A Trade Union Program of Action For Negro Workers by the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (R.I.L.U.) from The Communist. Vol. 9 No. 1. January, 1930.

A Trade Union Program of Action For Negro Workers by the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (R.I.L.U.)

The Negro toiling masses are subjected both to capitalist exploitation and imperialist oppression—they suffer as members of the working class and of an oppressed race. In this or that country the one or the other form of oppression predominates.

In the U.S.A. the Negro toilers are mercilessly exploited, on the cotton plantations and in the mines, factories, and workshops of the Southern and Northern States. They are being deprived of full civil rights, and are forced to live in overcrowded houses, in restricted sections of the cities. They are helpless victims of racial prejudice and antagonism fanned by the bourgeoisie, they are subjected to lynch-law and mob rule, and do not get even the kind of “justice” which is being meted out to their white brother toilers.

The low standard of living of Negro workers is made use of by the capitalists to reduce the wages of the white workers. The misleaders of labor, the heads of the reformist and reactionary trade union organizations are refusing to organize Negro workers and thereby are helping the capitalist masters to drive a wedge between the white and colored proletarians. This anti-Negro attitude of the reactionary labor leaders helps to split the ranks of labor, allows the employers to carry out their policy of “divide and rule,” frustrates the efforts of the working class to emancipate itself from the yoke of capitalism, and dims the class-consciousness of the white workers as well as of the Negro workers driving the latter into the arms of the church and petty-bourgeois nationalistic societies, such as Garveyism and the like.

The Negro toilers as well as the white workers in the industrial countries must bear in mind that only united in the ranks of the general labor movement can they achieve their freedom. As to the Negro workers, their fight for emancipation from race oppression is clearly, in the main, a fight against capitalist exploitation. In this fight for emancipation attention should be paid to the Negro peasantry of the Southern States of USA. Agitation should be carried on among them against capitalism and racial oppression connecting this agitation with the economic demands of the Negro farmers.

In a somewhat different aspect is the position of the Negro toilers of the colonial and semi-colonial countries. In Africa the majority of the Negro population is still living a primitive tribal life. Here the imperialist invader, by expropriating the communal lands, by heavy taxation and by all kinds of oppressive legislation, is forcing the natives to supply cheap labor for the farms, mines and other industrial undertakings of the capitalists. ‘This process of proletarianization, whilst breaking up the old tribal life, at the same time subjects the natives to a miserable existence under conditions which are hardly distinguished from plain slavery.

In order to safeguard the domination of the handful of white masters, the huge masses of the toilers in these colonial and semi-colonial countries are artificially divided into several social castes subject to different laws. We have in South Africa, for instance, the natives, the most degraded caste, then come the so-called colored races, and above them the “poor whites.” The common class interests are being obscured by this color differentiation and instead of organizing a united front against their common class enemy, the workers are fighting each other, strengthening in such way the position of the capitalist class.

The struggle of the Negro workers for liberation is insolubly bound up with the wider struggle of the international proletariat, and the Negro workers must line up in the revolutionary class organizations the world over, by organizing their forces for joint struggle. In order to help the establishment of such a united front between the Negro toilers and their fellow workers, in order to liberate the Negro workers from the influence of reactionary nationalistic petty-bourgeois ideologies and draw them into the lines of the international revolutionary class movement, the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers of the RILU issues and asks the Negro workers to rally to the following Program of organization and action:

1. Equal Pay for Equal Work: Negro workers as a rule are working at lower wages than white workers. In South Africa the wages of native workers are from 4 to 5 times lower than the wages of European workers in most fields of work; in America the constant lowering of the wages of Negro workers, the employment of Negro workers only upon their acceptance of lower wages than the white workers, not only means the lowering of their own standards of living, but the standards of living of other workers as well; in the West Indies, in Cuba, on the sugar plantations, etc., Negro workers toil for a few cents per day. In order to raise the standards of living and subsistence of Negro workers it is necessary to struggle for equal pay for equal work, regardless of race, color or sex. At the same time the Negro workers, together with all other workers, must wage a common fight for higher wages, raising the general standard of living of all the workers.

