I. Marxism, Internationalism and Interracialism
A. The Relevance of Authentic Marxism for Black Liberation, and Vice Versa
Communists are vitally interested in the impact of Marxism on the American Black struggle. We believe that only Marxism, the science of the struggle of the exploited and oppressed masses of humanity, can guide the fight for liberation to a successful conclusion. However, the relationship is hardly one-sided. Marxism must develop, progress and transform itself in the light of actual struggles. Otherwise it fails in its task to illuminate the way in which the working class must transcend itself so as to create a truly humane world. Marxism cannot be confined to the library. For example, it was the revolutionary rising of the French masses in the Paris Commune that taught Marx and future generations of revolutionaries the decisive lesson that the capitalist state apparatus has to be smashed, not reformed.
We in the League for the Revolutionary Party recognize the centrality of the Black struggle in the U.S. Its importance is not confined to one single fight for liberation and its implications for socialist revolution in one country. It also has a profound international impact.
Centuries of agonizing oppression, inhuman superexploitation and lynch-mob “justice” have failed to crush the spirit of rebellion that has repeatedly erupted. In particular, the ghetto revolts of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s inspired young fighting workers of every color around the world to confront their capitalist masters. But the gains achieved by the Black upheavals, as well as the crippling limits put on those gains, were configured by the relationship between the class struggle and the racist division within the working class. Today the world bourgeoisie has learned the full value of racism and chauvinism as a means to put brakes on the class struggle. Without doubt, a Marxism that does not incorporate the lessons of the American Black struggle, with all its ups and downs, is no Marxism at all.
We have lived through an era where Marxism has been bastardized. Instead of being the scientific weapon of the exploited and oppressed for revolutionary self-liberation, it has been transformed into an ideological tool wielded by condescending social engineers and middle-class bureaucrats. In the hands of populistic do-gooders, mealy-mouthed social democrats and Stalinist hacks, it became a justification for hitching working-class uprisings to pro-bourgeois demagogues and their so-called practical solutions.
A half century ago, as World War II ended, masses of workers and oppressed rose up across the world. Tragically, even when new regimes were installed, they betrayed the hopes of those masses. Today, as a result of the treacherous pseudo-socialist misleaderships, the formerly Stalinist nations and the “third world” countries have become open hunting grounds for avaricious Western imperialism. The reasons are those of class, not conspiracy – and the results have been devastating. The lands of the colonial revolution have been transformed into neo-colonial concentration camps for cheap labor.
Today even the Western working class is reeling under deepening capitalist austerity drives. These assaults are accompanied by growing racist and anti-immigrant attacks. Not the least of the gains won in past upheavals – and now being gutted – are those of the American Black struggle for equal rights.
The past worldwide struggles had been curtailed in the name of so-called practicality. But, “practical solutions” – that is, proposals that accept the limits imposed by worldwide capitalism – have proved to be only crackpot realism. Because the struggles did not end the system that demands exploitation and oppression, the current capitalist attack is moving toward eliminating all past gains.
Under vicious assault on their lives and livelihoods, workers around the world have begun to dig in their heels again. Buried by the media but not by reality, the crescendo of increasingly large and frequent demonstrations, strikes, and general strikes on every continent testifies that the masses are once again about to display their world-shaking power. Just over the U.S. borders, Mexico and Canada have been rocked by upheavals; the U.S. itself is certainly not immune.
It remains the task of vanguard revolutionary workers to thoroughly recreate the scientific world view, the weapon so desperately vital for the success of the coming revolt of the masses. Workers of color in the U.S. and around the world will play a crucial role in coming years. Having learned the lessons of their own history, the most advanced of these workers will have a decisive impact upon the restoration of authentic Marxism, the re-creation of its international party – and its final victory, socialist revolution.
1. Imperialism vs. Proletarian Internationalism
Before going into the immediate issues of the American Black struggle, it is necessary that we outline our understanding of the tools that authentic Marxism has given us to deal with that movement for liberation.
Trotskyists, today’s authentic communists, have always known that the way forward for the proletarian revolution is internationalist.
