J.R. Johnson

Where Will You Find Friends of the Negroes?

(9 September 1940)

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 22, 9 September 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Negroes have now had over 75 years of experience with the Democratic and Republican parties, and should be able to draw certain conclusions. During those years we have had Republican governments and again Democratic governments. But for Negroes – the same old Jim Crow: Jim Crow in the Federal service, Jim Crows in jobs – above all Jim Crow in jobs – Jim Crow in trains, in the army, in the navy. Anti-lynching bills are thrown out. Surely, if the Democratic and Republican parties were friends of the Negroes, they could easily join together and pass any bills they wanted to.

During the last few years, however the name of Roosevelt has made a great stir among the Negroes. Negroes had no relief, Negroes had no WPA. Now Negroes, or at least some Negroes, can get these things. Therefore, Roosevelt is a friend of the Negro. Negroes vote for Roosevelt.

But if Roosevelt is a friend of the Negro, why the same old Jim Crow in Washington, the nation’s capital? Why not a word from Roosevelt about the anti-lynching bill? Why the Jim Crow in the army, navy and in jobs? Why? Why? Because Roosevelt is no friend of the Negro. Roosevelt is no more a friend of the Negro than Willkie is.

Small Favors Staved Off Explosion

Negroes got relief and some jobs on the WPA because the American capitalist system was going to pieces in 1932, and if someone didn’t do something, there would have been an explosion. A certain section of the capitalists, with Roosevelt at their head decided to increase the purchasing power of the poorer classes to keep them quiet, and to set the wheels of industry going once more. So it was that the poorer people gained a little relief from starvation and the Negroes, being among the poorest, could not be excluded.

Roosevelt included Negroes among those who got a little something from the New Deal because he had to. If you want. proof, listen to Willkie. He agrees with all that remains of the New Deal. He has to. Because that is the only way that, for the time being, capitalism can stagger along. But he would be a very stupid Negro who thinks that because Willkie, if elected president, would continue relief and WPA, for that reason, Willkie is a friend of the Negro.

On Fundamental Questions They Agree

To understand the attitude of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party to Negroes we should watch their attitude to the war. Roosevelt is for help to Britain. Roosevelt is for a war against Hitler, Willkie is for a war against Hitler. Roosevelt is for conscription, Willkie is for conscription. The only difference between them on the war question is the way they spell their names.

Why? Because the protection of American capitalist interests by war is a fundamental necessity of American capitalism. So, though they fight each other for power, Roosevelt and Willkie are united on the war.

But the suppression of the Negroes is another fundamental question for American capitalism. And therefore, on this question, Roosevelt and Willkie are united also. And that is why, Republican or democratic government, we have the same old Jim Crow, in the federal service, in the army, navy and everywhere.

The Negro’s Cause Is Labor’s Cause

Once we learn that, then we have learned something very valuable. We know that no serious improvement in the Negroes position can come from these gangs. The Negroes must turn to themselves and to the labor movement. And, however discouraging the fight along this road may be at times yet it is the only road. Because the labor movement is frequently in violent conflict with the capitalist class, both Democratic and Republican, it must also champion the Negroes cause.

Thus today, the AFL and CIO are opposing conscription which is being pushed on by the Democrats and the Republicans, alike. Here the Negro comes in. He throws his full weight with the labor movement against conscription. For, whoever is against the capitalist class, is thereby a friend of Negro emancipation.

Last updated on 6.10.2012