Communist Party U.S.A. ‘Draft Program for Negro Farmers in the Southern States’ from The Communist. Vol. 9 No. 3. March, 1930.

Sharecroppers. Sunday on the porch. Little Rock, Arkansas. October, 1935.
Communist Party U.S.A. ‘Draft Program for Negro Farmers in the Southern States’ from The Communist. Vol. 9 No. 3. March, 1930.


1. Out of the twelve million Negroes in the United States, about eight million live in the South, over six million of whom live in villages and country settlements and are engaged in farming. The vast majority of Negroes are small farmers, tenants and wage laborers. All of them suffer from a three-fold yoke: (1) national (racial) oppression, (2) survivals of slavery, (3) capitalist exploitation. To free the rural toilers of this three-fold yoke is something that can be accomplished only through a revolution of the broad masses of Negroes under the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat and its Communist Party. This revolution is a part of the general American social revolution which like the October Revolution in Russia, will solve the problem of national (racial) emancipation and the abolition of all relics of slavery.


2. The rural toilers and the exploited who must be led by the proletariat in the struggle against capitalism, or who must at least be won over by the workers in this struggle, consist in the United States, as in all capitalist countries, of the following groups:

(a) The agricultural laborers (proletarians), who work for wages in capitalist agricultural or industrial enterprises.

The agricultural workers constitute a part of the proletariat. However, these workers have a certain characteristic which frequently renders their struggle against capitalist society difficult. An objective reason of this is that the agricultural laborers are scattered in the labor process and that “patriarchal” relations still prevail in the countryside. These peculiar conditions make it difficult for the agricultural proletariat to understand the class interests and convert it into a “backward” section of the working class. It goes without saying that the tasks of the proletarian parties is to win over this section of the population first and foremost.

(b) The semi-proletarian or small farmers (the rural poor) who live partly on wages, who work partly in capitalist agricultural or industrial enterprises, and partly on their own or hired land, the fruits of which, however, is insufficient for their maintenance and the upkeep of their families.

The difference between the rural poor and the proletariat arises from the private property owned by the former. But this difference is absolutely insignificant and is entirely lost in the community of their interests. Being independent producers only in form these sections of the population are in fact totally subordinated to capitalism and are workers exploited by the capitalists. Consequently, they side with the proletariat, constituting a potential reserve of the latter.

Sharecropper home. West Memphis, Arkansas. 1936.

(c) The small farmers (owners of land or tenants) who possess a small tract of land sufficient to satisfy their needs and the need of their families, and who do not employ hired labor.

The difference between the small farmer and the proletariat arises from the nature of the interests of private commodity producers. However, the small farmer frequently has to buy bread, sometimes he works temporarily for wages. His basic interests prompt him therefore to fight the big capitalist.

With the victory of the proletariat, the small farmer can only gain, since the revolution frees him of his duty to pay rent, relieves him of his mortgages, of the numerous forms of oppression, of his dependence on the big landlords, etc. The small farmer can thereby be won over to the side of the proletariat and may prove to be a firm ally of the latter.

3. Apart from these three groups of farmers constituting the majority of the rural population in all capitalist countries, there is in the United States, as in all other capitalist countries, a group of middle farmers, that is, tenants or owners of tracts of land, sufficient: (1) to feed the family if cultivated on capitalist lines and to make possible some accumulation which at least in good years may turn into capital, (2) to make necessary the employment of hired labor.

The fundamental difference between the middle farmers and the working class lies in the fact that the former are independent commodity producers based on private property, although the farmer is in this case himself a producer. The interests of the seller of grain (the farmer) and the purchaser (the worker) are diametrically opposed. However, there are certain factors connected with the subordinate position occupied by the middle farmer in the process of capitalist exploitation (usury, the high price policy of the trusts, taxes, the imperialist machinery of state, war, etc.), which may by far counter-balance his differences with the proletariat. These sections may therefore be neutralized and wherever capitalist oppression is particularly strong, or wherever it is combined with feudal oppression, the middle farmers may be on the side of the proletariat.

4, Finally, there is in all capitalist countries a group of rich farmers, who are capitalists, regularly working their farms with the aid of hired labor, having only this much in common with the rest of the farmers, that they are on the same cultural level, that they lead the same forms of life and that they themselves also till the land.

