J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

(18 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 46, 18 November 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Republicans have won great victories in the Congress. They control both the Senate and the House. OK. The Democratic control is gone. The Republican control begins.

And now I want to ask every Negro voter: What does this mean to you, as a Negro? Not a single thing. Not one single thing! The Democrats controlled the Congress. Did they do anything about the anti-lynching bill? No. Did they pass a permanent FEPC bill? No. Did they even protest violently against the wave of terror sweeping the South against Negroes? No.

Every Negro knows that. But not a Negro anywhere believes that the Republican majority will mean a change.

Same Odd Story

Now what I want to know is this. How long will the Negroes continue to accept this? How many times is it necessary to repeat that the Democratic Party AND the Republican Party are one and the same in bluffing the Negroes and ignoring their rights and their grievances. That is proved beyond possibility of refutation.

Must the Negroes then bow their heads and forget the things that they and they alone suffer from? Absolutely not.

Let us suppose that there were twenty members of the House of Representatives and five Senators who were neither Republicans nor Democrats. They could not pass bills. But they could do at least one thing. They could see to it that not only the grievances of the Negroes were placed before Congress for all the world to hear. They could use their places in the legislature mercilessly to expose the tricks, the deceptions, the doubletalk by which both Democrats and Republicans unite to defeat elementary justice for Negroes. Over and over again it has seen proved that a small body of united, determined men can expose, disorganize and wreck the tricks of a body of legislators many times their size.

Where can the Negroes find them? They cannot find them in the Democratic Party. They cannot find them in the Republican Party. Then a new party is necessary.

There are fifteen million Negroes in the country. There are nearly or perhaps already two million Negroes in the organized labor movement. What prevents the Negroes from calling upon labor to form a new party?

Has Happened Before

There is nothing new in this. Frederick Douglas was one of the founders of the Republican Party. He didn’t wait. He didn’t think that it was a Negro’s business always to wait until something was formed and then join it. He saw that there was nothing to be got from the Whig Party and the Democratic Party of those days. The Abolition Movement under Garrison and Wendell Phillips not only refused to support the two existing parties but would not undertake any political action at all. Douglass denounced both Whig and Democratic Parties, broke with the Abolition Movement and organized propaganda and agitation of his own. He collaborated with politicians who tried for years to form a political party which would rid the nation of slavery.

These men for years were only a small band in Congress. But they spoke out loud. One of them, Sumner, used to attack the Southerners so fiercely that a Southern member of the Senate actually beat him up in the Senate itself. After many years of work the Republican Party was formed and led the nation to victory over the slave-power. It is a useful thing to remember that when Douglass and his friends were laying the foundations of what afterward became the Republican Party, Lincoln was opposed to them.

Douglass was only one of a few far-sighted people in those days. Today things are changed. Millions of organized workers are sick to death of BOTH parties. The Negroes inside and outside the labor movement can do what Douglass did. They can take the lead. Then can call upon the labor movement to do what only the labor movement can do – form the Labor Party.

A Labor Party will in all probability propose to nationalize the basic industries. But it is precisely the owners of the basic industries who help to keep the Negroes where they are. Thus what is likely to be the fundamental plank of a Labor Party is also a basic necessity for any genuine Negro emancipation.

Why then should the Negroes wait? Why shouldn’t they advocate a Labor Party, participate in the formation of its program, themselves lay down the program of struggle for Negro emancipation as a part of the Labor Party program?

Effect of Labor Party

But, some say, to form such a party means the defeat of the Democratic Party. So what then? The Republican Party was in its day a revolutionary party. Douglass and the other founders were besieged with arguments that a new party would split the progressive vote. So it did. It split the vote in one election and triumphantly elected Lincoln as President in the next.

But even if today a genuine labor candidate were elected in half a dozen constituencies, the effect would be electrical.

Labor would have its own voice in the legislature and a new stage would have opened. The Negroes have every reason to join the agitation for a Labor Party and be the most ardent, advocates of a powerful, revolutionary program for it.

Last updated on 8 July 2019