Rally to Support the American Negro
August 12, 1963 — Recorded speech, Rally to support the American Negro, Great Hall of the People, Peking (now Beijing), China
This is Anna Louise Strong, on behalf of four Americans and one Canadian living and working in China — at present in Peitaiho [now Beidaihe]: Anna Louise Strong, writer; Talitha Gerlach, of the China Welfare Institute, Shanghai; Dr. George Hatem (Ma Hai-the) for 30 years in China’s public health service; Bertha Hinton, the Peking Institute of Foreign Languages; Dorise Nielsen, wartime progressive member of the Canadian Parliament.
As five North Americans living and working for a considerable time in China, we send our greeting to your Rally from Peitaiho. We heard by radio the call of Chairman Mao Tse-tung to the “people of the world” to support the American Negroes’ struggle for freedom. We are glad to declare that we are a hundred percent behind this struggle. We want to bear witness that we, Americans living, working and travelling extensively in China, have seen for ourselves how widely and deeply the Chinese people of all walks of life and of all ages, are interested in the American Negroes’ struggle for freedom, and give it their full support. Everywhere the Chinese people follow through their press the details of this struggle, and discuss it in conversation. Even the children’s magazines publish the story of the heroic Negro children in Birmingham, who are much admired by Chinese youth.
We think it important to say this, because we are constantly told by the foreign press, and even by letters, that the Chinese “hate America” and even have “hate American campaigns” This is an utter lie, and we are glad of the chance to contradict it.. Chinese indeed do hate American imperialism which is the enemy of all the world’s peoples and of the American people themselves, and which threatens the entire world with nuclear war. But Chinese show great respect and love for the American people, and show great interest in anything that affects their welfare; they believe that one day they will find the American people their ally in making a better and a peaceful world. So they great the great Negro struggles for Freedom with sincere hopes.
Second, we wish to inform the American Negroes that China herself is an example that shows that racial discrimination and inequality can e abolished, since its peoples of many different nationalities, even with most undeveloped which for hundreds of years have lived as illiterate slaves, wild tribes in the hills, without even a written language, not even knowing the methods of farming, but living on wild roots, have actually in recent years gained freedom, equality and access to all the culture known to man. These peoples have awakened and come into the light. Not only do they live without discrimination, they get fraternal help in gaining education and in learning the techniques of moderning [sic] farming and industry.
What we have seen in China proves that racial equality can be achieved, discrimination can be abolished, political, economic and social equality can all be attained, with good and friendly relations between different races with different cultures. It is being done successfully in China, and this should give hope to the American Negroes too. Today all racism and racial discrimination is alien to the liberated Chinese.
However, the experience of the Chinese people suggests that the American Negroes will not gain the full benefits under the resent social system in America. Very many gains can be made under the American social system by determined, united struggle, but we do not believe that complete freedom and equality can be attained under American capitalism. It is necessary for the monopoly capitalists of America to have a subject class which can take the shock of the ups and downs of the capitalist economy on their own bodies, letting the capitalists profit. This is the use they make now of the Negroes. So, while we are proud of your present victories. We think and hope you also realize that final victory cannot be won until you overthrow the monopoly capitalism of America, your final enemy, and also the enemy of the American people and of the people of the world.
We are glad to note that the Negro fighters for Freedom now are not being fooled by President Kennedy nor by her brother Bobby. You will be able to pry some rights from them by pressure, but these rights are gained not from their benevolence, but by your own struggle and power and not in any other way.
The American Negroes learned a bitter lesson by the way their hopes were betrayed a century ago. What happened. A civil war was fought between the industrial, capitalist northern states, whose rising industry was based on cheap immigrant wage-labor from Europe, and the feudal ruling class of the southern states, who lived on the Negro slave labor on plantations. This was at first nearly a draw. Then President Abraham Lincoln announced the “Emancipation” of the Negroes as a war aim thus he won a powerful ally. When the war was won by the north the Negroes were “free,” and some were even given land and sat in legislatures in equality with whites. But all this was short lived. The northern capitalists feared the power of the people thus released and joined hands with the southern feudal powers to suppress the Negroes again, using new forms to maintain the old enslavement.
