Black Nationalism

Every once in a while I run into a book with such a combination of scholarship and Marxist insight that it really blows me away. It is a happy coincidence that the book I am reading now, Ephraim Nimni's "Marxism and Nationalism", dovetails perfectly with the cyberseminar. I owe thanks to Scott McLemee who tugged my lapel to this book. I am going to recapitulate material from the first three chapters of the book and conclude with some thoughts on what relevance it has for the ongoing discussion on nationalism.


Most of what Marx and Engels were concerned about on the national question has to do with the task of the bourgeois revolution. Feudal social and economic relations were an obstacle to capitalist development, which in turn created the preconditions for proletarian revolution. Hence the urgency was to unite a nation having in common the following criteria:

--It must hold a population large enough to allow for an internal division of labor which characterises a capitalist system with its competing classes; and

--occupy a cohesive and sufficiently large territorial space to provide for the existence of a viable state.

The French revolution was a model for this form of national development. Just as the Russian revolution was a model for 20th century revolutions, so was the revolution of 1789 a model for bourgeois democrats in places like Italy, Germany and Ireland that had remnants of the old order.

The Jacobins believed that the only way to consolidate a modern, bourgeois state was to follow a path of tight centralization and *linguistic standardization*. We should not neglect the importance of the second task. Before the revolution, France had a patchwork of linguistic communities that spoke either Romance languages (Langue d'Oc, Langue d'Oil, Catalan), other Celtic languages (Breton), and other ancient pre-Latin languages (Euzkera). In the period before the revolution, only 3 million inhabitants of Paris and the surrounding areas spoke "French" as their mother tongue and a smaller number could read and write in this language.

The reason it became an urgent political task for the Jacobins to enforce French as a national language was that feudal counter-revolution tended to be strongest in areas where the language was not spoken, such as Brittainy where Breton was the native tongue.

In the context of the bourgeois revolution, the *crushing* of culture and language of the non-Parisian French national communities was progressive. Marx and Engels agreed completely that such action was necessary not only for 18th century France, but contemporary Europe as well. State centralization and national unification, with the consequent *assimilation* of small national communities was the only viable path to social progress.

However, what role do stateless or numerically small national communities such as the Bretons play? Are they all grist for the mill of bourgeois revolution? The answer from Marx and Engels is not encouraging. If the number one priority is to create strong national states, how else can they view cultural and ethnic obstructionists. If doctrinaire Marxism of the twentieth century puts forward the slogan that nationalism divides the working-class, there is some antecedent for this since Marx and Engels put forward slogans 150 years ago that the nationalism of the lesser nationalities divides the bourgeoisie.

They pinned their hopes above all on the national unification of the German peoples, who they contrasted as a "more energetic race" to the smaller national communities on the eastern outskirts of the German national territory, who could only be an obstacle to unification:

"Bohemia and Croatia (another disjected member of the Slavonic family, acted upon by the Hungarian, as Bohemia by the German) were the homes of what is now called on the European continent 'Panslavism'. Neither Bohemia nor Croatia was strong enough to exist as a nation by herself. Their respective nationalities, gradually undermined by the action of historical causes that inevitably absorbs into a more energetic stock, could only hope to be restored to anything like independence by an alliance with other Slavonic nations." ("Panslavism--the Schleswig Holstein War").

Who would be the leader of such a federation of Slavonic nations? The only such leader waiting in the wings is the Russian czar, according to Marx. There is one consolation. The democratic movement in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy will assimilate these "relics of people", transforming their culture and national identity into the 'superior' German and Magyar culture.

Here is the clearest theoretical statement on the attitude of Marx and Engels on the national question:

"There is no country in Europe which does not have in some corner or another one or several fragments of peoples, the remnant of a former population that was suppressed and held in bondage by the nation of which later became the main vehicle for historical development. These relics of a nation, mercilessly trampled under the course of history, as Hegel says 'these residual fragments of peoples' always become standard bearers of counter revolution and remain so until their complete extirpation or loss of their national character, just as their whole existence in general is itself a protest against a great historical revolution.

Such in Scotland are the Gaels, the supporters of the Stuarts from 1640 to 1745.

Such in France are the Bretons, the supporters of the Bourbons from 1742 to 1800.

Such in Spain are the Basques, the supporters of Don Carlos.

Such in Austria are the panslavist Southern Slavs, who are nothing but residual fragments of peoples, resulting from an extremely confused thousand years development. This residual fragment, which is likewise extremely confused sees its salvation only in the reversal of the whole European movement, which in its view ought not to go from west to east, but from east to west." ("The Magyar Struggle")


The Second International accepted Marx and Engels understanding of the national question without reservation. Kautsky was the outstanding leader of Second International orthodoxy and his views are typical.

His views on history and socialism bordered on Social Darwinism. History would weed out those social forms which could not satisfy their roles in the various stages of the evolution toward socialism. Communities, small nationalities, are mere cogs in the great machinery of history. "All communities have economic functions to fulfill! This must, self evidently have been the case with the original communist societies which we encounter at the threshold of history." ("The Class Struggle")

One of the key aspects of the national struggle, in Kautsky's view, is the need for a common language. In this he is in complete agreement with the bourgeois revolutionaries of France. For Kautsky, this is only secondarily related to the need to stamp out feudal reaction which dwells in the backwaters of great nations where all sorts of odd dialects are spoken. It also has to do with the need to unite the nation commercially. Languages are the basic medium of social intercourse, including that of the marketplace. For capitalism to be fully consolidated, a single language must be consolidated as well.

The sooner conversion takes place to a single language, the better. Kautsky endorsed He concluded that the languages of the small Slavic nationalities and the Gaelic tongue in Ireland had no future. At most, they would remain in "domestic use" the way that "old family furniture" is taken out on special occasions but has little practical value.

The hostility to nationalism of "lesser" peoples reaches a frenzied pitch with the arrival of Rosa Luxemburg. Her fire is directed against the national independence movement of her native Poland, which even Marx and Engels favored.

Luxemburg argues that the Polish national aspirations were legitimate in 1848, but in the 20th century conditions had changed. Capitalism had arrived in Russia and Polish workers would be better off joining the Russian working-class in a fight for socialism than in allying itself with the reactionary Polish petty-bourgeoisie. They were based on cottage industries that felt threatened by large-scale Russian capital. As an orthodox Marxist, she opposed Polish nationalism since it was an obstacle to the spread of large-scale capitalism in Poland.

