It has been estimated that there are about 250 million Negroes in the world. The vast majority of these people are workers and peasants. They are scattered throughout various geographical territories. The bulk of them, however, still live on the continent of Africa – the original home of the black race. There are, nevertheless, large populations of Negroes in the New World. For instance, there are about 15 millions in the United States, 10 millions in Brazil, 10 millions in the West Indies, and 5 to 7 millions in various Latin-American countries, such as Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, Nicaragua, etc., etc.
The oppression of Negroes assumes two distinct forms: on the one hand they are oppressed as a class, and on the other as a nation. This national (race) oppression has its basis in the social-economic relation of the Negro under capitalism. National (race) oppression assumes its most pronounced forms in the United States of America, especially in the Black Belt of the Southern States, where lynching, peonage, Jim-Crowism, political disfranchisement and social ostracism is widespread; and in the Union of South Africa, where the blacks, who form the majority of the entire population have been robbed of their lands and are segregated on Reserves, enslaved in Compounds, and subjected to the vilest forms of anti-labour and racial laws (Poll, Hut, Pass taxes) and colour bar system in industry.
The general conditions under which Negroes live, either as a national (racial) group or as a class, form one of the most degrading spectacles of bourgeois civilisation.
Since the present crisis of world capitalism begun the economic, political and social status of the Negro toilers are becoming ever worse and worse. The reason for this is obvious: the imperialists, whether American, English, French, Belgian, etc., etc., are frantically trying to find a way out of their difficulties. In order to do so, they are not only intensifying the exploitation of the white workers in the various imperialist countries by launching an offensive through means of rationalisation, wage cuts, abolition of social insurance, unemployment, etc., but they are turning their attention more and more towards Africa and other black semi-colonies (Haiti, Liberia), which represent the last stronghold of world imperialism. In this way the bourgeoisie hope to unload the major burden of the crisis on the shoulders of the black colonial and semi-colonial masses.
Furthermore, as the majority of the Negro workers in the United States and the colonies are still largely unorganised, thanks to the treachery and betrayal of the American Federation of Labour and the so-called progressive Mustie group in the United States, the social-fascist labour bureaucrats of the Amsterdam International, the II International, and the black reformist trade union leaders (Kadalie and Champion in South Africa, Randolph and Croswaith in the United States), as well as the national reformist misleader, Marcus Garvey, the Negro toilers are experiencing great difficulties today in withstanding the ruthless offensive of the international imperialists. Despite these handicaps the Negro masses, goaded into desperation by the inhuman conditions forced upon them on the one hand, and inspired by the revolutionary movement on the other, are beginning to wake up and assume the counter-offensive against their oppressors.
We can already see the beginnings of a conscious effort on the part of these Negro masses to consolidate their fighting forces, and to bring them into closer contact with the advanced ranks of the international revolutionary proletariat, by the holding of a conference in Hamburg, Germany, in July, 1930.
This was the first International Conference of Negro Workers which had ever been convened. At this conference Negro delegates from different parts of Africa, the United States, West Indies and Latin America not only discussed trade union questions, but dealt with the most vital problems affecting their social and political conditions, as for example the expropriation of land by the imperialist robbers in Africa; the imposition of Head and Poll taxes; the enslaving of toilers through Pass laws and other anti-labour and racial legislation in Africa; lynching, peonage and segregation in the United States; as well as unemployment, which has thrown millions of these black toilers on the streets, faced with the spectre of starvation and death.
In view of the present world situation, it is necessary to describe the Life and Struggles of the Negro Toilers, so that the workers in the metropolitan countries under whose imperialism these masses live will be better able to make themselves acquainted with some of the methods which the capitalists of the “mother” countries adopt to enslave the black colonial and semi-colonial peoples. For it is only by knowing these facts will the revolutionary working classes in Europe and America realise the danger ahead of them.
It is also necessary for the workers in the capitalist countries to understand that it is only through the exploiting of the colonial workers, from whose sweat and blood super-profits are extorted, that the imperialists are able to bribe the reformist and social-fascist trade union bureaucrats and thereby enable them to betray the struggles of the workers.
