African American National Question and revolution

Thu Jul 10 06:52:26 MDT 2003

Expanded Rewrite: The National Factor in American History and the Charismatic
Leader. African American National Colonial Question and Proletarian


Your article concerning the complexity of the national movements, national
colonial movements, and the revolutionary process was very sensitive and
insightful, especially mentioning the personality factor as material history and as
it gives shape and scope to these social movements.

The "lack of sensitivity" on the part of revolutionaries in America is called
chauvinism and imperial logic, by that sector of the Marxist movement from
which I come, but this does not describe the entire story. Most revolutionaries
in our country are detached by eighty years from the political explosions and
fights that produced what is called Marxism and the National question, as it
evolved during the events leading to the first World Imperial War.

The sad but brutal logic of history has operated in a way to give many
revolutionaries in the imperial centers of the world "the right" to critically judge
the colonial movements and that of the non-sovereign peoples, particularly
those whose neck "happens" to be under the imperial foot of their bourgeoisie.
Not only do these progressive and enlightened comrades reserve for themselves
"the right" of critical judgment under the cloak of Marxism and the
National-Colonial Question, but in America exhibit an unhealthy tendency to blames others
for our own historical weaknesses, whose roots are lodged deep in the soil of
our own particular development.

The various political doctrines covering our "progressive and enlightened
comrades" imperial feet are 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 - as
impacted by 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 or what is the same,
a misunderstanding of the logic of the national movements, the imperial curve
of development and the process of how and why our working class took shape a
certain way and exists in its current shape. This is true even when the groups
have not a clue as to the reason for their demise.

We can of course brow beat ourselves, engage in hand wringing and campaigns
of self purification in an effort to purge a certain imperial logic from the
mind of the social movement, but it will not bring us one inch closer to
unfolding the brilliance of Marxism and the National-Colonial Question and why the
African American National Question or the social position of the African
American people has been and remains the pivot of our history.

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 and say
very little because they simply do not understand the issue. Comprehension is
not a perquisite to fight for what is right. What is involved cannot be reduced
to racism but the impact of the material bribery of the Anglo-American people
on the one hand and being owned - the property, of white people on the other.
The loosening, unraveling and systematic destruction of this historical
material bribery of the past opens the door of comprehension.

The point of history where the Anglo-American petty bourgeois radical does
the thinking and articulation is forever over. Their counterpart in the shape of
the Black elite or the historic "talented tenth" among the African American
people is living on borrowed time.

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, those organized in
unions and occupy a vast portion of the lowest strata of the working class. 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 the past ninety years.

The social motion of the African American people has always reflected the
level of development of the productive forces, the productive relations and the
political maneuvering of the ruing class to keep the two united. The political
maneuvering and the response of the African Americans has kept them at the
center of the country's history, even when generations of revolutionaries thought
them marginal to the "working class movement."  The reality has been that
every struggle in the history of America is conditioned by the social position of
the African American people after the 1700s.

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 judgment" is not only painful to our proletariat
but a bitter pill to swallow because their assessment of the working class
movement has been historically incorrect.

Taking shape and being formed in the wake of the 1967 Rebellion in Detroit,
the formation of the old League of Revolutionary Black Workers expressed
something different in our working class and rendered every group on the left
historically irrelevant. Consequently none of the groups on the left - so called
Marxist, have been able to reconstitute themselves except as extreme sectarian
movements. To admit when one is wrong is a bitter pill to swallow but the pill
will be swallowed.

This "right to judgment" - imperial logic, 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.

Definition of basic terms

The situation is complex for anyone lacking knowledge of the history behind
"Marxism and the National (colonial) question and the language used to describe
the process development of peoples and nations during the transition from
agriculture to industry. The word national minority - for instance, is not a
concept of race or color but rather refers to the workers and peoples that migrate
from a colonial country or colonized area to the heartland of the imperial
center that is its direct colonizer. In England the Irish immigrant is a
national minority and in America he is Irish minority. National minority is a concept
with economic social and political meaning and not a concept of race and
color, as the petty bourgeois theorist of race present matters. All the terms used
in discussions on the national-colonial question are shaped to express the
economic, social and political components of imperial authority.

Non-sovereign peoples and historically distinct peoples as well as nations
have existed for thousands of years or at any rate as long as imperialism have
existed. In its economic logic imperialism is no more than the export of an
advanced mode and method of production to a less developed area. When Marxists
speak of nations being a product of the rise of capitalism what is meant is how
the preexisting are reconfigured and combined together on the basis of the
transition in the form of wealth from land to a universal medium, which makes
possible and accelerates commodity production and exchange on a universal scale
and consequently impacts the broadening of the state power, compelling one
group of people to advance further than another in the development of the
productive forces. The less developed peoples, "less development" consists in the
state of development of their productive forces that hold them together as a
people. The less developed peoples generally fall under the economic, social,
political and military authority of the more advanced peoples. To fall under the
domination of a people welding a more advance mode of production and state
authority gives rise to what is called the multinational state during the era of
capitalist commodity production.