5. The attitude of the proletariat to the small and, largely so, to the middle farmers, should be to establish an alliance with them and to lead them. This specific inter-class relationship, without eliminating the class distinctions, is based on a commodity of interests in the struggle against the big landlords and big capitalists. It assumes various forms and finally at a certain point after the capture and consolidation of power by the proletariat, and its economic base, this relationship is liquidated of itself since class relations in general gradually begin to disappear.

Farm wagon, Reed Camp, South Carolina. December, 1934. Alan Lomax.


In the United States of America, as a country with highly developed productive forces, with a highly centralized industry, in which small production is of no great importance, with an old bourgeois-democratic political order, the problem of the social revolution is on the order of the day. As pointed out in the program of the Comintern the main political task of that revolution will be immediately to introduce the proletarian dictatorship. In the economic sphere its most characteristic features will be the “expropriation of the whole of the large-scale industry; organization of a large number of State Soviet farms and, in contrast to this, a relatively small portion of the land to be transferred to the peasantry; unregulated market relations to be given comparatively small scope; rapid rate of socialist development generally, and of collectivization of peasant farming in particular.”

In view of the fact that the United States is confronted with the task of accomplishing the social revolution and the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship, the chief slogan of the Communist Party of the United States in regard to the farmers must be that of an alliance of the proletariat with the rural poor (the small and dwarfish farmers) in opposition to the entire bourgeoisie, and the neutralization of the middle farmers.

In accordance with this fundamental Leninist slogan the central political task of Communist work among the farmers is to split them up, unite the small and petty farmers around the revolutionary vanguard of the American proletariat, in the struggle against the big farmers. Without this split the farmers will remain united, i.e., the small and middle farmers will remain under the economic, political and spiritual sway of the big farmers, and of the imperialist bourgeoisie in general.

7. The entire course of capitalist development ruins the small and middle farmers and tends to accentuate the class struggle amongst the American farmers. But the American bourgeoisie and the American reformists endeavor by every means to obscure the differences prevailing among the farmers. They want to create an illusory struggle for common farm interests. “They counterpose the interests of all farmers to those of the working class and of industry. It is by this means that the imperialist bourgeoisie and its agents in the farmers’ movement endeavor to keep the small and middle farmers under the leadership of the big farmers and consequently under the hegemony of the entire imperialist bourgeoisie.

The task of the revolutionary farmers’ organizations is to explain to the masses of small and middle farmers the falseness of bourgeois agitation for common farmers’ interests, to explain that the ruining of the farmers, etc. is not common to all farmers but is something of which only the small and partly the middle farmers have to suffer.

8. In the past few years American agriculture is to an ever-larger extent being brought under the sway of finance capital and experiences in connection with that of a technical revolution. Tractors and combines have taken the upper hand in American large-scale agriculture. It becomes for the small, and even the middle farmer, ever more difficult to compete with mechanized modern large-scale farming. The price of production in small and even middle farming is incomparably higher than the price of production on big farms. As a result of this, the technical revolution tends to drive the small farmers off their land, to concentrate the soil in big farms, to create agricultural stock companies, etc.

9. The position of the small farmer who is unable to compete with large-scale farming which is equipped with modern technique becomes still worse, owing to the direct plunder of the small and partly the middle farmers by finance capital in the form of an unbearable credit policy. The interest on small credit is forbiddingly high. The cost of transportation, especially on small consignments, is extremely high. The small and middle farmer has to pay much more than the big farmer for manufactured products. Statistics on the cost of manufactured goods in the United States, especially agricultural machinery and implements, as a result of the plunderous price policy of monopoly capital, are generally known. It is perfectly obvious that the high cost of manufactured goods affects primarily the small and middle farmers whose expenses in production are relatively higher, who pay higher interest and whose marketing conditions are worse, etc.

In the sphere of marketing of his product, the average farmer is in the hands of big elevator companies and all possible associations in the struggle against which he is defenseless. Even the cooperative organizations which are one of the forms of finance capital getting the upper hand, objectively serve the interest of the big farmers and are detrimental to the small ones.

