Capitalism breeds and feeds Black oppression
On January 8, in Brooklyn, NY, hundreds gathered at the funeral of activist Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner who was murdered by New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014. Her father's death helped spark the BLM movement. Erica became a fierce advocate for racial equality and police reform and accountability. She died in December.| Nigro / Sipa via AP Images

James E. Jackson, Jr. (1914-2007) was the first Black editor of The Worker, predecessor of People’s World, serving in that capacity during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Along with his wife, Esther Cooper Jackson, James Jackson was a prominent figure in the movements for civil rights, democracy, and socialism from the 1930s onward, best known for his role in founding the Southern Negro Youth Congress and as a leader in the Communist Party USA. In 1951, he was indicted under the Smith Act and forced underground for a number of years and then imprisoned. His conviction, along with those of other Communist leaders, was later overturned.

In this article, published at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in February 1966, Jackson offers an update of the Marxist theoretical position on the strategic goals of the African-American freedom struggle. In the 1920s and 30s, Communists had argued for the concept of “self-determination” for a separate Black nation in the South—the so-called “Black Belt Thesis.” Below, Jackson says that the struggle for Black equality is central to the struggle for democracy and progress as a whole in the United States. Full equality within a single country, along with special compensatory measures, was the strategic goal chosen by the African-American people themselves, and Jackson argues Marxists should fully engage in the struggle to achieve it.

People’s World presents this piece from our archives as part of Black History Month. With the Black Lives Matter movement, “Take a Knee” protests, the Women’s March, and other actions led by African Americans at the forefront of today’s resistance, Jackson’s article resonates once again.

 

From its earliest establishment in America, capitalism has been guilty of enriching its private fortunes out of the most savage robbery of the Negro people and the most ruthless exploitation of the labor power of Negro working people, both during the era of chattel slavery, and throughout the span of the century since emancipation.

Capitalism constituted the dreadful system of human slavery to translate “the blood, toil, and tears” of Negroes into personal profit and corporate capital and maintained it by terror and law and savage racist social customs for over 300 years.

The operation of the slave system in the USA then, like the discrimination system against Negroes now, were developments of capitalism and functions of this nefarious system of human exploitation for private profit-making.

Notwithstanding all the disabilities and oppression—the excluding and the denial, the segregation and the discrimination—the Negro people are an integral part of this American nation.

The Negro is an American and this United States is his native land.

 Other than the Indians, all Americans have ancestral origins abroad; Negro Americans’ ancestors stemmed from Africa, from peoples who today are playing a great role in the world cause of emancipation from the bondage of colonialism and imperialism.

The struggle of the Negro people for integration in the economic, political, and social affairs of the nation on the basis of full equality with all other Americans is a struggle to enlarge democracy in the entire nation.

Negro Americans of all classes are compelled to enter into the struggle against racial discrimination and its social consequences. However, the fact that the Negro people are predominantly working class will increasingly influence the program and goals of the Negro people’s movement, the strategy and tactics of the struggle, as well as assuring the permanent nature of the alliance with the organized labor movement. Indeed, labor and the Negro people are destined to march together in pursuit of a common future free of capitalist exploitation and capitalist racial oppression.

Because of the high working-class composition of the Negro people and the strength of the Negro workers in key areas of the economy, the freedom struggle of the Negro people presents itself as a vital front of the anti-monopoly struggle. It is geared into the tasks related to the fulfillment of the historic goal of the working class, that is, to effect the transformation of society from capitalist to socialist. The freedom objectives of the Negro people directly benefit the working class and serve the democratic interest of the whole nation.

The Negro people’s fight to eliminate political discrimination is in essence a struggle for genuinely representative government.

The struggle of the Negro people for full access to the political arena in the Southern states and the Northern communities is a struggle to oust the worst reactionaries, Dixiecrats, racists, warmongers, anti-labor servants of the monopolists from Congress and from the state and local governing bodies, and to place in public office genuine representatives of the people chosen by and from the Negro people, the labor movement, and the progressive forces generally.

The struggle of the Negro people against economic discrimination is a major front in the real war against poverty.

It requires the trade union organization of the unorganized, especially in the factories and the fields of the South.

James Jackson (left) and Esther Cooper Jackson (right) with Dr. W.E.B. DuBois in the early 1960s. | People’s World Archives

It necessitates the development of the economy in the South in particular and in the other areas of blight and poverty as well. The reconstruction of agriculture on a modern scientific basis, and big expansion of industry in the Southern region is needed.

The economic needs of the Negro people require a vast and country-wide program to wipe out the shame of the slums of the metropolitan centers and rural areas and to erect in their stead unsegregated, open-occupancy, controlled low-rent and low-cost housing, recreational facilities, playgrounds, and parks, as well as all necessary schools and hospital facilities.

Capital for the financing of such development programs, which are needed to reduce the accumulated discrimination gap in the economic status of the Negro people, must be supplied by the government out of the profit hoards of the monopolists and from the savings that would flow from a drastic reduction of the military appropriations.

To secure the scale of an anti-poverty program needed to wipe out the economic discrimination and social deprivation of Negro Americans is to make an assault upon the profit-grabbing of the corporations and trusts, is to enter into struggle against the economic and political pillars of monopoly capitalism itself.

Central to the solution of all problems that present themselves in the area of strategy and tactics for the Negro freedom movement is the necessity to identify the Negro people in terms of: 1) their relation to the nation as a whole, and 2) their relation to the working class (whose destiny it is to lead the nation to its classless future).

In this regard—

  1. Negroes are an integral part of the nation, though suffering special oppression and racial discrimination.
  2. The number of Negro capitalists is minimal and none are big capitalists; the middle class are a small percentage of the total; the mass of the Negro people are of the working class.

The approach to all policy questions, to all matters of the tactics and strategy in respect to the developing struggles of the Negro freedom movement must take into account the necessity that all policies and tactics need to conform to both the immediate as well as long-range interest of the basic numbers of the Negro people, that is, to its working-class majority.

During the past decade, the young generation, especially of the Negro people, have gained a wide experience with the CLASS nature of the capitalist STATE and how its police and court system defends its privilege and power. They have gained much experience in the matter of building organization, cultivating unity, reaching out to forge alliances with wide strata of white people. They have, out of their experience, grown profoundly critical of the whole nature and structure of capitalist society. They seek a progressive alternative to capitalism. They are open to explore the Marxist theory of the socialist alternative.


CONTRIBUTOR

James E. Jackson
James E. Jackson

James E. Jackson, Jr. (1914-2007) was the first Black editor of The Worker, predecessor of People’s World, serving in that capacity during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Along with his wife, Esther Cooper Jackson, James Jackson was a prominent figure in the movements for civil rights, democracy, and socialism from the 1930s onward, best known for his role in founding the Southern Negro Youth Congress and as a leader in the Communist Party USA. In 1951, he was indicted under the Smith Act and forced underground for a number of years and then imprisoned. His conviction, along with those of other Communist leaders, was later overturned.

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