[A-List] Part 8B National Factor: Lou P and CLR James

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Sun Oct 3 14:15:13 MDT 2004

There is an important difference between a nation and a historically evolved 
peoples, especially in respects to African American Liberation and Social 
Revolution and the Question of the Southwest. In history the question of self 
determination and secession applied to nations and not historically evolved 
peoples within a multinational state structure. 

First, general undeniable question of American history must be mentioned. 

1. Essentially, what was to become the United States of North America, was a 
Southern country in all its fundamental economic, social, cultural and 
political relations up until the Civil War.  All the centers of gravity were in the 
South and they were connected to the capitalist market in England. 

It is interesting to note that the leader of the revolution of 1776, George 
Washington was the biggest slave holder and the richest man in America. When 
the Civil War began Jeff Davis was the biggest slave holder and the richest man 
in America. He was the Confederates George Washington fighting a similar fight 
at the next rung of the social ladder. That is to say he was fighting to 
ensure the emergence of the Black Belt South not as an independent nation but as 
an independent nation-state, separate from the North. 

America was primarily a Southern country in its genesis and economic 
fundamentals. Marx has already been quoted on the pivotal role slavery in North 
America played. He must be quoted again: 

"Without slavery North America, the most progressive of countries, would be 
transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipe North America off the map of the 
world, and you will have anarchy — the complete decay of modern commerce and 
civilization. Cause slavery to disappear and you will have wiped America off the 
map of nations." 

Slavery contained its own distinct social relations of people, culture, 
psychology, modality and economic relations and all the things one choose to 
examine that welds people together. Given the important of Southern slavery in the 
world market, one can state that the Northern states, manufacturing the 
necessities for the slave system (economy) grew as an appendage to the South. The 
South did not evolve as an appendage to the North and this is elementary American 

What gave the Black Belt its features as a nation is not the blacks or 
mystical racial characteristics but the economic logic and centers of gravity 
welding various peoples and classes into the system of market exchange. 

As the slave economy evolved the North was slowly entering into an economic 
revolution from manufacturing to industry. Industry is of course more 
productive than agriculture by definition. Further mechanized agriculture is more 
productive than peasant economy or slave labor and here is the internal 
contradiction within Southern slavery than made it historically obsolete; the form of its 
laboring process, which makes intensive expansion of production virtually 
impossible. The slave form blocks and is superseded on the basis of 
revolutionizing the instruments of production. 

Industry is more productive. The growing working class in the North was not 
recruited from the slaves of the South or built on the basis of the destruction 
of the family farms in the North, but by European immigration. The new nation 
that began evolution . . . was the Anglo American nation of the North of the 
American Union. This development took place in conjunction and economic fusion 
with the development of Southern agriculture. One must not look only at the 
South in assessing the National Factor in the American Union but the new nation 
that developed in the North. 

2. Two nations in formation with different social systems and different 
social relations of production (manufacturing and industrial relations versus 
slave/ manufacturing relations) within the economic framework of commodity 
production and exchange. The South had a strangle hold on political power in the 
country and was called the "slave power" not simply because they had slaves but 
because of the constitutional provision that slaves counted as 3/5 of a person 
for appropriating representation in Congress. 

Here is the national question of which the Negro is a part but not of, 
according to CLR James. Here is what Mr. CLR James could not explain, economics. 
Here is why the Negro as a national minority means a migrant from the South that 
relocates to the North and this applies also to the Southern white of the 
Black Belt, who has been written out of Yankee imperial history. 

3. What made the South . . . Southern was slavery.  First as an economic 
category of exchange of values and as a way of life, culture, custom, forms of 
English, music, literature and developing arts. The blues did not develop in the 
North. although Blacks in the North most certainly experienced the Jim Crow 
Blues. What made the North . . . North, was the formation of its industrial 
classes on the basis of waves of European immigrants. 

Since America was a Southern country up to the Civil War is not the real 
question "what made the North . . . Northern?" The slave made the South . . . 
Southern and not abstract white people. The "South" lost the war and has never 
been able to frame the political question and this includes within Marxism. 

In other words the Negro people began evolution as a people within the frame 
work of slavery and constitute the agricultural basis for the emergence of the 
Southern nation or what is a rough equivalent of the peasant class as the 
basis for the national market. The Negro People began evolution as a people 
before the emergence of the fundamental attributes of the Black Belt nation and 
completed their evolution ninety years later. 

What is a nation and what is the difference between a nation and a 
historically evolved peoples . . . at the front of the curve of bourgeois production and 
during the era of financial and industrial capital? 

