This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.

W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race
by David Levering Lewis
Henry Holt and Company

Reviewed by MC5

This excellent biography increases our appreciation for W.E.B. Du Bois. MIM recommends this book to its readers with few reservations.

The most apparent weakness of the book is that it ends in 1919, while Du Bois lived until August 28, 1963. By 1919, Du Bois did not yet consider himself a communist as he did later in life. The other most obvious weakness of the book is that it aims itself partly at the academic elite. The vocabulary used in the book is tough going.

Given Lewis' bourgeois academic credentials, including funding from dubious sources, MIM worried that the book would be narrowly apolitical in approach and attempting to tone down W.E.B. Du Bois as so many histories of Black leaders do. As if to forestall this criticism and as if he knew all along that his book would not fully cover Du Bois's life, Lewis made abundant references to the post-1919 Du Bois to show the implications and durability of Du Bois's work. Readers should find the book entirely relevant to this day.

Unlike the typical academician, Lewis uses colloquial expressions which are useful to telling Du Bois's story. Lewis continually refers to Booker T. Washington by the derogatory but deserved term the "Wizard." Narrow-minded academia may find that Lewis' work handles subject matters that it does not approve of as legitimate -- especially matters of ideology, communism, organizational bickering, gender and race.

The benefits of the density of this book include a real learnedness on an immense variety of important subjects. Academicians will value this book, because it does not accept Du Bois at face-value and so the book checks up on Du Bois's version of events and claims to correct it at numerous points. For our part at MIM, we review this book with an eye to what Maoists learn from it and why it is worthwhile to plow through.

Du Bois on neocolonialism

Later in life Du Bois made frequent self-criticism for not picking up Marxism-Leninism and thorough class analysis fast enough. However, in his political career he was never too far from the correct line.

As explained in MIM Theory 7 "Proletarian Feminist Revolutionary Nationalism on the Communist Road," imperialist multinational corporations are much too powerful relative to entire African and other Third World countries for small elite classes to steer their countries on independent courses. For this reason, capitalism may seem to work in imperialist countries, but capitalism cannot bring national independence to countries oppressed by imperialism. It's much easier to buy-off, threaten, imprison or murder a small class of people that attempts to pursue its interests independent of capitalism than it is to intimidate a whole country armed for Maoist People's War.

Long before Du Bois took to Marxism-Leninism, and before de-colonization took place, Du Bois recognized that the upper classes of the colonial countries would not be strong enough to be independent. A "body of local private capitalists, even if they are black, can never free Africa; they will simply sell it into new slavery to old masters overseas." (p. 9) This was a good prediction -- made in 1914.

White working class

A strong theme running throughout the book involves the white working class. While still in graduate school, Du Bois wrote feminist fiction in which talented Black women seek to make their way in the business world. While white capital is willing to use Black female talents, white workers rebel to get Black women fired and according to Lewis, Du Bois concluded that his "fiercest enemy is the white working class." (p. 133)

At the same time, during the early years, Du Bois believed that some day decades in the future the Black worker and white worker would be united. (pp. 393-4) His beliefs on this very much parallel MIM's. The road to unity is not at all straight. There will have to be a few strategic periods of time in which the white worker will be treated as enemy, including a period of dictatorship of the oppressed nations over the oppressor nations. (See MIM Theory 7, pp. 15-36.)

The radicals in the early years of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) believed that workers must unite. On the other hand, labor leaders like Samuel Gompers were already setting the tone for a century of white working class chauvinism. Gompers, a Jewish labor union leader, denied reports that he called for expelling Blacks from the union movement, but a telegram from Gompers to Du Bois did say that he doubted that Blacks could understand the labor movement. (p. 394)

One of the earliest sociologists, Du Bois conducted statistical survey work in the Black community. Among other things, he learned that early 20th century labor unions actively excluded oppressed nationalities. In 1902 less than 40,000 people out of 1.2 million were not white. (p. 222)

