Sunday, June 21, 2020

CLR James on Revolution and the Negro, December 1939
Source: “The Revolution and the Negro,” New International, Volume V, December 1939, pp. 339-343. Published under the name J.R Johnson;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The Negro’s revolutionary history is rich, inspiring, and unknown. Negroes revolted against the slave raiders in Africa; they revolted against the slave traders on the Atlantic passage. They revolted on the plantations.

The docile Negro is a myth. Slaves on slave ships jumped overboard, went on vast hunger strikes, attacked the crews. There are records of slaves overcoming the crew and taking the ship into harbor, a feat of tremendous revolutionary daring. In British Guiana during the eighteenth century the Negro slaves revolted, seized the Dutch colony, and held it for years. They withdrew to the interior, forced the whites to sign a treaty of peace, and have remained free to this day. Every West Indian colony, particularly Jamaica and San Domingo and Cuba, the largest islands, had its settlements of maroons, bold Negroes who had fled into the wilds and organized themselves to defend their freedom. In Jamaica the British government, after vainly trying to suppress them, accepted their existence by treaties of peace, scrupulously observed by both sides over many years, and then broken by British treachery. In America the Negroes made nearly 150 distinct revolts against slavery. The only place where Negroes did not revolt is in the pages of capitalist historians. All this revolutionary history can come as a surprise only to those who, whatever International they belong to, whether Second, Third, or Fourth, have not yet ejected from their systems the pertinacious lies of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. It is not strange that the Negroes revolted. It would have been strange if they had not.

But the Fourth International, whose business is revolution, has not to prove that Negroes were or are as revolutionary as any group of oppressed people. That has its place in agitation. What we as Marxists have to see is the tremendous role played by Negroes in the transformation of Western civilization from feudalism to capitalism. It is only from this vantage-ground that we shall be able to appreciate (and prepare for) the still greater role they must of necessity play in the transition from capitalism to socialism.

What are the decisive dates in the modern history of Great Britain, France, and America? 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution; 1832, the passing of the Reform Bill in Britain; and 1865, the crushing of the slave-power in America by the Northern states. Each of these dates marks a definitive stage in the transition from feudal to capitalist society. The exploitation of millions of Negroes had been a basic factor in the economic development of each of these three nations. It was reasonable, therefore, to expect the Negro question to play no less an important role in the resolution of the problems that faced each society. No one in the pre-revolutionary days, however, even faintly foresaw the magnitude of the contributions the Negroes were to make. Today Marxists have far less excuse for falling into the same mistake.

The Negro and the French Revolution

The French Revolution was a bourgeois revolution, and the basis of bourgeois wealth was the slave trade and the slave plantations in the colonies. Let there be no mistake about this. “Sad irony of human history,” says Jaures, “the fortunes created at Bordeaux, at Nantes by the slave-trade gave to the bourgeoisie that pride which needed liberty and contributed to human emancipation.” And Gaston-Martin the historian of the slave trade sums up thus: though the bourgeoisie traded in other things than slaves, upon the success or failure of the traffic everything else depended. Therefore when the bourgeoisie proclaimed the Rights of Man in general, with necessary reservations, one of these was that these rights should not extend to the French colonies. In 1789 the French colonial trade was eleven million pounds, two-thirds of the overseas trade of France. British colonial trade at that time was only five million pounds. What price French abolition? There was abolitionist society to which Brissot, Robespierre, Mirabeau, Lafayette, Condorcet, and many such famous men belonged even before 1789. But liberals are liberal. Face to face with the revolution, they were ready to compromise. They would leave the half million slaves in their slavery, but at least the Mulattoes, men of property (including slaves) and education, should be given equal rights with the white colonials. The white colonial magnates refused concessions and they were people to be reckoned with, aristocrats by birth or marriage, bourgeois their trade connections with the maritime bourgeoisie. They opposed all change in the colonies that would diminish their social and political domination. The maritime bourgeosie, concerned about their millions of investments, supported the colonials, and against eleven million pounds of trade per year the radical politicians were helpless. It was the revolution that kicked them from behind and forced them forward.

First of all the revolution in France. The Gironde right wing of the Jacobin club, overthrew the pro-royalist Feuillants and came to power in March, 1792.

And secondly the revolution in the colonies. The Mulattoes in San Domingo revolted in 1790, followed a few months later by the slave revolt in August 1791. On April 4, 1792 the Girondins granted political and social rights to the Mulattoes. The big bourgeoisie agreed, for the colonial aristocrats, after vainly trying to win Mulatto support for independence, decided to hand the colony over to Britain rather than tolerate interference with their system. All these slave owners, French nobility and French bourgeoisie, colonial aristocrats and Mulattoes, were agreed that the slave revolt should be suppressed and the slaves remain in their slavery.

The slaves, however, refused to listen to threats, and no promises were made to them. Led from beginning to end by men who had themselves been slaves and were unable to read or write, they fought one of the greatest revolutionary battles in history. Before the revolution they had seemed subhuman. Many a slave had to be whipped before he could be got to move from where he sat. The revolution transformed them into heroes.

The island of San Domingo was divided into two colonies, one French, the other Spanish. The colonial government of the Spanish Bourbons supported the slaves in their revolt against the French republic, and many rebel bands took service with the Spaniards. The French colonials invited Pitt to take over the colony, and when war was declared between France and England in 1793, the English invaded the island.

The English expedition, welcomed by all the white colonials, captured town after town in the south and west of French San Domingo. The Spaniards, operating with the famous Toussaint Louverture, an ex-slave, at the head of four thousand black troops, invaded the colony from the east. British and Spaniards were gobbling up as much as they could before the time for sharing came. “In these matters,” wrote the British minister, Dundas, to the governor of Jamaica, “the more we have, the better our pretensions.” On June 4th, Port-au-Prince, the capital of San Domingo, fell. Meanwhile another British expedition had captured Martinique, Guadeloupe, and the other French islands. Barring a miracle, the colonial trade of France, the richest in the world, was in the hands of her enemies and would be used against the revolution. But here the French masses took a hand.

August 10, 1792 was the beginning of the revolution triumphant in France. The Paris masses and their supporters all over France, in 1789 indifferent to the colonial question, were now striking in revolutionary frenzy at every abuse of the old regime and none of the former tyrants were so hated as the “aristocrats of the skin.” Revolutionary generosity, resentment at the betrayal of the colonies to the enemies of the revolution, impotence in the face of the British navy — these swept the Convention off its feet. On February 4, 1794, without a debate, it decreed the abolition of Negro slavery and at last gave its sanction to the black revolt.

The news trickled through somehow to the French West Indies. Victor Hugues, a Mulatto, one of the great personalities produced by the revolution, managed to break through the British blockade and carried the official notice of the manumission to the Mulattoes and blacks of the West Indian islands. Then occurred the miracle. The blacks and Mulattoes dressed themselves in the revolutionary colors and, singing revolutionary songs, they turned on the British and Spaniards, their allies of yesterday. With little more from revolutionary France than its moral support, they drove the British and Spaniards from their conquests and carried the war into enemy territory. The British, after five years of trying to reconquer the French colonies, were finally driven out in 1798.

Few know the magnitude and the importance of that defeat sustained at the hands of Victor Hugues in the smaller islands and of Toussaint Louverture and Rigaud in San Domingo. Fortescue, the Tory historian of the British army, estimates the total loss to Britain at 100,000 men. Yet in the whole of the Peninsular War Wellington lost from all causes — killed in battle, sickness, desertions — only 40,000 men. British blood and British treasure were poured out in profusion in the West Indian campaign. This was the reason for Britain’s weakness in Europe during the critical years 1793-1798. Let Fortescue himself speak: “The secret of England’s impotence for the first six years of the war may be said to lie in the two fatal words St. Domingo.” British historians blame chiefly the fever, as if San Domingo was the only place in the world that European imperialism had met fever.

Whatever the neglect or distortions of later historians, the French revolutionaries themselves knew what the Negro question meant to the revolution. The Constituent, the Legislature, and the Convention were repeatedly thrown into disorder by the colonial debates. This had grave repercussions in the internal struggle as well as in the revolutionary defense of the Republic. Says Jaures, “Undoubtedly but for the compromises of Barnave and all his party on the colonial question, the general attitude of the Assembly after the flight to Varennes would have been different.” Excluding the masses of Paris, no portion of the French empire played, in proportion to its size, so grandiose a role in the French Revolution as the half million blacks and Mulattoes in the remote West Indian islands.

The Black Revolution and World History

The black revolution in San Domingo choked at its source one of the most powerful economic streams of the eighteenth century. With the defeat of the British, the black proletarians defeated the Mulatto Third Estate in a bloody civil war. Immediately after, Bonaparte, representative of the most reactionary elements of the new French bourgeoisie, attempted to restore slavery in San Domingo. The blacks defeated an expedition of some 50,000 men, and with the assistance of the Mulattoes, carried the revolution to its logical conclusion. They changed the name of San Domingo to Haiti and declared the island independent. This black revolution had a profound effect on the struggle for the cessation of the slave trade.

We can trace this close connection best by following the development of abolition in the British Empire. The first great blow at the Tory domination of Britain (and at feudalism in France for that matter) was struck by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. When Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal, he was drawing up the death-warrant of feudal society, wherein men were by law divided into unequal classes. Crispus Attucks, the Negro, was the first man killed by the British in the war that followed. It was no isolated or chance phenomenon. The Negroes thought that in this war for freedom, they could win their own. It has been estimated that of the 30,000 men in Washington’s army 4,000 were Negroes. The American bourgeoisie did not want them. They forced themselves in. But San Domingo Negroes fought in the war also.

