MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE |  Harry Harwood

THE 1928 and 1930 COMINTERN RESOLUTIONS ON THE
BLACK NATIONAL QUESTION IN THE UNITED STATES

With an Introduction by
Lowell Young

REVOLUTIONARY REVIEW PRESS Washington, D.C.1975


Prepared for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, djr@cruzio.com (March 1998)
Contained herein are the complete, unaltered texts of the 1928 and 1930 Communist International Resolutions on the Negro Question in the United States. The 1928 Resolution initially appeared in The Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Workers (Communist) Party of America, on February 12, 1929. The 1930 Resolution was first published in Volume VIII, Number 2 (February 1st, 1931) of The Communist International, a semimonthly journal defunct since 1940.

    INTRODUCTION


     

        Do Black people in the United States constitute a nation, a national minority, or a nation in the "Black Belt" South and a national minority in all other regions?
        Such was the essence of one of the burning issues within the American left and the movement for Black liberation from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s. And, after a more than three decade hiatus, on the heels of the simultaneous and overlapping Black cultural revolution and the political movement for Black liberation in the 1960s and the resurgence of Marxism-Leninism within both the White and Black lefts in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the question of a Black nation has become a burning issue once again.
        Prior to the 1920s, the "Negro" question in the United States had not been considered a special problem by the American left. The various left parties active in the United States prior to the twentieth century and the Socialist Party, the organizational embodiment of the radical movement in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the outbreak of World War I, all shared the same view. They believed that Black people in the United States were a component part of the American working class -- admittedly the most exploited sector, but nothing more.
        The Communist movement in the United States began to take on organizational form following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. Initially, the Communists' view of Black people did not fundamentally differ from that of the Socialist Party or its various nineteenth century predecessors. Though the most exploited sector of the working class due to the added oppression arising out of being of a different color than the majority, the Negro minority's struggle for liberation was, according to the Communists, inexorably bound up with the struggle for proletarian revolution in the United States. In other words, since social equality for Black people in the most complete sense could never be a reality under bourgeois democracy, Negroes should link their struggle for complete social equality with the struggle to establish a proletarian dictatorship in the United States, the only circumstance in which complete social equality for Black people is possible.
        However similar their lines may have been in relation to the struggles of Black people, much separated the practice of the Communist movement from that of the Socialist Party (or what might more correctly be referred to as the Social-Democratic movement in the United States). For example, though calling for complete equality for Black people in its party program, the Socialist Party established dual chapters (one White, one Black) in the Southern states, and for the most part remained aloof from the Black people's day to day struggles for survival.

        On the other hand, the various Communist organizations, and eventually the united Party [the Workers (Communist) Party of America -- resulting from the merger of the Communist Party and the Workers Party in 1923, which ultimately became the Communist Party U.S.A. in 1930] actively recruited Blacks on the basis of complete equality and militantly involved themselves in (and, indeed, often led) a number of Black struggles. But, while large numbers of Black people respected Communists for defending Negro rights, Blacks did not join the Party in large numbers for the following reasons: I) its line on matters relating to religion placed the Party in direct opposition to the Church, the single most influential institution in the Black community; 2) instances of White chauvinism periodically occurred within the Party itself; and 3) the Party had done little organizing in the "Black Belt" South, the area in which the majority of Blacks living in the United States were then concentrated. Thus, according to a report presented to the Sixth Congress of the Communist International in 1928 by a Black American delegate, the Party in the United States had fewer than fifty Negro members and had yet to organize even one Negro labor union.
        In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of newly-arrived Black residents in the industrial centers of the North, as well as many of their brothers and sisters in the South, had come under the partial influence of the Nationalist and Pan-Africanist ideology of Marcus Garvey. A native of Jamaica, and a printer and editor by trade, Garvey had relocated to New York City in 1917 and there founded the first American section of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), an organization initiated by him in the West Indies in 1914.
        Appealing to the masses over the heads of their conservative leaders, and basing his appeals upon a glorification of everything Black, Carvey enjoyed wide support among lower middle-class Blacks and Black workers. It has been variously estimated that his movement was composed of somewhere between one million and four million activists and supporters during its peak years in the mid-1920s.
        Better than any other individual or group, Garvey spoke to the post-World War I disenchantment of the newly-arrived Black masses in the North, who, contrary to expectations, continued to face discrimination in employment and housing. However, Garvey did not confine his work to the North, with the result being that his movement was strong in the South as well.
        Initially, Garvey's movement had a working class orientation. At the UNIA's first national convention in 1920, Garvey attacked differential wage scales for White and Black workers, Black exclusion from unions, the taxing of unrepresented Blacks, the drafting of Black men into America's armed services, and the continuance of Jim Crow and Iynching. Also, Garvey spoke highly of the Soviet Union and declared himself in support of self-determination of all peoples. At the heart of Garvey's philosophy, however, was his belief that Black people could not attain true equality and freedom wherever they constituted a minority. Thus, "Back to Africa" ultimately became his movement's principal slogan, and, as a means of stimulating financial support for his program among (White) American capitalists, Garvey reduced himself to cautioning his followers not to align with the American labor movement, but to instead cooperate with White employers by working for lower wages than White workers.
        Since, historically, the overwhelming majority of Black people in the United States have viewed (and continue to view) America as their liberation struggle's principal battleground, Garvey's goal of transporting multitudes of Black Americans to Africa was never realized. Imprisoned and later deported as an undesirable alien, Garvey eventually died in lonely exile. However, he succeeded in instilling a deep sense of pride among the Black masses, both as individuals and as a people, a legacy for which he will long be remembered.
        Garvey's success in arousing a significant portion of the masses of Black people in the United States -- and the failure of the Workers (Communist) Party of America to do likewise -- did not go unnoticed by the Third Communist International, at that time the international Communist movement's leading body. Founded in March of 1919 for the purpose of giving direction to the various Communist Parties and groups comprising the international Communist movement, the Third Communist International -- the Comintern -- was made up of representatives from most of the countries in which Communist Parties and movements then existed. Though it is true that policies of the Comintern were arrived at through a process of open, and often intense, debate, it is also true that, by virtue of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union being the only Communist Party then in state power, many of the other Parties from around the world tended to defer to the judgment of the Soviet Party and thus accepted strategies and tactics for revolution in a particular country that did not necessarily correspond to that country's objective conditions. While the Chinese Communist Party was a notable exception to such tailism, the Communist movement in the United States was one of the worst offenders.
        Not long after its inception, the Comintern began addressing itself to national and colonial matters. The Second Congress of the Comintern, held in July of 1920, adopted Lenin's "Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions", which served to link up the working class struggles in the imperialist countries with the national liberation movements then beginning to unfold in the colonies, thus, making the latter movements a component part of the world-wide Socialist revolution. The Fourth (1922) and Sixth (1928) Comintern Congresses both thoroughly analyzed the state of the various national liberation movements in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. The Fourth Congress primarily confined itself to a discussion of the revolutionary movements in the East, and made only token reference to the danger of the working class in certain imperialist countries dividing along racial lines. On the other hand, the Sixth Congress, which dealt with the various liberation movements in every region of the world, included in its exhaustive theses a section on the "Negro Question."

    "39.   In connection with the colonial question the Sixth Congress draws close attention of the Communist parties to the negro question. The posltion of the negroes varies in different countries . . .
        In the United States are to be found 12 million negroes. The majority of them are tenants, paying rent in kind and living under semifeudal and semislave conditions The positlon of these negro tenant-farmers is exactly the same as that of agricultural labourers, being only formally distinguisable from the slavery that the Constitution is supposed to have abolished. The white landowner, uniting in one person the landlord, merchant and usurer, employs the Iynching of negroes, segregation and other methods of American bourgeois de mocracy, reproducing the worst forms of exploitation of the slavery period. Owing to the industrialization of the South, a negro proletariat is coming into existence. At the same time, the emigration of the negroes to the North continues at an ever-increasing rate, where the huge majority of the negroes become unskilled labourers. The growth of the negro pro letariat is the most important phenomenon of recent years. At the same time, there arises in the negro quuters -- the negro ghetto -- a petty bourgeoisie, from which is derived a stratum of intellectuals and a thin stratum of bourgeoisie, the latter acting as the agent of imperialism.
        One of the most important tasks of the Communist Party consists in the struggle for a complete and real equality of the negroes, for the abolition of all kinds of racial, social and political inequalities . . . In those regions of the South in which compact negro masses are living, it is essential to put forward the slogan of the 'Right of self-determination for negroes!' A radical transformation of the agrarian structure of the Southern states is one of the basic tasks of the revolution. . . . Only the victorious proletarian revolution will completely and permanently solve the agrarian and national questions of the Southern United States in the interests of the overwhelm ing majority of the negro population of the country."[1]

        It is clear from the above that the Communist view of Black people in the United States, while in the process of changing, had not yet undergone a thorough break with the past. For example, while calling for the "right of self-determination for negroes" in the South the Sixth Comintern Congress did not explicitly refer to Negroes in the South as a nation.
        At the urging of several Black American delegates to the Sixth Congress, who had earlier pointed out that the Party in the United States had less than fifty Negro members while Garvey could claim the allegiance of more than one million supporters, a subcommittee on the Negro Question was established. The subcommittee subsequently submitted a resolution to the Political Secretariat of the Comintern, which endorsed the resolution and published it on October 26, 1928.
        The resolution set forth the following conditions as the basis for a national revolutionary movement in the "Black Belt" South:

        "The bulk of the Negro population (86%) live in the Southern states; of this number 74 per cent live in the rural districts and are dependant almost exclusively upon agriculture for a livelihood. Approximately one-half of these rural dwellers live in the so-called 'Black Belt', in which they constitute more than 50 per cent of the entire population. The great mass of the Negro agrarian population are subject to the most ruthless exploitation and persecution of a semi-slave character. In addition to the ordinary forms of capitalist exploitation, American imperialism utilizes every possible form of slave exploitation (peonage, share-cropping, landlord supervision of crops and marketing, etc.) for the purpose of extracting super-profits. On the basis of these slave remnants, there has grown up a superstructure of social and political inequality that expresses itself in Iynching, segregation, Jim Crowism, etc."

