Critique of the Black Nation Thesis – Harry Chang

Big L writes:

In light of the rich debate on the Fred Hampton: Marxist or Nationalist?

Mabel & Robert Williams (Author of Negroes with Guns) aiming the gun with precision, just as our revolutionary theory should be aimed

Mabel & Robert Williams (Author of Negroes with Guns) aiming the gun with precision, just as our revolutionary theory should be aimed

blog (which actually derails from a discussion on Fred Hampton) folks should engage in this serious critique of the theory that sees black people in the US as an oppressed nation.

While the article is credited to the Racism Research Project, it is primarily the work of a little known Korean immigrant marxist named Harry Chang. Amongst Chang’s students were Michael Omi and Howard Winant who popularized the theory of racial formation (without giving any credit to Chang in their book.)

The critique takes Stalin’s definition of a nation (A nation 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.” ) and looks at the problematic ways in which it has been applied by maoists, nationalists, marxists, and stalinists to the oppression of black people in the US, pointing out some fundamental flaws.

This should help in focusing the debate on this important question.

Quote:

“The failure to criticize the vulgar conception of racism led the Old Left to handle the race question in a schizophrenic fashion. On the one hand, racism was understood only within the limited scope of individual subjective attitudes of prejudice and bigotry, leaving unanswered the socio-economic reason for these attitudes ever becoming so widespread and sustained to begin with. On the other hand, Black people were depicted as “objectively” constituting a nation, a nationality, or a national minority by means of an argument which also made a shambles of the Marxist position on the national question. This created tremendous confusion in the communist movement in the U.S. — the race question and the national question have been weaved in and out of each other, subject to the eclectic whim of whoever was “interpreting” the line at the moment. After all, to define a Black Nation is to make use of the racial category Black and to characterize racism as the persecution of a national minority is to negate racial oppression altogether. Matters are not helped by asserting that the oppression of Black people is a “combination” of racial and national oppressions, for this is merely an admission of analytic failure disguised as a melange of analytic profundity.”

Read the article in full here

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53 responses to “Critique of the Black Nation Thesis – Harry Chang

  1. Speaking from the Asian-American movement, Chang (and Bob Wing’s) work is liquidationist (not only of Stalin’s work on the national question, but Lenin’s), and in a way that is not just politically misguided but which is generally misleading and suffers from an autonomy granted to superstructure, regardless of historical and material base.

    Chang and Wing’s logic is as follows:
    1) Americans do not use the term “nation” in reference to African-Americans (or, for that matter anybody else within the U.S.)
    2) Americans do use “race” in reference to various minority groups.
    3) Ideas when grasped by people are a material factor.
    4) Therefore “race” is a proper understanding and “nation” is not.

    The problem is that Americans have held any number of bizarre ideas about race and nation – this does not make them true, grounded in objective reality, or much less something that Marxists should follow. That is, unless it makes sense that back in the 19th Century “octaroons” and “quadroons” were separate peoples from African-Americans, but not today.

    The point is that there are caveats on “3” – that insofar as ideas when grasped are a material factor, it is because it has a basis in some material reality, though not necessarily the one that is named. When African-Americans became a racial group in the eyes of the U.S. (or when, as mentioned earlier, they were divided by blood quantum) it was precisely because they constituted a nationality within the U.S., and this scared the daylights out of white chauvinists.

    Beyond this, Chang and Wing both have shown the feebleness of this analysis elsewhere through the poverty of their theory within the Asian-American movement. Rather than ever concede that various nationalities might have contrasting experiences in the U.S., both argued that Asian-Americans make up a singular block within the U.S.

    Because of that inability to grasp that nationality has a far firmer historical basis than America’s bizarre (and maleable) racial code, whole groups are simply lumped in together as simply “Asian-American” – in spite of all evidence to the contrary. I’m sorry, but Southeast Asians have actually had a different experience in this country from East Asians, and amongst Southeast Asians, the Vietnamese have had a totally different experience from Filipinos.

    As for the talk about “Stalinism”: Chang and Wing’s section of the New Left – the so-called “Rectification” movement of Line of March – were about the dumping of the Maoist critique of Stalinism and the USSR, in favor of some warmed over Brezhnevism.

    Not surprisingly, this led them into a couple of bizarre turns, including outright support of the Soviet Union at its most bankrupt (i.e., the invasion of Afghanistan) – to the point that the old joke is that Line of March should have been renamed March In Line.

  2. Substituting an engagement with the argument of the essay posted by a rejection of their political and organizational affiliations doesn’t lead us anywhere.

    Hegemonik states:
    “When African-Americans became a racial group in the eyes of the U.S. (or when, as mentioned earlier, they were divided by blood quantum) it was precisely because they constituted a nationality within the U.S., and this scared the daylights out of white chauvinists.”

    But nowhere has it been proved that black people constitute a nationality or a nation. It has simply been asserted, and the argument goes on to dismiss the authors and bring up “old jokes” about march in line . . .

    Engaging the argument more concretely would be much more interesting, and may challenge the notion that black people constitute a nation within a nation.

  3. And big L, here’s the difficult question:

    If we uphold that “race” is an unscientific and anti-material way of analyzing society, then why are we even allowing Chang and Wing to use the selfsame method (i.e., “race”) to attempt to undo its damage?

    This is not just a matter where Chang and Wing are showing their chauvinism toward African-Americans (though it is there – note the sleigh of hand by simply piling West Indians into the amorphous “black” category, as if West Africans and West Indians have the same national history as African-Americans), but are also showing their revisionism and liquidationism, by simply throwing away historical materialism where it does not suit them.

    “Race” as it has played out in the U.S. has always been a matter of attempting to negate the thorny national questions inconvenient to the idea of a unitary U.S.: not just African-Americans, but also the various American Indian nations, as well as Puerto Ricans and Chicanos have been subjected to racialization to make them to subordinate them as not-quite-Americans, but more importantly not-quite-independent peoples.

    The textbook example of this: contrary to popular belief, “African-American” is not a politically correct neologism. It was term African-Americans used for themselves up until around the mid 19th Century. The reason it was shelved in favor of the depoliticized and denationalized “Negro” is because enslaved African-Americans took up arms with the British against the U.S., and emancipated African-Americans feared backlash.

    This process is no different from the racialization of various American Indian nations in America. In Canada, the First Nations are recognized entities (albeit considered on the margins of society). In the U.S., our outright genocide has rendered what were once hundreds of distinct American Indian Tribes, as well as scores of confederations amounting to nations into simply “Natives” “Red Men” and “Indians.”

    The negation of African-American nationality by turning it into a depoliticized “identity” or racial category is something that we should simply not abide. It’s a way of denying that African-Americans have any historical grievances; that they were never expropriated since (of course) they never held land – even though they toiled on it and lived on it (and pst: the Black Belt didn’t go anywhere, as I believe the map demonstrates).

    To point to the implications of Chang and Wing’s muddled thinking, let’s examine the question that highlights it the most: affirmative action. And since we’re all Leftists here, let’s bother to ask whether the point is “diversity” or if it’s to address past wrongs. I would suspect that if we’ve made it beyond idiotic liberal multicultural talking points, then we want to address prior wrongs.

    If so, then why is it that under a scheme that Wing and Chang are entirely comfortable with (i.e., “let’s treat everyone ‘black’ or ‘Asian’ as single racial unit”) that we have so thoroughly failed to address any prior wrongs? Let’s put aside politically correct bullshit and ask whether it’s “addressing past wrongs” for colleges to recruit the Afro-Caribbean petit-bourgeoisie and the absurdly rich West African gentry, and then count them as simply “black.”

    Let’s ask whether having talked so long about the advancement of Filipinos and Vietnamese populations in the U.S. (two national minority populations in the U.S. that are more often without a background in higher education), whether Wing and Chang would be happy with the bulk of “Asian” students in American Universities just being children of the Chinese well-to-do.

    In short, Wing and Chang’s rejection of the national question was part of a general rejection of historical materialist analysis in the U.S. – it is a form (however distorted) of American exceptionalism, and the embrace of a mild liberal multiculturalism. You might as well let Obama have the last word on African-American grievances with the U.S. – and in some ways, at least he’s honorable about it, since he never claimed to be a Marxist.

  4. To clarify two things:

    1.) It’s way too simplistic to simply say that “race” is an “un-scientific and anti-material way of analyzing society.” This muddles the problematics of racism and racial oppression. Let’s clarify. Most people who’ve taken any type of ethnic studies or sociology class understand and can repeat the phrase “race is a social construct.” Race is not a valid scientific biological category, this is absolutely true and hardly anyone aside from hardcore followers of eugenics would disagree.

    However, vulgar materialism comes into play when marxists fail to see the SOCIAL consequences and MATERIAL realities of racism, the application of racial categories to social reality. The reason why this becomes vulgar and reductionist is because it seeks to supplant the reality of the color line and racial categories for supposedly more “material” categories such as nations.

    So, to sum up this point, race is obviously not a biological category. However, it is a social category and as such has real, social, material consequences as a SOCIAL RELATION.

    It’s the same thing with VALUE. Value is not “material” – you won’t find an ounce of “value” in any commodity. You can’t measure it on a scale, or find it with a microscope. Yet, the law of value absolutely dictates the material reality of the capitalist world we live in. This is absolutely clear if you read the first hundred pages of Capital Volume 1 (though, if you’re an Althusserian you’d probably follow his misinformed advice to skip all that “confusing” stuff.) Value is a social relation, a social category, in the same way that race is.

    Let’s avoid crude materialism.

    —————————————————

    2.) It has yet to be proved that black citizens of the US constitute a nation. It has as of yet simply been asserted. The most concrete facts of the great migration and questions of the shared political economy of black people have been brought up by Zerohour in justifying why he DOESN’T believe black people constitute a nation. Those who disagree must address these questions.

    —————————————————

    3.) What has been brought up are the real lived differences of experiences which people who are historically racialized. For instance, mexicans and guatemalans have relatively different experiences in the US when they immigrate. Most time when people of certain ethno-national groups immigrate to the US they do so through social networks from the neighborhoods and cities they lived in their homeland. In some cases huge populations from particular cities in central america relocate to the same city in the US. This is part of the way ethnic enclaves are formed. These ethnic enclaves do, obviously, share certain characteristics and commonalities of experience due to their similar paths of migration (both how they migrated, and where they migrated to) which connect to their nation of origin.

    And immigrant groups such as undocumented guatemalans have tension with folks of guatemalan or mexican descent who were born in the US and have papers. Same thing with Pilipino Americans calling recently arrived Pilipinos “FOBs” (fresh off the boat.) However, these tensions within people who are racialized under the same racial category (whether latino or asian) are more due to citizenship/non-citizenship dynamics than they are simply differences in national experience, simply put.

    • @ Big L:

      However, vulgar materialism comes into play when marxists fail to see the SOCIAL consequences and MATERIAL realities of racism

      Like I said, there’s a difference between understanding that the grasp of an idea makes it a material factor and giving actual materiality to the superstructure.

      In other words, that Americans couldn’t tell the difference between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein doesn’t mean that Iraq is Saudi Arabia, or “Ay-rabs” are all the same, it means that Americans are stupid enough to put very material resources fighting Osama bin Laden in a country he never visited.

