Fred Hampton: Marxist or Nationalist?

 

revolutionary proletarian internationalist

revolutionary proletarian internationalist

Big L

Writes:

How can racial oppression and white supremacy be defeated?  Is it through a nationalist struggle against a colonial enemy?  Are these paradigms of struggle accurate and strategic enough in 2009?  As far back as 1969 Fred Hampton saw the struggle against racism as being rooted within the struggle against capitalism:

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you do’nt fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”

Usually the Black Panther Party is described as a “Revolutionary Nationalist” organization, but militants like Fred Hampton demonstrate clearly that some of the most important Panthers had more of a multiracial marxist consciousness. 

Fred Hampton summed his politics up clearly:

“We ain’t gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run up and down the street being reactionary; we’re gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and we’re gonna fight reactionary pigs with INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. That’s what it has to be. The people have to have the power: it belongs to the people.

We have to understand very clearly that there’s a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes he’s black and sometimes he’s white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don’t care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun. It flows from the barrel of a gun!

These politics represent a movement beyond simply  nationalism into a complicated, race-conscious proletarian internationalism.  Hampton’s words inspired militancy and advanced struggles in 1969, and are still refreshing today. 

An important task of marxists today is making a fresh analysis of racial/national oppression which avoids mechanically applying Lenin’s “Self-Determination” theses, while also avoiding simplistic and equally mechanical “class is more important than race” logic. 

For an important contribution towards this analysis, refer to the work of Adolph Reed Jr. found here on the A/S blog

Read Fred Hampton’s speech “Power Anywhere Where There’s People” in full: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/fhamptonspeech.html

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28 responses to “Fred Hampton: Marxist or Nationalist?

  1. When I think about the Panthers now, I sometimes have to remind myself that, as a revolutionary organization, they barely lasted a decade [only to end in 1980 as a shell of its former self], and yet have managed to inspire the radical imagination to a far greater extent than others who have been around twice, or even three times as long.

    One thing that’s changed is how I think about them too. Without a galvanizing revolutionary equivalent for the last three decades, we have tended to not only be inspired by the Panthers but by the 60s in general One negative side effect is that we still allow the debates from that period to set the terms of our present-day analysis.

    I’ve found it more useful not to freeze the Panthers in any particular moment in time, or focus on any particular individuals, but to see them as an organization that was going through rapid changes with different lines of development. In that sense I don’t know how important it is to designate someone like Fred Hampton, a “nationalist” or “Marxist” but rather to see him as someone struggling to develop a revolutionary politics while engaging powerful frameworks that were often at odds with each other.

    I think we are only still beginning to address the legacy of the Panthers with fresh eyes, informed by those who were there but not exclusively bound by their understandings.

  2. Thanks for the response Zerohour. I basically agree with the thrust of your comment that the Panthers were diverse and different at various times and places. However, I’d like to explain that the reason why I made the binary of “marxist” or “nationalist” in the title is because the class-conscious, internatinalist marxist aspects of the Panthers is often overlooked, hidden, or underemphasized amongst folks from the generations who grew up without directly experiencing the radicalism of the 60s.

    I also think that it is useful to focus on individuals such as Fred Hampton, who embodied the emerging (not finished, or completely developed) politics because they demonstrate this important side of the Panthers. Also important are films like “American Revolution 2” which focuses on the collaboration of the Panthers with a white working class organization in Detroit called the “Young Patriots,” and their united struggle against police brutality.

    An important contemporary issue to analyze is the relation of internationalism within recent class struggles. When immigrants shut down meatpacking plants, workplaces and schools throughout the US on May Day 2006, why weren’t there more white & black working class people standing with their undocumented brothers and sisters? When Oakland rebelled against its everyday police state and the murder of Oscar Grant, why weren’t there more immigrants and working class whites participating?

    I believe the answer lies in a crisis of internationalism, and a crisis in revolutionary marxist leadership which can help forge internationalist and multiracial ties. All too often marxists fall into the binary of either uncritically supporting nationalist/POC organizations (often out of some sense of white/marxist guilt for the problematic behavior marxists have exhibited towards racialized movements) or ignoring the realities of racial oppression (both from the capitalists and amongst the workers themselves) and mechanically subsuming them under the banner of “Black and White Unite to Fight.”

    Both of these approaches fall far short of building the type of multiracial marxist movement which, I believe, is possible and desperately needed. Focusing on the far too little known marxist tendencies of folks like Fred Hampton is important, IMHO, for these reasons.

  3. zerohour: “…I don’t know how important it is to designate someone like Fred Hampton, a “nationalist” or “Marxist” but rather to see him as someone struggling to develop a revolutionary politics…”

    yes, but this process played itself out and had results which we can analyze and judge on their merits. from those judgements, we can move forward in practical work. since you were involved in the movement back then, im curious to know what practical conclusions you think we should draw?

    i sometimes get the feeling that leftists dont judge the panthers the way they judge every other leftist movement/organization, and that the reason is that they were a black organization. while eugene debs, the cpusa, and today’s white anarchists, etc, all get put under a microscope and judged (as they should), the panthers are just kind of accepted for who they were with all their faults and weaknesses. in a way this is racist because its saying that we expect a lot out of the “white left” but will take anything the “black left” throws up – its like expecting a white student to be smart and get good grades while expecting the the black student to fail. no matter who the student is, if they fail, we should ask why and explore ways to prevent failure in the future. after all, we are students too.

    off the top of my head, the white left and the black left both seem to have failed because they dont implement their internationalist impulses on the ground, in the working class, in working class mass organizations. instead of stockpiling guns and ammo, the panthers could have used all their resources to launch a nationwide labor organization in tandem with the League, brown berets and white marxists (trotskyist and maoists alike) that could have been a multiracial proletarian alternative to the bourgeoisified labor aristocracy dominated AFL-CIA.

    wouldnt some strategy like the above have drawn this quote down from the clouds and put firmly on the ground? “We say you do’nt fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”

    some kind of multiracial proletarian labor organization would have been far more productive than the more maoist inspired guerilla strategy that they pursued until they took the “capitalist road” of accepting government grants for programs and entering the electoral contest.

  4. one of the reasons i think multiracial/internationalist movements have been so hard to forge is because of the strong alienation and division of cultures created under both capitalism and nationalism. groups like the panthers and the brown berets, which rise out of primarily nationalist tendencies but definitely identify with the larger anti-capitalist road, are so bent on fighting white-supremacist oppression that they tend to get lost in that struggle on their own. there is always the figureheads like hampton who will identify the goal of multiracial internationalist proletarian revolution as key, but it usually ends there instead of it becoming the task of the group: to find common ground with other groups in the same situation but with a different color hat. the hard part is creating a group that will acknowledge the specific problems that different racial groups face and successfully apply an internationalist approach instead of an isolationist approach.

    how would that look like today?
    instead of petitioning working-class latin@ neighborhoods to organize around immigration issues as solely immigration issues, it would be alot more successful and empowering if these communities were brought out as working-class communities first and foremost, along with working-class black communities, where the issues at hand were class issues that produce commonalities amongst these affected groups, and not separations based on race. there is no real support for the immigrant rights movement coming from anywhere else besides the latin@ communities, because there is a lack of class consciousness around the issue, which is above all a labor/class issue, not a racial one.

