Revolutionary integrationism

Revolutionary integrationism

Revolutionary Integrationism is an analysis, philosophy, and program for resolving the "black question"--the problem of the superoppression of blacks, and their liberation--in the United States. It has its origins in the fight against slavery by Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists before the Civil War, and in the "New Negro" movement in the 1900-10s around the "Crisis" journal's 1919 articles by NAACP field marshall Walter White and other of his writings, Carrie Clifford, Alfred Kreymborg, and especially, the black Communist poet Claude McKay, Max Eastman's and Crystal Eastman's "Liberator", as well as A. Philip Randolph's and Chandler Owen's "Messenger." In the 1930s through 1960s, the "RI" doctrine was developed in the main by Trotskyists--Max Shachtman, Oliver Cox, Daniel Guerin, Richard S. Fraser, James Robertson, Mike Davis (scholar) as well as by non-Trotskyists such as James Baldwin. These argued that the struggle for equality by blacks in the United States was the main current in black history, and that this could only be accomplished via a socialist revolution by the entire working class. They disagreed with the opinion of Leon Trotsky himself, and of C.L.R. James, in the 1930s, and with George Breitman and the majority of the Socialist Workers Party (US) in the late 1950s, that Black nationalism was a transitional demand toward socialism. They also disagreed as well with Stalin and his followers in the CPUSA, who initiated this adaptation to black nationalism within the U.S. Marxist movement.

Revolutionary integrationism disputes these thinkers', and other Leftists' and liberals', assertion that blacks in America potentially constitute a "nation," and/or that blacks require separate organizations from whites, and/or that such organizations might constitute a separate or autonomous second "vanguard," which would cooperate, but not be integrated into, a "white" Marxist U.S. vanguard party.

Instead, Revolutionary Integrationists argue the following:

The history of blacks in the U.S. indicates that their fight is for equality, not for separation. Their struggle must be taken up by the entire U.S. working class, led by socialists (black as well as white)
*Blacks are an oppressed racial minority within the U.S. nation, whose culture is about the struggle for equality and freedom, within American society. As Marx wrote in the days of slavery, the main impediment to the socialist revolution in the U.S. in the racist division of the working class into a superoppressed black minority vs. a relatively more privileged (even if only in their own minds) white majority.

* While Robertson and his Spartacist League would call blacks a superoppressed race- or color- "caste", Cox and Fraser were wary of using the term 'caste', because it smacked of the more conservative approach to racism likening the U.S. racial hierarchy to the Indian caste system. Such a comparison implied that blacks, like the lower Indian castes, would resign themselves to their lower position in the racist pecking order. The use of the word 'caste' can be found in the racist decision of California Supreme Court, written by Chief Justice Hugh Murray, in "People vs. Hall" before the Civil War, which found for the white defendants against Chinese witnesses to their murder of a fellow Chinese worker. It can also be found in the language of sociologists who are not themselves racist, but were pessimistic about overturning Jim Crow rapidly: such as Robert Park of the Chicago School of Sociology.

As Mike Davis (scholar) writes in his "Prisoners of the American Dream", however, "the oppression of Blacks" in the U.S., however, is an explosive contradiction, "a central contradiction at the heart of the American bourgeois democratic system": one that socialists and the labor movement must embrace. As Davis writes further, "The struggle for substantive social equality for the Black and Hispanic working class is no longer simply part of the unfinished agenda of liberalism. . .. Their struggle has evolved, rather, towards what might be called a 'revolutionary-democratic' platform that challenges the current political economy of capitalism. . . Any real movement towards an economic integration of the working poor into a new high-wage environment would involve a radical expansion of the public sector. . . Substantive economic citizenship for Black and Hispanic America would require levels of change dangerously close to the threshold of socialist transformation. . . If there is to be any popular left in the [future] , it will develop in the first instance through the mobilization of the radical political propensities in the Black--and perhaps, Hispanic--working classes. Reciprocally, the validity and popular appeal of any socialist program of strategy will depend on the degree to which it addresses the axial problem of the revolutionary-democratic struggle for equality."