While doing this sort of sociological work, Du Bois came to a conclusion Maoists recognize: "only learn by intimate contact with the masses, and not by wholesale arguments covering millions separate in time and space." (p. 285)

In 1912, Du Bois was dealing with the white working class labor aristocracy the same way that Lenin and Zinoviev would during World War I. He divided the issue into two, saying that when labor fights for humanity its "mission is divine," but when it fights to exclude all but whites from the unions, then Blacks saw the "union white man as their enemy." (p. 420) Indeed, it was in that context that Du Bois urged Blacks to cross white picket lines. In 1933, after the period covered in this book, Du Bois would write, "The Negro is exploited I and the exploitation comes I from the white capitalist and equally from the white proletariat."(The Crisis Vol. 4, No. 5)

Du Bois backed up his socialist rhetoric by voting for Eugene Debs for President in 1904. (p. 421) At that time there was no communist party in the United Snakes. Lenin later expressed his sympathy for Debs as well.

At the beginning of World War I, Du Bois may have beaten Lenin and Zinoviev to the punch on the problem of the white working class. He saw clearly the causes of the war and the contract offered by the European imperialists to their own working classes: "The white workingman has been asked to share the spoil of exploiting 'chinks and niggers." (p. 504) By itself, this quotation raises the question of whether or not Du Bois had fewer illusions than Lenin going into World War I. This is a question we cannot answer here. We can say that in all the essentials, Du Bois hit the nail on the head.

According to Du Bois, the capitalists sought to unite their workers with them to exploit the world through a "nation composed of united capital and labor." (p. 504) Toward this end, the capitalists did not propose equality of property but a certain percentage of the gross. According to Du Bois, "By threatening to send English capital to China and Mexico, by threatening to hire Negro laborers in America, as well as by old-age pensions and accident insurance, we gain industrial peace at home at the mightier cost of war abroad." (p. 505) This one sentence sums up the whole problem of the imperialist countries this century, a problem MIM is still trying to address.


One of the reasons that MIM can claim Du Bois for its own movement is Du Bois's lifelong internationalism and feminism. From his earliest days, Du Bois linked together the struggle of Black people with oppressed people everywhere.

As editor of The Horizon, Du Bois wrote about Galician Jews, the Belgians in the Congo, U.S. imperialism in Cuba and the Philippines and the Seminole Wars. Unlike narrow nationalists, Du Bois did not assume his people were the only oppressed ones in the world. In fact, he considered the 1898 invasions of Cuba and the Philippines the most criminal acts since the Seminole Wars. (p. 338)

Using the example of the Irish and after mentioning imperialism in South America, the Congo and Turkey, Du Bois justified revolutionary war against the British as in the 1916 Easter Rebellion. (p. 516) At about that time, Du Bois's view favoring revolutionary violence was demonstrating itself to be consolidated.

On the upbeat side, Du Bois wrote an article about Japan's defeat of Russia in 1904, arguing that it was the beginning of the end of "white supremacy." (p. 370) Later Du Bois would find heroes in Mao's China.

As time went on, the progressive nature of internationalism became more and more clear to Du Bois. Criticizing racist, pacifist socialists of his day, he said that the revolution they envisioned was for white people. Pacifism among whites ignored the violence of imperialism in the Congo, the Amazon, South Africa, India and the South Seas -- misnaming it "carrying civilization to the natives." (p. 526)

Du Bois went on to correctly link such international examples to his own cause. The actions of imperialism abroad only taught Du Bois the nature of his enemy. He asked why white workers opposed Black migration to the North. Furthermore, he said that Blacks had come to view white workers as their greatest enemy: "White Northern laborers find killing Negroes a safe, lucrative employment which commends them to the American Federation of Labor." (p. 526)

The struggle against Booker T. Washington

One of the things Du Bois is best known for is supplanting Booker T. Washington's leadership of the Black people. Washington was a Black educator and scientist who took up a career as the top political leader and patronage source of Blacks. Even more than Martin Luther King Jr. would later, Washington believed in "turning the other cheek" to the point of professing concern for bad Black morals that caused them to get lynched and the pain that must have caused white mobs to deviate from their Christian beliefs.

