J.R. Johnson

The Negro Question

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

(13 September 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 69, 13 September 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Negro and the War – IV

All of us know how Negroes suffer in America. But you have to go to Africa to see how brutally the “democracies” treat Negroes. In South Africa, a Negro cannot even buy a stamp in the same place where a white man buys one. There is a special window for him even in the post office. He lives in a part of the town that is marked off for him, and he cannot leave there after nine o’clock without a pass signed by a white man. Any white man, any dirty drunkard of an Englishman or a Boer, can sign a pass for a sober, self-respecting, hard-working Negro. But any Negro who is caught out of the Negro district after nine o’clock without his passes will be locked up by the first policeman who stops him. There are not ten colored doctors in the Union of South Africa where over seven million Negroes live, and the imperialists have been there for 400 years. That is the culture and civilization they give to the Africans in South Africa.

In Kenya more than five people cannot meet without police permission. One day six of them went home after church for a cup of tea. In comes a policeman. “One, two, three, four, five, six. This is sedition. You are under arrest.” They were taken to jail and the next day fined. Every working African in Kenya is fingerprinted and must carry the print around with him wherever he goes. Caught without it, he is sent to jail. Wages in Rhodesia and Kenya are sometimes four, sometimes ten cents a day. A Negro is no more than a dog to these people. And this is under the rule of the great “democratic countries,” Britain, France and Belgium. James Ford is a dirty traitor to tell Negroes that they must go to war for the “democracies” for the benefit of civilization. Aren’t Negroes part of civilization?

How did the “democratic” imperialist nations get hold of Africa? They got it as Hitler got Austria and Czechoslovakia. Hitler lied, made promises and broke them, bribed and sent armies to massacre all who resisted. In exactly the same way, these great “democracies” robbed the Africans of country after country and hold them in chains. And now Roosevelt, Browder, and Ford tell Negroes that they must all get together with the great “democracies” and shed their blood. Shed it for what? To win back their country? To live as free men? Not at all. But to go and help Britain and France fight against Hitler and Mussolini about Danzig and the Polish corridor, and who should dominate the Chinese and Latin-American markets, and who should dominate Africa.

Remember What They Did in 1914

These imperialist bandits encouraged workers to fight in the last war with the same talk about democracy, freedom and civilization. But after defeating Germany, Britain, France and Belgium simply took over the German colonies and continued to treat the Negroes as before. Now they are fighting another war. If the fascists win they will take the colonies back. If the “democracies” win they will keep them. But whether “democracies” win, or fascists win, the Africans remain slaves in their own country.

Now Republicans like Dewey and Democrats like Roosevelt, men like John L. Lewis and William Green, all the war-mongers for “democracy,” have never told Negroes anything about the situation of Negroes in Africa. Lewis encouraged Negroes to join the CIO and Negroes were right to join. But when Lewis tells Negroes to fight for democracy, as he most certainly will, they simply have to ask him the same questions that they will ask Ford and Roosevelt, and Lewis will be able to make no better reply.

But James Ford and Browder and the Communist Party are different. For many years they have posed as the special friends of the Negro people, ready to lead them out of their bondage into the promised land of freedom. They know, and used to expose the situation of the Negro not only in America but in Africa and the West Indies. Listen, for instance, to James Ford, the Negro Stalinist, in an article, The Negro and the Struggle Against Imperialism:

“The native population has (in South Africa) no electoral rights (with the exception of the Cape Province), the power of the state has been monopolized by the white bourgeoisie which has at its disposal the white armed forces. The white bourgeoisie, chiefly the Boers, defeated by the arms of British imperialism, at the close of the last century, had for a long time carried on a dispute with British capital. But as much as the process of capitalist development goes on in the country, the interests of the South African bourgeoisie are becoming more and more blended with the interests of British financial and industrial capital, and the white South African bourgeoisie is becoming more and more inclined to compromise with British imperialism, forming together with the latter a united front of whites for the exploitation of the native population.”

Situation Has Changed for the Worse

That is what Ford wrote in The Communist (January 1930, p. 27). Has the situation changed? Yes it has. The votes that a few Negroes in the Cape had (referred to by Ford) have been taken away from them. So they are worse off than they were before.

We could print scores of such passages from the writings of the Stalinists. Only three years ago, Ben Davis Jr. had the following to say about Negroes in America. It is a long passage, but every line is worth recalling today. Says Davis:

“One has merely to look about him for the rising atrocities against the Negro. The news broke in July that Silas Goleman, a Negro worker, was killed ‘for the hell of it’ to ‘thrill’ members of the Black Legion, a super Klu Klux Klan connected with the Michigan Wolverine republicans. Recently three Negroes were lynched in the space of one week in the South – a new record for the southern ruling class. The ‘grass roots’ convention of Governor Eugene Talmadge, Southern spokesman of the American Liberty League in the Democratic Party, held in Macon, Georgia, last January, was an orgy of lynch hysteria against the Negro people.”

This Stalinist Davis, told how the Democrats, Franklin Roosevelt’s Party, treated James Ford, the candidate for vice-president:

“The octopus of national oppression reaches out to hound the Negroes wherever they are. September saw a recrudescence of the Klu Klux Klan in Peekskill, New York, with the promises to ‘ride again’ against Negroes, Catholics and Jews. In Allentown, Pa., where James W. Ford was scheduled to make a campaign speech last August, the Klu Klux Klan issued leaflets stating that the town would ‘ooze with nigger blood’ if Ford spoke.”

This Stalinist Davis, knew all about the situation in Africa. He goes on to write:

“A sinister law was recently passed by the officials of the City of Miami, Florida. An ordinance was enacted providing that the Negro residents of the city must have passes to enter the white section of the city after dark. This is identical with the South African ‘pass’ system where the natives must secure the written consent of the British imperialist agents in South Africa to walk about in their own country.”

Discrimination in Harlem

And he knew about the situation in Harlem.

“These reactionary practices against the Negro have been accompanied with the most relentless attacks against the already low standard of living of the Negro masses. In Harlem, the largest Negro urban center in the world, job discrimination is rife and unemployment has been estimated by the New York World Telegram, capitalist daily newspaper, as upwards of eighty percent. Similar situations, more or less acute, throughout the country, reaffirm the axiom that reactionary open-shoppers place their heaviest burdens upon the Negro wage earners.”

And Davis knew too what kind of life the great democracy of America offers the Negroes in the South.

“Pellegra is eating away the lives of the miserably paid and underfed Negro and white sharecropper in the South, particularly in the Black Belt. All of this is carried on in the midst of the bitterest campaign of ‘rape frame-ups’ and lynch terror backed by the Liberty League and the most reactionary sections of the Democratic Party in the South.”

And yet Ford, Davis, Patterson and other Negro Stalinists, now tell Negroes in Africa and America that they must go and fight for this “democracy.” The Communist Party says that all workers (including Negroes) must support Roosevelt and Roosevelt is preparing to drag America in.

(Continued in Next Issue)

Last updated on 13 March 2016