Red and Black Tragedy

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Editor’s note: The following is a background report to Paul Kengor’s The Communist. Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor. It is written by Spyridon Mitsotakis, who is Professor Kengor’s research assistant. To see Part II, click here.

Despite the rhetoric, there are few, if any, ideological movements that have caused more racism, ethnic repression and ethnic bloodshed than Communism – going all the way back to Karl Marx himself. Not long before he produced the Communist Manifesto, Marx expressed his support for “the slavery of the Blacks” in a letter to a Russian acquaintance:

There is no need for me to speak either of the good or of the bad aspects of freedom. As for slavery, there is no need for me to speak of its bad aspects. The only thing requiring explanation is the good side of slavery. I do not mean indirect slavery, the slavery of proletariat; I mean direct slavery, the slavery of the Blacks in Surinam, in Brazil, in the southern regions of North America.

Direct slavery is as much the pivot upon which our present-day industrialism turns as are machinery, credit, etc. Without slavery there would be no cotton, without cotton there would be no modern industry. It is slavery which has given value to the colonies, it is the colonies which have created world trade, and world trade is the necessary condition for large-scale machine industry. Consequently, prior to the slave trade, the colonies sent very few products to the Old World, and did not noticeably change the face of the world. Slavery is therefore an economic category of paramount importance. Without slavery, North America, the most progressive nation, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Only wipe North America off the map and you will get anarchy, the complete decay of trade and modern civilization. But to do away with slavery would be to wipe America off the map. Being an economic category, slavery has existed in all nations since the beginning of the world. All that modern nations have achieved is to disguise slavery at home and import it openly into the New World.

As is usually the case with Marx, his economic analysis is completely backward. As Thomas Sowell points out, societies with forced labor create an atmosphere where hard work is looked down upon, thereby ruining a society’s potential by stigmatizing the work necessary to realize that potential – something that had for a long time produced a noticeable difference in the prosperity of northern states to the poverty of former slave states.

In addition to his support for slavery, Marx was also a racist. Expressions of bigotry by Marx were so frequent they could fill a whole book – and in fact, they have. Former Communist Nathaniel Weyl filled 283 pages with examples of Marx’s hatred in his 1979 book, Karl Marx, Racist.

Even though American Communism itself has had limited influence, it has had lasting effects on the poor economic and social status of black Americans.

Communists’ efforts to draw black Americans toward Communism started shortly after American Communism’s official founding in the latter half of 1919. Not long after the creation of the Comintern in 1919, the director of its branch in the United States, Ludwig C.A.K. Martens, met with a black American named Lovett Fort-Whiteman to launch the American Communist movement’s first campaign to convince blacks that the promise of freedom from the injustices they suffered lies in revolution and the creation of a Soviet America. Documents from U.S. government intelligence that monitored the Communists during that time period speak for themselves:

Exhibit 1: “Radicalism in St. Louis. Subject: Society of technical aid of Soviet Russia. Russian Soviet Government Bureau – Martens,” October 3, 1919.


Exhibit 2: “Radicalism in St. Louis. Subject: L. Fort Whiteman (colored). The Communists. Russian Soviet Government Bureau – Martens,” October 3, 1919.

Exhibit 3: “Radicalism in St. Louis. Subject: L. Fort-Whiteman of New York City, N.Y.,” October 7, 1919.

Exhibit 4: “Radicalism in St. Louis. Subject: L. Fort-Whiteman of New York City, N.Y. (Speech),” October 7, 1919.


Glenda Gilmore, who accessed the archives of the Comintern for her book Defying Dixie writes:

“Lovett Fort-Whiteman, a black man from Dallas, Texas, became the first American-born black Communist. Earning the title the ‘reddest of the blacks,’ Fort-Whiteman came to Communism through socialism, radical labor activism, and race consciousness.”14 When he was released from jail in1924, he officially joined the Communist Party. “In mid-June, 1924, Fort-Whiteman traveled from Chicago to Moscow as one of roughly five hundred delegates to the Fifth World Congress of the Third International. …

“On July 1, a long, warm summer day, Fort-Whiteman rose to educate listeners, including Joseph Stalin and Ho Chi Minh, on the Negro question. … He advised the Party to move into the South and ‘exploit’ rising dissatisfaction among sharecroppers, a strategy that would pay off, since the ‘negroes are destined to be the most revolutionary class in America.’ … Fort-Whiteman did not return immediately to the United States, but enrolled in the school for colonized peoples, the Kommunisticheskii Universitet Trudyashichsya Vostoka, the Communist University of Toilers of the East, known by the acronym KUTV … Audiences everywhere listened raptly as Fort- Whiteman told them of the racial hierarchy in the U.S. South; audiences everywhere disavowed racism in the new Soviet society. Fort-Whiteman became convinced that the USSR had become the ‘first state in the history of the world which ha[d] actually solved the problem of racial discrimination.’