Washington's program was simple: obtain economic power first and concede whites everything else. Toward this end, he believed Black people must focus on vocational education, live separately and unequally, give up voting rights and eschew liberal arts educations. Since such a program was pleasing to the white ear, white philanthropists and government officials gave Washington considerable funding, power over Black appointments, and media attention. The white ruling class also agreed to rein in the rednecks from the white working class since Washington had pretty much granted everything the white working class wanted anyway. (p. 175)

Du Bois came to stand for obtaining the same education for Blacks that whites received, equal voting rights and legitimacy for inter-marriage. He originally believed that the "Talented Tenth" of Black people must obtain education and political power and lead their own peoples.

Though elitist, Du Bois's conception was more progressive than Booker T. Washington's idea at the time. As Maoists we are fans of vocational education and opponents of the kind of education that simply certifies a ruling class's fitness to rule. Hence, on the surface our ideas might seem to be close to those of Booker T. Washington's, but in reality, Washington would have disagreed completely with our putting "politics in command" in education. We stress the "red" in "red and expert," because it never does any good to have an education (of any kind) without knowing what to do with it and how to apply it toward that end.

At the time of the Washington/Du Bois split, at the beginning of this century, vocational education was not accorded the prestige that it deserves and was hence undeveloped compared with what we as Maoists plan under socialism. Washington and his white backers supported industrial (vocational) education for Blacks in the transformation from an agricultural slave economy to an industrial capitalist economy in the south. Power comes from having college education in the current society, and Du Bois understood that to defeat the enemy it was necessary to know its weapons. That approach remains correct within capitalist society until that time when the revolutionary forces establish their own base areas and education systems, and vocational education can take its rightful place as an honorable course.

Occasionally the industrialists and businesspeople of today complain about the irrelevance of liberal arts degrees or the excess of college graduates. Yet, their criticism of liberal arts education is different than ours. The capitalists want a pliant and large supply of skilled workers willing to live a life of stagnation in the economy of late imperialism. To them it sometimes seems that liberal arts education gives too many people skills and understandings of power. It's not that they want to accord vocational education its due respect; they just plan for college graduates or people with their skills to rule without anyone capable of looking over their shoulders.

Switch from elitist idealism to materialism

The breakpoint in Du Bois political career is connected to his career as an academician. Originally Du Bois believed strongly in the ability of people like himself to point out the irrationality of racism to white society. As educated people like himself arose, he expected they would obtain many laurels in academia, extensive funding from the government, and finally recognition from white capitalists who would fund their work. In short, Du Bois took academia on its word that merit is rewarded without regard to politics and that good ideas conquer all.

Yet, even as the accolades flowed in from Max Weber, William James and other leading lights of his day in academia, Du Bois never obtained substantial resources for his academic work. After a decade at Atlanta University in which he made that university famous for annual research on race, Du Bois came to realize that he would never have as much influence as he thought by staying on the academic road. White capitalists and the white working class were not even sure that Black people should be educated, and they were not as open to supporting his kind of education and research as he presumed.

It was at this time that Du Bois made the switch from academician to agitator with the encouragement of advanced elements of the Socialist Party. At the time, the Socialist Party was much more advanced than it is today, though even today it retains a strong opposition to capitalist war and bourgeois politics -- a regular fountain of wisdom compared with, for example, the Socialist Party in France.

In the switch from professor to agitator, Du Bois played a leading role in founding the Pan-Africanist Congress and later the NAACP. To the lessons learned about obstacles to academic work Du Bois was now to add lessons about obstacles to political organizing. It was only a matter of time before Du Bois took up Marxist materialism, consistently and thoroughly.

In politics, Du Bois's experience with Booker T. Washington taught him the same kinds of lessons that Lenin was learning on the need for correct movement leadership. Booker T. Washington was the epitome of opportunism: "It wasn't a matter of ideals or anything of that sortI He had no faith in white people, not the slightest, and he was most popular among them, because if he was talking with a white man he sat there and found out what the white man wanted him to say, and then as soon as possible, he said it." (p. 274)


Lewis pays appropriate attention to gender. Du Bois always propagated a good line on gender, sometimes to counter lines of other Black male activists such as William Monroe Trotter, who is sometimes thought of as more radical than Du Bois.

