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Labor Action, 6 May 1946


Jessie Kaaren

X-Raying the Menace of Anti-Semitism

Its Destruction is the Task of Labor


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 18, 6 May 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.



In this second article of the series on anti-Semitism, we will deal with specific instances of anti-Semitism in the United States and analyze the work being done by various groups to combat it – where they fail and where they can be successful.


Anti-Semitism strikes at the individual Jew in three main spheres of life – employment, education and society. No sooner does the Jewish boy or girl get ready to graduate from high school than he finds his road ahead blocked with signs reading “No college entrance” or “No jobs for Jews here.” There is scarcely a large company owned by non-Jews that does not bar Jews. There is scarcely an employment agency that does not insist on the word “Jewish” going down on the application. In the white collar field, the situation is particularly bad. Large utility companies, banks, insurance firms and railroad companies will not employ Jews in their offices. Government offices also restrict the number of Jews whom they employ. One Washington official started an open discussion in the press a few years ago on the necessity for excluding Jews from government offices so as not to exceed the proportion of Jews employed in the population as a whole. This “rationalization” is used very often, as we shall see later on, in order to give a more refined tone to anti-Semitism.

Schools, colleges and universities are among the worst offenders. They refuse to hire Jewish teachers and professors, and only in exceptional cases do they let the bars down. Jewish doctors are hardly ever admitted to practice in any but Jewish hospitals.

During the last depression, an investigator making a study of anti-Semitism in employment applied for 100 jobs as stenographer, secretary and accountant. She was told in 91 cases that as a Jew she was unacceptable.

Quota restrictions in colleges and universities have been an open scandal for many years. Several months ago the Mayor’s Committee in New York, which is headed by Charles Evans Hughes, Jr., made a study of anti-Semitism in the schools. The conclusions which were released in a newspaper story and then quickly withdrawn were that in the last decade preceding the war the percentage of Jewish students admitted to undergraduate colleges dropped by fifty per cent. The dean of one of New York’s dental schools admitted to the committee that he had repeatedly been ordered by the president of the school to reduce the number of Jewish students admitted. Other college heads admitted to the committee in private that their schools rigidly adhered to a numerus clausus, or quota system.

Dangerous Arguments

Dr. Ernest Martin Hopkins, president of Dartmouth College, makes a frank statement on the subject:

“I was in Europe almost immediately after the last war and practically all with whom I talked were discussing the danger of racial antagonism which had been so accentuated in Germany by soldiers on their return finding all of their institutions and all of their professions dominated by a race which numbered only one per cent of the population ... So it seems to me will be the case if, in the vehemence of agitation on the part of the Jews of the country for a conferring of rights which, if granted, would really constitute special privilege, aggressiveness continues to be carried to the extent that in the present it is being carried ...”

This is the same “logic” employed by Prime Minister Bevin [1] in his statement:

“... if the Jews, with all their sufferings, want to get to the head of the queue you have the danger of still another anti-Semitic reaction through it all.”

Another example is the remark made by Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick E. Morgan, head of UNRRA in Germany:

“... the Jews in Europe are growing into a world force ... they all tell the same monotonous story about pogroms ...”

This mailed fist in the gloved hand type of anti-Semitism is at present more common than the kind practiced by Coughlin, Smith, et al. It is the refined way of saying, “Dirty Jew!” The men who utter these “friendly warnings” are the same who keep Jews out of schools, factories and offices. They are the theoretical leaders of the philosophy of anti-Semitism, the men who could become the Alfred Rosenbergs and Robert Leys of the United States.

What Is Being Done?

The American Council on Race Relations estimates that there are over 400 agencies for the promotion of better race relations, not to speak of hundreds of community committees, Mayor’s committees, etc. A study of the effectiveness or non-effectiveness of these groups leads to the inescapable conclusion that the manifold activities of these organizations are without lasting results.

The reason is very obvious. With very few exceptions, these organizations attempt to base themselves on all layers of the population – to “teach” equality. They attack the outward manifestation of anti-Semitism and not the root of it. There have been some excellent investigations made by liberal and special groups, investigations which revealed that atrocious housing conditions, poverty, unemployment, etc., were the cause of the trouble. But once they expose the condition, the task of these special groups seems completed. For none of them is equipped to attack the evil that causes anti- Semitism and Jim Crowism. The most such an all-inclusive group can attempt is to rectify individual instances of rowdyism.

