[Photo: American exiled civil rights leader Robert F. Williams in China with Mao Tse-tung.]
Introduction by Steven Argue of the Revolutionary Tendency:
Robert F. Williams, a civil rights leader and advocate of Black armed self-defense, was forced to flee the United States for Cuba and then later also moved to the People's Republic of China. The writings of Robert F. Williams, including "Negroes With Guns" and his Cuban sponsored radio broadcasts into the semi-fascist American south in his program called "Radio Free Dixie" played a far greater role in the abolition of Jim Crow segregation than most people know. The following is a statement on the question of Black liberation issued by Mao Tse-tung on behalf of the struggle for Black liberation in the United States requested from Mao by Robert F. Williams. While I think Mao makes a few mistakes in this statement, and I am a Trotskyist and not a Maoist, I also think that this is an important piece of history most people don't know about that is worth sharing. This piece is available on the Marxist Internet Archive. I provide a link at the end of Mao's piece to that site as well as a link to a piece I wrote on police murders with impunity in the United States that includes a discussion of the importance of Robert F. Williams.
Regarding Mao. Imperialist propagandists falsely portray him as a mass murderer and a devil. All leaders of real revolutions are seen this way by the imperialists, and they lie. Yet, while Mao helped free a large portion of humanity from capitalism and imperialism, Mao was also guilty of terrible crimes.
Mao led a socialist revolution to power that was, and remains, one of the most important socialist revolutions in world history. That revolution doubled life expectancy in China during Mao's rule, brought rapid economic advancements and job creation with a socialist planned economy, brought big gains in women's rights, brought a near total eradication of rampant illiteracy, brought a sweeping land reform, brought an abolition of chattel slavery in the most backward regions like Tibet, brought a separation of religion and state in the most backward regions like Tibet, brought the abolition of feudalism in the most backward regions like Tibet, brought the overthrow of capitalism and the beginning of rapid development for a poverty stricken and underdeveloped country, brought true independence from the sphere of U.S. neo-colonial control, and brought direct support to the Korean Revolution as the Korean people faced brutal imperialist attack in the so-called "Korean War" where the U.S. imperialists murdered 5 million Koreans.
Yet, Mao also carried out terrible betrayals. These included unforgivable repression against Trotskyists who stood to the left of him on some important issues. Mao arrested all known Trotskyists and their friends and families upon coming to power. Some were never seen again. Others were released upon Mao's death in 1976. Mao also unforgivably ganged up with the United States against the USSR as a conservative means of gaining trade with capitalist countries and building socialism in one country as opposed to the Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist program of revolutionary proletarian internationalism. In addition, Mao oppressed homosexuals as part of Stalin's program as opposed to Lenin and Trotsky's that abolished all laws against homosexuality after the Russian Revolution. In regards to medicine, Mao greatly hurt people's health by giving state backing to Traditional Chinese Medicine as opposed to a program for providing scientific medicine for all.
Despite these errors, the 1949 Chinese Revolution was an important step forward for humanity.
Statement Supporting the American Negroes In Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism
(August 8, 1963) Mao Tse-tung [Note: We reprint this statement in commemoration of the third anniversary of the day Chairman Mao made it. —Peking Review Ed.]
An American Negro leader now taking refuge in Cuba, Mr. Robert Williams, the former President of the Monroe, North Carolina, Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, has twice this year asked me for a statement in support of the American Negroes’ struggle against racial discrimination. On behalf of the Chinese people, I wish to take this opportunity to express our resolute support for the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination and for freedom and equal rights.
There are more than 19 million Negroes in the United States, or about 11 per cent of the total population. They are enslaved, oppressed and discriminated against — such is their position in society. The overwhelming majority are deprived of their right to vote. In general, only the most backbreaking and despised jobs are open to them. Their average wages are barely a third or a half those of the white people. The proportion of unemployment among the Negroes is the highest. In many states they are forbidden to go to the same school, eat at the same table, or travel in the same section of a bus or train as the white people. Negroes are often arrested, beaten up or murdered at will by the U.S. authorities at various levels and by members of the Ku Klux Klan and other racists. About half the American Negroes are concentrated in eleven southern states, where the discrimination and persecution they suffer are especially shocking.
The American Negroes are awakening and their resistance is growing stronger and stronger. Recent years have witnessed a continuous expansion of their mass struggle against racial discrimination and for freedom and equal rights.
In 1957 the Negro people in Little Rock, Arkansas, waged a fierce struggle against the barring of their children from public schools. The authorities used armed force against them, creating the Little Rock incident which shocked the world.
In 1960 Negroes in more than twenty states held “sit-in” demonstrations protesting against racial segregation in local restaurants, shops and other public places.
In 1961 the Negroes launched the “freedom riders” campaign to oppose racial segregation in public transportation, a campaign which rapidly spread to many states.
In 1962 the Negroes in Mississippi fought for the equal right to enroll in colleges and met with bloody suppression by the authorities.
This year, the American Negroes-started their struggle early in April in Birmingham, Alabama. Unarmed and bare-handed Negro people were arrested en masse and most barbarously suppressed merely for holding meetings and parades against racial discrimination. On June 12 Mr. Medgar Evers, a leader of the Negro people in Mississippi, was murdered in cold blood. Defying brutality and violence, the indignant Negro masses waged their struggle even more heroically and quickly won the support of Negroes and other people of various strata throughout the United States. A gigantic and vigorous nationwide struggle is going on in nearly every city and state, and the struggle is mounting. American Negro organizations have decided to start a “freedom march” on Washington on August 28, in which 250,000 people will take part.
The speedy development of the struggle of the American Negroes is a manifestation of sharpening class struggle and sharpening national struggle within the United States; it has been causing increasing anxiety among U.S. ruling circles. The Kennedy Administration is insidiously using dual tactics. On the one hand, it continues to connive at and take part in discrimination against Negroes and their persecution, and it even sends troops to suppress them. On the other hand, in the attempt to numb the fighting will of the Negro people and deceive the masses of the country, the Kennedy Administration is parading as an advocate of “the defence of human rights” and “the protection of the civil rights of Negroes,” calling upon the Negro people to exercise “restraint” and proposing the “civil rights legislation” to Congress. But more and more Negroes are seeing through these tactics of the Kennedy Administration. The fascist atrocities of the U.S. imperialists against the Negro people have exposed the true nature of so-called American democracy and freedom and revealed the inner link between the reactionary policies pursued by the U.S. Government at home and its policies of aggression abroad.
I call on the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie and other enlightened persons of all colours in the world, whether white, black, yellow or brown, to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practised by U.S. imperialism and support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles who oppress the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists headed by the United Slates, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are oppressing, committing aggression against and menacing the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. We are in the majority and they are in the minority. At most, they make up less than 10 per cent of the 3,000 million population of the world. I am firmly convinced that, with the support of more than 90 per cent of the people of the world, the American Negroes will be victorious in their just struggle. The evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes, and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the black people.
This Statement is on Marxist Internet Archive