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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded.” – Karl Marx.

(25 January 1941)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 4, 25 January 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Lenin and the Negroes

Those who are interested in the struggle of the Negro people for full equality have special reason to remember Lenin on this anniversary of his death.

For Lenin, more than any other man of our time, contributed toward an understanding and solution of the problems facing the Negro people. And his contributions were not only in a general sense, but in a specific sense as well; not only on a national, but on a world scale: not only in the sphere of general politics, but in the internal sphere of the revolutionary movement.

It is the general program of Leninism which will guide the workers, colored and white, to their victory over the capitalist system and put an end to its wars, fascism, unemployment, racial discrimination. Lenin taught that the workers must take power away from the bosses: take away their power to hire and fire, their power to control the factories and discriminate against Negroes in hiring and classification of work; take away their control of the armed, forces through their mercenary hirelings, the officer caste, whom they train to Jim Crow the Negro; take away their control of the press, the schools, the church, the movies, all of which they use to perpetuate the system of “white supremacy,” and thus keep white and colored workers divided and the bosses in power.

Workers, said Lenin, take power into your own hands. Set up your own government, run it yourselves, in your own interests. That is the only way to do away with war, unemployment, racial and national divisions.

And the Soviet Union of Lenin’s time showed that this was true, that it was only under workers’ power that the many different racial and national groups of that country could live together in peace and equality.

Lenin’s greatest contribution in this field was in connection with the colonial and national question, that is, the solution of the world Negro problem.

What Lenin Taught Us

In his famous theses on this task, adopted at the Second Congress of the Third International, he analysed the failure of the radical movements of the past to understand this problem. “The Second International failed to appreciate the importance of the colonial question. For them, the world did not exist outside of Europe. They could not see the necessity of co-ordinating the revolutionary movement of Europe with those in the. non-European countries. Instead of giving moral and material help to the revolutionary movement in the colonies, the members of the Second International themselves became imperialists.

Lenin, pointed out that as long as the capitalists in the imperialist countries could squeeze and bleed super-profits out of the natives in the colonies, they would be strong enough at home to resist the workers and remain in power and that, consequently, the workers in these advanced countries must help and strengthen the struggles of the colonies against their joint enemy and oppressor, the imperialists.

It was Lenin’s teachings, therefore, which developed the comradely attitude of the revolutionary workers toward the millions of oppressed colored peoples throughout the world, and made them understand the necessity of assisting in every way the struggle of the colored peoples for independence.

Stalin and the Negroes

The Communist International, which has degenerated under Stalin from the vanguard of the revolution to the watchdog of the bureaucrats in the Kremlin, still pretends to honor the memory and carry out the teachings of Lenin. There is no better yardstick for measuring the hypocrisy of the Stalinists than contrasting their practice on the colonial question with Lenin’s teachings.

During the period 1935–39, when they were wooing the democratic imperialists to get a pact with Stalin, they dropped the colonial peoples overboard. “Instead of giving moral and material help”, they ignored or sabotaged the struggles in the colonies, because they wanted to get the good will of the capitalists who oppress these colonies. In the quotation above, Lenin used the strongest terms in denouncing the Second International for doing this. We can be sure that his language would have been no more gentle about Stalin’s shipping of oil to Italy during the invasion of Ethiopia.

For All Races!

Just as Lenin clarified the attitude of the revolutionary movement toward the colonial people, so did he revolutionize its attitude toward the colored people in the capitalist countries. Here is what he said on it in the Statutes, adopted by the Communist International’s Second Congress.

“The Communist International once forever breaks with the traditions of the Second International which in reality only recognized the white race. The Communist International makes it its task to emancipate the workers of the entire world. The ranks of the Communist International fraternally unites men of all colors: white, yellow, and black – the toilers of the entire world.”

This was of especial significance for us here in the United States, where the Negro people, who form so large a proportion of the exploited population, had been completely overlooked or only formally recognized in the propaganda and organizational work of the Socialist Party, in much the same way that its parent body, the Second International, had, treated the colonial question.

It is necessary to support the movement for real equality among the American Negroes, Lenin pointed out in the theses on the colonial question, and thereby he opened the eyes of the American revolutionists to the unbreakable connection between the struggle of the Negroes for equality and the struggle for the social revolution./p>

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