Black Bolshevik: The Life of Harry Haywood
The Forgotten History of the Role of Communism in the Struggle for Black Liberation
With Special Thanks to Siusaidh Chaimbeul (aka @Zaganashikwe on Twitter) who generously sent me her copy of "Black Bolshevik".
As I have often remarked the world's revolutionary history is constantly being suppressed. Our rulers would rather we forgot the struggles of the past lest we be tempted into new struggles. For exactly the same reason one of my goals is to revive this history of struggle. Thus I am glad to reintroduce a revolutionary classic to you "Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist" By Harry Haywood.. The Life of Harry Haywood reveals an entire forgotten era in world history and allows one to see America from a new and revolutionary perspective. It is horrifying how relevant this book which takes place nearly a hundred years ago still is today. 100 years later and blacks are still demanding an end to the endless string of murders by police. To anyone who truly want to change the world so that in another 100 years things may finally be different I urge them to read Haywood's book.
From the moment I picked up the Haywood book I was hooked. It begins with Haywood newly returned from World War I only months before and now working on the dining car of a train heading for Chicago . Unfortunately for him he had merely moved from one war zone to another. Chicago itself was on fire the cities blacks were under attack by mobs of whites. As Haywood neared the station he was warned he would have to sneak into the black part of town along the railroad tracks as a couple of black veterans had already been murdered along his usual route. As Haywood explained from the moment he stepped off the train he became involved in a new war that would last his whole life. This was the struggle to free his people from the racist oppression that had suffered since being kidnapped into slavery centuries before. As Haywood explains the summer of 1919 saw race riots sweep the country in 26 cities. People often wonder if America might someday become a fascist country however reading Haywood's book it is clear that America has always been a fascist country. A country that violently suppresses the masses in the service of capitalism. A country which had an openly racist white supremacist ideology it used to divide and rule the people. A country like todays fascist Ukraine where terrorist paramilitary groups like the KKK and the Black Legion worked hand in glove with the police to terrorize both blacks and radicals into submission. This is the country Haywood's book opens upon. Throughout the war despite false promises blacks would be granted equality afterwards in exchange for loyal service in this crusade for "freedom and democracy" the number of lynchings had been escalating. Now with the wars end a tide of race riots were sweeping the country the KKK had been reborn and was now expanding throughout the north. Just like today Hollywood did it's part to spread the hate Releasing "The Birth of a Nation" a film glorifying the Ku Klux Klan and personally endorsed by President Woodrow Wilson who lying american historians portray as a sweet idealist. However 1919 was not only a year of racial tensions but also of class struggle. This was also the famous summer of the Red Scare when American Capitalists terrified of the Russian October Revolution that brought Communists to power launched a major crackdown on all the radicals they could find and formed America's Secret Police the FBI to hunt down communists. Murders, beatings, arrests, frame ups, and deportations followed. Haywood had not yet realized the significance of the Russian Revolution. However his older brother was already becoming a communist and would help guide Haywood's political education. The two struggles for black liberation and for Communism would become inextricably linked in the coming years and Communists would play a major if now forgotten role in the struggle for civil rights in fact they would lay all the groundwork that would be later used in the 50's to wage the struggle to end America's form of apartheid then called "Jim Crow." However inspired by the radical genius of Lenin the Communists would go far beyond mere demands for civil rights. They believed that the only way blacks would be able to obtain equal rights was if they had the right of "Self Determination" they saw the struggle of blacks as a war of national liberation. Thus they also laid the ground work for the later more radical generation of Black Revolutionaries like the Black Panthers of the 60's and 70's. Black Power was actually a communist slogan from the 1920's as Hakim Adi explained. Communists would also be deeply involved in the Liberation of Africa from Colonial Domination and Communists organized a united international movement for black liberation that included north America, the Caribbean and Africa. In other words communists changed the world and their contribution has been completely erased from mainstream history. The advice of the Comintern, the Communist International would prove vital in ending both Jim Crow in America, and Apartheid in South Africa, as well as helping people across the world win independence from colonialism.
