The Struggle for the Leninist Position on the Negro Question in the United States

by Harry Haywood

This article by Harry Haywood, originally printed in the September 1933 issue of the The Communist, is from A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, edited by Herbert Aptheker. According to the editor, the original article “is published below, in part, with the essential argumentation intact.” I am making this article available on the Internet for the first time. For more on this history of the African American National Question, see Freedom Road Socialist Organization’s Unity Statement on National Oppression, National Liberation and Socialist Revolution and The Third International and the struggle for a correct line on the African American National Question.

The present program of our Party on the Negro question was first formulated at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International, in 1928. On the basis of the most exhaustive consideration of all the peculiarities, historical development, economic, living and cultural conditions of the Negro people in the United States as well as the experience of the Party in its work among Negroes, that Congress definitely established the problem of the Negroes as that of an oppressed nation among whom there existed all the requisites for a national revolutionary movement against American imperialism.

Harry Haywood, legendary African American communist leader

This estimation was a concrete application of the Marxist-Leninist conception of the national question to the conditions of the Negroes and was predicated upon the following premises: first, the concentration of large masses of Negroes in the agricultural regions of the Black Belt, where they constitute a majority of the population; secondly, the existence of powerful relics of the former chattel slave system in the exploitation of the Negro toilers – the plantation system based on sharecropping, landlord supervision of crops, debt slavery, etc.; thirdly, the development, on the basis of these slave remnants, of a political superstructure of inequality expressed in all forms of social proscription and segregation; denial of civil rights, right to franchise, to hold public offices, to sit on juries, as well as in the laws and customs of the South. This vicious system is supported by all forms of arbitrary violence, the most vicious being the peculiar American institution of lynching. All of this finds its theoretical justification in the imperialist ruling class theory of the “natural” inferiority of the Negro people. Continue reading

Advertisements

Red State Irony

by Neill Herring

The last four or five decades have seen extraordinary economic and population growth in the southern states of the United States, continuing historic developments that started during the Second World War and were later stimulated by the end of legal racial segregation. One national effect of those changes has been a continual shift in the center of economic growth for the whole country to the southern and western states, away from the Northeast and the Midwest “rust belt.”

The character of the exploitation of labor in the South has changed as investment patterns have displaced large populations from manufacturing and extractive employment. The continuing breakdown of the caste-like remnants of post-Reconstruction labor “markets” has removed hundreds of thousands of workers from home- and institution-based domestic service, as well as various manual occupations, and forced them into other employment. This new “New South” has been widely celebrated, even as regional wage rates still trail other sections of the country (and while the South shares the national upward redistribution of wealth). What is different now from the pattern in the 1950s is that realizing a return on investment by the sweating-it-out of workers is nothing like the obvious low-cost option it was then.

Marx says there are two sources of economic wealth: that produced by human labor; and the wealth that can be taken by that labor from the earth itself, from land, air, and water. As the rate of the exploitation of the former has continued to increase, exploitation of the latter has also risen, particularly in the South. Continue reading