Letters to the Editor
Paul Robeson and Racialism
Ige, Geofley Minis*
Mental Health Research
Dr. Donald Mc!. Johnson, MP
Egging Them On W. S. Mitchell Experiments with Time G. F. Dalton, R. A. Walker The Middle East H. Pinner A Child Goes to Hospital Gabrielle F. Morrison English in South-East Asia George Edinger Holiday Questions Hugh Foss
PAUL ROBESON AND RACIALISM
SIR,—Permit me to comment on Mr. Bernard Levin's 'review' of Paul Robeson's Here I Stand and Howard Fast's The Naked God (Spectator, August 15), although I wish to concentrate on Paul Robeson, whose book I have read. As a Christian, I have no love for Communism, but I can see that it is the negative reaction of so- called anti-Communists like Mr. Levin which makes it easy for Communists to receive unearned praise for progressive and liberal anti-racial ideas and actions in the US and South Africa. Because, in Mr. Levin's view, the USSR is tainted with anti- Semitism, Paul Robeson must be hanged for making amiable references to the Soviet Union. Because of Hungary, Paul Robeson must not be heard except he denounces the Soviet Union. What Mr. Levin is saying in effect is that, after all, one must not speak up against racial intolerance in the US because the USSR also practises some racialism.
The point, however, is that Paul Robeson is 'a Negro and can only honestly speak as a Negro--an American Negro. He is committed principally to a Negro cause, and if he thinks and speaks in that context alone, who can blame him? If Mr. Levin had ever been humiliated by being referred to as 'dirty nigger,"wog' or 'dirty Yid,' he would have known what it is to be bitter, and very bitter too. Paul Robeson is a bitter man, sincerely bitter because of the frustrating impotence and ineffectiveness of people like Mr. Levin; bitter because of the bad faith and concealed complex of many white people like Mr. Levin in the world; bitter because brilliant people who have a different pigmentation of skin continue to be humiliated by puny men like Mr. Levin; bitter because he has seen doors of social and intellectual advancement closed against Americans because they are black.
The West will continue to lose the heart of coloured peoples everywhere as long as it applies only the foolish actions of the Soviet Union as its yardstick of measuring the desirability of coming to terms with and respecting coloured peoples. As long as lunatic racialism is practised in the US, and President Eisenhower hesitates to deal firmly with Faubus and Jim Crow, so long will American loud protestations of freedom, equality and respect for human integrity and dignity be suspect in Asia and Africa. As long as the West says, for example, that the Fascist actions in South Africa are not worse than Communist ruthlessness in Soviet-dominated -countries and go an to 'rationalise' such negative stand, so long will she find coloured peoples tending; to look " Eastwards (admittedly, probably mis- suidedly). For whether Jews are persecuted in the
Soviet Union or not, the Russians certainly score over the West in that in the Soviet Union, Chinese, Indian, Negro and other coloured students and artists can and do walk and carry out their tasks freely without being lynched, or herded into separate compartments on public vehicles, or insulted by word or deed by herrenvolk devotees.
Is Mr. Levin so feeble-minded as not to detect Paul Robeson's dig at the White House and Dixie- crats when he talks of his admiration for his friends and peoples of the Soviet Union? Can it be denied that in Here 1 Stand Paul Robeson shows that he is Anglophile and Dixiephobist rather than Com- munist? Does Mr. Levin think that the many men and women of good will who have supported Paul Robeson in this country do not know what they are doing?—Yours faithfully,
Student Movement House, 103 Gower Street, WC1