W.F. Carlton

Two Negroes: Labor Leader, Labor Traitor

(November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 48, 27 November 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

A. Philip Randolph has made the best and clearest statement so far from any well known labor leader about the organization and program of an independent Labor Party in the United States. His statement deserves repetition:

“Labor and liberals should not kid themselves into believing that it is possible to deal effectively with a post-war program of economic security arid freedom within the framework of free enterprise, which is espoused by both Republican and Democratic Parties.”

Randolph does not use the word “socialism,” but rejection of free enterprise means the rejection of capitalism. The rejection of capitalism means, in political terms, recognition of the fact that the capitalist class can no longer guarantee reasonable employment and security to the large majority of the population. A new class must assume the direction of society. This class can only be the working class.

Now Philip Randolph, as everybody knows, is a Negro who has earned some reputation as a leader of the Negroes in their struggle for democratic rights. But Randolph is a labor leader. And he made his pronouncement as a labor leader. He was not speaking specifically about the rights of Negroes. He was speaking about the general economic and political situation in the United States and he offered a program for labor and its allies on a national scale.

It is an example which should be followed by other Negro leaders. So far most of them have confined themselves to seeking parties and organizations which would assist the Negro to gain his rights. The time for that narrowness of outlook is past. Negroes have every legitimate right to demand that the special oppression from which they suffer be given special attention, particularly by Negroes. But at the same time they have not only a right, but a duty to go beyond their own difficulties and to propagandize and agitate for the kind of America in which Negroes would be able to gain and maintain the privileges which they are now deprived.

A man like Randolph with his great labor achievements and experience can play a crucial role in his dual capacity of labor leader and Negro leader. What Randolph will DO about this is one thing. For the moment, however, we are concerned with his analysis of the national scene and his program for labor as a whole.

Randolph Makes a Break

Randolph in this last election acted in accordance with the views which he expressed. He stated that he was going to vote neither for Dewey nor for Roosevelt. This was good but not good enough. The Workers Party and Labor Action advocated repudiation of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. But we did not stop there. We not only advocated but actively propagandized and agitated for an independent Labor Party based on the idea of production for use and not for profit.

To say that the worker should not vote for the Republicans or the Democrats does not in the least mean that he should turn his back on politics. Not at all. What it means is that he should take advantage of the opportunities offered by the election, actively to interest the workers and to turn their attention to the only kind of political organization which can truly serve the interests of labor.

Randolph, however, has earned the condemnation of no less a person than the Negro Stalinist, Benjamin J. Davis, Jr. In the Daily Worker of November 19, Benjamin J. Davis finds that A. Philip Randolph in the last election presented “a sorry and tragic spectacle.”

The Communist Policy

This is what Ben Davis thought of the election:

“Here were the Negro people and the whole nation fighting for their lives in the most crucial election of our history, deciding the fate of human beings for generations to come ...”

Every Negro should ask himself two questions The first is: What fundamental difference has it made to the lives of my people now that Roosevelt has been re-elected and Dewey rejected? Is the fate of the Negro people now settled for generations to come? Isn’t this ridiculous? Furthermore, is the fate of the United States now settled for generations to come? Merely to pause for a moment and ask oneself this question is to recognize the utter stupidity of Ben Davis and his fellow Communists who blew up this election into a political event comparable to the Civil War.

The second question follows from the first: If Davis’ ideas are so obviously stupid, why does he state them with such emphasis, with such boldness, with such brazenness? He must have some political reason.

His hostility to Randolph tells us why. Randolph (in his words at any rate) aims at the organization of labor for the purposes of labor to be achieved by the strength of labor. In his careful phrases, Randolph in reality is expressing the fundamental Marxist idea that the emancipation of the workers can he achieved only by the workers themselves.

There Is a Way Out

To this, Ben Davis, like all the Communists, is mortally opposed. Their whole policy over the past few years has been aimed at the subordination of labor to capital. The suppression of labor’s independent activity, the restriction of labor to purely industrial organization so as to maintain Roosevelt’s political influence in the labor movement, this is the policy of the party to which Ben Davis belongs. To them the idea of socialism and the struggle for socialism by workers is now as repellent as it is to the capitalist class!

Under the circumstances, it is impossible for Ben Davis to be otherwise than hostile to militant Negro struggles for Negro rights!

Whoever supports the independent organization of labor and the workers’ militant struggle for socialism must of necessity see in the struggles of the Negroes an ally in the national struggle for the emancipation of the masses of the people as a whole. But whoever, for whatever reason, is opposed to the independent political struggle of labor must of necessity seek all ways and means to keep the Negroes subordinate to capitalist politics, in the same way that labor is to be kept subordinate to capitalist politics.

For our part, Randolph in the recent period has too often presented a “sorry and tragic spectacle.” He presented a “sorry and tragic spectacle” when he called off the March on Washington. He presented a “sorry and tragic spectacle” when he consistently supported the imperialist world war and encouraged the Negro people and the labor movement to believe that in Roosevelt lay the hope of labor’s future.

But he does not present a “sorry and tragic spectacle” when he rejects the Republican and Democratic Parties as parties of free enterprise, i.e., capitalism, and comes out for an independent political party of labor, a party which will have as its program production for use and not for profit. In this policy he expresses the truest interests of the country as a whole and of the Negro people. Here, as in the idea of a March on Washington, Randolph shows himself an able analyst of contemporary politics. That he will probably backslide at the critical moment does not alter the fundamental soundness of his approach. This is not a quarrel between two Negroes. Two lines of political policy meet here. Negroes should study them carefully.

Last updated on 17 February 2016