From Fourth International, vol.5 No.1, January 1944, pp.17-21.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
History will record the fact that in the “enlightened” twentieth century more millions of human beings were enslaved by the colonial systems of the powerful capitalist “democracies” than at any previous epoch. Only in the future socialist society will the full record of capitalist violence, hypocrisy and deceit be revealed. Then, socialist historians will paint a picture of French, English and American imperialist rulers of our day, holding down helpless masses of colonial peoples with one hand, while grasping in the other a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Charta, or the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Of the approximately two billion people inhabiting the earth today, only one third are white peoples of European descent, but they keep the other two thirds – the brown, black and yellow peoples – in colonial subjection. “All men are created equal,” “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” “Equal rights for all” – the political slogans which helped the eighteenth century capitalists seize power from the feudal lords have long been collecting dust in national archives. But equalitarian mottoes did not obtain for the white capitalist rulers of the democracies the rich lands and poorly paid labor of the colored peoples of the world which they needed so desperately. Bloody and brutal imperialistic offensives had to be launched in Asia, Africa, and a hundred other regions so that capitalist “democracy” could function. The myth of white racial superiority was evolved as a vindication of these crimes. (Hitler’s vicious persecution of the Jewish people, which he attempts to justify on the basis of the superiority of the “Aryans,” or more particularly, the Nordics, to all other sections of the white race, is simply an application of this theory of white superiority to one segment of the white race.)
The idea of racial superiority was not a twentieth century invention. Conquerors of all ages had recourse to this con-venient theory, not only in order to excuse crimes committed against those whom they enslaved, but even more in order to set one group of subject peoples against another. “Divide et impera” (divide and rule) is the classical expression of this policy used so successfully by the Roman tyrants against the conquered tribes of northern Europe and Britain. How much more successful have been the descendants of those former sub-ject peoples, the English, French and German imperialist rul-ers of today, in “dividing and ruling”! For not only has the technique of empire-building been vastly simplified by modern scientific developments, but the population of the globe has increased so tremendously since the days of imperial Rome that, whereas the “world-conquering” Caesars dominated only scores of millions of colonials, the twentieth century cap-italist lords of the earth rule over nearly a billion people!
In his book, Heredity and Politics, the English biologist, J.B.S. Haldane writes,
“The earliest statement of that doctrine [racial superiority] known to me is found in the Book of Genesis where the curse on the children of Ham is related. It is worthy of note that if this attribution of priority is accurate, the doctrine of racial superiority is originally a Jewish doctrine, although it is now being used against the Jews in Central Europe.” (Op. cit., p.23.)
According to the Biblical story, Ham, the legendary ancestor of the Negro people, was condemned by the curse of his father, Noah, to be a “servant of servants” to his brothers, Sem and Japheth. It is interesting to note that anti-abolitionists in the United States found refuge in the “word of God” many centuries later. An entire volume, The Bible Defense of Slavery, was published in Kentucky in 1852 by one such figure, Josiah Priest, as an attempted justification for the continued enslavement of the Negro people.
The dubious historical distinction of having best phrased the doctrine of “white supremacy” goes to the English poet, Rudyard Kipling, a staunch supporter of imperial Britain’s policies in the colonial countries. In his poem, The White Man’s Burden, Kipling wrote in 1899:
“Take up the White Man’s burden
But the theory and even the expression of the false concept that one race is inherently superior to others did not always have the one-sided character of the “superior” white race vs. the “inferior” colored peoples. Haldane quotes a contemptuous reference made by the writer, Said of Toledo, about the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of northern and central Europe,
“They are of cold temperament and never reach maturity. They are of great stature and of a white color. But they lack all sharpness of wit and penetration of intellect.” (Op. cit., p.138.)
Said of Toledo wrote in the eighth century when the Moors – of mixed Negroid and Semitic extraction – had conquered all of Spain which thus became part of the great Arab empire that stretched all across Northern Africa and Asia Minor. At a time when the future exponents of “white supremacy” were still immersed in the superstitiousness and intellectual backwardness of Europe’s Dark Ages, these highly cultured colored peoples were making great strides in the mathematical, medical and physical sciences, as well as in the arts.
