J.R. Johnson

The Negro Question

“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded” – Karl Marx

(29 September 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 74, 29 September 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Negro and the War – VIII

We have now established that Negroes in America, particularly the great mass of the workers and farmers, have no reason whatever to support any sort of war for democracy. We have established also that in the great crisis through which humanity is now passing, in the great upheavals which will soon be taking place, the American Negroes have as their allies the millions of colonials in every country, those in Africa, in India, and all the other oppressed peoples who form the majority of men and women now living. And, most important , we have seen that many white workers in all parts of the world, although they do not suffer from the special discriminations imposed upon the Negro, yet see no reason why they must shed their blood for capitalism, whether it is democratic or fascist. These white workers believe that the working class and the farmers in every country have their chief enemy at home. They believe that the war the workers and farmers must fight is the war of all the oppressed against all the oppressors, the war to put an end to the capitalist system with its continual wars, its crises, and its fascist dictatorships.

The question now is how can the American Negroes best carry on the fight against being driven into the war. It is capitalism that drives us into war. So that the way to fight against war is to fight against capitalism. Who is it who will lead this country into war. None other than Franklin Roosevelt. True, he says that he will do his best to keep America out of war. But Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1916 on the slogan that he kept America out of war. And the next year he was leading America into war in the name of democracy. Roosevelt has made every preparation and is just waiting his chance to drag America in. How to stop him? There is only one way. By distrusting every word he says and opposing him in every move that he makes now.

Roosevelt Cut Relief

When he and Congress cut down relief, it is no use listening to the Workers’ Alliance when it says that Roosevelt has cut relief less than the reactionary Congress and therefore Roosevelt must be supported. Not at all. Fight against both. If you support Roosevelt you strengthen his hand for his war policy. Note that although Congress and Roosevelt will disagree about relief, they always agree about the amount that should be spent on armaments. On that, they have no disagreement. They may quarrel about when exactly America should go into the war. But as to the preparations for goitig in, on that they are both agreed.

Roosevelt proposes that you cannot strike against the government. Negroes who are working on government projects will strike for their rights and struggle against this fascist decision. The stronger the opposition of the workers on all fronts, the more the capitalists are impeded in their drive to war. Roosevelt proposes to lift the embargo. What he is doing is trying to link up America more closely with Britain and France. As far as we can, we oppose this move to bring us closer towards the war.

Roosevelt Spends Billions for War

Roosevelt proposes so many billions for armaments. We protest against it. We want no billions or millions for armaments. Not one red cent. In return we demand that all war funds be given to the unemployed. The unemployed want money to live. They do not want to support Congress in voting money to kill people. We show our protest by meetings, demonstrations and joining with all those who carry on the same anti-war activities. That is the way to oppose Roosevelt’s plan to drag America into war.

But the struggle can be carried on in a more immediate and regular manner. In the factory, in the mine, on the farms, wherever workers struggle for better wages and better conditions, when the danger of war approaches, that is the time to press for your demands with the greatest intensity. Taking them as a whole, all the capitalists will support one another in the war. It is they who stand to gain by it. So that all the workers, by pressing hard on them, and fighting against them by strikes, etc., can not only win privileges for themselves, but can so threaten the capitalists, that these, fighting their war against the workers at home, are so much the more prevented from fighting against the enemy abroad.

Solidarity of White and Black

Negroes must organize for the abolition of Jim Crowism, must organize for their full political rights, for full social equality. It is by mobilizing for these things against the capitalist class that the Negroes can help in keeping Roosevelt and the capitalists so busy at home that they will not be able to drag the country into war.

But the workers themselves discriminate against their brother Negroes. Must the Negroes cease their struggles against discriminations in unions and other workers’ organisations? Not at all. The Negroes and their friends among the white workers must point out to all that the Negroes must have their full rights as members of the working class and as citizens. The best way to mobilize all opposition against the war is to see that Negroes get the fullest opportunity to participate in every struggle against the capitalists. This can only be done by Negroes having full access to all unions. The Negroes will make no concessions here. In this gigantic task of the workers there must be full solidarity in the fight against war and this means a great struggle for equality among all members of the working class movement and all who are fighting against the capitalist war.

(Concluded in Next Issue)

Last updated on 14 February 2018