The Struggle for the Leninist Position on the Negro Question in the United States

by Harry Haywood

This article by Harry Haywood, originally printed in the September 1933 issue of the The Communist, is from A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, edited by Herbert Aptheker. According to the editor, the original article “is published below, in part, with the essential argumentation intact.” I am making this article available on the Internet for the first time. For more on this history of the African American National Question, see Freedom Road Socialist Organization’s Unity Statement on National Oppression, National Liberation and Socialist Revolution and The Third International and the struggle for a correct line on the African American National Question.

The present program of our Party on the Negro question was first formulated at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International, in 1928. On the basis of the most exhaustive consideration of all the peculiarities, historical development, economic, living and cultural conditions of the Negro people in the United States as well as the experience of the Party in its work among Negroes, that Congress definitely established the problem of the Negroes as that of an oppressed nation among whom there existed all the requisites for a national revolutionary movement against American imperialism.

Harry Haywood, legendary African American communist leader

This estimation was a concrete application of the Marxist-Leninist conception of the national question to the conditions of the Negroes and was predicated upon the following premises: first, the concentration of large masses of Negroes in the agricultural regions of the Black Belt, where they constitute a majority of the population; secondly, the existence of powerful relics of the former chattel slave system in the exploitation of the Negro toilers – the plantation system based on sharecropping, landlord supervision of crops, debt slavery, etc.; thirdly, the development, on the basis of these slave remnants, of a political superstructure of inequality expressed in all forms of social proscription and segregation; denial of civil rights, right to franchise, to hold public offices, to sit on juries, as well as in the laws and customs of the South. This vicious system is supported by all forms of arbitrary violence, the most vicious being the peculiar American institution of lynching. All of this finds its theoretical justification in the imperialist ruling class theory of the “natural” inferiority of the Negro people. Continue reading


The Caucasians, the Conference of the Liquidators: Marxism and the National Question

by Joseph Stalin

We spoke above of the waverings of one section of the Caucasian Social-Democrats who were unable to withstand the nationalist “epidemic.” These waverings were revealed in the fact that, strange as it may seem, the above-mentioned Social-Democrats followed in the footsteps of the Bund and proclaimed cultural-national autonomy.

Regional autonomy for the Caucasus as a whole and cultural-national autonomy for the nations forming the Caucasus – that is the way these Social-Democrats, who, incidentally, are linked with the Russian Liquidators, formulate their demand.

Listen to their acknowledged leader, the not unknown N.

“Everybody knows that the Caucasus differs profoundly from the central gubernias, both as regards the racial composition of its population and as regards its territory and agricultural development. The exploitation and material development of such a region require local workers acquainted with local peculiarities and accustomed to the local climate and culture. All laws designed to further the exploitation of the local territory should be issued locally and put into effect by local forces. Consequently, the jurisdiction of the central organ of Caucasian self-government should extend to legislation on local questions…. Hence, the functions of the Caucasian centre should consist in the passing of laws designed to further the economic exploitation of the local territory and the material prosperity of the region.”

Thus – regional autonomy for the Caucasus. Continue reading

Cultural-National Autonomy: Marxism and the National Question

by Joseph Stalin

We spoke above of the formal aspect of the Austrian national programme and of the methodological grounds which make it impossible for the Russian Marxists simply to adopt the example of Austrian Social-Democracy and make the latter’s programme their own.

Let us now examine the essence of the programme itself

What then is the national programme of the Austrian Social-Democrats?

Nations and Nationalities of Austria-Hungary

It is expressed in two words: cultural-national autonomy.

This means, firstly, that autonomy would be granted, let us say, not to Bohemia or Poland, which are inhabited mainly by Czechs and Poles, but to Czechs and Poles generally, irrespective of territory, no matter what part of Austria they inhabit.

That is why this autonomy is called national and not territorial. Continue reading

Presentation of the Question: Marxism and the National Question

by Joseph Stalin

A nation has the right freely to determine its own destiny. It has the right to arrange its life as it sees fit, without, of course, trampling on the rights of other nations. That is beyond dispute.

But how exactly should it arrange its own life, what forms should its future constitution take, if the interests of the majority of the nation and, above all, of the proletariat are to be borne in mind?

