Class violence and national oppression
Published Feb 19, 2009 8:41 PM
“Nonviolence is fine as long as it works.”
“I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self defense;
I call it intelligence.” (africanamericanquotes.org)
The quotes above from Malcolm X don’t negate one another. In fact, one
quote validates the other. It is a question of tactics.
The inherent violence of the capitalist system has been demonstrated time and
again throughout history. It is not necessary to peruse a history book, but
simply to pick up a newspaper, walk outside or observe everyday relations.
Putting profit before need is violent and as established before, class society
produces struggle of the opposing classes, from whence violence inevitably
But, as the words from Malcolm X illustrate, working and oppressed people are
not bent on bloodthirsty revenge and the movements of workers and the oppressed
don’t needlessly resort to violence as a matter of course.
Rather, the tactics grow out of a necessity to defend oneself and ultimately
one’s interest. As Marx wrote, “What the bourgeoisie, therefore,
produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers.” (“Communist
Manifesto, Marx and Engels”) This is because of the nature of the system,
because workers and the oppressed struggle for every advance and
The pressure exerted in the interests of one class over the other brings
qualitative change—this is dialectics. Either a material change is won or
from the resistance for material change comes a change in consciousness.
The original or primitive accumulation of capital in the U.S. was attained
through naked brutal means—rape, murder, theft of land and slavery. If
capital came into the world “dripping from head to toe, from every pore,
with blood and dirt,” (“Capital, Karl Marx”) then the story
of the U.S. ruling class is so mired that the blood may obscure the
Though the European imperialists built their societies using the same basic
means, the U.S. was founded through the most extreme exploitation and trapped
within its borders are nations of people, upon whose backs and from whose
superexploited labor, the U.S. built its wealth and laid its foundation.
Vladimir Lenin referred to tsarist Russia as “the prison house of
nations” because across its great expanse, through colonialism, there
were over one hundred distinct ethnicities. The U.S. has replaced tsarist
Russia as the prison house of nations with over 2 million incarcerated
Indigenous people, the many distinct North American Indian tribes, the peoples
of the Pacific Islands, the people of Puerto Rico, Mexican people and Black
people have been imprisoned within a country founded on the doctrine of white
supremacy over darker skinned people.
And through constant violence, nationally oppressed people in the U.S. have
been kept disproportionately impoverished and subjected to legal and extralegal
violence in order that the status quo is maintained.
The question of oppressed nations, of the national question, underlies all
other questions in U.S. society. So, throughout U.S. history, when the issue of
violence and its use by working people has come up, regardless of its
timeliness—whether or not the ire of the working class in general is up
enough—it has been important to defend the right of oppressed
nationalities to respond to their oppression however they see fit.
Self-determination of oppressed people has to be affirmed by
Bourgeois ideology’s grip on the minds of workers is loosened when
contradictions are brightly glaring and for oppressed nationalities the
contradictions have been ripe.
The contradictions of racist U.S. society and the legal and extralegal ways by
which oppressed people have been held under foot have produced heroic
That resistance, whether nonviolent or violent, has been effective and it can
be said that history shows, that ultimately, the use of violence by the
oppressed is more justified.
Next installment will deal with the history of struggle in the U.S. and the various forms of struggle and national liberation.
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