Black Radical Congress and "the Left"

Charles Brown charlesb at
Mon Jun 22 07:01:17 PDT 1998

>>> Louis Proyect writes:

The Russian Revolution demonstrated that the nationalism of the oppressed can be a powerful force in the workers revolution. The Bolsheviks remained open to the idea of cross-class national liberation formations fighting side by side with communist organizations. Support for the Kuomingtang was only withdrawn after it became obvious that the bourgeoisie had become hegemonous.>>>

Charles: I agree here. The theory of national liberation movements , that is revolutionary nationalist struggles, has been a major feature of communism and Leninism. Right now, a major part what is left of the historical impact of the Russian Revolution is state powers won by national liberation movements against colonialism. Although the African American people do not now constitute a fully separate nation, did not exercise their right of self-determination to secede from the U.S., Black Americans are a specially oppressed nationality within the U.S. Historically, Black people have been the most militant national component of the U.S. working class.

Trotsky was for black nationalism. So was CLR James, the outstanding American Marxist thinker of the last half-century. The reason black nationalism is progressive is that it mobilizes the most oppressed section of the working-class on the basis of its own unique oppression. Historically it has been observed that the more power that this sector demonstrates, the more possibility that integrated class action can take place. This is the dialectic. When the exclusively black Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement stood up to the auto and UAW bosses in the late 60s, the next thing that happened is that integrated caucuses began to form. White workers understood that it was in their class interests to work with the black nationalists.>>>

Charles: General Baker, one of the members of DRUM, and a Ford foundry worker at Ford Rouge still, was a panelist in a plenary session of the Black Radical Congress. Instead of speeches, veterans like Gen, Angela Davis and Barbara Smith were paired with younger activists in 15 minute ,public intergenerational dialogues. It was a very good idea.

Rakesh's hostility to black nationalism is a clear illustration of "left conservatism.">>>

Charles: I should add to what I said above about the progressive aspect of natonalism of oppressed groups, that I can understand Rakesh's concern about the contradictory reactionary potential and expression of Black nationalism and other nationalisms of oppressed groups. This is a mixed question, and to use a cliche, must be examined on a more case by case basis, that is concretely.

In my opinion, the Black Radical Congress was very, very progressive. In fact, as I posted earlier, it was not actually closed to whites. I have direct evidence of that. I sat next to and spoke with white people in the sessions. It was announced from the podium that this had been sanctioned by the leading committee. This demonstrated a new maturity in Black radicalism, including explicitly and conscious revolutionary nationalist radicalism.

Although it should be recalled that the Black Panthers were very internationalist AND NATIONALIST in their approach. I got a newsletter from the Institute of MultiRacial Justice, "Shades of Power", at the BRC, with a historical article on a Japanese American , Richard Aoki, who had been in a U.S. concentration camp as a youth and who was a member and "field marshall" of the Black Pantthers Party. According to Aoki there were several Asian American members of the Black Panther Party.

In Michigan, in the same era, we had the White Panther Party, a group of white radicals , and allies of the Black Panthers. The origin of the White Panther Party was part of a dialectic like that Louis describes above.

There is a sense in which one cannot be a good internationalist without being nationally rooted. Radicals of "great power" nations and nationalities recognize that there nationalism must not be in conventional political form, yet they are rooted in peoples with traditions, languages and historical class struggles. The "national" history for whites is the class struggles of the oppressed classes sketched essentially in The Communist Manifesto. In other words, the working classes of great power nations must recover and make their progressive national consciousnesses out of the same hidden historical working class struggles that Marx and Engels emphasized , in their new historical theory and method in The Manifesto.

Workers of all countries and colors unite !

Charles Brown

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list