Adolph L. Reed Jr. : W.E.B. Du Bois and American Politics

Extrait du livre d’Adolph L. Reed Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois and American Politics: Fabianism and the Color Line, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 71-89

Three Confusions about Du Bois
Interracialism, Pan-Africanism, Socialism

DU BOIS’S PROMINENCE in this century’s Afro-American political life is widely recognized. Yet attempts to categorize him with respect to the various strategic and ideological programs constitutive of black political debate have yielded an uncommonly confusing picture. The confusion about locating Du Bois programmatically has two sources. The first is quite simple: Du Bois lived and acted through several discrete social and political situations that seemed to him to require different strategic responses for the race. Sometimes, especially when sundered from the situations to which they were responses, the strategies that he proposed appear to contradict one another. Analysts, then, have chosen and defended one or another set of strategies or one or another period as authentically Du Boisian. This is a problem of temporal or contextual focus.

The other source of confusion has to do with conceptual focus. If examination is restricted to Du Bois’s various racial strategies, which were usually the central concerns of his writing, analysis will record a melange of discrete political positions, but will gloss the normative and conceptual logic that organized his worldview.

As I indicated in chapter 1, inattentiveness toward those social-theoretical foundations of political discourse is a major problem in scholarship on Afro-American thought in general.[1] Its role in generating confusion about Du Bois, however, stands out for two key reasons. First, his prominence has increased the likelihood that partisans of all sorts would want to claim him for their various agendas. Second, his unusually clear, self-reflexive intellectual approach makes confused and widely conflicting interpretations seem especially anomalous.

Through examination of Du Bois’s utterances on three political programs with which he is typically associated, I shall argue in this chapter that his pronouncements cohere around certain core assumptions and values that he maintained over the course of his lengthy intellectual career. I examine Du Bois’s views on (1) interracialism as an organizational principle for American society; (2) Pan-Africanism as an interest of the black world; and (3) socialism as a model for social organization in general. My concern here is to establish Du Bois’s actual positions on those issues and to uncover the structuring logic of his thought by locating those positions in relation to one another as well as to the historical and discursive contexts within which they were developed.


Greater interpretive ambiguity surrounds the character of Du Bois’s interracialism than other aspects of his thought. This is so in part because the status of interracialism as a political value was not controversial in the same way for Du Bois and his communicants as it has been among subsequent political theorists and intellectual historians.[2] The search for Du Bois’s position requires extrapolation, often from incidental comments scattered over several decades and situations. When the broad range of possibly germane utterances is combined with the intentionality of the analysts, it is not surprising that conflicting, if not incompatible, interpretations occur.

Howard Brotz, for example, describes Du Bois as a « cultural nationalist. »[3] Harold Cruse identifies him, although with qualifications, as a principal member of the integrationist tendency in the history of Afro-American thought.[4] Sterling Stuckey claims that Du Bois advocated nationalism even in the face of the latter’s explicit disclaimer.[5] And Vincent Harding proposes that Du Bois should be seen as an anticipation of both radical nationalism and radical anticolonialism, as well as militant integrationism.[6] Moreover, each of these assessments is or could be derived directly from statements made by Du Bois. Yet consideration of certain contextual and intentional mediations on Du Bois’s thinking allows an interpretation that integrates those discrete stances that have provided the basis for the varied and conflicting assessments of his position on this issue. These mediations are as follows: (1) his dual commitments to race pride and the heuristic of « racial group idealism » on the one side and the Victorian outlook that values « progress, » defined as increasingly unitary, rational organization, on the other; (2) his commitment to the hegemony of the black elite within the Afro-American population; (3) his growing perception, influenced by the Depression and his reassessment of the sources of racism, of a need for the development of a self-help program within the race; and (4) his experiences within the NAACP.

Du Bois’s pride in race coexisted with his enthusiasm at participating at the forefront of modern (European) culture and values; he could equally deprecate spontaneous Afro-American behavior and exalt black behavior and values and decry the bankruptcy of the European heritage. The dissonant ring to his ambivalent race pride to some extent is a function of his bombastic literary style; but the oft-mentioned phenomenon of his « two-ness » or « double consciousness, » which I consider at greater length in chapter 7, is an expression of his antinomical commitment to what he perceived to be the Dionysian attractions of black culture and the Apollonian virtues of Euro-American civilization. Writing during the Harlem Renaissance, for example, his references to black folklife, both in Africa and in the United States, emphasized what he considered its primitive aspects. He lauded blacks’ « sensuous, tropical love of life, in vivid contrast to the cool and cautious New England reason. »[7] « The Negro, » he proclaimed, « is primarily an artist. »[8] However, this racial characteristic did not imply for Du Bois, as it did for many who extolled black spirituality, that the race required external tutelage to prepare it for modern civilization.

He asserted very early a conviction that Afro-Americans best handle Afro-American affairs. About this he was insistent, even in the early 1900s, as he advocated formation of a coalition of the best men of black and white races to attempt rationally to reorganize life in the South.[9] Du Bois’s insistence on Afro-American primacy in determination and pursuit of Afro-American interests — regardless how elementally reasonable and appropriate that position was — also resonates with his intentions concerning the role of the elite within the Afro-American population. If the group is to speak for itself, still not everyone can speak at once —especially not if a single, collective agenda is to be fashioned. Cacophony could be avoided by allowing the race’s « natural leaders » to rise. In an early call for unity and protest, Du Bois observed in 1903:

Here is the path out of the economic situation and here is the imperative demand for trained Negro leaders of character and intelligence — men of skill, men of light and leading, college-bred men, black captains of industry, and missionaries of culture; men who thoroughly comprehend and know modern civilization, and can take hold of Negro communities and raise and train them by force of precept and example, deep sympathy, and the inspiration of common blood and ideals.[10]

As he noted in his Philadelphia study, blacks’ developmental needs actually would have been best served in his view by a dictatorship of the elite; however, because the race had been thrust prematurely into interaction with the more advanced society and democratic institutions, the incubative stage of elite dictatorship was blocked.[11] Nevertheless, the historical mission of the elite stratum included demonstrating « the ability of the Negro to assimilate American culture. »[12] In this sense, Du Bois’s view of the collective racial interest in the black community’s generation of its own spokesmen at least coincided with the hegemonic interest of the elite. However, although this position acknowledges a need for intraracial organization that at least in principle qualifies opposition to separation, it was not until the Depression that Du Bois sought to work out a program that accepted segregation as given. However, this program was not so much a radical departure from his previous views; his emphasis may only have stood out more because protest against Jim Crow had become overwhelmingly consensual as the organizing imperative of black politics.

He had begun developing his program of cultural-economic nationalism in the 1920s. The foundation of this program was advocacy of racially based cooperative economics. Cooperativist racial economics long had held an attraction for Du Bois. Both as an economic practicality and as a model for economic democracy, the cooperative recommended itself to him.[13] After World War I, though, Du Bois credited two realizations with gradually pushing the consumer-cooperative organization idea to prominence. In the postwar environment he felt that the slogans of political democracy developed a hollow ring; the pressing problems were then economic rather than political « in an oligarchic world. »[14] Thus was he prepared to emphasize a strategy of economic organization. Although he had little support from the NAACP, by 1930 Du Bois was convinced that the organization needed to adjust its program to meet needs generated by « economic dislocation. »[15] Simultaneously, he came to appreciate the extent to which deep-seated complexes and subrational behaviors shape public attitudes.[16] From this perspective he decided, as he reflected in 1940, that the « present attitude and action of the white world is not based solely upon rational, deliberate intent. It is a matter of conditioned reflexes; of long followed habits, customs and folkways; of subconscious trains of reasoning and unconscious nervous reflexes. To attack and better all this calls for more than appeal and argument. It needs carefully planned and scientific propaganda. »[17]

What this meant, in his view, was that there needed to be a shift of emphasis in black uplift activity. Previously, when Du Bois had assumed rational motivations to explain racial prejudice and exclusion, the focus of his activism was directed toward education and changing whites’ attitudes. Once he determined that the bases of much racial prejudice are nonrational, his stress moved away from education and propaganda among whites—which had not by any means been Du Bois’s only previous concern anyway—to what he identified as his post-1928 strategy; that is, « [scientific investigation and organized action among Negroes, in close cooperation, to secure the survival of the Negro race, until the cultural development of America and the world is willing to recognize Negro freedom. »[18]

