Harry Haywood

Harry Haywood

Harry Haywood (February 6, 1898 - January 1985) was born in South Omaha, Nebraska to former slaves, Harriet and Haywood Hall. He was the youngest of three children. Named after his father at birth, Haywood Hall, "Harry Haywood" is a pseudonym adopted in 1925. Radicalized by the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, he was a leading African American member of both the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). He is best known for his significant theoretical contributions to the Marxist national question and as a founder of the Maoist New Communist Movement. In Richard Wright's autobiographical novel "Black Boy (American Hunger)", the character of Buddy Nealson represents Haywood.

Career with the Communist Party USA

Harry Haywood began his revolutionary career by joining the African Blood Brotherhood in 1922 followed by the Young Communist League in 1923. Shortly thereafter, in 1925 he joined the Communist Party, USA. After joining the CPUSA Haywood went to Moscow to study, first to the Communist University of the Toilers of the East in 1925, then to the International Lenin School in 1927. He stayed until 1930 as a delegate to the Communist International (Comintern). There he worked on commissions dealing with the question of African Americans in the United States as well as the development of the "Native Republic Thesis" for the South African Communist Party. Haywood worked to draft the "Comintern Resolutions on the Negro Question" of 1928 and 1930, which put forward the line that African Americans in the Black Belt of the United States made up an oppressed nation, with the right to self-determination up to and including secession. He would continue to fight for this line throughout his life.

In the CPUSA, Haywood served on the Central Committee from 1927 to 1938 and on the Politburo from 1931 until 1938. He also participated in the major factional struggles internal to the CPUSA against Jay Lovestone and Earl Browder, regularly siding with William Z. Foster.

He was General Secretary of the League of Struggle for Negro Rights. In the early 1930s while head of the CPUSA Negro Department, he was a leader in the movement to support the Scottsboro Boys, organized miners in Pittsburgh with the National Miners Union, and was a leader in the struggles of the militant Sharecroppers Union in the Deep South. He also led the "Hands off Ethiopia" campaign in Chicago's Black South Side to oppose the Fascist invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. When eleven Communist leaders went on trial under the Smith Act in 1949, Haywood was assigned the task of research for the defense.

Haywood's military career stretched through three wars, beginning with World War I where he served with a Black regiment. He fought for the Popular Front in the Spanish Civil War with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the International Brigades. With the Merchant Marines, he served in World War II where he was active with National Maritime Union.

The Comintern and the Black Belt Nation

During his four and half year stay in the Soviet Union (1925-1930) Harry Haywood held dual membership in both the CPUSA and the CPSU. As a member of the CPSU, he travelled extensively through the Soviet Union's autonomous republics, and participated in the struggles against both the Left Opposition headed by Leon Trotsky and the Right Opposition led by Nikolai Bukharin. In these struggles and in others Haywood was on the side of Joseph Stalin.

With the Comintern, Haywood was assigned to work with the newly created Negro Commission. His major work regarding this, "Negro Liberation", argues that the root of the oppression of Blacks was the unsolved agrarian question in the South. There he analyzed that the unfinished bourgeois democratic revolution of Reconstruction had been betrayed through the Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1877 and had thus left African Americans abandoned and thrust back on to the plantations from which they had been freed, now as tenant farmers and sharecroppers faced with the Redeemer governments, the system of Jim Crow, and the terror of the Ku Klux Klan. According to Haywood, the rise of imperialism left Blacks frozen as "landless, semi-slaves in the South."

Through all of this developed a distinct African American nation which fulfilled the criteria laid out by Stalin in his "Marxism and the National Question": a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological makeup manifested in a common culture.

Haywood saw as the correct response to this nothing short of the demand for self-determination (up to and including the right to separate from the United States) of the African American people in their historically constituted national territory, the Black Belt South, and full equality everywhere else. Only with genuine political power, which from a Marxist point of view includes control of the productive forces, including the land, could African American's obtain genuine equality. This was seen as a prerequisite for broader working class unity.

