Marcus Garvey’s Words to Negroes Regarding Trade Unions, Communism, and the Like

Atlanta Penitentiary, ca. July 1925
by Marcus Garvey

If I must advise the Negro workingman and laborer, I should warn him against the present brand of Communism or Workers’ Partizanship as taught in America, and to be careful of the traps and pitfalls of white trade unionism, in affiliation with the American Federation of white workers or laborers.
It seems strange and a paradox, but the only convenient friend the Negro worker or laborer has, in America, at the present time, is the white capitalist. The capitalist being selfish–seeking only the largest profit out of labor–is willing and glad to use Negro labor wherever possible on a scale “reasonably” below the standard white union wage. He will tolerate the Negro in any industry (except those that are necessarily guarded for the protection of the whiteman’s material, racial and assumed cultural dominance) if he accepts a lower standard of wage than the white union man; but, if the Negro unionizes himself to the level of the white worker, and, in affiliation with him, the choice and preference of employment is given to the white worker, without any regard or consideration for the Negro.

White Unionism is now trying to rope in the Negro and make him a standard wage worker, then, when it becomes generally known that he demands the same wage as the white worker, an appeal or approach will be made to the white capitalist or employer, to alienate his sympathy or consideration for the Negro, causing him, in the face of all things being equal, to discriminate in favor of the white worker as a race duty and obligation. In this respect the Negro if not careful to play his game well, which must be done through and by his leaders, is between “hell and the powder house.”

The danger of Communism to the Negro, in countries where he forms the minority of the population, is seen in the selfish and vicious attempts of that party or group to use the Negro’s vote and physical numbers in helping to smash and over-throw, by revolution, a system that is injurious to them as the white under dogs, the success of which would put their majority group of race still in power, not only as communists but as whitemen. To me there is no difference between two roses looking alike, and smelling alike, even if some one calls them by different names. Fundamentally what racial difference is there between a white Communist, Republican or Democrat? On the appeal of race interest the Communist is as ready as either to show his racial ascendancy or superiority over the Negro. He will be as quick and eager as any to show the Negro that he is white, and by Divine right of assumption has certain duties to perform to the rest of us mortals, and to defend and protect certain racial ideals against the barbarian hordes that threaten white supremacy.

I am of the opinion that the group of whites from whom Communists are made, in America, as well as trade unionists and members of the Worker’s party, is more dangerous to the Negro’s welfare than any other group at present. Lynching mobs and wild time parties are generally made up of 99 ½ percent of such white people. The Negro should keep shy of Communism or the Worker’s party in America. Since they are so benevolent let them bring about their own reforms and show us how different they are to others. We have been bitten too many times by all the other parties–“Once bitten, twice shy”-Negroes have no right with white people’s fights or quarrels, except, like the humble, hungry, meagre dog, to run off with the bone when both contestants drop it, being sure to separate himself from the big, well fed dogs, by a good distance, otherwise to be overtaken, and then completely outdone. If the Negro takes my advice he will organize by himself and always keep his scale of wage a little lower than the whites until he is able to become, through proper leadership, his own employer; by so doing he will keep the good will of the white employer and live a little longer under the present of things. If not, between Communism, white trade unionism and worker’s parties he is doomed in the next 25, 50 or 100 years to complete and general extermination.

The Negro needs to be saved from his (?) “Friends,” and beware of “Greeks bearing gifts.” The greatest enemies of the Negro are among those hypocritically profess love and fellowship for him, when, in truth, and down in their hearts, they despise and hate him. Pseudo-philanthropists their organizations are killing the Negro. White men and women of the Storey, Joel Spingarn, Julius Rosenwald, Oswald Garrison Villard, Congressman Dyer and Mary White Ovington type, in conjunction with the above mentioned agencies, are disarming, dis-visioning, dis-ambitioning and fooling the Negro to death. They teach the Negro to look to the whites in a false direction. They, by their practices are endeavoring to hold the Negroes check, as a possible dangerous minority group, and yet point them to the impossible dream of equality that shall never materialize, as they well know, and never intended; at the same time distracting the Negro from the real solution objective of securing nationalism. By thus decoying and deceiving the Negro and side-tracking his real objective, they hope to gain time against him in allowing others of their race to perfect the plan by which the blacks are completely destroyed as a competitive permanent part of white majority civilization and culture. They have succeeded in enslaving the ignorance of group of so-called “Negro intellectuals” whom they use as agents to rope in the unsuspicious colored or Negro people. They have become resentful bitter toward the Ku Klux Klan, and use the influence of their controlled newspaper (white and colored) to fight them, not because they so much hate the Klan, where the Negro is concerned, but because the Klan, through an honest expression of the whiteman’s attitude toward the Negro, prepares to him himself.

This hypocritical group of whites, like Spingarn and Storey, have succeeded an earlier group that fooled the Negro during the days of Reconstruction. Instead of pointing the Negro to Africa, as Jefferson and Lincoln did, they sought to revenge him, for the new liberty given him, by imprisoning him in the whiteman’s civilization; to further rob his labor, and exploit his ignorance, until he is subsequently ground to death by a newly developed superior white civilization. The plot of these Negro baiters is wretched to contemplate, hence their hatred of me and their influence to crush me in my attempt to save the black race.

Between the Ku Klux Klan and the Morefield Storey National Association for the Advancement of “Colored” People group, give me the Klan for their honesty of purpose towards the Negro. They are better friends to my race, for telling us what they are, and what they mean, thereby giving us a chance to stir for ourselves, than all the hypocrites put together with their false gods and religions, notwithstanding. Religions that they preach and will not practice; a God they talk about, whom they abuse every day–away with the farce, hypocrisy and lie. It smells, it stinks to high heaven. I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon Clubs and White America Societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together. I like honesty and fair play. You may call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every whiteman is a Klansman, as far as the Negro in competition with whites socially, economically and politically is concerned, and there is no use lying about it.

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