To Return to Haywood marching towards his neighborhood in south side Chicago which was under siege he met up with other recently returned black veterans who mounted machine guns in order defend themselves from an impending white attack they had heard rumors of. The whites in turn must have heard rumors of what awaited them because they never arrived. For Haywood however the struggle was only beginning. However he next goes back to the beginning of his life painting a vivid picture of life in turn of the century america which he doubtless could have expanded into a book in it's own right. He describes his colorful Grandparents and parents. He describes the rebellious folk songs blacks sang. And he describes the vibrant culture the jazz, the blues the comedians. His mother was tough a fighter while his father was a mild mannered follower of Booker T. Washington. His Grandfather a former slave who achieved local political prominence during the Reconstruction had been forced to flee his home after he had killed a member of a local lynch mob out to hang him. Haywood would also be forced to flee his childhood home of Omaha, Nebraska where racial tensions had formerly been comparatively mild when his father had been attacked by a gang of white street toughs who beat him and then demanded he leave town. Although America likes to pretend it makes slow but steady progress towards equality as Haywood's book reveals actually there were periods like post reconstruction and the early teens where whatever gains that had been made by blacks towards equality were violently rolled back. After seeing his meek father beaten and forced to flee his home and all he had worked for a Rebellious spark was lit in Haywood. Upon arriving at his new school he immediately dropped out when his class which was mockingly singing "a negro spiritual" directed their racist singing at him. Haywood had been a brilliant student and was a voracious reader but in those times there was little chance for him to do anything with his education as his brother had already discovered.
Instead Haywood did a series of jobs often being fired or quitting because he demanded to be treated with respect. Eventually he would join the army and there is a brilliant chapter on his experiences in the army. Once armed and in uniform Haywood and his fellow soldiers decided to get a bit of revenge they went on a mini rampage in every southern town they passed through stealing provisions from the local shop owners and openly defying the racist local sheriffs. They were headed to a base in Huston where there had been an all out insurrection after the cops murdered a black soldier the black soldiers took up arms launched a full scale attack on the police station killing a dozen cops. Their leader killed himself once they were surrounded and the rest surrendered but the locals learned their lesson and did their best to avoid provoking the black troops stationed there. This incident in Huston is just one of the great forgotten stories of resistance that Haywood includes in his book. Haywood and his fellow black troops were determined to use their new status to enforce equality. There were other exciting incidents during this period but as Haywood lived an extremely eventful life I'll skip ahead to his time in France which in comparison with the racist US seemed a paradise to Haywood. However Haywood's arrival was marred by an official lynching (military hanging) of a black soldier they falsely accused of rape then hung in order to attempt to divide the french locals from the black troops. They left the man's corpse hanging on public display for 24 hours which backfired as the french locals were not used to seeing such barbarism which was all too common in the US. Haywood produces a secret letter the american military sent to the french warning that segregation was vital to preserving america's white racial purity from inferior races and warned them not to treat the black soldiers as equals as it would give them ideas. As you can see I wasn't exaggerating when I called America a Fascist country a conclusion Haywood would also come to in the future. However despite the best efforts of the Americans Haywood would befriend the French and get his first taste of what it would be like to live in comparative equality. He would train with the french, then be stationed on the front line before falling ill.
As mentioned he would return to the war to find another war back home. After the Chicago riot he would begin to search for answers and was determined to join the fight for black liberation. He began an intense period of study joining a study group of other likeminded black men also looking for answers. He studied african civilizations to disprove the then current lie that there had never been any black civilizations. He studied the history of the struggle at home. Increasingly thanks to his brother he began to study Marx, Engels, and Lenin. He began to see that racism was a tool of the capitalists used to create a class of super-exploited blacks, and use them to keep down white wages. His brother Otto Hall (Harry Haywood was a revolutionary name adopted to confuse the authorities) was already a member of the communist party. Haywood asked to join but was told he should wait and join the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB) instead a revolutionary organization lead by black communists founded and lead by Cyril Briggs. Next Haywood would join the Young Communist League where he would so impress his comrades that they decided to smuggle him into the Soviet Union for a revolutionary education.
