Tag Archives: racial formation

Event! 9/24/14: From the Freedom Summer to Ferguson: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Summer and the Struggle Today

 Advance the Struggle along with La Peña Second Generation proudly announce an exciting event on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer.  The event will take place on Wednesday September 24th, 6:30pm at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA).  Below is a description of the event and the leaflets for the series.  Hope to see you there! 

With the recent protests and riots in Ferguson against the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer, the issue of racial oppression has been thrust to the forefront of American popular consciousness.   It is telling, that events in Ferguson happened 50 years after the Freedom Summer movement descended on Mississippi to fight black disenfranchisement by building black political power.  Critical lessons were drawn from the Freedom Summer experience, such as the brutality of the state and it’s functionaries, the treachery of the Democratic Party towards black political demands, and the need to build independent political power and organization to challenge the structures of white supremacy.

Similarly, in Ferguson we have seen the deployment of the National Guard and the full repressive apparatus of the state to contain legitimate outrage by disenfranchised black residents over the killing of Mike Brown.  Now that the larger protests have subsided, Democratic Party operatives are calling for a renewed voter registration drive for black residents in Missouri and the South to channel their rage into votes for the Democratic Party machine.  But it is important to remember that this is the same party that houses both Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and his close political ally Jeff Roorda, a vocal police supporter and the man behind the Darren Wilson legal fund support page.  We have to ask: is this the only option?

This event will shed light on the insights from participants in the Freedom Summer on these critical questions in order to help inform the struggle against racial oppression today.

From the Freedom Summer to Ferguson-

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