Black Marxism?

Jindrich Štyrsky, Untitled, 1934.


Preliminary translation note of the just published work by August H. Nimtz Jr.

The present work consists of the translation of the article “Marxism and the Black Struggle: The 'class vs. race' debate revisited” by Professor Dr. August H. Nimtz Jr, originally published in Journal of African Marxists 1984 the year. [I] This is a critical review of the book. “Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition” (1983), by Cedric J. Robinson.

The material was written in the pre-digital era more than thirty years ago (although the reflections presented here remain extremely current and active). The text was digitized by University of Minnesota (North American teaching institution, which we thank), which, however, required us to carry out the complete transcription of the material, in addition to undertaking some revisions, with the insertion of reading topics for a better structure and organization of the article. Throughout this work, we inserted a set of translation notes, intended for a better understanding and deepening of research by the reading public.

The author of this fruitful reflection, the North American August Nimtz graduated in International Relations, with a master's degree in African Studies from Howard University and doctorate at Indiana University. Professor Nimtz teaches Political Science, African and African American Studies at University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis (USA). His investigations undertaken over more than forty years of research and intense political militancy in the international arena, comprise the areas of Marxist theory, political economy, studies of race, class, ethnic relations, African and Afro-American politics. Author of various theoretical works and scientific articles, Nimtz is one of the most prominent contemporary Marxist intellectuals in the field of racial issues.

In this article, Robinson's work (1983) is criticized on its epistemological and political foundations, as well as on account of the “straw men of his own creation”. Nimtz demonstrates the limits of the culturalist and black nationalist perspective, questioning the concept of “radical black tradition” as a sterile and merely academic construction – unrelated to the concrete world of politics and the emancipatory struggle in Africa and the African Diaspora. Robinson's formulation referring to militant-intellectuals such as Du Bois, Wright and James, as supposed members of this tradition, proves to be flawed and insufficient, since all these black thinkers had as a common trait their affiliation with Marxist, socialist and political ideas. communists.

Fanon's example is instructive. Although practically neglected in this work and despite the existing disputes around its legacy arbitrarily categorized as “decolonial” and/or “postcolonial” (as part of postmodern “intellectual impostures”), the theoretical-methodological and political perspective -strategic fanonian he clearly understood that “if it triumphs, the national revolution will be socialist; Once its momentum is stopped, the colonized bourgeoisie takes power, and the new State, despite its formal sovereignty, remains in the hands of the imperialists”. [ii]

In his critique, Nimtz supports dialectical historical materialism as a project of critique of political economy linked to the notion of revolutionary praxis. This author's concern lies in applying the Marxist method to the racial question, highlighting the contributions of the philosophy of praxis to anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggles, questioning the liberal and nationalist hegemony around the theme.

The publication of this article – hitherto unpublished in Brazil – fulfills an indispensable function. The initiative is in line with the maxim present in Lenin according to which, “without revolutionary theory, there is no revolutionary movement”. Moreover, in times “where enthusiasm for the more limited forms of practical action appears accompanied by the fashionable propaganda of opportunism” [iii] – the deepening of the “battle of ideas” becomes fundamental. [iv]

The black social movement and Brazilian working class organizations need to overcome their own contradictions and limitations. The lowering of the strategic horizon, the organizational deficit, the abandonment of the critical-radical formation and the political subordination to reformist-electoral interests are constricting aspects that increasingly demand disruptive postures. It is necessary to forge the “spring in the teeth” and feed the “awareness to have courage”. In this sense, August Nimtz's critique becomes fundamental for reflection and revolutionary action in our present and future time.

*Mario Soares Neto He is a lawyer, professor and researcher. Master in Law from the Federal University of Bahia (PPGD/UFBA).



[I] NIMTZ JR, August H. Marxism and the black struggle: the “class vs. race” revisited. Translation by Mario Soares Neto. Law and Praxis Magazine, Ahead of print, Rio de Janeiro, 2021. Available at:

[ii] FANON, Frantz. The damned of the earth. Foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre. Translation by José Laurênio de Melo. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilização Brasileira, 1968, p. 6.

[iii] LENIN, VI What to do? The palpitating questions of our movement. São Paulo: Hucitec, 1978, p. 18.

[iv] In this sense, the insertion of Marxism and the Racial Question Course, a collective initiative organized under the Study Group Human Rights, Centrality of Work and Marxism, from the Faculty of Law of the University of São Paulo (DHCTEM – USP). To see: See also:

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