J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

Anti-Negro School Strikes

(15 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 42, 15 October 1945, p. 3
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The clashes between white and Negro school children in Chicago, Gary, Ind., and New York are merely tentative sparks of the tension in race relations. The book of Scripture says that a little child shall lead them. But there is no doubt whatever that in this case the children are being “led.”

Behind the Youth

In Chicago the number of white children on strike is 1,200. Where did these youth learn to undertake this ORGANIZED hostility to Negroes? In Gary, most of the strikers’ parents are members of an all-white Parents and Teachers Association which two years ago was refused affiliation to the National Parents and Teachers Association because of its racial basis.

The Civil Liberties Association of Chicago states that the agitation is inspired by employers in the steel industry who wish to divide white and black workers, particularly in view of the pending negotiations over wages in the industry.

The Gary Civil Liberties Committee charges that the all-white inspirers of the anti-Negro agitation in Gary have been encouraged by the slow and indifferent response of the authorities. The principal of the school involved in New York claims that the stories in the New York papers were “smears” and hopelessly exaggerated the actual occurrences. If even these statements are true, they do not touch the root of the question. That capital foments racial strife to divide the workers is not new. That in many areas the municipal authorities either directly or indirectly side with the whites against the Negroes is a fundamental feature of the Negro problem.

Newspaper writers always have exaggerated incidents which they think lend themselves to catching the eye and holding the attention off the jaded reader.

What is important is that this racial flare-up is taking place in the two most important and largest cities of the nation. Still more important is the fact that observers of both areas have repeatedly in the recent period pointed to the growing tensions. One of Chicago’s leading Negro citizens has stated categorically to the press that everybody knows that Chicago is heading toward a race riot. There is once more to be observed in New York the same strained tensions which preceded the outburst in the summer of 1943. Anti-Negro agitators use this racial tension. They do not create it.

Negroes and V-J Day

In Harlem, for example, the demeanor of the Negroes on V-J Day was striking in its sobriety, its universal recognition of the fact that a new period had begun for Negroes. Full of memories of the last war, the Negroes recognized that the gains they had made in industry were now in jeopardy, that unemployment was going to hit them, harder than all other sections of the population, that among the upheavals which the postwar period would bring, racial clashes would take a high place. Behind all this is the determination not to put up with the old situation, to mobilize all resources and tight for the rights of democracy.

Among the Negro youth in particular, except in the South, there is an almost unanimous sentiment that they will not tolerate being pushed around simply because they are Negroes. The Civil Liberties Association of New York reported a few weeks ago that stories and protests dealing with racial discrimination exceeded all others in the press of the nation so far as civil liberties were concerned. It is more than probable that at least two books dealing with the Negro question were among the dozen best sellers during the past two years. The Negro question is not a Southern question any more. Capitalism expanding for the war has multiplied and intensified all its antagonisms and contradictions.

Labor’s Urgent Task

To accuse capitalists of fomenting anti-Negro agitation is not enough. They are able to do this because a condition exists. Labor’s task is not only to check the tricks and maneuvers of capital and its fascistic agents. Labor’s task is to remove the condition.

Labor’s task is to put an end to the Negro. question and this can be done only by a complete reconstruction of American society – the same type of reconstruction needed to abolish unemployment, the same type of reconstruction needed to lift the millions of poor farmers from rural isolation and backwardness.

This reconstructed society is socialism. It may seem a far cry from school children on strike to socialism. It is not. Those children, the coming generation, future citizens of New York and Chicago, are merely expressing in a highly significant apd symptomatic manner one of the heavy curses with which they are burdened by capitalism.

Last updated on 29 January 2018