Reds in America - Richard M. Whitney

The Negro Program

The Communists' earliest program in the United States included the use of the negro masses in its campaign to bring about the overthrow of the Government of this country by violence. This program recognized that the negroes had many grievances, that race hatred was strong among them, and that they were easily inflamed to violence. Accordingly it was decided to use them in the great conspiracy. The Left Wing Socialists and the I.W.W., from which came the nucleus of the Communist party of America, had drawn no color line and had urged the negroes repeatedly to meet violence with violence, to "fight back," and to demand their "rights" of the Government and of individual whites with threats of uprisings unless these "rights" were granted. Thus it was that the negro program became one of the prime vicious plans of the Communists.

During the first year of organized activity by the Communists in the United States a great deal of attention was paid to the negro question. A number of educated negroes, most of them from Harvard, were found sufficiently discontented and sufficiently unbalanced to make good Communists. They were enlisted in the work and from that time on have been preaching violence on every occasion. The race riots of 1919 came at the height of this radicalism among the negroes who were secretly supported and urged to greater violence by white Communists and the radical negro leaders. The Communists made capital of these riots and the coincident racial feeling which was aroused. Soon after this, however, the Communist leaders turned to other features of the conspiracy against the Government, and the interest of the mass of negroes waned. But more recently the Communist leaders, acting under instructions from Moscow, have again turned their attention to this question, and their activities have resulted in renewed Communist expression by the negroes, through their radical press and in committee work among them.

The negroes came back from Europe, and from service in camps in this country, with renewed desire for betterment. They had also, by their experience in the Army, learned the use of organized force. The radicals in this country were quick to seize upon this feeling among the negroes to preach violence and urge them on to take by force what they wanted. By every means this class consciousness was cultivated by the radicals, and later by the Communists. The dissatisfied negroes were aided in starting newspapers devoted to urging the negroes to join the radicals. When the Communist party appeared the preliminary missionary work among the negroes had been done in the name of "Bolshevism," which became a common term among the negro agitators. Inflammatory cartoons and sketches appeared in the negro radical press and gradually but surely this press became Communistic, openly and avowedly. Many of the radical negro papers are now officially recognized by the secret, illegal Communist party.

One of the most inflammatory cartoons that has appeared in the negro press, depicted a negro in the uniform of the United States Army standing armed with sword and rifle on the soil of France, his feet upon a rope that leads to the background of the picture where the United States of America is portrayed by a tree, against which is a Statue of Liberty and by which is a figure of the devil, entitled "Obstruction." At the negro soldier's feet is a large decapitated head of a white man—"Obstruction"—with labels of "Jim Crow Him"—"Burn Him"—"Lynch Him"—"Kill"—"Mob"—"Starve." The general caption of this cartoon is, "Must He Carry On?"

Inflammatory reading matter is also furnished to the black readers. A single paragraph from The Messenger, one of the radical papers for negroes, reads:

"As for social equality, there are about 5,000,000 mulattoes in the United States. This is the product of semisocial equality. It shows that social equality galore exists after dark, and we warn you that we expect to have social equality in the day as well as after dark."

Communist agents carefully sought out the various negro organizations in this country, consulted with the leaders, and studied the motives behind each organization and leader as well as the methods used to attain the desired end. For several months these organizations were watched and finally, acting upon the reports of these agents, the Communist party formally gave approval to the African Blood Brotherhood. This is the most radical of the negro organizations, and while the door is not barred to others who may later prove that they are radical enough to unite with the Communists, this is the only one thus far formally approved.

A document found at Bridgman, after the raid of the illegal Communist Convention, included "a brief statement of the Program and Aims of the African Blood Brotherhood." This began with an enumeration of the aims, eight in all, which included "a liberated race; absolute race equality—political, economic, social; the fostering of race pride: organized and uncompromising opposition to Ku Kluxism; rapprochement and fellowship within the darker masses and with the class-conscious revolutionary white workers; industrial development; higher wages for negro labor, lower rents; a united negro front." In discussing these aims this statement, which was in the form of an official report, or thesis, to the Communist party, says:

"A liberated race—in the United States, Africa and elsewhere. Liberated not merely from political rule, but also from the crushing weight of capitalism, which keeps the many in degrading poverty that the few may wallow in stolen wealth.