In addition to the robbing of the small farms by finance capital, there is the centralized robbery on the part of the imperialist state in the form of unbearably high taxes. Taxes constantly rise in the past few years, especially during the years following the war, and they have now become unbearable for the small farmers.

10. A detrimental effect on the small and middle farmers is produced by the low prices of farm products called forth by the ups and downs in the agrarian crisis. ‘The present agrarian crisis is one of the expressions of the fundamental: contradictions of stabilization of capitalism, are expressions of the sharpening antagonism in the imperialist epoch between town and country, between industry and agriculture.

However, it would be profoundly wrong to believe that the agrarian crisis, especially the low prices, has an equal effect on all farmers.

As in time of industrial crises the small enterprises are mostly effected, so is it with the small and middle farmers at the time of an agrarian crisis. The price of production on small and middle farms is considerably higher than on big farms owing to the shortcomings of small farming as compared with modern agriculture. Apart from that the rent paid by small and middle tenant farmers, for instance, is immeasurably higher than that paid by big farmers. Consequently, the disintegration of the farmers as a result of an agrarian crisis and falling grain prices does not hold true of all farmers but chiefly of the small ones. In time of a crisis the small farmer cannot pay his rent, he cannot pay interest on his mortgages, he cannot buy the high priced manufactured commodities, etc. Hence, the fall of grain prices and the agrarian crisis hasten the process of disintegration of the farmers, help to ruin the small ones and to enrich the big ones to the detriment of the former.

11. The American farmers’ press is full of reports concerning the ruination of the farmers. In truth, however, it is not all farmers that are being ruined but only the small and partly the middle ones, while the big farmers are growing rich. All those who cry about the ruin of the farmers, about the sale of farmers’ property and land on auction, hush up the fact that there is someone who buys this land and property on auction. The truth of the matter is that in connection with the present technical revolution there is a highly intense process of ruination of the small and partly the middle farmers and concentration of their land and means of production in the hands of the big farmers.

It is most characteristic of the present technical revolution in the sphere or agriculture that large stock companies buy up the land and form large agrarian stock companies, running farms equipped with most modern technique. The process of farmers leaving their homesteads and coming to the towns to be noticed particularly since the war, reflects precisely this ruining of the small and partly the middle farmers and the concentration of their land and means of production in the hands of big farmers and even of big stock companies.

12. From the above it follows that it would be a big mistake to cherish illusions concerning the possibility to improve the position of the small and partly the middle farmer under capitalism. On the contrary, the chief object of our agitation and propaganda is to explain to the broad masses of small and partly the middle farmers the process of their ruin under capitalism. Our chief task is to expose all machinations of the big farmers, finance capital and the government. By the organization of farmers’ bureaus and by small bribes to the farmers, they are trying to cover up the actual position of the small and middle farmer and to create the illusion that the small farmer suffers merely from some minor defects of the capitalist order and not from the capitalist system as such, a system which inevitably spells the ruin and decay of small farming. We must explain the process of agriculture falling into the hands of finance capital, how finance capital ruins the small and middle farmers. We must explain to the farmers that the chief measures taken by the government and the big farmers in the matter of price regulation, in the matter of credit, etc., merely serve to deceive the small and middle farmers; that objectively speaking, these measures serve the interests of large-scale farming. All these measures objectively strengthen the position of the big farmers and help the latter to swallow the ruined small and partly the middle farmers.

We must explain to the broad masses of farmers that the only way they can save themselves from ruin is to establish an alliance with the working class and to fight under the leadership of the latter for the overthrow of the whole capitalist order, for the establishment of a worker-farmer government which in the United States is synonymous with a proletarian dictatorship.

It must be explained that the chief task of the farmer is to fight hand in hand with and under the leadership of the working class for the overthrow of the capitalist system, for the nationalization of industry and big farms and the transference of part of the land, the cattle and machinery to the small farmers, accompanied by voluntary cooperation and collectivization of the small and middle farmers.

Southeast Missouri sharecropper’s kitchen, 1939.


13. The Negro farmers in the South occupy a special position. Out of 915,595 Negro farmers, 218,612 own their land, 1,759 are “managers,” 701,471 are tenants and share croppers.