The French monarchy came to the assistance of the American Revolution. And Negroes from the French colonies pushed themselves into the French expeditionary force. Of the 1,900 French troops who recaptured Savannah, 900 were volunteers from the French colony of San Domingo. Ten years later some of these men — Rigaud, AndrĂ©, Lambert, Beauvais and others (some say Christophe also) — with their political and military experience will be foremost among the leaders in the San Domingo revolution. Long before Karl Marx wrote, “Workers of the world, unite,” the revolution was international.

The loss of the slave-holding American colonies took much cotton out of the ears of the British bourgeoisie. Adam Smith and Arthur Young, heralds of the industrial revolution and wage-slavery, were already preaching against the waste of chattel-slavery. Deaf up to 1783, the British bourgeois now heard, and looked again at the West Indies. Their own colonies were bankrupt. They were losing the slave trade to French and British rivals. And half the French slaves that they brought were going to San Domingo, the India of the eighteenth century. Why should they continue to do this? In three years, the first abolitionist society was formed and Pitt began to clamor for the abolition of slavery — “for the sake of humanity, no doubt,” says Gaston-Martin, “but also, be it well understood, to ruin French commerce.” With the war of 1793, Pitt, cherishing a prospect of winning San Domingo, piped down on abolition. But the black revolution killed the aspirations of both France and Britain.

The Treaty of Vienna in 1814 gave to France the right to recapture San Domingo: the Haitians swore that they would rather destroy the island. With the abandonment of the hopes for regaining San Domingo, the British abolished the slave trade in 1807. America followed in 1808.

If the East Indian interest in Britain was one of the great financial arsenals of the new bourgeoisie (whence the diatribes of Burke, Whig spokesman, against Hastings and Clive), the West Indian interest, though never so powerful as in France, was a cornerstone of the feudal oligarchy. The loss of America was the beginning of their decline. But for the black revolution, San Domingo would have strengthened them enormously. The reformist British bourgeoisie belabored them, the weakest link in the oligarchic chain. A great slave revolt in Jamaica in 1831 helped to convince those who had doubts. In Britain “Better emancipation from above than from below” anticipated the Tsar by thirty years. One of the first acts of the victorious reformers was to abolish slavery in the British colonies. But for the black revolution in San Domingo, abolition and emancipation might have been postponed another thirty years.

Abolition did not come to France until the revolution of 1848. The production of beet-sugar, introduced into France by Bonaparte, grew by leaps and bounds, and placed the cane sugar interests, based on slavery in Martinique and Guadeloupe, increasingly on the defensive. One of the first acts of the revolutionary government of 1848 was to abolish slavery. But as in 1794, the decree was merely the registration of an accomplished fact. So menacing was the attitude of the slaves that in more than one colony the local government, in order to head off the servile revolution, proclaimed abolition without waiting for authorization from France.

The Negro and the Civil War

1848, the year following the economic crisis of 1847, was the beginning of a new cycle of revolutions all over the Western world. The European revolutions, Chartism in England, were defeated. In America the irrepressible conflict between capitalism in the North and the slave system in the South was headed off for the last time by the Missouri Compromise of 1850. The political developments following the economic crisis of 1857 made further compromise impossible.

It was a decade of revolutionary struggle the world over in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. 1857 was the year of the first war of Indian independence, commonly miscalled the Indian Mutiny. In 1858 began the civil war in Mexico, which ended with the victory of Juarez three years later. It was the period of the Taiping revolution in China, the first great attempt to break the power of the Manchu dynasty. North and South in America moved to their predestined clash unwillingly, but the revolutionary Negroes helped to precipitate the issue. For two decades before the Civil War began, they were leaving the South in thousands. The revolutionary organization known as the Underground Railway, with daring, efficiency and dispatch, drained away the slave owners’ human property. Fugitive slaves were the issue of the day. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was a last desperate attempt by the Federal Government to stop this illegal abolition. Ten Northern states replied with personal liberty laws which nullified the heavy penalties of the 1850 law. Most famous perhaps of all the whites and Negroes who ran the Underground Railway is Harriet Tubman, a Negro who had herself escaped from slavery. She made nineteen journeys into the South and helped her brothers and their wives and three hundred other slaves to escape. She made her depredations in enemy territory with a price of $40,000 on her head. Josiah Henson, the original of Uncle Tom, helped nearly two hundred slaves to escape. Nothing so galled the slave owners as this twenty-year drain on their already bankrupt economic system.

It is unnecessary to detail here the causes of this, the greatest civil war in history. Every Negro schoolboy knows that the last thing Lincoln had in mind was the emancipation of Negroes. What is important is that, for reasons both internal and external, Lincoln had to draw them into the revolutionary struggle. He said that without emancipation the North might not have won, and he was in all probability right. Thousands of Negroes were fighting on the Southern side, hoping to win their freedom that way. The abolition decree broke down the social cohesion of the South. It was not only what the North gained but, as Lincoln pointed out, what the South lost. On the Northern side 220,000 Negroes fought with such bravery that it was impossible to do with white troops what could be done with them. They fought not only with revolutionary bravery but with coolness and exemplary discipline. The best of them were filled with revolutionary pride. They were fighting for equality. One company stacked arms before the tent of its commanding officer as a protest against discrimination.

Lincoln was also driven to abolition by the pressure of the British working class. Palmerston wanted to intervene on the side of the South but was opposed in the cabinet by Gladstone. Led by Marx, the British working class so vigorously opposed the war, that it was impossible to hold a pro-war meeting anywhere in England. The British Tories derided the claim that the war was for the abolition of slavery: hadn’t Lincoln said so many times? The British workers, however, insisted on seeing the war as a war for abolition, and Lincoln, for whom British non-intervention was a life and death matter, decreed abolition with a suddenness which shows his fundamental unwillingness to take such a revolutionary step.

Abolition was declared in 1863. Two years before, the movement of the Russian peasants, so joyfully hailed by Marx, frightened the Tsar into the semi-emancipation of the serfs. The North won its victory in 1865. Two years later the British workers won the Second Reform Bill, which gave the franchise to the workers in the towns. The revolutionary cycle was concluded with the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871. A victory there and the history of Reconstruction would have been far different.

The Negro and World Revolution

Between 1871 and 1905 the proletarian revolution was dormant. In Africa the Negroes fought vainly to maintain their independence against the imperialist invasions. But the Russian Revolution of 1905 was the forerunner of a new era that began with the October Revolution in 1917. While half a million Negroes fought with the French Revolution in 1789, today the socialist revolution in Europe has as its potential allies over 120 million Negroes in Africa. Where Lincoln had to seek an alliance with an isolated slave population, today millions of Negroes in America have penetrated deep into industry, have fought side by side with white workers on picket lines, have helped to barricade factories for sit-down strikes, have played their part in the struggles and clashes of trade unions and political parties. It is only through the spectacles of historical perspective that we can fully appreciate the enormous revolutionary potentialities of the Negro masses today.

Half a million slaves, hearing the words Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity shouted by millions of Frenchmen many thousands of miles away, awoke from their apathy. They occupied the attention of Britain for six years and, once again to quote Fortescue, “practically destroyed the British army.” What of the Negroes in Africa today? This is a bare outline of the record.

French West Africa: 1926-1929, 10,000 men fled into the forest swamps to escape French slavery.

French Equatorial Africa: 1924, uprising. 1924-1925, uprising, 1000 Negroes killed. 1928, June to November, rising in Upper Sangha and Lai. 1929, a rising lasting four months; the Africans organized an army of 10,000.

British West Africa: 1929, a revolt of women in Nigeria, 30,000 in number; 83 killed, 87 wounded. 1937, general strike of the Gold Coast. Farmers, joined by dockers and truck drivers.

Belgian Congo: 1929, revolt in Ruanda Urundi; thousands killed. 1930-1931, revolt of the Bapendi, 800 massacred in one place, Kwango.

South Africa: 1929, strikes and riots in Durban; the Negro quarter was entirely surrounded by troops and bombarded by planes.

Since 1935 there have been general strikes, with shooting of Negroes, in Rhodesia, in Madagascar, in Zanzibar. In the West Indies there have been general strikes and mass action such as those islands have not seen since the emancipation from slavery a hundred years ago. Scores have been killed and wounded.

The above is only a random selection. The Negroes in Africa are caged and beat against the bars continually. It is the European proletariat that holds the key. Let the workers of Britain, France, and Germany say, “Arise, ye children of starvation” as loudly as the French revolutionaries said Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity and what force on earth can hold these Negroes back? All who know anything about Africa know this.

Mr. Norman Leys, a government medical officer in Kenya for twenty years, a member of the British Labour Party, and about as revolutionary as the late Ramsay MacDonald, wrote a study of Kenya in 1924. Seven years later he wrote again. This time he entitled his book A Last Chance in Kenya. The alternative, he said, is revolution.

In Caliban in Africa, Leonard Barnes, another milk and water socialist, writes as follows: “So he [the South African white] and the native he holds captive go spinning down the stream fatally, madly spinning together along the rapids above the great cataract, both yoked to one omnipotent hour.” That is the revolution, wrapped in silver paper.

The revolution haunts this conservative Englishman. He writes again of the Bantu, “They crouch in their corner, nursing a sullen anger and desperately groping for a plan. They will not be many years making up their minds. Time and fate, even more prevailing than the portcullis of the Afrikaner, are driving them on from the rear. Something must give; it will not be fate or time. Some comprehensive social and economic reconstruction must take place. But how? By reason or by violence? ...”

He poses as alternatives what are in reality one. The change will take place, by violence and by reason combined.

