in the South, but most have migrated out of the former territory of the black nation to the big cities. And immigration patterns in recent years, which have seen many black people leaving the North and returning to the South, have not reversed this trend but have continued the process of concentrating those black people who live in the South into the big Southern cities.

Although some exceptional circumstances in the future, generally involving catastrophes for the black people, could conceivably reconcentrate black people in the "black belt", or some other region, at present one cannot speak of a black nation, in the scientific sense of the term. The historic trend, which has been developing for many decades, is presently against the crystallization of a black nation.

In this situation, there is no longer a basis for raising the slogan of the black people's right of self-determination, that is, the right of the people in a definite territory to secede. At the same time, the black people remain an oppressed nationality; they retain many of the features of a nation and the savage yoke they hear is similar in character to that borne by other brutally oppressed national minorities.

6. These conclusions do not mean that the Party should denounce every use of the term "black nation." Frequently in popular language the term "nation" is not used in the scientific sense, hut as simply another word for a people. In some situations, to make a point of denying the existence of a black nation would mean to those hearing it that the existence of the black people, or the black people's movement, is being denounced; and this is true even among people who would regard it as absurd to regard the black people as a nation in the strict sense. The distinction between a nation and a nationality is generally slurred over in popular language. And these differences between the strict, scientific use of terms and the widespread, popular understanding of these terms must he taken into full account in our work against the oppression of the black people.

To a certain extent, the seine considerations apply to the tern "right to self-determination." It is often used in a figurative or imprecise way or to express that someone wants to fight on some democratic issue. The imprecise use of this term can give rise to serious problems, and does so much more frequently than the popular use of the term "black nation." Nevertheless, there are other cases where it would be pedantic to get upset over the imprecise use of the term "right to self-determination."

In its own agitation, the Party must generally strive to use these terms scientifically. But it is important to grasp that the Party's aim is not to create a fight over terms, but to provide the movement with a correct analysis and orient it in a revolutionary direction. There must he sensitivity to what various people and forces are saying and not just a mechanical reaction to their use of different terms.

7. The dispersal of the black people out of the rural areas into the major cities and their proletarianization has been a very painful process. Nevertheless, this dispersal and proletarianization has been favorable to the development of the black liberation struggle. The great power demonstrated in the movement that swept across the country in the late 1950's and the 60's shows the enormous revolutionary potential of the black people's movement today.

The driving of black people off of the plantations and farms led to the vast majority becoming workers. In the black liberation movement, it is the workers who are the most consistent and resolute fighters against racism, the backbone of the anti-racist movement, around whom the other sections of the black people must be rallied. Meanwhile the black bourgeoisie sells out the mass struggle in order to reach accommodation with the monopoly capitalist ruling class.

At the same time, the concentration of black workers in factories and work places, where they work and struggle side by side with workers from other nationalities, has further created conditions for the breaking down of racism and national distrust among the workers. It is the working class of all nationalities, united in struggle against the exploiters and oppressors, which forms the poweful force that can smash national oppression and the entire capitalist system. The Marxist-Leninist Party works with all of its might to bring out the entire working class in struggle against racism and national oppression.

The struggle for full equality and liberation of the black people is not only demanded by elementary justice, but is also essential to break down the strongholds of reaction, to widen the field of the class struggle and to unite the working class for the socialist revolution. The battle of the working class against racism and national oppression is one of the important fronts that altogether form the revolutionary class struggle of the working class. <>

From the resolutions of the Second Congress of the MLP, USA (Fall, 1984)

The Struggle Against
Racism and National Oppression


The mass movements against racism and national oppression are one of the important fronts of the mass struggles in the U.S. From the slave revolts and the Native people's resistance wars in earlier centuries to the demonstrations and mass rebellions of the 1960's, the oppressed nationalities have repeatedly risen up in heroic battles against the racist exploiters and their state machine.

The history of capitalist rule in this country is a history of the most savage racial and national oppression. It is a history which includes such infamy as the genocidal wars against the Native population and the inhuman enslavement of blacks. Racism has been institutionalized by the capitalist class and its state. Today tens of millions of people suffer under the terrible yoke of national oppression. The black people, the Mexican nationality people, Puerto Ricans, Native people, Asian-Americans and other nationalities are subject to barbaric discrimination, racist brutality and the worst conditions of life and work.

Racism has long been a bulwark of all political reaction in the U.S. It is a weapon systematically used by the capitalists to try to divide the workers of different races and nationalities and thereby to weaken the workers' movement and keep down the entire working class. As well, racism is the source of enormous profits for the capitalists as they super-exploit the workers of the oppressed nationalities.

