[A-List] "Black Nationalism" and CLR James/National Factor (3)

Waistline2 at aol.com Waistline2 at aol.com
Tue Oct 12 09:12:00 MDT 2004

Black Nationalism (3) 
There is not a black working class in America, or rather the working class in 
America is not white and existing in relationship to it and along side of it 
are black people, Chicano's and so on. There is a historically evolved 
working/industrial class in the North that was formed from successive waves of 
European immigrants and a working class of the South, that in history evolved 
riveted to the plantation system and the slave class. During the era of 
sharecropping in the black belt South a little bit more than 50% of the 10-12 million 
sharecroppers were white. 
How different sections of classes behave, act and their ideological 
disposition is important but cannot blind Marxists to basic class concepts. The white 
sharecropper of the South behave as a white sharecropper, yet his basic 
economic needs mirrored that of the black sharecropper. Communists have to take this 
into account. The black sharecropper without question faced the razor edge of 
the South's fascist political structures. 
>From time to time Communists in America have raised the question of fascism 
in the Black Belt of the South and throughout the Southern region and most have 
retracted this consideration because they "saw" a contradiction between 
political fascism and their understanding of imperialism. "Fascism is imperialism 
turned inwards" and in my opinion is not simply an industrial-capitalist 
"relationship," although in a given period of history fascism can be the rule of the 
industrial sector of capital. 
Lenin's conception of the bourgeois democratic national movement and its 
transition to the national liberation movement is basically absent from every 
presentation of the National Factor in the history of American Marxism.  Given the 
absense of this specific political concept advance by Lenin, the radicals 
lack a concept of the emergence of the "Negro Bourgeois Democratic National 
Movement" and why it became the Negro Peoples National Liberation Movement." 
Consequently, the history of the social motion of the African American people 
is understood as "Black Nationalism," that has more than less surged forward 
in waves. It was popular for communists of the 1930 to speak of the 
uncompleted democratic revolution in the South in grappling with the Negro Question or 
the task of the bourgeois democratic revolution.  Actually, it was none other 
than Lenin that stated the Negro in the American South should be considered a 
nation given the un-completetion of the bourgeois democratic revolution. 
Thus, it is historically inaccurate to attribute the concept of the Black 
Belt and Negroes as a nation to Stalin and the Third International when it was 
Lenin that directly wrote about this matter years before the Third International 
and the October Revolution. 
CLR James - "the black guy" Trotskyite and Trinidadian intellectual, is 
paraded before us and his "Historical Development of the Negro in the United 
States" is dusted off for inspection. The special oppression of the black in the 
South is due to race and racial antagonism. I ask forgiveness for quoting the 
Trotskyite James, but this is "the black guy" continuously recycled in history as 
the "authority" on the Negro Question by a segment of radical intellectuals. 
Not only is CLR James behind the learning curve and writings by James Allen, 
Harry Haywood and the documents of the Comintern, but he lack an elementary 
understanding of political Leninism on the National-Colonial Question. Read what 
he states: 
"In the agrarian movement of the 1890s in the South the Negro farmers and 
semi- proletarians, independently organized to the extent of a million and a 
quarter members in the National Colored Farmers Alliance, were a militant and 
powerful wing of the Populist movement. They supported the break with the 
Republican Party and the proposal for a third party with social as well as economic 
"The importance of the Negroes as a revolutionary force has grown with the 
development of the American economy. Conversely, however, racial prejudice 
against the Negroes has also grown. Between 1830 and 1860 the Southern planters 
cultivated the theory of Negro inferiority to a degree far exceeding that of 
earlier slavery days, being driven to do this by the increasing divergences 
between the developing bourgeois democracy in the United States and the needs of the 
slave economy. To conquer the formidable threat of white and Negro unity, 
particularly that represented by Populism, the Southern plantocracy elevated race 
consciousness to the position of a principle. The whole country was injected 
with this idea. Thus, side by side  with his increasing integration into 
production which becomes more and more a social process, the Negro becomes more 
than ever conscious of his exclusion from democratic privileges as a separate 
social group in the community. This dual movement is the key to the Marxist 
analysis of the Negro question in the U.S.A. " 

The above is beyond tragic and would be laughable if the radical did not take 
this serious. This is not just an insult to the African American people, but 
a mockery of Marxism and the repudiation of the Leninist presentation of the 
National Question. 