She declared that only two class factions could orient to Polish nationalism: the declining petty-bourgeoisie of cottage industry and the intelligentsia. The working-class could not take sides with such reactionary forces:

"If the proletariat would consider Polish independence as its own political program, this will be against the process of economic development. This will not only be of no help in the fulfillment of its task as a class, but, on the contrary, it will produce an ever widening gap between itself and its aspirations." (From her doctoral thesis on industrial development in Poland)

Luxemburg's intransigent position on Polish nationalism caused a split in the social democratic party there. The PPS (Polish Socialist Party) favored national independence while Luxemburg's party, the SKDKPiL (Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania), opposed it.

She would often use language in support of her arguments that smacked of the same great nation chauvinism that appeared in Marx and Engels. In an article published in Die Neue Zeit, she argued that the Russian middle class was immature because it did not intervene in the squabbles between lesser nationalities:

"the many Kirgiz, Baschirs, Lapps and others, the remainders and ruins of former nations had no more to say in the social and political life of Russia than the Basques in France and the Wends in Germany."


Lenin's break with the dogmatism of the Second International covers many different questions, but none is more important in some respects than the national question. Without a correct understanding of this question, revolution was not possible in Russia.

For Lenin, the key question is not just how to advance the historical development of the productive forces. This task was part of the larger socialist project, which included the development of a vanguard party that could act as a tribune of the masses in defense of all layers of the oppressed, including minor nationalities. The revolution is the culmination of the maturation of economic trends, but will certainly not occur unless the working-class and its allies are politically organized.

As part of the socialist project, the working-class must embrace the demands of all the oppressed, including the minor nationalities that earlier Marxists --including Marx himself-- considered impediments to bourgeois consolidation.

What distinguishes Lenin from Second International was his placing proletarian revolution in the foreground. While orthodox Marxists of the Menshevik faction worried about uncompleted tasks of the bourgeois revolution in Russia, Lenin looked forward to the socialist tasks. The dialectic of his approach could only guarantee success for bourgeois-democratic tasks since the Russian bourgeoisie was so craven and reactionary.

His position in favor of self-determination of nations put him on a collision course with Second International orthodoxy, and with Rosa Luxemburg in particular. Rosa Luxemburg rejected self-determination in Czarist Russia, including for her native Poland, because she saw no causality between such a goal and the aims of the working-class narrowly defined. She simply was not interested in any movement that did not directly advance the goals of the working-class *as a class*.

Lenin was a consummate politician and understood that a successful revolution would involve tactical alliances with political formations that were not directly based on the working-class. This quote from an article Lenin wrote for Luxemburg's theoretical journal captures his understanding of the dialectical relationship between class and national demands:

"...while being based on economics, socialism cannot be reduced to economics alone. A foundation --socialist production-- is essential for the abolition of national oppression, but this foundation must also carry a democratically organized state, a democratic army, etc. By transforming capitalism into socialism the proletariat only creates the possibility of abolishing national oppression; the possibility becomes reality 'only' --'only'!-- with the establishment of full democracy in all spheres, including the delimitation of state frontiers in accordance with the 'sympathies' of the population, including complete freedom to secede."

The reason that Lenin's approach to the national question is more correct than Kautsky's superficial orthodoxy is that it relates to the revolutions of the twentieth century that have occurred in "peripheral" nations. As preoccupied as Marx and Engels were with the unification of Germany on the model of Jacobin France, the national question is a burning one *for the working-class* and not the bourgeoisie in the twentieth century.

The reason for this is simple. We are living in the age of imperialism. Imperialism is a world-wide system and the resistance to it often takes the form of a struggle for national liberation. This has been the case in dozens of countries over the past fifty years. The revolution that originally caused many of us on this list to become Marxists was in many respects a nationalist uprising: Vietnam.

This is not to say that the nationalist demands and pure class demands can be neatly wrapped in a package and used as a bomb against capitalist rule. Genuine politics is complicated because capitalist society is complex. We often confront leaders who are more like Louis Farrakhan than Malcolm X. Dogmatic Marxists have an easy job in front of them. They combine the movement as a whole, no matter who is in the leadership.

This cyberseminar can provide a framework for the discussion of many interesting questions, including those that are on the agenda. I can think of the following as examples:

1) Catalan separatism in the Spanish Civil War: reactionary or revolutionary?

2.) Palestine? A formally correct position would be "unite Jewish and Arab workers in a revolutionary socialist federation." What is the political meaning of such a slogan in the context of Israeli national oppression of the Arab peoples.

3) African nationalism? What is the significance of the national question in a continent that was so distorted socially and economically by imperialism? Basil Davidson's "The Black Man's Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State' argues that the nationalist aspirations of the colonial masses was doomed to be frustrated since it was based on an incorrect assessment of social and economic conditions.

Next Sunday (or Monday) we will hear from Louis Godena. I am not exactly what topics he will cover, but I know what I would like to hear about. Leaving aside Stalin's abuse of the Soviet republics, there is considerable respect paid to his theoretical writings on the national question. Nimni thinks that they are first-rate additions to the Marxist literature. What did Stalin believe?

How did various Communist Parties act on these theories? What is the record of the CPUSA? I look forward to hearing about the "black belt" application of Stalin's theory. Even if one disagrees with this policy, there is much that can be learned about American history from seeing how it was received by the black masses.

The following week we will be hearing from Scott McLemee on CLR James, a powerful theoretician of the class-nation dynamic. I would hope to hear an interesting exchange of ideas between Louis G. and Scott around the different approaches to the black struggle of two American socialist parties.

We have an opportunity to raise the theoretical level of this forum in the approaching weeks. There are of course people who have no interest in this type of discussion. I certainly expect to ignore them as I have been doing for weeks and months. They are a nuisance like the one my neighbor creates when he plays his disco with the bass turned up, but I can ignore him. When we are creating our own music on this list, there will much less opportunity to be distracted by the cacophony of others.

I have not done enough research to render a judgement on the CPUSA's "Black Belt" policy. Louis Godena believes that it was an idea hatched in Moscow and failed to truly capture the imagination of the black masses, despite the oral histories of various participants.

