F. Forest

Randolph’s Betrayal

(30 August 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 35, 30 August 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

On Aug. 18 a blow was dealt the movement against military Jim Crow. This blow was delivered not by the bigoted proponents of Jim Crow but by the founders of the civil disobedience movement, A. Phillip Randolph and Grant Reynolds, who unceremoniously announced that they were cancelling their civil disobedience campaign against Jim Crow in the armed forces. Messrs. Randolph and Reynolds offered no greater pretext for their shameful abandonment of the movement they had launched than the “President’s announced plan to end segregation in the armed forces.”

Just a few weeks ago the same Randolph made the following unequivocal characterization of the very same executive order: “A misleading move, made for political purposes and deliberately calculated to obscure the issue of segregation.”

Randolph now has the temerity to issue a statement which declares:

“Through Sen. J. Howard McGrath, chief spokesman for the President, we have been given assurance that segregation in armed services is unequivocally (!) banned under the executive order of July 26.”

So “unequivocally” was segregation in the armed services banned that the Chief of Staff, General Bradley, could declare:

“The Army is not out to make any social reforms ... The Army will put men of different races in different companies. It will change that policy when the nation as a whole changes it.”

Now Randolph and Reynolds are well aware of this declaration of Jim Crow policy of General Bradley. They have, furthermore, their own analysis of the President’s executive order as a sham. How, then, can they explain their sudden faith in the “assurances” of Senator J. Howard McGrath? They do not even try to.

From the beginning, when Messrs. Randolph and Reynolds first announced their defiant stand against a Jim Crow Army with their statement that they preferred going to jail to giving support to “Herr Jim Crow,” the Militant warned that the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training would mean little unless it became a powerful mass organization democratically controlled. We pointed out that while their defiant stand did Randolph and Reynolds credit, defiant protest and even going to jail on the part of individuals was not the solution. We nevertheless supported the progressive fight the movement was undertaking and defended it against its “Uncle Tom” detractors. We wrote:

“The power of the protest is in the mass action and mass activity which it unlooses. It is precisely this fear of mass action which has characterized the Negro leaders, as it has characterized the labor leaders.”

Randolph and Reynolds must now be included among the leaders who fear mass action, even as the government fears it. From the first Randolph and Reynolds refused to form an organ ization to which they would have,to submit, an-which would be democratically controlled by h rank and file. It is true that at first they withstood the attack both from the government and the top Negro leaders. When C.B. Powell, editor of the Amsterdam News, counseled the Negro to accept “his full responsibilities as a citizen in the defense of his country,” and when W.R. Hearst, Jr., of the New York Journal American, Robert S. Shane of the New York Daily News, Mayor William O’Dwyer and Senator Irving M. Ives all rushed to praise Powell’s statement, Randolph replied to Powell as follows on Aug. 2: “For more than 25 years Negro leaders like yourself, white liberals and trade-unionists have waged a campaign to wipe out military Jim Crow. Today, as in the past, we are faced with promises which continually go unkept ...” Then he came to the crux of the matter: “... the civil disobedience movement springs not from my call but from the deep humiliation and resentment that Negro and white youth feel at being forced to serve in a segregated army.”

What has happened between August 2 and August 18 to turn Mr. Randolph from a champion of the Negro masses to their betrayer?

Randolph emphasized, when he first launched the movement, that he looked for support not from the top Negro leaders, but from the “so-called average man on the street.” But it is a fact that he failed to organize this “so-called average man on the street” and failed to convert his hand-picked Committee into an organization that would be democratically controlled by the rank and file. Instead, he kept championing individual action.

This is not the first time Randolph refused to submit to the control of the rank and file. It is rot the first time that he has left the Negro masses in the lurch. In 1941 he betrayed the March-On-Washington movement which he himself had organizes. Just when it enlisted tens of thousands of Negroes in its fight against discrimination in employment, Mr. Randolph, also without consulting the rank and file, called off on his own the scheduled march. For his capitulation to President Roosevelt at that time, at least, he was granted the concession of the FEPC. Now he has given up the struggle against Jim Crow in the armed forces in return for a piece of paper!

Neither Negro nor white labor will forget this latest betrayal of Randolph. The important thing, however, is that just as the movement did not spring from Mr. Randolph’s call, “but from the deep humiliation and resentment that the Negro and white youth feel,” so this movement will not disappear with the betrayal of its once-defiant leader. The movement will merely throw off the shackles of Gandhism and expand into a genuine mass organization, democratically controlled by the rank and file. For the masses are learning that the only way to wipe out Jim Crow is through mass action.

Last updated on 18 October 2022