Interracialism is inextricably linked to internationalism. The ultimate lesson that past struggles teach is that so long as worldwide capitalism continues to exist, racism must exist. Reformist assaults on the racist walls erected by the system have been tried and re-tried. Black liberation cannot be achieved through anything but internationalist proletarian socialist revolution.
Originally capitalism created nation-states to help overcome feudal restrictions and to protect home markets from foreign competition. Since then, as a result of brutal and rapacious exploitation of human labor, there has been an enormous growth of capital. Industry and trade have spread across the globe. In our era, monopoly capitalism has created an economy that dominates the world; every corner has inextricably been drawn into an interpenetrated, worldwide division of labor. No important industry exists that doesn’t depend on raw materials, technology, investment or labor from multiple countries. Thus national boundaries have become fetters on development rather than assets.
Until now, scarcity has been the fundamental reason for the existence of class society, exploitation and oppression. Capital, by its very nature, must expand its exploitation and accumulate, or it dies. Today, capitalist accumulation has for the first time in history matured the global forces of production so that scarcity no longer has to be a fact of human life. Now capitalism itself stands as the barrier to the actual production of abundance: no scarcity means no profit.
V.I. Lenin pointed out that capitalism’s response to the internationalization of its economy was its transformation into imperialism. Once a policy, imperialism became the essence of the system itself. The advanced nations were driven to dominate the global economy and divide it up in their own interests. Each capital, corporate or national, is forced to compete for the proceeds of its class exploitation. Capitalism is fundamentally contradictory. It is constantly compelled to accumulate and yet it must prevent universal abundance. Lenin demonstrated that the epoch of imperialism meant horrific world wars between the imperialist nations. It meant a ravaging destruction of means of production; most importantly the decimation of the chief force of production, the working class itself.
On the other hand, if the expansion and internationalization of capital were in the hands of the proletariat, this would mean the beginning of the end of scarcity and poverty. It could only be accomplished by socialist revolutions which, given the international economy, would have to spread across the world. Thus, in place of a nationally dominated and fractured world imperialist economy, a centralized and cooperative global system of production and distribution would begin to be knit together. Production for use would begin to supplant production for profit.
2. The Imperialist Epoch and the World Transition to Socialism
Lenin showed that in this epoch world capitalism had not only ceased to be progressive, it had become counterrevolutionary. Imperialism had replaced feudalism as the major barrier to human development. Since the proletariat was now capable of wielding state power, this was the epoch of working-class revolution and the transition to socialism, the initial stage of classless communism.
The Russian revolution, led by Lenin’s Bolshevik Party, was the work of the overwhelming majority of the working class, supported by the mass of peasants. Through the soviets (councils) the workers created and controlled their own state.
Marxism, as opposed to anarchism, understood that the workers would need their own state for some time after the revolution. As a materialist, Marx knew that a new society of abundance could not come from the manipulations of an elite group of conspiratorial intellectuals, benevolent or otherwise. It could only come from the working class in power, a transitional workers’ state laboring over time to create actual abundance and thus put an end to capitalism’s economic laws, which dictate scarcity.
Building on Marx’s thoughts, Lenin in State and Revolution described the workers’ state as “a bourgeois state without the bourgeoisie” – a vestige of the capitalist era, still in the process of being negated. The social classes characteristic of capitalism – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as well – will disappear as the laws of scarce resources are finally overcome by abundance and planned production.
Anarchists aren’t the only middle-class idealists who reject the necessity of the transitional workers’ state. The pseudo-Marxists also believe that the dominant capitalist economic laws can be overcome by intellectual expertise and sheer will, prior to the eradication of scarcity. The LRP and its co-thinkers abroad are the only political trend since the days of Lenin and Trotsky to understand the role of the workers’ state and view it as part of the present epoch of capitalist decay, a transition to the next real stage in human existence, socialism.
Like other basic capitalist institutions, neither the idea nor fact of the “nation” can be dismissed the day after the revolution. This does not mean that the socialist revolution can espouse nationalism. Marx pointed out in The German Ideology that that would signify a return to “the old crap.” Stalin proved it when he led the Russian bureaucracy to its successful counterrevolution in the USSR under the nationalist banner of “Socialism in One Country.” The capitalist nature of Russia today is testimony that this impossible slogan really meant “Capitalism in One Country.” And as current events demonstrate in no uncertain terms, in the age of world economic interpenetration and imperialism that too is impossible.
