J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

FEPC and the Labor Party

(18 February 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 7, 18 February 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The struggle for the FEPC bill, like every working class struggle, has two sides. The first is the pressure that is brought against the capitalist class and its political agents in Congress. If that struggle is not successful, it exposes their reactionary character to the public at large, and clarifies important political issues.

The second aspect of the struggle is the fact that it mobilizes the masses of the people, sets them in motion, gives them a consciousness of direct participation in the solution of social problems and gives them experience in organization. The two aspects are not separated. To the degree that the enemy is unambiguously exposed and the terms and conditions of the struggle made clear, the greater is the mobilization and clarification of the masses.

Whose Is the Blame?

That is precisely what is at stake in the present struggles! for the FEPC bill. The Southern senators and the opponents of the bill in the House are the main enemy. Of that there is no doubt. The main fire must be concentrated against them. But the mass struggle, the petitions, the protests, the demonstrations, mass meetings lose half their force and add confusion where they should enlighten. That is so because it is not consistently made clear that the Southern senators are only the open enemy, while Congress as a whole is a concealed enemy and carries on only a token resistance.

If President Truman and the large body of the Democratic Party wanted the FEPC bill to get through Congress they could get it through. They do not do it for the same reason that they do not force through federal legislation against lynching. To take steps in Congress to improve the situation of the Negro in the Southern states means the splitting of the Democratic Party. They arc not prepared to split the Democratic Party for the benefit of Negroes. In this respect Truman carries on faithfully ip the tradition set by the late President Roosevelt. This is what should be made known to the masses of the Negro people so that they would be able to carry on an effective struggle for the FEPC insofar as this struggle is directed against obstructionism in Congress.

The Republican Party made a permanent FEPC bill one of the planks of its platform in the 1944 elections. The Democratic Party passed the original FEPC bill. There are only two major political parties in Congress. Isn’t it ridiculous to lay all the blame on some Southern senators for obstructing a bill which is sponsored by the two parties, which between them control 99.9 per cent of the votes of the House?

Under the circumstances, the concentration upon the Southern senators and the Southern Democrats as a whole actually gives prestige to those fakers (including Senator Chavez). They rake in publicity as liberals and genuine democrats for carrying on a struggle which they more than anyone else know will end in the victory of the Southern reactionaries.

The Road to Victory

On Saturday, February 9, when a bill was brought in to substitute an appropriation bill for FEPC, S-101, only twelve people voted against. There were 71 voting for. And from the beginning every single member of the Senate knew that this was going to happen.

What is the way out? It should be obvious after all these years that the telegrams, meetings, deputations, etc., which have been tried year after year to change the vote in Congress are not sufficient. New York State today has a permanent FEPC. Every intelligent person knows that Dewey supported this bill because of the great mass demonstration of the Negroes in Harlem in the summer of 1943. Every intelligent person knows that this mass demonstration made the labor organizations as well-as the Democratic and Republican Parties realize that the situation had reached a breaking point and that something had to be done.

Congress must be made to feel that the masses of the Negro people and organized labor are sick to death of their saying one thing and meaning something else, which year after year is practiced by the so-called liberal senators and congressmen. The road to victory is the road to Washington, taken not by speechifying delegations, but by the masses of the Negro people themselves as was threatened in the March on Washington movement. If the mere threat, of such a movement made Roosevelt rush through the temporary FEPC bill, we can be certain that the presence of some thousands of Negroes in Washington will make Truman realize, as Roosevelt was made to realize, that all this tomfoolery must stop. Thus while the main fire would be concentrated on the Southern reactionaries, Congress as a whole would be made to feel that tire masses of the people meant business. Nothing else will stop this annual bluff which is being played around the FEPC as it has been played with the federal anti-lynching bill.

It is time also for the Negroes to promote the movement to take the initiative for a Labor Party. At present their energies are directed to the fruitless task of making the Democratic Party or the Republican Party keep its promises to the Negroes. Add up the results over the past years. Wouldn’t it be better if the Negro people offered their support to organized labor and agitated the labor organizations to form a new and independent labor political party? Inside and outside Congress it would mobilize a united attack against the common enemy of the laboring people in the United States.

If half the energy and time and trouble which have been spent during the last ten years in trying to convince Congressional politicians had been directed toward organized labor, that fact alone, in addition to the great perspective that it would have opened, would have scared the living daylights out of capitalist politicians. They would have realized that the Negro people could not be trifled with any longer.

Last updated on 6 August 2018