Nations and nationalities of the Soviet Union

A nation has the right to arrange its life on autonomous lines. It even has the right to secede. But this does not mean that it should do so under all circumstances, that autonomy, or separation, will everywhere and always be advantageous for a nation, i.e., for its majority, i.e., for the toiling strata. The Transcaucasian Tatars as a nation may assemble, let us say, in their Diet and, succumbing to the influence of their beys and mullahs, decide to restore the old order of things and to secede from the state. According to the meaning of the clause on self-determination they are fully entitled to do so. But will this be in the interest of the toiling strata of the Tatar nation? Can Social-Democracy look on indifferently when the beys and mullahs assume the leadership of the masses in the solution of the national question? Continue reading

The Economic Basis of the Withering Away of the State: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

Marx explains this question most thoroughly in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (letter to Bracke, May 5, 1875, which was not published until 1891 when it was printed in Neue Zeit, vol. IX, 1, and which has appeared in Russian in a special edition). The polemical part of this remarkable work, which contains a criticism of Lassalleanism, has, so to speak, overshadowed its positive part, namely, the analysis of the connection between the development of communism and the withering away of the state.

1. Presentation of the Question by Marx

From a superficial comparison of Marx’s letter to Bracke of May 5, 1875, with Engels’ letter to Bebel of March 28, 1875, which we examined above, it might appear that Marx was much more of a “champion of the state” than Engels, and that the difference of opinion between the two writers on the question of the state was very considerable.

Engels suggested to Bebel that all chatter about the state be dropped altogether, that the word “state” be eliminated from the programme altogether and the word “community” substituted for it. Engels even declared that the Commune was long a state in the proper sense of the word. Yet Marx even spoke of the “future state in communist society”, i.e., he would seem to recognize the need for the state even under communism.

But such a view would be fundamentally wrong. A closer examination shows that Marx’s and Engels’ views on the state and its withering away were completely identical, and that Marx’s expression quoted above refers to the state in the process of withering away. Continue reading

Supplementary Explanations by Engels: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

Marx gave the fundamentals concerning the significance of the experience of the Commune. Engels returned to the same subject time and again, and explained Marx’s analysis and conclusions, sometimes elucidating other aspects of the question with such power and vividness that it is necessary to deal with his explanations specially.

1. The Housing Question

In his work, The Housing Question (1872), Engels already took into account the experience of the Commune, and dealt several times with the tasks of the revolution in relation to the state. It is interesting to note that the treatment of this specific subject clearly revealed, on the one hand, points of similarity between the proletarian state and the present state–points that warrant speaking of the state in both cases–and, on the other hand, points of difference between them, or the transition to the destruction of the state.

“How is the housing question to be settled then? In present-day society, it is settled just as any other social question: by the gradual economic levelling of demand and supply, a settlement which reproduces the question itself again and again and therefore is no settlement. How a social revolution would settle this question not only depends on the circumstances in each particular case, but is also connected with much more far-reaching questions, one of the most fundamental of which is the abolition of the antithesis between town and country. As it is not our task to create utopian systems for the organization of the future society, it would be more than idle to go into the question here. But one thing is certain: there is already a sufficient quantity of houses in the big cities to remedy immediately all real ‘housing shortage’, provided they are used judiciously. This can naturally only occur through the expropriation of the present owners and by quartering in their houses homeless workers or workers overcrowded in their present homes. As soon as the proletariat has won political power, such a measure prompted by concern for the common good will be just as easy to carry out as are other expropriations and billetings by the present-day state.” (German edition, 1887, p. 22) Continue reading

Conclusion: Draft Ideological Resolution of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

11.1 Notwithstanding the reverses to world socialism and the qualitative shift in the international correlation of class forces in favour of imperialism, the CPI(M), basing itself on the creative science of Marxism-Leninism is committed to advance the cause and struggles of the Indian people towards true and complete emancipation and freedom. The 20th century developments, notwithstanding all the shortcomings and reverses testify that the fundamental direction of human civilizational advance, in the historical vision, is inevitably towards national and social liberation.

11.2 Under the present circumstances, the CPI(M) is committed to strengthen the ‘subjective factor’ by combating the challenges posed by the disruptive movements and guarding against falling prey to any deviation from the revolutionary content of Marxism-Leninism. In various Party Congresses, we have worked out the tactics in order to meet such challenges. On this basis, correct tactics need to be worked out for the future. Continue reading