In the meantime, in Du Bois’s view, simple good judgment called for fortifying such black institutions as existed behind the walls of segregation. That practical viewpoint at times forced him into conflict with doctrinal foes of segregation, as when he supported the chartering of Cheyney State College in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, as a black school. Du Bois made clear that, although he opposed segregation as a principle, when confronted with the choice between a black school and no school, the black school would have to be supported. Indeed, when faced with already segregated institutions, he was left with a « paradox »: « We must oppose segregation in schools; we must honor and appreciate the colored teacher in the colored school… We recognize one thing worse than segregation and that is ignorance. »[19] The consumer-cooperative organization strategy, however, was not only defensive; the consumer movement could develop into a powerful vehicle for social transformation as well. He maintained, « The consuming public, who should also be the real working producers of the world, must resume its logical and rightful place as the final directing force in industry. This can be done without violence or revolution. »[20] Consumer groups then would be able to take over production, filling their own needs, breaking the chain of external dependence, and installing industrial democracy.[21] Nor was the consumer model restricted to the United States; Du Bois explored its possibilities for « freeing thought and action in the colonial areas. »[22]

The consumer-cooperative organization strategy never really took off; in part its failure recalls a tragic aspect of political thought. As other than ideology for group mobilization, the strategy likely was too late when proposed. A « new industrial democracy established on a firm basis of individual knowledge and initiative built up to contest the occupation of the industrial field with the present individualists, monopolists, high-binders, and free-booters »[23] probably faced overwhelmingly bad odds in 1939. However, as a mobilization ideology, the consumer-cooperative organization that Du Bois advocated also resonated with the legitimation needs of the Afro-American elite as Du Bois saw them. He indicated that the program was designed, among other things, to answer the following question: « Can ten million Negroes, led by cultured classes numbering less than a million, achieve efficient and voluntary democracy without force, without police power, without the domination of wealth and capital? »[24]

Du Bois was concerned, however, about the black elite’s readiness to shoulder its group responsibility in what he saw as a « long siege against the strongholds of color caste. »[25] He expressed the basis for his concern:

The upper class Negro has almost never been nationalistic. He has never planned or thought of a Negro state or a Negro church or a Negro school. This solution has always been a thought up-surging from the mass, because of pressure which they could not withstand and which compelled a racial institution or chaos. Continually such institutions were founded and developed, but this took place against the advice and best thought of the intelligentsia.[26]

He reminded them, however:

When the NAACP was formed, the great mass of Negro children were being trained in Negro schools; the great mass of Negro churchgoers were members of Negro churches; the great mass of Negro citizens lived in Negro neighborhoods; the great mass of Negro voters voted with the same political party; and the mass of Negroes joined with Negroes and cooperated with Negroes in order to fight the extension of this segregation and to move toward better conditions. What was true in 1910 was still true in 1940 and will be true in 1970. But with this vast difference: that the segregated Negro institutions are better organized, more intelligently planned and more efficiently conducted, and today form in themselves the best and most compelling argument for the ultimate abolition of the color line.[27]

He continued:

To have started out in this organization with a slogan « no segregation, » would have been impossible. What we did say was no increase in segregation; but even that stand we were unable to maintain. Whenever we found that an increase of segregation was in the interest of the Negro race, naturally we had to advocate it. We had to advocate all sorts of organized movement among Negroes to fight oppression and in the long run end segregation.[28]

Despite the elite’s reluctance, Du Bois was consistent throughout the period of his active commitment to this nationalistic, or race-solidaristic, organizational strategy — roughly through World War II — on the importance of the elite’s role; he was emphatic about the need for « trained » leadership.[29]

Although, as has been noted, he seems always to have been committed
without reservation to black leadership of blacks, his experience with the white-dominated NAACP at least reinforced his disposition toward black self-organization. As his antagonism toward the NAACP’s board grew over the issue of editorial autonomy for the Crisis, Du Bois’s advocacy of the nationalistic program became more and more insistent.[30] Finally, he challenged the NAACP board to acknowledge the utility of segregation as a support for positive black institutions.[31] In the fervor to make his point, he even stooped to endorse black fraternities and sororities as exemplars of the racially useful side of segregation.[32]

Although his nationalistic program was the specific issue that precipitated Du Bois’s departure from the organization, his course had not meshed well for some time with the thrust defined by the white liberals in the NAACP’s leadership. Francis L. Broderick points out that the latter supported none of his post-World War I initiatives, noting that one Republican director even resigned over Du Bois’s support of Robert Marion La Follette in the 1924 presidential election.[33] It is not unlikely that this experience with the apparent incongruence of black and white agendas for black uplift strengthened Du Bois’s resolve for arguing the primacy of intraracial initiative as the appropriate strategy for realization of the ultimate objective of an integrated society.[34]

Du Bois’s fundamental commitment to an interracial world civilization was ideological, and his teleology was one quite common among liberal (and radical) intellectuals of his cohort. He stated his view of this aspect of the trajectory of history emphatically in his critical assessment of Marcus Garvey’s movement. Garvey, Du Bois noted, had failed in part because he did not realize that

« [h]ere is a world that for a thousand years, from the First Crusade to the Great War, had been breaking down the barriers between nations and races in order to build a world-wide economic unity and cultural solidarity. The process has involved slavery, peonage, rape, theft, and extermination, but it is slowly uniting humanity. It is now proposed to turn back and cut out of this world its black eighth or its colored two thirds. Not only is this virtually impossible, but its attempt to-day would certainly involve the white and colored worlds in a death struggle whose issue none can surely foretell. The power of the yellow, black, and brown worlds to-day is the economic dependence of the white world on them, and the power of the white world is its economic technic and organization. The super-diplomacy of race politics tomorrow is to transmute this interdependence into cultural sympathy, spiritual tolerance, and human freedom. Not in segregation, but in closer, larger unity lies interracial peace.[35]

The « nationalism » which Du Bois embraced, therefore, assumed a broader context of genuinely international world unity, at least as an ideal and goal. To some extent his advocacy of organizing behind racial lines was tactical; as I have shown, he saw cultivation of all-black institutions as a necessary concession to the reality of segregation and a necessary element in the struggle against it. Du Bois saw other merits in black-controlled institutions. They could provide prophylaxis against racial humiliation; he observed that « if social contact can be had only at the cost of… racial degradation…, then the Negro race is almost forced to ask for its own teachers and to support its own colleges and universities — or to demand State aid for Jim Crow higher training. »[36] And, although he steadfastly maintained his universalist teleology, he remained pessimistic regarding possibilities for honest interracial interaction in the present, as is indicated in his biting eulogy for Carter G. Woodson. After recounting and praising Woodson’s accomplishments, Du Bois noted: « No white university ever recognized his work; no white scientific society ever honored him. Perhaps this was his greatest reward. »[37]

Yet black-controlled racial institutions were attractive to Du Bois for purely positive reasons as well. He argued that « separation » had fostered for the Negro the rise of « cultured individuals in his own group who were not only able to impart the elements of civilization to others but were able to do it in much more pleasant and more effective ways than most white people. »[38] In this context blacks developed an active preference for being ministered to by their own professionals. Moreover, this dynamic merely brought Afro-Americans into step with the march of world history:

Separation, for the most part, not only ceased to hinder the race from making any cultural advance, but even helped it forward. But forward toward what? Exactly the same thing was happening in Negro America that happened in Germany when she discovered resources within her own soul that made her independent of French culture; the same thing that happened in Ireland when she decided that to be Irish was even more desirable than to be English.[39]

He broke off the analogy dramatically short of a call for an independent Afro-American nation, and — given that this article appeared only a year after his universalistic « Back to Africa » essay — it is unlikely that he would have wanted to endorse such a stance. Instead, Du Bois’s notion of racial particularism was more pluralistic than separatist. In fact, his universalist teleology shared features with the views of Horace Kallen, perhaps the most important early-twentieth-century advocate of cultural pluralism in the United States.[40] As appears most clearly in his proposals for a postcolonial Pan-African unity (see below), Du Bois envisioned movement toward a world rationally and homogeneously administered but constituted of cultural units that would retain their distinctiveness. He differed from Kallen, though, in the extent to which he saw pluralism as subordinate to a transcendent ideal of « civilization. »

David Levering Lewis notes, in an examination of black and Jewish elite responses to Americanization ideology in the early twentieth century, that Du Bois believed that « [e]thnic pride… could be sublimated in the dogma of unexceptionable public conformity to the best ideals and behavior of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) America — the better to guarantee private space for retention of what was most precious in minority culture. »[41] That stance is quite like Kallen’s call for the United States to be reconstituted as a « federal republic, » in which the « common language of the commonwealth, the language of its great tradition, would be English, but each nationality would have for its emotional and involuntary life its own peculiar dialect or speech, its own individual and inevitable esthetic and intellectual forms. »[42] Du Bois, however, because of his teleological evolutionism, stressed the role of universal principles of progress, and, correspondingly, was more inclined than Kallen to sacrifice ethnic particularities on the altar of the cosmopolitan telos.[43]

Du Bois saw the dynamics of race and culture as at the same time pluralistic and evolutionist; although the two perspectives need not conflict, in his case they underwrote an embrace of ideals and rhetoric that were simultaneously relativistic and hierarchical. The common root of these coexisting commitments was his persisting affinity for reform-Darwinist premises in his theory of history.[44] After World War II, when he was seventy-seven years old, he judged the Nazi Holocaust to have been particularly horrendous because of the « cultural accomplishments of [the Jews], the gifts they have made to the civilization of the world. »[45] Contribution to that world civilization was for Du Bois the standard for assessing the worth and significance of various social groups — classes, races, nations. Unlike ideologues of Western supremacy, however, he called for recognizing the value and contributions of « primitive » cultures. However, his own notion of the barometer of civilization was, despite his insistence on construing it as universal and transcendent, very much defined by Western modernity. Not only was his acknowledgment of the virtues of the « primitive » usually betrayed by a rhetoric of condescension; he also never cut himself loose from seeing the world as consisting of « backward » and « advanced » peoples. He allowed that « vast numbers of backward peoples have made notable cultural advance under the colonial regime »[46] even as he advocated a vigorous antiimperialism.

