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A review of Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Blacks and Reds: Race and Class in Conflict, 1919-1990.  Michigan State University Press, 1995.  From Telos, Number 108, Summer 1996, 179-188.  Murray documents how the Stalinist racial ethos became policy in liberal America.  Incidentally, I am the secret trial defen-dant to whom Murray refers as “A. F.”

Anthony Flood 

March 4, 2007


From Communist Policy to “Affirmative Action”

Hugh Murray

Between 1989 and 1991 the Berlin Wall crumbled, the Soviet Union dissolved, communism collapsed and, allegedly, history ended.  Although leaders in Havana, Hanoi, Beijing, and Pyongyang continue to sing “The Internationale,” in the West the threat of communism is a thing of the past.  History goes on, however, and so does that Enlightenment ideology of which communism was only the most extreme expression.  Thus, it is not surprising that many of the “totalitarian” practices formerly associated with communism today reappear, even if in much milder versions, within liberal-democratic regimes—themselves the heirs of that same Enlightenment tradition.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in race relations.  If one compares American culture in the 1930s with that of the 1990s it is clear that the greatest changes have occurred in policies concerning race policies which today turn out to be surprisingly similar to those deployed earlier by the communists.  Racial segregation is finally gone, but the way it was abolished has exacted a high cultural price.  Though this is not his objective, in his analysis of communist policies concerning race relations Earl Ofari Hutchinson inadvertently helps to clarify just how close current policies resemble those followed by the Stalinists of a couple of generations ago.

Hutchinson is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of several books about blacks.  In Blacks and Reds, he asks: “Were they [the communists] friends or foes of blacks?  The truth is that at various times during the past half century they were both” (p. vii).  He uses personal papers, FBI files, and interviews to supplement an extensive literature on the subject.  He relates how during the Depression, communists achieved some success in influencing black leaders and organizations (p. 1).  The next decade, however, “brought division, near collapse, and the abandonment of [the communists’] lofty pronouncements on civil rights.  The 1950s brought the bleak years of McCarthyite political repression and disarray.  In the 1960s, the Communist Party searched for ways to become an effective player in the civil rights movement and the black power movements, but the doors were closed and their decline accelerated”(p. 2).  Indeed, “The FBI in truth knew that communist influence within the civil rights organizations was nil” (p. 270).  This is only partly true.

Though this book contains new information, there is a rushed, undigested quality about the product.  Hutchinson fails to organize the material in a logical fashion and the result is confusion.  Thus his summary of relations between the NAACP and the communists during the campaign to save the Scottsboro boys jumps back and forth between the Party’s third or ultra-Left phase of the early 1930s and the Popular Front period of the mid-to-late 1930s.  He writes: “In 1934, the fragile alliance between [the NAACP and the communist-aligned International Labor Defense] broke apart” (p. 118). But many of the examples he cites for the collapse of that alliance had occurred in 1931 and 1932!  His footnote (p. 133) refers to writing of 1931, then 1934, and 1931 again.1  Similarly, he fails to relate the dates of defections from the CP to the Party’s flip-flops, and to explain why people left the Party or the demoralization of those who remained.2  When the Popular Front collapsed in August 1939, after Stalin signed the non-aggression pact with Hitler, American communists stopped calling for a united front against Nazism.  Rather, they now advocated American neutrality: the avoidance of another imperialist war in which the US would be allied with the colonial powers—Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  Then, in the summer of 1941, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the American Party reversed itself again; demanding US entry into WWII.  The colonial powers were now seen as democracies and potential allies.  Though each particular position could be defended and had sizable support in the US, the flip-flops of the American communists, echoing Moscow’s needs, cost the communists members and influence.