        Having established the conditions for a national revolutionary movement in the "Black Belt" South (conditions which have undergone pronounced change during the past half-century), the resolution then identified the motive forces of the movement and the root problem the movement was to resolve:

        "The Negro agricultural laborers and the tenant farmers feel most the pressure of white persecution and exploitation. Thus, the agrarian problem lies at the root of the Negro national movement."

        It is the duty of the Negro workers, the resolution went on to state in essence, to organize the struggle of the agricultural laborers and tenant farmers and the duty of the Workers (Communist) Party of America to actively involve White workers in that struggle. And further along, in the last significant reference to the national revolutionary movement in the "Black Belt", the American Party's two-fold task in relation to that movement was summed up:

        "While continuing and intensifying the struggle under the slogan of full social and political equality for the Negroes which must remain the central slogan of our party for work among the masses, the Party must come out openly and unreservedly for the right of Negroes to national self-determination in the southern states, where the Negroes form a majority of the population."

        Conspicuously absent from the 1928 Comintern resolution -- although it was strongly implied in several instances -- was the categorical assertion that the Negro inhabitants of the "Black Belt" constituted a nation. Only upon publication of the 1930 resolution would such be stated un equivocably. Before moving to that, however, attention is due the fact tl:at less than one-fifth of the 1928 resolution actually dealt with a possible

    page 6

    national revolutionary movement in the "Black Belt". Among the more interesting highlights of the remaining four-fifths of the document was the presentation of the American Negro Question as a part of a world-wide problem:

        "The Negro race everywhere is an oppressed race. Whether it is a minority (U.S.A., etc.) majority (South Africa) or inhabits a so-called independent state (Liberia, etc.), the Negroes are oppressed by imperialism. Thus, a common tie of interest is established for the revolutionary struggle of race and national liberation from imperialist domination of the Negroes in various parts of the world."

        A further contention of the 1928 Comintern resolution was that a strong Black revolutionary movement in the United States ". . . will be able to influence and direct the revolutionary movement in all those parts of the world where the Negroes are oppressed by imperialism." Of course, the proposed introduction of Black American Communists into other countries for the purpose of directing those countries' revolutionary struggles did not take into account the truth that revolution develops ". . . in different countries in different forms and at different tempos (and it cannot be otherwise)."[2] In other words, due to a particular country's peculiar economic and political development (along with peculiar historical, cultural and various other traditions) only indigenous people can lead a particular country's revolutionary struggle. Furthermore, in considering the influence factor by itself, it should be pointed out that very nearly the exact opposite of what the Comintern foresaw happening actually occurred: primarily, the national liberation struggles of the Third World peoples oppressed by imperialism influenced the Black liberation struggle in the United States.
        In addition, the 1928 resolution addressed itself to other matters having relevance today, including the importance of engaging in trade union work among the Black proletariat and the necessity of combatting the White chauvinism existing within the ranks of the Party and ". . . especially among the workers of the oppressing nationality." Also, the importance of bringing Black women into the economic and political struggle was stressed, as was the necessity of exposing the treacherous Negro petty bourgeoisie and the Black preachers and churchmen, ". . . the agents of the oppressors of the Negro race."
        On October 26, 1930, the Executive Committee of the Third Communist International issued a follow-up resolution on the Negro Question in the United States. Unlike the 1928 resolution, the 1930 document clarified beyond any doubt the Communist view of the precise nature of the American Negro Question:

        "In the interest of the utmost clarity of ideas on this question the Negro Question in the United States must be viewed from the standpoint of its peculiarity, namely as the question of an oppressed nation, which is in a peculiar and

    extraordinarily distressing situation of national oppression not only in view of the prominent racial distinctions (marked difference in the colour of skin, etc.), but above all because of considerable social antagonism (remnants of slavery) . . . Furthermore, it is necessary to face clearly the inevitable distinction between the position of the Negro in the South and in the North, owing to the fact that at least three-fourths of the entire Negro population of the United States (12 million) live in compact masses in the South, most of them being peasants and agricultural labourers in a state of semi-serfdom, settled in the 'Black Belt' and constituting the majority of the population, whereas the Negroes in the Northern States are for the most part industrial workers of the lowest categories who have recently come to the various industrial centres from the South (having often even fled from there).
        The struggle of the Communists for the equal rights of the Negroes applies to all Negroes, in the North as well as in the South. The struggle for this slogan embraces all or almost all of the important special interests of the Negroes in the North, but not in the South, where the main Communist slogan must be: The right of self-determination of the Negroes in the Black Belt ."

        After addressing itself to various aspects of the struggle for equal rights, the 1930 resolution then turned to the self-determination struggle in the "Black Belt." In response to the question of whether or not the "Black Belt" should be looked upon as a colony, or as an "integral part of the national economy of the United States," the Comintern replied thusly:

        "It is not correct to consider the Negro zone of the South as a colony of the United States . . . The Black Belt is not in itself, either economically or politically, such a united whole as to warrant its being called a,special colony of the United States, but on the other hand this zone is not, either economically or politically, such an integral Rart of the whole United States as any other part of the country."

        The three basic demands of the strueele in the "Black Belt" were identified as the following:

        1) "Confiscation of the landed property of the White landowners and capitalists for the benefit of the Negro farmers."
        2) "Establishment of the State Unity of the Black Belt."
        3) "Right of Self-Determination"

        In relation to the latter demand, contemporary forces should ponder well the essence of what the 1930 resolution had to say regarding the various positions the Communist Party should take at different points of the self-determination struggle:

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        "If the proletariat has come into power in the United States, the Communist Negroes will not come out for but against separation of the Negro Republic federation with the United States. But the right of the Negroes to governmental separation will be unconditionally realized by the Communist Party, it will unconditionally give the Negro population of the Black Belt freedom of choice even on this question. . . . But the question at the present time is not this. As long capitalism rules in the United States the Communists cannot come out against governmental separation of the Negro zone from the United States."

        Further along, the resolution dealt with the special task of Black Communists:

        "Negro Communists must carry on among the Negro masses an energetic struggle against nationalist moods directed indiscriminately against all whites, workers as well as capitalists, Communists as well as imperialists. Their constant call to the Negro masses must be: revolutionary struggle against the ruling white bourgeoisie, through a fghting alliance with the revolutionary white proletariat! "

        In concluding, the 1930 resolution did not attempt to prophesy the exact manner in which the Black liberation struggle would unfold and did not cover up or minimize the chauvinism existing within the ranks of the White working class:

        "Whether the rebellion of the Negroes is to be the outcome of a general revolutionary situation in the United States, whether it is to originate in the whirlpool of decisive fights for power by the working-class, for proletarian dictatorship, or whether on the contrary, the Negro rebellion will be the prelude of gigantic struggles for power by the American proletariat, cannot be foretold now. But in either contingency, it is essential for the Communist Party to make an energetic beginning already now with organization of joint mass struggles of white and black workers against Negro oppression. This alone will enable us to get rid of the bourgeois white chauvinism which is polluting the ranks of the white workers of America, to overcome the distrust of the Negro masses . . . and to win over to our side these millions of Negroes as active fellow fighters in the struggle for the overthrow of bourgeois power throughout America."

        The seven-year period between 1928 and 1935 was one in which "self-determination for the 'Black Belt'" constituted one of the C.P.U.S.A.'s principal slogans -- and the prirnary slogan propagated among Blacks, North and South alike. A great deal of intense organizational work was carried out in connection with the slogan, including the establishment in 1931 of the overwhelmingly Black Sharecroppers Union in the rural areas of the South and the attempted unionization of Black steelworkers and longshoremen in Birmingham, Alabama, and other southern cities.