An unreflective acceptance of the self-referential, universalistic claims of European cultural ideology was not unique to Du Bois; as Wilson J. Moses observes, that disposition was ironically common among early black nationalists.[47] In general, that ironic tendency reflects the hegemonic power of the ideologies that have shaped the framework of conventions underlying cultural and political discourse in the West. For Du Bois specifically, the outcome was a perspective which — despite his own relativistic protests — saw the West as bearer of the principle of cultural evolution and thus as a model for the backward peoples. Although he believed that non-Western, Dionysian or primitive peoples could enrich —through their own racial-cultural « messages » — the main lines of progress in world civilization, he never questioned that the trajectory of civilization, as it evolved toward perfection, was leading toward a unitary world dominated by principles of planning and rational administration.[48] His cultural pluralism, therefore, was ultimately subordinate to the universalizing requirements of progress, and the ideal world which he envisaged was harmoniously integrated. The notions of progress and civilization which grounded his teleology — and which were to hold the unified world together — were virtually pure projections of a rhetorical and ideological orientation current among Western intellectuals.[49] Du Bois’s failure to recognize that orientation’s historical partiality and specificity led him to ontologize its categories into a universalistic philosophy of history. To that extent, he succumbed to a precisely Lukacsian false consciousness which gave his cultural relativism an ultimately hollow, defensive ring.


The motif of stepping back into intragroup organization as a step toward realizing universalist objectives also helps to bring into focus the place of Pan-Africanism in Du Bois’s thought.

Pan-Africanism appears in his writing first in relation to his proposals for decolonization in Africa. However, his commitment to Pan-African unity and self-determination was tempered from the outset by his distinction of the blacks who had appropriated the characteristics of « civilization » from those who had not. The former, in his view, should be responsible for the administration and guidance of the latter. In his program for dispensation of former German colonies after World War I, Du Bois acknowledged that the « principle of self-determination… cannot be wholly applied to semi-civilized peoples. » Therefore, he argued, those colonies should have been placed « under the guidance of organized civilization, » with special consideration given to the administrative opinions of the « chiefs and intelligent Negroes among the twelve and one-half million natives of German Africa [and the] twelve million civilized Negroes of the United States. » Direct governance of the colonies, he proposed, should be assumed by an « International Commission [representing] not simply governments, but modern culture — science, commerce, social reform and religious philanthropy. »[50]

This construction of the Pan-African mission reveals in yet another domain Du Bois’s confidence in the capacity of the race’s elite elements to define and realize the interests of the black world. Over at least the period of the first four Pan-African Congresses after World War I, he maintained detailed proposals for disposition of the colonial territories. The general program was directed in essence toward « preparing » African colonial territories for self-determination through gradual, supervised extension of autonomy. This gradual preparation was to include participation in colonial administration by indigenous peoples, as well as West Indian and North American « civilized » and « educated » blacks. Education of the indigenous population was to be extended and with it the franchise, which Du Bois considered the basis of political participation.

The key in the early program goes back to Du Bois’s persisting distinction between the « civilized » and the « uncivilized. » The resolutions of the first Pan-African Congress stated in part:

The natives of Africa must have the right to participate in the Government as far as their development permits in conformity with the principle that the Government exists for the natives, and not the natives for the government. They should be allowed to participate in local and tribal government according to ancient usage, and this participation shall gradually extend, as education and experience proceeds, to the higher offices of State, to the end that, in time Africa be ruled by consent of Africans… Whenever it is proven that any African natives are not receiving just treatment at the hands of any state or that any state deliberately excludes its civilized citizens or subjects of Negro descent from its body politic and culture, it shall be the duty of the League of Nations to bring the matter to the civilized world.[51]

The relevant social actors for Du Bois in this period were blacks from North America and the West Indies, and the indigenous elites generated by the colonial system. Those groups represented within the African world the bearers of civilization and were to function as the carriers of the Enlightenment to Africa.

Du Bois soon modified his position to explore what he perceived to be a chauvinistic impulse toward Africa on the part of blacks in the Western hemisphere and his own manifestations of that impulse.[52] He felt constrained to point out that, while reiterating that Africa should be administered by blacks, that position did not mean « that Africa should be administered by West Indians or American Negroes. » He declared that the latter groups « have no more right to administer Africa for the native Africans than native Africans have to administer America. »[53] Moreover, he contended that qualified opportunity did exist in Africa for Western blacks « with capital, education and some technical or agricultural skills, who have the courage of pioneers, good health, and are willing to rough it, » but that the continent « has no place for empty-headed laborers… sick people or old people or orators or agitators. »[55]

The mediation of leadership by Western blacks was made clearly unnecessary for decolonization in Africa; as Du Bois reflected in 1961:

Africans began to demand more voice in colonial government and the Second World War had made their cooperation so necessary to Europe that at the end actual and unexpected freedom for African colonies was in sight.

Moreover, there miraculously appeared Africans able to take charge of these governments. American Negroes of former generations had always calculated that when Africa was ready for freedom, American Negroes would be ready to lead them. But the event was quite opposite. The African leaders proved to be Africans… American Negroes for the most part showed neither the education nor the aptitude for the magnificent opportunity which was suddenly offered. Indeed, it now seems that Africans may have to show American Negroes the way to freedom.[56]

Still, the civilizing mission remained, and in this respect the significance of Du Bois’s Pan-Africanism as it faced Africa lay in the way that he saw it as an element of a modernization strategy. From that perspective, the most efficient governmental or social unit among a common group is that which is able to administer to and plan for the entire group, thereby minimizing duplication of effort, contradiction in policy, and other forms of social waste. As part of development into the « modern world, » to the extent that Africa could be seen as a basically common cultural unit, the requirements of rational social administration would suggest combination and unification.

This rational-utilitarian view was enhanced by Du Bois’s embedded teleology and theory of history, which emphasized harmonious social organization and progress through advances of civilization. Precolonial Africa appeared in his reconstruction as a series of societies moving in lockstep toward collective teleological goals. Similarly, he paid little attention to likely internal conflicts within his contemporary African unity,[57] and took for granted both the existence and progressive function of a coordinating apparatus, a continental state. Indeed he maintained:

If Africa unites, it will be because each part, each nation, each tribe gives up a part of its heritage for the good of the whole. That is what union means; that is what Pan-Africa means… When the tribe becomes a union of tribes, the individual tribe surrenders some part of its freedom to the paramount tribe…

When the nation arises, the constituent tribes, clans and groups must each yield power and some freedom to the demands of the nation or the nation dies before it is born. Your local tribal, much-loved languages must yield to the few world tongues which serve the largest number of people and promote understanding and world literature.[58]

This statement reflects the predatory and solipsistic optimism that arises from the rational-administrative outlook. The flippancy with which Du Bois dispatched intra-African particularity not only indicates the naivete typically shown by the relatively more homogeneous Afro-Americans and West Indians concerning such matters, but also demonstrates the centrality of the universalist and homogenizing assumptions of social engineering in his thinking. The necessity of sacrificing provincial languages to the « world tongues » indicates the commitment of Du Bois’s Pan-Africanism to an ultimately universalist goal. Where can history as increasing administrative rationality lead, other than to a united and coordinated world? Provincialisms that retard such development must be jettisoned in favor of progress.

