[Marxism] Re: I'm not convinced...(Black nation thread)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Mar 8 03:22:10 MST 2006

Thomas Munzer writes:
Many black people would be offended if you told them,
your nationality is not American, it's "Black." 
Separate from the rest of North Americans.  There's a
reason people have embraced the term
"African-American" - the term says that things are
more complicated than an "African" people living
alongside an "American" nation.  Of course, black
nationalists, pan-Africanists, embrace the term
"African" deliberately cutting out the "American" (I
recall a Dead Prez track).  But to put _all_
African-Americans in that category, to in effect tell
them something of them don't agree with, would be to
pidgeon-hole people into a category.
Rakesh Bhandari, I believe, also raised this issue of African ethnicity.
Neither Joaquin nor I have suggested that Blacks in the United States
are an African nationality or of African ethnicity, and I believe I
stated explicitly my view that they are NOT.
Although US Blacks (like, as Mark pointed out, everybody else at some
point or another) originate in Africa, they are not Africans but
Americans.  This is a fact.  
The entire national history of Blacks, from the day the first prisoner
arrived -- every day and night of it -- has taken place in the United
States.  They did not come from Africa as a nation.  They were captives,
but not a "captive nation."  
Blacks in the United States are a 100 percent American nation, although
there are cultural threads that can be traced to AFrica.  (Read LeRoi
Jones" (Amiri Baraka) book Blues People, one of the best books on the
national question in the United States ever written, which wonderfully
describes the American character of the Black nation within a nation.
And the concept of a nation  within a nation clearly suggests something
other than "foreign" ethnicity, just as it suggests that Blacks are not,
and may not be fated to become a "separate nation."  Self-determination,
the achievement of sovereignty over their lives, the opportunity to
decide their status in America for the first time in their hundreds of
years here, does not necessarily require separation.
So when Blacks call themselves African Americans, they are right.  And
Munzer is wrong when he suggests that this means they are saying,
"Nobody here but us Americans all together."
As for the views of Black nationalist groups, I believe that the
existing nationalist groups, like the existing socialist groups, tend to
be sects, often with cultish characteristics. I dislike the throwing
around of the term cult as a general term of disopprobrium for all that
one disagrees with in the left today, but there is no denying that
characteristics of this kind are present and the same is true of quite a
few Black nationalist groupings.  The currents led by Robert Williams
when he was in the United States and Malcolm X in the year or so after
he left the Nation of Islam, which arose out of the national movement
for civil rights in the 1960s and responded to and looked to the real
mass movement are vitally important exceptions.
And I believe that Black workers, as part of a self conscious and proud
people asserting their right to self-determination, will also be
fighting leaders of a revived US working class.  Noone is more
experienced and better qualified.And dumping their national
consciousness and demands in favor of "Black and white unity" mongering
and "nobody here but us Americans together" posturing will contribute
exactly nothing to uniting workers for struggle against the employers.
Fred Feldman


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