  5. I’d like to take some time to respond to the above comments so it’ll be a few days before I can respond. I think you raise important questions about what we can learn from the Panthers, but more importantly how we can learn form the past in general to inform our struggles today.

    However, there is one point I want to clear up. Esteban said: “since you were involved in the movement back then” but I wasn’t in the movement back then and I apologize if anything I wrote gave that impression. I am of a generation that was influenced by the revolutionary movements of the 60s and 70s. I’ve read Panther literature, studies of the Panthers and have met a few ex-Panthers, but in no way has my activity been contemporaneous with theirs.

    I look forward to continuing this dialogue.

  6. Fred go!

  7. Just to jump in with some thoughts in looking at the Panthers and other revolutionary nationalist-Marxists like LRBW, RAM, etc. There is a question that I think Big L is simply flirting with and not addressing altogether – is it correct to say that Black people in this country share a “national” oppression, or whatever that is to mean. In this respect, all of these revolutionary black marxist organizations shared that in common, which was agreement with the idea of Black people as a nation or a nationally oppressed people.

    There were definitely distinctions of course, whether or not the Haywood analysis of a Black Belt was correct was possibly the main question there and then what would self-determination mean within the context of being revolutionary internationalists – Huey and the Panthers began promoting the concept of intercommunalism on this issue.

    I for one think that it isn’t simply “mechanical” to support self-determination of the black community and people, and to say something of it more particular that is beyond the concept of “race.” Black people in the United States share a history, culture, and social relationships that are more particular than a general construct of “race” that is applied to Asian-Americans and Latinos. By looking at this particularity people can, and of course throughout the Black Liberation Movement have, induced that Black people are a historical people and that can be called a “nation” or “national identity.”

    I would probably hold that recognition of this disputed fact is very important epistemically to how our revolutionary politics are conceived and invoked, the denial simply seems to lead to a seemingly unfit narrative of a people’s history.

    Of course there can be the defect of mechanical cookie cutter application of the conditions of the caucus mountains to America, but there is something more universally true within Lenin’s understanding of “self-determination.” Historically tied communities of people have a universal right to resist types of oppression and exploitation and have a right as a community of people to determine their history.

    The “working class” unity rhetoric often sits out there, displaced from this recognition, and often as a way to merely manipulate and scuddle under a carpet the necessity of national liberation itself.

    Last schematic though t- I don’t think national liberation can be achieved unless there is a manifestation of the dictatorship of the proletariat appears – that does seem to me the derived truth of national liberation struggle in the last century. But it seems equally the case that you don’t really have a dictatorship of the proletariat without a principle of self-determination of nationally oppressed people, or even to advance a feminist claim, the rule of women. Any revolutionary movement that doesn’t really take this seriously seems to me to have the capacity to “degenerate” from its own blindness and not any bureaucracy.

    —By the way, just to note…I know people will disagree with me here, but lets have this be productive before someone writes “Maoist liberal” or whatever was appearing in the other threads.

    Paz.

    • Let’s start this off right. First of all, I think that there’s a serious problematic in the way class politics have been defined in your response. This manifests itself when you put “working class unity” into scare quotes, and go on to state:

      “Historically tied communities of people have a universal right to resist types of oppression and exploitation and have a right as a community of people to determine their history.”

      Communities of people definitely have a right to resist, and in the US communities of people most often express racialized communities of people. If we think of Oakland, East Oakland is generally understood to be a Latino area, and West Oakland is usually understood to be a Black community. Both of these generalizations hold true (generally) and I would add another generalization: both of these communities are predominately WORKING CLASS.

      If we are to understand what “class” means, we must understand it as first and foremost a social RELATIONSHIP between people, and not an abstract “identity” that is superimposed and forced upon people.

      East Oakland and West Oakland represent distinct working class communities that have particular racial compositions.

      Now, to your point about the universal right of communities to resist and self-determine their destiny, I agree. However, I come to this agreement through a different route than you do. Let’s use some concrete examples.

      Do people in East Oakland have a right to determine whether or not ICE sets up immigration checkpoints? HELL YES they have a right to resist that. Do Black folk in West Oakland have a right to organize against slumlords, gentrifying corporations, and poverty pimps within their educational institutions? HELL YES they have the right to resist these things.

      Are the issues I listed above (ICE raids, gentrification, etc) issues which primarily target WORKING CLASS black and latino people? HELL YES! Using the rhetoric that Blacks and Latinos are oppressed Nations existing within the boundaries of the US would lead one to see these instances of oppression as affecting ALL CLASSES of those oppressed nations. This is far from the truth. While obviously racism affects all people of color, it does not do so in any type of monolithic way.

      Seeing blacks and latinos as racialized sections of the US working class allows us to have more clear perspective on what it means to achieve self-determination: mainly that it means self-determination of all sections of the working class and not of separate “nations.”

      If a real socialist revolution were to go down in the US, a key part of the process would be the self-organization of racially oppressed working class communities. These communities would need to be taking community control of institutions such as schools through the process. If this process of community control were to include the bourgeois elements of these racial groupings (bourgeois black and latinos) then this would significantly alter the extent to which you could claim that the schools were truly under “community control.” This is true for the simple reason that these communities we’re referring to are primarily working class communities! They are not communities of all classes of black people or all classes of latino people, but using the tired rhetoric of Lenin’s self-determination theses leads us to a misunderstanding of what “national liberation” and the struggle against racism is – a crucial part of the class struggle (as Fred Hampton put it in the piece above) and not something mechanically atomized from it. True, there is a particularity and specificity to the struggle against racism, but it is much more interwoven into class structures than, again, the imposition of “national self-determination” leads us to believe.

      • OK,

        So let me hit at the fundamental point of our disagreement here. A nation is a historically defined community of people rather than an identity imposed upon a people, in this same way a nation constitutes an organic existing community with all encompassing types of contradictions including class – within the system of imperialism, relations between distinct historical communities represent in themselves a type of relationship of capital, i.e. a form of capitalist social relations.

        I would of course agree to the point that real liberation will mean the dictatorship of the proletariat, but to deny that the oppression of black people (Latinos are distinct here, that is a racial configuration “imposed” by the ideological coordinates of the system) is not rooted within their own particular experience and history as a people is simply a form of a vulgar causality within our epistemology of deriving an analysis, not quite necessarily a Marxist one. Here we can try to value a refined dialectic suited for understanding the overdetermination, relative autonomy, and intersectionality of the contradictions within the totality of all social relations.