There was, however, a massive expression of black nationalism in the early 1920s that has to be reckoned with, and that is the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) founded and led by Marcus Garvey. This movement collapsed in the late 1920s due to the financial and political ineptitude of Garvey himself, who was more of an orator and dreamer than anything else. What interests me is not so much the career of Garvey himself, but what the movement can tell us about how black people developed a response to white racism. This response, as is often the case in protest politics, does not follow a scenario concocted by brilliant Marxist thinkers but is sprawling, messy and inchoate. Politics must start with what *is* rather than what *should be*, a frustrating prospect for the doctrinaire. One of the primary facts of American political life is that black nationalism has had an enduring presence in the black community since the days of Marcus Garvey to the present era of Louis Farrakhan. Marxists have preached black-white unity to the black masses since the days of Garvey, but somehow the idea of black unity seems to have the greater appeal.

The Garvey movement grew out of the objective political conditions created by WWI. Both WWI and WWII raised the expectations of the black population, since both wars were fought in the name of democracy and human rights. Black soldiers wondered why they were fighting to defend the democratic rights of the poor Belgians when they faced Jim Crow back at home.

In the years immediately following WWI, there were violent racial confrontations throughout the United States. The immediate economic cause was rivalry between northern whites and a recently arrived black population from the rural south. Whites expected these blacks to accept second-class citizenship, but emboldened by the democratic promises of Woodrow Wilson's presidency decided to fight back and stand up for their rights.

In 1917, the city of East St. Louis, Illinois whites rioted against blacks working in a factory holding government war contracts and 40 blacks died. On July 27, 1919 a rumor that whites drowned a black child was the spark that was needed to engulf the city in racial violence. Tension had been building after heavy black migration from the south. White arson left more than a thousand black families homeless. The race riots left blacks with the determination that they had to defend themselves. One black man in the Chicago area explained his attitude: "It is the attitude of every man here to provide himself with guns and ammunition. I, myself, have at least one gun and least enough ammunition to make it useful." (The quote appears in E. David Cronon's "Black Moses", a study of the Garvey movement. The book was written in 1955 and is useful for its historical material. Unfortunately the book has only a limited understanding of Garveyism since the perspective of the author--understandably given the date--is limited to civil rights.)

This is what American society looked like when Marcus Garvey arrived from Jamaica to establish a branch of the UNIA in Harlem. Garvey's main influence was Booker T. Washington, a paradigm of accomodationism in black politics. Washington tried to broker partnerships with wealthy and influential white patrons in order to build self-help institutions in the black community such as colleges and businesses. Garvey agreed that self-help was the key but rejected any alliances with whites.

His approach to black politics was almost identical to the Nation of Islam. Shortly after the Million Man March on Washington, the Spoons Marxism list had a flurry of posts attacking Louis Farrakhan, the "black Hitler". The bean-pie selling NOI was likened to the militias and we warned to watch out for pogroms organized by their gangs. This, of course, was pure nonsense. Behind the inflammatory rhetoric of Farrakhan is a rather mild social philosophy. Black people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. This is not fascism, it is petty-bourgeois reformism cloaked in fake Islam, numerology and bits and pieces of nationalist ideology.

Garvey's own utopian program revolved around two key planks: the formation of a black-owned steamship enterprise called the Black Star and a "back to Africa" colonization effort. The UNIA did manage to raise the funds to purchase a few rickety boats and took black people out for day-long excursions. One of the boats was christened the Antonio Maceo, named after the legendary black Cuban revolutionary.

Shady book-keeping practices combined with government hostility finally destroyed Garvey's project and he ended up in prison. He was a completely isolated figure among the black intelligentsia and civil-rights oriented activist circles. Both WEB DuBois and A. Philip Randolph denounced him for misleading the black masses. When the 30s erupted with the fight to form industrial unions, the black struggle was subsumed under the general class struggle and Garvey seemed like a bad dream to most Marxists. What needs to be accounted for, however, was the appeal of Garvey to the black masses themselves. Garveyism, unlike any prior movement, awakened a mood of resistance in the black proletariat. This, no doubt, explains the government's hostility to Garvey who was simply the conduit for this underlying militancy.

At a UNIA convention on August 2, 1920 25,000 black people filled NYC's Madison Square Garden to hear a keynote speech by Garvey. The red, black and green nationalist banners were waved by the throngs of people as musical groups performed nationalist hymns.

Garvey's opening words set the tone of the convention as he announced that he had sent a telegram to Irish nationalist leader Eamon De Valera in their name: "Twenty-five thousand Negro delegates assembled in Madison Square Garden in mass meeting, representing 400,000,000 Negroes of the world send you greetings as President of the Irish Republic. We believe Ireland should be free even as Africa shall be free for the Negroes of the world. Keep up the fight for a free Ireland."

Garvey then addressed the crowd. He said, "We are the descendants of a suffering people. We are the descendants of a people determined to suffer no longer. We shall now organize the 400,000,000 Negroes of the world into a vast organization to plant the banner of freedom on the great continent of Africa."

Later in the month Garvey addressed another gathering at Carnegie Hall. Invoking the resentment that many black veterans felt, he stated, "The first dying that is to be done by the black man in the future will be done to make himself free." After such freedom is won, "if we have any charity to bestow, we may die for the white man." "But for me," Garvey proclaimed, "I think I have stopped dying for him." This speech was so frightening to white legislators in New York that it was cited in the Lusk report on radicalism and sedition that year.

The radicalization of the 1930s undercut Garvey's black nationalism. White Communists attacked Jim Crow on all fronts, including the union movement itself, and the CPUSA won adherents to its "black-and white, unite and fight" line. The "Black Belt" thesis had long been abandoned. This line of "revolutionary integrationism" has also been widely accepted by the sort of dogmatic Trotskyism represented by the tiny ultraleft Spartacist League. The difference between the CPUSA and the Spartacists revolves around the former's ability to actually influence history and politics with this line.

There have been exceptions to this perspective. In my next post I want to take up the views of CLR James, an American Trotskyist who, like Garvey, was from the Caribbeans and who supported black nationalism from a Marxist perspective, however. In my final post, I will take up the relationship between Malcolm X, yet another black American of Caribbean descent, and the Socialist Workers Party who embraced his black nationalist vision against the criticisms of CPUSA and Spartacist alike.