The Party’s reversals also won the enmity of A. Philip Randolph, President of the National Negro Congress, who refused to be a staunch anti-fascist one day, and an ally of John L. Lewis, Charles Lindberg, and America First the next.  Hutchinson fails to report a major consequence of the split between Randolph and the communists in the NNC. After he lost control of the NNC to the communists, the CIO, and the non-interventionists, Randolph formed his own organization—the March on Washington Movement [MOWM].  In the early 1940s, he threatened FDR with a massive march on the Capitol unless the President decreed a fair employment policy (an FEPC) in the expanding defense industries.  Most important, to prevent communists from entering his MOWM and ward off their influence, Randolph barred all whites.  Hutchinson should have been more careful in his comments.  He writes, “In April 1948 NAACP officials launched their own anti-communist crusade by publicly reaffirming their political ‘nonpartisan status.’  This move was clearly aimed at the left-leaning Henry Wallace third-party presidential movement. . . . The board feared that any identification with the Progressive party candidate’s message . . . would scare Truman Democrats away from supporting the organization’s civil rights program” (201-202).  But that hardly betokens a “nonpartisan status.”  Indeed, the featured speaker at the NAACP conference of 1948 was President Harry Truman, the Democratic candidate, and in September of that year the NAACP board fired Du Bois because of his endorsement of Wallace.3

Over the decades the Party would continue to push incompatible policies on race.  In the 1980s, Gus Hall declared: “The struggle against racism has emerged as a requisite for working-class unity and people’s victories” (p. 296).  However, “while they [Party leaders] issued ringing declarations in support of affirmative action, they knew that most white workers were opposed to it.  They had to figure out how to convince white Party members, many of whom belonged to trade unions and were sensitive to the feelings of white workers, to support affirmative action” (p. 297).  What Hutchinson fails to explore is the similarity of the American policy of affirmative action with the Stalinist solution to minority questions—a solution implemented throughout Eastern Europe before the collapse of communism.4 

Hutchinson claims that the Party influence on the civil rights movement was negligible.  He barely mentions the Southern Negro Youth Conference, which rallied young blacks in the segregated South in the late 1930s and ‘40s.  He ignores the Progressive Party campaign of 1948, in which Henry Wallace, his running mate Sen. Glen Taylor of Idaho, and Paul Robeson all appeared in the South and fought against segregation policies at campaign rallies.5  In Louisiana, a Young Progressive student Ben Smith would sit outside with a baseball bat to protect a residence where Wallace stayed.6   In October 1963 in New Orleans, Smith was one of the three “subversives” arrested by the Louisiana Un-American Activities Committee.7  The Progressives had practically created a civil rights movement before the “movement.”  

When the “official” civil rights movement rose, names linked to the Progressive Party reappear.  In the struggle for school integration in Little Rock, former Progressive Daisy Bates was one of the militant integrationists. Also, when a black student at Central High was assaulted, another former Progressive, a white woman, rushed to the girl’s aid to help fend off the mob.  When every liberal organization from the ACLU to the NAACP required anti-communist declarations (and members of their boards were informing the FBI about radicals in their own ranks), a few institutions in the South rejected such anti-communism, permitting communists to join and partake as any other citizens.  One such institution was Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. In Montgomery, Alabama, in the 1950s black activist Rosa Parks made contact with Progressive Virginia Durr.  With Durr’s backing, Parks attended Highlander Folk School, where part of the training was to resist segregation.  The school’s theme song, “We Will Overcome,” was slightly altered by Progressive Pete Seeger to become the anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”  Parks returned to Alabama and engaged in a bus protest that galvanized the black community into a boycott of the bus system.  Martin Luther King, Jr. became the spokesman for the boycott.  In 1957, he too was studying protest methods at Highlander. There, a famous photograph showed King seated beside prominent communist Abner Berry. Segregationists in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation used the photo with the headline claiming King had attended a communist training school.  The point is that in the mid-1950s, when most Americans were clearly avoiding the Left, the civil rights movement embraced people who were former Progressives, if not present communists.8

In King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one official was Jack O’Dell, who had been and may still have been a member of the Party. One of King’s chief advisors was Stanley Levison, a former Party member, whom the FBI suspected of being still a secret member of the Party and a source of hidden funds for the Party.  It was the FBI taps on Levison’s telephone conversations that prompted their interest in King.9  Such radical presence may explain some of the crucial events of the mid-1960s. Consider the Black Power upsurge in the 1960s.   The trend in various civil rights organizations to expel whites was in reality also an attempt to expel reds. Most historians of the subject are wrong in maintaining that what occurred in Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the other civil rights organizations were instances of radical blacks purging liberal whites.  On the contrary, it was nationalist blacks expelling radical whites; it was racism combined with McCarthyism.   Indeed, some of the “radical,” anti-white, black militants may have been working with government authorities to expel radical whites.10  Purging whites to purge reds had been the ploy that A. Philip Randolph had used in the early 1940s to prevent communist influence in his MOWM.  This approach was revived to curtail left-wing influence in the civil rights movement. Hutchinson’s conclusion that the CP had no influence on the civil rights movement is contrary to fact.11

