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16 The Sixth Congress and the ‘Negro Question’

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Chapter Summary

The Sixth Congress was a turning point in the Communist approach to the 'Negro Question'. A resolution passed after the Congress established that the American black population was an oppressed nation with the right to self-determination, up to independence from the US. The Congress and its aftermath was also a turning point in the factionalism racking the party; this factionalism was not about black oppression, the Negro question became intertwined with the struggle for control of the party. Most black Communists supported the Ruthenberg-Lovestone faction. After the 1925 convention, the Ruthenberg faction's claim to be more loyal to the Comintern must have played a role, since as William J. Maxwell has argued, 'indigenous black interests were sometimes better represented in Comintern directives than in U.S. Communism at its most national'. John Pepper's role as the chairman of the first Comintern Negro Commission in 1925, buttressed their faction's credentials as well.

Keywords: John Pepper; Negro Commission; Negro question; Sixth Congress; U.S. Communism



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