The great historic pasts of others of today’s so-called inferior peoples can also be cited in refutation of the false doctrine of “white supremacy.” The average white student of history knows little about the early Dravidian civilization in India; the Chinese culture of several centuries before Christ, and more notably of the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries A.D.; the advanced civilization of the Mayan and Aztec Indians in Mexico and Central America over a thousand years ago, and so on.
If little is known by white students of the great cultural achievements of the early peoples of India, China, Mexico and other regions, characterized today as “backward,” still less is known of the remarkable history of the black peoples of Ethiopia. In Black Folk, Then and Now, a scholarly work modestly designated by its author W.E.B. DuBois as “an essay in the history and sociology of the Negro race,” there is a wealth of information about the Black Kingdom.
“Research in the Nile Valley and study of the records establish the fact that ancient Ethiopia in what is now the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan was the seat of one of the oldest and greatest of the world’s civilizations. The golden age of this culture dates from the middle of the Eighth Century before Christ to the middle of the Fourth Century after Christ. But its beginnings go back to the dawn of history, four or five thousand years before Christ and in a way Ethiopian history parallels that of ancient Egypt.
“A reasonable interpretation of historical evidence would show the history of the Nile Valley was something as follows: Negro tribes migrated down the Nile, slowly penetrating what le now modern Egypt. They there gradually came in contact and mingled with whites from the north and Semites from the east. Stimulated to an unusual degree by this contact of the three primitive stocks of mankind, the resulting culture of Egypt was gradually developed.” (DuBois, op. cit, pp.22-23)
Why then have modern historians been silent about the high cultural attainments of the black peoples of ancient Ethiopia, glowing accounts of which have been preserved in the writings of such Greek and Roman historians as Homer (ninth century B.C.), Herodotus (fifth century B.C.), Pliny (first century A.D.), and Ptolemy (second century A.D.)? Why have the role of Negro blood and ancient Negro culture been denied their proper place in the historical explanations of the development of Egyptian civilization? Because, as Professor DuBois correctly points out, the needs of the white slave traders of the 16th, 17th and 18th century Europe and the United States made it necessary to distort and hide all favorable facts and interpretations of the history of the black peoples. DuBois writes:
“The whole attitude of the world was changed to fit this new economic reorganization. Black Africa, which had been a revered example to ancient Greece and the recognized contender with imperial Rome, became a thing beneath the contempt of modern Europe and America. All history, all science was changed to fit this new condition. Africa had no history. Wherever there was history in Africa or civilization, it was of white origin; and the fact that it was civilization proved that it was white. If black Pharaohs sat on the throne of Egypt they were really not black men but dark white men. Ethiopia, land of the blacks was described as a land of the whites ... If at any time, anywhere there was evidence in Africa of the human soul and the same striving of spirit, and the same build of body found elsewhere in the world, it was all due to something non-African and not to the inherent genius of the Negro race.” (Op. cit., p.221.)
The fact that a race has been conquered and held in subjection is no proof that it has an inferior culture to that of the conqueror. Still less does the fact of conquest prove the biological inferiority or superiority of peoples. When the Nazi “blitzkrieg” swept over a dozen countries of Europe in 1939-41, Hitler’s sociologists and historians hailed the victories as conclusive proof of the inherent superiority of the Teutonic branch of the so-called Aryan race. Now, the armies of Hitler are in retreat. Does this fact then offer proof of the inherent inferiority of the Germans? Both aspects of this false racial theory will be dismissed by Marxists and an explanation sought in the social and economic factors involved in the situation. The highly efficient productive system of Nazi Germany, closely geared to a modern and radical type of war machine, continued victorious in Europe until it came into conflict with the war machine of the still more advanced American system of production, which had far greater resources in material and manpower. This basically important economic factor, coupled with the great social weight of the superior morale and resistance of the workers and soldiers of the Soviet Union, swung the balance against the Nazi “invincibles.”
