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/46 AFRICAN AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT WEB, au BOIS 147

few colored men are employed as laborers and linemen, but not many. States. Du Bois's Marxism was more analytical and less doctrinaire than that of
Here then is a situation where a quasi-public institution absolutely refuses to many of his contemporaries. In this essay. "Marxism and the Negro Problem"
let millions of citizens earn a decent living, while taxing them along with other (The Crisis 40 [May 1933]: 103-04, lI8). he argued that Marxism was rele-
citizens for this public service. This compulsory exclusion is, of course, not vant. but acknowledged that it needed to be modified before it could be the basis
confmed to colored people. It is exercised against Jews; it is exercised against for a solution to the problems that blacksfaced in America.
various groups of foreign-born; it is exercised even against certain social classes
among American-born citizens. But in the case of the Negroes, we can see it
openly, just as in those chemical experiments where an artificially colored liquid Karl Marx was a Jew born at Treves, Germany, in March, 1818. He came of an
reveals diffusion and reaction. educated family and studied at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin, planning first
What now must Negroes do? If this sort of thing goes on, then disfranchise- to become a lawyer, and then to teach philosophy. But his ideas were too radical
ment in industry is going to be a vital factor in their elimination from modern for the government. He turned to journalism, and fmally gave his life to eco-
civilization. By consolidations and mergers, by holding companies and inter- nomic reform, dying in London in 1883, after having lived in Germany, Bel-
locking directorates, the great industries of the world are becoming integrated gium, France, and, for the last thirty-five years of his life, in England. He
into vast private organizations, which means that the work of the world,~e published in 1867, the frrst volume of his monumental work, "Capital."
skilled work, the best paid work,-in the vast majority of the cases, is subject to There are certain books in the world which every searcher for truth must
this social and racial exclusion; to this refusal to allow certain classes of men to know: the Bible, the Critique of Pure Reason, the Origin of Species, and Karl
earn a decent living. Marx' "Capital."
It is an intolerable situation. Attempts have been made to correct it by appeal. Yet until the Russian Revolution, Karl Marx was little known in America. He
In Chicago and in High Harlem, New York, these appeals have been effective in was treated condescendingly in the universities, and regarded even by the intelli-
the case of small store chains, and even to a slight extent with a corporation like gent public as a radical agitator whose curious and inconvenient theories it was
the Western Union Telegraph Company. But the Telephone Company remains easy to refute. Today, at last, we all know better, and we see in Karl Marx a
adamant. The Gas Company is absolutely deaf and unsympathetic. colossal genius of infmite sacrifice and monumental industry, and with a mind of
In this case there is only one thing to do, and that is for the Negro voters with extraordinary logical keenness and grasp. We may disagree with many of the
intelligence and far-reaching memory to see that by their votes no further priVI- great books of truth that I have named, and with "Capital," but they can never be
leges and franchises are granted to these public service companies; and to see ignored.
that the work of these companies, just as far as possible and as soon as possible, At a recent dinner to Einstein, another great Jew, the story was told of a
is transferred to the government. Government ownership is the only solution for professor who was criticized as having "no sense of humor" because he tried to
this present industrial disfranchisement of the Negro. explain the Theory of Relativity in a few simple words. Something of the same
There are, of course, many other reasons and arguments for public ownership criticism must be attached to anyone who attempts similarly to indicate the
beside this personal and racial reason. But all these arguments simply bring relation of Marxian philosophy and the American Negro problem. And yet, with
home to the mass of people the fact that public service cannot be carried on all modesty, I am essaying the task knowing that it will be but tentative and
endlessly for private advantage and private profit. subject to much criticism, both on my own part and that of other abler students.
The task which Karl Marx set himself was to study and interpret the organiza-
tion of industry in the modem world. One of Marx's earlier works, "The Com-
munist Manifesto," issued in 1848, on the eve of the series of democratic
21 revolutions in Europe, laid down this fundamental proposition.
