File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-03-16.132, message 96

Date: Sun, 16 Mar 1997 05:27:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: M-I: C.L.R. James on "Negroes and Bolshevism"

The following article by C.L.R. James appeared under a pseudonym in
the 7 April 1947 issue of LABOR ACTION, newspaper of the Workers
Party of the United States.

                     Negroes and Bolshevism

     The American government is today building up its campaign
against the Communist Party, "the Reds."  Readers of LABOR ACTION
know that the Workers Party has been the unswerving foe of the
Communist Party.  But we oppose the Communist Party because it
betrays the revolutionary struggle.  We attack it because, in its
slavish subservience to the Moscow bureaucracy, it uses Negroes and
the American labor movement purely to advance the projects and
policies of Russia.
     Many Negroes know this.  And they are filled with a deep
skepticism of political movements which are in any way radical.  At
this time it will be useful to recall exactly what Bolshevism was
and will always be.  There are many lessons for Negroes, not only
in judging political parties in general but in judging and forming
organizations of their own.

                           Mass Action
     First of all, Bolshevism represents revolution and the
revolutionary struggle.  All other political parties depend on
parliamentary means, on petitions, telegrams to Senators, mass
meetings at which "important" and "distinguished" politicians
speak.  Bolshevism does not disdain parliamentary means.  But
fundamentally it relies upon mass action -- mass demonstrations of
workers, strikes, picketing, mobilizing workers in order to bring
the pressure of organized labor and its allies upon the capitalist
states.  Let us illustrate the difference by an example.
     In the years before World War I, the Bolsheviks elected about
half a dozen members to the Duma -- the Russian Parliament.  These
elected representatives at once became very active about bills, the
budget, parliamentary procedure, etc.  They went for advice to
Lenin, who was living in exile.  Lenin laughed heartily and told
them what amounted to this:
     "Don't bother about their bills and their budget and their
parliamentary procedure.  When you turn comes stand up and tell
them about the lives of the workers, tell them about all the
exploitation and oppression by the classes they represent and then
tell them that it would not be long before the workers will rise in
their revolutionary wrath and sweep capitalism and its dishonest
thieving parliaments into the dustbin."
     Something at once becomes clear.  The Bolshvik deputies were
not begging the capitalist politicians and the capitalist state for
anything.  They were not even speaking to the parliamentarians. 
*They were speaking to the workers outside.*  They were using the
Parliament as a forum to make revolutionary propaganda, to force
the attention of the more backward workers, to make the middle
classes listen, to expose the fraud of parliamentarism
     Naturally the revolutionary party holds its own meetings, etc.

But its main interest in the capitalist Parliament was to use it
for mobilizing the workers *against* capitalism and all its works.

                       Policy for Negroes
     The Negroes of the United States would do wonderfully if they
could impose upon any Congress or municipal candidate exactly some
such policy.
     "You want to go to Congress by our vote.  What do you propose
to do there?  Are you going to maneuver with the Democratic Party
and the Republican Party?  Are you going to waste your time and our
votes by arguing with Bilbo and Pappy O'Daniel and Taft and Pepper,
that liberal from Florida who gets into Congress by preaching white
supremacy?  You are of no use to us.  Go there not to convince and
bargain with them, but to say loudly what we want and say it so
that the nationa and all the world will hear.  Then you will get
our vote.  Otherwise we have no use for you."
     Bolshevism carried to an extraordinary pitch of skill this use
of parliaments for revolutionary purposes.  For example, the
federal government every years passes financial bills for the
salaries of a system ridden by Jim Crow.  Would a Bolshevik vote
for this?  No, he would denounce the system and refuse to give his
vote for this iniquitous measure.  But if during the discussion of
details of the bill, there was a division over whether the lowest
ranks of government employees should have an increase of ten
percent or not, a Bolshevik would speak in favor and vote in favor.

If parliamentary procedure allowed he would move for the reduction
of all cabinet members' salaries, just in order to expose the
injustices of the system.  If it were possible to get such motion
passed, he would vote for it.  But then, when it came to the final
vote, he would vote a loud and resounding "No," indicating thereby
his repudiation of the whole system.
     That is the Bolshevik method.  There is absolutely no reason
why a Congressman elected by Negroes should not carry it out.
     The appropriations for war?  No.  And not a mere vote but a
detailed exposure of the whole system.  And having made these
speeches and carried out these actions in Congress, the Congressman
who acted in this way on behalf of the Negro people would do more
good for Negroes than the whole Democratic Party.

                      Don't Need "Friends"
     Exactly the same policy is the Bolshevik policy for a labor
Congressman.  "Friends of labor" in Congress are no good to thw
working class movement.  "Friends of Negroes" are no good in
Congress to the Negro people.  They are no good on City Councils. 
All they do is to confuse and corrupt the people's political
     Now we ask the Negroes:  has this or anything like this been
the policy of Ben Davis, for example, the Communist Party member on
the New York City Council?  One year he is supporting Leham and
Mead.  Then comes an upheaval in the Communist Party.  Browder is
thrown out.  Foster comes in, a new policy is announced and -- Ben
Davis supports Mead and Lehman!  A genuine Bolshevik is
distinguished by the consistency of his opposition to all aspects
of the capitalist system.  He votes for or supports only those
specific things which benefit the workers and the oppressed *and he
opposes everything else.*
     Now it seems to us that a Negro community like Harlem would
create a stir that would be felt in all parts of the country if it
demanded of its candidate that his main task in and out of Congress
or municipality was to denounce the system and use parliamentary
forms and practices as a tribune for the education of the people.
     The great crime of the Communist Party is that it has
prostituted the very name of Bolshevism in the service of Moscow, 
The American capitalist class is out to break these Stalinists. 
Negroes cannot stand aside and see this happen without protest.  It
is an invasion [sic] of democratic rights.  But our way of
defeating these corrupting rats is to put forward labor and Negro
candidates who, by a genuinely revolutionary policy, will educate
the people both as to the crimes of American imperialism and the
betrayals of the Moscow stooges.


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