        Whats this simply mean? The analysis of the “working class” of Black, Latinos, and Asians are really the ones facing the real oppression and exploitation is a simple cop-out. There are two fundamental points – why is that happening to begin with? The answer swiftly leads you to either understanding the dynamics of national oppression in relationship to imperialism as a world system or it leads you to the often seriously conspiratorial charge of plot by the bourgeoisie to divide the workers (this may have some instance of particular truth, but it isn’t the general reality of how any of this oppression manifests).

        National or racial oppression in this country is an extension of the actual imperialist world system within the US, within the heart of capital itself. And there is something here to the idea that the struggle of a national sort is still not over, for these communities of people still can’t achieve self-determination and are thoroughly under the foot of a white supremacist system.

        —To get into the actuality of it. Lets for a moment look at the issue of gentrification or police repression, it isn’t simply true that this is a “class” issue itself but its an issue of the whole of the black community – yes the black community is mostly working class, but deriving from that the logical conclusion that is is really a “class issue” can’t simply be done and it simply isn’t true as a reduction. The actuality of that struggle is situated a struggle of black people against a white supremacist state and culture, and it finds itself abstractly situated within the political (class) struggle as a whole.

        I mean this can simply come out in your actual practice – look at the “Advance the Struggle” flyer on Oscar Grant for example, not once does it mention anything about white supremacy itself even though it was a black man who was executed by a white cop in the middle of Oakland!

        I mean you guys do invoke the BPP, but it seems to me a kind of fake quite honestly. BPP didn’t just sprout from Oakland touting shotguns – they had an analysis of why they needed those guns for “self-defense” in the first place.

  8. Jumping in on a different thought as well – because the issue of undocumented workers is coming up.

    Is it so simple as to find unity amongst black, latino, and asian workers because they’re just “workers.” I’ve never seen that emphasis or rhetoric achieve anything besides people looking at each other as possible vestiges and pawns in their own personal struggle.

    This sort of class reductionism isn’t a Marxist conclusion, its really just Humanism in the identity politics of “workers.” The point here is that all identity politic narratives share the same narrow humanism, unity is found on a shared basis of interest rather than political vision. In my experience, even when Black workers and other workers like Latinos and Asians found unity on this basis – which is a powerful thing when you see it – it is never meaningfully revolutionary if stays on that basis.

    In other words people can come through whatever narrow solidarity-identity conciousness they want, but for revolutionary Marxists, it means in the end decentering this identity narrative to scope that can understand the social totality of relationships and overdeterminations they represent.

    Here is why Lenin’s concept of “LABOR ARISTOCRACY” is still fundamentally important. Even with neo-liberal globalization gnawing at its privilege derived from the extraction of surplus from the super-exploited parts of the world, and if we’re to understand world systems analysis correctly this is a result of imperialism itself having little to no where to expand, a Labor Aristocracy is more than a pacified section of the “working class” but one that is actively politically mobilized and have levels of political contingency as a sector of the masses. It fights for its own interests, as “workers” by allying with the most reactionary elements of capital to gain from its surplus and the order of social relations.

    This simple analysis hits on something fundamentally important – class analysis stands against ‘workerism’ itself. Working people are not a homogeneous set, they’re political contingent and in their own way can enforce and reproduce all the social relations of capital, and they’re beholden to their social relations. And this all makes sense under even a common sensical pragmatist ideological view point.

    I was talking politics with another kid at the time, and I was explaining to him why I was a communist because he couldn’t make sense of it – he even agreed with me on almost all my points but found it ridiculous to risk your life for revolution – so what was his point? Maybe I’ll be exploited but I can go clubbin’, chill, and toke.

    That sounds of course all together a bit philistine but there is power in that idea or as Nas said “life’s a bitch but god forbid the bitch divorce me.”

    Risking life is always rule one for making revolution and liberating humanity – that shit goes back to the phenomenology, that’s why the “Proletariat” as a concept was so important for Marx – they had nothing to lose but their chains…as a particular class they stood for the universal of humanity itself.

    So here is my main challenge and question still in my head – hows that true today for us and how can we convince other brothers and sisters that is the case? It just seems for me the old wrap doesn’t fly.

  9. First of all on the question of AS’s flyer on Oscar Grant which was written specifically for distribution on the January 14th demonstration/rebellion, bringing up the issue of white supremacy not being named is a red herring since the flyer was specifically focused on a brief analysis of the responses to the murder, not the root causes of the murder itself (those are touched on more in the soon-to-be-released pamphlet Justice For Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?)

    ——————————————————–

    To be honest, Shine The Path, your writing can often be full of jargony, academic althusserian sounding fluff (example, “Here we can try to value a refined dialectic suited for understanding the overdetermination, relative autonomy, and intersectionality of the contradictions within the totality of all social relations.” I mean, personally I understand what you’re talking about since I’ve read For Marx, but there are simpler ways to communicate especially if we take into consideration the fact that a variety of people read this site.)

    For this reason I’m gonna choose to stay concrete with you. Let’s continue with the concrete racial oppression faced by black and latino people. In particular the question of gentrification. You resort to another red herring argument when you state that I claim that gentrification is really “just a ‘class issue’ “. I never stated this in this way. Here is how I would put it: gentrification is a racialized class issue. You are wrong when you state that gentrification faces the “whole black community” and, to keep it concrete, let’s look at West Oakland. Check out this article about Jerry Brown, black former mayor of Oakland who facilitated the gentrification process and made his pockets fat in the process: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/news/jerry_brown_was_right/Content?oid=323333

    The point is, if we were to see black people as an oppressed nation by an oppressor imperialist “nation”, as you’ve stated, then the black bourgeoisie would be seen as an ally in the struggle for black liberation (just as Mao in china and others sought out capitalist allies in the struggle for “national liberation.”)

    Seeing things in this way is antithetical to marxism, and is, frankly, stuck in the muck of the stalinist comintern past.

    To restate: I see gentrification not as some “pure class” phenomenon, but as a racialized class process which is seeking to displace working class black neighborhoods (in this case) in order to accumulate profit through capitalist investment and “development.”

    Another contradiction in your argument: You acknoweldge “white supremacy” but fail to see how even this is a racial, not national, term. If the oppressors are racial oppressors then it’s incomplete to focus on how the oppressed are nationally oppressed.

    Let’s leave behind the baggage of stalinist marxist orthodoxy and start doing the more challenging work of developing a marxist understanding of race which allows us to leave behind the binary you accept when you state:

    “The answer swiftly leads you to either understanding the dynamics of national oppression in relationship to imperialism as a world system or it leads you to the often seriously conspiratorial charge of plot by the bourgeoisie to divide the workers”

    Something fresh is needed if we want to move forward.

