From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 51, 20 December 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.
Twenty Negroes, most of them well known in the political world, have issued what they have entitled a Declaration by Negro Voters. The declaration is signed by various church organizations, officials of NAACP, fraternal organizations, Millner of the International Longshoremen’s Association, Philip Randolph of the Sleeping Car Porters, etc. The press claims that the signers represent six million voters.
Such well known persons as Mary MeLeon Bethune, Thurgood Marshall and Walter White, to mention only a few, have not shown in the past that they are ready to associate themselves with anything calling for militant action by the Negro masses. Yet the document is of great significance. It represents a certain stage of development among the masses of the Negro People and is worth careful examination. What the Document Says The most important trend in the document is the unconcealed distrust of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Says the document:
“This statement is designed both to make clear the Negro’s present attitude of resentment against the shortcomings of both major political parties and to serve as a guide in measuring the future intentions of parties and candidates.”
Here the document expresses the disgust of the great masses of Negroes not only with the Republican Party but with the Roosevelt Administration. The document goes on to say lamely that the record of all political candidates in regard to Negro questions will be scrutinized, and anti-Negro candidates will be opposed.
“No candidate from any section of the country will be acceptable to Negro voters unless he has clearly demonstrated opposition to and departure from the prevailing anti-Negro traditions.”
This is the kind of a threat which, unless it is followed up by action, can only result in another deception of the masses of the Negroes. Do the signers of this declaration, for instance, consider that Wendell Willkie has clearly demonstrated his opposition to or his departure from the prevailing anti-Negro traditions? Willkie wants the Negro vote and has been making all sorts of promises and declarations as to what should be done for the benefit of Negroes. Yet the Roosevelt Administration has deceived the Negroes shamelessly. A great part of this document they issued is devoted to an impressive list of the crimes perpetrated against the Negro people in the armed forces of the nation.
It demands that these wrong should cease. How is it possible for any serious Negro politician to believe that a Republican administration will right these wrongs? Or, again, why should anyone believe that the present administration, if re-elected, would do in 1945 what it has so consistently refused to do from the beginning of the war to the present day?
Here we have a very typical example of the hesitation and confusion of the Negro leaders even when they express, as they do here, the recognition by the masses of the prevailing anti-Negro traditions among both parties.
Is there any alternative for the Negroes away from the two traditional parties? There most certainly is. The document contains one very significant passage:
“We call upon enlightened labor, church, farm and other groups to oppose actively the current wave of reaction. We will combine on a minimum program with such enlightened groups. Together these groups constitute a majority of the electorate. Together we will beat back the tide of reaction and build a more decent world now and in the post-war years which can insure a durable peace.”
Here, stated with great timidity, are the elements of a way out. for the masses of the Negro people. The only powerful force in the country which can lead an opposition to the prevailing anti-Negro tradition of the Democratic and Republican Parties is the organized force of labor. There are today strong forces in the labor movement seeking to mobilize labor for independent political action. Here is a chance for these Negro leaders to lead.
The document shows, as is proper, a predominating concern for the rights of the Negro people. But it shows also that its signers recognize that the fate of the Negro people is bound up with the fate of the United States as a whole.
The obvious thing is for these leaders to formulate a program of their own which will express the clear-cut wishes for equality in all spheres by the masses of the Negro people. At the same time they must formulate a bold program for the country as a whole; a program which will embrace the needs and desires of labor and all suffering and oppressed groups.
The UAW, for instance, has already put forward a program which can serve as teh basis for discussion. The document recognizes that labor, the Negroes and various other oppressed groups “constitute a majority of the electorate.” There is no need for these Negro leaders to keep uttering vague threats against the Republican and Democratic Parties. There is no law which compels them to be waiting for others to take the political initiative on their behalf. Leaders must lead. They are now in a position to come out boldly for a Labor Party, and to make their special and general contribution to the elaboration of the program of such a party. The Negro masses must let them know this in no uncertain manner. Without this they will never act.
This is no time for refusing to recognize the obvious. This is no time for perpetuating old illusions. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party represent the ruling classes of this country. From them the Negroes can expect nothing but large promises and small performances. The only alternative force in the country try which can offer the Negroes some perspective is the organized force of labor. We repeat: There is no other force in the country which can lead the opposition to the capitalistic parties with any prospects of success.
But it is not enough to recognize this only in words. The Negro leaders must be forced to take the initiative. They must place boldly before the leaders of organized labor the necessity for a clean break with the old parties and the elaboration of a program which will help to build a more decent world and begin that reconstruction of society without which the Negro people will never rise from their present degradation.
The declaration follows the current practice by stating that the main thing before the public is the winning of the war. Most Negroes would probably say that their first problem is to win their democratic rights, and they do not want to wait “until the war is won.” At the same time declaration demands an end to imperialism and colonial exploitation. Here again these leaders mislead and confuse the Negro masses. In practice, their policy means subordinating the struggle of the Negroes for freedom in this country. It means continuation of the exploitation of colonial millions in Africa, in India and in many other parts of Asia. The decent world can only be built by the overthrow of all imperialism. There is no other way.
However, a beginning can be made. It can be made by the unity under the leadership of labor of all the suffering and oppressed groups in the country, of whom the Negroes suffer most and are the most oppressed. The great millions of them are today ready for militant leadership. These leaders who issue these timid declarations in their name must either make up their minds to lead or be swept away by new leaders who will turn their backs on the Democratic and Republican Parties and throw their energies into the formation of an independent Labor Party.
Last updated on 11 July 2015