The Russian Revolution and Black Radicalism in the United States

Catherine Bergin

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After the first world war a new black radicalism emerged in the US, partly in response to the racism encountered by people emigrating to northern cities. These radicals rejected the passive and assimilationist politics of older organisations and made explicit links between class, race and capitalism. Race was central to their understandings of capitalism: it was a transnational term that linked slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow and capitalism. This was the context for black radical responses to the Russian revolution. Caribbean migrants were also centrally involved in the black socialist movement, and the pan-African internationalism of Garvey had some influence. For these radicals the racism of white workers was a serious impediment to class struggle, and black workers had an essential educational role to play in overcoming the limitations of their white colleagues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-77
JournalSoundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture
Issue number68
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Cathy Bergin is a Senior Lecturer on the Humanities Programme at the University of Brighton. She is the author of Bitter with the Past, but Sweet with the Dream: Communism in the African American Imaginary (2015); African American Anti-Colonial Thought, 1917-1937 (2016); and ‘Reparative Histories: Radical Narratives of “Race” and Resistance’ (edited with Anita Rupprect) a special Issue of Race & Class (January 2016).


  • black radicalism
  • Russian Revolution
  • slavery
  • capitalism
  • Jim Crow
  • pan-Africanism


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