      Likewise, the white plantation owners’ insistence that African-Americans were “their” people (in spite of the overall antipathy African-Americans had for both plantation owners and their nation) did not make them “their” people, nor does it make them the property of multi-nationality America now. It means that white America fundamentally distrusted the slave labor that made the American way of life possible, and still fundamentally fears ever paying the bill.

      And I note: supporting African-Americans as an oppressed nationality does not ipso facto mean supporting full-on secession, or any number of ways the African-American national movement has gone. My own position, as well as that of Freedom Road, is that this is a matter where we ally ourselves with its progressive pole.

      It does mean recognizing that African Americans have had both a history and a culture that is nationally theirs and not simply “American” history or culture, and that they also have a destiny that is theirs to determine – maybe that includes secession, and maybe it doesn’t. At the very least, it’s impossible to simply reconcile U.S. and African-American history when one has historically been oppressor/exploiter of the other.

      • can the supporters of black nationalism answer these questions please..

        1) what is exactly is the progressive pole of the black nationalist movement (names, organizations. Nation of Islam?) which you support? what are their demands? what class interests do they represent? what do they organize?

        2) what does “support” mean with regard to your relationship toward the “progressive pole” of black nationalism?

        3) which black capitalists (be as specific as possible please) do you believe to be comprador and which progressive?
        (let me guess: cosby is comprador, oprah is progressive?)

        4) would you concede that many black people in the US live outside the supposed black national experience?

        5) which groups of people in the US seeking self-determination and/or separation would you oppose?

    • Hi Big L,

      I think the topic of immigration actually shows why the concept of “racialization” is lacking and why we need to think in terms of nationalities, oppressed nations, and national minorities. Mexicans, Guatemalans, and Filipinos immigrate to the US in large numbers, because the workings of the imperialist system make it difficult to live in the countries where they come from. Their status as immigrants in the US is tied to the oppression of their nations, with economies distorted by US imperialism, feudal remnants (such as in land distribution) maintained and integrated into the imperialist system, a lack of genuine national industrialization, and widespread unemployment and underemployment reflected in a massive informal sector. Their struggles in the US are tied to the struggles for the liberation of their homelands. The concept of racialization doesn’t explain this reality.

      • And it was never claimed that the reality of racial formation in the US in some 1:1 way explained world capitalist dynamics. You need marxism and an understanding of political economy to do that.

        However, if you try to understand ICE raids and anti-immigrant hysteria against the people who immigrate here once they’re on US soil, and you don’t see the reality of this oppression as racialized class oppression and try to squeeze it into the box of national oppression, then you begin to make the mistakes that come along with holding on tightly to a tired theory.

      • But Mexicans and Guatemalans are racialized as Latinos, while Filipinos are racialized as Asians (see Bob Wing’s essay, “Crossing Race and Nationality: The Racial Formation of Asian Americans”).

        Doesn’t this show that these racial categories might not be so helpful, and are an expression of bourgeois ideology, since the historical experiences of Filipinos (in the homeland, in the conditions of immigration, and in the conditions after arrival in the US) have more in common with Mexicans and Guatemalans (as well as with Puerto Ricans – Puerto Rico was colonized at the same time as the Philippines) than with, say, the Japanese who are also racialized as Asian?

        There’s been some criticism of identity politics by a few commenters on this blog. It seems like the idea of racial formation far more exemplifies the usual problems that people associate with identity politics (politics based on labels rather than common grievances and interests) than the idea of national oppression.

  5. Some critical comments on this piece-

    Critique of the Black Nation Thesis (CBNT): “. . . to define a Black Nation is to make use of the racial category Black . . .”; “All versions of the Black Nation Thesis rest on the faulty reasoning of first determining individuals by racial (i.e., non-national) considerations, then grouping them by this logic into a ‘nation.’”; “. . . what is the logic behind the automatic assignment of immigrants from, say, Africa or the West Indies as descendents of this strange nation which they have never even heard of?”

    The Black nation is not defined by a racial category, but by the historical experience of chattel slavery, Reconstruction and its failure, Jim Crow, sharecropping, and lynch mob violence. One of the key features of the Black nation is indeed its African descent, a result of the Atlantic slave trade, but it cannot be reduced to this feature.

    CBNT says, “‘White’ is not just another name for ‘European-descent,’ nor is ‘Black’ just another name for ‘African-descent.’ In the United States today, it has been estimated that about 70% of Blacks are part-European, and that some 20% of Whites are part-African (i.e., ‘passing’),” and argues that it is therefore a chauvinist error for Marxists to “group” all people of African descent into a Black nation.

    But, Marxists who recognize the existence of the Black nation do not such thing. Our analysis is fully compatible with recognizing the part-European ancestry of the people who went through the historical experience that formed the Black nation. Immigrants from Africa or the West Indies are part of their respective national minorities, not the Black nation.

    CBNT: “. . . many nationals may emigrate into another nation without converting their new residential areas to the nationality of the origin nation. The determination of a national territory is . . . different from . . . individual settlement patterns. . . . The question, therefore, is not land as such, but certain socio-economic relations on the land.”; “If the national territory of a Black Nation had any kind of social validity, then one must explain residential concentration (or dispersion) from this reality instead of conjuring a national territory from residential concentration. . . .”

    Using this line of argument to deny the existence of the Black nation is surprising. Obviously, Black people have “certain socio-economic relations on the land” of the Black Belt south. Black people have worked the land of the Black Belt for more than 300 years. The Black Belt is the plantation belt, the heart of the old chattel slave economy. This work, with the rise of cotton production for the world market, formed a basis for the international development of capitalism. The residential concentration of Black people in the South is not some kind of historical accident lacking “social validity.” There is a recognition of these “relations on the land” in popular culture (“40 acres and a mule,” the unfulfilled promise of Reconstruction) and in the just demand for reparations.

    * * * * *

    CBNT says that the four features of a nation (common territory, economic life, language, culture) outlined by Stalin are only “necessary” conditions and that it is metaphysical to view them as “sufficient” conditions for the existence of a nation. However, the approach of CBNT is to arbitrarily establish its own additional “necessary” conditions. The authors of the piece themselves employ a metaphysical method. They argue that:

    – the masses of a real nation must raise the slogan of “the defense of the motherland”;

    – the analysis to determine whether the Black Belt constitutes the common territory of the Black nation must “begin with the analysis of those ‘internal’ socio-economic determinants which characterize Black people as a people and not merely ‘external’ relations developed between Blacks and Whites” and that it must dwell “primarily on the character of socio-economic relations among Black people, and secondarily on their relation to Whites.”;

    – a certain percentage of a nationality, which it doesn’t specify, must reside in the common territory for it to constitute a national territory (“Even at the height of Black concentration in the Black Belt (1880), over 45% of Blacks in the U.S. lived outside of the Black Belt. Moreover, about 40% of the Black Belt residents were White.”);

    – the common economic life of the Black nation must be “an incipient mode of production in its own right” and there must be a “dialectic of certain basic economic relations . . . internal to the Black Nation, generating such polarizations as slaves vs. masters, landlords vs. peasants, capitalists vs. proletarians, etc. within the Black Nation”;

    – the common economic life of the Black nation must exhibit “such ‘macro-economic’ phenomena as an emerging monetary and credit system, a suppressed but distinctive average rate of interest, a germinal but separate equity market, etc.”;

    The reply to all of this is, who says these conditions are necessary for the existence of a nation? The authors make no comparative study at all. They just conjure these requirements out of the air and apply them. So, who is really being metaphysical here?

    Instead of creating these very narrow and abstract requirements for the existence of a nation, which have no apparent basis in any study of nation formation in other parts of the world, and then examining whether the historical experience of Black people lives up to these standards, wouldn’t the materialist method actually begin with a study of US history, the development and interaction of the modes of production constituting the US social formation, as well as their economic and political survivals – and on that basis, examining the particularity of the historical Black experience? The theorists of the Black nation, and the much disparaged Comintern resolutions of 1928 and 1930, as short as they were, actually engage the question in this way.

    * * * * *

    It’s worthwhile to look at CBNT’s own analysis of the oppression of Black people, which appears in a few places in the piece, and is fundamentally flawed.

    CBNT: “. . . the distinguishing character of Black labor in the U.S. has always been objective integration in production (with job discrimination and wage differential), side by side with subjective segregation in appropriation . . .”

    This is plainly wrong. Black labor has obviously been subject to “segregation” in production. Entire modes of production (slavery and sharecropping) have been based on this segregation and its maintenance through legal and extralegal coercion. Saying that Black labor has been central to the creation of the US social formation (true) is not the same thing as saying that Black labor has been objectively integrated in production (not true).

    CBNT: “. . . the essence of racism can be best described as a differential proletarianization within the bourgeois development of the U.S., as opposed to a systematic exclusion of Blacks from national production. . . . It is not that Blacks are disqualified as workers of the U.S. as a nation, but rather that a formally distinct ‘subcategory’ of proletarians becomes justifiable if its application is exclusively limited to Blacks.”

    This is also wrong. It’s just a restatement of the old idea that Black people, and other non-white peoples, are merely superexploited sections of the proletariat, repackaged with some new terms like the “dialectic of racial categories.”

    This analysis overlooks the economic survival of slavery into the 20th century in the form of sharecropping. Also, describing the “essence of racism” as “differential proletarianization” and the creation of a “formally distinct ‘subcategory’ of proletarians” overlooks the oppression of all classes among Black people. For example, how does this analysis explain the Tulsa riot of 1921, resulting in the destruction of “Black Wall Street” by white mobs?

  6. @esteban:

    I’m going to answer your questions very quickly.

    1) I’ve worked with folks in Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (read up onKali Akuno, who’s pretty omnivorous in terms of theory). I’ve supported comrades in the Black Radical Congress and Black Workers for Justice.

    The dragging of the Nation of Islam into discussion, which always had a tenuous relationship with mainstream politics is bullshit and you know it. Unless you think that the immigrant rights movement is a Catholic movement because churches supported it.

    2) Support means that in general communist work and the work of the black liberation movement have overlapped, and where they’ve overlapped I put my own effort into it.

    3) I don’t support black capitalism, or capitalism in general – but I find myself sometimes on the same side as particular segments of the black bourgeoisie or petit-bourgeoisie. I also don’t support Trotskyism – but I find myself sometimes on the same side as particular Trotskyist organizations.

    This is why we find ourselves in united fronts, because we’re on the same side on some things and on others we are not. Heaven forbid that we ever believe that the masses (with all their contradictions) can make history

    When, for example, black businesses boycott the NY Post, or the NAACP gets business owners to refuse to do business in states that observe Confederate holidays and the Confederate Flag – I’m down. Because that’s good for African-Americans in general, and it’s good for the working class in general.

    4) I don’t concede anything. I’ve said from the beginning that when we are talking about black nationalism, we’re dealing specifically with the African American experience determined by 400 years of legally enshrined slavery, as well as 100 years of Jim Crow.