“His studies at KUTV and experience on the ground slowly convinced Fort- Whiteman that he had been wrong when he said that African Americans were discriminated against as a race, not as a class. … ‘Race prejudice is not an inherent thing in the mental makeup of the individual,’ Fort-Whiteman discovered; it was not ‘transmitted thru the blood.’ Instead, ‘race prejudice . . . springs from the capitalist order of the society[.]’”

When he returned to America, Fort-Whiteman went to work recruiting 12 other blacks to go to the Soviet Union – including James Ford, who would be the Communist Party’s Vice Presidential candidate in 1932, 1936 and 1940 – and setting up Communist front groups targeted at blacks. In the course of this effort integrated unions were created in the South. The Communists point to this as evidence of their early enlightenment, but in truth – as Glenda Gilmore explained in an interview with the Charlotte, N.C. radio station WFAE – the Comintern ultimately came to the conclusion that if only white southern workers were “organized” (presumably into unions), there would just be a “reserve” black workforce to take their place. Thus, if there was to be a communist revolution in the south, both would have to be organized at the same time.

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  • Nakba1948

    Oh please. Feigned concern for the well-being of black people in America. I've seen the racist comments that litter this forum when anything related to blacks is mentioned ("mrbean's" tiresome Amos n' Andy routine comes to mind); it's second only to the rabid hatred shown here for Muslims. Why don't you stop worrying about communists, blacks, Democrats, and Muslim boogeymen for a moment, so that you can sit back and reflect on the fact that the two-bit demagogues that write for this site and are associated with the Orwellian-named "Freedom Center" have been inspiring people like the white supremacist who shot up a Sikh temple in WI. Your chickens are coming home to roost, bigots.

    • richard sherman

      First World Trade Center–Second World Trade Vented — Khobar Towers –African Embassy bombings– Fort Hood Massacre — Assassinations of RFK and Meir Kahane– So many Koranic killers…"bogeymen" I don't think so…Rather real true believers simply following Allah's wishes to kill the infidel…..

    • Jerry


    • mrbean

      Once again the negroes like Nakba lay false claims to victimology demand monies from the productive white people of the world. Recall, it was negroes who sold negroes to slavers in the first place. However, that aside, every negro living in the Western Hemisphere would not statistically exist at all anywhere had their ancestors not been brought from Africa. The average life expectancy today of negroes in the west is in the upper 60's to the lower 70's and in Africa and in all African countries between 31 years of age with a high average of 40 years in South Africa. This is what Africa run by negroes is like almost everywhere.

      • dennis x

        It's a shame that your so-called negros are winning medals to make low lifes like you feel good about your selfs. Perhaps upon thier returns you can call them nergros to thier faces and offer them some food stamps. How old is Nelson Mandala?

        • Ghostwriter

          dennis x,you're just as bigoted as mrbean is and you prove it time and again.

          • dennis x

            Not as much. I don't go out of my way to offend, but I wouldn't back down. For every action there's a reaction.

    • tagalog

      The accusation of racism is once again used in yet another attempt to silence any kind of remark that might not be supportive of racial blackness as infinitely virtuous and generally superior.

      To suggest, even hint, that the statements made by the people who run this website and those who comment on those statements, are somehow an encouragement to a person who would shoot up a Sikh temple (or any other identifiable racial group) is to be so defamatory that it takes the breath away.

      • dennis x

        Then you should choke to death!!!! You find nothing defamatory about beanboys comments or the many tumbs ups he gets for those comments.

    • meyou

      I Dear Nakba, I'm going to say the rosary for you.

    • Goemon

      I normally don't comment on posts by people too foolish to be salvageable as a useful human being, but I want to point out that it is not feigned concern for black people. This article is posted because it interests right wingers. I am definitely on the right and I have my criticisms for black culture, but as a race of people I have no problem with them or having them in my neighborhoods or as my boss at work. I wish them success and happiness in life, not a life of crime, drugs, abortion and dropping out of school.

      • waynamal

        Nearly every single time the Left respond to logic and the truth, they have to trash people first. They will demean, belittle and use obscenities. To bad, poor things.