  10. Big L,

    Lets settle one thing at a time – I don’t honestly accept the idea that I am boosting academic “fluff,” you can disagree with this but the only Althusserian concept I utilized was “overdetermination” and the notion of “Ideology” (which is nearly commonly understood from those who read this site). Everything else was within a Marxist framework.

    In fact I was purposely writing with a desire of abstraction for the sake of opening up a matter that needs it to understand anything at all – often people use the concept of the “concrete” which simply turns into a formulaic empiricism and not a dialectical method.

    Thats one matter, but this leads to something important, the only one who is insisting in the mechanical application of the concept of nation and the idea of self-determination as a cookie-cutter concept from over 70 years ago is yourself. I actually in no single way picture the national liberation of black people, chicano/as, and indeginous people as something so completely black and white as what happen in China – in fact the idea that you’re taking out of the national liberation of the Chinese people is itself just coming out of an incorrect history.

    The concept of self-determination of oppressed nationalities doesn’t simply entail and mean just simply a tailing of forces or sections of the people that are the “bourgeoisie,” it simply means that liberation itself will mean the aspect to determine their own history and course without a paternalistic and oppressive relationship to a distinctive community of people – which means that there is another level to the political emancipation of oppressed nationalities.

    It also means that because of the particularity of their oppression it must also mean that there is another level of struggle that is beyond just a particular “class relationships” and encompasses another type of social relationship.

    This leads towards the objection by saying “white supremacy” that it constitutes a “racial configuration” rather than a relationship of national oppression – but there are some divisions here. Race is a social construct imposed upon people and is an arbitrary ideological concept and is dependent on its conditions. Lets draw a compare and contrast example between the South American countries and the U.S. – both have a system of “white supremacy” but there is distinctions to how “white” as a race is conceived and how it relates to concrete existing communities of people.

    White supremacy in South American countries, particularly nations along the Andes, is usually tied to the national oppression of indigenous people and their land and the formulation of a “white” race and other “mixed races” is usually drawn in contrast to them. In the United States, white supremacy is tied historically to the national oppression of Black people themselves, and in the Southwest, beginning to encompass Chicano/as. – “whites” becoming a construct contextually dependent to the history of the United States that either assimilated or casted out distinct sections of the people.

    If you don’t tie an understanding of racial oppression to a concept of a national oppression, particularly of black people in this country, you’re left with one basic problem – why over the course of centuries has it been that white supremacist assimilation has brought everyone into its sphere from Irish, Jews, Italians, some white Latinos, and arguably now even East Asian people yet Black people still are fundamentally still one of the most thoroughly exploited and oppressed people in this country? Why is getting anywhere still a matter of stepping “on the backs of blacks?”

    If you don’t have a particular understanding about the relationship of black people to the white supremacist system in this country, you can only derive a concept of “racial oppression” that is nearly hollow in my opinion. This seems nearly universal to all concepts of race throughout the world – there is a fundamental basis for why such a concept even arises at all.

    In Central and Eastern Europe it was historically Jewish people, in various countries in Latin America its the relationship to the indigenous people, etc.

    Let me end by saying – rather than just accepting “stalinist orthodoxy” (wrong, it was the whole of the Bolshevik Party) I am actually proposing something rather completely different, and to just fit what I am saying into that concept is not frankly getting it at all or not honest. Sometimes we need something fresh, agreed, and I think I am doing just that – but sometimes what you can propose as “fresh” is merely just negating actually something which is true.

    In this instance, I think what you’re stating is nothing fresh but possibly just pre-Leninist.

    • “national liberation” meant two very different things as it pertained to colonies in the Third World in the post WWII period and to the oppressed racial/national groups of the USA. in the Third World, the people wanted independence, sovereignty. in the US, they wanted inclusion with justice. in my view “national liberation” if not hollow, is at least a misnomer, since it really didnt even coincide to the conditions OR the demands participants in the movements of the 50s-70s lived in and were organizing around.

      what does “nation” really accomplish as a conceptual tool? regarding peoples in the US in 2009, my feeling is that its relevance is not so much in the form of oppression it describes as it is in the demands and strategies groups put forward to overcome that oppression. nationalism is different from anti-racism in that it seeks a separate and sovereign territory, whereas anti-racism seeks equal inclusion. in the 60 years since the end of WWII, racial justice (not national sovereignty) has proven to be the most consistent demand emanating from the black community. insofar as black people or any other oppressed group choose to organize in exclusive spaces around demands that are specific to them, i let the integrationist (not to be confused with assimilationist, which erases identity) tendency speak for itself.

      i think nationalism is ultimately a dead end street, because even in the best case scenario (as with jews in israel) a new nation set up for the oppressed cannot escape the oppressed/oppressor dynamic that is inherent to the capitalist world system. specifically, though, as the case of Liberia proves, capitalist, white supremacist AmeriKKKa is less likely to provide blacks with a suitable nation than they are to provide racial justice domestically; they will give them bantustans, rezervations, or gaza strips. nonetheless, if there were a working class marxist variant of true nationalism around today that was organizing some real class struggle and wasnt antagonistic to good intentioned activists from other races/nations i would be in solidarity with them because struggle on the ground is more important than fluffy words. my aim would be to support and build their movment to the highest degree possible, which would necessitate alliances not with any kind of capitalist, but with other sections of the working class who might be mobilized as vigilantes against them. this work of building alliances would spread the revolutionary impulse into those potentially antagonistic communities (most likely white working class). this is precisely the phenomenon we witness take shape in the excellent film Big L already recommended titled American Revolution 2. watch it.

      insofar as workers or students or any other non-racially specific group choose to organize, please respect the fact that it is possible, probable, and powerful for people to do so on a class basis and in total unity with each other. if in your years as a marxist you have yet to participate in or organize such multi-racial/national class struggle campaigns i can only feel sorry for you. especially if you live in a big city, you must doing something wrong (and i dont think its as simple as calling oppression ‘national’ or ‘racial’). keep your eyes open for the opportunities and dont work against the possibility of racial/national unity in the class struggle – the bourgeoisie is already doing a good enough job at it.

  11. And on the AS flyer – brother I don’t think its a red herring, but there is a question of line involved. It goes through the lengths of telling people that the police represent the “1%” – and of course, I don’t think that is wrong, but if you’re putting out a flyer on the killing of another black man by the cops and you even go to the lengths of referencing the BPP in the context of Oakland and say nothing on white supremacy, that does seem a bit problematic brother, and I think that derives from not having an analysis of how the oppression of Black people works and functions in relationship to a “white supremacist” system.

    • it’s pretty obvious to people that cops kill people of color. i don’t think it did a disservice to “the masses” to not include it on a one-page flyer. in fact, the flyer was well received by “the masses” on the night of January 14th, so you may be fetishizing your view on the role political lines play in struggle, ala RCP. flyers and literature are distributed as a means of creating dialog amongst people about how to engage in struggle, and having a correct perspective is important, but to say that leaving an analysis of white supremacy out in order to focus on organizational responses on ONE flyer does not exactly speak to a “bad line” on racism.

