From: South Africa's Radical Tradition, a documentary history, Volume One 1907 - 1950, by Allison Drew

Document 42 - Leon Trotsky, "Closer to the Proletarians of the Colored' Races!", The Militant, 2 July 1932

                                                                                                                                      Prinkipo, June 13, 1932

To the International Secretariat:

Copy to the National Committee of the American League:

I have received a copy of the letter of an organization of Negro comrades from Johannesburg, dated April 26. This letter, it seems to me, has a tremendous symptomatic significance. The Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninists) can and should become the banner for the most oppressed sections of the world proletariat, consequently, in the first place, for the Negro workers. Upon what do I base such an assumption?

The Left Opposition represents at present the most consistent and the most revolutionary current in the world. Its sharply critical relations to all and every form of bureaucratic conceit in the labor movement makes it possible for it to pay particular attention to the voice of the most oppressed sections of the working class and toilers in general.

The Left Opposition has to suffer the blows not only of all the bourgeois govemments of the world, but also of the Stalinist apparatus. This fact, which, in spite of all the slanders, enters gradually into the consciousness of the masses, will have to attract towards the Left Opposition the sympathies ofthe most oppressed sections ofthe intemational workingclass more and more. From this point of view, the letter to us from the South African comrades appears to be not at all accidental, but deeply symptomatic. In their letter, bearing 24 signatures 6 (it further follows: "and others") the South African comrades expressed particular interest in the questions of the Chinese Revolution. This interest should be recognized as fully grounded. Precisely the working masses of the oppressed peoples who have to carry on the struggle for the elementary national rights and for human dignity, stand the greatest risk to suffer from the confused teachings of the Stalinist bureaucracy on the subject of the "democratic dictatorship." Under this false banner, the policy in the style of the Kuo Min Tang, that is, the complete deception and the unpunished crushing of the toiling massesby their own "national" bourgeoisie, may still do the greatest harm to the cause of liberating the toilers.7 The program of the permanent revolution based on the incontestable historic experience of a number of countries may and should assume the leading significance for the liberation movement of the Negro proletariat.

If the Johannesburg comrades did not as yet have the possibility to acquaint themselves closer with the views of the Left Opposition on all the most important questions, it cannot be an obstacle in getting together with them as closely as possible even today and to help them fraternally to come into the orbit of our program and our tactics.

When ten intellectuals of Paris, Berlin or New York who have been in various organizations, address themselves to us with are quest to be taken into our midst l would give the following advice: Put them through a number of tests on all the questions of program; wet them under the rain, dry them in the sun, and then after a new careful examination accept one or two.

The matter changes basically when ten workers connected with the masses come to us. The difference in our relation to the petty bourgeois and to the proletarian groups doesnot require any explanation. But if the proletarian group works in a district where thereare workers of various races, and in spite of this, it consists only of workers of a privilege in nationality, I am inclined to regard them with suspicion: are we not dealing with the workers aristocracy?8 Isn't the group poisoned by slave holding prejudices acdve or passive'?

It is quite a ditÁ¯erent malter when we are approached by a group of Negro workers. Here I am ready to consider beforehand that we are achieving agreement with them, even though this is not yet obvious; because of their whole position they do not and cannot strive to degrade anybody, oppress anybody, or deprive anybody of his rights. They do not seek privileges and cannot rise to the top except on the road of the international revolution.

We can and we should find a way to the consciousness of the Negro workers, of the Chinese workers, of the Hindoo workers, all these oppressed colored races of the human ocean to whom belongs the decisive word in the development of humanity.

                                                                                                                                                     L. TROTSKY