J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

Labor’s Responsibility to the Negro

(25 March 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 12, 25 March 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Negroes in Columbia, Tenn., were insulted, shot up, murdered, arrested, their property destroyed and some of it looted.

Now, however, comes the final injustice. The Negroes are going to be tried by the same government whose official storm troopers led the mob in the pogrom.

It is alleged, and powerful evidence given, that patrolmen and members of the state militia had stolen Negro property. In the business establishment of Julius Blair the clock was shot from the wall, the juke box was wrecked, the cloth was cut from the billiard table. But in addition all cigarettes, cigars and ice cream were missing. Now, during the time that these were lost, all civilians were barred from the Negro area. Who committed this vandalism and this theft?

Negroes are being charged with having concealed weapons. Yet these concealed weapons, so called, were taken by the police without any warrant.

Thirteen of the defendants are held in $5,000 bond on an attempt-to-commit-murder charge. Thus it is the persecuted Negroes who are in the dock.

On the other hand, nothing was being said by law and order in Columbia about the wrecking of the Negro community. Nothing is being said about the two Negroes killed by the police in an alleged jail break. The Negroes have been attacked but only two white arrests have been made in the case.

Labor Action and the Workers Party call upon organized labor in particular to demonstrate in every way its solidarity with these persecuted American citizens. Their troubles are not over. The more unwarranted has been the attack upon them, the more shameless will be the brutality and ferocity of the Columbia authorities in constructing a gigantic frameup of their victims.

Organized labor, however, must not only act. Organized labor must take note of the political behavior of the Washington government.

President Truman has a certain procedure, perfected by his predecessor, President Roosevelt. It works as follows: Organized labor demands higher wages. Truman, recognizing that labor means business, declares himself in favor of 19½ cents? But, at the same time, he grants price increases to capital which nullify the rising wages.

The nation as a whole demands a permanent FEPC bill. Truman sends a resounding message to Congress in favor of the bill. But his followers in Congress sit back and allow the Southern senators to talk the bill out of existence.

Now comes the Columbia pogrom. This is a matter for the Attorney General, Tom Clark. Last week he issued a solemn statement. As you read it, bear in mind the equally solemn statements issued by Truman about the necessity of raising labor’s wages and of passing an FEPC bill. This is Clark:

“We have come thus far in the unsettled postwar period without great disorder. However, symptoms of increasing intolerance have been noted recently.

“It is my desire that you immediately devote special attention and investigation to protection of all Americans in their civil liberties, regardless of their race or color. Special attention should be paid to laxity or inefficiency of peace officers of any category.

“I am seeking to determine the causes of potential disorders no matter how minor they seem. In these days of rapid transmission of information, an outbreak in one locality might well inspire similar conditions in another.”

Patience Exhausted

Attorney General Clark knows the danger in which the Negroes stand. He puts himself on record as recognizing the explosive situation in the country today. But he, more than

anyone in the country, knows that his statement is mere talk, designed for the record and to give the nation and the Negroes the impression that the Department of Justice will punish these official persecutors of the Negro people.

It is merely the Roosevelt-Truman technique repeated in relation to the Negroes in Columbia. And if its hypocrisy stands out with exceptional crudeness in this case, it is because the Negro people are not sufficiently organized to make their resentment Sufficiently felt in the offices of government.

When faced with the result of Negro resistance to persecution in Detroit, Roosevelt’s Attorney General, Biddle, made the following proposal: Prevent Negroes from going North. He believed obviously that in the South the combination of federal and state terrorism was sufficient to keep them subdued. Having thus demonstrated his conception of democracy, Biddle is now in Europe helping to try Nazis for, among other things, persecution of the Jews and violation of civil liberties!

There is no end to the shamelessness, of these two-faced liberals in regard to the century-old persecution and humiliation of the Negro people. But, thank goodness, there are signs that there is a very definite limit to the patience of all persecuted people, Negroes included.

Last updated on 6 August 2018