Marxism and the Negro Problem by W.E.B. Du Bois

9 September 2016

Africa American History II Precis – Chapter 21 Marxism and the Negro Problem by W. E. B. Du Bois In this essay, W. E. B. Du Bois attempts to analyze Marxism and how it might be interpreted and applied as a solution to the problems facing Black people in the United States. Marxism, is basically an economic theory and philosophy that was put forward by Karl Marx in the late 19th century that explains the mechanisms of the system of capitalism as it relates to the different classes of people and the development of history.

Because of the high regard that he had for Marx’s work, and because of the influence that Marx’s ideas and theories had on the French and Russian revolutions, Du Bois believed that perhaps there might be a constructive use and a place for Marxism in the struggles of Black people. In considering Marx as a possible solution, Du Bois analyzes the Marxian concept of the proletariat or laboring class. It is the proletariat, according to Marx, that is exploited by those who own industry and the means of production, what Marx calls the bourgeoisie or the capitalist class.

Marxism and the Negro Problem by W.E.B. Du Bois Essay Example

They do this through the exploitation and devaluation of proletarian labor. In analyzing the proletariat here in the United States, Du Bois found that although Black and White labor do make up an exploited class that occupies the same time and space in the workplace and share similar grievances against capitalist exploitation, the Black worker is also subject to discrimination that is purposely directed at him from his fellow White workers.

Because of this, Du Bois concluded that Black and White labor do not comprise a unified proletariat and that in fact, Blacks make up a separate and more exploited class of laborer and therefore a true proletariat, while White workers, in an attempt to escape into the wealthy class, have developed into a working aristocracy or petty bourgeoisie class of managers and employers of labor, a sort of buffer class, who attach their interests to the capitalist class and have become antagonistic to their former fellow Black laborer.

This buffer class of working aristocracy reinforces it’s position and protects the interests of the capitalists through use of discrimination, violence and the threat of direct violence to Non-White workers. It is this conflict of interests that keeps socialism from being a viable force for social and political change in the United States. In analyzing the problem Du Bois maintains a scientific outlook, free from emotional content and favoritism. To this degree, he demonstrates that Black people in America play a minor role in their own exploitation by their attempts to join in the game of capitalism.

Yet, for the most part, they are limited in their efforts and consigned even then to a lesser petty bourgeois status. This, again, is due to the racial aspect of class that has been introduced and become a fixed part the game of capitalism. As such Du Bois concludes that the interests of the Black proletarian class and the Black petite bourgeoisie are aligned due to the commonality of racist subjugation and oppression at the hands of the White labor aristocracy, whose interests are aligned with capitalism.

In addition, he concludes that since this is the case, there can be no Marxian revolution based upon the principle of a united class-conscious proletariat, and that in fact, if there is to be one, it will be the Black laborers who will be the vanguard of it. In coming to this conclusion, Du Bois is making a radical adaptation to accepted Marxist philosophy, yet demonstrating a comprehension of the application of the dialectical materialist concept, related to time, place and circumstance, that Marxism was founded upon. African American Political Thought, 1890-1930: Washington, Du Bois, Garvey, and Randolph edited by Cary D. Wintz

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