CPUSA and African-Americans

Kenny Mostern kennym at uclink2.berkeley.edu
Sun Apr 16 16:56:55 MDT 1995

The history of the CPUSA and race--which is, actually, not fundamentally
different from other marxisms, like Trotsky's, and race--contains a
central contradiction.  On the one hand, the CPUSA's position about how
the international revolution would occur was third worldist during the
1929-35 and again in the late 1950s and through the 1960s.  That is, is
was in basic agreement with the notion of Du Bois that the color line was
the basic large scale fissure that would have to break in order for the
international working class to unite, and thus that anti-racism among the
white working classes and support for third world nationalisms was
essential, not marginal, to Communist politics.  On the other hand, the
possibility of a racial subjectivities (or, if you prefer, that the
existence of social domination implies a psychology of colonizer and
colonized (Memmi) or white and black (Fanon)) was routinely denied.  Of
course this is part of the more general tendency of all economisms to
deny the issue of subjectivity.  This concrete result of this was the
tendency for party members, overwhelmingly white, to patronize nonmembers
of whatever race based on their presumed superior analysis of racial
issues and knowledge of exactly the correct ways to fight racism and
imperialism.  Richard Wright in both his fiction and his
autobiographical accounts of the party, is the best
source for this analysis.  At different points of his life he was
alternatively a member of, hostile toward, and concilliatory toward the

Kenny Mostern
UC-Berkeley Ethnic Studies Graduate Group

Against:  racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, militarism
For:  the truth--and the funk!

On Sat, 15 Apr 1995, Doug Henwood wrote:

> I don't often find myself defending the CPUSA, but isn't Philip Goldstein's
> remark that the party though "the problems of the African-American were of
> secondary importance" nearly libelous? I thought the CP fought for civil
> rights at a time, the 1930s, when virtually no one else did. Or is this a
> myth? I thought too that many non-Marixst American socalists were
> interested only in the white working class. The CP has done some awful
> things over the years - their appropriation of "Americanism" and tailing
> behind the Dems as well as their idiotic apologies for Stalinism followed
> by their pathetic tailing of Gorby - but it doesn't seem fair to hit them
> with this one.
> Doug
> --
> Doug Henwood
> [dhenwood at panix.com]
> Left Business Observer
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