Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Harry Quinn

RWH position on national question

Black liberation: a just struggle in its own right

First Published: The Call, Vol. 10, No. 4, June 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Though it is one of the larger Marxist-Leninist organizations, the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters has been something of an unknown quantity. They have produced no theoretical or programmatic publications since their 1978 “Red Papers 8,” which documented the RWH split from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), and which is now regarded as incorrect or outdated in many of its views.

That alone is reason to welcome a major theoretical statement from the Headquarters. Another reason is its content, a lengthy exposition on the Black national question, which lays out a clear position and makes some important points about particular aspects.

The reader should not skip the pamphlet’s short preface. It explains the document’s origins in the RWH’s internal rectification and the process through which it was significantly revised from the initial draft. It points out and apologizes for some shortcomings in style as well as limitations in the practical experience on which it is based, permitting only relatively modest conclusions.

The pamphlet is an antagonistic polemic against the ultra-left and chauvinist line of the RCP and its predecessor organization, the Revolutionary Union. The main target is the RU/RCP’s subjective attempt to deny that the goal of the Black struggle is national liberation, and to redefine it as an essentially class struggle for socialism. In doing so, the RU/RCP in effect liquidated the right of the Black nation to self-determination with immediate poisonous effects in both the mass struggle and the Marxist-Leninist movement.

The Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, on the other hand, upholds the goal of national liberation and self-determination and declares that this struggle is revolutionary. The RWH affirms that Black people in the United States constitute a nation, with the right to secede and establish an independent state in its national territory, the Black Belt South.

Sections on points of history and on the class structure of the Black population never become particularly deep or profound. The factual recitation does bolster one of the RWH’s main contentions, that the Black struggle and the workers’ movement are two distinct entities and must be approached with specific strategies, not treated as merged (or rapidly merging) movements.

The paper argues strongly that a united front of the entire Black nation, including the Black bourgeoisie, against the government and imperialist system, is both possible and necessary. Although increasingly widespread in the M-L movement, this view cuts against the trend that ran through the Black liberation movement and the left in general in the 1960s and 1970s. Many then targeted as enemies the Black bourgeoisie and reform organizations which fought under the banner of justice and equality rather than liberation and power.


A third significant argument is the proposition that one manifestation of the struggle for self-determination is the demand for Black political power which arises whenever Black people strive to advance their interests. The pamphlet advocates that Marxist-Leninists participate in electoral campaigns of progressive Black candidates, even within the Democratic Party.

The Headquarters pamphlet certainly has shortcomings. It is uneven and the direct polemic is long, quite heavy, and very much overdue. More importantly, there are no reports on how the RWH has applied line in its work in cities like Philadelphia and Milwaukee where good ties with the Black movement have been built over time.

Get this pamphlet and read it. It is a useful contribution to the merger process currently going on within the Marxist-Leninist movement. Furthermore, the emergence of the RWH from silence with such a publication bodes well for the advances which can be made as revolutionaries collectively address not only the Black national question but other long standing areas of controversy as well.