Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Bill Epton

Black Self-determination


First Published: Progressive Labor Vol. 4, No. 3, March 1965
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Editor’s Note: The convention to found a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party in the United States, called some months ago by the Progressive Labor Movement, will be held in New York City from April 15 to April 18, 1965. The following is a contribution to the pre-convention discussion. The purpose of the discussion is to arrive at a concensus for policy for the new party.

* * *

Harry Haywood, in an unpublished manuscript, arrived at the conclusion that in periods of relatively full employment and general prosperity there is a tendency towards mass migration from rural to urban areas. This acts as an “exhaust valve.” “But with the onset of the economic crisis, the outmigration will run into mass unemployment in the cities, and at the same time, many unemployed urban workers will tend to move back to the farms. Thus, we will see tens of thousands of workers trying to “reintegrate” themselves into agriculture, at the same time that the displaced farmers are trying to “integrate” themselves into urban life, where mass unemployment and Jim Crow bars provide no place for their absorption They can therefore only swell the ranks of the unemployed. To remain on the farm means starvation and sinking to a squatters’ misery. In either case, it means masses of people thrown out of the productive process.”[1]

The present unemployment situation of the Negro people in the large industrial cities fully bears out the conclusion arrived at by Haywood.

Half a century ago, in 1910, eight out of ten U.S. Negroes resided in one or another of the eleven states of the Old Confederacy. Over 90 per cent of these Negroes, moreover, lived in rural areas. Negroes began moving to the North during World War I and continued to move during the 1920’s, when restrictive legislation slowed down the flow of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. By 1940 the Negro population in the Old Confederacy had increased only 12 per cent, whereas in the same period the Negro population elsewhere in the U.S. had more than doubled, from 1,900,000 to four million But the Old Confederacy still contained more than two-thirds of all U.S. Negroes.

The Negro migrations got under way again during World War II, and have continued since then. Between 1940 and 1960 the Negro population outside the Old Confederacy increased two and one-quarter times, going from nearly four million to over nine million–48 per cent of the total U.S. Negro population In the eleven states of the Old Confederacy, by contrast, Negro population grew by a scant 9 per cent. Most of the increase outside the South occured in the central cities of the twelve largest U.S. metropolitan areas–New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, Oakland, Boston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Washington, Cleveland, Baltimore–which now hold 31 per cent of all U.S. Negroes. In the last decade, however, Negro migration has diffused somewhat from big to smaller cities, such as Buffalo, Rochester, Newark, New Haven, Fort Wayne, San Diego.

Within the Old Confederacy, meanwhile, Negro population was shifting from country to city. The number of Negroes declined in the rural areas, as the proportion living in cities jumped from 21 per cent in 1940 (7 per cent in 1910) to 41 per cent in 1960. The Negro population of Dallas and Houston, for example, went up two and a half times, and rose 75 per cent in Atlanta and Miami.[2]

As recent events have shown, the growing upsurge with the Negro peoples liberation movement is taking place mainly in the large industrial cities of the deep south where large sections of the Negro sharecroppers migrated.

This is due to “the rapid upsurge of industrialization in the South and mechanization of agriculture, the shift of cotton production to the west, the increased yield per acre due to technological advances, crop diversification and the spread of dairy, poultry and beef production–all of these developments in Southern agriculture, accompanied by the government program of acreage outbacks and lowering price supports have accentuated the chronic Southern agrarian crisis and accompanying ruin of the Negro farmer. The Negro farmer has been particularity hard hit by chronic crisis which has plagued the South’s agriculture since the end of World War I, and which has sharpened in the recent period.”[3] Thus it becomes quite evident that there is a long range trend from the Black Belt to the Northern industrial cities and from the land to the Southern industrial cities.

Black Belt counties are those that have more than 50 per cent Negro population. The 1930 census of Population showed 189 counties in the South where the Negro people “constituted half or more than half of the population.” On the periphery of these counties were 288 counties where the “Negroes form between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of the population of each county taken singly. In this more or less continuous expanse of territory, comprising 477 counties, there are 13,744,424 inhabitants, of which 6,163,328 are Negroes constituting 44.8 per cent of the total population.[4]

The 1940 census listed 180 counties of “proved Negro majority, ranging from 50 to 85 per cent. The total population of the counties of absolute Negro majority in 1940 was 4,237,739. Of this total 2,642,808 (or 63 per cent) were Negroes.”[5]

It would be incorrect to draw the conclusion that state or county lines affect the concentration of Negro population in any significant way. “The compact Negro community overflows such lines into neighboring counties. This is borne out by the 1940 census which lists some 290 counties having populations which are from 30 to 50 per cent Negro.”[6] With the boundaries of the Black Belt not being precisely established certain facts are clear for all to see–mainly that the “present arbitrarily erected state and county lines” do not take away the fact “that within the territory embraced by these counties there is a well-defined, compact and stable Negro community.”[7]

In 1940 the population of the entire Black Belt area (including both Negro majority counties and the peripheral area totaled 10,256,289, of which 4,993,612 (or 48.7 per cent) were Negroes.” [8]

During the war years of 1940 to 1947, “with their impetus to large scale migration the total Negro population of the South remained essentially stationary (a total of 9,530,000 in 1947 as compared with 10,007,323 in 1940).”[9]

The cities that attracted large sections of the Negro people who were forced off the land are today’s headlines–Birmingham, Atlanta, Montgomery, Mobile, Charleston, New Orleans. The Negro populace of these cities were already in a socio-economic abyss, and with the increased flow of the Negro farmers, for the reasons outlined above, these cities became ripe for the mass upheavals that are now taking place.

The Negro people who migrated out of the deep south because of the lack of economic, social and political advancement, generally moved to the twelve largest cities listed by Howard above. The freedom that they sought was not in the cards for them. They found themselves crowded in despicable slums with run-down dilapidated houses generally built around the turn of the century, inadequate, segregated schools, very little in the way of services such as sanitation, hospitals and police protection. But most of all they entered an area where there was already mass unemployment among the Negro people, and the prospects of getting work were almost nonexistent.

The slum areas of Negro concentration in these twelve cities “hold 60 per cent of the Negroes living outside the deep South. Since 1940 the Negro population of New York City has increased nearly two and one-half times, to 1,100,000, or 14 per cent of the city’s population. In Philadelphia, Negroes have doubled in number since 1940, to 529,000 or 26 per cent. The Negro population of Detroit has more than tripled, to nearly 500,000 or 29 per cent of the City’s population And the Negro population of Los Angeles County has jumped a phenomenal sixfold since 1940, from 75,000 to 464,000.”[10] Chicago, which is second to New York as far as the number of Negro residents is concerned, had 277,700 Negroes in 1940 –8 per cent of the total population. Today there are 813,000, according to the 1960 census count, or 23 per cent of the city’s total population.

In all of these cities where there has been a mass influx of Negro people the area of Negro concentration is usually expanded rather than new areas opening up to the newcomers. As a result the ghettos are intensified.

The median annual income of Southern rural farm families showed $742 for Negroes as compared with $1,516 for whites. This same census Bureau reports that only 12 per cent of Negro workers hold professional, managerial, or clerical jobs, as against 42 per cent of the whites. In the service and unskilled labor categories, the ratios were reversed, with 47 per cent of the Negroes represented, and only 14 per cent of the whites.”[11]

We find the unskilled Negroes mainly in ginning, logging, saw milling, cane milling, foundries, coke ovens, service industries, and, generally, the heavy duty, low paying jobs.

A revolutionary crisis has now begun to take shape and develop. It is, at present, only missing the ideological, political and programmatic content that is necessary for a revolutionary movement to achieve its goal. The experience gained through struggles, and the resolute will of the Negro people for liberation, will lead them to the only conclusion–and that is, only through amass Black revolutionary movement and under socialism can the Negro question be resolved in the U.S. “The victory of the people...can be won only by relying on their own resolute revolutionary struggle.”

The Nation, The State And The Right To Self-Determination

The primary instrument of suppression of the Negro people is the government. There is the bourgeois-democratic state in the form of the Federal government and its counterparts in the North and West. There is the bourgeois-fascist state of the deep south. They are all maintained to perpetuate the rule and power of the class they represent–the monopoly-imperialist class. The ruling class has also set up extra-legal means of maintaining their rule–Ku Klux Klan, White Citizens Councils, John Birch Societies and the Minutemen.

The main function of the state is to extend and insure political power for its class over the population and territory that they inhabit.

Lenin says that “the state, dear people, is a class concept. The state is an organ or machine for the exercise of force by one class against another.’ As long as it is a machine for the exercise of force by the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, the only slogan for the proletariat must be to smash that state.”[12]

He also says that “the state is a machine for maintaining the rule of one class over another.”[13]

And, “we shall reject all the old prejudices about the state meaning universal equality. That is a fraud: as long as there is exploitation there cannot be equality. The landlord cannot be the equal of the worker, the hungry man the equal of the full man. The proletariat casts aside the machine which was called the state and before which people bowed in superstitious awe, believing the old tales that it means popular rule–the proletariat casts aside this machine and declares that it is a lie.”

