Tag Archives: harry chang

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.


“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