1st Resolution on the Black Question in the USA

Proletarians of all countries, unite!
There is one goal, the conquest of power!

FIRST RESOLUTION ON THE BLACK QUESTION IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Executive Committee
Communist International
26.10.1928

Reproduced by
The Red Flag

FIRST RESOLUTION ON THE BLACK QUESTION IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

1. INTRODUCTION

1. The industrialization of the South, the concentration of a new Black working class population in the big cities of the East and North and the entrance of the Black people into the basic industries on a mass scale, create the possibility for the Black workers, under the leadership of the Communist Party, to assume the hegemony of all Black liberation movements, and to increase their importance and role in the revolutionary struggle of the American proletariat.

The Black working class has reached a stage of development which enables it, if properly organized and well directed, to fulfill successfully its double historical mission:

  • To play a considerable role in the class struggle against U.S. imperialism as an important part of the American working class; and
  • To lead the movement of the oppressed masses of the Black population.

2. The bulk of the Black population (86%) live in the Southern states; of this number 74% live in the rural districts and are dependent almost exclusively upon agriculture for a livelihood. Approximately 1/2 of these rural dwellers live in the so-called „Black Belt“, in which area they constitute more than 50% of the entire population. The great mass of the Black agrarian population are subject to the most ruthless exploitation and persecution of a semi-slave character. In addition to the ordinary forms of capitalist exploitation, U.S. imperialism utilizes every possible form of slave exploitation (peonage, share-cropping, landlord supervision of crops and marketing, etc.) for the purpose of extracting super-profits. On the basis of these slave remnants, there has grown up a super-structure of social and political inequality that expresses itself in lynching, segregation, Jim Crowism, etc.

2. NECESSARY CONDITIONS FOR A NATIONAL REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT

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

4. It is the duty of the Black workers to organize through the mobilization of the broad masses of the Black population the struggle of the agricultural laborers and tenant farmers against all forms of semi-feudal oppression. On the other hand, it is the duty of the Communist Party of the USA to mobilize and rally the broad masses of the White workers for active participation in this struggle. For that reason the Party must consider the beginning of systematic work in the South as one of its main tasks, having regard for the fact that the bringing together of the workers and toiling masses of all nationalities for a joint struggle against the landowners and the bourgeoisie is one of the most important aims of the Communist International, as laid down in the resolutions on the national and colonial question of the 2nd and 6th World Congresses of the Communist International.

3. FOR THE COMPLETE EMANCIPATION OF THE OPPRESSED BLACK RACE

5. To accomplish this task, the Communist Party must come out as the champion of the right of the oppressed Black race for full emancipation. While continuing and intensifying the struggle under the slogan of full social and political equality for the Black people, which must remain the central slogan of our Party for work among the masses, the Party must come out openly and unreservedly for the right of the Black people to national self-determination in the Southern states, where the Black people form a majority of the population. The struggle for equal rights and the propaganda for the slogan of self-determination must be linked up with the economic demands of the BLack masses, especially those directed against the slave remnants and all forms of national and racial oppression. Special stress must be laid upon organizing active resistance against lynching, Jim Crowism, segregation and all other forms of oppression of the Black population.

6. All work among the Black people, as well as the struggle for the Black cause among the Whites, must be used, based upon the changes which have taken place in the relationship of classes among the Black population. The existence of a Black industrial proletariat of almost 2,000,000 workers makes it imperative that the main emphasis should be placed on these new proletarian forces. The BLack workers must be organized under the directorship of the Communist Party, and thrown into joint struggle together with the White workers. The Party must learn to combine all demands of the Black people with the economic and political struggle of the workers and the poor farmers.

4. THE AMERICAN BLACK QUESTION IS PART OF A WORLD PROBLEM

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

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

5. PARTY TRADE-UNION WORK AMONG BLACK PEOPLE

9. While organizing the Black people into unions and conducting an aggressive struggle against the anti-Black trade union policy of the American Federation of Labor, the Party must pay more attention than it has hitherto done to the work in the Black workers‘ organizations, such as the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Chicago Asphalt Workers‘ Union, and so on. The existence of 2,000,000 Black workers and the further industrialization of the Black people demand a radical change in the work of the Party among the Black people. The creation of working class organizations and the extension of our influence in the existing working-class Black organizations, are of much greater importance than the work in bourgeois and small-bourgeois organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Pan-African Congress, etc.