      Look for part one of the pamphlet, which will be online soon, called “State Sponsored Racism,” for a brief contextualization of Oscar Grant’s murder.

  12. STP,
    I probably shouldn’t have said the thing about “fluff” because it distracted you from analyzing my concrete example of why the stalinist marxist orthodoxy (yest, stalinist, meaning the perspective congealed during Stalin’s domination of the 3rd communist international) of the “black national question” is a mechanical perspective on racism.

    I’ve been speaking with a bunch of black people in west oakland about the topic and have been more and more reinforcing my concrete point about gentrification which you conveniently avoid, and even dismiss as “empiricism.”

    C’mon blud, engage in a concrete way. Take your abstractions and prove how they work in reality, in relation to my concrete example.

  13. STP,

    You write:

    >>To get into the actuality of it. Lets for a moment look at the issue of gentrification or police repression, it isn’t simply true that this is a “class” issue itself but its an issue of the whole of the black community – yes the black community is mostly working class, but deriving from that the logical conclusion that is is really a “class issue” can’t simply be done and it simply isn’t true as a reduction. The actuality of that struggle is situated a struggle of black people against a white supremacist state and culture, and it finds itself abstractly situated within the political (class) struggle as a whole.Is it so simple as to find unity amongst black, latino, and asian workers because they’re just “workers.” I’ve never seen that emphasis or rhetoric achieve anything besides people looking at each other as possible vestiges and pawns in their own personal struggle.

    In other words people can come through whatever narrow solidarity-identity conciousness they want, but for revolutionary Marxists, it means in the end decentering this identity narrative to scope that can understand the social totality of relationships and overdeterminations they represent.<<

    Explain to me the following:

    1) how does having an analysis of national oppression, or even an integration of that analysis into your overall strategy for struggle, lead people to fight in ways that widens their view beyond their narrowly defined self interest? How does it lead people to see each other beyond merely pawns in their own narrow struggle?

    2) What does it mean CONCRETELY and dont say that concrete examples are empiricism, i think we can all agree, as even Mao said, we understand theory through its application, to "decenter the identity narrative to scope that can understand the social totality of relationships and overdeterminations they represent"? What does this mean????

    I think the point here is, what is your basis for actually building a revolutionary movement to destroy capitalism? Class is not a monolithic category as you keep pointing out, for we understand that sexism and racism divides up this category and people are oppressed in different ways. However, the question remains, how do you build a unifying movement, concretely, that could defeat capitalism, and on what basis would you organize people? You have said to me in the past that women should organize themselves, blacks should organize themselves, and each can fight against their own oppressions and lead their own struggles. But do you see there being a need to unify these struggles, and on what basis?

    Ok sorry if this is sort of unorganized and incoherent. The debate is kind of all over the place….

  14. Listen so I might get thrown the word “fluff” and “abstraction” back at me – but this is part of the crux of actual line struggle, and I’m not going to act like children are reading the blog brothers and sisters, this is obviously debate taking place on a high playing field and its a struggle over what Marxism fundamentally is.

    Big L may again call this “fetishism of the line, (ala RCP),” but this is a matter of political line struggle that does result and mean that one divides into two and/or there is unity, struggle, and transformation. Coming from the Maoist tradition there is an importance to a “battle for summation” or you simply will move quickly to an impotent politics of the beautiful soul that won’t see
    the trees from the woods.

    I am going to touch on things very broadly on the question of a dialectical and theoretical method of Marxism and than proceed towards the question of the line of “national oppression” in relation to practice. It is necessary to do this because this is fundamentally the method itself and the point that we need to realize in order to overcome the one-sideness of ideological blindness, pragmatism-utilitarianism, and empiricism and replace it with a dialectical materialist method.

    So let us proceed back to this question of what is “concrete.” The way people are using it here is distinctly different than how Marx (taking this concept from Hegel) used it in his dialectical method than preceded with abstraction first and foremost. For something to be “concrete,” there must be unity between its concept and its actuality – i.e. something is “concrete” only when its understood as conceptual and practical knowledge!

    Whats this mean? It means the example that the example that Alex throws out is not a “concrete example,” its actually an abstraction (just as theory without relation to an object is). It sits as an empirical example. Objectivity is already out there for itself regardless of ourselves, and what can only be made “concrete” is our conceptual knowledge. So we must begin at the level of abstraction of our concepts.

    Abstraction always already implies a relationship of practice with the world, we abstract from our practice in the world. Making it “concrete” is a matter of systematizing our conceptual knowledge as “practical” or scientific knowledge.

    This seems to me maybe even painful to read – but its fundamental to the question of Marx’s dialectical method and things need to be cleared up on the issue and meaning of the concept of “concrete.” Many times I seen that word thrown out there as a big soft ball for an empiricist or pragmatic attitude rather than a Marxist one.

    Moving from this I can say something a bit even on Big L’s example – it serves as a good contra-factual claim against my argument, but does it ultimately contradict it? No. Because this assumes that social and class analysis serves as something that will predict the outcome and activity of individual people. It simply can’t do that and this is Sociology 101 let alone Marxism. So we can ask ourselves in a similar vein – whats the difference between the black mayor of Oakland and the Labor Aristocracy in relationship to their community or class? As an old anecdote went about Zhou Enlai and Nikita Khruschev meeting during the middle of the rupture between the Soviet Union and China, Nikita Khruschev lauded over how he – an iron workers and a descendant of serfs and workers – were able to lead the CPSU and become Premiere and on the other hand, Zhou Enlai (from the Mandarian class) was Premiere in China. At this moment, as the story is told, Zhou Enlai quipped quickly “then we have both something in common, we’re both class traitors.”

    The counter-factual evidence then is then not problematic to my fundamental thesis on “national oppression,” because in speaking to the general consideration of a whole community of people it doesn’t liquidate itself into the particularity of one or even multiple people. There is something of an easy retort to this, because we should explain any sort of phenomena – 1) just like nationally oppressed people across the world, there is always a section that is comprador and renders itself benefit and privilege of the exploitation and oppression of their people, 2) Black people being a nationally oppressed people are rendered a type of dual consciousness. This concept is utilized by Aime Cesaire and Frantz Fanon in description of colonialized people throughout the world, but the origin of this concept is found right within W.E.B. Du Bois’ theoretical work in the “Soul of Black Folk.”

    Lets go into more examples and points of this phenomena and show it is universal to all the levels of the political struggle to overcome capital and all social relations in relation to it. Here will just simply have to draw analogies.

    On National Liberation – In Puerto Rico, there is a deep division amongst the people about its colonial relationship to the U.S.; it straddles the lines of class, race, ideology, and relative privilege and benefit rendered in the system of U.S. colonialism.