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    Also, beginning in 1931, the Party led the mass movement to free the Scottsboro Boys, nine Black youths falsely accused of raping two White women. Without a doubt, the C.P.'s influence among Blacks throughout the entire country spread; however, though 200 Black members were reported to be in the Party by March of 1929, and more than 1500 Blacks were claimed to be Party members the following year, even the most liberal estimates for the years between 1928 and 1935 do not credit the Party with ever having more than 2,500 Black members (out of a peak membership of 24,500 for that period).
        Thus, having not been grasped by a meaningful minority of the Black masses, the self-determination theory did not become a material force between the years 1928 and 1935. The United Front period introduced by the Comintern in 1935 (in response to the threat posed to the Soviet Union by the rise of Facism in Japan, Italy and Germany) brought about the indefinite postponement of further mobilization of Black people around the self-determination slogan. Instead, all effort was directed toward bringing all classes of Black people in the United States into the international United Front of Liberals, Social-Democrats and Communists opposing the Facist menace. Clearest of all possible evidence of this change was the program of the National Negro Congress -- a broad coalition of Blacks of all classes and political pursuasions (including Communists) founded in 1936 -- which made no mention of Black people in the South constituting a nation (or of the self-determination slogan). Though reintroducing it for two years immediately prior to World War II, and during the late 1940's and. early 1950's as well, the C.P.U.S.A. was never again to attempt to engage in mass work around the self-determination slogan with the same degree of militancy and intensity displayed between 1928 and 1935.
        As a matter of fact, despite the development of profound national consciousness on the part of all classes of Black people in the United States during the Civil Rights and Black liberation struggles of the past two decades, for the better part of the past twenty years the C.P.U.S.A. has gone to great lengths to discredit the concept of self-determination for Black Americans -- be they in the "Black Belt" or in any other part of the country. This action on the part of the C.P.U.S.A. coincides with the betrayal of the Socialist revolution in Russia by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (which, despite the Comintern's dissolution in 1943, the American Party continues to tail behind) and the establishment of a not-too-thinly veiled form of State Capitalism in that country. But the Chinese Communist Party, under the leadership of Chairman Mao Tsetung, exposed the revisionist and social-imperialist nature of the Soviet Union, and at the same time prevented the restoration of capitalism in China itself through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. These actions on the part of the Chinese gave rise to "New Communist" Movements in a significant number of countries throughout the world.

    page 10

     

        Basing themselves on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, the movements in the various countries have developed unevenly, with parties of varying strength having been created in some places, but not yet in others.
        In the United States, the "New Communist" Movement has so far resulted in the founding of one "Party," -- the Communist Labor Party of the United States of North America (CLP) -- and a number of pre-party groups, including the Revolutionary Union (RU), the Black Workers Congress (BWC), the October League (OL), the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), the August Twenty-Ninth Movement (ATM), and the Congress of Afrikan People (CAP). Their many differences notwithstanding, most of the above groups have revived the Black national question in the United States, and have staked out various lines in relation to it.
        The CLP, in admitting differences with certain aspects of the Comintern resolutions, puts forth the position that a "Negro" Nation currently exists in the "Black Belt" South, with this "nation" consisting of all of the Black and White inhabitants therein -- all of whom are "Negroes." The CLP's slogan in relation to the question is "independence for the Negro Nation!" The RU, on the other hand, states that the Comintern resolutions were essentially correct at the time they were written, but that certain changes in the economic conditions and the demography of the "Black Belt" render certain aspects of the Comintern documents obsolete. Accordingly, the RU asserts that the "Black Belt" nation no longer exists, but that Black people in the United States nonetheless constitute a nation, "a nation of a new type," existing wherever Black people reside. The RU professes to extend the right of self-determination to this "nation of a new type," but goes on to state in essence that in the event of proletarian revolution in the United States the actual exercising of the right of self-determination would be a step backwards and should thus be avoided. Other groups, especially the BWC and the OL, give what amounts to blanket support for all the principal tenents of the Comintern resolutions. Thus, in the opinion of these groups, the same nation the Comintern said existed in the "Black Belt" in 1930 still exists today, and that this nation is entitled to the right of self-determination. CAP, unique in that it works simultaneously within the "New Communist" Movement and the movement for Black liberation (though the two movements have yet to merge), has thus far failed to present a position on the national question. However, the matter is presently under study within the group, as it is within the Black liberation movement generally.
        [While it is the contention of Revolutionary Review Press that the various lines of the "New Communist" groups that have thus far taken a position on the Black National Question are incorrect, insufficient research on its part prevents Revolutionary Review Press from coherently expounding a well-thought-out position at this time. Revolutionary

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    Review Press's line on the Black National Question is currently being developed and will be presented in a future Revolutionary Review Press publication.]
        In the course of the contemporary struggle surrounding the Black National Question in the United States, most of the above groups have issued theoretical arguments of varying length and quality.[3] Though constant reference is made to the Comintern Resolutions, and numerous quotes are extracted from them, none of the published material direct the reader to sources containing complete texts of the resolutions and, with one exception, none include the resolutions in their entirety. And there are problems with the exception.
        Without citing its source, the CLP includes the 1928 and 1930 Comintern Resolutions in the publication Negro National Colonial Question. However, several major differences and several dozen minor discrepencies exist between the version of the resolutions published by the CLP and the final texts of the resolutions as confirmed at the time of their publication by the Political Secretariat of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.
        Thus, for a variety of reasons, including in order that the description of conditions prevailing more than forty-five years ago may be compared with the conditions prevailing today, and that the practical manifestations of policies, slogans and predictions put forth more than forty-five years ago may be determined correctly, complete, unedited versions of the original texts of the Comintern documents are needed. With that in mind, and as a means of furthering the people's revolutionary struggle in the United States, Revolutionary Review Press hereby presents to all those searching for answers to an as yet unresolved historical question the 1928 and 1930 Comintern Resolutions on the Black National Question in the United States.

    Lowell Young        

    Washington, D.C., April, 1975



     
    I. THE 1928 COMINTERN RESOLUTION ON THE NEGRO
    QUESTION IN THE UNITED STATES.

     

        1. The industrialization of the South, the concentration of a new Negro working class population in the big cities of the East and North and the entrance of the Negroes into the basic industries on a mass scale, create the possibility for the Negro workers, under the leadership of the Communist Party, to assume the hegemony of all Negro liberation movements, and to increase their importance and role in the revolutionary struggle of the American proletariat.
        The Negro working class has reached a stage of develop ment which enables it, if properly organized and well led, to fulfill successfully its double historical mission:
        (a) To play a considerable role in the class struggle against American imperialism as an important part of the American working class; and
        (b) To lead the movement of the oppressed masses of the Negro population.

        2. The bulk of the Negro population (86%) live in the southern states; of this number 74 per cent live in the rural districts and are dependent almost exclusively upon agriculture for a livelihood. Approximately one-half of these rural dwellers live in the so-called "Black Belt," in which area they constitute more than 50 per cent of the entire population. The great mass of the Negro agrarian population are subject to the most ruthless exploitation and persecution of a semi-slave character. In addition to the ordinary forms of capitalist exploitation, American imperialism utilizes every possible form of slave exploitation (peonage, share-cropping, landlord supervision of crops and marketing, etc.) for the purpose of extracting super-profits. On the basis of these slave remnants, there has grown up a super-structure of social and political inequality that expresses itself in Iynching, segregation, Jim Crowism, etc.

    Necessary Conditions for National Revolutionary Movement.

        3. The various forms of oppression of the Negro masses, who are concentrated mainly in the so-called "Black Belt," provide the necessary conditions for a national revolutionary movement among the Negroes. The Negro agricultural laborers and the tenant farmers feel most the pressure of white persecution and exploitation. Thus, the agrarian problem lies at the root of the Negro national movement. The great majority of Negroes in the rural districts of the south are not "reserves of capitalist reaction," but potential allies of the revolutionary proletariat. Their objective position facilitates their transforma tion into a revolutionary force, which, under the leadership of the proletariat, will be able to participate in the joint struggle with all other workers against capitalist exploitation.

        4. It is the duty of the Negro workers to organize through the mobilization of the broad masses of the Negro population the struggle of the agricultural laborers and tenant farmers against all forms of semi-feudal oppression. On the other hand, it is the duty of the Communist Party of the U.S.A. to mobilize and rally the broad masses of the white workers for active participation in this struggle. For that reason the Party must consider the beginning of systematic work in the south as one of its main tasks, having regard for the fact that the bringing together of the workers and toiling masses of all nationalities for a joint struggle against the landowners and the bourgeoisie is one of the most important aims of the Communist International, as laid down in the resolutions on the national and colonial question of the Second and Sixth Congresses of the Comintern.

     

    For Complete Emancipation of Oppressed Negro Race.

        5. To accomplish this task, the Communist Party must come out as the champion of the right of the oppressed Negro race for full emancipation. While continuing and intensifying the struggle under the slogan of full social and political equality for the Negroes, which must remain the central slogan of our Party for work among the masses, the Party must come out openly and unreservedly for the right of the Negroes to national self-determination in the southern states, where the Negroes form a majority of the population. The struggle for equal rights and the propaganda for the slogan of self-determination must be linked up with the economic demands of the Negro masses, especially those directed against the slave remnants and all

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    forms of national and racial oppression. Special stress must be laid upon organizing active resistance against Iynching, Jim Crowism, segregation and all other forms of oppression of the Negro population.