Similarly, Richard S. Fraser writes “although the tasks of the liberation of the South are of an elementary democratic nature, they have no solution within the framework of American capitalism: they become part of the socialist struggle of the proletariat to overthrow the capitalist system of production.” —“Resolution on the Negro Question” (1957), reprinted in “In Memoriam—Richard S. Fraser: An Appreciation and Selection of His Work,” Prometheus Research Series No. 3, August 1990

While agreeing with the spirit of this, Robertson's Spartacist League disagrees with the language, arguing that it is outdated,

"Between the 1960s and the late 1970s, the legal-political structure of the South was brought into alignment with the bourgeois-democratic norms in the rest of the country. This development underscores the fact that the root cause of black oppression lies in the workings of the U.S. capitalist economy, not the legal sanctions of the bourgeois state. Today, blacks possess at least formal equality under the law, although this is pervasively violated in practice. The past two or three decades have seen increased segregation, particularly in Northern urban areas, along with higher black unemployment and homelessness, a racist purge in higher education, the scourge of AIDS and the massive imprisonment of young black men carried out in the name of “the war on drugs.” Black pockets of the rural South are still marked by deep poverty and vicious repression, to say nothing of the plight of black New Orleans. These conditions cannot be eradicated by a new civil rights movement and a new Civil Rights Act but only by the overthrow of the capitalist system through proletarian socialist revolution." --Revolutionary Integrationism: The Road to Black Freedom, February 17, 2006.

However, superoppression comes from the structure of the state, or the capitalist economy, the explosive nature of the Black struggle for equality remains the same. In the long run, Blacks have and will never accept their superoppression. Their fight for equality may lead to socialism--if led by a vanguard socialist party of the working class.

The Black Nation is a Demagogic Fiction, Attractive to the Black Masses in Times of Betrayal Only
*The Southern "black belt" alleged basis for a black nation is a statistical-geographical fiction cobbled together by the Stalinists.
*by the criteria of nationhood put forward by Stalin himself, in an article approved by no less than Lenin himself, U.S. blacks do not constitute a nation, because they do not possess either a separate language or culture. Especially, despite the assertions of black nationalists that "white America" constitutes an oppressor nation, the alleged black "nation" lacks a separate or autonomous geographic territory on which there is or potentially might be created a separate capitalist market economy, which is "oppressed" by some foreign imperialist power.

Bryan D. Palmer, in his book review of Shachtman's "Race and Revolution" very well presents Shachtman's incredulity over James Allen's account of how the Stalinists attempted to convince black sharecroppers of their "nationhood":

"James S. Allen's Negro Liberation (1932), its cover adorned with a United States map, the Black Belt sharply demarcated in red, commences:

'In the light of a full moon a group of Negro croppers gathered at the rear of a cabin in Sumter County, South Carolina, intently studying a map roughly sketched on the ground. They had come from the surrounding plantations to hold a stealthy meeting of what was then just the beginnings of the Croppers Union. A Negro worker stood in the center of the group explaining the meaning of that rough map. He had sketched a map of the United States in the earth with a twig and marked off those sections of the South in which the Negroes were in a majority. The croppers were greatly amazed. For the first time they realized that not only in Sumter County, S.C., do the Negroes make up more than half the population but that there is a continuous stretch of land extending like a crescent moon from southern Maryland to Arkansas in which Negroes outnumber the whites.'It is this passage, indeed, that the irascible Left Oppositionist polemicist, Max Shachtman, ridiculed mercilessly in his "Communism and the Negro," a direct rejoinder to the Communist Party's Black Belt nation thesis:

'this little narrative is sufficient to lay bare the thoroughly ludicrous nature of the new Stalinist theory on the American Negro question.... Can a situation be imagined in which it would be necessary for an agitator to penetrate to the home of the most backward peasants in Ireland in order to draw a map of the country... and prove that there not only is such a place as Ireland but that its inhabitants should be sovereign in it? Or Poland? Or Korea? Or in the homeland of any genuine nation? (78–79)'"