Any improvements in the conditions of the oppressed nationalities have come about only through the most bitter mass struggle. But capitalism is unable to provide full equality for the black people and other nationalities. Brutal racism and national oppression are the way of life in capitalist America. The capitalist rulers and their state are racist to the core. Their much-vaunted 'freedom' and 'democracy' stand exposed as nothing more than hollow and hypocritical lies.

The oppressed people have never taken their subjugation lying down. U.S. history is filled with examples of the valiant struggles of the long-suffering masses. The mighty upsurge of the black people, which began in the 1950's and grew to powerful rebellions in city after city in the late 1960's, is of particular importance. This movement shook capitalist America to its foundations. The powerful struggle of the black people, along with major battles waged by other nationalities, struck down some of the worst features of Jim Crow segregation. They greatly inspired the workers, youth, and women of every nationality and played an important role in the development of the revolutionary movement of the 1960's.

Today the capitalists are seeking revenge against the black people and other oppressed nationalities. A renewed racist offensive is underway to take back every past gain that the masses had achieved through struggle. The Reagan administration is heading up a drive to further segregate the schools. Under the banner of opposing so-called 'reverse discrimination,' capitalist reaction is working to intensify discrimination in jobs and other fields of life. Brutal racist attacks and murders continue from the police and racist gangs. As well, the oppressed nationalities are forced to bear the heaviest load of the measures of the rich to shift the burden of the economic crisis onto the shoulders of the workers and poor.

The racist offensive of the bourgeoisie has given rise to widespread angry dissatisfaction among the oppressed nationalities. Here and there a number of fierce battles have already broken out. Throughout the country the oppressed peoples are girding themselves for the fight. A new upsurge of struggle against racism and national oppression is inevitable.

The Marxist-Leninist Party takes its stand shoulder to shoulder with the masses of the oppressed nationalities, and it fights with all its might against racism and all forms of national oppression. The Party is irreconcilably hostile to discrimination, segregation and racist terror. It opposes all prejudice and bigotry. The Party encourages active resistance to racist attacks and works to build up the mass actions of the people into a powerful anti-racist movement.

In this work, the Party pays attention to bringing out the class source of racism and national oppression The MLP exposes the bourgeois lies, such as the idea that racism is inherent in human nature; it emphasizes that the fountainhead of racist and national oppression is the capitalist class and its state. The MLP works to direct the anti-racist struggle squarely against the capitalist rulers.

The MLP also rejects the opportunist concept that class analysis is not relevant to the mass movements of the oppressed nationalities. The class issues within the oppressed nationalities manifest themselves in various ways.

First, the vast majority of the oppressed nationality masses are workers. They are the most consistent and resolute fighters against national oppression, they form the backbone of the anti-racist movement, and they play an important role in the class struggle of the proletariat as a whole.

As well, there is an ever-deepening polarization between the oppressed nationality workers and the bourgeoisified upper strata of the oppressed nationalities. The upper strata within the oppressed nationalities sell out the mass struggle against racism in order to reach cozy accommodations with the ruling class at the expense of the workers of their own oppressed nationality. In the final analysis, it is impossible to develop the struggle against the racism of the ruling class without also opposing the treachery of the bourgeois of the oppressed nationalities.

Thus the recognition of the class divisions within the oppressed nationalities does not weaken, but strengthens, the overall struggle against national oppression. The Marxist-Leninist Party, as the party of the class conscious vanguard of the workers of all nationalities, holds that the class differentiation and class struggle within the oppressed nationalities should not be covered over but encouraged.

Thus, in building up the movement against racism, the MLP pays special attention to organizing the workers of the oppressed nationalities. It is by organizing the workers, and around them the other sections of the masses of the oppressed nationalities, that a firm struggle against racism can be consolidated and that the movement can be carried forward in a revolutionary direction.

At the same time, the MLP encourages the struggle against the sellout bourgeois elements within the oppressed nationalities. In this regard, it is important to fight narrow, bourgeois nationalism. Bourgeois nationalism is promoted by the bourgeois elements of the oppressed nationalities. It tries to claim that the oppressed nationality workers have common interests with the bourgeois of their nationality rather than with the rest of the workers. Thus bourgeois nationalism seeks to bind the oppressed nationality workers to the interests of the bourgeois of their own nationality and, through them, to the ruling class as a whole. It is a roadblock to the struggle against racism and national oppression.

The Marxist-Leninist Party also works steadfastly to organize the workers of every nationality into the fight against racism and national oppression. The Party counterposes proletarian internationalism to the racism of the bourgeoisie. The fight for the full equality and the liberation of the oppressed nationalities is an essential task of the entire working class. The workers support all democratic struggles of the oppressed in the interest of elementary justice. What is more, every real step forward in the anti-racist struggle weakens the strongholds of reaction, strengthens the hands of all the exploited and oppressed, and widens the field of the class struggle. The fight against national oppression is essential to break down the barriers of distrust and to unite the ranks of the working class for the revolutionary struggle against capitalism. What Karl Marx said of the United States in the last century still rings true today: "Labor in the white skin cannot emancipate itself long as labor in the dark skin is branded."

