Saturday, March 08, 2014

Claude McKay Explains Why He Opposed Communism

Writer and poet Claude McKay is listed by Molefi Kete Asante in his list of 100 Greatest African Americans. A key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, he  was also active for a while in the socialist and communist movements in England and visited the Soviet Union in 1922-23, attending the 4th Congress of the Communist International.  McKay was impressed and wrote an report "Soviet Russia and the Negro" which was published in the December 1923 issue of  The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP. Later McKay broke with Communism.


I am opposed to the Communists, not, like the Trotskyites and other opposition Communists, on account of their special opportun­ist interpretation of Marxian ideas, but because I do not accept the basic political ideology of Communism.

 (1) I reject absolutely the idea of government by dictatorship, which is the pillar of political Communism.
 (2) I am intellectually against the Jesuitical tactics of the Com­munists:
       (a) their professed conversion to the principles of Democ­racy, which is obviously fake, since they defend the undemocratic regime in Russia and loudly laud its bloodiest acts;
      (b) their skunking behind the smokescreen of People’s Front and Collective Security, supporting the indefensible imperialistic interests of European na­tions and deliberately trying to deceive the American people;
      (c) their criminal slandering and persecution of their opponents, who have remained faithful to the true traditions of radicalism and liberalism.

More important than the fear of Communists dominating the Negroes on work relief (especially through the talents of their colored members among the Federal writers!) is my concern about the Com­munists capturing the entire colored group by cleverly controlling such organizations as the so-called National Negro Congress.

Experience since the Emancipation should have taught the vari­ous colored leaders that it is a mistake to deliver the colored people over to any one political party. The colored minority has special prob­lems to face and should itself organize its powers for social and politi­cal preferments, similar to other American minorities.

It would be bad enough for the colored minority to be owned by any purely American party, as it formerly was by the Republican Party. But it would be disastrous if it were captured by a Communist Party, which, despite its professions to the contrary, is the highly-controlled Propaganda Bureau of the Communist International, which is dominated by the Russian Government.

For in the eventuality of a crisis developing between the United States and Soviet Russia, the colored minority might find itself in a very vulnerable and unenviable position. As a member of this group and also as a radical thinker, I am specially concerned about its future and the danger of its being maneuvered through high-powered propaganda into the morass of Communist opportunism.

Excerpted from a McKay letter to The New Leader vol. 21, no. 37 (Sept. 10, 1938), pg. 5   posted on Tim Davenport's invaluable Early American Marxism website.

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