From the pages of Workers World
Black Liberation & the Working-Class Struggle
Racism, national oppression & the right to self-determination
By Larry Holmes
From remarks made during a political discussion in New York on July 13, 2002
There is no place on the planet where revolutionaries and communists are not challenged by the politics of national oppression and what must be done to overcome obstacles to win unity on this question.
So much has been written, so much has been debated, so much theory has been applied to it, both rightly and wrongly, and there is such a rich history of practice both here and around the world. We really don’t want to rank issues in order of their importance to revolutionaries in the struggle for socialism, but let me tell you, this one is way up there.READ MORE
Read everything you can get your hands on. not just what Lenin wrote–though he made incredible, monumental contributions on this question. Lenin’s contributions turned the communist movement around on the national question, awakened the communist movement. Read Sam Marcy, the founder of Workers World Party and chairperson until his death five years ago. He had an understanding of the national question here and around the world unsurpassed by anyone that we are aware of.
If you have sensed or experienced good things about what the Party does in relationship to oppressed nationalities in this country, it is because of his deep understanding of it. it is putting theory into practice. Our understanding of the national question and of self-determination and racism, which is a by-product of national oppression, has everything to do with understanding what we as revolutionaries have to do to maximize solidarity and minimize divisions within the working class. This is essential both for the political development of the working class, especially the vanguard, and for our progress and the success of our struggle for socialist revolution.
When we talk about proletarian internationalism or working-class internationalism, we are talking about “workers of the world unite.” it shouldn’t be an empty slogan. When it is written across a newspaper or on a banner, workers and progressives relate to it—and you don’t see it enough here and elsewhere. But what is more important is what we do to make the slogan a reality. and that has everything to do with understanding the workers in your country first and foremost, the country you reside in, their differences or the things that divide them socially and economically, who is more privileged or less privileged, inequality and of course nationality.
With respect to this and also to understanding national oppression on a world level, Lenin made a very important contribution by modifying the slogan “workers of the world unite.” after a discussion that he opened up, that slogan was changed to “workers and oppressed peoples of the world unite,” to show that this was the prescription for working-class internationalism in the imperialist era.
Lenin did his revolutionary political work at a time, a century ago, when imperialism was already very advanced, rapidly sending out capitalists, missionaries and especially armies to colonize as much of the world as it could. This meant not exclusively but generally what we have come to call the “Third World”—which means mostly Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and the Caribbean.COLLAPSE