J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

(7 October 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 40, 7 October 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

This column calls upon all readers and friends to rally to the support of Ernest Rice McKinney against those who are trying to keep him off the ballot.

Note the word all. I say all and mean all. Republican or Democrat, anyone with an ounce of justice or an ounce of sense should put everything into the struggle for McKinney’s rights. Whoever thinks that this is purely a question of the Workers Party candidate is mistaken.

Bilbo and Democracy

Senator Bilbo is one of the most unsavory and vicious characters who ever took part in the political life of this country. Bilbo shamelessly abuses millions of fellow-citizens in Congress. Bilbo for years has made anti-Negro racism the main burden of his election speeches. This last election in Mississippi he incited his supporters to keep Negroes away from the polling-booths by force. He went on the radio shortly after and boasted that he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. And he did this at a time when anti-Negro violence was surging throughout the South.

Yet Bilbo sits unchallenged in his place in Congress. In other words, all these crimes are as nothing compared to the fact that he is elected by the majority of the voters in his constituency who are allowed to vote. In our opinion, as long as Bilbo remains in Congress he is one of the most discreditable elements of that capitalist state organization. That it can tolerate him is evidence of the little respect it has for any genuine democracy and the great concern it has to maintain anti-Negro thought and practice in the country. The people protest; white and Negro protest. But Bilbo is “elected” by Mississippi, and the Senate is satisfied to have Bilbo.

But Ernest Rice McKinney is not being chiselled off the ballot in Mississippi. The Senate has no control over him. This is something that the people of Harlem can do something about. They can utter such a roar of protest as would make all the authorities recognize that the people are aware that a scandalous injustice is being proposed.

McKinney is opposed to everything that Bilbo stands for. McKinney is a socialist, a Red if you like. But being a socialist he is opposed not only to the poll-tax and to lynching. He is opposed to the system which breeds scoundrels like Bilbo and is governed by a parliamentary body which tolerates people like Bilbo in its midst. Harlem, above all, has a right to hear McKinney. That Bilbo should sit in Congress and McKinney be kept off the ballot is intolerable.

Who Is McKinney?

McKinney is no literary and propagandist socialist. He has many years of active work in the labor movement behind him. He has been the leader of organizations of the employed embracing thousands of workers both white and black. Not only Negro Harlem but all organized labor in Harlem therefore should recognize that this is a challenge. Is Bilbo to sit in Congress and a labor man be kept off the ballot?

Finally, McKinney is a Negro. This means that Harlem has the opportunity of deciding a political issue without complications of color. Congressman Powell is a Negro. State Commissioner Reynolds is a Negro. McKinney is a Negro. Good. Now there can be no talk about electing a Negro to represent Harlem. That slogan undoubtedly had its effect. People, and not dumb or ignorant people, were tempted to say: “Maybe there are things about Powell that we don’t like, but we would like to see a Negro representing a community predominantly Negro. If politicians are no good anyway, then let us have a no-good Negro.”

That argument falls to the ground now. We have a Democrat, a Republican and a Socialist. The Harlem people can choose. They have a right to be able to make their own choice. But to do so McKinney must be on the ballot. It is a duty that, should be recognized by all, whatever his political views. If Harlem should recognize its duty and insist that McKinney get on the ballot, even if it does not vote for him, then a real blow will have been struck at all that Bilbo stands for.

Last updated on 8 July 2019