J.R. Johnson

Merguson Has an Obligation to the Negroes

(21 April 1941)

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 16, 21 April 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Walter Merguson is a Negro foreign correspondent for the Pittsburgh Courier. He and George Schuyler, the Courier columnist, are two of the best journalists in the profession. Merguson some months ago beat the big capitalist press in a news scoop from Paris. He is the only correspondent in Europe whose account of the Battle of France makes sense to me.

What really happened during those seven days or so when the French line was falling steadily back to Paris? Both Hitler and the French general staff have published figures of a few thousand dead on both sides. Most people seem to have accepted it. I don’t, I believe there is a deliberate conspiracy to prevent the mountains of dead from being known for fear of the terrible revulsion against the war which the revelation would cause. Merguson says that the French retreat was covered by three-quarters of a million black soldiers. He says they were not all killed in the fighting, but that they were captured, disarmed and then shot down like animals. His figures are probably exaggerated but I believe he has more of the truth than I have seen anywhere else.

The importance of Merguson was that he was sent to France especially to report on Negroes and in so doing he has been able to throw illumination on many aspects of the imperialist struggle which have escaped the other commentators.

Merguson Finally Sees the Truth

Now Merguson, ever since the war began, has been a fanatical admirer of French civilization. Week after week he sent factual, vivid descriptions of the life of the African troops in France. He praised their quarters, their food, the absence of race prejudice, the freedom with which they mingled with the French population. He approved entirely of these hundreds of thousands of Negroes being fattened to die for French democracy. When some Negroes in Great Britain denounced the French imperialists, Merguson attacked them. No use to point out to Merguson the merciless exploitation of millions of French colonials. No, the French in France treated Negroes well. It was therefore good to die for French democracy.

Then came the French collapse. Overnight the French capitalists found that fascism was better than democracy. Merguson’s eyes have been opened and he starts to howl. Listen to him in the Courier of April 5:

“I am convinced that I, like so many of my countrymen, have been duped, have been led into a fool’s paradise.

“I am witnessing on the scene the passing of a France that was, if nothing more, unfaithful to the trust that we had placed in her and unmindful of her obligations to her subjugated black colonials.”

Well, well. So Mr. Merguson has learned something.

“We have nothing to lose from the downfall of France except our yoke. She was as ruthless, cunning and diabolical as any other imperialist power.”

But He Now Has a Chance

Fine words, Mr. Merguson, but what of all these years that you were encouraging the blacks to fight for French democracy? What are you going to do to atone for the mischief you helped to cause? Yes, you, Mr. Merguson, helped. You did not know any better? OK. Anyone can make a mistake. But you were more intelligent than most. You had knowledge and opportunities of information. But you made a mistake. Too bad. But you have a chance now to show that you are an honest man and not an opportunistic faker.

French imperialism cheated the Negroes, did it? British imperialism, German imperialism, all you see are no good! What about American imperialism? This is your chance, Merguson. Tell the American Negroes how French imperialism deceived you and warn them against American imperialism. When you do that, when you tell them to fight against the enemy at home, then we will believe you. But you are no ordinary worker who has not had a chance. You had every chance and we want more from you than simple repentance.

Last updated on 14.12.2012