    5) In general, I support the self-determination of peoples of the peoples of the First Nations (including those of Hawaii and Alaska), Puerto Rico, Aztlan, and Black Belt South. Let us also not forget the imperialist relationships where the U.S. has actually seized land for bases (i.e., American Samoa, Guantanamo, Okinawa, Northern Mariana Islands, etc.) – these are areas where the U.S. has partitioned other states and claimed land for itself which it holds illegitimate title.

    • “The dragging of the Nation of Islam into discussion, which always had a tenuous relationship with mainstream politics is bullshit and you know it.”

      check your tone. the nation of islam is a real political force. and if there really was community control of institutions in the ‘internal colonies’ i guarantee you NoI would be among those sharing said control with baptist ministers and a lot of other bourgeois barack obama types. thats why support for self determination agendas are dead end paths unless you think the likes of NoI and the baptist church (and the catholic one too) can be willed away.

      personally i support working class self determination. any working class community anywhere should control the economic, social and political institutions that effect them – thats called socialism. when you add the half-step of a nationalist self determination stage all you do is support the continued power of capitalist social relations and bourgeois hegemony, albeit under a veil of superficial justice.

      that said, the working class is split along racial lines that make it understandable why people would see the different sections as living in different worlds, different nations. workers organizing where they live and where they work necessarily means doing so racially to a large extent and thats fine as far as im concerned because thats objective conditions. but when we put class first, we stay on the communist path and dont capitulate to liberal wolves in sheeps clothing (like NoI etc), who end up doing more harm than good.

      you didnt answer #3. “I don’t support black capitalism, or capitalism in general – but I find myself sometimes on the same side as particular segments of the black bourgeoisie or petit-bourgeoisie.”

      part of the national liberation thesis is that there is a wing of any oppressed nation’s bourgeoisie that is comprador/backward and another wing that is national/progressive. the multi-class alliance is based on a supposed common cause between the nationa/progressivel bourgeoisie and the proletariat of that nation. Communists believe in smashing the bourgeoisie in any and all nations, and replacing it with a dictatorship of the proletariat. in other words, no capitalist allies are concievable in an agenda composed of destroying that class.

      i ask you again to identify the progressive national black bourgeoisie which is worthy of support. what industries do they control and in what way are they progressive?

      throwing the naacp into this discussion is bullshit and YOU know it. they are not nationalist. they are liberal integrationists. protesting the Post and Confederate holidays are something that communists should not be tailing liberals in. communists should, if anything, be leading low level struggles like those and FAR more importantly, organizing workers to build the power necessary to smash all capitalists. this is done through building political relationships around things that matter to working class people most like their working and living conditions, while nurturing the development communist consciousness and revolutionary culture. it should be liberals who end up tailing communists in the desperate attempt to hold their thin veil of legitimacy, not vice versa.

  7. a question, hegemonik:

    “In general, I support the self-determination of peoples of the peoples of the First Nations (including those of Hawaii and Alaska), Puerto Rico, Aztlan, and Black Belt South.”

    I would be curious to hear what this means to you.

    In my experience, self-determination has meant (in marxist theory) a willingness by communists to support (or at least not forcibly oppose) the autonomous political organization of a specific historically constituted community of people up to and including secession and independence

    And so with your blanket endorsement of self-determination for all these peoples — i’m curious whether (for you!) that is as specific — i.e. whether that is intended (by you) as a claim that communists should uphold the right of independence.

    Obviously, and necessarily, the independence of puerto rico should be upheld.

    But what does it mean to uphold self-determination of Aztlan? (I.e. which people in the southwest would be determining this? Everyone? Whites too? Black people in Compton? Or is this a demand that Mexican and Chicano people alone have a right to determing the political relationship of the Southwest to a larger post-U.S. north america?

    Similarly, if you uphold self-determination for Hawaii, what does that mean? Who is exercising that self-determination (in a place that is so clearly multinational, and where the indigenous people form a minority now)?

    Self-determination in the Black Belt, or self-determination for Black people expressed in the Black Belt? And does that include a notion of independence? And what does independence for Black people in the Black Belt mean (when they are now a minority there too, unlike in the 1920s)?

    In regard to Native peoples, do you hold that they are in a position for independence? All of them? (I mean, are the Chippewa of Wisconsin and Minnesota in a position to become independent countries relative to the rest of North America — and what does that mean without contiguous land or the basis for a distinct national economy?)

    I’m curious what the specific meaning of your statement is in regard to specific (and rather complex) situations of specific peoples?

  8. The short answer is, I would back both the progressive and multinational character within seceded Black Belt and Aztlan — who says we need Manifest Destiny/U.S. imperialism in order to have a multinational state? — but that these are territories where the African-American and Chicano character tends to be a far stronger determinant over matters of territory (i.e., who works the land and who is tied to it?) as well as culture (i.e., whose culture tends to predominate?)

    The longer answer is: secession would be mostly dependent upon whether or not secession is necessary — i.e., the level of hostility toward questions of African-American and Chicano empowerment, autonomy, etc. I would not necessarily rule out solutions besides absolute secession and establishment of separate economies and polities. Let us recall that the formulation is support up until secession not necessarily secession itself.

    So in truth, what we are being asked in terms of recognition of self-determination is whether we are so bound up state borders that were built around the maintenance of “states rights” to slavery, or were built around the Louisana Purchase? Why not come up with something that reflects the lived experience of the masses rather than convenient political agreements of the ruling class?

    The point here is that if we are revolutionaries, we are willing to void any number of contracts that once seemed to hardwire relations of exploitation and national oppression. That’s non-controversial in the case of Guantanamo Bay — we recognize it as Cuban land, that it should be returned to Cuba.

    It’s a little more controversial in the case of Hawaii and whether U.S. economic/military dominion over the area should be something to perpetuate (frankly, U.S. dominion over Hawaii seems to me to be inextricably bound to the U.S. Navy — I would question whether U.S. dominion is even possible without an imperialist Navy).

    Nevertheless, we need the flexibility of mind to think about whether the United States of America as a polity is something worth preserving or not, and that if it is not, then what is worthy of taking its place?

  9. Hegemonic wrote:

    “Both the progressive and multinational character within seceded Black Belt and Aztlan — who says we need Manifest Destiny/U.S. imperialism in order to have a multinational state? — but that these are territories where the African-American and Chicano character tends to be a far stronger determinant over matters of territory (i.e., who works the land and who is tied to it?) as well as culture (i.e., whose culture tends to predominate?)”

    This is incredibly wrong and totally over looks the labor that was exploited in these lands by anglo-dominated capital. Whats important to note about Sharecropping and the Bracero program is the depthness of its exploitation to maximize surplus value due to the racialization of such relationships. Hegemonic, before you teach us more about national liberation theory, you should try reading capital and more marxism (written by Marx) I think it will help out your anaylisis. Your politics is like left wing ethnic studies stuff. No offense.

    • Jonak:

      Hint: the words who works the land and who is tied to it? is in the passage you quote.

      Anybody else here for something other than a point-scoring wankfest?

      • i dont know what a wankfest is, but would you like to answer my question which i posed a while back, please: who are the progressive/national black and brown bourgeoisies that the black and brown proletariats should ally with in a supposed multi-class national liberation front?

        [for the record, i propose a multi-race proletarian liberation front]

        what it seems like jonak is getting at by identifying the extent of the domination of “anglo” capital is that the black belt never had an indigenous black bourgeoisie tied to the land, and that manifest destiny in the southwest subsumed the ranchero (which relied to a significant extent upon indian servant/slave/peon labor) class or completely displaced it. in both cases, neither sharecroppers nor indian/mexican workers had viable bourgeois allies.

        certainly, it cannot be argued that US imperialist capital underdeveloped the south or the southwest in the ‘age of imperialism’ – rather the fusion of finance and industry in railroad, mining, and agribusiness all acted as more progressive forces than any Southwest Mexican rancher or Kansas City black petite bourgeois ever were or could have been, precisely because neither owned or operated means of production within modern modes of production.

        this is not at all to say that all mexicans and all black people didnt experience severe oppression, but it does mean that even in 1900 there was nothing to gain from a national liberation strategy for any mexican or black person in those regions. all sectors of the black petite bourgeoisie had more to gain from integrating into the imperialist system than from de-coupling from it, and so did mexican ranchers. more than anyone, the black and brown workers had the most to gain from inclusion in a nascent – and times quite militant – labor movement. RACIST exclusion from the labor movement is correctly identified by most of today’s marxists as the great pitfall of the working class movements in the US.

        racist exclusion (segmentation in division of labor by capital, exclusion from labor movements by the white working class) was the problem and had to be challenged. not until the development of the CIO (and with its own problems) in the 30s and again during the civil rights/black power era would this be done at all effectively.

        no nationalist multi-class configuration has done much for racially oppressed sections of the proletariat. i would concede that nationalist minded proletarian oriented marxist militants have done quite a bit to pressure a greater racial integration of the working class, and have instilled valuable grains of class consciousness within oppressed communities which to this day make black and brown workers generally more predisposed to revolutionary ideas than white workers.

  10. Um, “left wing ethnic studies stuff”? One of the two foremost scholars in racialization theory (Michael Omi – mentioned in the post) is an ethnic studies prof and racial formation is a far more influential perspective in ethnic studies than the perspective of national oppression, which is not to say that they’re necessarily mutually exclusive, only that being extremely critical of identity politics on the one hand and taking up racialization theory on the other hand is kind of inconsistent.

  11. For those who insist that an “oppressed nationality” has to be a category for communities of color, It would be good to read Benedict Anderson Imagined Communities that argues that the nation state is a European construction. Even by accepting both the “nation state” category as well as “self-determination” have to argue how this is going to negate the depthness of American racism, and racialized exploitation and oppression. You also have to think about how could the Chicano working class have the same aspirations of “self-determination” and “Aztlan” than with the Chicano businnessman. Ignoring class for the sake of nation, ultimatly reproduces european categories, class oppression, and even racialized social relations that were shaped by early American capitalism that is inherint in our system.

  12. Hegemonik wrote, “the progressive and multinational character within seceded Black Belt and Aztlan. — who says we need Manifest Destiny/U.S. imperialism in order to have a multinational state?”

    Are you saying the Black and Chicano capitalist are anti-imperialist?
    Or is it going to be isolated worker run communities of that race?

    “but that these are territories where the African-American and Chicano character tends to be a far stronger determinant over matters of territory (i.e., who works the land and who is tied to it?) as well as culture (i.e., whose culture tends to predominate?)”

    What about being exploited as workers like the Bracero program and Sharecropping due to the racialized social relations that produced enormous amounts of surplus value (like what Jonak was saying)? Land is important, but its also a question of relative surplus value being expropriated from the labor process due to machinery and absolute surplus value being expropriated from racialized labor markets. Together, the exploitation is so extreme, the question of land is important but not central in defining the nature of the relationship.

    “The longer answer is: secession would be mostly dependent upon whether or not secession is necessary — i.e., the level of hostility toward questions of African-American and Chicano empowerment, autonomy, etc.”

