J.R. Johnson

Guard Against the Trap Set by Henry Ford

(14 April 1941)

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 15, 14 April 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Ford is one of the most dangerous enemies of labor who exist in this country. This enemy of society has been laying a train of race hatred in Detroit and is now about to touch it off. The organized working class movement and the Negroes will have to fight hard and long to check and frustrate and defeat this sinister plotter. It will be no easy fight.

Ford has always employed Negroes in his factories. Of over 80,000 workers in the River Rouge plant, over 10,000 are Negroes. Ford does more than that. He sees to it that Negroes get positions in the more skilled departments. There are even some in the tool shops; not too many, but just enough to make them feel that they have a chance. The majority, of course, are unskilled laborers doing the hardest and heaviest work.

Ford has a Negro personnel director in charge of the Negro personnel, a fellow called Marshall. Marshall’s business is to boost Ford among the Negro population. Months ago Ford saw the big struggle coming. Marshall got busy, organized banquets and fetes, and through Negro organizations, parsons and the usual bunch of Negro petty-bourgeois, he extolled Ford as the benefactor of the Negroes. The Negro press also praised Ford as the man who employs Negroes.

Now the struggle has burst out. The sudden strike is one of the most powerful indications of revolutionary spontaneity that we have seen for years – a testimony to the vitality and the magnificent fighting quality of the American workers on whom so much depends on a national and international scale during the years. The men must win. But many of the Negroes are anti-union. Ford is anti-union. Ford gives them jobs, so they are anti-union.

The strikers are making no bones about scabs. One of the pictures most featured in recent press accounts of the strike is the picture of a Negro beaten up by pickets. The press from every angle is playing up the Negro phase of the strike. Break the workers at all costs. Ford is now reaping his reward. He is ready for race hatred, race riots, anything to break the union. It is what he has played for all the time. It is his last card. The Negroes, despite their grievances, must take sides instantaneously with the union against Ford. Any Negro who attempts to scab will deserve all he gets. This is no time for counting and rehashing what has been done and what ought to have been brought in.

But the unions have to do some hard and quick thinking too. Ford gives jobs. He enables Negroes to eat. General Motors, for example, employs unskilled Negroes, but every Negro knows that for a job Ford is the man in Detroit. The unions must therefore, now in the heat of the struggle, convince the Negroes that their jobs are safe in the hands of the unions. They must see to it not only that Negroes are invited to join the union. That is not enough. They must convince the Negroes that they can look to the union for active concern about jobs for Negroes.

The Negroes are not anti-union by nature. Society drives them into corners from which they see no exit. Ford sets traps for them. The union must openly take their side. They must feel that the union can give them more than Ford can.

There are only two forces in modern society – the ruling class (the Fords) and the organized working class. The organized working class has a responsibility not only to itself, but to all labor, organized or not. We need all the forces we can weld together. Ford is out to split the workers. The press is out to help him. Unions and Negroes have to think hard and think fast. Many other unions are solving that problem. The Detroit situation is too important to allow Ford to get away with his anti-labor, anti-Negro, fascist policy.

Last updated on 14.12.2012