*Black nationalism is not the essential thrust of U.S. black history: it is instead, like the Zionist movement in Europe among Jews, the product of the desires of a petit bourgeois stratum of blacks to elevating themselves politically and economically, to become capitalist politicians and capitalists, at the expense of their working class followers, by gaining their votes for political careers within the Democratic Party, and/or by exploiting them as a superoppressed labor force (much like, as in Chinatown, Chinese sweatshop owners exploit their own).
*Besides these cynical self-aggrandizing motives of the black petit bourgeoisie, the appeal and attraction of black nationalism only gains ground among black working class and poor people during times of desperation about the basic struggle for equality. For example, Martin Delany's black nationalist novel "Blake: or the Huts of America" was written before the Civil War, when, ironically, Delany felt things were hopeless in the U.S. In the 1960s, black nationalism arose with the McCarthyite repression of trade union militants in the CIO, the CIO's fusion with the AFL and their turning firmly toward the Democratic Party, the growth in the power of anti-communist trade union bureaucrats, and their resort to racism to maintain a loyal following. The early industrial organizing days of the CIO, and the organizing efforts in Harlem and other places by the Communist Party, were radical, integrationist, inspiring hope among black workers that racial barriers would be overcome: thus the black nationalism of the Marcus Garvey movement and the Black Muslims was on the wane in the mid 1930s.

"White Racism is Neither Biologically Nor Culturally Innate: it is Manipulated by the Capitalist Class and is Therefore Eliminable via Class Struggle"
*White racism against blacks is not the product of some inner "imperialism," "urge for domination," "male sexual competition," "innate inability to accept the Other," etc. Such explanations are all products of liberal idealism, not historical materialism.
*Racism arises with the rise of capitalism: it is not expressed in the ancient world, nor in much of the feudal era. It gains ground as the feudal mode of production begins to deteriorate. The Jews, losing their status as a feudal caste (See Abraham Leon, THE JEWISH QUESTION: A MARXIST INTERPRETATION) become the scapegoats of choice for the developing capitalist class. Against the Irish, as Cox pointed out, British racism becomes a justification for the exploitation of the British working class. Against Africans, it becomes a rationale for their capture and enslavement in the U.S., and a means by which they are isolated from white farmers and workers, by the capitalist class. Today it is used by the capitalist class to divide the working class against itself, to privilege one sector of the working class, the whites (or to make them think they are privileged when day by day their own oppression actually grows), against the others (blacks, Latinos, Arabs, etc.), to prevent the working class from uniting. It also rationalizes the superexploitation of workers of color, and the forcing of them into the category of a permanent reserve army of labor of the chronically unemployed.
*The history of the southern United States is not a history of a "southern ruling class" maintaining Jim Crow out of motives purely or mainly of racism. Since the Civil War broke the old Southern planter class, the South and its cracker politicians, such as Strom Thurmond, etc. have been controlled by Northern corporations. U.S. Steel, for example, with offices in the North, provided funding for demagogues like Thurmond, who, in 1948, ran on a platform of segregation and fierce resistance to anti-lynch laws in Congress.
*In the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s, it is not the case that the Northern based ruling capitalist class of the South as well as North switched sides and became firm liberal champions of racial integration. Instead, the U.S. capitalist class, particularly its multinational corporate wing which at the time supported the Democratic Party, realized that they could stave off a social revolution in the South by presenting themselves as the non-violent liberal movement's benefactors. "Sending federal troops to Mississippi," however, was not benevolent--the FBI and the federal troops were as much or more concerned with crushing revolutionary militancy among blacks as they were with stopping the Klan--often they would work with the Ku Klux Klan against black militants. A similar strategy is evident in the U.S. occupation(s) of Haiti more recently.

The Need for Socialist Economic and Cultural Integration: not Bourgeois Assmilation
*It is impossible, contra the assertions of liberal assimilationists such as Gunnar Myrdal and at least the early Martin Luther King, for blacks to be integrated into a "capitalist" U.S. society. Integration can only be achieved in a socialist society.
*Revolutionary integrationism must NOT be confused with "cultural" assimilation, either. Culturally, as Randolph Bourne and James Baldwin argued (Bourne, unlike Baldwin, however, did not discuss the black question in his vision of an integrated "Trans-National America), the culture of America itself--or rather, the way it is perceived, promoted, acknowledged, developed, and controlled--must change, for genuine "integration" to take place. American culture itself must acknowledge and embrace the contributions made to it by non Anglo Saxon cultures, as the cultures that are "more", not less important to its development. As Bourne writes,