On the other hand, writing about 1945, Hutchinson is right in claiming that “Party leaders were trapped in a contradiction.  They insisted on a color-blind party and a color-blind revolution.  Yet, Party practices and actions subtly reinforced racial differences by making color an all-consuming issue within the Party” (pp. 223-24).  While “it was not unusual for whites to be leaders of Party locals working exclusively in black communities . . . to many blacks, the prospect of whites leading blacks was not appealing.”  After WWII, pressure from blacks within the Party sought to change this.  The leadership complied and “on the surface, [it] gave the appearance that rank was based on merit, not color” (p. 224).  Some of those changes took the form of the Party’s renewed war against “white chauvinism” and “Negro nationalism” (p. 225).  Here is where Hutchinson makes one of his most important contributions.  His account of the application of Stalin’s approach to minorities inside the CPUSA comes across as very similar to current practices.

The main changes in the Party occurred in 1930-31 when the Comintern stressed that the American Party should seek to recruit blacks.  In 1931 a CP front, the International Labor Defense would lead the defense of the Scottsboro boys against a charge of raping two young white women aboard a train in Alabama.   Almost simultaneously, the CP began to crack down on “racism” inside the Party.  One of the first to feel the brunt of this new policy was August Yokinen, a Finnish immigrant, party member, and janitor at a Finnish club-hall in Harlem.  When one weekend three black party members entered a dance there, the crowd hushed, the music stilled, and the blacks decided to leave before a fight erupted.  Later, Party functionaries questioned various members as to why they had failed to protect the black comrades. Yokinen’s response was considered unsatisfactory. Shortly thereafter, the CP charged Yokinen with racism.  He was to have a public trial, with a jury of seven whites and seven blacks, all reds, conducted before an audience of 1500 in the Harlem Casino.   In short, it was a mild American version of what shortly thereafter came to be known as “show trial.”  The purpose was to show the general public that the CP would fight against racism and make it a crime.  For party members, the trial was to make them sensitive to how they treated blacks.  Yokinen was found guilty and assigned special Party tasks to fight for Negro rights.  Later in 1931, the US immigration department sought to deport him because he had been a communist.

Hutchinson stresses how the party conducted a number of American-style show trails for racism in the early 1930s, during which members of the Party were expelled.  However, with its opening toward socialists, democrats and liberals, the Popular Front also softened the Party’s anti-racist attitudes.  After WWII and the growing split between Truman and Stalin, the Party decided to renew its internal crusade against racism.  Public trails of communists accused of racism at the height of the Cold War became inappropriate.  So there were secret, internal trials.  Any type of remark could be interpreted as racist, and was.  Even Junius Scales wrote of a new attitude inside the Party: by 1950 a white could not criticize a black Party member.  Hutchinson provides examples of these activities from the 1930s, from the Cold War and beyond.  What is surprising is the extent to which the ethos inside the CP during the 1930s resembles the ethos of contemporary, “liberal” America.12

The CP was clearly pc long before today’s universities.  Hutchinson provides an insightful account of the Party’s predicament.  In the early 1970s, the Party considered another internal crusade against racism.  “But could they?  Were they too shell-shocked by the internal Party battles against ‘white chauvinism’ in the 1930s and 1950s that had left their legacy of bitterness and division among Communists?” (p. 290).  Still, in 1975 A. F. and G. W. were members of the Young Workers Liberation League, another incarnation of the Young Communist League.  When these two young white males criticized the leadership of their YWLL, they were quickly charged with “anti-leadership tendencies.” As almost all the leaders in the organization were minorities, at their trial the cry of “racism” was frequently hurled.  They were expelled later in 1975.13