Du Bois explicitly defended alliance with Euro-Amerikan women when some raised doubts about the usefulness of such an alliance. He sought an equal role for women in political organizations, in education and in voting rights. Although MIM has shown that later in the century Euro-Amerikan women as a group were not a natural ally of Black liberation, MIM believes it reasonable and progressive for Du Bois to have tried this approach at the beginning of the century.

On the book jacket the publishers wisely appeal to feminist and pseudo-feminist audiences by making it clear the book treats gender issues. To do so, the publishers make use of an advance review by Paula Giddings which says, "David Lewis skillfully evokes 'Will' the man -- inspiring, flawed, a mass of contradictions, not the least of which was his feminist passion and patriarchal practice."

In defense of Du Bois, MIM argues that Giddings has vulgarized the word "practice" into a backdoor for Liberalism in a way that will be popular with pseudo-feminists unwilling to examine social structures and the need for political action. Excluded from the idea of "practice" in Gidding's mind is Du Bois's fight to include women in the Niagara movement, his numerous published essays on feminist issues and his preference to install a radical white woman as president of the NAACP. Du Bois might as well have skipped his historic and precedent-setting work behind these actions as far as his impression on Giddings was concerned, because she was still going to conclude that he had a "patriarchal practice."

By "practice" Giddings really means "lifestyle." Lewis portrays Du Bois as a man who did not choose to marry or treat his wife as an intellectual equal (and Lewis identifying with Du Bois in this elite regard agrees his wife was not Du Bois's equal), Du Bois as a distant father not playing much of a role in family matters and as a man running around four continents having extra-marital affairs as he went. This is what Giddings meant by "patriarchal practice."

MIM agrees with Giddings, to a point, that one should lead as progressive a lifestyle as possible under a system of oppression. We are not aware of the detailed kind of context around 1900 that enables us to say that Du Bois was better than or worse than other biological men in lifestyle matters. How many men bothered to educate their daughters and put a majority of their salaries into educating their daughter at a forward-looking private school? What portion of men allowed women to run the family finances and found a way to give the wife the amount of money she asked for to educate her daughter and pay for other expenses while admittedly shipped off to distant England? How were extra-marital affairs regarded in that context? Lewis admits that he doesn't even really have Du Bois's wife's opinions on these matters, nor does he explain what would be considered a progressive lifestyle at the time.

To expect Du Bois to have married (or treated his wife as) an equal is to ask something impossible in his time. Du Bois was the first Black Harvard Ph.D. in an age where Blacks were deemed uniformly unworthy of college admission. It was not his lifestyle's fault that Black women were not trained by the system in the skills of wielding power. That is a group level problem, not the problem of Du Bois's lifestyle.

We see here the logical marriage of ultraleft Liberalism with idealism, in that Giddings adopts some rhetoric to the left of Du Bois but demands something obviously impossible given the group oppression that existed at the time. Indeed, nowhere in the book do we see that Du Bois claims his gender-related "lifestyle" is something to emulate as a path to liberation. True radicals in class, gender and ethnic matters such as Du Bois do not make such false and impossible claims. They recognize that true progress is achieved only through uniting social groups of people to struggle for group-level change.

In fairness to Giddings, we should say that a book jacket is a means of selling books and not a way to make accurate analytical statements and MIM does not doubt Giddings's contributions in selling Lewis's book. Furthermore, in an overall sense, as long as we recognize that all individuals have "a mass of contradictions" and "patriarchal practice" under a patriarchal system, then we can agree somewhat with Giddings, who only errs in pitting that "practice" against Du Bois's political work for feminism.