The universalist grounding of his Pan-Africanism is hardly only an inference from Du Bois’s text; for, in his own words, « [t]he broader the basis of a culture, the wider and freer its conception, the better chance it has for the survival of its best elements. This is the basic hope of world democracy. . . . Peace and tolerance is the only path to eternal progress. Europe can never survive without Asia and Africa as free and interrelated civilizations in one world. »[59] Another aspect of his Pan-Africanism is of interest here. Pair-Africanism for Du Bois, in addition to being part of a strategy for decolonization and modernization in Africa, also represented a mechanism for constitution of an international black elite and its consciousness: « Pan-Africa means intellectual understanding and cooperation among all groups of Negro descent in order to bring about at the earliest possible time the industrial and spiritual emancipation of the Negro peoples. »[60] One of the planks in his program for Africa in the early 1920s, in addition to promoting education among the natives and « industry, commerce and credit among black groups, » entailed bringing together « for periodic conference and acquaintanceship the leading Negroes to the world and their friends. »[61]

In this respect, his Pan-Africanism is directed more toward the United States than toward Africa. From the beginning of his involvement with and agitation for Africa, Du Bois, unlike others in the Pan-African pantheon, granted the fundamental Americanness of Afro-Americans. He clarified his position early: « Once for all let us realize that we are Americans… there is nothing so indigenous, so completely ‘made in America’ as we. Yet he saw Africa as offering « a chance for the colored American to emigrate and to go as a pioneer to a country which must, sentimentally at least, possess for him the same fascination as England does for Indian-born Englishmen, »[63] and Pan-Africanism as a mechanism for development of a consciousness among the Afro-American elite appropriate to the historical tasks required of it:

I tried to say to the American Negro… there are certain things you must do for your own survival and self-preservation. You must work together and in unison; you must evolve and support your own social institutions; you must transform your attack from the foray of self-assertive individuals to the massed might of an organized body. You must put behind your demands, not simply American Negroes, but West Indians and Africans, and all the colored races of the world.[64]

Pan-Africanism, then, was for Du Bois largely a means. Although he built his Pan-Africanist vision on a foundation that stressed the spiritual ties binding people of African descent, Pan-Africanism constituted for him at most a basis for wide-scale racial organization within the context of a global pluralism. In this sense, his Pan-Africanism differed from the emigrationist-redemptionist orientation of Garveyism and the millenarian-tinged revolutionism of the post — Black Power American Pan-Africanism.[65] Unlike those other tendencies, Du Bois saw Pan-Africanism as an expression among blacks of the developmental logic of modern society. Although, for example, he suggested that the institutional foundation for a self-determining Africa would be a « socialism founded on old African communal life, » he pointed out at the same instant that « Pan-African socialism seeks the welfare state in Black Africa. »[66] Perhaps as a reflection of the cavalier or superficial attitudes about ethnic culture that abound in Afro-American thought, or perhaps as another expression of his « two-ness, » at the same time that Du Bois called for « sacrifice » of intra-African particularity on the altar of progress, he insisted that « Pan-Africa will seek to preserve its own past history. »[67] Pan-Africa ultimately was to Du Bois the African form of pluralist participation in a global socialist order that he saw as the highest expression of rational social organization. Du Bois assured that « [g]radually, every state is coming to this concept of its aim. »[68] It is at this point that Du Bois’s Pan-Africanism converged with his conception of socialism.


The place of socialism in Du Bois’s thinking is another area about which conventional wisdom is not as conventional as it appears; everyone agrees that Du Bois died a socialist, but few agree on when he became one or on what kind of socialist he was. Broderick, for example, sees Du Bois as having made « advances to socialism in 1907, although in early 1908 he affirmed his attachment to the principles of the Republican party. »[69] Elliott M. Rudwick’s view is less ambivalent: He contends that by the earlier year Du Bois was under socialist influence; and to support his claim, Rudwick adduces Du Bois’s advocacy of « cooperation in capital and labor, wider distribution of capital. »[70] Alan Sigmund Cywar, however, maintains that in the early part of this century Du Bois advocated a sort of leftwing Social Darwinism,[71] and that his « decisive swing to the left would begin to become evident in the pages of the Crisis only after World War I. »[72] Eugene C. Holmes asserts that as « a materialist, it was only natural that ethically and economically Dr. Du Bois’s sympathies were always along socialist lines of thinking. »[73] Bernard Fonlon[74] and Julius Lester[75] agree that Du Bois opted for socialism in 1907, whereas W. Alphaeus Hunton[76] and Truman Nelson[77] emphasize Du Bois’s commitment to socialism in general. Gerald Home claims that Du Bois was a socialist « all of his adult life. »[78]

A problem common to all these interpretations is the failure to account for the mercurial content that the term socialism had in the United States in the early twentieth century. Indeed, among students who address the issue of Du Bois’s early socialism, only Manning Marable and Wilson J. Moses take into account the ambiguity of the label during the years before 1917 in the United States. Marable maintains, correctly, that when Du Bois joined the Socialist party in 1911, the « decision did not mark any significant turn to radicalism, » and he suggests that the socialism with which Du Bois identified was the conservative variety endorsed by Charles Edward Russell, Mary White Ovington, Jane Addams, and other members of the NAACP board rather than the radical tendency of Eugene Debs and Bill Haywood. Moses, also noting the preferences of other NAACP socialists, sees Du Bois as having « toyed with the idea of non-revolutionary white-collar socialism of the domestic variety, »[80] and he links Du Bois’s socialism and his technocratic-elitist commitments.[81]

Socialism was identified variously with support of trusts, public ownership of utilities, corporate regulation, municipal reform, trade unionism, industrial unionism, or any of a myriad of other social and economic policies.[82] Determination of whether Du Bois, or any other agent active at that time, should be considered a socialist, therefore, depends on which of the variety of socialist tendencies the critic takes as authentically socialist. Either that or the identification is so vague as to tell us very little.

This impasse of defining socialist authenticity, an intellectually feckless activity, can be circumvented. James Gilbert’s focus on collectivism as an overarching rubric which has encompassed a number of industrial-era American ideologies (see chapter 2) is helpful in this regard.[83] This vantage point illuminates and subsumes theoretical continuities that unite the various social programs advocated by twentieth-century reform-oriented intellectuals, whether they embraced Marxism, other sorts of socialism, or progressivism.

Although he observes that socialist and progressivist visions are in retrospect often difficult to distinguish theoretically, Gilbert contends that socialism constitutes a central theme around which other collectivist ideologies have oscillated.[84] Therein lies the strength of his formulation for the present purpose; notwithstanding Gilbert’s attempt to differentiate Marxism qualitatively from other collectivist ideologies,[85] collectivism suggests a way around the basically scholastic and probably futile debate over when and whether Du Bois became a Marxist or any other kind of socialist.[86]

Argument concerning whether « Marxist » influences on Du Bois’s thought were dominant, or whether Pan-Africanism or non-Marxist socialism constituted the central orienting principle of his ideas, is beside the point. The ensemble of the Marxist, non-Marxist socialist, and Pan-African perspectives converged on a distinctive response to elements of the development of industrial capitalism as a national and global system in the twentieth century. The future of Du Bois’s Pan-Africa was broadly socialist; his consumer-cooperative organization likewise was a step toward realization of an integral collectivist society, and official Marxism represents perhaps the apotheosis of collectivism.[87] In this sense, the collectivist perspective offers the advantage of dissolving superficial antagonisms among the strategies toward which Du Bois was drawn by locating common properties that highlight their status as ideological and programmatic elaborations of a coherent if not systematically articulated political outlook.

In considering these programmatic themes in relation to the problem of political agency, Du Bois’s texts express an assumption of the rational movement of historical forces along a continuum of progress, the terminus of which is already knowable, at least in general terms. Thus socialism, defined as « the assertion by the community of its right to control business and industry; the denial of the old assumption that public business can ever be a private enterprise, »[88] stands as the unequivocal long-term goal of social development. That Du Bois saw his socialist ideal as a point on the continuum along which Western society is advancing ideologically is hinted at both by his insistence that the path to socialism must not be led by proletarians, who are untutored and without the capacity for making judgments about the thrust of civilization,[89] and by his view that transformation must be sought by evolutionary rather than disruptive means.[90]

He observed shortly after World War I that the great question facing the world concerned distribution of the wealth created by modern technique, that is, the issue of rationalizing the distributive system of large-scale capitalism.[91] Socialism, in this 1920 perspective, constituted the challenge to private ownership in « property and tools » and the call for elevation of need over the perquisites of power in distribution of the social product.[92] Moreover, he condemned monopoly primarily because of its irrationality, for under monopoly « it is not the Inventor, the Manager, and the Thinker who today are reaping the great rewards of industry, but rather the Gambler and the Highwayman. »[93] His proposal for rectification was an interesting amalgam of work ethic and social rationalization — perhaps indicative of the behavioral preferences of intellectuals or other petit bourgeois. Du Bois wrote, « Present Big Business — that Science of Human wants — must be perfected by eliminating the price paid for waste, which is Interest, and for Chance, which is Profit, and making all income a personal wage for service rendered by the recipient. »[94] The fact that monopoly hegemony refuses to acknowledge technical interests sufficiently should not be taken lightly:

Today the scientific and ethical boundaries of our industrial activities are not in the hands of scientists, teachers, and thinkers; nor is the intervening opportunity for decision left in the control of the public whose welfare such decisions guide. On the contrary, the control of industry is largely in the hands of a powerful few, who decide for their own good and regardless of the good of others.[95]

The problem of twentieth-century capitalism was, therefore, that its laudable technical capacities had developed beyond the rational limits of its institutional steering apparatus.[96] The task before the world, then, was to move to correct the disjunction. However, that charge implies two questions, who and how. Du Bois, the careful analyst, strained with only limited success to answer those questions.