Louis Proyect In the next day or so I will post a longish piece on CLR James's 1943 article "The Historical Development of Negroes in American Society." I promise this will be one of my more interesting submissions to the list. Scott McLemee recommended that I look at Kevin Anderson's "Lenin, Hegel and Western Marxism" in conjunction with my James research. Hegel apparently had a major influence on Lenin's thought during the WWI period, when he was refining his position on the self-determination of oppressed nationalities. Hegel was a major influence on James as WWII unfolded, when he too was developing his own ideas on the ties between black nationalism and socialism.

As background, it would be useful to provide some biographical detail on CLR James. For this I am indebted to the splendid introduction of "CLR James on the Negro Question" by Scott McLemee the editor.

CLR James (1901-1989) was a Trinidadian revolutionary intellectual and writer who was won over to Trotsky's ideas in the 1930s when he was living in London. He arrived in the United States in 1938 shortly after the publication of his "Black Jacobins", a study of Toussaint Louverture, who led the Haitian revolution. In 1939 the public figure of CLR James disappeared. What happened is that he reemerged as "JR Johnson", a member of the Socialist Workers Party. For the next decade he functioned as a disciplined member of the Trotskyist movement and all his writings were targeted for publication in party journals or internal documents.

James was not particularly interested in the "Negro question" when he came to the United States. The question did become important to him through his discussions with Trotsky, who did view the question as paramount as early as 1933. James was part of a delegation that visited Trotsky in Mexico in 1939, as I mentioned yesterday. It was there that the subject of Garveyism and black nationalism arose. Trotsky was more favorably disposed to the call for self-determination than James was, who doubted that Garvey's mass appeal had much to do with the desire for a separate nation.

When James returned to the US after the Mexican visit, he went through a transforming experience. He visited New Orleans in order to learn about Jim Crow on a first-hand basis. He was astonished to learn that if he was seated on a crowded bus, a white passenger would expect him to give up his seat. This came as a profound shock to the aristocratic intellectual who had read William Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" at least twenty times by the age of fourteen.

In April 1940, James went with the Schachtman group into the new Workers Party. The Workers Party differed from the SWP on the nature of the USSR, which they no longer considered a workers state. In 1941, James ventured south again, this time to Missouri where sharecroppers were on strike for higher pay. The struggle was extremely militant, as the sharecroppers defended themselves with firearms. This was the closest James had been to the class struggle in the flesh. Workers Party organizers who were involved with strike support shuttled him back and forth to keep him away from any violence.

In the 1940s, James developed a fascination with popular culture. Unlike the Frankfurt exiles, James was enthralled with commercial entertainment, including radio soap operas. At this time, he also led a study circle in the Workers Party that had a rather unique approach to politics and culture. James explained:

"We struggled to understand Marx in the light of European history and civilization, reading Capital side by side with Hegel's Logic in order to get a sense of dialectical and historical materialism. We explored the world of Shakespeare, of Beethoven, of Melville, Hawthorne, and the Abolitionists, of Marcus Garvey and Pan-Africanism. At the same time most of us worked in the plant, struggling to squeeze every ounce of revolutionary significance out of what American workers were saying and doing."

In the late 1940s, James started to hook up with artistic figures in Greenwich Village, in particular at a club called The Calypso, where radical intellectuals of all races gathered alongside artists and stage performers. One of the waiters was James Baldwin, who was at work on his first novel. The dishwasher was a Schachtmanite named Stan Weir who claimed that regulars at the club thought that the Russian and American state leaders were "incapable of leading the world to more personal freedom and were part of the problem." It was a place where "people were genuinely entertaining each other, and as an extension of their enjoyment, discussing politics." No such places exist in Greenwich Village today, I can assure you.

At this time James became friendly with the CP writer Richard Wright and he soon discovered that they had a common appreciation for the revolutionary dynamics of black nationalism. In a letter to his wife, James explained their shared perspective:

"Briefly, the idea is this, that the Negro is 'nationalist' to the hart and is perfectly right to be. His racism, his nationalism, are a necessary means of giving him strength, self-respect and organization in order to fight for integration into American society. It is a perfect example of dialectical contradiction. Further, however, the Negroes represent a force in the future development of American society out of all proportion to their numbers. The repression has created such frustration that this, when socially motivated, will become one of the most powerful social forces in the country."

James eventually rejoined the SWP after WWII, but found himself politically isolated. His unorthodox views on the USSR were one of the main sticking points. When he left party politics, James became an important and respected black intellectual who influenced a wide range of American and African revolutionaries, including George Padmore.

Even though James had long left the SWP, his views on black nationalism continued to exert an influence among Trotskyists since Trotsky's own views and James mature views had so much in common. When the SWP began working with Malcolm X in the mid-1960s, Conrad Lynn (a civil rights lawyer and friend of James's) gave Malcom copies of James's writing. When Lynn and Malcolm began discussing James, Malcolm stated that he was aware of James's oratorical gifts. It is interesting to speculate on the transmission belt of ideas between Lenin, Trotsky, CLR James and Malcolm X. I will not resist this temptation when I discuss Malcolm X himself.

Louis Proyect

In 1943 CLR James submitted a resolution titled "The Historical Development of the Negroes in American Society" to the Workers Party for discussion and adoption. It was a conscious attempt to apply Lenin's support for the self-determination of oppressed nationalities in general to the specific problem of self-determination for black America, an internal quasi-colony.

His was a minority position. Within the Workers Party, James had been derided as an ultraleftist and an eccentric. Max Schachtman, the party leader, called James a "literary man" as a put-down. The fact that James had led study circles on Hegel and Capital was another sign that James was not a real Bolshevik. The party member most hostile to James, however, was Ernest Rice McKinney. He gave James the nickname "Sportin' Life", after the villainous pimp in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. (Again, I tip my hat to Scott McLemee who provides this background data in his excellent introduction to "CLR James and the Negro Question".)

Writing for the party majority, McKinney put forward the classic "black-white unity" position of American socialism directly opposed to James's embrace of black nationalism:

"The white worker must take the lead and offensive in the struggle for the Negro's democratic rights...The white workers are strongly organized, they have had ages of experience and they are powerful. On the other hand, no matter how great their courage and determination, the Negroes are organizationally, financially and numerically weak in comparison with the white workers, and woefully and pitifully weak in the face of present-day capitalism..."