Rape and race

Although he lived long before the theoretical contributions of Catharine MacKinnon on rape, Du Bois never accepted the mob discourse of rape of his day. On the surface of critical events like the watershed race riot of Atlanta in 1906 there was the alleged assault on white women by Black men, and beneath that was economic competition of Blacks and whites. (p. 334)

According to Du Bois, his own sexual life was jumpstarted by a rapist biological woman. Having grown up as a bookworm and tireless manual laborer, Du Bois appears to have been inexperienced in connection to his own body as a young man. His own explanation of his initiation was that "I was literally raped by the unhappy wife who was my landlady." (p. 71)

No doubt outside of radical political and highly intellectual circles, Du Bois's idea would be seen as unmanly and something to scoff at. Yet, it was not the only sense in which Du Bois sought to understand gender issues from the ground up without any preconceptions. MIM would say that Du Bois showed insight into the issue of appropriation of sexuality and hence gained a possible understanding of the situation of oppressed biological women.

Du Bois also wrestled with an ancient dichotomy, the pedestal and whore contradiction. Supposedly "respectable" women of the time aimed toward motherhood. Men come to view the mother-image kind of women as inappropriate for sex. Other women are whores, and both appropriate and inappropriate for sex. Du Bois reflected on the group that was simultaneously mother, wife and whore. According to Lewis, Du Bois's thoughts on these subjects and initial sexual experiences made him "pathological" for life in sexual matters. In contrast, MIM would only say Du Bois lived in a "pathological" patriarchy and like everyone else, did not escape it: women's roles as mothers, wives and whores appear separate but do in fact flow together under patriarchy.

Often the "commoner" reflects the values of the ruling class and has a harsh judgment of radicals, Blacks and intellectuals. In the case of Du Bois, all three are rolled up in one and this makes for a dynamite combination in issues of sexual mores. His collection of essays on Black conditions was such a call for equality that whites took it as a threat to "their" women. In response to Du Bois's publication of the Souls of Black Folk, the Houston Chronicle called for Du Bois to be indicted for "inciting rape."

Fortunately many others reviewed the book more seriously. On the positive side, Du Bois heard from socialists who supported him and called for solidarity with white workers. This gave him something to think about. On the other hand, he had his opinion of white trash reaffirmed. Hence, despite being basically idealist, Du Bois continued to learn about and express some economic explanations of racism. On the other hand, he also expressed the opinion from his experiences of seeing lynching first hand and his experience of how reviewers felt threatened by him--that the whole race problem boiled down to control of women. White men wanted control of both Black and white women, while they wanted to deny access to white women by Black men.

Seeing this dynamic very early was Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a Black woman who organized the first anti-lynching efforts. We make a mental note from reading this book that Ida Wells-Barnett deserves further investigation for her historical role as a leader compared with other Black leaders. She, Du Bois and others spent much of their political careers running from one lynch mob scene to another to cover it for newspapers, to arrange for protection of the victims and to put local officials and police on the spot. These events that killed 100 or 200 Blacks every year were so pivotal that one of Booker T. Washington's biggest and most common (but false) complaints against Du Bois was that Du Bois lacked the physical courage to rush to the Atlanta race riots while Washington himself risked himself to go. In actual fact, "Du Bois rushed to the city by train to sit on the steps of South Hall to protect [his wife and daughter --MC44] Nina and Yolande with a shotgun." (p. 335)

On the other hand, Du Bois realized where the ideology protecting women led. The "northern version of the Atlanta riot" in Springfield, Illinois was the force that welded together Du Bois and various whites, including the politically advanced white woman Mary Ovington, into the NAACP. The Springfield riot was instigated by a white woman: "What the hell are you fellas afraid of?IWomen want protection!" (p. 388) she yelled to the white mob gathered outside a jail. "Boardinghouse keeper Kate Howard's bawling challenge (the press called her 'Joan of Arc of the mob') led to more than eighty injuries, six fatal shootings, two lynchings, more than $200,000 in damage, and the flight of some two thousand African-Americans before the National Guard restored order." (p. 388) In this sense, we can say that Kate Howard was the mother of the NAACP, just as Ronald Reagan was the father of the Black Panther Party.

