G.F. Eckstein

Logical Conclusion of Randolph’s Program
to Resist Jim Crow Draft

(3 May 1948)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 18, 3 May 1948, p. 3.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In the long-continued battle for Negro rights, A. Philip Randolph and Grant Reynolds have selected one vital issue, Jim Crow in the Army, the injustice of which cries to heaven. They say, “Right this shameful crime against the Negro people and the Negroes will be citizens as loyal, as devoted, as patriotic as any other citizen.” They do not raise the question in any narrow-minded spirit. They claim that this humiliation of Negroes is a stain on American civilization and the very concept of democracy. From this they draw a correct conclusion. They appeal to whites to stand side by side with them. They do not claim to be making a demonstration. They are ready to call on thousands upon thousands, upon all who sympathize, to follow them to jail in defiance of the Jim Crow draft. They propose, in other words, as far as in them lies, to paralyze the functioning of the American government and the American social system.

The mere proposal of such a step opens a political perspective with far-reaching implications, which are remorselessly appearing day after day. Take the group of ex-Stalinists, ex-liberals, ex-socialists, ex-radicals, socialists, radicals – whatever they call themselves – who write in the New Leader. These people consider themselves, no doubt, fearless champions of Negro rights. Civil liberties is their banner.

On April 24 the New Leader writes an editorial on the proposals for civil disobedience of Randolph and Reynolds. These insolent scoundrels inform Randolph and Reynolds and the Negro people (not to mention the world at large) that: “The struggle which the United States is conducting in the current cold war is for everybody’s rights.” This being so, “Surely no responsible Negro leader wishes to weaken the country at this time.” Of course the Negroes are oppressed. But, says the New Leader, the ballot is a powerful instrument. Why, the very day that Reynolds appeared in Washington, the Supreme Court reasserted its rejection of the white primary in South Carolina. And on the very next day, yes sir, the very next day, 500 Negroes “were quietly allowed to vote in Columbia.” Quietly. The police did not club them. The lynchers did not shoot at them. The Klan did not burn fiery crosses.

Some millions scattered through out the South as quietly, in fact, even more quietly, did not vote. They knew better. They know all about the Fourth Amendment and an interminable list of Supreme Court decisions. But they know also the terror, legal and illegal, which stalks their lives and bursts out periodically to remind them they must keep their place. They now learn from the champions of civil liberties that Truman, Forrestal, Eisenhower, Dewey, Eilender, “Pass-the-Biscuits” O’Daniel, Rankin, to mention only a few, convinced supporters of the war, are fighting for the rights of everybody. The Taft-Hartley Law; regulation of labor by injunction, the long persecution and cynical maneuvering with Negro rights by both political parties – all this becomes really preparation to fight for everybody’s rights.

Randolph will no doubt answer them. These after all are not reactionaries, God forbid. They merely find themselves telling the Negro people to keep quiet, adding their little squeak to the authoritative voices of the worst enemies of the rights of labor and the Negro people that this country has seen for generations. The “liberal,” “radical,” “socialistic,” democrats of the New Leader do not by themselves amount to anything. But when they are travelling under the wing of Truman, Forrestal, and the war-mongering fascistic Negro-haters of the South they can be very useful to these.

Is the war that is being prepared to be fought for everybody’s rights? Is it a just war, a war for democracy? Is it merely by accident or through forgetfulness, or inertia, or spite, that Negro rights continue to be trampled upon? The New Leader has given its answer.

Marxism also has its answer. American imperialism, under the same ruthless gang of capitalists and landlords who squeeze the life-blood out of the people at home, is pursuing its gangster activities abroad. First it was the Kaiser, next it was Hitler, now it is Stalin. Are we children to be constantly herded into armies by bogeymen and driven to wars which solve nothing, in the name of liberties which grow constantly less?

Marxism has demonstrated that imperialist war is a product of the capitalist system, a product of an economic system based upon the exploitation of the working class. The working class has im interest in the war. The war is fought at its expense to insure its continued exploitation. The Marxist party, which is merely an organization of the most classconscious, devoted, and determined representatives of the working class, strives to educate the great masses of the people by precept and example. It first of all counters and exposes the lies, the brazen dishonesty by which the capitalists fool the public into believing that the war is for the rights of everybody. Press, radio, pulpit, schools, the labor leader ship, all do this work of mental arid moral corruption for capitalism.

The people, however, are not completely deceived. A powerful instinct, today stronger than ever before, drives them to see through the fabric of fraud and force which is driving them into war. They resist, this section on this particular issue, the other section on another, generally for their democratic rights and against the privations which war imposes upon them. Marxism, while speaking clearly in its own name, does not demand of the people, as a pre-condition for fighting with them, that they completely accept the full Marxist program. It is ready to fight with them in every way that they resist. Marxism realizes that it is only in struggle that the people learn. A determined mass mobilization for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, or against inflation, is a struggle against the war. It exposes the real character of the warmongers. It forms fertile ground for understanding the fundamental evils of modern society and the cure for them.

What Randolph and Reynolds have done is to launch a slogan and call for action which has within it the possibilities of rallying a:tremendous mass support. To demand from the great masses of the Negro people that, before they mobilize themselves for a struggle against Jim Crow, they must agree on the causes and cure of capitalist imperialism – that is not in any way Marxist. But Randolph and Reynolds, who summon the people to action, they have to know and declare where they stand. The whole logic of their struggle on the ground that they have chosen, leads them. inexorably to the inescapable questions. Why is it that American capitalism so resolutely refuses to give Negroes their rights? Is the Negro struggle for democracy to be fought to the end, regardless of the fate of the. American capitalist system? Is the war being fought for the rights of everybody?

The world today does not allow evasion of serious political questions. You have to take sides.

Last updated on 2 November 2022