Permanent Revolution and the National Movement

Mon Jul 7 21:23:56 MDT 2003

>This "liquidation" of the national question into the class question is,
I believe, what was behind the absolutely hopelessly confused debate
around the "permanent revolution" in the SWP and other Trotskyist
groups, and the hair-splitting search for this or that not-very-balanced
formulation by Trotsky on China in the 1920's to explain some
fundamentally "flawed" aspect to the theory, or the impulse on the part
of many Trotskyists to want a nearly instantaneous expropriation of the
capitalist class and proclamation of socialism the morning after the
seizure of power.<


I found your article to be very sensitive and insightful concerning the
revolutionary process, as the complexity of the national movements, national
colonial movements; the personality factor as material history and as it gives shape
and scope to this social movement, why this occurs and of course "this 'lack
of sensitivity' on the part of revolutionaries in imperialist countries" - to
put things mildly.

This "'lack of sensitivity' on the part of revolutionaries in (my)
imperialist" country is called what it is by that sector of the Marxist movement from
which I come - chauvinism and and imperial logic. These revolutionaries are
labeled for what they are: imperial "thinkers" who reserve for themselves the
right to critically judge and universally condemn the colonial masses,
particularly those whose neck is under their imperial foot, or whoever they blame for
destroying the social movement. The political doctrine that covers their imperial
foot is a matter of the peculiar history in our country that polarized the
Marxist movement around the personalities of the October Revolution.

Beneath the personality and political shape of American Marxism - that
evolved on the basis of the historical figures of the October Revolution, is the
tragic - or rather absurd, history of the evolution of Marxism in America.

Every revolutionary grouping in American history has been self liquated or
destroyed on the rock called the African American Question, with few exceptions,
or what is the same a misunderstanding of the logic of the national
movements, as it was reconfigured into the national-colonial movement and the political
juncture that result from the October Revolution.

There are reasons profoundly historical that enabled us to unravel the
African American National-Colonial Question three decades ago. Today 90% of the
radicals and intellectuals in America simply do not know where to start, which is
why they say nothing because they simply do not understand the issue. What is
involved cannot be reduced to racism but the impact of the material bribery of
the Anglo-American people and being owned - the property, of white people. To
this very day the majority of African American Marxists - some of them trade
union leaders, will not join any Marxist type association or political
organization, no matter what it politics, that are led by whites. The reason for this
is not abstract political ideology or bourgeois nationalism but the fact that
the oppressing people reserve for themselves, the right to be "right" and
inform us about what we "should do," where we "are wrong" in our class alliances
and complexity and basically state "if you all do as we say, you can gain your
freedom by us good white folks."

The point of history where the white petty bourgeois radical does the
thinking is over. I have no problem stating this and speaking in unmistakable terms
on every major question of American history and what lay before us.

The old period of history has ended forever, owing to specific developments
in the intertwining relationship between the national-colonial question in the
shape of the African American people and the question of the composition of
the Anglo-American proletariat. Here the use of the word Anglo-American
proletariat does not mean white workers but the proletariat throughout what is
referred to as the North and industrial Midwest region of America, as distinct from
the former slave holding areas of the plantation belt South.

What has emerged is that the African American worker now represents a small
but critical mass sector of the industrial proletariat organized in unions.
This is a historical configuration that makes it possible to sweep into the
dustbin of history the entire framework logic that has dominated the so-called
communist and Marxist movement in America for ninety years.

The logic of the SWP's position pointed out in your article is not peculiar
to them but generally mirror that of the old Communist Party USA (CPUSA), with
the tension between them expressing the personality factors and polices of Mr.
Trotsky and Comrade Stalin. The unity between the CPUSA and SWP is expressed
in their identical inability to grasp the most elementary logic of American
history and why their right to judge the national colonial movements is not only
an incorrect assessment (and they are most certainly outright wrong), but
imperial logic. This shall be shown by sketching a brief outline of the evolution
of the African American people freedom movement and disclose why the
personality factor arise as a material category in the colonial world and right here
under our nose.

On this basis one can judge if it is wrong to label these comrades - and they
are in fact comrades, imperial scoundrels because of their applied imperial
logic. We are not dealing with the category called racism but an imperial
relationship, whose impact has been inescapable until the opening of this new era.

After Reconstruction and prior to the passage of the Civil Rights acts of the
1960s and 1970s all classes of the African Americans were tied together by
and in common struggle against second-class citizenship. First the struggle for
the abolition of slavery, and then the struggle to overturn Jim Crow laws
overlay any contradictions within the African American community.