The purpose of this pamphlet is threefold:
(1) Briefly to set forth some of the conditions of life of the Negro workers and peasants in different parts of the world; and
(2) To enumerate some of the struggles which they have attempted to wage in order to free themselves from the yoke of imperialism; and
(3) To indicate in a general way the tasks of the proletariat in the advanced countries so that the millions of black toilers might be better prepared to carry on the struggles against their white imperialist oppressors and native (race) exploiters, and join forces with their white brothers against the common enemy – World Capitalism.
6. Revolutionary Perspectives
I. The Role of the R.I.L.U. in the Struggles of the Negro Toilers
The Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern) celebrated its Tenth Anniversary in 1930. Having been organised in the very heat of the acute post-war economic and political crisis in the most important European countries, the Profintern came to be the militant revolutionary headquarters of the world trade union movement, rallying to its banner all the class-conscious proletarian elements of the whole world.
Today the Profintern is in the thick of its struggle for winning over the working class. In spite of its fine successes in extending its influence the Profintern cannot yet say that it embraces the majority of the working class. The Profintern is still obliged to wage a relentless struggle for freeing the workers from the influence of the bourgeoisie, the reformists and anarcho-syndicalists. The greatest enemy of the Profintern in the struggle for influence over the working class is the International Trade Union Federation, the so-called Amsterdam International.
The Amsterdam International was organised one year prior to the Profintern. In spite of its high-sounding name of “International Federation,” Amsterdam is, in the main, an association of European trade unions, owing to the fact that out of the 28 organisations affiliating with it 23 are in Europe and only 5 organisations are non-European. Besides, the Amsterdam International is a white chauvinist international. The Amsterdamites reflect the interests of the upper strata of the working class in the imperialist countries, and look down upon the trade union movement of the colonial and coloured peoples. Amsterdam’s first and most important task is to preserve and reinforce capitalism and imperialism, and to strengthen the position of the bourgeoisie by suppressing the revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries and the national liberation movements in the colonies and semi-colonial countries.
The Profintern is the first real International of Trade Unions, because the workers of all nationalities and races, regardless of colour or creed, have rallied to its banner. The Profintern has its sections in practically all countries in the world, in the form of independent trade unions and opposition groups and minorities inside the reformist trade unions. Besides these trade unions, which are organisationally connected with the Profintern, there are a whole number of trade union federations which adhere to the ideological leadership of the Profintern. Two very powerful organisations are among these – the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat and the Latin-American Confederation of Labour.
The Red International of Labour Unions is the first Trade Union International which furthered the development of the trade union movement among the colonial peoples, and succeeded in rallying a great part of them to its banner. It is the only international which conducts a consistent and permanent struggle against white chauvinism for equal rights for the labour movement in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, for the correct solution of the national-race problem. This struggle has only just begun. A very vivid example of the national-race policy of the Profintern is its fight for strengthening and extending the trade union movement among the Negro workers. The Negro workers are the most exploited, the most oppressed in the world. It was the fate of the Negro workers to pay the horrible tribute to slavery, which served to destroy millions upon millions of black toilers. The Negro workers even now are actually slave-bound to their white conquerors. Different forms of forced labour, peonage, expropriation of their lands, extraordinary laws and unbearably heavy taxes, lynchings, segregation, etc., etc., are up till now the fate of the Negro toiling masses languishing under the yoke of imperialism. Tens of thousands of Negro workers are still groaning under the lash of their enslavers.
The Negro workers, however, exploited and oppressed by the imperialists, have not received the necessary support of the organised labour movement. The white worker, in many cases even today, still regards the Negro as a pariah, and scornfully refuses to stretch out a helping hand to his black brother. Even in the ranks of the revolutionary workers numerous examples of white chauvinism can be recorded. A long and bitter struggle has been waged by the Profintern against this psychology of “white superiority.” Day in and day out, year after year, the Profintern has raised the Negro problem before its affiliated sections in the U.S.A., South Africa, England, France, Belgium, Portugal, etc., sharply condemning any and all manifestations of white chauvinism and underestimation of winning the black workers for the class struggle, pointing out the necessity of paying the most serious attention to the organisation of the Negro workers into revolutionary trade unions together with the white workers.
