Raya Dunayevskaya on the CP and Black America

The Marxists Internet Archive has made available an excerpt from American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard by Raya Dunayevskaya. This work was originally published as a pamphlet in 1963 (the title of the original was American Civilization on Trial: The Negro As Touchstone of History) and distributed in large numbers at the massive march for racial equality in Detroit in June of that year, at which Martin Luther King spoke. It has gone through several editions since that time, most recently in 2003. The editions previous to this one were identified as a “Statement of the National Editorial Board of News & Letters,” although Dunayevskaya was the work’s author.

The excerpt is taken from the book’s fifth chapter, “From Depression Through World War II.” It examines the Communist Party’s abandonment of the African-American struggle against racism to meet Stalin’s exigencies once his ally and senior partner in the dismemberment of Poland—Hitler—blindsided him in June of 1941 with the invasion of the U.S.S.R.

The Popular Front period still retains such a strong attraction for the American liberal imagination that an encounter with the severity of the CP’s line during the war (see the quote by James Ford, for example) is intellectually salutary.

The 2003 is available from News & Letters and contains several appendices not included in previous editions, including the text of a little-known 1865 address written by Marx to the American people on behalf of the International. The letter celebrates the demise of slavery and presciently warns that any failure to fully enfranchise the newly-freed slaves would lead to “a struggle for the future which may again stain your country with your people’s blood.”

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