Legislative laws in our country are not "rights" but more than less
opportunity to have access to things. A law that gives you access to something doesn't
help if you lack the means to take advantage of it. When integration unfolded,
the only people who could initially take advantage of it were those with
resources to do so. The only group that got integrated was the upper strata of the
black bourgeoisie, at least in the beginning of the process.

The African American elite (as distinct from the black bourgeoisie as a
class) is in a very strange position. This elite today is primarily composed of
political persons and those outside electoral politics that represent the
community through control of organizations. They cannot be an elite without doing
contradictory things. One, they must represent the striving of the black masses
to the black masses and not how the members of the oppressing people understand
our striving. Two, they must be integrated into or have real access to the
white elite in order to have the influence to attract the black masses. Third,
the black masses must not be allowed to achieve the goal of equality or the
basis for them being an elite will be eroded and obliterated.

The black elite is basically an extension of the "big shot," the colonial
figure leader who knows "how to deal with the white man."  At the same time, he
has to prove that, indeed he is the man in control. This is a colonial
relationship or structure of control and not a product of racism.

Consequently, the African American movement in all of our history has always
been tightly built around the charismatic leader. This gives the power
structure a single person to deal with and control as opposed to trying to control
the mass of people. Also, if the single leader gets out of control, he can
easily be removed one way or another. Without an organizational base, the movement
has always died with the leader. Convergence or all class unity was the main
motion when all blacks were under the same gun. Divergence or the class
separation is happening now, not only in America but worldwide. This was most
certainly not the case in say, 1939.

This is a historical process and as such is driven by the development of the
material power of the productive forces as it shapes, gives rise to and
destroy classes and class fragments. Stated another way, this is the inevitable
consequence of the dispersal of nations and peoples under imperialism. This
dispersal means there is a gradual but steady loosening of the national ties. In
this case, the culture of the African American people has evolved and could not -
not, become the axis of all American culture as they became the heart of the
proletariat. The dividing line between black and white is being eroded and
fading little by little. The specific way this divergence or integration takes
place - meaning the combining of class fragments based on commonality of income
without regard to color, is conditioned by the particular relationship between
the African Americans and the white majority in any particular locale.

The day of the black leader as such is grounding to an end. There will always
be leaders that happen to be black. The day of the charismatic leader is
grounding to an end, but what actually happened in the last two decades is that
these charismatic black leaders became leaders within the trade union movement,
more than less on the basis of a critical mass of black workers and learning
to articulate the economic demands and striving of the Anglo-American worker.

My first point is that the national colonial question has been altered
several times in the evolution of the value producing system and it is not and was
not possible to cast off the national character of the movement. The national
character is abolished as a product - category, of history and the dispersal of
nations and peoples. The charismatic leader embodies the national factor and
the national factor by definition is an all class phenomena - that is the
meaning of the word, and why it embraces a common psychological makeup and

Thus when I am told that a section of the communist supported Batista in
1939, and in reply ask to explain this meaning and in turn - told, that this means
basically betrayal by the Kremlin, I have no hesitation is stating that this
is the logic of an imperial scoundrel. Not because I support the Kremlin,
whatever the hell that means - (as if there were not a complex of conflicting
class fragments in the world communist movement) but because when you are under
the same gun, class stratification is impossible as a distinct body of class
politics. One has to explain their meaning and the mechanics of their logic. My
use of the word chauvinist is correct and this does not mean racism. I will
explain in details my class logic.

Here is the complexity of what we are dealing with: the very comrades who
demand class separation and purity, and point an accusing finger at the Kremlin -
whatever the hell that means, call for and ask about the state of the black
community and "what the black community is going to do?" The word and political
term "black community" arose during the period of the all class struggle of
the African American peoples and literally means the community of African
Americans where various classes and class fragments co-exist together as the result
of being under the same gun. In other words this is a call for all class
unity because the black community as such no longer exist in America.  We are
Marxist and have to learn to think in concrete terms and follow the logic of
development and put down the finger of accusation because the Marxist and communist
movement in America has basically been imperial scoundrels and lackeys of the
bourgeoisie as they sit in relationship to the African American people.

There are communities of black people and I challenged anyone on earth to
describe the economic content and class character of each community and one will
see that classes are no longer housed together amongst the African American
people. In fact today the class stratification is brutally extreme. This is not
a new factor that happened yesterday.

The right of the white radical to judge the colonial movement, based on them
having their collective foot on the necks of the colonial masses would not be
so bad if they understood the national colonial question. The only way to
judge their understanding is on the basis of the African American Question, their
historic position and their current position. The fact of the matter is that
our critical mass today creates a situation where we no longer have to listen
to the nonsense of the petty bourgeois white radical or allow them to go
unchallenged when they claim expertise on any question.