Like historical literature on Asian immigrants from the time, Lewis's biography does no cheerleading for white women generally, while it accords hero roles to white women like Mary Ovington. From the perspective of the immigrants and Blacks of the day, white women might be even more narrow-minded than men. While some capitalists and political leaders could at least deal with Blacks and immigrants, white women staying at home had no such cosmopolitan experiences. We learn for instance that the original leader of the NAACP and white male was not allowed by his wife to bring Blacks or Jews into the house. (p. 400)

Gender: suffrage

Du Bois himself did not believe "the slightest reason for supposing that white American womenI are going to be any more intelligent, liberal or humane toward the black, the poor and unfortunate than white men are." (p. 418-9) He also called out white suffragists who said, "Do not touch the Negro problem. It will offend the South." (p. 417) Nonetheless he polemicized against Blacks who said no alliance with white woman should be made. Quite the contrary, he held that Blacks must support women's suffrage as a matter of principle. (p. 419)

Du Bois's pragmatist mistake

If we are to avoid idealism, then we must choose from options that exist within the real world. Sometimes the need for this materialist approach is confused with the reactionary philosophy of pragmatism, which taken literally means the philosophy of being practical without regard for larger issues.

Unfortunately for Du Bois, he literally learned something of a materialist approach in his classes with the grandfather of American pragmatism, Harvard professor William James. James called on students to make real world choices, choices of the possible -- and not fall for big Germanic philosophical abstractions, like Hegel's which amounted to a call on God.

It was the Bay Area organization that today claims the name of the Black Panther Party which first pointed out to MIM Du Bois's mistake of working for U.S. military intelligence, literally with the mission of spying on Blacks and shoring up the U.S. effort in World War I. This mistake will no doubt cost Du Bois much support among today's youth, who instinctively realize the evils of pragmatism perhaps without fully understanding it.

During presidential and Congressional elections, the pragmatists are always the ones to say we must vote for Democrats, because they are the lesser of the two evils. These pragmatists are correct to say that either one or the other must win the election, and they thus confuse dialectical materialists who seek change on the basis of real world choices.

For his part, Du Bois thought he was waging a principled fight against idealists with no real world plans for change by pushing Blacks to get behind U.S. imperialism in World War I. The imperialists offered the carrot of military power and integration, first by offering to train perhaps two thousand Black military officers, and second by giving some Black leaders such as Du Bois military laurels such as a captain or major's rank in the Army. Moreover, Du Bois was aware of the potential unifying effect of war on a nation. He thought Blacks might indeed win full voting rights for fighting in the war and become accepted as hyphenated Afro-Americans, as the Irish and Italians had become.

Du Bois was not naive about World War I. In fact, until 1918 he wrote against it extensively and even foreshadowed some of Lenin's arguments in his book Imperialism. Du Bois believed that World War I was most centrally a war over colonies in Africa put over on the masses by financial circles in Europe.

Yet in 1918 Du Bois saw no way to stop the U.S. entry into the war and believed the choice was between having Black military officers and not having them. Having witnessed the number of times in U.S. history that trained Black troops were the only counterweight to white mob lynchings, (e.g. read about the 24th Infantry in Houston, p. 541) it is not surprising that Du Bois concluded that Blacks needed the military experience and power that went along with a role in a world war.

V. I. Lenin's success in getting Russia out of World War I should have inspired Du Bois into realizing some of the potential of his own material situation, but he became fixated on the narrow issue of Black civil rights and ended up setting back Black power and bringing disunity to the emerging Black nation. At that time, Du Bois did not yet have the broader perspective and theoretical tools on the forces of social progress that he did in later life. Rather than always starting from the vantage point of the international proletariat, Du Bois did what seemed to be good for the narrow interests of Black workers. He did not realize the full implications of setting the Black proletariat against proletarians from other nations to die in a war for colonies and military vendors' profits. If he had started from the interests of the proletarian class internationally, he would have realized that proletarians gain nothing from killing each other for the imperialists and he would have sought to weaken the war effort, however imperceptible the results might have been at first.

