J.R. Johnson

We Must Fight Against Any Kind of Enslavement

(19 August 1940)

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 19, 19 August 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The government is busy getting the sheep ready for the slaughter: the white sheep and the black sheep. The slaughter is the imperialist war; the black sheep are the Negroes.

Now, all who read our paper know our stand on this question: The war is Wall Street’s war. The workers must oppose it in all its forms. The immediate fight is on conscription. The Negroes, who more than any other people in the world know what a thundering lie capitalist democracy is, must join every organized attempt of the working-class to block, impede and prevent this monstrous tyranny that the capitalists want to impose on us. No conscription! Down with conscription! Conscription by the capitalist class is only a way of forcing the workers to die for capitalist profits after working all their lives for the same criminal and demoralizing purpose.

We Are Against Conscription

But Negroes, oppressed as always, have not only got to fight the general fight of all workers, but have special difficulties of their own. And the situation has been somewhat complicated by the vigorous fight that the Pittsburg Courier and several organizations are carrying on for equal rights in the army, navy and air-force for Negroes. The question therefore faces the Negroes: Are we against conscription? The answer comes from 12,000,000 throats: “Yes!”

But then comes the second question: Are you for equal rights in the army and navy? And the reply must unhesitatingly be “Yes!”

No Contradiction Here

There is not the slightest contradiction there. When the capitalist keeps the Negro out of the navy, does not want him to be an officer in the army, does not want him to learn to fly, he is carrying on the class struggle – against the Negroes in particular and the working class in general. First, he makes the white workers feel that they are superior to the Negroes, and by so doing he divides them not only in the army and other military forces, but he divides them in the factory as well.

Secondly, he knows that the Negroes are bitter against the fraud of capitalist democracy and he does not want them to use arms and have positions of authority in military matters. Finally, he wants to keep the Negroes in a state of subordination, with a feeling of inferiority.

We will have none of that. The Negro must have his rights. He must have a job like anybody else, he must eat where he likes, live where he likes, do what he likes. He will be no second-class citizen. Everytime a capitalist says, “This way for whites, but that way for Negroes,” we say, “No, The same way for all – Negroes and whites.”

But, though we fight for equal rights we don’t join the Negroes who go whining and begging to be allowed to die for Roosevelt’s democracy. No sir! No Negro wants to die for Roosevelt’s democracy. It isn’t good enough. Fight? Yes! Fight and die for the right of all Negroes to have equal rights with all men; fight and die for Negroes to have land without landlords, to have jobs without fear of unemployment.

Yes, Negroes have fought and died for similar things before, and will do so again. But it isn’t Hitler who is taking these things away from. Negroes in this country. It is Roosevelt and his class. So the fight is against them first of all.

No. We demand rights for Negroes as citizens. We do not say, “Please, Mr. Capitalist, you lynch us and you Jim-Crow us, but please give us equal rights in the army so that we may die for this beautiful democracy.” We say instead, “We demand our rights. Whatever anybody else can do, we must do. The moment you say that a Negro cannot come here or go there, you are Jim-Crowing us. We will come or go as we please. It is our right to decide. Perhaps we prefer to ride in the bus and not in the train. That is our business. But you have no right, because of that, is Jim-Crow us in the train.”

Against Enslavement of Any Kind!

When the capitalist Jim-Crows the Negro in the armed forces, he is carrying on the class struggle against the workers. We oppose him. But when he says that the workers must be drafted into the army, he is using the workers as animals to serve the needs of capitalists profits. This is the class struggle in a most vicious form. So we oppose him there also. As Labor Action has so consistently pointed out, conscription is an enslavement of the workers. And the Negroes, as always, must be in this fight to the end. Quite often in the class struggle we have to fight on two fronts at once. Today the Negroes, in the unions or with other organizations of workers, must concentrate on the fight against conscription. If, however, tomorrow the draft bill is passed and the Negroes, like the rest are forced into the armies, then the Negroes will there carry on their fight, and the Negroes and whites who fought a good fight against conscription will be better united, in and out of the army, to fight against Negro discrimination.

Last updated on 6.10.2012