First of all CLR James could not formulate the question properly or in a 
consistent Marxist manner because he was probably to angry and hostile to the 
ideological air of white chauvinism. Second, his Trotskyism prevented him from 
really understanding Lenin because his conception of Leninism is within the 
polarity of the Stalin/Trortsky polarity. I have in mind the 1943 article by CLR 
James, "Two Discussion Articles on the National Question. Socialism and the 
National Question. Socialist United States of Europe Is Nearer." I will return to 
this article later. 

Everything in me rebels against trashing James because he was perhaps the 
most militant champion on the national question within the degenerate Trotskyite 
movement in America whose positions on the Negro Question, Leon Trotsky 
himself rejected. 

A nation and a people exhibit the same characteristics except that a nation 
shares a common territory. That is to say the difference between a nation and a 
historically evolved people that are not a nation is that the latter does not 
share a common territory. 

Here is the answer. 

The problem is that the chauvinists and intellectuals from the imperial 
centers transform the concept "common territory" into a lifeless equation without 
economic logic and understand it to mean "common geography."  "Common 
territory" does not mean common geography. 

A common territory is "common" to those tied together into a distinct 
economic life. In respects to a people who are not a nation we are not talking about 
an abstract "capitalist division of labor" . . . whatever the hell that means. 
There is an industrial division of labor that grows out of the manufacturing 
process. Lenin uses the concept capitalist division of labor to speak of the 
division between town and country. 

A nation and a people exhibit the same characteristics except that a nation 
shares a common territory. The dispute with the non-Marxists has always been 
over the meaning "common territory." Every Marxist worth her salt knows we are 
describing economic phenomena in the first and last instance. Africa is a 
common territory with countless nations and national groups. Common territory 
refers to an economic community or the division between town and country as units 
of production that defines the modern market. 

The African American did not have a common territory or economic community 
holding them together as a nation or setting the basis for them to evolve into a 
nation. The Negro was the slave class and in relationship to and with the 
black belt whites constituted the raw material for the formation of the Black 
Belt nation. 

The most extreme misunderstanding of Marxism and the National Question is 
expressed concerning African American Liberation and Social Revolution and the 
question of the Black Belt Nation. Here is one of the Trotskyite formulations of 
the question, which is really not Trotskyism but the exact formulation of the 
CPUSA in Dr. James Jackson's "New Theoretical Aspects of the Negro Question." 

"Meanwhile, Afro-American Communists especially Harry Haywood, while studying 
in Moscow, and in conjunction with some Russian and other Communists, 
recognized the semi-colonial features of the condition of Afro-Americans. They moved 
on further to the position that "Negroes" in the southern United States 
constituted an oppressed nation, that "Negroes were concentrated and formed a 
majority of the population in the Black Belt of the South, and that therefore it was 
necessary to recognize the right of self-determination for the "Negroes" as a 
nation in the South. At first rather considerably resisted, this position was 
in time adopted as the official position of the Communist Party. The League 
of Struggle for Negro Rights was organized during 1930, on the basis of 
recognition of this right of self-determination, with Harry Haywood as Secretary. In 
his book Negro Liberation published in 1948, Haywood gave a full statement of 
his position. But this was somewhat in the nature of a swan song, since the 
Black Belt was by then far gone in the process of disappearing due to the mass 
migrations of Afro-Americans to the North and West." 

Louis Proyect (http://www.panix.com/~lnp3/marxism.html) 

"(T)he Black Belt was by then far gone in the process of disappearing due to 
the mass migrations of Afro-Americans to the North and West." 

Is this not absurd? Black Belt refers to the rich black soil, not a racial 
category and in the black belt a form of commodity production, the production of 
exchange values as distinct from use-values took place using slave labor.  
This slavery was a bourgeois property relations and the petty bourgeois 
ideologue seeking laboratory purity refuse to adopt the position of Karl Marx himself 
because they assert that Karl Marx description of Southern Slavery was 
incorrect and it was in fact a system of use-value production with no growing 
division between town and country. 

The theoritical presentation of the question has been missed and the 
ideologists assert that what we were dealing with in America was a bastardy form of 
feudal economic relations and the subsequent movement after Emancipation was 
bourgeois democratic in relationship to the feudal economic relations that never 
existed. Thus, the national question is totally misunderstood in the American 

In real American history the national and colonial question that is the Black 
Belt arose on a curve of history in front of Lenin and the first imperial 
world war. The National-Colonial Question that is the Black Belt, not the Negro 
People, arose as the by product of the defeat of the South in the Civil War and 
its colonization by Wall Street Imperialism. 

The Black Belt is the plantation economic curve running through the South. 
Southern slavery was according to Marx himself an economic category of extreme 
importance - a bourgeois property relations, and we are talking about human 
beings within a distinct economic relations that is part of the world market with 
"a capitalist division of labor."  "Capitalist division of labor" in respects 
to national development means the division and distinction between town and 
country under the impact of commodity exchange. 