The state takes on many forms to fit the ruling class in a particular situation. It may be a bourgeois or democratic republic, or a fascist dictatorship. But regardless of what structural form the state takes, as long as it is in the hands of the exploiting class, it is “primarily an instrument for the subjugation of the working masses.”

It therefore becomes apparent that as long as the present state is in existence, and in power, there can never be full and complete liberation for the Negro people in particular and the working class, in general. The present state structure and its various appendages must be done away with–completely destroyed, and replaced with a government that represents the majority of the population– the working class, both black and white.

Ever since the first African was brought to this country as a slave in 1619, individuals and organizations have been attempting to theorize as to exactly what the status of the Negro people is in this country. With all of the theorizing that has been going on very few organizations have come forth with a concrete and practical program for Negro liberation.

Here we have a people who comprise approximately 13 per cent of the population(the largest minority group in the U.S.), easily identifiable because of their race, separated from the majority of the population, either in ghettos in the cities or in “black belts” in the rural south, who have some of the characteristics of a national group and yet have no fixed status in this country.

What are the black people in this country? Are they a national group that should have their own state (which includes the right to secede)? Should the black people attempt to struggle to remain a part of “white America” and have their internal autonomy in the form of an autonomous republic? Should the struggle be for integration into American society, whether it be in its present imperialist form or as a socialist state?

We also find those who advance the proposition that the black people have been here just as long, and in many cases longer, than the white people and have just as much a right to control this country as the present rulers. And lastly, we find the idea put forth that wherever the black people are, and are a majority, they should exercise political, economic and cultural control.

We must now ask in what direction will that black people and their developing movement go? Towards which one of these goals? Are any of these theoretically practical? Since there has been no unified theory or movement among the black people in this country that commanded the respect or loyalty of the majority of the Negro people, we say that any of the above solutions is correct, as long as the decision is made by the black people themselves, and not imposed on them.

We feel that the black people and their movement have the right to choose that form of struggle which will best accomplish their desired end–a form of struggle and organization that can involve the vast majority of the black people and/or have their support. In the same vein the black people also have the right to determine their own status in this country–whether it be one of those mentioned above or some other that the movement may develop.

We state that the black people, and their organization, have the right to self-determination, i.e., the right, based upon their own experiences, their struggles and their organization and program to determine their position in this country. We firmly uphold, respect and support the right of the Negro people in the U. S. to make this choice without any coercion or intimidation from “white America.”

Haywood says that self-determination “...implies the application of consistent democracy in the sphere of relations between nations, the elimination of the forcibly imposed distinction between oppressed and oppressing nations, it means the abolition of all and sundry privileges of one nation over the other. Specifically it means simply the right of the people of a nation to determine their own fate, or destiny, free from forcible intervention from without by the people of another nation. A nation has the right to organize its own life in the manner or form it chooses, independent of the dictates of any other nation–to be master in its own house. Finally, self-determination means the recognition of the sovereignty of a people in all matters affecting their internal life as well as in matters involving their relationships with other peoples or nations. This, then, is the content and principle of the right of self-determination.”[14]

This quote from Haywood does not imply that we have arrived at the conclusion that the black people are a nation, but the essential parts of this quote apply to the right of the black people to freely determine their future, whether it be nationhood or not.

Why, after such a long period, has no program come forth that really reflects the desires and aspirations of the black people? Why has there been total chaos among the so-called “leaders” as to a program, or the goal the movement is striving towards? Why have they never been able to spell out clearly what they wanted? We think that the basic answer to all of these questions is that they have never made a serious effort to find out what the black people wanted–what their desires and needs are They lived in an “ivory towered” world completely separated from the people, and they put forth their own class demands–those demands that represent their goals and desires, which are not the same as those of the black masses. What they want is “in” the white society. They want a part of the “pie” even though this “pie” exists, to a large extent, because of the exploitation of the Negro people.

Thus they struggle for “integration” because they are economically capable of moving in that white bourgeois society. These petty-bourgeois middle class Negroes have never made it clear how their demands would benefit the black masses. As a result we find an almost total separation between the black masses and the so-called “leaders.” The “leaders” have no knowledge of what the black people really want and the masses have no avenues of conveying their desires and aspirations to the “leaders.” The perfect example, of course, was the total lack of communication between these “leaders’” and the people during the rebellions of July and August of 1964. There was not only a lack of communication but these “leaders” came out against the people and for the repressive forces of government.

The petty-bourgeois base their entire program (not only their immediate program and goal, but their long range goal also) on integration. It would be sheer folly for anyone to believe that, after being enslaved in this country for nearly 250 years under the most debasing and inhuman conditions and then living under semi-slave conditions for another 100 years, with the vast majority of the white population turning a deaf ear to their plight, and in many cases helping to perpetuate these conditions and gaining wealth because of it, the black people would choose to direct their movement towards integrating with white society.

The reformist organizations and their “leaders” have advanced slogans, programs, organizations and movements that the people could not identify with, except in an abstract sense. They have never said what “freedom” means and how one achieves it.

We now find that these organizations and their “leaders” are totally bankrupt as far as their relations with the people are concerned and as far as developing a program that has some meaning to the people–that would spell out what “freedom” really means and how a people accomplishes it, what forms of struggle are best to achieve this “freedom” and what organizational form is needed.

We say that since the black people have never had a voice in determining their political or economic status in this country this must be the first demand raised by them.

The essential demand should be that the black people must have their right, as a people, collectively, to choose their form of government, their association with the white people in this country, whether they want to be a part of this United States. In other words we say that the essential question is the right to self-determination, which of course includes the right to separate!

Historically, the black people in this country have been told either by the ruling class or by their so-called “leaders” that through the U.S. government and through its “laws” they would find the means for their “freedom.” Thus, a “benevolent” imperialist ruling class, that has been getting tremendous profits off of the backs of the Negro people, would show them the road to liberation. This entire concept is entirely false!

Many people who call themselves “radicals” and/or “Marxist-Leninist” will argue with us for saying that the Negro people will choose “their form of government.” They will say that we are advancing the idea that only the black people are in struggle against monopoly-capitalism and that they are in battle independent of the white working class. They will say that we negate the struggles and demands of the white working class and the concept of Negro-white unity. We reject these arguments even though, at this point the black people are playing a vanguard role against monopoly-capitalism, and they are not waiting for the white working class. What we are saying is that the struggle of the black people is essentially a struggle around class demands that has national aspects (the struggle of a people for their demands).

The demands of the white working class and those of the Negro people are essentially the same–housing, schools, jobs, automation, political representation, etc., but the main ingredient that makes the difference is that the black people suffer all of these class oppressions plus an oppression as a racial group.[15]

Self-determination, even with its right to secession, does not mean that those peoples who are oppressed as a people are a nation. The concept of self-determination simply says that in the U.S. the black people have a choice as to their destiny–whether it be nationhood or not.

For a moment we would like to deal with the questions that Comrade Stalin raised in his article, Marxism and The National Question. We agree that in Czarist Russia the five principles that he said are prerequisites for a nation were quite valid and led to the theoretical resolution of the question in the Soviet Union. But there are certain factors in the U.S., as far as the Negro people are concerned, that call for a new evaluation of this question. We agree that those five prerequisites drawn from the experience of old Russia have a general validity. But Stalin was dealing with “captive nations” within the boundaries of Russia that had thousands of years of building their culture, territory, language, economy and psychology in a specific area of Russia. These same conditions did not obtain in the U.S. because the black people developed in this country in a completely different way.

What we are saying is that the question of self-determination and the national question must be applied to every specific country in accordance with that country’s peculiar conditions and historical background. Lenin said that “the categorical demand of Marxist theory in examining any social question is that the question be formulated within definite historical limits, and if it refers to a particular country (e.g. the national program for a given country), the specific features that distinguish that country from others within the same historical epoch be taken into account.

What does this categorical demand of Marxism imply as regards the questions we are discussing?

First of all, it implies that a strict distinction must be drawn between two periods of capitalism, which differ radically from each other as far as the national movement is concerned. On the one hand, the period of the downfall of feudalism and absolutism, the period of the formation of bourgeois-democratic society and state, when the national movements in one way or another draw all classes of the population into politics by means of the press, participation in representative institutions, etc. On the other hand, we have the period of definitely crystallized capitalist states with a long-established constitutional regime, with a strongly developed antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie–the period that may be called the eve of the downfall of capitalism.

The typical features of the first period are the awakening of national movements and the drawing of the peasants, the most numerous and the most “sluggish” section of the population, into these movements, in connection with the struggle for political liberty in general and for national rights in particular. The typical features of the second period are the absence of mass bourgeois-democratic movements; the fact that developed capitalism, while bringing the nations that have already been fully drawn into commercial intercourse closer together and causing them to intermingle to an increasing degree, pushes into the forefront the antagonism between intern-nationally united capital and the international labor movement.

Of course, the two periods cannot be separated into watertight compartments; they are connected by numerous transitional links, while the various countries differ from each other in the rapidity of their national development, in national composition and distribution of their population, and so forth. The Marxist of a given country cannot proceed to draw up their national program without taking into account all these general historical and concrete state conditions.[16] (Lenin, The Right of Nations to Self-Determination, p. 14-15.)

