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The White War and the Colored Races.
[The following article was written in 1918 when the Great War still raged. It was written for a certain well known radical magazine; but was found to be "too radical” for publication at that time. It is given now to the Negro public partly because the underlying explanation which it offers of the root-cause of the war has not yet received treatment (even among socialistic radicals) and partly because recent events in China, India, Africa and the United States have proved the accuracy of its forecasts.]
The Nineteenth Christian Century saw the international expansion of capitalism—the economic system of the white peoples of Western Europe and America-and its establishment by force and fraud over the lands of the colored races, black and brown and yellow. The opening years of the Twentieth Century present us with the sorry spectacle of these same white nations cutting each other's throats to determine which of them shall enjoy the property which has been acquired. For this is the real sum and substance of the original "war aims” of the belligerents; although in conformity with Christian cunning, this is one which is never frankly avowed. Instead, we are fed with the information that they are fighting for "Kultur" and "on behalf of small nationalities.” Let us look carefully at this camouflage.
THE SHAM OF “DEMOCRACY." In the first place, we in America need not leave our own land to seek reasons for suspecting the sincerity of democratic professions. While we are waging war to establish democracy three thousand miles away, millions of Negroes are disfranchised in our own land by the "cracker" democracies of the Southern States which are more intent upon making slaves of their
black fellow - citizens than upon rescuing the French and Belgians from the similar brutalities of the German Junkers. The horrible holocaust of East St. Louis was possible only in three modern States—Russia of the Romanoffs, Turkey and the United States—and it ill becomes any one of them to point a critical finger at the others.
But East St. Louis was simply the climax of a long series of butcheries perpertrated on defenseless Negroes which has made the murder rate of Christian America higher than that of heathen Africa and of every other civilized land. And, although our government can order the execution of thirteen Negro soldiers for resenting the wholesale insults to the uniform of the United States and defending their lives from civilian aggressors, not one of the murderers of black men, women and children has been executed or even ferreted out. Nor has our war Congress seen fit as yet to make lynching a Federal crime. What wonder that the Negro masses are insisting that before they can be expected to enthuse over the vague formula of making the world “safe for democracy” they must receive some assurance that their corner of the world—the South-shall first be made "safe for democracy!" Who knows but that perhaps the situation and treatment of the American Negro by our own government and people may have kept the Central Powers from believing that we meant to fight for democracy in Europe, and caused them to persist in a course which has driven us
nto this war in which we must spend billions of treasure and rivers of blood.
It should seem, then, that “democracy,” like “Kultur," is more valuable as a battle-cry than as a real belief to be practised by those who profess it. And the plea of “small nationalities” is estopped by three facts: Ireland, Greece and Egypt, whose Khedive, Abbas Hilmi, was tumbled off his throne for failing to enthuse over the claims of "civilization” as expounded by Lord Grey.
SIR HARRY JOHNSTON SPEAKS. But this is merely disproof. The average American citizen needs some positive proof of the assertion that this war is being waged to determine who shall dictate the destinies of the darker peoples and enjoy the usufruct of their labor and their lands. For the average American citizen is blandly ignorant of the major facts of history and has to be told. For his benefit I present the following statement from Sir Harry Johnston, in “The Sphere” of London. Sir Harry Johnston is the foremost English authority on Africa and is in a position to know something of imperial aims.
"Rightly governed, I venture to predict that Africa will, if we are victorious, repay us and all our allies the cost of our struggle with Germany and Austria. The war, deny it who may, was really fought over African questions. The Germans wished, as the chief gain of victory, to wrest rich Morocco from French control, to take the French Congo from France, and the Portuguese Congo from Portugal, to secure from Belgium the richest and most extensive tract of alluvial goldfield as yet discovered. This is an auriferous region which, properly developed, will, when war is over, repay the hardest hit of our allies (France) all that she has lost from the German devastation of her home lands. The mineral wealth of trans-Zambezian Africa—freed forever, we will hope, from the German menacemis gigantic; only slightly exploited so far. Wealth is hidden amid the seemingly unprofitable deserts of the Sahara, Nubia, Somaliland and Namaqua. Africa, I predict, will eventually show itself to be the most richly endowed of all the continents in valuable vegetable and mineral substances."