This position has come in a variety of packages, from major formations like Eugene V. Debs's Socialist Party or the post-Black Belt CPUSA, to the puny, impotent Trotskyist sects of today such as the Spartacist League. It was a position that John Reed defended in the Second Congress of the Communist International. This Congress was completely absorbed with the question of the self-determination of oppressed nationalities and the American delegation which included Reed and Louis Fraina simply didn't understand the relevance of black nationalism to the American class struggle. (One shortcoming of Warren Beatty's excellent "Reds", which features him as John Reed and Paul Sorvino as rival CP leader Louis Fraina, is that there is absolutely no recognition of the black struggle, nor any leading black characters.)

During the discussion on the national question, Reed made the following comments:

"For American Communists the only correct policy toward the Negroes should be to see them primarily as workers. Despite the Negroes' backwardness, the tasks posed for agricultural workers and tenant farmers in the South are the same as those we must solve with respect to the white agricutural proletariat. Communist propaganda work can be carried on among Negroes working in industry in the North. In both sections of the country every effort must be made to organize Negroes into common labor unions with the whites. That is the best and fastest way to break down prejudice and foster class solidarity."

While the Comintern did not arrive at a fully thought-out position on the black struggle in the United States, there is a rejection of Reed's economism in Thesis 9 of the "The Theses on the National and Colonial Questions": "...all Communist parties must directly support the revolutionary struggle among the nations that are dependent and do not have equal rights (for example, Ireland, the Negroes in America, and so forth), and in the colonies."

CLR James developed his position on black nationalism in 1943 against a backdrop of deepening racial polarization and violence. In his article "The Race Pogroms and the Negro" written that year, he denounces the white riots aimed at southern black migrants in search of well-paying defense industry jobs in northern cities. In Detroit, 25 out of 28 dead in a major riot were black. One hundred percent of the arrested rioters were black even though the riots were started by white racists. In all cases, the police colluded with the white mobs.

The racial pogroms spurred some black newspapers to call for self-defense that year. The Baltimore Afro-American declared that "Colored communities must be prepared to protect themselves. Frederick Douglass said that the slave who resisted vigorously was almost never whipped. If mobsters attacking colored homes get a hot reception once, they will not repeat that visit." James was attuned to the anger of the black community and concluded his article with the following call:

"If only the workers see that the Negroes mean business, they are certain to respond. But the Negroes must rid themselves of the misleaders who are always looking to Roosevelt, or to Pearl Buck, or to Wendell Wilkie, for help--and also, incidentally, for the publicity which it brings. If the Negroes do not defend themselves, it is certain nobody else will..."

The idea that black people should not wait for the white working-class to come to their aid, but that they should take initiatives on their own behalf, is at the core of black nationalism. What James did is take the defiant mood of black America reflected in these sentences and transform it into a coherent theoretical framework when he composed his 1943 position paper in support of black nationalism.

In the section of the article subheaded "The Negro Question as a National Question", James displays a complex and dialectical understanding of the relationship between race, nationality and class:

"The 14 million Negroes in the United States are subjected to every conceivable variety of economic oppression and social and political discrimination. These tortures are to a degree sanctified by law and practiced without shame by all the organs of government. The Negroes, however, are and have been for many centuries in every sense of the word, Americans. They are not separated from their oppressors by differences of culture, differences of religion, differences of language, as the inhabitants of India or Africa. They are not even regionally separated from the rest of the community as national groups in Russia, Spain, or Yugoslavia.

The Negroes are for the most part proletarian or semi-proletarian and therefore the struggle of the Negroes is fundamentally a class question.

The Negroes do not constitute a nation, but, owing to their special situation, their segregation; economic, social, and political oppression; the difference in color which separates them out so easily from the rest of the community; their problems become the problem of a national minority. The Negro question is a part of the national and not of the 'national' question. This national minority is most easily distinguished from the rest of the community by its racial characteristics. Thus the Negro question is a question of race and not of 'race'.

The contrasts between their situation and the privileges enjoyed by those around them have always made the Negroes that section of American society most receptive to revolutionary ideas and the radical solution of social problems. The white working class struggles against the objective rule of capital and for some subjective goal, which even on the very eve of revolution, is impossible to visualize fully in concrete and positive terms. The Negroes, on the other hand, struggle and will continue to struggle objectively against capital, but in contrast to the white workers, for the very concrete objective democratic rights they see around them.

But the whole history of the United States and the role of the Negroes in American economy and society are a constant proof and reminder of the fact that it is absolutely impossible for the Negroes to gain equality under American capitalism.

Such is the development of American capitalist society and the role of Negroes in it that the Negroes' struggle for democratic rights brings the Negroes almost immediately face to face with capital and the state. The Marxist support of the Negro struggle for democratic rights is not a concession that Marxists make to the Negroes. In the United States today this struggle is a direct part of the struggle for socialism."

James's resolution on black nationalism was rejected by the Workers Party. Both the Socialist Workers Party and the Workers Party, the two most important Trotskyist groups in the United States, continued to regard the black struggle as something to be subsumed within the working-class struggle as a whole. The events that followed the publication of James's resolution would tend to give credence to the class-only approach since the immediate postwar period was witness to the most powerful trade union battles since the 1930s. After the defeat of Germany and Japan, the American working class decided that there was no excuse for wartime austerity any longer and they organized one powerful and militant strike after another.

The Socialist Workers Party in particular viewed this labor upsurge as proof of a deepening radicalization. With a few exceptions, Felix Morrow in particular, the party leadership expected the 1950s to be a period of rapid growth and deepening influence. One thing that gave party leaders some inspiration was the large number of black workers who recently joined the party. I suspect that most of these workers joined on the same basis as white workers. They were products of the CIO radicalization which placed no particular emphasis on black demands per se. They saw the Socialist Workers Party as a party that fought for trade union rights, civil rights and democracy. The party proclaimed, as did every other left party, that these rights could only be achieved when workers ran society. When the cold war and McCarthyism sank in, most of these workers--black and white--drifted away. There was considerable incentive for them to get out of politics since auto workers, truck drivers, etc. were beginning to enjoy the fruits of post-WWII prosperity. Membership in a "subversive" organization could only be an impediment.

In the early 1950s, the first seeds of the civil rights movement were being planted. WWII had led to powerful anticolonial uprisings as the former major powers were weakened by 5 years of war. India, Indonesia, Indochina, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, etc. were all swept by nationalist uprisings against colonial rule. In the United States, the ruling class began to feel compromised by the presence of Jim Crow laws in the south. Such de jure segregation could only tarnish the reputation of US imperialism as a leader of the postcolonial world. With this in mind, hesitant steps were taken to break down segregation. The Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated schools in 1954 was one such step.

