W.F. Carlton

Speech of Railroad Lawyer
at FEPC Hearing Shows Up
Hypocrisy of American Racial Policy

(27 September 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 39, 27 September 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

Sydney Alderman, counsel for railroad companies, in testifying before the recent hearings of the FEPC on race discrimination on railroads, stated that the roads had to adapt their “operations and employment practices to the prevailing mores and legal systems of the states they serve.”

This statement is an excuse for discriminatory practice against Negroes and Mexicans. There are certain things that we should remember and repeat;

First of all, the characterization of the society in which we live as a society ridden with race prejudice is absolutely correct.

The “liberals,” of course, raise their usual howl. If we accept what Mr. Alderman says, then we would have to accept the Hitlerite regime in Germany. This can’t be true, say the liberals, because there is a war against Germany, and Hitler practices race discrimination and persecution. But it should be clear by now that the war is not being fought because Hitler persecutes Jews or to bring about race equality. Hitler could as well argue that he is fighting to liberate India and Africans from British race prejudice. His agents in Africa and India are saying both these things. They are stupid lies.

The Problem Before the Unions

This plain, blunt statement by Mr. Alderman is to be taken at its full value. American society persecutes Negroes. It is a problem which confronts the American people. But it is especially the problem of the labor movement. Labor must maintain its solidarity, and for this reason alone it must fight against discrimination within its own ranks. It must do that for its own self-defense.

The CIO has given a great lead here, has done and is doing a great work. In defense of labor’s power to fight the bosses’ anti-labor policies the CIO must unsparingly condemn the practice of railroad unions which discriminate on account of race and all workers, CIO and otherwise, must agitate for the inclusion of all workers, black, white, yellow and brown, into all unions on terms of equality.

Negroes, Fast and Present

First the Negroes were enslaved. Since that time the persecution of the Negroes has been one of the foulest blots on American society. This was true before the Civil War, which ended slavery; it is true since 1864. The Negroes have been promised their equal rights, now by the Republicans, now by the Democrats. Glib and noisy Negroes, hungry for jobs, have conspired with white politicians to deceive the Negroes election after election. The Negroes are sick to death of it.

Now, with the war, “the great war for democracy,” official segregation, persecution and , hypocrisy have reached such a pitch, and in the armed forces, too, that the colored peoples of the world are aghast when they look toward us, and hundreds of millions of Asiatics listen to the propaganda of the Japanese warlords that the white man is the enemy of the colored races.

America is not Roosevelt and the small minority of capitalists (financiers, industrialists, rich farmers), who rule this country. The millions of workers who made this country what it is have far more right to the title, American, than the small minority of blood-sucking profiteers. Labor cannot continue to allow hundreds of millions of Asiatics and Negroes to brand all Americans with the crimes of imperialism.

We are entering into a new world, a world where, as the advertisements tell us, no country is more than sixty hours from an American airport, a world where the fate of one nation is inextricably intertwined with the fate of all. One World.

Labor Has a Job to Do

Labor faces the choice: to be the servant, the tool of imperialism, bearing the burden and shame of its crimes; or going forward boldly to reconstruct society and open out the new possibilities which lie in our

hands. The time to start is now. And one of the things which is crying for solution is the position of the Negro in American society.

Labor cannot and must not accommodate itself to the evils of American capitalism. This society has had its day. It is now an obstacle in the path of human progress. Labor must set itself the task of cleaning up the mess, must say swiftly and clearly:

You have had 300 years to solve this question. You have used the Negroes against labor, and labor against the Negroes. You have made the term ‘white man’ hated over half the world. You have even poisoned some of us with your vile prejudices. We have had enough. We are not going into the post-war world carrying the burden you have imposed on American society for go long. We shall clean the country of this filthy plague of race discrimination and prejudice.”

All of labor will say this one day. The thing is not to wait but to begin to say it now.

At the Crossroads

The world is at a stage when men all the world over are looking lor leadership in all fields, to show them a way out of the hell which capitalist society has plunged us in. A clear statement by American labor that it intends to take the Negro question into its own hands and put an end to one of the most vicious of capitalist abuses will not only lift the forces of real democracy in this country, the working class, to a height of power and enthusiasm never known before.

It will also call forth a response from the workers in Britain, who hate and are ashamed of British imperialism. It will bring new hope to the underground fighters in Europe, and the hundreds of millions of colonial peoples will turn to a new America, the America of the greatest labor movement history has ever known, the only architect capable of building the new world at home and the powerful ally of those who must build it abroad.

Last updated on 12 June 2015