Max Shachtman

Statement on Ben Davis Case

(30 July 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 31, 30 July 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Bulletin: Political pressure and the demand of its Mayoralty candidate O’Dwyer, forced Tammany Hall to drop its endorsement of Davis’ candidacy even though Davis is a member of a Democratic club.

NEW YORKMax Shachtman, Workers Party candidate for Mayor of New York, today made the following statement concerning the Tammany endorsement of Communist Benjamin J. Davis, for re-election to the City Council:

“The uproar among politicians and in the daily press about the Davis case is no help at all to the Negro people in deciding what attitude they should take. The Republicans and those Democratic politicians who want to grab control of the Democratic Party from the inner Tammany ring howl that Davis is a ‘Red’ and an enemy of religion.

“The Liberals, who have attached themselves to the Republican machine and who are nominating Benjamin F. McLaurin, well-known Negro labor leader to run against Davis, add to this that Davis opposed the war and Roosevelt until Hitler attacked Russia and then suddenly became a great patriot.

“The Workers Party says that it would be a serious mistake for the Negro people to support either Davis or any other candidate, who is tied up with the Democrats or the Republicans. However, we don’t think that most Negroes will be very much impressed by the charges so far made against Davis, although some of them are true.

The real case against Davis and the Communists is that for years they have not put up a genuine fight for Negro equality and are not doing so now, in spite of some big talk.

“The Communist Party pays no attention to the needs of the common people but only to the orders of Joseph Stalin. For example, these pose now as the greatest defenders of the Fair Employment Practices Committee. But they were the bitterest enemies of Randolph’s March-On-Washington organization, which by threatening to demonstrate against discrimination right in the nation’s capital forced Roosevelt to establish the FEPC. Do you remember? At that time the Communists claimed that any fight for democracy at home during the war was nothing less than aid to Hitler.

“I Am Ignorant”

“Read the Communist Worker of July 22, and you will see that Davis admits that his attitude to the Negro struggle was incorrect and had ‘serious weaknesses’. He admits that ‘we relied upon the monopoly capitalists responsible for this discrimination (against the Negroes) to wipe it out’. He admits that the Communist Party allowed ‘white chauvinism’ (that is, ideas of racial superiority) to grow ‘even in our own ranks for which we are paying dearly’. This is bad enough but, as many Negroes know, far from the whole story.

Then, as all the Communist big shots are doing nowadays, Davis proceeds to beat his own breast: ‘As a member of the National Board I bear a heavy responsibility for the error. I accepted this false, position because I considered it correct. I applied it ... in the field of Negro work ... I had ample opportunity to see the incorrectness of the position ... I did not detect the errors because I was not sufficiently mature and equipped as a Marxist ...’

“What kind of man is this, what kind of party is this for the Negro people or any other working people to trust? Davis says that he made errors because of ‘ignorance’. But these acts of his were NOT merely errors. They were the orders of Stalin, who was proving/to the big capitalists how reliable he was. Every Communist, white or Negro, followed these criminal orders – or was kicked out of the Communist ranks.

“Now Stalin, for his own reasons, changes his tune somewhat, and Davis and all the rest have to change also and beat their breasts and curse ex-leader Earl Browder, who led every single one of these ‘ignorant’ people astray. One week every single one of them worships Browder, the next week, they all curse him. This has happened before in the Communist Party. It will happen again – whenever Stalin so orders.

Against Boss Politics

“How do these people act since discovering their ‘errors’? Davis now lends his name to Tammany Hall, as dirty and corrupt a political machine as this country knows. Tammany needs the Negro vote, and Davis is supposed to win it for them. This, however, is not his worst crime. He lends his name to the Democratic Party, the party of Jim Crow, the party which allows a small Southern minority to preach race hatred in Congress every day and to sabotage any measure, however small, for Negro rights.

“The Republicans are no better. They usually sabotage by silence, only too glad to let the Democrats do the dirty work, which they really support.

The Negro people, like all the working people, need a working class party – an independent Labor Party, based on the great trade unions and free from alliances with the corrupt capitalist parties. Since there is no such mass party yet, the Workers Party has nominated me for Mayor, so that the workers of New York, white and Negro alike, may vote for a party that stands firmly against discrimination in all its forms.”

Max Shachtman
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 14 December 2017