[A-List] "Black Nationalism" and CLR James/National Factor (4)
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Wed Oct 13 17:20:25 MDT 2004
Black Nationalism 4
Black Nationalism 4
In the last insert James gave us his understanding of the "Historical
Evolution of the Negro Question in the United States" and sums it up as a race
question and violence spun by white supremacy or racial antagonism.
The overthrow of Reconstruction was at the hands of the counterrevolution
that instituted a fascist regime in the South as a region and specially the black
belt. A political force, constructed and funded by finance capital, which
overthrow a legal bourgeois democratic government and substitutes as a state form
of rule, the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary,
chauvinistic and imperialistic elements of finance capital is called fascists. Such a
political state we call fascism.
This is what happened in the South and political meaning of "the overthrow of
Reconstruction." The Jim Crow laws institutionalized in the North before the
Civil War would be applied to the South after the overthrow of Reconstruction.
The fact of our history is that the core South has always been more
"integrated" than the North and to this very day the most segregated cities in the
American Union remain in the North.
Here is the value of C. Vann Woodward's book, "The Strange Career of Jim
What does CLR James state?
"At the same time in the country as a whole, as in the world at large, the
rights of democracy become more and more a burning political question in view of
the widespread attack by declining bourgeois society upon the principles of
democracy in general. Simultaneously, the rise of the labor movement brings
increasing consciousness of labor as a social force in the reorganization of
society. Thus the Negro in his century and a half old struggle for democratic
rights is increasingly confronted with the subjective consciousness of himself as
an oppressed racial minority and the objective consciousness of labor as the
great bulwark of democracy in the country at large.
It is in the light of this contradiction that we must trace the development
among Negroes of the sense of nationalistic oppression and the modern efforts
to free themselves from it.
Negro Nationalism: First Phase
The first reaction of the masses of the Negroes to the consolidation of the
Solid South was the policy of Booker T. Washington, who counselled submission,
industrial training, and the development of Negro business. For the moment the
Negroes in the South seemed to acquiesce. But in reality there grew up a
furious but suppressed hatred of whites at the oppression and particularly at the
racial humiliation to which Negroes were now being subjected. The appreciation
of this is fundamental to any understanding of the Negro question."
After the overthrow of slavery the freemen fought for a broad variety of
demands, that in the main could not be separated from that of the striving of the
poor whites of the Black Belt and throughout much of the South as a region.
The demand for land expropriation, creating and strengthening the family farm,
for mass education, for easy credit, liberty was not a "black demand" and so
intertwined with the plight of all the toilers of the South that the black could
not be isolated from the white in the general political arena.
Even the "up hill whites" as a mass had no mysterious love of the Slave
Oligarchy, that had taxed them heavy and reserved the best land for its reactionary
class. This mass movement was a general bourgeois democratic movement of the
small land holders or as it is called the petty bourgeoisie.
The overthrow of Reconstruction and the fascists clamp down on the masses,
took place on the basis of the defeat and slaughter of the black masses in
motion. The institution of Jim Crow was legalized on the basis of the doctrine of
State Rights and stabilized by state, legal and extra legal terror or the lynch
rope. What began as a petty bourgeois democratic movement after the Civil War
became the Negro Bourgeois Democratic National Movement after the overthrow
of Reconstruction. It's cutting edge demands were against lynching, Jim Crow,
second class citizenship, peonage and political disenfranishment or against
During this period of time, between the 1890s and 1917, the struggle of the
black masses was an integral part of the general struggle of the colonial
masses against imperialism. On the one hand the struggle of the black masses could
not be totally separated against the struggle of the dirt farmers against the
Robber Baron monopolies. On the other hand a section of the black masses and
the black leaders understood that the plight of the black masses was no
different from that of the Cubans, the Puerto Ricans, the people of Santo Domingo,
Haiti, the Philippines, Latin America, Africa and even China.
Most certainly the black masses understood their struggle and that of the
colonial world was being waged on the basis the ideological and real fights
against white chauvinism. The internationalism of the Negro bourgeoisie has always
been a powerful force and given the fact that the only place for imperialism
to expand was in the colored world - in the main, this was expressed as a fight
against white supremacy or as it was coined by Dr. Dubois "the color line."
The Civil War up to the over throw of Reconstruction constitutes a
historically distinct phase of the battle for democracy in the South. This battle for
democracy in the South meant land ownership and the family farm or "40 acres and
a mule," as the economic basis of such democracy or the vision of Jefferson.
After the overthrow of Reconstruction and the consolidation of the shattered
slave oligarchy into the handmaiden of Wall Street Imperialism, we are no
longer dealing with the abstraction James calls "the rights of democracy . . . in
view of the widespread attack by declining bourgeois society upon the
principles of democracy in general."