    Can Blacks and Chicanos be empowered under their own capitalist that have seperated from everyone else? What is the class composition of “autonomy”? Do you have any historical examples of this? Would this even inspire Blacks and Chicanos to want to seperate? Does anyone actually advocate racial seperation anymore? Does this idea develop organically from Blacks and Chicanos as a possible solution to racism? Ive never in my life have had a Chicano or a Black tell me they wanted their own racial nation state. This logic seems to be imaginery leninist logic forcibly applied to American conditions.

    “I would not necessarily rule out solutions besides absolute secession and establishment of separate economies and polities. Let us recall that the formulation is support up until secession not necessarily secession itself.”

    Well thats good, Im glad your not a seprationist. Hegemonik, have you ever considered a multiracial workers revolution as a possible solution to these problems? You might want to check out St Louis in 1877 when Blacks and White workers took over the city for 3 days or Oxnard in 1903 when Mexicans and Japanese struck together. Or Ben Fletcher for that matter. This might add some internationalist color to your nationalistic greyish thinking. Also, It appears a lot of your arguments stem from Lenin’s
    The Right of Nations to Self-Determination. If you read this thoroughly, you will see that Lenin’s uses Kautskian arguments. Mind you Kautsky led the socialist movement in supporting imperialism. As someone who wants to be a militant anti-imperialist, are you critical at all that Lenin even argued in the first chapter of the book that “the example of Asia speaks in favour of Kautsky” ?

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/self-det/ch01.htm

    What lies behind the posturing of your militant anti-imperialist leninism, is a little boy on a stoop that sits calmly wrapped in a social democratic kautskyian blanket that coresses class and racial oppression. With a political razor, you must root out such demons by mastering the revolutionary marxist method and apply it sharply it to racial oppression.

  13. Javier: just replying to one of your points, but I think it reveals a larger methodological error of people in this thread who’ve been denying the existence of the Black Nation. Harry Chang and the other authors of the main piece make the same error (btw, what happened to engaging the arguments of the piece?).

    This error involves taking the abstract model of the capitalist mode of production outlined in Marx’s Capital and simply applying it to US society, forcing all of its developments into the categories of proletariat and bourgeoisie, rather than proceeding from a study of US history and political economy. This is the approach of philosophical idealism.

    “What about being exploited as workers like the Bracero program and Sharecropping due to the racialized social relations that produced enormous amounts of surplus value (like what Jonak was saying)? Land is important, but its also a question of relative surplus value being expropriated from the labor process due to machinery and absolute surplus value being expropriated from racialized labor markets. Together, the exploitation is so extreme, the question of land is important but not central in defining the nature of the relationship.”

    I don’t think this is right…

    Relative surplus value is increased by introducing technology into the labor process. Absolute surplus value is increased by prolonging the working day.

    Neither of these phenomena, nor the concept of “racialized” labor markets, explains the central dynamics of sharecropping and the exploitation/oppression of sharecroppers (more like peasants than workers).

    The existence of labor markets is conditioned on the existence of free wage laborers – free in Marx’s double sense: 1) freedom from the means of production, 2) freedom to sell their labor power.

    Neither applies to sharecroppers.

    They were tied to the land after Emancipation and prevented from selling their labor power through all sorts of legal and extralegal methods, ranging from the Black Codes to Jim Crow to white lynch mob terror.

    Exploitation under this system took the form of white landlords taking a share of the crop produced by Black families, in the great majority of cases employing dishonest accounting (as opposed to capitalist exploitation which takes place through formal equality and the contract), forcing Black families into debt peonage, and maintaining all of this with the ever-present threat of lynching. This mode of production continued into the 1940s-1950s.

    The question of land was central to this relationship. This was reflected both in the way exploitation was carried out and in the main demand of Black sharecroppers since the end of slavery: expropriation of the white landlords, distribution of land to those who tilled it. We’re not making this up. Read ANY account of Reconstruction.

    Maybe there’s a discussion to be had about what this means today, after the mechanization of cotton production and a certain process of proletarianization, but that discussion should start with a recognition of this history (and the historic, unfulfilled demand of Black people for the land they worked for centuries).

  14. There is a lot to say on this. Boris says “The existence of labor markets is conditioned on the existence of free wage laborers – free in Marx’s double sense: 1) freedom from the means of production, 2) freedom to sell their labor power.”

    This is is wrong. This wasnt marx’s formulation. Your trying to argue that sharecroppers was more like third world peasants then exploited workers. This demonstrates a eurocentric understanding of what defines a wokers in relationship to the means of production, limiting “capitalist exploitation which takes place through formal equality and the contract.” This is only the case for White wage workers of the north. Its not a question of “forcing all of its developments into the categories of proletariat and bourgeoisie” on American conditions, just as it isnt forcing 20th century political scenero of third world peasantry either. The demands of land were real, but so was the profits accumulated by the industry. Wallerstein argues that Slaves were workers, of a different type becuase the industry was capitalist, not an extension of 15th century fuedalism. IF you read capital, Eric Williams, or Blackburn, the incredible amount of profits that was a necessary seed for the early accumulation of capital is explained quite well. We can see this similar relationship with Mexican, Filipino, Chinese, Black, workers who built key industries of American society. Wallerstein has another article on how Fanon focused on a more oppressed section of the proletariat even though it was reffered to as the “lumpen proletariat.”

    And the mechanization of the cotton industry started as early as 1808, where cotton profits were so immense that it was central to the global political economy.

    Boris wrote, “Neither of these phenomena, nor the concept of “racialized” labor markets, explains the central dynamics of sharecropping and the exploitation/oppression of sharecroppers (more like peasants than workers).”

    And because their peasant status, “They were tied to the land after Emancipation and prevented from selling their labor power through all sorts of legal and extralegal methods, ranging from the Black Codes to Jim Crow to white lynch mob terror.”

    No. This does not have to do with them being a peasant. Its because your a Black person who was brought to this country for brutal subhuman exploitation that was justified by racism, not fuedal logic. This is where your Eurocentric logic, posited from a third world situation, but framed from in mechanical marxism, makes no sense. Your ultimatly ignoring American racialized labor relations. Those same Black “peasant” sharecroppers were used in mass as scabs in the strike wave of 1882-1919, because labor militants saw the Black workers as being fundamentally different, and thus unorganizable. By viewing them as peasants, and not as workers, reinforces such a spirit, from a different theoritical entry door.

    And yes there was robbery of white landlords but this did not dominate how social relations were defined and were qualitativly different from Russian or Chinese Landlords.

    Many central Californian immigrant farmworkers were indentured to debts like the Black Sharecroppers of the South to major companies that produced for profit, and reaped Billions. Much of the labor practices were illegal, but they were still workers.

    One theory to consider. Haiti produced enourmous amounts of French wealth as a central Island for slaves being sold to the Slave societies. When they had a revolution it fundamentally disrupted Euro-Dominated global capitalism. Many argue they were Chattel Slave Workers. Could we think of this revolution as the first workers revolution of human history? There are multiple objections to this idea. Its a concept worth discussing and Im not addament on a position. But I like throwing such concepts out becuase most anti-imperialist thinkers are steeply integrated into European thinking of marxism without knowing it.

    Maoism, built in Stalinist logic, is the statist version of Kautskyism. Both uphold a 2 stage theory of revolution and weak on class struggle. Due to these reasons, Maoism is a Eurocentric system that is incapable of fighting racialized class oppression. Its either ultra-left idealist, or social democratic in nature, and is yet to capture the spirit of revolutionary marxism.

    Boris, you should reed Adolf’s debate on race. It will be good for you.

    • “For the conversion of his money into capital, therefore, the owner of money must meet in the market with the free labourer, free in the double sense, that as a free man he can dispose of his labour-power as his own commodity, and that on the other hand he has no other commodity for sale, is short of everything necessary for the realisation of his labour-power.”

      http://www.marx.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch06.htm

      It seems clear what Marx’s formulation is. And right, I’m trying to argue that sharecroppers are *more like* peasants than workers (in the sense of proletarians). This is not the same as saying that sharecroppers are equivalent to peasants. Hopefully, you and Javier are not arguing that sharecroppers are equivalent to workers (proletarians). They have to be understood in their particularity. I do think “semi-feudal,” the characterization in the 1928 and 1930 Comintern resolutions and in Harry Haywood’s work, is an accurate term, for describing both the integration of sharecropping into the US and world economy (under the domination of monopoly capital) and the actual labor process of sharecropping.

      There are two key points in the development of the cotton industry, the first is the invention of the cotton gin (what you’re referring to at the turn of the 19th century) and the role of this in primitive accumulation and the development of industrial capitalism on the world scale; the second is the development of the mechanical cotton picker in the mid-20th century and how this came into conflict with relations of production characterized by sharecropping, coinciding with the beginning of the civil rights movement.

      The demand for land was real – that’s right. Not just real, but central to understanding the development of the oppression of Black people. This demand continues to be raised today (ex: by MXGM), is directly relevant to the on-going struggles of Black farmers against the loss of their land, and perhaps most importantly is reiterated in the demand for reparations, which should be supported by all leftists.

      Aside from Marx’s formulation, it should be clear that there cannot be labor markets when a laboring class can’t sell its labor power and where substantial numbers can’t even physically leave the plantation without the permission of the landlord, whose authority is enforced by lynch terror. I’m not sure how it’s reflective of Eurocentrism to recognize this.

      My understanding of Wallerstein is that he argues slavery was capitalist because it was integrated into the capitalist world system. This is imprecise, because it doesn’t look at the actual labor process. You say Wallerstein argues that slaves were “workers, of a different type.” Well, this “different type” still needs to be defined according to the relations of production as a whole, including the labor process, not just according to the accumulation and drive for profits. Obviously, the forms of exploitation of sharecroppers and industrial workers are different. If you don’t like the term “semi-feudal” because it’s somehow Eurocentric (not sure why), some other defining term is still needed. “Of a different type” is a non-analysis.

      Also, since when did agreement with Immanuel Wallerstein become the litmus test for judging one’s non-Eurocentric credentials? By that logic, Jose Carlos Mariategui, the Peruvian Marxist, would have to be characterized as Eurocentric as well, the whole topic of Maoism aside.

      None of this denies the facts of primitive accumulation, so I don’t know why that’s being brought up. It isn’t necessary to characterize slavery as a capitalist or proto-capitalist system in order to understand how capitalism developed on its basis, how European capitalism would not exist without the plunder of the Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and how the exploitation of Black people was central to the development of US society.

    • You wrote: “Your ultimatly ignoring American racialized labor relations. Those same Black ‘peasant’ sharecroppers were used in mass as scabs in the strike wave of 1882-1919, because labor militants saw the Black workers as being fundamentally different, and thus unorganizable. By viewing them as peasants, and not as workers, reinforces such a spirit, from a different theoritical entry door.”

      White labor activists saw Black workers as unorganizable because they were economist and racist. Selecting the “strike wave of 1882-1919” as an example is interesting, but this was the period after the white labor movement had *already* failed in its duty to support the Black struggle for land and liberation. This failure, the failure as DuBois described it to “see in black slavery and Reconstruction the kernel and meaning of the labor movement,” resulted precisely from the failure to understand the particularity of the oppression of Black people and the political task of the day: to ally with the Black struggle to push through Radical Reconstruction and to eliminate the planters as a class through revolutionary land reform. The price of this failure was nearly 100 years of Jim Crow. Posing the main problem of the labor movement in this country as “racist exclusion” (and the solution as “multiracial” inclusion), as esteban does above, is really inverting the real problem, which is the failure of the white labor movement to take up the struggle of Black people for liberation, not just a failure to include Black people in its own economic struggles. Which is the perspective of liberalism?

