Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist League

Negro National Colonial Question


The Negro national minority in the Anglo-American nation is made up of those 10-13 million Negroes living outside the Black Belt area of the Negro Nation and the immediately surrounding area of the South. This Negro national minority, which includes more than one million Negroes who have migrated within the last generation, is concentrated for the most part in less than 20 major urban centers of the Anglo-American nation, particularly in the East and the industrial belt extending from Pittsburg through Chicago. Approximately three-fourths of the Negro national minority either migrated from the Negro Nation or were born in the “North” before 1945. The majority of the Negroes living in the Anglo-American territory of the state of the U.S.N.A. still have blood ties in the South.

The millions of Negroes who were born in the Negro Nation, but who have migrated “North” did so in an attempt to escape the starvation, low wages and fascist rule in the Negro colony. Often Negroes were lured to the “North” by unscrupulous labor recruiters who were paid “by the head” for strong bodies sent to company towns or labor camps. This was particularly true during the period from 1900 to 1910 and again from 1917 to 1924, when nearly 3 million Negroes migrated to the “North”. For example, during the period from 1907 to 1928, when the United Mine Workers were organizing the coal fields in W. Virginia, Kentucky, South Illinois and elsewhere, tens Of thousands of Negro workers were recruited from the Negro Nation for the purpose of driving wages down and breaking strikes. As Spero and Harris, authors of The Black Worker stated, “The United Mine Workers were unable to organize the mines of Southern W. Virginia due in part to the large supply of redundant Negro labor brought in from the South. The existence of such a store of labor given to the operators in W. Virginia, and in practically every other mining section of the country, an industrial reserve army which may be used either to defeat the purposes of unionism or to meet an increased demand for labor caused by the expansion of the industry.”[1]

The demand for labor from the Negro Nation became particularly great after the source of U.S.N.A. capitalism’s cheap immigrant labor was cut off by the advent of W.W.I.. During the years 1916 through 1924, millions of Negroes migrated “North”. Many were shanghaied or tricked into migrating by false promises of a better life. During 1916 and 1917, the Illinois Central Railroad recruited and dumped some 10,000 Negro workers into East St. Louis, in order to drive the going wage down for the track-laying labor hired in that town. This manouver by the capitalists forced people to sleep in the streets and wages fell to new lows. These conditions and provocations by Illinois Central agents, who pitted Anglo-Americans against Negro national minority workers ignited the ’race riot’ of 1917 in which scores of Negro national minority workers were killed and hundreds injured.

The gradual outcome of the monopoly capitalists’ policy toward the Negro national minority and “fresh” Negro immigrant workers was their inclusion as more or less permanent workers in the basic industries of Anglo-America. By 1920 between 20 and 40% of the workers employed in meatpacking, steel, auto, chemicals, etc., were Negro national minority. By 1928, the number of Negro national minority workers employed in the basic manufacturing, mining and transportation industries, numbered nearly two million. These Negro national minority workers, had jobs, but they were at the bottom of the skills pile with 95% of these two million jobs classified as unskilled and low paying. Yet another indication of the low status of Negro national minority workers was the relatively small number of those nearly 2 million Negro national minority industrial workers, in the Anglo-American nation were union members. Even when a Negro national minority worker managed to slip into a skilled job, he was paid less than his Anglo-American working class counterpart. For example, in 1928, Negro railroad engineers were paid $4.71 per 100 freight miles, while Anglo-American engineers were paid $5.75 for the same work. (See Spero, The Black Worker. Columbia University Press, 1931, p.77, 314)

From 1870, through the 1930’s, the workers of the Negro Nation, were driven from the plantation to the factories, mills and mines, where they risked their lives daily as the lowest paid of all minority workers. Those who could not find work, became part of the reserve labor force of big capital, the Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Carnegies, etc., all used the weapons of white chauvinism to drive Negro national minority workers to the wall. This tactic of divide-and-conquer has cost the lives and limbs of millions of the working class. Negro and Anglo-American workers alike suffered the poor working conditions and low pay promoted by class division.