Today, in the new US, racism has become, if not the only crime, the major crime.  Watching the media’s response to the O. J. [Simpson] trial, it is clear they find Fuhrman’s use of the “n” word worse than the likelihood that a black, former football star had murdered two white people.  More recently, at Texaco, hiring possibly lesser qualified blacks to achieve affirmative action goals and timetables was judged insufficient.  The corporation had its sensitivity training sessions (brainwashing, including communal confessionals almost identical to those that had been perfected decades earlier by the CPs in the USSR, China, etc.).  A few whites at Texaco, unconvinced by the sessions, but certain that some of their black colleagues had not been promoted because of their lack of ability, made jokes about the black jelly beans sticking to the bottom of the bag. The jelly bean phrase had been used at the sensitivity sessions.  But outside the sessions they laughed, and they may have used the “n” word.  A colleague taped them, gave it to the media, and the show trial had begun.  But this show trial was conducted not by communists in the 1930s but by capitalists in the 1990s.  In both sets of trials, the main charge, the main crime, was racism.  Like the earlier communist trials, the one at Texaco was also rigged.  Since the corporation had to eradicate any hint of racism, that meant firing the whites who had used offensive terms.  They had almost no chance to present their case.  No wonder Jesse Jackson and his colleagues are often members of the board of those corporations!  Thus, the irony: truly privileged white males are aligned with and subsidize the New Class in promoting affirmative action, quota hiring, sensitivity training, diversity, etc.

Though many factors have contributed to this state of affairs, the most important was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, whose sponsors promised to usher in a new era of equal opportunity in which discrimination based on race, religion, or gender was prohibited.  But New Class lawyers and bureaucrats in the EEOC immediately set out to subvert the civil rights law.  Alleging institutional racism, in which the higher proportion of white men in better jobs proved discrimination and “white, male privilege,” the bureaucrats turned the law on its head.  Soon, they ruled that the law required discrimination against whites and males until quotas for minorities and women were met.  Under Nixon, possibly the most liberal President since WWII, there was a massive expansion of the EEOC, and quotas (under the names of “goals” and “timetables”) to other preferred minorities: Asians, Hispanics, “Native Americans.”14

Through the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and related agencies, the New Class’ long march through the institutions had begun. The EEOC provided them the engine to place commissars—affirmative action officers—in every personnel office in the land.  To outlaw discrimination, the Civil Rights Act was converted into regulations to forbid “racism” and “sexism.”  If a firm did not discriminate in hiring and promotion, the result was often fewer minorities or women hired and promoted; that corporation could then be sued and fined in the millions for discrimination!  In the name of a law to end discrimination, discrimination in favor of minorities and women was therefore required. Equal opportunity no longer applied to white men. Corporate factories retooled to emerge as animal farms in which all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.  By 1979, the EEOC under Eleanor Holmes Norton sued Sears for sexual discrimination because the wrong percentage of women had been promoted.  The EEOC lost the case, but won the war.  The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has become the largest specialty law firm in the US.  Sears defended itself against the government’s charges of sexism.   It won in court. But the cost of the law suit was so exorbitant that a few more such victories would have led to bankruptcy.  Most corporations, calculating the results, decided thereafter to negotiate with the EEOC rather than challenge it.  Norton, having lost in court, won in every board room in the nation.  The US government had more resources than any corporation, and the EEOC would use the government’s resources to require quotas throughout the land.

Over decades, American communists carved an impressive record in the promotion of equal rights for black people in the US.  The CP accomplished this systematically beginning in the early 1930s when few other political groups were interested.  For a rather small, fringe political organization, the communists and their allies demonstrated courage, determination and skill, while achieving specific victories.  They won equal rights struggles in lower courts and in the Supreme Court through street demonstrations and leafletting, through newspapers, magazines and the theater.  They even conducted a small march on Washington in 1933.   Moreover, the Party encouraged black writers and artists like Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, while simultaneously urging research into black history by white authors such as Herbert Aptheker and Howard Fast.  That is an enviable record.