The Bolsheviks established the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics after the revolution. It was an international federation of freely associated and increasingly interdependent national workers’ states, in contrast to the old Russian empire, “the prisonhouse of nations.” It also stood in sharp contrast to Stalin’s reassertion of Great Russian nationalist domination over a large area of Eurasia.
After the revolution, there will still be a long period of internationalism before nations cease to exist. They will disappear with the withering away of states, which themselves will disappear with the elimination of classes worldwide.
3. Internationalism: the Method and the Masses
The meaning of the term “internationalism” as Marxists use it is not self-evident today. The classless communist society will know no nations; all coercive states, “nation-states” included, will have ceased to exist. Under such conditions, it is obvious than our species will have every reason to adopt a common means of communication, a language understood by all. In addition, people will speak whatever other languages they wish and enjoy whatever cultural particularities they desire. It is just as clear that a claim to sovereign “ownership” over a discrete territory would be simply unintelligible. Therefore, communism will not be “international” but simply non-national.
However, in the world in which we live, the terrain is that of the imperialist epoch of capitalism. And therefore, as Marx pointed out in the Communist Manifesto and elsewhere, the socialist revolution that builds from this terrain will be “national in form.”
Objective conditions demand that revolutions beginning on a national basis be conscious of the internationalist goal from the onset. Workers in oppressor as well as oppressed nations have to become aware of their common class interest. Workers in rival imperialist nations have to become aware that their own ruling class is their main enemy. All have to understand that there is no national solution to capitalist imperialism. For Marxists, the consciousness of the masses is key to the success or failure of socialist revolution. Such lessons can only be learned in the course of the living class struggle. Growing numbers of workers can only achieve class consciousness if the advanced workers organized in the revolutionary party explain the lessons as they go through these struggles together.
Lenin rejected nationalism of any sort as incompatible with revolutionary internationalism. However, precisely because he believed in the equality of nations and peoples, he carefully distinguished between the nationalism of the oppressed and the nationalism of the oppressor, and refused to equate the two. Such an equation would be a denial of the struggle for equality and ultimately a denial of the struggle of the masses of the world for socialist revolution.
Marxists have to be particularly concerned with the deep suspicions held by masses in the dominated countries about workers of the imperialist nations. These fears can only be overcome by experiences of joint struggle over time. One crucial way to promote international working-class solidarity, Lenin stressed, is the recognition of the right to self-determination for oppressed nations. Communists pledge to defend this right in every way, including militarily.
The struggle against imperialism demands that communists fight side by side with their fellow laborers, even when the latter follow the leadership of nationalists who seek to create their own exploitative nation-state. Leninists are committed to united action when such movements actually fight the imperialists, despite the program of their leaders. However, as in all united fronts, we retain the right to criticize and expose the capitulations of these pro-capitalist leaders. The Marxist method is to tell the truth about the realities of modern capitalism and the need for revolutionary internationalism.
Recognition of the right to self-determination helps the vanguard party win the workers and the persecuted masses of the oppressed nations to the side of proletarian internationalism. It proves that revolutionary workers of other nationalities are not part of their problem but part of the solution. In fact, although communists fight for the right of self-determination for oppressed nations under capitalism, we openly proclaim that its only guarantee is the success of the socialist revolution. For example, in contrast to the Provisional Government set up by capitalists and pseudo-Marxist Mensheviks in 1917, it was only the Bolshevik revolution that actually gave the oppressed nations of the former Russian Empire the right to secede.
But the commitment to defend the right to national self-determination does not mean that Marxists always advocate secession of oppressed nations. Often we do not. Our goal is the widest class unity in the fight against our common enemy. But we defend the right of the oppressed to choose, and we defend their choice even if we disagree with it. The unity we need has to be conscious and real, i.e., freely chosen.
A revolutionary internationalist is not a utopian reformist who calls for “one world” today. Calling for the impossible is often a facade for accepting a world dominated by imperialism. That means accepting not only the domination of the weaker nations by the stronger but also the pervasive inequalities and horrors that will only worsen as the system decays further.
