George Washington Woodbey, Pioneering Black Socialist
The historical principle of black American Christian spirituality is firmly rooted in the belief that one's relationship with God is intimate, shared, and awesome in its empowerment. During slavery, it allowed blacks to transcend the profane circumstances of their oppression and to take an active and positive stance in viewing and interpreting the circumstances of their life. Their Christian spirituality imbued the debasement of slavery and Jim Crowism with relevant personal meaning, engendered self-esteem, kept despair at bay, and promised hope for recompense both in this life and in the hereafter.
In contrast, all socialist theory is based on scientific or secular humanism. Secular humanism espouses that reason, ethics, and justice are the basis of human evolution and happiness. It specifically rejects supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision-making in ordering one's life.
Secular humanists claim it to be the only worldview compatible with science's growing knowledge of the real world and the laws of nature. Thus, this view holds that man himself is the ultimate standard by which all life is measured and judged. Values, law, justice, good, beauty, and right and wrong can be judged only by man-made rules with no authority from either God or the Bible.
It is a philosophy that (a) regards human rationality as the highest value, (b) considers the individual to be the ultimate source of value, and (c) is dedicated to fostering the individual's creative and moral potential without reference to a Deity or any other "Higher Authority." While the humanists start and end with man, the Bible starts and ends with God. It was God who was in the beginning (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3), not an impersonal, "self-creating" nature, from which man gradually evolved. The Bible consistently teaches that it is upon the infinite God that this finite world depends for its existence.
Accordingly, the fundamental contradiction between socialism and the inherent Christian instincts of black Americans is based on socialism's denial of God and His Holy Scriptures. Therefore, support of the socialist creed by freedmen in the post-Civil War years, based on the denial of God and the Holy Scriptures, would have been a denial of the legitimacy black American Christianity and a career-ending move for black preachers who publicly embraced the Godlessness of socialism.
Enter George Washington Woodbey (1854-1920s?). A Baptist minister turned socialist, Woodbey emerged around the turn of the century as one of the earliest black ministers to promote the compatibility between socialism and Christianity. Woodbey's background is a bit sketchy. It is known he was born a slave in Tennessee and completed two years of schooling after emancipation. He lived in Nebraska and Kansas before moving to California, where he did most of his political work in San Diego and Los Angeles. Woodbey served on the executive board of the California Socialist Party and became the party's first black national organizer.
Woodbey saw no contradiction between his religious beliefs and his socialist politics. So enthused was Woodbey about socialism that he viewed Marx as a descendent of one of the Hebrew prophets. He was convinced that socialism was nothing less than the implementation of the economic teachings of the Bible. In one of his pamphlets in praise of socialism titled "Why the Negro Should Vote Socialist"[i] Woodbey wrote:
For my part as a preacher, I know we would all be better off if we had Socialism. The Bible says: "Your Heavenly Father knoweth that you have need for all these things." Meaning by that, food, clothing and housing. But God has put the things you need here on earth and the capitalist class has gobbled them up and you must by your votes change that condition. [Emphasis added.]
It is most unfortunate that Woodbey had not completed his schooling before taking to the preaching circuit -- before he became a proselyte of socialism. Had he done so, his intellectual curiosity might have inspired him to do reasonable due diligence into the object of his new infatuation. Had he delved more deeply into the man who brought the world the horror of Marxism, he would have discovered some very unsettling character and psychological flaws about Karl Marx himself. He would have discovered that Karl Marx was first and foremost a self-loathing Jew who despised the black race at least as much as he despised himself. That Karl Marx was a rabid racist, as was his colleague and co-author Frederich Engels, is an indubitable fact that cannot be denied. Both would have been in excellent company with the Ku Klux Klan.
