BLACK HISTORY MEANS HEROIC FIGHTBACK
African Americans & the struggle for socialism, 1901-1925
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published Feb 19, 2011 9:12 AM
In 1901 the Socialist Party of America, after much ideological and political struggle, emerged as a coalition of various factions within the socialist movement. It had conservative, moderate and revolutionary tendencies within its ranks. Eugene V. Debs, an organizer of workers in the railroad industry, emerged as a charismatic figure, the party’s political candidate and a public spokesperson for the socialist movement.
Debs ran numerous times for presidential office and opposed wars of imperialism waged by the U.S. ruling class. He served prison terms for his outspoken opposition to war and U.S. foreign policy.
African-American figures like W.E.B. DuBois, Hubert Harrison, Chandler Owens, A. Philip Randolph and W.A. Domingo joined the Socialist Party after its founding in 1901.
Within the Socialist Party there were two main currents of thought about the role of African Americans in the working-class struggle. One tendency thought it could broaden the socialist movement by downplaying the racism and national oppression suffered by the African-American people. But a more left-wing position spoke directly to the race terror faced by African Americans and demanded that the socialist movement condemn racism and commit to the fight for its eradication.
In an essay published in the International Socialist Review in November 1903, Debs reflected on his experience in Yoakum, Texas, when he came upon a group of white men at a railroad station who made disparaging and racist comments about African Americans. READ MORE….