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Communist League

Negro National Colonial Question


In order to uncover and follow a correct path on the Negro National Colonial question, it is important to understand the relationship between the Negro Nation and the South as a region.

The South as a region, is defined roughly by the area South of the Mason-Dixon line. For statistical purposes the South is usually defined by the government of the U.S.N.A. as those 17 states which make-up the South-Central and South-Eastern section of the state of the U.S.N.A.. Within this Southern region lies the Negro Nation with a territory roughly described by the “Black or Cotton Belt” area plus the historically and economically connected territory that fringes the nation. Within the South as a whole, live more than one-half of all the 24 to 30 million Negroes living within the borders of the U.S.N.A.. Within the Negro Nation, live about 10 million people, with the Negro people in the clear majority.

Who Controls the Negro Nation and the south as a Region?

Since the end of the Civil War, the South as a region has had a semi-colonial status and the oppression of the Black Belt has been that of direct colonial oppression. The South since 1870, has been controlled economically and politically by Anglo-American monopoly capital, led by the likes of Morgan and Rockefeller. The banks, utilities, timber, railroads, oil, steel, minerals, cash crops, etc., were firmly in the hands of the monopoly capitalists by the turn of the century. (See Foster, Negro People in American History. International Publishers, N.Y., 1954, p. 359) From then until the present day, the financial institutions of U.S.N.A. imperialism have continued to consolidate and expand their control over the productive forces and markets of both the Negro Nation and the entire South.

An indication of the extent of finance capitals’ control over the South as a region, was made public on a low level in 1938. The National Emergency Committee in its Report to the President on Economic Conditions in the South, reported the following:

Lacking capital of its own the South has been forced to borrow from outside financiers who have reaped a rich harvest in the forms of dividends and interest. At the same time it (independent Southern capital) has had to hand over the control of much of its business and industry to investors from the wealthier sections.

In its report the committee stated specifically, that almost all public works, major railroads, oil, natural gas, Iron ore, coal and limestone, Bauxite, Zinc, sulphur, cotton mills, Rayon mills, etc., were owned by “investors” from outside the South.

In 1947, Hodding Carter stated in the Readers’ Digest, that the destruction of independent Southern capital was accomplished with the aid of the age old principle of colonial empires; lengthy organized cartels which controlled supply, transportation and distribution. In the same year, it was reported that the super-profits of the fertilizer monopoly, operating in the South, were great enough to give a college education to every Southern high school graduate.

Any brief investigation of the economy of the South in general and the Negro Nation in particular, will show that the same ruling class cliques which control the majority of the financial institutions and industries in the U.S.N.A., also control the South. One of the main differences in relation to this financial control, is that the imperialist financial power centered around the Rockefeller, Morgan, Mellon and other major bank groupings, is in general more concentrated in the South than in the U.S.N.A. as a whole. A good example of this concentrated control can be found in the chemical industry in the South. The chemical industry is big business in that more profits are taken from exploiting the labor of chemical workers than in any other industry within the South. The “value added by manufacture” for the chemical industry was eight and one-half billion dollars in 1965. (Annual Survey of Manufactures 1966)

Who owns the giant chemical industry of the South? According to the Sales Management Directory of Key Plants, there were 243 plants each employing more than 250 people producing chemical and allied products in 1964. For 220 of these plants additional data is available in Moody’s Industrials. This data shows that 217 of the 220 plants are controlled directly or indirectly by Anglo-American finance capital. For example, the giants which dominate production in Southern chemicals are Union Carbide (controlled-Manufacture’s Hanover Trust); Monsanto Chemicals (control led-Chemical Bank of New York, Rockefeller grouping); Allied Chemical (controlled-Morgan grouping) and to a lesser extent the Dow Chemical Co. and other holdings of the Dupont group. Only about 2% of the chemical plants located in the South are owned by firms which are not connected with the imperialist-controlled multi-national giants of the chemical industry.

Imperialist control and investment in the Negro Nation and the connected Southern region has brought untold billions of dollars in super-profits to the blood thirsty directors of high finance. The lower wages and speed-up conditions resulting from the oppression of the Negro colony, have produced fantastic super-profits (profits above those taken by capitalists under wage and working conditions prevailing in the Anglo-American nation). Even a conservative estimate based on such lies as the statistics reported in the Annual Survey of Manufactures indicates that the rate of exploitation in the South as a region is approximately 25-30% higher than in the U.S.N.A. as a whole.