    • Waynamal

      Muslims are the "boogeymen".

    • Ghostwriter

      While I agree with Nakba about mrbean's idiotic "Amos n' Andy" routine,it's disgusting as well as tiresome and unfunny,the rest of his stuff is dumb. I'm not a bigot and I've condemned it many times. To be honest,I don't see where Communism would have helped ANYONE,blacks included. They would have been worse off in a Soviet America and anyone who spoke against it would either be jailed or dead. I don't think the Communists really cared about black people. They only wanted to use them as props to attack America.
      Oh,and by the way Nakba,the guy who shot up that Sikh temple was a demented loon as well as a racist. Thankfully,the guy is dead and roasting in hades where he belongs. Please think before you write,that is if your capable of it.

      • johnnywoods

        Hey Ghost, I believe the Commies call such individuals "useful idiots".

      • aspacia

        It is doubtful the catastrophe has enough gray matter to think or reason, only act on instinct like an animal.

    • ILIA

      Curiously, Comrade Nakba1948, your name refers to the founding of Israel, which you perceive as the biggest disaster, and I perceive as a ray of hope, a nod from God that he exists. BTW, Israel is the only country that airlifted thousands of black Ethiopians from the barbarism to the light of civilization. As you know, in Arabic 'black' and 'slave' are still, to this day, the same word: 'abd'.

  • AlgerHiss

    Nakba, you might broaden your mind a bit by reading this book, authored by leftists:

    • al Kidya

      TY, AlgerHiss, I grew up through the cold war and I remember the air-raid sirens, "duck and cover" training, the pictures of communist victimization. Then in HS Political Science I learned the truth of what communism can do to the human psyche by breaking the body, mind and spirit in a Gulag, but that was only scratching the surface of the real horrors I have learned of lately. There is more icing to be put on this cake and Obama is part of the story…Oh, the horror, the horror, the horror!

      Nakba1948 is part of the problem rather than the solution.

    • mlcblog

      Does Nakba have a mind? or is it spouting and repeating emotional ideas?

  • al Kidya

    Is this to be continued or something? I want the rest of the story of what Nowell did and why he decided to jump the commie ship.
    This article blows me away! I was on the edge of my seat.

  • Schlomotion

    Mr. Mitsotakis has done a wonderful job combating the problem of nonexistent Negro Communists in the present day. With any luck, people can take the startling revelations presented in this essay and go back in time to 1919 and profoundly affect the functioning of the early 20th Century I.W.W.

    • tagalog

      By 1919, the IWW was, except for a handful of Wobbly unions, pretty much defunct. Most of the IWW leadership was arrested and tried for subversion in 1917. About ten thousand IWW members and sympathizers were arrested, and many were tried. That gutted the organization: so much for revolutionary anarchosyndicalism in America. At least 14 of them received 20-year sentences for violation of the Espionage Act (which is still on the books). The leader of the IWW at the time, Big Bill Haywood, appealed his 20-year sentence and while the case was up on appeal, ran to the Soviet Union, where he lived for the rest of his life. I think it's safe to assert that the IWW was largely non-functional as of 1919.

    • tagalog

      Non-existent "Negro" Communists in the present day? Well, the actual present, who knows? No doubt there are some, but I don't know who they are. But as for people like Richard Wright, Paul Robeson, and numerous others, there certainly were black card-carrying Communists in the not-so-distant past.

      The FBI claims that if Martin King Luther, Jr. wasn't a Communist, he was mighty close to people who were.

      • mlcblog

        It's common knowledge. The author is being obtuse.

    • mlcblog

      Wait! I accidentally hit Like! Oops.

    • aspacia

      Van Jones, and many who have and do surround Obama are avowed communists.

  • AlgerHiss


    “nonexistent Negro Communists in the present day”

    How can you examine the voting patterns of today’s American Black and come to that conclusion? This group of citizens vote just as hard-core leftist as they possibly can.

    Election after election, Black folks, usually in the 90% area, vote for huge, mammoth government. They are NOT a freedom and liberty crowd.

    And it ain’t racial: It’s cultural.

  • Western Spirit

    Well, let's see, my grandmother was half Cherokee Indian. This, of course, makes me part Indian but I don't which part. My blond blue eyed niece does know which part, though—her teeth.

    When she had a tooth pulled the root was shaped like a member of the Mongolian race's teeth. Yet to outward appearance she couldn't be more white.