"Let the Anglo-Saxon ask himself where he would have been if these races had not come? Let those who feel the inferiority of the non-Anglo-Saxon immigrant contemplate that region of the States which has remained the most distinctively "American," the South. Let him ask himself whether he would really like to see the foreign hordes Americanized into such an Americanization. Let him ask himself how superior this native civilization is to the great "alien" states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, where Scandinavians, Poles, and Germans have self-consciously labored to preserve their traditional culture, while being outwardly and satisfactorily American. Let him ask himself how much more wisdom, intelligence, industry and social leadership has come out of these alien states than out of all the truly American ones. The South, in fact, while this vast Northern development has gone on, still remains an English colony, stagnant and complacent, having progressed scarcely beyond the early Victorian era. It is culturally sterile because it has had no advantage of cross-fertilization like the Northern states."

As said before, however, Bourne ignores the contributions of blacks to American culture, otherwise he would mention the contribution black culture has made to Southern culture: despite the Jim Crow, sociopolitical barriers to a full acknowledgement or integration of this contribution. As Dubois points out in "Black Reconstruction (1935)", Jim Crow did indeed make Southern culture "sterile," and reactionary, at the white, "patrician" and "middle class" top of the racial-class ladder: but at the "democratic" bottom, there was always enough, from black culture, to enliven it, democratize it, enrich it, once those barriers to cultural integration are removed. It is not so much that American culture itself must become open to contribution by blacks. No: American culture is "already" black. As Richard Fraser writes in "Dialectics of Black Liberation,"

"Black slaves created a distinctive culture--a philosophy of life expressing the greatest aspirations of any people of the era; a thoroughly equalitarian and democratic attitude; a folk art in story and song; and a musical speech. Distinguishing this (black sub-)culture from the national cultures of Europe was the fact that it was never circumscribed, isolated, or exclusive. On the contrary, it rapidly inundated the transplanted Anglo-Saxon culture of the slave owners. In the rest of the country a cultural vacuum prevailed, born of the melting pot, of class fluidity, of constant migration and immigration. The vacuum acted like a sponge in absorbing Black folk culture. It was readily apparent that the chief barriers between Black and white were sociopolitical, not cultural, and that whites basically needed and responded to Black culture."

"Needed and responded to" it, yes: but with great reluctance,as something very lively, yet tabooed, because from the "lower" part of the race-class structure, of which many whites are terrified. As Baldwin writes in his "In Search of a Majority" from "Nobody Knows My Name (1960)" whites are "cruel" to blacks in America because they are in fundamental denial about "what we really want out of life, for ourselves, what we think is real." The problem stems from the capitalist rat race and competitive pecking order: we are afraid "of losing status. . . One cannot afford to lose status on this peculiar ladder, for the prevailing notion of American life seems to involve a kind of rung-by-rung ascension to some hideously desirable state. if this is one's conception of life, obviously one cannot afford to slip back one rung. When one slips, one slips back not a rung but back into chaos and no longer knows who he is. . . . In a way, the Negro tells us where the bottom is "because he is there", and "where" he is, beneath us, we know where the limits are and how far we must not fall. . .In a way, if the Negro were not here, we might be forced to deal within ourselves and our own personalities, with all those vices, all those conundrums, and all those mysteries with which we have invested the Negro race. . . I suggest that the role of the Nergro in American life has something to do with our concept of what God is, . . . this concept [in the U.S.] is not big enough. . To be with God is really to be involved with some enormous, overwhelming desire, and joy, and power which you cannot control, which [like"Love"] controls you."

Black culture, while certainly not the "only" sub-culture in America (for the genius of American culture has always been it's synergy, it's "synthesis" of different subcultures),, far from being a "separate" culture (there is no such thing in American culture!) , is the MOST IMPORTANT subculture--that subculture which has made, and could make, American culture most interesting and unique--for it is a big part of our "folk" culture, and thus represents to whites the "daemonic" essence of life--love, joy, mortality, suffering, sex--that fascinates them, yet get in the way of the "rung by rung ascension" on the ladder to corporate success. Cultural integration would ACKNOWLEDGE fully this contribution, while encouraging and supporting each subculture to develop its subculture autonomously yet synergize their own with other cultures: to create a truly "trans-national American culture." Only a socialist society, however, not our current exploitative, competitive, conformist, racially discriminatory capitalist society, could do that. At present, as the Stalinist critic Sidney Finkelstein pointed out, the profit driven market system makes it very difficult for any artist to develop his own people's art, let alone his own artistic genius.