10. The American Negro Labor Congress1 continues to exist only nominally. Every effort should be made to strengthen this organization as a medium through which we can extend the work of the Party among the Black masses and mobilize the Black workers under our directorship. After careful preparatory work, which must be started at once, another convention of the American Negro Labor Congress should be held. A concrete plan must also be presented to the Congress for an intensified struggle for the economic, social, political and national demands of the Black masses. The program of the American Negro Labor Congress must deal specially with the agrarian demands of the Black farmers and tenants in the South.

11. The importance of trade union work imposes special tasks upon the Trade Union Educational League.2 The TUEL has completely neglected the work among the Black workers, notwithstanding the fact that these workers are objectively in a position to play a very great part in carrying through the programme of organizing the unorganized. The closest contact must be established between the TUEL and the Black masses. The TUEL must become the champion in the struggle for the rights of the Black people in the old unions, and in the organizing of new unions for both Blacks and Whites, as well as separate Black unions.

6. WHITE CHAUVINISM EVIDENCED IN THE U.S. PARTY

The Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of the USA itself stated in its resolution of April 30th, 1928, that „the Party as a whole has not sufficiently realized the significance of work among the Black people“. Such an attitude toward the Party work among the Black people is, however, not satisfactory. The time is ripe to begin within the Party a courageous campaign of self-criticism concerning the work among the Black people. Penetrating self-criticism is the necessary preliminary condition for directing the work among the Black people along new lines.

13. The Party must bear in mind that White chauvinism, which is the expression of the ideological influence of U.S. imperialism among the workers, not only prevails among different strata of the White workers in the USA,, but is even reflected in various forms in the Party itself. White chauvinism has manifested itself even in open antagonism of some comrades to the Black comrades. In some instances where communists were called upon to champion and to lead in the most vigorous manner the fight against White chauvinism, they instead yielded to it. In Gary, White militants of the Workers‘ Party protested against Black people eating in the restaurant controlled by the Party. In Detroit, Party militants, yielding to pressure, drove out BLack comrades from a social given in aid of the miners on strike.

Whilst the Party has taken certain measures against these manifestations of White chauvinism, nevertheless those manifestations must be regarded as indications of race prejudice even in the ranks of the Party, which must be fought with the utmost energy.

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

7. TASKS OF THE PARTY IN RELATION TO THE WORK AMONG THE BLACK PEOPLE

15. The Communist Party of the USA in its treatment of the Black question must all the time bear in mind this twofold task:

  • To fight for the full rights of the oppressed Black people and for their right to self-determination and against all forms of chauvinism, especially among the workers of the oppressing nationality.
  • The propaganda and the day-to-day practice of international class solidarity must be considered as one of the basic tasks of the Communist Party of the USA. The fight — by propaganda and by deeds — should be directed first and foremost against the chauvinism of the workers of the oppressing nationality as well as against bourgeois segregation tendencies of the oppressed nationality. The propaganda of international class solidarity is the necessary prerequisite for the unity of the working class in the struggle.

The center of gravity in educating the workers of the oppressing countries in the principles of internationalism must inevitably consist in the propaganda and defense by these workers of the right of segregation by the oppressed countries. We have the right and duty to treat every socialist of an oppressing nation, who does not conduct such propaganda, as an imperialist and as a scoundrel.“3

16. The Party must seriously take up the task of training a cadre of Black comrades as directors, bring them into the Party schools in the USA and abroad, and make every effort to draw Black proletarians into active and directing work in the Party, not confining the activities of the Black comrades exclusively to the work among Black people. Simultaneously, White workers must specially be trained for work among the Black people.

17. Efforts must be made to transform the Negro Champion4 into a weekly mass organ of the Black proletariat and tenant farmers. Every encouragement and inducement must be given to the Black comrades to utilize the Party press generally.