        6. All work among the Negroes, as well as the struggle for the Negro cause among the whites, must be used, based upon the changes which have taken place in the relationship of classes among the Negro population. The existence of a Negro industrial proletariat of almost two million workers makes it imperative that the main emphasis should be placed on these new proletarian forces. The Negro workers must be organized under the leadership of the Communist Party, and thrown into joint struggle together with the white workers. The Party must learn to combine all demands of the Negroes with the economic and political struggle of the workers and the poor farmers.


     

    American Negro Question Part of World Problem.

        7. The Negro question in the United States must be treated in its relation to the Negro questions and struggles in other parts of the world. The Negro race everywhere is an oppressed race. Whether it is a minority (U.S.A., etc.), majority (South Africa) or inhabits a so-called independent state (Liberia, etc.), the Negroes are oppressed by imperialism. Thus, a common tie of interest is established for the revolutionary struggle of race and national liberation from imperialist domination of the Negroes in various parts of the world. A strong Negro revolutionary movement in the U.S.A. will be able to influence and direct the revolutionary movement in all those parts of the world where the Negroes are oppressed by imperialism.

        8. The proletarianization of the Negro masses makes the trade unions the principal form of mass organization. It is the primary task of the Party to play an active part and lead in the work of organizing the Negro workers and agricultural laborers in trade unions. Owing to the refusal of the majority of the white unions in the U.S.A., led by the reactionary leaders, to admit Negroes to membership, steps must be immediately taken to set up special unions for those Negro workers who are not allowed to join the white unions. At the same time, however, the struggles for the inclusion of Negro workers in the existing unions must be intensified and concentrated upon, special attention must be given to those unions in which the statutes and rules set up special limitations against the admission of Negro workers. Primary duty of Communist Party in this connection is to wage a merciless struggle against the A. F. of L. bureaucracy, which prevents the Negro workers from joining the white workers' unions. The organization of special trade unions for the Negro masses must be carried out as part and parcel of the struggle against the restrictions imposed upon the Negro workers and for their admission to the white workers' unions. The creation of separate Negro unions should in no way weaken the struggle in the old unions for the admission of Negroes on equal terms. Every effort must be made to see that all the new unions organized by the Left wing and by the Communist Party should embrace the workers of all nation alities and of all races. The principle of one union for all workers in each industry, white and black, should cease to be a mere slogan of propaganda, and must become a slogan of action.

    Party Trade Union Work Among Negroes.

        9. While organizing the Negroes into unions and conducting an aggressive struggle against the anti-Negro trade union policy of the A. F. of L., the Party must pay more attention than it has hitherto done to the work in the Negro workers' organizations, such as the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Chicago Asphalt Workers' Union, and so on. The existence of two million Negro workers and the further industrialization of the Negroes demand a radical change in the work of the Party among the Negroes. The creation of working class organizations and the extension of our influence in the existing working class Negro organizations, are of much greater importance than the work in bourgeois and petty-bourgeois organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Pan-African Congress, etc.

        10. The American Negro Labor Congress[4] continues to exist only nominally. Every effort should be made to strengthen this organization as a medium through which we can extend the work of the Party among the Negro masses and mobilize the Negro workers under our leadership. After careful preparatory work, which must be started at once, another convention of the American Negro Labor Congress should be held. A concrete plan must also be presented to the Congress for an intensified struggle for the economic, social, political and national demands of the Negro masses. The program of the American Negro Labor Congress must deal specially with the agrarian demands of the Negro farmers and tenants in the south.

        11. The importance of trade union work imposes special tasks upon the Trade Union Educational League.[5] The T.U.E.L. has completely neglected the work among the Negro workers, notwithstanding the fact that these workers are objectively in a position to play a very great part in carrying through the program of organizing the unorganized. The closest contact must be established between the T.U.E.L. and the Negro masses. The T.U.E.L. must become the champion in the struggle for the rights of the Negroes in the old unions, and in the organizing of new unions for both Negroes and whites, as well as separate Negro unions.


     

    White Chauvinism Evidenced in the American Party.

        The C.E.C. of the American Communist Party itself stated in its resolution of April 30, 1928, that "the Party as a whole has not sufficiently realized the significance of work among the Negroes." Such an attitude toward the Party work among the Negroes is, however, not satisfactory. The time is ripe to begin within the Party a courageous campaign of self-criticism concerning the work among the Negroes. Penetrating self-criticism is the necessary preliminary condition for directing the Negro work along new lines.

        13. The Party must bear in mind that white chauvinism, which is the expression of the ideological influence of American imperialism among the workers, not only prevails among different strata of the white workers in the U.S.A., but is even reflected in various forms in the Party itself. White chauvinism has manifested itself even in open antagonism of some comrades to the Negro comrades. In some instances where Communists were called upon to champion and to lead in the most vigorous manner the fight against white chauvinism, they instead yielded to it. In Gary, white members of the Workers Party protested against Negroes eating in the restaurant controlled by the Party. In Detroit, Party members, yielding to pressure, drove out Negro comrades from a social given in aid of the miners on strike.
        Whilst the Party has taken certain measures against these manifestations of white chauvinism, nevertheless those manifestations must be regarded as indications of race prejudice even in the ranks of the Party, which must be fought with the utmost energy.

        14. An aggressive fight against all forms of white chauvinism must be accompanied by a widespread and thorough educational campaign in the spirit of internationalism within the Party, utilizing for this purpose to the fullest possible extent the Party schools, the Party press and the public platform, to stamp out all forms of antagonism, or even indifference among our white comrades toward the Negro work. This educational work should be conducted simultaneously with a campaign to draw the white workers and the poor farmers into the struggle for the support of the demands of the Negro workers.


     

    Tasks of Party in Relation to Negro Work.

        15. The Communist Party of the U.S.A. in its treatment of the Negro question must all the time bear in mind this twofold task:
        (a) To fight for the full rights of the oppressed Negroes and for their right to self-determination and against all forms of chauvinism, especially among the workers of the oppressing nationality.
        (b) The propaganda and the day-to-day practice of international class solidarity must be considered as one of the basic tasks of the American Communist Party. The fight -- by propaganda and by deeds -- should be directed first and foremost against the chauvinism of the workers of the oppressing nationality as well as against bourgeois segregation tendencies of the oppressed nationality. The propaganda of international class solidarity is the necessary prerequisite for the unity of the working class in the struggle.

        "The center of gravity in educating the workers of the oppressing countries in the principles of internationalism must inevitably consist in the propaganda and defense by these workers of the right of segregation by the oppressed countries. We have the right and duty to treat every socialist of an oppressing nation, who does not conduct such propaganda, as an imperialist and as a scoundrel." (Lenin, selected articles on the national question.)

        16. The Party must seriously take up the task of training a cadre of Negro comrades as leaders, bring them into the Party schools in the U.S.A. and abroad, and make every effort to draw Negro proletarians into active and leading work in the Party, not confining the activities of the Negro comrades exclusively to the work among Negroes. Simultaneously, white workers must specially be trained for work among tne Negroes.

        17. Efforts must be made to transform the "Negro Champion"[6] into a weekly mass organ of the Negro proletariat and tenant farmers. Every encouragement and inducement must be given to the Negro comrades to utilize the Party press generally.

     

    Negro Work Part of General Work of Party.

        18. The Party must link up the struggle on behalf of the Negroes with the general campaigns of the Party. The Negro problem must be part and parcel of all and every campaign conducted by the Party. In the election campaigns, trade union work, the campaigns for the organization of the unorganized, anti-imperialist work, labor party campaign, International Labor Defense, etc.,[7] the Central Executive Committee must work out plans designed to draw the Negroes into active participation in all these campaigns, and at the same time to bring the white workers into the struggle on behalf of the Negroes' demands. It must be borne in mind that the Negro masses will not be won for the revolutionary struggles until such time as the most conscious section of the white workers show, by action, that they are fighting with the Negroes against all racial discrimination and persecution. Every member of the Party must bear in mind that "the age-long oppression of the colonial and weak nationalities by the imperialist powers, has given rise to a feeling of bitterness among the masses of the enslaved countries as well as a feeling of distrust toward the oppressing nations in general and toward the proletariat of those nations." (See resolution on Colonial and National Question of Second Congress.)

        19. The Negro women in industry and on the farms constitute a powerful potential force in the struggle for Negro emancipation. By reason of being unorganized to an even greater extent than male Negro workers, they are the most exploited section. The A. F. of L. bureaucracy naturally exercises toward them a double hostility, by reason of both their color and sex. It therefore becomes an important task of the Party to bring the Negro women into the economic and political struggle.

        20. Only by an active and strenuous fight on the part of the white workers against all forms of oppression directed against the Negroes, will the Party be able to draw into its ranks the most active and conscious Negro workers -- men and women -- and to increase its influence in those intermediary organizations which are necessary for the mobilization of the Negro masses in the struggle against segregation, Iynching, Jim Crowism, etc.