“We Have a False Idea of the Negro”

Let us return again to the San Domingo revolution with its paltry half a million slaves. Writing in 1789, the very year of the revolution, a colonist said of them that they were “unjust, cruel, barbarous, half-human, treacherous, deceitful, thieves, drunkards, proud, lazy, unclean, shameless, jealous to fury and cowards. “

Three years later Roume, the French Commissioner, noted that even though fighting with the royalist Spaniards, the black revolutionaries, organizing themselves into armed sections and popular bodies, rigidly observed all the forms of republican organization. They adopted slogans and rallying cries. They appointed chiefs of sections and divisions who, by means of these slogans, could call them out and send them back home again from one end of the province to the others. They threw up from out of their depths a soldier and a statesman of the first rank, Toussaint Louverture, and secondary leaders fully able to hold their own with the French in war, diplomacy, and administration. In ten years they organized an army that fought Bonaparte’s army on level terms. “But what men these blacks are! How they fight and how they die!” wrote a French officer looking back at the last campaign after forty years. From his dying bed, Leclerc, Bonaparte’s brother-in-law and commander-in-chief of the French expedition, wrote home, “We have . . . a false idea of the Negro.” And again, “We have in Europe a false idea of the country in which we fight and the men whom we fight against....” We need to know and reflect on these things to-day.

Menaced during its whole existence by imperialism, European and American, the Haitians have never been able to overcome the bitter heritage of their past. Yet that revolution of a half million not only helped to protect the French Revolution but initiated great revolutions in its own right. When the Latin American revolutionaries saw that half a million slaves could fight and win, they recognised the reality of their own desire for independence. Bolivar, broken and ill, went to Haiti. The Haitians nursed him back to health, gave him money and arms with which he sailed to the mainland. He was defeated, went back to Haiti, was once more welcomed and assisted. And it was from Haiti that he sailed to start on the final campaign, which ended in the independence of the five states.

Today 150 million Negroes, knit into world economy infinitely more tightly than their ancestors of a hundred years ago, will far surpass the work of that San Domingo half million in the work of social transformation. The continuous risings in Africa; the refusal of the Ethiopian warriors to submit to Mussolini; the American Negroes who volunteered to fight in Spain in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as Rigaud and Beauvais had volunteered to fight in America, tempering their swords against the enemy abroad for use against the enemy at home — these lightnings announce the thunder. The racial prejudice that now stands in the way will bow before the tremendous impact of the proletarian revolution.

In Flint during the sit-down strike of two years ago seven hundred Southern whites, soaked from infancy in racial prejudice, found themselves besieged in the General Motors building with one Negro among them. When the time came for the first meal, the Negro, knowing who and what his companions were, held himself in the background. Immediately it was proposed that there should be no racial discrimination among the strikers. Seven hundred hands went up together. In the face of the class enemy the men recognized that race prejudice was a subordinate thing which could not be allowed to disrupt their struggle. The Negro was invited to take his seat first, and after the victory was won, in the triumphant march out of the factory, he was given the first place. That is the prognosis of the future. In Africa, in America, in the West Indies, on a national and international scale, the millions of Negroes will raise their heads, rise up from their knees, and write some of the most massive and brilliant chapters in the history of revolutionary socialism.

C.L.R. James (aka J.R. Johnson) on The Destiny of the Negro: An Historical Overview, November/December 1939
“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded” – Karl Marx

Originally published as a series in Socialist Appeal, Vol. III Nos. 89, 91 & 92, 21 November, 1 & 9 December 1939.
Republished in Scott McLemee (ed.), C.L.R. James on the “Negro Question”, Jackson (Miss.) 1996, pp. 90–99.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Socialist Appeal, Vol. III Nos. 89, 21 November, p. 3.

J.R. Johnson (CLR James) is giving a course on the Destiny of the Negro at the Marxist School, 135 West 33 Street, New York City, each Tuesday evening for the next six weeks, beginning on Tuesday, November 30. To facilitate the study of Negro history, his column will outline each Saturday the subject of the following Tuesday’s lecture. The series begins below.

To know where the Negro is going one must know where the Negro comes from. Capitalist history and capitalist science, taken as a whole, are designed to serve the needs of capitalist profit. Their studies of the Negro and his history have aimed at justifying his exploitation and degradation. They have excused the slave trade and slavery and the present position of Negroes as outcasts in capitalist society, on the ground that the Negro in Africa had shown himself incapable of developing civilization, that he lived a savage and barbarous life, and that such elements of culture as Africa showed in the past and shows today were directly due to the influence of Arabs and Europeans. All of this, from beginning to end, is lies.

I. Negroes in African Civilization

First of all, the capitalist scientist’s attempts to isolate the “pure” Negro from other African peoples is admitted today to be pure rubbish. Though there are broad differentiations, the Negroes in Africa are inextricably mixed. There are people of Hamitic stock who derive either from the Near East or the outermost peninsula of Africa (today British and Italian Somaliland). There are the short-statured Bushmen in the South and the supposedly “pure” Negro is found on the West Coast alone. It is as if a scientist said that the “pure” European was found only on the coast of Portugal. The truth is that even the Egyptians had a strong Negroid strain. There were Negro dynasties in Egypt. Queen Nefertiti, one of the great conquerors and rulers of Egyptian history, was reputedly a Negress. Among the modern Ethiopian ruling class can be seen types, ranging from the purely Semitic through the Mulatto to types indistinguishable from the Negro.

The chief object of these scientists is of course to deprive the Negro of any share in the famous civilizations of Egypt and Ethiopia. Today, ingenious Negroes call the Egyptians “black men” and by this means place all Egyptian civilization to the credit of the Negro. Racial theories of this type, whether from white capitalist centers of learning or fanatical Negro nationalists, are neither history nor science, but political propaganda. This much is clear and for the time being sufficient: the Egyptian civilization began where it did and flourished because of favorable climactic and geographical conditions, and the Negroes had a great deal to do with it.

The attempt to deduce from history that Negroes are subhuman continually breaks down. The Bushmen are among the most primitive of peoples. Yet their drawings have been universally hailed as some of the most marvelous examples of artistic skill. And since when have monkeys been given to producing great artists? In South Africa the ruins of Zimbabwe are evidence of a great ancient civilization. Whose? Nobody knows, but numerous professors are racking their brains to prove that, whoever created it, it wasn’t Negroes. Much good may it do them. They will not stop the world revolution that way.

But the greatest stumbling block in the way of the anti-Negro historians are the empires of Ghana, Songhay, Mos, and others, which flourished in the basin of the Niger. People who sneer at the Marxist phrase “bourgeois ideology” simply have no conception of the dishonesty, corruption, and scope of capitalist lies and propaganda.

The Ghana Empire

For nearly a thousand years (300–1300), between the River Senegal and the Niger flourished the Ghana empire. We do not know how it was founded. Some people say that a Hamitic people from East Africa migrated there. Others say that they came from Syria. What we do know is that this empire at its zenith embraced many millions of people. It produced wool, cotton, silk, velvet; it traded in copper and gold. Many houses in the chief towns were built of stone. At one time its army consisted of 200,000 soldiers. Its schools, its lawyers, its scholars were famous all over the Mediterranean area. And this empire for nearly a thousand years was an empire of black men, of Negroes.

Another famous empire was that of Songhay (600–1500) with its dynasty of Askias. Askia Mohammed I (1493–1528) was not only a great ruler. He surrounded himself with scholars. Timbuktu and Gao were the centers of trade and learning.

The latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica says of these kingdoms,

“Long before the rise of Islam, the peoples of this Northern part of West Africa, consisting largely, as has been seen, of open plains watered by large and navigable rivers, had developed well-organized states, of which the oldest known, Ghana (or Ghanata) is thought to have been founded in the third century AD. Later arose the empire of Melle and the more famous and more powerful Songhoi (Songhoy) empire ... Marking the importance, commercial and political, of these states, large cities were founded.”

The ideas that Islamic influences founded these states is now exploded, and this is admitted by the Britannica writer. He follows, however, the theory of “pure” and “impure” Negroes. The Negroes on the coast were “pure.” But even these, he notes, founded civilizations: “... the Yoruba, the Ashanti, the Dahomi, and the Beni created powerful and well organized kingdoms.”

The Beni, better know as the Benin, are famous today for their bronze sculpture, of artistic merit and technical skill unsurpassed by any people of ancient or modern times. When after many centuries they were “discovered” in 1891, the impudent imperialists at once attributed these bronzes to “Portuguese” influence. That theory has now joined the other in the waste-paper basket.

The High-Water Mark

West Africa was the high-water mark. But all over Africa, organized civilizations flourished. The first Portuguese to visit East Africa some five hundred years ago did not remark any noticeable differences between the Africans and themselves; while less than fifty years ago, Emil Torday, the Belgian explorer, discovered in Central Africa the Bushongo people. A wise king, as far back as the seventeenth century, had prohibited all contact with Europeans, and, away in his interior, the tribe had survived. Torday found a free and happy people, living in villages well laid out, the huts beautifully decorated, their sculpture, textiles, and household objects of a rare beauty. Political organization was a perfect democracy. The king had all the honors, the council all the power. Representatives, two of them always women, were both regional and vocational. Today they are degraded savages.

Torday states that before the coming of the Europeans such civilizations, perfectly adapted to their environment, were widespread over Africa. The picture of warring tribes and savage cannibals is all lies.