Thus Haywood was smuggled into Canada passed along a network of Communist party members before being sent to Europe and eventually crossing into the Soviet Union. This is one of the most fascinating parts of the book as Haywood arrived in the late twenties a pivotal period in Soviet History. Since I recently spent several months studying the Russian Revolution and the construction of socialism under Stalin it was fascinating to read a first hand account by an american witness to these events. He witnessed Trotsky's attempt to stage counter revolutionary protests on the anniversary of the October revolution. He was also there for the fall of the rightist Bukharin. He was enrolled first at University of the Toilers of the East named for Stalin known by it's Russian acronym KUTVA. There he studied revolutionary theory with students from over 70 countries. I should mention that the famous Ho Chi Minh would later teach at this school training the Cadres that one day liberate Vietnam winning glorious victories over Japan, France, and the US. All students at KUTVA joined the soviet communist party the CPSU while at the school and so Haywood would attend the historic party congresses that would set the Soviet Union on the path to becoming a socialist super power. He would also be amazed at the progress the Soviet Union had gone towards fighting racism. It was illegal and the only time he suffered racist insults the crowd jumped to his defense. One of the more memorable examples of the Soviet commitment to abolish racism came years later when two white American technical advisers beat up a black technical adviser for eating in the same hall as the whites. The incident took place at the famous tractor factory in Stalingrad the men were arrested for white chauvinism (racism in communist terminology) which was an even more serious crime then the beating itself. They became the subject of a massive protest campaign with thousands of soviets demanding that americans leave their racist ways behind them upon arriving in the USSR. They were sentenced to two years imprisonment but they were deported instead. Many soviets had never seen a black man before but they were proud of their roles as allies in the liberation of the peoples of the world from imperialism. When he described what life was like for blacks in America they would compare it to life under the czars who used anti-jewish pogroms to misdirect the energies of the masses away from their real enemies and into senseless acts of racist violence. While in the Soviet Union Haywood learned to speak fluid Russian and also deepened his understanding of marxist-leninist theory. As Haywood explained at KUTVA theory was not a dogma but a guide to action. They studied and debated the issues facing the soviet union and the world. Since Haywood excelled at his studies they sent him to the Lenin school which was more advanced.
It was in the Soviet Union that Haywood became an early convert the Lenin's theory that american blacks represented an oppressed nation and that in the south-east where they were the majority but were denied their rights they had the right if they choose to seize control. Lenin believed that american blacks were potentially the most revolutionary segment of the populace and so could be mobilized as a national liberation struggle in addition to a revolutionary struggle. Only by fighting at their side for their right to self determination could white workers overcome the mistrust of the blacks while at the same time it would help to eliminate their own racist tendencies. The soviets had also been impressed by the popularity of the Garvey movement. However the CPUSA (Communist party of America) did not yet share this view. Many saw it merely as a struggle for racial equality and denied the power of the black nationalist impulse. Lenin and later Stalin saw it differently. Given the enduring popularity of black nationalism they were no doubt correct as I mentioned earlier. Black revolutionaries in the 60's and 70's would see their own struggle in parallel with the national liberation struggle of the Vietnamese, Cubans and of course in Africa itself. Lenin the ultimate realist knew it would be impossible for blacks to achieve full equality so long as they lacked the power to enforce it. As Huey P. Newton would say "All Power to the People." Ferguson itself is quite similar to a mini colony although Baltimore with it's black mayor showed the same problems persist in a neo-colonial city and can only be solved by altering the system of capitalism and imperialism. Of course the soviets realized that there were differences between the position of blacks in the US and an overseas colony but they focused on the essential similarity. While in Moscow Haywood was assigned to study the question and help the soviets formulate their new policy. He came to see that the issue of self determination could be key in drawing blacks into the communist revolutionary movement. He would be chosen to help spread this view after he had helped developed it writing influential articles that converted many people to this view.