Du Bois early discarded the proletariat as the lever of social transformation. He was left without an effective agency even as he proclaimed class struggle to be a reality.[97] Although his writings toward the latter years of the interwar period are dotted increasingly with references to the need for democracy to « fan out from politics to industrial life, »[98] he persisted in distinguishing — apparently with such self-assurance as to feel no need to argue the matter — a « logical social hierarchy » from one that can be penetrated only by wealth, with the strong implication that only the latter is unacceptable.[99] Moreover, it is suggestive in this regard that the Soviet Union was his enthusiastically held model for the vision of economic democracy. Perception of Russia as being in the lead « for realizing industrial democracy in the world »[100] was not uncommon among intellectuals in the United States, especially before the Stalin trials.[101] Du Bois retained his enthusiasm, however; he noted, as World War II drew to a close, that « Russia… still is to my mind, the most hopeful land in the modern world. »[102]

Certain indications of how he would resolve the agency problem arc sprinkled throughout Du Bois’s interwar texts. Notwithstanding his charge that the « workers of the world must have voice not only on conditions of work but also as to what kinds of goods shall be produced and what methods of production used, »[103] he maintained that « distribution of wealth and services by plan, emphasizing ability and deserts, and especially the public weal; and guarding mankind from ignorance and disease must be a primary object of civilization. »[104]

A tension exists between his two stated concerns, a tension that does not surface for direct consideration in his writing. Even though Du Bois by no means lacked sophistication in his critical attention to socialism,[105] he never seemed aware (or at least was not sufficiently troubled to engage the issue formally) of the intrinsic tension between centralized planning — as the expression of macrological, technical interests — and democratic decision making.

His focus on the Soviet model, it turns out, was not fortuitous. Du Bois’s agency revealed its identity through comparison with its Bolshevik confreres. In discussing steps necessary to build a cooperative economy in the Afro-American community, he broke the spell of invisibility. The « Talented Tenth, » the natural leadership of the black population, he tells us, must « subject » black labor to its guidance in the same way that survival of the Soviet Union « involves vast regimentation, unquestioning obedience until the cumbersome superhuman economic machine can run in rhythmic order. »[106] The invisibility of the agency, then, appears to be more a matter of class unconsciousness than of simple confusion on Du Bois’s part. Moreover, it indicates an essential continuity in his view of socialism even through his period of association with Bolshevism.

Writing after he finally had joined the Communist Party (USA) (CPUSA) and left the United States permanently, he responded to the question, What is socialism?: « It is a disciplined economy and political organization in which the first duty of a citizen is to serve the state; and the state is not a selected aristocracy, or a group of self-seeking oligarchs who have seized wealth and power. No! The mass of workers with hand and brain are the ones whose collective destiny is the chief object of all effort. »[107]

For his part, Du Bois’s dictatorship of the proletariat seems not to have been too dissimilar from industrial democracy:

Thus it is clear today that the salvation of American Negroes lies in socialism. They should support all measures and men who favor the welfare state; they should vote for government ownership of capital in industry; they should favor strict regulation of corporations or their public ownership; they should vote to prevent monopoly from controlling the press and the publishing of opinions. They should favor public ownership and control of water, electric, and atomic power; they should stand for a clean ballot, the encouragement of third parties, independent candidates, and the elimination of graft and gambling on television and even in churches.

The question of the method by which the socialist state can be achieved must be worked out by experiment and reason and not by dogma. Whether or not methods which were right and clear in Russia or China fit our circumstances is for our intelligence to decide.[108]

Consonant with Gilbert’s general critique of collectivism, Du Bois’s socialism and his gravitation toward the CPUSA orbit indicate not so much the assumption of revolutionary consciousness at eighty years of age as the convergence of Soviet and New Deal ideological stances in the postwar period. American Communism reached its nadir during those years and was forced increasingly to tail behind ordinary civil rights and other popular front-type programs, only by then without much « boring from within. »[109] Du Bois’s affinity for the Communist agenda was one of the movement’s few bright spots after 1948; for Du Bois, who had been ostracized from mainstream black institutions, the CP was a port in an endless storm.[110]

From the collectivist perspective, Du Bois did not really have to move much at all from the positions he had held for five decades to accommodate his Communist turn. As his continuing enthusiasm in the pages of the Crisis over the Russian Revolution indicated, he had always felt a certain fascination with Bolshevism’s Jacobinist element.[111] Furthermore, given the exigencies of the new atomic age and the consuming weakness of the Communists in the United States, Du Bois was not required even to revise his long-standing commitments to nonviolence and reason as the means of social transformation. He maintained in 1946: « We cannot escape the clear fact that what is going to win in this world is reason if this ever becomes a reasonable world. The careful reasoning of the human mind backed by the facts of science is the one salvation of man. The world, if it resumes its march toward civilization, cannot ignore reason. »[112]

Again in 1957 he described his outlook thus:

I should call myself a Socialist, although that isn’t a very definite term. But I mean I believe in the welfare state. I believe that business should be carried on not for private profit but tor public welfare. I believe in many of the steps which are usually associated with socialism… The Communist state will come about by the increase of socialism, by the change in our attitude toward each other, by making an individual American think of the progress of America and the welfare of America rather than thinking of his own advantage over his fellows, by ceasing to make the butt of our jokes the person who has suffered injury… by the extension of sacrifice and of love and of sympathy for our fellow beings… I think it will come about democratically, not by violence… the violence that accompanies revolution is not the revolution. The revolution is the reform, is the change of thought, is the change of attitude on the people who are affected by it. »[113]

Du Bois’s Communist theoretical turn can be seen in part as an attempt to resolve the perennial problem of agency in the American Left by revising his expectations of the black elite as bearers of black collective subjectivity and assigning transformative responsibilities to the international proletariat. His revision of the role assigned to the black middle class reflects disappointment at the latter’s Cold War opportunism, especially as his « Talented Tenth » failed to support him during his persecution. Similarly, the rise in prominence of the proletariat in Du Bois’s view docs not appear to indicate a qualitative shift in his outlook. His faith did not rest with empirical proletarians inside lived history. He noted that American workers, for example, were not up to their task.[114] The proletariat in which Du Bois had faith was a collective subject whose empirical and historical embodiment was constituted in the Party. As a core principle of Bolshevism, the Party stands above the proletariat, represents its collective will, and thus constitutes a true universal subject. The Party, therefore, is in effect a central planning directorate for the proletariat. When consideration is given that the ruling circles within the Party are both centralized and composed overwhelmingly of intellectuals and intelligentsia, it seems that in turning to the proletariat as his last hope for realization of reason in the social world, Du Bois in principle only rationalized and streamlined the commitment to the hegemony of the « new class » elite with which he had been identified over the previous half century.

In fact, the « radical » socialism which he articulated at the end of his life differed little from the distributivist, technocratic variant he had embraced before the Great Depression. In 1945 he declared:

The social sciences have been remiss in not pointing out a natural realm of dictatorship to which all government must bow; that is, the physical laws governing the constitution of materials, the application of natural force, and the availability of certain techniques in using matter and force, which are all subject to law and cannot be changed by popular vote. Thus the production of goods and to some degree their distribution is not a matter of argument, decision, or majority opinion, but an inexorable system which men must follow under the trained guidance of managers and technicians if they would get the necessary results.

On the other hand, questions as to the kind of goods to be produced and their distribution among nations, classes, and individuals for consumption, and most questions of personal service, as to both recipient and servant, are questions where democratic argument and democratic decision are absolutely necessary to the widest human happiness.[115]

He was just as likely as in 1920 or even 1900 to link popular participation to a meritocratic standard of competence, noting that « democracy has proceeded slowly because the mass of people do not have the intelligence, the knowledge, or the experience to enable them to bear the responsibility of rule. »[116] Five years before his death he endorsed the conviction —ideologically construed — that

government must increasingly be controlled by the governed; that the mass of people, increasing in intelligence, with incomes sufficient to live a good and healthy life, should control all government, and that they would be able to do this by the spread of science and scientific technique, access to truth, the use of reason, and freedom of thought and of creative impulse in art and literature.[117]

His essentially Fabian view remained intact even as he was on the threshold of joining the Communist Party. « As knowledge and efficiency increased, » he interpreted Marxism to promise, « democracy would spread among the masses and they would become capable of conducting a modern welfare state. »[118] And he still used the term « socialism » to refer interchangeably to regimes and political economies as disparate as Mao’s China, India, Scandinavia, the U.S.S.R., and the welfare state.[119]


Du Bois’s racial pluralism, his Pan-Africanism, and his socialism came together around a distinct view of the world. Socialism was desirable for Du Bois ultimately because it promised to realize the principles of administrative rationality and meritocratic equality. Pan-Africanism similarly was a mechanism for rationalizing Africa’s participation in an integral world order. His racial pluralism reflects a focus on elite-driven mass organization and group competition,[120] and this pluralism was for Du Bois an instrument for enhancing black membership in an integral society. The coherence of Du Bois’s political thought is disclosed in its components’ convergence around the unifying principles of the collectivist outlook characteristic among reform-oriented industrial-era intellectuals.