The exercise of setting out to discover who one's friends are and who one's enemies are might seem overly abstract and difficult, too much an issue of theoretical political economy. Yet Du Bois did not quite realize who the friends of Black progress were during World War I and he ended up setting back Black progress with his pragmatist mistake of joining U.S. military intelligence.

Seeing such mistakes and the mistake of voting for hopelessly imperialist Democrats, some people jump to the other extreme and take up idealism. The Progressive Labor Party and other Trotskyists and crypto-Trotskyists are clear examples of this sort of idealism where all that matters is reciting the correct poetry, having distant communist goals and good intentions. As a result, the PLP always sidesteps the issue of who concretely should have been rallied to defeat the Nazis during World War II. The PLP rejects Stalin's and Mao's concept of united front essentially because the PLP believes that the goal of defeating the Nazis did not justify the alliance with impure class forces including imperialists. This sort of approach goes too far in avoiding real world approaches and not surprisingly, no PLP or other Trotskyist or crypto-Trotskyist revolution has succeeded anywhere in the world. It seems that pious intentions are not sufficient to replace the analytical work of theory.

To judge the real-world choices we have made, it is important not to judge them on overly narrow bases on the one hand or only on the bases of impossible abstractions on the other hand. When we judge a theory and corresponding line, we must evaluate it from the international and historical perspective overall. Trotskyists and other idealists of today have gone too far in criticizing Stalin and Mao without demonstrating that their alternative was in fact superior in the real world. The absence of Trotskyist or other idealist revolutions is too much to ignore. On the other hand, Du Bois made the opposite mistake of making a real world choice unconnected to his long-range goals. Implicitly he lost sight of the larger social actors that were more important than a few thousand possible Black officers in the U.S. Army, and in so doing he contributed to the slaughter of Black and other proletarians in the inter-imperialist World War I, when he should have done everything possible to weaken and hence end the war.

In July 1918, Du Bois had his newspaper The Crisis do an about-face to support war with the article "Close Ranks." At the same time, the U.S. government finally decided it could not accept Du Bois as a military officer. Du Bois would later claim nothing much ever came from the idea of joining military intelligence. Nonetheless, at the very least it was a propaganda coup for the imperialists to see The Crisis "Close Ranks."

Soon Du Bois would again be the target of intelligence-gathering. His investigation into the conditions of Black soldiers in Europe got himself in trouble with the postmaster, who considered censoring his report to The Crisis called "Returning Soldiers" in the May 1919 issue.


There may have been more progressive Black leaders than Du Bois at the turn of the century, but MIM is not aware of them (although we will look at the work of Ida B. Wells-Barnett more closely).

Nonetheless even a handful of individuals who might have been superior to Du Bois do not constitute sufficient reason for a negative evaluation of Du Bois, as it is obvious that the progress of a nation is the work of more than a handful of individuals. Though flawed, Du Bois's history is one to uphold; it has vastly more merits than demerits. This is also what Mao Zedong concluded in 1963. He sent his eulogies to Du Bois's funeral. We would ignore such eulogies in the case of government leaders as a matter of pure formality, but in the case of Du Bois, who died in Africa having lived a life mostly as a proletarian intellectual, Mao had no reason to pay attention to such formalities and we conclude that Mao's admiration of Du Bois was not at all contrived for strategic or tactical reasons: "One devoted to struggles and truth-seeking for which he finally took the road of thorough revolution. His unbending will and his spirit of uninterrupted revolution are examples for all oppressed peoples." (p. 10) In fact, China under Mao celebrated Du Bois's birthday as a national holiday. (p. 3)

The recipient of Lenin and Stalin prizes, a friend of Mao's and a defender of Stalin against Trotsky, a key leader in Pan-Africanism, the path-breaking and crucial fighter against the Black comprador Booker T. Washington and someone generally far ahead of his time in connection to the principal contradiction of today, Du Bois is someone MIM can claim proudly for its own historical tradition.

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