J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

(11 December 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 50, 11 December 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

In Labor Action for November 20, writing about A. Philip Randolph, I said: “He will probably be distinguished in American history as the man who did not march to Washington.”

It has been drawn to my attention that this gives a false and misleading picture of Randolph’s past services to the labor movement and his status in it today, not to mention the possibilities of the future. This criticism is obviously correct and is worth some elaboration.

Randolph has distinguished himself in many fields. Many years ago his paper The Messenger, preached a militant socialism at a time when few Negroes thought about socialism at all. Whatever criticisms may be made of it, The Messenger has a permanent place in the history of American politics and the working class movement.

Organized Pullman Porters

Almost single-handed Randolph tackled the problem of union organization for the Pullman porters and succeeded against terrific odds. He fought against the powerful company itself, against the Pullman company union, known as the Pullman Porters’ Protective Association, against the stool-pigeons and spies in the ranks of the company’s Negro “instructors,” against the lethargy and indifference of many of the porters themselves.

Year after year Randolph has attacked Green, Hutcheson, Woll and Tobin – the reactionary leadership of the AFL – on the issue of racial discrimination. He has done so with brilliance, with genuine passion and a high sense of the role of labor in combating Jim Crow not only in industry but in the nation at large.

Role in Washington March

Labor Action has not hesitated (and will not hesitate) to oppose him for his misleadership of the March on Washington Movement and his support of the imperialist war.

But at any rate Randolph has declared that labor must build a party of its own, a party which will not try to solve the problems of unemployment, etc., within the confines of free enterprise.

Little Negro Browders

In marked contrast to Randolph, before the election and just after, Ben Davis, Doxey Wilkerson and all the little Negro Browders had a special line for the Negro people. It was this: The 1944 election is the biggest thing in the history of Negroes since the Civil War. In fact we were now in the midst of the new Civil War and Roosevelt was the new Lincoln.

But now that the election is over, Davis comes out with some-thing else.

“Our fight has just begun. The elections give us a surer guarantee of victory, if we postpone all desires for a vacation, and if we regard the election victory as the beginning of the fight and not the climax or the end.”

So the great new Civil War is over and, behold! the Negroes must start all over again fighting for abolition of the poll-tax, abolition of Jim Crow in the Army, abolition of Jim Crow on the job, abolition of the whole festering mass of evils, presided over by Roosevelt for a dozen years. So now that the new Civil War is over let us rally round the President.

This is the poison being fed to Negroes by Councilor Davis, by the Daily Worker, by the Sunday Worker, by the People’s Voice, by Congressman-elect Powell, Max Yergan, Paul Robeson and others of that type day in and day out.

And they are sparing no pains because they know that the Negro people are restive, are concerned about jobs, about post-war racial clashes and are critical, very often scornful, of Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.

Randolph’s Opportunity

This is where Randolph has a golden opportunity. Where do the Negroes go from here? Obviously, so obviously, the only political party which can assist them in their struggles is a Labor Party.

Randolph now has some thirty years of experience of labor and politics in the United States. What he says is of importance, particularly to Negroes. He once preached socialism. The Northern Negroes were not what they are today. They did not have the political experience and the place in the labor movement which they have since won. Isn’t this the time for Randolph to declare to the Negroes in particular: Where we go from here is toward a Labor Party. Let us start now.

Randolph saw the possibilities of a March on Washington. He failed to carry it out, backing down at the last moment.

He now sees the necessity of a Labor Party. White workers will listen to him owing to his experience and reputation as a labor leader. Negroes will listen for the same reasons and because he is a Negro. Is he going to speak out or is he going to allow the little Negro Browders to continue unchecked their corruption of the Negro masses?

Last updated on 17 February 2016