Those principles, and the outlook that they indicate, seldom are discussed directly in Du Bois’s work, because they were generally shared through the discursive arena within which he operated. Because they were not controversial, and were in fact part of the least common denominator of conventional attitudes that made reform dialogue possible, there was little reason for those principles ever to be discussed elaborately. Therefore, they are accessible to us, the inhabitants of a different discursive situation, mainly through a reading that is sensitive to his texts’ location in relation to their audiences and the shared understandings that cement that relation. Still, those organizing principles are not totally invisible in Du Bois’s writing, as I have shown; they often have been obscured or simply ignored by analysts more concerned to project their theoretical or ideological programs onto Du Bois at the expense of his own.

It is more than likely, moreover, that similar principles have undergirded Afro-American political discourse throughout the industrial era. This certainly seems to be the case in the famed Washington-Du Bois controversy, in which both sides demonstrate commitment to a project of « Americanizing » the rank-and-file black population by subordinating it to the imperatives of industrialization. [121] In any event, the search for structuring assumptions at the base of black social thought could disclose important meanings characteristically obscured in narrowly textualist or superficially biographical analyses of writers’ views on such theoretically pregnant issues as intraracial stratification, the nature of leadership or spokesmanship, and definition of community. Perhaps a useful heuristic is the simple question, seldom asked of black political figures, What sort of society would they create if they could restructure the world according to their own designs?


1. Exemplary, although unevenly successful, efforts to confront this general problem — in addition to the work o) Arnold Rarnpersad and Wilson J. Moses — arc Hanes Walton, « Black Political Thought: The Problem of Characterzation, » Journal of Black Studies I (December 1970); 213-18; S. P. Fullinwider, The Mind and Mood of Black America (Homewood, 111., 1969); Herbert Storing, Introduction to Storing, ed., What Country Have I?: Political Writing of Black Americans (New York, 1970); Alex Willingham, « Ideology and Politics: Their Status in Afro-American Social Theory, » in Adolph L. Reed Jr., ed. Race, Politics, and Culture: Critical Essays on the Radicalism of the 1960s (Westport, Conn., 1986); William S. Toll, The Resurgence of Race: Black Social Theory from Reconstruction to the Pan-African Conferences (Philadelphia, 1979); and Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: From Its Origins to the Present (New York, 1967).

2. This is not to say that interracialism was generally accepted among Du Bois’s contemporaries; rather, in the system of relevance that structured the earlier political debates, the proper forms of interracial contact seldom surfaced as an issue for explicit discussion. Even though different writers might be shown to have held different implicit positions on the matter, it was not sufficiently meaningful in the context of their commonly conceived project of discourse to warrant contention.

3. Howard Brotz, in Brotz, ed., Negro Social and Political Thought: Representative Texts (New York, 1966). Wilson J. Moses also sees Du Bois as a nationalist, even a « racial chauvinist » (Moses, The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925 [New York, 1988], pp. 144-45). Manning Marable, never to be outdone at piling up labels, sees Du Bois’s outlook as a « synthesis of racial democracy, cultural pluralism, pan-Africanism and socialism » (W. E. B. Du Bois: Black Radical Democrat [Boston, 1986], p. 91).

4. Cruse, Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.

5. Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture; Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America (New York and London, 1987), p. 291.

6. Vincent Harding, « W. E. B. Du Bois and the Black Messianic Vision, » in John Henrik Clarke et al., eds., Black Titan: W. E. B. Du Bois (Boston, 1970).

7. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America (1924; reprint, New York, 1970). Also see William T. Fontaine, « The Mind and Thought of the Negro of the United States as Revealed in Imaginative Literature, 1876-1940, » Southern University Bulletin 28 (March 1942): 20-22.

8. Ibid., p. 158.

9. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903; reprint, New York, 1907), pp. 85-86.

10. Ibid., p. 172.

11. Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro (1899; reprint, New York, 1967), p. 317. Moses notes that an authoritarian component typically accompanied racial collectivist ideology among black American intellectuals during the early modern period (Golden Age of Black Nationalism, pp. 21-22).

12. Du Bois, Philadelphia Negro, p. 318.

13. See, for example, his two studies: W. E. B. Du Bois, Some Efforts of American Negroes for Their Own Social Betterment (Atlanta, 1898), and Du Bois, Economic Cooperation among Negro Americans (Atlanta, 1907).

14. W. E. B. Du Bois, « A Pageant in Seven Decades » (1938), in Du Bois, W. E. B. Du Bois Speaks: Speeches and Addresses, 1920-1963, Philip S. Foner, ed., 2 vols. (New York, 1970), vol. 2 p. 66.

15. W. E. B. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn: An Essay toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept (1940; reprint, New York, 1968), p. 295.

16. Ibid., p. 296.Ibid., pp. 171-172.

18. W. E. B. Du Bois, « My Evolving Program for Negro Freedom, » in Rayford W. Logan, ed. What the Negro Wants (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1944), p. 70.

19. W. E. B. Du Bois, « The Tragedy of ‘Jim Crow,’  » The Crisis 26 (August 1923). On Cheyney State, see ibid., p. 172. See also Du Bois, « The Dilemma of the Negro, » American Mercury 3 (October 1924): 179-85.

20. W. E. B. Du Bois, « The Position of the Negro in the American Social Order: Where Do We Go from Here? » Journal of Negro Education 8 (July 1939): 565-66.

21. Ibid.

22. W. E. B. Du Bois, « Prospect of a World without Race Conflict, » American Journal of Sociology 49 (March 1944): 456.

23. Du Bois, « Position of the Negro, » p. 565. Du Bois advanced this view also as a criticism of individualistic black entrepreneurial activity; see Mark David Higbee, « W. E. B. Du Bois, F. B. Ransom, the Madam Walker Company, and Black Business Leadership in the 1930s, » Indiana Magazine of History 89 (June 1993): 101-24.

24. Du Bois, « Position of the Negro, » p. 569.

25. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn, p. 296.

26. Ibid., p. 305. Moses, in identifying a strain of nationalistic thinking among prominent black « race men, » demonstrates that Du Bois’s charge was at best an exaggeration; see his Golden Age of Black Nationalism. Du Bois’s objective here, however, is hortatory rather than analytical. It is understandable, therefore, that his narrative rests on the hyperbolic claims of a jeremiad rather than the cautious empiricism of a scholarly description. Judith Stein, in The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modem Society (Baton Rouge, La., 1986), has argued persuasively that even the Garvey movement’s social base was concentrated in the aspiring petite bourgeoisie.

27. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn, pp. 309-10.

28. Ibid., p. 310.

29. See, for example, W. E. B. Du Bois, « On Being Ashamed of Oneself: An Essay on Race Pride, » Crisis 40 (September 1933): 199-200, and Du Bois, « Prospect of a World. »

30. See Du Bois’s editorials in the Crisis 41.

31. W. E. B. Du Bois, Crisis 41 (May 1934): 149.

32. W. E. B. Du Bois, Crisis 41 (June 1934): 184.

33. Francis L. Broderick, W. E. B. Du Bois: Negro Leader in a Time of Crisis (Palo Alto, Calif, 1959), pp. 172-73.

34. It is significant here to note that Du Bois defined his conflict within the NAACP as « not an absolute difference of principle, but it was a grave difference as to further procedure » (Dusk of Dawn, p. 313).

35. W. E. B. Du Bois, « Back to Africa, » Century 105 (February 1923): 546-47.

36. Du Bois, « Dilemma of the Negro, » p. 184.

37. W. E. B. Du Bois, « As the Crow Flies, » Chicago Globe, April 12, 1950.

38. Du Bois, « Dilemma of the Negro, » p. 180.

39. Ibid.

40. See, for example, Horace M. Kallen, Culture and Democracy in the United States (New York, 1924), and Kallen, Cultural Pluralism and the American Idea (Philadelphia, 1956). For a perspective on the conceptual and practical limitations of cultural pluralism for black Americans, see Oliver C. Cox, « The Question of Pluralism, » Race 12 (fourth quarter 1971): 385-400; John Higham, Send These to Me: Jews and Other Immigrants in Urban America (New York, 1975), pp. 203-8; and Werner Sollors, « A Critique of Pure Pluralism, » in Sacvan Bercovitch, ed., Reconstructing American Literary History (Cambridge, Mass., 1986).

