J.R. Johnson

The Negro Question

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

(27 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol III No. 82, 27 October 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

[Negroes! On Guard Against the New Stalinist Line – 1]

Franklin Roosevelt jailed Earl Browder and it has nothing to do with passports. It is a political act. Soon there will be others, including perhaps the arrest of James Ford, the black Commissar. Ford may be arrested for sedition, or for riding on the wrong side of the road. But whatever the charge that also would be a political act, and must be Judged as such. Negroes must watch their step and not jump to early conclusions.

The stooges of American capitalism, the “democracy” trumpeters, will rejoice that America has been saved; and the stooges of the Moscow bureaucracy, the Stalinists, will wail that America has been lost. Both lie. We have here a very complicated situation, and the Negroes must be well prepared against the barrage of propaganda that the Stalinists, in particular, will let loose upon them.

First of all, no class-conscious workers anywhere, and least of all the revolutionary socialists, the Trotskyists, want to see Franklin Roosevelt jailing any members of a working-class organization. The Communist Party is a working-class organization. The Stalinists have thousands of good workers in their ranks, honest, sincere, devoted. They still have some Negroes who think that by working in the Communist Party they are working for the down-trodden Negroes and all oppressed humanity. We respect their devotion. We respect also their stomach. If after all Browder and Ford taught them during the last five years they can now swallow the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the invasion of Poland, then they may swallow anything, Yet our dispute with them remains a comradely one. But with Browder, Foster, Amter, and Ford it is different. We believe and have proved that they are double-dyed scoundrels, deceivers of the working class.

We stand for the principle that all workers’ leaders, right or wrong, honest or corrupt, are responsible to the workers alone. And we call upon the workers to oppose Roosevelt and his capitalist gang, in any interference with the working class, even though they try to disguise it with a smokescreen about false passports.

We Will Do Our Own Work

Yet we of the Fourth International are no friends of Browder, agent of Stalin, that murderer of revolutionary workers. The “democracy” specialists will denounce Browder and the Stalinists for being agents of Stalin as they will denounce Fritz Kuhn for being an agent of Hitler. Here again we must make our attitude clear. For us it is a question of class. If Roosevelt put Fritz Kuhn in jail for twenty years, that is none of our business. Kuhn is a Fascist; a member of a reactionary political organization dedicated to the suppression of the workers. He is our mortal enemy, as Browder is. But we don’t ask Roosevelt to deal with Browder and we condemn it when he does.

We don’t ask Roosevelt to deal with Kuhn either. But we don’t care if he does. Let Roosevelt jail Kuhn and then let Hitler jail the head of the American embassy in Berlin. Twenty years a piece, or forty for that matter. That is their capitalist business, not ours. What we ask the workers to do is to sweep Kuhn and his Bundists and Coughlin and his gangs off the streets whenever they show their faces there to preach Fascism. We besieged the Bundists at their meeting m Madison Square Garden last year. We swept them off the streets in Los Angeles. We frightened them off it in San Francisco. Is it because Kuhn is an agent of a foreign power? Rubbish. It is because he is an agent of Fascism – the enemy of the workers. In the same way we are against Browder, not because he is an agent of a foreign power (which he is), but because he is an agent of Stalin who is an enemy of the workers, though in a different way than Hitler.

In the days of Lenin and Trotsky for instance, the Communist Party got financial assistance and advice from Moscow. It was the duty of every worker to support that. Lenin and Trotsky, the Moscow government, were revolutionists. They considered themselves and Russia as being merely one detachment of the international working class. Whatever they did in Russia, in China, in America or in Africa, they always did it from this point of view. They always asked: “How does this help the workers in their struggle?” Only a backward worker would denounce a Communist of those days as being an agent of a foreign power. As a matter of fact he was not. He was an agent of the international working class movement, of which revolutionary Russia was the head.

Browder and Ford Are Traitors to Labor

But today Browder is the agent of the Moscow bureaucracy. Stalin and his bureaucrats are concerned only with their own skin and their own bellies. They deceive the workers in every country and try to use them for their own selfish aims. So while Roosevelt and the lovers of “democracy” denounce Browder for being an agent of a foreign power, we denounce him and James Ford as being agents of a traitor of the workers, and for being traitors themselves.

And why are they traitors ? Ford is going to be running all over the country (he had better drive on the right side of the road), telling Negroes that the Stalinists are being persecuted because they are opposing the war. They will hold up Browder and themselves as martyrs for “democracy,” and as anti-war fighters. It looks well on the surface but when Ford and the Stalinists start this bleat, Negroes should ask James Ford a few questions like these.

Why did you fight so hard for Spanish “democracy,” Ford? Why pact with Hitler, telling us that we must make a “democratic front” against Fascist aggression? You wrote a book, Ford, called The Negro and the Democratic Front. In it you told us Negroes to join up with this same Attorney General Murphy and this same Franklin Roosevelt, who have jailed Browder. You told us Negroes to do that to save American “democracy”? Why the devil did you do that, Ford? You are not a dope. You know better. You used to spend much time telling us that “democracy” wasn’t worth fighting for, that the only thing to fight for was socialism. Look at what American “democracy” is doing to you now. Why did you corrupt us all these recent years ?

Why did you fight so hard for Spanish “democracy,” Ford? Why did you and Browder and Stalin and all your people in Spain murder and kidnap Trotskyites, and militant anarchists who wanted to overthrow capitalism in Spain? What made you love “democracy” so much in Spain, Ford, that you a man of African descent never once raised your voice for the independence of the Moors in the Spanish Morocco? When Mussolini attacked Ethiopia why did your master Stalin sell oil to Italy? And why did you not mobilize Negroes and white workers everywhere to denounce the League of Nations as a sure trap and point out that only the organized workers could help Ethiopia. Why didn’t you do these things, Ford, you and your party?

(To be continued)

Last updated on 14 February 2018