In addition to the favorable position afforded monopoly capital by discriminatory freight and tariff rates, monopoly control of federal agencies, state legislatures and trade union internationals has produced many tax breaks, lower wage scales, separate labor contracts, and other favorable conditions which dictate super-profits and the domination of Anglo-American businesses in the South.

As the world-wide crisis of capitalism has continued to develop, the imperialists of the U.S.N.A. have been forced to shift more and more of their industrial base into their colonies and semi-colonies and into the Negro Nation and surrounding territory in particular. The cost of this ’shift’ of industry into the colonies and semi-colonies and its continued rapid expansion since W.W.II has to a large extent been born by the working class tax payers of the U.S.N.A. For example, during the recession years of 1949-50, the government of the U.S.N.A.-sponsored the so-called plant decentralization plan under the Defense Mobilizer Program. This program was developed and directed by Charles E. Wilson of the General Electric Co.. Essentially, this program provided a 15 billion dollar tax amortization (tax cut) plan which allowed plants to ’run away’ to the South and resulted in unemployment and a serious weakening of many trade unions in the North, e.g. the electrical and garment and textile workers were hard hit. (See Boyer, R.D. and Morais, H.M., Labor Untold Story, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, N.Y. 1970)

Imperialist domination and exploitation of the South as a special region with a total population of about 60 million people is made possible by the colonial oppression of the Negro Nation–the heartland of the South. Combined military power and extra-legal terror have been used by the imperialists to keep the Negro Nation in chains. But to really insure the garrison of the Negro people and expanding colonial super-profits, the South as a region with its large Negro national minority must also be divided along national and class lines and subjected to nearly the same kind of fascist political and economic oppression that is concentrated in the Negro Nation. As long as the Negro Nation remains in chains, the Southern working class as a whole will of necessity suffer a somewhat similar fate.

Later in this section we will compare concretely the oppression and exploitation of the Negro workers and toilers with that of their Anglo-American and Negro national minority counter-parts living outside the probable area of the nation, but inside the South. But the impact of Negro national oppression and the resulting imperialist domination of the South on the Anglo-American working class must also be examined.

First of all, it is clear that the low wages paid to Negro national and Southern workers act as a direct drag on the wages of workers employed in the same industries in the Anglo-American nation. Workers in the ’North’ can’t improve their wages too much when the corporation can get more work done for less at a Southern based plant. Further, Anglo-American workers in many industries constantly face the threat that the company will “run away” to the South if the workers don’t tone down their demands for higher wages and better working conditions. In addition, Anglo-American workers must realize that imperialists have always used the “army of unemployed” or “reserve labor force” in the Anglo-American nation to break strikes, hold wages down and force speed-up conditions in nearly ever sector of the economy. This reserve force in the Anglo-American nation has traditionally been reinforced by the giant reserve force of low paid, unemployed and job hungry workers in the Negro Nation and in the South. Just recall the large number of workers recruited from these areas for the purpose of holding wages down during past periods of war time and rapid economic expansion.

The oppression of the Negro Nation effects Anglo-American workers adversely in many ways. For instance, much progressive legislation has been blocked and many anti-working class laws and decisions have been made by the U.S.N.A. Congress under the direction of the fascist white chauvinist Southern Congressmen, who are agents of U.S.N.A. imperialism. These congressmen like Stennis, Eastland, Fulbright and others stand on the backs of the Negro people and oppose the interests of the working class of the U.S.N.A. The above facts describe only some of the ways the Anglo-American working class is held back in the struggle for a socialist revolution by the oppression of the Negro Nation. It should be evident to all class conscious workers in the U.S.N.A., that the working class in this country cannot unite and take any real steps forward in the organized struggle against fascist U.S.N.A. imperialism until the demand for an Independent Negro Nation is raised and recognized through action.

