J.R. Johnson

The Negro Question

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

(31 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol III No. 83, 31 October 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Continued from Last Issue)

Negroes! On Guard Against the New Stalinist Line – 2

If James Ford is asked why he and Browder spent five years persuading the American workers that their future lay with Roosevelt and the New Deal, he will lie like a trooper in reply. No people in history ever lied like the Stalinists. But the real reason for Ford’s “democratic front” is this.

Whereas Lenin and Trotsky always said, “How can we best help the workers in Russia and all over the world, for we are all one.” Stalin, Ford’s master today says, “How can I use the workers to help me and my burocrats preserve our wealth and power?”

In 1935, he was trying to get an alliance with Britain and France. But the reactionary imperialisms didn’t want to make an alliance with a revolutionary. So Stalin gave his orders to his servants, all over the world. “Stop being revolutionary. Be good lovers of ‘democracy’. Above all no class struggle.” Whereupon Browder and Ford started on their “democratic” career. How their paper and their speeches used to stink! They fawned all over the boots of Franklin Roosevelt, the same Roosevelt who now jails Browder and who may well jail Ford tomorrow. Every other column in the Stalinist papers whooped it up for F.D.R. All who were for F.D.R. were heroes in the eyes of the Stalinists. Formerly they had denounced the NAACP and the Urban League. Suddenly these Negro petty-bourgeois, who are as revolutionary as a stale potato-pie, were embraced by the Stalinists, and transformed over night into leaders of the American Negro workers.

The Workers Alliance, led by David Lasser and controlled by Stalinists, became one of the most reactionary organizations in the country. It stifled the militancy of the workers and reached its final degeneration when it made Eleanor Roosevelt an honorary member. How in the name of God could a workers’ organization, designed to lead the starving unemployed against a chiseling capitalist government, make the wife of the head of that government an honorary member? Strikers may as well ask the boss’s wife to come and be an honorary member of the picket line.

Acted Against the Class Struggle

The Stalinists were simply killing the class struggle, as they had killed it in France and in Spain, and for the same reason – to help Stalin get his alliance with Britain, France, and America. For the American workers, and for the American Negroes, the Stalinists didn’t care a damn.

Naturally, to be able to influence the workers at all, the Stalinists had to maintain a show of militancy. But even while maintaining this show, their main business in life was to act in such a way as to give the capitalists the following impression:

“We are not real reds any more. See how we restrain the workers. See how we praise F.D.R. Make the alliance with Stalin and you can depend upon us to keep the workers quiet. If war comes we shall get them into it much more quickly and efficiently than you can.”

The Stalinist rank and filer didn’t know that this was the real meaning of the policy. Ford and Browder knew all right.

But thinks didn’t go well in Europe from Stalin’s point of view. Britain and France wouldn’t agree to his territorial expansion in the Baltic. Hitler, hungry for an ally, agreed to Stalin’s demands (for the time being). The two made their bargain, and Stalin, as Hitler’s ally, dropped all his talk about Russia and the “democracies” fighting against fascist aggression.

Here was a fine mess for the Stalinists to be in. All they could do was to double back, put a good brass face on it, and start supporting the Hitler-Stalin Pact. They had to or they would have been called Trotskyists. They would have been abused, expelled and calumniated. But though they now have to support Hitler, who at present is doing most of the fighting in the Hitler-Stalin combination, they are supporting him in a very clever way. They are praising Stalin of course. That they have to do, or out they go on their heads into the street. It would be difficult, however, actually to support Hitler openly. So what they do is to carry on a vicious campaign against Hitler’s enemies, the “democracies”. The more they embarrass the “democracies”, the more they help Hitler, and, as they see it, the more they help Hitler, the stronger is Hitler’s ally, Stalin.

Hence, this strange spectacle of Ford in Harlem bellowing against the war, calling it a war of two imperialist groups (which it undoubtedly is), and saying that his purpose and the purpose of his party is to save the Negroes from wasting their blood and lives in a quarrel not their own (which is certainly not Ford’s purpose.)This two-faced scoundrel was no more thinking of Negroes’ welfare than in the days when he was trying to shepherd them into the “democratic” front and send them fighting against Hitler on behalf of the Moscow bureaucrats.

A Judas Re-Born

There have been many Judases in the world, since the first and most famous one. Negroes have produced their fair share. But of all the criminal specimens on that dirty list, you will have to search far before you meet one like Ford, a Negro, brought up in the South, knowing what his people suffer. And yet in August 1939, this traitor is telling Negroes to fight for “democracy” and in September he’s telling them to keep America out of war. And all the time he’s using them to serve the interests of the Moscow murderers of revolutionaries and organizers of frame-up trials.

But F.D.R., as the Stalinists so lovingly used to call him, and Murphy allowed Ford and Browder plenty of “democracy” so long as the supported American imperialism. But the moment they start talking about imperialist war on both sides and impeding F.D.R.’s mobilization for America’s imperialist war against Hitler, then they get a real test of the “democracy” which for the last five years they so powerfully supported. Franklin jails his old friend Earl.

Negroes! Put not your trust in princes, neither in F.D.R., nor in F.D.R’s “democracy”, nor in anything else except the organized force of the working class movement, black and white. And the Negroes should feed with a very long spoon a political party that between 1935 and 1939 spent its time telling them to trust in F.D.R.’s “democracy”.

The Negroes must beware of the Stalinists when they come whining that Browder has been made a martyr on account of his struggle against imperialist war. If Browder is a martyr, he’s a martyr to his own crooked support of Roosevelt’s “democracy” during the last five years. If Browder is a martyr, he’s a martyr to Hitler’s war, which he’s trying to win for the sake of Hitler’s ally, Stalin. If Browder is a martyr, he’s a martyr for the sake of Stalin’s bloated bureaucracy. But that slick double-crosser is certainly no martyr for the revolutionary workers and their struggle for socialism.

So when Ford comes around putting across his sorrowful tale about Browder suffering for “democratic rights” and as an anti-war fighter, the Negroes will tell him to go and tell that tale in Moscow. All workers will oppose Roosevelt’s interfering with the working-class, movement on any pretext whatever. But that does not in anyway mean that we shall cease to expose Ford, Browder, Stalin and all their works.

And at the same time also let us, as vigilant revolutionary workers, not be taken in by the “democracy” fakers, with their ballyhoo about agents of a foreign power. Negroes and white workers will not lose two winks of sleep about foreign powers, except in so far as we can help the workers in a foreign country to overthrow that foreign power. We know only two powers – the imperialists on the one hand, and the workers, farmers and oppressed colonials on the other. Franklin, who jails his old friend Earl, belongs to one camp. Many of Earl’s followers belong to our camp, and that is why we protest when Franklin jails his old pal, Earl. But we have to make it very clear that our protest on behalf of Browder is in reality on behalf of his misguided followers and the rights of the workers as a whole. That protest doesn’t in any way make us mitigate, but leads us rather to intensify our denunciation of his corrupt and poisonous politics.

Last updated on 14 February 2018