However, there were major contradictions in the Stalinist approach to racial matters.  The main contradiction is that in the fight for black equality whites were not to treat blacks as equals.  Whites could criticize other whites, give a white comrade coffee in a chipped cup, question the amount of change in a white customer’s hand, or decline to dance with a fellow white.  But if a white did the same to a black, that white might be accused of racism, face humiliation and possible expulsion from the Party.  Hutchinson’s book exposes how this double standard began in the 1930s and continued, on and off, for decades.  Thus, what began as a struggle for equality became institutionalized inequality—blacks could criticize whites, but whites dared not challenge blacks, particularly on a racially charged issue. Gradually, other “progressive” groups adopted similar pc policies on race.

Later, this phenomenon spread to the larger American society.  For example, the Civil Rights Movement was a movement for equal rights and treatment.  King’s speech at the 1963 March on Washington summarized the dreams of that movement—that his children be judged by their character and not by the color of their skin.  But that “dream” was shattered in the late 1960s with the eclipse of the Civil Rights Movement by Black Nationalists.  To them, skin color was character.  By the early 1970s, most of the leaders of the “civil rights movement” had rejected its earlier ideals; they had become Black Nationalists in civil rights clothing.  Equal treatment was suddenly anathema; special treatment for blacks (and women and Hispanics) was demanded.  The newer “civil rights movement” no longer believed in civil rights for white men, but demanded preferences, privileges, and set-asides for minorities and women.  Indeed, equal treatment was now met with cries of “discrimination.”  Essential to providing this pc approach the sanction of government were the social democrats inside the EEOC.  They succeeded, using the issue of race, in turning what had earlier been the Stalinist ethos into American policy.



1 Occasionally Hutchinson simply distorts events outright, as when he quotes Herbert Aptheker’s concession that during WWII “the Party’s civil rights policy was ‘pushed frequently far to excess’” (195).  But Aptheker was saying just the opposite, complaining that the Party, in pursuing its priority to win the war against Hitler, had generally abandoned its civil rights militancy since it might have interfered with morale in the effort to win the war.  In addition, the book is full of minor, irritating errors.  Thus, e.g., the index is incomplete, and in it Jay Lovestone loses the final “e” on his name (p. 332).  Hutchinson mentions a “ballot” by folk singer Woody Guthrie (p. 216).  When writing about the Party in the 1930s, he fails to distinguish properly between John P. and Benjamin J. Davis, both blacks, both either red or close to it, but one active in the International Labor Defense, the other heading the National Negro Congress (e.g., p. 195).  Similarly, Hutchinson notes that a black communist leader of the 1920s, Lovett Fort-Whiteman, wrote under the name of James Jackson (p. 46), but fails to distinguish that Jackson who died in poverty in the Soviet Union from a later James Jackson who would be a black party leader after WWII.   Indeed, Hutchinson links the two in the index.  The Southern Conference Educational Fund is misidentified as the Southern Education Fund (p. 267).  More bothersome is Hutchinson’s habit of having a footnote contain four citations to cover the previous two or three paragraphs, often leaving unclear the source of a specific quotation or assertion.

2 Thus, during the Popular Front era in the 1930s, the hey-day of American communism, some blacks in the Party in Alabama felt betrayed by the communists’ attempt to appease liberals.  Hutchinson generally ignores this critique from the Left.

3 Along with many others, Hutchinson distorts an important campaign of the 1930s.  He writes: “In December 1933, Mussolini used the pretext of a border clash . . . to invade Ethiopia” (p. 144). Actually, he did not invade until October 1935. At that time, allegedly, Communist Party leaders “even shared the stage with Randolph, Garveyites and black ministers in massive, ‘Hands Off Ethiopia’ rallies. . .” (p. 145).  This is not entirely accurate.   While Garvey did oppose the Italians when the fighting began, he became ever more critical of and “frequently denounced [Ethiopian Emperor] Haile Selassie.” Moreover, Garvey, long deported from the US, had retained his fierce anti-communism into the 1930s.  He admired other leading anti-communists, such as Mussolini.  Indeed, in 1937 Garvey proudly proclaimed of his Universal Negro Improvement Association, “We were the first fascists.” See J. A. Rogers, World’s Great Men of Color (New York: J. A. Rogers, 1947), Vol. II, pp. 602, 605.  While many liberals are the first to hurl the word “fascist” at those with whom they disagree, they usually ignore the fascism of blacks, even when publicly advocated. See my “White Liberals, Black Racists,” in Chronicles (August, 1994), pp. 43-46.