He also became involved in the factional fighting of the CPUSA. This is a third major topic the book discusses providing his view of the factional fight within the CPUSA and later their massive expansion. I can't go into this aspect in depth but it was a bit surreal for me to read as one of the faction leaders Jay Lovestone is much more familiar to me in his later role as the CIA's link to Unions and organized crime on a world scale. He was in fact one of the most notorious drug smugglers of all time who had full diplomatic immunity thanks to his CIA connections as discussed in the works of Peter Dale Scott and Doug Valentine. He was an adept of Bukharin (who would later inspire Gorbachev's disastrous reforms.) However that lay in the future but obviously I was glad to see his fall from power as part of Stalin's campaign against the right deviation. Haywood would meet Stalin twice and would be a loyal supporter of Stalin all his life. Stalin had played a pivotal role in founding KUTVA and was very popular with the students. He was an expert on the national question and was committed to liberating the peoples of the world from imperialism. This included the blacks of the United States as we shall see the communist party would play a vital role in laying the groundwork for the later abolishment of Jim Crow. While in the Soviet Union Haywood would also travel widely throughout the country and provides many interesting tales of his experiences there. While in the Soviet Union. Haywood married a Russian woman. He was especially interested in the treatment of minorities and was impressed at the efforts to grant them full equality for the first time they had schools in their own native languages, many minorities had their own socialist republics. Sometimes he would tell them about the situation of blacks in the US which would outrage them and remind them of life under the czars, they invariably advised revolution as the only solution. While studying in Russia he met revolutionaries from around the world and befriended revolutionaries from Ireland, England, Africa, India and Japan. Sen Katayama a Japanese communist who had lived in america became a mentor to the black students studying in Russia, and explained Lenin's views on the right of self determination for blacks to them. Nasanov a Russian would be another important mentor and together they helped shape the Comintern's new line on self determination for American blacks. There was a marvelous spirit of internationalism in the 20's and 30's to be a communist meant to have friends and comrades in every corner of the globe. Moscow especially was a 2nd home to revolutionaries from around the world. At KUTVA when Haywood had arrived there were students from 70 countries. He was being groomed to take a leading role in the attempt to organized for a revolution back in the US.
Eventually Haywood would return to the US to begin actively working towards the dual goals of socialism and black liberation. Immediately upon returning to America he was shocked again by the level of racism as he had grown used to life in the soviet union where racism was illegal. First he and a white comrade were about to begin eating in a restaurant when he discovered that his food had been intentionally ruined with salt, while his comrades was fine. Next he was nearly murdered by the police for being in a white area. Both of these incidents happened in the supposedly non jim crow north in New York City. In addition Haywood was unable to get a visa for his Russian wife to join him in the US they used the excuse that she was not allowed because she was a communist although she wasn't a party member. Eventually they were forced to give up and they both later married other people. However instead of being intimidated by these racist incidents Haywood only became more determined and soon he began his work as an organizer for the party. Actually even before arriving Haywood had played an important role by arguing for the right of self determination for blacks in an influential article published in the parties paper. Once in the US he began the dangerous work of a communist organizer. He faced the constant, threat of arbitrary arrests, beatings, and possibly death at the hands of lynch mobs, fascists, and cops. He helped organize a coal miners strike.
Haywood became involved in one of the most famous cases of the era the Scottsboro boys case. Nine black youths had been arbitrarily arrested and put on trial for rape in the midst of a racist hysteria then sweeping the country. 7 of them were under 18 they had no chance of a fair trial and were quickly sentenced to death. It was to be a sort of Legal lynching meant to distract from the string of foreclosures sweeping the area as result of the great depression. Only the communist's dared to defend them (The NAACP claimed it was not their role to defend "criminals") and the Communists turned their case into an international cause. Not just in America but all over the world people rose up in protest to demand justice for the Scottsboro boys. To give only one touching example thousands marched in Soviet Russia in a spirit of solidarity demanding justice for the Scottsboro boys. Back in America the communist party used the case to expose the racist nature of american society. They had a wonderful slogan back then "Death to Lynchers!" Thousands of blacks were impressed by their fearless stance on the Scottsboro case and joined the party while it also gained them millions of sympathizers. Haywood would find the case useful in his other work. He would use the issue of Scottsboro to draw blacks into the communist labor unions. He was also deeply involved in the case himself risking death. Perhaps here is a good time to mention another little remembered black communist of the time William Patterson a lawyer who would work on many of the famous cases of this period and who would in the 50's charge the united states with genocide against blacks before the United Nations. Patterson was a leading member of the International Labour Defense or ILD which also defended labor leaders held trumped up charges. Haywood's book is full of accounts of these forgotten revolutionaries like Claudia Jones, Otto Huiswoud and Claude Mckay. It also reveals more well known figures like Langston Hughes (who spent a year in the USSR) in a far more radical light then many today think of them. I'll include Hughes' Poem since it's short
Put one More "s" in the USA
To Make it Soviet;
Put one more "s" in the USA
Oh! We'll live to see it yet!
