From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 32, 7 August 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.
Two weeks ago I wrote of the theoretical mess in which Walter White found himself. He called the platform of the Republican Party “dishonest and stupid.” But all he could say about the Democratic Party amounts to this: that if they gave way to the Southern pressure, then the Negroes would be in a bad way indeed. What he really should have said was that Walter White and all the Negro politicians of that stripe would be in a bad way. They are.
First of all, the members of the NAACP, and the Negro people generally, reacted violently against White’s policy, of which his speech was only a special example. They accused him of dragging the NAACP into politics, of trying to sell out this civil rights organization, lock stock and barrel, to the Democratic Party.
The NAACP, said many members, even New Dealers, is a non-political organization. This, in some respects, is a nonsensical statement. When the disabilities of a minority like the Negroes have the deep economic and social roots and the political repercussions which accompany them, the struggle for civil rights becomes a serious political struggle. But let us leave that for the moment.
The members mean that if the NAACP becomes attached to any political party, e.g., the Democratic Party, then Negro Republicans will not be able to join it. They understand further that once you become tangled up with either of the two major political parties, then you are its prisoner and it takes you for granted and goes its way, careless of what you think. This is profoundly true.
Unfortunately, it is also true that although the Negroes have NOT tied themselves up with any of the political parties, but carefully warned them by a manifesto that their policy toward Negroes would be carefully scrutinized, both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have as good as told them: “Do what you like.” If the Republican Party platform is “dishonest and stupid,” the Democratic platform practically ignores the Negroes. The choice is bitter.
Now once more we ask the Negroes: What are you doing and where are you going politically? If today there is an FEPC, miserable as it is, it was formed only because the Negroes threatened to march on Washington. If a Republican administration had been in Washington, it too would have recognized even the threat of mass action and would have formed some sort of organization to appease and fool the Negro people.
The proof is that the Republican Party has endorsed the proposal for a permanent FEPC. That means nothing.
For Negro emancipation, both these parties are the same big zero. The Chicago Defender recognizes this and says so:
“As of now, there is little to choose between Democrats and Republicans.” That is exactly what the “average Negro thinks. And what to do? The Defender says that Negroes “must take a ‘wait and see’ attitude of complete independence.”
That is just a lot of words. Complete independence for what? Going where? There is a legend which describes how St. Simeon Stylites sat for a number of years on the top of a tall pole, doing nothing. He too was completely independent – and got nowhere.
Neither party means to do anything serious for the Negroes. That is now a proved reality.
Then the Negroes have to do something for themselves. First of all, no more threats to march or threats to do this or that, but actual action is needed. Secondly, however, in the strictly political field, it is necessary for Negroes to seek another political organization. They have done it in the past. When the Whigs and Democrats were pussy-footing about slavery, both of them, militant Negroes joined the abolition movement and worked for the formation of the Republican Party, which abolished slavery.
This was the life-work of Frederick Douglass. He didn’t say “Now we must be completely independent” and go fishing or read the papers.
In 1892 the Negroes of the South, organized in their Southern Farmers’ Association, joined the Populist movement and battled for a third party. Isn’t the time ripe for Negroes of energy and ability to join in the agitation and organization of a Labor Party? Must Negroes always stand aside and wait for others to begin?
The Southern bourbons hate the CIO Political Action Committee only a little less than they hate the Negro organizations which preach equality. However, the Negroes have gotten the boot first. Isn’t it time for the NAACP and for all the Negroes to say to the CIO committee: “The time has come for a change. If you are ready to form a Labor Party, we are with you. Let us work on a program and with the poor farmers, the youth and the old people we shall be the political power in the land.”
But do you know one reason why Walter White and his type wouldn’t do it? The reason is very simple. For twelve years White in particular has been a member of Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet.” He has been a Minister Without Portfolio. He and his friends have been active in building up a fine fat set of $4,000-a-year jobs for a few hundred Negroes in the Roosevelt Administration.
These jobs are all children of the New Deal. If the Republicans win a victory, there will of course be another “Black Cabinet,” but a Republican one this time, equally subservient, equally useless, equally humiliating and degrading to the great masses of the Negro People. While White and his bunch hold on to the Democratic Party, we can be sure that another bunch (Powell of the Amsterdam News is one) are getting ready to get their crumbs from the Dewey table if Dewey gets into the White House. That is one good reason why, although they all wail about the brush-off the Negroes got from both parties, each group of Negro politicians hangs on to one.
The Negroes, once they recognize that nothing is to be gained from either of these two capitalist parties, must face the situation resolutely and act accordingly. “A plague on both of you. We are for a new party.”
Today such a party must be a Labor Party. I shall return to this subject again. But meanwhile I have to insist to my Negro readers in particular: If you agree that neither party has any program or policy for the Negro people as a whole, then don’t you agree that some radical departure is necessary?
Last updated on 15 December 2015