4  See my “The Case against Affirmative Action,” in Telos 93 (Fall 1992).

5 At one such rally, in Birmingham in 1948, Sheriff Eugene “Bull” Connor, who would become notorious in the early 1960s for unleashing dogs on black demonstrators, had Sen. Glen Taylor arrested when the Progressive candidate entered through a door reserved for blacks to address the Southern Negro Youth Conference.

6 Smith would later become an attorney, join the radical National Lawyers Guild and become a member of the board of the Southern Conference Education Fund.  Smith would also handle civil rights cases in Mississippi in the early 1960s despite the opposition of the anti-radical NAACP.  One of his cases, Greenwood v. Peacock, would be decided 5-4 in the US Supreme Court.  Had the decision gone the other way, the entire US judicial system would have been greatly altered.  For the presentation of argument before the Supreme Court, see New York Times (April 27, 1966); for the courts ruling, ibid. (June 21, 1966), p. 31.  Arthur Krock editorialized about the case in the New York Times (June 21, 1966), p. 42.

7 This case went to the Supreme Court, where Dombrowsky, Smith, and Walzer were exonerated.  In 1948 in Shreveport, a landlady demanded immediate eviction of her tenants when she heard Robeson was visiting them.  The police informed her she would have to wait till the end of the month.  In Texas, Young Progressives picketed a segregated movie theater.  In New Orleans in 1949, over 60 people were arrested at a residence because the Young Progressives were conducting an integrated party.  In his memoirs, Carl Bernstein recalls partaking in a Progressive lunch-counter sit-in in Baltimore when he was a child in the early 1950s.  Carl Bernstein, Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989).  Bernstein’s father defended many government employees accused before security panels.  The son would become world-famous as a reporter investigating the Watergate burglary.  His memoirs also describe his childhood endeavors sitting-in at lunch counters in the Baltimore area with Progressives during the Cold War era.  For additional material on Progressive Party civil rights activities in the South, see Curtis C. MacDougall, Gideon’s Army, 3 vols. (New York: Marzani & Munzell, 1963) Vol. II, pp. 400, 406-407, Vol. III, pp. 741-44; see also my “Change in the South,” Journal of Ethnic Studies (Summer 1988), pp. 119-36; and two recent volumes describe a fuller arc of civil rights activities in the South from the New Deal through the late 1940s: John Egerton, Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation before the Civil Rights Movement in the South (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994) and Patricia Sullivan, Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

8 Junius Scales, who went to prison for his underground work for the Communist Party, wrote of travelling to Montgomery in the ‘50s where he was delighted to discover that one of the protest leaders was a member of the Party.  Scales did not identify that member.  Junius Scales and Richard Nickson, with a foreword by Telford Taylor, Cause at Heart: A Former Communist Remembers (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987).

9 As Robin Kelley put it: “Of course, any effort to uncover direct links between the CP and the modem civil rights movement would be futile and might reinforce stereotypes of communists as conspirators.  But to deny any linkages whatsoever ignores a twenty-year legacy of radicalism that had touched thousands of Alabamians.”  See Robin G. D. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1989), p. 229.  Kelley’s conclusions concerning Alabama can be readily extended to the whole South.  See also Kenneth O’Reilley, “The FBI and the Civil Rights Movement. . .” in Journal of Southern History (May 1988), p. 213; also his Racial Matters: The FBI’s Secret File on Black America, 1960-1972 (New York: The Free Press, 1989), p. 85.  On how the FBI’s interest in Levison led to the FBI’s taps on King, see David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King. Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986), pp. 303-304; Michael Friedly with David Gallen, Martin Luther King. Jr.: The FBI File (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1993), pp. 20-43.

10 See, for instance, Clayborne Carson, “Civil Rights Reform and the Black Freedom Struggle,” in Charles W. Eagles, ed., The Civil Rights Movement (Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1986), pp. 19-32, especially p. 28.

11 See my “Change in the South,” in Journal of Ethnic Studies, pp. 119-36; my review of Kim Rogers book in Louisiana History (Spring 1994), pp. 232-36; and my dispute with Stephen Whitfield, in Society (Jul.-Aug. 1995), pp. 10-11.