When the Land Belongs to the farmers
And the Factories to the working men,
The USA when we get control
Will be the USSA then!
During the early thirties the Communist Party was so connected to the struggle for black liberation that people called it the Negro party. When the Communist party ran for the presidency the vice presidential candidate three times in a row was the black man James Ford. Although the CPUSA had a somewhat dubious history during this period with a tendency to a belief in American exceptionalism (communists invented this term as an insult back in the 20's and 30's but the phrase was later stolen by republican speechwriters who openly advocated it) In communist terminology American exceptionalism was the belief that american capitalism was somehow more stable, and further that american imperialism was somehow more benign then other countries. There was also the tendency to believe that a peaceful transition to socialism was possible through purely democratic means. Haywood was to constantly battle these tendencies he was committed to the vision of a marxist-leninist party. The further major problem was the ruthless factional fights that constantly went on. These intrigues are a major part of Haywoods book that I don't have time to discuss. I mention it partly to contrast these failings with the important role the party would play in the struggle for civil right and black liberation. The communist role in the civil rights struggle during this period was definitely one of the main high points in it's history. I also mention it because Haywood would later fall prey to these factional forces and he would become increasingly marginalized as the Party would later take an increasingly "right opportunist" direction however this would come later. Right Opportunist basically means a "sellout" Right Opportunists were those Lenin saw as abandoning essential marxist principles in order to make short term political gains. Later it was applied to those like Bukharin who wanted to slow or even reverse the transition to socialism during Stalin's time.
For now lets return to the early thirties and discuss some of Haywood and the parties other important work. First there is the story of the communist Angelo Herndon at only 19 years he managed to unite thousands of poor blacks and whites in Jim Crow Atlanta Georgia in a demand for immediate hunger relief. The terrified local government immediately found $6000 for hunger relief. However the next week Herndon was arrested charged under an obsolete law from the time slavery for "inciting insurrection." They thought they could end the threat of Angelo Herndon by locking him up and that he would be forgotten. Instead the communists turned his case into another major campaign and Herndon became famous nationwide. Communists played a major role in organizing the unemployed and it was thanks to communist organized pressure that the government was forced to provide some relief during the great depression. This is an idea that should be brought back as our society has condemned millions to permanent unemployment in fact this is a global problem. Communist's were also instrumental in the founding of the CIO a major union that unlike the AFL was integrated allowing black workers to join. They also began an international organization of black workers that was to play a vital role in the birth of the pan-african movement called The International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers. I should mention in passing the international League Against Imperialism the LAI. One of it's major causes was support for Sandino the Nicaraguan freedom fighter against American imperialism battling the US marines. Sandino would later serve as an inspiration for the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua decades later.
One of the most fascinating chapters in this forgotten history is the sharecroppers union. The attempt to organize the black sharecroppers in the face of the most brutal repression was undoubtedly one of the most dangerous tasks the party undertook. The local oligarchs regarded any attempt to organize the sharecroppers as an act of war and they responded with shocking brutality massacring dozens. The now forgotten "Camp Hill" Massacre was only the beginning in a series of massacres. Yet despite the dangers the black sharecroppers refused to give in and the sharecroppers union continued to grow. It was a sort of guerrilla war or low intensity conflict with the sharecroppers union organizing sporadic armed resistance in self defense. A forgotten little war was waged on american soil for years as the sharecroppers mounted armed resistance to the attempts to crush their movement. I was strongly reminded of the dirty wars in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 70's and 80's while reading Haywood's account. He was involved in organizing them and even to enter the area meant risking his life as he would have been killed upon being discovered. For Haywood the success of the sharecroppers union was further evidence that the struggle for self determination was a vital part of the struggle for black liberation. It was here in America's south east what was known as the "Black Belt" that blacks both made up a majority of the population and were most oppressed. By uniting them in a struggle for self determination, land re-distribution, and political control they could be mobilized for revolution. The sharecroppers union proved that they were willing to fight and die for a better world.