It was this division of the working class that held back the entire labor movement and slowed the organizing of the industrial unions. An example of the divisive strategy practiced by the imperialist rulers can be seen in a comment made by a top official of the Carnegie Steel Co. in 1928. He stated, “We employ about 10% Negroes in our plant and we could get along without them. However, we do not choose to do so, since a cosmopolitan labor force makes fraternizing among the employees difficult.”[2]

During the latter part of the 1930’s, the Negro national minority joined enthusiastically in the labor and other progressive movements of the day. Constantly struggling for their equal rights and fighting every step of the way for trade unions. Negro national minority workers were often in the front lines of the battle.

Many advanced workers joined with the Communist Party in organizing Unemployed Councils and organizations such as the National Negro Congress (1936) to fight for the rights of Negro workers and the freedom of the Negro Nation. However, it was not until 1937-38 when the big drive to organize the Committee for Industrial Organizations was launched that Negro national minority workers of the Anglo-American nation were really drawn in large numbers into the organized labor movement. Membership of Negro national minority workers in unions jumped from about 110,000 in 1930 to about 739,300 at the end of W.W.II. By 1950, about 1 and one-half million Negro workers (mostly in the Anglo-American nation) were in trade unions. (See Foster, The Negro People in American History. International Publishers, N.Y., 1954, p. 499)

Although the Negro national minority worker was drawn more and more into the heart of Anglo-American industry between 1930 and 1950, this was due only in part to the efforts of the CIO and the Communist Party. More important forces in operation were the 2nd W.W. and the resulting rapid expansion and mechanization of industry, and the growing monopoly concentration. As Marx pointed out in the Communist Manifesto, “In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labor increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil increases, whether by prolongation of working hours, by increases of work exacted in a given time, or by increased speed of the machinery, etc..”[3] In short, Negro national minority workers were pulled into industry to do the jobs no one else would do under the speed-up conditions and poor wages the capitalists were offering.

To the present day, contrary to what capitalists of all nationalities say, the Negro national minority worker has not improved his position relative to the non-minority members of the Anglo-American working class. Neither has the Negro national minority worker been integrated or accepted as an equal, despite the actions of the NAACP, the Urban League, Equal Rights Commission etc.. As proof, consider the Negro national minority workers* unemployment situation: In 1959, 24% of national minority workers were unemployed as against 14.2% Anglo-American. In 1964, there was very little change and that for the worse. 25.5% of Negro national minority workers were unemployed against 15% Anglo-American. By 1970, 19% of the Negro national minority workers were unemployed. Amongst the youth this ranged as high as 55%. Or look at comparable wage data. Since W.W.I Negro national minority workers on the average have received only about one-half of the annual wage paid to Anglo-American labor. Negro national minority workers on the average have earned 13% less than Anglo-Americans for the same work. (See Morgan, J.A., et. al., Income and Welfare in the U.S. Anchor Books, N.Y., 1963, p. 56) Or further consider the position of Negro national minority workers in skilled or white collar jobs: In the Chicago Civil Service Region 19% of all employees are Negro national minority workers, but 27% of all workers at the lowest pay levels are Negro national minority workers only 1.7% of all employees at higher Civil Service levels are Negro national minority workers. (President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, Report to the President, 1963, p. 50) Finally, a recent study done in Chicago showed that after more than 100 years in the job market of the Negro national minority worker “is still confined to certain sectors of the labor market”.[4]

These facts reflecting discrimination, oppression and exploitation suffered by the Negro national minority workers of Anglo-America are endless, just as the super-profits the monopoly capitalists have made off their labor are countless.

