Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Racism – The Achilles Heel Of U.S. Imperialism

Statement of the National Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Labor Movement in the current racial crisis.

First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. I, No. 2, no date [1963]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Racism and the economic superexploitation of the Negro people made possible by racism are pillars vital to the support of U.S. capitalism; their destruction would constitute a blow of incalculable force against the economic and political viability of U.S. capitalism and therefore against the structure of world imperialism. The tremendous accumulation of profits that has made pos-the emergence of the U.S. bourgeoisie as the strongest and most dangerous in the world has been drained out of the working people at home and abroad, but especially out of the Negroes, who have been repaid with poverty, slums, ghettoes, segregation, humiliation and terror for their systematic labor, first as slaves and then as wage-slaves.

Today, more than ever, U.S. imperialism depends on the extraction of maximum profits from Negro workers and on the enforced unemployment of some two million Negroes. On the one hand, racism and its effects, direct and indirect, make it possible to pay Negro workers wages below those paid to white workers. On the other hand, the practice of firing Negroes before whites serves the double purpose of reinforcing racist tendencies among some sections of the white workers by creating the illusion that they have a stake in racism and simultaneously of depressing the wage level of all workers.

Those Negroes who are employed generally are forced into the lowest wage categories. The difference in income between white and Negro males is more than $2,000 per year. If Negroes simply had to be paid the same wage as whites, billions would be lost to U.S. capitalism; billions more would be lost if it were no longer possible to exclude Negroes from their rightful share of educational, housing and health facilities.

The enormous profits gained from racism are essential to the preservation of the Cold War economy, especially under conditions of intensifying competition within the capitalist bloc. Rather than do business with the socialist countries and extend generous credits to the underdeveloped countries, the imperialists prefer to protect their markets and guarantee the political conditions making possible the exploitation of labor. The burden of the resultant low growth rate and economic stagnation is placed on the shoulders of the working class; low wage levels and high levels of unemployment are the most direct forms the burden takes. Racism makes the capitalists’ task of maintaining low wage levels and a pool of unemployed immeasurably easier than it otherwise would be.


The Negroes have joined battle with the racists and have demonstrated that they will settle for nothing short of equality. They are making heroic efforts in every section of the country. Increasing numbers of people are taking part, and the scope of the ba< tie is widening. If the Negro masses are not yet united in s determined crusade against capitalism itself, they are increasingly bringing forward demands of a fundamentally class character. Specifically, the Negro workers are forcing the job question to the forefront and are indicating that they have no intention of accepting unemployment as a way of life.

The recent events in Birmingham, Alabama, marked a turning-point in the fight for Negro freedom. For the first time, thousands of young unemployed Negro workers discarded nonviolence and struck back at the terroristic police. The demand for jobs was not spelled out on the picket signs, but it was at the heart of the organized reaction to the bombings of the homes of the integrationist leaders – as an increasing number of frightened bourgeois journalists have been pointing out. Only when these workers retaliated did Kennedy discover the legal sanction for the use of troops. Bull Connor’s dogs, guns, electric poles and armored cars were insufficient to rouse Kennedy to intervention, but the appearance in the streets of militant young Negro workers determined to deal blow for blow proved more than enough. The action cf those Negro workers was, in the classic sense, revolutionary action and dramatically revealed the revolutionary potential of the current struggle for equality – a potential that is realized when the class dimension of the struggle can no longer be obscured.

Southern Negro workers who had previously been able to go North to seek work can no longer do so, for the: jobs are not available. Integrationist campaigns for token employment will not provide jobs for two million black workers. The right to eat at a lunch counter with whites – an important enough victory against racism in general and against the practice of subjecting Negroes to daily humiliation – will not feed hungry families.


