W.F. Carlton

Capitalism Taboos ‘Equal Opportunity’
for Negro People

(August 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 34, 21 August 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

Addressing an audience at Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Ill., some days ago, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York state: “It is a fitting occasion to renew our determination to bring complete equality of opportunity of life in America to all the Negro people.”

Governor Dewey does not mean this. It is campaign baloney. The Republican platform has been characterized by Walter White as “dishonest and stupid.” The Democratic platform simply did its best to pretend that the Negro question does not exist.

Yet we can expect many statements like the one quoted, by Dewey, from all types of political candidates and agitators between now and the elections. Let us make it quite clear at once that this phrase, “complete equality of opportunity for Negroes,” is not to be judged according to the sincerity or insincerity of capitalist politicians. Both parties are seeking to fool the Negroes. But if even they were not attempting to do this, it would be impossible for Negroes to have equality of opportunity under capitalist society. We struggle for it. The more advanced unions struggle for it also. Victories can be gained. But the thinking Negro must bear in mind always the limitations of the society in which he lives.

Since 1929, this country was unable to have less than ten million unemployed, until the preparations for the war saved the situation temporarily.

Since the war, however, the development of production in the United States has reached astonishing heights. Today the productive capacity of the country is such that if the population returned to the standard of living that existed before the war, there would be at the very least some twenty million unemployed. This is the problem that faces the country as a whole. This is the problem that the Negroes must constantly bear in mind.

First of all, if the United States economy cannot be organized in such a manner as to prevent this mass of unemployment, the “equality of opportunity” open to large numbers of the Negroes would be equality of opportunity to starve side by side with the white workers. No amount of promises, sincere or insincere, by Democratic or Republican politicians can prevent that.

But, secondly, and flowing from this, the very conditions of unemployment create a terrible situation.

In the cut-throat struggle of fifty million people for thirty million jobs, all the worst passions of humanity in general and the traditional racial prejudices of the United States come into play and disrupt the labor movement.

This basis of unemployment is the fertile soil on which flourish the race-haters and the race-baiters. They organize themselves politically, using the unemployment in industry as a means of creating social and political difficulties for the Negroes. Under these circumstances, the whole Negro question becomes one of the tensest political questions in the country. Instead of orderly progress toward the achievement of greater and greater equality, we have a period of racial riots and the unloosing of terror and counter-terror. During the last year or two the signs of this have been coming thick and fast.

Therefore, we struggle always for the immediate issues of equality wherever possible. But we must cultivate no illusions about the sincerity or insincerity of this or that particular party or candidate. Along with their immediate struggles the Negroes must ask themselves: What is the program of this or that political organization or party for the creation of such a society in the United States as will root out the conditions from which the prejudice and the inequality spring?

Neither of the two major parties has any serious program for the reconstruction of American society. All their talk, therefore, among capitalist politicians, about equality of opportunity for Negroes has no meaning in the face of the economic and social crisis which lies ahead.

The Workers Party has its transitional program for the purpose of mobilizing the American workers toward the struggle for a new social order. For the large masses of the workers, that struggle centers about the struggle for a mass Labor Party. The Negro, however, who sees clearly not only the immediate struggles but the basic and fundamental problem which lies behind it must make up his mind to follow the example of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and those other great Negroes in the greatest period of American history. These banded themselves together in revolutionary organisations in order, by precept and example, to mobilize the large masses of the population for a radical solution of the American crisis of those days. Here is a case where we can safely say to serious Negroes today: Come thou and do likewise.

Last updated on 15 December 2015