Recognizing the Difference Between the Negro Nation and the South as a Region

Despite the similar forms of oppression found in the Negro Nation and the South as a whole, there are important differences in the living conditions or levels of oppression which set the Negro Nation apart from the South as a region. For example, voter registration in 17 Southern states in 1960 totaled 73.4% of all Anglo-Americans and 35.5% of all Negroes eligible to register. In the seven Southern states which contain the bulk of the Negro Nation (Black Belt and connected areas) the average number of eligible Negroes registered to vote was only 29.6%. In the remaining 10 states generally considered part of the South the average number of eligible Negroes registered to vote was over 50%. (see 1970 statistical abstract, table no. 556, p. 369, Voter Registration). Note: these differences in voter registration would have been greater had only “Black Belt” counties been used in calculating the relative percentages. It should also be noted that while total voter registration has increased greatly since the “freedom movement” of the sixties, the relative differences between the ”Black Belt” area of the Negro Nation and the rest of the South still remain. Some additional data which shows roughly the same differences as those cited above deals with income levels in the South as a whole as opposed to the seven state area encompassing most of the Negro Nation.

Within the Negro Nation, the combined median income of Negro families and Anglo-American national minority was about $3,846 per year. The same combined statistics for the Negro national minority and Anglo-American families in the five states which border the nation was $4,340 per year. Again, the difference would have been greater had more precise statistics been available. It should also be added that the median income of families in the South as a whole was considerably lower than the state of the U.S.N.A. as a whole. In the North, Anglo-American families averaged $8,937 per year, while Negro national minority families averaged only $5,360. In the South (including 17 states) Anglo-American families averaged $7,963 and Negro families averaged $4,283 per year. (Calculation based on ’Family and Personal Income Data’, 1970 Statistical Abstract). These differing income levels reflect in a distinct way the level of economic oppression in the Negro Nation relative to the South as a region and the U.S.N.A. as a whole.

The status of organized labor further confirms the colonial position of the Negro Nation. Again, in the seven states, containing the greater part of the Negro Nation the percentage of the non-agricultural labor force belonging to unions in 1964 was about 14.2% In the remaining 10 states which are considered part of the South, the percentage was about 24% while the figure for all 50 states was about 27.8%. (Directory of National and International Labor Unions in the U.S.N.A., p. 58, U.S. Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics). Other statistics showing the difference in educational levels, percentage of sub-standard housing, infant mortality rates, number of political assassinations and extra-legal executions, etc., all further confirm the real differences which exist between the Negro Nation and the South on the one hand, and the South and the U.S.N.A. as a whole on the other.

Although the Negro and Anglo-American toilers and workers of the entire Southern region are struggling for freedom, equal rights and a decent life, the political solution for that area which will emerge through struggle as the Negro Nation must of necessity differ from the political solutions that will be possible for the South as a whole. For the South as a region does not have the concrete potential for emerging as an independent nation exercising the right to self-determination but the Negro Nation definitely does. Specifically on the question of how the National Colonial question will be handled in relation to the Southern Negroes living outside the likely territory or borders of the Negro Nation–the position put forward by Charles P. Mann in his 1954 pamphlet “Stalin’s Though Illuminates Problems of Negro Freedom Struggle”, remains essentially sound:

Generally speaking we would say that the large Negro minorities who live in the South but outside of the likely borders of the territory of the Negro Nation must be viewed as a part of or extensions of, the Negro Nation. We must stress the point, however, that we are obliged in each instance to examine the particular, concrete relationship and the extent of the common ties that each ’removed’ community of the Negroes has to the national base. Is it not obvious that the Negro community in Atlanta, Ga., a city beyond the probable boundary lines of the Negro Nation’s territory–for example, would and does have more binding and extensive connections with the Negro Nation than say the ’Negro’ community of Hartford Conn.–?

Moreover, a large part of the Negro industrial working class of the South is located in these communities, and the leading role of this class within the Negro national liberation movement, is of basic importance.

Though the several respective Negro minority communities in the South may put to the fore one or another point of the full program of the Negro national liberation movement, all of these communities are in need of, would fight for, and would directly benefit from any gains won on the road to freedom by the Negro Nation.

In order to correctly understand and organize the national and class struggles in the Negro Nation and the South as a region, we should always keep in mind Stalin’s instruction to the communists working in the border regions of the Soviet Union when he indicated they “must unfailingly take into account all the peculiarities of economic life, class structure, and historical past which mark the regions.“[1]


[1] Mann, Charles P., “Stalin’s Thought Illuminates Problems of Negro Freedom Struggles”, issued by Educational Dept. of the CPUSA, 1954, p. 21