Unpublished Du Bois

A Proposed Platform for the Progressive Party for 1950

This unpublished article by W. E. B. Du Bois comes from February 1950. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was intensifying, the Korean War just months away. Du Bois was 81 when he wrote this, still working hard for racial justice, socioeconomic equality, and an end to colonialism. In the last decade of his life, Du Bois turned his attention increasingly towards promoting peace, and pointing out the links between an aggressive, anti-communist foreign policy and oppression and inequality domestically. This resulted in Du Bois facing more harassment than ever before. He was indicted by the U.S. Justice department on charges of being an agent of a foreign power. He was acquitted, but the process was a sad and embittering one for Du Bois. He gladly accepted the chance to leave the U.S. And settle in Ghana, where he died in 1963.

This document, though a product of an earlier time, also speaks to our present moment. We are still “ruled by corporate wealth,” and Du Bois’s paraphrasing of Winston Churchill still rings true: “Never before have so few owned so much at the expense of so many.” The demands Du Bois makes in this piece have, in many cases, yet to be met. We are still struggling for the basic rights of people to be recognized, regardless of race, gender, or belief. We still cannot trust that our elections will be free and equal. Du Bois is asking for more rights for working people, socialized medicine, and public housing.

We are still waiting.

Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Director, W. E. B. Du Bois Center
November 2020

W. E. B. Du Bois (center) campaigning for the Progressive party, Los Angeles Union Station, 1952, photo by Maceo B. Sheffield

The American people want Peace. They want neither to conquer the world nor police it. They have no desire to meddle in other people’s affairs, nor censor their thought nor control their industry. They want to spend the billions now wasting in war on human education and uplift for all men. 

We are threatened by no nation. There is no disagreement between us and the Soviet Union which force can settle or which conference cannot resolve. We are opposed therefore to the Atlantic Pact and similar treaties. 

We are blood-guilty in using the frightful atom bomb to kill women and children after unnecessarily refusing to outlaw the weapon save on our own terms; in curtailing its peacetime use; and surrendering this use to monopoly; and in planning even more frightful weapons. 

We believe in self-determination for all peoples regardless of color, race, belief or political philosophy. We congratulate China on achieving rule of the people, and demand her recognition and the refusal of further aid to Chiang Kai-shek and his kind. 

Especially do we demand the abolition of the colonial system and freedom from its tentacles of all present peoples who suffer from control by foreign masters. We see in this system endless cause of war, poverty, ignorance and disease. 

Many of us are not satisfied in basing our prosperity on the degradation of most of mankind, but busy ourselves with transmuting political colonialism into industrial and financial slavery, so as to build high profit and high wage in Europe and the United States on poverty and starvation in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, the beautiful raped islands of the Seven Seas. 

We want to help the needy of all lands so far as we can; but we refuse to couple charity with commercial profit or political control. We therefore demand that the Marshall Plan be confined to restoring the autonomy of the victims of war and not used for land monopoly, industrial advantage and thought-control.

Du Bois delivering a speech on television in N.Y., 1950

Not by might nor by power can we help the world, but by sacrifice and example; we gain little by boasting of a democracy which we do not practice or of riches and comfort which at least a third of our own population do not share. We are ruled today by corporate wealth; and blessed as we are in natural resources, never before have so few owned so much at the expense of so many. Public welfare must replace private profit and planned economy must bring order and justice out of the anarchy of Free Enterprise and Private Initiative.

We demand control of industry, public ownership of banking, transport and communications, of mines and oil wells, and of all government-subsidized industry. We demand limitation of income so as to insure a decent standard of living and curb excessive personal wealth; and we need a tax structure calculated to achieve these ends by stopping tax exemption for the greedy and decreasing the tax burden of the needy.

We demand immediate suppression of attempts at thought-control by “Un-American” committees, secret police methods as used by the F.B.I. and witch-hunting by officials and the press. Communists, Catholics and Pacificists have the same right to think, vote and act, within the law, as other Americans; and injustice in the courts must not be used to punish freedom of belief.

We demand for every American citizen, no matter what his color, race or belief, the right to vote and hold office; the right to live where others live and on the same conditions; the right to work according to ability and to income according to accomplishment; the right to move without segregation and to receive education and other public benefits without discrimination; and the right to marry any sane, sound person who wants to marry him. This means fair employment legislation and laws against lynching and the poll tax.

The foundations of our democracy rest on free and equal elections. We should stop rewarding disfranchisement in sections like the South by giving 7,000 votes in South Carolina as much power as 70,000 in Michigan, with consequent committee chairmanships and rights to filibuster. Representation should be based on votes cast. Only in this way can the democratic weapon of the Third Party be able to oust corruption and reaction. 

We demand federal aid to education without segregation or discrimination by race, color or belief. And we believe that education is the function of the State and not of the Church.

We defend the right of working people to organize and bargain, whether in public or private employ and we resent the use of court injunction to limit this right. We demand of labor unions freedom of admission to their ranks of all men of every race and color and of any shade of political opinion.

We call for increased government control of land ownership and use; for socialized medicine to protect the public health; for abolition of slums and for publicly subsidized housing on a nation-wide scale; for unemployment relief, sickness and old age security on levels sufficient for decent life; for the protection and subsidization of workers in any essential industry like farming which has suffered from present organization of industry; we believe in the encouragement of all forms of self-help, like consumers cooperation.

We have made Science the prisoner of Big Business, government the slave of the army and education the plaything of propaganda. We have come out of war a scared, suspicious, money-mad people, without love, faith or hope and with our charity married to profit.

We are increasingly becoming helpless victims of our secret police with spying, lying and wire-tapping, unrevealed witnesses and star-chamber methods even in the halls of Congress and in government employ.

We resent the intrusion of courts upon the realms of democracy and the increasing tyranny of judges on the rights of lawyers and clients. We believe in America so thoroughly and in the Bill of Rights so completely that we refuse to exchange democracy for oligarchy, freedom for slavery or self-respect for “jim-crow” laws or practices. We ask the votes of all persons who support the essentials of this platform and we do not ask or wish to know what other beliefs or aims they have so long as they wholeheartedly support ours.

We believe that persons who so distrust their own aims as to exclude anybody from supporting them, show lack of faith in their own program. This is a brief statement of our beliefs and policy. During the campaign we shall prepare and distribute detailed statements on each of the points referred to above with facts and detailed suggestions for remedies and improvements.

A proposed platform for the Progressive Party for 1950, February 1, 1950 by W. E. B. Du Bois