As late as 1906, Frobenius traveling in the Belgian Congo, could still see the following:

“And on all this flourishing material, civilization then was abloom; here the bloom on ripe fruit both tender and lustrous; the gestures, manners, and customs of a whole people, from the youngest to the oldest, alike in the families of the princes and the well-to-do, of the slaves, so naturally dignified and refined in the smallest detail. I know no northern race who can bear comparison with such a uniform level of education as is found among the natives.”

Slave Trade Destroys Africa

It was the slave trade that destroyed Africa, the depredations of Arabs and European imperialists. They ravaged the continent for three centuries. What the travellers of the nineteenth century discovered was the wreck and ruin of what had existed four centuries before, and even then enough remained to disprove the ideas of the subhuman Negro. Africa is a vast continent and many millions of people in varying degrees of civilization have lived there over the centuries. There was much ignorance, barbarism, and superstition, but the history and achievements of Negroes in art, literature, politics, empire-building, until Arab and European imperialism fell upon them in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, is an incontrovertible refutation of the mountains of lies and slander built up by capitalist apologists in defense of capitalist barbarism. Africans worked in iron countless generations ago and many historians claim that it was they who introduced metal work to Europe and Asia.

Capitalism developing in Europe precipitated the discovery of America and sent its navigators and explorers to Africa. In the sixteenth century began the use of Negro slaves in the plantations of America. British capitalism drew one of the most powerful sources of wealth from the slave trade. The greatness of Liverpool, the second city of Great Britain, was founded on the trade. The wealth of the French bourgeoisie was based upon the slave trade. The rise of modern Europe is inexplicable without a knowledge of the economic ramifications of the slave trade.

* * *
For a useful sketch of the early history of Africa see the opening chapters of Carter Woodson, The Negro in Our History. For more detailed study the reader will have to consult the writings of Emil Torday, Frobenius and Maurice Delafosse. Admirable material can be found in Nancy Cunard’s Negro. For easily obtainable material on slavery and European capitalism see Africa and the Rise of Capitalism, by Wilson E. Williams (The Harvard University Studies in the Social Sciences, Harvard University, Washington, D.C.) and the Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James, Chapters 1–3, particularly pages 35–41.

Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 91, 1 December 1939, p. 3.

II. Emancipation from Slavery and the Destruction of Feudalism

First of all, what is feudalism? That is not easy to answer in a sentence. It is a form of society based on landed property and simple methods of cultivation.

They have a landowning class which rules; at the other end of the social scale you have the serfs, who get a part of their produce to feed themselves and contribute their surplus to the landowning aristocracy. Side by side with the landowning aristocracy is the clergy. The main characteristic of social life in feudal society is the fact that the aristocracy and clergy have great privileges, and the serfs and others have very few or none. This is not a question of custom, but a question of law. (In capitalist society, in theory, all men are equal before the law.) Feudal economy in Europe did not in any way have contact with Africa. It was essentially a subsistence economy; that is to say, it produced what it needed to feed and clothe itself. About the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, however, there grew up in Europe a new class, the merchants. These were the first real capitalists.

Europe’s First Dealings with Africa

Soon their business began to be of great importance in the state. With increasing wealth, they gradually changed the economies of certain countries from producing chiefly food and the simple things that the community needed, to the manufacture of goods on a large scale. This particular class was concerned as much with production for trade in other parts of the country and abroad as for use at home. It was this drive for trade, for raw materials, for markets, and for profit, that created the necessity for expansion, and in the fifteenth century finally sent expeditions to America and to Africa. Thus it was the development of capitalism in Europe that brought the millions of Africans into contact with Western civilization.

Capitalism demands above all else landless laborers. In Europe the capitalist class created a class of landless laborers by driving them off the land whenever possible, for if the serf or the peasant had land on which to work or earn his keep for himself, naturally he would not hire himself out to any capitalist for long hours and small pay.

When the capitalists discovered America, they tried to use the Indian as landless laborers. But the Indians died. There was so much land that it was impossible to get landless laborers from among the early colonists. Because of this, the capitalists in Europe and their agents in the colonies brought millions of Negroes as slaves to America and thereby provided the colonies with the necessary labor. By this means capitalism enormously expanded its capacity for making profit.

By means of these vast profits that they made at home and abroad, the capitalists in Britain and France, for example not only built up tremendous trade and business, but with the profits accumulated, they began to organize factories and extend the application of science to industry. The standard of civilization rose, and the power and profits of the capitalists increased also. But the governments of France and Britain still continued to be under the domination of the old feudal nobility. When came much trouble. [sic!]

Capitalists Make Their Revolution

Trade and factories were more important than land. Yet the rulers of the countries were princes, dukes, lords, bishops, and archbishops. That was all very well when they had the economic power, but now it had passed from them. Not only were they proud and arrogant, but they tried to keep the laws and the government suitable to land ownership when, owing to the shift in the economic basis of the country, the laws and the government should have been organized to help trade and industry. It was no use pointing out to them that they should give way. It took revolutions to do it.

In Britain there were two revolutions. One took place in the seventeenth century and lasted off and on for nearly sixty years. In France, revolution began in 1789, and by the time it was over the power of the aristocracy and the clergy was wiped away completely.

What part did the Negroes play in all this? The capitalists who first profited by slavery were commercial capitalists and the planters in the colonies. These planters were partly capitalist in that they traded their produce far and wide, and partly feudal in that they kept their slaves in a state of subjection comparable to the old serfdom and built up a type of feudal society. But as capitalism developed, these commercial traders and the plantation owners collaborated closely with the aristocracy, and many of them became aristocrats themselves. By the time the industrial capitalists were busy developing their factories, the aristocrats, the planters, and the commercial capitalists formed, roughly speaking, one reactionary group.

An End to Slavery

Now one of the things that the industrial capitalists wanted to do was to finish with slavery. It was too expensive. Slave production was backward compared with modern methods and more highly developed capitalist production in agriculture. So that you had on one side the industrial capitalists determined to destroy the slave power of the aristocrats, the commercial capitalists, and the planters. It was in this political struggle that Negroes got their chance to fight for their freedom. They played a small part in the English political struggle, a larger part in the French struggle, and a decisive part in the American struggle. This was not accidental. A few figures will show us why.

In 1789 British colonial trade was five million pounds out of an export trade of 27 million. Britain had lost America in 1783 and had few slaves in the West Indies. We can therefore see that slavery was playing a very minor part in British economy. The British Negroes on the whole played little part in the destruction of British feudalism.

Negro in the French Revolution

In France in 1789 the export trade was 17 million pounds. The colonial trade was 11 million pounds – two thirds of it. The question of abolition was therefore of tremendous importance. It took a prominent part in the revolution. The Negroes fought magnificently and, being thousands of miles away, gained their independence. This is how Haiti came into being.

In America in 1861 this combination of the commercial bourgeoisie and the plantation owners was not a minor part of American economy. It was a major part. The combination was not a colony thousands of miles away. It occupied hundreds of thousands of square miles inside the country. To defeat this combination took the greatest Civil War in history, and the Negro’s share was far greater than it had been in France.

This is the way we must look at history. People who only see black men in general being oppressed by white men in general, and are unable to trace the historical dialectic, do not understand anything and therefore cannot lead. That is the great value of being a genuine Marxist, an adherent of the Fourth International. You can study history and understand where we are today and why and where we are going tomorrow.

* * *
The Black Jacobins, by C.L.R. James.

History of Negro Revolt, by C.L.R. James.

The series of articles by George Novack which is now running in The New International. They are the only Marxist study of the pre-Civil War period and they are invaluable.

Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 92, 9 December 1939, p. 3.

III. The Bourgeois Revolutions and Imperialism

Let us for a moment review our analysis of the Negro in his contact with Western civilization ... We established that the Negroes in Africa had built high if simple civilizations up to the fourteenth century. It was necessary to emphasize this, to destroy the imperialist – fostered conception of Africa as a land of eternal savagery and barbarism from which it has to some degree been raised by the gentle hand of the European invaders.

European contact with Africa began with the rise of European imperialism. A new continent, America, was discovered and Africa, which had always lain within easy reach of European ships, was penetrated. Commercial capitalism developed the mercantile system, which needed labor in the American tropical plantation. When the Indians proved unsatisfactory, slaves were brought from Africa. On the basis of the wealth created by the slave trade and the colonial trade directly dependent upon it, the commercial capitalists of Europe and America built up from their ranks a new section of the capitalist class, the industrial capitalists. These, whose chief function was the application of large-scale organization and science to industry, came inevitably into conflict with the planters: slave labor was too expensive, too backward for the new methods. This economic conflict was the basis for political conflict. The commercial bourgeoisie and the feudal aristocracy still had the political power their former economic predominance had given them, and for the new rising class of industrial bourgeoisie, to wrest it from them meant a struggle.

The Bourgeois Revolution

This was a progressive struggle. It took place in great revolutions in France and in America, and in Britain it took not only the threat but the actual beginning of a revolution to break the power of the feudal aristocrats. In all these the Negro played a tremendous part. In America he was given the opportunity of doing this because his emancipation was in the interest of the Northern industrialist bourgeoisie. All these great movements of politics thrust the color question into subordination and unimportance. It is economics and politics, not color, that are decisive in history.

To see what happened after the industrialist bourgeoisie took power, it would be best to follow the course of one country, say Great Britain. The industrialists seized power in 1832. They struck a terrific blow at the landed aristocracy in 1847 by abolishing the “corn laws.” Through these laws the feudal aristocrats had artificially maintained the price of grain by restricting foreign competition with the produce of their fields. Rising with the industrial bourgeoisie was a new class – the industrial working class, the proletariat. And by 1848 the Chartist Movement of the workers was feeling its way towards revolution.

