Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dr. W.E B. Du Bois Joins Communist Party

From the New York Times, on 23 November 1961, "Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois Joins Communist Party at 93," by Peter Kihss -- Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, one of the nation's best-known Negro historians and sociologists, has joined the Communist party at the age of 93, the party announced yesterday.

The announcement came at a time when the party faced penalties of $10,000 a day for failing to register under the 1950 Internal-Security Act. The deadline was last Monday midnight.

If its officers do not register by Nov. 30 and members then fail to register by Dec. 20, each individual becomes liable to a similar fine and five years' imprisonment for each day of noncompliance.

A co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Dr. Du Bois long ago split with that organization. Since 1948 he has been associated with a number of left-wing causes.
Du Bois standing outdoors, talking with Mao Tse Tung
His Leftist Ties

From 1949 to 1955 he was vice chairman of the now-defunct Council on African Affairs, cited by the Attorney General as subversive and Communist. In 1951, as chairman of the Peace Information Center here, he was acquitted of a charge of failing to register as a foreign agent. In 1959 he received a Soviet Lenin Prize "for strengthening peace."

A Communist party spokesman said Dr. Du Bois had sent his application to join on Oct. 1 from his Brooklyn home. Since then he has been in Ghana, the spokesman said, as head of a Ghana secretariat planning a new Negro encyclopedia.

In the application Dr. Du Bois wrote that he had been "long and slow" in deciding to apply for part membership, "but at last my mind is settled." He said he had joined the Socialist party in 1911, but had resigned to support Woodrow Wilson for President.

An elderly, smiling Du Bois sits in a chair, flanked by a man and woman also seated and smiling.

For the next twenty years, he said, he attacked the Democrats, Republicans and Socialists. He said he had "praised the racial attitudes of the Communists but opposed their tactics in the case of the Scottsboro boys and their advocacy of a Negro state." In 1926, he said, he began a "new effort," visiting Communist lands.

Dr. Du Bois said he had concluded that "capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction."

"No universal selfishness can bring social good to all," he said. "Communism -- the effort to give all men what they need and to ask of each the best they can contribute -- this is the only way of human life.

"These aims are not crimes. They are practiced increasingly over the world. No nation can call itself free which does not allow its citizens to work for these ends."

A reply from Gus Hall, Communist general secretary, was dated Nov. 15. He said Dr. Du Bois's application had been greeted at a national board meeting Oct. 13.

Hall hailed the Negro leader for acting at a time when, he said, the Federal Government seeks to "persecute Communists and suppress our party."

A dozen African American men seated with Niagara Falls in the background

Split With N. A. A. C. P.

Dr. Du Bois was the N. A. A. C. P.'s first director of publications in 1909 and one of its five incorporators in 1911. He resigned in 1934 in a policy dispute: the organization advocated all-out desegregation; he had been urging voluntary Negro segregation in certain fields as a means of "self-dependence" to counter white discrimination.

He returned to the association as director of special research from1944 to 1948. He then left because of his endorsement of Henry A. Wallace's Progressive party candidacy for President despite the N. A. A. C. P. policy of nonpartisanship.

Still a spry man with a colorful goatee and an ever-present cane, Dr. Du Bois has written eighteen books. He was the first Negro elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters and is a life member and fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (source: The New York Times)

In a rare interview, David Du Bois, son of NAACP founding member W.E.B. Du Bois, speaks passionately of his dad's commitment to Communism and Socialism, and how his wife introduced him to leading white activists within the Progressive movement at that time, among other things.


  1. I know of your fondness for anachronisms, but labeling WEBD a communist in 1912 is inaccurate. He held socialist views on certain subjects, when did that make one a communist? The Bolshevik revolution in Russia didn't occur until 5 years later in 1917. WEBD founded the NAACP with the help of rich White liberals and socialists as well as "Black" capitalists such as the parents of the fair skinned boy in the Niagara Falls picture.

    1. {{I know of your fondness for anachronisms ...}}

      Anachronisms? Really? You're dating Communism from the Bolshevik Revolution, when Karl Marks published the "Communist Manifesto" in 1848 about 20 years BEFORE DuBois was even born! Perhaps my Neo-Calvinistic Predetermination Doctrine slip shows a bit around the edges, but "anachronistic," I think not. In other words, NOBODY can MAKE you be ANYTHING without your inner consent.

      DuBois has always been an ideological Utopian, with fatalist foreboding doom regarding the immutable caste structure. DuBois is like Sisyphus from Greek Mythology. He rolled that boulder up the steep hill just to see in roll back down time after time. Just look at the Nigeria Movement. Monroe Trotter did not want to include women or whites, because he thought it would dilute their movement and render it toothless. DuBois rolled that NAACP boulder up the hill, only to leave in 1934, return ten years later and then leave again in 1948.

      W.E.B. Du Bois is just such a fascinatingly complex historic figure. His embrace of Communism certainly amplifies the underlying cause of the rift between him and his Capitalist nemesis Booker T. Washington.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

  2. The Nigeria Movement?! What are you talking about? Surely you mean the Niagara Movement. Your comment on communism disqualifies you as a serious voice on the subject. Hell, you even managed to get Marx's name wrong. Given the cyclic nature of race relations in the USA Sisyphus is not a bad symbol to represent it.

    1. "The Nigeria Movement?" Good catch. In the infamous words of Rick Perry -- Oops! It is the Niagara Movement. I'm sorry I misused the "Spell Check" and clicked.

      Okay, you discovered that I'm a fallible human. Full disclosure, my spouse accidentally unplugged my computer --and I was on a roll -- but sadly, all of my interesting points just evaporated into thin air. I just rushed through the reply without re-reading it. It's a Sunday and my family is breathing down my neck vying for my attention. I'll be more careful next time.

      -- Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog



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