J.R. Johnson

Which Type of Leader Should Negroes Follow?

(2 September 1940)

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 21, 2 September 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Joe Louis, Congressman Mitchell and Leon Trotsky: these three names seem to have little in common except that they are well known to most Negroes. Joe Louis, a world-famous boxer of whom Negroes are justly proud. Congressman Mitchell, the only Negro in Congress. Trotsky, the great revolutionary, one of the greatest men of modern or of any other times, recently in the news [on] account of his dastardly murder by Stalin – Stalin, who wants to destroy everything that remains of the October revolution in Russia, in order to cover up and disguise his own betrayal of everything the revolution stood for. What is the connection between these three?

Two Are Stooges for Imperialism

Last week we showed how Congressman Mitchell practically ordered out of his office some Negroes who came to protest against conscription. Mitchell, with his fat salary and privileges, finds Roosevelt’s America a good enough place and is ready to drive Negro youth into the army. Now comes Joe Louis. He told a reporter last week that he is ready to fight for his country. Says Joe; “Look at what this country did for me. It gave me a chance to win the heavyweight title ... Uncle Sam can certainly depend upon me to do my part for my country if any foreign army tries to invade it. Because I’m grateful.”

Joe, you see, has something to defend. He gets his share of the pickings. So he allies himself politically with Roosevelt, and all of those who are bent on driving the country into war. What will happen is that when war comes nearer, or actually begins, Joe will be dressed up in a uniform, given a title, Captain Louis, and sent around to help whip the Negroes into line. He and Congressman Mitchell and some others will be given the job of encouraging the exploited, oppressed, humiliated, starving Negroes, to die for a democracy that they have never had, and will never have under capitalism. These are the “prominent Negroes” the “leaders of their people”, etc. Stooges for imperialism. That’s what they are.

The Third – A Fighter for Freedom

Compare another type of leader – Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was one of the most gifted men who ever lived. As thinker, as orator, as organizer, as writer, he had capacity which would have led him to success in any walk of life. He had energy enough for five men. The least of his achievements is stupendous. But early in life he decided that his life work would be with the workers and poor farmers of the world, for their emancipation from capitalist slavery, for socialism. He started to organize workers, was imprisoned, escaped and lived abroad, in exile, a refugee from country to country. In 1905 the first revolution broke out in Russia. Trotsky went back, became one of its leaders, and when the revolution failed, was arrested and sent to Siberia. He escaped once more and lived again the hard life of a refugee. When the 1914 war broke out he exposed it as a war for imperialist plunder and was forced to fly from Europe and take refuge in America, He went back to Russia in 1917, helped Lenin to overthrow the Tsarist tyranny and became one of the most powerful men in the world. But as soon as he felt that Stalin was beginning to oppress the workers and peasants of Russia, he started to fight against him. He lost his positions in the government, became once more a lonely refugee, was hounded from country to country, often he did not have enough to eat, could not find a place to stay. But he stuck to his principles, always preached what would help the workers and farmers of the world, and was finally murdered for his beliefs and his work. When the workers were powerful in Russia, Trotsky had great power; when they went down, Trotsky went down.

Who Will Lead Us?

That is the kind of leadership the workers and farmers need. That is the kind of leadership the Negroes, more than any other oppressed group, need today in these critical times. Watch those Negroes who come to you offering to lead the race. Do they come to you ready to struggle, to sacrifice, to go to prison, to die for the cause? Or do they come with money, position, privileges, wealth – all gained from the capitalist class and trying to get you to carry out the will of your capitalist oppressors?

Congressman Mitchell and Joe Louis want to send you to die for Wall Street’s war, and the things the capitalist bosses allow them to have. Trotsky preferred to suffer and die urging the poor of all countries to oppose Wall Street and all tyranny whether in war or in peace. He could have won great wealth, comfort, ease and security by joining the enemies of the workers. He scorned to do so. Who is the leader to follow?

Last updated on 6.10.2012