In order to strengthen and stimulate trade union activities among the Negro masses, the Profintern finally established a Negro Trade Union Committee composed of Negro workers from the United States, South, East, West and Equatorial Africa, the British and French West Indies and Latin America.
Since the establishment of the Committee, the Profintern has to some extent succeeded in overcoming white chauvinism in its ranks, and has corrected the mistakes of its American section, which formerly ignored work among the Negroes. The Profintern will continue its fight until it completely eradicates all traces of white chauvinism from its ranks and unites all workers – white black, yellow, brown – in one revolutionary trade union movement.
II. What Must Be Done?
In order to help the Profintern and its revolutionary trade union sections in the United States and South Africa to carry out the task of building up strong unions by strengthening the bonds of solidarity between the white and black workers, two things must be done.
(1) The class-conscious white workers must take the initiative of drawing the Negro workers into the revolutionary unions and the movement of the unemployed, guaranteeing to them every opportunity of actively participating in shaping the policies of the workers’ organisations and leading the united front struggles of the working class against the offensive of the capitalists.
(2) The Negro workers must also take a more active part in the revolutionary struggles of the working class as a whole. They must make a decisive break with all bourgeois and petty-bourgeois reformist movements. They must not permit themselves to be misled by the “left” phrases of the American Negro petty-bourgeois reformists, such as Du Bois, Moton, Depriest, etc., etc., who are merely office-seekers and demagogues paid by the ruling class to befuddle the Negro masses in order to direct their attention away from revolutionary struggle into reformist channels.
The struggle against Garveyism represents one of the major tasks of the Negro toilers in America and the African and West Indian colonies.
Why must we struggle against Garveyism? As the “Programme of the Communist International” correctly states: “Garveyism is a dangerous ideology which bears not a single democratic trait, and which toys with the aristocratic attributes of a non-existent ‘Negro kingdom’! It must be strongly resisted, for it is not a help but a hindrance to the mass Negro struggle for liberation against American imperialism.”
Garvey is more than a dishonest demagogue who, taking advantage of the revolutionary wave of protest of the Negro toilers against imperialist oppression and exploitation, was able to crystallise a mass movement in America in the years immediately after the war. His dishonesty and fraudulent business schemes, such as the Black Star Line, through which he extorted millions and millions of dollars out of the sweat of the Negro working class, soon led to his imprisonment. After his release Garvey was deported back to Jamaica, his native country. Isolated from the main body of the organisation, Garvey has been unable to maintain his former autocratic control over the movement, as a result of which there has been a complete disintegration of the organisation, which is now under the control of a number of warring factional leaders. Garvey, who was formerly in the service of American imperialism, has now switched his allegiance to the British, who are utilising him in order to keep the Negro toilers in the British colonies under submission. With this object in view the imperial Government has permitted Garvey to open his headquarters in London.
Despite the bankruptcy of the Garvey movement the ideology of Garveyism, which is the most reactionary expression in Negro bourgeois nationalism, still continues to exert some influence among certain sections of the Negro masses. The black landlords and capitalists who support Garveyism are merely trying to mobilise the Negro workers and peasants to support them in establishing a Negro Republic in Africa, where they would be able to set themselves up as the rulers in order to continue the exploitation of the toilers of their race, free from white imperialist competition. In its class content Garveyism is alien to the interests of the Negro toilers. Like Zionism and Gandhism, it is merely out to utilise racial and national consciousness for the purpose of promoting the class interests of the black bourgeoisie and landlords. In order to further their own aims, the leaders of Garveyism have attempted to utilise the same demagogic methods of appeal used by the leaders or Zionism. For example, they promise to “free” the black workers from all forms of oppression in reward for supporting the utopian programme of “Back to Africa,” behind which slogan Garvey attempts to conceal the truly imperialist aims of the Negro bourgeoisie.
The Negro workers must not be deceived by the demagogic gestures of Garvey and his supporters. They must realise that the only way in which they can win their freedom and emancipation is by organising their forces millions strong, and in alliance with the class-conscious white workers in the imperialist countries, as well as the oppressed masses of China, India, Latin America and other colonial and semi-colonial countries, deliver a final blow to world imperialism.