2. An Eight-Hour Day: In most industries and at all kinds of work, the Negro workers toil from 10 to 12, and in some parts of the world even 16 hours per day. One of the main tasks of the Negro workers must be to obtain an 8-hour day and ultimately, together with the rest of the working class, a 7 and a 6-hour day.

3. Forced Labor: Close to the struggle for an 8-hour day is the question of Forced Labor. In many parts of the world Negro workers are forced to toil, in some cases, for no wages at all, “for community improvement.” In the West Indies, at point of the bayonet of U.S. marines, native workers have been forced to build and upkeep roads. They have been driven from Haiti into Cuba to work on the sugar plantations; in South Africa forced labor takes the form of contract labor, natives being conscripted and recruited in Mozambique (Portuguese East Africa) and transported long distances to work in the mines of South Africa; they must live in compounds and cattle pens. ‘This system is legalized through the so-called “Mozambique Treaty,” which exists between Portugal and the South African Government. In French Equatorial Africa the system of forced labor is so brutal that it resulted almost in the complete annihilation of the native population. In the U.S.A. forced labor does not exist in the same form, but in the southern part of the U.S.A. many agricultural workers work under a system of peonage; in some states of the South of the U.S.A. Negro convicts are forced to work in the coal mines and on plantations. It is against this system of camouflaged slavery that we have to wage an incessant fight. We must do away with the “Mozambique Treaty,” with peonage, forced and convict labor, “Corvee Labor,” contract labor or whatever other name this modern slavery is being disguised under.

4. Labor Legislation (Insurance, Etc.): As one of the means of raising the living standard of the workers we must demand the adoption and enforcement of insurance laws that provide for the care, at the expense of the employers, of all workers in case of unemployment, accidents, sickness and also the paying of old age pensions and death benefits.

5. Protection of Women and Youth: The ITUCNW demands adequate protection for women and young workers, equal wages, equal benefits and proper working conditions. Vacations for expectant mothers before and after confinement, with full pay and leave periods during the working day after returning to work for nursing the babies.

6. Freedom of Trade Unions: We fight for the right to strike, for the right to organize in trade unions, for the right of free speech, wherever these rights do not exist.

7. Against Class Collaboration: We must wage a militant fight against government coercion, compulsory arbitration, company unions; against all reformist class collaboration.

8. Against Racial Barriers in Trade Unions: The first requisite for a victorious struggle is a hundred percent organization of all Negro workers in trade unions. We must therefore conduct a relentless fight against racial bars in some of the existing white unions, the opening of the unions to all workers regardless of race and color.

9. Special Unions of Negro Workers: Where special bars are not removed, and where white unions refuse to admit Negro workers, special unions of Negro workers must be organized. Also, in white unions where Negroes are admitted but are treated as second- class members with unequal rights and privileges, special unions must be organized.

10. Against White Terrorism: We must carry on a resolute fight against terrorism in all its forms—against lynchings, police and soldier terrorism, against the assassination of trade union leaders and social workers, against their arrest and deportation.

11. Housing and Social Conditions: The housing and social conditions of Negro workers in the industrial centers are among the worst in the world. We must demand that adequate attention be paid to the protection of the health and well-being of the Negro workers and their families, and that better houses and social surroundings be provided for.

12. Agricultural Workers: Worst of all is the condition of Negro agricultural workers. Agricultural workers must be organized into trade unions which must fight for the special demands of agricultural workers including shorter hours, social legislation, protection for women and children of the workers, etc., etc.

13. Against the Confiscation of Peasant and Communal Lands, Against Poll and Hut Taxes, Against Per Capita Tax, Etc.: A special problem is the land question and particularly the agrarian policy of the South-African Government. The confiscation of the land of the natives and its reservation for white settlers in different parts of Africa, and confiscation in the West Indies tends to create a landless peasantry which is forced to seek work on the white farms and in the cities. The position is yet more aggravated by the policy of levying hut and poll taxes, making the competition for work more acute and the level of wages lower still, and bringing about a worsening of conditions in general. We must therefore fight against confiscation of native land and for the restitution of all land confiscated in the past to the native communities, as well as for the abolition of all special taxes and laws which result in the driving of the peasants from the land.