As in this short term historical demonstration of the fallacy of one strongly held belief in racial superiority, so has history offered a thousand other long-term illustrations of the reversal of the roles of the dominant and the subject peoples, of the conquerors and the enslaved.
Neither the testimony of written history nor the extensive research findings of archaeologists, paleontologists and anthropologists offer grounds for a belief in the innate superiority of the white race. The period in which the white race has dominated all of the other races of the earth – a few hundred years at the most – measures only a relatively short span of recorded historical time. It is but an infinitesimal portion of geological time.
Nature experimented for millions of years in the production of organisms capable of adapting themselves to their environment, or as in the case of man, the highest type of organism, capable of changing his physical environment and developing mutually protective relations with other members of his species. As a background against which to measure the relative dominance of the various races, the following figures will be useful:
Origin of the earth
10,000,000,000 years ago
Dawn of life on earth (first living cells)
2,000,000,000 years ago
Evolution of great anthropoid apes
10,000,000 years ago
Earliest types of modern man evolved
1,000,000 years ago
Primitive civilizations established in Asia and Africa
10,000 years ago
In the age-long evolutionary process from “amoeba to man,” living organisms were forced to adapt themselves to cataclysmic planetary changes. Not until somewhere around 10,000 B.C. did the geography of the world become similar to that of the world today. In the millions of preceding years, geological and geographical change was the rule. Enormous internal activity created constantly changing patterns on the earth’s surface – mountain ranges were thrust up or rearranged; continental outlines shifted; some continents disappeared into the earth’s seas; the depth of the seas was increased in one millennium, decreased in another.
Vast and extreme changes of climate occurred. Centuries of an almost planet-wide period of tropical temperature were succeeded by long ages when ice and snow covered great sections of the earth’s surface. Against this background of constant and tremendous climatic, geographical and geological change, primitive man, only recently evolved from his ape-like ancestors, had to find ways to feed, clothe and shelter himself and his family, or face extinction.
Countless numbers of sub-human or “almost-human” species did become extinct after living on the earth for centuries, possibly even for millennia. Only those species which had evolved such physical and mental traits as enabled them to adapt themselves to the changing environment and to compete with hostile species could survive and reproduce.
The Neanderthalers – so-called because the fossil remains and primitive tools of this “almost-human” species were first found at Neanderthal, Germany – were dominant on this earth 250,000 years ago. Thousands of years later, they were exterminated either by the ancestors of modern man or by freezing and starvation during one of the glacial periods. Superior in cranial capacity to the early types of modern man, the Neanderthal man had a certain definite inferiority of body structure. He could not turn his head from side to side or look upward, nor could he oppose his finger to his thumb as modern man can. Such physical characteristics, possessed by modern man’s ancestors, had real “survival value.”
Other physical characteristics, possessing “survival value,” were evolved by various species of Homo Sapiens. Skin color is one outstanding example; for under the intense heat of the tropical sun, only such species could best survive as had sufficient skin pigmentation. When white or light-skinned types, the hereditary ancestors of the white race, were evolved, it was necessary for them to migrate to areas of temperate or cold climates because their skins, lacking sufficient pigmentation, could not protect them from the violent rays of the tropical sun. In 1943, their blond descendants returning to the tropics as soldiers in an imperialist war are reported by Army medical authorities “to be ’cracking up,’ due to the constant bombardment of the sun.” (Science News Letter, May 22, 1943, p.324.)
The new types of early man, with widely varying physical characteristics, which evolved in response to tremendous environmental changes, represent the original “pure” races. From these “pure” races, the several modern races and national types have been formed by a complex process of interbreeding, selection, and other changes flowing from differences of environment, nutrition, etc. But it is impossible now to speak of “pure” races. Anthropologists tell us that there were probably no “pure” races left after the great human migrations and general mixing of the races that occurred at the time of the last glacial period, 18,000 years ago, when most of Europe and a great part of North America were covered with ice.