"That in every historical epoch the prevailing mode of economic production
Marxism and the Negro Problem and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the
basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the politi-
cal and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of
mankind ... has been a history of class struggles, contest between exploiting and
In the I930s Du Bois turned sharply to the left. embracing Marxism. pan- exploited, ruling and oppressed classes; that the history of these class struggles
Africanism, and a more class-conscious. nationalist view of race in the United forms a series of evolution in which, now-a-days, a stage has been reached where
148 AFRICAN AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT WEB. au BOIS 149

the exploited and oppressed class (the proletariat) cannot attain its emancipation of supporting facts have been bitterly assailed. The labor theory of value has
from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class (the bourgeoisie) without, at the been denied; the theory of surplus value refuted, and inevitability of revolution
same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploita- scoffed at; while industrial crises-at least until this present one--have been
tion, oppression, class-distinction and class-struggles." defended as unusual exceptions proving the rule of modem industrial efficiency.
All will notice in this manifesto phrases which have been used so much lately But with the Russian experiment and the World Depression most thoughtful
and so carelessly that they have almost lost their meaning. But behind them still men today are beginning to admit:
is living and insistent truth. The class struggle of exploiter and exploited is a That the continued recurrence of industrial crises and wars based largely on
reality. The capitalist still today owns machines, materials, and wages with economic rivalry, with persistent poverty, unemployment, disease and crime, are
which to buy labor. The laborer even in America owns little more than his ability forcing the world to contemplate the possibilities of fundamental change in our
to work. A wage contract takes place between these two and the resultant manu- economic methods; and that means thorough-going change whether it be violent.
factured commodity or service is the property of the capitalist. as in France or Russia, or peaceful, as seems just as possible, and just as true to
Here Marx begins his scientific analysis based on a mastery of practically all the Marxian formula, if it is fundamental change; in any case, Revolution seems
economic theory before his time and on an extraordinary, thoroughgoing per- bound to come.
sonal knowledge of industrial conditions over all Europe and many other parts of Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than recent actions in the United States;
the world. our re-examination of the whole concept of Property; our banking moratorium;
His fmal conclusions were never all properly published. He lived only to the extraordinary new agriculture bill; the plans to attack unemployment, and
fmish the first volume of his "Capital," and the other two volumes were com- similar measures. Labor rather than gambling is the sure foundation of value and
pleted from his papers and notes by his friend Engels. The result is an unfmished whatever we call it---exploitatioIJ, theft or business acumen-there is something
work, extraordinarily difficult to read and understand and one which the master radically wrong with an industrial system that turns out simultaneously paupers
himself would have been first to criticize as not properly representing his mature and millionaires and sets a world starving because it has too much food.
and fmished thought. What now has all this to do with the Negro problem? First of all, it is manifest
Nevertheless, that first volume together with the fairly evident meaning of the that the mass of Negroes in the United States belong distinctly to the working
others, lay down a logical line of thought. The gist of that philosophy is that the proletariat. Of every thousand working Negroes less than a hundred and fifty
value of products regularly exchanged in the open market depends upon the belong to any class that could possibly be considered bourgeois. And even this
labor necessary to produce them; that capital consists of machines, materials and more educated and prosperous class has but small connection with the exploiters
wages paid for labor; that out of the fmished product, when materials have been of wage and labor. Nevertheless, this black proletariat is not a part of the white
paid for and the wear and tear and machinery replaced, and wages paid, there proletariat. Black an4-vvMew()[k togetherJn lllanycases, and influence each
remains a surplus value. This surplus value arises from labor and is the differ- other's rates of wages''fhey have siInill!LQompli!!nts agailiSfcapitalists, save that
ence between what is actually paid laborers for their wages and the market value the grievanceii.f tlie' Ne~Q~ work51L.are_mQr.e,.t'WidaniirifiiTliifd-ml1efensible,
of the commodities which the laborers produce. It represents, therefore, exploita- ranging as the~dO:-'Sii1ce!I:: ~~X_QfJ~·_l!ILMarx.Jrom ,Qh~!1~.L~_~ry, iOllieworst
tion of the laborer, and this exploitation, inherent in the capitalistic system of paid, s~0.10DTiecrand ch.e,atedlabor.inany...ciYiliz~d. ., - _._~--"\,
production, is the cause of poverty, of industrial crises, and eventually of social And while Negro labor in America suffers because of the fundamental ineqUi-l
revolution. ties of the whole capitalistic system, the lowest and most fatal degree of its .,\
This social revolution, whether we regard it as voluntary revolt or the inevita- suffering comes not from the capitalists but from feIIow white laborers. It is !