      • so you’re against multiracial inclusion of blacks and other oppressed groups in labor organizations? in revolutionary organizations?

        “…the real problem, which is the failure of the white labor movement to take up the struggle of Black people for liberation, not just a failure to include Black people in its own economic struggles.”

        i suggest you look at what black people choose to do. they have not waited to be allowed into the “white labor” club – they fought to transform it. thats what i advocate and mean by “multiracial inclusion”. maybe i should say transormation. the fact is that black people have turned, at least as one strategy, toward the labor unions as vehicles for their own liberation. remember the context MLK died in? it wasnt revolutionary – it was an economic struggle. yes, it was a black union. but tell me, what race does the SEIU belong to? what nation? the UFCW? Federal employees union? part of what makes black people so consistently revolutionary is that they have been placed in situations that force them to fuse economic and political demands. for example, in order to raise their pay, they have to be admitted into the seniority scale, and in order to get into that they have to get in the union, and to get in the union, they have to eliminate jim crow laws that prohibit integrated spaces, and in order to defeat jim crow, some section of them has to get armed. the trajectory goes from political to economic too – my point is that they are more likely to be fused. i by no means advocate economistic politics. unions should be forced by their members to take political action. workers should also be shown that their agency is not limited to union activity.

        but basically i agree with you boris, we should study the Civil War as a test case for the theory of permanent revolution. the US workers of 1865 (black and white, north and south, agricultural and industrial) lacked revolutionary leadership, and so they capitulated to their immediate conditions rather than pushing the struggle for democratic rights further, toward a redefinition of property relations along lines of worker control/land to the tiller…

  15. WOW! You want throw capital on. Big Mistake Boris. Very Very big mistake. And the Comintern was dead wrong about its position as well. There was no real “semi-fuedal” structures in American class structure, that was its Kautskian influence, which I notice has been fundamentally ignored in this debate. That position was used by the comintern to justify a bourgious-democratic position of 2 stage struggle. Your still mechanicaly seperating race and structure, which is, I hate to tell you, Eurocentric and deracializing. And you cant seperate the racist white workers, their economism, and their inability to see that they were part of the same class as the Black sharecroppers.

    The reconstruction stuff is complicated, and your making good points about its potential in relation to its most progressive peak, but you cant universalize those “lessons” to class struggles that took place after words.

    Im going to teach a class now, so I got to give you a more lengthy response later. But on a positive note Boris, your marxism is better then Hegemonik, its just still deformed from Kautskyism and Stalinism. You got to root that shit out of your marxism.

    • Jonak:

      Scholasticism and the sacrifice of the living national question to the dead letter (in fact, a stillborn letter) isn’t “Marxism”, Jonak – it’s textbook revisionism.

      Who opposed the Comintern position on the National Question? Not even Trotsky (who disagreed with it only on fairly technical grounds) but Jay Lovestone’s right-opposition and Shachtman’s third camp. In other words, two right-opportunist trends that, upon liquidating the National Question, also liquidated any number of left positions on questions of the day (like not working with the CIA and State Department).

      Are we really interested in a revival of this crap?

      • regarding the comintern position. am i mistaken that it (as devised by haywood) has a dual character: national self-determination for the black belt, and racial integration everywhere else in the US?

  16. Wow! Hegemonik; if I were you, I would just be quite becuase you really embarass your self. I will respond to Boris, a more serious marxist, later today.

    • Yeah, this is honestly annoying – it seems these convos have a tendency to the absurd once people start trying to throw out their petty insults. Come on Brother, stick with the question of political line, don’t be liberal.

      • I’ve been (and will continue) to delete unnecessary posts, including ones about star trek and pokemon jokes . . . I’m leaving the two I’m responding to just to make this point clear. I agree folks should stick to the political points being discussed and not degenerate into name calling (and I think the most recent posts have been some of the most politically fruitful – keep on y’all)
        Alex

  17. First of all Boris, you appear to be a more serious marxist than others on this list, which is why i am engaging you. That said lets begin;

    Boris wrote:
    “It seems clear what Marx’s formulation is. And right, I’m trying to argue that sharecroppers are *more like* peasants than workers (in the sense of proletarians). This is not the same as saying that sharecroppers are equivalent to peasants. Hopefully, you and Javier are not arguing that sharecroppers are equivalent to workers (proletarians). They have to be understood in their particularity. I do think “semi-feudal,” the characterization in the 1928 and 1930 Comintern resolutions and in Harry Haywood’s work, is an accurate term, for describing both the integration of sharecropping into the US and world economy (under the domination of monopoly capital) and the actual labor process of sharecropping.”

    Chapter six of Marx is laying the basic ground work in understanding MCM1 and capital accumulation. Its not a generic limited definition for what is a worker. In this context Marx is using the most simple formulas possible to lay a foundation to explain more complex phenomenon. Capital is a global system. Profits is its fuel and labor is the source of its wealth. There is a lot of unpaid, and underpaid labor that goes into the accumulation of capital that has no clear wage system. Marx was not there yet in analyzing this phenomenon. Chattel Slavery was also for profits. And the fact that Africans were enslaved was to maximize that profit. If they were paid a wage and considered human, profits would have been much lower. So Black Chattel Slaves were Chattel Slave workers, Not wage workers. As Slavery was abolished in 1865, the Southern Plantation class wanted to figure out a way to maximize extracting surplus value from black labor post slavery. So Sharecropping was developed. Yes Sharecropping had peasant like characteristics. But to say they were more like peasants than workers is incredibly unmarxist. Why? You ask? Because peasants are not a class. Peasants can be capitalist, or they can be agricultural workers, or somewhere in between. But if you say they are more like peasants, than what is your definition of a peasant? And was the accumulation of land and power more important to the plantation class than profits? I don’t think so. So it’s a bid of a hybrid, but a capitalist enterprise in nature.

    Boris wrote:
    The demand for land was real – that’s right. Not just real, but central to understanding the development of the oppression of Black people. This demand continues to be raised today (ex: by MXGM), is directly relevant to the on-going struggles of Black farmers against the loss of their land, and perhaps most importantly is reiterated in the demand for reparations, which should be supported by all leftists.

    Absolutly. But if you do own land, do you control the price system of that crop that you sell on the market? Are farmers free or exploited? Do you control the merchandise you need to till the land? If you need labor do you hire immigrants without papers? As far as the Comintern arguing that the property relations were semi-feudal is dead wrong. Its funny you use that characterization. Read about the Chinese revolution of 1927!!!!!! The workers took over Shanghai and called for a revolution through out the country. But the comintern ordered the workers to work with Chang Kai Shek and they were massacred. This crystallized the Stalinist bureaucracy that then fiercely implemented a 2 stage policy of revolution. First the democratic revolution then once that is completed, then socialist revolution. This policy led to a bunch of betrayals with Spain and France in 1936 being to outstanding examples. This was a Kautskian, Menshevik position that stemed from complete Eurocenric thought. It largely said that socialism must begin in England because they were industrially developed. All other countries had to wait. That argument shifted in the 2 stage theory that is imbedded in Kautsky, Stalin, and Mao. So the comintern, making an alliance with the American Bourgeoisie, said there was semi-fuedal relations to justify support to the progressive wing of the Bourgeoisie, that was anti-fuedal, which allowed it to sound revolutionary while not having a revolutionary position in the class struggle.
    WEB Dubois argues in Black reconstruction that White workers, “received a low, were compensated for by a sort of public and psychological wage.” But getting access to the public sector schools and parks. Black didn’t get this. But whites, with black both fought for land, which the northern Capitalist gave the wink to the KKK to smash on. Boris wrote about the labor movement, it’s the “failure of the white labor movement to take up the struggle of Black people for liberation, not just a failure to include Black people in its own economic struggles.” Yes, absolutely. But Black liberation does not mean parroting comintern class collaborationist logic. It means the fight against racism and the fight against exploitation puts Black workers and worker of color in a central position of combining such issues because for them there not separated. The comintern logic seperated them and overvaluing land over prices and wages reproduces this division. That doesn’t mean land should be ignored. Take the Native American reservations, is that liberation to you Boris? Real liberation cannot take place until global capitalism is overthrown, but the demand for land can be a transitional demand along with the class struggle against capital.
    Self-Determination for workers of color also means workers democracy! How can workers of color determine their own destiny if they have a black boss instead of a white boss? Communities of color have class structures that cannot be ignored for the sake of fighting white supremacy. The Black, Latino or Asian petty bourgouis is incapable of smashing white supremacy. Only the workers of color can do this. This same group can also overthrow capital. The goal before us is to do both simultaneously. One doesn’t go before the other. And if your interested in this political goal, then AS might be for you.

  18. So I am just going to pass a simple thought that maybe can allude to why there is essentially a run around here –

    Part of what Advance the Struggle is doing is associating the line of self-determination, and particularly the line of black national liberation, as something deeply confined and put into the straight-jacketed of “stalinist” “class collaborationism.” What I find profoundly absurd in this accusation is by putting forward Harry Chang’s work as the basis for how Advance the Struggle looks at racial formation, it merely reproduces the so-called “stalinist” paradigm in understanding the particularities of oppressed communities in relations to white supremacy – in fact, if Harry Chang, Bob Wing, and the whole trajectory of those politics would tell us anything (as Hegemonik has already pointed out), it merely establishes luke-warm liberalism embodied in the Line of March organization – an organization for which, if you keep on judging upon the ideologically loaded rhetoric of Jonak, thought us Maoists were too “ultra-left.”

    In contrast, as we’ve articulated in many parts – but yet there is definite contradictions we can think about – we’ve provided an understanding of white supremacy as in relation to the imperialist system as a whole which creates in the world system, as Samir Amin puts it, a global color line that makes the ambigious distinctions between oppressed and oppressor nations. Nations that gain from the relative privilege of super-exploitation of the international proletariat, and those who represent the most proletarianized sections of the world system.

    Nationally oppressed people in this country are a direct manifestation of the system of imperialism right within the bounds of the borders of the U.S. There are communities of people who are merely here as an extension of Imperialism, as the matter of fact that there are cores of capital and its peripheries. And what has been more contentious, is that Black people represent a historical community, a nation, which nearly the whole way of the American white supremacist state needs as its foundation as an oppressed nation.

    Now what is problematic in fact is not nearly our “mechanicism” only like a race horse slush through with their own blinders applying dogmatically what they think the political line means in actuality and essentially reproducing a nonsensical account of history – i.e. the whole of the experience of communist movement internationally being “stalinist” “class collaborationism,” The history of the national liberation movements merely amounting to the liqudation of class struggle – what bullshit.