41. David Levering Lewis, « Parallels and Divergences: Assimilationist Strategies of Afro-American and Jewish Elites from 1910 to the Early 1930s, » Journal of American History 71 (December 1984): 545.

42. Kallen, Culture and Democracy, p. 124. David A. Hollinger maintains that Kalleri « was not so much for cross-fertilization as for the harmonious cooperation and mutual enrichment of clearly defined, contrasting, durable ethnic units » (In the American Province: Studies in the History and Historiography of Ideas [Bloomington, Ind., 1985], p. 65).

43. For comparisons of Kallen and Du Bois in this respect, see Werner Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Literature (New York, 1986), pp. 181-88, and Higham, Send These to Me, pp. 209-12. William T. Fontaine also emphasizes Du Bois’s subordination of racial particularity to a « broader human perspective (Reflections on Segregation, Desegregation, Power and Morals (Springfield, 111., 1967), pp. 12—13. From this vantage point Du Bois arguably had more in common with his statist Harvard classmate, Herbert Croly, than with Kallen. See Croly’s The Promise of American Life (1909; reprint, Indianapolis, 1965); David Levy, Herbert Croly of the New Republic (Princeton, N.J., 1985); Charles Forcey, The Crossroads of Liberalism: Croly, Weyl, Lippman, and the Progressive Era, 1900-1925 (New York, 1961), pp. 3-51; and R. Jeffrey Lustig, Corporate Liberalism: The Origins of Modern American Political ‘Theory, 1890-1920 (Berkeley, Calif, 1982), pp. 211-16.

44. Recent Du Bois scholarship has stressed his links to Alexander Crummell in seeking the sources of his racial views. (See, for example, Marable, Moses, and Stuckey.) Crummell most likely did influence Du Bois’s early formulations of the specifically black variant of racial idealism. There are, however, at least three reasons for emphasizing instead the wider reform Darwinist and Lamarckian evolutionist tendencies’ significance. First, Crummell’s racial organicism was itself an instance of the broader orientation toward teleological evolutionism (see Moses, Golden Age of Black Nationalism, pp. 59-61). Second, Du Bois had absorbed a disposition toward that orientation through his Harvard and Berlin experiences prior to his close association with Crummell. Finally, although Du Bois’s link to Crummell is no doubt salient biographically, that focus can obscure the extent to which both Crummell and Du Bois operated within a more general context of intellectual conventions. Not surprisingly, the scholars who have emphasized Crummell’s influence on Du Bois have been concerned to establish the contours of autonomous Afro-American intellectual traditions. It is instructive that only Moses and David Levering Lewis, who are least inclined among them to argue for a wholly independent black philosophical orientation, seek to situate both subjects within contemporaneous intellectual currents. The most careful and reasonable efforts to situate Du Bois and Crummell, in addition to Moses’s Golden Age of Black Nationalism, are Wilson J. Moses, « W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Conservation of Races’ and Its Context: Idealism, Conservatism and Hero Worship » Massachusetts Review (summer 1993): 275-94, and David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 (New York, 1993), pp. 161- 70.

45. W. E. B. Du Bois, Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (New York, 1945), p. 70.

46. Ibid., p. 10.

47. Moses, Golden Age of Black Nationalism, p. 133.

48. Lewis describes Du Bois’s effusions of rationalist optimism surrounding the 1911 Universal Races Congress in Biography of a Race, pp. 439-41.Moses, Golden Age of Black Nationalism, p. 133.

50. W. E. B. Du Bois, « The Future of Africa-A Platform » (1919), in Du Bois, Du Bois Speaks, vol. 1 p. 273.

51. W. E. B. Du Bois, « The Pan-African Movement » (1945), in Du Bois, Du Bois Speaks, vol. 2 p. 166. Moreover, the second Pan-African Congress declared in part that, « The Negro race, through their thinking intelligentsia, demand… recognition of civilized men as civilized, despite their race or color » (ibid., p. 170). Stuckey nevertheless observes that Du Bois in his early years « underestimated the power of contemporary African cultures » but reassures us that the notion that Western blacks should lead Africa out of darkness was a « position from which [Du Bois] later backed away » (Slave Culture, p. 259).

52. « There are… in the United States today several commendable groups of young people who are proposing to take hold of Liberia and emancipate her from her difficulties, quite forgetting the fact that Liberia belongs to Liberia, » W. E. B. Du Bois, « Pan-Africa and the New Racial Philosophy, » Crisis 49 (November 1933): 247. Du Bois articulated this position in the context of accusations that the Americo-Liberian aristocracy was practicing slavery.

53. W. E. B. Du Bois, Crisis 23 (February 1922): 155. This criticism was directed specifically at Garveyism in general and Garvey’s dispute with the Liberian elite in particular; Du Bois not unreasonably chose the Americo-Liberians over Garvey.

54. Ibid., p. 154.

55. Ibid.

56. W. E. B. Du Bois, « American Negroes and Africa’s Rise to Freedom » (1961), in Du Bois, The Seventh Son: The Thought and the Writings of W. E. B. Du Bois, Julius Lester, ed., 2 vols. (New York, 1971), vol. 2, pp. 693-94.

57. That « tribalism » and its variants are mainly European colonial imports to Africa (see W. E. B. Du Bois, « The Saga of Nkrumah, » National Guardian, July 30, 1956) and that « Pan-African socialism seeks the welfare state in Africa » (Du Bois, « A Future for Pan-Africa: Freedom, Peace, Socialism, » in Du Bois, Seventh Son, vol. 2, p. 649) obviated any such attention.

58. Du Bois « Future of Africa, » pp. 660—61. This passage suggests that the spirit of Du Bois’s admiration of Bismarck never completely disappeared.

59. W. E. B. Du Bois, The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History (1947; reprint, New York, 1965). Even here, however, he genuflects toward cultural pluralism in according Asia and Africa the status of civilizations along with Europe.

60. Du Bois, « Pan-Africa and the New Racial Philosophy, » p. 247.

61. Du Bois, Crisis 23 (April 1922): 251-52.

62. Du Bois, Crisis 17 (February 1919): 166.

63. Ibid.

64. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn, p. 304.

65. For critical interpretations of Garveyite Pan-Africanism, see Stein, World of Marcus Garvey, and Adolph L. Reed Jr., « The Political Philosophy of Pan-Africanism: A Study of the Writings of Du Bois, Garvey, Nkrumah and Padmore and Their Legacy, » M.A. thesis, Atlanta University, 1975. Post-Black Power Pan-Africanism is analyzed systematically in Charles Hopkins, « Pan-Africanism: A Theoretical Examination of Contemporary Afro-American Involvement, » M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1974. See also Adolph L. Reed Jr.: « Pan-Africanism: Ideology for Liberation? » The Black Scholar (September 1971), and Reed, « Pan-Africanism as Black Liberalism: Du Bois and Garvey, » in Ofuatey-Kodjoe, ed., Pan-Africanism: New Directions in Strategy (Lanham, Md., 1986).

66. Du Bois, « Future for Pan-Africa, » p. 649.

67. Ibid. Preservation in this context evokes the appropriate image — that of the fossilized museum piece.

68. W. E. B. Du Bois, « The Future of Africa » (Address to the All-African People’s Conference, Accra, Ghana, December 22, 1958), in Du Bois, Seventh Son, vol. 2, pp. 658-59.

69. Broderick, Negro Leader, p. 123.

70. Elliott M. Rudwick, W. E. B. Du Bois: A Study in Minority Group Leadership (Philadelphia, 1960), p. 51.

71. Alan Sigmund Cywar, « An Inquiry into American Thought and Determinate Influence of Political Economic and Social Factors in the Early Twentieth Century: Bourne, Dewey, Du Bois, Nearing, Veblen, and Weyl, » Ph.D. dissertation, University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y., 1972, pp. 330-31.

