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What is Proletarian Interracialism?

by Sy Landy

The Black struggles in the 1960’s and early ’70’s smashed legal segregation and opened up some previously closed occupational and educational opportunities for racially oppressed people in this country. However, the upheaval did not succeed in winning “integration” – the achievement of a colorblind egalitarian America. What is more, even the gains that were won, especially for the poorer sections of the Black working class, are under mounting attack. And the rising tide of police brutality threatens all oppressed and exploited people.

History has now proven what authentic Marxists predicted long ago. Integrationism is impossible under American capitalism. Now, nearly everyone knows that the integrationist ideology of the middle class civil rights leadership and the goal promised by white liberals and the Democratic party was a myth. However, the “community control” notions put forward by others have also proven false in practice. No matter whether such schemes were put forward by advocates of nationalism, separatism or multi-culturalism, none of them won any real power for the ghetto masses. Nor could they.

The grim reality is that just as much as humans need air to live, American capitalism needs racism to survive. Historically, the small ruling class has learned that the way to retain its power over the massive and potentially very powerful working class is through racist divide-and-conquer tactics.

Internationalism and Interracialism

The League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP), reflecting its Leninist heritage, has always championed proletarian (working class) internationalism in its uncompromising struggle against all forms of nationalism and chauvinism. In today’s world the LRP has also fought for proletarian interracialism as the only outlook capable of overcoming and destroying the racist pestilence inherent in capitalism. An internationalist and interracialist world can only be achieved through proletarian socialist revolution.

Biologically, there is only one race, the human race. However, the existence of races as a historical and social fact of life cannot be ignored if racism is to be fought. The idea of separate races was spawned by the rising European-based capitalism as a justification for early imperialism and then New World slavery. At the dawn of this century, the dawn of the epoch of imperialism and capitalist decay, it was further elaborated in defense of the racist practice which had become an inescapable bedrock necessity for American capitalism. The revolutionary achievement of a non-racial human world could only come through a strategy which recognizes the material reality of the racial division in the U.S. today.

The socialist revolution in the U.S. can only occur if it is led by a genuinely interracialist working class vanguard party. However, we must squarely face the fact that the racial outlook of many white workers has been the major deterrent to class solidarity. White racism within the working class has been a crucial factor throughout much of American history. And, while it is often mixed with a certain sympathy and respect for Black people, racism persists to this day among large numbers of white workers. Therefore, it is with good reason that many Black workers are highly suspicious of whites and white-dominated institutions, even those which profess solidarity.

Race consciousness and the belief that Blacks have to unify in their own defense is justifiably popular among Black workers. And that need will not begin to go away until white workers recognize that it is in their own real interest to fight the racial attacks on Blacks and Latinos generated by capitalism and prove their commitment to the struggle. A genuinely interracialist working class vanguard cannot be built by denying the existence of the racial divide and the reality of special circumstances facing Black Americans.

Lenin’s Method

We believe that authentic Marxists can learn the strategy for achieving both working class unity and Black self-defense by looking to the methodology worked out by Lenin earlier in this era.

Lenin fought for an internationalist outlook which he insisted had to remain uncontaminated by even “the purest” forms of nationalism. The advanced workers’ party in each nation had to be part of the international party. However, Lenin knew that a non-national world could not be achieved by ignoring the real differences which exist between nations under capitalism. He did not equate the struggles of the nationally oppressed with the nationalism of the imperialist powers. Internationalists could not dismiss such struggles because they were often led by pro-capitalist nationalist ideologues; that would inevitably mean to side with the oppressors rather than the masses of the oppressed in reality.

To convince the superexploited colonized masses that proletarian internationalism was the only real answer to capitalist imperialism, communist revolutionaries had to be the best defenders of the right of self-determination for oppressed nationalities. That meant, as Lenin demonstrated, that such people had the right to choose secession, i.e. national political independence. However, while steadfastly defending their right to choose for themselves, Lenin constantly pointed out that given the economic dominance of capitalist imperialism, no such nation could really be free or equal. Only an internationalist union of revolutionary workers’ states could take the necessary steps toward true equality.

The achievement of such a world federation would be a decisive step in the struggle to destroy every last vestige of the inhuman reactionary society which dominates the globe today. However, as Leninists openly stress, a federation of nationally-based working class states would be but a means to communism’s far greater goal, an authentically communist world which would be truly human; a society of abundance for all people; a society in which all classes, nation states and borders will have disappeared. And a society in which, finally, the horror of racism will be eradicated once and for all. And not only racism but the very idea of separate races.

The Right of Self-Organization

The underlying approach of Leninists to the national question does not get tossed out of the window when the oppressed people are not a separate nation, as is the case with American Blacks. The interracialist revolutionary group defends the right of the mass of racially oppressed people to advance their struggle through self-organization, if they so choose. While championing this right, Bolshevik-Leninists relentlessly expose the pro-capitalist capitulations of both integrationist and separatist misleaders and point to the necessity of building the unified proletarian interracialist and internationalist party to lead the masses’ revolutionary struggles.

It is not only a question of defending the right to choose separate self-organization; at present we often advocate the formation of Black self-defense groups. A united working class armed defense of Blacks against police brutality and KKK-style assaults is the strongest and most preferable answer. However, in most situations today, the masses of white workers do not yet have the consciousness to see the need, let alone act upon it. It would be criminal to suggest that Blacks or other oppressed people under armed attack wait until united working class militia are possible before mobilizing in their own defense. So, while advocating immediate Black self-defense organizations, in the unions and other institutions we challenge their current misleaderships to mobilize broader defense efforts in our ongoing efforts to raise the consciousness of all workers on such matters.

Because of a capitulatory crew of labor bureaucrats, the American working class these days has been taking it on the chin without much of a fightback. Strikes have been few in number, in sharp contrast to both past history and what is inevitably going to happen in the coming years. However, only a short time ago, a very significant omen of the future occurred – the bitter national UPS strike. The UPS bosses tried to set full-time workers against part-timers and divide the workers by race. White workers united with the many young Black and Latino workers instead, and together they won an important, if temporary, victory.

The relationship between Black and white workers in the United States is now very different than it was in the past. Strength is not simply a question of numbers. Something cataclysmic happened to race and class relations in the early 1970’s. Not only had the ghettos erupted, scaring the capitalist rulers no end, but as well for the first time in American history, white workers followed the leadership of Black workers in major strikes. Given that dramatic reversal, and given the strategic position that Black and Latino workers now occupy in major industries and the central cities, the fate of workers of color is no longer as much in the hands of the more numerous white workers as it was in the past.

Interracialism is no benevolent gift condescendingly granted to Black workers by a white majority. Racism primarily hurts workers of color, but as well it undermines the income and the strength of all sections of the proletariat. White workers can be won to the fight for revolution and Black liberation when Black workers chart an uncompromising path which challenges the system which exploits us all. Decades ago, Leon Trotsky predicted that the revolutionary proletarian vanguard would be led in the U.S. by Black workers to an extent well beyond their proportionate numbers. And it is true: Black workers are now, in fact, key to the formation of the interracialist party capable of overthrowing the bestial capitalist system.

Further reading: Marxism, Interracialism, and the Black Struggle by Sy Landy

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