All share croppers, the vast majority of tenants, and a large section of proprietors, belong to the category of petty semi-proletarian farmers. Together with the small farmers and agricultural laborers (whose number is about one million) they comprise the vast majority of the Negro farmers. Close by this group are the middle farmers, and only a small group of Negro farmers belongs to the big bourgeoisie.

14. Apart from the burdens oppressing the American farmers in general, the middle farmers have to withstand exploitation owing to their racial difference.

The entire Negro farm population suffers from unbearable taxes, from high monopoly prices, from exploitation on the part of the middlemen from whom they buy manufactured goods, exploitation on the part of the railways, the packing houses, milk trusts and grain elevator companies, from the usurers, mortgages, etc. The Negro farmers have no right to organize their cooperatives, farmer leagues or farmer labor organizations.

The tenants and share croppers suffer from all kinds of usurious contrasts containing the elements of slavery or serfdom, such as:

(a) Contracts stipulating the eviction of the tenant from the land before the term expires for not paying in time.

(b) Contracts binding the tenant or share cropper to purchase products and other means of subsistence in the store or shop of the landlord.

(c) Contracts prohibiting the tenant or the share cropper to cultivate certain crops or obliging him to cultivate one or several specified crops.

(d) Contracts binding the share cropper to sell his crop to the landlord on a previously fixed price.

(e) Contracts which do not definitely fix the rent, which is left to the landlord to decide.

(f) Contracts stipulating that the tenants or share croppers must give up half of their crop to the landlord.

The Negro farm hands are subjected to super-exploitation on racial grounds. For the same kind of work their pay is less than that of the whites. Their working day is much longer than that of the white workers. They are not insured for disability, unemployment or illness. They often work in conditions recalling the worst forms of slavery (peonage, the convict lease system). In many places they are actually deprived of the right to organize and strike. Most severely exploited are the women and children who work twelve hours a day and more, and sometimes at night.

15. In addition to the economic slavery of the Negro farmers there is the absolute denial of their political rights. The Negroes in most of the Southern States are deprived of their most elementary citizenship rights, they have no right to vote, they take no part in the legislative bodies, nor in the administration of their State, county or village. They have no right to the same judicial defense as whites. They suffer from a whole system of restrictions on racial grounds (the Jim Crow system, the prohibition of inter-marriages, etc.), they are subjected to most severe persecution (lynching, pogroms), they are deprived of the chance to receive an education the same as the whites, etc.

‘Evicted Arkansas sharecropper. One of the more active of the union members (Southern Tenant Farmers Union). Now building his new home at Hill House, Mississippi.’July, 1936. Dorothea Lange.


16. The Negro agrarian proletariat is a part of the American proletariat. Its class interests and aims are the same as those of all American workers. They can and should be drawn into the general struggle of the American proletariat under the leadership of the Communist Party for the overthrow of American capitalism and the establishment of proletarian dictatorship.

17. The class interests and aims of the Negro farmers and tenants are various, depending upon the various groups they belong to.

The small and petty farmers, the tenants and share croppers, are wholly interested in the complete abolition of the survivals of serfdom and slavery, capitalist exploitation and national (racial) distinction. Being petty proprietors they, it is true, are bound up with the system of private property and dream of securing a piece of land for themselves. But this is exactly why they are the allies of the revolutionary proletariat in its struggle against the survivals of feudal and slave relations and against capitalism which ruins day in and day out ever-larger numbers of small proprietors, convincing them thereby of the impossibility of their maintenance under capitalism. Apart from that, they can receive land only from the victorious proletariat.

The Middle farmers and tenants comprise a group vacillating between the proletariat and the capitalists. Being independent and more or less strong proprietors, their economic interests coincide to a certain extent with the interests of the capitalists. Nevertheless, in view of the heavy pressure brought to bear upon them by the survivals of feudalism and slavery and also by the political and social inequality to which they are subjected on racial grounds, just like the Negro farm hands and the small and petty farmers, which inevitably generates amongst them the ideas of “racial solidarity,” they can only be neutralized in the first stages of development of the struggle between the proletariat and the capitalists, and most of them, the basic mass, can even be drawn over to the side of the revolutionary proletariat together with the small and petty farmers as active allies of the working class in the struggles against the feudal and slave forms of exploitation and racial oppression. Of course, when the struggle will be directed for socialism and against the bourgeoisie as such, the middle farmers can at best be only neutralized.