As we have demonstrated, the Negro national minority in the Anglo-American nation has suffered more than a century of oppression and hardship. The vast working class and poor sections of the Negro national minority have responded to these conditions with growing militancy that has been expressed in many strike actions protest movements, and armed uprisings against the state of the U.S.N.A.. Although the root of the majority of these protest movements and freedom struggles can be traced to the Negro Nation, the strike waves and spontaneous armed uprisings have occurred on a much broader scale in the ’North’ than within the Negro Nation. At least this was true for the decade just ended.

This is explained from several points of view. Firstly and most important the concentrations of Negro national minorities in such cities as Cleveland, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, etc., are unknown in the South, and therefore, the communications and sweep of mass sentiment cannot take place on the same level. Also, the compromised classes in the South have a much firmer hold on the Negro masses than in the North. These related reasons have held the breadth of the movement in check. Also, the Negro national minority faces a different kind of oppression than the open fascist terror that rules the Negro Nation. Nevertheless, it should be noted that every wave of struggle has had its beginnings in the Negro Nation.

The Negro national minority was for a time able to arise in a spontaneous manner to oppose the police and the imperialist state. These spontaneous uprisings which shook the foundations of the state of the U.S.N.A. hit their peak in 1965-1968.

The U.S.N.A. imperialists have moved rapidly to damp a lid on the movement; to tighten their fascist oppression. Elaborate battle plans have been drawn up and in some cases put into action against the industrial slave quarter where the majority of the Negro national minority workers reside. Police departments have increased their armed attacks on Negro national minority working class communities; thousands of new intelligence agents and provocateurs have been sent into minority communities; the flow of heroin and other hard drugs into minority communities has been stepped up; attempts to bribe “community leaders” have increased and phoney plans for “community control” by the Negro national minority community abound.

As the class and national colonial contradictions have heightened within the world and within the state of the U.S.N.A., the imperialist ruling class has been forced more and more in the direction of imposing upon the Anglo-American working class the same type of fascist rule that has long existed in the Negro Nation. This fascist counter-revolution is advancing “legally” and under the cloak of law and order. Simply because such a rule has for decades legally existed in the Negro Nation. Wage controls, gun laws, unlawful assembly, conspiracy etc,, all such laws are simply rewritten from the existing statutes of the Negro Nation. The move toward fascism in the Anglo-American nation is to a great extent, the result of the struggles of the colonial world and especially the Negro Nation.

To summarize the question of the Negro national minority in the Anglo-American nation: they have been forced into social production where they live by the objective economic laws that determine social organization. Negro national minority workers hold a large number of jobs in the basic industries and they are an integral part of the Anglo-American working class.

Negro national minority workers hold a high percentage of the most unstable, hazardous, hot and heavy jobs in the economy due to their major role in the reserve labor force and their systematic exclusion from skilled jobs. The majority of Negro national minority workers are forced to perform this undesirable labor in order to feed their families and stay out of the concentration camps that are mislabeled reformatories and penitentiaries. (e.g., the Negro national minority is 6% of the California population and makes up nearly 40% of the California prison population, with Mexican national minorities making up almost the rest of the prison population.)

The oppression of a national minority living in the imperialist country is, by no means, the exclusive plight of the Negro national minority. On the contrary, the special oppression and super-exploitation of the national minority is an inevitable link in the imperialist chain. Such oppression and exploitation flows with the capitalist system. The workers of the national minorities come to the imperialist countries poverty racked, often in ill health, often unable to speak the language, poorly educated and often of an alien religious background or different color. Capitalists cannot fail to recognize that such immigrants are especially vulnerable and defenseless. Thus the national minorities become locked in the slums that are their first homes, the differences between them and the peoples of the imperialist countries are institutionalized.

Simultaneously, with the rise of profits, is the rationalization and sytemization of the ”theories” of the inferiority and separateness of these “outsiders”. Thus with the Irish national minority residing in England this special,, and super exploitation of the Irish national minority by concentration first on language and cultural differences and as these faded away, the religious question became the focal point. Thus for the Irish, this religious factor became the only possible battle ground in the struggle for equality. This religious factor is ever present in the relations between Irish and English. This weapon of oppression – the religious struggle was inherited from the specifics of history.

