Lenin and nationalism

Fri Apr 7 07:52:34 MDT 1995

On Fri, 7 Apr 1995 09:03:38 -0400 (EDT) Louis N Proyect said:

>[much omitted]
>In the most infamous case, leftists in the social democratic, Maoist and
>Trotskyite camp took up the cause of Albert Shanker's United
>Federation of Teachers in 1968 when it struck against the demand of
>black and latino parents and schoolchildren to have community
>control of the schools. The leftists peppered their newspaper articles
>and leaflets with all the right quotes from Lenin. They attacked the
>black and latino leaders of the struggle as "petty-bourgeois"
>nationalists. They counterposed some kind of artificial black-white-
>brown unity to the living struggle of the most oppressed nationalities
>to improve their education.
>My reading of Lenin would lead me to endorse struggles of the black
>and latino communities like these.

Reading Lenin is of great help, but a concrete analysis of the specific
struggle is essential to decide which side has justice on it.Without going
back to documents to refresh memories nearly 30 years old, I recall that
Shanker's UFT ran a pretty racist strike, but on the other hand there was
lots of evidence that the "community control" slogan was being used by
the powers that be to try to break the teachers' and municipal unions.
BTW, there were quite a few "Trotskyists", including teachers, who sided
against the union. They were, as I recall, mainly from the SWP and IS.

As Louis says, it is indeed a travesty of Marxism to condemn the struggles
of the most oppressed sectors of the working class on the grounds that they
are nationalist -- or that they should in effect wait for the better off
(and whiter) sections of the class to catch up.  But in any concrete struggle
a concrete analysis is necessary.

Walter Daum

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