From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 47, 20 November 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.
The Negro people in the United States are so viciously and so obviously oppressed that they are very skeptical of the illusions of capitalist democracy. Thus they, more than any other section of the population, have questioned the capitalist propaganda that this war is a war for democracy. They too have shown the greatest skepticism as to the fundamental changes in the U.S. which would be brought about by a fourth term for Roosevelt or a first term for Dewey.
The Communists of this country know this very well. For this reason a great part of their agitation during the past period has been directed toward making the Negro people feel that the present stage of politics in America is similar to the period of the Civil War during which the Negroes were emancipated from slavery. Some weeks ago we dealt with a particularly brazen piece of falsification by Robert Minor on this subject. In the Daily Worker of November 8, Doxey Wilkerson writes as follows:
“Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., once characterized this election campaign as a ‘Civil War.’ His phrase is apt. The real issues and the nature of the forces in conflict are now much the same as during that armed political conflict of the 1860’s; and again the role of the Negro people may prove decisive.”
The impudence of this comparison shows the poverty of the case which the Stalinists are trying to present.
In the Civil War we had, on the one side, the slave owners of the South, bent on retaining some four million Negroes in slavery. Opposed to them were the independent farmers of the North, organized labor of the North, the petty bourgeois democracy, all under the leadership of Lincoln and the Republican Party. The capitalists of those days for the most part opposed the idea of a civil war. But after they saw that it was inevitable they realized that the slave power had to be destroyed or it would destroy the possibilities of capitalism developing to its full strength. This was a war. It was a war that lasted four years.
The Civil War was the first great modern war. It was also the war of classes in its most extreme form. When the war was over the power of the slave owners had been broken. Chattel slavery was abolished. In order to crush the slave power and prevent it from ever rising to its previous position of dominance in the country, the Northern capitalists collaborated with the Negroes and the poor whites, and subjected the former slave owners to a rule which was democracy enforced by the arms of the Washington government. Later the capitalists betrayed the Negroes and came to terms with the old slaves owners. This ended the period of the so-called Reconstruction. By that time, however, Northern capitalism was well on its way and America in a few decades became the leading country in the world.
It is all the more astonishing when we consider that this monstrous article was written by Doxey Wilkerson, one-time professor at Howard. University. Wilkerson knows very well that he is talking nonsense and merely deceiving the Negro people. He knows that the fundamental basis of all Marxist politics is the question of class. He knows that in speaking about “civil war” between the forces of Roosevelt and the forces of Dewey he is talking nonsense. To cover up, this he first gives the line-up of the two forces. On the one hand he has Hearst, duPont, Cotton Ed Smith, Father Coughlin, the Klan, etc. On the other, he has what he calls “the forces of the people.” Among these “forces of the people” are “great democratic captains of industry, like Henry J. Kaiser,” and “enlightened Southerners like Senator Pepper.” Kaiser is one of those “democratic captains of industry” who has coined more money out of the blood of the workers during the war than most of the other capitalists. Kaiser serves his country and the “cause of democracy” by making millions of dollars every year. John Williams or Jack Thompson works in Kaiser’s shipyards for a few dollars a day and faces the prospect of being thrown out of work at the end of the war. But, according to Wilkerson, both of these people belong to the same class. Is this an exaggeration? No such thing. Listen to Wilkerson himself:
There is allegedly sharp conflict between the two ways of life, that is to say, the way of life of Dewey and the way of life of Roosevelt. But “very significantly, it is not class conflict.” So that Henry J. Kaiser and John Williams the worker, by the mere fact that they vote for Roosevelt, become people who follow one way of life. If, however, Kaiser had voted for Dewey, he thereby became some one who was following another way of life. Same Kaiser. Same shipyards. Same profits. But support of Roosevelt makes him an entirely new man. However, miraculously enough, this modern conflict which is compared to the “Civil War” must not be considered as an example of class conflict. Are we making jokes? Not at all. The article is actually headed A Bloodless ‘Civil War’.
There was a time when the Communists pointed out that the class war in this country was the war between the capitalist class and the working class.
There was a time when they pointed out that there was no serious or permanent progress to be gained by the Negro people except by a drastic transformation of society similar to the transformation which took place during the Civil War.
They pointed out, and this very Doxey Wilkerson used to do it also, that the masses of the Negro people should fight for their rights and strive to ally themselves with the workers, who would sooner or later be faced with the necessity of making this change.
But all that is gone. Today American capital has become the ally of Stalinist Russia. The Communist Party acts as Stalin’s agent in American politics. All this talk therefore about the Civil War of today is merely to blind the masses of the people to the harsh realities of the struggle and lead them behind Roosevelt, Stalin’s ally. The Doxey Wilkersons, the James Fords, the Ben Davises and the rest of them who lend themselves as servile tools to these practices are traitors not only to the Negro people but to American workers as a whole.
Last updated on 17 February 2016