This led to more assertive efforts by traditional civil rights organizations to rapidly break down Jim Crow in the south. This led to clashes between some of the more militant civil rights activists and the Democratic Party over the pace of desegregation. By the mid 1960s, young activists start to grow impatient with gradualism and they called for Freedom Now. They were organized in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE). This current begins to sympathize with the ideas of Malcolm X, who is at this time is a leader of the Nation of Islam.

So it is out of the struggle of oppressed nationalities in Asia, Africa and Latin America that our modern civil rights movement gets its initial inspiration. As this civil rights movement begins to pick up momentum, it becomes transformed into a black power movement. This movement even begins to take on the dynamics of nationalist struggles in places like Algeria, Kenya, etc. Franz Fanon, the Algerian revolutionary, becomes widely accepted as the ideologist of a new type of American black nationalism.

It is Malcolm X, however, who becomes the patron saint of this new movement. The reason that he was killed is that the ruling class recognized that it had a revolutionary in its midst who was fully capable of leading 13 to 14 million black Americans in a militant struggle against white supremacy. In the last year of his life, Malcolm X started to understand the relationship between this struggle and the struggle for socialism. He was evolving toward a synthesis of the socialist and nationalist programs in a manner consistent with the views of Lenin, Trotsky and CLR James.

Louis Proyect

I heard Malcolm X gave his famous "Bullet or the Ballot" speech at a meeting sponsored by the Militant newspaper on January 7, 1965 19 days before my twentieth birthday. I was a senior in college at the time and was curious about what Malcolm had to say. (As a long time jazz fan, I had become interested in black issues as well. Many jazz musicians of the period were starting to articulate nationalist concerns.) In this speech he started off by tipping his hat to the Militant, the house organ of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. He said, "I always feel that it is an honor and every time that they open the door for me to do so, I will be right here. The Militant newspaper is one of the best in New York City. In fact, it is one of the best anywhere you go today."

Two and a half years later I was in the Socialist Workers Party myself and selling the newspaper door to door in college dormitories, housing projects, and at demonstrations. I was proud to be circulating a newspaper that Malcolm X thought so highly of. Although the Socialist Workers Party went into a sharp decline in the 1980s and the Militant newspaper is now unreadable, I still have a strong affinity with Malcolm X and a few fond memories of the party I joined 30 years ago.

These affinities made re-reading George Breitman's "Last Year of Malcolm X" a real pleasure. The book recounts Malcolm's political evolution toward socialism after he broke with the Nation of Islam. Breitman was one of the early champions of Malcolm X even when he was still a Black Muslim. He was also sensitive to new developments in the class struggle that did not arrive in the trade union forms that most party veterans expected. Nobody had more impeccable working class credentials than George. He was from a working class family in Newark, New Jersey and never attended college. He learned his Marxism in the street battles of the 1930s and not in the sociology department of an Ivy League university. He was the major party theorist of the new radicalization of the 1960s and urged the party to open its doors wide open to the student antiwar, black and feminist movements.

Throughout most of the 1970s, he was the head of Pathfinder Press in NY and oversaw the publication of the Collected Writings of Leon Trotsky. He came to work each day even though he was hobbled by an extreme case of rheumatoid arthritis that made it nearly impossible to hold a pen in his hands. When the SWP dumped Trotskyism in 1983, they dumped Breitman and a number of other veteran party members as well. It saddened me to see them kicked out the door, even though I had no confidence in their project to start a new Trotskyist party free of the mistakes of the past. They simply didn't understand that the decline of the SWP was a function of the underlying methodology and not because of a faulty application.

As Alan Wald said at the recent Socialist Scholars Conference, the best way to understand the SWP is as one of the expressions of an attempt to build the revolutionary party in the USA. It should neither be rejected in its totality, nor accepted uncritically. There are positive things to learn from its history, just as there are positive things to be learned from the Debs Socialist Party or the CPUSA's grass-roots struggles for industrial unions or civil rights. George's widow, Dotty Breitman, was in the audience at the reception for Alan's new book (co-authored with Paul LeBlanc) on American Trotskyism and berated Alan for being "just an intellectual" and not understanding the need for a "Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist" party. Old faiths die hard.

One of the positive aspects of the SWP certainly is its correct understanding of the black nationalism of Malcolm X. Black nationalism is more or less a permanent feature of American politics and it is important for Marxists to try to theorize clearly about it. George Breitman will be remembered as somebody who went further than anybody, except CLR James, to come to terms with black nationalism.

In the first chapter of "The Last Year of Malcolm X", Breitman presents an even-handed assessment of the Nation of Islam. At the very least what this obscurantist sect did was rescue Malcolm X from the dregs of the gangster world. In his autobiography, Malcolm X said that without the NOI, he would have ended up as an "old fading Detroit Red, hustling, stealing enough for food and narcotics, and myself being stalked as prey by cruelly ambitious younger hustlers such as Detroit Red had been."

Breitman points out that Malcolm was always stretching the boundaries of the NOI. He was an innovator who tried as hard as he could to turn the religious, self-help sect into a black activist formation. James X, the successor to Malcolm in the NY Mosque, complained that "it was Malcolm who injected the political concept of 'black nationalism' into the Black Muslim movement, which they said was essentially religious in nature when Malcolm became a member."

There were constant tensions between Malcolm and the NOI chiefs. Finally they came out in the open when Malcolm described the assassination of John F. Kennedy as a case of the "chickens coming home to roost". The white press went on a crusade against him for this bluntly truthful observation and the NOI suspended him. They were tired of his clashes with the ruling-class. They also made conditions for his readmission so onerous that he decided to split once and for all.

On March 8, 1964 he made a public statement that the Black Muslim movement "had 'gone as far as it can' because it was too narrowly sectarian and too inhibited." He elaborated on what kind of movement was necessary: "I am prepared," Malcolm said, "to cooperate in local civil rights actions in the South and elsewhere and shall do so because every campaign for specific objectives can only heighten the political consciousness of the Negroes and intensify their identification against white society."