    On Women’s Liberation – Women can and do enforce, perpetuate women’s oppression historically, from family relations to even political life – this results from the ideological position of “patriarchy.” Women can even wield patriarchy to the benefit of themselves.

    On the Class Struggle – As expressed before, Labor Aristocracy is another layer which privileges from the expropriation of surplus in relationship to other workers and may ideologically identify itself within the coordinates of capital.

    So whats the point? Simply that what we mean by liberation is itself, again, a political question which requires a type of political consciousness. From the Marxist point of view, the proletariat is a political subject because it is the universal particular – meaning the Proletariat IS humanity in a nutshell. Breaking the bonds of capital means detaching ourselves from it at every level and is liberation of all from it, because we say as Marxists that all types of social relations are a set of a totalized whole.

    We can put it this way everyone loses their derived privilege they had within the system of capital, if they had any, but are all fundamentally liberated by the kind of transformation that takes places that eliminates what we Maoists had called the “4 Alls” –

    1) the abolition of class distinctions generally,
    2) the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest,
    3) the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, and
    4) the revolutionising of all the ideas that result from these social relations.

    So in regards to national oppression – the comprador is a part of a “nation” and even he/she will be liberated when we end national oppression, of course it will mean ending their parasitic relationship to capital but it also mean not getting blown away by pigs patrolling and invading their community.

    Moving to the question of practice itself, somethings were fundamentally asked that need to be elucidated on – whats the point of having a concept of nation (what use is it?), whats the importance of the line of national self-determination, and what does this mean for our practice?

    When Esteban asks the question what use is there in the idea of Nation as a “conceptual tool” he already goes too far and reveals already the primary weakness of his thinking in the question – its is already settled in with ideological blinders, the question is easily reformulated as “what utility is there in my practice with the idea of a nation.”

    Lenin formulates that revolutionary theory allows for a revolutionary practice, so it is the practice itself that would be transformed, if anything, it simply just can’t sit as a “tool.”

    Think of it this simple way – can we then ask the same question for class? This question can be propped to you by some Derridean, Humanist, or another that simply asks “what does class accomplish as a political concept” and your only way to go about it is to draw two things – one that class is fundamentally a reality in our social relations, and secondly our understanding of class will determine what kind of practice we have at all. Political line determines your practice to begin with.

    So the first point is, we can’t think of any of these things as “tools” because it presupposes a correct practice – we must ask ourselves whether the concept is correct?

    In this way, I’ve already thrown out my ideas about this and I’ll attempt to shorty break it down in schematic theses:

    1) Nation is a community of people which share a common culture, language, and tied social relations (ties of economy, state, land, etc.)

    2) Nations are integrated into a world and/or regional system of relations historically – i.e. they make a definite political bloc(s) as a community of people (Nation-States or National Organizations of other types) in relationship to other nations.

    3) The unevenness in the development of capitalism led to a world system of imperialism (in the Leninist sense). Imperialism entails the combination of industrial and banking capital into finance monopoly capital, exportation of capital to new markets, and the State becoming more heavily involved in the protection and managing of these blocs of capital.

    4) Imperialism’s uneveness meant the development of peripheries and cores of capital, and unequal relationships between nations. Historically forming colonial and semi-colonial relationships throughout the world that manages a type of super-exploitation of these nations.

    5) Racism is based upon the national oppression of imperialism world-wide. Samir Amin points this out when he speaks about the global color-line that appears in the world because of the core-periphery relationship of super-exploitation.

    6) Racism in the US is a white supremacist form of racism based upon its imperialist exploitation and oppression throughout the world as well as the oppression it has historically perpetrated against Indigenous people, Black people, and Chicano/as.

    7) Indigenous people, Black people, and Chicano/as constitute separate nations within the United States because they share particular characteristics of a type that can be called a “nation.” (Back to point 1)

    8) As oppressed people that constitute a nation, they share a right to self-determination.

    So these are my basic premises and theses – I would point out that people may disagree with this altogether and this is fine, but there is something here people need to deal with if they want to actually go deeper down our rabbit hole – First, this is a coherent logical explanation that explains the position on national liberation and Second, it provides an account for a theory on racial formation. This is something people on this site have yet to do in their opposition to the line on national liberation have yet to effectively do. Big L in a previous comment suggested that the line that Racism is based upon imperialism itself was wrong, but he has yet to follow it up with his own explanation of race.

    So the last point – what does this mean altogether for our revolutionary practice? Well it means a few basic things, the struggle against racism is a struggle for self-determination and imperialism altogether of oppressed people – that in the U.S. we have an obligation to the right of self-determination of Black people and should ally ourselves with revolutionary black organizations and forces altogether, which have always historically existed.

    Esteban reduced the whole of the black movement to the insight and goals of only the “left progressive” trend and forgets that the struggle for civil rights transformed itself into a black liberation movement in the late 60s’ and 70s’. The analysis that these movements were solely about “inclusion with justice” is just not correct. There are organizations out there like MXGM, Black Radical Congress, and others that are still leaders in the revolutionary black movement, as well as multi-racial organizations that do support the line of self-determination.

    Without a line that recognizes the need for self-determination and sees a relative autonomy in the movements that have a national character, to answer Scycorax’s question, you’re left with a movement that actually will not be able to reach in any significant way forces – which because of their exploitation and oppression of a national type – are possibly the most potential revolutionary forces in this country altogether.

    Sycorax, I’m also proposing a quick fix solution here about getting beyond “narrowness” but with all development of political consciousness amongst people, when you lack analysis as revolutionaries – especially of a type that recognizes a significant aspect in the contradictions amongst the people, it can’t possibly venture to hurdle over the humps which present themselves. Simply it amounts to this – it won’t help you transform the consciousness of, lets take of course white or even Latino workers, around their relationship with Black workers because it doesn’t recognize the actuality of their condition and struggle. Just as you won’t fundamentally transform consciousness amongst people to be anti-imperialists if you don’t take out a political line that is “revolutionary defeatist.”

    • I wanted to add a couple of points I didn’t address and wanted to with Big L, Esteban, and Scycorax.

      Big L has written of the Black Nation thesis as a “stalinist” line a couple of times already – this is just a simple way of actually avoiding the question. First of all, it isn’t true in the slightest.

      First of all even Trotsky supported the demand of “self-determination” against American Trotskyists who saw this as a “petty-bourgeois” demand. Trotsky writes:

      “When today the Negroes do not demand self-determination that is naturally for the same reason that the white workers do not yet advance the slogan of the proletarian dictatorship. The Negro has not yet got it into his poor black head that he dares to carve out for himself a piece of the great and mighty States. But the white worker must meet the Negroes half way and say to them: ‘When you want to separate you will have our support’.”

      So its bogus to really label it a “Stalinist” demand – the demand for the right of self-determination has continually been held up by American Black revolutionary Marxists throughout the entire history of the communist movement.

