The early years of the civil rights movement in the US included many black leaders who embraced Marxism and communism, seeing it as a way to advance their race: WEB DuBois, Marcus Garvey, James Weldon Johnson, A. Philip Randolph, Ben Davis, Paul Robeson, Walter White, M.L. King, and Bayard Rustin. In the 1930s, the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee became a training ground for revolutionary unionizing activities in the South, where activists King and Rosa Parks were both trained.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
The South Weighs Heavily on Communist Minds
“In the 1910s and 1920s the Bolsheviks believed that taken at the flood, the system of Communism they had recently institutionalized would spread across their new nation and around the world.
In this system, racism would be outlawed as “social poison,” workers would own the means of production, and town meetings, called soviets, would ensure that everyone’s voice would be heard. Ethnic differences and historic hatreds would be banished through the multicultural practice of nurturing each group’s language and culture. No one would have too much, and no one would have too little.
It promised to liberate colonized peoples and demonstrate to poor white Southerners their class solidarity with poor black Southerners.
A decade after the Bolshevik Revolution, Communists in the USSR and the USA [Communist Party USA] created a Negro Policy that left no action to chance. In the first place, there must be absolute equality between individuals in all social relations.
Then it moved to from the personal to the political to guarantee equality to all ethnic groups. The system, which most people called social equality, offered a simple mandate for all human activity . . . Because it was so all-encompassing, it required constant, vigorous policing and swift punishment of violations, wilful or not. In theory, equality extended to every phase of public and private life. Living this new reality required practice.
The Bolshevik Revolution’s success offered a persuasive final solution to the labor problem. Communists did not have to resort to ethnic cleansing to bring minorities into their nation, and social equality could elevate racially-diverse workers into their rightful place. If managed properly, the system would produce ever more committed Communists in each succeeding generation. It was a modern, well-organized and efficient way to remove the stumbling blocks of race and class in the worldwide contest for advancement.
Because the South represented the least industrialized and least unionized part of the United States, the region weighed heavily on Communist minds. If Southern African-American became Communists, they could lead the revolution in their region. Black Southerners might open the door to that possibility.
The international Soviet governing body, the Comintern, welcomed the “rising tide of color” that it could turn against imperialist nations. In speaking for the Southern masses, African-American Communists had an influence on domestic and international Communist policy disproportionate to their meager numbers.”
(Defying Dixie, the Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950, Glenda E. Gilmore, W.W. Norton, 2008, excerpts, pp. 29-32)