Our confidence in revolutionary internationalism is not based on the fact that it is a useful tactic but rather that it explains the inevitable direction of our class under the objective conditions of the revolutionary epoch. Internationalization of the world economy makes nation-states a reactionary anachronism; the achievement of a truly united and humane world, including the end of nations and states, can only come with the eradication of every last vestige of capitalism. Then we will have reached our goal of one world, a world of freedom and abundance.
1. Non-nationalism and Internationalism; Non-racialism and Interracialism
A theory that is not developing and is not constantly checked and updated is not Marxist. The redevelopment of authentic Marxism for our time involves of necessity an understanding of interracialism today as a decisive aspect of internationalism. The fight against racism has always been important, but now we can see it clearly in all its worldwide ramifications. Today, no proletarian internationalism is possible without elaborating the nature of the global anti-racist struggle. The socialist revolution everywhere must consciously be both internationalist and interracialist if it is to be successful.
The Leninist method on national questions should hardly be thrown out the window when a group of oppressed people are not really a “nation” but a racial grouping. Marxists must align with both kinds of struggles. However, confusion between the two will lead to disarming our class and certain defeat. There are important differences between the specific struggle for national self-determination and the struggle against racial oppression.
The nation remains the ultimate bastion of capitalism; that is why “multinational” or “transnational” corporations maintain fundamental roots in one national state despite their far-flung economic empires. The division of capital according to nations is vital to the system. In the epoch of imperialism and capitalist decay, racial division has emerged as a means through which capitalism maintains nations – and therefore itself. It is no longer merely a vicious policy backing up early imperialist ventures, the slave trade or economic gains for a few advanced nations. Race or race-like divisions are now a major way in which all nations lower wages and production costs to stay afloat in the global market. Racism also acts decisively to prevent proletarian consciousness and class unity – and therefore socialist revolution.
The “nation” has always been ingrained in capitalism. Under modern imperialism, “race” has now been institutionalized as an added bastion of the system. Its deeply imposed divisions and prejudices cannot be wiped out or wished away overnight. However, in fighting racism we also make clear that our goal is to eliminate even the concept of separate races when capitalism is finally overthrown. This wretched concept inevitably defends oppression; it must be exposed now so that the inequality and massacre it breeds will disappear forever when humanity finally achieves the classless communist world. In that future time, the word “race” will exist only as an historic reference or a term denoting the entire human species. As with the final abandonment of the nation, communism will not be “interracial”; it will be non-racial, simply human.
Therefore when we say we are interracialists it means that our goal is the complete abolition of racial divisions as well as racism in a communist world. Further, just as we recognize the significance of the nation as a reactionary fact as long as imperialism exists, we recognize that race is now also an integral part of the system. Just as we support an oppressed nation when it demands its right to equality with other nations, so too we support an oppressed racial group that demands equal treatment as a race. In neither case do we allow our non-nationalism and non-racialism to be a facade for equating the oppressed with the oppressors.
The interracialist goal of a world indifferent to skin color and national origin places our view in counterposition not only to “Black nationalism” but to “integrationism” (or “assimilationism,” as it used to be called) as well. The middle-class proponents of integration falsely identify their ideology with desegregation. Communists oppose every form of de jure and de facto segregation and favor every genuine step toward racial equality. However, integrationism in this reactionary epoch is a utopian snare and a deathtrap. The idea that American imperialism will allow full and equal inclusion of Black and Latino people into its national ranks is a lie designed to lure rebellious movements into a social blind alley.
Since we are committed to raising the consciousness of the proletariat by telling the truth, proletarian interracialists warn that the only way a genuine and lasting color-blind and egalitarian society can come into being is through the revolutionary overthrow of this society. As we fight side by side with those who still believe that equality or liberation can be obtained under capitalism, we never cease to point out that they can only really be achieved through socialist revolution.
2. Race and Capital: the Drives and the Driven
Lenin stressed that imperialism reflected the internationalization of capitalism. Today, after far longer experience in the epoch of capitalism’s decay, we add that it also reflects a greater interpenetration of peoples and races in every corner of the world, to an extent never before even approached.