"Absolute Race Equality. In this question are inextricably bound the issues of political equality, social equality and economic equality. Let one be denied and the whole principle of racial equality is denied.

"The fostering of race pride by the dissemination of the true facts concerning the negro's contributions to modern civilization and the predominant part played in the ancient world by this great race of ours.

"Organized and uncompromising opposition to the Ku Klux Klan and all other movements or tendencies inimical to the interests of the negro masses. To effectively oppose the bigotry and prejudice of the Ku Klux Klan we must:

  • organize the negro masses;
  • create a strong negro federation out of the existing organizations that we may present a United Front; and
  • for the purpose of fighting the Klan ally ourselves with all groups opposed by its vicious activities, viz.; the workers, including the Jewish and Catholic workers.

As, for the purpose of throwing off our oppression, the enemies of the capitalist system are our natural allies by virtue of being in the same camp and opposed to the same enemy, so the enemies of the Klan are our friends in that they fight the foe we fight. The negro masses must get out of their minds the stupid idea that it is necessary for two groups to love each other before they can enter into an alliance against their common enemy. Not love or hatred, but identity of interests at the moment, dictates the tactics of practical people.

"Rapprochement and fellowship within the darker races and within the class-conscious and revolutionary white workers. For the purpose of waging an effective struggle and of weakening our enemies, we must: (a) establish fellowship and coordination of action within the darker masses and (b) between these masses and the truly class-conscious white workers who seek the abolition of the capitalist system that oppresses and exploits alike black and white workers, and must, therefore, necessarily work toward the same end as we, whether they consciously will to help us or not.

"By seeking the abolition of the capitalist states, which are instruments of the capitalist-imperialists for the exploitation of the workers in the colonies and at home and the maintenance of the supremacy of the capitalist class, the class-conscious white workers must perforce contribute to our complete liberation, even as in 1863 the white workers in the Northern States of the United States contributed to our partial liberation because of their fight against the slave power competition of the South, and in fairness to large masses of revolutionary workers who acknowledge the leadership of the Third International, it is well to state that the Third International has emphatically ordered its members to help the darker races and all other oppressed peoples in their struggles for complete liberation.

"Industrial development along genuine cooperative lines whereby the benefits will be equally distributed among the masses participating, and not hogged by a few big stockholders and dishonest and inefficient officials drawing exorbitant salaries. The African Blood Brotherhood is sternly opposed to the grafting of individuals and corporation enterprises upon mass movements for the reasons that (a) such procedure is manifestly dishonest and misleading. Enterprises supported by mass movements should be of such a nature as to equally benefit every one in the movement, not merely a handful of officials; (b) The African Blood Brotherhood does not consider any commercial enterprise good enough to base the second liberation movement upon the mere chances of its success or failure. No movement so based can long survive the collapse of its commercial enterprises. We believe in fostering and encouraging cooperative enterprises that will benefit the many rather than the few, but without basing the movement upon them.

"Higher wages for negro labor, lower rents. To gain for negro labor the full reward of its toil and to prevent capitalist exploitation either on the job or at the source of supplies we must encourage industrial unionism among our people and at the same time fight to break down the barriers which capitalist-stimulated prejudice has created against us in the trade unions. These barriers are already meeting the attack of the radical and progressive element among white union men and must eventually give way before the united onslaught of black and white workers marching to attack with the stirring slogan:

"'Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! You have a world to gain!'

"A united negro front with which to oppose the united front of the white capitalists organized under the guise of chambers of commerce, Ku Klux Klan, American Legion, American Defense Society, etc. This can be done only by bringing all negro organizations into a federation with program to which any decent negro organization could subscribe. Their identity could not be lost. Their autonomy practically unimpaired."

This interesting document was read to the convention on August 20, and discussed. A special committee had been previously appointed to consider the negro question and its work and after deliberation drew up on a single page a program for work by the Communist party, with official approval, giving an interesting light on the methods employed by the illegal organization in stirring up strife and cementing radicals. This program reads as follows:

"Victory of the workers can be achieved only by geniune and effective solidarity. Such solidarity is impossible of attainment as long as race antagonism befuddles the minds of the workers, dividing them into hostile camps, thus rendering them an easy prey to the machinations and tyranny of their capitalist oppressors.

"Race prejudice is an evil and menaces the workers' cause. It must, therefore, be combated resolutely and persistently in all of its baneful forms. The leaders of the working class must wage a relentless war against race segregation, disfranchisement, peonage and lynching.