Integration is the Key to the Fight for Socialism in the U.S., which is Counterpoised to Black Nationalist Demagoguery
*Black workers in the U.S., because of their superoppression, their current centrality to key industrial and transport sectors, and their link to the superoppressed ghetto masses represent a crucial element of the U.S. working class. Black nationalism thus represents a threat to the jugular and an utter betrayal of working class unity, which is necessary for working class revolution and socialism in the United States.
*Class conscious black workers must be recruited and integrated into a vanguard revolutionary party in the United States: both into the rank and file of such a party--and the leadership.
*A Trotskyist transitional program for the United States must incorporate the elementary demands of black workers for equality within the trade unions and within the larger society.
*While neither blacks nor the South represent an "internal colony," the South and its racism is the bedrock of U.S. racism in general, of militarism, of imperialism, and of capitalism and its efforts to weaken and smash trade unionism and working class militancy--as W.E.B. Dubois charged in his "Black Reconstruction" (Revolutionary Integrationists such as Cox and Guerin critique Dubois severely for waffling back and forth between the quest for racial equality and separatism, but do praise his writings for their historical clarity.) Thus the struggle to build trade unions and smash segregation and racism in the South, by a racially united working class, is the key to defeating U.S. imperialism and global capitalism.
*The "dual vanguardism," or the "sectoralist" philosophy that "each of our struggles--feminism, black liberation, workers struggles, gay and lesbian liberation--is equally important and autonomous," that "we can all get to the promised land taking different buses" preached by Black Nationalist advocates and "autonomists" such as George Breitman and many other "politically correct" centrist groups today--Solidarity (US), for example--represents a reversion to the politics of Jewish Bundism in Russia before the Russian Revolution, which Lenin, Trotsky, and Rosa Luxemburg rightly rejected. It is a betrayal of the Marxist and Leninist conception that the working class, to successfully revolt against capitalism and build socialism, must be united and led by a single vanguard party: not by an ethnically- or racially-federated consortium.


* Sharon Smith, " [ Race, class, and 'whiteness theory'] " "International Socialist Review" Issue 46, March–April 2006, adapted from her recent work, "Subterranean Fire: A * History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States" (Haymarket Books, April 2006). See also her “ [ Mistaken identity: Or can identity politics liberate the oppressed?] ” "International Socialism" 62, March 1994.

* Mike Davis, "Prisoners of the American Dream" Verso, 1986, pp. 309-10

* James Baldwin, "Nobody Knows My Name" Vintage Books, 1960
* James Robertson, Shirley Stoute, 1963 SWP document, " [ For Black Trotskyism] "
* Spartacist, " [ Black and Red] " 1967
* " [ Revolutionary Integrationism: The Road to Black Freedom] " by the Spartacist League, February 17, 2006
* " [ Capitalism and Racism] ," by the International Bolshevik Tendency

;Late 1950s-early 1960s: writings and speeches of Richard S. Fraser

* " [ The Negro Struggle and the Proletarian Revolution] "
* " [ For the Materialist Conception of the Negro Question] "
* " [ to the Discussion on the Slogan 'Send Federal Troops to Mississippi'] "
* " [ Resolution on the Negro Question] "
* "Dialectics of Black Liberation," in "Revolutionary Integration: A Marxist Analysis of African American Liberation" Red Letter Press 2004.
* " [ On "Color Caste": Letter to James Robertson] "

;1940s-early 50s

* Daniel Guerin, "Negroes on the March" Grange or Weissman, 1956
* Oliver C. Cox, "Caste, Class and Race" Doubleday, 1948
* Abraham Leon " [ The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation] " originally published 1946.

;Early 1930s
* Max Shachtman, "Race and Revolution", Verso 2003 originally published as an internal SWP document entitled "Communism and the Negro Question" 1932-33.
* Bryan D. Palmer, "Race and Revolution," [] --a review of Shachtman's "Race and Revolution" and of Barbara Foley, "Spectres of 1919: Class & Nation in the Making of the New Negro" (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003)--lots of great historical details here.

;OtherRandolph Bourne, "Transnational America," []

Sidney Finkelstein, "Art and Society" International Publishers, 1947.

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