J.R. Johnson

Negroes, We Can Depend Only on Ourselves!

(14 July 1941)

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 28, 14 July 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The worst traitors and enemies are always the traitors and enemies inside the camp. Today at the head of the traitors is Philip Randolph with his two assistants, Walter White of the NAACP and Frank Crosswaith of the Socialist Party. But Randolph and White are the chiefs. They are responsible for the calling off of the March on Washington. They did Roosevelt's dirty work. They did what Roosevelt could not have done himself. Randolph bears the responsibility, but White of the NAACP is smeared all over with evidence of his partnership in the crime. Let us therefore have a few words about White. He is a big shot in the NAACP and for years we have pointed out that the leadership of the NAACP is rotten, that though it may investigate lynchings, etc., and carry on a certain amount of public agitation, yet it is not an organization which depends upon the action of the masses but begs for favors and carries on intrigues with Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is far more concerned with its back-stairs connections with the White House than with mobilizing mass action. It will go a little way with the masses of Negroes when the masses move, but as soon as the mass movement begins to look as if it means business, the NAACP begins to think of what Roosevelt will say. And in any serious clash between the masses of Negro people and the government, the NAACP is with the government. Now all through the negotiations Walter White was Randolph's chief friend and adviser.

Yet Randolph was the man in front. Why? Chiefly because Randolph had a great reputation as a labor leader. Randolph had organized the Pullman porters, the best labor organization that Negroes have today. The struggles of Negroes are first and foremost labor struggles, particularly the struggle for jobs in the war industries. So everybody looked to Randolph.

Why They Started The Movement

Why did they start the movement at all? The Negroes were clamoring for action. All over the country there was the usual unrest and dissatisfaction, but this time linked with the desire for action. White and Randolph saw that if they did not take the leadership of the movement, the Stalinists, using their stooge organization, the National Negro Congress, would take it over. At that time (not today any longer) the Stalinists were calling the war an imperialist war and were doing all they could to confuse and embarrass the Roosevelt government. So that if they let the Stalinists get away with the leadership, White and Randolph would be discredited, a mass Negro movement would get under way and leave them behind; and Negroes would be under Stalinist influence. White and Randolph therefore came out as leaders.

Roosevelt, however, didn't want any March on Washington. What the ruling class hates above all is independent mass action. Above all, the workers must always be told what to do. They must never do anything themselves. And particularly Negroes. This march would have meant a tremendous awakening of Negroes all over the country. It would have shown the hypocrisy of the American capitalist class, pretending that it was fighting for democracy abroad, when it was stamping as usual upon the democratic rights of the poor at home, Roosevelt set out to break the march.

On June 10 Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a letter to Randolph. She called the march a "very grave mistake." Following this, Eleanor Roosevelt, LaGuardia, Randolph and White had a conference at City Hall in New York. White and Randolph were now in a mess.

Stimson, Secretary of War, and Knox, Secretary of the Navy, sent a telegram to Randolph asking him to come to Washington for a conference. There was a lot of going and coming and in the end Roosevelt issued his executive order, which does not mean one damn thing because there are no penalties to be imposed upon those who continue to discriminate against Negroes. But White and Randolph have done their work. They have killed the greatest independent action the Negroes have undertaken for a generation.

Story Not Yet Finished

The story isn't finished yet, however, and it isn't going to be finished for a long time. Here are two new chapters, very short but very significant: Randolph got on the radio a few days ago and said that soon the President would issue another executive order abolishing discrimination in the Army and Navy for all time. This can mean only one thing. Somebody has promised Randolph a job in government, for no man in his senses would talk such nonsense, except he was doing it for a purpose.

At the same time Glenn L. Martin, whose airplane plant at Middle River, Md., has half a billion dollars worth of war contracts, was asked what his [response] would be if the President tried to enforce the executive order. He replied: "Immediate stoppage of work." In other words, "To hell with the President."

Negroes, that is what we have to deal with. Negro-hating capitalists, sly politicians like Roosevelt and treacherous stooges like White and Randolph. We must organize ourselves, with our own elected committees and depend only upon ourselves.

Last updated on 5.1.2013