ble working of a vast cosmic law of social evolution, will be the last manifesta-
tion of the class struggle, and will come by inevitable change induced by the
white labor that deprives the Negro of his right to Yote, denies him education, III
denies him affiliation with trade unions, expels him from decent houses and neigh- I~ l,
very nature of the conditions under which present production is carried on. It will horhoods. and heaps upon him the public insults of open color discrimination., .J
come by the action of the great majority of men who compose the wage-earning It is no sufficient answer to say that capital encourages this oppression and
proletariat, and it will result in common ownership of all capital, the disappear- uses it for its own ends. This may have excused the ignorant and superstitious
ance of capitalistic exploitation, and the division of the products and services of Russian peasants in the past and some of the poor whites of the South today. But...
industry according to human needs, and not according to the will of the owners the bulk of American white labor is. neither ignorant nor fanatical. It Iaiows
of capital. exactly wh~tit Is'doinj:and:ifmeans.to-::ao::iLWilIiam Green and Mathew WoIl
It goes without saying that every step of this reasoning and every presentation of the A.F. of L: have no excuse of illiteracy or religion to veil their- deliberate
~1.ti::.1 " . ._ ~. . . .~~:;'~~";~.,;~<,i.

/SO AFRICAN AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT WE e, DU BOIS 151

intel')tion t()J~~Q,Negroesaad.~~~s,~':.~.?t~~,:!~_~-!!~.Qf. C1Q..mm.Q!'1,labor, in and India, Africa and the West Indies, backed by the organized and centralized
a lower proletariat as subservient to their interests as theirs are to the interests of ownership of machines, raw materials, finished commodities and land monopoly
capital. over the whole world.
• .Tais large development of a petty bourgeoisie within the American laboring How now does the philosophy of Karl Marx apply today to colored labor?
class is a post-Marxian phenomenon and the result of the tremendous and world First of jl.1!.£qJQ£edJa.bel:-haS-OO--CQlJ.1.IIlOJI..g~thwhite lab.~sln1elof
wide development of capitalism in the 20th Century. The market of capitalistic technocra.ts w~tuld dOJnQ~JbJID,el'ploitcoIQ~d-Iabor'in-order-tb'raise-the status ~
production has gained an effective world-wide organization. Industrial technique of whites. No revolt of a white proletariat could be stl!,rted .ifJluilij~tJ.!<:as to !
and mass production have brought possibilities in the production of goods and --- ,-"._-----------
make black..workers their economic. political and sociat!:quals. It is for this I
(

services which out-run even this wide market. A new class of technical engineers reason that American socialism for fifty years has been dumb on the Negro
and managers has arisen forming a working class aristocracy between the older problem, and the communists cannot even get a respectful hearing in America
proletariat and the absentee owners of capital. The real owners of capital are unless they begin by expelling Negroes.
small as well as large investors--workers who have deposits in savings banks On the other hand, within the Negn>.B!P.!!ns, in the United States. in West
and small holdings in stocks and bonds; families buying homes and purchasing Africa, in s'oiithAmencallllcCIn-t!ieWest Indies~~rge6is grOUPS are
commodities on installment; as well as the large and rich investors. being evol~re4.~!itSout~!\inenCa-alliCt1le-W est Indies such wouPSdramoff skill
Of course, the individual laborer gets but an infinitesimal part of his income and intelligence into thewhIie-group;anneave"the" blacnabor poor, ignorant
from such investments. On the other hand, such investments, in the aggregate, and leaderless save for an occasional demagog.
largely increase available capital for the exploiters, and they give investing la- In West Afriea:-lfNegro bourgeoisie is developing with invested capital and
borers the capitalistic ideology. Between workers and owners of capital stand employment of natives and is only kept from the conventional capitalistic devel-
today the bankers and fmanciers who distribute capital and direct the engineers. opment by the opposition and enmity of white capital, and the white managers
Thus the engineers and the saving better-paid workers.!...[lLl"IJ:1Jll.lllw petty and engineers who represent it locally and who display bitter prejudice and
bourgeois cl~ss, whase.interests·1lfe't5ollhauj)iY~ih:jiiosiLofthe.~capHalists and tyranny; and by white European labor which furnishes annies and navies and
antagonistic totliOS€f' of'common liiooc- On the other hand, common labor in Empire "preference." AfricattQlack labQrJIDd.hlacUJ!Pi!aLare ther~fore driven
Amerlcaand"WliirtY'E'uroplffarfrbtri being motivated by any vision of revolt to seek alliance and commo!!.&!:Q..u!!.d.
