NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 37

In March, Loren Miller received a letter from John Pittman, a black man from Atlanta and a founding member of People’s World, requesting his assistance in getting Gus Hawkins, Floyd Covington, and Clarence Johnson to submit articles to the paper. Pittman closed his letter with the query: “How’s the up and coming People’s Commissar of Justice of the future Soviet America?” 2 Miller responded that a formal request from the editor of People’s World was the best method to recruit the three. He also expressed his criticism of the paper’s handling of news from the black community, especially the focus on crime and vice. Miller noted: There is so much separation of Negro problems from those of whites in liberal and progressive publications. We have special problems, but they are at once outgrowths of and causes of larger problems. They must be treated that way. Never, I think, was it more necessary to see the dialectical process of social change than in this field. 3 Charlotta Bass at the Eagle was alarmed by the presence of the People’s World in the black community. She complained in her column that “each day a big black delivery wagon scatters this disturbing element up and down the Negro district — while the Black people read and laugh.” She lambasted the Federal government for allowing the paper’s distribution through the mail, giving the same postal rights and protection “to a rabid ‘red’ sheet as that granted publications filching for religious, scientific and civic betterment of mankind.” 4 Mrs. Bass particularly disliked the People’s World’s focus on vice in the black community, its attacks on black leaders, and its stress on the conflict between workers and employers. In an editorial, “A Rotten Apple in the Barrel!” she complained: “A sheet circulated in Los Angeles preaching the doctrine of Red Russia under the guise of ‘defending the rights of labor’ is slowly but surely undermining our system of government.” While life in Moscow was glorified, “America is painted as a cruel, dark, dogged spot where mankind is held in virtual slavery and denied all rights and privileges that contribute to human progress, comfort and happiness.” 5 On March 2, 1938, the third, and last, of the great Moscow purge trials began. Twenty-one defendants were in the dock, including Nikolai Bukharin, who, next to Lenin, was considered the leading intellectual in the Soviet Party. Bukharin was an old Bolshevik, who had joined the Party before the 1917 revolution. Bukharin, like the other defendants except one, confessed to fantastic crimes in collusion with Leon Trotsky starting as far back as 1918, which included plots to assassinate Lenin and Stalin; to overthrow the Soviet government and to replace it with a capitalist one; to organize kula k uprisings in the early 1930’s; and to collaborate with German and other foreign intelligence agencies to destroy the Soviet Union. The defendants faced the death penalty without a right to appeal. As in the earlier trials, the confessions formed the primary evidence against the defendants. In his closing argument to the tribunal, Bukharin pointedly noted: “The confession of the accused is a medieval principle of jurisprudence.” 6 All the defendants were convicted, and, except for three, received death sentences. The defendants, including Bukharin, were shot immediately after the verdicts were rendered. 7 35 The first issue appeared on January 1st with the goal of being “the real voice of the common people, under the banner line: ‘For Security, Democracy and Peace.’” The paper arrived with greetings from the Central Committee and the Daily Worker. 1 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Nineteen thirty-eight began with the Communist Party, USA at the peak of its influence in the decade. This was manifested on the West Coast by the transformation of the weekly Western Worker into the daily People’s World.