Evidence for the truth of this statement lies not only in the fact that fossil remains of various racial types have been found all over the world, but that among the living “races” there are no clean-cut scientific differentiations. Racial classification has become, therefore, a very confused and arbitrary matter. Some anthropologists classify the peoples of the world on the basis of skin color and come out with three, five or seven “distinct” races. Others use hair texture, cephalic index width of head length of head or a combination of all three of these indices (skin color, hair texture, skull structure), and in this way derive anywhere from two to 17 main races.
The range of classification may be gleaned from the estimates made in the past: Virey said that there were two races in the blood; Ripley and others claimed three; Kant found four; Blumenbach, five; Buffon, six; Hunter, seven; Aggassiz, eight; Pickering insisted on 11; Bory St. Vincent, 15; Desmoulins, 16; Morton, 22; Crawford, 60; Burke, 63 ...
The classification sanctioned today by a great many anthropologists, i.e., three main races: the Negroid or “black”; the Mongoloid or “Yellow-brown”; and the Caucasian or “white,” can be used for practical purposes, but it must be understood that there is a tremendous overlapping between the races on physical characteristics, even on skin color. Just to give one example, the African Bushman or Hottentot member of the “black” race is far lighter than many swarthy Spanish or Italian “whites.” Long-headed (dolichocephalic) and round-headed (brachyceplkatic) types are found in all three races.
So, likewise, will one find straight-haired, wooly-haired and wavy-haired members of each of these three main “races.”
Race politicians who like to give a scientific coloration to their propaganda attempt to show that the Negro is lowest on the scale of evolutionary development, the Mongolian, slightly higher, with the Caucasian at the peak. Considerable “evidence” is brought forth to prove that the Negro has more primitive physical characteristics, i.e., that he is not so far removed from the anthropoid apes.
Dr. Otto Klineberg, Columbia University’s expert on race psychology, has marshalled an impressive array of facts to contradict this pseudo-scientific claim.
“The Negro is by no means the most ape-like of the three races,” he writes in his book, Race Differences. “The ape, for example, has practically no lips and the thick everted lips of the Negro may therefore be regarded as the most human and most advanced; in this respect, the Mongolian is closest to the Anthropoid, and the Caucasian intermediate. In the hairiness of the face and body, the Caucasian, and particularly the North European [Nordic] resembles the ape most closely ... the Negro is next and the Mongolian farthest removed. In hair texture, the Caucasian is again closest; the Mongolian is intermediate, while the frizzly hair of the Negro is the least ape-like of the three. In the length of his arms, the Negro may seem to be the most closely related to the gorilla and the other great apes, but it is only fair to note also that in the length of his legs, he is the farthest removed. The hierarchy will entirely depend on the features which are singled out for observation.” (Op. cit., p.84.)
Attempts to create distinct subdivisions of the white race on the basis of physical characteristics result in still more confusion. The most fashionable division is into the Nordics – tall, long-headed, blue-eyed blonds; Alpines – medium height, round-headed, blue or brown-eyed brunettes; Mediterraneans – short, long-headed, dark-eyed brunettes. (“Latin,” “Aryan,” “Semitic” are terms descriptive of basic languages not of physical types. To speak of “Latin,” “Aryan” and “Semitic” races is therefore completely misleading.) Klineberg says very correctly, “‘Unclassifiable’ or ‘mixed’ types are very definitely in the majority and there are large regions in which pure’ racial types are very rare exceptions.”
His conclusion on the subject of racial classification is a devastating answer to fascist theorists:
“To preach in favor of race purity, as has been done so often in recent times, is, therefore, just anthropological nonsense. It is many thousands of years too late, not only for Europe and Europeans, but for other parts of the world as well; there are no longer any pure races to be kept pure.” (Otto Klineberg, Race Differences, pp.25-26.)