In order for the black people to increase their political development and for the progressive nationalism that is growing among them to develop they must have organizations to represent their interest in the various areas of life. Such as:
1. Trade Union caucuses or organizations within the trade union movement that would represent the interest of the black workers, and guarantee them.
2. Tenants, house and block committees to struggle around the housing question.
3. Unemployed councils to demand jobs and to bring the unemployed together as an effective force to demand jobs.
4. School committees to fight for decent schools, teachers, curriculum and the right to an education for everyone in the black ghettos.
5. Political Councils to struggle around the question of political representation, and to effectively take control of their communities. These councils must demand the right to vote in the north, but also the right to vote in the south, and in both areas the right to run political candidates.
6. Farm worker organizations that would take in the share-croppers and tenant farmers to demand agrarian reforms and land to the landless.
7. Cultural organizations that would develop the latent and often suppressed cultural aspirations of the Negro people.
8. Self-defense units to protect the above-mentioned organizations and activities from attacks by the ruling class and their repressive arm–the police and other para-military units.

All of these organizations must then come together into a nationwide coalition or “Front”–an all Black Liberation Front led by the black working class. The Front would develop its program by including the demands of the organizations within it, with the overall demand being the right of the Negro people to self-determination.

The Front should be composed of those groups and individuals who are willing to submit to its program and who are not agents for the ruling class. It should include individuals and organizations from some church groups to the communists, because we must understand that there is only one major demand and issue and that is total liberation!

Of course within the Front there will arise differences, which is only natural. These differences should be fought out within the Front in a principled manner and resolved through persuasion and discussion, and when a majority view is arrived at the entire organization must go out and fight for that position.

The Front must have not only a nationalist approach in its internal program and policy, but it must also have an internationalist approach as regards the general anti-imperialist struggle being waged in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The Front would also be in need of a national newspaper, that would be distributed all over the country and would reflect the struggles taking place. The paper should be informational, organizational and agitational.

The black communists within the Front, who are in the proletarian Marxist-Leninist Party, would play a vanguard role and attempt to join the struggle of the BLF with that of the other revolutionaries outside of the Front. We mean by a vanguard role that they would constantly raise the political level of the Front, show them who the main enemy is and tirelessly struggle against reactionary nationalism. The Marxist-Leninist must fight to also join the struggle of the proletarian revolutionary Party with that of the Front. He must spell out the similarity of the struggles and show that the BLF and the proletarian revolutionary party will not achieve their goals until they have set up a state of their own. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTIONARY PARTY AND THE BLACK LIBERATION FRONT MUST BE BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE OF STRICTEST EQUALITY!

The Marxist-Leninist Party and its white cadre must, in addition to fighting for the demands of the working class, fight for the demands of the BLF and show the white workers that the demands of the BLF are not in contradiction to their demands, but rather it is in their own interest to support the BLF.

The Communist Party of the U.S.A. formulated a militant and revolutionary position on the Negro question, the right of self-determination, at the Sixth World Congress held in Moscow, July-August, 1928. Prior to this meeting of the world’s leading Marxists the position of the CPUSA was that the Negro question was one of a “racial minority of workers” and could be resolved within the framework of the trade union movement. The American Marxists, along with those of other countries, developed Lenin’s theses of 1920 that the Negro question was a national question. In 1930 a more detailed resolution was developed.

James Allen and Harry Haywood were the Party’s leading theoreticians on the Negro question at that time and wrote two important books on the subject, which we have quoted from extensively. The work of the Party at that time in the Negro community, both in the North and South, had reached a high and revolutionary level. Negroes came into the Party in large numbers and developed and participated in mass struggles of the Negro people.

It is quite clear for all to see that it was during this period, 1930-1944, when the Party advanced the slogan “the right of self-determination,” that the CPUSA reached its zenith in mass struggle for the American working class and the Negro people. The fact that the Negro people did not rally around this slogan en masse does not detract from its validity. It is understandable why this did not occur. The level of national consciousness was not very high at that time, and it is only recently, with the changing international situation in favor of the socialist countries and the national liberation movements and the disillusionment of the Negro people with the snail’s pace of “integration” that a consciousness has begun to emerge.

In 1944, in the recruiting campaign, 24,000 new members were brought into the Party–30 per cent were Negro, and Negroes constituted “about 14 per cent of the party membership.” There were organizations such as the National Negro Congress, Southern Negro Youth Congress, Southern Conference for Human Welfare, Civil Rights Congress and many more fighting organizations for Negro rights. And there was the election of Ben Davis, the first Negro Communist to ever be elected to a public office, as a City Councilman in New York.

This was also the period when the revisionists and the liquidationists led by Earl Browder, began to make an all out assault on the revolutionary struggles of the Negro people by abandoning the concept of the right of self-determination. “The political substance of this was that the Negro masses, like the workers, had no real need for further struggle against the supposedly benevolent ruling class, but would automatically achieve their rights.”[17] They then went on to liquidate the party in the south, and the liquidation of the party in general, in favor of the two-party system, class collaborationism, and capitalism.

The Party still continued to do excellent and militant work among the Negro people and in their defense. It had among its members 14 percent Negro in 1946, 17 per cent in 1947, 17 percent in 1948, 14 percent in 1949 and 15 percent in 1950. With the beginning of the cold war, and the persecution of the CP, and the all out offensive of American imperialism against the American working class, the Negro people suffered heavily, not only at the hands of the reactionaries but at the hands of the trade union movement, with the split in the CIO and the formation of the AFL-CIO.

During this period the revisionists were able to gain complete control of the Party. As a result, they liquidated all of the left centers among the Negro people–the Civil Rights Congress, the Negro Labor Council, the Council on African Affairs and the only left newspaper, Freedom. With the liquidation of these centers went a large section of the Negro cadre, and today, there are only a handful of Negro cadre left in the CP.

The whole line of the revisionists is based on the idea that there is a “long range trend toward direct integration.” We take it that their “long range trend” means “gradualism.” The Negro people reject this in their slogan “Freedom Now.”

The revisionists see the walls of Jim Crow toppling under benevolent capitalism. They see the Black Belt shrinking into non-existence under capitalism, and the Negro people being dispersed to the large urban centers and becoming assimilated in the “mainstream” of American life. They envision a highly industrialized southland that will absorb the Negro people that leave that plantation. They see a long range perspective where the Negro question will be settled automatically “within the framework of imperialism–without revolutionary change.” The revisionists saw a Communist Party trailing the Negro people’s movements and not being an integral and leading part of it. As far as they were concerned, “integration” was around the corner. In fact, the CP has gone back 35 years to the old policy that the Negro question is one of a “racial minority of workers.”

There has been a fairly rapid industrialization of the south based on the war economy and the “run-away” shops. But there has not been an overall industrial growth throughout the Black Belt that challenges the “semi-feudal remnants in its agriculture.” “It should be perfectly clear that the Wall Street overlords are determined, as far as possible, to maintain the South as an economic hinterland of the nation’s industrial establishment, and to use the suppressed Negro people as a fulcrum for holding down the living standards of the whole south and the nation. The exclusion of Negroes from the new factories is irrefutable proof that this is the guiding policy of the Wall Street rulers.”[18]

All of the conditions are present, here and now, economic, social and political–for the Negro people, allied with the white working class, to strike the final blow against American imperialism and for their liberation. It would be the height of folly for anyone to believe that the Negro question can be solved under capitalism. It has not happened in the last 345 years and will not happen in another 400 years, if capitalism could live that long. White supremacy is an ingrained part of the “American way of life” and this system that breeds it must be completely smashed in order to destroy racism.

We must be careful not to underestimate the viciousness of the resistance that the government and its allies will put up to any fundamental change in their system. They will use every possible means at their disposal to wreck the Negro peoples struggle for liberation. If one means is unsuccessful they will try to turn it in another direction, failing in this attempt, they will make an assault on the leadership and its vanguard to behead it, and finally, after all of this has failed, they will make an all out assault on the Negro people themselves using the National Guard, the Army, the Police, State Troopers, etc.

We must be prepared!

We must be prepared by organizing the most oppressed sections of the Negro people–the inhabitants of the semi-feudal Black Belt area. In organizing this area around a revolutionary program and revolutionary struggle we must keep in mind that there is only one way to destroy this hold-over from slavery, and that is through revolutionary action!

The question of a revolutionary program and struggle logically extends itself into all black communities across these United States. For is it not true that the various Negro communities outside of the Black Belt are only extensions of that Belt? The ghettoes in the northern and western industrial cities are manifestations of the Black Belt. The terror that is perpetrated against the Negro people is also an extension of that semi-feudal society. In fact, the Black Belt and all of its ills, in one way or another hangs over the Negro people like an ominous cloud.

The struggle in the urban centers outside of the Black Belt must be for full equality of all nationals, self-determination of the Negro people, Negro-white unity and proletarian internationalism.

