Why did Communism never catch on among African-Americans?

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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,294
#21
Communism had some success in the US in the Depression, but once the Soviet Union was the enemy in the Cold War the Communist Party became very small. Being against religion, private business, and having a highly repressive political system did not go over well in the US. Most people had some awareness of what life was like in Communist countries, with poverty, executions, etc.

The Communist Party ran black candidates for Vice President when it was unheard of. Being Catholic was a problem for John Kennedy and Al Smith. Communist controlled Unions pushed for equal treatment of black workers. The "Scottsboro boys" who were sentenced to death for rape in Alabama were represented by Communist Party lawyers. However, US blacks generally saw through it as the opportunism by a foreign power that it was.
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,150
Lisbon, Portugal
#22
Why did Communism never catch on among African-Americans? Was it because they were unwilling to form an alliance with a white working class that frequently supported discrimination against them? Was it because being black in the US was hard enough without also being Red? Was it because the Communist idea of a black ethno-state or at least a black federal unit within the US simply didn't appeal very much to blacks? Was it for some other reason?

What are your own thoughts on this?
It's not that blacks were unwilling to form an alliance with a white working class, it's more like the white industrial working classes - which were mostly European immigrants in late 19th and early 20th centuries - were too fragmented along ethnic and national lines that would impede them from coming together in order to form a unified working class movement.
The other reason is that the American elites at the time exploited racist sentiments in order to make the European immigrant working classes to fear the job competition with the black migrants coming from the south to the northern industrial centers. We are talking about a period in which racial relations reached its lowest point in American history after the abolition of slavery.
 
Likes: Futurist
Apr 2015
280
San Jose CA
#23
It seems to me that socialism or its variants are often advocated by people who came out of the middle class which in the United States is historically college educated whites. I'd speculate that there may be a reluctance on the part of poorer African Americans to adopt a political and economic philosophy where the leaders may be dominated by educated whites particularly when the political and economic philosophy is advocating for greater government control of people's lives.
 
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Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,121
Caribbean
#24
Why did Communism never catch on among African-Americans?
I always unpack the question and generalize before getting into individualized cases. Do Communism ever "catch on" anywhere? With anyone? How many regimes were not born out of power that flowed from the barrel of a gun (or however Mao put it)?

I was asking specifically about US blacks here because they have an especially strong history of oppression, though; even poor whites in the US were not as oppressed as US blacks were.
Oppressed? If one is oppressed enough then communism sounds good?

FWIW, I have perused parts of Motley's Rise of the Dutch Republic. He estimates the Habsburg regime killing 5,000 Dutch each year. After the Edict of 1550, the first act of religious freedom would earn you a knife slicing open your nostril to mark you, as the second offense was death. The KKK is estimated to have killed 5,000, not per year, but in a century, only 75% of whom were black (or 37 people per year), spread out over a much larger area than the Netherlands. So, there is oppression and then there is oppression. If you are going to sell a black American farmer on communism after 1930, wouldn't you need to find one who doesn't know what Stalin did (oppression) of the kulaks?

From the point of view of the average black person, would you see the "American Dream" as bad or the people who are keeping you from it as bad?
 
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Likes: Futurist
Oct 2015
1,171
California
#25
Why did Communism never catch on among African-Americans? Was it because they were unwilling to form an alliance with a white working class that frequently supported discrimination against them? Was it because being black in the US was hard enough without also being Red? Was it because the Communist idea of a black ethno-state or at least a black federal unit within the US simply didn't appeal very much to blacks? Was it for some other reason?

What are your own thoughts on this?
Harry Turtledove's Southern Victory series: Congaree Socialist Republic


Congaree Socialist Republic
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,150
Lisbon, Portugal
#26
I always unpack the question and generalize before getting into individualized cases. Do Communism ever "catch on" anywhere? With anyone? How many regimes were not born out of power that flowed from the barrel of a gun (or however Mao put it)?

Oppressed? If one is oppressed enough then communism sounds good?

FWIW, I have perused parts of Motley's Rise of the Dutch Republic. He estimates the Habsburg regime killing 5,000 Dutch each year. After the Edict of 1550, the first act of religious freedom would earn you a knife slicing open your nostril to mark you, as the second offense was death. The KKK is estimated to have killed 5,000, not per year, but in a century, only 75% of whom were black (or 37 people per year), spread out over a much larger area than the Netherlands. So, there is oppression and then there is oppression. If you are going to sell a black American farmer on communism after 1930, wouldn't you need to find one who doesn't know what Stalin did (oppression) of the kulaks?