      Esteban writes: “i think nationalism is ultimately a dead end street, because even in the best case scenario (as with jews in israel) a new nation set up for the oppressed cannot escape the oppressed/oppressor dynamic that is inherent to the capitalist world system.”

      So the answer here is quite simple – Israel isn’t the “best case” example, simply. I mean this here is akin to saying the Dutch Afrikaneers were “best case” examples. Israel is only an example of a colonialism and the formation of a nation based upon the exploitation and oppression of another – just like us Yanks.

      There is much better examples – Cuba had a national democratic revolution in 1959 that morphed into arguably a socialist one. Venezuela’s Bolivarian movement started off with a nationalist ambition and transformed into a more left, socialist leaning movement.

      Esteban writes again: “please respect the fact that it is possible, probable, and powerful for people to do so on a class basis and in total unity with each other…keep your eyes open for the opportunities and dont work against the possibility of racial/national unity in the class struggle – the bourgeoisie is already doing a good enough job at it.”

      But Esteban – first no one is arguing that we should just racially divide the movement into little sectors, that isn’t at all what is being said and even in struggles where things are articulated in the terms of national or racial oppression this doesn’t happen either.

      But in one sense we can venture and transform what we want to do into another identity politics – unity must be found politically on the terms of the class struggle, but does that necessarily mean “unity as a class?” Unity on the basis of class, doesn’t seem to me more profound or powerful than unity based upon being a woman, a student, or latino, etc. Unity on the basis of class is already constituted within this system, its called a Union. Its unity based upon the revolutionary politics of the proletariat that’s going to make the difference. There is a distinction.

      I think there is just simply a distinction between unity based on class and unity based on the politics of the proletariat.

      Scycorax writes

      “I think the point here is, what is your basis for actually building a revolutionary movement to destroy capitalism..the question remains, how do you build a unifying movement, concretely, that could defeat capitalism, and on what basis would you organize people? You have said to me in the past that women should organize themselves, blacks should organize themselves, and each can fight against their own oppressions and lead their own struggles. But do you see there being a need to unify these struggles, and on what basis?”

      First, if I spoke to you about this before, I think you certainly misunderstood what I was saying. The point isn’t atomization of struggle, but the necessity for oppressed people facing particular forms of oppression to begin leading that struggle itself – put it another way and very matter of factly, if you’re in a state college with mostly people of color and you build a group to fight tuition and its mostly white – there is a problem there that needs readdressing.

      Lets put this in another way – every single successful revolutionary movement has various revolutionary mass organizations that represent the people in those struggles, like revolutionary student, national, and women’s organizations.

      I think last I want to point out possibly for you to take a look at both Mao’s “On Contradiction” and Althusser’s “Contradiction and Overdetermination.” I think both can be found on Marx2Mao.com if not marxists.org – but there is a simple point made very eloquently in both. In the multiple layers of social relationships in a class society, the simple dualistic model of social contradiction of Labor vs. Capital is a mere abstraction, it can serve us as understanding a fundamental contradiction that keeps unity to the social totalized whole. But this doesn’t actually mean, that 1) It is always the contradiction which is principled in the development of history and 2) that it itself is a “pure” contradiction not penetrating other relatively distinct forms of social relationships.

      What we do in our practice is not stiff but arises from how we understand the historical development and how we as revolutionaries can position ourselves to make breakthroughs in creating a base for revolution amongst the masses of people.

  15. Yo, Im down to debate you fools- Shine the path and co- on this question in person. Fuck internet shit; thats retarded and cowardly. Where you guys at? Lets debate in person, film it and put on the internet, and see who really wins.

    • And what anticipated response did you hope to get? “Its on sucka!” Come on, brother, get real here this is a struggle to understand and develop our politics – not one-upsmanship.

  16. why dont you propose an actual debate? Place and time? And will put on utube

    • Because I don’t have that kind of 1) Time, 2) Equipment (I don’t even really have a functioning computer of my own), 3) Knowledge to do it. Sorry. I feel like this will end with you saying “Pwned” or something. So please brosef, lets keep this cordial. Just write your thoughts on the thread.

  17. Pingback: Critique of the Black Nation Thesis – Harry Chang « Advance the Struggle

  18. This discussion has proceeded well beyond the point I originally intended to intervene so I won’t take it back there, so I’d like to focus on a point shinethepath made:

    “Unity on the basis of class, doesn’t seem to me more profound or powerful than unity based upon being a woman, a student, or latino, etc. Unity on the basis of class is already constituted within this system, its called a Union. Its unity based upon the revolutionary politics of the proletariat that’s going to make the difference.”

    I’ve been thinking along these lines as well. Sorry if my points are not well developed, but I’m still working it through.

    Asking people to identify as worker is establishing a political unity as exploited people when we should be building a unity as revolutionaries, those who want to end exploitation and oppression. Within that broad unity communists can argue that we can’t even begin to build a society without racism, homophobia, misogyny, etc., if we do not transform class relations. This is different from the insistence that people must see themselves as workers before all else.

    Although this may sound idealist and unanchored in class relations, that would be wrong. Those sections of people who would want to end all oppression will be from the working class. The challenge will be to struggle for an analysis of overlapping oppressions rooted in a material base.

    I think it is a fallacy to assume that objectivity is represented by material production and subjectivity must be attached to it. I think we are importing one of Marx’s assumptions into a context where it is not completely appropriate.

    Working people produce society in two ways: 1] at the level of economic relations and 2] the social and cultural interrelations that give society its coherence. The assumption from Marx, as shinethepath related above is that production relations are universalizing, therefore political consciousness must be tied to it. If economic exploitation were the only form of oppression that working people had to face, it would be an easy case to make in the modern US. There are overlapping oppressions, some of which precede capitalism, like the oppression of women, but not necessarily class society. There is a commonality in class, but particularities in the oppressions that may require more than class unity. What class struggle provides is a universalizing element in the promise and possibility of social liberation, not just the reality of exploitation.

    Here I depart from shinethepath in that I don’t think there is automatically a national status for Blacks. There are two things to consider here: 1] is there a widespread popular demand for a national status and 2] is there such a thing as an “objective” nation regardless of self-recognition. I would answer “no” to both questions. The former point can be easily observed but the latter has to deal with the fact that nations are social relationships and may have an objective basis, but without an acknowledgment from its own supposed “members” how can it have any viability as a concept and practice? If there comes a time that significant numbers of Black communities demand recognition as a nation, we may have to reconsider what constitutes legitimate grounds for nationhood, but I don’t think there have been sufficient material grounds for it since the Great Migration out of the South. And how does the recent migration from Caribbean and African countries affect this? Self-determination may take many forms and each such claim should be looked at individually. Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Dominicans may face racism as Latinos but can they claim national status with equal justification? Aren’t there histories of migration and settlement that have to be looked at too?