Most of those in the CPUSA who disagreed with the analysis put forth by Harry Haywood and the Comintern considered the question of African American oppression in the United States simply a matter of racial prejudice with moral roots rather than an economic and political question of national oppression. They saw it as a problem to be solved under Socialism and in no need of special attention until after the institution of the revolutionary Dictatorship of the Proletariat. To this charge Haywood countered that the category of "race" is a mystification and that such policy can only alienate African Americans and inhibit working class unity.

Following urbanization and major outmigrations from the South critics attempted to use statistics to counter the Black Belt theory. Haywood, in his 1957 article, "For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question," responded that the question of an oppressed nation in the South was not one of "nose counting."

Expulsion from the CPUSA

Following the death of Stalin in 1953 and Nikita Krushchev's rise to power, the CPUSA accompanied Moscow in Krushchev's policy of destalinization and "peaceful coexistence". Long an admirer of Mao Zedong, Harry Haywood was one of the pioneers of the anti-revisionist movement born out of the growing Sino-Soviet split. He was driven out of the CPUSA in the late 1950s along with many others who took firm anti-revisionist or pro-Stalin positions.

The CPUSA's decision to change its line on the African American national question was a central factor in Haywood's expulsion. Though it had not been a strong point for the CPUSA since the dissolution of the Sharcroppers Union, the demand for self-determination for African Americans in the South was officially dropped by the CPUSA in 1959 (it was also dropped briefly once before when Browder liquidated the party in 1944) in favor of a "Melting Pot" position that as American capitalism developed, so too would Black-white unity. Haywood, no longer a functioning party member, attempted to intervene, writing "On the Negro Question" which was distributed at the Seventeenth National Convention in 1959 by and in the name of African Blood Brotherhood founder, Cyril Briggs. This was not effective, however, as most of Haywood's potential allies had already been removed in the name of combatting "left"-sectarianism and dogmatism.

In Haywood's view, this change of line was based on longstanding "white chauvanism" in the party. He also argued that the change prevented the CPUSA from giving correct leadership during the Civil Rights Movement and left the party to tail behind the NAACP and Martin Luther King. This further alienated the party from the militant Black Power Movement that was to follow.

With the New Communist Movement

After being isolated and driven from the ranks of the CPUSA, Harry Haywood became one of the initiators of the New Communist Movement, the goal of which was to found a new vanguard Communist Party on an anti-revisionist basis, believing the CPUSA to have deviated irrevocably from Marxism-Leninism. He was one of the founders of the Provisional Organizing Committee for a Communist Party (POC), formed in New York in August, 1958 by eighty-three mostly Black and Puerto Rican delegates from the CPUSA. According to Haywood, the POC rapidly degenerated into an isolated, dogmatic, ultraleft sect, completely removed from any political practice.

He went from there to work in one of the newly formed Maoist groups of the New Communist Movement, the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). In the CP(M-L) Haywood served on the Central Committee and published, along with his other major works, his 700 page, critical autobiography, "Black Bolshevik". This book became, because of its breadth and scope, an important document and through it and his other writings Haywood was able to provide ideological leadership to the New Communist Movement. Haywood's theoretical contributions had a substantial impact on the major groups of the movement well beyond his own CP(M-L), including, for example, the League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist), the early Revolutionary Communist Party, the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters and the Communist Workers Party. Nonetheless, lack of experience, sectarianism, and voluntarism played a major role in keeping the young Maoist groups from taking a strong leading role.

Despite all of its changes, the Black Belt South is still considered relevant by many Marxists. The reason given by many revolutionary groups is because of the negative impact of conditions for African Americans in the South upon the US working class as a whole. Haywood's theoretical contributions to questions of African American national oppression and national liberation thus remain highly valued by the Ray O. Light Group, which developed out of an anti-revisionist split from the Communist Party USA in 1961, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which was originally formed from the mergers of several New Communist Movement groups in the 1980s, and the Maoist Internationalist Movement.


