[Marxism] The national question

Mark Lause MLause at cinci.rr.com
Wed Mar 1 07:35:14 MST 2006

thomas muntzer complained that "the solution is not for more little
groups of white intellectuals to tell black and Latino people what to do
- a longstanding tradition on the U.S. left."

And rrubinelli asks, "can someone please document this charge? The
accusation gets tossed around like a teenager in a mosh pit, but damned
if I can find instances where Marxists established a tradition of
telling African-Americans and Latino people what to do."

I think we need to see the problem more broadly.  Having small groups of
white radicals telling black and Latino people what to do bespeaks their
isolation from each other, but the real problem is that isolation and
separation.  Rather than the 1940s concept of a "proletarianization" of
middle class recruits, new white recruits should be given constant and
regular exposure to African-Americans and Hispanics.  (I can't imagine
an up-and-coming internationalist of any sort in the US that deigns to
learn Spanish at this point.)  That's really what that older policy was
aimed at achieving.

In the most of the socialist tradition, the most basic problem was
abstention.  When there exists an even greater and more acute crisis of
political leadership among African Americans (particularly after 1968),
what does it mean to tell the black masses that we favor
self-determination...oh, yes, and what we have to offer you right
now...well, buy a MILITANT.  

That amounted to rank abstentionism.  I remember asking about this at
the time and being told that we couldn't do anything more without
telling black people what to do.  

Imagine that.  You're a revolutionary party and you're telling everyone
in the society how to restructure everything, but you don't want to
address priorities about the struggle against racism or get into
concrete struggles over it.  

The problem with that version of nationalism was never so abstract as
the issue of self-determination or whether it applied.  Rather it
provided an excuse for what looks indistinguishable to people of color
from the same old white disinterest. 

Race is everybody's problem, and radicals that actively address it in
the here-and-now and don't DO something about it miss the boat.  It is
as legitimate (and as self-interested) an issue among whites as among
blacks.  And, if we really understand that, we can honestly and directly
address the issue of race in any group....   And, yes, some people will
misunderstand you, misrepresent you and challenge your motivates--and
happens on each and every question we ever address and in each and every
struggle in which we are ever involved.  If it's important enough, that
won't matter. 

The worst thing white radicals can do is to remain aloof, whether
through some rigidly Marxist preoccupation with "class" or through some
intellectual construct that comforts abstention.

Finally, I think we need to claim that of the multi-racial abolitionist
movement as part of that tradition of the Left.  But you don't do this
by just reading about them or formulating a position that our efforts
today represent the continuity of the abolitionist movement.  You have
to be up and doing....

Mark L.

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