14. Universal Education: To reduce the amount of illiteracy among the Negro workers and their families and to raise their cultural standards, free universal primary and secondary education for the children of the workers and special courses for adult workers must be provided for. At the same time we must demand the abolition of racial segregation in educational systems.

15. Civil Rights: A basic task for agitational and organizational activities necessary as the first step in our main struggle against imperialism, is to achieve the abolition of all racial discriminations, abolition of “Pass Laws,” and all other laws and regulations abrogating the rights of the Negro workers, and to achieve universal suffrage, freedom of speech, freedom of workers’ press. All “Color Bar” and caste systems existing in South Africa and the West Indies, which tend to split the ranks of the workers, must be abolished wherever they exist.

16. Self-Determination of Negroes: In South Africa, in the West Indies, and in the Southern part of the U.S.A., the trade unions of the Negro workers must become the central organs and transform the economic struggles of the Negro workers into political struggles, into a combined economic and political struggle for power and self-determination.

17. Fighting the Influence of the Church and of Bourgeois and Petty-Bourgeois Ideas and Movements: We must combat the influence of the church, of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideologies and movements. ‘The church, by offering to the Negro worker and peasant for the miseries they are enduring in this world, compensation in heaven, are befogging the minds of the Negro workers and peasants, making them a helpless prey to capitalism and imperialism. The bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas and movements, such as Garveyism, etc., detract the Negro workers from their fight hand in hand with the international working class, for their emancipation from the yoke of capitalism and imperialism.

18. The War Danger: The International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers directs the attention of the Negro workers of the world to preparations for the next world war, which are now being made by the imperialists, on the one hand against the Soviet Union—the fatherland of workers and oppressed peoples— at the same time, it goes without saying that the imperialists are in armament races for a war amongst themselves for a redivision of the colonial and semi-colonial spheres of influence. This not only means unheard of economic burdens upon the back of Negro workers, but also the terrible destruction of the lives of Negro soldiers recruited from among the workers and peasants. To understand what Negro workers must pay in the next war one only has to recall the last war with the consequent killing of hundreds of thousands of black troops who were fighting in the armies of the imperialists. The black troops had nothing to gain by fighting for the imperialists, and after the war was over, Negroes not only received most terrible oppression in the imperialist countries and colonies, but whole colonies of Negro people were placed in virtual enslavement. At the present moment the imperialists are training “black armies” for the next war, and are utilizing black troops to suppress the struggles of workers (in France), and against the Chinese workers in China (by Great Britain).

The Negro workers of the world must struggle against this menacing war danger; they must mobilize their forces against the imperialists using black troops against the workers.

We must rally to the support of our fellow workers!

We must defend the Soviet Union!


There were a number of journals with this name in the history of the movement. This ‘The Communist’ was the main theoretical journal of the Communist Party from 1927 until 1944. Its origins lie with the folding of The Liberator, Soviet Russia Pictorial, and Labor Herald together into Workers Monthly as the new unified Communist Party’s official cultural and discussion magazine in November, 1924. Workers Monthly became The Communist in March ,1927 and was also published monthly. The Communist contains the most thorough archive of the Communist Party’s positions and thinking during its run. The New Masses became the main cultural vehicle for the CP and the Communist, though it began with with more vibrancy and discussion, became increasingly an organ of Comintern and CP program. Over its run the tagline went from “A Theoretical Magazine for the Discussion of Revolutionary Problems” to “A Magazine of the Theory and Practice of Marxism-Leninism” to “A Marxist Magazine Devoted to Advancement of Democratic Thought and Action.” The aesthetic of the journal also changed dramatically over its years. Editors included Earl Browder, Alex Bittelman, Max Bedacht, and Bertram D. Wolfe.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/communist/v09n01-jan-1930-communist-mop-up.pdf

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