Haywood was also involved in organizing in Chicago a fascist stronghold. Immediately upon entering the city Haywood was arrested beaten and paraded in front of the whole department who were told to arrest him on sight for being a black communist. However despite the danger Haywood continued his work in Chicago where in addition to police brutality local communists also had to deal with a bunch of fascist goon squads funded by the Chicago industrial magnates. Organizing against the rise of fascism was another major activity the communists were involved with and they were alone in battling the danger while the "democratic" west did all they could to aid in it's growth. One major anti-fascist campaign was in protest of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia a country of enormous symbolic value to blacks worldwide because of it's biblical associations, place in Garvey's thought, and because it was the last "independent" african country(Actually it was secretly dominated by France and England) However in Chicago the Mayor had recently received an award from Mussolini himself and to avoid offending his dictator friend he banned all protests against the Italian invasion in Chicago. The communists mounted a series of clever illegal protests culminating in a dramatic day when the police. would be forced to cordon a whole section of the town. Haywood and his comrades had cleverly planted themselves around the area and each would give speeches from the windows and rooftops every time one was arrested another would begin to speak. Haywood and the other were arrested and badly beaten but they had brought the city to a standstill and had Succeeded in exposing the fascist war on Ethiopia.
Haywood ended up going to Spain to join the international brigades. The Spanish republic was trying to resist an armed takeover by the fascists under Franco. The west refused to send aid to the tiny republic as they hated it's progressive character and saw Fascism as the best defense against Communism. The USSR alone was willing to send aid. In addition to military aid and advisers they organized an international campaign calling for volunteers to fight on the side of the republic. Communists from all over the world went to fight there along with some who were simply opposed to fascism. One was Oliver Law one of Haywood's black comrades from Chicago who had been mercilessly beaten by police. He was the first black american officer to command white american troops. Paul Robeson wanted to make a movie about him but discovered the same powerful forces behind Jim Crow were also backing the fascists in Spain and was unable to raise the money. I mention him to rescue the name of yet another black revolutionary from obscurity. Oliver Law would die heroically in Spain. For Haywood his time in Spain seemed to mark the beginning of a downturn in his life. He made a powerful enemy in a local commander by demanding better treatment for his men. This was a mistake since the commander started spreading rumors and turning people against Haywood. Eventually Haywood a political commissar would be forced to resign after getting in an argument with a fellow officer. Then upon returning to America he was the victim of a rumor campaign that accused him of being a deserter. Haywood's importance would begin to wane within the party as it moved increasingly to the right.
During the Second World War Haywood would serve in the merchant marines and work in the legendary NMU union. It had been among the first unions to be integrated and communists were extremely influential in it. By a stroke of luck I happened to listen to an interview with Historian Gerald Horne on His book on Ferdinand Smith and the NMU called "Red Seas" a couple weeks before reading this chapter So I was familiar with the NMU. For one thing it was used to smuggle the communist press all across the world. During the war Haywood traveled around the world and he always stopped by to visit the local communist party branches in each country often meeting old friends and comrades from his days in Moscow. He visited India where he met many of his fellow students from KUTVA now leading India's communist party. He visited Apartheid South Africa which he found to be even worse then the Jim Crow South, but here he also met with the South African Communists working for an end to Apartheid and the creation of a Black Republic. Nelson Mandela himself later joined the South African Communist Party a fact only revealed after his death.He visited Cuba then under a popular front government where he also met with the cuban communists. Towards the end of the War he decided to take the dangerous supply run to Murmansk in the Soviet Union. There he was happy to be back briefly in a Socialist Country where racism had been abolished but was sad to discover so many of his Russian friends had been killed during the war.
