The Ku Klux Klan
|Author||Ho Chi Minh|
|First published||November 4, 1924|
La Correspondance Internationale, vol. IV, no. 74, p. 827.
|Source||Ho Chi Minh (1914–1945). Selected Works, vol. 1. [PDF] Foreign Languages Press, 2021 edition. [LG]|
The place of origin of the Ku Klux Klan is the Southern United States.
In May 1866, after the Civil War, young people gathered together in a small locality of the State of Tennessee to set up a club. A question of whiling away the time. This organization was given the name kuklos, a Greek word meaning club. To Americanize the word, it was changed into Ku Klux. Hence for more originality, Ku Klux Klan.
After big social upheavals, the public mind is naturally unsettled. It becomes avid for new stimuli and inclined to mysticism. The KKK with its strange garb, its bizarre rituals, its mysteries and its secrecy irresistibly attracted the curiosity of the Whites in the Southern States and became very popular.
It consisted at first of only a group of snobs and idlers, without political or social purpose. Cunning elements discovered in it a force able to serve their political ambitions.
The victory of the Federal Government had just freed the Negroes and made them citizens. The agriculture of the South—deprived of its black labor—was short of hands. Former landlords were exposed to ruin. The Klansmen pro- claimed the principle of the supremacy of the white race. Anti-Negro was their only policy. The agrarian and slave bourgeoisie saw in the Klan a useful agent, almost a savior. They gave it all the help in their power. The Klan’s methods ranged from intimidation to murder. In the space of three years it committed so many crimes and misdeeds that a number of those who supported it left it in horror.
Towards 1869, under the pressure of public opinion, the Klan was given the sack by its “Emperor.” It had an Emperor, who, nevertheless, had only a purely nominal authority. The local Klans carried on their own existence and crimes. Professor Mecklin—to whom we owe these details—said that every page of the thirteen big volumes containing the investigations into the acts of the Klan in 1871-1872, recorded beatings-up of Blacks or Whites. These acts of violence were often done out of pure sadism. They were a favorite entertain- ment of the Klansmen.
A better knowledge of the Klan can be gained and a better judgment formulated by quoting the speech made by Senator Sherman of Ohio in the Senate in March 1871. “Is there,” asked Sherman, “a Senator who can name—in searching through the crimes committed through the ages—an association or gang whose acts and designs are more diabolical or criminal than those of the Ku Klux Klan? The Ku Klux Klan is a secret association, formed on oath, and whose members murder, steal, pillage, bully, insult and threaten. They commit these crimes not against the strong and the rich but against the poor, the weak, the harmless and the defenseless.”
Yet the Klan lived and “worked” for forty-odd years without too much sensation.
The New Klan
It was in October 1915 that William Joseph Simmons, the new “Emperor” of the Klan, together with 34 of his friends, brought the KKK on to the American scene again. Its program was 100 percent Americanism, that is to say, anti-Catholic, anti-Semite, anti-worker and anti-Negro.
It is to be noted that it was following the Civil War and the emancipation of the Blacks that the old Ku Klux Klan saw the light of day, its aim being to bar the freed people’s way to a social life. During the World War, America enlisted in its Army and Navy hundreds of thousands of Blacks who were given promises of social and political reforms and who, having made the same sacrifices as the Whites, timorously claimed the same rights. A situation equivalent to a “second emancipation.” Thereupon the new Klan sprang up.
It was again in the Southern United States—region of big planters and anti-abolitionists, the cradle of serfdom and lynching, the motherland of the old Klan—that “Emperor” Simmons founded the new “invisible Empire.” To an interviewer, William Joseph Simmons said regarding its objectives, “We are convinced that to ensure the supremacy of the white race we must wrest from the Blacks the franchises which have been granted them. The Lord’s will is that the white race shall be superior, and it was by a decree of Providence that Negroes were created slaves.”
Soon after the resurrection of the Klan, more than 80 beatings-up were recorded in the state of Texas alone, in one year, and 96 lynchings.
The Klan flourished especially in Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas. It was in those states that the victims of lynching were most numerous.
In 1919, the Ku Klux Klan burnt alive four Negroes in Georgia, two in Mississippi and one in Texas.
It lynched 22 Negroes in Georgia, 12 in Mississippi, ten in Arkansas, eight in Alabama and three in Texas.
It attacked or pulled down jails to lynch the Negroes who were kept in custody there five times in Georgia, three in Alabama, three in Mississippi, three in Texas and twice in Arkansas.
It lynched 12 women in Mississippi, seven in Alabama, six in Texas, five in Arkansas and five in Georgia.
It burned, hanged, drowned or shot down nine Negro former armed service personnel.
The Klan carried out other lynchings in other States, but we want to quote only definite figures.
The decline of the Ku Klux Klan
The Klan is for many reasons doomed to disappear.
The Negroes, having learned during the war that they are a force if united, are no longer allowing their kinsmen to be beaten or murdered with impunity. They are replying to each attempt at violence by the Klan. In July 1919, in Washington, they stood up to the Klan and a wild mob. The battle raged in the capital for four days. In August, they fought for five days against the Klan and the mob in Chicago. Seven regiments were mobilized to restore order. In September, the government was obliged to send federal troops to Omaha to put down similar strife, In various other States the Negroes defended themselves no less energetically.
Like its predecessor, the new Klan has so shocked public opinion by its excesses that those who had approved of or joined it at the beginning are leaving it. Its internal quarrels, its scandals and financial frauds ended by sickening even the most indifferent and most tolerant people. The Senate has been compelled to prosecute it. Even bourgeois newspapers such as the New York World, The Chicago Defender, etc., are attacking it.
Its “100 percent Americanism” and its anti-workerism group against it 20 million American Catholics, three million Jews, 20 million foreigners, 12 mil- lion Negroes, all decent Americans and the whole working class of America.
At the last congress of Negro Associations, the following motion was carried:
We declare the Ku Klux Klan an enemy of Humanity; we declare that we are determined to fight it to the end and to make common cause with all the foreign workmen in America as well as with all those who are persecuted by it.
On the other hand, the emigration of Negroes from the agricultural South to the industrial North has forced the planters—threatened with ruin through shortage of manpower—to alleviate the lot of the black workmen, and, consequently, to condemn more and more often the methods and acts of violence of their agent: the Klan.
Finally, the Ku Klux Klan has all the defects of clandestine and reactionary organizations without their qualities. It has the mysticism of Freemasonry, the mummeries of Catholicism, the brutality of fascism, the illegality of its 568 various associations, but it has neither doctrine, nor program, nor vitality, nor discipline.
- ↑ To defend and extend slavery, in 1861, the slave owner planters organized a mutiny aimed at setting up a government supporting slavery. They declared the secession of the southern federations from the United States (February 1861). In April 1861, the Civil War between the North and the South broke out. The war ended in 1863 in the defeat of the southern slave-owners and the victory of the north.
- ↑ Freemasonry — a mystically religious doctrine which came into existence in Europe in the 18th century. The Freemasons were mainly aristocrats and representatives of the big bourgeoisie. They advocated the moral improvement of man and unity among themselves on the basis of love of one’s neighbor. Modern Freemasonry prevails mainly in the United States and is of a most reactionary character.