12 To emphasize how revolutionary was the communist approach to combatting racism inside the Party, and how common it is today, a quote from Hutchinson may suffice. In the early 1930s: “In the wake of the Yokinen trial, many white Party members walked on eggshells.  They knew that one wrong word or a furtive glance at a black might send them to the defendant’s docket, and no one wanted to be another Yokinen.  As always, there were slow learners.  Joe Burns, a lowly Party worker in Brooklyn, had to sit for five hours at the Harlem Casino and listen to the communist ‘prosecutor’ accuse him of every act of racism imaginable.  Burns was on trial for getting into a shoving match with Maude White, a black Party member.  During the heated exchange between the two, Burns allegedly shouted that ‘Negro workers do not show any appreciation for all we have done for them.’  Burns was found guilty and placed on probation for six months.  In May 1932 three whites who were members of the Young Communist League found themselves on ‘trial’  They belonged to the Amil Athletic Club in Detroit and the club barred blacks. The Party chose a judge, prosecutor and a mixed jury of black and white workers.  The trio were quickly found guilty of "acts against the working class’ and expelled.  A leading communist organizer in New Jersey thought ‘it was purely a personal matter’ when his daughter declined to dance with a black man at an International Labor Defense dance in July 1932. After he was called on the carpet by Party investigators, he pleaded that he was in ‘the habit of talking with Negroes.’  The next month he had a chance to do more talking when he was brought before a people’s court.  He was accused of being in ‘agreement with the Southern landlords and bosses’ and drummed out of the Party” (pp. 65-66).  “Whether the Party ran out of steam, lost too many members, or the mass trials had simply outlived their usefulness, the 1933 Party leaders decided to put a stop to show trials. . . . Even though the campaign was shelved, whites were on notice that they were still accountable for any racial misbehavior” (p. 67).

13 Clearly, to remain in the CP, one had to be pc.  After WWII the Party began another internal campaign against racism.  “During the summer of 1952, the grumbles from black and white Party members began to grow louder.  The campaign against racism and [black] nationalism was fast sinking into a quagmire of pettiness.  At one meeting, Eslanda Robeson saw two young black women chattering noisily.  A white woman, who was a long-term Party stalwart, turned and told the women to shut up.  The meeting broke up in a pandemonium when the young blacks accused her of being a white chauvinist.  Siding with the two women, the chairman severely reprimanded the woman for her alleged racist act and kicked her out of the meeting.  Robeson could not believe it. ‘Now I submit, this was carrying things too far.’  The floodgates were opening.  In every district, Party members told tales of woe about being harassed for saying or even thinking something that was contrary to the Party’s view.  [Dorothy] Healey recalls the damaging impact a minor incident had on one Party member: ‘This one white comrade served coffee to a black member in a cracked cup.  Next thing she knew she was being brought up on charges of being a racist. She was censured.  Now how can anybody defend themselves against that?’  Harry Haywood [a black communist] asked what it was all accomplishing.  It smacked to him of an intramural match where victory was determined by how many members were disciplined or expelled. . . . The Party needed to stop ‘psychoanalyzing’ itself, Haywood said, and get on with the serious business of building mass struggle around these issues.  His anger may have been due less to ideology than the way in which the Party had treated his wife.  Belle, who was white, was a cashier at the Party’s Jefferson School.  During one lunchtime, she mistakenly gave a black student the wrong change.  When the student questioned her she casually pointed to his hand and asked him to show her the change.  A minor mishap that might have passed unnoticed suddenly became a major act of racism.  Belle was summoned before the district and charged. . . . It took eight months before she was finally ‘cleared.’  Years later Haywood, after he quit the Party, bitterly called the campaign the ‘Party’s phony war against white chauyinism.’  More Party leaders agreed with him. Scapegoating the Belles of the Party was self-defeating and stupid. . . . By 1953 [communist leader William Z.] Foster was ready to call a halt. . . Foster ridiculed the way whites were required to talk.  White members, he said, were forbidden to say ‘boy,’ ‘girl,’ ‘black,’ ‘dark,’ or even ‘blackmail’” (pp. 231-32).

14 The US is the only country in which people born in it must prove some 25 generations in North America before being declared “natives.”


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