After Malcolm left the NOI, he began to make statements that showed a new understanding of the relationship of black nationalism to the larger struggle. One of the influences on his thinking was the type of internationalism and political radicalism that he witnessed firsthand in his travels through Africa and the Middle East in 1964. This period is not accurately reflected in Spike Lee's abysmal movie based on Malcolm's autobiography. It turns into a spiritual quest climaxed with a trip to Mecca. Malcolm's real growth in this period is political rather than spiritual, as reflected to his remarks to a Militant Labor Forum on May 29, 1965:

"They say travel broadens your scope, and recently I've had an opportunity to do a lot of it in the Middle East and Africa. While I was traveling I noticed that most of the countries that have recently emerged into independence have turned away from the so-called capitalist system in the direction of socialism. So out of curiosity, I can't resist the temptation to do a little investigating wherever that particular philosophy happens to in existence or an attempt is being made to bring it into existence."

After Malcolm split from the NOI, he began to address the question of alliances. The narrow black nationalism of the religious sect did not even begin to consider the question of how 10 or 11 million black Americans can be part of a larger struggle for liberation. Mostly it preached for a return to Africa, or concentrated on small business enterprises like selling bean pies. Malcolm's interest in politics rather than small scale self-help projects first of all led him to the idea of linking the black struggle in the United States to the struggles of colored peoples around the world. He declared that Africans, Arabs, Asians and Latin Americans all had a common enemy: the "international power structure." His internationalism was of the sort that is expressed most frequently by the Zapatista movement today. Malcolm considered having the United States indicted for racism before the United Nations. He believed that this measure would have had tremendous propaganda value.

The question of alliances with American whites was much more problematic. At the March 12, 1964 press conference to announce his new organization, the Organization for Afro-American Unity, Malcolm X said:

"Whites can help us, but they can't join us. There can be no black-white unity until there is first some black unity. There can be no workers' solidarity until there is first some racial solidarity. We cannot think of uniting with others, until we have first united with ourselves."

Malcolm was pro-socialist in the last year of his life, but not really a Marxist. He lacked a class understanding of American society that would allow him to see on at least a theoretical level how white workers could become allies in a fight against capitalist rule. He was much more articulate about the need to establish ties with "white militants". These people, who had broken with liberalism, would be trusted allies in the fight against racism such as the students who participated courageously in the civil rights movement. Malcolm did not live long enough to see a mobilized working class, such as the French working class of 1968 or the Italian working class of 1969-1970. It is entirely possible that his political evolution would have made him more and more open to a Marxist perspective.

There were various efforts to make the transition from Malcolm's turn toward socialism to a full-blown Marxist position on the question. Foremost among these were the black leaders of the Socialist Workers Party such as Derrick Morrison and Tony Thomas who wrote extensively about these questions. Both Morrison and Thomas left the SWP during the "workerist" binge of the 1980s. From all appearances, the SWP's interest in the black struggle and all other popular struggles has been replaced by a preoccupation with the trade union movement which they pronounced would subsume all other struggles in its glorious march toward a final showdown with the capitalist class. The showdown was supposed to occur in the late 1980s, then got postponed to the early 1990s. Somebody must have thrown a glass of cold water in the face of the party chief since nowadays he speaks of nothing but "propagandistic interventions." Translated into ordinary English, this means selling Pathfinder literature to factory workers.

It was left to other people to try to apply a Marxist understanding of the black struggle of the 1980s and 1990s. One of them is Manning Marable, a co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence, a group I was involved with briefly, and a faculty member at Columbia University. Others with ideas worth considering are Angela Davis, also of the CofC, and Gerald Horne, a heterodox member of the Communist Party.

In my final post, I will try to come up with some answers about what has happened to black nationalism and to the black struggle in general. There are a number of trends that are worth considering, from the Rainbow Coalition to the rise of Louis Farrakhan. Affirmative action, Ebonics, genes and IQ, gangster rap, etc. seem to be the stuff of black politics nowadays. What do issues like these have to do with the rather lofty views of Lenin, Trotsky and CLR James? Perhaps everything. We have a tendency to put a halo around struggles of the past, including struggles for self-determination. More balance is always needed, especially in the period we find ourselves in which can make pessimists out of the best of us.

Louis Proyect 1. The Vietnam War as a catalyst Like the two previous eruptions of black nationalism, the 1960s upsurge was very much related to the contradictions of an imperialist war being fought on behalf of "democracy". The riots of 1921 and 1943 were forms of social protest, as were the ghetto rebellions of 1967 and 1968. There was widespread reports of Vietnam veterans participating as snipers in the rebellions, especially in the Detroit uprising. Police raided a motel which was a source of sniper fire and arrested a black ex-paratrooper. During the daylight hours of July 26th 1967, there were 534 reports of sniping. A Detroit newspaper headline proclaimed: "Everyone's Suspect in No Man's Land".

Imperialist war has been a source of much concern since Vietnam. There was open discussion about the impact of having black GI's in a extended war with Saddam Hussein's forces since the Nation of Islam had a sizable base of support. That clearly was one of the reasons so much firepower was unleashed against the weaker Iraqi forces. Nobody in Washington wanted to take the risk of a repeat of the Vietnam syndrome. That is also the reason the military will be nervous about open displays of black nationalist sympathy. It tolerates neo-Nazis, but will always give Black Muslims a hard time. There is a different class logic implicit in the two different forms of "race hatred".

The reason imperialist war tends to unleash nationalist movements is that the question of the agenda of the oppressor nation tends to come to the foreground in a way that it doesn't during peacetime. Conscripts are forced to ask themselves whether they have reason enough to lay down their lives for the "American" system. As doubts arise, they will tend to think of themselves more as African-Americans than anything else.

2. The Rise and Fall of the Black working class A "Report on the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders" came out in 1968 and stated that unemployment was a primary cause of the discontent which led to rebellions. The unemployment rate in Detroit was 29.6 percent and in Newark it was 29.7. While this is true enough, it doesn't complete the picture.

A better way to understand the revolt is as a product of the concentrated power of the black working class in northern cities since WWII set against the backdrop of the capitalist system's inability to absorb newer sections of the population into the workforce. Wave after wave of southern migration had taken factory jobs in and around places like Newark, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit but the capitalist economy was not expanding at the same rate as it had in the 1940s and 50s. This led to a crisis of "rising expectations".