But in this year began a great era of prosperity. So prosperous was the industrial bourgeoisie, thanks to the home market its victory had given it, that it treated the idea of colonies in Africa with scorn. Disraeli wrote in 1866 that the British had all that they wanted in Asia. For, he continued, “what is the use of these colonial deadweights, the West Indian and West Africa colonies? ... Leave the Canadians to govern themselves; recall the African squadrons; give up the settlements on the southeast coast of Africa and we shall make a saving which will at the same time enable us to build ships and have a good budget.” In the year he wrote, only one-tenth or less of Africa was in the hands of European imperialists. They had devastated the continent, but now they wanted the slaves no longer. For a while it almost seemed that Africa would be left in peace.

A New Need for Africa

But capitalist production lead inevitable to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and the corresponding increasing poverty of the masses. The workers cannot buy what they produce. The capitalists must find abroad new markets, sources of new materials, and places to invest their capital.

In 1885 Jules Ferry, the French statesman, used the famous words:

Colonies for rich countries are one of the most lucrative methods of utilizing capital ... I say that France, which is glutted with capital, has a reason for looking on this side of the colonial question ... European consumption is saturated: it is necessary to raise new masses of consumer in other parts of the globe, else we shall put modern society into bankruptcy and prepare for social liquidation with the dawn of the twentieth century ...

Cecil Rhodes once told a friend, “If you want to free civilization, become an imperialist.” With the glut in the home market, colonies were no longer “deadweight.” While in 1880 only one-tenth of Africa was in the hands of European imperialists; by 1900 less than one-tenth of the land remained in the hands of the African people. That saturation of European consumption to which Ferry referred and the part that Africa played can be shown by the following simple calculation. Great Britain has invested abroad roughly twenty billion dollars. The total investment in Africa from all sources is roughly six billion dollars, and of this almost five billion is in British territory. That is to say, almost one-fourth of British foreign investment is to be found in Africa.

But this process of “saturation” that forced the imperialists to expand to the colonies has now itself spread to the colonies. The increasing accumulation of great wealth in the hands of the few and the increasing poverty of the masses is now not only a European but world phenomenon. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, is bankrupt. The war of 1914–1918, the worldwide crisis since 1929, the new world war of 1939 – these are items from the ledger of imperialism. Only the overthrowing of the bankrupt class by a new class, only the triumphant proletarian revolution, can balance the budget of civilization.

And in the same way as the Negro played an important role in the revolution of the industrialists in unseating the feudal aristocracy, so tomorrow the Negroes will play a decisive role in the struggle between finance-capital and the working class. Against his declared intentions, Lincoln was forced to free the slaves. Revolutionary France had to recognize the revolution of the Santo Domingo blacks. In the stress of economic and political conflict, color was forgotten and the rising class took help wherever it could get it. The Negroes in Africa and America, wherever they are the most oppressed of people, are going to strike even more deadly blows for freedom, against the capitalist system of exploitation, in alliance with the white workers of the world.
C.L.R. James (aka J.R. Johnson) on the Negro in Steel, November 24, 1939
“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded” – Karl Marx

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 90, 24 November 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Let us continue with our examination of the Negro in the steel industry, as portrayed by Cayton and Mitchell in their book, Black Workers and the New Unions.

The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers for years did practically nothing to organize the Negroes – or for that matter, anybody else. The union officials passed resolutions and talked about accepting Negro workers as well as whites, but they did nothing to bring numbers of Negroes into the union, even after the passage of the National Industrial Relations Act. The union continued its policy of equality in words and segregation in action.

But among the new unions formed after the NRA, there was a new spirit, and officers and members went after Negroes, recognizing that without them it was impossible to win victories against the bosses. Wherever the proportion of Negroes in the plant was large the workers made a determined drive. An interview with a worker in McKeesport, Penna., shows in a few words the role of the Negro in steel:

“Negroes must be organized here if the union is to have any show at all; it would be impossible to ignore them completely because of their great numbers, especially since difficulties have been experienced in bringing in the highly skilled American workers.”

Outstretched Hand Not Enough

But the Negro has behind him three hundred years of deception and exploitation by whites. Many whites make the mistake of thinking that as soon as they go with an outstretched hand to the Negro he will forget everything and accept it. It is not so easy. Many of the white workers found that they had to make a special effort to get Negroes in. One of the most frequent methods adopted was to get Negro speakers to address meetings. And certain lodges elected Negroes to offices in the unions, so as to give practical proof that the equality of which they spoke was more than verbal bait for the Negroes. In Homestead, Penna., the financial secretary of Spirit of 1892 Lodge No. 172 tells of the great success that follows the election of Negroes to office:

“... Then the rest of them came in droves. They are a clannish bunch, passing word of all such developments around among themselves. Each man brings his friends, and the next meeting the friend brings other friends, until enormous numbers of them attend in force.”

The two areas where most Negroes filed into the union were Pittsburgh and Birmingham, one in the heart of the industrial district of the Northeast and the other in the backward South. This shows us once more a lesson that we must never forget, that in the last analysis it is economic relations which are decisive in politics.

No Racial Question in Profits

The economic relation is decisive in politics. The capitalist does not allow race prejudice to interrupt his profits. When union activities became threatening, the owners in one factory tried a novel way of splitting the workers. Previously Negroes were not allowed to work the open hearth or as first helpers, but were kept as second or third helpers. To divide the working class, the company promoted several Negroes to first helpers, the most aristocratic, skilled, and well paid job in the whole mill. This had a double effect. Those Negroes who got the job would have nothing whatever to do with the union. And the other Negroes in the shop felt that at last promotion was open to them and they therefore became much cooler to union organization.

The white workers were now paying for their previous neglect of and discrimination against the Negroes. We shall see more of this in the future. But in any serious competition, on a large scale, between the workers and the bosses, the great majority of Negro workers – 99 percent of them – will find their places beside their white brothers. Economic relations, though not the whole story, are the most important part of the story.

Many of the Negro workers are sympathetic to the union. They know that they will get little from the company, but what they fear is that in the event of a closed shop the white workers might discriminate against them. This has happened in many unions and nothing but the most vigilant honesty and fair play on the part of the white workers can break down this justified distrust. Yet despite these difficulties, the unions were able to attract and to hold Negroes.

Equality Begins Among Workers

An important part of this work is the election of Negro officers. In nearly every important lodge in the Pittsburgh area this has taken place. First of all the lodges began by electing Negroes to office simply in order to attract other Negroes. Later, as more Negroes came into the union, these voted for additional colored officers. And finally all the workers, white and black, recognized the capabilities of certain among the Negro officials and voted for them without regard for the color of their skin. In Clairton, Penna., for instance, according to an interview,

“There were more colored than white elected to office. Here in Clairton there are about ten whites to one colored person. When the nomination came off, they nominated whom they wanted. We wanted to put up as many Negroes as we could. We voted by secret ballot. They had a colored man and a white man watching the ballot box. Six colored were nominated and of these, four were elected. Mr. M. was elected corresponding representative, J.E. financial secretary, M.B. trustee, and J.B. another trustee.”

When the Negro sees that he can make his influence felt and can elect some of his race to office, he can more easily turn his back on the bosses. It is in this way that the great battle for equality not only on the economic but on the political and social field will be won.

The Homestead, Penna., lodge, according to one of its officers,

“... held a couple of bingo games and a dance, all of which Negroes attended in force with their ladies. At the dance, held in the lower section of the city near the Negro district, there were no restrictions. Dancing was mixed racially and sexually, whites with Negro partners. I danced with a Negro girl myself. Negroes enjoyed themselves immensely and there was no kicks from the whites. This lodge will soon have a picnic which will be mixed.”

There are many such successful attempts, despite some failures.

This attempt of the workers to get together, naturally suffers from the tremendous pressure to which they are subjected by the race prejudices of a bourgeois society. But it is here that the battle for racial equality must be fought, and it is here that it can be won. Not in dances in Greenwich Village, or by bourgeois hosts and hostesses who invite intelligent Negroes to their houses for dinner in order to show that they are enlightened and above the vulgar prejudices of capitalist society. Some of these people mean well, some of them do not. But their activities, their parties and lunches are a mere drop in the ocean. They are not important. Black and white workers struggling together for socialism will bring equality, and nothing else will.
C.L.R. James (aka J.R. Johnson) on The Negro in Steel, November 17, 1939
“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded” – Karl Marx

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 88, 17 November 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We must get some general conception of the role the Negro worker has played and plays in industry in this country. We have first to recognize that the race question, the color question, play their part. But we must see below the surface of things and recognize that the color question is not decisive. It is not the factor which plays the greatest part. Until we understand that, we cannot organize for struggle and plan our campaigns. We have not only to understand it but must have it deeply rooted in our minds as the basis of all our thinking. Quite recently an able study has appeared on the Negro worker. It is called Black Workers and the New Unions, written by Horace Cayton and George Mitchell. We shall use it heavily in these articles on the Negro’s role in industry, and we recommend a thorough study of the book to all workers, white and black.

First the Negro comes into the steel industry as a strikebreaker. From 1875 to 1914, whenever the white capitalist wants to break the neck of white workers, he sends for Negroes, most often to the South, and uses them against the workers of his own color. For the great steel strike in 1919 the white capitalists brought in 30,000 Negroes. For these capitalists, the race question was certainly not the main question.

Negroes Enter Industry

This sending for Negroes to help break the struggles of the white workers was part of the general economic movement of the times – the migration of over a million Negroes to the North. Thus in the Allegheny district of Pennsylvania in 1910, there were 100 Negro steel workers, in 1915 there were 2,500, in 1916 there were 8,325, in 1923, there were 16,000.