aganist capitalism, has been blinded by the American vision of the possibility of In the-Uillted Statesalso a pettY bourgeoisie is being developed, consisting or'~
layer after layer of the workers escaping into the wealthy class and becoming clergymen, teachers, farm owners, professional men and retail businessmen. The \
.'-managers and employers of labor.
Thus in America we have seen a wild and ruthless scramble of labor groups
position of this class, however, is peculiar: they are not the chief or even large /1
investors in Negro labor and therefore exploit it only here and there; and they
over each other in order to climb to wealth on the backs of black labor and bear the brunt of color prejudice because they express in word and work the j
foreign irmnigrants. The Irish climbed on the Negroes. The Gennans scrambled aspirations of all black folk for emancipation. The revolt of any black proletariat j
over the Negroes and emulated the Irish. The Scandinavians fought forward next could not, therefore, be logically directed against this class, nor could this class J
. to the Gennans and the Italians and "Bohunks" are crowding up, leaving Ne- join either white capital, white engineers or white workers to strengthen the coLQt/
groes still at the bottom chained to helplessness, first by slavery, then by disfran- bar.
chisement and always by the Color Bar. Under these circumstances, what shall we say of the Marxian philosophy and
The se~Q!!tinfl.u~labor-bolhi!1 America and Europe has been the of its relation to the American Negro? We can only say, as it seems to me, that
fact that tb.ll...\}~!ension of the world market b~xpaifdiiig industry has the Marxian philosophy is a true diagnosis of the situation in Europe in the
establi~h.~d a worTcr:WRIe-riew proletaiiiifofCOlO~erS:-·toiriliriifider the middle of the 19th Century despite some of its logical difficulties. But.it must.b.e
worst conditlonsof19th ceIt§::~Tfalistii.Jieroea-is--slaves and seffs and modified in tbe-llnitl:.ll§!!ttes of America and especially so far as the N~g!y
furnishing'by-tfielowesfpiiid wage in modem history llJDWls of'rawmaterial for group is.I:~~cemed. The Negrolsexp:totteatOii-(fegreethit~nielUls'jKiyerty,
industry;'With--thisllirgesnne-capitalists"have'co~solidated their economic crime,~ncyand"miligelfce~:~!9~tajioli~£()l1l.es l!o~f!()?!.!l. J2lack
'p'6Wer; 'nullified universal suffrage and bribed the white workers by high wages, capitalistic_clasSOOf!!,~m ..the_whit~ capitaJi~.t!.~n~~J!~!'l!h~w.hi.tlU>!9le­
visions of wealth and the opportunity to drive "niggers." Soldiers and sailors tariat. His only..defense is.JY£.11Tnteriii1 organiZation as will I!rQ!~tJtiJ1l from
from the white workers are used to keep "darkies" in their "places" and white
foremen and engineers have been established as irresponsible satraps in China
b~al:ties1. and such practical ec---;;OOmrcw'ignt'as wUrprevent inside tha-race
groupaiiy large-deveropmentorcapifanstice;rplOitaffo~ '-'---,--, ,-, --- -
'--------
~~-- ....
752 AFRICAN AMERICAN POL/TICAL THOUGHT WEB. DU BOIS /53

Meantime, comes the Great Depression. It levels all in mighty catastrophe. There are still large numbers of American Negroes who in all essential partic-
The fantastic industrial structure of America is threatened with ruin. The trade ulars conceive themselves as belonging to the white race. And this, not on
unions of skilled labor are double-tongued and helpless. Unskilled and common account of their color, which may be yellow, brown or black, but on account of
white labor is too frightened at Negro competition to attempt united action. It their history and their social surroundings. They react as white Americans. They
only begs a dole. The refonnist program of Socialism meets no response from have all the racial prejudices of white America, not only against Asiatics and
the white proletariat because it offers no escape to wealth and no effective bar to Jews, but even against Mexicans and West Indians. In all questions of human
black labor, and a mud-sill of black labor is essential to white labor's standard of interest, they would flock to white America before they would flock to the brown
living. The shrill cry"J)f a few. communists is noteven listened to, 1:>ecaU8\')-and West Indies or to black Africa or to yellow Asia.