In this decisive struggle it becomes all the more necessary for there to be developed a new revolutionary leadership among the Negro people. This need becomes all the more apparent as the struggle grows and deepens. The right-reformist “leaders” were able to command the ear of the white leaders, and to a certain degree, the ear of a large section of the Negro people. But as the economic position of monopoly-capitalism begins to weaken and the socio-economic position of the Negro people becomes more and more unbearable, these “leaders” can no longer deliver the goods. They can no longer hold the Negro people in check by empty promises and gradualism. Their cries of moderation and reformism are now getting lost among the crescendo of “Freedom Now.” But we must not forget for a moment that the bourgeois-reformists still have a voice and following among certain religious, bourgeois, assimilationist, and opportunistic sections of the Negro people, and that there is still somewhat of a tendency to follow them.

The top echelons of the NAACP and Urban League, residents in the North and assimilationist in outlook, are a special “professional leadership” group. These top layers of Negro bourgeois intellectuals were the chief ideologists of the myth of imminent peaceful, democratic integration of the Negro people within the framework of U.S. imperialism, a bait swallowed hook, line and sinker by the CP leadership.

The influence of this top assimilationist group within the Negro movement does not derive from its economic strength, but because of its control of the main media of mass influence in the Negro community–the press, educational and cultural institutions, etc. They have received heavy support in the columns and editorials of the big capitalist press. This coddling and encouragement by the “enlightened imperialist” group of Wall Street has been a main prop of their influence.”[19] To this group must be added the southern religious “leadership” group.

In their drive for absolute “leadership” and to maintain their position, splits and fissions are occurring among them. We must be able to correctly analyse these movements and leaders and work with and develop those positive and constructive forces. These divisions must be utilized for the welfare of the mass of the Negro people. It would surely be the greatest of errors to “brush aside the mass national movements once they have started and to refuse to support what is progressive in them...“At the same time it would also be an error to blindly support Negro movements and leaders solely because it commands following. Constant polemics, examinations, criticisms and struggling for a correct line, and advancing the course of class struggle and socialism is always on the order of the day.

We must also seriously, in our examination of these movements and “leaders,” label those that are enemies of the Negro people, as such, and wage unremitting struggle against them in the same way we struggle against the ruling class and its oppressive system.

Under the threat of revolution the capitalist class will make concessions to the Negro people–they will concede certain voting privileges, desegregate certain areas of life, but they will not make any fundamental changes in the capitalist system, and will not concede to the Negro people the right to self-determination.

The Integration Struggle and its Results

The ”historic” Supreme Court decision of May, 1954 outlawing segregation in schools was the high water mark in the post-war struggle of the Negro people. This decision can be attributed more to the international climate and pressures of that time than to the legalistic arguments of the NAACP. “It gave the Negro people, particularly in the South, new confidence, militancy, and determination to win full freedom now.”[20] It unleashed a whole series of militant struggles on the part of the Negro people, in some cases individually, and in other cases, collectively. Instead of this decision creating a new confidence in-the government by the Negro people, and instilling in them complete reliance on the courts, it had the opposite effect. There developed stand-ins, sit-ins, wade-ins, boycotts, protest marches and finally the concept of armed struggle, if necessary, as expressed by the movement around Robert Williams in Monroe, N.C.

These struggles were taking place not only in the south, but in the north, east and west For the most part they were being carried on by a handful of gallant, militant and courageous young Negro students. Their limited struggles also involved some white students.

All forms of positive struggle, objectively, are good and serve a useful purpose–even if that purpose is to learn, how to struggle in a better and more effective way in the future. The main objectives of the various struggles were not clear, and in essence, did not serve the interest of the mass of the Negro people, that interest being jobs, land, political power, and for a period of time these struggles were limited to only a handful of courageous individuals. They had the full moral support of the Negro people, but the mass of the Negro people could not identify their needs with the demands of the integration demonstrators.

With the general depression facing the Negro people, the growing influence of the African-Asian peoples in world affairs, and the violent reaction of the white southern leadership to these very limited demands of the Negro demonstrators, there began to develop a broader participation from among the Negro people. There was, and still is, a noticeable lack of mass working class support in these struggles. They involve mostly churches, college students–all levels of students–and the middle class Negroes. Their demands reflect their interests; to worship in a middle class church, to eat in a middle class white restaurant and to move into middle class white residential areas. As the demands become more basic we will see more and more of the masses of the Negro people taking an active part. The present leadership of these struggles and demonstrations are the only leadership giving vent to the desire of the Negro people for a greater share of what this society offers, and until there is a more revolutionary leadership they will command the front seat in the struggles of the Negro people.

In spite of the weaknesses of these struggles there is always the possibility that they may develop into a mass peoples fight and thoroughly expose all of the contradictions of U.S. capitalism. Confronted with these possibilities the ruling class has waged a vicious counter-attack, and at the same time they developed a concerted campaign to buy-off the Negro leadership–both the “safe” ones and the so-called “radicals.”

The counter-attack was not waged so much against the Supreme Court decision, which represented only a legal decision, until it could be implemented, but against the Negro people. If the Negro people could be intimidated, the Supreme Court decision would be as ineffectual as the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and the entire concept of “American democracy.”

The counter-offensive following the Supreme Court decision–the wave of reaction in the South beginning in earnest with the Till case, precipitated the mushrooming of the White Citizens’ Councils, the KKK, and other anti-Negro terrorist organizations throughout the country.

There has been a whole spate of new racist laws in Southern states. Terrorism and bombings of Negroes who attempt to escape from the ghettoes has spread throughout the South, and moved into Northern cities (Trumball Park, Chicago and Levittown, Pa.) The highly organized official lawbreakers of the South have succeded in slowing down the process of school integration to a virtual halt.”[21]

As we witness everyday, the waves of anti-Negro terrorism take the forms of bombing churches, voting registration centers, individual Negro leaders homes, and outright murder (William Moore, the white freedom-walker and Medger Evers, leader of the NAACP in Jackson, Miss., and the six young children in Birmingham, Ala.)

Basically, the advances that have been made have only been limited to a lunch counter here or there, a few theatres, occasionally a house or a home, sometimes a school, and after long and protracted struggle, maybe we will get one or two Negro students into a white southern college or registered to vote.

Thus we find that there have been few actual material gains since the 1954 decision, although many people have been put into motion around these struggles. In fact, the relative position of the Negro people has gotten worse. Many lessons have been learned during this period, the most important being that the ruling class is not going to make any major concessions, and if they do it will be the result of massive struggles. They will not make any concessions that will weaken their control, either political or economic.

We have also learned the lesson that the basic objectives of the integration movement are not geared to the needs and desires of the mass of the Negro people. We see the necessity for a consolidation of the forces that are struggling for freedom, and the necessity for a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Party.

There must be injected into these struggles an understanding of the nature of U. S. imperialism and its corruptive and eroding character. There must be an understanding as to who the real enemies of the Negro people are–the Johnson Dixiecrat–big business coalition. It must be clear that the road to freedom is paved with militant, revolutionary struggle whose goal is seizing power.

Finally, we would like to make this observation: There are many people, groups and organizations that see every motion on the part of the Negro people as being revolutionary! They see it in beautiful glorious terms–“Freedom is around the corner,” the discarded NAACP slogan “Free by 63,” and a host of others. We all know this is not true and that freedom will not be forthcoming without revolutionary struggle. The Negro people are in a revolutionary mood, but this must be analyzed. Those who fail to do this are doing a disservice to the cause of the Negro struggle.

The Negro People Key to the Future of the U.S.

Today in the U.S. there are many forces at work trying to influence the Negro people. Although these forces vary in many respects, they all recognize one important fact–the Negro people are key to the future of the United States, both nationally and internationally.

With this in mind, and in all discussions, on the Negro question, we must constantly remember that the main issue concerning this country is the Negro question and its resolution.

This is essential because nationally, within the framework of monopoly-capitalism, the complete resolution of this question is impossible. In the international arena, it presents a glaring contradiction between what America says it represents, and what it does, in fact.

The Negro people are in motion on many fronts. They have gained much strength and knowledge from the many struggles they have participated in, and are constantly devising new methods of struggle. It is no wonder that the government and its white liberal friends dump “hundreds of thousands of dollars into our struggle in the South to convert us to pacifism...”[22] and away from open armed militant struggle.

There are, of course, special features that the Negro people have that no other minority group in this country is faced with. First of all, the Negro people are easily identifiable as a race. Secondly, the vast majority of the Negro people are proletarians. Thirdly, they are oppressed, as a race and as a class: in fact, in this country, they are the most oppressed.

With the composition of the Negro people being basically working class, and being the most oppressed, the character of the struggle develops into one of a vanguard character. They have very few illusions as to who their enemy is, and there is also a growing awareness that under monopoly-capitalism, the struggle cannot be successfully won.

