W.F. Carlton

Walter White, Still on His Knees, Proves

Negroes Need a Labor Party

(July 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 30, 24 July 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

In his speech last Sunday in Chicago, Walter White gave a beacon-like exposition of the defeatism and hopelessness of Negro politicians today. Negroes, he said, were not deceived by the “dishonest and stupid” platform of the Republican Party. Very good.

The Republican platform is not stupid, from the point of view of the Republican leaders. In fact, when they declare that they are in favor of a permanent FEPC they are very smart. They are angling for the important Negro vote. They have seen the Democrats and Republicans in Congress kick the FEPC around and they too can do their share of kicking a permanent FEPC around – if they win the election and decide to make the FEPC permanent.

No, the stupidity of the platform lies in the fact that even as a platform, that is to say, as promises, it shows no serious intention of changing the inferior status of Negroes in the United States. And the Negroes, by and large, can see this.

White on the Spot

But, if so, what? Here White and all the Negro New Dealers are in a tough spot. At the time of his speech, there was uncertainty as to who the vice-presidential nominees would be. The Southern bloc was making a desperate effort to force a Southerner into the post. Said White:

“We may have to submit to temporary defeat ... for we cannot run the risk – so desperate is our plight – of an anti-Negro figure as heir-apparent to the most powerful position in the world today.”

Isn’t that a remarkable confession of bankruptcy, past, present and future? The United States has had twelve years of the Roosevelt Administration. During these years Roosevelt has exercised such power as no previous President of the United States. Yet, says White, “our plight is so desperate” that everything now hangs on who will be elected – Vice-President.

But what about the President? If he is re-elected, what possibility is there of the Negro plight being less desperate after four more years?

Democrats Promise Worse

This concentration on who will be President and who will be Vice-President is merely a symbol of the superficial, personal approach which White and his type make to the whole question.

The Republican platform is stupid and dishonest? Agreed. But this same stupid and dishonest platform has carried dismay and confusion into the ranks of the Democratic Party. The threats and disruptional activities of the Southern bloc have, among other objectives, this: They wish to prevent the Democratic platform from containing anything which can be interpreted as a departure from the principle of “white supremacy.” Every fool knows this, and Walter White is no fool.

We can predict with certainty that whatever platform comes out of the Democratic Party it will be infinitely more dishonest on the Negro question than the Republican platform. Not because Republicans are more honest, but because their lack of support in the South enables them to say things which cannot affect their voting strength in that region.

Walter White knows this as well as any living man. But he can’t shout loud about that, because if both platforms are dishonest, then what shall we do?

The Reality Is Clear

The hard reality forces itself upon him, however, and he confesses, “We may have to submit to temporary defeat.” He threatens the Democratic Party. If, says he, a Southerner is nominated to the Vice-Presidency, “you can kiss the Negro vote goodbye.” Where will it go then? To the “stupid and dishonest” Republicans?,

So the future of Negroes hangs on whether Wallace or James Byrnes or Supreme Court Justice Douglas or Senator Barkley is chosen as Vice-Presidential nominee for the 1944 elections. No Negro of any intelligence can believe that.

The real difficulty of White is of course that he can conceive of no other politics than capitalist politics. If he lived to be as old as Methuselah, as he sees it, he will, every four years, be compelled to choose between “stupid and dishonest” Republicans and the Democrats, with race-ridden Southerners high up in the party councils.

And yet there is a third way. That way is the way of the Labor Party. If the masses of Negroes have gained some benefits from the New Deal (WPA, relief, etc.), it is not because the New Deal was favorable to Negroes but because it had to make concessions to labor, organized and unorganized. The Negroes gained a little because they were members of the working class. It is only another proof that the only party which can seriously tackle the Negro question is a party of organized labor.

White Throws Up His Hands

But, says White, there is no Labor Party: we have to choose between the stupid and dishonest Republicans and the stupid and dishonest Democrats. That is the road, not to temporary but to permanent defeat, and shows that White and all his kind are leading the Negro people backward. It is a confession of defeatism, of cowardice, of time-serving, of cap-itulatipn to the capitalist idea that Negroes must forever live on crumbs from the big tables.

Negro leaders were not always like that. A hundred years ago, the Whig Party and the Democratic Party took the same attitude toward Negro slavery as both Republicans and Democrats take to Negro emancipation today. Hundreds of Negro leaders repudiated both these parties and worked in the Abolitionist movement. They fought to build a new party. The Liberty Party, the Free Soil Party, all had Negro support, and Frederick Douglass was one of the great pillars of the New Republican Party which achieved the abolition of slavery.

Need a New Party

Today we need a party which will lead the nation to the reconstruction of the whole social order in an even more drastic way than the revolutionary Republicans reconstructed America of the chattel slaves. That party can only be a party of organized labor. This is the necessity of the day. This is what Negroes must work for. By throwing all their weight into the struggle for such a party they can be sure to have Negro rights made an essential part of its program and platforms. They will assist in the destruction of the vested interests in North and South which fatten on Negro economic and social degradation.

That is the way, the only way.

White’s wails and complaints and empty threats show that even in his own eyes, the Republican and Democratic promises have no substance whatever.

Last updated on 15 December 2015