The Black Belt cannot disappear, it can only be transformed on the basis of 
the revolution in the mode of production.  

Here is the kicker. The slave was not the slave of antiquity. The slave of 
antiquity was fundamentally a use value and the slave of the South was a 
commodity sold on the auction block. He was sold like one sells machinery and Marx 
states this in a manner that cannot be confused. The slave was herself a 
commodity bought and sold on the market. Ifd the slave oligarchy or planter class are 
bourgeois . . . Marx exact word, and the slave is a commodity, itt matters 
little what your eyes tell you about the form of this laboring or production 
process, we are dealing with capitalism pure and simple with an antiquated form 
of social relations. 

The Civil War was not a fight against fedualists but a battle between two 
wings of capital with the South acting as a reactionary National Movement seeking 

The problem is that the ideologists mean race when they say "nation" and the 
Marxists mean an economic unit at a certain stage of development of commodity 
production, when they say "nation." 

I moved to Texas earlier this year and passed through the Black Belt and can 
testify that this region (area) of America has not vanished. The problem is 
that the American Marxists do not understand the difference between a nation and 
a historically evolved people. 

The Black Belt is not the Black Belt because of its "racial composition" but 
because of its economic history and subsequent evolution. It cannot vanish due 
to migration. But then the petty bourgeois ideologist are liars. 

How many black people were in the Black Belt in 1865? How many in 1895, in 
1925, in 1955, in 1985 and today in 2004? There is a level of stupidity in the 
discussion of the disappearing Black Belt. This approach has nothing to do with 
Marxism or common sense. Read the demographics of the Black Belt today. 

A word concerning Harry Haywood is necessary. It is my understanding and 
belief from being a "party member" (and remembering the discussions) that our 
earnest attempts to recruit Harry failed because we would not reprint his "Negro 
Liberation" or invest the manpower in pulling together his autobiography "Black 
Bolshevik" . . . although lord knows we tried. "Negro Liberation" was 
outdated and missed the important junctures in the evolution of the National Question 
and did not address the concept that says the Black Belt nation disappeared 
due to migration. "Negro Liberation" is good as a historical document but makes 
a mis-assessment of the development of the bourgeois class amongst blacks and 
forgets that a bourgeois class already existed in the Black Belt in the form 
of first the slave oligarchy and after its shattering, the loss of its slavery 
during the Civil War, its reemergence as the planter landlorad class. 

Further, Harry's book was historically obsolete and could not describe the 
economic of slavery strictly adhering to Karl Marx description of slavery. The 
Civil War from the standpoint of the South was a war for National Liberation 
from Northern Capital and utterly reactionary. 

The Civil War was not really a "civil war" but a war between states seeking 
national independence as nations. The real civil war in the South was between 
the slave class and small dirt farmers against the encroachments of the save 
oligarchy. The real civil war in the North was evolving on the basis of the 
fight between the industrial workers and the industrial bourgeoisie. 

Marxism has never faired well in America. 

The next wave of the bourgeois national movement was carried out by the 
ex-slaves and dirt farmers who sought to democratize the South. This was a 
progressive and revolutionary National Movement that did not have socialism as its 
goal, although segments of the advanced revolutionaries spoke of "placing the 
bottom rail on the top." 

The disappearing nation concept did not arise from political Trotskyism but 
the liberal imperialist ideologists and in the hands of the CPUSA and Dr. 
Jackson's "New Theoretical Aspects on the Negro Question" was given a Marxists 
sound. There is not an ounce of Marxism in this assertion.  

The reason self determination of nations applied to nations and not 
historically evolved peoples is because the historically evolved people lacked the 
internal market relations to sustain themselves as a nation-state. In history Leni
n's solution for the historically evolved peoples was "Regional Autonomy" or 
an autonomous region of self administration within the economic center of 
gravity that was Russia.  

Self determination for the Black Belt was a historically correct slogan in 
1928, given the actual content of the communist movement at the time. Even the 
concept of self determination for Negroes in the Black Belt was historically 
correct at that time because Negroes constituted the most poverty stricken 
sector of the proletariat and laboring classes of the Black Belt. 

The Black Belt includes everyone that lives there and one has to state this a 
thousand times to penetrated the racial ideology of the so called Marxists. 

America is not one big nation with the African Americans everywhere 
constituting a national minority, striving for "self determination" in various ways. 
America is a Union or multinational state system housing the historic Black Belt 
Region - nation, the new nation that arose in the North, the Southwest Region 
and various Indian Advance National Groups. 