"(T)he key to the Marxist analysis of the Negro question . . . (is) his 
increasing integration into production  . . a social process, (and) the Negro 
becomes more . . . conscious of his exclusion from democratic privileges as a 
separate social group in the community." 

One of the many theory problems is CLR James misunderstanding of Southern 
slavery as a value producing system and the slave as the producer of exchange 
value. This concrete economic formation is what welded the black into a people 
and set the economic basis for the emergence of the Black Belt south as a 
nation.  Black were long ago producers - laborers,  or integrated into the 
production process as slaves. In fact they were a slave class.

If you are a slave and part of a slave class then you have a specific 
position in a division of labor that is social production. Black belt slavery was a 
system of social production, if social production is to have any meaning. In 
fact this slavery was a bourgeois property relations, because the Slave owner 
was a bourgeois planter class according to Karl Marx and the slave produced 
exchange-values, commodities that entered the world market and was transformed 
into an expanded value or capital. 

This antiquated form of labor - slavery, instead of "free labor," is called 
the "peculiar institution" in American history, but we are dealing with a 
bourgeois property relations. Let's solve this once and for all.   

Free white and black labor in the North, was not free at all, but rather 
means the ability of the individual to sell his labor power in the market or 
rather ones labor power is not sold thorough the medium of selling the person to 
another person. 

Another problem is the meaning of the completion of the democratic tasks or 
the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution in the South. Lenin invests a lot of energy 
in the concept of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution and its transition into 
the National Liberation Movement. Here is "the key to the Marxist analysis of 
the Negro question in the U.S.A" . . . especially in the period James has 
marked . . . 1830 - 1890 and from here to 1935. 

The key to understanding the Negro Question is bound up with the overthrow of 
Reconstruction and the establishment of political fascism in the Black Belt 
south and how the Negro Bourgeois Democratic National Movement arose on that 
basis. Here is the key and not some special consciousness of one oppression or 
raising white supremacy to a principle. White supremacy had already been raised 
to the principle justification of the fact of slavery. 

Emancipation imposed a real social revolution on the South, that was 
stabilized by the military victory over the Slave oligarchy. The Slave Oligarchy as a 
class was not only shattered but expropriated by liquidating their capital in 
the form of the slaves. The Slave Oligarchy without slaves becomes a landlord 
planter class and with the lose of their labor force hit the wall real hard. 
Many that retained their land, could not put it to use on an expanding scale 
and ended up in hock to Wall Street financial-industrial capital.  

The fact of Emancipation was that segregation remain a fundamental way of 
life in the South. The fact of the matter is that black and white political unity 
amongst the poor was not won as the fundamental organizational form of the 
social movement and we need to face this and not pretend. There were moments of 
unity between blacks and whites, but the majority of poor whites were 
represented by whites, while the black Reconstruction leaders could not but represent 
the class of freemen whose demands matched and mirrored that of the poor 
whites. It was not the blacks that excluded whites from organizations but the 
refusal of many whites to join in collective organizations. Many Reconstruction 
leaders and political officials were black but they were not the peculiar 
phenomenon of the "black leader" that would later arise. 

Before the war the South was about 15% richer than the North and at the end 
of the war, it began a deep slide into regional poverty. As the result of its 
defeat, the economic base of the Black Belt came under attack, direct and 
indirect control of Northern financial interest and the onslaught of the freemen 
demanding land and expropriation of the large plantations, was not pleasant to 
the former slave oligarchy. A real social revolution was taking place with the 
potential to democratize the South on the basis of Jeffersonian democracy or 
the small land holding farmer. 

For a brief moment following Emancipation the state sponsored force and 
violence against the African American was checked and to a significant degree 
halted. The immediate tendency was by the ex-slave was to disperse. Apart from 
organizing to defend their newly won freedom, the political tendency amongst this 
mass of ex-slaves was to individually become free and equal citizens. 

