[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 
Crow." 
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."  
Full: http://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/works/articles/negro43.htm
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 
political fascism.  
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 
imperialism. 
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 
white domination." 
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 
Georgia. 
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. 
James continues: 
"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 
racial minority"? 
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 
and South. 
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 
National-Colonial Question. 
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 
era. 
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 
of blood. 
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. 
Melvin P.
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