There is the sum and substance of what Schopenhauer would have called “the sufficient reason” for this war. No word of “democracy" there, but instead the easy assumption that, as a matter of course, the lands of black Africa belong to white Europe and must be apportioned on the good old principle :
.. the simple plan,
And he must keep who can.”
THE ECONOMICS OF WAR. It is the same economic motive that has been back of every modern war since the merchant and trading classes secured control of the powers of the modern state from the battle of Plassy to the present world war. This is the natural and inevitable effect of the capitalist system, of what (for want of a worse name) we call “Christendom." For that system is based upon the wage relationship between those who own and those who operate the gigantic forces of land and machinery. Under this
system no capitalist employs a worker for two dollars a day unless that worker creates more than two dollars' worth of wealth for him. Only out of this surplus can profits come. If ten million workers should thus create one hundred million dollars' worth of wealth each day and get twenty or fifty millions in wages, it is obvious that they can expend only what they have received, and that, therefore, every nation whose industrial system is organized on a capitalist basis must produce a mass of surplus products over and above, not the need, but the purchasing power of the nation's producers. Before these products can return to their owners as profits they must be sold somewhere. Hence the need for foreign markets, for fields of exploitation and “spheres of influence" in "undeveloped” countries whose virgin resources are exploited in their turn after the capitalist fashion. But, since every industrial nation is seeking the same outlet for its products, clashes are inevitable and in these clashes beaks and claws-armies and navies -must come into play. Hence beaks and claws must be provided beforehand against the day of conflict, and hence the exploitation of white men in Europe and America becomes the reason for the exploitation of black and brown and yellow men in Africa and Asia. And, therefore, it is hypocritical and absurd to pretend that the capitalist nations can ever intend to abolish wars. For, as long as black men are exploited by white men in Africa, so long must white men cut each other's throats over that exploitation. And thus, the selfish and ignorant white worker's destiny is determined by the hundreds of millions of those whom he calls “niggers.” “The strong too often think that they have a mortgage upon the weak; but in the domain of morals it is the other way."
THE COLOR LINE. But economic motives have always their social side; and this exploitation of the lands and labor of colored folk expresses itself in the social theory of white domination; the theory that the worst human stocks of Montmartre, Seven Dials and the Bowery are superior to the best human stocks of Rajputana or Khartoum. And when these colored folk who make up the overwhelming majority of this world demand decent treatment for themselves, the proponents of this theory accuse them of seeking social equality. For white folk to insist upon the right to manage their own ancestral lands, free from the domination of tyrants, domestic and foreign, is variously described as “democracy” and “self-determination.” For Negroes, Egyptians and Hindus to seek the same thing is impudence. What wonder, then, that the white man's rule is felt by them to rest upon a seething volcano whose slumbering fires are made up of the hundreds of millions of Chinese, Japanese, Hindus and Africans ! Truly has it been said that “the problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the Color Line.” And wars are not likely to end; in fact, they are likely to be wider and more terrible—so long as this theory of white domination seeks to hold down the majority of the world's people under the iron heel of racial repression.
Of course, no sane person will deny that the white race is, at present, the superior race of the world. I use the word "superior" in no cloudy, metaphysical sense, but simply to mean that they are on top and their will goes—at present. Consider this fact as the pivotal fact of the war. Then, in the light of it, consider what is happening in Europe today. The white race is superiorits will goes-because it has invented and amassed greater means for the subjugation of nature and of man than any other race. It is the top dog by virtue of its soldiers, guns, ships, money, resources and brains. Yet there in Europe it is delibertaely burning up, consuming and destroying these very soldiers, guns, ships, money, resources and brains, the very things upon which its supremacy rests. When this war is over, it will be less able to enforce its sovereign will upon the darker races of the worid. Does any one believe that it will be as easy to hold down Egypt and India and Persia after the war as it was before? Hardly.
THE RACIAL RESULTS OF THE WAR. Not only will the white race be depleted in numbers, but its quality, physical and mental, will be considerably lowered for a time. War destroys first the strongest and bravest, the best stocks, the young men who were to father the next generation, The next generation must, consequently, be fathered by the weaker stocks of the race. And thus, in physical stamina and in brain-power, they will be less equal to the task of holding down the darker millions of the world than their fathers were. This was the thought back of Mr. Hearst's objection to our entering the war.
He wanted the United States to stand as the white raće's reserve of man-power when Europe had been bled white.
But what will be the effect of all this upon that colored major