‘On Some Problems of the Harlem Section’ by Louis Sass, Organizing Secretary, Harlem Section from Party Organizer. Vol 7 No. 3. March, 1934.

‘On Some Problems of the Harlem Section’ by Louis Sass, Organizing Secretary, Harlem Section from Party Organizer. Vol 7 No. 3. March, 1934.

Harlem is one of the national concentration points of our Party because of its position as the national center of Negro life. In the past year we have recorded some definite gains in our work in carrying out the Open Letter. This becomes very significant if we realize that Harlem for a long time was one of the sorest points in the work of our Party. These gains, however, do not mean that any one has the idea that all the problems have been solved. But they do mean that as a result of every day work on the part of the comrades involved we were able to improve our work which puts us now in a more favorable position to utilize the opportunities offered to us by the crisis of capitalism.

The most important achievement in the Harlem Section is the consolidation of its leadership. The weakest point in our work has been the inability of the Section Committee to enforce the most elementary discipline on its members. Petty personal questions have been on the order of business at the great majority of our Section Committee meetings. At the present time, however, the Section Committee engages in serious political work at all of its meetings and has assigned all of its members to responsible leading work in the various phases of our Section’s activities.

Fluctuation in Membership

The question of membership fluctuation is another very important point in the work of our Section. Whereas the Harlem Section has always recruited more members in comparison to other Sections its fluctuation exceeded all of the Sections in the District. Because of the inability on the part of our Party to understand the Negro question we have lost many sincere revolutionary Negroes who have joined the Party expecting a solution to their problems. Our Section Committee has in a very thorough manner analyzed the reasons for fluctuation and found:

1. Insufficient political life in the units.

2. The lack of proper understanding of the struggle against white chauvinism.

3. Lack of understanding of the national liberation character of our Negro work.

4. The loose organizational form which made check-up practically impossible and finally the liberal attitude adopted by some of our white comrades towards our Negro comrades.

Groups of Five Organized

Realizing the importance of consolidation we have reorganized the units on the basis of groups of five comrades living nearest to one another. This enables the Party not only to maintain a strict check-up over the comrades, but also to stimulate political discussion involving every comrade in the Party. The most effective way to struggle for the unity of Negro and white takes the form of drawing white workers into the struggles of the Negro people—white workers who live in the Negro territory amongst whom we have carried on very little work. The drawing of these white workers in the struggle for Negro liberation does more towards breaking down white chauvinistic as well as bourgeois nationalistic tendencies than the old method of shouting against white chauvinism without giving a serious political explanation of its meaning.

Much has been said about the number of Negroes in the Party. The recent control shows eighty-nine Negro members in the Harlem Section. These figures are incorrect. We are in the process now of re-checking our entire Negro membership on the basis of the Group System, and though the figures are as yet not fully available, it can already be seen that the number is over two hundred. It should be noted here that the Harlem Section has increased its total membership from two hundred to seven hundred in the past year. Of course this is a very small number and emphasizes our weakness in the liberation work. But the fact that such low control was possible can be best explained by the loose manner in which the units have functioned before the reorganization and the loose manner in which the control was carried through.

The Basic Concentration Task

The biggest political task confronting the Harlem Section is to ensure a broad proletarian base in building the liberation movement amongst the Negro masses—that is shop work.

We can record some successes in the building of the League of Struggle for Negro Rights. We have organized ten branches, seven well established and the other three in the process of consolidation. We have also established a functioning Harlem Council of the L.S.N.R., composed of all these branches and a few affiliated organizations. The branch meetings are attended by approximately from twelve to sixty members. However, we must say that to a large extent we have built the L.S.N.R. from the unemployed and the petty bourgeoisie—-not yet sufficiently drawing in Negro workers from the big laundries, needle trades shops, etc. These branches were built on a neighborhood basis. The Party units took the initiative, bringing together workers on the basis of local grievances and conditions.

What are the methods used in the building of the L.S.N.R.? The question is asked by many comrades: What will you do in a neighborhood where the most urgent question confronting the workers is high rent and evictions? Will this not turn the L.S.N.R. into an unemployed organization? Will it not take away its national liberation character? The answer is that the more the L.S.N.R. engages in taking up the grievances of the Negro workers in the neighborhood the more rapidly it will be built. The question of high rent is surely a question of national oppression because the Negroes, more than any section of the population, are subjected to insanitary conditions and high rents. The L.S.N.R. has every reason to take up this struggle as one of its central tasks and at the same time cooperate with the Unemployment Council, etc. Likewise, the L.S.N.R. cooperates with the trade unions when they fight discrimination against Negroes on jobs (Fifth Avenue Bus Company). In other words, the L.S.N.R. in all cases really acts its role as an ally of the working class which at the same time fights for national liberation as its central task.

Space does not permit me to elaborate on the other important concentration activities of the Section such as unemployed work, shop work, and the I.L.D. This we will do at some future time. For the present we can say that the introduction of the Group System in Harlem will not only serve to aid us in our struggle against fluctuation. But it will in every way stimulate the activities of the Party. Recruiting can be carried on a real proletarian competition basis. The Harlem Liberator and the Daily Worker sales can be increased tremendously. Functioning fractions can be established in all organizations in the neighborhood and what’s most important, these groups are in a position to concentrate on shops, thereby assuring a broad proletarian base in the liberation movement. The tasks of the white workers not only in Harlem, but throughout the Party, must be the most energetic struggle against white chauvinism not only by exposing hidden or open white chauvinists within the Party, but by boldly bringing forward the question of Negro liberation among the broad masses of white workers, convincing them of the undisputable fact “that labor in a white skin cannot be emancipated as long as labor in a black skin is branded.”

The Party Organizer was the internal bulletin of the Communist Party published by its Central Committee beginning in 1927. First published irregularly, than bi-monthly, and then monthly, the Organizer was primarily meant for the Party’s unit, district, and shop organizers. The Organizer offers a much different view of the CP than the Daily Worker, including a much higher proportion of women writers than almost any other CP publication. Its pages are often full of the mundane problems of Party organizing, complaints about resources, debates over policy and personalities, as well as official numbers and information on Party campaigns, locals, organizations, and periodicals making the Party Organizer an important resource for the study and understanding of the Party in its most important years.

PDF of issue (large file, contains multiple volumes): https://libcom.org/files/Party%20Organizer%207.pdf

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