There is nothing in the history of the Negro people and their relationship with the Anglo-American nation to inject a religious factor. The factor in the U.S.N.A. that made simple the continued super exploitation of the Negro national minority was the color factor.

The capitalist wants to prevent the real integration of the Negro national minority into the Anglo-American nation for the same reason that the English capitalists want to prevent the integration of the Irish national minority or the Japanese capitalists want to prevent the integration of the Korean national minority, etc.. That reason is superprofits and the method of operation is the same. The color factor, inherited from history becomes a real weapon in continuing and increasing the oppression, segregation and exploitation of the Negro national minority. Thus is appears that indeed the State anthem of Kentucky speaks the truth, “For the back must bend and the head will have to bow, wherever the Darky may go”.

The special oppression of the Negro national minority, also serves another important purpose. It acts as a stopper or a break on any dangerous out migration from the Negro Nation. “Since things aren’t that much better in Detroit than in Birmingham – its better to stay here where there is at least a home and loved ones.”

Further, the special oppression and exploitation of the Negro national minority, reinforces white chauvinism, institutionalizes the divisions in the working class by making the bribe to the Anglo-Americans clearer and facilitates an alliance between the Anglo-American workers and capitalists in the exploitation of the Negro Nation and the whole of the colonial world.

Because they cannot be fully integrated the Negro national minority workers have remained over many generations culturally, politically and “spiritually” linked with “their people” who inhabit the Negro Nation. At the same time, brutal oppression and second-class citizenship has forced the Negro national minority workers to realize that the fight for freedom in the Negro Nation is their fight, and the future of the Negro Nation will largely determine their own. In addition the position of the Negro national minority workers has forced them to become the most class conscious and revolutionary element within the Anglo-American nation. Thus, the Negro national minority worker by virtue of his ties with the Negro Nation and vanguard position within the Anglo-American working class provides the concrete link between the Negro people and the Anglo-American working class. Moreover, the Negro national minority not only objectively links the Anglo-American workers to the Negro Nation – but through the Negro Nation to the whole of the colonial world – thus the Negro national minority plays a key role in completing the encirclement of U.S.N.A. imperialism by the fighting colonial masses. Indeed, the vanguard Negro national minority workers provides the basis for the unity of struggle between the Anglo-American working class for their emancipation and the Negro Nation for liberation. One struggle cannot proceed without the other.

So, we see that the colonial position of the Negro Nation, while holding back the struggle of the Anglo-American working class in many ways that have already been pointed out, is also a major force that propels not only the Negro national minority but the entire Anglo-American working class forward in the life and death struggle against imperialism of the U.S.N.A.

The long history of labors’ struggle in the U.S.N.A. points up the fact that there is only one road for Negro and Anglo-American workers: the fight for the unity of the working class. The Communist League sees the long and bloody history of white chauvinism and the “color” divisions that have dominated the landscape of U.S.N.A. history, as the concrete expressions of the profound and fundamental class and national contradictions within the state of the U.S.N.A.. The attempts of the ruling class to maintain a division of the working class through the use of chauvinist bribery, force and violence, as well as by extending petty bribes and privileges, has already been doomed to failure by the anti-imperialist struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American allies of the Negro people.

All Communists and progressive-minded people, must now carry forward the ideological struggle for clarity on the Negro National Colonial question in the U.S.N.A. and to demand by concrete action: Equal Rights for the Negro national minority! Independence for the Negro Nation!


[1] Spero, S.D., Harris, Al, The Black Worker f Columbia University Press, N.Y., 1931, p. 220

[2] Ibid p. 257

[3] Marx, Karl, Communist Manifesto. International Publishers N.Y., 1948, p. 16

[4] Jacobsen, J., The Negro and the American Labor Movement Anchor Books, N.Y., 1968, p. 25