A word about the black bourgeoisie and black nationalism is in order, as
witnessed and understood and written about for the past 30 years by the African
American Marxist, who happen to be 99% industrial proletarian in their mass,
here in Detroit. There is a historically evolved reason why we cannot co-exist
with the white petty bourgeois radical and all the colonial workers understand
this. One must prove their merit in the working class. It is worth noting that
70% of these worker Marxists also consistently win the vote of the majority of
white workers in their areas by articulating the economic demands of the
workers without compromising the fight for equality, which is the historically
evolved specific form of the proletarian movement in America, as driven my that
sector of the class locked in the battle with the state power.

The black bourgeoisie is very dependent upon politics as is the bourgeoisie
throughout the former colonial world (former colonial refers to the period of
direct colonialism and its subsequent evolution). They must have a cohesive
social base to be politically influential. They must be politically influential
in order to continue their development as a full fledge bourgeoisie. Not
necessarily as individuals but as a class, they must have government assistance.
They can get that assistance only if they are politically necessary. They will
remain politically necessary only if the black voters are a compact political
group and uphold the demand of the black leadership for government support of
"black capitalism." In spite of their ranting about the "black community" - in
unison with the white petty bourgeoisie, the black bourgeoisie refuse to do
anything about the black destitute or the configuration amongst the African
American people called the lowest strata of the proletariat.

The basic proposition and projection of the black bourgeoisie is the same as
the Southern white politicians: more prisons and more cops. They have to keep
screaming about "racism" as a pressure to hold their base together. "Racism"
is a commodity for both the black bourgeoisie and the racists. The black
bourgeoisie faces its greatest threat since the ending of Reconstruction.

The situation is somewhat complex for one not schooled in Marxism and the
national-colonial question. On the one hand the government cannot move against
the African American people as a people because this would set roughly 30
million people into motion. Yet, economic logic is setting the most destitute
sections of the proletariat in motion. The Benton Harbor riot in Michigan several
weeks ago is a direct fight against the state.

The historic bond of all black unity has in fact unraveled but the form of
the fight of the lowest section of the proletariat has not transcend the
equality framework because it is not economically equal in society and by definition
cannot be equal because it is a proletariat. The two class fragments and/or
strata that advocate all class unity amongst blacks are the black bourgeoisie
and the white petty bourgeois radicals, who fancy themselves Marxist with a
"class position."

This is shown in their insistence demand for black reparations, which is
really a demand by the black bourgeoisie for government assistance. The white
petty bourgeois radical champions of issues like reparations have not a clue as to
the origins of this demand and its transformation since Forman's "Black
Manifesto."  It does not matter that there is no basis for this demand amongst any
sector of the proletariat in America because they proceed from different class
logic. It is of course not a question of recruiting communist from any social
movement, but rather the class content of the demand for reparations in this
period. I distinctly remember the meetings around the Black Manifesto, when J.
Foremen joined our organization - the League, and personally ran the press
printing his book.

It is not that the proletarian African American Marxist oppose the demand for
reparations by our black bourgeoisie, black elite and white petty bourgeois
intellectuals, it is that our class striving is different than the bourgeoisie
and the elite. We moved beyond this demand twenty-five years ago and the fight
that is taking shape is centered around water, housing, the condition of the
cities population that is 40% retired - more than less industrial workers;
police violence and a radical determination in city services. In fact the state
police was just assigned a four-year tem of service where I live because the
city government collapsed sometime ago and with it the police department.

Here is why we cannot and could not coexist with the white petty bourgeoisie
intellectual who simply cannot escape the class logic of the imperial people.
The African American people are not a nation but a people, who evolved first
as a class and then a distinct people. The only people we have ever been able
to coexist with are the white proletarian, who in the aftermath of 1967 were
slowly bent to the will of the most proletarian sector of the population based
on our physical mass and clarity of economic demands.

On the one hand the white petty bourgeois radical condemns the lack of clear
class demands on the part of the previous generations of communist and in
their practical attitude today advocate all class unity amongst blacks as with in
their statements. In history all of them were wrong and none of them right on
the very question that has shaped American history since its formation as

The unfolding of this era will show why the African American is not marginal
and has never been marginal in American history.  We will most certainly
rewrite the history correctly and without the imperial logic of the oppressing
peoples. All of "you" were wrong for a solid 100 years concerning the
revolutionary process in America. Those who had the national colonial question forced down
their resisting throats - the CPUSA and those with the ultra class positions
and know it alls of the colonial movements.

Melvin P.

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