Frances Peace Sullivan, Simmons University, “The Negro Question in Cuba during the Third Period”

This chapter explores the Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC)’s evolving position on the “Negro Question” during the Third Period. After its inception in 1925, the PCC had been slow to move on the race question. By the dawn of the Third Period in 1928, however, and under pressure from the Comintern and the party’s own wish to become “an organization of the masses,” communist leaders launched a massive campaign to recruit black workers in the early 1930s. This chapter first traces three major components of the campaign to recruit black workers: (briefly) support for the Scottsboro Nine in Alabama, the “franja negra” or “black belt” policy calling for self-determination of the black-majority region of Camagüey and Orient; and support for Afro-Cuban immigrant workers during the Revolution of 1933. Throughout, the race question was part and parcel of the wider push for proletarian internationalism and party positions were developed as part of transnational dialogues taking place across the Americas. By the mid-1930s, however, the PCC found itself in a difficult position. Support for Afro-Caribbean braceros was deeply unpopular among working-class Cubans and put the party in the same camp as agro-business employers of foreign labor. This chapter traces the party’s abrupt and very public reversal on solidarity with foreign workers at the dawn of the Popular Front. At that time, the PCC became the one of Cuba’s most vocal defenders of labor nationalization laws. The policy reversal on immigrant labors is an avenue to explore tensions between Third Period proletarian internationalism and Popular Front nationalism, while shedding light on how the race question ebbed and flowed from leftist circles during this period. Ultimately, the Third Period fused the struggle for black liberation and the fight against imperialism in a way that would resonate for decades, surfacing most prominently again in the Tricontinentalist movement.