There is now going on in the Negro community, and among the intellectuals in the Negro people’s struggle, a growing debate on where all of these various movements and organizations are going. The line has not been clearly drawn, but a growing number of intellectuals and “leaders” are openly expressing the opinion that under the present system, complete liberation is not possible. As yet, they have not given an alternative. But it is fair to assume that as the struggle sharpens and reaches new heights, these people may begin to see that the only real solution to the question is socialism.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the Negro people are no longer satisfied with a leadership making decisions and deals with the ruling class. The very nature of their struggles, and the spontaneity of many of them has brought into the struggles many more Negroes, mainly young people. From these relative newcomers is emerging new leadership that does not have the ties, obligations and years of corruption of the old leadership. These new emerging leaders are devoted to the concept of direct mass action.

It is of the utmost importance that these new emerging leaders be contacted, worked with and influenced, wherever possible, by socialist ideas.

The NAACP, Urban League, CORE, SCLC and more recently, SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) are all geared to a specific area of work, and on occasions, work together on a specific issue. Some of their workers are dedicated and tireless, who make great sacrifices and more often than not, you find them in the South, where the realities of the situation are much more glaring. But basically, they are “middle class,” “reformist” organizations. These organizations never demand power or real freedom. They ask for integration and “assimilation” into a decadent society. They don’t struggle for economic, cultural and political emancipation. They beg and plead for American imperialism to grant them concessions. They do not wage unremitting war for the Negro worker and farmer. They, instead, pray and petition for the white society to accept the Negro bourgeois. It is quite obvious that these organizations have not, do not and will not, desire to struggle for full liberation.

SNCC, in its drive for voter registration in the south, seems to be taking on the character of a grass-root organization with a student-intellectual leadership, based on the backwoods farmers and sharecroppers in the “black belt.” In place of going from county to county to organize and register a few Negro voters, SNCC, could, under present conditions, organize the rural Negroes into political groups with the prospect of forming a third party in the south. The base has already been laid and being laid through the voter-registration drives. It is inevitable that as the struggle in the south sharpens two lines will develop within SNCC–the reformist line that will continue to work within the framework of the ground rules laid out by the Johnson administration and the more revolutionary line that the young people who have revolutionary tendencies are beginning to develop.

None of the organizations other than SNCC have ever become, or have ever really had a desire to become a mass organization of Negro people. They would much rather be spokesmen for the Negro people, because if they did become mass organizations, it would not be as easy for them to present the picture of “leadership” and militancy. Besides, if they became mass organizations, the workers would outnumber the bourgeois and their cozy arrangement would be challenged. Thus, the question of how to influence these organizations becomes most important. This influence must not only come from rank and file participation, but also from the more militant and revolutionary members not being afraid to take on leadership roles.

The question of present day ”leadership” and an assessment of it therefore takes on added significance. The “leaders” have become a barrier between the mass of the Negro people and liberation. Thus, the role of Roy Wilkins, A. P. Randolph, Martin L. King and their ilk is one of erecting obstacles to full liberation. They are the “firemen” for the U.S. Government to hold the Negro people in check. Wherever the prospects for real militant struggle begin to arise, we immediately find of these “firemen” on the job to extinguish the flames of struggle. First of all, they assume leadership of the movement, and become the spokesman. Secondly, they divert it and make it “passive,” weeding out the militants, (usually through “red-baiting” tactics) and finally, render the organization impotent. This is a tried, tested and proven tactic that these “leaders” are very adept at. The Negro “leaders” of lesser stature and who are on their way up, are quickly learning this tactic.

What can be readily seen in this situation is that the Negro people have many “leaders” who are attempting to lead them into the arms of the enemy. The mass of the Negro people are not being taken in by these mis-leaders, but they have not yet developed methods of struggle to combat them. The tactics and strategy of this must be clearly worked out.

We also find that this leadership is so much a part of the administration and its foreign policy, the Democratic Party of Eastland, the Klu Klux Klan, the WCC, the Liberal party of Dubinsky and the ILGWU, that it cannot reflect any view contrary to their interests. This leadership also reflects its opportunistic petty bourgeois class interests.

The Negro middle class has made its own class aims the center of practically all social and reform programs that have been advanced during the past half century.”

Harry Haywood points out that within this class, there is “a split social personality” that stems from the fact that “he has what might be called a “vested interest” in Jim Crow, upon which he is economically dependent for his market. At the same time, Jim Crow is the chief obstacle to his social development.” He further states that this “dualism of the Negro bourgeoisie has given rise to a peculiar vacillating and compromising trend in their leadership of the Negro movement–a trend which we may designate as Negro reformism. It is expressed in the vacillation between ’accommodation to Jim Crow,’ on the one hand, and the struggle for full equality, on the other–failure to understand the main enemy, American monopoly-capitalism.”[23]

Since the petty-bourgeoisie only represents a minute section of the Negro people, we find that the great masses of the Negro people are unorganized.

This leadership and their allies depend on the government, to a large extent, to solve the problems of the Negro people, and eventually, to resolve the Negro question. No idea is further from the truth, and it only serves the interest of our enemy–that very same government.

This government is not fit to rule–not the Negro people in particular and not the American people in general. All of its major agencies are tools to suppress the Negro people. The Justice Department and the FBI are in outright collusion with the fascist-minded KKK and those that control the KKK in the south. The FBI is, and has always been, a secret police apparatus whose main function is not to protect, but to destroy any militant Negro organization or its leadership–Robert Williams is a case in point.

Their courts, which have historically been used for suppression of the Negro people continue to function in this manner. The legalized lynching and the almost complete absence of justice for Negroes in the south and the north is well known and documented.[24] (G. Myrdal, An American Dilemma, Chapter 26, pages 547-557)[25] Even in “liberal” New York, a recent study showed, death laws are aimed at Negroes. (New York State legislative hearing, Dec. 7, 1962 by the Temporary Commission on Revision of the Penal Law a Criminal Code. Testimony of Myron S. Isaccs, counsel to the Urban League of Westchester County.) This is the rule rather than the exception.

Articles 13, 14 and 15 of our Constitution which are supposed to lay the foundation for civil rights and equal rights for the Negro in the United States, state “the Congress shall have the power to enforce by appropriate legislation the provisions of this article.” Congress has not yet used this power, and if its past is any criterion, it will never use its power.

It is obvious that the legislative branch of the government is only a “rubber stamp” tool of reaction in the U.S. and its chief aim is to present a facade of legality to this government.

The October 1962 events around Cuba completely destroyed the myth of “checks and balances.” The National Guardian of December 13, 1962 in referring to an article in the Saturday Evening Post of December 8, 1962 states, “for some days, a handful of men, operating largely in secret, held our destinies in their hands. These are the nine men who made–and who in the future will make–the live-or-die decisions when the chips are down.” The article then goes on to list the nine men, all hand-picked by President Kennedy. After the decision was made everyone else was whipped into line.” This group has never once come together to liberate the Negro people, but find it necessary to “liberate” the Cuban people.

Thus state, which in no way serves or represents the Negro people or the workers in general, serves instead the military-millionaire class. It must be done away with not relied upon. As long as the Negro people, their organizations and their so-called friends continue to rely on the Government in their struggle they will never achieve victory.


Since the collapse of the Garvey movement in the mid-1920’s there has not arrived on the scene any Nationalist movement of consequence. There have been quite a few “back-to-Africa,” “buy black,” “aid-to-Africa” type of organizations in the large industrial cities that have been making appeals to the Negro people. None of them have met with any success, although there are strong currents of nationalism among the Negro masses, sometime dormant and at other times the main motivating force guiding the black masses. In the recent period, since the tremendous upsurge of the national liberation movements in Africa, and Asia, a new, emphasis has been placed on these movements. A great deal of this emphasis has been deliberately placed by the bourgeois press in the U.S. on the reactionary sections of the nationalists.

We wholeheartedly agree with the growing interest the Negro people are showing in international affairs, in general, and with Africa in particular, but when this legitimate interest of the black people is deliberately and systematically distorted to serve the interest of our enemy, then we are in total disagreement with it. The present form, structure and leadership of the many “nationalist” organizations are divisive and will only divert the Negro liberation struggle from its aim. Most of these groups advocate the substituting of “black” domination over the Negro people in place of white domination. In many cases they propose that this can be achieved within the frame work of U. S. monopoly-capitalism. Conversely, there are groups that advocate an all out war between the U.S. and the USSR which, as their thinking goes, will destroy the white race and leave what remains to the darker races. How they can rationalize this position in view of the awesome destructive power of nuclear weapons they fail to explain.

In view of the above it behooves the mass media of the U.S. to give a great deal of time and space to these movement–all out of proportion to their actual size and significance. They offer no opposition to the basic structure of the State or capitalism. It is an open secret in New York that some of the “Nationalist” leaders and their organizations, and some of the African support groups are set-up and financed by the U.S. government. These particular “nationalist” leaders at times support one African country or group of countries over another. They have easy access to most news media and of course, they are rabid red-baiters.

In spite of the enormous amount of publicity these “nationalists” and their organizations receive, and the latent (and often apparent) nationalism that exists in the vast majority of the Negro people due to their years of oppression, none of them has grown to any appreciable size. Obviously, they have failed to attract the mass of the Negro people for many reasons, key among them the fact that they have failed to deal with the hard, cold, day-to-day problems facing the Negro people–bread, housing, jobs, land and economic security.