“Race” is, in fact, a political concept which has no precise anthropological definition. Because the concept of “superior” and “inferior” races has been an extremely useful weapon in the hands of the ruling classes, it has persisted despite numerous scientific demonstrations of its falsity. When all other proof has failed, the die-hard Nordic theorists and the devout believers in white supremacy cover up their own unscientific positions by referring to the results of intelligence testing among the various “races.” They point to the undeniable fact that, on the average, Negroes rate lower than whites on intelligence tests; Mexicans and Indians also score lower than whites while “Nordics” have higher scores than South Europeans. These facts are pointed to triumphantly as irrefutable scientific proof of the superiority of the “white” race over the colored races, and of the “Nordics” over all other sections of the white race.
When the French psychologist, Alfred Binet, the “father of intelligence tests,” issued the first set of mental tests in 1905, he, like all other psychologists, believed that these tests measured sheer native intelligence and were completely uninfluenced by environmental factors. If this were true, the problem of determining the relative abilities of the various races would indeed be comparatively simple. But as data from intelligence test studies accumulated during the past four decades, psychologists have been forced to conclude that the presence or absence of educational and cultural opportunities in the given environment exerts a tremendous influence on the individual’s test performance. Since the environments of the vast majority of the members of the oppressed colored races are particularly meager in educational and cultural opportunities, all evidence as to the inferiority of colored peoples which is based on intelligence test results must be heavily discounted.
In order to evaluate these test results properly, it is necessary to examine the basic assumptions of intelligence testing. Psychologists do not measure intelligence directly in their mental tests, but indirectly, for they measure only what the individual has learned. The score earned by a given individual is fixed on the basis of the scores of another group of individuals who had previously taken the test, the so-called standardization group. Thus, a particular individual is considered to be above or below average in intelligence by the comparison of his score with the scores of the group on which the test has been standardized. Test results are usually presented in terms of “Mental Age,” i.e., a child of ten who gives an average performance on the intelligence test is said to have a Mental Age of 10. Then, the formula
is used to derive the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) which in the case cited above is 100. IQs below 100 are below average; above 100 – superior.
Dr. Martin Jenkins of Howard University wrote in a recent article on the intelligence of Negro children,
“It is obvious that such comparisons are valid only if the individual being rated and the standardization group have had an equal opportunity to obtain the experiences presup-posed common by the test.” (Educational Method, November 1939, p.108)
He then goes on to show that the school facilities for Negro children are decidedly inferior to those provided for white children and that the Negro people as a whole come from poverty-stricken homes where they have few opportunities to obtain the type of cultural information which is utilized in intelligence testing.
Klineberg presents considerable evidence to show that Negro groups, that have had the benefit of a fairly adequate environment, score higher than “whites” who have lived in a poverty-stricken environment. Most significant is the report that in the First World War test scores of Negro soldiers from the northern states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois) exceeded the Army Alpha intelligence test scores of “whites” from such southern states as Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Georgia.
The homes and general environmental conditions of the Mexican and Indian people and of immigrant workers, especially the Italian and South European workers, are almost as poverty-stricken as those of the Negroes. That members of these most bestially exploited groups receive lower scores on intelligence tests than those who come from environments which provide richer cultural opportunities proves only that intelligence tests are not valid tests of native ability.
Dr. Paul Witty found the average IQ of children from the homes of professional people to be 116; from semi-skilled laborers, 105; and from day laborers, 92. (Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1928, p.141) The well-known positive relationship between socio-economic status and intelligence formerly led psychologists to conclude that poor people were poor because they were unintelligent! Statements such as the following, made by Stanford University’s Professor L. M. Terman, the author of theTerman Revision of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Test were accepted uncritically only fifteen years ago:
Our data,” said the Professor, “show that individuals of the various social classes present differences in early childhood – a fact which strongly suggests that the causal factor lies in original endowment rather than in environmental influences.” (The Twenty-seventh Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. Part I. Nature and Nurture: Their Influence upon Intelligence; Part II. Their Influence upon Achievement, 1928, p.272.)