As an official of the Carnegie Steel Company said in an interview given to Messers Cayton and Mitchell on July 6, 1934:

“As far as I am concerned I believe that the Negro has been a lifesaver to the Steel company. When we have had labor disputes or when we needed more men for expansion we have gone to the South and brought up thousands of them. I don’t know what this company would have done without Negroes.” (Black Workers and New Unions, p. 7)

On the whole, between 1890 and 1930, the number of Negroes in the iron, steel, machinery and vehicle industries, increased from less than 25,000 to 250,000.

The Dirty Work for the Negro

What sort of jobs did Negroes get in the industry? Naturally nothing but the unskilled, the lowest paid, the most unpleasant jobs. Between 1910 and 1930 the Negro made little progress in getting the better kind of job. Take for instance the work in blast furnaces and steel-rolling mills. In 1910 there were between 45 Negroes out of every 1,000 working as laborers in these industries. In 1930 there were 85. Thus the number of Negroes almost doubled. But it was chiefly laborer’s jobs that the Negroes got. In 1910 out of every 1,000 laborers, 69 were Negroes. In 1930, there were 165 Negroes out of every 1,000. But whereas in 1910 there were 29 Negroes out of every 1,000 skilled workers, in 1930 there were only 40. Thus 96 more laborers got jobs, proportionally, but only 11 skilled workers. That is a point we have to keep our eye on. As for office jobs there were 3 Negroes out of every 1,000 in 1910, and only one out of every 1,000 in 1930.

All the nasty jobs are for the Negroes. But here again we must have some historical perspective. All the white groups, American born and foreign born, discriminate against the Negroes. But the American-born whites discriminate against the foreign-born whites. The American born usually take all the best jobs for themselves and the bosses encourage them. (For the boss loves, how he loves to see the workers divided.)

Discrimination Among Foreign Born

But that is not all. Even the “foreigners” discriminate. Sixty or seventy years ago Irish did all the dirty work. After a generation they moved up in the scale and the Poles, Czechs and other central Europeans did most of the dirty work in their turn. The Negroes came last into the industry and so quite naturally Poles, Czechs, and these latest immigrants did to Negroes what the Irish had done to them The bosses naturally encouraged this. The class-conscious workers tried to break it down. Only whereas the American-born, Irish, and Central European workers were all white, they could get together more quickly as workers than they could get together with Negroes.

Was the Negro an Inferior Worker?

Was the Negro an inferior worker? The bosses at one time used to say so but as they found it necessary to use the Negro more and more, they changed their tune. Take this interview with a Buffalo superintendent of a steel plant:

“We found most of them good workmen. There are some who are poor, but In general they are good men. I don’t see any difference between the races.”

Or this statement by the assistant superintendent of a steel plant in Cleveland:

“Some of the very best workers we had were Negroes – I will say that the colored are on a par with the white.”

Take this from a Superintendent of Safety and Welfare in Homestead, Pa:

“The Negroes that we brought up are superior to the whites that we brought in. We got one group of whites from Kentucky Hills district. They were just the poor white trash and were no good at all. We also got a shipment of whites from around Buffalo but they were just riff-raff. The Negroes are superior to them as workmen and morally. Also I believe they are better physically.” (Black Workers and New Unions, p. 35)

Where did the white bosses learn this? They wouldn’t have said it twenty years ago. Some of them deny the Negro’s capacity up to today. But on the whole they have been driven by economic necessity to accept the Negro in the industry and then to recognize that he can do. the job as well as any other.

But the workers were having a much longer time to recognize the Negro. First it seemed to them that being white meant a better chance to get a job and a better-paid job. Which was true, though it wasn’t the whole truth. And secondly, although the white bosses were forced to recognize the ability of the Negro, they did not go out of their way to help the workers, white and black, to overcome the prejudices. For them to do that would have been suicide. It would have meant the unity of black and white workers, which, for the bosses, is the beginning of the end. So in some plants Negrotes and whites continued to be segregated in the lunch-room. In another plant the company built a swimming pool with money collected from both white and black and they prohibited the blacks from using the pool. In Gary, Indiana, the United States Steel Company took it upon itself to see that Negroes were kept out of all the municipal parks except one.

By this means the company aimed at keeping the Negroes and whites in the plants divided. The superintendent and officials of the plant actually told the Negro workers that if they used a certain park they would lose their jobs. Why? Every white worker arid Negro worker should ask himself this question and think over it until he got the answer. Why were the bosses so anxious to prevent Negro workers and their wives and children from using a park along with white workers and their families? Was it because the bosses loved the whites so much that they wanted to save them from Negro contamination? But since when have bosses been so concerned about what happens to workers after they leave work? The reason is obvious. The boss wanted to keep them apart.

Naturally the white workers should have opposed this immediately, should have demanded that the Negroes be allowed to use whatever park they wanted, should have insisted upon it. But the workers are not as quick as the bosses at seeing these things. They see them in time, however. In succeeding articles we shall see how the white steel-workers as a whole, recognized the necessity of cooperating with their Negro brothers in industry. We shall have to note particularly why they recognised it, and how this recognition expressed itself.
George Padmore: Britain’s Black Record (September 1941)
From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 43, 27 October 1941, p. 3.
Originally published in New Leader (London).
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In a preceding article (printed in Labor Action, October 13 – Ed.), I think I said enough to prove that the Germans – our justified condemnation of Hitlerism notwithstanding – are not the only white folks with a BLACK RECORD. The truth is: imperialist powers cannot afford to turn up their noses at one another, for they ALL have black records. This is an historic fact which seems to have escaped such Britons as the eminent publicist, Lord Vansittart.

The treatment meted out to the defenseless Africans, by representatives of the social class to which Lord Vansittart belongs, shows that British imperialism can also behave like German Nazis when they lord it over a subject race.

The totalitarian regimes applied to the blacks (and to them only) in territories like the Union and Southern Rhodesia were in existence long before Hitler began to institute similar methods, in Europe. Hitler not only copied from British colonial practices, but also largely borrowed the theoretical foundation for his racial philosophy from the writings of another eminent English publicist, Houston Stuart Chamberlin, author of The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century.

Is it any wonder that the Fuehrer has expressed in Mein Kampf great admiration for the British Empire? Hitler has certainly learned much from the British imperialists, especially those who have settled in the colonies.

The Black Man’s Burden

The extent to which reaction has triumphed in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia is best shown by examining the character of legislation enacted in recent years by the Rhodesian government.

On the initiative of certain missionary societies, an ordinance under the title of the Preachers’ Bill was in 1936 presented to the Legislative Assembly, composed entirely of whites. Articles four and five of the bill recommended that:

“Wherever three or four natives are gathered together and conduct a religious service in the presence of a fourth native, which is either of a religious character or instruction in religion, the person conducting it will he liable to both fine and imprisonment unless he is in possession of a certificate granted either by the native commissioner or a missionary.”

Like true Pharisees, these are the people who are forever talking about religious freedom! Freedom for themselves, not the blacks.

When the text of the bill came before the House of Commons for imperial assent, MP’s attacked it so violently that Malcolm MacDonald, who was then Dominions Secretary, was forced to reject these discriminating clauses. For, had Parliament agreed to what the white Rhodesians were demanding, an African father reading the Bible to his family would technically be committing a criminal offense! And, as I said, the bill was sponsored by so-called Christian missionaries!

What was the reason for this un-Christian conduct? To prevent their black converts from organizing churches, independent of white control. Because of the racial attitude of the overwhelming majority of European “Christians” to Africans, many natives who have embraced Christianity have organized a distinct African church under their own management.

The Dutch Reformed Church, for example, refused to participate in the World Sunday School Convention held in South Africa in July, 1940, on the ground that it is against their racial principles for whites and blacks to associate on the basis of “equality, even in the presence of God.”

While opposed to “social equality” with non-Europeans, these men of God still want to control all religious activities among Africans.

Finger Print Passes

This particular bill was defeated thanks to opposition in the House of Commons, but other racial regulations which have had the most disastrous effect for the Africans were enacted. About the same time as the Preachers’ Bill was presented, the Rhodesian Parliament enacted an amendment to the Native Pass Consolidation Ordinance, which received the approval of the Dominions Office in London, this Act provides for the tightening up of control over the movements of Africans, as also do the Native Registration Act of 1936 and the Native Urban Location Ordinance. These regulations correspond to curfew and martial law established in the Nazi-occupied countries in Europe.

Any African, for example, living in a reserve area but wishing to move into a location or native ghetto, must first have his finger prints taken and comply with other identification formalities, after which he is granted a special permit by the European Location Superintendent entitling him to enter the ghetto for a certain period.

Unlike the Poles and Jews in Poland, the Africans are not forced to wear any distinguishing letters on their arms. The color of their skin is a sufficient badge’ of servitude!

Legalized Brothels

Africans living permanently in townships and European districts must observe curfew regulations. They are not allowed to be outside prescribed areas between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a special pass from the authorities. If an African not permanently residing in a “location” sleeps in a tenement (which, incidentally, are built by white labor under the industrial color-bar regulations), the person giving such hospitality is liable to imprisonment on a charge of “harboring,” unless permission was previously obtained.

Under the Registration Enactment Ordinance, assented to by Mr. Malcolm Macdonald in 1936, brothels are now legal in the industrial areas of Southern Rhodesia. This law was bitterly, denounced at the time by certain MP’s, especially Tom Johnston, Secretary for Scotland, but the Rhodesian government wanted it and Whitehall gave its approval.