    What about Cuba, which emerged as a struggle of national liberation and transformed into a struggle for socialism? What about the Chinese Revolution emerging out of a front with even comprador elements of the bourgeoisie to struggle and smash Japanese Imperialism? What about Venezuela and Bolivia – that shit was purely based on national democratic terms, and it has certainly developed broader than that.

    I mean, I can simply go on at that account and whats it leading me to? For a group of people saying they’re presenting fresh undogmatic ways of looking at developing a revolutionary analysis, the only thing I am seeing on this question is mere reproduction of an old type of class reductionism that even Trotsky himself struggled against amongst American Trotskyists – and I am saying that as someone not particularly found of Trotsky because of his own kind of reductionism.

    I mean lets just take Jonak’s method above – the only way he opposes national self-determination is through the anecdotal history of the Comintern in relation to the Chinese Revolution. How is that in anyway a lively analogy to contrapose to the question – historical models only work for certain historical models, that is, don’t try to draw a general truth from the particularities of one historical episode, history never repeats itself twice unless you’re being upright metaphysical.

  19. STP, you got to stop looking at marxism from a very narrow lens of Trotsky vs Stalin. Marxism is far more rich than that. and for the record, I consider the line of argument being made by Boris, Hegemonik and yourself being very social democratic, not ultra-left. The one point that no one has thought about, and no one has commented on, is the underlying Kautskian influence over your guys thinking. This leads to social democratic outbursts that flow from contemporary Leninist groups. This point exceeds the narrow parameter of your trotsky vs stalin thinking. Thats why the marxist method must be sharpened, not put in these narrow categories from the comintern battles. Even from very early on, the Comintern did not play a revolutionary role in Italy in 1920 or Germany in 1923. Dont take my word for it, read the history.

    • ‘Scuse me, but hurling the term “Kautskyian” at anything you disagree with doesn’t cut it.

      The two-stage revolutionary process is something that both Kautsky and Lenin agreed with, true – because it’s basic Marxism.

      Kautsky’s revisionism arose out of his failure to factor in both: a) imperialism, and how the supposed “backward” nations were already involved in the global capitalist system, and b) basic dialectics, wherein the two stages – the bourgeois negation of feudalism and socialist negation of capitalism – aren’t processional as Kautsky thought, but a process of ongoing negation in which the processes overlapped (i.e., going back to Marx and Engels, do any of his historical works suggest that the two phases he spoke of speak so crudely as Kautsky? The Civil War in France does not, and neither do Engels’s writings on the peasant question.)

      What is bourgeois social democratic is your chauvinism toward questions of self-determination and upholding of imperialism as somehow “progressive” (i.e., when it’s “your” imperialists standing on someone else’s neck). As I’ve said earlier, you go down Hitchens’s line, at least develop an affection for gin as an excuse.

    • No one has commented on it because you merely hurl it out as just bait, show where is the Kautskyist logic in any of our work then will talk, until then it is just a bogus rhetoric that you continually insist on.

      In fact who here are the non-leninists are yourself, quite clearly people are upholding a pre-leninist conception of imperialism and self-determination – the kind that had Kautsky and the second international appealing to social-chauvinism and having Luxembourg finding it laughable the idea of an independent polish state.

  20. Hegemonik wrote; “The two-stage revolutionary process is something that both Kautsky and Lenin agreed with, true – because it’s basic Marxism.”

    This comment proves everything ive been trying to say.
    Thank you hegemonik.

    • This comment proves everything ive been trying to say.

      Does it also prove you’re the king of the world? Because I only exist for that…

      Actually, no, Jonak. The point is that you’ve placed within here two dogmatic choices: either there is Kautsky’s Two Stage revolution formula, or there is simply Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution/Transitional Program formula.

      The point of Lenin’s break with Kautsky (as well as Leninist’s non-endorsement of Permanent Revolution/Transitional Program) is that close readings of both Marx and Engels’s historical writings and the actual historical process show that there are in fact distinct modes of production, distinct class antagonisms that go along with them – and yet this is a wildly uneven process in both development of productive forces and relations of production.

      Kautsky’s failure, we have gone into. But Trotsky’s mechanical interpretation of this phenomenon (i.e., let’s just go straight to communism without any analysis of the role the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie play) is just as much a butchering of Marx and Engels’s work.

      First and foremost, it forgets that the very essence of the writing which it refers to, which speaks to how to handle a momentary alliance with the parties of the petty-bourgeois in conflict with the reactionaries. The point being: we use the struggle for reforms to break the reactionaries; we have no use for them where they perpetuate the rule of the petty bourgeois.

      Second, in its mechanical application, the Trotskist Permanent Revolution means (as Gramsci himself put it)no revolution : it simply means bombarding whatever existing class dictatorship with demands that it has no intent on fulfilling; the class struggle itself becomes a backdrop to coffeeshop sophisticates coming up with “more radical” demands that are as crudely formulated as they are feeble.

      In essence, all you are really choosing is one form of crude dogmatism over another. And yet I recall some guy pointing out that Marxism isn’t a dogma but a guide to action…

  21. ?Just another thought – Jonak argues at nearly every point that those upholding the line of national self-determination are the ones stuck in the Trotsky v. Stalin binary – but it is consistently only himself pointing to the history of the comintern in the most slipshod way with virtually no subtletly in his understanding of history – so when the brother tells us to just “read history” the only history that is already acceptable is the ideological fantasy of one trajectory over the other for which I can only say you need to read your history without proof reading for your points or mere speculative thought that conforms to your own history.

    Italy 1920? Are you serious – the largest pro-bolshevik party in Italy was in many ways still the Italian Socialist Party. What revolution you saw coming out of that? germany 1923? More sheer fantasy. I mean sorry, we can’t in fact argue history when you want to cherry pick it for your own personal politics – and this is what this about, there is no value in arguing with Jonak as a person (because as he already thoroughly revealed, his only interest is to show up his opponents), its important to demonstrate against clearly bankrupt methodology.

    Some thoughts on Lenin’s two stage theory and application, and I think Hemonik hits on a few things I was already coming at. There is revolutionary realpolitik of Lenin’s thought on the importance of stages in the political struggle of the proletariat and theory of productive forces revisionism that extends from the Kautskyist and Menshevik method – Jonak confuses the difference between the revolutionary realpolitik and the metaphysical historicism and therefore in essencve takes upon himself the idealist approach of the anarchistic PLP. The distinction is clearly understood dialectically as what is the principle contradiction that presents itself struggle against the State & in leading the dictatorship of the proletariat to take state power – at everymoment along this way the struggle against the State will present itself in different configuratons. For Lenin the struggle against the Tsarist state engaged in imperialist war needed to be ultimately a revolutionary defeatist and national democratic struggle, this was one stage of the beginning for smashing the State altogether – but losing the element and the knowledge of the fact that this stage in the struggle needed to be clearly won on its own terms would be a form of ultr-leftism that can only end up in idealism. The Bolsheviks not only took part in the democratic bourgeois revolution, but militarily defended it from the Whites, joined into dual power government with it – because it was a revolution pregnant with another.

    The basic loss of that orientation is no better than amounting to a type of absolutist anarchism or Blanquism divorced from Lenin’s real contribution to our method, a revolutionary realpolitik.

    Consistently most revolutionarily important political struggles have this quaility, as I/lve already shown before – the Chinese Revolution emerged out of the twists and turns of Chinese civil war and Japanese impereialist invasion to becoming a socialist revolution, Cuban revolution emerged from organized national democratic forces and transformed into a socialist revolution, and now amongst the Bolivian political forces we’re seeing something similar in transformation from a political movement that wasn’t very revolutionarty at its outset.

  22. This article shows how “to how to handle a momentary alliance with the parties of the petty-bourgeois in conflict with the reactionaries” and fuedal forces. OK, but global capitalism has wiped out such conditions and fuedal forces are gone. 1848 was the beginning, but now its over (so much for non-dogmatic thinking). And if you want to crystalize the lessons of that article on to thirld world conditions, then Im sorry for your anti-imperialist eurocentrism. The geneology of such logic does start from Kautsky as far as crystalizing such positions. Therfore, your formulation around “momentary alliances” is flawed, and that is the line of thinking stalinist and maoist had in supporting “anti-Imperialist” and “anti-Fuedal bougousies” in the third world. It reminds me of how Boris tried to quote the six chapter of Capital to prove Sharecroppers were peasants. Politics has changed and so should marxism. And it sounds like, by the nature of your writing, is you take Althusser very seriously, which is very problematic but I dont even want to enter that can of worms. The simplicity of how you anaylize Kautsky and Lenin smells of Althusser’s theoritical reductionism. Just ask the French left of what they think of him.

    Marxism is a methodology, not a theoritcal vitamin pill tray. Your trying to create categories and force all political phenomena into them that dont fit. Marxism is not about “creating two dogmatic choices,” and if its not one than its the other. How dialectical! Trotsky’s permanent revolution is historically useful in shaping the Russian revolution and influencing Lenin’s April Thesis (if you read them together youll see how the former influenced the ladder) and even though I can tell you havent read these actual pieces, I dont think thats even that important in relation to your other political conlusions, because the comintern never composed its self as an international agent of revolution, even before it became stalinized around 1928. Again, look at Italy in 1920 or Germany in 1923, and definitly Spain or France in the 30s. Or even look at the problems the early communist party had in the US in 1919 to 1927. But more importantly Class relations are complex and so is the dynamic that is built into revolution. I wish you much luck on fighting imperialism. It sounds like your convinced that you have the correct program to do so. What you have to understand is marxism has been destroyed, and it has to be rebuilt from the ground up. No group has survived this. I would argue that the aggregate movement of all American Trotskyiest and all American Maoist have proved nothing in that last 25 years besides their own political bankruptcy. What battles have been won? What program demomstrates revolutionary potential? What new revolutionary theory has been developed?
    You should link some of the best and most important revolutionary theory that has been developed in the last 10 years. Has it advanced any struggles, whether it be for the working class or nation states for the oppressed?
    USSR is gone and so is your Maoist China. Maybe Fidel Castro can help you little before he passes away. But Marxism is supposed to play the role of developing cut throat theory in fufilling this historical revolutionary task in times of crisis. If you think this task has already been accomplished, then it just needs to be excersized. For me, revolutionary marxist theory is in a crisis as much as the organized left is. Thats why one of the central tasks at hand is to rebuild revolutionary marxism. So stop arguing through name calling and accusations of dogmatism, and prove that revolutionary theory exists, because then the task would be to implement it. If you can do so, Il encourage people to line up behind the “correct line.” But unfortunatly for your arguments, all the classic marxist works that your using is anaylising different past conditions in past time periods, and applying them in very bizarre and even retarded ways. There is very little anaylizing of contemporary global capitalism and the post sub-prime crisis. Never before have conditions been so ripe for a new revolutionary left to mature. But there needs to a be theory that links people to the potential struggle in relation to such conditions, yes a guide to action. This I see is the role of marxism. As a marxist hegemonik, what do you propose?

  23. back to the point of national self determination and its invalidity.

    i have asked two heretofore unanswered questions. they are not difficult questions to answer i dont think, but for some reason the defenders of nationalism here have shied away from addressing them.