    My family, that couldn't be more white, marries whom we please because we don't believe in stereotypes. For instance, I married a Jew because he was an outstanding man with such a strong personality I felt like he swooped down and sucked me into his engines.

    Another family member is marrying a half negro. The young man is very handsome and determined to have her because she's a prize endowed with the family's good looks and intelligence.

    So don't tell me I'm prejudiced because I disagree with your prejudices, Nabka, prejudices that reveal your inability to discern illusions from reality.

    • Western Spirit

      I forgot another niece is married to a Sikh. So I'm beginning to think we not only don't believe in stereotypes and believe people are people,but, we're fascinated by difference instead of being afraid of it. The problem is people really aren't all that different.

      • Western Spirit

        It's cultures that are different. Some lead to slavery and some lead to freedom. So must be judged and discerned between if we want to remain free.

  • Lisa Richards

    You did a great job Mr. Mitsotakis in discovering these lost documents on Frank Marshall Davis communist life and how he mentored Obama, Jarrett, and Axelrod. This truth about Davis must be exposed. Thank you.

  • Steve Chavez

    If you go to CPUSA DOT ORG and then link on to their "People's World, " and after glazing over their articles, I challenge you to tell us the difference between their talking points and articles of interest and those of the DEMOCRAT PARTY!

    IT'S ALWAYS FUN to google your favorite person in Congress and add "Communist Party" or "Peace and Justice" and several of their other fronts, to see for yourself that these Democrats ARE IN BED WITH COMMUNISTS.

    Today's Communists/Democrats/Obama can meet with every enemy of the United States but can't dare meet with Republicans?

    • mlcblog

      Thank you. Well said. I have a lot of fun with Google myself.

  • BLJ

    The truth always hurts. The Democrats….err……I mean Communists can handle the truth.

    • BLJ

      I meant "can't"

      • mlcblog

        of course!
        (You can use the Edit feature.)

  • oldschooltwentysix

    Considering the unjust state of blacks in the Jim Crow American South, it is understandable that the Communists would reach out.

    Capitalism has negative effects that too often are denied. Not to mention the vestiges of slavery.

    Even so, why do those who want to bring the system down, to insert their own, often worship a model that is more repressive toward individuals?

  • dennis x

    Communism is still a better choice than the crap that we deal with it here in amerikkka. Just read the posts. Please call someone a negro to their face, please make my day!

    • mrbean

      The hyphenated term African American is a political term invented by the Reverand Jesse Jackson in the 1980's and the word "negro" is the proper name for the race. The use of the term amerikkka tells me you are just another hating whitey negro like you hero Reverand Jermiah "Chimp Out Sermonizer" Wright.

    • aspacia

      So move to Cuba.

  • bo

    Such an abrupt ending !
    This is fascinating history !!
    Please write more !!!

  • Ghostwriter

    dennis x,why don't you talk to people who have LIVED under Communism? I can tell you this,their stories are heartbreaking and you'd be grateful you live in America. Besides,you're as much a bigot as any Klan member and I'm not fond of them either. Oh,and for the record,I'm white and I've known a few black people. You continue to prove that idiocy isn't confined to one race but can be found throughout human civilization.

    • dennis x

      I've know a few white people and yes I've talked to people from communist countries and the "new boss is just like the old boss". True I'm not a fan of white people , but unlike the klan I've never lynched one, yet. For the record please explain the acceptance of the racist comment at this web site, ie bean boy etc.

      • Ghostwriter

        I've attacked mrbean numerous times for his idiotic "Amos n' Andy" routine. It's dumb and serves no useful purpose. But,you're as much a bigot as he is,dennis x. Not every white person is like what you describe. Besides,you often sound like a disciple of the appalling Louis Farrakhan,the David Duke of black America. His bigotry is as disgusting as Duke's is. Maybe you should examine yourself before decrying the bigotry of others.

  • Ghostwriter

    And dennis x,to be even more honest,I don't think the Communists cared a whole lot about black people. They wanted to use them as props to bash America. Although American society was racist at the time,I doubt Communism would have helped matters any. It would have made things worse for EVERYONE,blacks included.

  • UCSPanther

    Nicolae Ceasescu was a notable example of the "intolerant communist". He hated Roma and other minorities, obsessed over creating Romania's version of the master race and was deeply homophobic.

    In short, he was no better than Ion Antonescu or Corneliu Codreanu, both fascists who also were notorious for their racism and violence.

  • cjk

    If White people were even half as racist as you, all your people would be back in chains idiot.