8. THE WORK AMONG THE BLACK PEOPLE IS PART OF THE GENERAL WORK OF THE PARTY

18. The Party must link up the struggle on behalf of the Black people with the general campaigns of the Party. The Black problem must be part and parcel of all and every campaign conducted by the Party. In the election campaigns, trade union work, the campaigns for the organization of the unorganized, anti-imperialist work, labor party campaign, International Labor Defense, etc.,5 the Central Executive Committee must work out plans designed to draw the Black people into active participation in all these campaigns, and at the same time to bring the White workers into the struggle on behalf of the Black people‘s demands. It must be borne in mind that the Black masses will not be won for the revolutionary struggles until such time as the most conscious section of the White workers show, by action, that they are fighting with the Black people against all racial discrimination and persecution. Every militant of the Party must bear in mind that „the age-long oppression of the colonial and weak nationalities by the imperialist powers, has given rise to a feeling of bitterness among the masses of the enslaved countries as well as a feeling of distrust toward the oppressing nations in general and toward the proletariat of those nations“.6

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

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

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

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

9. PARTY WORK AMONG THE BLACK PROLETARIAT AND PEASANTRY

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

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

25. In order to reach the bulk of the Black masses, special attention should be paid to the work among the Black people in the South. For that purpose, the Party should establish a district organization in the most suitable locality in the South. Whilst continuing trade union work among the Black workers and the agricultural laborers, special organizations of tenant farmers must be set up. Special efforts must also be made to secure the support of the sharecroppers in the creation of such organizations. The Party must undertake the task of working out a definite programme of immediate demands, directed against all slave remnants, which will serve as the rallying slogans for the formation of such peasant organizations.

Henceforth the Workers‘ (Communist) Party must consider the struggle on behalf of the Black masses, the task of organizing the Black workers and peasants and the drawing of these oppressed masses into the proletarian revolutionary struggle, as one of its major tasks, remembering, in the words of the 2nd World Congress resolution, that „the victory over capitalism cannot be fully achieved and carried to its ultimate goal unless the proletariat and the toiling masses of all nations of the world rally of their own accord in a concordant and close union“.

26.10.1928

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL


1The American Negro Labor Congress was founded in Chicago in October, 1925. The Workers‘ (Communist) Party of America, the dominant force within the Congress, intended the Congress to be a vehicle for uniting all of the organizations of Black workers and farmers then existing. The stated two-fold task of the Congress was to agitate for the admission of Black workers into heretofore White unions and to struggle against the Garvey-inspired Black ambivalence toward the American trade union movement. The Congress, however, with very few exceptions, was unsuccessful in establishing proposed local branches and in reality amounted to little more than a paper organization. It remained in existence until 1930, when what was left of it served as the foundation for the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, a no longer existing mass organization of similar character, through which the Communist Party of the USA unsuccessfully attempted to extend its influence among Black people generally and in particular among Black workers.

2The Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) was founded in Chicago in November 1920 by William Z. Foster for the purpose of organizing the „militant minority“ in the trade unions. At its founding, the TUEL was an independent united front organization and nominally remained such throughout its nine year existence. In reality, however, from the time Foster joined the Workers‘ (Communist) Party of America in 1921, the TUEL functioned as the Party‘s main vehicle for work within the trade union movement.

3V. I. Lenin: Selected Articles on the National Question.

4The Negro Champion was the organ of the American Negro Labor Congress. The journal ceased to exist upon the Congress‘s demise in 1930.

5The International Labor Defense (ILD), an affiliate of the Comintern‘s legal defense mechanism (the Red International of Class War Prisoners Aid), was founded in 1925. Its purpose was to provide legal defense for radical and communist activists and non-political victims of the American judicial system. The ILD often employed mass campaigns as a means of bringing about the acquittal and release of those on whose behalf it was acting. A good deal of the ILD‘s activity was devoted to defending the legal rights of Black people, with its most prominent undertaking being the defense (and rescue from the electric chair) of the nine Scottsboro Boys, the last of whom was finally released from prison in 1950. The ILD was dissolved in 1941.

6„Resolution on the National and Colonial Question“, adopted at the 2nd World Congress of the Communist International, 1920.