    1) if national self-determination means putting multi-class alliance within a community of historically oppressed people over USA-wide (and beyond, if the struggle spreads past US borders, which it probably will one day) proletarian alliance against all capitalists, PRECISELY what section of the black bourgeoisie should the black proletariat ally with?

    2) did the CP position that called for national self-determination for the Black Belt, have a second component that applied to the rest of the US, calling for ending segregation and racial integration?

    ANSWER THE QQQQUUUUUUEEEEESSSSSSSTTTTTIIIIIIIIOOOOOONNNNNNNSSSSSS!!!!!!

    • Esteban,

      Lets assume people are operating in good faith and are not being sly in skipping your question – in all honesty this thread just gets confusing are there are more pressing questions we feel pertinent to answer.

      I’ll deal with your questions.

      1) Your first question needs to be understood in two simple ways. First, quite seriously, what is a “class alliance” altogether? This type of thinking only produces sociological categories and not political understanding of contradictions within the totality of all social relations that constitute capitalism. So when we speak about self-determination of any national community we simply mean that as a community there is an integral need for self-determination as part of the process of liberation, the lack of this political thought is in fact not in any sense liberating but merely reconstituting a more benevolent chauvinism.

      National self-determination for oppressed nations is a part of the struggle for socialism, not merely a bourgeois struggle – in fact, the attitude that struggle for self-determination can only mean a bourgeois struggle would merely be a reconstitution of a linear procession of historical development, a tautology not a dialectic.

      Revolutionaries around the world need to actually still put forward the demand for self-determination because capitalism, in its historical world development, can actually on hold itself upon a very unequal relationships amongst nations, it doesn’t in fact eliminates the contradictions of nations but antagonizes them.

      With this understanding at hand we can proceed to the main question – does support for the self-determination of Black people mean the necessary alliance between the “black bourgeoisie.” People who are members of the “Black Bourgeoisie” are still affected by white supremacist national oppression in my own opinion, which means there may in fact be some elements are in fact strategic parts of a revolutionary movement – but this conditional upon the context and its struggle.

      But more importantly, making Revolution will always mean there will be a broad cross-section of people involved – The proletariat is the political subject of revolution, not necessarily its operating component.

      2) The political line of self-determination for black people is definitely influenced by the general conception of Harry Haywood (and many others) but is not pegged solely to Haywood nor should it be to the CPUSA and whatever year its political line was. So just on some historical points, whatever the CPUSA’s position in regards to the conception of race, it was Haywood and other revolutionaries within the CPUSA whom had to continually fight for the position of self-determination of a Black nation throughout his life as a member of the CPUSA.

      As I explained before to Big L at some point, liquidating the CPUSA’s political history as just a mere appendage to “stalinist” distortion will only produce a confusing history which can’t be actually understood very well or can only be reduce to some simplicities. But going on upon that, the CPUSA had continually had a large rightist tendency from its very emergence, and it was this section that Harry Haywood and others had to continually struggle with to maintain a more revolutionary line than “Communism is 20th Century Americanism.”

      So I guess this breaks down into two ways – the CPUSA’s political line in whatever period isn’t our political line, its still different even when we take lessons or agree with certain aspects of it and secondly the political line of the CPUSA was always in flux because of political struggle between Left and Right forces from its very beginning into the 60s’.

    • Esteban:

      1) I think STP’s point should be emphasized: the answer to this question is conditional on the context of the struggle. In terms of strategic alliance, any answer beyond “the national revolutionary section” would be idealist without a reference to the concrete situation.

      Also, there can be tactical unity around particular issues, which hegemonik referred to when he mentioned the boycott of the NY Post or certain states that promote pro-Confederacy ideology, that should be taken up, even alongside organizations that have a comprador character (ex: the NAACP which is dependent on white monopoly capital).

      Furthermore, the struggle for self-determination does not require the existence of a national revolutionary bourgeoisie. Even if, at a certain point in time, the entire Black bourgeoisie had a comprador character, dependent on the white imperialist bourgeoisie for its survival, this still would not eliminate the national character of the Black struggle for liberation nor would it exclude the future possibility that sections of the Black bourgeoisie could be won to a neutral or national-revolutionary position (even out of opportunism), as organizations of Black workers exercised their independence and initiative in contending for the leadership of the Black liberation movement.

      2) When the CP had a revolutionary position on Black liberation, this second component was full equality, not “racial integration.” The demand for full equality is also a national demand and does not negate the need to support struggles to create Black institutions when Black people themselves demand them.

  24. Jonak:

    First, who made you the judge of what ideas are or aren’t Marxist? That isn’t a productive way to engage the discussion.

    Also, I don’t think that’s even relevant here. If the label “Marxist” includes both Harry Chang and LOM on the one hand (who, btw, are taking a stance of Stalinist orthodoxy as anyone who has read CBNT will know) and supporters of Black self-determination on the other, it’s practically useless.

    You wrote: “WOW! You want throw capital on. Big Mistake Boris. Very Very big mistake. And the Comintern was dead wrong about its position as well. There was no real ‘semi-fuedal’ structures in American class structure, that was its Kautskian influence, which I notice has been fundamentally ignored in this debate. That position was used by the comintern to justify a bourgious-democratic position of 2 stage struggle.”

    Your and Javier’s claim of Kautskyist influence is just the logical fallacy of guilt by association. That’s why it wasn’t really worth addressing.

    Javier’s argument went like this:

    We who recognize the Black Nation draw from Lenin on self-determination. Lenin cites Kautsky on self-determination. Kautsky was a social democrat who supported WWI and was not a Marxist. Therefore … what? We are not Marxists?

    This argument is plainly absurd. There’s no reference to the actual content of anyone’s thought and whether it accurately describes reality. Javier even went so far as to pick out an isolated phrase from an essay by Lenin (“the example of Asia speaks in favour of Kautsky”) and demand that we criticize Lenin for writing it, with no reference to the actual context!

    If you disagree with the characterization of sharecropping as “semi-feudal,” you need to address the dynamics of sharecropping and explain why “semi-feudal” is not accurate. Arguing that “semi-feudal” is not accurate on the basis of its *use* to “justify a bourgeois-democratic position of 2 stage struggle” is yet another logical fallacy: the appeal to consequences.

    On semi-feudal structures in US society, I think you’re just displacing the question from the terrain of different modes of production to inside the terrain of the capitalist mode of production. More on that below.

    Nevertheless, hopefully we all agree here – I think we do – that the US was not formed as a society based mainly on free wage labor, with slavery and its remnants as mere insignificant blemishes, which is the dominant bourgeois narrative. Rather, slavery was central to the creation of the US.

    You wrote: “Your still mechanicaly seperating race and structure, which is, I hate to tell you, Eurocentric and deracializing. And you cant seperate the racist white workers, their economism, and their inability to see that they were part of the same class as the Black sharecroppers.”

    Where do I separate race and (economic) structure? I think race as a bourgeois ideology penetrates the economic base, like all ruling ideologies. But, at the same time, we need to realize that race is indeed a bourgeois ideological concept. Scientifically, there is really only one race: the human race.

    As Bob Wing’s essay on Asian Americans indicates, the theory of racial formation reinforces bourgeois ideology, instead of criticizing it from a scientific perspective. Bob Wing simply accepts the grouping of all Asian nationalities under the racial category of “Asian Americans” without interrogating this category and questioning whether this category produces knowledge or obscures reality.

    You say that white workers failed to include Black sharecroppers in the white labor movement due to their “inability to see” that they were part of the same class as Black sharecroppers.

    In the very way you formulate the issue, you show that the problem was one of ideology and not economic structure. The economism and racism of the white labor movement caused its “inability to see” the necessity of uniting with the Black struggle, a necessity only from the perspective of communist ideology. It doesn’t matter whether Black sharecroppers were part of the same class or not.

    You wrote: “The reconstruction stuff is complicated, and your making good points about its potential in relation to its most progressive peak, but you cant universalize those ‘lessons’ to class struggles that took place after words.”

    The lesson of Reconstruction can be universalized, because the same mistake is repeated over and over again throughout US history. Esteban’s argument that “racist exclusion is the great pitfall of the working class movements in the US” is one left-sounding formulation that embodies this mistake.

    The framework of exclusion/inclusion profoundly understates the political mistakes of the white labor movement. To put it bluntly: when the white labor movement was lynching Chinese workers, did it need to include more Chinese workers? Or was something fundamentally wrong with the very direction of the movement?

    This view is analogous to the liberal perspective which says that the problem faced by people of color in the US is one of exclusion from US society and the solution is inclusion, which altogether removes the dynamics of oppression from the picture.

  25. Jonak (continued):

    You wrote: “Chapter six of Marx is laying the basic ground work in understanding MCM1 and capital accumulation. Its not a generic limited definition for what is a worker. In this context Marx is using the most simple formulas possible to lay a foundation to explain more complex phenomenon.”

    For the sake of clarification, by worker I mean proletarian.

    The passage I cited is indeed the definition of a worker (proletarian). This definition appears throughout Marx’s work. It appears again in Capital, Chapter 26, when Marx discusses the living history of primitive accumulation (when in no way can it be said that he is “using the most simple formulas possible to lay a foundation to explain more complex phenomenon”):

    “[the transformation of money into capital] can only take place under certain circumstances that centre in this, viz., that two very different kinds of commodity-possessors must come face to face and into contact; on the one hand, the owners of money, means of production, means of subsistence, who are eager to increase the sum of values they possess, by buying other people’s labour-power; on the other hand, free labourers, the sellers of their own labour-power, and therefore the sellers of labour. Free labourers, in the double sense that neither they themselves form part and parcel of the means of production, as in the case of slaves, bondsmen, &c., nor do the means of production belong to them, as in the case of peasant-proprietors; they are, therefore, free from, unencumbered by, any means of production of their own. With this polarization of the market for commodities, the fundamental conditions of capitalist production are given.”

    http://www.marx.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch26.htm

    It had appeared earlier in the Manifesto:

    “In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market. . . . Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.”

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm

    It’s important to understand what’s unique about the proletariat (the modern working class), what makes it different from the working classes in other modes of production. It’s precisely this “double freedom.”

    You wrote: “Chattel Slavery was also for profits. And the fact that Africans were enslaved was to maximize that profit. If they were paid a wage and considered human, profits would have been much lower. So Black Chattel Slaves were Chattel Slave workers, Not wage workers. As Slavery was abolished in 1865, the Southern Plantation class wanted to figure out a way to maximize extracting surplus value from black labor post slavery. So Sharecropping was developed.”

    I realize that chattel slavery and sharecropping in the US were driven by profit-making, because they were integrated into a world capitalist system. No one has denied this.

    Different modes of production can co-exist and struggle in a single society, or social formation, to deliberately use the Althusserian term. If you think Althusser and Mao are problematic, read Mariategui on the economic evolution of Peruvian society and criticize him for Eurocentrism – that’d be new.

    By your logic, we would have to append the word “worker” to any strata that contributes to capital accumulation. If you want to talk about “chattel slave workers,” “tenant farmer workers,” and “sharecropper workers,” in addition to “wage workers,” go ahead. We could also use terms like “slavery capitalism,” “sharecropping capitalism,” and so on.