An even more graphic expression of the same cynical “upper-class” point of view was given by Dr. Leta Hollingsworth:
Individuals of surpassing intelligence, as measured by intelligence tests, create national wealth, determine the state of industry, advance science and make general culture possible.” (L.S. Hollingsworth, Heredity and Environment, 1926, p.297)
But even these dyed-in-the-wool hereditarians have had to modify their opinions as evidence accumulated of the improvement in IQ of children of feeble-minded parents who have been placed in average or superior foster homes; of great increases in the IQs of children who attended a superior type of school; of marked changes in the IQs of Negro children brought to New York City from southern communities, etc. The conclusions reached by Dr. Walter Neff in a critical survey of the studies dealing with the relationship between socio-economic status and intelligence are accepted by most psychologists today (very reluctantly by some, to be sure):
All of these facts taken together lead to a conclusion which we feel is forced and inescapable. Just as Klineberg has shown that the standard intelligence tests are inadequate instruments for measuring the native ability of different races, so do we find that these tests cannot be used for measuring the capacity of different social levels within our society ... All the summarized studies tend to show that low cultural environment tends to depress IQ approximately to the degree agreed to as characteristic of laborers’ children and that a high environment raises IQ correspondingly. All, then, of the twenty point average difference found to exist between children of the lowest and highest status may be accounted for entirely in environmental terms.” (Walter Neff, Psycho-logical Bulletin, 1938, pp.754-55)
Not only does the lack of homogeneity in social, economic and educational status make comparisons of intelligence test performances of the white and colored races very difficult, but differences in motivation also complicate an interpretation of the test results. For a full exposition of this aspect of the problem as well as of the whole question of race differences, Klineberg’s book on the subject should be studied. It is possible here to cite only a few of the examples which Klineberg gives to prove that members of different racial groups are not equally interested in intelligence tests, and therefore do not compete with equal energy.
Similarly, differences in culture, or, as Klineberg defines it, “those attitudes and experiences which an individual receives from the society of which he is a member” have a determining effect on test performance. Here again, it is possible to give only a few of the illustrations which Klineberg has brought together to show that because of differing cultural backgrounds, two equally intelligent individuals from different racial groups would give very different answers to intelligence test questions.
Although it is an undeniable fact that heredity sets certain limits for mental development, thoughtful scholars after weighing all the evidence have concluded that these limits are very broad and that individuals of every race have tremendous possibilities for mental development if given richer environ-mental opportunities.
So simple a thing as an adequate diet can constitute a richer environmental opportunity for the ill-fed children of the poor. A New York physician, Dr. A. Newton Kugelmass, reported at a meeting of the American Association on Mental Deficiency in the spring of 1943, that the intelligence of small children can be increased as much as 18 points in IQ by proper diet. His conclusion was based on a study of the intelligence test results of 182 children, who were malnourished at the time of their first test, but better nourished when the second test was given. Children who were well nourished when both tests were given showed no such mental improvement. (Science NewsLetter, May 22, 1943, p.331)
From all this we Trotskyists draw the following conclusion: In order that an equal opportunity may be had by all peoples for adequate food, decent clothing, proper shelter, full and rich educational and cultural stimulation, the capitalist system which breeds poverty, misery, race discrimination, war, fascism, and a host of other attendant evils must be abolished. The white and colored workers of the “democracies” must break down the barriers of racial segregation which the capitalist rulers have erected between them. Together with the millions of colonial peoples, they can destroy this decadent social system and with it the capitalist-inspired myth of racial and national superiority.
In the new international socialist world which must and will be built, not racial segregation and discrimination, but widespread interracial mixing and collaboration will be the rule. A new stage of evolutionary development will have been reached; a new unified world race, created. Man, the highest product of the century-long evolutionary process, will have then succeeded, in the words of the great social scientist-revolutionist Leon Trotsky, in ending “the tyranny of man over man.”
December 15 1943
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