"The negro masses should be led to see the similarity between their race struggle and the struggle of the entire working class. The white workers, on the other hand, should be shown that the class struggle of the workers regardless of race is one great battle against a common enemy, and that to win, they must support the oppressed races in their struggle against race persecution and aid them in their fight to secure political, industrial and social equality, without regard to race, color or creed.

"At the present time, an organization is gaining a foothold in this country whose avowed purpose is to keep the negro down, and whose unavowed object is to combat the revolutionary, radical and progressive elements of the working class. The Ku Klux Klan is a decided menace to the working class, and especially the negro. This organization is receiving official recognition in that candidates openly espousing its program are running for public office. It becomes imperative, therefore, that steps be taken to expose and fight this organization.

"In order that the negro may be reached with education and propaganda and that he may be organized for activity, the following methods are recommended:

  1. "Nuclei shall be established in all existing negro organizations, such as fraternal, religious and labor organizations, cooperatives, tenant farmers' leagues, etc.
  2. "Colored organizers and speakers shall be sent among negroes in order to inform them and win their confidence.
  3. "Newspapers and publications shall be established or, when this is not feasible, news service shall be established by friendly cooperation with colored newspapers of liberal tenets.
  4. "Friendship of liberal-minded negro ministers shall be sought, as these men are at the present time the leaders of the negro masses and many of them are earnest but lack scientific knowledge.
  5. "Conferences on the economic conditions among negroes shall be held from time to time with these ministers, educators and other liberal elements, and through their influence the party shall aim to secure a more favorable hearing before the negro masses.
  6. "By means of its membership the party shall penetrate the existing forums, literary societies, lyceums, schools, colleges, teachers' institutes, etc., of the colored people, and establish forums of its own for the enlightenment of the negro population.
  7. "Where other forms of activity are impossible or impracticable, as in certain Southern districts, cooperatives may be formed.
  8. "The party shall penetrate existing anti-Ku Klux Klan organizations and shall form organizations wherever none exist. As this is one of the most violent forms of suppression of the negro at the present time, the formation of such anti-Ku Klux Klan organizations shall be fostered with all energy."

As a result of this attitude on the part of the Communist party of America and the natural desire of the radical negroes who seek limelight and association with whites, there has been a marked increase in activity among the negro masses. The agitators are now touring the country, nuclei are being established in whatever organizations of negroes are found, religious, political or social, and the red gospel of Communism is being preached. A similar movement had been carried out just before the race riots that startled the country a few years ago.

An Associated Negro Press was swung into line to carry inflammatory racial articles to the various radical negro newspapers. Some of the papers are not actually organs of the Communists but are trying desperately, by assuming a radical attitude, to become the recognized organs in order to receive some financial support from the Communist funds. Recently an editorial was printed in one such paper, which could have no other purpose than to stir up strife exactly as the Communists wish. This editorial was entitled, "An Eye for an Eye," and read in part:

"The truth about conditions in the South is coming out bit by bit. Lynching must go. The news agencies dare not tell the truth. Back of every lynching, as expert investigators of lynchings and race riots know, is a cause traceable to the corrupt moral and political system of the South. There is hate and poison and venom in every one of us—and it is just hate and poison and venom! . . . What Southern negroes should do is to repay the crackers in their own bloody coin. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! Fight and agitate and lynch back, if need be!"

Another radical negro paper prints an article on "The Passing of the World Robbers," referring to the Christian Caucasian races which adopted "a topsy-turvy philosophy of life, out of harmony with nature," namely, the Christian religion. After two thousand years of this, the article says:

". . . The long road reaches a turn, and indications are that the hideous nightmare of twenty centuries is drawing to a close. From the ends of the world the whisper runs that the day of European vandalism is nearing its end and the children of the Far East, together with such of Europe's sons as are susceptible to reform, will again administer the affairs of mankind and the civilization that was founded upon fraud and deception will be one with Nineveh and Tyre. Beyond the Carpathians, Russia, mother of the New Day, sits nursing the Infant Era. . . . World brigands, humanity greets your passing with a sigh of relief. Good-bye, good luck, G--- you!"

Another paper prints a paragraph, reading, "Hail the Revolution! Long live the people! Down with the capitalist domination and exploitation of Africa and Asia! The dawn's in the East!"