From The New York Times article by Sarah Jaffe:
The (Communist) party inspired loyalty for reasons beyond simply an affinity for Marxist ideas. It was the campaigns Communists ran against police brutality, the practice of lynching and the Jim Crow laws that made their politics relevant to the lives of ordinary people. In the North as well as the South, on soapboxes on the streets of Harlem as well as on plots of sharecropped land in Alabama, Communist organizing addressed the bread-and-butter concerns of black people.
Communists believed that organizing the working class would work only if white workers realized that their liberation, too, was bound up with the fate of black workers. Facing this threat, anti-Communists and segregationists worked hard to sustain the fractures. They blamed Communists for fomenting “race mixing,” evoking sexualized fears that social equality would mean black men having sex with white women — the very fears that put the Scottsboro Boys on trial. In turn, when black people agitated for civil rights, the Bull Connors of the world called such demands Communist-inspired, returning to the same narrative of dangerous outsiders.
uch an argument said, in effect, that black people had to be whipped up by radical foreigners in order to challenge the remnants of slavery in the Jim Crow South, and that without those outsiders, America was, to steal a phrase from the 2016 election, already great. The view also ignores that it was the black members of the Communist Party U.S.A., raised in such circumstances, who made it clear that their struggles for economic independence were bound up with the racist violence they faced from both the police and white supremacist groups.
Those black Communists often had to fight to hold their party accountable to its professed ideals when the party shifted its strategy toward courting white liberals. The debates that resurfaced during the 2016 election cycle, about the primacy of race or class in left-wing organizing, particularly around the primary campaign of Bernie Sanders, echoed these past battles.
In the 1930s, the party taught its members to discuss their problems using the language of exploitation. This language meant that people “understood that racism and what they called male chauvinism wasn’t simply people acting badly or being psychologically controlled or being ignorant,” Professor Kelley said. “It was about the benefits that they derived from exploitative relationships.”
That framework, which has been revisited today in platform documents like “A Vision for Black Lives,” argues that racism, at root, is not about hate between groups, but about the way power is held in society. And class, according to this analysis, is created by relationships of exploitation.