The planter elite terrified by the Southern struggle for democracy - (the 
impulse to complete the bourgeois democratic revolution and forever regulate the 
semi-feudal like social relations of slavery to the past),  crept into the 
arms of the Northern bourgeoisie for protection. The Hayes Tiden compromise was 
the protection. This political compromise between Northern and Southern 
capital, bourgeois property called among other things for removing the Federal troops 
from the South. Needless to say the blood bath quickly followed, because the 
shattered Southern armies were never fundamentally disarmed.  

The planter elite made their final surrender to Northern Wall Street money 
and political power. In return for protection from the democratic aspiration of 
the American peoples, they turned the South into a region of political 
reaction and transformed the Black Belt into a bastion of fascism. This allowed US 
imperialism to emerge safely beyond the political reach of the democratic 

Thus, the Black Belt, an entire section of the country that includes all of 
the people within the area without regard to color,  is larger than 
Czechoslovakia and more populous than Canada, became the first colony of Wall Street. The 
forms of political control of the Black Belt colony flowed from the historic 
forms of control of not the white people but the black slaves - segregation, 
brutality and terror. In this ideological sphere this is articulated was 
articulated as white supremacy. 

As these fascists methods of control became institutionalized, the 
politically impotent and militarily defeated blacks were used to manipulate the whites. 
The blacks were used as the bogey man to frighten and force the whites into 
unity with the elite - their worst enemy. Many whites did not go quietly into 
the night, but rather what took place was a fascist counterrevolution and bloo
dletting - murder. No one just read a white supremacist book or heard a Sunday 
school sermon on the horrors of blacks or simply stories of rape of white 
women. Military defeat was imposed on the insurgents after the withdrawal of 
Federal troops. It would not be until the turn of the century and the evolution of 
motion pictures that the movie "Birth of a Nation" would nationally portray 
blacks raping white women and disrespecting "Southern honor." 

The whites ended up giving up their right to vote in order to guarantee the 
blacks were denied the vote. Watch what is taking place in Florida today and 
throughout the South in respects to national elections and denying blacks the 
right to vote. Actually, the Bush/Gore election was almost an identical replay 
of the Hayes Tilden Agreement and the election of 1876. The Federal troops 
began withdrawal in 1877 and it took another decade to consolidate the counter 

Six and half million white sharecroppers could not keep five million black 
sharecroppers in the ditch of poverty without literally jumping in the ditch on 
top of them. The segregation and discrimination against the blacks was the 
guarantee that the whites could not escape colonial exploitation. Here is the 
"key" and dialectic of American history and not some metaphysical racial 
antagonism and the black having a special consciousness about his oppression.  

So-called Racial antagonism made it appear as if there was a South African 
like white settler regime dominating a black nation. The isolation of a very 
large and compact mass of blacks people meant the isolation of an entire area. 
The complete development of the African American people within this isolation 
was indispensable to the development of the Black Belt. The blacks were the 
majority of the people in this historically evolved Black Belt community, which is 
not identical to the South as a Region. 

The blacks provided the basic culture of the Black Belt community and as a 
historically evolved people are not required to have a totally separate 
language, although every one on earth knows that the Blacks do not speak the "Kings 
English" or standard bourgeois American English and the Southern blacks and 
whites to this very day speak a different variation of American English than those 
in the North or rather historic New England States.  

The blacks in the Black Belt were the overwhelming force in the formation of 
the black belt nation because they were the economic center of the value 
producing system as slaves, but the black people in and of themselves were not the 
nation. Nations are not racial categories but products of history and economic 
commerce. This colonial nation was and is composed of a historically evolved 
community of people, regardless of "racial antagonism." 

What had been a brutal white supremacy under the Slave Oligarchy was now 
under the domination of Wall Street Imperialism and transformed into white 
chauvinism and national chauvinism, in as much as we are now talking about the 
oppression and exploitation of a nation. One can always consult the Southern white 
in the Mississippi Black belt of delta as it is called. 

Even during the worse days of the counterrevolution and reaction it was 
impossible to single out the black exclusively for the chain gang, the lynch rope, 
the blade, boot and the bullet. "Nigger Lover" was the charge leveled against 
the democratic whites and with this went the threat of the loss of property, 
limbs and even ones life.  