In the recent period, out of their frustration, their failure to attract the masses–in other words–no program–their lack of program and their constant splits some of them have come up with the slogan of “separatism” as a solution to all of the problems facing the Negro people. So far, none of them have come up with an answer as to how they are going to achieve this “partition of the U.S.”

But, the nationalist feelings that one finds among the black people today is, in the main, a progressive force. As yet, it has no direction or program. There are many groups and organizations that have appeared on the scene in the last year or so attempting to capitalize on this nationalist feeling. But the same problem arises–no program to attract the masses which reflects their needs and aspirations. These organizations mainly rely on gimmicks which may be attractive on a short range basis, but have no lasting effect.

The black community must have a progressive nationalist organization that can embrace the black masses by offering a program for total liberation.

The Muslims

The Muslims are quite distinct from the “nationalists” for many reasons, although it can be said, identical objective conditions in the U.S. helped to create both. Among the differences are the fact that most “nationalist” organizations are concentrated in New York, whereas, the Muslims are a national organization. The organized “nationalist” movements tend to draw their followers from the remains of the Garvey movement, and the West Indian community of New York. They are generally middle age and in many cases middle class men, whereas the Muslims are composed of young men and women who are, the main, working class. Finally, one claims to be “nationalistic” and the Muslims claim to be “religious.”

This “religion” stems from the concept that the Negro people represent the “lost nation of Islam” with Elijah Muhammed as their spiritual leader.

The Muslims in the U.S. claim membership of some 250,000, but there are good indications that they really number about 7,000. Their chief organ, the newspaper Muhammed Speaks, claims a weekly circulation of 150,000. In the recent past a large section of the Negro people respected the Muslims because they openly articulated an attitude that many Negroes have and do not, or cannot, state–that the source of all of the Negro’s problems is the “white man.” Of course, this is the easy way out because to deal with the Negro question in any other way would mean attacking capitalism and the State. The Muslims are not likely to do this because they are proposing setting up a capitalist state run by a black ruling class. This is a very hazy concept because they have no idea how to achieve this except through the benevolence of the white ruling class.

The sectarian character of the Muslims makes growth difficult. They demand thrift, a restrictive diet, sexual morality, honesty and no drinking of alcoholic beverages. But these noble aims which they seek to impose on their followers are merely the opposite of vices that many workers, both black and white, indulge in to escape the pressures and hard realities of living under decadent capitalism. You must first destroy the system that breeds and creates these vices and the need for them. This type of secluded sectarian organization offers a haven for those people who do not wish to participate in struggle.

What is also a detriment to their growth is their lack of identification with the struggle of the Negro people. With their high level of organization they could make a quantitative contribution to the struggle of housing, jobs, better schools, etc. But, instead, they sit on the side lines and criticize. This does not help to unify the Negro people, on the contrary it divides them For example, they completely stayed out of the struggle being waged by the black people during the summer of 1964.

Although their newspaper, which is widely circulated in the Negro community, takes a very militant anti-colonial position in international affairs organizationally, they do nothing to support this position. They have not once, as an organization, participated in any of the major anti-colonial struggles waged by the Negro people here in the U.S.

At their February 26, 1963 national convention Elijah Muhammed stated a new line of cooperation with the NAACP and CORE. He also called for a “united front” of the Negro people behind himself to “solve the racial problem...”

The Church

After the Civil War the Negro churches and the Negro preachers became the spiritual and political leaders of the Negro people. The Negro preacher was tolerated by the white southerner, after Reconstruction, as long as he toed the line, and if he did not, the terror of the Ku Klux Klan was on hand to suppress any militancy. Most of the Negro preachers did toe the line and their churches flourished, both in the North and in the South. As a result, this has become a very lucrative business, as can be seen by the comfortable living of the leaders of the Negro churches. Historically, “Christian churches generally have, for the most part, conformed to the power situation of the time and the locality. They have favored a passive acceptance of one’s worldly condition and, indeed, have seen their main function in providing escape and consolation to the sufferers.”

In spite of its many short comings the church has, at times, performed important functions in the life of the Negro people. It has been a place of worship, a center of organization in the Negro community, a center for political clubs, tenants councils and at times, a center to gather and disseminate all kinds of information about the community. It is also used by the ruling class as an ear in the Negro community. There are many cases where the more progressive churches were centers to organize protests of various kinds. But, generally, these are the exceptions, not the rule.

It is the most highly organized of all organizations in the Negro communities. It owns the most property, or is connected with the Negro bourgeois who are property owners. It is the richest of Negro organizations. It has more contact with the Negro people than any other organization in the Negro community, and with all of this power at its disposal, we find it being used as a vehicle only to perpetuate itself.

Consequently, we find the church standing as a barrier, manned by passive and submissive ministers who are backed by the power of the white churches, the white “liberals” and in many cases, by the government itself to prevent the complete liberation of the Negro people. In the recent period the highly organized middle class Negro churches and their “leaders” concentrate on the middle class demands, and rarely involve themselves in working class demands like jobs, housing, etc. They usually involve themselves and their members in sit-ins, wade-ins, kneel-ins, etc., expressing these middle class demands.

White Chauvinism

The attitude that liberals have is due a great deal, to white chauvinism and national chauvinism that exists in the U.S., and has become institutionalized.

William Z. Foster in his History of the CPUSA wrote: ”From its tap root in the semi-feudal plantation system, anti-Negro racism has spread throughout the country, shaping the pattern of Negro-white relationships in the North as well. With the clandestine encouragement of yankee financial power and its controlled agencies of public opinion, art, literature, education, press and radio, the dogma of the Negroes’ ’inherent inferiority’ has been cunningly infiltrated into the national fabric, it has become an integral part of the ’American way of life,’ despite repeated refutation by authoritative science.”[26]

Of course, the white monopolists reap enormous profits through exploitation of racism and feeding white supremacy. In order to guarantee their own existence the monopoly-capitalists must, at all costs, keep Negro and white separated and, where possible, fighting each other. The systematic and intense propaganda invented by them soon reached down into the white working class, and a great majority of them fell for it “hook, line and sinker” even though it is contrary to their class interests.

Part of this racist ideology came from within the trade union movement led by the leadership of the AFL. “...the chauvinism and opportunism in the AFL arose primarily from the fact that it was based organizationally upon the skilled section of the working class and was almost entirely oblivious to the needs of the overwhelming mass of the workers, the unorganized and the unskilled. This attitude on the part of the leaders of the main body of organized labor encouraged and, in part, caused the upsurge of Negro petty bourgeois nationalism, exemplified in the Garvey movement and in the early strikebreaking activities of a number of Negro organizations.”[27]

With the formation of the ClO a wedge was beginning to be driven between white supremicist ideology and the white working class. The depression of the thirties also exposed, to a degree, the fallacy of white supremacy because the economic collapse hit both Negro and white workers. Probably this period saw solidarity between the white and Negro working class reach one of its highest points. But, as said earlier, when the Second World War ended and the “cold war” began along with it came the smashing of the CIO, the merging of the AFL and the CIO, and the reintroduction of white supremist ideology, as a policy, led by George Meany.

We must emphatically add that during this period the suppression of the Negro people was as intense as ever, but there was also a greater degree of fight-back on the part of the Negro and white working class. The ruling class also instituted political, economic and social controls on the Negro people. “In fact, every measure passed to curb the Negro has resulted in destroying the civil rights of the poor whites. At the bottom of the cultural backwardness and impoverishment of the southern white is the position of his black neighbor. America’s Tobacco Road begins in the Black Belt.”[28]

It must also be clearly understood that white chauvinism as expressed by the ruling class, its government, its agencies, and its propagandists against the Negro people, the Puerto Rican people, the Mexican-Americans and the Indians, similarly expresses itself internationally against the Africans, Asians and Latin American peoples. It also manifests itself in the support the U.S. gives to the various fascist, pro-fascist, racist, white-supremist, colonial and dictatorial governments around the world.

There is probably no area of life in this country where the infectious cancer of white chauvinism has not taken hold and spread. It dominates and hangs over this country like a black cloud that prevents the sun and light of freedom and clarity to penetrate into the lives of the American people, both black and white. The wounds that it has inflicted on the white, and especially the Negro people, and the scars that are left will take a long time to disappear, and most assuredly, it cannot be done under capitalism, the main benefactor of it.

Only a socialist society in the U.S. can begin to solve this problem. James Allen quite correctly states that “to large masses of Negroes the term white is also sometimes synonymous with the term “lyncher,” “exploiter,” “chauvinist” –because decades of exploitation and lynching at the hands of whites have created this distrust of all whites, just as decades of slavery and capitalism have spread far the influence of chauvinism, and created discrimination even in the labor movement. With the abolition of capitalism, the economic and social basis for this mutual distrust will also be abolished, but there will remain ideological remnants. Negro petty-bourgeois nationalist leaders today harp upon the “inborn” “unchangeable” prejudice of the whites.”[29] “The key question from the viewpoint of the Negro masses is: Will the white proletariat in power be any different from the white capitalist?’ The guaranteeing of the right of self-determination, including the right of separation, is the decisive answer to this question.”[30] This was written twenty-nine years ago, and we dare say, due to the present objective conditions, it is doubly important today.