Woodbey would have also discovered that their vision of the socialist utopia excluded participation by the black race, a race they considered inferior; a sub-human species. In a July 1862 letter to Engels, in reference to his socialist political competitor, Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx wrote:
[I]t is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother had not interbred with a n****r. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow is also n****r-like. [ii]
Engels certainly was no shirker to Marx's racist bigotry. In 1887, Paul Lafargue, who was Marx's son-in-law, was also a candidate for a council seat in a Paris district that contained a zoo. Engels claimed that Lafargue had "one-eighth or one-twelfth n****r blood." In an April 1887 letter to Lafargue's wife, Engels wrote, "Being in his quality as a n****r, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district."
As a profound observer of social phenomena once commented, "[i]t's easy for a black person to be a Marxist if you haven't read his writings."
Clearly, George Washington Woodbey had not read Karl Marx's writings. Apparently, none of the subsequent black Marxists throughout the course of the 20th century had read Marx's writings either. This is the only logical reason available to explain why the vast body of 20th-century black socio-political-economic literature by the so-called black intelligentsia comprises praise for the racist ideology of Marxism.
Ignorance of the facts has rarely deterred a natural-born fool from his mission, especially a fool born of arrogance and hubris. George Washington Woodbey was a man on a mission. In 1902 Woodbey moved to San Diego to stay with his momma, where she was living in failing health. Woodbey was made minister of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which provided him a captive audience to proselytize the joys of racist socialism from the pulpit. To his fellow socialists, Woodbey argued that the only way to reach church folk is to engage in deception by showing them that the economic teachings of the Bible and of socialism are the same and that for Christians to stand consistently by the teachings of their own religion, they must accept socialism.
Woodbey cautioned that when a socialist is speaking to a Christian about socialism, he should stay on message and confine himself "strictly" to its economic teachings:
It is my experience that when you show the church member how the Bible, and every line of it is with the poor as against their oppressors, and that it is only because we have not been following out its teaching, that professed Christians have been found among the worst oppressors of the poor and that no man is entitled to be called a Christian who does not measure up to the teaching of the Bible you have made the first step toward converting him to the idea that it cannot be done in its entirety without the collective ownership and operation of industries. [iii]
Woodbey declared in his frustration that it was either through its ineptitude or arrogance that the Socialist Party was making it difficult for him to sell his pig wearing lipstick, to win converts among church members. "It will not do to send those who do not understand the Christian people to carry this message for the reason they are sure to say something that will spoil the whole thing," as in "let the pig out of the bag." Woodbey was confident that:
... when once we have succeeded in showing the church people and the pastors of small churches, that if they are to follow the teachings of the Bible, they must be with us in advocating the overthrow of the capitalist system, we will have made the greatest step yet in the cause of socialism. [iv]
Despite Woodbey's tremendous powers of persuasion, he was unable to convince his congregation at Mount Zion Baptist Church of the compatibility of Christianity and socialism, that the pig of socialism was none other than a pig. The good church people of Mount Zion Baptist Church eventually gave George Washington Woodbey the boot. The congregation complained that he had this unacceptable penchant for mixing too much socialism with his Bible, which the congregation deeply resented.
Fast forward to year 2011 -- the socialists have apparently done quite well in deceiving black voters that the racist ideology of socialism's secular humanism and social justice are consistent with the Holy Scriptures. They did this by stealing a page from Woodbey's playbook of deceptive tactics. It is significant that of the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, 28 (65 percent) are also members of the Congressional Socialist Caucus and comprise 37 percent of the total CSC membership. For the sake of the restoration of America as we once knew it, we pray that voters in the apartheid-like special black voting preserves of socialist misery and despair likewise give their Marxist overseers in the CBC the boot as the good Christians at Mount Zion Baptist Church gave George Washington Woodbey the boot.
[i] Philip Foner, Black Socialist Preacher: The Teachings of Reverend George Washington Woodbey and his Disciple, Reverend G.W. Slater (San Francisco, Synthesis Publications, 1983), Pg. 255
[ii] "Karl Marx, Racist" (1979), by former communist Nathaniel Weyl
[iii] ibid., Pg. 261
[iv] ibid., p. 262