What do African-Americans and communists have in common? They were both put-upon by the American power structure and were seen as threats to the American way of life. That way of life being, judging by the tidal wave of history, a carousel in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer by doing the work for which the rich somehow claim credit and justify getting million dollar bonuses. The 1930s were the golden age for the communists in America; once the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor and America adopted much of the systemic structure of fascism they had been fighting against, things would go downhill quite quickly. It should not be surprising that the history of African-American progress includes flirtations with the communist movement.
Many African-Americans became enamored of the communist party in America because unlike any other party in the history of America the communists did not just place blacks into positions of power; they also expelled members who exhibited racial prejudice. The idea of white guys being kicked out of a club because they were intolerant of black guys must have seemed like a mad dream in the 1930s when both the Republicans and Democrats essentially gave African-Americans less thought than Karl Rove gives after being invited along for an all expense paid visit to the nearest all you can eat buffet. Of course, there was also the admittedly inspiring gift of the militancy of the communist party that certainly spoke truly to African-Americans who wished to gain an advantage through power. Such was the welcome into the communist party that in 1932 a black man named James Ford actually ran as the communist Vice-Presidential nominee. Let’s see, that’s one black VP nominee for the communist party and….well…none for the GOP or Democrats. And it was how many years before the Democrats nominated Barack Obama. Ooh, let’s all be scared of the communist party because they are…why were we supposed to be afraid of them again? Oh that’s right, because they wanted workers to share in the wealth created by the work they did.
One of the reasons that so many African-Americans were swayed over to the communist party during the 1930s is that it was the one party that criticized organized labor’s efforts to remain an all-white affair. The communists, by contrast, pointed out that the white fat cats at the top of the American Dream used the lower standard of living “enjoyed” by blacks as a way to actually reduce the wages of white workers. If they could hire blacks to work for peanuts then they only had to pay whites pistachios. The communists rightly pointed out the inescapable conclusion that the anti-black attitudes expressed by organized labor actually was nothing more than a ploy to create division among the working classes. In other words, capitalist captains of industry were using a divide and conquer strategy among the working classes by pitting the blacks versus the whites. The war was fought and the winners were the whites…but only the rich whites who owned the business and made their money off the slipper backs of exploited workers of both races. And if you think that things have changed, then obviously don’t watch Lou Dobbs rant about Mexicans every single night.
The ultimate gain of the communists reaching out to African-Americans is undeniable…yet is denied at every step of the way by both conservatives and so-called liberals. (Sorry, Sarah, but the fact is that there are only about a million real liberals in America; the rest are just economic conservatives who support the right to choose.) The CIO finally relented to extending membership to black workers and this would not have been accomplished without the help of the communist party.