“Of all the Afro-American figures in the history of American Communism, none was more important in ultimate impact than Harry Haywood” – Encyclopedia of the American Left
Harry Haywood (1898 – 1985) was a member of the Communist Party of the United States, serving on the Central Committee from 1927 to 1938 and on the Politburo from 1931 until 1938. After the CP’s turn towards revisionism Haywood helped to found the New Communist Movement.
He is best known as the main theorist of the African American National Question. Specifically, Haywood developed the theory that African Americans make up an oppressed nation in the Black Belt region of the South where they have the right to self-determination, up to and including the right to independence. Harry Haywood led the CP’s work in the African American national movement for some time, both as the Chair of the CP’s Negro Commission and as the General Secretary of the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, where he was instrumental in organizing the Sharecroppers Union and the Scottsboro defense. He lived for four and half years in the Soviet Union where he helped to author the 1928 and 1930 Comintern Resolutions on the African American National Question. During the Spanish Civil War he served with the international brigades.
Following the CPUSA’s turn toward revisionism in the late 1950s, Harry Haywood turned to the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong for inspiration and guidance. He became a leader of the anti-revisionist New Communist Movement of the 1960s and ’70s, first as a founder of the Provisional Organizing Committee, and then as a leader of the October League / Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist).
His major writings are Negro Liberation (1948), For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question (1958), and Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro American Communist (1978). Importantly, Harry Haywood’s analysis laid the foundation for later Marxist-Leninist theoretical work not only on the African American Nation in the Black Belt, but also on the Chicano Nation in the Southwest.
See also, “The Third International and the Struggle for a Correct Line on the African American National Question” by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
Much thanks to the comrades at the Marxists Internet Archive for picking up this project and helping to make the works of Harry Haywood more accessable to a new generation of communists! Check out the Harry Haywood Internet Archive at marxists.org!
Selected Writings of Harry Haywood:
The key question involved in projecting a solution for the Negro question is the universal problem of reform or revolution… While we Communists fight for every possible democratic demand of the Negro people, and welcome all advances made, we have pointed out that the Negro question is at bottom the question of an oppressed nation in the South and a national minority in the North. Therefore, the Negro question can only be solved on the basis of a revolutionary change in the Deep South. This difference is fundamental.
“For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question”
Maps of the Black Belt, African American national homeland:
1861 slave population density
Data from 1890
1990 census data
Persistent Poverty 1970-2000