        21. In the present struggle in the mining industry, the Negro workers participate actively and in large numbers. The leading role the Party played in this struggle has helped greatly to increase its prestige. Nevertheless, the special efforts being made by the Party in the work among the Negro strikers cannot be considered as adequate. The Party did not send enough Negro organizers into the coalfields, and it did not sufficiently attempt, in the first stages of the fight, to develop the most able Negro strikers and to place them in leading positions. The Party must be especially criticized for its failure to put Negro workers on the Presidium of the Pittsburgh Miners' Conference, doing so only after such representation was demanded by the Negroes themselves.

        22. In the work among the Negroes, special attention should be paid to the role played by the churches and preachers who are acting on behalf of American imperialism. The Party must conduct a continuous and carefully worked out campaign among the Negro masses, sharpened primarily against the preachers and the churchmen, who are the agents of the oppressors of the Negro race.

     

    Party Work Among Negro Proletariat and Peasantry.

        23. The Party must apply united front tactics for specific demands to the existing Negro petty bourgeois organizations. The purpose of these united front tactics should be the mobilizing of the Negro masses under the leadership of the Party, and to expose the treacherous petty bourgeois leadership of those organizations.

        24. The Negro Miners Relief Committee and the Harlem Tenants League are examples of joint organizations of action which may serve as a means of drawing the Negro masses into struggle. In every case the utmost effort must be made to combine the struggle of the Negro workers with the struggle of the white workers, and to draw the white workers' organizations into such joint campaigns.

        25. In order to reach the bulk of the Negro masses, special attention should be paid to the work among the Negroes in the South. For that purpose, the Party should establish a district organization in the most suitable locality in the South. Whilst continuing trade union work among the Negro workers and the agricultural laborers, special organizations of tenant farmers must be set up. Special efforts must also be made to secure the support of the share croppers in the creation of such organizations. The Party must undertake the task of working out a definite program of immediate demands, directed against all slave remnants, which will serve as the rallying slogans for the formation of such peasant organizations.
        Henceforth the Workers (Communist) Party must consider the struggle on behalf of the Negro masses, the task of organizing the Negro workers and peasants and the drawing of these oppressed masses into the proletarian revolutionary struggle, as one of its major tasks, remembering, in the words of the Second Congress resolution, that "the victory over capitalism cannot be fully achieved and carried to its ultimate goal unless the proletariat and the toiling masses of all nations of the world rally of their own accord in a concordant and close union. (Political Secretariat, Communist International, Moscow, U.S.S.R., Oct. 26, 1928.)


     

    II. THE 1930 COMINTERN RESOLUTION ON THE NEGRO
    QUESTION IN THE UNITED STATES

    (Final Text, confirmed by the Political Secretariat of the
    E.C.C.I.
    , October 26, 1930 )

        The C.P. of the United States has always acted openly and energetically against negro oppression, and has thereby won increasing sympathy among the Negro population. In its own ranks, too, the Party has relentlessly fought the slightest evidences of white chauvinism, and has purged itself of the gross opportunism of the Lovestoneites. According to the assertions of these people, the "industrial revolution" will sweep away the remnants of slavery in the agricultural South, and will proletarianise the Negro peasantry, so that the Negro question, as a special national question, would thereby be presumably solved, or could be put off until the time of the socialist revolution in America. But the Party has not yet succeeded in overcoming in its own ranks all under-estimation of the struggle for the slogan of the right of self-determination, and still less succeeded in doing away with all lack of clarity on the Negro question. I n the Party discussion the question was often wrongly put and much erroneous counter-poising of phases of the question occurred, thus, for instance, should the slogan of social equality or the slogan of the right of self-determination of the Negroes be emphasised. Should only propaganda for the Negroes' right to self-determination be carried on, or should this slogan be considered as a slogan of action; should separatist tendencies among the Negroes be supported or opposed; is the Southern region, thickly populated by Negroes, to be looked upon as a colony, or as an "integral part of the national economy of the United States," where presumably a revolutionary situation cannot arise independent of the general revolutionary development in the United States?

    page 23

     

        In the interest of the utmost clarity of ideas on th is question the Negro question in the United States must be viewed from the standpoint of its peculiarity, namely as the question of an oppressed nation, which is in a peculiar and extraordinarily distressing situation of national oppression not only in view of the prominent racial distinctions (marked difference in the colour of skin, etc.), but above all because of considerable social antagonism (remnants of slavery). This introduces into the American Negro question an important, peculiar trait which is absent from the national question of other oppressed peoples. Furthermore, it is necessary to face clearly the inevitable distinction between the position of the Negro in the South and in the North, owing to the fact that at least three-fourths of the entire Negro population of the United States (12 million) live in compact masses in the South, most of them being peasants and agricultural labourers in a state of semi-serfdom, settled in the "Black Belt" and constituting the majority of the population, whereas the Negroes in the Northern States are for the most part industrial workers of the lowest categories who have recently come to the various industrial centres from the South (having often even fled from there).
        The struggle of the Communists for the equal rights of the Negroes applies to all Negroes, in the North as well as in the South. The struggle for this slogan embraces all or almost all of the important special interests of the Negroes in the North, but not in the South, where the main Communist slogan must be: The right of self-determination of the Negroes in the Black Belt. These two slogans, however, are most closely connected. The Negroes in the North are very much interested in winning the right of self-determination for the Negro population of the Black Belt and can thereby hope for strong support for the establishment of true equality of the Negroes in the North. In the South the Negroes are suffering no less but still more than in the North from the glaring lack of all equality; for the most part the struggle for their most urgent partial demands in the Black Belt is nothing more than the struggle for their equal rights, and only the fulfilment of their main slogan, the right of self-determination in the Black Belt, can assure them of true equality.

     

    I. The Struggle for the Equal Rights of the Negroes.

        2.[*] The basis for the demand of equality of the Negroes is provided by the special yoke to which the Negroes in the United States are subjected by the ruling classes. In comparison with the situation of the other various nationalities and faces oppressed by American imperialism, the yoke of the Negroes in the United States is of a peculiar nature and particularly oppressive. This is partly due to the historical past of the American Negroes as imported slaves, but is much more due to the still existing slavery of the American Negro which is immediately apparent, for example, in comparing their situation even with the situation of the Chinese and Japanese workers in the West of the United States, or with the lot of the Philippinos (Malay race) who are under colonial repression.
        It is only a Yankee bourgeois lie to say that the yoke of Negro slavery has been lifted in the United States. Formally it has been abolished, but in practice the great majority of the Negro masses in the South are living in slavery in the literal sense of the word. Formally, they are "free" as "tenant farmers" or "contract labourers" on the big plantations of the white landowners, but actually, they are completely in the power of their exploiters; they are not permitted, or else it is made impossible for them to leave their exploiters; if they do leave the plantations, they are brought back and in many cases whipped; many of them are simply taken prisoner under various pretexts and, bound together with long chains, they have to do compulsory labour on the roads. All through the South, the Negroes are not only deprived of all rights, and subjected to the arbitrary will of the white exploiters, but they are also socially ostracised, that is, they are treated in general not as human beings, but as cattle. But this ostracism regarding Negroes is not limited to the South. Not only in the South but throughout the United States, the Iynching of Negroes is permitted to go unpunished. Everywhere the American bourgeoisie surrounds the Negroes with an atmosphere of social ostracism.
        The 100 per cent Yankee arrogance divides the American population into a series of castes, among which the Negroes constitute, so to speak, the caste of the "untouchables," who are in a still lower category than the lowest categories of human society, the immigrant labourers, the yellow immigrants and the Indians. In all big cities the Negroes have to live in special segregated ghettoes (and, of course, have to pay extremely high


        * [Transcriber's Note: There is no item "1." preceeding this. Presumably, it was in the previous section, but mistakenly omited. -- DJR]

    rent). In practice, marriage between Negroes and whites is prohibited, and in the South this is even forbidden by law. In various other ways, the Negroes are segregated, and if they overstep the bounds ot the segregation they immediately run the risk of being ill-treated by the 100 per cent bandits. As wage-earners, the Negroes are forced to perform the lowest and most difficult work; they generally receive lower wages than the white workers and don't always get the same wages as white workers doing similar work, and their treatment is the very worst. Many A. F. of L. trade unions do not adrnit Negro workers in their ranks, and a number have organised special trade unions for Negroes so that they will not have to let them into their "good white society."
        This whole system of "segregation" and "Jim Crowism" is a special form of national and social oppression under which the American Negroes have much to suffer. The origin cf all this is not difficult to find: this Yankee arrogance towards tbe Negroes stinks of the disgusting atmosphere of the old slave market. This is downright robbery and slave-whipping barbarism at the peak of capitalist"culture."