18. As to the rich Negro farmers, the capitalists, landlords, merchants and usurers, they, in spite of their subjugated position as Negroes in the political and social sphere, will in the class struggle side with the capitalists and play an objectively counter-revolutionary role even in the movement for racial emancipation of their own race.

‘Lewis Hunter with his wife and family on Lady’s Island off Beaufort, South Carolina.’ June, 1936.


19. The toiling masses of Negro farmers can be freed from slavery, capitalist exploitation and racial oppression only by a proletarian revolution through the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship in the shape of a Soviet Government. This revolution will in its wake solve also the problems of national emancipation and will abolish the remnants of feudalism and slavery.

The proletarian State, and it alone, will:

(a) Confiscate and nationalize all landed property in the towns and the country.

(b) Confiscate all means of production on big landed estates, such as buildings, machinery and similar property, cattle, enterprises working up agricultural products (big mills, dairies, etc.).

(c) Transfer the big estates, especially those of a model type or of great economic importance, to be administered by the proletarian dictatorship and organized into government farms.

(d) Transfer part of the confiscated land, especially that which is cultivated by tenant farmers and is used as a means of economic enslavement of the latter, to the farmers (the poor and partly the middle strata) for use.

(e) Prohibit the purchase and sale of land with the object of preserving the soil in the hands of the farmers and with the object of preventing its becoming the property of capitalists, speculators, etc.

(f) Fight against usury, cancel the usurious contracts, free the exploited farmers from their debts and from taxes, etc.

(g) Take extensive government measures to increase the productive forces of agriculture, develop electricity, the production of tractors, artificial fertilizers, choice seeds, and cattle on government farms, amelioration, credit.

(h) Support and finance farmers’ cooperation and all forms of collective agricultural production (associations, communes, etc.), systematically advocate cooperation among the farmers (in the sphere of marketing, purchase and credit) on the basis of mass self-activity of the farmers, advocate the adoption of large-scale farming which owing to its technical and economic advantages, will be of direct benefit and most accessible to the broad masses of toiling farmers as a means of transition to socialism.

The proletarian State, and it alone, will abolish all national and racial restrictions, giving each national group the full right to self-determination and equalizing the chances of economic development for all more backward peoples and nations.

The chief task of the toiling Negro farmers is therefore to fight hand in hand with the revolutionary proletariat and under its leadership for the overthrow of the capitalist system of oppression and exploitation, for the establishment of a labor-farmer government, which in the United States is tantamount to a proletarian dictatorship.

‘Weighing in cotton. Pulaski County, Arkansas 1935’


20. The struggle for the overthrow of capitalism, for the proletarian socialist revolution, does not exclude, but on the contrary, pre-supposes and demands the conduct of a daily revolutionary struggle for partial demands, for partial improvement of the economic and political conditions of the oppressed and exploited masses within the framework of the capitalist order.

21. Negro farmers must energetically fight against unbearable taxes, against high monopoly prices, for lower prices of manufactured trustified products needed by the farmers, against exploitation by the middlemen who sell manufactured goods, the railways, the packing houses, dairy trusts, grain elevator companies, etc., against usurious credit, etc. This struggle must be waged by means of a refusal to pay taxes, declaration of a boycott on the capitalists and their enterprises, individual and collective refusal to pay on usurious contracts.

22. The Negro tenants and share croppers must wage an energetic daily struggle against usurious agreements, declaring strikes against usurious conditions, refusing to live up to unbearable agreements, etc.

23. The Negro farm hands must unceasingly fight for better working conditions, for a shorter working day, for higher wages, for equal pay for equal work with the whites, for the defense of female and juvenile labor and prohibition of child labor, for compulsory social insurance at the expense of the employers, for the annulment of all elements of slavery in labor contracts (peonage, payment in kind, etc.) and all elements of compulsion. This struggle must be waged in the form of strikes and boycotts, a refusal to live up to usurious contracts, etc.

There are a number of journals with this name in the history of the movement. This 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:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s