Africa American History II
Précis – Chapter 21
Marxism and the Negro Problem by W.E.B. Du Bois
In this essay, W.E.B. Du Bois attempts to analyze Marxism and how it might be interpreted and applied as a solution to the problems facing Black people in the United States. Marxism, is basically an economic theory and philosophy that was put forward by Karl Marx in the late 19th century that explains the mechanisms of the system of capitalism as it relates to the different classes of people and the development of history. Because of the high regard that he had for Marx's work, and because of the influence that Marx's ideas and theories had on the French and Russian revolutions, Du Bois believed that perhaps there might be a constructive use and a place for Marxism in the struggles of Black people.
In considering Marx as a possible solution, Du Bois analyzes the Marxian concept of the proletariat or laboring class. It is the proletariat, according to Marx, that is exploited by those who own industry and the means of production, what Marx calls the bourgeoisie or the capitalist class. They do this through the exploitation and devaluation of proletarian labor. In analyzing the proletariat here in the United States, Du Bois found that although Black and White labor do make up an exploited class that occupies the same time and space in the workplace and share similar grievances against capitalist exploitation, the Black worker is also subject to discrimination that is purposely directed at him from his fellow White workers. Because of this, Du Bois concluded that Black and White labor do not comprise a unified proletariat and that in fact, Blacks make up a separate and more exploited class of laborer and therefore a true proletariat, while White workers, in an attempt to escape into the wealthy class, have developed into a working aristocracy or petty bourgeoisie class of managers and employers of labor, a sort of buffer class, who attach their...
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