The defeat of Reconstruction and the consolidation of political fascism
births the Negro Bourgeois Democratic National Movement as the struggle against
Wall Street Imperialism or against colonialism. One stage of all social processes
overlap and morphs into the next stage.
1. The struggle of the slave along with many "up hill" whites victimized by
the land grabs, harsh taxation and greed of the Slave Oligarchy, was the
struggle for democracy. Northern industrial interest collided with the political
interest of the Slave Power. The Slave oligarchy sought to leave the Union and
complete its development as an independent nation-state.
Slavery was overthrown in what rapidly became a revolutionary war. The demand
of the freemen was not for "Black Power," but land redistribution and
democracy. This movement was defeated and overthrown. We call this the first phase.
2. The defeat of Reconstruction and the imposition of fascism in the South
with the blessing of Wall Street imperialism is a distinctly different phase of
the political struggle or the second phase. Why?
The struggle of the African American masses in the black belt and the white
masses was objectively a struggle against not simply the landlord planter but
his master, Wall Street imperialism. This struggle is the meaning of the Negro
Bourgeois Democratic National Movement and it was and is a very real struggle,
not simply against the slave master but direct Wall Street colonialism. This
is and has always been the meaning of the political slogan "self determination
of the Black belt."
The political form of the striving for self determination of the Black Belt
was against fascism and to achieve social, economic and political equality with
the North on the basis of self rule. Self rule does not mean black rule but
the rule of the black belt on its own behave unencumbered by Wall Street
The color factor in our history made the ideological justification for the
clamp down on the masses in the black belt an evolution of militaristic white
supremacy into fascist white chauvinism. Fascism is in fact imperialism turned
inward and no where was this revealed more clearly than in the birth of the
world's first fascist movement in the South.
The reason the black masses were slaughtered was not because of race or
racial antagonism or white supremacy, but because the ex-slave was the center and
focal point of the revolutionary onslaught against the shattered slave
oligarchy and the North could not rule and control the South on the basis of Jefferson
democracy. Fascism came to power under the banner of "saving the South and
Here comes the clincher. CLR James statement quoted above is the exact same
theory and political line advanced by the CPUSA and coined in the 1930s as the
"Battle For Democracy." The so called Stalin-Trotsky polarity amongst
revolutionaries in the American Union on the Negro Question is a political fiction
invented by the anti-Soviet white petty bourgeois intellectual.
The political polarity in the history of the communist movement in America
bounces between "the Leninists conception of the National Factor" and the
"Non-Leninists conception" or racial theory.
Given the rampant chauvinism of the Yankee Revolutionaries, who with a
straight face have declared to the world toilers and generations of world
communists, that Wall Street Imperialism does not control the South, it is necessary to
clarify some basic class and political concepts.
Dr. Dubois was perhaps the most brilliant intellectual representative of the
Negro National Bourgeoisie and coined the saying, "the South controls the
country and Wall Street controls the South." This is the dynamic of our political
history since . . . basically, the presidential election of 1876 and the
compromise that withdrew Federal troops from the South.
Dubois declared that the color line is the battle line of the 20th Century
and he was correct because the bulk of the colonial world is colored or
nonwhite. Dubois merely states the ideological form of the world colonial struggle.
Our position on the Negro Question is pretty straight forth and is instantly
assimilated by anyone with an elementary grasp of political Leninism or
Southern history. The fundamental distinction between us and the CPUSA is our
description of the Negro Question as a modern National Colonial Question with all
its ramifications for proletarian revolution and the daily class struggle. Our
approach is that of the communists in the oppressing nation or the North,
because many of us are a couple generations industrial workers and lived in
Detroit, Chicago and New York and not Tchula Mississippi or Macon and Augusta
The CPUSA position on the Negro Question has always basically been an
abstraction that flows from a conception of the struggle in the Black Belt as the
continuation of the "Battle for Democracy," and the complete wiping out of the
remnants of feudalism or the completion of the bourgeois democratic revolution.
CLR James states the same thing only with his particular brand of Trotskyite
lingo. Here is also the error of much of the writings of James Allen, William
Foster, Herbert Aptheker, Dr. James Jackson and virtually all the
theoreticians of the CPUSA, on the Negro Question.
The struggle of the Negro masses in the black belt is against their colonial
status or against Yankee imperialism and one would do well to consult the
intellectual corps of the "white south." The struggle of the African American
people throughout the breath of America has always been against second class
citizenship and white chauvinism as a material force.
The theoretical error of the "Stalinist-Trotskyite block," - polarity, is a
historical inability to understand how and why Karl Marx described slavery in
the South as a bourgeois property relations. If Marx is correct and he is, how
on earth can one arrive at a political and theoretical position that the
struggle in the black belt is to complete the bourgeois democratic revolution or
over come the remnants of feudalism when economic feudalism did not exists in
the Black Belt?
