RCP Reply

Key Questions on the Liberation of Black People in the U.S.

Revolutionary Worker #1221, November 30, 2003, posted at rwor.org

Editors Note: This is the first half of the article. The second half will appear next issue


The New Afrikan People's Organization (NAPO) has published a response to the Revolutionary Communist Party's Draft Programme . We welcome NAPO's commentary. The revolutionary movement needs this kind of exchange and debate about what it's going to take to uproot national oppression. This discussion can clarify political-strategic questions central to making revolution in the "belly of the beast." And it can further unity among revolutionary forces. Our reply is in that spirit.

NAPO's response to the Draft Programme touches on a number of issues. These include the impact and influence of the Garvey movement of the 1920s and the line and practice of the old Communist Party, USA in the 1930s. We think these are important matters. But here we will focus on NAPO's comments and criticisms that bear more directly on the formulations and positions of the Draft Programme . (For the Party's analysis of the Garvey movement, see the pamphlet "Cold Truth, Liberating Truth"; it can be found on the rwor.org website.) In examining the Draft Programme 's analysis of national oppression and the approach it takes to ending that oppression, NAPO raises several major disagreements. These principally revolve around two interrelated sets of issues.

The first concerns the analysis of the oppressed national groupings within the U.S. NAPO argues that it is not just the African-American people who constitute an oppressed nation within the borders of the U.S., but other nationalities as well, including Mexicanos-Chicanos, Native Americans, indigenous Hawaiians, etc. All of them, according to NAPO, have the right to independence as separate countries. NAPO suggests that anyone who does not uphold the right and struggle for independence of all these oppressed nationalities is in effect accepting neo-colonial arrangements.

The second set of issues concerns how the question of self-determination, the right to independence, gets decided, and who will decide it. In this connection, NAPO also raises the question of "who has the right to speak?" on these questions. NAPO argues that the RCP is violating the principle that the oppressed peoples must decide their own destinies when it puts forth positions on how the various national questions would best be resolved on a revolutionary foundation.

These issues merit close examination. But first we want to preview the main arguments we develop.


Our communist vision is of a world without classes and any form of oppression. An essential part of achieving that goal is overcoming the division between oppressor and oppressed nations and achieving self-determination of nations and equality among nations and peoples.

The national question in the U.S. is not, with the exception of Puerto Rico, a colonial question, as it is in the Third World.

Whether a community of people is a nation or not is something that can only be determined according to objective criteria. If there is to be a question of national independence for an oppressed nationality there must be a material foundation for it.

There is a material basis for a unified revolutionary struggle to overthrow the U.S. imperialist ruling class. And there is a need for a unified revolutionary struggle--if we are truly serious about defeating the most powerful ruling class in history.

The people desire unity. But that unity can only be forged in practice, and that requires the most determined struggle against white chauvinism and national oppression.

Creating many separate national republics in what is today the United States will not provide the most liberating solution to oppression. A unified socialist state over the largest possible territory offers the best situation for solving problems and liberating the people. But this state and society must be based on equality and the voluntary union of the people.


Our ultimate goal is a world without classes and class distinctions...without oppressive divisions between men and women...without one nation dominating another...without exclusionary borders. The revolutionary proletariat aims to bring into being a world in which the very fragmentation of humanity into separate nations and states will be superseded by something higher: a global community of freely cooperating humanity in which classes, nations, and states no longer exist.

But this goal cannot be achieved in one revolutionary leap. The achievement of communism will require a fairly long period of revolutionary struggle and transformation. And it must take place on a global scale. This has everything to do with the complexity of the world, with the historical processes that have shaped social development and produced domination. We live in a world divided not only into exploiting and exploited classes but also into oppressor and oppressed nations.

For these reasons, a critical component of the struggle to emancipate all of human society is the struggle to uproot national oppression. That means overcoming and eliminating any situation where one nation can dominate and oppress another. It means that self-determination of nations and equality of nations, peoples, and nationalities must be fulfilled. It means that within socialist society measures must be taken and struggles must be waged to eradicate great-nation chauvinism (including racist ideology) and undo the legacy of national inequality (including structural racism).

This vision of a communist world and this understanding of the deep-going struggles and transformations necessary to achieve it guide our ideological outlook and political work. It is why we uphold the right of self-determination for oppressed nations. It is why we attach such importance to fighting national oppression and inequality as part of our united front strategy for revolution.

There is another fundamental point of orientation. To make revolution in the United States is to attack the heart of the world's most brutal and far-reaching empire. Once power is seized in the U.S., the revolutionary proletariat must move decisively to shatter the former military, political, and economic relations of that empire.