After the World War 2 came the "Cold War" a wave of McCarthyite hysteria was spread throughout the country and it became illegal to be a communist. The entire Leadership of the CPUSA would be arrested. Haywood would be constantly hounded by the FBI and found it hard to get work anywhere as he was on an anti-communist blacklist. However he briefly rose to prominence again in the party writing the book "Negro Liberation" with help from the courageous Paul Robeson who agreed to pay his expenses for a few months so he could write the book. However as the party began again to swing to the right he became marginalized again. The Party foolishly decided to abandon it's advocacy of the idea of national liberation for blacks instead choosing to work with the reformist NAACP. However Haywood ends his book written in the late 70's with a description of the massive upsurge in activity towards black liberation. First there was the civil rights movement, then the rise of the black power movement with people like Malcolm X, and later the Black Panther Party. The groundwork of the civil rights movement had been laid in the campaigns of the thirties. Martin Luther King was actually selected as a leader because he was young enough not to have ever been a communist during this period unlike the other older civil rights leaders. After the war the Communists had given the civil rights movement another boost in their failed progressive party campaign when Henry Wallace and Paul Robeson used the campaign as a way to resist segregation in the south. The black power movement with it's demands for self determination had also been partly inspired by the parties demands for self determination For Huey P. Newton Blacks were a colonized people fighting a revolutionary war of national liberation that could only be won with the destruction of capitalism. Angela Davis was a communist party member. Unfortunately this new wave of revolutionary action would be stamped out through murder, frame ups, psychological operations.
Today we may see a new wave of revolutionary spirit spread across the world. There have been two black uprisings in the past year first in Ferguson then in Baltimore. However this movement will go nowhere if it has purely reformist goals. If it makes the mistake of believing that the bloodthirsty american empire will ever change because of a few mild reforms, or a few promises from politicians it will fail to produce lasting change. Only by radically changing the nature of this system will these problems ever be solved. Until then capitalism will always stir up racist tensions to turn the people against each other. Until then a brutal militarized police will be used to keep the masses in line. Austerity economics and the police state go hand in hand. We need a truly revolutionary movement if we want to change the world. Thus it is important that we revive the memories of people like Harry Haywood. It is important that we remember the struggles of the past. Almost a Hundred years ago the Russian Revolution inspired people around the world with the vision of a new society. It was the first of many revolutions that would change the world. Korea, China, Vietnam, Ghana, Cuba. It would also play a crucial role in ending both Jim Crow and Apartheid. This proud history must be revived. I'll end with a qoute from Siusaidh Chaimbeul about the significance of the communist efforts for the later civil rights movement
Without the efforts of thousands of people who fought evictions, protested lynching, defended the Scottsboro boys, and spoke up against racism whenever and wherever they encountered it, it is difficult to imagine what - Decades Later - our "dream" could have been.
My main source was of Course Harry Haywood's book "Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist" Luckily someone scanned the book into PDF format and you can find it free online here.
I first heard of the book "Black Bolshevik" during a lecture by Ranjeet Brar on Paul Robeson, Stalin and the USSR during which the cover of the book was briefly shown on screen piquing my interest. But it was while watching a fascinating lecture hosted by Sukant Chandan with Hakim Adi on his book "Pan Africanism and Communism" that on a whim I sent it to @Zaganashikwe who I knew specialized in the Caribbean we fell into conversation I mentioned Haywoods book in passing and to my surprise she offered to mail me a copy of the book along with some of her work on Communism and Black Liberation as well as the haunting story of the forgotten Irish revolutionary Kay Donnellan imprisoned for organizing black workers in Trinidad and possibly murdered by the British the day after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. It opened up a whole little known area of history for me.
The two articles by @Zaganashikwe which will be available online soon thanks to @grphlegmblip who is going to scan them. I'll post info on where to find them in the comments section when they become available. check out @grphlegmblip's aka Kariflack's great podcast and blog here She's done great shows on the US Military involvement Sex Trafficking and on Low Intensity warfare.
I also relied on some great lectures on youtube first Sukant Chandan interviewing Hakim Adi on Pan Africanism and Communism
And Caleb Maupin released a lecture on the history of the communist party USA that provides useful background
Check out the 10,000 League channel on You Tube for Some great short episodes on other important black communists like Paul Robeson, Robert F. Williams, Huey P. Newton, and Claudia Jones. Sukant Chandan's You Tube channel SonsofMalcom TV did a series on female revolutionaries called hidden herstories that you should also check out. He also has with a ton of other great anti-imperialist content. Also search for more great Hakim Adi Lectures on You Tube. Professor Gerald Horne has done great work on reviving some of the history of this period.