Lenin of course speaks of the serf like social conditions of the plantation
South, but this can be no excuse for not studying our own history. Let's
examine what James actually states again:
"the Negro in his century and a half old struggle for democratic rights is
increasingly confronted with the subjective consciousness of himself as an
oppressed racial minority and the objective consciousness of labor as the great
bulwark of democracy in the country at large."
1. The century struggle James refers to is from 1840 - 1940. The struggle
from 1840 up until the over throw of Reconstruction, say 1890 was the battle for
democracy or against the Slave Oligarchy, for the overthrow of slavery and to
democratize the South.
2. After 1890 and with the birth of the Negro Bourgeois Democratic National
Movement the struggle is and was for the overthrow of imperialism and what
would become a bunch of Chiang Kai-Shek types in black and white faces. What had
been a battle to democratize the South on the basis of Jefferson democracy
became a militant fight and armed resistance to rampant fascism after 1890 when it
became worse than under slavery for the majority of toilers in the Black Belt
- black and white.
"It is in the light (!!!) of this contradiction (What contradiction?!!!) that
we must trace the development among Negroes of the sense of nationalistic
oppression and the modern efforts to free themselves from it."
The contradiction James speaks us is "the widespread attack by declining
bourgeois society upon the principles of democracy in general."
I cannot honestly lay such political buffoonery at the feet of political
Trotskyism since the CPUSA states the very same thing during this period. What we
are dealing with in the Black Belt was not a general curve of industrial
bourgeois democracy but political fascism.
What can one make of this gibberish about "Negroes . . . sense of
nationalistic oppression" and "the subjective consciousness of himself as an oppressed
Rather than become lost in endless excursions about reification or the
controlled domination of cultural, intellectual and artistic aspects of life in
bourgeois society and their various ideological reflections, suffice it to state,
the issue has never been how "Negroes . . . sense . . . oppression." The
subjective issue for communists is the political assessment of history and
junctures in the social process.
No one is required to prove the African Americans in the Black Belt of the
South, a colonial nation, experience oppression and exploitation very different
from the African American in the industrial North or say Detroit, Chicago and
New York. James casting the African American as a racial minority denies the
profound difference of economic, social and political development between North
The "Negro Question" as a national question of race is the reason Mr. Proyect
feels it is intellectually safe to discuss the National-Colonial Question
under the rubric of Black Nationalism.
Summary of (4)
The so-called "Battle for democracy" or the National Question as one of race
or a racial minority, in the South and Black Belt is a bourgeois conception of
the evolution of the social struggle of the African American. This concept is
the repudiation of the Leninist conception of the National Question and the
CLR James position on the Negro Question is a Trotskyite variation of the
position of the CPUSA. Lenin draws a fundamental distinction between the
bourgeois democratic national movements in the pre-October era and the transformation
of the communist conception of these movements in the Post-October Revolution
What arose with the defeat of Reconstruction was the Negro Bourgeois
Democratic National Movement and the peculiar phenomena of the "black leader."
The Civil War and the defeat of the Slave Oligarchy did not create the Negro
Bourgeois Democratic National Movement and the peculiar phenomena of the
"black leader." There were leaders that were black during the era of Reconstruction
because the newly freed slaves were black. Nevertheless, this social movement
unleashed by the overthrow of the slave form of labor was different from the
struggle that would later emerge under political fascism.
Within the Northern bourgeoisie, it was actually a body politic identified
with the industrialists that embraced the initial demand for 40 acres and a
mule, with them supplying all the industrial implements to a democratic south and
having access to a trmendous supply of cheap labor. This section of capital
was politically defeated on a curve of history in front of the world curve. In
America, finance-industrial imperialism emerged on the basis of colonization of
the defeated South.
Once the deal was made between the Southern politician/landloard planter cass
and his Wall Street backers, reaction was given the right to subdue the South
and crush the movement to democratize the South as the land of small farmer
holders. This political movement is called fascism and this political impulse
created the world's first fascist movement and drowned Reconstruction in a sea
The social movement that arose in opposition to the world's first modern
fascist movement was the Negro Bourgeois Democratic National Movement and the
peculiar phenomena of the "black leader." Our beloved Dr. W.E.B. Dubois matured
during this era . . . he was born in 1868. He ended up in the Peoples Republic
of China and in history is the foremost revolutionary and critical thinker to
emerge from the Negro National Bourgeoisie.
This "Negro Bourgeois Democratic National Movement and the peculiar phenomena
of the "black leader," on the scale of the curve of world political history,
becomes the "Negro Peoples National Liberation Movement" and peculiar
phenomena of the "black leader," in the wake of the October Revolution and the
formation of the Third Communist International.
CLR James was no Leninists on the national question and not even a decent
Marxists. Mr. Proyect - along with most revolutionaries, black and white, of the
North have not accepted the burden of being a Yankee.
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