The Marxist-Leninist Party stands for the development of the unity of the workers of all nationalities in a single front against exploitation, racism and all forms of oppression. The MLP stands for a single party for the entire working class of the U.S., a party that organizes the advanced workers of all nationalities. The working class must ensure that the class organizations embrace the workers of all nationalities.

Life has amply demonstrated the capitalism cannot bring emancipation for the oppressed nationalities. Only the overthrow of the racist capitalist rulers can usher in freedom for all the oppressed nationalities. The struggles against racism and national oppression are very important streams preparing the way for the proletarian socialist revolution.

The Fight Against the Oppression of the Black People

Today there are almost 30 million blacks in the U.S. The oppression of this people has been one of the basic foundations of capitalist rule in the U.S. Racism against the blacks is an entrenched feature of every variety of political reaction. The exploitation of cheap black labor is a source of great profits for the rich. As well, the promotion by the capitalists of the poison of racism against the blacks is a major instrument of the divide-and-rule tactics of the rich against the whole working class.

Every step forward for the black people has taken tremendous struggle. The abolition of slavery was accomplished only through the Civil War. But formal slavery was soon replaced with the ruthless system of Jim Crow segregation and Klan terror. The worst features of the Jim Crow system were removed only after decades of hard struggle, especially the upsurge of the black people during the 50's and 60's. To gain even the smallest rights the black people had to face rabid terror and shed their blood. These struggles of the black people had a great liberating significance. They taught the masses confidence in the power of mass struggle. They allowed the black people to lift their heads up high.

However, the black people continue to face great oppression. Desperately poor in ordinary times anyway, today the black masses are being devastated by the economic crisis. They are suffering twice the national rate of unemployment, while joblessness among the black youth is over 50%. With a poverty rate at more than double that of the population as a whole, over 35% of all black families struggle to survive below the government's official poverty level. -

Besides ever-deeper impoverishment, the black people also face the government's segregation drive and racist terror campaigns. Blacks continue to be shot at, lynched and beaten by policemen and racist gangs such as the KKK. The bourgeois courts allow the racist murderers to go scot-free or at the most give them light taps on the wrist.

There is a great anger building up among the black masses. This discontent can be seen in the rebellions in Miami of recent years, in fights against the Klan, in demonstrations against police murders, in the widespread hatred against Reagan, etc. However the struggle has yet to break out in force as happened in the 50's and 60's.

The ability of the black people to resist the racist offensive has been undermined by the treacherous role of the official leaders of the black community. These leaders include the black bourgeois politicians and the leaderships of such organizations as the NAACP, the Urban League, PUSH, etc. They are in reality misleaders of the black people, and they represent the interests of black bourgeois and those sections of the black petty-bourgeoisie which identify with the ambitions of the black bourgeoisie.

The black misleaders worked to sabotage the black people's struggles of the 1960's. Instead of supporting active resistance, they promoted passive methods of struggle. Instead of using the energy of the rebellions to organize the masses and to develop a more systematic and conscious struggle against racism, they denounced the militant rebellions of the masses. Instead of building the struggle relying on the strength of the masses, they worked to tie the masses to the Democratic Party of the racist ruling class.

Today the misleaders of the black people are wallowing in abject treachery against the black masses. They do not stand for fighting back against the racist offensive. When the black masses rebel, they come in as 'riot stoppers.' Instead of struggle, they work for cozy accommodations with the ruling class. They are working harder than ever to keep the black masses tied to the Democratic Party. Indeed their support for this party is one of the main factors allowing the Democrats to posture as the champion of the minorities.

In particular, the black misleaders seek to use the anger of the black masses as a springboard for the ambitions of the black bourgeoisie and those sections of the petty-bourgeoisie with the same aspirations. Under the slogan of working to increase the 'clout' of the black people, the black bourgeoisie seeks to use the black people's struggle to pressure for more token positions within the ruling class, such as in the higher levels of the government, in the capitalist parties, in the corporate boards, etc. They do not fight for the interests of the black working masses. Instead they echo the Reaganite 'trickle-down' ideologues by claiming that improving the positions of bourgeois blacks will ultimately translate into gains for all the black people.