During the last several years many plans have been proposed to teach “tolerance” in the schools – the Springfield Plan, etc.

“The fatal flaw in most arguments, that we leave to the schools the elimination of race conflict,” writes Ruth Benedict in her book, Race, Science and Politics, “is that they pose education instead of social engineering. Nothing but hypocrisy can come of that program.

“Whatever is done to fasten fear on a people of a nation, to humiliate the individual, to abrogate civil liberties, to deny opportunities, breeds increased conflict ... one of the great political advantages of racist slogans is that the underprivileged may use them.

“Until housing conditions of labor and the needlessly low standards which prevail are raised, some scapegoats will be sacrificed to poverty.”

Another area where liberal, Jewish and Negro organizations spend a great deal of effort is in the legislative field. There have been some very militant campaigns waged on behalf of FEPC and other anti-discrimination laws. But the trouble with these campaigns is that they tend to sow the illusion that the government will actually cooperate in eliminating this social evil.

The temporary FEPC is a classic example of failure. Not only did the committee find it impossible to enforce its orders, but in a very short while it found itself without a Congressional appropriation. The way the bill for a permanent FEPC was handled in Congress should also show us how much confidence we can place in our liberal “friends” in Washington.

What else can be expected of a government that has its own policy of Jim Crow in the Army; sends out an anti-Semitic lecture as part of the Army’s education program; bans such pamphlets as Races of Mankind, which was issued by the Public Affairs Committee from circulation in the USO and from Army distribution, etc.? It took a few years of agitation before the Great Lakes Naval Training Station stopped segregating men by race, not to speak of hundreds of more serious instances of racial discrimination by the government.

Many more examples can be produced to prove that anti-Semitism and race prejudice will not be outlawed by a government which is itself based on the exploitation of man. It is also obvious that very little can be accomplished by preaching good will or by teaching school children to be “tolerant.”

Solution Up to Labor

What effective weapons are there, then, for fighting anti-Semitism and racial discrimination, short of overturning the system and setting up a socialist democracy?

The answer is implied in the results obtained from certain direct actions of labor unions and labor organizations. Racial prejudices tend to be erased as men work together for common goals, for in such action they learn that they all have the same class enemy. Unfortunately the CIO and the AFL do not have strong enough programs for rooting out race prejudice and tend to leave the initiative in this work in the hands of those very liberal and racial groups which are by their organizational set-up weaker than the unions are. In those instances where the problem has been attacked vigorously and directly, there have been some very good results.

Though the Mayor’s Committee in Philadelphia was ineffective in handling the anti-Negro riots in the transit strike, the CIO was able to educate its membership to a point where six months after the strike, Negro drivers were taken for granted and a Negro was elected to union office. This does not excuse the union for having neglected to correct the trouble before, but it does prove what can be done. The National Maritime Union also does its “educational” work directly on the job. If a seaman refuses to sail with a Negro, he must either let himself be persuaded or give up his union card. When anything unpleasant occurs on the ship, a meeting is called and again either the offender is won over or leaves the union.

The PAC is also successful in getting Jewish, Negro and other workers to forget their prejudices and work together. But the trouble with that group is that it is interested only in getting out the vote for old-line parties and lobbying for legislation. It doesn’t take advantage of the excellent opportunities that exist for welding all working class groups into one solid whole, into an independent Labor Party which could aggressively fight all forms of race discrimination.

But the fact remains that it is only within labor unions and working class political parties that workers learn their first big lesson in class solidarity. One strike action that brings Negroes, Jewish and other workers together in the fight or one joint picket line in front of a fascist meeting can do more to erase the “Jews killed Christ” fiction than a million-dollar good-will campaign.

The militant picket line in front of the hall where Gerald L.K. Smith did his rabble rousing in Los Angeles last July – a picket line in which the Workers Party had a proud share – is a good example of class solidarity. Its message was direct. It exposed anti-Semitism as the catch-all employed by fascists and their capitalist backers to sell the workers Nazi terrorism and a lower standard of living.

It is from actions of that type that we can draw optimism for the future. For, if workers can be aroused to the danger of fascism on such short notice as they had in Los Angeles, we know they will understand the need to organize workers’ defense guards against the fascist anti-Semitic hoodlums when worsening conditions call for that action.

* * *

Footnote by ETOL

1. Bevin was the British Foreign Minister in the Attlee Labour government; he was never Prime Minister.

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