Domination of historically distinct peoples means they are non-sovereign and
the essences of the meaning of multinational state. The state of the United
States of North America is not simply the basic organ of violence in the hands
of the historically evolved Anglo-American bourgeoisie, but also a
multinational state. This state arose from and was based on the consolidation of the
original 13 "states." Within this multinational state is the oppressed Southwest
taken from Mexico in war and a complex of Mexican nationals and national
minorities. There are of course the various Bands of Indigenousness peoples
throughout America (Canada and the entire Western Hemisphere for that matter), the
Alaskan Eskimo, the Aleutian and Hawaiian peoples, a series of non-sovereign
people scattered across numerous Islands of this hemisphere and of course the area
formerly owned and controlled by the Slave Oligarchy. There is of course the
Anglo-American nation proper - the Northern states more than less, which
reserves for itself the right to call the continent America. Marxist calls this area
the state of the United States of North America.

Nations can be defined anyway one chooses, but no one is foolish enough to
call all of continental North America one nation and pretend that the various
Indian nations or Bands of Indigenousness people never existed or that almost
half of Mexico's territory was not taken from her, or that the folks in the
South are not Southern. Southern is more than a geographic description according
to Tennessee Williams and an Alice Walker. However you define that which is
Southern is called the national factor within the Marxist doctrine of the
national colonial question. However you define Mexican, is called the national factor
within the Marxist doctrine of the national colonial question. However you
define Italian, Polish, Irish, Alaskan Eskimo, the Aleutian, Native Bands and
Hawaiian peoples or Canadian, is called the national factor within the Marxist
doctrine of the national colonial question.

For our purpose and the general reasoning of all Marxist a nation is a
historically evolved stable community of people formed on the basis of a common
language, territory, economic life, and psychological make up manifested in a
common culture. The problem for those not familiar with the political economy of
Marx is that the words "economic life" begins to define reinforce and recast
all the distinctive tracts that make a people a people. For instance a common
territory does not mean simply a common land mass or common geographic area,
because you can inhabit a common space and be subjected to absolute social
degradation by a superior peoples and face genocide. Is it necessary to enter
lengthy discussion explaining that a "superior people" means superior productive
forces and hence, military equipment and not a biological category?

A common territory means a common "space" that is being tied together on the
basis of the law of value and the exchange relationship that ties the town
(industrial and manufacturing centers) together in more than less harmony with
the country (agriculture) as the town becomes the dominator in the economic life
of the community and a distinct people - an old nation, reemerged on a new
economic basis as a modern nation. .

Here it becomes clearer why the African American people could not have been
and have never been a nation in our usage of the word, but still manifest the
national problem or national question. A class of slaves cannot be a nation,
because a modern nation - which is what we are taking about, has an economic
life or classes that manifest the law system and motion of the development of/as
and under the impact of commodity production. The evolving nation in the South
of the USNA was composed of the slave oligarchy, the slaves, artisans,
workers and farm laborers and a mass of petty bourgeois farmers, who manifested a
common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make up manifested
in a common culture that is simply called "being Southern." This of course
means all of the people without regard to their color, because color is an
incident to history and not history creating for us, or at any rate in the era the
rise to dominance of the value producing system.

Defining who is a nation or not a nation has very little to do with the
resolution of the national question, but rather gives us a way to understand the
social forces and directional development and evolution of imperial capital.
This in turn governs how to go about organizing the working class and the forms
of organizations the Marxist must adopt to express their peculiar national

An "advance national group" and "national group" are "nations" that have not
and could not form themselves on the basis of separate state structures and
fall under the governance of a foreign, i.e., multinational state system, or as
it has been a dominating people. This phenomenon of "the advance national
group" is more pronounce throughout continental African, where - given imperial
intrusion, various tribes and ethic groups that by chance are all black entered
a path of development somewhat different from that of eastern Europe and

The Native Bands of people are "advance national groups" who intimate
problems as a people within the USNA multinational system can only be solved on the
basis of them being nations. This is only a "contradiction without meaning" to
the numbskull and not the Marxist. The designation "advance national group" is
a way of stating in a few words that a people have been militarily defeated,
plunder, subjugated and through violence prevented from entering on the path
of capitalist development, on their own basis, with all the social consequences
that comes from the economic exchange between town and country and the
subsequent emergence of distinct classes.

A somewhat more complex question is the Marxist meaning of semi-colony.  The
term state refers to the organization of violence in the hands of rulers on
behalf of a class that includes but is not limited to the system of prisons
(penal system) and all the armed bodies of men and women. One should consult
Lenin's Imperialism for reference because he refers to a peculiar situation of
dependency on finance capital on the one hand, the administrative apparatus being
in the hands of the petty bourgeoisie -- like the Allende period of Chile
history, but the state as state is in the hands of the reactionaries and
imperialist. Lenin calls the semi colony a transitional form and wrote, "The
semi-colonial states provides an example of the transitional forms which are to be found
in all spheres of nature and society. The semi-colonial countries provides a
typical example of the 'middle stage.'

That is to say semi-colonial countries were countries in political upheaval
where the democratic forces have seized political power, while a Neo-colony or
neocolonialism means the indirect control of a country through control of its
economic structure and a puppet political apparatus.

At our current state of imperial bourgeois decay the category of Neo-colony
has in the main lost meaning for most of the world. What appears as the
semi-colony is taking place in South American today expressed in states where the
democratic forces have taken power.

The above definitions are enough to provide a beginners framework for
understanding the national question and free a generation from the degenerate
bourgeois theory of race. The color factor in history became a tag of identification
similar to the religious tag of identification that is the Irish National
Colonial Question. This is not to say that one belittles the color factor or the
class tag of the proletariat.

End Part One

Melvin P.

More information about the Marxism mailing list