        3. The demand for equal rights in our sense of the word means not only demanding the same rights for the Negroes as the whites have in the United States at the present time but also demanding that the Negroes should be granted all rights and other advantages which we demand for the corresponding oppressed classes of whites (workers and other toilers). Thus in our sense of the word, the demand for equal rights means a continuous work of abolishment of all forms of ecanomic and political oppression of the Negroes, as well as 1heir social exclusion, the insults perpetrated against them and their segregation. This is to be obtained by constant stru~gle by the white and black workers for effective legal protection for the Negroes in all fields, as well as actual enforcement of their equality and combating of every expression of Negrophobia. One of the first Communist slogans is: Death for Negro Iynching!
        The struggle for the equal rights of the Negroes does not in any way exclude recognition and support for the Negroes' rights to their own special schools, government organs, etc., wherever the Negro masses put forward such national demands of their own accord. This will, however, in all probability occur to any great extent only in the Black Belt In other parts of the country, the Negroes suffer above all from being shut out from the general social institutions and not from being prohibited to set up their own national institutions. With the development of the Negro intellectuals (principally in the "free" professions) and of a thin layer of small capitalist business people, there have appeared lately, not only definite efforts for developing a purely national Negro culture but also outspoken bourgeois tendencies towards Negro nationalism. The broad masses of the Negro population in the big industrial centres of the North are, however, making no efforts whatsoever to maintain and cultivate a national aloofness, they are, on the contrary, working for assimilation. This effort of the Negro masses can do much in the future to facilitate the progressive process of amalgamating the whites and Negroes into one nation, and it is under no circumstances the task of the Communists to give support to bourgeois nationalism in its fight with the progressive assimilation tendencies of the Negro working masses.

        4. The slogan of equal rights of the Negroes without a relentless struggle in practice against all manifestations of Negrophobia on the part of the American bourgeoisie can be nothing but a deceptive liberal gesture of a sly slave-owner or his agent. This slogan is in fact repeated by "socialist" and many other bourgeois politicians and philanthropists who want to get publicity for themselves by appealing to the "sense of justice" of the American bourgeoisie in the individual treatment of the Negroes, and thereby side-track attention from the one effective struggle against the shameful system of "white superiority": from the class struggle against the American bourgeoisie. The struggle for equal rights for the Negroes is in fact, one of the most important parts of the proletarian class struggle of the United States.
        The struggle for the equal rights for the Negroes must certainly take the form of common struggle by the white and black workers.
        The increasing unity of the various working-class elements provokes constant attempts on the part of the American bourgeoisie to play one group against another, particularly the white workers against the black and the black workers against the immigrant workers and vice versa, and thus to promote divisions within the working-class, which contributes to the bolstering up of American capitalist rule. The Party must carry on a ruthless struggle against all these attempts of the bourgeoi sie and do everything to strengthen the bonds of class solidarity of the working-class upon a lasting basis.

        In the struggle for equal rights for the Negroes, however, it is the duty of the white workers to march at the head on this struggle. They must everywhere make a breach in the walls of segregation and "Jim Crowism" which have been set up by bourgeois slave-market morality. They must most ruthlessly unmask and condemn the hypocritical reformists and bourgeois "friends of Negroes" who, in reality, are only interested in strengthening the power of the enemies of the Negroes. They, the white workers, must boldly jump at the throat of the 100 per cent bandits who strike a Negro in the face. This struggle will be the test of the real international solidarity of the American white workers.
        It is the special duty of the revolutionary Negro workers to carry on tireless activity among the Negro working masses to free them of their distrust of the white proletariat and draw them into the common front of the revolutionary class struggle against the bourgeoisie. They must emphasise with all force that the first rule of proletarian morality is that no worker who wants to be an equal member of his class must ever serve as a strike-breaker or a supporter of bourgeois politics. They must ruthlessly unmask all Negro politicians corrupted or directly bribed by American bourgeois ideology, who systematically interfere with the real proletarian struggle for the equal rights for the Negroes.
        Furthermore, the Communist Party must resist all tendencies within its own ranks to ignore the Negro question as a national question in the United States, not only in the South, but also in the North. It is advisable for the Communist Party in the North to abstain from the establishment of any special Negro organisations, and in place of this to bring the black and white workers together in common organisations of struggle and joint action. Effective steps must be taken for the organisation of Negro workers in the T.U.U.L.[8] and revolutionary trade unions. Under-estimation of this work takes various forms: lack of energy in recruiting Negro workers, in keeping them in our ranks and in drawing them into the full life of the trade unions, in selecting, educating and promoting Negro forces to leading functions in the organisation. The Party must make itself entirely responsible for the carrying through of this very important work. It is most urgently necessary to publish a popular mass paper dealing with the Negro question, edited by white and black comrades, and to have all active followers of this paper grouped organisationally.

    page 28


     

    2. The Struggle for the Right of Self-determination of the
    Negroes in the Black Belt.

        5. It is not correct to consider the Negro zone of the South as a colony of the United States. Such a characterisation of the Black Belt could be based in some respects only upon artificially construed analogies, and would create superfluous difficulties for the clarification of ideas. In rejecting this estimation, however, it should not be overlooked that it would be none the less false to try to make a fundamental distinction between the character of national oppression to which the colonial peoples are subjected and the yoke of other oppressed nations. Fundamentally, national oppression in both cases is of the same character, and is in the Black Belt in many respects worse than in a number of actual colonies. On the one hand the Black Belt is not in itself, either economically or politically, such a united whole as to warrant its being called a special colony of the United States, but on the other hand this zone is not, either economically or politically, such an, integral part of the whole United States as any other part of the country. Industrialisation in the Black Belt is not, as is generally the case in colonies properly speaking, in contradiction with the ruling interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie, which has in its hands the monopoly of the entire industry, but in so far as industry is developed here, it will in no way bring a solution to the question of living conditions of the oppressed Negro majority, or to the agrarian question, which lies at the basis of the national question. On the contrary, this question is still further aggravated as a result of the increase of the contradictions arising from the pre-capitalist forms of exploitation of the Negro peasantry and of a considerable portion of the Negro proletariat (miners, forestry workers, etc.) in the Black Belt, and at the same time owing to the industrial development here, the growth of the most important driving force of the national revolution, the black working-class, is especially strengthened. Thus, the prospect for the future is not an inevitable dying away of the national revolutionary Negro movement in the South, as Lovestone prophesied, but on the contrary, a great advance of this movement and the rapid approach of a revolutionary crisis in the Black Belt.

        6. Owing to the peculiar situation in the Black Belt (the fact that the majority of the resident Negro population are

    farmers and agricultural labourers and that the capitalist economic system as well as political class rule there is not only of a special kind, but to a great extent still has pre-capitalist and semi-colonial features), the right of self-determination of the Negroes as the main slogan of the Communist Party in the Black Belt is appropriate. This, however, does not in any way mean that the struggle for equal rights of the Negroes in the Black Belt is less necessary or less well founded than it is in the North. On the contrary, here, owing to the whole situation, this struggle is even better founded, but the form of this slogan does not sufficiently correspond with the concrete requirements of the liberation struggle of the Negro population. Anyway, it is clear that in most cases it is a question of the daily conflicts of interest between the Negroes and the white rulers in the Black Belt on the subject of infringement of the most elementary equality rights of the Negroes by the whites. Daily events of the kind are: all Negro persecutions, all arbitrary economic acts of robbery by the white exploiters ("Black Man's Burden") and the whole system of so-called "Jim Crowism." Here, however, it is very important in connection with all these concrete cases of conflict to concentrate the attention of the Negro masses not so much to the general demands of mere equality, but much more to some of the revolutionary basic demands arising from the concrete situation.
        The slogan of the right of self-determination occupies the central place in the liberation struggle of the Negro population in the Black Belt against the yoke of American imperialism, but this slogan, as we see it, must be carried out only in connection with two other basic demands. Thus, there are three basic demands to be kept in mind in the Black Belt, namely, the following:

        (1) Confiscation of the landed property of the white landowners and capitalists for the benefit of the Negro farmers. The landed property in the hands of the white American exploiters constitutes the most important material basis of the entire system of national oppression and serfdom of the Negroes in the Black Belt. More than three-quarters of all Negro farmers here are bound in actual serfdom to the farms and plantations of the white exploiters by the feudal system of "share cropping." Only on paper and not in practice are they freed from the yoke of their former slavery. The same holds completely true for the great mass of black contract labourers;

    page 30

    here the contract is only the capitalist expression of the chains of the old slavery, which even to-day are not infrequently applied in their natural iron form on the roads of the Black Belt (chain-gang work). These are the main forms of present Negro slavery in the Black Belt and no breaking of the chains of this slavery is possible without confiscating all the landed property of the white masters. Without this revolutionary measure, without the agrarian revolution, the right of self-determination of the Negro population would be only a Utopia, or at best would remain only on paper without changing in any way the actual enslavement.