    I can’t confidently put forth a “resolution” for racism, but I believe that unity on the basis of common exploitation is insufficient. As shinethepath points out, racial “unity” could be a way for one group to temporarily use another for common gain only go their separate ways or even push them aside afterwards. Historian David Roediger has produced accounts of just this happening and I’ve witnessed it myself. Make no mistake I’m for unified action wherever possible but we have to confront racism as a problem in and of itself, not try to dissolve it into some greater whole.

    One thing we need to reconsider is the notion of community. The debate around community control seems to assume that non-white peoples all live in geographically distinct communities. Many might, but many others don’t. Many are in mixed communities. To suggest organizational forms before looking at concrete situations is to jump the gun. Rather than just propose pre-fabricated forms of activity, I think we should encourage resistance and let people develop their own forms, or where we can, work with people to develop them.

    Fundamentally, people should oppose racism because it’s oppressive, not because something’s in it for them in the long run. Whether people are working class in character or political orientation is secondary at that stage. The main thing is to win over as many to as radical a position as possible, and if not, then at least to a friendly neutrality. A strategy of absolute class polarization is unnecessary, damaging and it fails to understand the tensions that exist in those non-whites who are no longer working class but still face some kind of racism. In other words, ideology can trump class situation. Just look at working people who vote for fascists or adopt religious fundamentalism. With a clear analysis of the contradictions of class relations at a given moment, revolutionaries can have a better sense of their social base and the kinds of alliances that are possible. Here’s what Victor Serge said about the middle class counter-revolution in 1917: “As a matter of fact, the counter-revolutionary attitude of the middle classes was not rigidly pre-determined by their class interests. With hindsight one can see that submission to the Soviet regime would have held every advantage for them…Doubtless, the middle classes are not fated always to have the same hostility towards proletarian revolution: it is more probable that , in social struggles of the future, the power and resolution of the working class will incline them towards an attitude of, first, neutrality, then support.”

    Materialism, when conceived mechanically can be turned into a justification for reductive manipulation and political misjudgment, when it should be a grounding for an expansive liberatory politics.

    • I want to address zerohour’s points in rejection of the black nation concept – first and primary we need to deal with his two stated points 1) is there a demand for a seperate nation amongst the broad section of black masses? 2) is there an objective condition for such a nation anyway.

      The first point is ideologically problematicv because it asks a liberal question to get a liberal conclusion. Whether or not the broad section of the masses of people demand a nation isn’t necessarily a profound point. The majority of Puerto Rican people don’t vote independence, the majority native american people don’t demand a seperate nation, does this mean they’re not oppressed nationalities. No.

      Secondly, how do we know “obviously” that it isn’t the thought of the Black people? We as communists understand that the will and thoughts of the masses are scattered and manifest themselves in a number of ways. It seems actually, and almost entirely historically that the organic revolutionary leadership of Black people has continually held up one form of self-determination or another.

      On the question of recent migrant people, zerohour misses the point in analysis of imperialism and the question of self-determination – imperialism has always historically created peripheries within the core itself, immigrant labor is the extension of the world system of imperialism in the heart of it. They’re not excluded from it. Dominican, Puerto Rican, and other people face national oppression here becausew their social being is an extension of the history of national oppression of their country. Just go to Washington Heights or South Bronx, even the politics of those nations are extended to the point of just having American sections of their political parties.

      Look at a revolutionary mass organization like BAYAN, USA. It is literally the extebsion of the National Democratic movement in the US and around the world. Why? Because of the semi-colonial condition of the Philippines it is now their actual people who become the raw resource that imperialism extracts from their country.

      So the point being, no matter where they are, they face national oppression because of imperialism itself.

      Now on the objectivity of a black nation, this may go hand and hand with the Harry Chang thread ( I got some thoughts on Harry Chang that I’ll post on the other thread) – I am really just going to really keep it simple and sweet on this point becauce, even though there is so much controversy over the fact, it is really just an empirical question – Black people share a long history that is connected to a particular geographic area (Black Belt – where even still today the US in tantamount recognizes it by considering creating a regional commission to begin doing federal social programs), they share a common culture, and even share common linguistic structures (despite being diasporic), share a common political and economic history, etc.

      So for these reasons I describe Black people as a national group – what at most people have to do is recognize they have a particularity that is distinct from an amorphous category of whatever racial group they get pushed under. I think when you recognize at any level that particularity, you already recognize the concept as true and there is dogmatic political reason ( a question of faith ) to deny the matter or there is an ideological reason to deny it

  19. “Black people share a long history that is connected to a particular geographic area (Black Belt – where even still today the US in tantamount recognizes it by considering creating a regional commission to begin doing federal social programs), they share a common culture, and even share common linguistic structures (despite being diasporic), share a common political and economic history, etc.”

    I think it’s significant that “share a common political and economic history, etc.” is at the end of the sentence and followed by an “etc.”

    The question of the political economy of the supposed “black nation” (or, more accurately put, the lack thereof) is one of the main deficiencies of this argument.

  20. shinethepath said: “Whether or not the broad section of the masses of people demand a nation isn’t necessarily a profound point. The majority of Puerto Rican people don’t vote independence, the majority native american people don’t demand a seperate nation, does this mean they’re not oppressed nationalities.”

    The point is that such a demand reflects a self-recognition as a nation. It may not seem important or “profound” but I think it’s an important distinction between a material basis and a material reality. There’s no reason to infer that the demands of a political leadership are a direct reflection of larger communities. In fact it’s you who did that with your claim about organic revolutionary leadership. But why should revolutionary leadership be assumed correct on the national issue? I’d recommend Up Against The Wall for a critically sympathetic treatment of the Panthers which touched on their relationship with their communities sentiments. It shows that the communities did support more militant confrontations with racism, but were not as wholeheartedly supportive of armed revolution or, more importantly for the purposes of this discussion, nationhood.

    You’re right that the lack of national demands doesn’t change the fact that people may be oppressed as a nation, but two things about that: 1] your criteria for nationhood are questionable [the Black Belt? I doubt you will get many Black people out of the northern cities to move there] and, 2] the demographics of said nation are changing. New migrants are not part of the extended domestic history of the Black people. That changes nothing about how they are treated, but don’t you think it affects their political subjectivity if they are tied to other existing nations?

    You missed my point about migration. Using your examples of the Philippines or the Dominican Republic, their oppression is partially an extension of imperialist domination but at the same time, they are also “inserted” into a ready-made framework of racism. What does this mean for their struggles? I would think that communists would support sovereignty for their countries but do they have a basis to demand national status within the continental US? They already have established nations. My point is that the right to national self-determination must be upheld, but that it will look different for different groups, and may not apply to others at all. Chinese people in the US have geographically bounded neighborhoods, with common culture, language, and an internal economic structure where a Chinese proletariat interacts with a Chinese bourgeoisie. Are they a nation?

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