Created: Tuesday, 15 May 2012 10:38
Written by Susan Davidson
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 4 May/June 1980
Harry Haywood. Liberator Press, Chicago, Illinois. 1978.
This is a big book by a big man. Born in 1898, the son of slaves, Harry Haywood was for 36 years a member of the Communist Party of the United States of America, the CPUSA. The history in this book, the history of a lifetime’s struggles, the history of the CPUSA is the history of 20th century America.
It was in the 1890's that American imperialism really took off. The Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rica, much of South America and most Caribbean countries were conquered by American imperialism within a decade. When Harry Haywood speaks of imperialism he knows exactly what it means. The looting and stealing of the wealth of other countries, the political control by force of other countries, and the deliberate restriction and prevention of the economic development of national economies is the character of US (as well as British) imperialism.
US imperialism abroad was also carried on within the US. Just as imperialism oppresses external nations, so it keeps the black Americans, and other minority groups, in a position of special oppression. In the Southern States black people were excluded from basic democratic rights by the Jim Crow system, dating from the Hayes-Tilden Gentlemen's Agreement of 1877. This baldly stated that no black person has any rights that need be recognised by white persons. In the industrial North of America, black labour was excluded from the trade unions, from the more skilled jobs, from housing, and pushed into ghettos. Black people were used as a pool of reserve labour - to be hired last and fired first, and brought in to break strikes. This was US imperialism on the home front. Many of the laws which were used to specifically oppress and exclude black people have been thrown out. This gain was won by the heroic struggles of the black masses in the 1920s and 1930s and again in the 1960s. But the legal victories which cost so many lives and so many years of struggle are only a limited gain, like the independence of a country from Britain or the US which is independent in name only because it is still dominated by Western capitalism. American black people know that this legal equality is a pretence. The reality was shown by the ghetto rebellions, 24 in 1964, 38 in 1966 and in 1967 128 and in 1968 131.
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