        (2) Establishment of the State Unity of the Black Belt. At the present time this Negro zone -- precisely for the purpose of facilitating national oppression -- is artificially split up and divided into a number of various states which include distant localities having a majority of white population. If the right of self-determination of the Negroes is to be put into force, it is necessary wherever possible to bring together into one governmental unit all districts of the South where the majority of the settled population consists of Negroes. Within the limits of this state there will of course remain a fairly significant white minority which must submit to the right of self-determination of the Negro majority. There is no other possible way of carrying out in a democratic manner the right of self-determination of the Negroes. Every plan regarding the establishment of the Negro State with an exclusively Negro population in America (and, of course, still more exporting it to Africa) is nothing but an unreal and reactionary caricature of the fulfilment of the right of self-determination of the Negroes and every attempt to isolate and transport the Negroes would have the most damaging effect upon their interests; above all, it would violate the right of the Negro farmers in the Black Belt not only to their present residences and their land but also to the land owned by the white landlords and cultivated by Negro labour.

        (3) Right of Self-Determination. This means complete and unlimited right of the Negro majority to exercise governmental authority in the entire territory of the Black Belt, as well as to decide upon the relations between their territory and other nations, particularly the United States. It would not be right of self-determination in our sense of the word if the Negroes in the Black Belt had the right of determination only in cases which

    page 31

    concerned exculsively the Negroes and did not affect the whites, because the most important cases arising here are bound to affect the Negroes as well as the whites. First of all, true right to self-determination means that the Negro majority and not the white minority in the entire territory of the administratively united Black Belt exercises the right of administrating governmental, legislative and judicial authority. At the present time all this power here is concentrated in the hands of the white bourgeoisie and landlords. It is they who appoint all officials, it is they who dis pose of public property, it is they who determine the taxes, it is they who govern and make the laws. Therefore, the overthrow of this class rule in the Black Belt is unconditionally necessary in the struggle for the Negroes' right to self-determination. This, however, means at the same time the overthrow of the yoke of American imperialism in the Black Belt on which the forces of the local white bourgeoisie depend. Only in this way, only if the Negro population of the Black Belt wins its freedom from American imperialism even to the point of deciding itself the relations between its country and other governments, especially the United States, will it win real and complete self-determination. One should demand from the beginning that no armed forces of American imperialism should remain on the territory of the Black Belt.

        7. As stated in the letter of the Polit. Secretariat of the E.C.C.I. of March 16th, 1930, the Communists must "unreservedly carry on a struggle" for the self-determination of the Negro population in the Black Belt in accordance with what has been set forth above. It is incorrect and harmful to interpret the Communist standpoint to mean that the Communists stand for the right of self-determination of the Negroes only up to a certain point, but not beyond this, for example, to the right of separation. It is also incorrect to say that the Communists are so far only to carry on propaganda or agitation for the right of self-determination, but not to develop any activity to bring this about. No, it is of the utmost importance for the Communist Party to reject any such limitation of its struggle for this slogan. Even if the situation does not yet warrant the raising of the question of uprising, one should not limit oneself at present to propaganda for the demand: "Right to self-determination," but should organise mass actions, such as demonstrations, strikes, tax-boycott-movements, etc.
        Moreover, the Party cannot make its stand for this slogan

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    dependent upon any conditions, even the condition that the proletariat has the hegemony in the national revolutionary Negro movement or that the majority of the Negroes in the Black Belt adopts the Soviet form (as Pepper demanded), etc. It goes without saying that the Communists in the Black Belt will and must try to win over all working elements of the Negroes, that is, the majority of the population, to their side and to convince them not only that they must win the right of self-determination, but also that they must make use of this right in accordance with the Communist programme. But this cannot be made a condition for the stand of the Communists in favour of the right of self-determination of the Negro population; if, or so long as the majority of this population wishes to handle the situation in the Black Belt in a different manner from that which we Communists would like, its complete right to self-determination must be recognised. This right we must defend as a free democratic right.

        8. In general, the C.P. of the United States has kept to this correct line recently in its struggle for the right of self-determination of the Negroes even though this line -- in some cases -- has been unclearly or erroneously expressed. In particular some misunderstanding has arisen from the failure to make a clear distinction between the demand for "right of self-determination" and the demand for governmental separation, simply treating these two demands in the same way. However, these two demands are not identical. Complete right to self-determination includes also the right to governmental separation, but does not necessarily imply that the Negro population should make use of this right under all circumstances, that is, that it must actually separate or attempt to separate the Black Belt from the existing governmental federation with the United States. If it desires to separate it must be free to do so; but if it prefers to remain federated with the United States it must also be free to do that. This is the correct meaning of the idea of self-determination and it must be recognised quite independently of whether the United States are still a capitalist state or if a proletarian dictatorship has already been established there.
        It is, however, another matter if it is not a case of the right of the oppressed nation concerned to separate or to maintain governmental contact, but if the question is treated on its merits; whether it is to work for state separation, whether it is to struggle for this or not. This is another question, on which the stand of the Communists must vary according to the

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    concrete conditions. If the proletariat has come into power in the United States, the Communist Negroes will not come out for but against separation of the Negro Republic federation with the United States. But the right of the Negroes to governmental separation will be unconditionally realised by the Communist Party, it will unconditionally give the Negro population of the Black Belt freedom of choice even on this question. Only when the proletariat has come into power in the United States the Communists will carry on propaganda among the working masses of the Negro population against separation, in order to convince them that it is much better and in the interest of the Negro nation for the Black Belt to be a free republic, where the Negro majority has complete right of self-determination but remains governmentally federated with the great proletarian republic of the United States. The bourgeois counterrevolutionists on the other hand will then be interested in boosting the separation tendencies in the ranks of the various nationalities in order to utilise separatist nationalism as a barrier for the bourgeois counter-revolution against the consolidation of the proletarian dictatorship.
        But the question at the present time is not this. As long as capitalism rules in the United States the Communists cannot come out against governmental separation of the Negro zone from the United States. They recognise that this separation from the imperialist United States would be preferable from the standpoint of the national interests of the Negro population, to their present oppressed state, and therefore, the Communists are ready at any time to offer all their support if only the working masses of the Negro population are ready to take up the struggle for governmental independence of the Black Belt. At the present time, however, the situation in the national struggle in the South is not such as to win mass support of the working Negroes for this separatist struggle; and it is not the task of the Communists to call upon them to separate without taking into consideration the existing situation and the desires of the Negro masses.
        The situation in the Negro question of the United States, however, may undergo a radical change. It is even probable that the separatist efforts to obtain complete State independence of the Black Belt will gain ground among the Negro masses of the South in the near future. This is connected with the prospective sharpening of the national conflicts in the South, with the advance of the national revolutionary Negro movement and with

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    the exceptionally brutal fascists aggressiveness of the white exploiters of the South, as well as with the support of this aggressiveness by the central government authority of the United States. In this sharpening of the situation in the South, Negro separatism will presumably increase, and the question of the independence of the Black Belt will become the question of the day. Then the Communist Party must also face this question and, if the circumstances seem favourable, must stand up with all strength and courage for the struggle to win independence and for the establishment of a Negro republic in the Black Belt.

        9. The general relation of Communists to separatist tendencies among the Negroes, described above, cannot mean that Communists associate themselves at present, or generally speaking, during capitalism, indiscriminately and without criticism with all the separatist currents of the various bourgeois or petty-bourgeois Negro groups. For there is not only a national revolutionary, but also a reactionary Negro separatism, for instance, that represented by Garvey; his Utopia of an isolated Negro State (regardless if in Africa or America, if it is supposed to consist of Negroes only) pursues the only political aim of diverting the Negro masses from the real liberation struggle against American imperialism.
        It would be a mistake to imagine that the right of self-determination slogan is a truly revolutionary slogan only in connection with the demand for complete separation. The question of power is decided not only through the demand of separation, but just as much through the demand of the right to decidethe separation question and self-determination in general. A direct question of power is also the demand of confiscation of the land of the white exploiters in the South, as well as the demand of the Negroes that the entire Black Belt be amalga mated into a State unit.
        Hereby, every single fundamental demand of the liberation struggle of the Negroes in the Black Belt is such that -- if once thoroughly understood by the Negro masses and adopted as their slogan -- it will lead them into the struggle for the overthrow of the power of the ruling bourgeoisie, which is impossible without such revolutionary struggle. One cannot deny that it is just possible for the Negro population of the Black Belt to win the right to self-determination already during capitalism; but it is perfectly clear and indubitable that this is possible only through successful revolutionary struggle for

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    power against the American bourgeoisie, through wresting the Negroes' right to self-determination from the American imperialism. Thus, the slogan of right to self-determination is a real slogan of national rebellion which, to be considered as such, need not be supplemented by proclaiming struggle for the complete separation of the Negro zone, at least not at present. But it must be made perfectly clear to the Negro masses that the slogan "right to self-determination" includes the demand of full freedom for them to decide even the question of complete separation. "We demand freedom of separation, real right to self-determination" -- wrote Lenin: "certainly not in order to 'recommend' separation, but on the contrary, in order to facilitate and accelerate the democratic rapprochement and unification of nations." For the same purpose, Lenin's Party, the C.P. of the Soviet Union, bestowed after its seizure of power on all the peoples hitherto oppressed by Russian Tsarism the full right to self-determination, including the right of complete separation, and achieved thereby its enormous successes with regard to the democratic rapprochement and voluntary unification of nations.