The end of Jim Crow gave the black masses a sense of accomplishment. Nonviolent direct action in the south had led to concrete gains. When the civil rights movement moved north to change de facto patterns of segregation, it ran into a brick wall. White resistance in places like Cicero, Illinois stunned black America. Peaceful protests could do nothing to relieve racial hiring and housing patterns. The black masses of the north then became open to ideas that more militant forms of protest were necessary.

When de-industrialization began to take place in the northern cities during the 1970s and 1980s, there is little doubt that this tended to reduce the mood of defiance and replace it with one of passivity and resignation and despair. The period of greatest militancy during the depression was not when unemployment was at its greatest but when the factories were beginning to hire new workers in the mid 1930s.

Vast levels of unemployment in the black community has sparked the spread of hard drugs. It has also increased the level of black-on-black crime. The proper political response to this is deeply elusive to mainstream black political figures. They call upon the US government to provide new jobs, but fail to recognize the structural changes that have become a permanent feature of the capitalist system. Their hopes are essentially utopian.

3. The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike: a lost paradigm Martin Luther King had begun to take the black movement in a very powerful new direction at the time of this 1968 strike. The strike combined civil rights forms of protest with a new black nationalist consciousness on behalf of the demands of the entirely black membership.

The struggle was to get union recognition for AFSCME, the strike organizer. This was a mostly northern-based union of state and municipal workers that had taken an outspoken position against the war in Vietnam. King's antiwar activism made him a natural ally for the union organizers.

Night after night Memphis had mass demonstrations of the sanitation workers and the supporters in the black community, with some white representation. They carried signs stating "I Am a Man". Commentators at the time noted correctly that this was a veiled nationalist slogan since it represented both assertiveness and a demand for respect.

On the third day of the strike the president of the 11, 502 paid membership of the Memphis NAACP told a meeting that "I let them [the sanitation workers] know in no uncertain terms that the NAACP was behind them, that this was a racial matter and we were going to tackle it as such."

Black student groups rallied behind the workers. Their nationalist agenda was up-front and vocal. Ironically it was a group of white liberal students at Memphis State who began organizing support at first, but they were rapidly eclipsed by members of the Black Student Association who rallied blacks to march. BSA leader Eddie Jenkins confronted a large group of blacks sitting in a lounge who were sitting around placidly playing cards with the following challenge: "I'll tell you what--you house niggers! If you want to sit here and be house niggers the rest of your lives, you sit here. Cuz us yard niggers is tired and us yard niggers is gonna get us up and we gonna go out there and we gonna march. White folks waiting to march with us and we're gonna march. You house niggers sit here!" At that point cards started to drop and students joined Jenkins to go on the march. (This is reported in "At the River I Stand" by Joan Turner Beifuss, Carlson 1989.)

The strike was totally disowned by the white ruling class organized in the Democratic Party. The idea of black militant students joining moderate church-based groups on behalf of a union organizing drive in the New South was a direct challenge to the fundamental direction of US capitalism. The ruling class had made the decision to disinvest in the north and move factories to the south. Unionization was not on their agenda. Furthermore, direct action in the form of demonstrations, sit-ins, etc. were not to be tolerated.

If Martin Luther King had not been assassinated and had persisted in this type of struggle throughout the 1970s and 80s, American politics would have had a completely different character than it did. This clearly must have had something to do with the decision to kill him.

4. Jesse Jackson's squandering of King's legacy Jackson was deeply involved with the Memphis strike and other efforts of King's "Poor People's Campaign". He retained much of King's rhetoric but little of King's willingness to confront the ruling class. Jackson has functioned much more as a careerist in bourgeois politics than a black liberation leader.

His occasional runs for elected office have been useful in raising certain ideological themes, but he has never tried to win concrete struggles as was so often the case in King's career. He is the master of the grand gesture, but you can point to almost no change in the lives of black people on account of his grandstanding.

To some extent this is the fault of King himself who bequeathed to the black movement a model of leadership that includes very little decision-making at the base level. The masses are regarded as foot-soldiers who will join in on whatever crusade the savior chooses at a given moment in time.

The irony is that the early civil rights movement depended heavily on cadre both black and white who had functioned in the trade union movement as committed Marxists. This layer has largely died or retired unfortunately and nobody has come along to replace it.

5. The Crisis of the Black Intellectual Various black intellectuals such as Cornel West have tried to co-opt black nationalist themes in the name of "identity" politics but have robbed them of their potentially revolutionary core. Mostly what these efforts are about is gaining legitimacy for a watered-down version of socialism based on the social movements. It is an attempt to wed Laclau-Mouffe to cultural nationalism. Furthermore, the audience for this message is largely one in the white academia and media where figures like West and Skip Gates are lauded as public black intellectuals. The public they relate to is not in the black ghetto, however.

Some black intellectuals like Adolph Reed take exception to this grouping and castigates them as willing accomplices to the "black fascism" of Louis Farrakhan. Reed speaks in the name of Marxism but his Marxism has much more in common with the economism of Ernest Rice McKinney than it does with that of Lenin, Trotsky's or CLR James. It is based on the unlikely prospect of white-black unity based on the trade union movement or the Labor Party.

The reason that this prospect is unlikely is that it fails to recognize that the black population of the United States is an oppressed nationality with very likely incentive to join with an almost nonexistent class-based movement.

It is much more likely that the next radicalization in the United States will be marked by initiatives of the black community acting in its own interests. This will be true because the oppression black people face is so extreme that is only a matter of time when some response is forthcoming. In this event, it will be much easier to create black-white alliances since white workers no longer have the sort of privileges that they enjoyed 30 years ago.

When a new radicalization takes place, one very problematic issue has to be worked out which has never been satisfactorily worked out before. This has to do with the organizational forms that black and white socialists must function in. It has always been assumed that the instrument of class liberation has to be a model like the Communist Party or the Socialist Workers Party, a multinational or multiracial "Marxist-Leninist" party.

It is entirely possible that the revolutionary party of the next radicalization will have a much more flexible approach to organization. There can be a much looser structure in keeping with the concrete forms of class and national oppression in the United States. This means concretely that the black community might have its own socialist organization with political ties to sister organizations in the majority population. Clearly the effort to artificially mandate united black-white organizations has been less than successful. Of course this might be overruled by the dynamics of the next radicalization itself which might take a direction that nobody could have anticipated. In that case I will admit that I was wrong and work happily with whatever structures the masses themselves choose.

Louis Proyect