Left Racism vs Million Man March

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Fri Oct 20 11:02:14 MDT 1995


Doug Henwood wrote:

> Are black Americans a "nation"?
> So when white people aim to keep blacks away, it's bad, but when blacks aim
> to separate themselves from whites, it's good?

These are questions that can not be understood in terms of definitions,
but, rather social and historical processes. Consider the history of the
Left in this country in the 20th Century. Many Marxists held that
proletarian struggles had primacy and all other forms of struggle should
be subsumed under that struggle. This was a form of reductionism that
failed to comprehend the historical relation of non-proletarian struggles
and the significance of those struggles. In practice, it meant Marxists
telling others in struggle that their struggles weren't as important and
that such struggles divided the working class.

With the beginnings of the civil rights movement, radicals took varying
positions on the significance of that struggle. Some effectively
abstained from participation. Others supported such struggles under the
general umbrella of supporting democratic demands for reform. Still
others, influenced by Leninism, attempted to extend Lenin's
"unconditional support for the right of self-determination by oppressed
nations" to "Negroes." Consequently, this issue is more a political
divide on the left, rather than a theoretical divide.

If one believes that democratic struggles by African-Americans for
self-determination are essential to the manner in which the Left can be
re-built in this country, then one is led into offering a theoretical
conception that "fits" this belief. I don't really have a problem with
the concept of black nationalism since it means, in practice, that
self-determination for African-Americans should be supported. I do not
think that one can view White separatist movements in the same way that
one views Black separatist movements. Again, one has to consider the
social composition, historical origins, and trajectory of those
movements. They are not the same.

Jerry


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