The so-called Negro leaders and spokesmen likewise play a decisive role in perpetrating white chauvinism. In most cases they unequivocably support the U. S. government in its racist foreign policy. They support the government, and its white racist leaders from the South, who persecute progressive Negro fighters. They lend themselves readily to all mass media to preach the doctrine of “progress,” “advancement” and “the day is coming” soon. They praise all of the reactionary administrations that take office, which are arch enemies of real progress for the Negro people. They preach class collaboration and divert the Negro peoples movements away from fighting their main enemy–monopoly-capitalism and the government that represents it. They are, for all intent and purposes, propagandists of white chauvinism.

This attitude on the part of the Negro “leaders” gives the ruling class aid and comfort because they know that their position of power is not being remotely threatened.

The problem of white chauvinism must be sharply brought home to the white working class, white workers must see that it is contrary to their own interests. “It is not accidental then, that where the Negroes are most oppressed, the position of the whites is also most degraded. Facts unearthed and widely publicized, including the Report of the National Emergency Council to the late President Roosevelt, have thrown vivid light on the “paradise” of racial bigotry below the Mason-Dixon line. They expose the staggering price of “white supremacy” in terms of health, living and cultural standards of the great masses of southern whites. They show “white supremacy”–the shibboleth of Bourbon overlords–to be synonymous with the most outrageous poverty and misery of the southern white people. They show that “keeping the Negro down” spells for the entire South the nation’s lowest living standards.”[31] Is the relative condition of the Negroes and whites in the South any different today than when Haywood published his book? The answer is quite obviously no!

The situation in the industrial North, relatively speaking, is not much different. In New York City, considered the center of economic, cultural and social life in the U.S., “half of the 2,079,832 families have a total income of less than $6,000 a year...” The Federal Bureau of Labor estimates that a worker in this City, with a wife and two children, needs $5,970 a year to maintain a “modest but adequate” standard of living. The point here is that if this question is thoroughly examined and studied one would find that the price of white chauvinism in terms of lives, health, economic well-being and cultural development is devastating for both the white and Negro people everywhere.

The main attack against white chauvinism must be lead by the white working class in the shops, in the communities, in their organizations and in the unions. This fight cannot be led solely by the Negro people, although, in the final analysis, the Negro people will give decisive leadership in the fight for democracy in the U.S. The white working class must be educated to understand that it is against their interest, and only in the interest of the ruling class, to believe in, spread or passively accept white chauvinism. They must be shown what it costs them economically, socially and culturally.

This can be brought home to the white working class by progressives and communists who are willing to come out in white organizations and communities and openly attack white supremacy. Along with this attack there must be an organized effort and campaign to expose it and pose an alternative.

The Negro people do not need whites to come to their community and organizations, tell them that they are being discriminated against, and then go home to a lily-white community and listen and tell racist jokes. We often wonder how many of these “friends” of the Negro people sit and listen to filthy racist jokes about the Negro people and never offer any protest? Is this not a form of white chauvinism?

Many white people believe that they are making a contribution if they come into the Negro community to organize the Negro people. This is not a contribution but another manifestation of white chauvinism. We say to these people, organize your community and your organizations to support the liberation struggle of the Negro people. This is the only basis for wiping out white chauvinism and achieving Negro-white unity–complete equality, and struggle against the common enemy–monopoly-capitalism.

We have no intention of making an indictment, but we find it absolutely necessary and timely to make these remarks because so little has been said on this question lately. The surest way of understanding and combating white chauvinism is to have a leading Marxist-Leninist party thoroughly steeled in struggle and armed with the science of Marxism-Leninism.

James Allen pulls this question together and summarizes it stating that “decades of oppression under chattel slavery and under capitalism will leave powerful traces of the white superiority” ideology, of deep distrust of the whites by the Negroes, a whole complex of ideas, prejudices, enmities, as well as actual and real inequalities as a result of capitalist oppression and super-exploitation of the Negro. The prime task of the white proletariat, of its government, of its party, will be to wipe out this heritage from capitalism by guaranteeing the fullest equality to the Negro, by making possible for the first time a real freedom of choice as a preliminary for really democratic federation and eventual amalgamation. The realization of the Negro Republic and the right of self-determination makes possible the final solution of the Negro question under socialism.”[32]

The Trade Union Movement

The trade union movement has not lived up to its promise and expectations as a class organization in the U.S., and for all intent and purposes, it has failed the Negro people, one of its most militant and dedicated sections. If the trade union movement would have played the role that it should have, and what was expected of it, over the years, there is a possibility that it would be free, and the Negro people would be much closer to freedom than they are now. But the opposite has happened– the trade union movement is not free, and the Negro people are struggling relentlessly, in spite of the labor movement, for their freedom.

The trade union movement has a cold war–racist leadership that is unalterably opposed to a free trade union movement and to the freedom of the Negro people. In fact, it is not only opposed to the freedom of the Negro people, but it is actively fighting, with the aid of the government to further enslave them.

The great betrayal of the Negro people by the labor movement began at the conclusion of the Second World War.

The coup de grace was the ousting from the CIO of the more progressive unions, many of which had a large Negro membership, the coming to the fore of the more reactionary CIO leaders, and the merger of the AFL and CIO under the reactionary racist leadership of Meany and Co.

As a result, the labor movement and its Negro members, and many Negro peoples organizations that were led, or greatly influenced Negro trade unionists were either completely silenced or impotent.

In many cases we find trade unions organizing workers, a large section of these workers being Negroes, to head off the militancy of these workers. In other words the trade union movement is being used as a vehicle to contain the workers. The relative position of the Negro workers, both organized and unorganized has deteriorated since the forties. There has been no real effort on the part of the labor movement to organize the unorganized, especially in the South. Many of the unions that were “lily-white” are still that way. Negroes are denied entrance into the major craft unions and their apprenticeship training programs. The upgrade and seniority clauses in many union contracts are written to insure that Negro workers remain in the dirtiest, lower paying jobs. Most of all, Negro youth are denied job opportunities.

The trade union leadership has not seriously addressed itself to the question of segregated locals and “B” locals. It has been conspicuously silent on the unemployment problem among the Negro workers.

Thus, we see that in the main industrial cities that once had militant unions we find the highest Negro unemployment rate and the unions do nothing.

The Negro people have always felt the hostility of the vast majority of the white labor leaders, so in their defense, and for the sake of unity, they have formed their own labor centers. Probably since the first group of Negro workers entered the labor movement, they formed caucuses, clubs or associations to protect their interest against a hostile white society. These were not factional organizations or divisive, but were formed to better the lot of the Negro workers in a generally hostile white labor movement, and to fight for Negro-white unity.

Those organizations of national character that have gained prominence over the years were the NCLU (National Colored Labor Union) ANLC (American Negro Labor Committee) NNLC (National Negro Labor Council) and the NALC (Negro American Labor Council).

The NCLU was formed in 1869 by Negro workers mainly in the south. It came into being because of a lack of understanding by the white workers of the problems of the Negro people during Reconstruction. The NCLU issued a prospectus in February, 1870 with the chief demands of the Negro people. These demands were very practical for that period, and, they have not been met yet! They published a paper called New National Era. The organization disappeared under the fierce repressions that followed the Reconstruction period.

The next organization, national in character, to come on the scene was the ANLC, which was organized in Chicago in October, 1925. Its paper was called The Negro Champion. The ANLC “...especially fought for the admission of Negro workers into the unions. Its general organizational form was that of local councils composed of Negro labor unions, trade unions that did not discriminate against Negroes, and groups of unorganized Negro workers.” The organization flourished briefly but died because of its narrow sectarian character.[33]

In October of 1951, in Cincinnati, the NNLC was formed. Foster says that “Its general purpose is to break down Jim Crow, both inside and outside the unions, and to bring about a better working solidarity among the Negro and white members of the whole trade union movement.”[34] The organization was red-baited out of existence during the mass-hysterical McCarthy period.

From these past experiences we see that the five prerequisites needed to form a Negro workers organization are independence, Negro base and composition, non-sectarian in character, broad base and truly national. The NALC had all of these pre-requisites when it was formed.

The formation of the NALC six years ago was hailed nationally by the Negro trade unionists as the organization that would take the leadership in the fight for equal job opportunity, democracy in the trade union movement and a voice in the unions. A clear indication of the way Negro trade unionist viewed the formation of the NALC was the rapid growth of the chapters across the country–from coast to coast, above and below the Mason-Dixon line. Negro workers from almost every union in the country rallied to the call “THE TIME HAS COME,” and began to organize for a struggle towards freedom. The call also stated that the NALC in working with the trade union movement would be “... independent of the control or domination of any union or segment of the labor movement.” This call for independence was key to the initial upsurge and growth of the NALC.

But we failed to recognize the complete deterioration of the Negro trade union leadership. We failed to recognize that their interest was the same as their white counterparts, and that they represented their class interest. We failed to realize that if any militant Negro workers organization is to come into being, it must be led by rank-and-filers.