solely becaus~t!tlieeks to break down bariiersbetween bhlckaiidYLIilte:.xMnUs_ This, of course, is quite natural, and in a sense proves how idiotic most of our
not at pres.ent the slighiest~.Qr£!lli9.riJh!lti..MaaimL~Y2jY!i.Qn.hased{lna·united racial distinctions are. Here is a boy, born in America, of parents who were born
class.cons~ious-proretiiriat is anywhere on the American far horizon. Rather race in America, of grandparents and great grandparents born in America. He speaks
antagonism -aii(naboigroupnvaliY"lssti1rundiStUrDedby"worid~tastrophe. In the American twang, he reads American history, he gets his news from American
:\the hearts of black J~l>orerlLiJm!ltJ!!eref'.Q.!§ ..JiUhQ~.(,U.c;I~l! . of democracym papers, and he understands American basebalL It is impossible for that boy to
; politics.an4.iiidust~.hichmay..in4~n:ake the workers of the world effective think of himself as African, simply because he happens to be black. He is an
dictators ofcivilization. ......- American. But on the other hand, as he grows up and comprehends his surround-
"-'.'- ings, he is going to be made to think of himself as at least a peculiar sort of
American. Against this, he is going to protest, logically and emotionally, and
dwell upon the anomaly of a person being outcast and discriminated against in
his own home. Gradually, however, he is going to fmd that this protest has only
22 limited effect; that to most white Americans of today, Negro prejudice is some-
Pan-Africa and New Racial Philosophy thing that is beyond question and will. It is a stark, true fact and little or nothing
can be done about it at present. In the future, the long future, things may change.
But they are not going to change in the lifetime of those now living.
So long now as this is an academic question, a matter of attitudes and
The second leg of Du Bois's new radicalism was his renewed commitment to thoughts and spiritual likes and dislikes, we can leave it there. But when it
pan-Africanism. In the article "Pan-Africa and New Racial Philosophy" (fhe becomes an economic problem, a stark matter of bread and butter, then if this
Crisis 40 [November 1933): 247,262), in words somewhat reminiscent o/those young, black American is going to survive and live a life, he must calmly face
ofMarcus Garvey, Du Bois called upon his readers to remember that they were the fact that however much he is an American there are interests which draw him
not white, and that their economic survival depended on cooperation with other nearer to the dark people outside of America than to his white fellow citizens.
peoples ofAfrica or ofAfrican descent. And those interests are the same matters of color caste. of discrimination. of
exploitation for the sake of profit. of public insult and oppression, against which
the colored peoples of Mexico, South America, the West Indies and all Africa,
During the last ten months, we have tried in the CRISIS magazine to make a and every country in Asia, complain and have long been complaining. It is,
re-statement of the Negro problem in certain of its aspects. We began with the therefore, simply a matter of ordinary common sense that these people should
question of health and disease among us. Then we took up in succession our draw together in spiritual sympathy and intellectual co-operation, to see what can
physical rate of increase, "Karl Marx and the Negro," "The Problem of Eaming a be done for the freedom of the human spirit which happens to be incased in dark:
Living," "Marxism and the Negro Problem," "The Negro Vote," "The Class skin.
Struggle Within the Race," "Negro Education," and "Our Problems ofReligion." This was the idea that was back of the Pan-African Congresses, started in
We have considered aU these matters in relation to the American Negro but Paris directly after the war, and carried on for several years. These Congresses
our underlying thought has been continually that they can and must be seen not brought upon themselves the active enmity and disparagement of all the colony-
against any narrow, provincial or even national background, but in relation to the owning powers. Englishmen, Frenchmen, Belgians and others looked upon the
great problem of the colored races of the world and particularly those of African movement as a political movement designed to foment disaffection and strife
descent. and to correct abuse by force.

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