The primacy of the racial question, 1931

The anti-imperialist national liberation revolution, [Frank Waldron] argued, must be taken out of the realm of abstract slogans and turned into a daily battle on “little issues” that determine the everyday lives of the people, “such as reduction of rent and taxes, resistance to evictions, seizures of food and seed supplies, defense of every democratic right to organize, strike, free speech and assembly that is violated.”

In South Africa, nearly a year later, the problems were different, but Gene’s approach was basically the same. The Communist Party was emerging from a prolonged factional fight in which the all-white leadership and predominantly white membership had been charged with racism. In 1931 the Comintern had intervened from Moscow and the leadership, headed by Rebecca Bunting and her husband, were expelled. Their influence remained, however, and the issues were still being debated. The Buntings had rejected the primacy of the racial and national questions for South Africa. They opposed the Comintern’s goal for an Independent Native Black Republic with “guarantees for the white minority.” They had argued this would “favor a black race dictatorship that would turn the exploited whites into a subjected race.” The Buntings claimed that not a national liberation struggle of the Native Black majority was the strategic goal, but the establishment of socialism by the proletariat–black and white.

As in the Philippines, Gene devoted the first months in South Africa to traveling, asking questions. … Then he applied himself to the problems still tearing the Party apart. he helped initiate methods of collective work to strengthen the ability of the Black comrades newly placed into responsible positions of leadership. He helped establish the concept that the Party had to become, in the first place, the Party of Native Black workers, reflecting the Black Nation character of the country. At the same time, he called for an end to the practice of using “administrative, punitive expulsions” against those whites still influenced by the Buntings’ ideas. He urged “the need to win over vacillators.” He exploded the bombast of those white comrades who refused to work inside the white workers’ trade unions under the guise that they were militantly opposing white chauvinism. “White chauvinism is fought where it exists, not in words from the outside,” Gene countered. He argued, too, against those comrades who refused to work in the reformist organizations, white or Black, under the guise they were protecting the independence and purity of the Party. At the same time, he combated tendencies to subordinate the Party’s policies to accommodation with the reformist leaders, “in the interest of unity.”

Peggy Dennis, The Autobiography of an American Communist: A Personal View of a Political Life 1925-1975.

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3 responses to “The primacy of the racial question, 1931

  1. Pingback: The primacy of the racial question, 1931 | Reaction Times

  2. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/07/26) | The Reactivity Place

  3. Pingback: What is Marxism? | nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

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