From the point of view of the average black person, would you see the "American Dream" as bad or the people who are keeping you from it as bad?
Very few people around the world in the 1930s actually knew the entire scope of Stalin's crimes in the Soviet Union...

And Communism always sounded good for oppressed people around the 20th century, irrespective of the crimes done under its name when they controlled entire nations. Communists parties were somewhat popular among industrial working classes and poor farmers in post-war western countries, including places such as Japan, Italy, France or Turkey. Communism was very popular among the educated and middle class colonial subjects that wanted to fight for national liberation, racial liberation and agrarian reform.

Having demonstrated this context, it sounds odd that African-Americans didn't adhere to Communism as other presumed oppressed people did.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,425
Republika Srpska
#27
Having demonstrated this context, it sounds odd that African-Americans didn't adhere to Communism as other presumed oppressed people did.
I would say it had something to do with the fact that other, more established African American organizations like the NAACP that I already mentioned opposed Communism. Also, we should not discount the racism of many white Communists in America. Yet, as I said, a portion of blacks did identify with Communism.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,294
#28
Communism did not get much support in the US, particularly not from poor people. It is possible that looking to a foreign power for leadership was more acceptable in Roman Catholic countries used to the Pope. Ordinary people in the US also may have seen capitalism as offering better possibilities for individual advancement and better conditions and pay for workers etc. Socialism and anarchism were also not at all popular in the US.
 

Edratman

Forum Staff
Feb 2009
6,695
Eastern PA
#29
Apparently, they are mostly realistic, and understand that the social aid that they are receiving now is possible only in a wealthy state.
While the ideal to share everything can only give a short-term effect, but worse situation later.
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robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,150
Lisbon, Portugal
#30
Communism did not get much support in the US, particularly not from poor people. It is possible that looking to a foreign power for leadership was more acceptable in Roman Catholic countries used to the Pope. Ordinary people in the US also may have seen capitalism as offering better possibilities for individual advancement and better conditions and pay for workers etc. Socialism and anarchism were also not at all popular in the US.
Why did you put the example of Roman Catholic countries, since majority Catholic countries never fully adhered to Communism, neither those countries had particularly Communist movements that witnessed more popularity when compared to non-Catholic nations? That seems like an odd example to use....

Anyway, the USA also had less Communist or revolutionary socialist movements because the country was originally made of settler colonies and mostly a nation that inherited British liberal modes of governance and strong adherence to rule of law , government accountability and civil rights. The same pattern can also be established if we talk about Canada, Australia and New Zealand - none of those countries had strong communist and revolutionary socialist movements as well. Let me go further with my argument:

- Settler colonies: Those countries were established by white European colonists that rapidly replaced the native inhabitants and found themselves with large tracts of empty lands and resources at their disposal. They didn't had masses of non-whites and non-Christians to exploit as labour - therefore not creating a very feudal-like stratified society - and many of those settlers and their families decided to acquire their own tracts of land and that gave rise to a society largely composed of middle-class landlords and a more egalitarian distribution of wealth. That created a more "democratic environment" sort of speak, and there was less class struggle.
The slavery economy in the US south was a contradiction to all of this, but the North quickly destroyed that kind of society after the Civil War.

- British modes of governance: All those colonies inherited the political institutions and civil rights that appeared in Britain after the Glorious Revolution. The state of those "British made-countries" were less draconian, tyrannical than all other countries around the 19th century who still were monarchies governed by "pragmatic liberals" or "moderate conservatives" or outright absolutist monarchies like Tsarist Russia, who wanted to curb any kind of dramatic change in their social order. Therefore that kind of draconian practices radicalized further the progressive forces who started to adopt a far more revolutionary and violent ideal of fighting against oppression. In countries like the USA, social grievances could be fought by legal means, not through violent revolution.

So, coming to the OP question: Other reason of why black Americans didn't gave more support to Communism is also because most of the black intelligentsia lived in the North. Although racism in America was widespread and violent across the entire country, black Americans in the North always had certain civil and political rights and could resort through civil society and lawsuit cases to fight against oppression - which in fact they did. Countries like Guatemala or French Indochina didn't had that kind of luxury.
 
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