J.R. Johnson

The Negro Question

“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded” – Karl Marx

(5 September 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 65, 5 September 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Negroes and the Hitler-Stalin Pact

The Stalin-Hitler pact has come as a tremendous shock to the workers everywhere. And to the Negro workers not least. The Stalinists instilled into the masses of the people everywhere within the last five years the hope that Stalin and Russia would lead all peoples in the struggle for democracy, freedom and peace. The Hitler-Stalin agreement has blown all that ballyhoo sky-high. Stalin and the Stalinists are seen today for what they really are. Not internationalists, not concerned with leading the working class in every country against their oppressors, but in reality mere horse-traders with the imperialist nations. Most abominable crime of all, they turn the working class movement today in one direction, tomorrow in another, ready to bargain for the sake of their own skin.

Yet in all the confusion, the Negro people among all others have been quickest to realize the fraud and hypocrisy that is Stalinism. The Negroes remember that all through the Ethiopian struggle, Stalin continued to sell oil to Italy. They know that by no sort of reasoning and by no amount of eloquence from Litvinov at Geneva, could this oil-selling be passed off as support of Ethiopia against aggression. Already Stalin bad shown, to all who wanted to see, that all this talk about the Soviet Union being the leader of the democratic movements against the fascists was a lie and nothing more.

Who Oppresses the Negro?

Negroes know that the democratic imperialisms, which were supposed to be the leaders in the struggle for democracy, peace and freedom are the greatest oppressors of Negroes in the world. Great Britain controls and squeezes the life out of some sixty-million Negroes in Africa, France grinds the life out of another forty-million. Belgium is engaged in the daily torture of another twelve million. America has lone set an example to the whole of the civilized world for brutal treatment of Negroes, and fascist methods had been rampant in the southern states long before Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini were born. Yet Stalin. Browder and Ford summoned Negroes in all parts of the world to join Britain. France, America, and Belgium in the “democratic front”, to fight against fascist aggression. Ford called his book The Negro and the Democratic Front. When anyone, white or Negro, pointed out that this, for the Negroes, was suicide, that it was the Negroes’ business to form a united front with all workers and farmers, yellow, brown, and white, to struggle against all the imperialists in all countries and not to take sides, the Stalinists had one word for him – “Trotskyist”.

James Ford had spent many years of his life in the Communist Party, repeating the slogan of “Turn the Imperialist War into a Civil War”, and calling upon all the workers to fight against capitalism everywhere, now he suddenly discovered that it was the duty and interest of the Negroes in the democratic countries to support their “own” government.

In January 1938, the Afro-American of Baltimore supported the criminal and unwarranted invasion of China by Japan. This was, of course, a very stupid thing to do. But it was an honest stupidity. Many Negroes are bitter against the apparently never-ending domination of the white race. They therefore clutch at the idea of Japan being the leader of the colored races and, as such, driving the whites out of the East. They are wrong. What is wanted in the East is not a strong Japan, that is to say a strong imperialist nation, but a strong China. A free, and independent China will drive out Japanese, British and Americans and be one of the great leaders of oppressed peoples all over the world. This mistake however, of supporting Japan is, as we have said, an honest mistake. But James Ford, in his justified criticism of this mistake went on to say the following:

“You say that you do not approve of Japan’s alliance with Hitler and Mussolini, the Negro peoples’ worst enemies. You may not approve. But the alliance is an undeniable fact.”

Now there are 120,000,000 people in Africa today who could tell Ford that Hitler is not their worst enemy for Hitler does not rule over one of them. Their worst enemies are the British, French and Belgians, these democratic imperialists who are sitting on their backs. But James Ford says no word about this. Instead he goes on: “Hitler applauds the lynching of Negroes in America”.

This is undoubtedly very bad of Hitler, but surely that is no reason why the Negroes should join these American democrats who lynch them, to go to fight against Hitler who merely applauds. But Ford, aping his master Browder (who of course is merely the ape of Stalin), gets quite eloquent on the evils of the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo military alliance. He says:

“And who is so blind to this that he cannot see in the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo military alliance a mortal enemy of the democratic forces of the world?”

He ends his letter by once more shouting at Hitler.

“My earnest opinion is that we would make a tragic error in giving our support to any member of the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo alliance.”

Now Stalin, pursuing the interests of himself and his bureaucrats and not caring two damns about white workers, black workers or any sort of workers, except insofar as he could use them for his own policy, signs this pact with Hitler, and by his trade agreement promises to let Hitler have the supplies that are so necessary for Germany, that strengthen Germany enormously, and enable Hitler at once to precipitate a new and most dangerous crisis. Comrade Earl Browder says that this pact Is a pact of peace and that it helps the workers in every country in their fight against fascism. And comrade Ford, as ready to sell out the Negro people as any Democratic or Republican Negro boss, immediately forgets what a crime it was to make an alliance or give support to “any member” of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo axis and hails this pact as “a great step forward for promoting peace and democratic government”.

This he does in a statement published in the Daily Worker of Aug. 31, 1939, and submitted to the Amsterdam News. In our press, meetings and pamphlets, etc., we submit the monstrous deception that Stalin and the Stalinists have practiced on the international working-class movement to a searching analysis, and in this column we shall analyse specifically the reaction of the Negro people and the Negro press. In the next issue we shall begin a series of articles relating to the Negro and the war. Meanwhile, however, we shall merely ask the Negro people this: Are they to carry on a policy of consistent struggle against all imperialisms, fascist or democratic, in common with the oppressed workers and colonial peoples of all the world, or are they to follow James Ford, Earl Browder and Stalin, jumping like a cat on hot bricks from one side to the other, and being merely the pawn in the hands of the most unscrupulous and shameless hypocrites and betrayers that the working class movement has ever harbored within its bosom? To ask the question is to answer it. Down with the Stalinist lies and contradictions. For a policy of the united front of workers black and white against Ford’s death-traps of a democratic front or a Stalin-Hitler front.

Last updated on 13 March 2016