72. Ibid., p. 340.

73. Eugene C. Holmes, « Du Bois: Philosopher, » in Clarke et al., eds., Black Titan, p. 80.

74. Bernard Fonlon, « The Passing of a Great African, » in Clarke et al., eds. Black Titan, p. 220.

75. Lester, Introduction, to Du Bois, Seventh Son, vol. 1, p. 137.

76. W. Alphaeus Hunton, « W. E. B. Du Bois: The Meaning of His Life, » in Clarke et al., eds., Black Titan, p. 176.

77. Truman Nelson, « W. E. B. Du Bois as a Prophet, » in Clarke et al., eds., Black Titan, p. 145.

78. Gerald Home, Black and Red: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War, 1944-1963 (Albany, 1986), p. 5.

79. Marable, Black Radical Democrat, p. 83.

80. Moses, Golden Age of Black Nationalism, p. 139.

81. Ibid., p. 140; see also Lewis, Biography of a Race, pp. 143, 543.

82. See Ira Kipnis, The American Socialist Movement, 1897-1912 (New York, 1952); James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912-1925 (New York, 1969).

83. James Gilbert, Designing the Industrial State: The Intellectual Pursuit of Collectivism in America, 1880-1940 (Chicago, 1972); Mark Pittenger, American Socialists and Evolutionary Thought, 1870-1920 (Madison, Wis., 1993).

84. Gilbert, Industrial State, p. 64.

85. Ibid. Pittenger also stresses the concern of a reform tendency to construct a socialist vision shorn of Marxism’s radical implications and propagation of a rhetoric of necessary social conflict (American Socialists).

86. Marable, for example, contends that Du Bois was always essentially a « radical democrat » (Black Radical Democrat, p. 195). Moses sees him as having been a « radical liberal » (Golden Age of Black Nationalism, p. 144) and maintains, furthermore, that his attraction to Communism rested on « black nationalistic rather than on Marxist grounds » (ibid., p. 140). By contrast, the burden of Home’s entire interpretation of Du Bois is validation of the premise that he was always a Marxist — even before recognizing it (Black and Red, e.g. pp. 289-90). Lewis’s account locates — correctly, in my view — Du Bois’s early socialist affinities as outcroppings of his rationalist and scientistic commitments (Biography of a Race, pp. 144, 338).

87. Du Bois affirmed his belief that « the end of economic reform is socialism, or as some would call it ‘collectivism’; but I also just as firmly believe that the next step toward this is consumers’ co-operation and that for the American Negro it is the only step » (Du Bois, Pittsburgh Courier, March 28, 1936). For theoretical discussion of the convergence of Marxism and liberal collectivism see Russell Jacoby, « What Is Conformist Marxism? » Telos (fall 1980): 19-44; Alvin W. Gouldner, The Two Marxisms: Contradictions and Anomalies in the Development of Theory (New York, 1980); and Michael Urban, The Ideology of Administration: American and Soviet Cases (Albany, 1982).

88. W. E. B. Du Bois, Crisis 22 (September 1921): 199-200.

89. W. E. B. Du Bois, Crisis 22 (October 1921); 245.

90. Ibid., p. 246.

91. W. E. B. Du Bois, Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil (1920; reprint, New York, 1969), p. 98.

92. Ibid., p. 100.

93. Ibid., p. 101.

94. Ibid., p. 103.

95. Ibid, p. 157.

96. Du Bois observed that the « essential difficulty with liberalism in the twentieth century was not to realize the fundamental change brought about by the worldwide organization of work and trade and commerce » (« Pageant in Seven Decades, » p. 64).

97. W. E. B. Du Bois, « Marxism and the Negro Problem, » Crisis 40 (May 1933), p. 103.

98. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn, p. 289. Also, after citing inequitable taxation, imperialism, fluctuation in gold prices, and myriad indicators of the « fundamental unsoundness » of industrial capitalism, he observed, « Beyond all this lies the great fact that income is a social product and not simply the result of individual effort. Income is and must be divided by human judgment. That judgment must eventually be determined by social ethics and controlled by wider and more intelligent democracy in all industry » (Crisis 37 [December 1930]: 426).

99. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn, pp. 189-90.

100. W. E. B. Du Bois, Crisis 32 (June 1926): 64.

101. See, for example, John P. Diggins’s two volumes: Up from Communism: Conservative Odysseys in American Intellectual History (New York, 1975) and The American Left in the Twentieth Century (New York, 1973); Daniel Aaron, Writers on the Left (New York, 1961).

102. Du Bois, « My Evolving Program, » p. 60. As Broderick (Negro Leader, p. 193) observes, that Du Bois in the interwar period tended to support Trotsky and Radek over Stalin has little bearing here. At issue is the outlook that the three Soviet antagonists shared, commitment to a model of a command society of mass mobilization.

103. Du Bois, World and Africa, p. 256.

104. Ibid.

105. Du Bois detected early, along with and presumably independently of his German contemporaries associated with the Frankfurt Institute, the fundamental homology uniting Fascism, Bolshevism, and the New Deal (Dusk of Dawn, p. 288); he expressed a need to adjust the orthodox critique of capitalism to account for the rise of a « new class of technical engineers and managers » and other internal systemic changes in the twentieth century (« Marxism and the Negro Problem, » p. 104), and he demonstrated a sense of the significance of the mass-culture apparatus, planned obsolescence and intensified marketing in the contemporary social management synthesis (World and Africa, pp. 254—56). See also his discussion of the growth of a permanent white-collar class in « The American Negro and the Labor Movement, » Reel 80 #894, Du Bois Papers.

106. W. E. B. Du Bois, Pittsburgh Courier, June 5, 1937. He expressed a need for the black « mass » to « be induced to submit itself to the dictatorship which is best and quickest for bringing . . . an economic development which is primarily for the benefit of [that] laboring mass » (ibid). William E. Cain notes the persistence of Du Bois’s attraction to « comprehensive organization, centralized authority, rational planning on a massive basis, exhaustive gathering and sifting of facts, and highly disciplined, tightly controlled attitudes toward work, » from his youthful fascination with Bismarck to his support for Stalinism; see Cain, « From Liberalism to Communism: The Political Thought of W. E. B. Du Bois, » in Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease, eds., Cultures of United States Imperialism (Durham, N.C., 1993), p. 466. Cain attempts to determine when Du Bois became a Marxist, with no greater success than others who have undertaken to chart that transition.

107. Du Bois, « Future of Africa, » pp. 658-59.

108. W. E. B. Du Bois, « The Negro and Socialism » in Helen L. Alfred, ed., Toward a Socialist America: A Symposium of Essays (New York, 1958), pp. 190-91.

109. For detailed examination of the atrophy of the CPUSA in this period, see Joseph R. Starobin, American Communism in Crisis, 1943-1957 (Berkeley, Calif., 1972). On the decline of a Left opposition in the postwar West more generally, see C. Wright Mills, Power Politics and People: The Collected Essays of C. Wright Mills, Irving Louis Horowitz, ed. (New York, 1963); Peter Clecak, Radical Paradoxes: Dilemmas of the American Left, 1945-1970 (New York, 1973); and E. J. Hobsbawm, Revolutionaries (New York, 1973).

110. Although Home argues that Du Bois enjoyed considerable support from black elites during his persecution in the postwar years, he almost certainly overstates his case. One of his own sources, for example, while noting that Du Bois’s black supporters were ardent, pointed out also that they « were very few » (Black and Red, p. 257).

111. Du Bois had declared during the Depression that « Russia would welcome an autonomous Negro state within her boundaries. Are there no Negroes young or old who have the guts to leave America? » (Pittsburgh Courier, February 29, 1936.

112. W. E. B. Du Bois, « Behold the Land, » in Du Bois, Seventh Son, vol. 2, p. 583.

113. « Interview with Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, » in Du Bois, Seventh Son, vol. 2, pp. 701-3.

114. « The American worker himself does not always realize [his mission]. He has high wages and many comforts. Rather than lose these, he keeps in office by his votes the servants of industrial exploitation so long as they maintain his wage. His labor leaders represent exploitation and not the fight against the exploitation of labor by private capital » (W. E. B. Du Bois, « Hail Humankind! » in Du Bois, Du Bois Speaks, p. 318.

115. Du Bois, Color and Democracy, pp. 83-84.

116. Ibid., p. 73. He went on to indicate that the lack of intelligence and experience derived from poverty (p. 74).

117. Du Bois, « Negro and Socialism, » p. 180.

118. Ibid., p. 183.

119. Ibid., p. 179.

120. Gilbert, Industrial Slate, pp. 7-8, and Louis Lindsay, « The Pluralist Persuasion in American Democratic Thought, » Social and Economic Studies 22 (December 1973): 479—513; see also Lustig, Corporate Liberalism, pp. 120—49.

121. See, for example, Toll’s discussion of the structuring principles of black discourse in this period in The Resurgence of Race. The theme of adjustment to industrialization is also visible in August Meier’s account in Negro Thought in America, 1880-1915: Racial Ideologies in the Age of Booker T. Washington (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1963); and, in a more limited compass, Kevin Gaines, « Black Americans’ Racial Uplift Ideology as ‘Civilizing Mission’: Pauline E. Hopkins on Race and Imperialism, » in Kaplan and Pease, eds., Cultures of United States Imperialism.

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