Capitalism is a highly contradictory system. Its own drives force it to internationalize an economy that is based in outmoded national states. By virtue of the very same inherent laws that dictate its motion, imperialism is forced to bring together and mix the wide variety of human cultures into close association throughout the world.
We have noted that in order to protect private property, imperialism rests on the rule of the dominant nation-states over the world, even as it has created a globally interdependent economy. At the same time and for the same reasons, it fans the flames of national divisiveness to fever pitch. It likewise increases the power of racist institutions and whips up racial hatred to a killing rage. At the very same time it forces the huge migrations and interpenetration of peoples, nationalities and racial groups that are now apparent everywhere.
The historic scarcity of resources not only produces class society, it has produced decadent capitalist society as the last line of defense against abundance. Imperialism induces the squalid war of all against all, as nations, races, peoples, tribes and clans are propelled into a seemingly eternal whirlpool of fratricidal wars in order to claw a livelihood out at each others’ expense. The system’s bloody frenzy intensifies in proportion to its rapidly increasing social and technological capacity to produce its own death sentence, the end of scarcity.
As Marx pointed out long ago, the contradictions of capitalism undermine the system itself. It has created its own gravedigger, the proletariat. The fundamental interest of the working class is to free the vast network of productive forces that capitalism has created and actually carry out its potential. Abundance would be the material basis for not only the final elimination of class society but of nations and national chauvinism, races and racism.
Marxists are not mechanical materialists. The advent of the material basis for the elimination of classes, races and nations doesn’t automatically guarantee their disappearance. For the first time it makes it possible, even highly probable, but it doesn’t absolutely affirm that the human race will fulfill its potential to become truly human. That is one major reason why communist workers place such stress on the fight for advanced consciousness. That is one major reason why Trotsky pointed out that the central question was proletarian leadership. That is why we give such urgency to our appeal to all advanced workers to join with us to build the party of the leading vanguard of our class, the party that “says what is” to its class brothers and sisters.
The logic of material forces, released from their reactionary bonds by revolution, will be on the side of interracialism as well as internationalism. That is the only hope for humanity – because if we do not achieve these goals the alternative, barbarism, is guaranteed.
3. Self-determination and Self-organization
Since interracialism is a complement to internationalism, today’s Bolsheviks defend the right to self-organization for racially oppressed peoples just as they defend the right to self-determination for nationally oppressed peoples. The goal is the same in either case: to win the oppressed masses to interracialist and internationalist class consciousness while fighting those elements who capitulate to imperialism in any of its varied nationalist and racist forms.
For the purpose of this pamphlet, we will explain the tactic of self-organization only in brief. There is no mechanical comparison between self-determination and self-organization, but the same method and goals are at the heart of both demands. These are principled tactics employed by the party of the working class engaging in a dialogue with other layers of the class within the class struggle. Marxism poses a struggle for rights, not a heaven-ordained moral entitlement. The nature of the dialogue in both struggles reflects the fact that the party is made up of advanced workers who already see the need for the independence of their class and for revolution.
The vanguard party is the expression of the most advanced consciousness of our class. Its program must answer the needs of not just the immediate struggles but of the entire struggle from today to the achievement of communism. It represents both the future and the way to achieve it. Thus the international party is committed to fulfilling the interests of the class as a whole. It seeks to achieve a united proletarian consciousness through democratic centralism and accepts no national, racial or other barriers within its ranks.
That state power is rooted in different nations means that there are national sections within the international party. However, on the most fundamental level, these sections are all bound by the same democratic centralism and are all programmatically bound to recognize that national interests are strictly subordinate to the internationalist needs of the proletariat as a whole.
In the absence of an internal colonial relationship, the vanguard party within each nation-state is itself not organized according to sectoral, racial, sexual, ethnic or cultural interests; rather it is built on the recognizing the underlying commonality of our class and its basic interests. (Language and dual nationality problems require organizational recognition, but the principle remains the same.) Nevertheless, the party is conscious that racial – and national, gender and other – divisions and suspicions within the proletarian masses are real and cannot be automatically dismissed.