It was the military/political overthrow of Reconstruction and the institution 
of political fascism in the Black Belt region that defeated the democratic 
impulse to abolish the remnants of the system of slavery. Sharecropping and the 
convict lease system became the new forms of slavery for the African 
Americans. The most brutal social and political oppression was necessary to carry out 
the extreme level of economic exploitation based on the most primitive 
instruments of labor in agriculture.  The sharecropping blacks, cheated by the 
landlord planter, brutalized by the legal authorities, terrorized by the extra legal 
forces of reaction, were reduced to the level of the peasants of India.  

Then it got worse. No one would do business with the Negro so black 
businesses arose, but could not get insurance so black insurance companies arose to 
cater to a strictly segregated market. The dialectic of reaction transformed the 
enslavement of the African into a people and the re enslavement of a people 
into the basis of the enslavement of a nation. 

In the wake of this very real fascist reaction arose the Negro Bourgeois 
Democratic National Movement. Its goal was to complete the democratic revolution 
and to allow blacks to fully enter American society alongside their economic 
counterparts in all spheres. That is, this movement was against lynching's and 
the horrors of political fascism. From within the Negro Bourgeois Democratic 
National Movement arose the peculiar phenomena of the "black leader." 

Here is the Leninist presentation of the Negro Question during the period 
before the October Revolution or during the era of the bourgeois democratic 
national movement. CLR James has not a clue about American history and lack any 
concept of Leninism and the National Factor. 

The reality of social life in America is that the Civil War and Emancipation 
were and remain the most traumatic events in all of our history. 
Reconstruction and its overthrow is part of the political continuum created as by products 
of the Civil War and Emancipation. The nature of the struggle of the African 
American changed rapidly during Reconstruction and the counter revolution 
accelerated this change. What began as a struggle of a land less peasant like mass, 
with a minute proletariat, rapidly became the political striving of an 
oppressed nation struggle against Wall Street imperialism. 

This struggle produced the "Populism Movement" in the South and Southwest, 
with its cry against Wall Street imperialism or the banks and had some very 
progressive tendencies. This Populist Movement embraced all the classes of the 
South oppressed and exploited by Wall Street Imperialism, but in the South always 
had a fascists white supremacist current. Needless to say a non-class outlook 
movement not firmly rotted in the defense of the class interest of the most 
poverty stricken section of the laboring classes is the recipe for political 
fascism and the Populist Movement was steered down this road. 

The defeat of Reconstruction would alter American history forever and the 
clamp down on the Black Belt masses destroyed the broad struggle for democracy in 
the South and give birth to the Negro Bourgeois Democratic National Movement. 
A heavy "Cotton Curtain" was imposed on the Black Belt by the Southern 
reactionaries servants and custodians of Wall Street.  

After Reconstruction and prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of the 
1960 and 1970s all classes of African Americans were tied together by and in 
common struggle against second class citizenship. First the struggle against 
slavery and then the struggle to overthrow Jim Crow laws overlay any 
contradictions within the African American community.  This social reality created not 
simply leaders that were black but the "Black Leader" representative of first 
the Negro Bourgeois Democratic National Movement and after the October 
Revolution the "Black Leader" of the Negro Peoples National Liberation Movement. 

CLR James states: 

"(T)he key to the Marxist analysis of the Negro question . . . (is) his 
increasing integration into production  . . a social process, (and) the Negro 
becomes more . . . conscious of his exclusion from democratic privileges as a 
separate social group in the community." 

This is how James describes the defeat of Reconstruction, the triumph of 
political fascism, the lock down of the democratic minded Southern masses and 
their entrapment behind a heavy "Cotton Curtain" and the emergence of the Negro 
Bourgeois Democratic National Movement. "The Historical Development of the Negro 
in the United States," is utterly devoid of Leninism and contains not one 
drop of Marxism. We have always considered CLR James writings on the Negro 
Question the supreme act of political buffoonery, when he was alive and this 
assessment has not changed.  

Melvin P. 


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