National Hatred: A Capitalist Weapon
“Here the Negro is used instead of machinery, instead of everything else, in fact. He takes the place of the machine, the motor-lorry, the crane. And were it only possible, he would be used instead of explosives, too !
“The Negroes died like flies. Of the 8,000 that came to Batignaloes only 5,000 were soon left, and then 4,000, and later 1,700. New recruits had to take their places. . . .
“We started to hunt the Negroes. Our men caught them as best they could with the help of lassoes, etc. We put ‘collars’ on them, as they are called here. . . . The death rate increased. . . . ‘We must reckon with a loss of six or eight thousand people,’ said Governor General Antonette, ‘or give up the railway.’ But the number of victims was greater. To-day it already exceeds 17,000, and there is still about 200 miles to go! . . . We are woodcutters in the human forest.” (Quoted in George Padmore’s “Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers.”)
Again we venture to say that if French capitalist schemes of aggression were threatening British capitalist interests to-day, such stories as the above about the French (and many others like them) would be plastered on the front pages of the dailies, with the juiciest of headlines.
Racial hatreds have been of great service to the capitalist classes of America. Both in Latin America (Brazil, Cuba and Colombia) and in the United States, the idea is carefully nurtured among “white” workers that the “black” is his enemy. Here we have the capitalists importing negroes to work in their concerns because they can force them to accept low wages, and then doing all in their power to rouse white against black so as to prevent them from joining forces.
Incidentally, the same thing happened here last century. Irishmen were brought to England to work at cheap rates and then the capitalist played off the Irish and English Workers, one against the other. About this, Marx wrote in 1869: —
“The English bourgeoisie has not only exploited Irish poverty in order to worsen the condition of the working class in England, by the forced transplantation of poor Irish peasants, but it has, moreover, divided the proletariat into hostile camps. . . . The average English worker hates the Irish as a competitor who lowers his wages and level of living. He feels national and religious antagonism towards him. . . . This antagonism between the proletarians of England is artificially cultivated and maintained by the bourgeoisie. It knows that in this antagonism lies the real secret of maintaining its power” (Italics are Marx’s.)
George Padmore, in his “Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers,” has much to say about the methods used by the capitalist class of the United States to cause black and white workers to hate each other. He says (p. 62) that “some of the most active agents of the Oppressors are the preachers, who go round the countryside stirring up racial hatred and mob law against the Negroes.” He tells, too, how after the lynching of two Negroes, Shipp and Smith, at Marion, Indiana, pictures of their charred bodies were sold in the shops of the city of Terre Haute. “Over 3,256 Negro farmers and workers have met their death at the hands of white lynching mobs between 1885 and 1930” (p. 50).
With regard to Latin America, Padmore has noticed happening there what Marx observed in England. He writes: “The national bourgeoisie and the Yankee imperialists . . . consciously foster the feeling of national chauvinism and race prejudice among the native Negro and white workers against the Negroes from Haiti and Jamaica. Cases are not rare when these foreign black slaves become the victims of most brutal chauvinistic persecution on the part of the native workers themselves, who are made to believe that by doing so they are defending their own economic interests.
“With respect to wages, both the native and foreign Negroes always receive less wages for the same amount of work as the white workers, while the imported blacks get even less than the native Negroes. Through this method of wage discrimination the imperialists and the native capitalists are able to split up the class interest of the workers into different parts and play one off against the other.”
The fact that the agents of capitalism are able to stir up workers of one country against another is proof of the immaturity of the working class. It is a proof that up to now the workers are without a true understanding of their position in capitalist society. They are still ready to consider their own interests identical with those of their master class.