Marxist Bulletin No 5 Revised
What Strategy for Black Liberation? Trotskyism vs. Black Nationalism
Preface to the First Edition
We are pleased to reprint the present article in accordance with the Marxist Bulletin’s general policy of publishing educational or information material of interest to sections of the Marxist movement in the United States and internationally, to militants in the Negro and working class struggles, and to radical student youth.
Comrade Fraser’s “For the Materialist Conception of the Negro Question” is an early, able, and brief polemical product of the Socialist Workers Party minority on the Negro Question which has for some years stood for the position of Revolutionary Integration. The document presents a sharp refutation of the idea that Black Nationalism, in any of its variants, is a solution to the American Negro struggle under the specific economic and historical conditions in which this struggle takes place.
In recent years the important theoretical discussion among Marxian revolutionists (see “Documents on the Negro Struggles” on the fundamental character of the Negro Question has been accompanied by the more immediate problem of struggle against revisionism. The leadership of the Socialist Workers Party in the course of its degeneration began to use the erroneous Black Nationalist position as a way of rationalizing its own loss of a working class revolutionary perspective and consequent platonic attitude toward the need to create a unified Leninist vanguard party.
At the 1963 SWP National Convention our caucus expressed the opinion of the Revolutionary Tendency on these questions in two ways. Our delegates voted for the 1963 resolution, “Revolutionary Integration,” springing from the same current of opinion which produced the document we are now reprinting and advanced by Richard Kirk against the nationalist position of the party leadership. Our representatives voted in favor of the Kirk resolution despite a number of important criticisms or reservations held about this later document.
Supplementing the vote of our tendency delegation, we submitted to the convention secretary a “Statement in Voting on the Negro Question” as follows:
“Our support to the basic line of the 1963 Kirk resolution, ‘Revolutionary Integration,’ is centered upon the following propositions:
“I. The Negro people are not a nation, rather they are an oppressed race-color caste, in the main comprising the most exploited layer of the American working class. From this condition the consequence has come that the Negro struggle for freedom has had, historically, the aim of integration into an equalitarian society.
“II. Our minority is most concerned with the political conclusions stemming from the theoretical failures of the Political Committee draft, ‘Freedom Now.’ This concern found expression in the recent individual discussion article, ‘Black Trotskyism.’ The systematic abstentionism and the accompanying attitude of acquiescence which accepts as inevitable that ‘ours is a white party’ are most profound threats to the revolutionary capacity of the party on the American scene.”
(20 July 1963)
Additionally, later that summer our supporters in the Young Socialist Alliance submitted to the Labor Day YSA Convention a draft resolution on civil rights, “The Negro Struggle and the Crisis of Leadership.”
Possible objections to two points in Comrade Fraser’s “For the Materialist Conception…” should be considered. On page 3 Fraser writes of “… the peculiar phenomenon of the Jews: a nation without a territory.” The reader’s attention should be directed to another view current within the Trotskyist movement, that presented by Abram Leon in his book, “The Jewish Question–A Marxist Interpretation.” Leon defines the Jews not as a nation without a territory but as a “people class” indispensible to feudalism but without a secular basis within modern capitalism.
Fraser states on page 5 that in the United States during the period between the Revolutionary and Civil wars there was “a regime of dual power between slave owners and capitalists.” This is simply a wrong formulation. Dual power in Marxist usage refers to the inevitably brief circumstance of two separate state powers based upon hostile classes of the same nation struggling to vanquish one another, not a conflict extending over decades within a single state–the situation to which Fraser refers.
Spartacist Editorial Board June 1964