As a tribute to the African Blood Brotherhood I am re-posting this article on my blog. The history of the ABB and the role of African Americans in the socialist movement should be of the utmost importance for all to research. -Carlito Rovira
The African Blood Brotherhood and the Proletarianization of Blacks in Amerika
By Comrade Tom Big Warrior (2010)
Reprinted from Right On! #1
The African Blood Brotherhood for African Liberation and Redemption (ABB) was the first Marxist, Revolutionary Black Nationalist organization in Amerika. Founded in 1917, it grew rapidly during the wave of white racist riots known as the “Red Summer of 1919,“ the ABB was a secret, armed, community self-defense-oriented society headquartered in Harlem.
Many of the “Blood Brothers” were combat vets who had fought in France in World War I. Many were workers, conscious of their proletarian class exploitation and oppression in capitalist society, as well as their caste oppression as “Negroes,” and national oppression as members of a nation of a new type defined by color and refined by slavery, terror and segregation.
The Nation of New Afrikans in Amerika, which was then a peasant nation concentrated in the cotton-producing “Black-Belt South,” was also evolving into a proletarian nation in the industrial centers and defined urban ghettos. The white riots were pogroms directed at these ghettos, which were expanding with the “Great Migration” from the South to the North and the West that had been encouraged by the need for industrial workers during the World War. Many of the white rioters were also returned war vets. There was also a big resurgence of the KKK at this time that peaked in the mid-1920s.
The urban Black proletarian had to be tough to survive. They were consigned to the dirtiest, most menial and demeaning jobs, and there was brutal competition for these jobs. The ghettos were overcrowded and transient, and Black on Black violence was rampant. Rubes from the country were sheep to slaughter for the lumpen criminals who preyed on them, and they kept coming as mechanization was displacing share-cropping in the South. Black workers quickly learned that whites who were not racist against them were probably class-conscious and Socialist. Militant unions like the IWW brought together workers of all ethnic backgrounds. But the core of leadership of the ABB was part of another migration from the Caribbean to the U.S., and particularly to Harlem.
The African Blood Brotherhood was the brain-child of Cyril Briggs, a light-skinned native of the Caribbean island of Nevis, where he was born in 1887. He migrated to New York on July 4th, 1905 and joined a growing community of West Indian Blacks in the city. That was the year of the first attempted revolution in Russia in which the Leninist Bolsheviks played a conspicuous role. The successful October Revolution of 1917 sent a shock wave around the world that was felt by oppressed people everywhere.
Lenin particularly had a lot to say to the colored peoples of the colonial and semi-colonial countries and directly to the Black people in Amerika. Eventually, the ABB was absorbed into the underground communist Workers Party of America (WPA) which evolved into the CPUSA. The communist party founded by the Russian Federation declared its stance on the Negro Question in 1920: “The Communist Party will carry on agitation among Negro workers to unite them with all class conscious workers.”
Leninism distinguished itself from earlier Marxism by its conscious commitment to the national liberation struggles of the colonial and subject peoples which Lenin recognized to be closely linked to the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution. The class conscious ABB veterans and West Indians shared an understanding of a wider world of exploitation and oppression than the “Jim Crow” South and the ghetto street corner, the world of global capitalist-imperialist empire and world proletarian socialist revolution – a world illuminated by Leninism.
The ABB was committed to the liberation of Afrika and the whole of the Afrikan Diaspora from white world supremacy and capitalist-imperialism and saw the necessity of overthrowing this system to end the racist oppression of Black people and other people of color. As the immediacy of defending the oppressed Black communities from the violence of vigilante white mobs subsided, the ABB comrades began to see more and more the need to win white comrades to fight against white racism in the overall workers movement and all strata of society and prepare the U.S. for proletarian socialist revolution.
Former ABB members formed the core of the CPUSA’s Black cadre, and they were rigorous in opposing white racism in the Party and the unions and mass organizations influenced by the Communist Party. In the 1920s & 30s, the Communist Party initiated work in the South, including forming sharecropper unions uniting both Black and poor whites and unions among southern textile workers.
This was the CP’s most revolutionary period – though it tended towards “left economism” and “dual unionism” — and a period when many Blacks were first exposed to Communist ideology and organization. The “Harlem Renaissance” saw a flowering of Black consciousness and culture, and most of the artists and intellectuals involved were strongly influenced by Marxism-Leninism and leftist ideas.
The World War had shaken things up and raised Black expectations. Most expected progressive changes after the war and were disappointed and frustrated by the resurgence of KKK activity and overall reactionary backlash that swept white Amerika. Large numbers turned to the new Communist Party looking for direction.
LONG LIVE THE MEMORY OF THE
AFRICAN BLOOD BROTHERHOOD!