The dedicated trade unionist, both Negro and white, has realized that there is a wide gulf between the leadership of the labor movement and the Negro people. The “house of labor” has not lived up to its promise, and we seriously doubt if it has any intentions of doing so.

In order to eliminate this gull there must be a new upsurge of militancy on the part of white workers for basic working class demands and a struggle waged for “Negro-white unity” on the basis of equality. Along side this is needed a Negro workers organization dedicated to a program of wiping out racism in all its forms, and with a class program that will destroy the notion that U.S. imperialism and its government has any other interest but that of its class.


Historically, in the U.S., the white liberals have been like an albatross around the neck of the Negro people’s struggle for liberation. They have misled, restrained, compromised and diverted the struggles of the Negro people since Reconstruction. The liberals see victory around the corner. They interpret the most minute advances as a “great leap forward.” This attitude only fosters the illusions of progress and advancement. It lulls the Negro people to sleep. This has always been their role, and they must be stripped and shown for what they are!

Haywood exposed the role of the liberals as far back as Reconstruction when the more progressive and radical leaders were advocating “...breaking up the plantation through land redivision, giving the land to the actual tillers of the soil...”[35] The radicals saw this as “...basic to any genuine agrarian reform. ”[36]

He stated that “it is precisely here that most liberal theorists balk. Their efforts are reduced at most to a pitiful, futile attempt to carry through a gradual, painless transformation of semi-feudal landownership into capitalist ownership.”[37] He develops this point by bringing us up to the boom period of the Second World War, describing the thinking of “...an entire school of liberal writers who profess to see...a smooth readjustment” of the economic and social problems of the South.” The “industrialization” of the South during World War II was to lead to this “smooth readjustment.”

These same liberals, and the reformers and revisionists of today are still preaching the same old story–that through the “normal progress” of events, and through “progressive capitalism” the Negro question will be resolved. The mass of the Negro people are not buying this any longer, and increasingly, are beginning to challenge this theory and the entire role of the liberals.

In an essay, Farewell to Liberals: A Negro View, Loren Miller attempts to come to grips with this question.

He begins by quoting a recent statement by James Baldwin that Negroes “twenty years younger than I don’t believe in liberals at all.” This is probably closer to the truth than is commonly realized. The liberal (white) has no concept of what is going on in Negro life today because he does not live in the Negro community, he rarely visits the community and his contact with the community is usually through his close ally–the Negro middle class, who, nine out of ten times, will tell him what he wants to hear, or confirms his preconceived ideas. As a result, we find that liberals incorrectly estimate what is going on in the Negro movement draw the wrong conclusions, and take a militant lead in fighting the wrong enemy. At this point they are ready to accuse the Negro people of being “lazy”, lackadaisical,” “unorganized” and “not willing to fight their own battles,” because the Negro people will not follow them, or take their advice.

Miller says that “discontent with the liberal position in the area of race relations has been building up for the past several years.” This is undoubtedly very true, and we would venture that the events that did the most to foster this discontent was the Supreme Court decision against discrimination in public schools. The liberals hailed this as the solution. But basically, nothing has changed.

As in the past the liberal sees “both sides” of the issue: the force of the Negroes constitutional argument and the existence of customs, sometimes jelled into law, that justify the gradualist approach. He is impatient with “extremists on both sides.”

Within the context of present day America, “the Negro is outraged at being called an extremist.” He is called an extremist by the liberals if he decides to struggle outside of the narrow area carved out for him–the “peaceful, ” “turn the other cheek,” legalistic approach. For example, we find liberals condemning Robert Williams, the heroic fighter from Monroe, N.C., for being “too militant.”

Miller hammers away at this theme with the observation that “every civil rights victory adds to the Negro’s intransigence; he becomes ever more impatient and demanding. To the extent that this attitude tends to precipitate racial conflict, a substantial number of liberals shy away. As they see it, their role is to ease, not to heighten, racial tensions while they create a climate in which progress is possible. But the new militants don’t want progress; they demand Freedom.” As the struggle sharpens and heightens we will find more and more of the liberals dropping by the wayside.

The liberal dilemma does not spring solely from doubts as to the advisability of direct action or the disobedience doctrine. The hard core of the difficulty lies in the circumstances that in the eighty years since the failure of Reconstruction, racial discrimination has become deeply rooted and thoroughly institutionalized in government agencies (local, state, and federal), in the civil service and in the churches, labor unions, political parties, professional organizations, schools, trade associations, service groups and in that vast array of voluntary organizations which play such a vital role in our society.”

Even though Miller correctly states the liberal dilemma he offers as a solution the stepping up of administration by government, which is the typical answer of the liberals. He also suggests that part of the solution may come about by the voluntary organizations exerting “...constant and consistent pressure to that end on local, state and federal governments, and at the same time accord Negroes all of the privileges and benefits that accrue from membership in such organizations.” What about struggle? It seems as if Miller is in somewhat of a “liberal dilemma” himself. At one time he talks of demanding freedom, and in the next breath, he asks the reactionary government and the backward social organizations to “accord Negroes all the privileges and benefits that accrue from membership in such organizations.”

It is about time that we realize that the government and the organizations that Miller speaks of are the bulwarks against Negro liberation and that we cannot depend on them for our salvation. We are not opposed to putting pressure on the government or to working within these organizations, but we must do it knowing full well that they have their limitations and when they have reached their limits they will stop and turn on you.

Miller describes this process: “...conflict flares into the open when liberals exercise the prerogative, long held by them, of speaking for the Negro, and of espousing views which the Negro is abandoning. The liberal custom of speaking for the Negro is rooted in history: there was a time when the Negro needed spokesmen. Inevitably, a measure of paternalism and a father-knows-best attitude developed. But as the Negro becomes more articulate and discerning, he insists on voicing his own asperations, particularly in the light of what he regards as the shortcomings of liberal leadership.”

We feel that this growing disillusionment, now breaking into open hostility, between the Negro people on the one hand, and the white liberals and their Negro spokesmen on the other hand, has one of its main roots in the peoples drive to desegregate the schools, lunch counters, etc. “The liberals see progress in the admission of a few select Negro children to a hitherto white school; the Negro wants all Negro children admitted and spurns the concessions as tokenism.” Whether or not the main emphasis of the Negro peoples’ struggles is on integration the concept of “gradualism” and “tokenism” is completely rejected by the Negro people as they fight for freedom, and this is exactly what the liberals preach.

Miller ends his essay by summing up the years of frustration, struggle and pain that the Negro people have gone through to reach this point in history where they are prepared, through direct confrontation, to meet the enemy (as opposed to the old way of so-called Negro “leaders” dealing with the enemy from the top) with these words: “Those voices are harsh and strident, and jarring to the liberal ear. Their message is plain: To liberals a fond farewell, with thanks for services rendered, until you are ready to re-enlist as foot soldiers and subordinates in a Negro-led, Negro officered army under the banner of Freedom Now.”


[1] Haywood, Harry, For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question, unpublished manuscript.

[2] Fortune Magazine, “The City and the Negro,” March, 1962.

[3] Haywood, op. cit.

[4] Allen, James, The Negro Question in the United States, International Publishers, New York, 1936, p. 14.

[5] Haywood, Harry, Negro Liberation, International Publishers, New York.

[6] Ibid., p. 15.

[7] Ibid., p. 15.

[8] Ibid., p. 15.

[9] Ibid., p. 18.

[10] Fortune Magazine, op. cit.

[11] Haywood, unpublished manuscript, ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Lenin, V.I., Selected Works, Vol. VI, International, New York, 1943, p. 267.

[14] Lenin, V.I., Selected Works, Vol XI, p. 647.

[15] Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, “U.S. Workers– A Force for Revolution,” Vol. I, Number 2, Progressive Labor Movement, New York, 1964.

[16] Lenin, V.I., The Right of Nations to Self-Determination, International Publishers, New York, pp. 14-15.

[17] Foster, William Z., History of the Communist Party of the United States, International Publishers, New York, 1952, p. 424.

[18] Haywood, unpublished manuscript, ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Williams, Robert, Negroes With Guns, Marzani & Munsell, New York, 1962, p. 113.

[23] Haywood, Negro Liberation, p. 196.

[24] Myrdal, Gunnar, An American Dilemma, Harper & Row, New York, 1944.1962,pp. 547-557.

[25] Isaacs, Myron S., counsel to the Urban League of Westchester County, Testimony, New York State Legislative Hearing, Dec 7, 1962, by the Temporary Commission on Revision of the Penal Code and the Criminal Code.

[26] Foster, op. cit., p. 137.

[27] Allen, op. cit., pp. 148-149.

[28] Haywood, Negro Liberation, op. cit, p. 68.

[29] Allen, op. cit, pp. 148-149.

[30] Ibid

[31] Haywood, Negro Liberation, op. cit, p. 70.

[32] Allen, op. cit, p. 196.

[33] Foster, op. cit, p. 268.

[34] Ibid, pp. 476-478.

[35] Haywood, Negro Liberation, op. cit, p. 86.

[36] Ibid, p. 86.

[37] Ibid, pp. 86-87.