        10. The slogan for the self-determination right and the other fundamental slogans of the Negro question in the Black Belt does not exclude but rather pre-supposes an energetic development of the struggle for concrete partial demands linked up with the daily needs and afflictions of wide masses of working Negroes. In order to avoid, in this connection, the danger of opportunist back-slidings, Communists must above all remember this:

        (a) The direct aims and partial demands around which a partial struggle develops are to be linked up in the course of the struggle with the revolutionary fundamental slogans brought up by the question of power, in a popular manner corresponding to the mood of the masses. (Confiscation of the big land-holdings, establishment of governmental unity of the Black Belt, right of self-determination of the Negro population in the Black Belt.) Bourgeois-socialist tendencies to oppose such a revolutionary widening and deepening of the fighting demands must be fought.

        (b) One should not venture to draw up a complete programme of some kind or a system of "positive" partial demands. Such programmes on the part of petty-bourgeois politicians should be exposed as attempts to divert the masses from the necessary hard struggles by fostering reformist and

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    democratic illusions among them. Every positive partial demand which might crop up is to be considered from the viewpoint of whether it is in keeping with our revolutionary fundamental slogans, or whether it is of a reformist or reactionary tendency. Every kind of national oppression which arouses the indignation of the Negro masses can be used as a suitable point of departure for the development of partial struggles, during which the abolition of such oppression, as well as their prevention through revolutionary struggle against the ruling exploiting dictatorship must be demanded.

        (c) Everything should be done to bring wide masses of Negroes into these partial struggles -- this is important -- and not to carry the various partial demands to such an ultra-radical point, that the mass of working Negroes are no longer able to recognise them as their own. Without a real mobilisation of the mass-movements -- in spite of the sabotage of the bourgeois reformist Negro politicians -- even the best Communist partial demands get hung up. On the other hand, even some relatively insignificant acts of the Ku-Klux-Klan bandits in the Black Belt can become the occasion of important political movements, provided the Communists are able to organise the resistance of the indignant Negro masses. In such cases, mass movements of this kind can easily develop into real rebellion. This rests on the fact that -- as Lenin said -- "Every act of national oppression calls forth resistance on the part of the masses of the population, and the tendency of every act of resistance on the part of oppressed peoples is the national uprising."

        d) Communists must fight in the forefront of the national-liberation movement and must do their utmost for the progress of this mass movement and its revolutionisation. Negro Communists must clearly dissociate themselves from all bourgeois currents in the Negro movement, must indefatigably oppose the spread of the influence of the bourgeois groups on the working Negroes, and in dealing with them must apply the Communist tactic laid down by the Sixth C.I. Congress with regard to the colonial question, in order to guarantee the hegemony of the Negro proletariat in the national liberation movement of the Negro population, and to co-ordinate wide masses of the Negro peasantry in a steady fighting alliance with the proletariat.

        e) One must work with the utmost energy for the establishment and consolidation of Communist Party organisations and revolutionary trade unions in the South. Furthermore, immediate measures must be taken for the organisation of proletarian and peasant self-defence of whites and blacks against the Ku-Klux-Klan; for this purpose, the C.P. is to give further instructions.

        11. It is particularly incumbent on Negro Communists to criticise consistently the half-heartedness and hesitations of the petty-bourgeois national-revolutionary Negro leaders in the liberation struggle of the Black Belt, exposing them before the masses. All national reformist currents as, for instance, Garveyism, which are an obstacle to the revolutionisation of the Negro masses, must be fought systematically and with the utmost energy. Simultaneously, Negro Communists must carry on among the Negro masses an energetic struggle against nationalist moods directed indiscriminately against all whites, workers as well as capitalists, Communists, as well as imperialists. Their constant call to the Negro masses must be: revolutionary struggle against the ruling white bourgeoisie, through a fighting alliance with the revolutionary white proletariat! Negro Communists must indefatigably explain to the mass of the Negro population that even if many white workers in America are still infected with Negrophobia, the American proletariat, as a class, which owing to its struggle against the American bourgeoisie represents the only truly revolutionary class, will be the only real mainstay of Negro liberation. In as far as successes in the national-revolutionary struggle of the Negro population of the South for its right to self-determination are already possible under capitalism, they can be achieved only if this struggle is effectively supported by proletarian mass actions on a large scale in the other parts of the United States. But it is also clear that "only a victorious proletarian revolution will finally decide the agrarian question and the national question in the South of the United States, in the interest of the predominating mass of the Negro population of the country." (Colonial Theses of the Sixth World Congress.)

        12. The struggle regarding the Negro question in the North must be linked up with the liberation struggle in the South, in order to endow the Negro movement throughout the United States with the necessary effective strength. After all, in the North as well as in the South, it is a question of the real emancipation of the American Negroes which has in fact never taken place before. The Communist Party of the United States must bring into play its entire revolutionary energy in order to

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    mobilise the widest possible masses of the white and black proletariat of the United States, not by words, but by deeds, for real effective support of the struggle for the liberation of the Negroes. Enslavement of the Negroes is one of the most important foundations of the imperialist dictatorship of U.S.A. capitalism. The more American imperialism fastens its yoke on the millions strong negro masses, the more must the Communist Party develop the mass struggle for Negro emancipation, and the better use it must make of all conflicts which arise out of national differences, as an incentive for revolutionary mass actions against the bourgeoisie. This is as much in the direct interest of the proletarian revolution in America. Whether the rebellion of the Negroes is to be the outcome of a general revolutionary situation in the United States, whether it is to originate in the whirlpool of decisive fights for power by the working-class, for proletarian dictatorship, or whether on the contrary, the Negro rebellion will be the prelude of gigantic struggles for power by the American proletariat, cannot be foretold now. But in either contingency, it is essential for the Communist Party to make an energetic beginning already now with the organisation of joint mass struggles of white and black workers against Negro oppression. This alone will enable us to get rid of the bourgeois white chauvinism which is polluting the ranks of the white workers of America, to overcome the distrust of the Negro masses caused by the inhuman barbarous Negro slave traffic still carried on by the American bourgeoisie -- in as far as it is directed even against all white workers -- and to win over to our side these millions of Negroes as active fellow fighters in the struggle for the overthrow of bourgeois power throughout America.

    NOTES


     

      [1] Comintern and National and Colonial Questions, Communist Party of India Publication No. 9 (March 1973), P. 116-117.    [p.4]

      [2] V. I. Lenin, "A Letter To American Workers", (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1952), P. 27.    [p.6]

      [3] See especially Negro National Colonial Question by the Communist League (CLP's name prior to becoming a "Party"), The Black Liberation Struggle, The Black Workers Congress and Proletarian Revolution and The Struggle Against Revisionism and Opportunism: Against the Communist Leaaue and the Revolutionary Union both by the Black Workers Congress, and Red Papers 5 (National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S. ) and Red Papers 6 (Build the Leadership of the Proletariat and its Party ) by the Revolutionary Union.    [p.11]

      [4] The American Negro Labor Congress was founded in Chicago in October, 1925. The Workers (Communist) Party of America, the dominant force within the Congress, intended the Congress to be a vehicle for uniting all of the organizations of Black workers and farmers then existing. The stated two-fold task of the Congress was to agitate for the admission of Black workers into heretofore White unions and to struggle against the Garvey-inspired Black ambivalence toward the American trade union movement. The Congress, however, with very few exceptions, was unsuccessful in establishing proposed local branches and in reality amounted to little more than a paper organization. It remained in existence until 1930, when what was left of it served as the foundation for the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, a no longer existing mass organization of similar character, through which the Communist Party U.S.A. unsuccessfully attempted to extend its influence among Black people generally and in particular among Black workers.    [p.16]

      [5] The Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) was founded in Chicago in November, 1920 by William Z. Foster for the purpose of organizing the "militant minority" in the trade unions. At its founding, the TUEL was an independent united front organization and nominally remained such throughout its nine year existence. In reality, however, from the time Foster joined the Workers (Communist) Party of America in 1921, the TUEL functioned as the Party's principal vehicle for work within the trade union movement.    [p.17]

      [6] The Negro Champion was the organ of the American Negro Labor Congress. The journal ceased to exist upon the Congress's demise in 1930.    [p.19]

      [7] The International Labor Defense (ILD), an affiliate of the Comintern's legal defense mechanism (the Red International of Class War Prisoners Aid), was founded in 1925. Its purpose was to provide legal defense for radical and Communist activists and non-political victims of the American judicial system. The ILD often employed mass campaigns as a means of bringing about the acquittal and release of those on whose behalf it was acting. A good deal of the ILD's activity was devoted to defending the legal rights of Black people, with its most prominent undertaking being the defense (and rescue from the electric chair) of the nine Scottsboro Boys, the last of whom was finally released from prison in 1950. The ILD was dissolved in 1941.    [p.19]

      [8] The Trade Union Unity League (TUUL), the successor to the TUEL, was founded in Cleveland on September 1, 1929. The organization was disbanded in July, 1935, in order to clear the path for affiliation by the various unions comprising the TUUL with the A. F. of L.    [p.27]