J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

(1 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 1, 1 January 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

As I wrote recently, congressional committees are busy with bills for a permanent FEPC. Congressmen themselves say it is because, among other reasons, there will be race riots in the U.S.A. after the war if discrimination continues.

Lillian Smith is the author of Strange Fruit, a best-selling novel on the race question in the South. At a Town Hall Meeting of the Air a short time ago she debated the race question with Roy Aucker, Washington columnist, and Representative O.C. Fisher, of Texas. Fisher took the view that a permanent FEPC would start a “beautiful racket.” It “would do nothing other than stir up race intolerance and friction.”

The American Mercury for December has published a debate on the Negro problem between Archibald Rutledge, a poet of South Carolina, and George Schuyler, associate editor of the Pittsburgh Courier. The editors of the Mercury say that the Negro problem is “reaching a crisis.” Schuyler states his opinion point-blank in the title of his article: More Race Riots Are Coming.

Negro Problem Remains

Isn’t it obvious that we have here a deep-rooted political problem, something that goes down into the very roots of the nation’s economic, social and political life?

But if this is so, then it follows, that only some far-reaching, comprehensive plan and activity can deal with it. For three hundred, years it has plagued the country. The Civil War broke up one aspect of it, only to have the problem appear in another form.

Socialism the Only Hope

In the midst of our daily activity, for union solidarity, for up-grading rights for Negroes, for support for FEPC bills, against discrimination, amidst all these necessary activities it is worth while to stop sometimes and think a little ahead.

We have therefore to place first things first. The solution of the Negro problem lies in the solution of capitalism’s major problem – the tremendous problem of unemployment. In the meantime, Negro and white workers, and Negroes who are not workers must hold on to that as a basic premise. And the solution of the unemployment problem demands a transformation of the American productive system from capitalism to socialism. The fiercer the Negro problem becomes the more urgent is the need for this transformation. Capitalist society cannot solve the Negro problem. As it drags human society to rack and ruin it creates a situation where people frantically run around saying to one another or writing in the press “What can we do to prevent race riots?”

Labor Action and THE WORKERS PARTY have always supported and always will support to the best of their power any definite action, which will help the Negros to gain equal rights with their fellow citizens.

But we refuse to stop there. We are revolutionary socialists and we say “All these actions that we take from day to day must have a fundamental purpose in mind. That purpose must be the organization and education of the workers and all the oppressed to abolish this system under which we live.”

Need for Labor Party

To do that the first step is the organization of an independent party of labor.

The time has come for Negroes to think seriously in these terms. Let me close this column with a quotation from a recent article by Lillian Gunbb (Pittsburgh Courier, Dec. 16, 1944). She said:

“Our governors and our mayors form committees to study this Negro problem ... There have been more studies made of the Negro than of any other group of people on earth.”

It is time somebody said that. It is time, too, to remind ourselves that innumerable laws have been passed giving Negroes rights. Yet the, Negroes are still pariahs in American society and people, say and write: “What shall we do to prevent race riots when the great war for democracy is over?”

The ultimate solution of the problem is socialism. The immediate problem is how to relate the necessary day to day struggles with the struggle for the Independent Labor Party; and how to insure that the Independent Labor Party will carry on the struggle to the abolition of capitalist society. Next week I shall make some remarks on this subject.

Last updated on 19 April 2016