* William Eric Perkins, "Harry Haywood (1898-1985)", "Encyclopedia of the American Left". Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, Dan Georgakas, Eds. Garland, New York: 1990. 928 pages. ISBN 978-0195120882
* Harry Haywood, "Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist". Liberator Press, Chicago: 1978. 700 pages. ISBN 0-930720-53-9
*Robin D.G. Kelley, "Hammer & Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression". University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 1990. 392 pages. ISBN 978-0-8078-4288-5
*William Z. Foster, "History of the Communist Party of the United States". International Publishers, 1952. 600 pages.
* Cedric J. Robinson, "Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition". University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 480 pages. ISBN 0-8078-4829-8
* Max Elbaum, "Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao, and Che". Verso, New York: 320 pages. ISBN 978-1-84467-563-0

ee also

*Communists in the U.S. Labor Movement (1919-1937)
*Communists in the U.S. Labor Movement (1937-1950)
*The Communist Party and African-Americans
*American Civil Rights Movement (1896-1954)
*Timeline of Racial Tension in Omaha, Nebraska
*Black Belt (U.S. region)
*Black nationalism
*Black separatism

Further reading


*Foster, William Z. "History of the Communist Party of the United States". International Publishers, New York: 1952. 600 pages.

*Foster, William Z. "The Negro People in American History". International Publishers, New York: 1954. 608 pages.

*Kelly, Robin D. G. "Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression". University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 1990. 369 pages.

elected writings by Harry Haywood

* Harry Haywood, "Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist". Liberator Press, Chicago: 1978. 700 pages.
* Harry Haywood, "Negro Liberation". International Publishers, New York: 1948. 245 pages. (later edition from Liberator Press, Chicago: 1976. 245 pages)
* Harry Haywood, "For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question". Liberator Press, Chicago: 1975. 38 pages. (Written in 1957)
* Harry Haywood, "On the Negro Question". 1959 (Under the name of Cyril Briggs). Available in: "Towards Victorious Afro-American National Liberation: A Collection of Pamphlets, Leaflets and Essays Which Dealt In a Timely Way With the Concrete Ongoing Struggle for Black Liberation Over the Past Decade and More." A Ray O. Light Publication, Bronx: 1982. pp. 383-403

External links

* [http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/CR75.html "The 1928 and 1930 Comintern Resolutions on the Black National Question in the United States"] . The two major resolutions of the Comintern on the African American National Question. Harry Haywood worked on both.
* [http://marxistleninist.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/harry-haywood-on-the-african-american-national-question/ "The Struggle for the Leninist Position on the Negro Question in the United States"] A short 1933 article outlining Harry Haywood's position on the African American National Question.
* [http://marx2mao.com/Other/NL48.pdf "Negro Liberation"] Harry Haywood's main theoretical work on the African American National Question, 1948. (PDF)
* [http://comradezero.blogspot.com/2008/07/harry-haywood-for-revolutionary.html "For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question"] Selections from Harry Haywood's 1957 article defending his line on the national question from attacks from within the CPUSA.
* [http://comradezero.blogspot.com/2008/07/harry-haywood-on-trotskyism.html Harry Haywood on Trotskyism] Selections from "Black Bolshevik" on Trotskyism.
* [http://archive.lib.msu.edu/AFS/dmc/radicalism/public/all/southcomesnorth/AAK.pdf?CFID=5171542&CFTOKEN=34331723 "The South Comes North in Detroits Own Scottsboro Case"] by Harry Haywood (with the LSNR). (PDF)
* [http://www.leftspot.com/blog/?q=node/324 "China and its Supporters Were Wrong About USSR"] . An article written by Haywood for the "Guardian Newspaper" in 1984.
* [http://www.mltranslations.org/US/Rpo/aan/aan.htm "Documents from School on Afro-American National Question"] . Important texts from New Communist Movement groups based on theories put forward by Haywood.
* [http://www.frso.org/docs/2006/2006nq.htm "The Third International and the Struggle for a Correct Line on the African American National Question"] . May 2006 text presented by Freedom Road Socialist Organization to the Workers Party of Belgium's International Communist Seminar demonstrating Harry Haywood's continuing relevance to American Marxist-Leninists.

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