The ordinance makes it legal for African women to set up brothels and provide mistresses for native miners doing their period of indenture in the mining areas. A man engages a woman to live with him and is under no obligation to support her or his children (if any) when he returns .to his home. The woman is left to take on a newcomer until she is out of service. The idea is that this system will induce a greater flow of labor to the mines from neighboring territories, as the future development of the industry depends upon a continuous flow of cheap labor from outside the colony.

This demand for slave labor is the chief cause of conflict between the industrialists and farmers in Southern Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa, and the reason why Sir Godfrey Huggins, the Rhodesian Prime Minister, is pressing the Churchill government to hand over Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This is a matter over which “we are not prepared to be put off,” declared Sir Godfrey, addressing a meeting in Salisbury as late as August 5, 1941.
George Padmore: Britain’s Black Record (September 1941) Part II
From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 45, 10 November 1941, p. 2.
Originally published in New Leader (London), 27 September 1941.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The following article is continued from the issue of October 27. Written by George Padmore, internationally known Negro socialist, it is reprinted from the British New Leader, organ of the Independent Labor Party.
Demand For Cheap Labor

The question of Lebensraum for the 60,000 British settlers in Rhodesia was raised about the same time that Hitler was demanding more “living space” for the German Herrenvolk.

And the imperial government was adopting the same appeasement policy with Huggins as with Hitler. While Chamberlain was selling out the Czechs at Munich, a royal commission, headed by Lord Bledisloe, was dispatched to South Africa “to inquire and report into the question of amalgamating the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland.” Fortunately for the blacks, the war intervened before a deal could be fixed up between Whitehall and the imperialists in Southern Rhodesia. The imperial government is afraid that any surrender at this time might incite the natives of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to open rebellion, for the Africans in these countries told Lord Bledisloe and his colleagues that they don’t want to have anything to do with “Fuehrer” Huggins and his fascist regime. Their conditions are already bad enough, but Southern Rhodesia is no better than a glorified concentration camp for Africans.

Meanwhile the problem of meeting the demand for slave labor increases with the war effort. As Northern Rhodesia needs all the labor she can obtain for the Copper Belt, and the South African Union is drawing heavily on Nyasaland and the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, the Southern Rhodesian government is resorting more and more to the use of juvenile labor to meet the agricultural needs of the tobacco planters and other employers.

Rhodesian tobacco and maize are cultivated chiefly by cheap black labor. Africans are paid about 12 shillings six pence per month of 30 working days. Women and children get even less!

Child Labor

There is no colony, with the possible exception of Kenya, where child labor flourishes as in Southern Rhodesia. In passing the Juveniles’ Employment Act, a government spokesman declared that:

“It was in the best interests of the children, as it prevented them becoming vagabonds and waifs exposed to pernicious influences.”

This child labor regulation gives the native commissioner and officers of his department the right to arrange the hiring out of children to white employers for a period not exceeding six months at a time.

The labor regulations also provide for punishment by fines, imprisonment or flogging for any breach of contract. According to Hansard (28-3-39) 1,056 Africans were sentenced to corporal punishment in 1938.

Commenting upon the working of the Juveniles’ Employment Act, the chief native commissioner makes the following interesting observations on the history of child labor in the colony:

“For the past 30 years there has been no lack of voluntary – insistent, even – child labor. Wherever employment is offered, children have been among the first applicants for it ... There is probably no missionary’s home without it. ... The legislation was designed, as its traducers well know, to protect and control the ever-increasing stream of children, to legalize their claims for the wages they earned, and to ensure for the other part that their monthly engagement should not, to their own detriment, be lightly abandoned.”

The commissioner speaks about wages earned by children. Well, let’s examine the general scale of wages paid to adults in Southern Rhodesia.

In view of what I have already said about the regime in relation to the Africans, it will be no surprise to learn that trade unionism is not allowed among natives. The trade union movement in Southern Rhodesia, like the Labor Party, does not admit blacks to membership.

Moreover, the government is hostile to labor organization among Africans. Some years ago, African organizers connected with the Bantu trade union movement in the Union, known as the ICU (Industrial and Commercial Union), attempted to organize the native workers in Southern Rhodesia, but they were arrested and deported. As stated, it is unsafe to form a religious society in Africa much less an industrial organization for the purpose of obtaining higher wages, shorter hours and better working conditions. Colonial “blimps” consider native trade unionism synonymous with bolshevism!

The working day is usually between 10 to 14 hours. Thirty working days constitute a month. Miners get about 29 shillings 6 pence a month. Imported labor is paid less. Africans from Nyasaland get 25 shillings and those from Northern Rhodesia 18 shillings. They all receive rations – valued at 7 shillings 6 pence per month! Agricultural laborers get less than miners. The wage is 12 shillings 6 pence per month for men; 9 shillings for women, and 5 shillings for children. Some in domestic service only get rations. (A shilling is worth approximately 25 cents; a penny, 2 cents. – Ed.)

Live Like Animals

The Africans live and work under the most appalling social conditions. They live like animals and only a small percentage of them enjoy any sort of protection under social legislation.

Discussing the status of black miners, Lord Hailey in An African Survey (page 674), says:

“Compensation for industrial disability is provided under Ordinance 15 of 1922 as amended by Act 16 of 1930, but it is awarded on a fixed scale which makes no provision for natives drawing but low rates of pay.”

White miners, on the other hand, receive a minimum wage of 20 shillings per day of eight hours, plus free quarters and other social amenities. They are protected by all kinds of social legislation: Workmen’s Compensation Act, Miners’ Phthisis Act., etc., etc. It is no wonder that the white workers in the colonies constitute a labor aristocracy divorced from the life and struggles of colored labor. Imperialism not only exploits in the economic sense, but has succeeded in inciting the white proletariat against the blacks.

To maintain their political and economic domination over the Africans, the settlers are opposed to educating the natives. By keeping them ignorant they seek to justify their own racial superiority and right to rule.

Hitler is pursuing the same policy in Europe. In Poland and Czechoslovakia the Nazis are trying to suppress the national culture of the natives by destroying their schools, colleges and universities and by prescribing the books they may read. Since the African had no institutions of learning to destroy when they stole his land, the Rhodesian Herrenvolk have had it easier than the Nazis. But like the Germans they are determined to keep all “dangerous thoughts” away from the natives.
George Padmore 1944: Imperialism: The Basis of Labour Party Crisis
Source: Left, No. 92, June 1944. .
Transcribed: by Christian Hogsbjerg for 2007.

The recent parliamentary clash between the Minister of Labour, Mr. Ernest Bevin, and Mr. Aneurin Bevan, Left-Wing Labourite M.P., over the infamous anti-working-class regulation 1A(a), has given rise to much speculation over the political fate of certain individuals involved.

We, however, are only concerned with this episode in so far as it reflects a fundamental ideological cleavage between the Trade Union hierarchy and the Socialist-minded Labour M.P.s and “Intellectuals,” who represent the more politically advanced membership of the Party.

To understand the basis of the ideological differences in outlook between the right-wing political Labour leaders and the Trade Union officials on the one hand, and the left-wing “Intellectuals” on the other, it is necessary to keep in mind the historical development of British Trade Unionism in relation to Imperialism. Only in this socio-political context can the crisis within the Parliamentary Labour Party be explained.

Every working-class organization functioning in a highly-developed capitalist society like Britain with a world-wide Empire, is, willy-nilly, influenced by its imperialistic environment. It is precisely because the ideology of the ruling-class has permeated the Labour Movement and corrupted influential sections of the leadership that Trade Union leaders have become so closely tied with Monopoly-Capitalists. And as a corollary of this, some of those Labour officials are now actively preaching capitalist control and planning, and at the same time helping Ministers of a Tory-disguised Government to make regulations against the fundamental interests of the working-class. In this way, the Corporate State is being gradually introduced. ‘

Empire Unites Labour and Capital

While genuine Socialists within the Labour Party may look upon it as the instrument for bringing about a fundamental transformation of the existing social order, the Trade Union leaders certainly have no such illusions. They have never really been converted to the Socialist objective, even though they have given lip-service to it. Their outlook is purely economic, and they have used their positions in the Labour Party to impose their aims. These aims have been to wring concessions from the ruling class, and they have come progressively to the point of view that if the capitalist class is to be in a position to accede their economic demands, that class must have their support whenever its position is threatened. The result has been that whenever British Capitalist-Imperialism is faced with a crisis, the Trade Union bosses have not utilised that crisis to forward the supposed Socialist aims of the Party, but rather they have joined forces with the capitalist class to resolve the crisis.

An ideological union has come about between the leaders of Labour and Capital on the basis of Empire. This united-front between the Imperialists and Trade Union officials constitutes the historic basis of Reformism in the British Labour Movement. The process has not been sudden; it has been gradually taking place with the development and expansion of British Capitalism into its Imperialist stage. Engels commented upon this social phenomenon as far back at 1882 in a letter to Kautsky, when he wrote:

“You ask me what the English workers think of colonial policy? Exactly the same as they think about politics in general, the same as what the bourgeoisie think. There is no working-class party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers merrily devour with them the fruits of the British colonial monopoly and of the British monopoly of the world market.” While to Marx he wrote even earlier (1858): “The British working-class is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat as well as a bourgeoisie. Of course, this is to a certain extent justifiable for a nation which is exploiting the whole world.”

This prophecy of Engels has been fulfilled to the letter. Today the British Labour Movement, thanks to the narrow outlook of the Trade Union leaders, stands as an expression of a bourgeois proletariat. And particularly on Foreign Policy and Imperial problems, the Trade Union and right-wing political Labour leaders have no definite programme of their own to set against that of the Tories.

Junior Partners in Imperialism, Ltd.

