J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

(8 January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 2, 8 January 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

The immediate political need of the great masses of the people in the United States is an independent political party of labor. But if that is so, then the immediate political need of Negroes is also an independent political party of labor.

This need for a Labor Party is not something that is merely thought up in the heads of revolutionaries. More and more production becomes socialized, that is to say, great masses of workers are concentrated into huge industrial plants in the great cities. The highly complicated machinery of modern capitalism converts workers into a semi-skilled and unskilled mass which merely serves or tends machines. The huge masses of capital become centralized into fewer and fewer hands.

The constantly diminishing number of capitalists faces the constantly growing mass of unskilled workers. The class struggle becomes sharper and sharper. The workers concentrated in the mass industries are not divided to the same degree that they were in the old craft industries. They are compelled to think in terms of shop solidarity, then in terms of national solidarity. The very mode of production solidarizes the workers. Thus Negroes are drawn into the union organizations to a degree unthinkable twenty years ago.

That is the economic basis of the CIO, and the basis of the place Negroes have won in the CIO.

But the same basic economic movement which expressed itself in the organization of the CIO is now on its way to further achievements.

The workers find that trade union organization is not enough. They begin to see that political organization is needed.

Roosevelt does his best to make the New Deal look like a party of the workers. But the CIO finds it necessary to organize PAC. PAC helps Roosevelt to win the election. But PAC at the same time demands that Roosevelt recognize his debt to the workers and keep his promises. Labor Action has made its position on Roosevelt’s promises clear. He will not keep them because he cannot. Sooner or later the workers will find that out.

The mass production, which was the driving force of the CIO will be the driving force of an independent Labor Party. The mass production drew the Negroes into the basic industries. It will draw the Negroes into the Labor Party also, Negro labor in the CIO will go with the CIO. And Negroes outside the labor movement will be impelled in the same direction.

The Workers Party is a Marxist party. It uses a certain method of analysis discovered by Marx that enables it to see the social processes at work and to foresee their most probable direction. It sees clearly enough the advances, the retreats, the side leaps, the instinctive, uncoordinated actions of the masses.

But it sees also that despite all the confusion and complexity, the mass movement has a certain direction.

The Workers Party therefore maintains its own integrity, its own ideas, its own press, its own organization. But it throws itself completely into the struggle for an independent Labor Party. It foresees that this is the next most probable step. All who see this, white, Negro, Mexican, Chinese, male and female, old and young, are invited to join the Workers Party.

The more clear in vision, the more compact in organization is the Workers Party, the more powerfully we can place before the masses the necessity for the independent Labor Party. We believe in socialism. We maintain our own principles. But we struggle for the next stage of mass development. That is the relationship between the party of social revolution and the mass movement.

It is precisely that relationship which we recommend to the consideration of Negro organizations. To all Negro groups, individuals, organizations we naturally propagandize and agitate for our own socialist views. But we say: “Perhaps you don’t wish to join us now? Good. Perhaps you do not accept our views as yet. Perhaps you are not ready to see the socialist point of view? OK. But as Negroes, you see as well as we do, the futility and folly of supporting the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Why not a common aim for a great mass party of labor and all the toilers? Surely you agree with that.”

Let me give one concrete example. In Michigan we have the hundreds of thousands of workers who constitute the UAW and other sections of the CIO. Isn’t it obvious that a mass party with the CIO as its foundation will be the most powerful political organization Michigan has ever seen?

But if that is so, why not work for it. The Workers Party works for it because that is the road to socialism. A CIO worker could work for it because that will be labor’s political arm. Negro organizations should work for it because Negroes need a political organization to supplement and strengthen their daily struggles.

Whatever our general differences and separate immediate aims, we all can meet on the general program – an independent political party of labor. Either that or forever dragging in the mud behind the Republicans or Democrats.

Last updated on 19 April 2016