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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.

(5 July 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 27, 5 July 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Negroes and the Soviet Union

Class conscious American Negroes must defend the Soviet Union against its imperialist enemies as part of their own struggle to abolish the system that starves, lynches, disfranchises and Jim Crows them in this country.

We do not pretend that the Soviet Union is an ideal country, where all problems have been solved, where socialism has been reached. Not at all. But it is a Workers’ State, where power has been taken out of the hands of the employers and the landlords, where capitalist bosses no longer run the factories for their own profit, where the foundations for a better life have been laid.

It is true that political power in the Soviet Union is in the hands of a group of bureaucrats who attempt to use that power for themselves, instead of on behalf of the interests of the international working class. Things have changed since the days when Lenin and Trotsky led the Russian workers, and they have not changed for the better. But the Soviet Union is still a Workers’ State, even though it is a weakened and distorted and degenerated one.

And as long as it is a Workers’ State, as long as bosses do not have power there, it must be defended in its struggles against the capitalist world. For it to be defeated would mean an immense strengthening of the world capitalist system. Because then the capitalists would be able through their exploitation of the labor and resources of the Soviet Union to hold onto their power in Europe, the United States and the colonies for many years longer.

On the other hand, if the workers of the world keep the capitalists out of the Soviet Union and thus prevent them from getting the “breathing spell” the capitalists desire, it will be that much easier for the workers and exploited peoples of the world, to make their own revolutions and set up their own Workers and Farmers Governments.

Like A Great Trade Union

The Soviet Union is like a large trade union, a workers’ organization, which has fallen under the control of a group of reactionary bureaucrats who are concerned about the welfare/ not of the union, but of themselves. These bureaucrats often make deals with the bosses behind the backs of the workers; they don’t permit the workers to determine the policies of the union; they don’t fight properly to raise wages and better conditions of the rank-and-file; they expel and even beat up militant workers who take the floor to oppose their policies. In such a situation it is the job of advanced workers to seek the support of the majority of the members of the union to replace the conservative leadership of the union with a militant leadership that will restore democracy in the union and lead it in struggles against the bosses. The bosses attack the union, and the bureaucrats, who will have no job if there is no union, are forced in self-defense to declare a strike against the bosses. What should be the attitude of all the members of that union, and of all other unions?

Their attitude must be to defend the union against the bosses, in spite of their sharp differences with the union bureaucrats. The main enemy is the bosses. If the bosses win, there will be no union and there will be no chance for the rank-and-file to improve their union and their conditions. If the bosses win, not only will the bureaucrats be kicked out, but the union, and the whole labor movement, will be weakened.

In the same sense, advanced workers, Negro and white, must call for the defense of the Soviet Union. If the imperialist powers win, they will carve up the Soviet Union in the same way the bosses would break up a union. It would then be a hundred times as hard later on for the advanced workers in the Soviet Union to replace the Stalinist bureaucracy with a revolutionary leadership that would fight for the workers’ interests. It would make much more difficult the job of moving forward in the Soviet Union toward better conditions, toward socialism. We must hot forget the crimes of Stalin, we must get rid of him if we want the struggle to be waged as it should be waged, but we must remember that the main enemy is the imperialist powers who keep the rest of the world in subjection.

The Fundamental Principle

We must never forget this principle: wherever a workers’ organization comes into conflict with a capitalist state, wherever a workers’ organization comes into conflict with the bosses, wherever an oppressed people come into conflict with their oppressors, we must support and defend the workers’ state, the workers’ organization, the oppressed people.

It was more or less along the lines of this principle that advanced workers supported and defended the recently called-off Negro March On Washington against its enemies and critics. We did not trust the leaders of the March, the Randolphs and Walter Whites, and we warned the masses that they would not conduct the March in the militant, independent manner required. We pointed out the weaknesses in their program and the bureaucratic way they had organized the March.

But nevertheless we supported the March and called on all workers to do the same. For essentially, in spite of its leadership, the March was a struggle between the Negro people with their labor allies on the one side, and the capitalist government protecting and sponsoring Jim Crowism on the other. If we hadn’t supported the March, or if we had been “neutral” and indifferent, we would only have played into the hands of Jim Crow.

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