More and more Negroes are learning that turning the other cheek only encourages greater force and violence. Thousands of Negroes are new seeing the wisdom of armed self-defense, which was proposed by Robert F. Williams, the exiled Negro leader from Monroe, North Carolina. Thousands are coming to realize the inadequacies of the of the integrationist leadership, which is committed to a program designed primarily to meet the needs of the upper strata of the Negro community. Revolutionary action by the Negro workers will force the white workers to intensify their efforts to guarantee their own economic security. The raising of class demands by the Negroes can lay the basis for a Negro-white alliance in sharp conflict with the ruling class. The demands of the Negroes for equality and the demands of all workers for jots and security can only be met by breaking the power of the bourgeoisie and its state apparatus.

The Kennedy Administration is desperately trying to hold back the tide of revolutionary Negro activity which threatens to undermine the profit position of U.S. capitalism. Such action could lead to socialist consciousness and activity and could put the Negroes in the vanguard of an inter-racial movement to transfer state power to the working class.

The Kennedy Administration has relied more heavily than is generally recognized on Southern fascists to keep the Negroes in line. For example, Kennedy’s judicial appointments in the South constitute a long list of segregationist diehards. The fierce resistance of the Negroes and the acute embarrassment that racial strife causes Kennedy’s foreign policy have forced the Administration to switch to a more “reasonable” line and to call for reforms that, even if implemented, would barely touch the vital problems. The tactic of concessions to a tiny Negro elite is doomed to failure. The Negro masses are increasingly alert and conscious of their own needs and are determined to win victories of substance. Kennedy’s bid to tie up the Negro movement in the courts and to build an alliance of white “moderates” and Negroes within the Democratic Party merely demonstrates that he does not have, and cannot have, a serious grasp of the depth and significance of the Negro upsurge.

In any case, the key to his plan is the support of the upper stratum of the Negro community – the so-called Black Bourgeoisie. The integrationist leaders, who are drawn from this stratum, have no revolutionary or anti-imperialist outlook; most supinely support the Cold War and the anti-communist crusade in the hope of winning a few favors from the ruling class. The Negro masses, however, are victims of the Cold War economy and have instinctively grasped the relationship between their own oppression and the oppression, by U.S. imperialism, of colored peoples the world over.

The Administration hopes that the integrationist leadership can channelize Negro action along safe paths – quiet protests, legal actions, “passive resistance”, strong words, and political activity within the two-party system – while it moves to crush the more militant tendencies. Robert F. Williams was driven out of the country, his followers are imprisoned or are awaiting trial. The Muslims, who also advocate armed self-defense and independent political activity, as well as jobs and economic opportunity are under severe attack. Regardless of whether or not their idea of “separation” is valid, they are taking the path of militant struggle on behalf of the Negro people, and it is for that reason that they are being singled out by the police and the press in a campaign of vituperation, slander, and abuse. As Kennedy’s attempt to deflect the Negro movement, along safe paths fails – as it must – we can expect harder and harder blows against militant Negroes and their allies.


Tragically, there is no significant Marxist-Leninist tendency among the Negroes, who, without a socialist outlook, cannot solve their basic problems. The “Negro Question” cannot be solved under capitalism, for the ruling class will not willingly abandon its field of super-exploitation. If the fight for integration can provoke such savagery from the ruling class, its state apparatus, and the lumpen elements it can manipulate, what must we expect when Negroes move into direct political action and for political power? Yet, that is precisely what is beginning to happen. The only question is whether or not the move will have a conscious socialist foundation and will thereby be immeasurably strengthened by its freedom from bourgeois reformist illusions and by its link to the worldwide socialist movement.

The next issue of MLQ will present an article designed to open discussion of a Marxist-Leninist approach to the problem of Negro liberation. For the moment let us content ourselves with a reaffirmation of our special task: to link the great war for Negro freedom with the class struggle in general. Only an anti-capitalist alliance of white workers and Negroes can challenge the ruling class and its state apparatus and tear up the roots of the racial oppression of Negroes an:’ the class oppression of all workers, black and white.