The Draft Programme is clear about this. The new socialist state will renounce all imperialist alliances, dismantle overseas military bases, and cancel all unequal treaties. It will end all colonial relationships, direct and indirect. The Draft Programme supports the struggle for the unconditional and total independence of Puerto Rico. It points out that the socialist revolution in the U.S. will put an end to colonial domination of the Puerto Rican people, unless they have already won their freedom.

With respect to the territory and borders of what is today the United States. Here, too, the Programme's stand is clear. There is nothing sacred about the borders of the U.S. The development of U.S. capitalism and the emergence of the U.S. as an imperialist power towards the end of the 19th century involved a vast process of territorial seizure and occupation. America's borders have been carved out through mass murder and wholesale robbery.

The Draft explains that the new borders of the new socialist society in the former United States depend on how revolutionary struggles on the North American continent develop, in Mexico in particular. Further, the new state will uphold the right of self-determination of the African-American people, up to and including the right to secede and form a separate state in the Black Belt south.

At the same time, the multinational proletariat in the U.S. has the internationalist responsibility to establish its rule over the largest territory possible in what is today the United States. A large socialist state offers the most favorable situation for building socialism and aiding the world revolution. But this objective must be achieved precisely on the basis of the struggle for equality and the voluntary union of the peoples within what is today the U.S. There can be no forced assimilation of peoples--and the masses of the oppressor nation must be trained in that understanding.


The development of U.S. capitalism has been inextricably bound up with the most savage oppression of the Black, Native American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian, Asian/Pacific Islander, and other oppressed peoples. As we say in the Draft, this oppression is essential to the functioning of the U.S. capitalist system and U.S. imperialist domination in the world.

There is a distinct character to the national questions in U.S. society. They are not the same as the national-colonial question in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. In the Third World, national liberation struggles must be waged to break the imperialist grip over colonial, semi-colonial, and neocolonial formations. Genuine national independence must be secured through the anti-imperialist/new democratic revolution as the necessary condition for achieving social liberation. This is what's happening in places like Nepal or Peru today.

But in the United States, national oppression, with the important exception of the island of Puerto Rico (and several overseas territories), is not colonial domination. National oppression does not take the form of direct or indirect control by an imperialist power, rooted in a home territory, over a colonized or dependent society and economy.

In the U.S., Blacks, Chicanos, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland, etc., are subjugated within the larger U.S. capitalist-imperialist social formation. Black people are an internally oppressed nation, but for several reasons they are not an "internal colony" which somehow stands in the same relationship to the oppressor nation as "external colonies," like Puerto Rico.

This can be seen in terms of basic class relations. Ownership of means of production, distribution of occupations and income, and class differentiation among the oppressed peoples in the U.S.--these are shaped by and form part of the larger class and economic structure of U.S. society. The majority of the oppressed nationalities in the U.S. are part of the single U.S. multinational proletariat within which they are subjected to caste-like conditions.

This situation is different from, let's say, that of Brazilian workers or Indonesian farmer-peasants. They are not part of the U.S. social structure; they are part of a separate oppressed social formation that is dominated and penetrated by imperialism and structurally integrated into the world imperialist economy.

U.S. society had its origins as a settler-capitalist-slave state. But through a bloody historical process of conquering and consolidating a national market, it has evolved into a different form of exploitative- repressive society, a capitalist-imperialist society.

Clearly, we have a difference with NAPO about these issues. Again, in our view, the national questions in U.S. society are not (with the exception of Puerto Rico) colonial questions that require for their solution the achievement of national independence. These are national questions taken up for solution by the proletarian revolution.

One of the most defining and strategic characteristics of the masses of the oppressed nationalities in U.S. society is that they suffer dual oppression. They suffer oppression as peoples and as proletarians, concentrated in the most exploited sectors of the proletariat. This is the result of a long and brutal historical experience. But this history has also brought Black people and the masses of the oppressed nationalities to the position of being able to play a powerful role in bringing down the whole system and moving to put an end to all oppression.

The struggles of the oppressed nationalities are, as the Draft points out, "bound by a thousand links" with the struggle of the multinational proletariat for socialism. And ending national oppression is in fact a big part of what proletarian revolution in the U.S. is all about.

For all these reasons, our strategy to overthrow the U.S. ruling class, what we call the united front under the leadership of the proletariat, has a "solid core." That solid core is the alliance between the struggle of the proletariat of all nationalities to end all oppression and exploitation and the struggles of the Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Native American, and other oppressed nationalities to end their oppression as peoples.