The reformist policy of tokenism for a small handful of blacks has long been encouraged by the capitalist rulers of the U.S. In the 1960's, they stepped up this policy on realizing that the former bribed strata was too narrow and had too little influence on the masses. This was a bipartisan policy of the bourgeoisie. It was promoted through a variety of programs, such as the promotion of 'black capitalism' by the Nixon administration. But while the black bourgeoisie is relatively well-off in comparison with the black workers, it is not as rich as the monopolists and it forms a very small section of the American bourgeoisie as a whole. At most, the black bourgeois are millionaires, while the white bourgeois include billionaires. As well, there is a much smaller proportion of the bourgeois among the black people than among the white population of the country. In brief, the black bourgeoisie has been given some crumbs and it has sold out but it has been kept out of the ruling, monopolist section of the U. S. capitalist class.

The advance of the struggle against the oppression of he black people requires a stern struggle against the misleaders who represent the interests of the black bourgeoisie. The black liberation struggle cannot have tokenism as its aim; instead it must seek to meet the interests of the vast numbers of working and poor blacks. This calls for struggle against the racist oppressors, not compromise with them, It calls for breaking with the path of reliance on the Democratic Party.

(Excerpted in the Oct 15, 1985 issue of the Workers' Advocate Supplement from the collection of the bulk of the resolutions of the Second Congress in the January 1, 1984 issue of The Workers' Advocate.) <>

Notes -- July 2008

(WAS) The Workers' Advocate, and Workers' Advocate Supplement, which carried additional materials including many of the longer theoretical articles, were publications of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the US. The MLP, which was founded on Jan. 1, 1980 and dissolved in November 1993, stemmed from the anti-revisionist movement of activists who wanted to push forward the mass struggles and root them in the working class, saw Marxism as an essential guide for the revolutionary struggle, and rejected the sell-out reformism of the official pro-Soviet communist parties. It was opposed to both Soviet revisionism and Trotskyism. Its roots went back in the mass movements of the 1960s, such as the anti-racist, anti-war, student, women's, and workers' movements, and the WA itself was published from 1969 to 1993. The cause of anti-revisionist communism is upheld today by the Communist Voice Organization, and the Communist Voice is a theoretical journal which is a successor to the Workers' Advocate. (Return to text)

(Stalin) At the time this article was written, the MLP, while polemicizing against various aspects of Stalinism, believed that socialism was being built in the USSR during this period and right up until the Khrushchovite regime that came about sometime after Stalin's death. Subsequently theoretical work and study of Soviet history by the MLP and, later, the Communist Voice Organization led to the conclusions that the historic Bolshevik revolution had begun fading away sometime in the 1920s, and that not socialism, but state-capitalism was consolidated in the USSR in the 1930s. This was the economic base for the Soviet communist party becoming a revisionist party, and Stalinism ending up as a new form of revisionism; and it's why the Soviet regime became oppressive. Most of this was still a matter of the future at the time of the Sixth Congress, but it failed to see the decline of the revolution and the danger confronting the Soviet Union.

However, most of the major theoretical writings of Stalin on the national question come from when Stalin was still a Marxist and still trying to set forward a revolutionary standpoint. Marxism and the National Question is from 1913, prior to the October Revolution. The Foundations of Leninism comes from 1924. (But a criticism of Stalin's famous statement about the supposed revolutionary character of the Emir of Afghanistan can be found in part two of "The Socialist Debate on the Taliban".) And the leadership of the CI in the 6th Congress period, 1928-1934, was still seeking to put forward a revolutionary line for the world movement in the capitalist countries. See the article "Between the Sixth and Seventh Congresses" for an evaluation of the general line of the communist movement for work in capitalist countries during this period. The few references to Stalin's works on the national question that can be found in MLP articles are mainly to Marxism and the National Question and a few other works in which Stalin is still trying to adhere to Marxism.

But later, Stalin would preside over a dramatic trampling of the Marxist-Leninist principles that he had earlier sworn loyalty to. This was not done mainly in theoretical discussion, in which Stalin tried to preserve a communist veneer. But it appeared in practical action -- sometimes of the most cynical and even savage type. It can be seen in the renewed promotion of Russian nationalism, in the brutal mass deportation of the entire Chechen people and of a number of other small nationalities in the Soviet Union to exile in other sections of the USSR (see "Important dates in Russian-Chechen relations" for an overview of this, and "A journalistic account" for a contrast with the Leninist policy), in the gross "practical politics" with which national affairs were settled in Eastern Europe after World War II, in a certain rise of anti-semitism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, in the important role played by the USSR in the creation of the zionist state in Israel, etc. This was one of the harshly oppressive features of Stalinist state-capitalism, and it left a bitter historical legacy of cynicism toward the national question in revisionist circles, a legacy which exists to this day. It's quite significant that on this question, as on a number of others, Trotskyism has developed much the same legacy, albeit expressed in somewhat different terms. (Return to text)

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