F. Forrest

The Negro Struggle

Civil Rights Demagogy

(9 August 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 32, 9 August 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The front pages of all newspapers carried Stories of President Truman’s Executive Order “abolishing” Jim Crow in the Army. Hidden somewhere in the back pages of the paper was a small item relating to the views of General Bradley. It is worth reproducing in full the response of the Chief of Staff to the Order of his Commander-in-Chief:

“FORT KNOX, KY. July 27 (UP). – General Omar Bradley said today in reference to non-segregation of races in the armed services, that ‘the Army is not out to make any social reforms.’ The Chief of Staff, here for a conference on the Experimental universal military training unit, said: ‘The Army will put men of different races in different companies. It will change that policy when the nation as a whole changes it.’”

Capitalist politics being what it is, President Truman and General Bradley no doubt exchanged advance copies of their entirely contradictory statements!

For anyone who reads the Executive Order carefully, it is easy to see that “the equal treatment” and “equal opportunity” that Negroes are to be accorded in the Army are evidently to be Within the limitations of segregation, since not a word is uttered against it. It is further instructive to note that Bradley emphasizes that the army will change the policy of segregation only “when the nation as a whole changes it.” Needless to say, by “nation” the brass hat means not the people, but Congress. And since both Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of Staff know that any civil rights program that this Congress may enact would be worth as much as the paper on which the Executive Order is written, neither really worries about any abolition of Jim Crow. That accounts for the demagogic language of the Executive Order.

Truman badly needs votes. And he hopes the people are gullible enough to take him at his word. That is the long and short of it.

Specifically, Truman is aiming for the vote of labor and the Negro masses. He is hoping that the labor bureaucracy and the Negro middle class leaders can deliver this vote, provided he speaks radically enough. Not that the Murrays and Greens on the one hand, and the Walter Whites and Dr. Tobiases on the other hand, believe what President Truman hays. But they want the masses to believe. Just as the labor bureaucracy is trying to keep the labor movement tied to the Democratic machine which has acted as open strike-breaker, so the Negro leaders are trying to have the Negro masses do nothing less shameful than uphold the dominant party of the totalitarian South. The labor bureaucracy has not yet dared openly to call for support of Truman. But through the ADA and sometimes even the PAC it tries shamefacedly to support Truman. The Negro middle class leaders are trying to accomplish the same feat through the NAACP.

First, we saw the shameless spectacle of Walter F. White, NAACP Executive Secretary, assuring us that General Eisenhower should be supported by the Negro masses because he “personally” knew that the General was opposed to Jim Crow – only to have the General declare that he is for segregation in the armed forces. Now Mr. White has the gall to completely ignore the blunt statement of General Bradley and blandly assure the Negro people:

“With respect to the two executive orders, the one on the armed services and the other establishing the machinery with which to eradicate discrimination and segregation in other government departments, we are delighted that one President has had courage enough to tackle these two basic evils. These orders will help restore faith in the democratic process at home and rebuild American prestige abroad.” (NAACP Press Release, July 29.)

Then we had Dr. Channing H. Tobias state at the Convention that President Truman, in his espousal of the civil rights program, accomplished no less a revolutionary act than was accomplished by President Lincoln in the Emancipation Proclamation. Since that leaves him no correspondingly famous act with which to compare the new Executive Order, we will ask Dr. Tobias to use his free time to explain to us what the Order means by saying that “equal opportunity” be created “as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary change without impairing efficiency or morale.” He might also say a word or two about Gen. Bradley’s declaration.

There is only one possible answer the Negro masses can give to the hypocrisy of Tinman and those who try to whitewash him. That is by engaging in independent political action and voting the only revolutionary socialist ticket in 1948 – that of the Socialist Workers Party.

We are sure that the Negro masses are in no wise fooled by those of their organizations and press who try to whitewash either the Truman Administration or the Republican Congress. We are sure that the Negro masses do not share the confidence of the Pittsburgh Courier that this Congress, with its unholy bi-partisan alliance to keep the South under totalitarian rule, will, in its special session, enact a real civil rights program.

Full economic, political and social equality can be attained only through mass action which establishes a Workers and Farmers Government. Only by their mass actions, in alliance with white labor, can they break up the system which breeds Jim Crow – capitalism.

Last updated on 18 October 2022