    It really makes no difference. It only unnecessarily complicates the terms. Yet, the differences between these strata – in their conditions of life, forms of exploitation, and objectives of struggle – still exist in reality and still need to be understood in terms of non-wage labor processes and their survivals.

    You wrote: “Read about the Chinese revolution of 1927!!!!!! The workers took over Shanghai and called for a revolution through out the country. But the comintern ordered the workers to work with Chang Kai Shek and they were massacred. This crystallized the Stalinist bureaucracy that then fiercely implemented a 2 stage policy of revolution. First the democratic revolution then once that is completed, then socialist revolution. This policy led to a bunch of betrayals with Spain and France in 1936 being to outstanding examples. This was a Kautskian, Menshevik position that stemed from complete Eurocenric thought. It largely said that socialism must begin in England because they were industrially developed. All other countries had to wait. That argument shifted in the 2 stage theory that is imbedded in Kautsky, Stalin, and Mao.

    There’s too much to respond to in this repetition of the standard Trotskyist narrative, which has hardly anything to do with the topic of this thread (again: who is going to actually engage Harry Chang’s piece?). I’ll just say that people enamored with Trotsky and his thinking should read this book by Kostas Mavrakis and leave it at that:

    http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/OT73NB.html.

    You wrote: “So the comintern, making an alliance with the American Bourgeoisie, said there was semi-fuedal relations to justify support to the progressive wing of the Bourgeoisie, that was anti-fuedal, which allowed it to sound revolutionary while not having a revolutionary position in the class struggle.”

    This history isn’t right. The Black Nation theory had the most influence in the CP during the Third Period, not during the Popular Front. Think you picked the Trotskyist argument for the wrong time period …

  26. I’m gonna try to sum-up the differences (Freedom Road folks, please link any theoretical articles justifying the black nation thesis you hold on to and maybe we’ll post them here for discussion.):

    I see the racial oppression against black people as being rooted within the historical development of capitalism – beginning primarily with the racial distinctions (carried out in variety of practices, as well as being codified in law) between black slave workers and indentured white servant workers. These racial distinctions within the US working class developed over time through the material practices of white workers themselves, as well as a result of the practices of white plantation owners (in other words, it most definitely wasn’t only a top-down phenomenon but permeated through racist actions on the part of white workers.)

    As most black people in the US during the time of slavery were slaves, the racial oppression they faced intersected directly with the super-exploitation of their labor power. Race and class distinctions mutually informed their historical development as a result of these initial processes.

    Racial prejudice against black people in the bourgeoisie reflects the generalization of racial distinctions and separations originating in the black working class (slaves.)

    While black bourgeois certainly face some racial prejudice, I don’t see how on principle this can be the basis for “national unity” with black politicians and capitalists.

    Freedom Road folks see the oppression of black people as being an oppression of an entire “nation” of people within the US nation-state. Because they are primarily nationally oppressed (not primarily racially oppressed) they, as a people, need national liberation in order have an equal basis amongst oppressor nationalities for building socialism.

    As a result of this, there can be a bloc of black unity which reflects the national interests of black people – and which should be supported and encouraged by marxists as part of the socialist revolution.

    I disagree with this for two reasons (which I believe Zerohours posted similarly a while back):

    1.) There is not an objective basis for calling black people a “nation within a nation” because I don’t see how they have a separate political economy from the dominant US political economic machinery. I don’t believe that black capitalists exist as a separate class from white capitalists (or capitalists of any color) though I do acknowledge they may face racist attitudes amongst their class colleagues.

    2.) There is not a significant movement amongst black people for setting up a separate nation-state. If there were a Garvey-like movement then this would be a different story. Most black people I’ve spoken to want an end to racism, and issues of economic exploitation and oppression are weaved deeply within their anti-racism (and I hesitate to say this since it may be denounced as “empiricist.”)

    Again, please link some important articles which you feel prove this orthodox-leninist black nation thesis

    • Big L,

      What is the actual process of racial formation in what you’re writing?

      You write:

      “I see the racial oppression against black people as being rooted within the historical development of capitalism – beginning primarily with the racial distinctions (carried out in variety of practices, as well as being codified in law) between black slave workers and indentured white servant workers..

      As most black people in the US during the time of slavery were slaves, the racial oppression they faced intersected directly with the super-exploitation of their labor power. Race and class distinctions mutually informed their historical development as a result of these initial processes.”

      There are two striking problems in your initial attempt to explain racial formation in relationship to class – First the formulation is simply circular reasoning or its presumes the appearance of the American white supremacist racial construct nearly correspondingly to the development of chattel slavery in the US. Quite simply there were no “racial” distinctions of this kind prior to the discovery of the New World, the colonialization of indigenous people’s land, and the emergence of chattel slavery. Thedore Allen showed that he could not find the descriptive term of “white” in usage before 1691. The emergence of capitalism as a world system began forming itself politically and ideologically in relationship to the world, and from this process the only real concrete race appeared – the “White Race.”

      All other racial distinctions were drawn in relation to this construct, even through to the 20th century when we saw the emergence of the “Hispanic,” “Pacific Islander,” “South Asian,” etc. All these “races” were always drawn in contrast to the White race.

      But to leave the analysis here would be to draw the analysis short and begin to lack a concrete understanding of how white supremacy manifests itself in the US in relationships to the development of the Black community. The history of Black people didn’t develop as an abstracted racial category in contrast to the White Race, it developed concretely as a community with a shared history, culture, and relationship to the rest of US society.

      And yes there is shared economic history here! But what is wrong with Stalin’s frame of that history that both you and zerohour are adhering to? Quite simply throughout the history of imperialism there are no “separate political economies,” yes we can point out to some more relatively dependent than others – but look quite frankly at Africa throughout its period of colonialization, a shared common life in relation to capital was a dependency upon imperialist capital, in South Africa throughout apartheid, what “bourgeois blacks” were there, probably if anything a very small few with complete dependency on a White Bourgeoisie.

      Black people have always historically attempted to actually develop some relative independence in relation to the white supremacist state and economic life, there were even whole movements based on this whole conception from Garvey to Nation of Islam (whatever your thoughts on them were) to very moderately acceptable people that the bourgeois system could have possibly accommodated, but because of white supremacist national oppression, almost every single one of these attempts were crushed for being too daring.

      Let me be anecdotal for a moment – when landlords burned the Bronx to the ground and nothing was left but empty brick laden lots and half standing buildings, an American Dresden (real practice of white supremacist terror) it was many in the Black community, many professionals and community leader types that tried to even purchase up the land and build them up again at auctions. Guess who bought back the land? Many of the same old landlords simply using their capital power to drown that thought.

      Isn’t the process of true national liberation and decolonialization a process of building partly these “separate political economies?” So how can I ask that if there is insufficient claim for “separate political economies” that there can be made a claim there is no nation doesn’t make much sense to me.

      More overall, as pointed out by Boris, the Black Belt South still remains such a place where there can be a relatively independent political economy, because of the historic ties the historical ties that black people have to this land and shared political/economic/cultural history to it as well as the simple fact that even after the diaspora, there is still a great percentage of the area being black if not majority mostly. If there is a self-determining nation, this is possibly where it can exist.

      On your second point, Big L

      Listen the reason I was voicing the criticism of empiricism is because your personal talks with Black people don’t reveal much of anything besides your discussions with Black folks that are contextualized to the Bay Area, to a political atmosphere, etc. Based upon the same look, I can tell you that, from my experience, that while people are not calling for separate nation (not even the majority of people in the PR are calling for that) doesn’t mean that in fact there isn’t one.

      Let me just tell you some of my personal experience when ever working or talking amongst Black folks: I’ve found true that

      1) A consciously understood relationship of themselves to other Black people, as a community. And that these communities are

      2) Distinguished from other specific communities

      3) A history of the demand of a Black nation (almost everyone is forgetting the fact that last major generation to raise the political demand of self-determination was crushed).

      4) That this history is always inspiring for Black youth.

      More generally importantly, there are still black revolutionaries throughout this country, more than those who compose A/S or even likely FRSO that do still demand a right to self-determination.

      I mean, some or many (depending on the org) of the people comprising LRBW, BPP, CAP, BRC and many others are still around – you think they’re now sounding off with the PLP? Naw. The BLM is relatively weak, no doubt, but is really the only way you’re going to change your mind on the issue is if a new Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka, or Assata Shakur, comes on the scene with a new crew? Thats called tailism, brother.

      So maybe winding down to answer the question, “Fred Hampton – Marxist or Nationalist?” Both!

  27. This internet stuff is getting kind of silly, it would take hours to explain every political error you guys made in the above comments. Im down to meet STP, Hegemonik and Boris in early Sept, il be in NY then, and we can discuss this stuff in person, we dont have to have a public debate, well just talk this stuff out- if you guys are down?
    Then you guys can post your reflection on a real discussion.

    We can also discuss “which way is left.”

  28. [moderated out intro comment, but left the rest cos Nelson poses some good questions]

    So two questions, and if they were asked already, please forgive me but:

    1) have folks done much research into the actual economic base of areas with large numbers of Black folks from say the 1860s till 1900 or 1915? I mean like pulled census data, read shit that is written by conservative, liberal and radical/anti-capitalist economic historians, used the Historical Census Browser that’s online? This is personally, not just read something that someone who maybe once looks at something and is mostly writing from a polemic angle wrote. If not are folks interested in some suggested starting points?

    and 2) if you did, have you ever read any Cabral, especially his more quantitative stuff like him talking about the census and the study of Portugal’s colonies? Or maybe Rodney on how Europe underdeveloped Africa? What about any anthropologists on the maintenance of West African cultural components transplanted into the larger experience of African American culture, language etc?

    This isn’t so much trying to score cheap points, it’s more to help me make personal choices about whether I a) spend time trying to read through some of the really poorly formatted posts near the end of this thread and b) to give me an idea how one might begin to respond to them.

  29. please don’t approve the above. I made the mistake of jumping to the bottom to be catty without finishing the thread. Plus I don’t want to revive something that is maybe calmed down for good reason. That said, it has inspired a blog post I want to work on, and I’ll give lots of props to this space for getting it rolling.

    in struggle.

  30. I started to post a really snotty comment (well at least if the moderator will play friendly and delete it, please *begs*) after reading halfway down the thread’s comments. But having taken the time to read them all, think on it and come back I have to say this discussion is really awesome!

    I haven’t been able to pull myself away from it or the Chang piece all night. And it’s really got my head swirling around a project I’ve been working on that takes on the special underdevelopment of 10 Black Belt counties in eastern North Carolina from 1868 till 1910.

    Hopefully I’ll have a rewrite of it ready in the next couple of weeks, but big props are being directed to folks at A/S and others on this thread for helping crystallize some of the arguments the paper will make. Thanks for this space, and the high level of dialogue about topics a lot of folks just pretend don’t matter!

  31. Pingback: Evaluating J. Sakai: Toward a communist theory of anti-racist liberation « Kasama

  32. Where exactly did you pick up the concepts to create ““Critique of the Black Nation Thesis – Harry Chang
    | Advance the Struggle”? Thank you ,Doyle

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