Today by the power of united mass actions, which terrifies the Kennedy administration, the Negroes may gain several rights: the right to vote, some rights in schools, some in restaurants and busses, and some right to a few jobs in office and commercial establishments. These are gains promised in the Birmingham negotiations; they are intended to satisfy the well-to-do and educated Negroes. And possibly some of the Negro leaders will be satisfied and say: “We can’t expect everything at once.” They will make their peace with Kennedy. Theis could be the same kind of betrayal that the northern capitalists made a century ago after the civil war.
For this would sell-out the great mass of Negroes, the illiterate, the unskilled, the dispossessed. These are the men and women thrown out of jobs in every wave of unemployment. They are thrown out by automation in industry and by modernization of farming. The Kennedy administration will never give job equality to these men because it cannot. This is the class needed by monopoly capital to serve as a buffer against all changes in the economy, so capitalists may keep their profits. They can never get job security and equality without complete reorganization of the economic and social system of the United States.
These are the men and women, in the south and in the north, whom the Kennedy administration fears. It was the dispossessed of Birmingham that fought the final battle with the police. They cannot get job security and equality short of a new social system. Even beyond that, they need long struggle to develop literacy and skills.
If the well-to-do and educated Negroes desert their own people, their own gains will soon be lost. As longas the Negro people stand together and continue their fight for equality an freedom, this will light the struggle of the entire American working-class to overthrow the monopoly capitalism of America.
There are signs already that this is occurring. All over the United States the ”Freedom Marches” are taking place in the big cities, led and organized by the Negro people but with white workers and progressives beginning to join in. When 20,000 people marched in San Francisco up Market St. to hold a Rally in the Civic Square, the two men who led the march were a Negro leader and Harry Bridges, a white man., the most famous progressive labor leader in America, in writing to us, speak of the “Negro Revolution” as the center of all progressive activities. It is indeed, revolutionary in significance and in potential when the hitherto suppressed Negro people take to the streets to fight for their rights.
Why, let us ask, is it just now that the American Negroes are rising, after the suppression of a hundred years? Many reasons may be found inside America, but is it not also true that a basic reason lies in the world situation. Imperialism decays: all over the earth the long suppressed nations and peoples rise in revolutionary struggles. These struggles for national liberation and independence already shake three continents; in all of them the demand for racial equality plays a basic part.
This reflects itself in the struggles of the American Negroes. They gain self respect and hope from the rising of the Africa peoples. This international factor gives them encouragement.
It is significant that Robert Williams, a Negro leader now in refuse in Cuba has appealed to Mao Tse-tung of China for a statement. This is because China is recognized as the clearest voice in today’s upsurge of long suppressed peoples.
Mao Tse-tung speaks of the “links” which the present struggle reveals between the reactionary policies of the American government at home and its policies of aggression abroad. All around the world today, American monopoly capital maintains its hold by cash and violence on undeveloped nations, all of which grow ever more restive under its yoke. Every nation that breaks from its control, weakens the power of U.S. imperialism. The united action of the world’s peoples is the force that will end this imperialism, and ensure a stable world peace.
This struggle now finds a parallel link inside the U.S.A. in the Negro struggles, which have the same enemy. U.S. monopoly capital can only flourish at the expense of the laboring people, of whom the Negroes are the most cruelly suppressed. Now they begin to resist this exploitation in the very stronghold of U.S. imperialism, undermining monopoly capital from within.
This Negro struggle is not yet the American Revolution but may spark it. As more and more of the American working class and progressives join to support the Negro movement for Freedom now, this may win a new birth of freedom for all exploited Americans and reinforces the anti-imperialist struggles of the world.
Source: Hearings Before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 91st Cong, 2nd Sess, Part 1, Testimony of Robert F. Williams, (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office) 1970, pp. 202-205.