The British Colonial and Indian Empires are conceived as worldwide trading concerns owned by the capitalist class and operated primarily in the interests of that class. And since the reforms desired by the Labour leaders for the working-class in the metropolis derives from the spoils of Empire, these Trade Union leaders have, willy-nilly, been forced into the role of junior partners in the imperialist concern. They conclude that without the tribute from the Empire they will be unable to obtain those concessions, except they are prepared to challenge openly the whole fundamental basis of British Capitalist-Imperialism. This they are not prepared to do. So they are pursuing now a conscious policy of class-collaboration, and are naturally annoyed when their Socialist colleagues and “Intellectuals” try to push them along a Socialist road. Any criticism is resented. And all critics are to be ruthlessly dealt with. Labour must not he diverted from its chosen path. To further their point of view, they regard and use the Labour Party quite without deference to its professed socialistic aims, as a political apparatus which will look after their economic interests at Westminister. The Trade Union officials meet the capitalist bosses on the industrial sector, while the Trade Union M.P.s take care of the parliamentary arena. In this way both aspects of the joust for better working-class conditions are covered.

One point we would like to stress in this appraisal of the stand of the Trade Union leaders, who, thanks to the financial support of the Unions, dominate the inner councils of the Party; and that is the pro-imperialist course they are pursuing is absolutely conscious. The concern of these bureaucrats is now to try and persuade the rank-and-file membership to abandon the vestiges of anti-imperialism still clinging to the Party and to support in an unqualified manner the alliance with the ruling Capitalist-Imperialist class. There yet remains in its ranks, however, a number of genuine Socialists, who wish to see the worst features of Colonial role abolished or ameliorated, and, as a sop to this orientation on the problem of Empire, the Executive from time to time issues pious resolutions, statements and manifestoes, giving lip-service to the aspirations of the subject peoples in terms of Dominion status for India by and by, and the gradual evolvement of the Colonies of the West Indies, Africa, Burma and Ceylon, etc, to self-government. This is nothing but demagogy, aimed at creating the impression that the Labour Party stands for an improvement on the status quo, while endorsing the whole conception of Capitalist-Imperialism.

Mr. Shinwell Defends the Empire

The real fundamental principles of the Trade Union case were revealed in all their glaring nakedness in a recent parliamentary debate on the future of Empire. And it was left to Mr. Emanuel Shinwell who, by his past record, had earned himself the reputation of a “Left-Socialist,” to expose the bare ribs of Labour’s pro-imperialist leanings. Mr. Shinwell, seemingly having repented of his previous “Left” attitude, declared that:

“I have occasionally found myself in disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but I am in hearty accord with the view he expressed some time ago on the suggested liquidation of the Empire. Sir, we have no intention, any one of us, of throwing the British Commonwealth of Nations overboard to satisfy a section of the American Press, or indeed anyone else.”

Having thus exposed himself as a supporter of Imperialism, Mr. Shinwell then presented his standpoint very logically.

“I venture to cross swords very humbly with General Smuts, who declared that after the war we shall be a very poor country,” he said. “Of course we shall be a poor country, of course our plight will be precarious, of course we shall have to reduce the standard of life of our people, and, of course, we shall become a second-rate, or even a third-or fourth rate Power unless we take appropriate steps to prevent it.”

And what are the appropriate steps proposed by Mr. Shinwell, spokesman of the Labour bureaucrats?

“The Colonies,” he maintained, “are not being developed in an economic sense as they ought to be...There should be an inquiry into the possibilities of expansion in all the Dominion countries, in India particularly, and in our Colonial possessions...We ought to take accumulated savings and invest a great proportion of them in those Empire countries who need them – some of them do not need them, having large sterling balances – and particularly in the Colonies.” [Hansard, April 20, 1944]

So you see the way the British workers are to maintain their post-war standards is not conceived by Mr. Shinwell in a Socialist New Order, but by investing the savings of the poor in colonial exploitation, thereby converting every working man and woman into shareholders of the Empire.

In this way, the workers will have vested interests with the capitalists in seeing that the native races remain “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for the benefit of the British Herrenvolk.

The “Daily Herald,” official organ of the Labour Party, observes in its editorial on Mr. Shinwell’s speech, which supported a motion to promote post-war co-operation between the nations of the British Commonwealth (the white self-governing partners of the Empire), that “the motion was tabled in the names of Mr. Shinwell, a Socialist, Lord Winterton, a Conservative, Sir Edward Grigg, another Conservative, and Sir Herbert Williams, an ultra-Conservative.” ["Daily Herald,” April 23, 1944.] Clear evidence, this, of the close tie-up between the Tories and Labour leaders on the basis of Imperialism. The “Herald” attempts to take Mr. Shinwell to task for his views but in doing so exposes official Labour’s attitude on Empire.

“He (Mr. Shinwell) was far too much concerned with answering ‘sneers at the British Empire’ and with giving superfluous assurances that we have no intention of ‘throwing the British Commonwealth overboard.’ Who ever seriously supposed we had?” asks the “Daily Herald.” “A Socialist can afford to ignore critics of the Empire and to concentrate on the exposition of his Party’s aims.”

Labour Supports Smuts

But since Mr. Arthur Greenwood, the Party’s official spokesman in the Commons, fully endorsed Mr. Shinwells views, we can only conclude that they also expressed the Party’s aims. Mr. Greenwood even went so far as to refer to General Smuts as “a man of great, ripe wisdom and a man whom we honour,” that same General Smuts, whose Government in South Africa is notorious for its treatment of its majority black population. It is significant to note that Smuts is the author of the Regionalism scheme, the latest device for the joint imperialist exploitation between Great Britain and the white Dominions of the Colonial territories, and which Mr. Shinwell accepted in principle. This Regionalism has also received recognition and acceptance by the Labour leaders, as testified by an official report of the National Executive issued on April 24, 1944. The report declares that:

“In regions such as Africa, South-East Asia, and the South-West Pacific, where neighbouring Colonies are administered by different Governments, we strongly recrnnmend the early creation of Regional Councils to co-ordinate economic policy, with a view to making the interests of the Colonial peoples primary beyond all doubt.”

The Labour leaders, judging from this document, stand, then, on the same side as the ultra-reactionary South African Government and the Tory Party, even though to mask their political bankruptcy they give lip-service to the interests of the Colonial people as being primary in any system of imperial rule operated by capitalists, and to the objective of Socialism. But, inasmuch as the Trade Union leaders dominate the Labour Party, it is obliged to act together with the Imperialists in carrying out their programme which it has endorsed for the Trade Union leaders regard their existence, as it does, to be bound up with the continuation of the Empire.

With regard to Palestine, they have gone one better than the Tories. In the same document quoted above, the Labour leaders propose that the Arabs be “encouraged” to leave Palestine to make way for the Jews. While we have the deepest sympathy for the Jewish victims of Hitlerism and would welcome any succour that might come to them, such an idea is preposterous. Surely it would be more in keeping with the principles which the Labour Party professes to “encourage” the British Imperialists to get out of Palestine and leave the Arabs and Jews to settle their affairs between themselves. For as long as the British remain in Palestine both Jews and Arabs will be used in their traditional game of divide and rule.

Trade Unions and Colonial Office

While the Trade Unions are being drawn closer and closer into the apparatus of the Capitalist State, a similar tie-up is taking place between the Trade Union Congress and the Colonial Office. Transport House is already working in close collaboration with Downing Street by recommending Trade Union functionaries to go out to the Colonies to act as Labour officials in the newly set-up Labour departments. In the past, Colonial civil servants were drawn exclusively from the middle class; they were university men who used the Colonies as a system of “out-door relief.” But since the official recognition of trade unionism in the Colonies in 1940, there has been a departure from the traditional policy of appointment and Trade Union functionaries, who were never confirmed Socialists at home, can hardly be expected to preach Socialism to the natives in the Colonies.

Colonel Oliver Stanley’s enlistment of active aid of the T.U.C. in supervising labour organisations in the subject territories is quite a brilliant piece of strategy. In doing this, the Tories will use British Trade Union appointees to put a curb upon the militancy of the coloured workers; for the intensification of post-War development of Colonial resources as recommended by Mr. Shinwell, will bring forth the active opposition of the native masses against the intensified oppression which is bound to produce. The Trade Union men as the servants of the Colonial Governments will have the equivalent of the authorities controlling the labour organisations in Germany. For Trade Union association without the right to strike differs no whit from Dr. Ley’s labour front.

If the British workers fall for the programme which some of their leaders are preparing for them – and they will fall for it if we fail to establish Left Unity and re-direct then along the path of Socialism and militant action – they will find themselves drawn into greater and more destructive wars.

The fundamental problems posed before Britain and the world cannot be solved in terms of “ultra-imperialism” or “supra-imperialism” but only in terms of a planned socialised society. It is, of course, possible to effect temporary adjustments, to establish some sort of patchwork pattern. But no permanent solution of the problems of the British and Empire peoples is possible within the framework of the existing social system.

Therefore, the pressing need is to arrest the disastrous policies which the Trade Union hierarchy and right-wing political Labour leaders are imposing upon the Movement, and to rally the genuine Socialist forces inside and outside the Party round a programme of action that will inspire the masses and imbue them with confidence in themselves. With the will to power, a genuine Socialist movement in Britain, in alliance with the progressive forces in the Dominions, India and the Colonial Empire, can transform the imperial structure of British Capitalism into a genuine Socialist Commonwealth, for the benefit of all – white, brown, black, yellow. Only along this road will the British people find lasting security, economic prosperity and social well-being. The path of Empire and Power Politics held out to them by the Tories and their Labour supporters means war and economic disaster.