The working class is composed of exploited people who all have the same relationship to the means of production no matter their race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, hair color, height, or what have you. The party is the weapon of the most far-seeing of these workers, those who understand the class struggle under capitalism and what must be done. The material basis for that consciousness is their experience with the rapacity of capitalist exploitation and oppression. That is why the program of the party does not reflect the passing interests of the aristocratic and bureaucratic elements of the class, many of whom have been temporarily bought off by the bourgeoisie. It reflects the interests of the most oppressed and exploited layers of the class, since they best represent the reality of the depths of exploitation inflicted on the entire proletariat, sooner or later, under this system.
You are what you eat. Vanguard consciousness will in time succumb to pro-bourgeois interests if it doesn’t find its way to solidify its class base. The party, even though armed with a Marxist program, must find its roots over time in what Lenin referred to as “the depths of the working class.” In the process of development the party will find cadres in different sections of the working class, including some from relatively aristocratic layers. It will certainly have deserters from other class elements, particularly the intelligentsia, on condition that they forsake their previous class allegiance and prove in practice that they identify with the communist program and are committed to the proletariat. But above all the party must have real and deep roots. In today’s world, the racially oppressed workers are crucial elements of the strata the party must reach if it is to develop actual revolutionary leadership.
However, recognition that the working class contains deep sectoral differences is vitally important for winning over other layers of the class to the party. The party sees itself in dialogue with other layers of the class, those relatively backward workers who are unclear as to how the fight for their freedom should proceed. Based on the past, they are unsure who is friend and who is foe.
With respect to national struggles, Lenin argued against leftists who asserted that it is only the proletariat of the oppressed nations whose right to self-determination has to be defended. That view placed the cart before the horse and meant in effect an ultimatum rather than a dialogue with the non-proletarian masses of the oppressed nation. They have to be convinced by the struggle itself who their friends and enemies are and the leadership of which class they should adhere to. It is to be expected that the masses would initially be caught up in nationalism and would see only the imperialist bourgeoisie as their enemy, not yet their own bourgeoisie. The task therefore is to go though the struggle with them to show the need for proletarian leadership.
So too, when the struggle is not national in character, there are social as well as individual reasons why all layers of the working class do not come to class consciousness at the same time. Having advanced Black workers as a significant part of the party leadership will not by itself convince the masses of Black workers that their enemies and friends must be determined by class politics and not by racial identification.
When societies head into revolutionary situations, the struggles inevitably cast up mass transitional organizations. In addition to workers’ councils and other workers’ organizations, mass organizations of the oppressed, like those of women or minority groups, also arise. Authentic communists not only support that form of independent organization, they help create it and seek to win leadership within it for the revolutionary working-class party. In the late 1930’s, C.L.R. James and Leon Trotsky elaborated the need for revolutionaries to fight for Blacks in the U.S. to create such a formation.
Both self-determination and self-organization are bourgeois democratic rights and are in principle subordinate to the class needs of the entire international and interracial proletariat. Our defense of the right of Blacks as a racially oppressed people to form mass organizations separately, if they so choose, does not mean that we always advocate separate organizations, any more than we always advocate the secession of nations. It simply means that if the masses of Blacks choose such a course, we will defend their right while we continue to expose misleaderships and argue for revolutionary interracialism. In general, we would prefer the direct path to greater unity of the working class. However, given the betrayals that oppressed peoples have endured, revolutionaries are sensitive to the fact that there are situations where we must not only defend the right of Blacks to build such a separate organization but also advocate it. Black comrades will of course join and help to construct it as the best way forward.
Advocacy of the right of Black self-organization is one important way in which the authentic Marxist party can prove in practice that revolutionary working-class interracialism is the answer rather than another part of the problem.
One area in which we often advocate Black self-organization is self-defense. Here too we clearly prefer a class-wide defense of Blacks against police brutality and other armed attacks. However, when the danger is large, clear and present and no other serious forces are immediately available, it would be criminal to demand that Blacks wait. Today, for example, there is little immediate chance of a class-wide armed defense of Blacks who suffer attacks by police. That is a situation revolutionaries fight to change.