In respects to the Indian peoples the concept tribe or band would actually 
refer to a distinct historical period before they are drawn into the vortex of 
bourgeois production and extend beyond the Civil War. Terms, words and concepts 
serves to describe economic, social and political relations. A more accurate 
description for today would be that of Advance National Groups. The various 
Indian tribes of history were never nations in the Marxists meaning. Yet is 
precisely the ancestors of the Indian that constitutes the beginning of the 
national question on American soil. 

As always, the approach adopted is on behave of the advanced intellectual 
sector of the proletariat in the ruling nation in its fight against its imperial 
bourgeoisie. How the various non-sovereign peoples choose to define themselves 
is not an issue of discussion for communists workers and Marxists in the 
imperial centers. 

The issue of self determination in its historically concrete presentation and 
its application in today's world demands that one begin with their own 
bourgeois property relations and imperialists. Self determination for Chechnya is 
not well thought out and historically obsolete by at least eighty years. Why a 
Marxist in the American Union would advance such a slogan, and become aligned 
with all that is reactionary in these so-called "new national movements" 
misunderstands the National Factor and the current political polarity that exists in 
the world theater. 

Self determination for Chechnya has the same reactionary meaning as raising 
the slogan Self determination for African Americans. 

The reason the slogan self determination for the black belt and self 
determination of the Negro Nation became a powerful mobilizing tool is because the 
dominate section of the bourgeoisie of the black belt, the planter class was 
horribly reactionary and advanced its cry for self determination after the Civil 
War, on the basis of the slogan "State Rights." A large section of Southern 
whites of the black belt were won over to the demand for self determination as 
meaning "State rights" within the federal system as advanced by the landlord 
planter class. 

It was a large section of the Negro . . . meaning blacks of the black belt in 
this usage, that were in combat with the reactionary state power. Self 
determination in this historically concrete context meant the most ruthless struggle 
against Wall Street imperialism as the reality of its connection with 
Southern reaction in the form of the land lord planter class or something akin to the 
comprador bourgeoisie. 

Obviously, no national or comprador bourgeoisie could arise amongst the Negro 
People until their Emancipation from slavery. Slaves or one class cannot 
constitute itself as a nation no matter what the territorial boundary or their 
density. At best the slaves become a slave class within a nation economic 
formation. These slaves in their concreteness were commodities bought and sold on the 
market and in their concrete deployment was machinery for the production of 
exchange value. 

Here is the secret to the Negro Question that has eluded every generation of 
communist before us . . . a section of the fighting proletariat generated on 
the basis of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion. The break through made by Nelson Perry 
was imprinted on a section of the proletariat in active combat with the state 
and the captains of industry.  

In history the various slogans concerning self determination of the Black 
Belt, self determination for Negroes of the Black Belt and even the concept of 
the Negro as a nation means the Black Belt South and not Harlem. Even the 
Trotskyite CLR James admits how the Comintern had to force the American Communist to 
deal with the Negro Question and write the documents. 

CLR James theory mistakes, which Lou P. faithfully copy due to his Trotskyism 
and anti-Stalinism runs his right into the arms of the CPUSA.  We happen to 
evolve in our fundamentality outside this CPUSA/SWP polarity and Stalin has 
very little to do with the concrete presentation of the National Question in 
America.  In other words it is not his Trotskyism at all in question but rather 
the historic white and national chauvinist theoretical deviation on the Negro 
National Colonial Question. 

I maintain his devastation or deviation on the National Question is your 
everyday garden variety of white and national chauvinism coupled with a radical 
misunderstanding of capitalist commodity production . . . the production of 
exchange values and its impact on peoples and their development. 

The Black Belt nation disappeared! Indeed. What may I ask exists in its 
place? Let me guess, the "Great American Nation" and the question of the Black Belt 
South since the Civil War . . . nay, since Negroes stated migrating under the 
impact of the mechanization of agriculture, is of but not a national 

Lou P espouses the exact line of the CPUSA in 1949 and CLR James in the late 
1930s and early 1940s, which he calls the "Stalin line."  This is the line we 
rejected thirty years ago. That is we rejected the "Stalinist line" of the 
disappearing nation Lou P writes about. 

The real issue is the economic content of the national question as framed by 
Marx and Lenin and the meaning of capitalist commodity production. If slavery 
in the Black Belt was in fact a weird (obsolete) form of capitalist commodity 
production and exchange, that deviated in its form from its dominant 
expression in the world market, we are talking directly of the formation of a nation in 
the Black Belt. 

One can of course speak of the consolidation of peoples and the formation of 
Socialist nations within the USSR between 1917 and 1989, but the real issues 
is industrial development and evolution and its impact upon the peoples and 
nations drawn into the vortex of the industrial mode of production, no matter 
what its property relations. 

In other words the National-Colonial Question in the former Soviet Union has 
to be accessed on the basis of its economic concreteness and then the impact 
of policy . . . not the other way around. 

Melvin P.
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